Chapter 14:

"Who?" Who could have given her the nightmares, the shadows that are still lurking inside those expressive lavender eyes?

"Too many campaigns fought, too many friends lost." Simple words but they affect him like no others. She knows the pain that he's felt, that he still feels. She knows why he hides that picture on the television.

"You're staying here with me."

He shifts and then he feels it; the fear that she's been hiding from him. She's been afraid that he'll send her away yet again. That she'll be left alone on an unfamiliar planet again. He pulls her onto his lap and cradles her head against his chest. He feels the tears trickling down his neck, as she silently sobs. Minutes pass and she starts wiping at her eyes. He brings up a hand and with his thumb brushes some tears off her lashes.

"Sorry."

"Don't be. Not for a natural fear." Gibbs answers with a gentle shake of his head. His hand is now resting on her cheek and the thumb that had lovingly wiped away the tears, now makes small soothing circles on her beautiful face. He looks deeply into her lavender eyes and waits for her to accept what he just told her.

"You're not one for apologies."

"Not if they're unwarranted." He replies and returns her soft smile. Now is not the time for grinning or joviality, now is the time for offering comfort when it is most needed.

"You really don't talk much do you?" Gibbs laughs loudly at her question and shakes his head.

"No. The joke at work is that I'm a functional mute. I may not talk but I get the job done."

"Hmm…I can see where they might think that." She replies and dips her head, breaking eye contact with Gibbs.

He rests his head on top of hers. "What do you think then oh wise cleric?"

"That when you feel too much, it's easier to hide behind silence than to express yourself."

Gibbs says nothing as he tightens his hold on her. She shouldn't know how he feels and yet…and yet. He stands up so abruptly that she tumbles down the few stairs. When she doesn't immediately rise he runs down the stairs.

"Tan?"

He gently turns her over exhaling the breath he didn't know he'd been holding when her eyes open.

"I have a habit of hitting you where it hurts I think." She says wryly. Gibbs smiles down at her, running a hand over her head, making sure she's not seriously hurt.

"You…you have a sense of what I am, where I come from, where I might be going. It's a bit frightening." He confesses. It surprises him almost as much as it does her that he's revealed that much about himself. He rolls to the side, gently pulling her with him. She nestles against him, keeping a hand on his chest, and he takes her hand, bringing it up to his face as he studies the lines within.

"What is it about you that I feel…like it's okay to tell you my secrets?"

"Well, for one thing…aside from the young Mr. McGee and the wise old Mallard, I don't know anyone to tell them to." She reminds him with a small smirk.

"You're a smart ass, you know that right?"

"Who, me? I never thought to ask it. I'm sure it's attached firmly, but I'm not real sure about its intelligence."

Gibbs can't help laughing as he gives her a swat on the butt, leaving his hand there when she doesn't protest. He kisses the top of her head as he keeps her hand clasped in his. Minutes pass and soon their breathing evens out as they fall asleep in each other's arms.

Which is how Ducky finds them an hour later when he comes back to check on them. Tim has been concerned about the pair and Ducky tells the younger man that he will check on them while Tim does more electronic digging in the effort to find information on Tandel and if possible Corellon Larethian.

Knowing that Gibbs never locks his doors, the elderly man let himself inside the house, surprised when Gibbs didn't immediately shout, "In here, Duck!" like he usually does. Concerned now for the mysteriously absent pair, Ducky searches the house and is about to call Tim when he catches a glint from the kitchen window.

The bard as Tandel had correctly identified him, smiles when he looks out the kitchen door and sees Gibbs sleeping peacefully with Tandel in his arms. The glint that he'd seen is the small silver circlet on Tandel's brow. Ducky sighs at the sight. He's been hoping for someone to come along and catch Gibbs' attention for several years now, he just hadn't imagined it would be someone from another realm.

He almost jumps out of his skin when he hears Gibbs say, "You gonna just stand there all day, Duck or are you gonna come out here and say something?"

The elderly man chuckles at the question. He should know by now that a man with Gibbs' military background might know when someone is in the vicinity. Just because Gibbs appears to be at rest, does not necessarily make it so.

"You look very comfortable my friend. I must admit that I am surprised to see you so relaxed."

"Mmm, that makes two of us."

"Three," Tandel says as she hides a yawn behind a graceful hand.

Gibbs sits up and shades his eyes with a hand as he looks at the deck where Ducky is still standing. Tandel leans into Gibbs' side and he pulls her close, kissing the top of her head as he does so. Ducky hides his smile knowing that neither of the other two needs anything from him at this point.

"I was just making sure that your guest has everything she needs before I go for the day. You're lucky it's your weekend off Jethro, they won't be expecting you in until Monday."

Gibbs sighs as he tightens his hold on Tandel. She looks up into his eyes, and he smiles, "Oh Tony and Abby are gonna have a field day with you. Ziva? Meh, she'll just accept you as you are."

Tandel looks from one man to the other and Ducky quickly explains about the other three members of Gibbs' team. Tandel frowns at the older man and he blinks as she says, "What about your team, don't you have someone to assist you, Ducky?"

"Well, I do have young Mr. Palmer and on occasion Jordan Hampton will come in and assist if we have need of her."

Tandel nods and looks around the yard in contemplation. "What are you thinking oh mighty cleric of mine?" Gibbs asks softly and Tandel smiles.

"I think oh mighty warrior of mine that we need to invite the others over for a meal. That way we can get questions and answers done all at one time. Also by doing it informally no one will feel left out of the equation."

Tandel then looks up at the deck where Ducky is still standing, "Can we rely on you M'lord Bard? Call in the others and invite them for..what do you call it?"

Ducky is already pulling out his cell phone as he replies, "A barbeque my dear, a good old fashioned barbeque. Hello Timothy, how many of the others are around?... Good speaker phone if you please." He waits a few minutes and then Tim's voice filters out of the cell phone, "We're all listening Ducky, I even have Jimmy and Abby here."

"Good…that makes it even easier. Timothy, you remember the guest that is staying at Gibbs? She's requested that we all come over tonight for a barbeque and get acquainted party."

General chaos erupts from the other side and Gibbs places his hands over Tandel's ears as he lets out a shrill whistle. "HEY! Tony, Tim, Jimmy take care of the beer, steaks and brats. Abby, you and Ziva bring the drinks and fixings for a veggie platter and fruits as well as salad."

Tim clears his throat, "You still need that stuff of Sarah's boss?"

Gibbs actually takes a second to realize that Tim is referring to more clothes for Tandel and he blushes as he lowers his head to hers, laughing softly to himself.

"We'll start with what you brought over earlier Tim and go from there."

Gibbs can hear the others start to interrogate Tim and standing up, goes over to Ducky's phone and gently closes it before handing it to the ME.

Tim turns to the others, who are all hounding him with questions about the guest in Gibbs' house. "Hey! If you want to know more about her, do what the boss says and you can see for yourselves."

With that he closes his laptop and stepping around his desk offers his hand to Ziva. She smiles as she stands up and places her hand in his. Jimmy looks at Abby who shrugs and follows the other two, who have already headed down the stairs. Tony looks around the now deserted squad room and hurriedly closes down his computer as he races to meet Jimmy and Abby in the elevator.

Two hours later and the team is converging on Gibbs' house. Tim has remained steadfastly silent about the mysterious guest and not even Ziva's teasing or Abby's forensic threats have kept him from divulging Gibbs' secret. The only thing Tim will tell Ziva is "You dressed similar to her once."

Ziva chuckles at the evasive answer and gives Tim a hug. "You are protecting Gibbs' guest. That is admirable McGee."

Tim blushes and holds the door open for her and the others to enter. When Tony approaches, he looks at Tim who shakes his head, "I'm not saying anything Tony. You'll see when you meet her."

While all this is going on, Gibbs shows Tandel how to use his shower and leaves out several towels while she learns how to adjust the water temperature to an acceptable heat. Gibbs smiles at the heat that he can feel pouring out of the bathroom and knows that she takes a shower almost as hot as his own can be.

Ten minutes later and Tandel steps out of the bathroom, draped in a towel and Gibbs swallows hard as he remembers holding and caressing the curves that are covered by that towel. He slips into the room past her and turns the water to cold. His eyes are closed as he faces the spray, and he doesn't see the tanned hand subtly adjust the water temp to a slightly warmer degree, but he does feel when that same hand touches his shoulder.

"Tan…do you not know what you're doing to me?"

"I know, and I know that you need to let go of that fear, that feeling of betraying Miss Shannon. It's not betrayal Gibbs. It's acceptance. She is gone, yet she lingers between you and any of your partners. None of us can measure up to her, and it's not fair to compare a living breathing person to the dead."

Gibbs turns, fire in his eyes, anger in his touch as he puts his hands on her shoulders. She puts her hands on his waist, and her eyes meet his. He can't shake her, not when she's staring at him like that. She trusts him not to hurt her.

"You're damn dangerous Tandel Yestreen."

"Yes, but I am right and you will not hurt me Leroy Jethro Gibbs."

"Why are you so certain of that?"

"Because, I know your heart." She gently traces a path from his waist to his chest, and smiles at the steady beat she feels under her hand.

"Tan…you're too damn tempting. Don't rush this whatever it is. I'm not a one night stand. I will send you home with McGee if you don't stop."

"Then do so. I have wanted your touch, craved your touch for the past ten years. You may deny us, deny me all you want, I'm tired of being denied your presence. I have waited for you, tried to find you for the past twenty years. Why do you not want me?"

She blinks back angry tears, and he swallows as he feels that brick wall around his heart start to crumble. The part that is afraid of losing Shannon tries desperately to rebuild it, but the other part, the part that has felt this woman's touch in his mind, in his soul for over twenty years reaches out and pulls her into his embrace.

"I'm sorry, Tan. You're right, I'm …I don't want to lose my last links with Shannon."

"You don't have to, you do know that right? Loving me doesn't mean you loved her any less. It just means that you're capable of loving again. Not the mad passionate love of youth, but a mature love, if you're willing to reach out for it, for me."

Gibbs closes his eyes and for a few seconds Tandel is almost afraid that she's lost him for good. When he opens his eyes again, he tilts her head up and gently kisses her on the lips before setting her just outside the tub. "I need to finish cleaning up. I'll meet you in our room in a few minutes."

Tandel stares at him, confused for a few seconds until he gives her a gentle smack on the ass. He needs a few minutes to accept what he's not just saying but doing. He's allowing her into his life, his arms, and his bed. And he needs time to say goodbye one last time. She nods in understanding, and gently runs her hand over his lips.

"I'll be just outside the door."

When he steps out of that room, she's there. Towel wrapped around her like a sarong, long white hair streaming down her back. He pulls her into his embrace and she snuggles close to him.

"Take a nap with me, until the kids get here?" he suggests as he leads her over to the bed. He pulls the covers down and climbs into bed, pulling her into his arms as he does so.

She smiles as she rubs her cheek against his chest. "At least this time, we won't be total strangers when we wake up."

"Hmm…and you won't be completely naked, or will you?"

"Depends on if the towel falls off…" she sleepily replies as she snuggles closer to his side.

Gibbs hears the car doors slam as the team starts arriving. He looks once again at the beauty in his arms and hugs her close before caressing her cheek as he softly whispers, "Hey, the kids are arriving. You want them to catch us in bed together?"

She chuckles and stretches, the towel slipping slightly as she does so. Gibbs stares at her, and she shakes her head as she asks, "You want them to catch us making love together?" and he gives her a small smack on the ass as he crawls out of bed.

Gibbs looks at her in question, "Leathers or t-shirt and jeans?"

"I need to wash my leathers so, I'll go with a t-shirt and jeans."

"Shame…I like seeing you in leathers." He smiles and exchanges kisses with her. She reaches up on tiptoe and rubs noses with him.

"It can always be arranged, for now I believe our kids are arriving."

He smiles at the thought of the team and the easy way she's already calling them kids. "They are kids to me Gibbs. You and M'lord Bard are the ones closest in age to me, and technically I could almost call you a kid, but you are not and for that I am grateful."

He shakes his head and puts an arm around her waist as he leads her back downstairs. Tim smiles at the couple and looks at the contented expression on his boss's face. Yep, she was definitely the one his boss needed in his life. Ziva looks up and extends her hand to Tandel.

"My name is Ziva David. You must be Gibbs' mystery guest."

"My name is Tandel Yestreen. It is a pleasure to meet you Miss Ziva."

Ziva turns to Tim who chuckles at the expression on her face. "Tandel is a long long way from home."

"Yes, it has taken many…" Gibbs puts a gentle hand over her mouth and Tandel frowns up at him. He gives her a subtle shake of the head and she narrows her eyes as she removes his hand.

"We had a few obstacles in our way, before I could come here." Tandel finally says as she stares after Gibbs. The man has clammed up with the arrival of his team and is making his way to the backyard and the barbeque grill.

"He's not an easy man to read, yet he seems at ease with you. I am happy to see this." Ziva says softly.

Tandel nods, "Yes, it has been and will continue to be a long road, but I think we're on the right path finally. I just wish I could have come sooner."

The rest of the team enters and are introduced to Tandel and Tony looks at her, "So what's the big secret? Why wouldn't Tim or Gibbs tell us anything about you?"

Tandel looks at Gibbs who shakes his head, silently asking her to wait until after they've eaten to reveal her true identity. Once they've eaten and everyone is relaxed around the picnic table, Gibbs nods at Tandel who looks at Tim who hands her the silver circlet. Placing it on her head, the tips of her ears peeking through her hair, she smiles just a bit at the amazed looks on Tony and Abby's faces as she returns to Gibbs' side and sits down beside him.

Tony looks at how relaxed Gibbs is with Tandel and asks Tim, "So how is it that she didn't end up with you Elflord?"

Gibbs speaks up for the first time that night, "It's called magic DiNozzo," he squeezes Tandel's hand "…sheer magic."

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