DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No copyright infringement is intended.
SPOILERS: Probably for the last two episodes of Season 2 and the first few of Season 3.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Acceptable Trade-Off
By Jaina


Jenny Sheppard got out of her car and shut the door behind her.  She was aware that it would probably be the last time in quite a while that she would drive herself.  Tomorrow she would officially be made the Director of NCIS.  After that an agent would be assigned to be her driver as part of the new security measures that would surround her.  Her freedom would be clipped and, although not commented on, her every move would be noted. 

For the position of Director, it was an acceptable trade-off.  After all, hadn't she been working her entire career to get that far?

Jenny was lost in her own thoughts as she let herself into her study.  It explained why she didn't see the woman standing in the far corner of the room watching her until after she'd already sat down behind her own desk.  Jenny's heart began to beat far more quickly, but any trace of the varied emotions that flashed through her were kept from her face.

Leaning back in her chair, Jenny smiled wryly.  "I would say it's good to see you, Ziva, but I think I'll wait until you tell me why you're here first."

Ziva shook her head, smilingly smugly as she took a step towards Jenny, moving out of the shadows.

"And if were to say that I am merely here to offer you my congratulations on becoming the first female Director of NCIS?"

Jenny tilted her chin down and artfully raised an eyebrow.  Seeing Ziva in person for the first time in close to a year made her happy enough to be willing to play along.  For now.  She laced her fingers together and rested her chin on them gracefully. 

"I would start by saying thank you."  She paused and smiled at the younger woman appreciatively, "And then I would most likely ask how you had come across a piece of information that hasn't even been announced yet.  Only a select handful of people know that I've been chosen to fill that position."

"I have excellent sources," Ziva commented smoothly, moving closer still.  She sat on the corner of Jenny's desk and managed to look sexy even in baggy, army green cargo pants.

Jenny let her eyes linger for a moment even as she struggled not to notice. It was all part of the game that they played.

"I'm sure you do, Ziva," she said calmly, her gaze flicking back up to meet Ziva's eyes.  Abruptly, Jenny stood, brushing imaginary lint off of her pants as she straightened.  She looked down at Ziva and weighed the look in her eyes.  She had an idea what this was about and she was fairly certain that she wasn't going to like where this conversation was going.

"I have information for you," Ziva offered the sentence freely and without prompting, before Jenny could say anything else.  "Intelligence about another of the anti-terrorist ops on which we have been working."

Her hand came to rest lightly on Jenny's arm, just above her elbow.  Jenny could feel the heat of Ziva's skin burning through the thin silk of her blouse.  "And what will that information cost me?" 

It took everything that she had, but Jenny was as certain as she could be that she had managed to keep her voice calm and even.  She was unwilling to admit just how much Ziva's simple proximity and light touch were effecting her.

Ziva shrugged disarmingly, but without guile.  "Nothing.  The information is yours as part of our previous agreement."

Jenny eyed her steadily.

"A Mossad agent has infiltrated a Hamas terrorist cell - Ari Haswari.  One of your Special Agents believes that Haswari was responsible for the death of one of his Agents.  He was not.  I need you to convince him of this."

What Ziva was asking, Jenny realized with a sinking feeling, was no small thing.  No small thing that could easily be done in the name of friendship, partnership and inter-agency cooperation. 

"How do you know that Haswari didn't kill one of my Special Agents?"  Officially she might not be the Director of NCIS yet, but already her fellow agents had become her agents.  She was responsible for their lives and in the end, their deaths.  Steely determination had wiped away the lingering effects of desire.

"Because I was his control officer for this mission."  Ziva rose to her feet abruptly.  Her stance was tense and filled with equal determination and confidence.  "I know he did not do this thing, Jen."

"Ziva..."  Jenny's denial was on the tip of her tongue, but she hesitated for a moment longer.  If Ziva was asking, there was a good reason for her request.  She knew that.  They had worked together long enough for her to have confidence in that and what they had shared had gone beyond a mere working relationship.  "Who's the Special Agent in charge of the case?"

"L.J. Gibbs."  Ziva's answer was immediate and offered without the slightest hesitation or stretch to remember. Jenny never stopped marveling at the benefits of the younger woman's photographic memory.

"We have a problem."  Jenny stated firmly, her eyes glinting at the thought of her former partner.  She knew Gibbs well enough to know how he would react to the death of one of his agents, and it would not be pretty, especially for the man that he suspected of the murder.  When she had been his partner, it had always been a comforting thought for her. If anything had ever happened to her, she would be avenged.  Now she recognized the complications that it could present.

Unfortunately there was a bigger problem.  Gibbs was not often wrong when he had his sights set on a suspect.  Straightening, Jenny folded her arms over her chest.  "I know Gibbs.  He's a good agent, but if he thinks your officer was responsible for the death of his agent, you won't be able to stop him."

"You are his new Director," Ziva pointed out pragmatically.  "You can stop him."

Jenny frowned.  She recognized Ziva's direct challenge to her authority for what it was and she wouldn't fall for such a blatant ploy so easily.  "I may not want to stop him, Officer David."  She held up a hand before Ziva could contradict her.  "However, we do need to discover what's really happening with Haswari and my dead Agent.  I'll give you the opportunity to work with Gibbs and his team to determine who killed my agent."  Jenny met Ziva's eyes directly.  "The rest is up to you."

Ziva held her gaze for several long moments before she nodded curtly.  "Thank you.  It was not what I was hoping for, but more than I had expected."

"Oh?"  There was a world of implication in Jenny's single syllable.  She reached out, her hand lingering with just a breath of space between she and Ziva. 

Ziva pressed her lips together and took a step closer to Jenny.  It left less than inch separating the line of their bodies, and Jenny's hand brushing against skin.  Jenny reacted instinctively, her hand sliding to the curve of Ziva's hip, and her fingers clutching at the rough fabric of Ziva's pants to pull her that last bit closer.

"I may have been expecting more," Ziva admitted into the charged silence.

"And I would hate to disappoint," Jenny said smoothly, before she dipped her head to claim Ziva's lips in a fierce kiss.

"You have not yet," Ziva pointed out between short, fast breaths as she pulled away from Jenny enough to tug at her belt.  Jenny snorted, and focused all of her remaining attention on undressing Ziva, in favor of replying to her comment.

In a matter of hours, they would go back to pretending that they were nothing more than servants of their governments and their superiors - warriors for the sake of their countries - but for a short time they could forget all of that, be themselves, and simply enjoy one another with as few strings attached as was possible.

The End

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