When the President Calls

Chapter 20

Saturday October 28th, 2017
Las Vegas, Nevada
LVPD Crime Lab
11:35 a.m. (Local Time)

Jen climbed out of the cab in front of CSI Headquarters in Las Vegas, and made her way inside. The receptionist was rather reluctant to give her the information she asked for, at least until she flashed her NCIS badge in front of her face and told her she was the NCIS director, then the receptionist was more than happy to give her the information she asked for and it wasn’t long before Jen was walking down the halls of CSI, her path vaguely familiar from years before. She didn’t even bother to knock, instead merely opening the door and stepping through. “You have some nerve Dr. Grissom.”

"Mrs. Garrison?" Grissom sputtered, looking up at her shocked at her presence, let alone her entrance.

“I allow you to enter back into my life by allowing you to work with my husband and his team and this is how you treat me in return?” Jen demanded.

"Husband?" he repeated. "You're married to Agent Gibbs?" he asked catching up quickly in that sense. "Congratulations are in order I suppose, but I'm still rather lost in the other department..." he continued, setting his glasses down.

“Yes, I married Agent Gibbs and I had to send him and my children out of the house six hours ago to keep your blood thirsty wife away from them,” snapped Jen in frustration. “What gives you the right to send your wife to DC to invade my life and my privacy?”

"Mrs... Gibbs," he corrected himself, "I didn't send my wife anywhere."

“Then why the hell did she show up on my doorstep at eight o’clock this morning?” she demanded as she leant on his desk.

"Mrs. Gibbs, as far as I knew my wife was on her way to D.C. a few days ago for a last minute conference. As for why she showed up on your doorstep, I'm sure she was just going there to say hello..."

“Coming by to say hello? I thought you were a smart man, Dr. Grissom, but I guess I was wrong. First of all, how would she know where to find me? It’s not like I told anyone here what my address is. And secondly, you’re wife hates me, so why would she simply stop by to say hello. No Dr. Grissom, you wife was on a fishing expedition and I don’t appreciated people digging into my past. If I remember correctly your Greg Sanders learned what happens to the people who do and believe me, my husband is the last person you want to piss off by digging your nose in where it doesn’t belong because he might just shoot it right off your face.”

"Mrs. Gibbs, there's no need for threats," he countered, having a moment of deja vu. "I can't say I understand why my wife did what she did, but I'm sure she had her reasons...I can tell you I didn't send her to D.C. to pry into your past as you seem to have suspected, I wouldn't do that to either you or Gina. I will talk with my wife as soon as possible, but Mrs. Gibbs you need to understand. I don't control my wife; I don't try to control my wife. Catherine is not someone you control, I learned that years ago. I will talk with her though."

“When it comes to my children Dr. Grissom, I will do whatever I have to do to keep them safe from the likes of your wife. Now I suggest you get in touch with her and tell her to back off. My children, my husband and my relationship with Nick are off limits to any and all in Vegas. Your friend Detective Brass made it quite clear the last time I was in town that I’m not welcome here; the same goes for your people and D.C. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to get back to my husband and our children,” Jen said spinning and storming out of the office, slamming the door behind her, slamming it hard enough to make the things on the shelves in Grissom’s office rattle.

"Are you okay?" a softly asked question drew Jen's attention from where she had slumped against the wall after leaving Grissom's office. Looking up Jen saw a woman five-six in height, with reddish-brown hair that was pulled up in a French twist, in a pin-strip suit watching her with dark brown eyes.

“I’m fine,” Jen sighed as the adrenaline, that had started racing through her when she perceived Catherine as a threat to her family, left her.

"Are you sure?" the other woman countered gently. "Girl, you look exhausted, you want to go get a cup of coffee or something? My treat? Just so you don't collapse where you stand?"

“That might not be a bad idea. It’s…” Jen trailed off as she looked at her watch. “Well past lunch and the last thing anyone needs is me hospitalized here in Vegas.”

"My name is Carrie," she introduced. "I take it you're not from Vegas?"

“D.C. actually and it’s Jennifer. Well, only my husband calls me Jennifer, everyone else just calls me Jen,” Jen said holding her hand out only to have her cell phone ring. “Excuse me,” she said flipping open her phone and stepping away slightly. “Gibbs…I’ll be on the next flight, I promise. I’ll call you as soon as I know the flight number. Love you…tell the kids Mommy will be home soon and that I love them…Yes Jethro, I know both you and Gina are going to wring my neck when I get home…I’ll see you then…bye,” she finished hanging up the phone and turning back to the other woman. “You said something about coffee?”

"Sounds like you definitely need coffee," Carrie agreed. "Come on, there's a Starbucks not ten minutes from here. It's my stomping ground..." she continued, leading them through the lab out to the parking lot and her car.

“You’re a goddess,” Jen laughed as she climbed into the passenger side of the car.

"So, what brings you to our insane corner of the world?" Carrie asked once they had arrived at Starbucks. "You didn't come all this way just to see the Eiffel Tower did you?" she continued with a teasing smile.

“I came to get Dr. Grissom to call off his attack dog,” Jen sighed as they picked up their order and found a seat.

"I didn't know he had an attack dog..." Carrie mused.

“I meant his wife,” Jen said, a note of disgust in her voice when she said the word wife. “I will never figure out what he sees in that woman.”

"Catherine is a complicated and intense woman. She can come off rather abrupt and harsh, but she is also a very nice woman. And is good for Grissom...but she can be a bit...difficult at times," Carrie agreed with a smile.

“Well, I wish she’d keep her nose out of matters that don’t concern her and leave me and my family alone,” Jen said. “As for being nice, I’ll have to take your word for it since I’ve never actually seen that side of her as my family and I always seem to be the focus of her attacks.”

Carrie frowned before nodding. "It probably isn't worth much, but it's true she can be nice...I can't say she's got good reason for her anger at you, I don't know the situation...but perhaps someday she'll be over this anger and you can meet the other Catherine..."

“It will take a miracle for that I’m afraid. She’s hated me since I first met her almost ten years ago,” Jen admitted as she took a sip of her drink.

"Wow," Carrie sat back, "That is a rather long time. But it appears to me that there should be no reason for her to have such anger against you, I don't know all the specifics of course but from the few minutes I've spent with you...personally, I would imagine you and Catherine might be good friends...mediating circumstances aside. I'm just sorry those events exist, that they led you here to protect your family from her."

“Trust me, you don’t want to know the specifics. Let’s just say she wasn’t thrilled to see me arrive in town with someone she never expected to see again and when our jobs collided it only made matters worse. I couldn’t get out of Vegas fast enough after that. This is the first time I’ve been back here since then,” Jen sighed. “I just wish my return trip had been under better circumstances than to protect my children but I will go to any and all lengths to protect them, especially from the poison that comes with Catherine Willows-Grissom.”

Carrie nodded in understanding. Catherine was not one that you wanted to have as an enemy. "Alright, sounds to me like you never had a chance to enjoy our city the first time you were here. What do you say to lunch before you fly back home, have at least one happy memory from this trip? I'll give you the dollar tour?"

“Sounds good. My flight leaves in an hour and a half,” Jen said.

"Okay then," Carrie nodded before rising. "So, where do you want to begin? Lunch or tour?"

“Lunch first, then tour. I’m starving since I haven’t eaten since breakfast and my body clock is three hours ahead of yours.”

"Deal," Carrie agreed.

Tuesday October 31st, 2017
Richmond, Virginia
Bartlet Residence
8:21 p.m.

After Jen returned from Vegas, and had been yelled at for running off without telling anyone by both her husband and her sister, things progressed rather much as normal. They didn't really talk about what happened, preferring to ignore it, but also making a silent pact to keep an eye out on the neighborhood, Alicia and Thomas already stating they'd be watching for Mrs. Grissom to show up again. When she had told Sara her plan, both she and Thomas had shared a look...part of them thrilled to have the extra eyes...the other half was 100 percent sure they'd be getting a phone call to bail Alicia out of jail if Mrs. Grissom did come around again without Sara or Jen approving of it.

Regardless though, they decided to not focus on it, and look at the event for what it was, a far too close of a call. And instead they focused their attention back on life, and part of that was preparing for the traditional Bartlet Annual Halloween Party.

Since Jen and Jethro had married, they had changed the theme of so many years, much to the shock of one Josiah Edward Bartlet, who promptly dropped his cup of cidar the first year the group arrived, Jen and Jeth dressed as Aurora and Prince Phillip from Sleeping Beauty. The explanation being that Jethro had woken Jen with love's kiss. At least that was the explanation the rest of the women gave.

Over the years they had used many different versions of Sleeping Beauty's outfits, but this year had been the year of surprises for Jen. This year none of the adults that lived on Lockbury Court knew what costumes were being made for them, save Alicia. The kids had declared they were picking the costumes this year, and so Jen, Jeth, and Sara had learned only an hour earlier what their costumes this year were. For Sara they had dressed her up as Belle in the famous Gold dress, complete with brunette wig, which had Sara thanking God when she found out, she wasn't dying her hair for a costume again. Especially not when it was now waist-length and enough hassle to get her roots done ever two weeks and the updated coloring every six weeks.

Jen and Jeth meanwhile had been presented first with a Brass Key Collection Doll, one of the Disney Princess dolls that came out before any of the girls were even born. The particular one was from the Royal Dance collection, and had a doll of Aurora in her pink dress, 'dancing' with a Prince Phillip doll. Next the two had been presented with almost identical, if not a bit more authentically done to the movies, costumes.

Continuing the theme the four cousins had started, each of them had a doll from a past Brass Key Collection, this one the 2004 Holiday Edition dolls. Interesting enough if you hadn't seen the dolls, you might not even realize that the dresses were worn by Aurora, Belle, Cinderella, and Snow White, matching dresses worn by each of the four girls. Patty was dressed up as a miniature holiday Aurora, in a velvet and satin gown made of hunter green and a lighter jade green. Ginny meanwhile was dressed as Cinderella, her mother's first and foremost favorite Princess, her and her doll's costume were the same blue of the classic ball gown, with darker blue velvet as well.

Jackie was dressed as Belle, in a gown similar to the one from The Enchanted Christmas in style, but with ruby satin and deep wine red velvet instead of the familiar burgundy and gold, a white bodice and underskirt completing the dress. Last but not least was Shanti, dressed as Snow White, complete with wig as well, her dress a gold satin skirt and deep red velvet bodice similar to the classic one, the signature white cape completing the outfit.

The boys all got off easy, going as wizards from Harry Potter, once everyone was dressed though, Sara and Jen shared a glance, deciding they might need to keep the kids away from ebay in the future with their discovery of Brass Key Collectibles. Finally though they were on their way, this year Jed wasn't quite as surprised to see Sara not dressed as Jasmine as she had been for the past twelve years, and Sara found herself quite enjoying being able to be... warm.

"I'm starting to suspect they don't need us around all that much anymore," Sara mused after they had been at the party for a while, standing with Jen and Jethro, the three enjoying a ball of cotton candy while watching their seven making their way amongst the booths. The kids had declared they wanted to go on their own, they weren't babies anymore...

“I know the feeling,” commiserated Jen.

"You could always have another one and then you'll be needed," Alicia teased as she strolled by them.

“Only if Jethro wants me to carry through on the threat I made to him in the delivery room,” countered Jen.

Sara snickered before turning her attention to Alicia. "As for me, Girl, I've got three children who are already eleven... I'm not going that route again. I'm not going to be having kids not in college yet by the time I'm old enough to officially retire. You want new babies to hold that badly, go pick on Gus and find out when he's going to propose to Daria."

"Good idea," Alicia smirked evilly, looking across the room at Jed and Abbey's eldest grandson, and his girlfriend of five years. "Ta ta ladies and gentleman, I have some prodding to do for Abbey's sake."

"God help the poor boy."

Sara whirled around when she heard the familiar voice, staring in shock at the man standing there, Jen and Jethro were just grinning before they silently disappeared to join the rest of the family watching the two. "Warrick?" Sara asked surprised, taking in the sight of him dressed as the human form of the Beast, complete with a wig matching his natural color, pulled back into a queue. "What are you doing here?"

"Celebrating Halloween," he shrugged with a smile. "A perfect costume Girl...Beauty...how fitting," he continued with a teasing grin.

Sara rolled her eyes before looking back up at him, "Alright Mr. Brown, what are you doing here?" she asked once more.

"Can't a man come to see the woman he loves attending a Halloween party? Give her a rose..." he continued producing the long stem red rosebud, "keys to his new apartment so she can visit when she wants now that he's living across town..."

"You what!" she shrieked lightly, "Warrick Malcom Brown, what do you mean you're living across town?"

He grinned, "Just what it sounds like, I decided enough was enough, and came out here...I missed you; the kids...even that dang bird."

That had Sara laughing, as he pulled her towards him gently. "Alright, alright…so just who are you working for now, Mr. Brown?"

"Didn't you hear? Abby finally decided she could handle sharing her lab," he smirked.

"I'm going to lock that woman in her coffin," Sara chuckled. "I'm so getting the lot of them for not saying anything..."

"Aren't they adorable," Abby sighed, joining Jen and Jethro, Tim by her side.

"Until she decides to kill the lot of us," he argued.

"Hush," Abby shot back.

"My God, I never thought I'd see the day," Jed chuckled, "About time she got herself another good man."

"Stop staring all of you, let the woman enjoy a kiss in peace," Abbey ordered as she walked by. "She's already got enough reason to kill all of you."

“Abbey, if she kills me her man is out of a job,” Jen laughed.

"At least one of us is safe from her," Jed chuckled "Come on everyone, we need to go separate those two before they scare the children."

“It’s nothing our kids haven’t seen before Jed,” countered Jen.

"True," he agreed with a smile. "Well, regardless I'm interrupting; I have a speech to give that boy. Want to help, Jethro?"

“My pleasure Jed,” Jethro agreed with a smirk. He’d been waiting for an opportunity to turn the tables and have someone else go through what he did when they learned of his relationship with Jen.

"I think you're losing your chance," Abby teased. "Something tells me you've already had your shot at a man in Gina's life," she continued when the two looked over to see Belle and her Prince quickly disappearing.

"Oh well," Alicia grinned. "You can get him next time, not like he's disappearing back to Vegas this time."

“True,” Jed agreed before shrugging. “Next time then Jethro, for now lets go get some cotton candy before my wife finds out I’m after contraband.”

“Well, you heard the former President,” Jen smiled, silently cheering her sister and Warrick on.

Sunday December 31st, 2017
Waldorf, Maryland
Lockbury Court
9:30 p.m.

It had been two months since Halloween night when Sara found out Warrick had moved east. And over those months life had progressed rather interestingly. Everyone prepared for the holiday season, Warrick quite easily, and happily, getting sucked into the insanity. Holiday parties were planned every weekend between Thanksgiving and New Years, starting with the Official Holiday Welcome Party as thrown by Alicia and Thomas. Thanksgiving had been as always in Norfolk, Warrick finally understanding what it must have been like that first year for Sara, he didn’t get an invite either, just an order to get a ride with Sara and the kids. Since the last weekend of November, he had joined in the grand fun…and craziness…of traveling here and there in Maryland and Virginia to attend parties at Ellie and Vic’s, Zoey and Charlie’s, Abbey and Jed’s… There was a private holiday party at the White House given by President Santos, everyone came…CJ and her family from California, Annabeth came from New York where she had finally succumbed to everyone’s pressure to give Broadway a shot after Leo’s death. Even Josh was there, still watching Donna with a lovelorn expression, she there with Colin Ayres, the man she had met while in Gaza so many years before. Sara and Jen agreed, Colin was good for her… and drop dead gorgeous.

Since he had come, Warrick had settled in at work, and it was at the point Abby didn’t even seem to give a care anymore, as if she had been working with him for years. Though they suspected part of her exceedingly happy outlook on life had to do with Tim finally getting the courage to ask her to marry him. And he even survived Sara and Jen’s version of Jed’s ‘speech’. Which the man was still upset that he hadn’t had a chance to give to Warrick yet…Sara was making sure he was safe and sound from that particular aspect. As she had informed Jed, you got John, you’re not getting Warrick. It’s not fair, you only got to lecture one of Jen’s significant others. Everyone just sat back and chuckled when Jed grumbled before admitting defeat, for the time being. He declared to everyone in the group who didn’t live at the Peters residence in Waldorf, and Warrick as well was left out of the loop of course, that he would get the boy one way or another. At least before the wedding…which had his wife asking what wedding? Sara had promptly informed the ‘family’ time and time again that she was not looking to get married again. She had enough names to deal with as it was.

For all her talk of not getting married though, Warrick could be found at Lockbury court more than his own apartment. The spare bedroom in the house had been classified as Warrick’s by the kids even…all in all, as much as Sara was pointing out she was not going to get married again, or looking to get married again really…everyone assumed it wouldn’t be long until Warrick proposed. Either that or he moved in. They even had a running bet as to when, so far Tony had lost seeing as he had said it would be before New Years that either Warrick would be changing his address or Sara would have a ring. And seeing as so far neither had happened...and it didn't look like it would be happening in the next two and a half hours, the rest of the gang was having fun reminding him he owed the pot a hundred bucks.

For New Years Eve, they had decided to have one last party - this one at Lockbury Court, pulling a familiar version of the Summer parties. The kids were all down in Norfolk with their grandparents, and it had been deemed adult day at Lockbury Court. During the day they had drifted between Alicia and Thomas', Jen's and Sara's...the group there for the day including of course Jen and Jethro, Sara and Warrick, Alicia and Thomas, with Abby and Tim and Tony and Ziva as well.

So far today they had played various games, Jen and Sara beating everyone at Disney Trivial Pursuit, Tony of course winning Scene It, though he had quite a bit of competition from Abby, Thomas, and Warrick. They'd even gone swimming over at the Jacuzzi earlier in the afternoon...frozen their butts off moving between the Jacuzzi and the house but they still had fun. And after finishing the Haunted Mansion version of Clue, which Alicia and Thomas had sat out, not wanting to compete with a bunch of investigators, even a former one like Sara. In the end Warrick had won just barely, and then someone had suggested a snowball fight...and of course they were just drunk enough to leap at the idea.

The snowball fight had been raging for quite a while, neither side; it was guys versus girls, truly getting the upper hand. The guys had decided that since they were slightly behind the girls in the scoring they needed a better strategy so they had decided to form a huddle up near the house, leaving the girls a little confused about what they were up to and what they could do to get the battle going again. That is until Jen heard a familiar piece of music come on the CD player, which they had set up just outside the front door.

“Hey Gina!” she called out across the lawn. “Can you hear them? They talk about us.”

Telling lies

Well, that's no surprise,” Sara countered

Can you see them

See right through them,” Jen continued.

They have no shield

No secrets to reveal,” Sara finished before all the woman joined together for the chorus.

It doesnt matter what they say
In the jealous games people play
Our lips are sealed.”

The girls’ impromptu number certainly got the guys’ attention although maybe not in the way Jen had originally intended, especially when she saw Jethro and Warrick exchange looks with one another.

“Ah crap,” Jen swore before suddenly bolting across the lawn, Jethro hot on her heels as Warrick took off after Sara and the other guys let snowballs fly at their respective other halves.

While the snowball fight was in full force, Sara and Warrick having disappeared around the side of her house heading towards Jen's backyard in Sara's race to escape him, no one noticed the two cars slowing and turning onto Lockbury Court...or the people that stepped out of them once they were parked.

Jen soon found herself being tackled to the ground as a snowball was stuffed down the back of her coat.

“Ha, ha! Fresh targets,” laughed Tony evilly when he noticed the people walking towards the house, recognizing the woman in the front.

Jen looked behind her at the upside down people that had caught Tony’s attention. “Tony no,” she ordered as Jethro helped her to her feet, having recognized the woman at the front of the group as well as the man next to her.

“Really wonderful example you’re setting for you children, Jennifer,” Catherine said as stepped up to the edge of the lawn, the others falling in around her.

“What are you doing here Catherine,” demanded Jen. “What are…what are any of you doing here?” she demanded, her voice catching when she noticed Nick in the background.

“We’re here to see you of course,” Catherine replied. “Well actually Nick’s here to see you. The rest of us came out to see Warrick but since he wasn’t at home we thought we’d kill two birds with one stone and see Gina while Nick here saw you.”

“You’re…you’re not…not welcome here Catherine,” Jen said.

“Jennifer…Jennifer look at me,” Jethro ordered as he turned her to face him, taking her head in his hands. “Jennifer, look at me. Forget about them and focus on me,” he told her as her eyes met his and he could see the panic there. “Breathe Jennifer. Big deep breaths, can you do that for me?” he asked. “Good,” he said when she nodded and pulled her into his arms as she started trying to take deep calming breaths as Tony, Abby, Tim and Ziva took up protective positions around them.

“You’re lucky we’re not across the street Mrs. Grissom or I’d have my team escort you and your companions off of my property and charge the lot of you with trespassing but since we’re in fact on my sister-in-law’s property that decision will be up to her. Just know that your presence here is not welcome by either Jennifer or I and I suggest you and your friends watch your step around us,” Jethro said, before turning his attention back to Jen. “Come on, let’s get you inside and into something dry,” he said as he brushed her hair behind her ear. When Jen nodded, he wrapped an arm around her waist and led her into the house, leaving Ziva, Abby, Tim and Tony standing in a line between the house and the unannounced visitors.

Before anyone had a chance to make a comment of any sort, laughter was heard from across the street and Sara appeared around the side of Alicia and Thomas' house, until she spotted the cars and their owners across the street and stopped dead in her tracks, only to have Warrick end up sliding in the snow and crashing into her, which immediately set all twelve dogs off inside the St. Cloud house.

"Come on Cia, let's go get the dogs to stop barking," Thomas ordered lightly, the two having stayed back to let the agents in their group handle the newcomers...and so Thomas could keep his wife from literally attacking any of them as her claws weren't just proverbially out, she had her hands curled in her own interpretation of a cat's paw ready to scratch the first thing she could get her hands on. Clamping a hand over her mouth when she started to protest he led her across the street while Warrick helped Sara to her feet and the two passed them coming towards the gathering on Sara's front lawn.

"Hello..." Sara began once they had stopped a few feet away from the group. "What brings all of you to Waldorf?" she continued softly glancing between those from Vegas and the other members of the team on her lawn.

“Apparently the one in the group named Nick came to see Jen and they all decided to tag along and come visit Rick but since Rick wasn’t at home they decided to crash our little party here. Needless to say Jen wasn’t too thrilled to see them show up,” Ziva offered as explanation.

"I see," she nodded, looking back at Warrick. "Johnny was right; you should remember to leave your cell on when you're here..."

"Oops," he shrugged, "Let's not tell him he was right though...Jackie will never let me live it down."

"Rick?" Greg asked surprised, squinting to see through the layers of snow-wear...the scarf managing to hide the majority of Warrick's face.

"Hey," Warrick nodded, before reaching up to unwrap his scarf and pull his beanie off, dusting snow off the back of his collar as well. "How did all of you manage to get off at the same time?"

"Assistant Director..." Catherine reminded him with a smirk.

"Right," he nodded.

“I think Jen being the Regional Director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service trumps her Assistant Director, don’t you?” asked Tony smugly.

"Tony," Sara scolded lightly.

"Anyhow," Greg smiled, sensing the definite need for a change of subject. "Gina, you get to finally meet Lai and Carrie, ladies this is Gina, our famous CSI who left Night Shift to become a Secret Service agent. Gina, this is my wife Lai, and Nicky's wife Carrie."

"Nice to meet you," Carrie smiled; though her attention was still mostly on the woman she had met over two months earlier in Vegas.

"Hello," Lai continued, she was about five-five with waist-length straight black hair and exceptionally dark brown eyes, Japanese heritage Sara identified immediately, even if Warrick had never told her before now.

"Hi," Sara countered before nodding towards the others. "Tony, Ziva, Tim, and Abby. Alicia and Thomas are the two on their way back over. Everyone these are Warrick's and my former teammates from Vegas. You know Dr. Grissom... his wife Catherine, Nick Stokes and Greg Sanders," she introduced.

"Well, not to be rude or anything," Abby spoke up after everyone acknowledged each other. "But we have to get back inside before we all freeze to death, and we have a game to get back to..."

"We do?" Tony asked surprised, looking over at her in confusion.

"Of course we do, we're playing Gin, six teams."

"We are?" Tim asked frowning as well.

"Come on guys," Abby rolled her eyes, looking between Ziva and Sara. "I think they're trying to make us forget about Strip Gin. Don't know why, you think they'd want to see us ladies losing clothing."

"They know we always punch their butts," Ziva countered with a smirk, catching on to what Abby was doing.

“It’s kick their butts, and no you don’t,” countered Tony.

"Kick, punch…we're still going to win," Ziva shrugged, before grinning up at her significant other.

"Strip Gin?" Nick spoke up for the first time, looking over at Warrick surprised.

"How do you play?" Greg continued with a grin.

"No," Catherine spoke quickly, shooting him a look.

“Is anyone going to bother telling us why it was that other gentleman took Jen inside? Why was he so worried about her?” asked Carrie in confusion, a note of concern could be heard in her voice.

"Jeth took Jen inside?" Sara asked surprised, glancing between everyone who had been present. "What did I miss?"

"Jen had a bit of an attack, too much excitement, stress, sugar...we've been up two days straight," Alicia explained trying to avoid anyone in Vegas knowing the real reason. "Jeth just took her inside to get some cider into her and give her a chance to relax..."

Sara nodded slowly before looking over at the Las Vegans. "I know you guys just got here and all, but I doubt you want to get involved in a game of Strip Gin. And I know better than to try and take it away from Abbs..." she began, part of her wanting to tell them to get off her property for Jen's sake, the other part not wanting to burn what little bridges she had for Warrick's sake.

“Uh Gina?” Ziva said trying to get Sara’s attention, her cell phone held to her shoulder.

"Yeah?" Sara asked looking over at her, frowning momentarily...when did she get or make a phone call?

“Apparently our Director has a message for our guests,” Ziva replied.

"Well, if you want to play telephone...by all means," she smiled, thinking back to her daughters and nieces playing that game the day before...thank God they weren't all around to get the original message all messed up with tellings...who knew what the group from Vegas might have heard...

“She says that Catherine must not have made a very good stripper since at least in this part of the country strippers usually dance almost completely naked and yet Catherine is afraid of a little game of strip gin,” Ziva said as Tony started chuckling beside her.

Sara barely managed to choke back her laugh, behind her she heard Warrick choking…he hadn't been able to it seemed. "Let me see that phone," she smiled, holding a hand out for it.

Ziva handed her the phone, which was still turned on.

"Hey sis," Sara greeted with a smile, "Cindy really willingly spending time with the stepsisters in the second movie?" she continued hoping Jen would catch on the code, and partially suddenly thankful Zoey had let Nan see the second and third Cinderella movies so she could use that very code when around people.

After hearing Jen's response Sara nodded, "I thought she did, damn now I owe the girls lunch out without the boys," she snapped her fingers to go with her ploy. Hanging up a moment later she handed the phone to Ziva. "Thanks, why don't you guys head in before all the chocolate ends up hidden around my house so only Jen and I have access to it."

"Evil women," Abby scowled before grabbing Tony's sleeve and pulling him along. "So not hiding all the chocolate, that's just beyond evil. Come on Ziva, we have chocolate to save!"

"Evil little witch," Alicia agreed once the four were at the door and tumbling inside. "You were so perfectly cast as Morgana..." she added before Thomas pulled her towards the house to stop her commentary and she went to 'save the chocolate' as well.

"Morgana?" Carrie asked with a smile.

"Halloween, we do themes," Sara shrugged. "was suppose to be Morgana one year when we did King Arthur...ended up not as it was the year my husband and brother-in-law died..." she continued before focusing completely on the Las Vegans. "Alright, I need to make a few things clear, so hear me out then you can protest and everything, alright?"

After everyone agreed, or simply rolled their eyes in Catherine's case, she nodded. "Look, to be honest I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place here. On one hand, my sister has a few issues with some of you. On the other, you are Warrick's friends, have been for years, and while I have my own issues with a few of you, once upon a time we were, while not friends, acquaintances and co-workers as well. And no we're not rehashing the whole friends - not friends argument..."

"Okay...where's this all going, Gina?" Greg asked after a moment, a bit surprised Warrick hadn't said anything one way or the other and was just standing behind Sara still, expressionless for the most part.

"Jen has said she's okay with all of you staying with a few conditions. You're going to have your choice you can stay now and have a chance to get to know our friends and family now, or you can wait a day or two and I'll meet you all for lunch or something and maybe we can talk and bury a few of those hatchets then. I'm not speaking for Warrick; don’t assume that," she added quickly, "I'm simply speaking for myself and my house and property."

“Let me get this straight,” Catherine began. “Your…sister is telling you who you can and can not let into your own house?

"No, my sister is telling me whether or not she is up to dealing with people she has issues with. And I'm looking at the fact that this is a party I'm having tonight and I would rather not have my sister leaving in the middle of the party. This is my decision to extend this offer with the conditions she knows would make it so that she can handle being around all of you."

“Makes one wonder what her issues might be,” commented Catherine.

"Catherine, let's really not go there tonight," Sara sighed. "Okay people, here's how it will work. I'm abiding by my sister's feelings and conditions because I really don't deal well when the two of us are having issues, bad enough my best friend and I are fighting, but you all should try living next door to the person, and being the one responsible for getting not only your kids but her kids to school and home every day. And I'm just not doing that. The conditions are this: A. we will not be talking about personal topics, all right, let me rephrase that, if a subject is changed, then it is not broached again. We all have demons in my family; there are things that we do not like to talk about. Don't push. B. There will be no interrogations, and yes Catherine I am talking to you..." Sara paused, sending a look Catherine's way. "And finally if anyone refuses to abide by these as the evening continues, Jen will leave and there will be no statements made about her leaving or anything like that. And her leaving will be the least of your worries. I'm very protective of my sister and she is of me. Don't press your luck alright?"

“I’m cool with that,” commented Greg.

“Gina, the last thing any of us want to do is make either you or your sister uncomfortable so, I at least, and I’m sure Nick will agree with me, am willing to abide by your rules,” Carrie said as Nick nodded in agreement.

Sara nodded, looking over at Grissom, Catherine, and then back at Lai. Lai was nodding in agreement, when she glanced back at Grissom he nodded once as well. "Cath?"

“Fine,” she sighed, knowing she was outnumbered.

"Alright then," Sara nodded. "Now, you don't have to participate in Strip Gin but if you wish...I'm not going to say no. On the other hand if you don't wish to participate....no making comments please. We're all adults, and the group of us are enjoying a bit of kid-free time so..." she shrugged, turning to head towards the house. She paused halfway there to look back at the group who had yet to move, and seeing Warrick nod his head towards the house she nodded before heading inside.

Once she was inside he turned towards his former co-workers, friends, and their spouses. "Thank you for being willing to not argue. And just so you won't be surprised by anything you see in the next few hours, Gina and I are in a relationship." Seeing the surprise on their faces before a few of them nodded, he nodded once, "Come on, it's freezing out here," he continued before heading towards the house, not surprised to hear the others fall into step behind him.

Sunday December 31st, 2017
Waldorf, Maryland
Peters Residence
10:05 p.m.

“So Rick, what police force are you working with these days?” asked Greg curiously a short while later, some members of the group gathered around the coffee table in the living room with decidedly fewer clothes on then others. “I mean I realize you’re with Gina but you did say you were moving out here because you were offered a job.”

“Yeah, I got a job,” agreed Warrick.

“So, what city do you work for? Waldorf?” pressed Greg.

“Not exactly,” replied Warrick.

“What do you mean not exactly? If you’re not working for a police force who are you working for? You’re not working for the Feds are you?” asked Greg.

“You might want to watch what you say Greg,” Jen suggested, her voice holding a note of warning.

“And why’s that?” asked Greg curiously.

“Because with the exception of you and your group from Vegas there are only three other people in this room who are not federal agents,” Jen said.

“I work for the Navy, Greg,” Warrick said.

“The Navy?” asked Greg in surprise. “I didn’t know the Navy had a police force.”

“It’s called the Naval Criminal Investigative Service or NCIS. I hired Rick to work with my husband and his team, who would be the feds I was referring to,” explained Jen.

“But don’t you work for the Secret Service?” wondered Nick.

“I haven’t worked for the Secret Service since I…I was shot,” Jen said. “Leo refused to let me back on active detail and Gina wasn’t about to let me return to active duty so I took Jethro up on his offer of a job with NCIS and have been there ever since.”

“Leo?” asked Carrie curiously.

“Vice President Leo McGarry…”

“Oh hey, don’t change the song,” Greg said interrupting Jen as Alicia went to change the song on the CD player. “We heard this song the other day and Lai fell in love with it.”

“…Cause I never dreamed I’d find a Cinderella of my own…”

“Why don’t you go and make yourself some cider,” Jethro said when he noticed how pale Jen was; recognizing the song for what it was as Jen nodded.

“Excuse me,” Jen said, her voice shaky as she rose from her spot and quickly made her way out of the room.

“Alicia turn it off,” Jethro instructed as Alicia turned the CD player off.

“What did you do that for?” asked Greg.

“Is she alright?” asked Nick at the same moment as Greg, Carrie rising from her spot silently and following Jen from the room.

“She’ll be fine,” Jethro snapped as he set his cards down on the table before rising from his spot. “And I did it because you just caused my wife to remember some very painful memories,” he said before walking out of the room.

"I found that song and had it played for Jen and her first husband at my wedding," Sara spoke up softly. "To Mike, Jen was Cinderella, the song isn't one that we play anymore, just as I never play A Whole New World if I can help it and tend to leave the room if the children are watching Aladdin."

"The hair color change finally makes sense," Greg nodded, "You were Jasmine, she was Cinderella?"

"Yeah," she nodded. "Please, let it drop guys... it's been nearly twelve years but it still bothers us both in many ways."

"Of course," Lai spoke up softly, "and I have Gin..." she added with a slight smirk and Tony groaned. Of everyone playing, and that included everyone save Catherine and Gil, he and Ziva had been the ones to lose most often and he was the one losing more clothing than her as she always wore many layers when she knew a game of Strip Gin might be played.

After leaving the living room, Jen made her way into the kitchen, wiping her eyes as she went as she fought back the memories and the emotions they always brought to the surface.

"Jen?" Carrie asked gently from the entrance to the kitchen.

“Leave me alone,” Jen replied as she put the now full kettle on the stove and plugged it in before turning her attention to the coffee maker.

"It's not good to avoid things... they fester until they explode," she pointed out softly.

“Who said I was avoiding anything,” countered Jen as she slammed the coffee pot back into the coffee maker.

"You're upset about something, and I doubt it's simply the fact the song that was playing just now reminded you of something in your past that is painful to remember," Carrie countered carefully.

“The song reminded me of my first husband, if you must know. It was very special to us and he was taken from me in a horrendous accident,” snapped Jen as she swiped angrily at an escaping tear. “And don’t stand there pretending like you give a rat’s ass about me because I know that you don’t. Hell, you probably told Nick everything I told you that day in Vegas. Let’s just say I wasn’t expecting my Good Samaritan to be Nick’s wife of all people.”

"I didn't tell my husband everything you told me that day," Carrie argued, "I didn't even realize when I was talking to you that you were the same woman he had told me so much about. The only thing Nick knows is that I ran into you outside the lab that day and you were just as he described you...as far as he's concerned our conversation that day has the same privileges as any of my clients have when they talk to me. I don't know the whole story Jen, until I do, I'm not going to judge you in any way, nor am I going to simply believe whatever someone else says..."

“Jennifer?” Jethro said as he walked into the kitchen before Jen could respond in anyway to Carrie, finally getting her to turn around. “Come on,” he said wrapping a coat around her shoulders. “Let’s get you home,” he said leading her from the kitchen out into the hallway.

"Jen, you have to stop running," Carrie called, following them into the hallway, her call catching the attention of everyone in the living room.

“How dare you,” snarled Jen as she spun to face Carrie, Jethro standing behind her his hands on her shoulders. “You know nothing about me, my marriage or my life.”

Carrie raised an eyebrow when of all things Jen mentioned her marriage, that very thing had been in the back of her mind. Jethro's mannerisms were just hitting her the wrong way. "I never said I know anything about your marriage or your life," she countered softly. "But I did get to know you in a small way when you were in Vegas, I kow you are running from something that haunts you. And whatever it is will consume you."

“You didn’t have to say anything about my marriage Carrie because I know the way my husband can appear and I can assure you that he is not the type of man he appears to be,” countered Jen. “As for my past consuming me, the sooner the lot of you are out of Maryland, the sooner my past can return to where it belongs…In the past.”

"Not to interupt," Sara began before Carrie or even Jethro could respond. "But I think we've had enough of a show tonight with Tony being in his skivies..." she continued carefully.


“Watch it, DiNozzo,” Jethro snapped.

"Jen, Jeth, I'll call you tomorrow okay?" she continued, ignoring the man in his underwear to the horror of many of those present and her brother-in-law for the moment. "Carrie, it's your turn in Gin."

Carrie started to speak up, before Sara shot her a look, and she shut up.

“Goodnight, Gina,” Jethro said as he turned Jen around and led her from the house, closing the door behind them.

“How can you just let him take her out of here like that?” demanded Carrie, once the door was closed as she followed Sara back into the living room.

"Because he's her husband, and my brother-in-law and I've known Jethro for fourteen years," Sara countered evenly. "You're very close to breaking the rules Carrie," she continued softly.

“Makes you wonder if Carrie hit a little too close to home to make your sister bolt like that,” observed Catherine.

"Catherine, leave my sister alone," Sara growled lightly. "Alright everyone, as I see it now everyone has either had too much to drink today in the case of those of us who live in Maryland, or are probably dealing with jet lag in your case. Let's just call it a night and start fresh tomorrow," she continued carefully.

"Alright, everyone heard the lady, let's get out before she sics that blasted bird on us," Tony spoke up.

"Just please at least get dressed first," Warrick countered with a smirk. "I'll call cabs."

Sunday December 31st, 2017
Waldorf, Maryland
Peters Residence
11:34 p.m.

It had taken nearly half an hour to get everyone out of the house, the Las Vegans not wanting to leave, Catherine and Nick wanting to ask questions…and Carrie wanting to press her own questions. She didn’t believe that there wasn’t something going on in Jen and Jethro’s marriage, and Sara just wasn’t up to arguing that she was wrong. Finally though everyone left, and she had collapsed on the couch.


Glancing up, Sara smiled softly, “Hey yourself.”

Sinking down on the couch next to her, Warrick wrapped his arm around her shoulder as she automatically curled into his side. “How are you doing?”

“Shouldn’t I be asking you that?”

“Gina Baby, they’re my friends, yes, I’m upset about how things went down, and I’m upset that obviously Cath told Nick. I know Jen’s not ready for this and it’s gonna be hard on the kids too…but their being here isn’t going to affect me as much as it will Jen and everyone, even you and the three munckins…”

“Babe, you do realize it is going to come out that you’ve known Nicky for at least two months. Nick is not going to be happy with you, let alone Cath, or even the others.”

“Virginia, stop worrying,” he ordered softly, “Baby I knew Nick might find out I knew the day everyone told me what I already suspected. Girl, I walked into this eyes open; and I’d make the same choice all over again. He’s my best friend, but you, the kids…you’re my life. Jen and her family…your family…you’re my family. As the kids like to point out, yes, it’s not legal, but in my mind you’re family is my family.”

“I just don’t want to cause problems between you and them. I’ve had issues for a lifetime with them, but you haven’t. They’ve been there for you all these years and I don’t want to be the reason that you end up losing them.”

“Gina, whatever happens isn’t your fault; this was my choice, my decision. And as I see it, yes Nick may be upset, the others might as well…but if our friendships can’t survive this, then maybe they weren’t meant for the long haul.”


“Shh…stop it, Gina,” he argued as he placed his finger against her lips. “Things are going to be alright, for now, let’s just enjoy the rest of New Years Eve, and not drive ourselves nuts with the what if’s. We’ll deal with everything tomorrow, Baby, for now just relax.”

“I don’t know if I can,” she sighed heavily.

“Well, I’ll just have to take your mind off of things, won’t I?” he smirked before pulling her onto his lap in one swift move.


“Virginia…Baby…shut up,” he shot back with another smirk before kissing her soundly.

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