Title: The Charming Gardener, Chapters 24 – Epilogue
Genre: Crime/Drama, Episode Related, Romance
Relationship(s): Tony DiNozzo/Jeanne Benoit; Jenny Shepard/ Ziva David
Content Rating: R
Warnings: Discussion – Child Abuse, Character Bashing, Discussion – Murder, Genocide, Infidelity, Violence Canon Level, Explicit Sex, Voyeurism, Permanent Injury, Mental Illness, Delusions, Adult Language.
Author Notes: This is a fix-it for the seasons 4-5 La Grenouille Jenny Shepard revenge arc. The warning about genocide relates to a canon character who is an illegal arms dealer. The primary relationship is between Tony and Jeanne and is a romantic one. The secondary one between Jenny and Ziva is not – more one of convenience. Translations can be found in the Summary Sheet.
Word Count: ~134,300
Summary: Gibbs resigns from NCIS and heads down to Mexico. Jenny sees the perfect opportunity to realise her plan to make her father’s killer pay dearly and DiNozzo is key to her dangerous undercover mission. The only problem is, she has no idea that Tony is already good friends with Jeanne Benoit, the daughter of her nemesis.
Donald Mallard, Ducky to his legion of friends and acquaintances, looked around the almost empty bar regretfully. Of course, the bar was not empty – there was the usual collection of people who frequented such places at the end of the working week. Some drinkers were knocking back the proverbial couple of social drinks with workmates before heading off for a weekend of domestic relaxation or a busy social life. There were also the hardened drinkers knocking back more than a few drinks, eager to get themselves good and drunk before venturing home to whatever domestic bliss or otherwise awaited. Then there were the functional drunks; people who had a problem with alcohol and would be here until closing and return as soon as practical tomorrow morning, still inebriated from the night before.
So, the bar was in fact far from empty but most of the seats which just a while ago had been filled with the young ones from NCIS who’d been sitting at the actual bar itself were no longer occupied. Being a bon vivant, Ducky was feeling sad about their rapid departures, as he’d been enjoying their conviviality. It was his young assistant James Palmer who’d invited him to come out for a few drinks with the others. He’d explained that the out-of-character socialising at the bar near the Navy Yard was because of concerns over the impending mandatory polygraphs.
Ducky admitted he was quite perplexed by the seeming mass panic surrounding staff regarding the mandatory polygraph testing. He was a little peeved that technically, he wasn’t a federal agent and therefore, wasn’t required to take one. Like anything scientific, medical or related to law enforcement, Ducky was utterly fascinated by the science behind detecting non-truthful activities.
He’d have loved to have a birds-eye point of view into its workings. Sadly, that was not to be. However, when he expressed his confusion as to why the field agents would be nervous about the upcoming polygraphs James had given him an incredulous look.
“Because, Dr Mallard, they don’t exactly follow the rules on the MCRT.”
He’d stopped his work to consider the full implications of what James had said. True – Gibbs wasn’t one for following rules unless they were his own. Even then, he only paid lips service to them. He could be quite a hypocrite at times, Ducky had to admit.
Gibbs first wife (who was also the love of his life) and their young daughter had killed by a Mexican drug cartel. Jethro was pretty biblical, in the old testament kind of way, and Ducky felt it was highly probable that Jethro killed the man responsible for their death. The medical examiner was sure there were a few other times Jethro stepped so far over the line that he’d become vulnerable to facing criminal charges for assault, obstruction of justice and goodness only knows what else.
Yes, in hindsight he could see why Jethro would have cause for concern – but the rest of the team? Surely not!
“But what could young Timothy have possibly done wrong to work himself into such a lather, Mr Palmer? He’s a law-abiding young man if ever there was one?” he protested bemusedly.
The look James gave him was akin to the looks he and his chums used to give clueless old fogies who believed that the Beatles, Elvis and the Rolling Stones and their music were the spawn of Satan. Oh dear, had he reached old fogy status already? He really didn’t feel that old!
His youthful assistant had shaken his head. “Are you kidding, Doctor? Tim’s worried sick about all the illegal hacking he does for Gibbs. He’s hacked into the FBI, NSA, CIA and classified Naval and Marine Corps projects and those are just the main ones. The guy is so addicted to hacking, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to learn that he hacks into his local library to borrow books instead of using a borrower’s card.”
“But why would he do that?” Ducky inquired, genuinely bemused.
The younger man looked at him and shrugged. “Because he can.”
“Abby’s no better – she’ll hack anything that Gibbs asks her to hack. She’d do anything for him. If he asked her to help him cover up a murder, she’d do it like a shot for her Silver Fox,” Jimmy told him with more than a soupçon of disapproval if Ducky was any judge.
They both contemplated his rather outlandish assertion before Ducky decided his assistant was probably correct. Unfortunately.
“Good thing she isn’t a field agent and subject to the testing program, cuz Abby is almost as bad a liar as McGee. The DHS agents would crack her lies in a few seconds.” Jimmy said.
Ducky considered James statement and realised the lad was right about Abby’s ability to obfuscate – but he was still reeling about McGee. It would that seems his profiling skills could do with a spot of brushing up on.
As if anticipating his next question, like the excellent assistant he was turning into, James said. “And then, of course, there’s Ziva, who never ever follows rules or procedures unless they are Mossad ones. She breaks and enters; never bothers to advise the people she arrests about their rights to have legal representation and/or to refuse to answer questions. Although… she doesn’t seem to be at all concerned about the upcoming polygraphs. Maybe, since she’s Mossad she won’t have to take the polygraph.”
Ducky conceded that she may well be exempt because of her liaison status but if so, that was also an excellent reason why she also shouldn’t be allowed to investigate crime in the US either. The ME could think of several other reasons why she wouldn’t be concerned about the polygraph. Firstly, she and Jenny were quite tight, having worked together and the director was a friend of her father’s too. The second reason for her devil may care attitude was that he was certain that Mossad and the Kidon fellows would have taught her how to outfox the technology.
Not voicing those thoughts, he asked James, “And Anthony? Is he having freak-outs about the upcoming polygraphs as well?”
Jimmy looked concerned. “He’s been preoccupied about something for a while but that was before the polygraph testing was announced. So, I doubt it. And anyway, he doesn’t have to worry.” He said with confidence.
Ducky raised his eyebrows, “How can you be so certain about that, Mr Palmer? If the rest of the MCRT have cause for concern, then surely Anthony is complicit as well.”
Jimmy flushed with anger. “Are you kidding me? Who do you think makes sure the MCRT’s cases get successful convictions when they’ve ignored the law and SOP for law enforcement?” he asked him with righteous indignation.
“Are you saying Tony does that?”
“Yes! He goes back and finds real investigative leads and obtains legitimate warrants to search suspects’ property or he goes through financial records when McGee doesn’t bother obtaining warrants to hack.
Ducky wondered, had he been wilfully blind to what had been going on under right under his nose?
“Tony makes sure that he reads people their rights before people are questioned because he knows that Ziva thinks it’s a stupid waste of time. He dots all the I’s and crosses all the T’s on their reports to make sure criminals don’t get tossed out on a technicality.”
Donald was dismayed, he had no idea that Anthony was having to do so much to keep the team on the straight and narrow. It explained why he was always prowling around in the middle of the night whenever Ducky was conducting an autopsy. He used to have such a keen eye for details. He wondered if Jethro knew?
Casting a curious eye at his young assistant, he told him that he would be glad to accept their generous invitation to going out imbibing with them. James rolled his eyes tolerantly at the old -fashioned phrase before expressing his pleasure.
“That’s great, Dr Mallard. Abby said she was coming too, and Agent Lee mentioned she might drop by as well,” Jimmy mentioned casually, in what Victoria Mallard would call his butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth expression.
Ducky tried manfully to maintain a straight face because James and the pretty young Michelle Lee weren’t anywhere near as subtle as they liked to think they were. He was quite aware that the pair had been making whoopee in Autopsy after hours and possibly in other dark and semi-private spaces in NCIS. There were a few places where they may go if Autopsy wasn’t free, such as the evidence lockers, the garage or even the bathrooms down near the gym.
He’d almost walked in on them several times to his mortification and found female underwear; indeed, they were rather racy brassieres and nickers stowed in drawers and various other inappropriate places that had caused his young assistant a great deal of angst and embarrassment when he drew attention to them. Ducky chuckled sadistically, knowing that he was rather enjoying playing a bumbling old dotard – unable to see what was going on right under his nose.
Perhaps, though, he should let James off the hook and inform him that he was aware of their shenanigans. Warn him because what they were doing could be damaging for their careers.
Sighing because he couldn’t help envying their youth, not to mention their libidos, he’d asked, “How do you know so much about what is going on in the MCRT, Mr Palmer? I confess I had no idea.”
Jimmy looked flustered. He most definitely shouldn’t ever play poker, not unless he was prepared to lose and lose quite badly, Ducky observed mentally.
“Um…ah…well when Gibbs resigned.” He began and Ducky raised his eyebrows at the rare honest summation of the event. He stopped in mid-sentence before trying again.
“Ah…when he went on ‘sick leave’ and Tony was promoted…ah temporarily. When he was temporarily promoted, everyone was having a hard time with the changes on the team. We often went out for a drink because he needed someone to talk to who he could trust.”
Feeling more than a little aggrieved, Ducky asked, “Why didn’t young Anthony ever talk to me about this situation, Mr Palmer?”
Shuffling back and forward on each foot looking very uncomfortable, he finally replied, “Because you were part of the problem, Doctor Mallard. He tried to talk to you but every time he tried, you went off on a rant about Agent Gibbs and how he hurt your feelings that he left without so much as a goodbye. You were so mad all the time that he stopped trying.”
It was Ducky’s turn to feel discomfiture because James was right, he was furious with Jethro. He’d driven him home the night he’d resigned, and he’d never mentioned his intention to head down to Mexico. When he returned the next night with some Chinese food and a bottle of excellent bourbon to share with his friend, Gibbs had already left, without so much as a goodbye. Indeed, he had no idea where he’d gone or if he was alright. It was Abigail who Gibbs had entrusted with a phone number to call in case of emergency.
Ducky had nothing against the forensic scientist but her friendship with Jethro (more a case of hero worship rather than friendship, he thought a little snidely) hadn’t existed for anywhere nearly as long as his and Jethro had done. Nor had she had any adventures with him in the field either and yet, all that bonding seemed to be for naught when Gibbs abandoned them all.
Looking chagrined he replied, “Indeed, you are quite correct, Mr Palmer. It was hardly my finest hour, I’m afraid. I’m glad you were there to step into the breach, as it were.”
Ducky vowed that he would be there in the future, should Anthony need his assistance or support.
They’d both tacitly agreed to drop the rather emotive topic to focus instead on their weekly inventory and reordering of medical supplies.
And now he was glancing around at the empty seats beside him at the bar wistfully. He’d been enjoying himself – they’d been having an enthralling discussion about beating the polygraph test which Ziva had maintained was easily achieved. To his amusement the earnestly idealistic Miss Lee was refusing to listen, adopting the time-old expedient of covering her ears and humming la-la-la to drown out Ziva’s words. Miss Lee was obviously painfully aware she was a lawyer and sworn officer of the courts.
It had been a fabulously entertaining evening before it came to a very sudden and premature end.
Timothy had been called away, he’d been doing a lot of extra-curricular work for the director of late. He could see in retrospect how the junior agent had become rather full of himself but also seemed increasingly anxious as well. He hoped that whatever Jenny had him doing, it didn’t come back to bite him on the buttocks. Considering James revelations about Timothy’s illegal hacking, he fervently hoped that they didn’t ask the junior agent any awkward questions, or his career might come to a swift and ignominious end.
Soon after Tim’s departure Miss Lee announced that she needed to go to the Ladies room and James gallantly offered to help her find it. Really… could they be any more obvious? He noticed Ziva and Abigail rolling their eyes at each other and wearing amused expressions, so obviously he wasn’t the only one who was aware of their escapades either.
“Guess we won’t see them for quite a while,” The forensic scientist stated with knowing wink.
Ziva nodded. “I think it is sweet that Jimmy is playing hide the Pat-a-Cakes with Agent Lee. He is much too uptight, no?”
Abby and Ducky chuckled before the Goth attempted to correct her mangled idioms. “It’s ‘play hide the salami’ or playing Pat-a-Cakes, Zee. Although the second one’s a game that children play with each other or with their parents.”
Ziva looked quite outraged, “I do not believe that is morally right to play those games with a parent. Not even with an adult who is not related, even if it were permissible in some cultures.”
So, then Abigail and Ducky had to demonstrate how to play Pat-a-Cake to the amusement of their fellow patrons. Unfortunately, soon after that, Abigail received a summons back to the Lab from the director herself and she was forced to depart too. One did not refuse to obey the director if you wanted to advance your career.
So, then it was just himself and Ziva left, who kept obsessively checking out her cell phone or making calls which were seemingly going straight to voicemail. Thinking that perhaps she had a romantic rendezvous or even plans with other people her own age, he told her that she shouldn’t worry about leaving him by himself, he should be getting home soon.
Ziva denied having a prior engagement, explaining that she’d been trying to call Tony since they’d arrived but kept getting his voicemail. “Just like it has been recently. He does not answer his phone. I am worried that something is wrong. Tony said he would be here and now I cannot reach him.”
Patting her slender hand and trying not to think about how many people she had killed with it, he comforted her gallantly, “I’m sure he’s fine, My Dear. He’s quite capable of looking out for himself, you know.”
She looked at him seriously. “I am worried about him. He has been preoccupied lately. What if there is something wrong with him? He was in the hospital last week, yes? What if he is having a relapse of the Y Pestis? Tony has been seeing a doctor.”
He looked at her, with raised eyebrows.
She had the grace to look a little bit embarrassed. “Before he was in Bethesda last week, Ducky. I meant that he had been seeing a doctor for a while now. He has conversations with him on the phone during work hours and you know how Gibbs feels about personal calls when we are supposed to be working. So, it has to be serious.” Ziva clarified herself awkwardly.
Duck thought it interesting that she’d used the same phrase that young James had when speaking about Anthony being preoccupied. “I’m sure he’s alright, Ziva. He’s probably just forgotten or got caught up with something. I don’t think that the Yersinia Pestis is cause for concern, since I’m sure that his pulmonologist would have given me a heads up if that was to occur.”
Unfortunately, Ziva didn’t seem to be impressed by his attempts to comfort her.
“He is my partner. And my partner said he would be here. And…and I have this…not so good feeling.”
Ducky was privately amused by Ziva’s concern. He couldn’t quite decide if Ziva lusted after their Very Special Agent or if she loathed him. While they both often flirted with each other, there were plenty of occasions where she was cutting and cruel towards him as well. That damned dinner party where she’d supposedly invited the whole team and he’d learnt belatedly that Tony had not been invited, sprang to mind. Although there were plenty of other examples of her appalling behaviour towards him too. She liked nothing better than to make him look like a buffoon, which was not a sign of love or respect in his book.
Perhaps she was attracted to him but didn’t want to be and so she took it out on him instead. Maybe she interpreted their flirting as something more serious than it was and was hurt because he didn’t want to be anything more than work- partners. After all, Anthony was an incorrigible flirt, but he generally didn’t mean anything by it. Abigail was cut from the same cloth. It was a harmless game that helped ameliorate the stress of having to work in such a high- pressure job with a perpetually angry individual as their boss.”
Ducky didn’t know why Anthony was preoccupied in the last few weeks although he very much doubted that it was a return of the plague or the mandatory polygraph testing. He had noticed however a distinct change in the senior field agent going back quite a few months and he had his own suspicions. Suspicions that might also explain his current preoccupation too.
On the off chance that Ziva was holding out hope of a relationship with Anthony, he decided to share his own suspicions with her.
“My Dear, I’m reminded of something that Proust once said.” Seeing her look of confusion, he decided to explain himself. “Marcel Proust, also known as Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust who was a French novelist, critic, and essayist. He is perhaps best known for his monumental novel À la recherche du temps perdu…”
Ziva interrupted him mid-sentence. “Which in English translates to In Search of Lost Time.” She smiled at his surprise, before continuing. “He is considered by critics and writers to be one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. I know who Proust is, Ducky. I was confused about why you were quoting him.
Ducky huffed at being pre-empted, but he was secretly delighted that Ziva wasn’t about to fob him off just like most people did at NCIS simply because he didn’t immediately get to the point. He preferred to arrive at his destination via the road less travelled. There was nothing wrong with the scenic journey.
“Well, my dear, what I was about to say is that I’ve noticed that Anthony has been behaving differently for some time now, although not bad different. I do not believe it has to do with his health, despite his bout of bronchitis. He’s been prone to bronchitis ever since he contracted the plague.”
Looking unconvinced she folded her arms and said, “So what is your explanation for his odd behaviour lately, Ducky?”
He smiled, hoping he wasn’t about to break the Mossad liaison’s heart but if what he suspected about her carrying a torch for their dashing agent was true, then, it would be quite cruel of him to let her think she stood a chance with Anthony. He owed it to Ziva to dissuade her affections for him if he could. Not that her behaviour was consistent with a lovelorn individual. It was most vexing conundrum, however, he would just answer her question and let the chips fall where they may.
Smiling softly, he said as gently as he could, “As Proust said, ‘Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.’ I believe that the reason for Anthony’s preoccupation and his calmer mien is that he’s met his charming gardener, Ziva.”
Frowning she shook her head in confusion. “Tony told me he has a black thumb. I do not believe he has been gardening, even if he can sometimes be very charming when he wants to be,” she stated firmly.
Ducky sighed. This might take a while to explain.
Tony had headed up towards the roof in order to find a private place to talk to Fornell. He had some interesting things to share, including the snippet that Gibbs had come looking for the Fibbie to find out about what was behind the mandatory polygraphs.
Seemed that Gibbs was worried, and Tony figured he had some good reasons to be worried. He was guilty of obstructing justice when it came to Mike Franks and that Russian who he’d shot in cold blood, not to mention that Franks assaulted a federal agent and Gibbs covered both up. But those were probably two off his lesser crimes.
Still as interesting as that news was, there was still no sightings of La Grenouille or at least none that the FBI were privy to. For some reason, Tobias seemed convinced that Benoit had left his insurance policy with Jeanne or her mother but if so, Tony was certain that neither doctor was aware that they had it in their possession. But if Fornell was right, then he would have to reach out and contact them so he could retrieve it. If that was the case, Tony wished the arms dealer would get it over and done with because the waiting was killing Jeanne and her mother. Neither of them could move on, because as of right now, they were both in mortal danger.
They discussed a couple of other issues before Fornell promised to let him know if he heard anything. Looking at his watch, Tony realised he’d been talking to the FBI agent for over ten minutes. He smirked, who’d have thought they would become such good buddies?
Taking the stairs down to the third floor two at a time, he wondered guiltily if Annie had been able to talk some sense into Jeanne or if she was still pissed. He knew how much she hated to lose a patient because he was the same when they couldn’t save someone even if, like the mule, they weren’t exactly an upstanding citizen.
Looking around the surgical floor, he couldn’t see Jeanne. He asked Annie, “Did you manage to find Jeanne?”
The senior nurse smiled indulgently. “Yep, gave her the lecture about not being able to save everyone and how you had to refocus and look after the ones who are still alive. She’ll be okay.”
Tony smiled in relief. Sometimes he worried that she was too sensitive to be a doctor. Oh, he knew how strong she was, but Jeanne also took everything to heart and become so invested in her patients – even the scum bag ones like Devon Watkins.
“So, where is she?” he asked, anxious to give her a hug.”
Bill was passing by the nurses’ station and asked, “Are you looking for Dr Benoit, Tony?”
Tony smiled at the orderly who turned out was a Buckeyes fan. “Yeah, have you seen her, Bill?”
He nodded. “She’ went down to the morgue to make sure that that dodgy looking guy, Nick wasn’t hanging around.”
Trying to stay calm, he asked, “Any reason why she might think that was a possibility?
Bill looked a bit concerned. “Well, I might have mentioned to her that I had to chase them out of there earlier,” he admitted diffidently.
Looking horrified Tony exclaimed, “What the hell was Jeanne thinking?”
The orderly looked guilty. “Well, she called Hospital Security to meet her down there. I was going down with her and then a got an urgent page…but she promised she would wait until the security guards got there, Tony.”
Tony cursed under his breath. What the hell was she thinking? Going off on her own was dumb – it was more than dumb. It was monumentally stupid, and she was supposed to be a highly intelligent person. Kerry was a mean SOB and probably the only reason he’d backed down when the orderly had run into him in the basement was that Bill was built like a line backer -he was huge! Jeanne, on the other hand, was not built like a line backer – she might be fiery but that didn’t take away from the fact that she was very petite.
Sprinting for the elevator which was full of people, he pulled out his creds and badge, ordering everyone out. On the way down to the morgue, it stopped on the ground floor and he stopped anyone entering, telling them it was police business. Tony hoped he was overreacting, but he didn’t think so. Nick Kerry was a drug runner and therefore he was bad news.
He gave himself a mental head slap – he should have arrested him but he too focused on Jeanne and her safety. The irony was that he posed just as much of a threat to the woman he loved as her father or the CIA did, or any one of the other alphabets jostling to find Benoit’s fucking insurance policy.
As the elevator hit the basement and the doors opened, Tony raced out, gun drawn, only to be confronted with his worst nightmare. Nick had one arm wrapped around Jeanne’s neck while the other one was holding a gun, a Smith and Wesson 629 pressed up against her temple. His heart stopped as he saw the danger that Jeanne was facing. He couldn’t lose her…he wouldn’t lose her.
Nick smiled and Tony recognised the familiar signs of a sociopath in his cold dead eyes.
Nick said conversationally, “Guess you know what to do, Piggy. Drop your gun and kick it over here. And don’t bother giving me any crap about the Hospital Security turning up, either.”
Tony wasn’t about to take any chances with Jeanne’s life – she was his life. He dropped his Sig Saur and carefully slid it across the floor in the vicinity of Nick but not too close either because he was frightened that Jeanne might try something stupid like reaching for it. He had no illusions about what would happen next if she tried anything. Nick would shoot her without compunction and although Tony could draw his backup piece, he wouldn’t have enough time to do so before Nick could shoot Jeanne. The likely outcome being that she would end up dead, her brains spattered everywhere.
He still had nightmares about Cate’s brains splattered across his face when Ari killed her with a sniper’s bullet. He had no intention of watching Jeanne die that way if he had anything to say about it, which he did. Tony had every intention of making sure that she walked away without a scratch. Nick was another matter entirely.
Nick manipulated her position carefully so he could kick the gun back behind him. Forcing her to kneel with her legs crossed and her hands on her head he swiftly picked up Tony’s Sig, sticking it into the waistband of his jeans. Nick instructed Tony to lean with his hands presses against the wall holding his weight and spread his legs wide, so he was off balance. Then the drug dealer patted him down for other weapons and Tony figured he’d probably find his backup piece too.
It was highly likely the drug dealer would miss his knife though. One of these days, Tony was going to get himself a backup gun which was disguised as something totally benign like a shoe or a wristwatch a la James Bond or Secret Agent 87, aka Maxwell Smart. Until then, at least his trusty belt knife would give him a fighting chance to end this siege swiftly.
As he predicted, Nick noticed his backup strapped to his ankle and took possession of it, sticking it inside his jacket pocket. Holding the S&W pressed up against Tony’s spine he instructed Jeanne to call the security guards and tell them the call out had been was a false alarm. Tony looked at his girlfriend intently and told her to do what Nick said. He’d see the stubborn look in her eyes and knew that it meant trouble but if she just followed the douche bag’s instructions, Tony could get them out of this mess.
It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Nick was determined not to leave without the heroin Devon had been carrying. He wasn’t going to kill them, not unless they interfered with his objective, in which case he would shoot them without a moment’s regret.
Nick smiled and Tony decided it was not a nice smile, aside from the fact that Nick really needed some orthodontic work done on his mouth. He stared at Jeanne coldly and Tony decided the creepiest thing was the total absence of empathy.
DiNozzo was on high alert, knowing he might need to act in a split second if things turned nasty, but for now, he was content to watch and wait.
Jeanne was giving him a look that spoke volumes. After all this time he had little difficulty in reading her meaning, the ‘how can you expect me to help this disgusting piece of trash,’ look. He hoped she could read his answering one too, the one that said, ‘just trust me and do what he tells you to do.’
Missing their silent conversation entirely, Nick told her darkly, “Listen to the piggy-wiggy, Sweetheart or else I can easily follow through on my previous threat. That pain-in-the-ass junkie’s no use to me now her brother is dead.”
He shrugged casually, “Oh well, no skin off my nose. I’m tired of the whiney little bitch anyway. Hey Bernie, can you come here.”
Giving him a hate-filled glare, Jeanne started dialling her cell phone.
Nick stared back at her and said harshly, “Put it on speaker,” earning him a poisonous glare which seemed to amuse him.
“Oh, you’re a fiery one, ain’tcha. I might take you with me, I reckon you’d be a great fuck, Doc.”
She was about to reply but caught the subtle shake of Tony’s head and bit her tongue, although he could tell she was spitting mad.
After Jeanne had cancelled the security guards, Nick marched them into the morgue where Bernie was supposed to be locating her brother’s body but had been manically looking for drugs instead. When she saw Nick, she launched into an incoherent rant about how she was hurting and how the cough syrup wasn’t helping.
He flicked a look at Jeanne and said, “Jesus fucking Christ! You see what I was talking about?” He slapped the addict roughly across the face and growled at the pathetic girl who looked like something the cat had dragged in, backwards. She was an absolute mess.
“We’re in a morgue, you dumb shit, not an ER. If you want a fix, then find Devon.”
Thus motivated, Bernie located him in seconds, and he instructed Jeanne to find his drugs. When she looked at Bernie and hesitated, Nick coldcocked Tony, who felt his head explode as his knees gave way. He collapsed onto the tiled floor, cracking his head as he fell. He was vaguely aware of Jeanne arguing with Nick before she rushed to his side and cradled his aching head in her lap as she gave him a quick examination.
He tried to reassure her that he was fine. He made a lame joke about having a hard head because he could see that Jeanne was upset and blaming herself for him being hurt. Nick impatiently told her that her cop was fine and to get on with it. Tony heard her tell him she needed to glove up and wear a mask and as she picked up the scalpel, Tony noticed both Bernie and Nick lean forward over Devon’s body. It was the moment he’d been waiting for when Nick was distracted.
Tony reached for his knife and drew it out of his belt buckle, preparing to throw it at Nick, even though he was seeing double. As Jeanne sliced the cadaver and pulled up his intestines, she took advantage of Kerry’s attention, swiftly slashing Nick in the hand. Using his cry of pain to pinpoint his location, Tony flung his knife with a skill born out of many a knife throwing competition at summer camps. Hearing the second cry of pain he knew he’d hit his target and heard the thud of Nick’s gun as he dropped it.
Tony was determined not to lose Jeanne; he managed to slither across the floor in desperation, find the gun and fired a shot into the ceiling. Mostly, because he couldn’t see well enough to fire at the drug dealer and he was also worried in his current state, he might shoot Jeanne or even Bernie.
Nick seemed to realise he was beaten, and it looked as if Nick wasn’t as tough as he liked to think he was. Tony’s knife had managed to enter the fleshy part of his upper arm, but you’d have thought it was a mortal wound for all the complaining he was doing. He was still complaining when the security guards Jeanne had summoned after he’d surrendered, arrived and detained him in anticipation of the arrival of the cops.
Jeanne insisted on finishing out the rest of her shift – in between giving statements to the police about Devon Watkins’ death and the siege in the Morgue. Tony spent several hours in the ER having a head CT which helped his nausea no end. He was diagnosed (big surprise) with a mild concussion and he finally managed to get them to release him into Jeanne’s care, so he sacked out in the doctor’s lounge to rest, being woken up periodically for concussion checks or to talk to the cops again.
He was more than ready to head home the next morning when Jeanne finished her shift and completed the handover. Tony really wanted to sink into his bed, but he knew that wasn’t an option.
Jeanne was refusing to go back to Viv’s apartment because she wanted to monitor his concussion. More pertinently, Tony knew that she felt responsible for him getting hurt because of the decisions she’d made. Tony couldn’t argue that she’d made some shitty choices, but he also understood that she made them for altruistic reasons. Plus, he got that afterwards she wanted to fix what she’d broken i.e. fix him.
DiNozzo couldn’t deny that he wanted to be fussed over by Jeanne who made him feel special – a feeling he’d never really had much experience with in the past, especially when he was sick or injured. A voice in his head told him to stop acting like a weak baby. DiNozzo’s didn’t need people fussing over them.
Jeanne had been appalled to learn that when Tony was discharged after contracting the plague and coming close to dying of pneumonia, he’d gone home to his apartment and spent a week alone with his surround sound theatre and baby grand piano. And people had expressed amazement that he’d wanted to return to work early – duh it was because he was craving human companionship.
So, he didn’t fight her as hard as he should have, picturing himself snuggling up beside his girlfriend in a soft comfortable bed. He wasn’t a total pushover when it came to Jeanne’s security though. He’d autocratically ruled out going back to her place or his because it was too dangerous. They would book into a hotel under a fake name and stay for one night only, but truth be told, even if he’d been able to persuade Jeanne to return to Viv’s, he didn’t think he was up to his usual shenanigans so he could lose the CIA who would be following them.
He told the voices inside his head who were advising him he was being a baby, not a badass agent, to shut the fuck up. Which caused Jeanne to express concerns about him and suggest he be admitted for observation…which he nixed pretty damned quick. He was going back to a hotel and that was that. If Jeanne wanted to snuggle up in bed with him, well he didn’t have a problem with that!
Hoping to steal away quietly, DiNozzo was grateful that earlier, Fornell had suggested that Tony leave his beloved Mustang behind in the hospital carpark as a decoy since it was easy to spot him in it. Tobias arranged to have a generic looking sedan delivered to Munroe University Hospital car park, by one of his baby agents. Said agent left the keys to the ignition underneath the wheel hub.
Tony decided to send a message to McGee later asking him to drive it back to NCIS for him. Fornell had agreed to keep swapping non-descript model cars for him to help thwart the CIA from learning where Jeanne was staying.
Fornell had cackled maniacally when Tony regaled him with his attempts to annoy agents from The Company. Yeah…there was little love lost between those two alphabets.
Ziva thought about what Ducky said last night at the bar when she expressed concern about Tony failing to show up as he’d promised and then not answering his phone. Ducky believed he had a girlfriend. Some horticultural type who created gardens that fed the soul or some such fantasy. Ziva was dubious, he did not seem the back to nature type or even the want a girlfriend type. Director Shepard and her joint profiling of him was of a male who was only interested in having sex without commitment and did not espouse monogamous relationships.
Ziva’s private profile was that he was in denial about his sexual orientation and perhaps all his girlfriends were actual males or if they were females, his inability to please them was the real reason he dated so many.
She had good reason to believe he was not a heterosexual. After all, many times she had propositioned him for sex because despite his many flaws he was quite easy on her senses. He had never accepted her generous friends-with-benefits offers which perplexed her a great deal as she was a beautiful woman with physical assets which made males of any age hard just looking at her. Making them think with their dicks was what she has been trained to do – to seduce men for her country and she was good at what she did. She received an A-plus in every sexual seduction module!
Ziva was disappointed when she concluded that DiNozzo was not straight – it was a waste. He had a reasonable physique – one that would be aesthetically pleasing for her to fuck. And that was important because she’d had to seduce a great many men and some females who were related to walruses and physically abhorrent. Fucking him would be like enjoying a chocolate truffle – delicious even though he had no real substance. Then, the fact he was so promiscuous had led her to infer he should be open to unconventional sexual activities which Ziva liked to indulge in, needing to keep her darker side under control.
Therefore, she had reached the obvious conclusion that Tony must be gay (as they say in the US) and turned her attention elsewhere. So, when Ducky told her she was acting like a lovelorn girlfriend or wife when she was merely concerned about his welfare, she knew it was ludicrous. She was just concerned about her partner, just like she would be if McGee was acting strangely and it would not mean she had feelings for him.
Okay…not the best example since Tim was acting very strangely at the moment, but that was because Jenny had used him in her undercover mission, and he was far out of his depth. The idea of him being able to get at La Grenouille through his daughter, Jeanne. was a joke!
McGee was the worst possible choice to send undercover to try to seduce Rene Benoit’s daughter. He was socially (and undoubtedly sexually) awkward and inexperienced in the Mossad liaison’s expert opinion. His very demeanour screamed submission out of every pore in his skin and Ziva’s profile of Dr Benoit had been that she was attracted to confident macho types who commanded respect. While she knew McGee had his uses, especially with a keyboard and hacking, his chances of bedding the cultured and sophisticated daughter of La Grenouille were practically nil.
She’d suggested if McGee was going at all in that he should merely befriend her like she had intended to do, until that stuck up bitch diagnosed her as an opioid addict. She thought Jenny agreed with her profiling McGee as a best friend, but he’d somehow convinced Shepard he was a hot-pot Casanova who could get Jeanne into bed and Jenny had capitulated. As someone trained in seduction and as a gifted Dominatrix, she felt Tim would probably struggle to play the best friend role undercover since he had a problem lying. There was no way he could pull off the role of tall dark and handsome who sweeps the girl off her feet and into a bed.
Frankly, Ziva was concerned about Jenny’s behaviour. It wasn’t just her putting McGee in undercover (which was unwise) or letting him try to seduce Benoit (which was laughable) because Ziva knew just how impatient Jenny was to kill the man she believed had killed her father. A best friend would eventually meet Jeanne Benoit’s father but a boyfriend, especially right after her fiancé had cheated on her was sure to be immediately scrutinised to make sure he cut the custard.
The Israeli liaison understood that a boyfriend would produce results more rapidly, but Ziva also knew Jenny had waited a long time to be able to avenge her father. Surely waiting a little bit longer would not hurt?
Plus, aside from her reversing her decision about McGee’s undercover objectives, there was the seizure that she’d witness the night of their failed assassination attempt in Quebec. Jenny had claimed that she’d consulted her internist about it, and he’d diagnosed a migraine in conjunction with stress and physical exhaustion but Ziva was not so sure. After all, she’d seen just how much pain Jenny had been experiencing and she wasn’t convinced that a diagnosis of migraines explained it. Yes, she knew that migraines could occasionally cause seizures and other neurological symptoms but still, something seemed…off?
Deciding to go into NCIS even though it was the weekend, she told herself that it had nothing to do with wanting to see if DiNozzo was there. She refused to consider Ducky’s insinuation that she was infatuated by him. It was a little bit too close to an observation Jenny had made one night when she was in a bad mood. She’d accused Ziva of having a crush on Tony because of his repeated rejection of her advances. Jenny had reckoned the Israeli’s ego couldn’t handle the rejection.
It was not so! There was no shame in a homosexual male not finding her sexually attractive. She just didn’t own the right equipment. She most definitely did not have a crush on a gay man!
No, she was headed into the HQ because weekends were an excellent time for her to carry out her spying duties and gather Intel. that would be passed onto her handler at the Embassy.
Ziva arrived in the bullpen and immediately ran into McGee.
“What are you doing here?” they both asked in unison.
Ever the competitive type, Ziva raised her eyebrow at the junior agent, taking in his rumpled appearance and told him that she had asked him first.
McGee clenched his jaw a fraction before replying, “I think that it was a tie, Ziva but since my parents raised a gentleman and yours raised a killer…I was defragging my computer.”
Ziva considered various responses to his inflammatory statement including pointing out he was a killer too, although not an assassin. Her eyes reflexively checked out the bullpen (something that had become second nature to her since it had become her base) and she spied the litter, not only on McGee’s desk but Gibbs’ desk as well indicating that they’d been at NCIS all night. It was also clear that McGee was lying, and she was getting angry. Somewhat to her surprise, she was also feeling outraged at being left out of whatever it is they were up too.
“Are we not a team, McGee?”
At least he had the grace to look awkward at being caught out lying to her and desisted with his defragging claim. She was not sure what that was, but she suspected it was something sexual and if so, has no wish to know either but she did know that he was not defragging his computer last night. Not with Gibbs in the bullpen because she knew for a fact that Tim was not into voyeurism.
Instead, she told McGee that she was worried about Tony not turning up at the bar last night as he had promised he would. At some point in her diatribe, Gibbs appeared behind her in his sniper sneakiness that people found unnerving. Neither of her teammates seemed to take her concerns seriously, and Ziva became outraged by them ignoring her. Plus, she did not appreciate being removed from the loop, so she started listing dire threats if they did not tell her what they were up to behind her back.
Being a trained interrogator, Ziva recognised that Gibbs was not about to crack but she calmed down, knowing who the weak link in their team was and more than willing to exploit it.
She paused mid threat, stretched sensuously to display her physical assets to their best advantage in front of the bashful agent, arousing him and sending the blood directly to his dick, before she encroached into his personal space. Smiling like the cat who swallowed the buttermilk, she purred in a sexily dangerous voice, “No matter, McGee would tell me…eventually.”
She saw Gibbs and McGee raise their eyebrows, but Gibbs seemed more amused than annoyed and certainly didn’t tell her to back off. She took that as him giving her tacit approval for her to obtain the information. Meanwhile, Tim was blushing like some virginal bride and she knew it was merely a matter of time until he spilled his intestines about what they’d been up to. Looking at his erection, she surmised it wouldn’t take much for him to spill other bodily fluids as well. It was further confirmation that whatever else he was doing last night, he was not ‘defragging with his computer’ or he would not be so ready to come from her simple arousal methods.
Sitting down at her desk, she decided she could wait but looking at McGee she doubted that he would be able to. Ziva and Gibbs watched as McGee become increasingly agitated. Exchanging amused looks with Gibbs, she waited… and stretched…and licked her fingers noisily…and then she moaned. Ah… that did the trick!
In a strangled voice, McGee announced to Gibbs, “Need to use the head, Boss.”
Waiting for a minute or two because she wanted to catch McGee with his pants down around his ankles and his dick in his hands, Ziva stood up swiftly, all signs of the sex kitten seductress instantly erased.
Smiling evilly, she told Gibbs, “I need to go to the men’s room, too.”
Sardonically he replied, “I think you meant to say the ladies’ room, Officer David.”
Doing a hair flick as she left the MCRT bullpen, she turned her head to look at him briefly. “Did I, indeed?” before continuing to make her way to the men’s toilet hurriedly because she figured that she didn’t have long.
If she wasn’t so desperate to find out what was going on, the Israeli spy would probably feel more than a little insulted about how easy it was to get the information she wanted out of McGee. Usually, Ziva thrived on challenges but today she was far too antsy-pantsy to care about her reputation. She was a spy and it was clear that her team was keeping secrets from her – how dare they! Teams were supposed to share.
Twenty minutes later she was heading back to the garage in search of her car. McGee had spilled his intestines alright and when she arrived, he had been just about to ‘defrag his computer’ too when she had burst into the men’s room. Jenny had always joked that men’s brains were in their dicks.
Truly she had overestimated McGee’s ability, she only just managed to get there in time. Ziva had been extremely tempted to grab hold his dick around the base, to prevent him from spilling his load before she lost her advantage. However, she had learnt the hard way (no pun intended) that the Americans were very moralistic about sex, even if they were also totally obsessed with it. You could not touch someone unless they gave you explicit consent, which made such things much more complicated than they needed to be.
She would have to be more subtle and torture him without touching, until he told her everything. She could be subtle if she had to be. It was just simpler and quicker to take matters in hand…or in this case, dicks.
There had been times she was quite impatient when Abby wanted to overshare her girl’s stuff with her about her and McGee’s sex life, mostly because it was ancient history. Well, that and Abby wasn’t nearly as badass as she liked to think she was. She might play at being a Goth and a dominatrix, but she was still just playing at it.
Also, at that time that Abby had been trying to impress her, Ziva had been more focused on getting dirt about DiNozzo. Minutiae like how his mother had dressed him in sailor suits or his father made him dress up in American civil war garb and carry around the canvas/ metal bucket the civil war enactors used to defecate in.
Now that had been highly valuable Intel. but she had to admit, that Abby telling her that McGee had a thing about being watched – that he couldn’t pee when other men were standing beside him at a urinal was proving very useful. As was the information that he preferred having sex when the light was out because he didn’t like being stared at.
Staring at McGee’s dick derisively, suggesting she was unimpressed with its, Tim seemed distressed. He pleaded with her to leave him alone so he could finish taking care of his business.
Laughing cruelly, she told him she would go when he told her what he was up to. “Besides defragging your dick,” she told him with a pointed but pitying look at his equipment. It was a fine line between making sure he stayed hard and therefore was uncomfortable and making sure he didn’t defrag all over himself before she learnt what he and Gibbs had been doing last night.
When she noted clinically that he was now looking a little too soft for her purposes, she gave a throaty moan and thrust her breasts close to his face. Flushing red like a tomato she could see that the blood was also returning to the junior agent’s dick. She laughed in his face.
“Do you want assistance to defrag, Tim? I could help. You know I was voted by all my tutors to be the best Mossad student when it came to giving hand defrags,” she bragged truthfully.
He groaned pathetically. “Please Ziva, please, please, please just leave me alone. I need… some privacy. Please?”
She just grinned evilly before reaching down and rubbing herself and moaning sexily. McGee didn’t know where to look but she continued to pleasure herself as he finally started to spill his intestines. Once he started confessing, it all came pouring out of him, the hacking into the CIA for Gibbs but also that Tony had found out about his undercover mission at Jeanne Benoit’s hospital. Ziva wondered if he was undercover, going after her too. Maybe he was working for the CIA or NSA. It would certainly explain his preoccupation, or he really was sick and was there because he was seeing a doctor as she had suspected.
The last piece of news was interesting, but not to anyone but herself. McGee revealed that DiNozzo had texted him a short while ago and asked him if he was at the hospital today to drive Tony’s Mustang back to NCIS. He had a spare car key in his top desk drawer. Ziva had always desired to drive Tony’s car. She loved fast cars, they aroused her. Here was her chance.
“I will take care of this chore with Tony’s car since you and Gibbs are busy today, McGee. Do not thank me, it is what good teammates do, no.”
By this point, McGee was likely to agree to anything he was so ready to come. He was holding the base of his dick trying not to defrag everywhere and making whimpering noises like a wounded animal. She suddenly felt a little sorry for his predicament.
Reaching over she purred in his ear, “Would you like me to suck, you, Tim?”
Tony woke up and stretched languorously, appreciating the feeling of cloud-soft high thread count cotton sheets on the enormous bed. People frequently accused him of being a hedonist because he liked expensive clothes and furnishings and he supposed that he did tend to wallow in his sybaritic pleasures. It was a product of Tony’s upbringing.
Not only was Tony an only (and terribly lonely) child, his mother Elizabeth DiNozzo had suffered from post-partum depression following his birth and had failed to bond with him, turning to her piano and alcohol to self-medicate because the DiNozzos didn’t talk about mental issues.
His father was a functional alcoholic who’d basically ignored him, unless he needed to impress one of his investors and then his son was dressed in ridiculous costumes and used. Basically, he was just a prop to convince people that his father was a nice guy and not the arrogant self-absorbed drunk he really was. The only real human contact Tony received when he was little was from the various- servants his parents employed. They’d washed him and fed him but didn’t ever play with him or cuddle him, even if he was distressed or ill.
His father, Anthony DiNozzo, Senior was all about image. He surrounded himself with the best that money could buy, and he didn’t stint financially when providing physical things for his son and heir. He just wasn’t there when it came to meeting Tony’s emotional and psychological needs. So, it wasn’t surprising that from a very early age, Tony had learnt to self soothe – basically because no one would come when he cried, and he learnt that if he needed something he had to look after himself.
At least he had soft comfortable bedding and sleepwear to snuggle down into when he was lonely, afraid or simply feeling bad. Even as a toddler and a child, his clothes were all bespoke and made with fine quality fabrics such as cotton, lambswool, cashmere, silk and linens although there was always hell to pay if he got them stained or dirty. He recalled one memorable occasion when as a five-year-old he had fallen out of a tree and broken his wrist but had earned several hard swats from Senior’s hand across his butt for tearing his brand-new trousers.
It wasn’t until he was at college that he’d gotten a real insight into his fondness for all thing soft. It was during a psychology unit that Tony realised that despite people teasing or taunting him about his decidedly sybaritic tastes (depending upon whether they liked him or loathed him) he was like one of Harry Harlow’s rhesus monkeys. He was the monkey who’d been raised by a cloth-mother surrogate in an otherwise barren wire cage. Those monkeys, despite not having a real mother, had developed better than the ones whose surrogate mother was made of wire – even though both sets of monkeys got the same amount of milk.
So, in a way, he had Senior to thank for him turning out as well as he had. If he hadn’t been raised in what people liked to call a silver spoon in his mouth, he would have been even more of a mess than he already was. Quite possibly he might a serial killer going around acting out his rage on surrogate maternal figures or charmingly narcissistic drunk father substitutes. And despite his cornucopia of psychological flaws, he’d stopped caring about the jibes about him being a hedonist. It helped him to survive his childhood and people could go fuck themselves, as far as he was concerned. He wasn’t hurting anyone!
Tony was revelling in the comfort of the fine bedding provided by the hotel where they’d book into earlier this morning. Particularly after the scratchy sheets in the ER and the vinyl divan thingy in the doctor’s lounge that hadn’t made him feel better. Aside from which, lying snuggled up beside him in the huge bed was Jeanne, her presence was way better than any fine Egyptian cotton sheets would ever be, in his opinion.
Truly, until he met Jeanne and they started their platonic snuggling together, either on the lounge or sleeping in the same bed, he’d never realised exactly how much he had missed out on as a child. That simple maxim… you can’t miss what you never had was true to some degree. But now he knew just how good it felt to be cuddled, especially when it was someone he loved, he couldn’t get enough of it. Last week sleeping without Jeanne beside him had been sheer misery.
It felt so damned right to have her spooned up against him – he’d always thought that he would feel claustrophobic and was quick to depart as soon as he felt it was a polite interval after he had sex with someone, even when they begged him to stay and spend the night. He wondered about what he’d been missing out on. Although, when he’d talked about it with Jeanne, she’d observed that while cuddling was nice, it was even better when you had an emotional connection with the other person.
He could tell that Jeanne was still fast asleep and he wondered if she’d been finding it as difficult to sleep without him too. A part of him hoped that she had – the part that was always getting in his ear and saying what they had was too good to be true, that it wouldn’t last. It was why he’d been so cautious about taking their relationship (which was fabulous as best friends) and potentially risking it to become lovers, although technically, they hadn’t fully consummated their relationship.
Things like work just kept getting in the way every time they tried, and Tony knew that Jeanne was getting extremely frustrated. Not just because of her libido either, she was feeling physically undesirable and unattractive because her ex-fiancé and best friend had cheated on her. She needed sex to prove to herself that she was still a vibrant, sexy woman, who Tony desired.
To complicate things, Tony who had been into one-night stands, short-lived affairs and a few friends with benefits. That is, ever since his fiancée Wendy had left him right before the wedding and effectively broken his esteem, his soul. His goal was to avoid becoming emotionally attached so he didn’t ever get his heart broken again. But, with Jeanne, he’d discovered how much joy and happiness he felt in holding and being held. Their platonic cuddles (before he’d admitted he had feelings for her) had been a revelation for him about how much he’d missed out on in his childhood and how much he was depriving himself of as an adult.
If Tony was truthful with himself (and it was usually something he tried to avoid being), a part of him was freaking out about them consummating their relationship. What if they became lovers in the fullest sense of the word and later, they didn’t work out? Tony suspected what he’d truly miss wouldn’t be the sex but being able to cuddle with and be cuddled by her.
Now he knew just how freakin awesome cuddling was, it would kill him to have to survive without it. And in some ways those fears had been vindicated during the week they spent apart while she was in the safe house. He’d been totally miserable without her.
However, Tony was also a realist, he knew it wasn’t fair of him if he didn’t give Jeanne what she needed, just to protect himself – his psychological flaws and insecurities. That wasn’t a healthy relationship for either of them.
Tony thought about the terror he felt when Nick had held a gun to her head. He didn’t want Jeanne to die, especially feeling like the aborted engagement was her fault for not being good enough for that dick, Carson. He also remembered how he wanted to choke the life out of the monster last night when he leered at Jeanne and talked about raping her. He already thought of her as his lover and his heart would be shattered if she wanted to break up with him.
Taking her to bed and making love to her wasn’t really going to alter his feelings for her all that much given how madly in love with her he was already but it would make her happy and after yesterday, he would do anything to make Jeanne feel better. Right now, she was sleeping peacefully, and he could wallow in the warmth and security he experienced as he cuddled up with her. They were both alive and they had all the time in the world together.
He sighed, feeling a little melancholy when thirty minutes later she began to stir. He loved the peace he felt in simply holding her as she was sleeping, but he knew it was time to take that final step. To make it a real relationship in the fullest sense by giving her what she needed. Making her feel good about herself would make him happy and even though he was still scared about getting hurt, the good news was that he was going to have sex with his lover.
Although Jeanne was frustrated, it had been a while for him too. He’d have never believed that he could go for so long without sex and not be climbing the walls. And now they were really going to do this…as long as Jeanne still wanted to, of course.
He couldn’t help feeling a little nervous. In some ways, she’d given him a priceless gift, teaching him about the awesome emotions and feelings that could be evoked by being cuddled and cuddling someone he loved. Tony thought it was probably sappy, yet he couldn’t stop feeling that in some ways, this was like his first time. He was having sex with the woman who he loved more than he’d loved anyone else in his life – even Wendy – and that was a little bit scary.
Way more unnerving that facing that prick Nick Kerry with nothing but his wits and a folding buckle knife.
Jeanne eventually woke up and opened her eyes, to find he was staring at her with an unfathomable expression on his face. Concerned about the two hits he’d borne to his head last night she smiled gently and asked him, “How do you feel, Tony.”
Tony recognised it for what it was – it was Jeanne’s doctor voice and he obediently answered. “I’m feeling a bit sore but considering the alternatives, a slight headache and a few bruises from faceplanting on the floor of the Morgue seem like I got off pretty easy, mon Coeur. How did you sleep?
She had only been asleep for maybe three and a half hours but after experiencing such a scary event, it was not unusual to have difficulty sleeping.
She smiled, instantly recognising her knight in shining armour talking, the federal agent, and replied dutifully as well. “I had a couple of bad dreams but waking up and finding you in my bed helped reassure me and I went straight back to sleep. I’ve missed you,” she finished.
He planted a light kiss on her nose.
Jeanne reached out and began kissing him passionately on the mouth, although his response to her was measured, even though he reciprocated. When she tried to deepen it and demand entry into his mouth, he pulled away, looking at her lustfully.
“Hungry today, aren’t we, Dr Benoit?” he asked playfully. “Before we get carried away, I would like to freshen up a bit since my mouth feels like the bottom of a lab rat’s cage.”
Jeanne nodded, “That will be the contrast medium from the CT scan,”
“And maybe the other meds you insisted on giving me.” He agreed. “Plus being passed out on the floor of the Morgue has left me feeling more than a little grubby and well…creeped out.” He made a moue of distaste.
“I think I want a shower before I satisfy your hunger. You only let me have a wash last night,” he grumbled at her.
“Because you had a concussion, Tony,” Jeanne said exasperatedly. “How many concussions have you had, Very Special Agent DiNozzo?”
He chuckled, “Yes I know. But I can’t help it. I want to wash all the hospital stink off me.”
Jeanne looked concerned before expressing her doubt even though she hated to be the bad guy. “I don’t think that is such a good idea, Tony. What if you blacked out? It’s still a possibility, you know.”
Giving her a 1000 watt smile that was also oddly child-like, he said, “Well…see I was hoping that my doctor could shower with me, monitor my blood pressure, maybe take my pulse.”
Jeanne smiled at the implications of his invitation. “I see. It sounds très bien, Doudou, but if you don’t mind, I really like our first-time having sex to be in this awesome big bed,” she told him, candidly. “That way if you do blackout, I don’t have to catch you.”
Tony chuckled and shook his head, but slowly and deliberately, so his head didn’t fall off.
“I wasn’t suggesting we have shower sex, Jeanne. Frankly, I’m not sure I’m up to that today, but I did mean it when I said I want to take shower. We can still have fun – wash each other’s… um…backs.” He finished mischievously.
Jeanne flushed a little, realising she’d jumped the gun. Maybe he wasn’t saying what she thought he was saying.
Reading her thoughts, he picked up her hand and kissed it before he said, “I’m not saying we shouldn’t have sex, ma Chérie. Let’s just get clean first, okay?”
Realising that he really was serious about wanting to get clean and not simply procrastinating, she nodded. “Sure, I’ll go run the water.”
A few moments later when he joined her in the bathroom, he brushed his teeth vigorously for several minutes, spitting and rinsing before he sighed. “So much better.”
Approaching her confidently, he looked into her eye to see if she was okay with him taking charge and when she acquiesced, he reached out and slid her white silk robe off her body, hanging it over the doorknob. Standing there in the satin and lace teddy that almost matched her eyes, Tony looked at her in frank admiration and Jeanne could see the desire in his eyes.
Jeanne wanted to see if he was physically aroused by her, but she found herself unable to break eye contact with those incredible eyes of his long enough for her to look down. They were so damned intense – what she thought of as chameleon coloured. Sometimes they were clear emerald green, although, depending on his mood, they sometimes seemed to be a greenish-grey. They were always mesmerising, even when he was sad or mad. She looked at his long lashes admiringly, many a woman, herself including, would kill to have ones like his – thick and long.
She tingled where his fingers brushed lightly against her skin as they slipped the spaghetti straps down over her shoulders and let it fall to her slender hips. He stared at her for the longest time before he reached out to caress her bare breasts, making her moan. Kissing each one gently before moving back up to her mouth, he closed the gap between them. Jeanne welcome the physical proof that he was still attracted to her sexually. Clad only in black boxer briefs she could feel his arousal even as his elegant pianist hands finished undressing her. He slid her teddy down over her ass and past her knees before she remembered his concussion, helping him out by stepping out of the teddy and kicking it away.
Tony’s hands were gently cupping both her breasts, playing her like he played the piano keys on his baby grand piano. Jeanne tried to remember that they were here in the bathroom just to have a shower. Moving things along, since she wanted Tony to take her to bed and fuck her until she couldn’t come anymore, she set about removing Tony’s briefs so they could both get clean and return to that massive comfortable bed.
She was relieved that he hadn’t insisted she go back to his friend, Viv’s apartment this morning. After she almost gotten them both killed last night, Jeanne needed to be here with him, taking care of him. Making love with him.
Pushing his briefs down and bending down on her knees to take them off so he didn’t fall, since she was pretty sure he was still experiencing some dizziness even if he hadn’t admitted it, she tried to ignore his aroused state. Which was no easy task since she wanted to take him in her mouth or even better to have him inside her. Calling on all her skills as a doctor, she reminded herself that the only way they were having sex today was with Tony safely lying down, so he didn’t fall and do himself another injury.
Capturing his right hand that had been playing her breast, she pulled him towards the huge double shower carefully, her breast tingling painfully where his hand had been. Come on Mon Chéri, let’s get you clean,” she told him firmly. Her body was beginning to pulse in anticipation of him finally filling up the part of herself which had been craving him for so long.
It didn’t want to wait a moment longer. It was singing now, now. Soon she told herself. Soon.
Finally, Tony was satisfied that the grime and stench of the events at the hospital had been washed away and Jeanne’s core was literally vibrating in anticipation of their coming together after waiting so long. She literally couldn’t wait any longer, being here together in the shower was sweet torture and Jeanne felt like she might explode if she didn’t orgasm soon, preferably more than once.
Taking charge, she turned off the shower and helped Tony to dry himself before he slid into the terry towelling robe to finish off the remaining dampness. It seemed that Tony was as impatient as she was since he reached down and licked at a bead of water that she’d missed as it ran down her sternum and between her breasts.
Unable to wait for a second longer she pushed Tony towards their bedroom, figuring that a little bit of water never hurt anyone. Jeanne felt like she was going mad, she needed Tony now. She swiftly disrobed him and pushed him gently onto the bed, wondering why she was suddenly acting so bossy. She wasn’t normally so dominant.
Partly it was because he was still feeling the effects of the concussion and his fall. While in the shower she’d had a good opportunity to observe each bruise he’d acquired from his face plant after getting hit by the gun butt last night and cracking his head on the tiled floor as he collapsed. It wasn’t just his head, he’d smacked various other parts of his body too and the bumps were spectacular. Mostly just soft tissue injuries, but they were still painful.
Jeanne knew that there was a part of her psyche which had been wounded very deeply when John had cheated on her. For some reason which she couldn’t explain, she didn’t want her first time with Tony to be soft and reverent. She wanted, NO she needed it to be fiery and passionate and she wasn’t exactly sure why that was – she only knew that she wanted him to fuck her senseless.
Perhaps it was because she was tired of being made to feel like the damsel in distress…like a victim. With her ex fiancé, John – who’d made her doubt herself – after she’d learnt about his affair with her best friend. With her father – who made her feel like her whole life had been a lie after she’d learnt who he really was. With Nick Kerry – who to all intents and purposes had killed Devon and almost killed her and Tony. He’d made her feel powerless and afraid when he’d threatened to rape her. Now it was time for her to take back control.
It seemed to Jeanne as if Tony knew that she needed this. They had been pretty honest with each other and she knew that he’d had more than a few sexual partners. Not as many as he might have led his colleagues to believe but still, he clearly enjoyed having sex. Jeanne knew too that he was a caring guy, he’d been a wonderfully loving friend to her when she needed it so desperately, and she had every reason to believe that he would be a kind and giving lover too.
That belief had been borne out by the consummate skills he used in the shower just now to have her body singing with anticipation. Plus, although they’d never fully consummated their relationship, they went as far as giving each other oral sex right before getting interrupted when Tony had been called to a crime scene or she’d received an emergency page.
He’d always shown himself to be highly aware and responsive to her needs and she suspected that he wanted their first time to be slow and romantic – for him to make love to her. After all, Tony was a closet romantic, even if he didn’t advertise the fact.
But she needed it to be hot and heavy – she wanted him to fuck her hard and fast. She grinned at him and told him she wanted to ride him before kneeling astride him and guiding his dick inside her. She groaned as she felt him fill her. Needing more stimulation, she rose up and sank down on him again, realising that John had never been comfortable with her riding him. He preferred to be the one in charge.
Something clicked in Jeanne’s head as she realised why she needed their first time together to be so different to how she suspected they’d both pictured it would be. She literally needed to fuck her ex-fiancé, John Carson and her erstwhile best friend from college, Clare Lamont out of her system. Hopefully Tony would understand when she was able to explain it to him but for now, her body was dictating the terms of their union and she could only moan in ecstasy to finally possess her lover, body and soul.
As she continued to pick up the pace, Tony reached out and fondled her breast with his left hand while using the fingers of his gun hand which were calloused to rub her clit until she came in shuddering waves of pleasure. Jeanne was too focused on her first orgasm to realise that he held her and rolled them over until she became aware that he was now on top. Mewling in distress at the loss of control he seemed to understand that she wanted…she needed it to be hard and fast. Tony was still hard, and he filled her time and again as she managed to make her wishes known.
A part of her wanted more, she wanted it to go on forever, even though she felt like if she didn’t come soon, she would go crazy. Yet every time she was sure she was close to the edge, Tony would deliberately pull her back again, slowing down and she would cry out with frustration. Finally, when she was convinced that she was riding close to the edge of madness if she didn’t come, she reached in to finger herself and keened in frustration when Tony captured her hand. Using their intertwined hands to touch her clitoris once, twice as he fucked into her relentless, he drove her over the edge, she climaxed at long last. Jeanne was barely aware of the fact that Tony followed her soon after.
Jeanne finally woke up to find Tony watching her. “What are you thinking about?” she asked him, smiling at her lover who had made her feel so amazing. So loved, so desired.
Before he had a chance to reply, Jeanne’s burner phone began to ring. Looking at each other, they realised that it was either Helen Berkley or Viv calling her since no one had her phone number.
Since Jeanne was still in bed, Tony walked over to the table and picked it up, bringing it to Jeanne who answered.
She listened and glanced at Tony. “It’s Maman. I’m putting you on speaker so Tony can hear you too,” she said.
Helen’s voice came over the phone, “Are you two alright? Why are you together, Are you at the hospital still?”
Jeanne rolled her eyes. “No Maman, we’re in a hotel room. There was some trouble at work last night.”
Tony answered, “Nothing that involved our spook friends, Helen. It was a common garden variety drug dealer and a drug mule. The mule didn’t make it and the dealer took Jeanne hostage in the Morgue. But she’s fine, pinky promise!”
Helen laughed at his lame attempt at humour. “What happened? Are you really alright, Darling?
“I was stupid, and Tony had to come to my rescue. I’m fine, he got a concussion and I’m here looking after him. The end.”
Helen huffed, “That sounds like a close thing.”
“Maman, you don’t usually ring until after dinner. It’s only 4 pm,” Jeanne consulted her watch. “Why are you calling now? Is something wrong?”
“Sounds like I interrupted something, Darling.”
“Yes, a conversation. So, did you want something?” Jeanne asked her again, rolling her eyes at Tony and making the universal hurry up and get on with it gesture, to his apparent amusement.
“Okay, well actually, I had a phone call and a visitor today.”
Tony joined in again. “Did Agent Fornell call you? I meant to fill him in on the siege since the cops were called.”
“No, the phone call was that Mossad agent, Eli Weinstein. He was wondering if I had any idea where Rene might go. He also asked me if Jeanne or I had received anything from him recently, like a flash drive.”
Tony nodded. “Well, him calling you wasn’t that surprising. They all want first dibs on those files. So, who was the visitor? Don’t tell me… let me guess? Trent Kort by any chance?”
A male chuckled in the background. “A good guess, Special Agent DiNozzo. But no, not Kort!”
Jeanne had gone pale and stiffened. Tony was worried she might pass out on him.
“Papa, is that you?”
“It is, Ma Chérie. I am chagrined that you had to learn about La Grenouille…about me this way.”
“So …it’s true then, Papa. You really are who they say you are?” She asked him brokenly, sounding for all the world like a little child.
Tony put his arm around her and squeezed her comfortingly. He only wished he could do more.
“Guilty I’m afraid, Ma Chérie.” Rene Benoit paused. “Je suis profondément désolé.”
No one spoke as Jeanne gave a single sob and started to cry silently as Tony held her.
“Special Agent DiNozzo, I would see you, urgently.”
Tony wondered why, although he wanted to see Benoit too. “Where are you?”
Helen joined in. “At the Adams House.”
“Not in your suite, Dr Berkley?” Tony checked, his tone worried.
“No, in Rene’s room. He’s checked in under a false name and is disguised.” She assured him.
Tony didn’t like it. Taking charge, he instructed them. “Right, be prepared to move – both of you; but don’t check out. We’ll pick you up and drive you to new hotels…different ones. You’ll need to split up. Jeanne will call when we get there, and you need to come down separately.
“Each of you, pack a small overnight bag – it will look suspicious if you check into a hotel room with no luggage. Leave everything else behind. And whatever you do, don’t check out of the Adams House. Be there soon.”
Director Shepard arrived home at the end of a very long hard day. Every day has been hard since she fucked up the assassination attempt of Rene Benoit. Her father was growing displeased with her failure to avenge his murder and was visiting her practically every night when she went to sleep. He didn’t say anything, he just looked disappointed with her. She had let him down.
Time was running out for her to make that murderous piece of shit pay for ruining her father’s reputation and taking his life. Colonel Jasper Shepard was a patriot and a hero. Not only did he die with his reputation in tatters, but he was not even permitted to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honours, like all the other men and women who’d bravely served their country.
Which was a complete insult to his service and his sacrifice. No, instead, his body was lying in ignominy in a civilian cemetery in rural Virginia. Jenny became enraged every time she thought about her father’s resting place. She knew her father would be turning over in his grave at the insult. When her father was exonerated, Shepard intended to see to it that her father received the reburial he deserved – with full military honours.
Jenny knew that Ziva was puzzled about why she was so obsessed with killing La Grenouille. Her friend thought that she should have given McGee time to work his way into Jeanne Benoit’s inner circle as her friend. Ziva also made her feelings plain that she thought Jenny was a fool to send him undercover to seduce the doctor – that he wouldn’t be successful in his attempt. Frankly, Jenny didn’t think he could do it, either. Tony could have, but she made a huge mistake in underestimating his mettle and ended up alienating him. He had always been her pick from the very beginning. She blew it and because she did, everything else got fucked up after that.
Ziva had also expressed her concern about the fiasco in Quebec when her seizure ruined their chance of killing Benoit. No doubt Eli was furious with Ziva, since it suited his agenda as well that Benoit should die. Plus, he took a dim view of his children failing to live up to the high standards he had set for them. As deputy director of Mossad, he wouldn’t wish to lose face. She’d had to do some fast talking about the doctor, migraines and stress and even then, Jenn wasn’t sure Ziva believed her.
Jenny couldn’t believe it, that night she’d been so close to achieving her dream and then to have the bad luck to have a seizure.
Although it was the only seizure she’d experienced, the neurologist she’d finally consulted while she was in Paris warned her that it would only been a matter of time until it occurred again. It was just a tragedy that it had to happen right then when she had been so damned close.
According to her doctor, it was only going to get worse from here on in. The headaches were getting more and more severe, she was experiencing auras and partial blindness although fortunately, rest had resolved them and Ziva’s magic fingers. Both her massage and her ability to bring Jenny to orgasm and knock her out afterwards, helped her more effectively than the strongest narcotics could.
Speaking of their Mossad liaison officer, Jenny wondered where Ziva was. She’d gone MIA action. Jenny had tried calling her, but the calls went straight to message bank. Maybe she was taking care of some business for the embassy or for Mossad. Jenny decided if that was the case, she was better off not inquiring too closely, plausible deniability was sometimes the best option.
As her head throbbed viciously, she knew that it was just a matter of time – maybe months, maybe only weeks before she died. There was nothing that could be done for her now, but she hasn’t given up hope of taking that piece of shit, Rene Benoit down with her. May he burn in Hell!
Jenny was tired and sore, and she was angry with Gibbs who was acting like he was still her boss. Such a damned chauvinist – he couldn’t accept that she told him what to do. It was none of his business about her reasons for hating La Grenouille. No one called him out on his stupid macho bullshit vendetta with Ari Haswari or held him to account for killing the murderer of his wife and child, yet it was perfectly fine for him to judge her. Such a fucking hypocrite.
It was a pity that he could never leave well enough alone, snooping around into things that did not concern him – anyone would think he was the director of NCIS and not Jenny. Now he knew all about the bottle of whiskey and the tumbler. He’d questioned Abby (the rabid Gibbs worshiper) who spilled her guts to him, so he knew about Jenny’s dead father’s fingerprints on the bottle and the glass.
Jethro’s lame ass theory was that it was a plot by the CIA to trip her up. Well she knew two things.
First off, that her father was dead; she’d identified his body, may Benoit rot in Hell. And two, that what the CIA really wanted was to confirm her alibi the night that La Grenouille came within a whisker of dying.
Jenny was also supremely confident that she could pass the polygraph test, thanks to Ziva’s expert tutelage. She reassured herself that Jethro was being a monumental pain in her ass because he was losing his gourd at having to face the polygraph. Let’s face it, he had plenty of his own skeletons rattling around in his closet which he didn’t want to be revealed.
He was just trying to spook her into doing something stupid, like trying to get the polygraphs postponed but she wasn’t going to be alarmed by the likes of him. If she did try to get them postponed, it would only make her seem guilty. Jenny shrugged heartlessly – Jethro had made his bed with his ‘my team, my rules schtick’ and now he could lie in the damned thing it.
She was simply too close to her goal to worry about his career at this late stage. Her time was running out!
Jenny had made her way to her study and poured herself a healthy slug of bourbon but before she had a chance to take more than a sip of the smooth liquor (nothing like the crapass stuff that Jethro drank) the phone on her desk rang, startling her. After all, so few people call her on the landline – most people use her cell.
Jenn was utterly shocked when it turned out to be none other than her nemesis, La Grenouille. The NCIS director was even more stunned when he appeared in her study to talk with her. She was furious, beside herself that this monster had dared to come into her home.
How. Dare. He? And being in her study – her father’s study when he had ruined her beloved father’s life and his reputation.
Staring at him, her green eyes blazing with hatred, she demanded that he leave immediately. Benoit told her someone was trying to kill him. The stupid fool obviously didn’t have a clue that he was standing face to face with the person who wanted him dead – who had almost succeeded a week ago.
This imbecile, this cretin was the infamous Teflon-coated wily La Grenouille? Just how dumb could he be to come to Jasper Shepard’s daughter for help when his life was in jeopardy?
If she thought that she could get away with it, Jenny would shoot him dead between the eyes, right here and now. The only problem was that she didn’t know if he had anyone with him or if he told anyone he was coming to see her.
Aside from those two rather minor factors, Jenny was not convinced that Jethro, god damn him, would let her shoot La Grenouille. She knew beyond doubt that he was hiding in the next room; because although they were not lovers any more, she would never ever forget his unique scent. It was a combination of Marine strength black coffee, sawdust and gunpowder combined with his sweat. She used to find it so sexy – now it made her nauseous but then a lot of things did that now.
Jethro’s poking and prying into things that were none of his business was really beginning to piss her off. Not for the first time of late, Jenn found herself questioning why she hadn’t filed his resignation, instead of putting him on sick leave.
Eyeing her benevolently, La Grenouille told her, “I’m here to offer you valuable information in exchange for protection. My life is in danger.”
Shepard snorted, “I don’t care.”
He looked around the room commenting, “It looks the same as the last time I was here.”
Looking triumphant, she crowed. “Aha…so you admit that you came here and killed my father.”
Benoit looked at her with pity and that infuriated her. How dared he? He was an evil son of a bitch, a piece of shit and a murderer. She didn’t want or need his pity. She wanted and needed him dead!
“I came here when I paid your father the bribe to say the weapons had been destroyed so he would sell them to me. We shared a bottle of whiskey and we talked about our daughters.”
“No! You liar! That isn’t true! You killed my father when he refused to accept that bribe.”
Jenny Shepard literally saw red, a fine mist of anger invaded her brain and she snapped, unable to deal with the filthy lies he spewed about her father. Her father had been a good and honest man and La Grenouille wasn’t fit to speak Jasper Shepard’s name. Impulsively she reached into her desk drawer and drew a gun, firing it at point-blank range, aiming right for the evil monster’s heart.
It failed to fire, and a quick check revealed the reason why. Someone had emptied the bullets from the chambers of the gun, rendering it harmless.
Her gun was impotent and wasn’t that fucking ironic since that was exactly how she was feeling right now. Once again, she’d failed to kill the miserable lowlife sack of shit. She couldn’t believe it.
Bitterly disappointed, she rejected his offer of information in exchange for protection. Instead, she handed him her now empty gun and told him to protect himself. “I hope your enemies kill you and I hope it is a slow and painful death. You are a monster. Now get out of my house and don’t ever come back. If I see you again, I will kill you with my bare hands if I have too. GET. OUT.”
Once more the arms dealer regarded her with pity. “I hope my daughter Jeanne, will be as loyal to me as you have been to your father,” he said softly before laying the gun down gently on her desk and leaving the room.
Jenny was only slightly startled when Gibbs appeared behind her as she had known immediately that he was there, uninvited and unwanted as he once again went snooping around, eavesdropping on her personal business. She was so enraged by her exchange with La Grenouille that she’d momentarily forgotten he was there.
Then when he appeared, he had the arrogance to accuse her of neglecting her duty. Jenny felt the bile rising up her oesophagus. She so wished she could do that thing from the Exorcist when the priest played by Richard Burton was trying to exorcise Linda Blair and she’d projectile vomited all over him.
Scowling at the senior supervisory agent after he accused her of ignoring her duty, she snarled at him, “You go get a warrant then because I refuse to.”
Jethro gave her a searching look as he handed back the bullets to the gun. She’d wondered who’d removed them – La Grenouille or Jethro. She realised in that moment, she would have gladly spent the last months of her life in prison if she’d been able to remove that evil scourge from the planet. Jethro would pay for preventing her from thwarting her attempts to get justice for her father.
He asked her, “Would you really have killed the Frog?”
She dismissed him with a contemptuous look. “I guess we’ll never know.”
She barely even noticed him leaving, her head exploding in a ball of pain that took her breath away. Time was running out.
Fornell called them on a burner phone as they sat in yet another nondescript looking car, this time a grey coloured Toyota Corolla hatchback that Toby requisitioned from an impound yard for their use.
“Hey Fornell, we set to go?”
“Yep, DiNotzo. Good to go. Rene has left Shepard’s house and we’re driving him to a safe house as we speak.”
Tony looked over at Jeanne. Her features were strained, and she had withdrawn right into herself. He couldn’t believe that she was the same fiery woman who’d had passionate sex him with only hours before. She was like a husk, broken and empty after finally confronting her father several hours before.
He was worried about her, he could only begin to imagine what she was going through, how she felt now that her father…now that her sperm donor had confirmed every terrible fact that they’d previously told her about who he was and what he’d done. It was an awful burden to place upon someone as kind and caring as Jeanne.
He just hoped she could overcome it all. She’d had shock upon shock piled upon her and she was barely holding together.
Taking her in his arms and holding onto her in a futile attempt to ground her, he asked Fornell, “So you got footage of their encounter, right?”
The FBI agent answered tolerantly, “Like I said, all good. We are ready to set up the final phase, just as soon as you two have retrieved that key. Then we can get the yacht set up for Benoit’s execution.”
Tony was curious. A part of him wished he could have been there to see Benoit confront Director Shepard. “So, Benoit made sure that her gun wasn’t loaded?”
Fornell sighed, “Actually he didn’t have to. Jethro beat him to it. Shepard was not happy about it.”
“Gibbs? What the Hell was he doing there?”
“Not sure, watching her back perhaps. She was his protégé once upon a time,” he remarked.
“So, he was there and saw her threaten Benoit?”
Fornell sighed. “Not exactly. He was skulking in a room off the study, listening in, but he heard it all. Asked would she have killed Benoit if he hadn’t removed the bullets.”
Looking at Jeanne who looked grey with fatigue, which wasn’t surprising since they only had a few hours’ sleep today, he said curiously, “And what did she say?”
“She refused to say but didn’t deny it. My gut says she would have.”
“Gibbs gut too, or he wouldn’t have bothered taking out the bullets.”
The FBI agent agreed. “Yeah, that’s my take too. Any suspicious activity?”
Tony had scouted out the Marina not five minutes before Fornell rang them. “All clear here. About to board the boat.”
Fornell told him, “The dog squad checked it out a little while before your arrival and it was clear. We’ve had it under surveillance since then, so you’re good to go. Good luck, Tony.”
Thanking the FBI agent, Tony terminated the call and they prepared to exit the car.
They looked at each other and Tony kissed her forehead tenderly. “Let’s do this, Mon Cœur.”
Jeanne looked into her lover’s eyes, seeing all the care and concern he felt for her and gave him a lacklustre smile in return, repeating woodenly, “Okay, let’s do this, Mon Cœur.”
They made their way into the Marina where Rene Benoit moored a yacht he owned in a false name and had hidden a key to the safety deposit box containing his insurance policy. Benoit had maintained that Jeanne had to be the one to retrieve the key because the combination to his safe was information only she would now. He texted the clue to her once they arrived at the yacht, the combination to unlock the safe was the birthdate of her first Shetland pony Benoit had given her when she was six-years-old.
La Grenouille demanded that before he revealed the final location of the dirt files (amassed over more than three decades) that he needed their assurance he’d receive protection from the CIA. He explained that their plan was to kill him and install Kort in his place. Tony and the FBI’s response had been less than sympathetic.
It had basically consisted ‘why should we be concerned about you? You’re an illegal arms dealer. It’s not like you’ll be a huge loss to the world. That’s when Benoit had told them that his dirt files had the names of over fifty crooked US politicians and probably another fifty treasonous military personnel who’d been bought, by either himself or other arms dealers.
In other words, his files were dynamite. They would quite literally rock the US to their foundations.
Tony could see why so many people wanted to find Benoit’s insurance policy, he’d hinted that it wasn’t just the US powerbrokers, either on that list. No wonder Mossad (or Ziva’s father aka Eli Weinstein) was after those files. So, in the end, he wasn’t surprised that the FBI would bend over backwards to protect him. Though if the files were even half as explosive as he’d hinted, DiNozzo was extremely concerned about his enemies trying to get even with Jeanne and Helen, particularly if they weren’t able to reach him if he was being protected.
Benoit had looked solemn when Tony had raised his concerns with him in private.
“That’s why I came to you, Anthony. I’m counting on you to keep them safe and to arrange my death. If I go into hiding, then I put them at risk. The only solution would be for them to be placed in witness protection somewhere and aside from that not being foolproof, they would be the ones who pay for my sins. I don’t want that. If I’m dead and the files are in safe hands, then my enemies, including many powerful people have no reason to seek them out.”
Tony thought about that and decided that Benoit was correct. Still, the plan they’d hatched to set Director Shepard up so she would execute La Grenouille made him feel uncomfortable. To have her convicted of murder and tossed into prison for life didn’t sit right with the erstwhile cop.
Benoit had reassured him that Jenny would never serve time. When Tony told him that he had no way of knowing that, Benoit had smiled sadly.
“Oh, but I can be certain, Agent DiNozzo. You see, Colonel Shepard had an incurable brain disorder. Very rare – so rare in fact that it only had a numerical designation – no name. It caused dementia, crippling headaches, seizures and paranoid delusions, or so he told me, and I have no reason to doubt him. It was also genetic, and his own father and grandfather had suffered a similar fate.” He gave a typically Gallic shrug.
“Jasper told me that Jenny carried the gene too and he agonised long and hard about if he should tell her. I do not know if he did or not. Perhaps she knows since she never married or had any children.”
Seeing Tony’s shocked expression, Benoit continued. “According to Monsieur Kort, the CIA has already confirmed that she is in the late stages of the disease and probably has only months to live. It is why they want to get her out of NCIS, incidentally.”
Benoit leaned forward to emphasise his message. “Plus, they are probably very angry that she gave me an opportunity to escape. They want my Intel. quite badly – possibly because several former CIA directors are in the files.” He smiled dangerously.
Tony was sad to think that Jenny was ill, and with such a terrible disease. It did explain a lot about her obsession. According to Tim, his hacking had unearthed the titbit that Jenny had intended that he should go in and seduce Jeanne, not Tim. And that explained why McOver-confident been so sure that he could replace him. After all, Tim thought he was just a dumb jock who’d been in the right place at the right time when promotions (or gold detective shields) were being handed out. So, he probably figured, how hard could it be to do undercover work if Tony was good at it?
Tony was almost afraid to ask but even if he was only helping La Grenouille to keep Jeanne and Helen safe, he still needed to know. “So, Jasper Shepard? Was he really crooked or was Jenny correct? Did you set him up and murder him?”
Benoit shook his head. “I have never killed anyone by my own hand, Agent DiNozzo. Money was my weapon and I never forced anyone to accept inducements – they did so of their own free will. In the Colonel’s case, he was in the late stages of his illness – he knew he wouldn’t survive much longer, and he took the money I offered him so he could pay off his house and leave a healthy little nest egg for his daughter.”
Again, with the sad indulgent smile. “Jasper adored her, you see. Jennifer was the apple of her father’s eye. We both had that in common.”
Tony gave him a hard stare. “And Jenny and Jeanne both have the misfortune to believe in fathers who didn’t deserve their adoration.”
Rene glanced at him fatalistically. “For my sins.” He bowed his head.
Tony couldn’t let it go, there was a reason why McGee called him DiNosey after all. “So, he really killed himself? Because the guns he was supposed to have signed off on as being destroyed turned up and he was exposed to the world as a traitor?”
Once again, the Gallic shrug of Benoit’s shoulders. “Maybe, maybe not. I think that having watched the terrible decline of his own father and grandfather, he feared what he would face at the end and decided to take matters into his own hands.”
Tony nodded. A veteran soldier who could not win a fight against his own body would despair at the breakdown of physical and mental control. Especially mental control. It made sense.
Thinking aloud, he said, “And maybe he didn’t want his daughter to watch him die a slow and ugly death.”
Benoit nodded, seemingly sorrowful. “Indeed. No father wants his child to face such a fate.”
Changing the subject and yet not really, Rene gave Tony a searching look. “And that is why I am relieved that Jeanne has found someone who is honourable, kind and devoted as her lover. When I’m ‘dead’ I’ll rest easy knowing that you’ll be there for her and her mother. Helene is impressed by you, particularly your character and I must say, that she is not easily impressed.”
Jeanne’s papa sighed wistfully. “I must confess that it is probably mostly my fault she is so distrustful of men. Although that John Carson breaking our little girl’s heart certainly didn’t help with Helene’s own trust issues. I hate what he did to my daughter.”
They were silent for several minutes before the surprisingly urbane arms dealer remarked quite casually. “I have never killed anyone personally, although I guess I have the blood of many lives upon my hands. Too many to count, I supposed.” Again, with the Gallic shrug.
“For what John Carson did to my daughter, I would gladly kill him. With. My. Bare. Hands. Take care of her, please?”
Chilled, because he recognised that Benoit spoke the truth, Tony said he would do his best to look after her because he loved her. “I don’t know if our relationship can withstand everything that has happened and is still yet to happen.”
He thought about Benoit’s upcoming execution and the funeral and cringed. “But even if we don’t make it, I’ll always be there for her if and when she needs me.” He vowed.
It was a vow to Jeanne’s sperm donor, but it was mostly to himself. “She’s my best friend and has taught me so much about friendship. About love. I owe her so much.”
That was the last time he ever spoke to Benoit although he knew that Jeanne had one final and highly emotion meeting with her Papa.
The next day they lay together in bed in an FBI safe house in the wilds of rural Virginia, cuddling each other, unaware it was not far geographically from where Jenny Shepard’s beloved father’s remains had been interred. They got up to eat small meals and for calls of nature but the rest of the time they sought refuge in each other’s arms, although it was strictly snuggling. At one-point, Jeanne asked him to make love to her but after fifteen minutes of foreplay, he realised (even if she hadn’t) that her heart wasn’t in it – and they settled on watching a movie snuggled up together.
At 1430 hours, Tony and Jeanne slipped out of bed and wrapped in robes they sat in front of the television, knowing that the announcement of La Grenouille’s death was imminent. It was a surrealist feeling and Tony was glad that he had refused to go along with the FBI’s plan to keep Jeanne in the dark. As he told Benoit yesterday, he wasn’t sure if their fledgling relationship could stand the stresses of everything that was happening, but he did know that if he was forced to lie to her, it would destroy them both.
Fornell told him that the powers that be were concerned that Jeanne was too fiery, too volatile and idealistic for them to be certain she would act like a broken and grieving daughter, particularly at Benoit’s funeral. It had been Helen Berkley who’d somewhat surprisingly supported his demand that Jeanne had to be read in too.
“Ask your bosses to explain exactly how a daughter who has just learnt that her father was a monster, an international arms dealer, responsible for the blood of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of innocent peoples’ lives should act when she buries him? Should she be devastated, angry, betrayed, confused, shattered that he’s dead or even relieved that he is lying six feet under?” She demanded angrily.
“She is already feeling ALL those things and more. Whatever emotions she shows will not be questioned because there is no right way to behave when your father who is essentially an angel of death is murdered and you’ve only just learnt who he really was.”
And really, Tony mused tiredly, what reasonable person could argue with her logic? Plus, it didn’t hurt that the Berkley family had some powerful friends up on Capitol Hill in DC. Jeanne’s mother desire for her beloved daughter to know the truth about Rene Benoit’s death prevailed, so Jeanne had been read in too.
So, now they sat, clinging gently to each other and waiting for ZNN to announce La Grenouille’s murder aboard his yacht on the Chesapeake Bay. Soon DC would be turned into a circus as the media outlets went crazy and the various interested parties tried desperately to get the jump on each other over his insurance policy.
While they awaited the announcement of La Grenouille’s demise, a local news story flashed across the screen. A car bomb had exploded yesterday afternoon, soon after a Metro PD motorcycle cop had pulled over the driver of the vehicle for driving in a highly erratic fashion and breaking numerous road rules. The driver, an Israeli citizen, described by the reporter as having diplomatic immunity, had been dragged out of the car by force after she refused to obey the officer’s request to step out of the vehicle.
When the bomb detonated both the female and the police officer had suffered horrific injuries and were rushed to the nearest trauma centre. According to the earnest young reporter, it was unclear if either victim would survive, such was the seriousness of their injuries.
Meanwhile, the Chief of Police announced that forensic scientists were examining the car – a Mustang convertible, to determine what was used to make the bomb and why. All police were willing to say at this juncture was that the bomb appeared to have a timer attached, starting a countdown for fifteen minutes after the ignition had been switched on. Currently, they believed it was pure chance that it exploded after the officer pulled the driver over and it was not a deliberate attack on the Metro PD.
Tony felt a pang of sympathy for the owner of the car – such a waste of a beautiful piece of engineering. He wondered if the cop was anyone he knew. While he knew a great many Metro PD detectives, he wasn’t as well acquainted with unies, particularly from the Traffic Division. He’d contact Andy Kochofis when this was all over. Tony knew that the Metro cops would likely be organising a fundraiser to help pay for the treatment and rehab. the unie was probably going to need…if he survived.
Thinking about Andy, DiNozzo reminisced about the good old days when they’d handed all the other teams their asses on a plate. What he wouldn’t give to be on the court with him and the other Dees right now. Instead, Jeanne and he were sitting here in the safe house with a bunch of humourless fibbies for company cum protection.
As his thoughts turned to the involvement of the Israeli Embassy in the car bombing, musing about what the hell they were up to this time, he felt Jeanne nudge him out of his reverie.
Focusing back on the screen, Tony watched as the reporter stood out in front of the marina, announcing the breaking news that a well-known International arms dealer have been found murdered on his yacht. Multiple gun shots had been reported by several witnesses and first responders had discovered the body soon after. Security footage had recorded his murder and the FBI were currently seeking a warrant for the arrest of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s Director, Jennifer Shepard on charges of premeditated murder.
Muting the sound, Tony and Jeanne continued to watch as the FBI removed ‘the body’ and processed the crime scene. He looked across at Jeanne who was grey-faced. She looked as if she might shatter. Making her a hot cup of cocoa, he managed to get some into her.
Finally, she looked at him. “I’m so confused. I hate him – he was truly evil, Tony. How could I not know? How could I love him?”
Tony felt impotent because what could he say, what could anyone say. So, he spoke the truth. “Whatever else he was, mon cœur, he was your father and that was why you loved him. All children think the best of their parents. And for what it’s worth, despite his heinous actions, Rene loved you.”
He didn’t know if it helped but seconds later, she’d crawled into his lap and collapsed, sobbing as if her heart would break. Tony reckoned it probably already had.
The NCIS agent sighed. He didn’t know what the future held for them, he didn’t even know if he still wanted to work at NCIS any more but was leaning towards probably having to look for a new job. But then, even before all this debacle had taken place, things had been bad at work. He used to love working with his team but not recently. Still, that was an issue to be faced when they were further down the track.
Right now, he needed to focus on taking care of Jeanne and to a lesser extent, her mother. Then in the next couple of days, they had the funeral to plan and attend – which would be little short of horrendous. It was bad enough when the person you were burying was an upstanding individual. Rene Benoit quite clearly was not!
The attention Benoit’s death would inevitably attract would be a living nightmare. The media would gleefully set out to expose all the dirty linen they could dig up about La Grenouille’s life, his crimes and his demise. They would badger Jeanne and her mother, so Helen had been forced to engage bodyguards and publicists to shield them from the worst of the press’ excesses.
Plus, there was the question of the massive fortune that Jeanne would inherit from her father. The FBI estimated it was several billion US dollars at the very least. Jeanne had declared she had no intention of touching even one cent of her father’s dirty money. She said it was blood-money, but Tony suggested that she could use it to help make amends. He proposed that she set up a charity to build hospitals in third world countries where La Grenouille’s business activities had caused so much devastation and misery.
Jeanne had looked interested in his suggestion and had a one of her own, too. “Maybe we could set up a scheme with no-interest loans for small businesses which are run by widows and orphans of civil wars, so they could support themselves and support their communities.”
Helen agreed and had another proposition that they could financially assist schools and sponsor children to attend so they could be educated. Her mother even offered to run the charity for Jeanne and personally supervise the setting up of medical centres in the war-torn third world countries. Tony speculated, it was her own personal mea culpa. Plus, an attempt to make up for misleading and lying to Jeanne and she was still incredibly angry at her mother for her deception
Therein, Jeanne had a swift change of heart about accepting her father’s inheritance. She seemed relieved to have something tangible to distract her from the reality of what La Grenouille’s death meant to her.
Tonight, they would write their press release announcing that Jeanne’s inheritance would be placed in a charity which would be set up to try to ameliorate a fraction of the enormous damage her father had caused. Helen had already engaged a media expert to try to manage the whole mess. Neither woman ever wanted to try to soft soap Benoit’s crimes, but Helen Berkley was also extremely determined that his appalling misdeeds would not be permitted to destroy his daughter who was an unwitting pawn in his life and death. Fornell had offered to read it out at the press conference if Jeanne or her mother preferred not to.
Personally, Tony thought Fornell’s offer had less to do with empathy for their situation and more to do with gloating at the CIA about the charity. Benoit had explained to them that Kort, apart from trying, without success to gain access to his dirt files, had also been trying to get control of La Grenouille’s vast fortune. Jeanne’s father had been surreptitiously transferring his millions into a Swiss bank account so that the CIA couldn’t gain access to it, in the event of his untimely death.
He thought of it as Benoit’s final ‘fuck you’ to the CIA and he reckoned Fornell did too. Like Gibbs, the FBI agent was always ready to tell the company where to go.
Whatever floated his boat. At least something positive would come out of this FUBAR mess. Knowing that there was going to be a lot more fallout from this debacle before they could move on with their lives, he decided to put in for an extended leave of absence. Technically he would on sick leave for a few days due to the concussion, but he knew that he couldn’t just walk away and leave Jeanne and her mother to cope with this mess.
He had the time on the books. He’d put in a request to HR for four weeks off on Monday – go from there when the dust had cleared a little. At least with Rene Benoit now pronounced dead, he could go back to his apartment tomorrow and he could retrieve his beloved car. Slowly they could get their lives back into some semblance of normal.
Stroking Jeanne’s hair he looked at her tearstained face and rumpled appearance. He proposed that they could take a shower together and get cleaned up. Seeing her watery smile, he thought it was a start.
September 27th, 2006
Tony opened the front door of his apartment and stepped inside with a relieved sigh, dropping his luggage right inside the door. He wrinkled his nose at the stale air and the odour of dust, even if the place had been cleaned monthly by a cleaning contractor his building manager organised during his 3 months absence. Kicking the door closed behind him, he dropped his keys, wallet and creds in the tray he kept for them on the table near his front door
Striding purposefully around the apartment, he flung open every window to air out his home. He breathed in the fresh air, trying not to think about the last time he was here.
Next, Tony wandered over to his baby grand piano to say hi. He couldn’t believe how glad he was to be able to touch it once more. It was just like greeting an old friend. Sitting down on the bench he opened the keyboard, gently caressing the keys and started playing scales. It had been so long since he’d had a chance to play. He was rusty and badly needed the practice to limber up his fingers. As the familiar scales and arpeggios soothed away his exhaustion, he figured he’d play for an hour or two and head to bed early.
Moving from exercises to symphonies his battered and bruised soul responded like it always did when he played. He began to relax, and he felt his muscles let go. Truthfully, it had been more than three months since he’d had the luxury of playing his piano. Since going to LA, he’d attempted a few times to find a bar which had a piano but when he’d tried to play, it hadn’t felt right somehow. Maybe the magic he experienced was linked to this piano, the fact that it had been his mother’s. Maybe it was the sanctuary he’d created, to play it in.
Back home, at last, he could finally relax and let go of all the painful emotions he’d been keeping tightly suppressed while on assignment in LA. Three months ago, Tony accepted an offer by the then Deputy Director, Leon Vance, to assist in the development of a new unit in Los Angeles. The unit specialised in undercover work and was known as the Office of Special Projects or OSP for short (since law enforcement and the military did so love their acronyms). Its principal focus was on undercover work, so it had seemed like a perfect gig for him. Tony had jumped at the once in a lifetime opportunity to build the unit from the ground up.
Although Vance had offered him a promotion and a permanent job there when the unit was up and running in a couple more months, Tony hadn’t decided whether to accept the offer. He was going to take a good long look at his options and figure out what he wanted to do with his life. But first things first. He decided to take a shower before he collapsed into his obscenely soft bed and slept for a good eight hours.
As he stood under the shower head letting the hot water soothe muscles that had been crammed into a too-small aeroplane seat (for his six-foot-two-inch body) during the long flight back from LAX, he tried not to remember the last time he’d stood here under the shower. Jeanne had been with him and they had shower sex for the last time before he’d driven them both to the airport and he’d put her onto an international flight. She’d decided to take a sabbatical from her medical studies and help her mother to set up medical clinics in Africa with their charity which they’d called Faire Amende Honorable which roughly translated meant to make amends in French.
Although Jeanne swore that she wasn’t breaking up with him, that she just needed to work through everything that had happened, especially with her mother and her father, Tony knew better. He knew how difficult it was for anyone to make a relationship work – even when you are living in the same city as your lover it takes a lot of hard work and compromise. When you’re living on two different continents it was practically inevitable that their relationship was doomed to fail and that wasn’t anyone’s fault.
Oh, he didn’t think that Jeanne was lying, not consciously. She fully intended to take a year off and then once the hospitals were built, to turn over the day to day running of them to Médecins Sans Frontières aka Doctors without Borders. She told him that she’d come home and finish her medical training and they could move in together.
MSF was an international humanitarian medical non-government organisation with French roots, best known for its projects in conflict zones and in countries affected by endemic diseases. Tony had learnt that the organisation relied heavily upon volunteers including local doctors, nurses and allied medical personnel. In addition, they also had logistical experts, water and sanitation engineers and administrators to assist them in providing medical aid across the globe.
MSF depended almost exclusively upon private donors with a further ten percent of the organisation’s funding coming from corporate donations, giving them a massive annual budget of over a billion dollars. Of course, they were thrilled to have the financial support of Faire Amende Honorable, particularly because Helen and Jeanne were both doctors.
Tony didn’t blame Jeanne, he totally understood she needed to get away. She felt like she needed to make amends for the horrific things her father had done. She also needed to grieve the man she’d believed him to be all her life, until she found out a few months before that he’d been lying to her for her entire life. Even if Rene Benoit hadn’t died, he’d entered the witness protection programme, agreeing to help the FBI bring down all the corrupt individuals he’d done business within the US, particularly the politicians and the military, in reality… he was dead to her.
She would never see him again and nor did she want to…at least not now. Maybe someday that would change but once in witness protection he could have no contact with anyone from his former life – nor was it safe for Jeanne or her mother. Not to mention the two other children he’d fathered with two separate mistresses after Helen had divorced him. Which had come as quite a shock to Jeanne to learn that she had two younger half-siblings – a sister and a brother.
That little bombshell had been dropped on her when the executor of her father’s estate revealed the presence of two other heirs. Rene Benoit had left both offspring healthy trust funds of five million each, but the bulk of his fortune had been left to Jeanne. Tony was also sure he’d somehow manage to set up a secret numbered account that he could access to live out his new life in comfort and luxury, but life was too short to worry about Benoit or his actions.
Tony was just grateful that he’d done the decent thing and organised to die so Jeanne and Helen could live in peace and safety. They didn’t deserve to be punished for his sins.
So, regarding her siblings, Jeanne was understandably ambivalent about contacting them, or she had been the last time she’d written to him, almost six weeks ago. When she’d left, she’d insisted that they would talk all the time, but cell phone and internet coverage were patchy at best and it often dropped out. It was frustrating and ultimately, they’d agreed to stay in touch by snail mail, but she was busy. Tony had been overwhelmed with work too, setting up OSP was a massive task and well, they never got around to putting pen to paper more than a few times.
It wasn’t anyone’s fault, it was just the way it was. He knew that sooner or later Jeanne would realise they weren’t going to work. She would probably meet some young idealist doctor over there and decide to get married. Jeanne was a beautiful woman but more than that, she was a good, kind caring person. Of course, someone would see how special she was and make a move on her. It was simply a matter of time.
Sometimes Tony hated Rene Benoit for stealing his life, his happiness away from him, but that wouldn’t change what happened. It wouldn’t hurt Benoit or whoever he was now, either. Plus, Jeanne’s father had to live with the reality he would never ever see his beloved daughter again, never hold a grandchild in his arms or be called grandpapa. He would never get to walk Jeanne down the aisle at her wedding, so Tony thought he was already paying a terrible price even though it was well deserved.
At least Tony would always have Jeanne’s love and friendship. He would get an invitation to her wedding, he might even get asked to be godfather to her children. He was a lot luckier than Benoit. Although if he was being honest, he didn’t feel lucky.
Getting out of the shower and drying himself with his own towels, which were soft and fluffy and felt like heaven after living out of a hotel for so long, he sighed happily. It was the simple things that made you appreciate being in your own space. As Tony was heading to his bed, he tried not to think about the last time he’d used it. He had been with Jeanne before they both flew out of Dulles together for separated destinations. It was the last time they’d slept together, the very last time they cuddled each other, the final time they had sex together.
Even though Jeanne had told him she was coming back to him, he’d known as he held her that night that this would be their last time together. So even though he didn’t mind when Jeanne sometimes wanted him to fuck her fast and hard, he’d wanted their last time together to last. He wanted to map her body, her soul and fix it in his memory so he would never forget. He drove her mad making love to her for what seemed like a lifetime, letting her come several times then using his skills to coax her back into readiness. Finally, he joined with his beautiful lover in an intimacy that left him crying silent tears as he realised that she was about to leave him.
Now, three long and lonely months later, as he climbed into bed and prepared to sleep, the images and memories of that last night together assaulted him. They overwhelmed him in both their vividness and intensity. At that point he decided that if he stayed in DC (and at this stage, it wasn’t a given) that he would have to get rid of his huge and comfortable bed because it was too painful to sleep in it, to wake up in it alone.
He would order a new one tomorrow. A single bed, because he knew that he would never bring anyone into his home again. It was stupid but he knew that he would never find what he’d experience with Jeanne with another woman. If he decided to have sex, he would do it at their place or get a hotel room.
Thinking about that perfect last time, he shrugged sadly. When you’d experienced the sublime, who wanted to settle for adequate?
As he thought about whether he should stay here in DC, move to LA, or even accept the position in Rota which the new director had told him was on the table, Tony’s thoughts turned to what he wanted to do. The new director was an interim appointment due to the collateral damage from Jenny’s fall from grace. Well, that, and all the other dirty linen which had been exposed during the numerous inquiries, some of which were still ongoing.
Director Chegwidden formerly, Rear Admiral Albert Jethro Chegwidden, Judge Advocate General and highly decorated Navy SEAL, been brought in to steady the ship. To steer it safely through the rough waters and numerous icebergs that kept cropping up, particularly in the DC office. Director Chegwidden had been encouraging Tony to take over the reins of the DC major case response team, but he was still unsure if he wanted to go there a second time. The first time around hadn’t exactly been a standout success for him.
Plus, there was the minor technicality that the MCRT had been decimated. He was the only original member of the team who was still an NCIS agent. After Jenny’s arrest, everyone had assumed that the mandatory polygraph testing program was a ruse to catch Director Shepard and those people with something to hide had breathed a sigh of relief. A premature one it would seem. What started out as a ruse to find out about her involvement in the failed assassination in Quebec, endangering a CIA sting (a deep cover operation) had given DHS the leverage they’d been looking for. They’d used it to clean house in the lawless agency.
It was surprising how much dirt they’d managed expose and clean up – even if the process had not been pretty. Personally, Tony suspected that former NCIS Director Morrow might have been behind the push to weed out corruption. Morrow had always struck him as a real straight shooter.
Whoever was responsible, the polygraphs went ahead, and a surprising number of agents were caught up in the web and forced to resign in disgrace if they were lucky. Others were charged with crimes ranging from misdemeanours to capital crimes. It had even unearthed several crimes of several former agents too. It had rocked their small agency and left everyone feeling shell shocked by the fallout.
It had been the DC major case response team – past and present who’d been most seriously affected. Mike Franks had been charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, obstruction of justice, perjury, accessory to murder and assault of a federal agent. Frankly (no pun intended) Tony thought it was nothing less than the guy deserved.
Mike Franks epitomised the type of ruthless bigoted arrogant cops who Tony despised. They believed that the law applied to everyone else, but they were above the law. He’d acted as judge, jury and executioner more than once. Tony was glad he was cooling his heels in federal prison and would likely die there. Mike was lucky he wasn’t given the death penalty.
Gibbs was facing a court-martial for crimes committed while he was still in the Marine Corps – the most serious being first-degree murder of Pedro Hernandez. Hernandez was the drug dealer who was responsible for the death of his wife, Shannon and daughter Kelly and obstruction of justice.
Tony wished he could say he was surprised but after the way Gibbs had gone after Ari Haswari some years ago, it was clear he was yet another agent who thought the rules were for other people and shouldn’t apply to him. And to be fair, up until now – they hadn’t. Gibbs had pretty much ignored every rule if he didn’t outright break it, at least once and he’d gotten away with a heap of shit… until now! Tony’s former team leader was also facing a raft of criminal charges from his time as a federal agent.
And finally, for their team, the fishing expedition via the polygraph testing had snared McGee, caught out for all his illegal hacking activity. There’d been a collective cheer by practically every alphabet agency when he was charged with hundreds of counts of hacking without a warrant. McGee, the asshat had gone with the Nuremberg defence i.e. he was just following orders. Which wasn’t even strictly true, since he often volunteered to hack illegally or did it off his own bat and then admitted to it later. Anyway, ‘I was just following orders’ didn’t wash at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal for Nazi war criminals and it didn’t cut any ice for McGee working for a federal law enforcement agency either.
He was also facing additional charges filed under the Official Secrets Act for using classified data when he wrote his two Deep Six novels. The naive fool would never again get a job in law enforcement. But still, all things considered, it could have been worse. He could have been Ziva.
It turned out that the car bomb that had exploded in DC the day that La Grenouille had been ‘murdered’ by their vengeful former director, Jenny Shepard had in fact been Tony’s car. His beautiful baby blue Mustang convertible – his pride and joy. The CIA, probably that prick, Trent Kort, had decided to kill Jeanne and himself and planted an explosive device in Tony’s Mustang. It was timed to go off 15 minutes after the ignition had been switch on, in what the FBI could only speculate was an attempt to draw Benoit out in the open. That or it was petty payback for Benoit escaping when Trent was supposed to be his handler.
As to why Ziva had been driving his car, Tony still wasn’t all that clear on how that transpired, since he would never in a million years let her drive his car. He had way too much respect for his clutch and for the original gearbox to let her anywhere near it, let alone drive it. He’s seen the way she handled cars. He’d apparently asked McGee to collect it for him from the Munroe University Hospital car park after the siege. He’d left his Mustang at the hospital and driven off in the car that Fornell had supplied, to make it harder for the CIA to follow them.
To be honest, he didn’t recall asking Tim to collect his car that day because…well it had been a difficult night, plus he had a freaking concussion… yeah, yeah… another freaking concussion. It wasn’t surprising that he hadn’t exactly been on top of his game. Anyway, if McGee told Tony he’d asked him to drive it back to NCIS. then he believed him. It didn’t explain why Ziva was driving it though.
Seemingly, Ziva had some bee in her bonnet about Gibbs and Tim hacking into the CIA and not telling her what they were doing, and she’d interrogated McGee in the men’s head, and he’d maybe…sort of mentioned Tony’s car. Along with revealing that Tony has busted their undercover operation to seduce La Grenouille’s daughter.
Tony hadn’t asked how or why Ziva had been interrogating him in the men’s toilets for several reasons. First off, he didn’t want to know. McGee was always a pushover when it came to domineering females. And finally, he’d muttered some technobabble about defragging his drives that sounded slightly pornographic in nature. He felt if McGee and Ziva had been getting it off in the men’s toilets, he really didn’t want any traumatic mental images when he took a leak in there. Ignorance was bliss sometimes.
Whatever possessed Ziva to decide to drive his car, he would probably never know. But if McGee had driven it, he would have undoubtedly been killed because he was a cautious driver who observed all the road rules. Tim would have babied the car, like a little old lady taking a Sunday drive because that was how he drove his own Porsche convertible. Which probably explains why Tony would have asked him, NOT Ziva to drive it back to HQ.
But how ironic was it that Ziva’s life was saved by a Metro PD motorcycle cop, someone she held in such low regard because she believed that Mossad was far superior. Yep…a humble cop (who was Ziva’s opinion, a buffoon, because she had little respect for the cops) had done his job and pulled her over because she was driving in her usual erratic fashion. He’d bodily had to drag her out of the Mustang and onto the side of the road to question her because she’d resisted his requests to get out of the car.
But for that cop, she would have been killed instantly by Kort’s bomb because it was designed to kill. As it was, she suffered horrific injuries, second and third-degree thickness burns, and her right leg had to be amputated several inches above the knee. The doctors valiantly tried to save it, but it was too damaged for them to repair.
Her life as a spy or Mossad agent was over, but perhaps more tragically, it was unlikely Ziva could ever dance again. However, that wasn’t the end of her woes. Once she was out of ICU, Homeland Security arrested her and charged her with dozens of counts of espionage against the United States and transferred her to a hospital ward in federal prison. All the investigations had uncovered the fact that their Mossad liaison had been passing on highly classified details of NCIS and naval military Intel. to her handler in the Israeli Embassy. Information that her lover, Jenny Shepard had left lying around at her home. It was unclear if Shepard due to her medical condition had just been sloppy or if she had colluded with Ziva. Worst case scenario – Ziva was facing execution for her crimes.
So yeah, of all the team, McGee kind of got off easy.
So, it felt like the DC office was somehow tainted by such endemic corruption. Tony couldn’t help feeling contaminated and was unsure if he wanted to stay there. And his former senior field agent, Keshia Lincoln had taken up a teaching position at FLETC. Maybe if she wanted to return, he would think about it carefully.
However, while it was by far the worst cluster of corrupt agents (particularly when you counted Jenny using her position to conduct her own undercover missions for personal gain) it was even worse, although they weren’t the only ones. Many less serious crimes had been uncovered across the agency, and the West coast offices hadn’t been immune either. Not even on the fledgling unit that Tony had been helping to set up in LA had they escaped the taint of corruption.
The agent who Vance had chosen to head up the unit – A Special Agent in Charge, Lara Macy had failed her polygraph rather spectacularly. Like Gibbs, she was charged with crimes which occurred while she was a Marine Lieutenant. Serious ones of perverting the course of justice, obstruction and accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. It seemed she was aware that Special Agent Mike Franks and Marine Gunnery Sergeant, Leroy Jethro Gibbs conspired to murder Pedro Hernandez and for some totally inexplicable reason, she dropped the charges and covered up for them both.
Perhaps the biggest fish that they’d caught, considering that Jenny never got to sit the polygraph (her shooting of La Grenouille pre-empted her taking the test) was the deputy director, Leon Vance; the most senior agent situated in NCIS’ San Diego office. He failed the first question – the what is your name section of the test which was supposed to be a question for establishing baseline purposes. Turned out that Leon Vance wasn’t really Leon Vance but his close boyhood friend, Tyler Keith Owens.
Leon Vance (the real Leon Vance) while studying at the naval college Annapolis detached his retina during a boxing match and realising that he’d never pass the physical to get a commission, had swapped identities and lives with his close mate, Tyler Keith Owens. The fake Vance was approached to carry out a mission for NIS that was considered a suicide mission, survived it thanks to a Mossad agent, and the rest, as they say, was history.
It had not escaped Tony’s notice that Leon had been tipped to be next in line for the position of director before he was ensnared by DHS’ spider’s web and charged with various offences. Which was why Admiral Chegwidden had been enticed out of retirement to steady the NCIS ship before she dashed herself on the rocks of corruption. From what Tony has seen, he seems to be a pretty-solid sort of guy – a bit like Morrow. But it still left the rudderless special agent wondering where to go.
The new director had offered him the senior supervisory position in Rota, it was a small office and the team mainly investigated crimes that occurred when navy ships were in port. Chegwidden had pointed out though, that it was a prestige posting and that most agents who climb the ranks spent time there before going on to the Naples office. He’d also underlined that Tony spoke fluent Spanish and Italian and hinted the posting would be good for his career prospects.
Tony knew that the director was correct, but he wasn’t sure that he wanted to be in a management role. He loved everything about being an investigator. He supposed if he had a wife and a family (like Leon had) then becoming an associate or deputy director or maybe even director someday might appeal to him. But since that was not in his future and he doubted it would ever be, (because guys like himself weren’t cut out to be happily married or a parent) then he was better off remaining in the field. At least he could do some good for other people if he remained as an investigator – he was damned good at his job.
Looking at how late it had become, he was frustrated with himself for all the wool-gathering he’d been doing. He’d only regurgitated a bunch of old thoughts and arguments, which hadn’t moved him any further along the path to reaching a decision about where he should go career-wise. Maybe now he was home again he’d follow up on some of the other job offers he received from different agencies.
Switching off the light and tiredly resolving to do just that, Very Special Agent Tony DiNozzo closed his eyes, telling himself to go to sleep. When his phone rang exactly two minutes later, he was irritated and answered without looking at the screen.
Hearing Jeanne’s voice he was shocked into wakefulness. Sitting up, he switched on his bedside light, trying to ignore the empty space in the bed where she used to sleep beside him. He always feared that it would be her physical closeness – her cuddling which he missed the most and he was right. He missed it even more than he did their sex.
Running his hand through his hair – a rare tell of his when he was conflicted, he asked her where she was ringing from. He noted that the connection was very clear.
Ignoring him, she asked, “Are you at home, Tony?”
She laughed. “Because I arranged for a present from Africa to be dropped at your front door. Take your phone with you so I can hear from you when you open your front door. It should be there by now,” she told him teasingly.
Tired and not in the mood for games, he stomped out his bedroom and made his way down the hall towards the front door. He noticed belatedly that he hadn’t put his luggage away. Cursing, he made his way to the door and commenced the time-consuming process of disengaging his three separate locks, grumbling under his breath about what she has sent him. He guessed that it could be spices for his cooking, maybe some death masks because they share a macabre sense of humour or best-case scenario – some awesome Ethiopian coffee.
Expecting to see a box or a crate on the floor as he finally opened the door, he was greeted by a pair of feet. Looking up at the owner of the feet, he saw the stunning blue eyes of Jeanne Benoit smiling up at him.
All he could say was her name as he gathered into his arms and held her close, wondering if this is a dream.
“I’m real, Mon Cœur,” she told him, hugging him back just as hard. “It’s so good to see you.”
Dragging her inside, he led them to the sofa and sat down, pulling her down too.
“So, what brings you here, Dr Benoit?” he asked awkwardly, wondering if it was Faire Amende Honorable business which had brought her home and she called in to see him as a duty visit.
However, if she had come home to see him specifically, it was probably because she’d realised what he had known from the moment she’d decided she needed a sabbatical to sort out her life and her emotions. She’d realised that it had been a mistake, he was a mistake, he’d been her rebound.
And really, when you stopped and thought about it, he was too much like John Carson. Same job, same friends, similar physical appearance. Maybe when she spent time away from him, she’d realised that she was a strong and independent woman – that she didn’t need a guy to make her happy. Helping people was an awesome feeling as he well knew. Helping people on the scale that she was able to do now to try to make amends for the evil her father had committed must be a heady experience. Addictive even.
Jeanne smiled somewhat sadly. “Not Dr Benoit anymore, Tony.”
Tony’s heart shrivelled and his stomach lurched. She’d gotten married already – to some handsome idealist doctor and they would make a huge difference to the lives of millions of people living in abject poverty.
“Congratulations. So, who is he?” he asked, trying not to feel jealous. He should be happy for her. He’d try to be happy for her – it wasn’t as if this was a surprise.
“Who’s who?” she asked, sounding puzzled.
“Ah… the guy you married. What’s he like?” Tony asked.
“What guy? I didn’t get married. I thought you and I were together.” She said confused. “I changed my name legally to Berkley. I’m Jeanne Berkley.”
Tony frowned. “Oh…right. Sorry. I thought you’d come to break the news that it wasn’t going to work. It’s too hard having a relationship when you are on different continents,” he explained.
Jeanne stared at him for the longest time before she said. “Yeah, I think you’re right, Tony about the long-distance relationship.”
He nodded sadly. “It was great while it lasted but there was just too much against us. But at least we can still be friends, right?”
He tried to change the subject because he was afraid, she would say no. Casting around for something to say, he fell back on his old friend – humour.
“Say, won’t having two Dr Berkley’s in your family be confusing?” he said, before filling the silence when she remained silent. “Nuh, I guess it’s lucky you both have different initials – she’s Dr H. Berkley and your Dr J. Berkley…it’s all good.”
Jeanne was watching him with the oddest expression, he was usually pretty good at reading non-verbal cues, due in part to his undercover work. But he couldn’t figure out what her mood was – perhaps reflective with a touch of melancholy? Maybe she was a bit sad to be breaking up with him…he hoped so.
Ignoring his remarks about her name, she finally started to speak to him. “So anyway… you asked me before about why I was here?” Jeanne said slowly. “Well in the last three months I’ve had a lot of time to think about things. I’ve missed you so much. And a friend of yours tracked me down while I was travelling in Eritrea. He wrote me a long and beautiful letter and he quoted Marcel Proust to me. What he probably didn’t know was that Proust is one of, if not my favourite French writer.”
Tony nodded. “You told me you thought about studying French literature at the Sorbonne before you ultimately decided to follow your mother and the family profession and become a doctor.”
“Yes, I decided I wanted to help people by becoming a doctor. If I had become an academic, I’d have most likely specialised in the works of Proust. I love them.”
Tony was tired and a bit jet-lagged from the flight from California, he wasn’t sure how they had got onto the topic of Jeanne’s favourite writer. “Sorry, Ma Chérie but I’m a bit lost. Who was the friend who sent you a letter again?”
Jeanne seemed to notice his tired features and realised he was clad in a pair of sleeping pants. “Oh yeah, it was a Doctor Mallard who used his contacts in MSF to track me down. He told me he’d worked with you for a number of years at NCIS.”
Tony nodded, it was making more sense now. If anyone he knew would quote Proust to Jeanne without knowing she was into it, it would be Ducky.
“Yeah, he’s the medical examiner, and kind of everyone’s favourite uncle. So why did he write to you?”
“As I said, he wrote this beautifully eloquent letter and in it, Ducky talked about how happy you’d been while we’d been spending time together and he told me you were missing me, that you’d lost you joie de vivre. Then he called me a ‘Charming Gardener’ and thanked me more making your soul bloom. He also spoke about how even though he’d led a full and happy life, he’d let his own Charming Gardener slip away. He said it was his biggest regret …well that and that he’d never had a child.”
Jeanne sighed, looking decidedly melancholic. “It was so evocative, Tony. So hauntingly wonderful, yet so sad.” She was silent as she looked into his face, searchingly as he just stared at her.
It made me think about how much I missed you and how you’d save me in so many ways. I think Ducky was confused though – you are my Charming Gardener, Tony; you made me so happy. You helped my soul blossom again when it had withered. And I was not grateful – I took you – I took us for granted. I forgot that a relationship, like a garden, needs to be tended to for it to continuing blossoming, for it to bear fruit, growing strong and healthy.”
She approached him and took his hands. “I’m sorry I took you for granted. I had a long talk with Maman, and I’ve decided if it’s all right with you, I want to come home and move in here with you since I let my apartment.”
She took his face in her small but deft hands and looked deep into his eyes. “Or if you want, we could get a house together. I just want to be in your bed at night – I want to be with you.”
Tony looked overwhelmed. “But what about your work, you were making a difference?”
Jeanne looked pensive as she snuggled into his side. “Maman helped me to see that I was running away from all my problems and that I was also sacrificing our happiness, too. She is more than capable of administering Faire Amende Honorable the way we’ve set it up. I haven’t even finished my medical training.”
Throwing up her hands indecisively, she continued. “Who knows? Maybe I’ll go back to school and complete a master’s in medical administration…or not. But as much as my professional life fulfils a need for me to help other people who aren’t as fortunate, Dr Mallard reminded me that I want and deserve to find love and happiness with you, too.”
Jeanne reached over and kissed him tenderly. “I want YOU, Anthony Daniel DiNozzo. Will you have me?”
Tony was overcome. He opened his arms and as she fell into his embrace he murmured against her hair, “Mon cœur.”
Jeanne returned the endearment. “And you are My Heart, dear one. Can we go to bed and talk more in the morning? I’m exhausted.”
Standing up and pulling her to her feet, he swept her up, bridal style and carried her to his rumpled but still extremely comfortable bed. He was so happy he hadn’t gotten a new twin bed when he was feeling like a martyr. Tony figured he owed Ducky a huge debt of gratitude for reaching out and talking with Jeanne.
As his lover stripped down to her underwear, he handed her one of his OSU t-shirts to use as a nightshirt. Both acknowledging that tonight was not about sex – tonight was about sleeping in each other’s arm again.
As he climbed into bed and Jeanne snuggled up to him, he turned out the bedside lamp, plunging the room into darkness. Sighing blissfully as they instinctively cuddled up like they had so many nights before, first as best friends and then as lovers, Jeanne giggled.
Wow, how he’d missed her laughter. “What’s so funny?”
“Well I was thinking about what you said about there being two Drs Berkley and you know what? I think it would be rather confusing, Doudou.”
“Yeah, maybe. So what? Will you go back to being Benoit again?”
In the dark, he could feel her shaking her head. “No… I don’t think so. What do you think of the name, Dr Jeanne DiNozzo?”