“You offered her a – ” Gibbs stopped speaking when he realised Jen was not alone in the office he had just barged into. Hollis Mann – strangely enough, the reason he was there – was sitting opposite the Director, and now both women were looking at him.
Jen was offering the usual look that he received when he walked in unannounced, and Hollis’ look was a definite ‘I told you so’. The latter gave him a small, slightly sad looking smile, and rose from her seat.
“I should be going,” she said to Jen. “Agent Gibbs obviously has something very important to discuss with you.” He knew that pointed comment was directed at him, though she didn’t spare him a glance.
Jen stood up also, and the two exchanged farewells while Gibbs watched, slightly perturbed that they were getting along so well.
Once she turned to leave the office, Gibbs’ eyes met Hollis’ and held the contact as she walked towards the door. She stopped beside him, and smiled again as she looked up at him. “Bye, Jethro,” she whispered and then she was gone, leaving his mind running through their last conversation one more time, and again trying to convince itself that she was wrong.
“What can I do for you, Jethro?” Jen asked him, bringing his attention back to the present. He looked to her, and found she was now seated behind her desk again, and was looking at him expectantly.
He had come here with every intention of calling her on the reason for her actions, throwing accusations at her, telling her she had no right interfering in his life. But, the unexpected presence of Hollis had given him time - and her knowing look had given him cause – to think about what he was doing. Did the fact that he was here prove all that Hollis had said to him right? Did he want to make the accusations because he wanted to know if they were true?
Jen’s head had tilted to one side with impatience by the time he realised he still hadn’t spoken.
“I just came to say goodnight,” he lied.
Jen smiled and nodded once. “Goodnight, Jethro.”
That was too easy. He watched her for any hint that she knew he was lying, and when she simply smiled again and wished him a good evening, he nodded himself and walked out of the office.
“Which part of saying goodnight starts with ‘You offered her a – ’?”
The voice from the top of the stairs wasn’t completely unexpected. He had known it was too good to be true. Jen was far from stupid.
He didn’t offer a response, simply continuing to work on the wood in front of him as he listened to her footsteps on the stairs. She came to a stand still beside him, looking at his profile, crowding his peripheral vision.
“Hi, Jen,” he said, still not facing her.
“I take it you were referring to the fact that I offered Lieutenant Mann a job… Is there a reason I shouldn’t have?” Jen said, in the same tone she had used days earlier when fishing for information on his relationship with Hollis. The tone that infuriated him because he wished she would just come out with it and say what she meant. And he was sure she knew damn well how annoying it was.
Well, he knew how to infuriate her, too. “No. No reason at all,” he stated, continuing to work.
“Good,” Jen remarked and he could practically hear her mind working, trying to figure out what to say next, as she wasn’t getting the information she wanted. “Of course,” she continued after a brief silence, “we’ll have to wait a few months, but I think she’ll be a good addition to the team then… She’s a very good investigator.”
Gibbs nodded. “Yes she is.”
“The two of you work well together.”
The change in her voice startled him enough to make him turn his full attention to her. She had spoken quietly, and with a vulnerability that tugged at something in his chest. She was staring up at him with wide eyes, apparently waiting with baited breath for his response, preparing herself to hear the worst.
“Why don’t you just ask, Jen?” he said quietly.
She frowned. “Ask what?”
“Feigned innocence doesn’t suit you… You want to know if I’m involved with Lieutenant Mann, just ask.”
“Would you answer?”
He gave a small shrug. “I’d tell you it’s none of your business.”
“If you’re going to be working together then it is my – ”
“But that’s exactly why you offered her the job, isn’t it? Because you know I’m involved with her, and you want to put an end to that.”
She laughed once and took a couple of steps away before turning back to face him. “By giving you the opportunity to spend more time together? Oh that certainly screams of trying to break you up.”
“Jen, you know better than anyone, that when my personal and professional lives start to mix, it’s the personal that loses out.”
She held his gaze across the small distance she had put between them. “So you are… involved with her?” she asked quietly, accepting his accusation without argument.
She looked so exposed, her words seemed to catch in her throat as if it was hard enough for her to think them, let alone have to give them voice, and as he felt all his infuriation disperse, he allowed himself to admit that Hollis was right, after all.
He shook his head, slowly. “Not anymore.”
A brief sparkle of hope returned to her eyes, but she made no reply, she simply quirked an eyebrow in silent question.
“She seems to think that I have too many unresolved issues,” he told her.
The eyebrow rose even higher.
“And that you have even more.”
She frowned now. “What have my issues got to do – ”
Clearly the look of ‘think about it, Jen’ that he sent her worked, because she stopped.
“Oh,” she whispered. “… I’m sorry.”
“Are you?” he asked, folding his arms across his chest.
Now his eyebrows quirked. “That’s very honest, Jen.”
“I think it’s about time, don’t you?”
They both fell silent. She was right. They had been back in each other’s lives for nearly two years now, and the number of times they had danced close to discussing their past showed that they hadn’t moved past it. He had meant it, on that first day, when he had said that he’d missed her. But that was probably the last time either of them had been one hundred percent honest with the other about their relationship.
Of course, what he had said just moments ago was true, mixing his personal and professional lives never ended well. Here they were living proof of that. But, perhaps it was time to break that cycle?
“So, we need to … talk,” he said.
She nodded. “Yes we do… Talk through what happened. Close the door on our history, and lock it this time.”
Gibbs pouted exaggeratedly. “Does that mean I won’t be allowed to think about our past anymore?”
A smile lit Jen’s face, and she broke their eye contact as a slight blush rose to her cheeks.
She took a moment to compose herself and Gibbs took the opportunity to just watch her. He felt himself unable to stop the smile from spreading across his lips. They still had a lot to work through, and their professional positions really prohibited anything from happening between them, but knowing that he wasn’t the only one who had missed their relationship was like a weight had been lifted from him.
Still smiling, she raised her head, and her eyes locked onto his once more.
And his mind reminded him that the last time they were involved, there were a million reasons why they shouldn’t have been.
“What?” she asked, his thought processes must have been revealed in his eyes.
He moved to shake his head, but she shot him a look that reminded him of their honesty agreement. “I was just… thinking that we never let our jobs stand in the way last time,” he told her, taking a step towards her, drawn by the attraction they were once again trying to resist.
She nodded. “That’s true… But then I wasn’t Director of NCIS, and you weren’t under my command.”
“No,” he agreed.
“So what do we do now?” she asked, looking up at him as he now stood directly in front of her, just within her personal space, close enough that he could smell her perfume.
“Well,” he began, softly, raising his right hand, and gently cupping the side of her neck, stroking his thumb along her jaw line. “I vote that we ignore our job titles again. We have that conversation we discussed, and we see what happens.”
“Jethro…” she protested, lacking any and all force in her barely audible word.
“Precisely,” he said, stepping even closer to her. “Jethro and Jen… We never gave them a chance last time.”
“It wasn’t about Jethro and Jen last time,” she pointed out, settling her arms round his waist.
“No. But they were there.”
“And they got hurt,” she said quietly.
“Which is why we owe them this second chance.”
Uncertainty remained in her eyes, but Jen nodded. “You do realise we’re talking about ourselves as if we’re each two different people.”
He laughed. “I do… I was hoping I could convince you that was the case… You’re the one taking the biggest risk here, Director.”
She nodded again, her acknowledgement that she understood he was leaving the next step to her. If she chose not to pursue their attraction then he would respect that. He wasn’t sure how the hell he would handle it now that he had allowed himself to admit he still had feelings for her, but he would respect her decision. She had much more to lose.
She tightened her hold on him, stepping forward to rest her head against his chest, and he wrapped his own arms round her as she took the time to think.
Minutes later, she pulled back just far enough to look up at his face, and he knew she had intentionally kept her face unreadable. Infuriating woman.
“I don’t think… I want to think of myself as two different people.”
He nodded. “I understand.”
“So,” she continued, a smile creeping onto her lips, “This will have to be a secret affair… Can you handle that?” Her eyes sparkled brightly with mischief as she finished. She knew full well that he could handle that; that he would thrive on that. He liked his personal life to remain personal anyway, but past experience had taught him that the secrecy only added to the enjoyment.
“Oh I think I’ll manage,” he grinned, before leaning down and brushing his lips across hers.
She returned the kiss, and before he knew it, their re-ignited flame of passion had his body pinning hers against the side while his tongue duelled with hers, and his hands roamed restlessly over every part of her that he could reach.
When they broke apart for air, both grinning like giddy teenagers, he rested his forehead against hers, and whispered huskily, “I missed you, Jen.”
Her smile widened and she stretched up and kissed him soundly. He was just starting to get into it, when she pulled away. He glared at her, but she simply smiled innocently. “I missed you too, Jethro.”