These Are My Regrets by DD Agent
I do not own NCIS or any of its characters, or its settings - all belongs to the lovely folks at CBS.
Haven't updated this series in a while, so here it is! Hope you enjoy this new update.
Jethro was across the road getting them coffee and pastries, while Jenny was in a newsagents staring at the magazines. She already had a copy of the Post under her arm, but was drawn to the large array of wedding magazines on offer.
Articles about the perfect dress, on where to hold the reception and a whole pull out section on party favours and menus. Jenny picked up one and flicked through it, pausing on pages about what tuxedos the groomsmen should wear and how to pick the best of the worst bridesmaid dresses. Jenny shoved it on the rack as quickly as she could, the engagement ring making her finger feel like it was about to fall off.
"Hey, got some coffee," Jethro greeted, before wrapping the arm holding her cup around her collarbone. She could smell the sugar from it. "Wedding magazines, nice. Toss a few in there; we'll have a look over lunch."
Jenny smiled and nodded - she couldn't make any sounds. She picked a few at random, and Jethro tossed one that talked about obscure wedding locations onto the pile. He waited outside while she purchased the magazines, her hands shaking. The queue was long in front of her, and it didn't seem to be moving at all. She was a Federal Director; she shouldn't be fidgeting like she was.
But her eyes kept glancing down to the magazines and she started to realise what was ahead of her in planning the wedding. They'd need to find a location, someone to legally marry them. She wasn't overly religious, and neither was Jethro so at least they didn't have to trawl around interviewing vicars, priests and pastors. She'd need to have bridesmaids; Jethro would have to pick a best man. Then there was the dress hunting, the honeymoon picking, the sampling of cake. The line jolted forward, and so did Jenny. Things would be even more stressful for her as everyone involved with the wedding would need to be vetted - it would be a huge security issue as well as a nightmare with her family.
"Is that everything?" the bored woman at the till asked. Jenny tossed a pack of gum from the adjacent concession stand onto the bounty of wedding magazines. The woman looked from the magazines to Jenny, and smirked. "Don't scare him, hon."
Jenny had no idea what the woman was talking about as she packed her magazines and gum. Then she looked down at her hand and realised the engagement ring she only wore at the weekends, and even then only when Jethro was around, wasn't on her finger. It was in her bag.
As she walked outside and Jethro slid an arm around her waist, she could see he noticed the absent ring too.
The wedding magazines were lying, untouched, on Jethro's dining room table. Jenny didn't want to think about them, she had bigger things to plan than her wedding. Like an op to tackle a terrorist hitting Navy personnel in the Indian Ocean. Like a liaison operation to hunt a serial killer with the FBI. Her work was much more important than deciding what flowers to put in her bouquet.
Jenny caught Jethro's eye as she walked across his garden, and she could see the trepidation in his face. He was starting to realise that too.
"I've got a question for you Jen," he asked, licking his lips and putting down his paper.
She smiled, turning to him with a failing smile. "Sure. Just talk while I go get the food."
She moved from the garden into Jethro's kitchen, trying to put together lunch. They had been trying to spend more time around Jethro's house than her own in an attempt to give her father some space. It had been nice, not having to deal with Jasper every morning, frowning over the paper. She and Jethro had spent most of the summer in his garden, putting in new flowers, a tree and Jethro had built all the new garden furniture. It was steadily becoming their garden.
Jethro turned in his sun lounger, watching as she tried to avoid him. "I noticed you weren't wearing your engagement ring today."
She nodded as she brought out salad and then a bowl of marinated chicken wings. A light summer lunch to accompany what was no doubt going to be a heavy conversation about their relationship.
"You must remember me not wearing our rings when we were working in Paris - I just don't like things around my fingers," Jenny lied, knowing full well that Jethro would know she was.
Sighing, Jethro grabbed Jenny around the waist when she came close to him and placed her on his lap. His arms clung to her, gripping her tightly to him. The look on his face told her she was in store for a legendary Gibbs lecture, and Jenny actually wished her father was there to interrupt them or be on her side. But Daddies Shepard and Gibbs were watching football and drinking beer round her house, far away from this argument.
"Jen, do you want to marry me? Honestly?" Jethro asked, his tone soft.
"Of course I do," she whispered in a small voice, not sure of her words.
Jethro leaned back against the wooden lounger, his expression on the pinnacle of bursting. He sighed, his arms becoming loose around her body. "Jenny, no one at work knows we're engaged, and we have been for about three months now! You're not wearing your ring; you look at wedding magazines like they're going to bite you!" He used a free hand to rub his face. "I thought every woman wanted to get married."
He could see that he had made a mistake the moment he had said the words. The slap to his chest was his reassurance that he had made a big one. Jenny pushed herself off his body and moved to the table to start cutting a bread roll.
"I've told you, Jethro, I just need to work out how to tell the new SecNav, and then everything will be fine." She muttered as she started pulling cling film off of the dishes. "I don't appreciate the sexist comment, either. Not every woman wants to get married."
Jethro shifted off the lounger quickly and moved to the garden table. He put his hand over Jenny's, stopping her from preparing lunch. "If you didn't want to get married, you shouldn't have said yes when I proposed."
"You didn't have to propose. The government doesn't give you a bottle of bourbon if you hit five wives before you're sixty."
Her fiancé slammed the table hard, before stalking off into the kitchen. She heard the door open to the basement and slam shut, making the other doors vibrate in the house. Jenny just slid to one of the chairs, looking at the food and feeling anything but hungry.
They kept out of each other's way for the rest of the day; Jenny choosing to stay in the garden. She knew that going back to her own place would make things worse, so she had stayed. As the hours strolled into the am, Jenny heard Jethro stumble up to bed. She decided to do the same, even if it would only lead to another argument. She didn't want to lose him over something so petty. Moving inside the house, Jenny gazed over the wedding magazines again. Her purse was still on the table, and she pulled the ring out.
Jenny slipped the ring on her finger, admiring it from all angles. It was a beautiful engagement ring. She knew some women would want more glamorous ones, but she was happy with such an understated but stunning piece. It was so like Jethro, and as she pressed her hand against her heart, the ring felt warm for the first time.
It was then that Jenny moved her hands inside the bag and started pulling out the wedding magazines. There was just so much to do, so much she hadn't even considered. As she flicked through the magazines, she thought about what Jethro had said earlier. All her friends as a child had already planned their weddings, with big dresses and handsome husbands to be. She had never spent her time worrying over how many layers her cake should have - she had been more worried about whether her father would come home from war alive.
"You coming to bed?" Jethro asked from the doorway, and Jenny turned to look at him. A tear crawled down her cheek, and she smiled weakly.
"Yeah, in a bit." She looked at his faint smile. "Jethro, I do want to marry you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I'm not afraid of that. Just the…wedding bit."
He chuckled and walked over to her, kissing the top of her forehead. "We can elope. Or we can have a small wedding. Just our families and the team."
That was Jenny's problem. When Jethro talked about family, he considered that to be their fathers. And, Jenny guessed he was right - Jasper was the only family she had regular contact with. But he wasn't her only family. "My family is a little bigger than just my Dad."
Jethro nodded, smiling at her and stroking her face. "I've met your Grandpa, Jen, he likes me. I'm sure he won't be any problem. Is it because you haven't heard from him in a while?"
Jenny smiled faintly but shook her head. "He'll be fine at the wedding, and he's just been doing a few things for the British government." Jethro raised his eyebrows. "I've learnt its best to just not ask. But they're just the Shepard's, Jethro. There's my Mother in California. I haven't talked to her since Dad came back."
"Okay. Well you can invite her, catch up. Tell your Mom that her husband faked his death over fruit cake and punch."
Jenny exhaled. This was going to complicated. "And then there's my little sister that I haven't spoken to effectively since our father's funeral. And my Mom's husband, Stephen, and his parents. And my Mom's parents. And my Uncle James. And his kids."
Jethro chuckled and took the seat next to Jenny. He looked at her with a grin on his face, his hand squeezing her shoulder. Jenny had never been one for sharing; she had kept secrets from him for quite some time. But the secret that she wasn't alone made him happy, because he could honestly do something about that. "'Little bigger', Jen? You got cousins in there. When was the last time you saw them?"
"My father's funeral." Jenny looked down at the table. "I miss my Mom, and my sister…and even though I know the wedding will be painful with all my extended family, I want to stop being estranged from them. Having Dad back made me realise that. I want my family back. I want them to be there the day I start a new one."
Jethro leaned over and ran a hand up and down Jenny's back. She relaxed against his touch, and she reached over for a hug. He held her close, her hands gripping his green shirt. Jethro noticed she was wearing the ring, and he gripped her tighter.
"Okay, okay," Jethro pulled back, and stroked his fiancée's face. "How about we have an engagement party and invite all your crazy family?" Jenny giggled. "Then they hopefully won't argue so much at the actual wedding, and nothing will go wrong."
Jenny nodded, but felt her stomach coil into knots again. The idea of her family all being there, her mother and father arguing, Stephen's parents trying to get in the middle…it made her feel sick. Jethro kissed her on the cheek and wiped away her tears. "What do you want, Jen? You know I'll give you anything."
"The engagement party is a good idea, it'll certainly help. But-"
Jethro laughed and pulled Jenny into his arms again. His hand toyed with her engagement ring. "Jen, as you so helpfully pointed out this morning, I've been married four times before. I've had a variety of best men; I've eaten a ton of fruit cake and been for a hell of a lot of fittings. This is going to be your only wedding, Jen. I want it to be special for you, and I was gutted you weren't excited like I was. So whatever makes you excited for it, we'll do it."
Jenny smiled at him, and pushed her arms around his neck. She placed a kiss gently on his lips, and Jethro smiled as he opened his eyes to look at the woman he loved so much. "We can have a big party here, with all our friends and my insane family. But I don't want them at the actual wedding. I don't want them to spoil that."
The knots in her stomach started to loosen as an idea came to her, as she thought about the perfect place they could marry. Jethro saw the light in her eyes, and he realised what she was thinking. "Paris. You want us to get married in Paris."
"What do you think?" Jenny asked tentatively, wondering if the bad memories of the end of their tenure in Paris would mean Jethro wouldn't agree.
She needn't have worried. Jethro grabbed his fiancée and spun her in the air, pressing his lips down on hers. When she pulled back, he was grinning like a Cheshire cat. "It's perfect. Small, wonderful wedding in Paris. The rest we can be drunk for."
They talked a little more about Paris, Jenny turning the engagement ring around her finger. Paris had been the place they had fallen in love, it seemed natural to her to right the wrongs of the past and start their new life together in that city. Bridesmaid dresses, party favours and seating charts were pushed aside for discussing where they should get married. For the first time, Jenny started feeling better about marrying Jethro. The marriage had never been the problem, just the wedding. But this, this was all she had hoped for.
"We can have a reception in DC, after the honeymoon," Jethro started, flicking through a wedding magazine and frowning at some of the dresses. Jenny had already made paper girls with one of the magazines. "Oh, maybe one of those old houses that Ducky used to have? Huge house with a huge garden - perfect place to hide from arguing relatives."
Jenny giggled and planted both hands either side of his face to kiss him. "I love you. It'll be brilliant." She nudged him. "I hate fruit cake. My vote is for an ice cream cake."
"I knew there was a reason I was marrying you."
"I thought it was because you loved me and didn't want to spend the rest of your life without me?"
Jethro looked at his fiancée, watched her beaming smile. "All of the above, and more and more reasons every day."
"You're just a huge softie," Jenny teased, tapping him on the nose. "Such a romantic."
Jethro didn't like that. He scraped his chair back and leapt for Jenny. She started running, laughing as he eventually caught her on the stairs. He pulled her down and kissed her, tickling her with his hands. She giggled against his mouth, and looked up at him with such bright eyes. He bit her bottom lip gently, holding her gaze for as long as he could.
"I'm a bastard, Jen," he smirked, nipping her collarbone. "But I'll love you forever."
Jenny Shepard had never been surer of anything before in her life.