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A Woman's Worth

Chapter Text

The room was bathed in the light from a single lamp, the dull yellow light bathing everything in a soft glow. It was four am and the bed was neatly made.

Steam billowed out from the en-suite bathroom as the door connecting it to the bedroom was pushed open and a woman stepped out, a fluffy towel clinging to her curves and plastic cap protecting her hair from heat and moisture. Unheeding of the ungodly hour, the woman crossed to her dresser, slipping on underwear before letting the towel drop and clasping on a bra. Not paying any mind to her state of undress, the lady padded towards the kitchen, full lips curving into a smile as her kettle whistled to a boil and she steeped her teabag for long moments before carrying the steaming mug back into the bedroom.

Garters were fastened to flesh coloured, thigh-high stockings to keep them in place and she crossed to the closet, thinking for a moment before pulling out a dress. It zipped up at the sides, the pencil skirt falling to her knees and the material clinging to the planes and curves of her body. Slipping her feet into matching pumps, she sat down in front of her dresser and pulled the cap from her hair, undoing the numerous pins that held it in place. Golden curls tumbled across her shoulder and down her back and it took only a moment of contemplation before she decided to leave it as is with only a little touch up from the curling iron.

A dash of mascara later and she was grabbing her coat, bag and keys and disappearing into the night, heels clicking on the pavement and a gun hidden beneath the folds of her coat.

~O

"Don't you lock your door?" Tony asked as he opened the basement door and saw Gibbs working on something.

"No," Gibbs didn't even glance up. If DiNozzo's quick, heavy steps hadn't given him away, his voice would've.

"We got a call," Tony let his fingers trail along the wall as he descended. "Quantico. Marine got killed in a training exercise."

"How?" Gibbs blew at the sanded planks, getting rid of sawdust.

"Night training jump. Guy's chute didn't open." Tony gazed curiously at the project Gibbs was working on, green eyes roaming over the shape of the planks.

"Is this a boat?" he asked.

Gibbs glanced at Tony, his expression making it obvious that the younger man was being a bit too obtuse and Gibbs shook his head, momentarily wondering why on earth he hired someone who could, at times, be so damn dense.

"His reserve chute didn't open?" Gibbs asked.

"I don't know," Tony admitted. His attention was caught by something on the worktop that, on closer inspection, turned out to be Gibbs' cell phone immersed in a jar of something unidentifiable.

"Huh," the nonplussed sound left Tony's mouth of its own volition. "Jess said you wouldn't be reachable by phone," he glanced around some more and found the landline ripped from the wall. "She said your hard-line would be out too."

"She's a smart girl," Gibbs admitted. "And if you're a fraction as smart as Jessica is, DiNozzo, you won't ask questions."

"You know," there was silence for a moment before Tony's face lit up. "My dad gave me a power sander for my birthday. I don't really power sand much. You're welcome to it."

"Apart from that bare bulb there and that cable going to that idiot box you see a power cord around here anywhere?" Gibbs let his irritation at the whole damn day seep into his voice as he put his tools away.

Tony glanced around the room, already knowing what he was going to find, and shrugged when Gibbs words rang true. Inevitably, his gaze landed back on the boat and he stroked a hand down one plank.

"You use hand tools, huh," He didn't bother to conceal his admiration and Gibbs felt himself deflate, even if he didn't show it. Tony, as always, meant well.

"I use my hands," Gibbs said.

"You call Ducky yet?"

"Jess is on it," Tony called, still inspecting the boat as Gibbs climbed the stairs.

"DiNozzo!" Gibbs snapped, jerking his second in command out of his daze. "You coming?"

"Sure boss! I got the l-" Tony started to reply but the basement was suddenly plunged into darkness. "I got the lights."

Sighing, Tony mumbled under his breath about the weirdness that was his boss and followed. Oh well, Jess awaited them. The mere thought of his teammate, who had been recovering from a gunshot wound to her shoulder, was enough to bring a smile to Tony's face. Jessica Simmons was British by birth but had moved to the States when she was ten, and she was the only person he knew who could give their boss a run for his money in the boxing ring.

As they pulled up to the crime scene, the smile on Tony's face grew. The mobile response unit were already on the scene, setting up a perimeter and massive klieg lights provided the only light. The marines that had been participating in the training exercise were standing in two groups on one side and, talking to their supervisor on the ground, stood a very familiar figure. Her blonde hair hung in loose curls down her back and her coat, Vivienne Westwood if Tony was remembering correctly, hugged her figure, flaring at the hips and emphasizing shapely calves and a few, teasing inches of thigh. Damn but that girl knew how to dress. Not even the combat boots she'd slipped into to work the field could distract from the sheer classiness of her appearance.

"Could you make sure that those kids stay where they are?" Jessica was saying. "And if Major Sergeant Schaefer has any questions would you direct him to myself or Agent DiNozzo when he arrives?"

"Yes ma'am ," the marine practically saluted. "Is there anything else I can do for you, ma'am?"

"No, thank you," the smile Jessica gave the marine was easy and effortlessly charming and Tony was willing to bet that the man was glad it was dark. He wouldn't be the first soldier to blush at a smile from the lovely Agent Simmons.

"Jess," Gibbs chose that moment to cut in. "Sitrep."

"Evening boss, Tony," Jessica turned to face them, not the least bit surprised by their presence. "Our victim impaled an SUV," she gestured towards the vehicle in question but didn't stop talking. "I spoke to the witnesses, a girl called Sarah whose father is Major Sergeant Schaefer, and her boyfriend Jimmy. They say he groaned after impact with their vehicle."

"After impact? He was still alive?" Gibbs asked.

"Yes boss, according to them he was." Jessica tucked a blonde curl of hair behind her ear and her blue eyes flitted over to the fallen marine. "Ducky hasn't arrived yet so I haven't confirmed it with him."

Gibbs nodded and gestured for her to continue.

"The rest of the marines are waiting over there, separated into groups based on those who jumped and those who didn't. Also, I checked the marine's chute and there's no sign of foul play as of yet. A few of his shroud lines failed but they were worn, not cut." Here Jessica paused and took a deep breath, looking Gibbs in the eyes as she prepared to finish her report. "He still had his reserve chute on boss, but there's no sign of him trying to pull it."

"Huh," Gibbs glanced over at the marine still stuck in the SUV and noticed Ducky arriving. "That's good work Jess," he smirked at her. "Welcome back."'

"Thanks boss," Jessica grinned as Gibbs sauntered of to meet Ducky before turning her grin on Tony.

"Welcome back, Jessie," Tony answered the smile with one of his own. "How's the shoulder feeling?"

"Good as new, you overprotective prat," Jessica rolled her eyes, but her smile softened into something fond. "I hear we have a new teammate?"

"Yeah," Tony nodded. "Caitlyn Todd, former Secret Service."

"Is she good?" Jessica asked, pulling out a sketch pad to start sketching the scene and handing Tony a camera.

"Would Gibbs have offered a job if she weren't?" Tony replied and Jessica inclined her head in concession.

"Hey, Jess?" Tony asked after they had worked together in silence for a few minutes.

"Yes, Tony?" Jessica didn't look up from her sketchpad.

"What's up with Gibbs and his phones today?" He asked, knowing that Jessica wouldn't rub it in his face that she'd warned him Gibbs wouldn't answer his cell.

"It's the anniversary of his third divorce," Jess glanced briefly, knowingly, over at him. "I'm uncertain as to all the details but I'd wager that the ex-Mrs. Gibbs probably calls and annoys our fearless leader all day."

"Huh," Tony though about that for a moment, remembering the frustration that creased the corner's of Gibbs' eyes when Tony had found him in the basement. He idly wondered why Gibbs didn't just change his number but realized that that was something only the man himself would be able to answer. Tony was brave and he was only sometimes stupid. He wasn't going to be the one to ask the question.

They fell into a companionable silence once more, working side by side whilst making the occasional remark about the crime scene. One of the things Tony loved about Jess was that she saw right through him and she liked him. She shared his love of movies, she got his jokes and she gave this cute little smile whenever he was being especially dense, kinda like the smile he imagined a sister would give her brother. And okay, yeah, she was undeniably gorgeous but she wasn't the least bit affected by him. He could flirt and make rude remarks and Jess would return them easily, without any actual intent. Tony could be as chauvinistic or as charming as he wanted and Jessica would just give a smile that suggested she wanted to pat him on the head. It was refreshing.

"I'm glad I'm not the only one unprepared," a new voice interrupted and the two agents found themselves face to face with the latest addition to the team: Kate Todd.

"Are you new as well?" Kate asked, looking at Jessica.

"No," Jess shook her head, long curls of hair falling over one shoulder. "I'm Jessica Simmons. You must be Caitlyn."

"Just Kate will do," the two women shook hands. "Forgive me for saying this but you don't look like a field agent."

"Most people think the same," Jessica's smile was polite and Tony inwardly shook his head. Kate was not doing herself any favours because if there was one thing Jess hated, it was people who did not look beneath the surface. Under the designer clothes and expensive jewellery, Jessica was one hell of an investigator.

"So, how come you weren't on Air Force One?" Kate asked as Jessica started showing her how to bag and tag.

"I was recovering from an injury," was the reply and Kate glanced over at the other woman, taking a moment to catalogue the details.

Jessica Simmons looked like the kind of girl Kate hated in school, expensive clothes and hair that bordered on stylish more than it did practical. Her make-up was flawless and she carried herself more with poise and grace instead of the confidence Kate knew she herself projected. Mere moments in the other women's company and Kate already felt like a clumsy, babbling teenager. What kind of injuries could a woman who had experience but not enough common sense to dress appropriately possibly have sustained?

~O

It was hours later that they had finished interviewing everyone and processing the scene. The sun was high in the sky and Jessica lowered her window, ignoring the dull throb in her shoulder.

"Not afraid you gonna mess up your hair, Jessie?" Tony teased from the passenger seat.

"The wind-tossed look is in right now, you know," Jessica glanced at him. "Vogue magazine calls it the more attractive version of post-sex hair."

"Post-sex hair can be attractive," Tony replied. "Especially when it's longer and it's all ruffled and mussed, and her lips are all swollen and her boobs…"

"Thank you, Tony," Jessica smoothly interjected, "I can do without further imagery of your exploits."

"I'm just saying," Tony shrugged and relaxed further into his seat. "Anything to do with sex is usually very, very good."

Jessica smirked at him and fought down the way her breath wanted to hitch in her throat. Tony DiNozzo was stunningly handsome but the problem was he knew it and he used it. She'd met guys like him before and they made great friends but God-awful boyfriends and so she hid the way her body naturally responded to him because Tony was her friend and Jess wanted to keep it that way.

"So, what'd you do on your time off, Jessie?" Tony quizzed. "Any hot dates?"

"You have a one track mind," Jessica refrained from rolling her eyes but only just. "I'll have you know that I was able to attend more than one yoga class a week for the first time in months."

"Yoga huh," Tony's grin turned suggestive. "Guess that means you're pretty flexible."

"Get your mind out of the gutter, Tony," Jess said as she parked the car. In the distance they could see a marine approach them and his body language was telling. Tilting her head for a moment in thought, Jessica quickly shed her coat and toed off the boots she'd worked the field with, slipping her feet into three inch heels instead.

"Oh man," Tony's delight in her actions was clear. "I love it when you play the blue-blooded lady."

Jessica flashed him a grin as she tossed her hair over her shoulders and sauntered over to join their teammates. Gibbs smirked at her. The combination of Jessica's good looks, impeccable manners and British accent was one many people found hard to ignore. If they didn't immediately fall in love with her then their contempt was usually blatant. Either way, it gave the team something to work with. The marine who met them held himself with a cocky sort of confidence and Jessica repressed an unladylike smirk. This was going to be good.

"You JAG or NCIS?" The marine asked, his stripes identifying him as a Captain.

"Do I look like a lawyer?" Gibbs snorted, almost invading the other mans personal space. The captain shifted but didn't move away.

"Word's all over the base by now," the marine said. "My men can't even call their families and let them know they're not the one who died."

It was obvious to Jess that the Captain didn't particularly care about his men's families. He did care about maintaining control over everyone in his vicinity. Tony was glancing over to the marines, taking in their body language whilst Kate was watching the Captain, her dislike only visible in the straight line of her back and shoulders and the slight tightening around the corners of her eyes.

"Was Sergeant Fuentes married?"

"He had a wife and son," the marine nodded.

"Notification detail should be there by now," Gibbs shifted slightly, impatience building, "Word will spread."

"Sergeant Fuentes was under my command," the marine's back straightened as he bristled slightly. "I'd like to see her."

"After we've finished questioning you and your men," Gibbs conceded.

"How long is that gonna take?" The marine asked and Tony fought down a smile. He'd never seen Gibbs lose a pissing contest yet.

"I don't know," Gibbs replied, his gaze hardening as he stared the marine down.

"These men have another jump at 21:00."

"They're jumping again?" Kate's incredulity was obvious. "Tonight?"

"We don't stop for casualties in war, miss" the marine said, his demeanour noticeably condescending as he turned to Kate and Jess saw her spine straighten. "Neither do we in training."

"Not true, Captain," Gibbs smirked. "They don't jump off a lower bunk until we find out what happened."

"I don't take orders from NCIS cops," the marine sneered.

"Special Agents," Gibbs corrected, his expression unfaltering. "You'll follow this order."

"Or what, Special Agent?"

Gibbs smirked again, cocky and self-assured.

"Simmons," Gibbs said held out his hand. "You done with my phone."

"Yes boss," Jessica handed Gibbs her cell phone and years of practice kept her curiosity from showing on her face.

"I don't take orders from your boss either," the marine said as Gibbs hit speed dial.

"I'm not calling my boss I'm calling yours," Gibbs said. "Commandant Mae? Special Agent Gibbs."

The marine turned and walked away, disgust evident in his features and Gibbs waited until he was out of hearing range before closing the phone.

"I don't have a commandant on speed dial," Jessica remarked, cocking her head as she regarded her boss.

"Captain didn't know that," Gibbs said as they walked over to the plane and Jess huffed out a laugh. Two weeks was far too long to be away from the job.

"Alright," Gibbs said. "DiNozzo, Kate, shoot and sketch. Focus on the static lines. Jess and I'll start the interrogations."

"Jumping's gotta be so cool!" Tony said as he hopped onto the plane and Jess smiled at his boyish enthusiasm while Kate rolled her eyes.

"Hey," Gibbs barked, "You wanna play paratrooper, pay $180. Take a class like all those other weekend warriors"

"Yeah," Tony leaned around the edge of the plane to call round to Gibbs who was already striding away, Jess hot on his heels, "because I have so many weekends free."

Jess looked over her shoulder to wink at him and Tony leered back at her, his own smile growing as hers did.

"Are you two...?" Kate left the thought unvoiced but her meaning was clear from the way she glanced back and forth between Jess and Tony.

"No, duh," Tony looked at the newest member of the team as if she were stupid. "We're just friends."

"Yeah, right," Kate scoffed. "As if you could be 'just friends' with a woman. And a girl like that? She doesn't do 'just friends'."

"Of course," Tony conceded as he turned away to hide the irritation that painted his face. "Because you know us so well, Katie."

Kate blinked, taken aback, before she realised that he had a point. She didn't know them all that well.

"I didn't mean..." Kate started to apologise but Tony cut her off by shoving a sketch pad into her arms.

"Don't worry about it, Katie," he said with a boyish grin and Kate found herself rolling her eyes, the preceding moments already being forgotten.

~O

"How's the shoulder, Jess?" Gibbs asked, pausing momentarily out of hearing distance of the marines.

"Almost as good as new, boss," Jess replied, still ignoring the dull throb that was beginning to produce an answering headache.

"Hm," Gibbs' eyes narrowed as they swept over Jess and she returned the stare, unflinching. Her foundation was touche éclat, there was no way he was noticing any signs of tiredness or stress on her face. Despite all this, the smirk he gave her was knowing and Jess had to fight the urge to stick her tongue out at him. Bastard.

As they walked further into the hangar, her gaze switched to the assembled marines, taking in their postures and facial expressions. All of them were at ease, their faces carefully blank in the way only marines were able to achieve. Jess flicked her hair over her shoulders as she neared, her features easing into a friendly smile to counteract Gibbs' natural brusqueness.

"Did Fuentes lead your stick?" Gibbs asked, starting the interrogation. Jess stood slightly behind him and to the right, hip cocked, twirling a curl of hair around her finger.

"Yes Sir," the marine replied. "I was number two, Ramsey three, Brinkman four."

"After my shoot deployed I looked around," the marine now known as Ramsey said. "I saw Brinkman's chute opened above me but when I looked down I only saw one canopy. I didn't know if it were Paul or Thumper."

"Thumper?" Jess asked, cocking her head at the macho nickname.

"That's what we called Fuentes, ma'am," Ramsey straightened and met Jess' gaze briefly before gazing, instead, at a point somewhere over her shoulder.

"It sounds crazy now," Brinkman spoke, "but he was the squad's good-luck guy ma'am." He had no problem meeting Jessica's gaze but his eyes twitched in the way that meant he had trouble keeping his eyes on her face. Gibbs shifted restlessly and Jess had to hide a smile.

"Thumper was a walking rabbit's foot," Ramsey added.

"Really," Jess mused.

"Yes ma'am," Ramsey nodded. "We could tell you a million stories."

He seemed a little eager so Gibbs interrupted.

"Why don't you tell us just one."

"Well sir," Ramsey began, "Fuentes bought a new bike last week. Car ran a red light, he went over it and into a plate glass window."

"Dinged his collarbone a little," It was the first marine, Paul who spoke, and his voice was filled with admiration. "Other than that, not a scratch."

"Dinged it a little?" Gibbs asked and Jess knew that he was thinking what she was thinking.

"Day or two, he was fine, sir," Paul shrugged.

"Hm, who reached him first?" Gibbs asked, getting the interview back on track.

"I did, sir," Paul replied. "'I saw him roman candle short of the field. Soon as I got out of my harness I took off to find him."

"And you two?" Gibbs turned to look and Ramsey and Brinkman.

"I hung up in a tree, Dave gave me a hand. Soon as we heard Paul yelling we joined him," Brinkman answered.

"Can't believe we let Thumper die," Ramsey shook his head. "It's like a bad movie."

Jess thought that Tony would probably be able to name several that fit that bill.

"Was he dead when you reached him, Corporal?" Gibbs asked Paul.

"Yes sir. Died on impact sir. I'm sure...well, at least I hope he did."

"Why didn't he pull his reserve?" Jess asked.

"Jumping from 1300ft?" Brinkman replied. "Your main fails? You have three, maybe four seconds to react ma'am."

"Okay," Gibbs said. "Each of you need to prepare a statement detailing what you saw."

"Yes, sir!" The marines chorused before turning to pick up their parachutes.

"Whoa!" Gibbs called, stopping them mid-motion. "Your gear's ours now."

The three men shared a look but complied and filed out of the hangar.

"What'd you get out of that?" Gibbs asked once the marines were out of earshot.

"That Fuentes was an idiot," Jess replied, blue eyes flitting over the rest of the hangar before settling on Gibbs. "The day somebody crashes through a window and dings their collarbone is the day I buy clothing that's on sale."

"That's marine's for ya," Gibbs smirked.

"Oh, you mean stubborn and thrill-seeking?" Jessica replied, blinking innocently at her boss.

"Simmons," Gibbs' growl was low and threatening but his yes glinted with suppressed humour.

"Shutting up, boss," Jess replied, hiding a smile of her own.

Gibbs was notoriously stubborn and anyone that thrived in this job could be described as 'thrill-seeking' to an extent. So yes, they were appropriate adjectives to describe marines and Gibbs knew it.

Tony and Kate were done by the time Jess and Gibbs had finished talking to the marines and Jess felt a surge of relief rise up in her. Gibbs would not have wanted to wait around for them which meant Jess would have had to leave her keys with Tony had he and Kate not been finished, and drive back with Gibbs. With her shoulder already throbbing, getting into a car with Gibbs behind the wheel did not seem like a good idea. In fact, she knew it was a downright stupid thing to do. Jess's fingers twitched as she fought the urge to massage her shoulder and Tony's eyes narrowed.

"Want me to drive?" he offered.

"Tony that is such a chauvinistic thing to say," Kate immediately spoke. "It's so typical that you'd assume Jessica would defer to you!"

"Yes, Tony," Jess said as if Kate hadn't spoken. "I'd love it if you drove."

She turned to the latest team member, one eyebrow rising in the classical expression for 'you're a fool' and 'I'm not impressed'.

"Tony offered to drive, Agent Todd," Jessica began, "because I injured my shoulder. It is customary for a gentleman to aid a lady in need."

Kate blinked and made a mental note to shut the hell up. That was the second time today she'd put her foot in it and the profiler in her knew it was because she was feeling insecure. Jessica Simmons was beautiful and confident and so obviously had the devotion and affection of both males on this team. As new as she was, even Kate could tell that much and darned if she wasn't annoyed and frustrated and just a bit jealous. Kate Todd was not accustomed to feeling like she was second best. It wasn't a feeling she enjoyed.

"Did you hear that, boss?" Tony grinned, "I'm a gentleman! Boss?" Tony pivoted on his heel when there was no reply forthcoming, searching for Gibbs. Then he noticed the absence of the sedan. Damn, Gibbs had already left.

"Did you have breakfast, Kate?" Tony asked as they drove away from the base.

"Are you kidding?" Kate scoffed. "We were at work before dawn. Who has time for breakfast?"

"She has a point," Jess said. "And I'm in the mood for sandwiches. Java Green?"

"It's out of the way," Tony replied. "We can stop at that place that does those burrito's we had the last time?"

"Ew, fast food," Jess wrinkled her nose. "Once this month was enough Tony, thanks. We should go to Java Green."

"I vote Java Green," Kate piped in from the back seat and Jess grinned over at her.

"But it's health food!" Tony complained. "That's never filling."

"Then get a dessert as well," Jessica suggested. "You love the cinnamon buns, don't you?"

"Oh yeah," Tony's face lit up with the force of his grin. "Java Green it is!"

~O

Kate held in a sigh as she helped Abby clear up the equipment they had used to analyze the shroud lines. Carrying a tray of used slides to the sink, she ran the tap, letting warm water wash over the glass. It had been a fascinating afternoon, giving her insight into a field she'd never paid much attention to before. Forensics was a slightly tedious job but the intellectual side of it more than made up for any monotony in physical labour. Kate had a new respect for Abby and the sheer genius that the hyperactive goth façade hid and it was this new understanding and the familiarity that working so closely with someone for so many hours brought that prompted Kate to speak her mind.

"Hey, Abby?" Kate turned off the tap and carefully disposed of her gloves in the assigned bin. "How long has Jessica been working here?"

"Just a few months less than Tony has," Abby answered. "Why?"

"It's just," Kate licked her lips as she thought of how to phrase her statement without causing offence. "She doesn't seem like your typical federal agent."

"Oh you mean because of the clothes and the accent?" Abby grinned. "Ducky adores her. Says she reminds him of 'true British class'."

"Yeah she's classy alright," Kate mumbled. "She knows it too."

"Can I tell you something?" Abby asked but continued without waiting for an answer. "For the first eight months that Jess worked here, I absolutely hated her. She was all 'hello darling' this and 'you simply must' that...I thought it was kinda pretentious, you know? And she keeps wearing designer clothes out to the field. I just didn't get it."

"So what made you change your mind?" Kate asked, intrigued. She felt the exact same way Abby had.

"I realised something very important," Abby grinned. "Jessica is high-bred and I mean truly high bred. The posh accent and impeccable manners? Those aren't an act, they're just who she is. But you'll soon realise that she works just as hard as anybody else and she isn't perfect. Jess would be the first person to admit that. She takes a bit of getting used but once you and Jess click, trust me Kate, you'll adore her too."

Kate merely smiled at Abby, trying to hide her scepticism. Jessica Simmons was too polished, too poised too...too perfect for Kate to realistically believe they could be anything other than work colleagues. And hesitant ones at that.

~O

"Has she caught on yet?" Jess let the door to the observation room close and handed Tony a cup of take-out coffee.

"Nope," Tony shook his head and glanced at Jessica out of the corner of his eye.

She was watching Gibbs try and negotiate access to the database and he could only see her face in profile but he noted the way he skin was a little pale and there were faint line of strain around the corners of her mouth. She only had half a sandwich that morning and had eaten nothing since.

"So," Tony spoke after a slight pause, "what do make of Miss Todd?"

"She learns fast," Jess said. "And she's very professional. She hasn't once complained yet about Gibbs' temperament and Abby has already taken to her."

"But not you," Tony finished. "There's no need to feel threatened, Jessie. You'll still be my favourite."

"How comforting," Jessica was deadpan even when faced with the brilliance of a DiNozzo grin.

"It should be," Tony bumped their shoulders together, his eyes narrowing slightly when she flinched a little. "Who else is going to remind you to take your pain medication?"

"I abhor those bloody pills," Jessica didn't scowl but her mouth did thin a little. "They make me dizzy."

"Then you should have taken a few more days off," Tony didn't attempt to hide his concern. "You know Gibbs would have understood."

"True as that might be," Jess smiled, "more repose would have been my undoing. I simply cannot sit at home and do nothing."

"Amen, Sister!" Tony chuckled. He could empathise with that feeling all too well. "But going back to Kate, if you have any concerns..."

"None that are professional in nature," Jess smiled and shifted as she saw Gibbs and Kate wrap up with the JAG lawyer. "And I shall not let my personal opinion affect my working relationship with Agent Todd."

"Oh I don't doubt that," Tony grinned and moved ahead so that he could hold the door open for her. Jess thanked him with a smile and Tony gave a little bow, his eyes gleaming with the force of his amusement. Jessica always did bring out the gentleman in him.

"Did you find out what Ramsey was written up for?" Gibbs asked as Tony and Jess joined him and Kate. Together the four agents made their way back to the bullpen.

"Sure did," Tony grinned. "Frayed lines, bent cones and cuts in the canopy."

"Is that all?" Jessica murmured and Kate snorted, agreeing with the sentiment.

"It's not like lives were at stake right?" Kate added and only the stern look Gibbs levelled in their direction quietened the two women.

"Anyway," Tony smoothly interjected, "scuttle butt is that-"

"Scuttle butt?" Kate interrupted and it was Jessica who answered.

"Its marine slang for water-cooler gossip," Jess supplied and Kate nodded her understanding.

"Scuttle butt is that Ramsey took a swing at Fuentes for getting him suspended," Tony said as they rounded a corner.

"That would-" Jess started to say but she was interrupted when another agent, too distracted by the files in his hand, barrelled into her and spilt his coffee over her dress.

There was silence for a moment as Jess stared down at the stained silk in disbelief and the Agent paled.

"Simmons," he started to say and used the tissues in his hand to try and clean the spill "I am so sorry-"

"Stop," Jessica batted his hands away, lips thinning and blue eyes turning to ice with the magnitude of her anger. "Just leave it Gomez."

She pushed past the still bumbling agent and grabbed a kitbag from behind her desk, stalking towards the bathrooms in a flurry of blonde curls and stained blue silk.

"Well," Kate exhaled after a moment of silence. "That was a bit overboard."

"Really?" Tony's eyebrows shot towards his hairline. "And would you have been okay with it if someone spilled coffee all over your three hundred dollar dress, Katie? And your equally expensive shoes?"

"Three hundred dollars?" Kate blinked as she leaned against her desk. "Well Jessica should have known better that to wear something so expensive to work."

"Or just maybe grown men should know to watch where they're walking," Tony suggested and Gibbs glared at him, clearly exasperated.

"You done, DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked.

"Yes, Boss," Tony lowered his head and quickly moved to sit down. Kate smirked at him but it quickly faded as Gibbs turned to her.

"You learn anything today, Agent Todd?" Gibbs prompted.

"I-uh-I learned that...that...that I should steer well clear of Agent Gomez?" Kate stuttered, her voice rising a little at the end.

"And?" Gibbs continued to stare at her.

"And...and I learned..." Kate's brain worked overtime as she tried to think of what Gibb wanted her to say and she was about to give another inane answer when the question was answered for her.

"That you should never work the system when you can work the people," Jessica said breezing into the bullpen looking as if she were going to a photoshoot.

"Did I ask you, Simmons," Gibbs rolled his eyes.

"No, boss," Jessica replied, returning his stare without flinching and, after a moment, Gibbs merely smirked and sat down, signalling them all to get on with their work.

Kate breathed a sigh of relief and glanced at Jessica from beneath her eyelashes. She just could not figure the other girl out. The blue dress Jessica had been wearing had been swapped for a pencil skirt and wrap-silk blouse with that, while not tight, was just fitted enough to show off a chest at least two cup sizes larger than Kate's modest B. As if that weren't enough, the shoes she was wearing were a pair of Louboutins that Kate had admired just last week and her hair had been pinned into an effortlessly stylish messy knot. All in the space of no more than five minutes.

It really was not fair that one woman could be so completely in control and composed. It really was not fair that one woman could have two intelligent, capable federal agents wrapped so tightly around her little finger than neither one commented when she slipped into another designer outfit mere moments after ruining the first one.

"I've been thinking," Jess spoke after a few moments had passed. "Corporal Ramsey permitted a DNA sample to be taken far quicker than I expected him to."

"Maybe he's hoping it won't match?" Tony suggested and Jess shrugged.

"He's gotta know though, that it will," Kate was sceptical. "I mean, everyone knows how reliable DNA testing is these days."

"That wouldn't stop him from hoping for that one in a million chance of technical failure," Tony replied. "Guilt does strange things to people."

"I think Jess has a point," Gibbs said and three heads swivelled in his direction. What if Ramsey really was set up?"

"Then we'll know in twenty four hours," Tony pointed out.

Gibbs was silent for a moment before he reached for his coat.

"Well, you know what? I don't like to sit on my ass waiting for a DNA match." He clipped his gun to its holster and grabbed his phone, prompting the other three agents to do the same.

"Where do you think you're going, Simmons," Gibbs smirked, "You have a report to finish."

Jessica paused and was about to speak when Gibbs spoke again.

"Same goes for you DiNozzo. I want those reports on my desk before I get back."

Jess and Tony exchange a look, similar thoughts running through their minds, before they obediently sank back into their chairs and bent over their paperwork. Nobody ever disobeyed a direct order.

It was much, much later that night that Tony and Gibbs sat alone in the bullpen, finishing their final reports. Jess and Kate had been sent home hours ago and Dafelmair was in custody. In all, it had been a satisfying end to the case even if Tony did feel like he'd fallen out of an airplane. Oh wait...

Aches and pains aside, the most frustrating thing about the entire case was that the arrest was credited to 'military authorities'.

"We ever gonna make the eleven o' clock news?" Tony complained, gingerly easing himself off of the desk he'd been perching on.

"Could have happened tonight if you broke your neck," Gibbs pointed out.

"As opposed to every other bone in my body?" Tony grimaced and Gibbs smirked.

"Well," Tony clipped his gun to his belt and lifted his gaze to find that Gibb had returned his attention to his paperwork, "It's been a long one. You leaving soon?"

Gibbs hummed his assent but didn't look up and Tony merely shook his head. He heard old people suffered from insomnia but the hours Gibbs kept were ridiculous. Not that he would ever be caught dead calling Gibbs old. Tony's lips parted and he was about to bid Gibbs goodnight when the elevators dinged softly, signalling the arrival of somebody into the bullpen. Both men turned in unison and, in unison, their eyes narrowed when Jess emerged, in jeans and a sweater with her hair pulled back and looking as surprised to see them as they were her.

"You two are still here?" Jessica noted as if she frequently made midnight trips to work. "Did everything go alright?"

"What are you doing here Simmons?" Gibbs asked, ignoring her question in favour of voicing his own and Jessica turned big blue eyes on him.

"I couldn't sleep," she shrugged, "So I thought I would turn my attention to a few cold cases."

"Or you could take your meds and rest, like any sane person would do," Tony replied.

"I despise drugs," Jessica grumbled and her eyes narrowed as they regarded Tony. "What on earth happened to you? You're moving like you're on your deathbed."

"I was pushed out of a plane," Tony grinned, broad and bright, wondering if she'd believe it.

"Why doesn't that surprise me?" Jessica rolled her eyes and Gibbs smirked. "Did you get checked out?"

"Ducky gave me a look over," Tony shrugged and Jessica turned accusing eyes on Gibbs.

"What?" Gibbs raised both brows in question and Jessica bit back a curse.

"The two of you can be such Neanderthals," she complained but it was lacking in heat. "You've hurt your left leg, yeah?"

Tony nodded in reply to her question. It wasn't hard to figure out because his left ankle was the size of a watermelon and he'd folded up his pant leg to give it room.

"Well, come on then," Jessica moved to sling one of his arms over his shoulder and support a little of his weight. "Let's get you home and you are going to the ER first thing in the morning, Anthony. I swear to God, you're going to turn me grey."

Gibbs smirked as the sound of Jessica's grumbling at Tony's refusal to take proper care of himself faded when the elevator closed behind them. Those two really were two peas in a pod. They were also damn fine investigators and Gibbs may be a bastard but he knew he was a lucky bastard for managing to snag them both for his team. The DiNozzo/Simmons partnership had the potential to be the best NCIS had ever seen. His phone rang at that moment and flicked it open, squinting at the screen to see that the caller ID had been withheld.

Fighting the urge to swear he opened his drawer, tossed the phone in, and then slammed it shut before grabbing his coat and gun. Goodnight and good riddance.