Out of the Blue
“You know Agent Gibbs, we have over forty different coffee options; you ever think of trying something new?”
Gibbs picked up his cup and shook his head. “Not in this lifetime Vernon.” Every time a new barista started working at his favourite coffee shop they accepted the long-standing challenge to get him to try a new flavour. He didn’t mind them trying but nothing was going to make him change, he liked order in his life, routine…”What the…?” His cup flew out of his hand as a royal blue whirlwind crashed into him; Gibbs managed to sidestep most of the hot liquid as it splashed onto the floor.
“Oh Lord…did I…? I’m so sorry.” The woman held on to Gibbs’ arm as she attempted to regain her balance. “These stupid shoes, I hate them. I only wore them because my sister told me they’d make me feel more confident, how can you be confident when you can’t even walk in a straight line? I mean, it’s an important meeting and I want to make a good impression, but it’s not like I’m short, why do I need extra height…? Why am I babbling? I should be helping you clean up this mess.”
“I’m good. You should be careful not to get coffee on your jacket, wouldn’t want you to make a bad impression.”
She grimaced and hopped over to the counter for a handful of napkins. “I think I already have. Please, let me pay for you to have this dry cleaned.” She patted at his coat and shirt in a vain attempt to prevent the stain spreading.
“I look like a dry clean guy to you?”
“It’s the least I can do, I feel awful.”
“If it’ll make you feel better you can buy me a fresh cup after you’re done with your meeting.” He handed her one of his cards.
She glanced at it and her face fell. “Oh boy, trust me to practically assault a federal agent. The way my day’s started this meeting is not going to go well.”
Gibbs grinned. “I don’t know about that, you’re pretty good at making a big impression, just take it easy if they offer you a cup of coffee.”
“I’m not touching a drop until I’m out of there.” She was smiling broadly as she looked again at his card. “Not sure how long I’ll be, but I promise I will call.” She slipped her shoe back on and took a few steps. “Now all I have to do is walk half a block without breaking my ankle. Wish me luck!”
“Good luck…your name, I didn’t…” Too late, she was already out the door, he took half a step to follow. No, he’d leave it, she had somewhere to be and he didn’t want to delay her any longer, looked like she already had enough stress for the morning. He got back in line for a fresh cup; if she called he’d find out, if not…he hoped she did call, a soaking with hot coffee was a small price to pay for a smile like hers.
“Morning Boss, oh…”
“McGee. Yeah, had an incident with the coffee. I’ll get a change of clothes from my go bag and be good to work. We have anything new?”
“No Boss, still working cold cases; Tony and Bishop are going direct to the firing range, they’ll be in later.”
“How’s Bishop doing?”
“She’s getting better, her biggest problem is she gets distracted.”
“That’s good…I’ll go change.”
Gibbs headed for the men’s room leaving a rather confused McGee staring after him. How could it be good that Bishop got distracted? He shrugged and got back to work, looked like Bishop wasn’t the only one whose mind was on other things.
As soon as he closed the door Gibbs pulled off his jacket and shirt, grabbed a handful of paper towels, soaked them under the faucet and attempted to get rid of most of the remaining coffee; with luck it wouldn’t stain, but if it did maybe he’d have to resort to dry cleaning after all. He quickly put on a clean shirt, the jacket would have to hang on the back of his chair to dry, he had his NCIS jacket if they got a call out, in the meantime he’d make do with shirt sleeves.
He settled back at his desk and tried to concentrate on the cold case file in front of him, the occasional glance at his phone the only sign he wasn’t fully committed to the task in hand. It wasn’t that he didn’t think cold cases were important, he knew they were, only for him it as the immediacy of a new case, the race against time that got his adrenaline flowing. Tim was typing away, seemingly content in his cyber world; they both looked up when Ellie and Tony arrived back from the range, Ellie proudly displaying the perfect target she’d hit earlier.
“Keep working Probie, you’ll be almost as good as McSharpshooter one day, you’re never getting close to the Bossman but who does?” Tony grinned wide as Ellie pinned up her target behind her desk; she was coming along and he was enjoying his new role as mentor. “So Tim, I’m guessing we’re still on cold cases.”
“Good guess; Dorneget put the evidence file you requested on your desk.”
“Then I’ll get on it.”
They worked through the rest of the morning and when lunch time came and went Gibbs stopped looking at the phone, she wasn’t going to call now, he surprised himself by being disappointed, he had been telling the truth when he said she’d made an impression. Even in the brief moments he’d seen her he had noticed a lot about her, not surprising given observing people was one of the things he did for a living, what was surprising was that he remembered quite so much.
She was 5’8” tall, around 155 pounds, no size zero thank goodness, a mature woman with a well-rounded figure; he’d put her age at 50 give or take a year or two, shoulder length hair, a brunette; eyes so dark brown you could barely see her pupils, long lashes, fine crow’s feet at the corner of her eyes, laughter lines, he guessed she was the kind of woman who laughed a lot, certainly her smile was something to see. She wore the kind of make-up where you knew a woman was wearing it, but she didn’t look like a painted doll, her nose was aquiline, yet perfectly in proportion with her high cheekbones and Cupid’s bow lips…Her clothes, he wasn’t much interested in fashion, but he could see the tailored jacket she was wearing wouldn’t come cheap…oh boy, she really had made an impression, and now it looked like he’d never see her again.
He gave a brief shrug and got back to work, cold case or not the work deserved his full attention, he was re-reading the autopsy report when his phone rang. “Gibbs.”
“Thank goodness, I was worried you might be out on a case, you must think I was reneging on my promise. The meeting went well and the director wanted to take us to lunch so I…oh grief, babbling again. If you can make it I’m in the coffee shop, I really would like to buy you a fresh drink.”
Gibbs glanced at the clock, it was a little early for his usual afternoon fix, heck, why not? “I can be there in five minutes.”
“Excellent! I’ll see you soon.”
The call was disconnected and he stared at the phone, another brief conversation, and he still didn’t know her name. “I’m going for coffee, can I bring anything back?” He got three negative responses, they all had cold drinks and seemed happy with them, he didn’t enjoy soda, however hot the day was he craved coffee.
Feeling somewhat conspicuous in his NCIS jacket Gibbs hurried into the coffee shop, he saw her immediately as she waved and called out. “Agent Gibbs! I’m so glad you came.” He sat down and accepted the cup she offered to him. “I ordered for you, I mopped up enough from your jacket to have an idea what you drink. I hope I’m right.”
He took a sip and smiled. “That’s a good cup of coffee.”
She leaned back and relaxed. “Thank goodness. All through lunch I was thinking about how clumsy I was and your poor jacket; did you manage to get the stain out?”
“It’s a jacket, not important…I didn’t get you name.”
“Oh no…where are my manners?” She held out her hand in greeting. “I’m Alexandra Phelan; you I know…Leroy Jethro Gibbs, that’s quite a name, bet there’s a story behind it.”
“Sure is, short version; I was named after my Dad’s best friend. Can’t say yours is an average everyday name.”
“Wish I had such a good reason. My mom and dad hadn’t been able to come up with a name, can you believe it? Nine months and they had nothing; I was born in Alexandria so they settled on Alexandra.”
“It’s a fine name.” He took a long drink.
She nodded. “I like it, I’m just grateful I wasn’t born in Foggy Bottom.”
Gibbs burst out laughing and almost choked on his coffee. Alexandra grabbed a napkin and offered it to him. “Not another jacket please Agent Gibbs, I feel guilty enough as it is.”
“I’m good, and please call me Jethro.” He half-smiled at the reaction he’d have received from his team if they heard him use a magic word.
“With pleasure, and I usually only get called by my full name if I’m in trouble, or at work, to my friends I’m Zandra.”
“So Zandra, how was your meeting?”
“Almost worth wearing these stupid shoes. No seriously, it was great; we signed a five year contract, should secure the future of our company; it’s a family concern with people who’ve worked for us a long time, so it means a lot to me their jobs are safe.”
“Thanks, I’m selling a good product and it’s always great when someone else recognises quality.”
“What line is your company in…? Oh, excuse me, I have to get this.” Gibbs took out his phone and saw Tony’s name on caller ID. “We have a case Tony?”
“A sailor they thought was UA has been found dead near James Creek Marina.”
“Get the truck, I’m on my way.” He put the phone away and picked up his cup. “I’m going to have to take this to go.”
“I understand. We kind of got off on the wrong foot, well I did…it was good meeting you Jethro.”
“Feeling’s mutual.” He was getting up from his seat when it occurred to him he didn’t want the conversation to end; she wasn’t wearing a wedding ring, didn’t mean she was single. “Zandra…I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes and if you’re with someone…I’d like to see you again, if you’re free, maybe one night we could go for a drink.”
Her smile melted a tiny bit of the ice he’d allowed to build up around his heart. “No toes to worry about. I…I’d like to meet again. You’re going to be busy for a while I guess, call me when you can and we’ll arrange a meeting. Here’s my card, and don’t forget if your jacket doesn’t recover I’ll pay for the cleaning.”
Gibbs took the card and headed for the door. “I’ll call. See you soon.” As he walked back to the Navy Yard Gibbs read the card. ‘Alexandra Phelan, Sales Director, Phelan Furnishings’. He put the card away safely, this was one phone number he didn’t want to lose.
Despite the gravity of the new case the MCRT would be dealing with Gibbs couldn’t quite keep the smile off his face. Maybe he wouldn’t be able to use his jacket again, but it wasn’t a problem, a jacket was a very small price to pay for meeting a woman like Alexandra.
The day after the case was solved Gibbs called Alexandra, half-expecting she wouldn’t remember him, for once he was totally wrong. Not only did she remember him, she was eager to join him for drinks. They’d talked long into the night, at least Zandra had talked and for the most part he’d listened, adding a comment here and there or asking a question or two. He liked listening to her, he was interested in her family, her job, pretty much everything about her; after that first night they met frequently. From the start she was open about herself, telling him she’d never been married, had come close a couple of times but something hadn’t felt right and she never took the final step. Slowly he started to open up about his own life; the women he’d known, the mistakes he’d made, the woman he had loved.
Gradually, almost without noticing, they became a couple; they did things together, insignificant things like grocery shopping and important things like meeting family. Gibbs met Zandra’s parents, both sprightly septuagenarians, still very much involved in the family business, her younger sister Maria whose fashion advice had brought them together, her husband Craig who was a carpenter by trade and their boisterous son, Joseph who had just turned four and was the apple of his aunt’s eye.
Gibbs had introduced Zandra to Leyla and Amira and had watched with unalloyed delight as they became firm friends at their first meeting. During one post-case team celebration Gibbs had shocked his team by joining them for a drink, not only that, he’d taken Zandra along and introduced her to his extended family. They’d all been delighted to meet her, having suspected for some weeks that Gibbs had someone in his life, someone who was making him happy, softening a few of his sharp edges.
As Tony pointed out to anyone who’d listen, Gibbs was never going to turn into a new-age, touchy-feely guy, in fact to those who didn’t know him well Gibbs seemed the same as he always had been. It was the people who knew him best who noticed and welcomed the changes. Abby had been quickest to see he smiled more, that he had a new jacket, definitely not from Sears, and that he was wearing brighter shirts; Tony wasn’t on the receiving end of a single head slap, Tim didn’t have his head bitten off when he gave a detailed explanation regarding computers and Ducky found even his most rambling yarn suddenly had an attentive listener.
Gibbs himself was well aware he’d given his team plenty to talk about and he didn’t mind one bit. It had taken him a long time to open up to another person, he’d had years of keeping everything inside, hiding his emotions, using all his energy for the job, for being Special Agent Gibbs and none for being Leroy. He liked being Leroy again, since his dad had died there’d been no one to call him by his first name but now…Zandra had asked if she could call him Leroy rather than Jethro, said the name suited the man she knew better. It had caught him by surprise, and yet the more he thought about it the less of an issue it was, Leroy was his name, and it was a fine name so why not use it? He’d said yes and as the days turned into weeks he found he liked how his name sounded when she said it, especially when they were together, skin on skin and she cried out his name in the heat of passion.
The times they spent together making love and the hours after, lying together in her bed when they shared whispered confidences were some of the most incredible moments of his life. It wasn’t simply the sex; he’d been with his fair share of women, enjoyed his time with them, relished exploring their bodies, giving them pleasure and gaining plenty in return. Oh yes, physical pleasure was always good, yet with Zandra it went beyond anything he’d known since Shannon; they joined physically and emotionally in a way he’d almost forgotten was possible. For the first time since Shannon died he felt like he hadn’t simply had sex, he’d made love…He felt real bad for the other women he’d been with, the ones he’d married most of all, he had never wanted to hurt them, but he saw now that all the while he was with them he was looking for this, for a woman who made him feel whole again.
Then one night she offered to cook dinner at his place and things fell apart. Zandra was flying out on a two week sales trip to the west coast and she wanted the night to be special. Knowing Gibbs was a steak man, she got the best she could find, cooked them on his open fire, had potatoes and salad all ready, a bottle of Chianti…it was a good meal, she was feeling comfortable, feeling at home, her shoes had been kicked off, he’d taken off his jacket and they were getting cosy on the couch. He traced his fingers down her cheek and kissed her, deep and hot…she responded in kind and before long clothes were being discarded as hands trembled with pent-up desire.
“Wait Leroy, I’m too old for making out on the couch, how about we go upstairs?”
In an instant his passion cooled and guilt washed over him, the bedroom? He’d taken his wives there, but it never felt like their room, always there was a sense that Shannon still held sway up there. “No…it…not tonight, we’re good here, why spoil the mood?” He reached out to take her hand but she brushed him away.
“We’re good? Maybe you’re good Leroy, but I’m not. Do you know how long we’ve been together…? Or have we, have I been kidding myself?”
“What’s wrong with you tonight? I thought we were having a good time.”
She picked up her blouse from the rug and slipped it back on, attempting to fasten the buttons as her hands shook. “Maybe I want more…” She whispered the words she’d promised herself she wouldn’t say, she had known almost from the start that Gibbs wasn’t a man who could be rushed into anything, she’s told herself to give him room, give him time to let the shadow cast by his one true love fade even just a little.
“Zandra…” Gibbs wanted to say something to make it right, he knew what he should do, he should take her upstairs and make love to her on the double bed he’d foolishly turned into a shrine, make her see what she meant to him, tell her he loved her more than he’d loved anyone since…he couldn’t do it, his mouth was so dry. “Don’t go, not like this.”
She sighed deeply, took his hand and gently kissed his cheek. “Leroy, I’m no wide-eyed ingénue, I’ve been a friend with benefits and it’s fun, but you and I, I thought we had something more, if I’m wrong tell me and we can both move on.”
“I…it’s not easy, letting go…”
“Oh Leroy, I’m not asking you to let go of anything, I’m asking if it’s possible for you to keep what you had but maybe make room for something more…me.” She picked up her purse. “I’ll call a cab, I have a lot to do before I fly out tomorrow.”
“Wait, let’s…don’t leave angry.”
She shook her head. “You think I’m angry with you? You couldn’t be more wrong, I’m sad Leroy, desperately sad and if I’m angry with anyone it’s with myself, I should have known this was all too good to be true.” Zandra got her coat from the rack and turned to Gibbs, a sad smile on her face, her eyes a little brighter than normal. “I’ll be away for two weeks Leroy, maybe the trip’s come at a good time, we could both use the time to think about what we have, and what we want…I love you Leroy, if you don’t think you can ever love me…don’t leave me hanging, I’ll see you in two weeks and you can tell me, yes or no.”
Gibbs should have run after her, begged her to come back inside, to forgive his thoughtlessness, to tell her…even in his head he couldn’t use the words, how on earth was he going to say them aloud, and if he couldn’t say it maybe it was better he let her go. He’d had plenty of time to regret not going after her, in the forty-six hours Zandra had been gone he’d second-guessed his actions and inactions so many times his head was spinning. He was sitting at his desk wishing for a difficult case, any kind of case, so his brain would be occupied by witnesses, evidence, searches, anything to stop thinking about her every waking moment, to try to take away the aching emptiness. Gibbs was used to being alone and was a man easy in his own company, but since Zandra had gone the house seemed bigger, emptier…it was a shock to recognise what he was feeling; he was lonely.
“Hey Boss, I got you coffee.” Tim put the cup down and Gibbs smiled as he recognised the logo on the cup. “Thanks, I could use one.”
Tim took a couple of steps toward his desk then with a deep breath he turned back. You didn’t have to be a great investigator to see how Gibbs had changed the last day or so, reverted back to a type they all thought they’d seen for the last time; they were all pretty sure what, or rather who was behind the change.
“You forget something McGee?”
“Boss…it’s none of my business I know, only…you told me, when Delilah was hurt and I wasn’t dealing with…everything. You said I should just talk to her, tell her the truth; it wasn’t easy Boss, but I did…glad I did too.” Tim smiled briefly and went back to work.
Gibbs drank his coffee and thought about what Tim had said, he remembered vividly saying those words to him and he’d been relieved and pleased to see the growing relationship between Tim and Delilah. This was one couple who were living proof of the old saying that absence made the heart grow fonder. Thing was, Tim was good with words and Gibbs, he was a man of deeds not words, if he tried to tell Alexandra how he felt he’d screw it up, he knew it. There had to be some way, if only he could come up with something…
Gibbs stood at the window and watched her car pull up, he hurried to the door, this time he was going to let her see how he felt. She’d barely locked the car door before his arms were around her. “Zandra…”
She returned his embrace and kissed his cheek. “It’s good to see you too Leroy.”
“Come inside; how was your trip?”
“Business-wise, it was great, but it was a long two weeks.”
“For me too.” He took her coat and they sat together on the couch, side by side yet not quite touching. Zandra turned to him. “This is…”
“Awkward…” He turned to her and looked deep into her eyes. “You know I’m not a great talker, never have been, not even with Shannon, and the older I get the worse I get. I have something to show you…down in the basement.”
He got up and offered Zandra his hand, she appeared a little reluctant but she took it and followed him, after all whatever was down there couldn’t make her feel any worse than she had for the last two weeks. She’d thought about calling Leroy more than once, if only to admit she’d let herself get real angry real fast, and had acted impetuously when she walked out. The reason she hadn’t was because deep down she needed the answer to the question she’d asked him, granted the circumstances weren’t ideal, but she had to know, could he find a place in his heart for her?
“Let me get the light.” He hit the switch and the basement was illuminated, Zandra couldn’t stop the smile that came to her lips, she loved this space, it was so Leroy…a place where he could be alone yet where he could create things of incredible beauty. “It…it’s over here.” Gibbs guided her down the stairs and pointed to a dust cover draped over…
“You going to make me guess Leroy?”
He smiled. “Heck no, I hate guessing games.” He stood by her side and this time he did touch her, he put his arm round her waist and leaned against her shoulder. Zandra trembled at the connection, his touch could be electric. “Leroy, what…?
“Well it’s not a ring, don’t think I’m ready to get married again.”
She pulled away from him as if she’d been scalded. “Did I ever mention marriage? Making a commitment doesn’t mean a ring on my finger, it’s about being together in here.” She pointed to her heart. “If you can’t offer me that, tell me now and I can move on…”
“I…you’re the best thing in my life Zandra, I don’t know how to say what you mean to me, I thought my chance at happiness was long gone. With you…and only you, I feel…” His voice faltered as he felt her hand take his and hold it tight. “Told you I’m bad at saying this…” With his free hand he pulled the dust sheet away and held his breath as he waited for a reaction, would she understand, would she know what this meant, would it say what he wanted more than anything to tell her…?
She stared for a long minute at the colonial style mahogany bed head, the rich red, highly polished wood almost glowing in the basement lights. The design was simple, yet to her eyes it was perfect, neatly carved spirals seeming to bind the three panels together. “Oh my…it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” She let go of his hand and brushed her fingers over the intricate carving at the centre of the design, two initials, A and L intertwined within an oval lozenge. “You made this…?”
“For us, to show you what I want and hope you want it too. I want to be with you, I want you to be with me. This house, it needs to be a home again, I think together we can make that happen.”
Zandra felt the tears spill down her cheeks, Gibbs wiped them away and kissed her, a kiss so gentle, so full of longing it took her breath away. She took a moment to regain her equilibrium and as she held him close she whispered, “I love you Leroy Jethro Gibbs.”
“Glad to hear it, because you know something Alexandra Phelan, I love you too.”
Summary: An unexpected encounter leads Gibbs into a new relationship, or does it?
Categories: Het > Gibbs/Other Female, Het
Challenges: She's Got a Way... Challenge
Challenges: She's Got a Way... Challenge
The challenge required an original female character for one of the 'men of NCIS', I've written original female partners for every male character except Gibbs; this is my attempt to get him romantically involved...
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