Author's notes:

London is divided into Inner London and Greater London – which are further subdivided into boroughs. Golders Green is part of the borough of Barnet, in the northern part of London.

The DHO (Defence HUMINT Organization) is a subsection of DI (Defence Intelligence) – which in turn falls under the British MOD (Ministry of Defence). Under the command of a Colonel, it manages strategic aspects of human intelligence and provides specialist support to military operations. Staff is drawn from the three branches of the military (Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force) and headquarters are located in Feltham, Middlesex.

London is one hour behind Paris.

Between January and March of 1999, a series of meetings were held in France under the auspices of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization); their focus the Kosovo Crisis.

The Rambouillet Accord was supposedly meant to end the crisis.

Slobodan Milošević was the President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) at the time.

The Caspian Sea is the largest body of water in the world. It is landlocked by Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan.


An apartment on Leeside Crescent

Golders Green, London

March 2nd, 1999

2200

"Refill?"

"Nah."

"Are you feeling okay?" She looked at him curiously, a bottle of bourbon suspended in mid-air, and rolled her eyes as she caught the tail end of a smirk. "It's only been an hour."

"And a half."

"You're not seriously keeping time," she said as she refilled her own glass.

"When you prance around in that get-up, always."

Jen's lips fluttered in amusement.

"I don't prance, Jethro."

He raised his eyebrows at her but didn't answer.

Preferring to savour the view of her pulling an errant strap back into place; his eyes dipping to the evidence that the fabric of her slip had stimulated her.

He wasn't averse to admitting that he liked this particular piece of lingerie.

In some obscure way it reminded him of a barbed wire fence.

Protecting the property without obstructing the view.

As he leaned against the wall he could see a bit of cleavage, but it was the tantalizing outline of an areola and the imprint of her nipples against the irridescent green silk, that held his gaze.

"Are you just going to stare holes into my nightie?" she asked as she raised the glass to her lips – amusement written all over her face.

"View's pretty damn good from where I'm standing."

"Is that so?" she asked as she placed her glass down against the bottle with a determined little clink and walked towards him.

"Uh-huh."

He smiled as she wrapped her arms around his neck; enjoying the familiarity of the hairs at the base of his skull rising as her breath tickled him. His skin prickled with goose flesh as she ran an open-mouthed kiss along the column of his neck, and he repaid her in kind by sliding his hands down her back until they rested against her bottom.

He bent his knees slightly; drawing her into him until he was rubbing against the heat he knew so well.

Jen made a guttural sound and took a step back.

"You're incorrigible."

"That a word?" he asked as he palmed the breast that wasn't paying attention.

Smiling as her breath hitched.

Jen threw her head back and laughed. "Get a dictionary, Jethro!" she said as she reached between them and made his breath hitch instead. "Now about that refill ..."

"Would love to oblige you, ma'am," he said as he tapped her on the nose, "but I can't go meet Petrov looking like I need a nap."

"Oh please. I don't wear you out that much," she said as she snuck a hand under his t-shirt.

"Nice try, Jen," he returned as he kissed her on the forehead and walked over to the dining room table.

"So .." she said as she followed him and shuffled the paperwork around, "David Williams and Laura Evans. He's Royal Army and she's .. overseeing things for the MOD?" When Gibbs nodded, she suppressed a yawn and added, "any word on when we're meeting them?"

"Not yet," he replied as he looked at his watch and got to his feet.

"What time are you meeting Petrov? Ten thirty?"

"Yeah," he said as he holstered his weapon. "Need to get going. Make sure you lock the door behind me. And get some sleep," he added as he pressed a kiss to her lips, "because I'll be taking you up on that refill when I get back."


An apartment on West Heath Drive

Golders Green, London

2230

Gibbs lifted the door mat and let himself into the studio apartment on the ground floor with the key he found there; his gun at the ready in case there were any surprises.

There were none.

Petrov was waiting for him, as agreed.

"Good to see you again, Jethro," the Russian said as he extended an arm and then swept Gibbs into a strong embrace.

"Likewise," Gibbs replied as he turned a chair around and straddled it. "What've we got?"

"A mess in the Balkans," Petrov said wearily.

"Think Milošević will sign?"

Petrov snorted as he put a steaming cup of coffee in front of Gibbs and pulled a map out from the chaotic pile of papers on the table.

"The Albanians might cave, but Milošević? There's not a hope in hell. And anyway, this is all about the oil. Those billions of barrels of oil and all the natural gas in the Caspian Sea. Good news for a world thirsty for petroleum, but getting it to market is going to be tough. They can say all they want there's no oil in Kosovo, but the word is that the US has backed a proposal for a pipeline which would pass through the Macedonian capital of Skopje," he said as he stabbed the spot with the end of a marker. "And that's not exactly far from Kosovo's southern border."

"Think the ring are players in any way?"

"Hard to tell," Petrov said as he ran a hand across his face, " because we still don't know for sure whether they are state-sponsored or independent. Certainly we have a lot of those two commodities ourselves, so if oil and gas didn't flow out from the Caspian area it would be a good thing for Russia."

"The ring would be perfect to throw a monkey wrench into the works," Gibbs said before taking a long swallow of his coffee. "Plausible deniability, if nothing else."

"There's so much going on that it's hard to keep up sometimes. Things slip through the cracks, deals go down under the radar. As I said, the Balkans are a mess."

"When's the last time you slept, Yuri?"

The Russian's snort was a lot more pronounced this time.

"Some time in 1998," he said sardonically. "I'd feel a lot better if we had some idea why they're going to be here this weekend."

"You got good people working on it?"

"The best. Round the clock. You'll know the moment I do."

"Couldn't ask for more. In the meantime .. what can you tell me about David Williams?"

Petrov leaned back in his seat and looked Gibbs straight in the eye.

There was a hint of amusement in his voice when he spoke again.

"As anti-American as they come. I'd say you have your work cut out for you."

"Great," Gibbs said as he downed the rest of his coffee.