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Patient and Stubborn

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“Patient and stubborn. It’s what snipers are. It’s what we respond to.” Gibbs, S13E18

 

Jack had grown tired of the game. She knew Gibbs would object to that description. She could practically hear his growl - I don’t play games - but that’s exactly what this charade has turned into.

Two years of tiptoeing around each other, two years of half-flirts, almost kisses, boundary breeches and shared secrets, and she was beyond exhausted. Her hopes had been up, down, and every which way except fulfilled, and it was time to take a stand.

Or, more accurately, a sit. On Gibbs’ couch. Indefinitely.

Jacqueline Sloane may not actively profile her friends but her subconscious does it almost on autopilot. She had always questioned her friends motives, trying to get inside their head, figure out why they acted the way they did, good or bad. It’s in her nature.

Analyzing Gibbs is a part of her. If there were anyone in her life she should scrutinize, it was him.

A sniper. Born patient and above all stubborn as hell. That much anyone can glean from Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs within minutes of meeting the man - he could out-stubborn a mule.

But stubbornness leads easily into habit, and Gibbs was a man of it. His ‘rules’ were infamous, a personal code of conduct that him and those who worked for and around him needed to know - rule that could be bent and not broken.

But things were starting to change, which is what Jack wasn’t sure of yet. Which is why she thought this was the time to create her own sniper’s nest - much more comfortable and surrounded by blankets and coffee and plenty of paperwork, her target in a direct line of sight. As soon as he got home, anyway.

She’d had only been around two years, but she’s gleaned bits and pieces of a history, all tumultuous and awful and amazing, from those who had been around much longer. McGee, in particular, was wonderfully honest and open to her probing. She’s worked to gain his trust, the trust of the whole team, and it showed with what they chose to tell her. She was a part of the family now, too.

So, she knew a lot. Jack knew Gibbs had only been speaking with Grace for a few years. That he spent years and years punishing himself for the death of those he most loved. That he’s lost more people that anyone should be able to survive. She knows he’d made terrorists tremble and grown men cry. That Gibbs has more enemies than the damn President, and that he’s come out the other side of more than a handful of medical miracles.

Jack knows that he loves with fire and shows only ice. She knows that he’s thawed in recent years, become a little more open if only for the benefit of his team, his best friends. Jack could write a book on Gibbs and Fornell, on he and his chosen family of coworkers and sawdust and bourbon. He’s the ultimate father figure, the protector, the avenger - he takes in strays and helps them find a home. Lives rest upon his shoulders, and he never forgets those he’s lost. And it weighs on him visibly.

Jack knows Gibbs is reliable and loyal to a fault, and that it takes a lot to break him down. If it’s something he’s deemed important, then it’s even harder to get him to budge. He’s a boulder, an immovable force. It’s a glorious trait to lean on, but a frustrating one to push at. But now, with all that had happened, it felt like a point of convergence. A crack in the armor. A rare chance, if she let herself be fanciful, fate itself.

She had to be patient. That was something that didn’t come naturally to Jack. Stubbornness ran in her blood as much as it did in Gibbs’, but patience had to be worked at.

Jack had prepared for weeks, working against her own stubbornness. If something was going to change, she had to be the one to do it - she had to make this first move or nothing would ever change. So, she packed a bag. A big bag. An army issued duffle, a backpack, and a garment bag for her work clothes. She had everything from magazines to case files for entertainment, snacks and an extra pillow for comfort.

Jack’s big plan, the one she was currently panicking slightly over since it was already in motion and she could hear Gibbs pull his truck up outside, right next to her car, and, really, there was no hiding how she’d practically moved in to his home unannounced so it was past trying to back out, her big plan was to simply wait him out in the most obvious, annoying, stubborn way possible until he finally broke and either kissed her or killed her.

Internally she took bets, weighed her chances, wondered if she’d finally gone insane.

Behind her she heard the door open, heard Gibbs exhale, heard him approach and silently take in the scene her things and her self made in his living room.

“Hey, Jack.”

In the second she forced herself to be still, grating against her natural urge to turn to him, she hoped to hell that she’d made the right choice.

Finally looking, meeting the sharp blue eyes filled with not a little bit of confusion but also warmth and pleasure in seeing her, Jack let herself smile.

“Hey, Cowboy.”

Chapter Text

Gibbs rocked back and forth on his feet, taking in the scene Jack had made on his couch. She was curled up under a blanket he didn’t recognize, a mug of something in one hand and an open case file on her lap. She was wearing those damn sexy reading glasses and had as near an innocent look on her face as she could manage.

He racked his brain. Not that he had to, he’d remember something that had to do with her. If anything, her being on his couch when he came home was wishful thinking. But she was there, and he didn’t know why.

As far as he was aware, Jack hadn’t made plans to come over - hadn’t mentioned wanting or needing to. Was there something wrong with her apartment? By the look of the bags spread around his living room and, aw hell, she’d brought a fancy hanging bag for her work clothes - she could be here a while.

Gibbs smirked, nonchalant and projecting a sense of normalcy for this quasi-invasion of his home. His team knew the door was unlocked for a reason, and if Jack was there then she had a good reason to be. Gibbs had dealt with enough of Fornell’s breakdowns and his team’s late night worries to know that his house was a refuge for those around him. His ego was soothed that Jack had chosen him, his home, his couch, for whatever she needed. He turned on his heel and headed to the kitchen.

“Getcha anything?” he threw over his shoulder.

Jack answered with a hum, apparently having more than made herself at home. Gibbs opened the fridge and was surprised to stillness. There was stuff in there. More stuff than he’d ever had in the fridge, stuff like salad and fruits and whole vegetables and god knows what else.

He grabbed a beer from its new home, lurking between a jar of jam and a pitcher full of something, and cracked it open. Jack had brought groceries. Pausing again with a tilt to his head, he tried to suss out what he was feeling. That’s what the little voice in his head that sounded annoyingly like Grace was trying to get him to do.

Annoyed? No, no more than usual at the general world. Worried? Yes, but he always worried when it came to his family. After some contemplation, Gibbs settled somewhere between amused and curious and went to join Jack on the other end of the couch.

Another, stranger feeling came over him, like his gut was trying to tell him something. Something important. But it was too subtle to break through the exhaustion of a long week, the ache in his knees, and the overwhelming relief of flopping down on his couch.

Breaking the silence, Gibbs tried to pry Jack’s attention from the case file. It was open to the same page it had been when he’d walked in, and her own nonchalance was full of tension, almost white knuckling the cup in her hand. She was hiding something.

What did she expect? To just show up and be ignored, not have to answer for her presence?

“Did’ya move in Jack? Got enough food in there for an army.” Gibbs made sure to smile so he didn’t sound accusing.

“No, actually,” Jack spoke slowly, “I just thought I could be here a while so I came prepared. And I know what the usual state of your fridge is.”

Well. That answered exactly none of his questions, and the solid sound of her answer almost distracted from the slight tremble in her hand. Almost. She turned the page in her file before he could ask again.

Jack didn’t offer an explanation and he was ruffled, almost spurned to keep his own silence until she broke. Taking a sip of his beer he did just that, observing her from his angle of the couch.

She was dressed in what he would call lounge clothes, some comfortable looking sweatshirt that his own collection could match, and what looked like those tight black leg pants that women liked - hell, he liked them too - peeking out from under a corner of the blanket.

Her blanket. His house. What the hell was going on?

Gibbs didn’t mind being the one his people came to. In fact, he could admit that it made him proud to be their rock. Their port in the storm, their go-to for advice or help. His team was his family, and he would do anything for them. But it helped to know exactly what he was needed for.

Fed up with the silence and spurred to leaned forward indignantly, Gibbs tried to prompt her to spill what she was keeping locked up.

“Did we have plans that were knocked outta my head or something? ‘Cuz I think I woulda remembered offering you a key.”

“You never lock your door.”

“Well maybe I should start!”

“What, you want me to leave? I’m not going anywhere, Gibbs.” Jack went back to her file, leaving Gibbs hanging for a beat.

“That’s not exactly my point-“

“Well what is your point?” Jack tossed the file aside and finally, finally looked up.

Gibbs met her stare with a wide-eyed face, wondering why she’d gone on to defense so quickly. This was his house! She was in it! Why was she being so difficult?

Exasperated, Gibbs stood up, pacing slightly in front of her. He carded one hand through his hair, wondering at how this woman could get him so riled up so quickly. “Ah, I – just… Jack!”

Jethro!

It was the mocking tone that she said his name, it was a cover, a diversion against an attack. It made him snap back, pause and forcibly relax in front of her.

More than gentle, with a subtle shrug and shake of his head, he finally asked the question. “What are ya doing here, Jacqueline?”

It was the shift in his tone, his stance, that broke her. Knowing her for this long, he knew exactly her rhythm in ramping up to an argument, and now he knew how to stop it. He didn’t want to fight. Whatever this was about, whatever prompted her to walk in to his living room and build a nest for herself, well, damn. He just wanted to know.

If it was something he did, maybe he could keep doing it.

Jack opened her mouth, once, twice, searching for her answer. “I’m here to… wait.” Gibbs watched her nod to herself, a slight smile appearing, brightening the room. “Yeah. That okay, Gibbs?”

Still baffled, Gibbs nodded. Hell, she could’ve barged in and asked to chop up his boat and he probably would’ve handed her an axe if she had smiled at him just like that. A response caught in his throat and he nodded, eyes darting along the empty spaces around her.

For some reason, Jack was determined to sit on his couch and… wait for something. Or someone? He had no idea, but it was late and Jack had gone back to her file that she still wasn’t reading.

The simplicity (and bourbon) of his basement called to him and he readily went, indicating to his houseguest with a hum and a nod where he’d be.

Chapter Text

She’d made a huge mistake. A miscalculation. An idiotic, ill-timed, poorly planned attack. And she was mortified. And, if she were honest, she was regretting her entire idea. Why had she committed to Operation Sniper’s Nest instead of Operation Kiss Him Already? She would’ve had her answer with that plan by now.

Instead, she was camped out in a house where she didn’t live, without an invitation or a good reason to be here. Nothing but the grace of Gibbs leaving to work on his boat saved her from spontaneous combustion. What the hell had she been thinking? Jack buried her face in her hands, hoping to wake up from a nightmare instead of facing the reality of what had just happened.

Maybe she should call Grace, talk this through past her confession and into the plan of action. Jack had never been one to second guess herself, but a stake out? Really? In full view and contact with the target? Having Gibbs as a target in the first place? How had she not thought of an excuse, or come up with one! “I’m just.... waiting.” What an idiot.

Jack wondered what Gibbs was thinking. This was a normal thought for her, always wishing she could get inside his head, unlock his secrets and hopes and inner dialogue beyond his stilted mono-syllabic way of communication. But this was another level of crazy he was facing.

Oh, god. He probably thought she was crazy! Or withholding, or just plain rude, coming into his home with no warning or anything, taking over his living room, buying food for his fridge. What an invasion of personal space and privacy.

Or maybe he was fine with it. A little thrown off his expectations, perhaps invoking his famous patience. Or stubbornness. Or, maybe even more likely, he himself had no idea how to handle her just showing up like this and decided to see how it would play out.

Jack took a breath, trying to ground herself amongst the mingling of familiar scents - Gibbs’ comforting smell mixing with her things from home. She took another, trying to calm her racing thoughts and remind herself why she did this.

She had reason to be here, after all. Even as ill-communicated as that reason was.

With her eyes closed, Jack tried to focus on the good that came from what was arguably the most awkward interaction she’d ever had on a personal level.

She was still here, for one. Gibbs hadn’t kicked her out. He seemed to accept that she was here for a reason that she wasn’t willing to fully disclose, which was also good. It was a part of why Gibbs was fundamentally a good person; he’d never turn away someone seeking shelter, even if they didn’t disclose a reason for being there.

He didn’t turn her away when they first met, either. Even if their first interaction was a lie, she made him laugh. She called his ‘style’ retro chic, intentionally trying to flatter but feeling the truth flutter through her in smiles and jokes. And he made her laugh back, harder and more genuinely than she had in a really, really long time. Even if it was all recon, hell, that first meeting in this house was the start of something, even if she didn’t realize it yet - she was just trying to figure him out just like he did. She wanted to keep trying.

The real getting to know him had taken time. Even if he hadn’t figured out her ploy so quickly, there was no way that a half hour of lies and hospitality would have gotten her anywhere near him. The truth had come later, told through old stories and scars that never quite healed.

Still, half of her wanted to turn tail and run, get the hell out and never mention it again, but the other half reminded her of the damn game. The tip-toeing and half-flirts and the driving her goddamn insane. The truth of it was that she was as stubborn as he, and she wasn’t backing out now. The goal was clear: stay until…

Until what? They made out like horny teens and went along with their lives? Hardly. Jack wouldn’t turn down a make out session or two – the couch, the bed, the boat, her mind supplied – but she was after the real thing. The emotion and trust thing. The thing that would continue for a very long time, that would build onto their friendship and make them both happy. The thing that would allow more room for smiles and touches, less for avoidance and changing the subject.

Jack wanted him. She knew his flaws like she knew her own, and she had no delusions about sunshine and rainbows and sunsets. She was lonely, and she recognized that loneliness in him, too. At the end of cases, when his team when home to their lives, she saw the shift that sometimes occurred, when he knew that the boat, basement, and bourbon wouldn’t cut it forever, but that he didn’t have other options. She saw it in herself, dragging home piles of casefiles and staying too late in her office.

There was no reason they couldn’t merge their bad habits and be lonely together.

Newly resolved and calmed, Jack allowed herself to come out of her head and into reality. At a loss as to what to do, a low growl from her stomach cued her into her next move - dinner.

Feeling not unlike she was in some alternate dimension where she had a right to be in Gibbs house, like she lived here or was actually invited, Jack padded to the kitchen in thick socks and opened the newly filled fridge.

As she pulled the ingredients out for a salad she realized she held in her hands the means to start this whole evening over. Food, a shared dinner. She quickly made two of her indulgent salads with mushrooms, artichoke hearts, extra tomatoes, and poppy seed dressing. Digging only slightly, she found half a steak in the fridge to cut up and add to the mix, hoping to please his senses even with the vegetables.

Jack picked up the bowls and two beers and journeyed down to the basement in hopes of some company.

Chapter Text

He was used to it, that was the feeling. Gibbs was used to being in his empty house, in the basement, alone. He was accustomed to keeping one ear open for creaks above, signaling the presence of friend or foe. He was used to the sander and hand tools and quiet, determined work patterns that fall into meditation. Simply... used to it.

That didn’t make it a bad thing. Or good, either. The status quo was neutral, a way of existing, a home base to regroup and reflect and more often than not forget.

Home was safe. Even if there’s been more than a fair share of dead bodies and violence and intrusion, his house was here for it all, open to it all. The good and the bad and the recovering. Convergence, is how Grace would probably put it.

Gibbs you practically run a halfway house for your team, yet you live there all the time. Don’t you see a problem with that? Being stuck there - going neither forward or back, just in your basement all alone building boats and listening to a radio older than both of us combined?

Hell, he didn’t know about that, but Grace was usually right about things. In the end. At least partially.

This was a safe house. Or a halfway house, where his family came to wait out their problems or ask for a solution. He didn’t quite know when he became this beacon of wisdom, maybe it came with age or rules or maybe people read too much into his shortened, gruff ways of speaking. If anything, Gibbs prided himself on getting straight to the point.

Mostly.

Well. When it came to work, anyway.

On a case, in the field, it was focus and shoot first ask questions later. Solve the mystery, bring criminals to justice, help whoever he can.

In his private life, and Gibbs cringed at the term, things had always been different. Awkward can only begin to describe it now. Withdrawn and desperate was everything after Shannon and Kelly, constantly trying to fill a void that was irreplaceable. Even he had the hindsight to know that.

In recent years, the past decade or so, he hadn’t even looked. The guilt of ruining three marriages with neglect and stopping relationships before they could advance was too much, too much to do over again.

But things change.

They always change. If Gibbs knew one thing, it was that you can’t rely on any sort of constant. Life was unpredictable and short and often incredibly unfair. But that didn’t mean he shouldn’t try.

Yeah, things change, but hell, after Paraguay... everything was different.

When he came back he had no expectations of how he should feel. Honestly, he never expected to make it back. The world’s slowest moving escape plan was not much more than a distraction, a last ditch effort put forth to try and survive - survive so McGee could see his kid and his wife, survive because McGee risked everything just to not leave a man behind. But what did he survive for?

Scarily enough, he was happy to be alive. He hadn’t felt like that in decades. Things changed, he began talking to Grace, his team had evolved, and life was different. For the first time since his world was crushed, he could afford the emotional vulnerability - Grace’s words, not his - to be hopeful.

And he was just getting used to the idea when Jack came crashing into his house, all casual and rain-soaked and deceptive, just to try to figure him out.

Jack has always been a woman to make the first move, to get in and do recon, to figure someone else out before she revealed anything of herself. Even if he figured out who she was in half a minute.

And reveal herself she did.

It took time, to build the trust. Any solid foundation takes patience and a steady hand, and he and Jack had built something that he trusted to withstand plenty. They’d both given something of themselves, a piece of their history that no one else knew about.

Gibbs values trust more than anything. His trust had to be earned, sought after and fought for. When he trusted, he was all in. With Jack? It was everything.

From the first day she showed up she had an inexplicable way of just... being where he was. Walk into MTAC and she was there. Turn around in the bullpen, she was coming down the stairs. Rush to the elevator as it’s closing - lo and behold Jack Sloane standing inside. And now she was above him, in his living room, waiting.

How did she worm her way so completely into his life? Was it the day she performed makeshift surgery on a madman with a gun pointed at her head, still goading the guy with cutting - literally - sarcasm, and had the audacity to be proud of getting the bullet? That turned him on more than anything else.

What about how she’d proved herself, over and over again, that she was tougher than she looked and smarter than half the agency put together?

Maybe it was simply that she was a kindred spirit. Gibbs knew more than most that you can’t compare loss, that you can’t tally it up and say one is worse than another. But if anyone was on a level playing field with him, it could be Jack. Hell, she’d lost two good friends in the space of the short time they’d known each other. She confronted her monster, conquered him, and come out the other side as shining and positive as she could manage.

He knows her scars and she knows his, and there’s not much more they can reveal to each other that would shake anything up. Jack Sloane has quickly become permanent in his life. The question he had was where it went from there.

The floorboards above him creaked lightly toward the kitchen and stopped. Jack was on the move for dinner, and his stomach rumbled lightly, hoping at the notion of a woman in his kitchen. If Gibbs continued to allow himself that little shred of hope, the allowance of happiness that Grace was always on about, he could consider the possibility that she was making her move.

Almost quite literally, judging by the amount of stuff in his living room.

If this was her step forward, as intrusive and bold as it may be, well then he better do something in return. Obstinate ignoring and indifference could only get him so far - which, really, was nowhere at all.

Before he could suss out what exactly that counter play would be, Jack was making her way down the steps with two bowls balanced in her arms, two beers in her hand.

“Hey, I know it’s not your usual fireplace delicacy, but I thought I would make us dinner.”

Gibbs was presented with a bowl of green stuff and a beer and a view of causal Jack in all her glory. Those tights and that big sweatshirt didn’t look so good on just anybody.

He nodded slightly to the stools next to his work table and wondered if this was the best place to share a dinner with her. He couldn’t exactly call in at a five-star for tonight, but maybe the back deck could’ve been more comfortable. Before he could offer, Jack had perched on a stool and was happily eating and surveying his newest project.

Reluctantly, Gibbs sat as well, fully aware of her eyes on him as he looked from the bowl to his beer and back. Taking a healthy swig of his new beverage, he speared a chunk of steak straight through to a tomato and a mushroom slice. There was way too much lettuce in this salad, but the toppings were salvageable.

“Not bad,” he said, mouth full.

“You lie, but I appreciate it.”

Gibbs matched her smile as best he could, then watched as she lost it just as quickly. Feeling like something was coming Gibbs held his silence, filling his mouth with more steak to keep quiet but unassuming.

“I wanted to, um, clarify why I was here, make sure it was okay with you.”

Gibbs hummed through artichoke hearts and lettuce.

“I probably should’ve asked, you know. Before I came over.”

His shrug served enough of an answer, not wanting to interrupt her.

“But since I’ve decided to wait, for you, I thought it would be easiest if I were close by.”

Gibbs stilled. Wait for me? To do what?

“So are you kicking me out of my nest or what?”

Gibbs quickly filled his mouth with whatever his fork picked up - mainly lettuce and a too-big chunk of tomato - and shook his head, wide-eyed and innocent, his go-to reaction when confronted with too much on a personal level like this. She’d come down here before he’d worked out a plan, after all.

“Stay as long as you want,” he said around his food.

Jack looked at him like that was just the wrong thing to say, but he didn’t know what he should’ve said instead. He didn’t even know what he wanted to say.

Dinner passed with more silence. Gibbs could almost feel a wall coming up between them, mutually built with confusion, frustration, and the bald stubbornness that made them refuse to talk of it. He didn’t know what he did, but he needed to figure out how to fix it.

He figured that eating every bite of the salad wouldn’t hurt in the long run, anyway.

Chapter Text

It had been a rough week, and Jack had felt like she’d gone through the wringer. When she wasn’t thinking about a case or consulting on a profile, her mind was occupied with the brick wall that was Gibbs. He’d never been easy to read, but he had the ability to become almost impenetrable when he wanted. Winning hands at poker games was one thing, but he’s lied successfully to superiors, best friends, and terrorists with a gun to his face.

Anyone who withstood months of torture and came out the other side – well, Sloane would know. Fortitude is only scratching the surface.

But this wasn’t a battle she was fighting or an interrogation she was trying to outsmart. This was Gibbs and her, and she had let it go on long enough. Commencing Operation Sniper’s Nestwas supposed to be the check to his checkmate, but it didn’t provoke him the way she’d intended. If anything, he’d withdrawn.

Taking two very similar personalities and housing them in the same space for a long period of time should create some sort of reaction, but this his-and-hers stubbornness they had going on only seemed to create an endless state of friction and frustration.

On more than one level.

After that stilted dinner in the basement the first night she was there, Jack second and third-guessed herself. He’d said exactly the wrong thing – or he just didn’t know how to reject her. But doubting herself was a bad habit of hers, triggered by emotional vulnerability and taking personal risks. Her original plan was to be patient, but it would only work if he was willing to see what was literally in front of him. But Gibbs never revealed a thing, one way or another.

A case called him in on that weekend, dragging her along just a few hours later for an assist, and the resulting fallout was managed just in time for a loaded work week. Even living out of Gibbs’ living room, between his cases and her involvements within NCIS, she barely saw him outside of work for several days.

One step forward, five steps back.

By the time the last report was written, edited, and submitted the following Friday, Jack was past the end of her rope, barely hanging on to the threads. This was the tipping point. One way or another, things would shift, and soon. They had to.

Driving her mini from work to Gibbs’ home had become routine, and her thought patterns had adjusted to thinking of it as home. Her things had spread out across the living room - to the kitchen table and even to the back deck and basement. It had taken conscious effort to leave her things here and there. The cardigan draped over a kitchen chair, the blanket downstairs in a spot she’d claimed as her own, the books on the side tables. Hell, even her laundry was mixed with his in the hamper. She’d wanted to leave her mark in his space, invade his life both physically and psychologically.

Thing is, she had no idea how it had affected him.

At work he was as inscrutable as ever, dashing into her office and out, always leaving when she was on her way downstairs, always too busy to talk. Avoiding her, and not even being subtle about it. At home, he was either in the basement or absent entirely while she was there, sleeping on his couch. For all she knew, he snuck in and out so as not to confront her.

Objectively, Jack could see why he reacted like this. For such a strong leader, fearless agent, and all-around badass, Gibbs was easily flustered when it came to any personal matter. Just leave him in a room with Fornell or Grace for a few minutes and he was practically sputtering with ‘Aw, jeez’ and running out of the room. Just as emotions made her overthink, his avoidance made sense.

Subjectively, she was embarrassed and not a little pissed off - at Gibbs and at herself. He was avoiding her, yes, but what had she done to counteract that? Nothing. It was pathetic. A week ago, she’d worked up the courage to practically move in to his house uninvited, and she had nothing to show for it!

Worked up just enough to incite resolve, Jack pulled in to the driveway next to Gibbs’ old truck and practically stormed inside, locking the door behind her. On the way to the basement, because of course that is where he’d be, she dropped her purse, briefcase, and jacket in their new homes.

Even storming through – well, walking purposefully through, anyway – the house, Jack couldn’t help but feel herself relax. The comforts of home, the air, the smells, the familiar sights, they all provoked an unconscious calm. This home was growing on her, just as its owner had.

Slightly calmed down by the time she reached the back of the house, Jack paused. The off-white wall and open door that framed the entrance of the basement was something she’d never really noticed before. It was bare, utilitarian like most of Gibbs’ house. He was a man who put work and comfort into places needed, and what was outside of that was unnecessary to adorn.

Jack couldn’t help but go one step further in her analysis. Gibbs was a man that knew what was important and he dedicated his full effort into those things. His boat, his job, his family. Absolute dedication.

Jack shivered at the thought of being under such intense attention.

Shaking her head, Jack walked forward and down the stairs, taking in the sight of Gibbs at work in the corner of her eye. She knew he knew she was home, she’d been in the basement enough to know it was easy to track footsteps and identify guests from below. He must’ve known this was coming.

“Jack.”

“Gibbs.”

Jack let nothing show, walking directly to the workbench and performing the familiar ritual: find a jar, empty the jar, splash in some bourbon. She turned and found him directly behind her, holding an empty mug hopefully, silently.

She twisted slightly for the bottle and filled his mug, then leaned back against the wood, her body on high alert at his continued closeness.

“So?” he asked.

“So, what?”

Both paused and sipped at their drink of choice.

“’S been a week.”

“Mmm, that long?” she hummed.

Gibbs scrunched his face, shifting the mood up a notch. “We gonna do this now, or what?” He shifted back and forth, inching closer as he asked.

It was an intimidation tactic she was well aware of and immune to, but it did get suddenly warmer in the basement. “Do what?”

“I don’ play games, Jack.”

“I’m not playing a game.”

“You’ve been doin’ somethin’ all week!”

“I’ve been doing my job!”

“And livin’ in my house!”

Jack scoffed, irritated, and took another sip to steady herself. Only Gibbs could escalate to an argument so quickly while still not revealing a thing. She gave back as good as she got. “Not that you’ve done anything about it!”

Gibbs reacted to that, throwing his hands comically wide in exasperation before leaning forward, discarding his mug on the worktable, his hands catching on the wood on either side of her. There was an inch of space between them, if that, and Jack maneuvered her jar to the stool next to them.

Gibbs lowered his voice dangerously. “What, exactly, should I have done about it?”

It was the shift in tone that undid her, the look in his eye, the tilt of his head. The air thickened around them, and Jack felt a flush hit her down to her toes and radiate back up in pinpricks of sensation, helped along by the finger of bourbon in her system.

She dropped her eyes to his throat, then back up to his mouth, helpless and out of control. It was all she could do to stop from moaning out loud.

“Hmm, Jack?”

“Oh,” she murmured, her head tilting in tandem to his searching, “just kiss me already.”

Gibbs closed the distance between them before she finished speaking, their bodies flush for the first time with his hand supporting her waist.

Jack drank in the length of him with a stretch, his height bent over as he kissed the life out of her. His mouth was insistent, full of pressure, lips tinged with bourbon, breath hot against her skin. She was awash in sensation overload, unable to hold back her response.

She knew he’d be a damn good kisser.

Jack slid her hands across his chest where they’d caught him originally toward his shoulders to frame his jaw, moving with him, fingers scratching through his hair. This was really happening, the physical proof was overwhelming, and Jack was so caught up in it that the urge to breathe hit her unexpectedly.

As she broke away to suck in air, she gathered him before he could retreat. Her head found a home under his chin as their embrace transitioned into a hug. Jack felt him breathe hard against her and she was pleased she wasn’t the only one so affected.

“Ah, Jack,” he muttered. She could hear the smile in his voice. “Coulda just led with that a week ago.”

She leaned back just enough to smack him on the chest in mock anger, breaking immediately into elated laughter to match his own.  

Chapter Text

Change always hit Gibbs like a truck. It was almost never a good thing, and at the best it was just… different. Joining the Marines, leaving Stillwater - all different. But all too soon he had Shannon to come home to, then Kelly, and for a brief moment his life was damn near as perfect as it could get. Hindsight, they say, is a hell of a thing.

Then change struck and it came in the form of death and unbearable pain. 

He avenged his pain, paid dearly for it, and changed again into an NIS agent. Mike Franks taught him how to be an investigator and gave him purpose. NCIS gave him purpose to get up in the morning, and then it gave him a new family. The first time he left Abby’s lab and thought of how much like a daughter she was to him, he went home and guzzled a bottle of bourbon. But each visit, each smile and laugh, it hurt a little less and became more and more true. 

That feeling only grew with DiNozzo and Ducky, with Kate, with McGee and Palmer and Ziva and Leon and now Bishop and Torres and Kasie. He’d lost a few, others left by choice, but they were his family, for better or worse. When he let himself feel that fully - the joy and contentedness that can only come when one is surrounded by loved ones, it was indescribable. 

But only when he let it in, when he allowed it. Because just like all good and beautiful things in his life, Gibbs knew it wouldn’t last forever. And the less he felt, the less it would hurt. And, so, what was the point of feeling at all?

Yet, just as trauma had changed him time and again, time had done its own work. He wasn’t getting soft in his old age, no, but he was beginning to recognize it more often. He could see it in the eyes of Victoria Palmer, of Johnny and Morgan McGee. The flare of life in Bishop’s actions, the struggle for normalcy in Torres.

He could feel it in the air when Jacqueline Sloane entered the room, see it in the way she held herself, practically taste it when she leaned a little too close, when he leaned in instead of back.

It was hope. A rare and fragile thing, growing stronger each day. 

A year and a half since she’d come in to his life in a hurricane, she had made herself a home in his living room. And not just there.

Over the week they had been co-habitating, she’d left her things everywhere. Again, this wasn’t necessarily a huge change. Gibbs was a little used to having items from his team scattered here and there. Each of them had at least a change of clothes around for practicality. Tobias left books and several socks without matches, movies that DiNozzo had left were still around, and there was a stray toy from when the kids had visited. But in the course of a few days, Jack’s stuff was everywhere. 

He noticed it most blatantly when he’d discovered a bra in his laundry.

Her notes were stacked neatly in his living room, her things always in a place that made sense. A house guest would usually keep their things gathered, in a central location, so as not to impose on the homeowner’s space and hospitality. The Tobias anomaly aside, Jack had practically moved in without warning.

And yet he hadn’t seen her there all week. 

Okay, yes, it was partly by his design. Any moment he’d had to spare between casework and meeting and stress he’d used to go home, eat, change, and get back to the office. Of course, he could have stayed longer, offered to take Jack back and forth - hell, even talked to her about something besides work - but he didn’t know what that would lead to. Or what it could reveal. 

Leroy Jethro Gibbs was shaking in his boots at the prospect of Jack Sloane being a part of his life, and he knew it. 

Gibbs could point to a million things to argue that this was a bad idea. His track record with women, their dangerous jobs, rule twelve. He’d built walls so high decades ago that even in trying to move on with three ex wives, a fiancee, and some serious relationships, nothing could penetrate. 

But time had worked its devious magic and here he was, smitten with a blonde five-foot-five Army psychologist that had him weak in the knees within the first week of meeting her.

And then it was Friday, and he was done with work, and she came home and tore through the kitchen and stood right in front of him and sassed about his inaction and, hell, what else was he supposed to do but kiss her?

Gibbs pinned her with a look. Jack wasn’t easy to stop with his gaze like others. She was too strong to cower, too contrarian to wilt. If anything, when he’d given her that look in the past, she would stand taller and assert her rightness. And, usually, she was right. 

But now, after a week of being in his space but being absent, of invading his senses even as he tried his damndest to avoid her, he had her right where he wanted her: between his arms, pressed against him, willing and ready to confess.

It felt good. It felt… right. 

“What, exactly, should I have done about it?” Gibbs breathed, closer than he’d dared before. “Hmm, Jack?”

Kissing Jack. He’d had a compulsion to do it for months, growing more intense as time passed. Every time he was too close, or she came up to him, he leaned in. He always leaned in. And, body language expert that she was, he couldn’t exactly hide it either. Her touching his chest in the bullpen almost undid him entirely, and he’d run away from her presence more than a few times, not to mention the gymnastics of avoidance he’d performed that week.

The elevator, her office, the interrogation room - even MTAC - they had all become spaces of danger to him. When she appeared, the temptation was magnified, elevated from simple desire to a physical ache. But Jack had a gift of appearing at just the right time, saying just the right thing to edge under skin, to drive him closer to the brink. 

But here she was, white-hot against him, whiskey warm and more than willing. Her touch set him on fire, and minutes were lost to their mouths meeting. His hand never wanted to leave her waist, fitting perfectly among her curves, even as he yearned to explore.

He said something, a quip to make her laugh, and it was beautiful. Her crooked smile always knocked him off balance in the best way, and he finally could act on his desire to kiss it. Jack quieted with the second kiss, and he paid more attention. Quiet and calm didn’t subdue the heat underlaying them, but it allowed for more intent, more everything. 

“Upstairs?” Gibbs muttered against her neck. 

“Mmmm,” Jack replied. Eyes half lidded, she turned toward the stairs, dragging him along by the hand. She could’ve glanced and he would’ve floated along behind her, willing to follow her anywhere, anyhow.

This change hit him like a truck. It left him dizzy and not a little scared, but this time it just managed to knock down his defenses and make room for Jack Sloane to step inside.