First Things First by DD Agent

I do not own NCIS or any of its characters, or its settings - all belongs to the lovely folks at CBS

I know its a long time coming, but here is the sequel to "Murder in Cheltenham". Jenny's first autopsy story will also be posted today. Hope you enjoy! :D

"So, do I need to explain evidence protocol to you?"

Jenny Shepard looked over Leroy Jethro Gibbs as he drove the sedan to their crime scene. His hands were tight on the steering wheel and his cup of coffee was lying discarded on the floor. He hadn't told her much about where they were going, other than it involved a missing petty officer and a stash of drugs found in his locker. But she was excited - this would be their first case together as partners.

"Just finished a course at FLETC on it. We're fairly up on evidence protocol there: signing in evidence, not tripping over and damaging it…you know, the basics."

He took a sharp left turn and Jenny had to brace herself against the car door. Gibbs was a madman. "Don't get cocky, Shepard. You've just graduated, you're still a Probie."

She didn't consider herself a probationary field Agent. She had already shot and killed a man who had raised a gun at her now partner. She had already solved her first crime, and now was onto her first official crime scene as a NCIS Agent. She just hoped that Gibbs would remember all that, and treat her as an equal.

"Shepard, just be careful, okay?"

"I won't go up a tree, I promise," she teased, beaming at him from the passenger side. He smiled from his seat.

They pulled up at the crime scene, and Jenny looked over the area. Several servicemen were there waiting for them, a lot of them giving Jenny an appreciative glance. She looked over at Gibbs to see him frown. She felt a little sorry for him - he had chosen a female Probie with pretty good legs, probably not the best combination for a man like him. He walked over to her and looked her straight in the eye, his jaw locking.

"You've got much experience with the military, Shepard?"

"Have you? Other than being a marine." He raised an eyebrow in her direction, amused that she could spot it in the way he held himself, the way he talked. Or that she had figured it out from Rule Twenty Three. "Don't worry about me. My father was an Army Colonel. My Grandfather was a Navy Admiral. If anything, you're the one who's inexperienced here."

He smirked as she sauntered off in the direction of the crime scene. She was definitely not going to be an ordinary partner.

X

The small one bedroom on base was simple enough to photograph. He left that to Shepard while he went down to dust for fingerprints at the Petty Officer's locker where cocaine had been found that morning. When he had bagged and tagged, and had several good fingerprints for Sam, he went back up to the Petty Officer's room. That's when he saw Shepard, not photographing as he had told her, but flirting with several of the servicemen. One was trying on her newly issued NCIS hat, another was writing something on a piece of paper.

"SHEPARD!"

The servicemen scattered, and Jenny waved them away with a smile before turning to her steaming boss. She smirked as he dragged her into the Petty Officer's room. He should have known he'd have his work cut out with her, the way she had run off and nearly got herself strangled in their first case was evidence enough that she did things differently than normal investigators.

"What the hell do you think you're doing? I asked you to photograph the room, not go trawling for dates!"

He was right in her face, and Jenny moved forward, squashing the air between them. The Probies he'd dealt with before had been terrified of him, but not Jennifer Shepard. They had been through too much already for them to be anything like the typical. She reached for his free hand and placed her camera in it.

"I took pictures. Lots of pictures. And then I decided to interview Petty Officer Thomas' friends and co-workers. Gibbs, I often find that potential suspects won't talk to grumpy Marine turned NCIS Agents. They will talk to pretty redheads with long legs."

He pushed his lips together in frustration, realising that Shepard had actually done good. From the bright smile on her face, she realised it too. "What did you find out?"

"Not much - Petty Officer Thomas wasn't using, just dealing off base to kids. He wouldn't deal to Navy personnel, said that would be worse if he ever got found out. As for any foul play, there were other Navy dealers who would get you the stuff you needed, so no one seemed to have a grudge against him."

Gibbs' eyes went wide. "How did you get them to tell you that?"

"Eavesdropped on their conversation while pretending I was struggling with the camera. One of the ones with a big mouth filled me in about the kids when I batted my eyelashes." Jenny pulled three cards out of her shirt pocket, each with a variety of numbers on. "I could always call them up to get more information."

Frowning, Gibbs ripped up the cards and dropped them on the floor. Jenny knelt down to pick them up, but Jethro grabbed her wrist and ended pulling her into him. She giggled. "Number one, boss, green isn't your colour. Blue and black, yes, but green no. And number two? I was planning to use the fingerprints on the cards to see if they match to any prints found in the room and on the drugs."

"Right."

She shook her head. "Gibbs, trust me - I know how to do my job. I'm not your usual Probie. I came top of my class in pretty much everything. I don't need you to hand hold me, I don't need you to lecture me on how to run an investigation."

"I'm the Senior Field Agent here."

"I know, and I respect that. And I'm very much looking forward to you berating me about the use of your rules. But when it comes to this? I know how do my job. So please let me."

She gathered up the boxes they had brought from the car and headed back outside. Gibbs stood there, wondering if he needed to change his approach with Jenny Shepard. It just wasn't working with her the way it should be, she was fighting him for control. He was the boss; she was the Probie - that was how it worked, and how it always would. Sighing, Gibbs followed her to the car.

X

After heading back to the Navy Yard, they left the elevator where slightly more people had arrived for work, and were working on cases. Jenny was nervous as she realised every eye was on the pair of them as they headed towards their desks. She sat down at hers, completely devoid of anything. Gibbs sat at his own, a cup of coffee resting precariously on the edge. Someone walked past and it moved slightly, but Gibbs managed to catch it before it fell and take a large drag before putting it somewhat safely next to his out of date computer.

"Hey Gibbs, didn't know it was bring your girlfriend to work day," teased one of the men hanging over the barrier between desks. A couple of the men behind them sniggered.

Gibbs didn't rise to the challenge, but looked a little embarrassed. Jenny just sunk into her seat, trying to get on with her work. She didn't need to be ridiculed and she hoped that Gibbs would stand up for her. From the look in his eyes, it seemed he was regretting choosing her.

"Ridetski, Pacci, Wood - meet Jenny Shepard. My new partner."

The three men looked to Jenny as she gave a wave. Several other people were looking over to them now, trying to get a glimpse of Gibbs' new partner. The man who had spoken before was trying hard not to laugh. One of the other two men smiled and walked over to where she was and stuck his hand over the barrier.

"Chris Pacci. Welcome to NCIS, Agent Shepard."

She smiled. "Call me Jenny."

He grinned in response. "Well then I'm Chris. You already know the famous Leroy Jethro Gibbs."

She saw Gibbs curse from his desk. She giggled again. "Leroy Jethro? No wonder you joined the Marines." He gave her a glare but she smiled. "We have been well acquainted already." She winked to Pacci and he chuckled.

"Ridetski is the one teasing Gibbs, Wood is my partner. It's nice to have some new faces around, Jenny. We can only stand Gibbs yelling at Probies before we need something new to keep us occupied. Think you'll stick around?"

"That's the plan. Unless Leroy Jethro decides to get rid of me, of course."

Pacci chuckled and moved back to his desk. Jenny stuck her tongue out at a pouting Gibbs before turning back to her work. Once the other Agents had returned to their desk, Gibbs walked over to hers. They shared a smirk before he sat on the corner, trying to not to notice that everyone was staring at them.

"We need to find Thomas. Can you get copies of his bank statements to see if anyone's been blackmailing him?"

Jenny nodded. "I'll call his bank, get those statements ASAP. Of course, he could have just run away. He could have made enough money selling drugs to teenagers that he could get on the next flight to Mexico."

Gibbs groaned. "Let's hope he's lying in a ditch somewhere, and not sunning himself up in a country where we can't extradite him for getting children hooked on narcotics."

Jenny was about to say something back when they heard snorting from the corner. Ridetski was motioning to them, and making 'whipped' gestures. She could see Gibbs' face turn pale. "You maybe want to get on that now, Shepard, or do you want to wait until we actually find a body?"

Jenny was shocked as Gibbs grabbed his coat and stormed off out of the bullpen. Jenny had been his partner for less than five hours and already things were sour between them. Maybe she shouldn't have poked fun at him. Maybe she shouldn't have shown him up at the crime scene.

She felt someone behind her, and realised Chris was leaning over the barrier again, giving her a sympathetic smile. "Did I do something wrong, Chris?"

He shook his head. "Nah, you didn't. Gibbs had been working with the same partner for four years when he quit a few months ago. They worked great together; I think he just wasn't expecting someone to fill that hole quite so quickly."

"Well if he doesn't start treating me better I'll have to fill a hole with him."

She heard Pacci's snort and felt his hand grip her shoulder. "You'll be okay, Shepard. I have no doubt about that."

X

She had got the bank statements. She had got coffee too - she had asked Pacci what Gibbs drank and hoped that the information he told her was correct. Gibbs didn't seem like a latte type of guy. Other than that, she was well on her way to being in her boss' good books. Then everything would be okay and they could get back to their banter rather than yelling at each other. She hadn't even properly finished telling him about her pyjamas.

"You got what I asked for, Shepard?"

She nodded and handed him the bank statements. "Petty Officer Thomas cleared out everything the day before he disappeared. I think he's on the lam with all his drug money."

Gibbs slammed the file down, knowing full well that everyone was watching how he reacted to his new Probie. "Or, he could have emptied it all out to pay his blackmailer. Don't limit your theories, Shepard."

Jenny was getting annoyed now. Hadn't she earned his respect already? "Like you are? Abandoning his post is much more likely then him getting blackmailed by someone, especially as half the base seemed to know he was dealing and didn't care! His body is not going to pop up floating outside a barge; he's probably outside a pool in Mexico right now."

For the second time that day, Gibbs moved into Shepard's personal space. His eyes were like ice. "You're a Probie, Shepard. I'm the investigator, and your boss, so follow my damn lead or follow the door on your way out." He looked down at her desk where there was a cup of coffee. His voice mellowed a little. "That for me?"

"Suck up that I am; I thought a little coffee would improve your mood."

He nodded and took up the cup and drank some of it. He spat it out in her empty waste paper bin. "What the hell is that?"

"Pacci told me what coffee you like," Jenny replied with a sinking feeling. She knew she should have checked with Ducky.

Gibbs reached over the barrier and smacked Pacci hard on the back of his head. He then turned to Jenny, pointing a finger in her face. "Rule number three - don't believe what you're told. Always double check, Shepard!" He slammed the rest of the coffee into the waste paper bin. "I'm going to see if they've got any fingerprints off the damn drugs. You check through his family and friends and figure out who is blackmailing him!"

For the second time that day, Gibbs stormed off, leaving Jenny alone. She turned around and gave a slap to the back of Pacci's head, not impressed with him.

"I'm sorry, Jenny. We always prank the Probies, and I figured I'd get mine out the way nice and early."

She was furious, but mostly at Gibbs. He had never seemed the type to care what others thought of him, but there was a difference between that and respect. If he didn't have hers, or couldn't control her in the way that was usual, respect for him dropped completely. She sighed. She had signed on to work with Gibbs as her partner, not as his punching bag.

"Thomas is not being blackmailed, he's just run off! The only reason why Gibbs can't see that is he can't stand that I'm right!"

Pacci sighed. "Jenny, Gibbs is your boss, okay? And he's right more often than he's not. Just play the game, go along with him. You'll get your guy."

She seemed to accept his words before moving around her desk and finding an old card folder. She got out a black marker and hid over her work so Pacci couldn't see what she was working on. A few moments later, she turned her head to Pacci. "Do you have a red marker?"

He did, and he handed it to her slightly warily. Ridetski, Wood, and a few of the other Agents came over to see what Jenny was doing. After another minute, she produced a cardboard figure with long legs, high heels and really long red hair. Pacci didn't like where this was heading.

"I'm going out to find Thomas. I'm going to leave Cardboard Jenny in my place. If Gibbs wants to yell at someone and not listen to them, he can do it to Cardboard Jenny. I'm going to solve this case, and Gibbs can stick it."

Wood chuckled at Cardboard Jenny, but Pacci just moved round to the other side of the desks to reason with the new Agent. "Jenny, you've been an Agent less than a day - you can't start challenging Gibbs and going off on your own! You'll get yourself killed. I get that you're pissed off, I get that you don't want him treating you like a Probie. But we've all been there, and you can't skip a few steps! Trust has to be built, loyalty has to be established!" Pacci rested his hands on his hips. "You can't just go off and do your own thing and leave a cardboard version of yourself, no matter how pretty she is."

Jenny smiled. "I thought I'd already earned that trust and loyalty with him, but obviously not. I'm sorry if that's not how things are done here at NCIS, but maybe you just need an update on your thinking. I'll see you soon with Thomas in handcuffs."

She grabbed her gun and badge and headed out of the room. Pacci put both his hands through his hair, staring at the Cardboard Jenny. This was bad, this was so bad. Gibbs might actually kill this one! What was Morrow thinking, assigning her to Gibbs?

X

She'd called the numbers that the servicemen had given her earlier that day, and she had been given a lead. Now Jenny was checking out the marina near Petty Officer Thomas' base. Turns out she had been closer than she had thought with her remark of Thomas ending up on a barge - he owned a boat and had filed a sailing route. If she had wanted to talk to Gibbs, she would have called to gloat. As it was, she would have to suffice to see his face when she brought Thomas into interrogation.

"Petty Officer Thomas?" She had her gun out, and had her warrant stuck in her back pocket. She had a few judges as friends who were more than happy to help her. Suddenly, something struck her in the back of her head and she toppled overboard.

Jenny was quick to recover - one of her cousins had kept throwing her in the water as a child to help her swim and she'd become strong very quickly. She'd even been All State in College. Pushing her head above water, she put her gun in her holster and tried to get her bearings.

She was on the shady side of the boat, and she could see Petty Officer Thomas grabbing things and starting a small dinghy on the side of the bigger boat for a quick getaway. Idiot that he was, he obviously thought she had back up. Maybe the idiot was her - she didn't and no one knew where she was. Gibbs could gloat later.

There was a small dock attached to a large house up the harbour that he kept looking towards. It would be the perfect place to head off for the great escape, especially if it wasn't his house. He was having trouble with the boat and kept getting more things to put in. Her gun was ruined, and he had one resting on the side. Not the best situation for an arrest.

Deciding to take the initiative, Jenny began to swim to the dock. She swam underwater for a while, occasionally bobbing up to get air and to see how he was doing. He was so engrossed in his task, happy that no more feds had turned up for the time being that he didn't even notice her. Jenny was halfway to the dock when he finally moved the small boat from the larger one.

She broke from the water and pulled herself onto the earth. The boat was a little way out. Her gun wouldn't work with all the water flushed through it. Then she caught sight of some driftwood washed up on the dock. Smiling to herself, she pulled herself up to stand and grabbed hold of it. Soon enough, Petty Officer Thomas was hooking his boat up.

He didn't even see the driftwood coming to his chest as Jenny knocked him on his back.

X

Leroy Jethro Gibbs was a very unhappy man. Getting a call from his partner saying she had found Thomas and he was currently handcuffed was an embarrassment enough, but coming back to his desk to find a cardboard version of his partner made him furious. Then there was the fact that the now crumpled and slightly ripped Cardboard Jenny was sitting on his passenger seat made him feel awful. He would have to get Pacci back for that later.

Pulling up at the address that Shepard had given him, he saw his partner with her feet hanging off the dock, Thomas handcuffed and laying beside her. Slamming the car door, he walked over and saw that she was eating an ice cream cone, and Thomas was unconscious.

"I should fire your ass for disobeying a direct order."

"Fine. They'll just send me to Naples." Jenny continued eating her ice cream. "You're all pouty because I got the guy and you didn't. You're all pouty because your Probie solved the case, and you didn't."

He slammed down onto the deck beside Jenny, jogging her ice cream a little. She gave him a look, and started eating the ice cream off of her fingers. She infuriated him; she made him look like a fool in front of all the guys. And yet, he couldn't be prouder of his Probie. He knew he shouldn't, he knew if Mike was her partner then she would be on the first flight out of DC. But Mike wasn't his partner, he was and all his worries about working with a Probie were pointless.

"You were right."

"So you were wrong."

He smirked. "I didn't see that."

Jenny beamed. "Gibbs, I get it. You're a fully qualified Agent and I know my going off on my own last time pissed you off. I know that to the other Agents you're a big bad Fed who doesn't take crap from pretty Probies. But if this is going to work, you've got to let us work as a team, rather than me being your schlepping Probie. I'm pretty damn awesome, Gibbs. You just got to let me show you."

He chuckled. He had known she would be different. She was capable, unlike all the other Probies he had met. She was smart and pretty and could come back with his put downs. She was bold and brassy and Jethro realised that treating her like a Probie would make them both miserable. Then there was the realisation that his Probie was like no other - and that despite his initial misgivings about how he would be seen by the guys, she would make the other Agents jealous as anything when they compared her to their own Probies.

"Let's get this dirt bag back to the Navy Yard." He turned to Jenny still licking ice cream off of her fingers. "Did you get me a cone?"

"I did, but you took so long that I ate it. You really need to work on your time keeping skills."

"Tell me about it. The last time I was late, you were up a tree." He gave a hand to Jenny as they turned to Thomas. "Jeez, Shepard, you're soaking wet!"

"He knocked me overboard when I tried to find his ass; I had to swim over here to get ahead of him! My SIG doesn't like being underwater," Jenny explained, finishing with a bright smile.

Gibbs took hold of Thomas and threw him in the back seat of the Sedan. "Talking about inanimate objects with no feelings, what do you want me to do with that?" He pointed to Cardboard Jenny. She burst out laughing, before pressing herself against the driver's door, looking alluring in his direction.

"You could always take her home, Gibbs. I'm sure a big boy like you could find a use for her."

She opened the door for him, and rested her arms over it. They exchanged bright smiles, and Gibbs realised that he had made the right call. She was the partner he had been waiting for.

X

Thomas had been booked. Jenny had given a statement. To drop the charges of assaulting a Federal Agent, he wouldn't file counter charges against Jenny for hitting him with driftwood. Not that she was sorry in the least; he had tried to drown her.

Jenny was off talking to Ducky, who had wanted to congratulate her on completing her first official case with NCIS. He was writing up the last of the paperwork, and staring at the newly reinstated Cardboard Jenny that seemed to be living on his desk now. Jenny had printed out one of the photos the servicemen had taken at the crime scene and stuck it on the smiling stick figure. He was placing it on her desk when Ridetski came over.

"I tell ya Gibbs, I do not envy you," Ridetski announced, looking at Gibbs with a toothpick hanging out of his mouth. Gibbs hated people who did that. "I mean, a Probie that bolshie? And with those legs? How are you supposed to do your job when some Probie is fighting you all the way? You are in trouble, my friend. Morrow must hate your ass for assigning her to you."

He heard something behind him, and Gibbs turned to see that Ducky and Jenny had come back into the bullpen. Gibbs looked at the bright smile of his Probie, at the easy way she held herself despite being soaking wet. She was a one in a million partner, and she was certainly going to be a pain in the ass. But he had chosen her, and today had proven that he had made the right call. Any other Probie would have done as he asked, and they would have let Thomas get away. It was to Jenny's credit that they now had the right guy in custody. Not that'd he tell her, of course.

"I chose her, Ridetski, and that's my partner you're talking about. Now, if she can stand up to me and still get the bad guy, what the fuck is she going to do to you?"

"Make mincemeat, probably." Jenny came over to them, carrying a fresh cup of coffee that she passed to Gibbs. "I talked to Ducky, then Robbie, and even went down to the coffee shop and asked three people there what you drink. If I get it wrong then you'll just have to shut up and drink whatever is in it."

He took an experimental sip and smiled at his Jamaican blend. "Not bad, Shepard. Not bad at all."

"Good. Now get your ass of my desk."

She waved goodbye to Ridetski and grinned at Gibbs. She had been his partner less than a day, and already she had been a damn nightmare. But as Ridetski walked back suitably chastised, he realised he definitely wouldn't have her any other way.