Author's notes:

Russia is two hours ahead of Italy and Kosovo.

Washington D.C. is six hours behind Paris.

Gllogovc is a municipality in central Kosovo - between the Çiçavica Mountains and the Drenica Hills.

The Michael Lewis mentioned in this chapter is the the same man who was interested in having Jen on a task force based in the Middle East in the story entitled Politics. A friend of William Decker.

A quick reminder that Svetlana Chernitskaya also went by the name of Natasha Lenkov in 1999. In Judgement Day (Season 5), McGee pulls up a photo where she was in attendance at an event in the United States.


Moscow, Russia

April 3rd, 1999

0430

Petrov tossed his jacket onto a desk adjacent to his own and started to look through the pile of intelligence reports that had come in overnight.

Halfway through, one about a spate of killings in central Kosovo caught his eye.

He read it over twice, trying to make sense of what he was reading – and then reached for his phone.

Too early to call Gibbs, but he had no problem waking William Decker.


Gllogovc, Kosovo

0530

Anatoly shifted slightly on the dank earth beneath him and kept watching the small road passing through town for movement.

His target would be coming from the neighbouring town of Skënderaj. That much he knew.

But could not be sure what time the man would pass through.

He was still irritated by the fact that he had been called back just as he was about to cross the border into Macedonia the night before.

Most of his days here had been spent thinking about the look on Svetlana's face when he surprised her on the plane to Washington – and it did not sit well with him to have his plans derailed because of someone else's incompetence.


Decker's apartment in Naples

0730

Decker poured himself some coffee and reached into the fridge for some milk.

Unsure how he felt about the new development.

Michael Lewis had asked about Jenny again a few days ago, and he'd been working on getting her to do a side op.

He slammed the fridge door as he thought about it.

He knew she was ambitious. He knew she had what it took to go far.

She'd put her career on the line for Ducky and Gibbs in France, and impressed the hell out of everyone, and yet opportunity had come knocking a second time – from the very man who had originally thought of her as a loose canon - and she was refusing to budge.

As he took the first sip of his coffee there was really no doubt in his mind who was to blame for her resistance - and the thought made him angrier still.

Rumour had it she was sleeping with Gibbs.

The thought that she felt she owed the man allegiance, after the way he'd spoken about her for all to hear, made him sick to his stomach.

She was sacrificing her career so that she could play house with a two-bit marine?

His mulled over his conversation with Petrov as he continued to sip his coffee – and suddenly realized that he had his answer.

There was no doubt in his mind that the news was going to drive Gibbs over the edge.

He merely needed to use that to his advantage.

He had learned enough about the man to know that nothing would stand in his way. However, when it came down to it, he was as much of a chauvinist as the next man - and the chances of him wanting to take a woman into a war zone were next to nil.

Decker smiled as he poured milk into his coffee. Instead of opposing an op, he was going to promote the hell out of one - even if he knew it would be a waste of resources.

He spared half a thought for Jenny's feeling, and then exercised a mental shrug.

She needed to understand that although she might go out of her way for Gibbs, he would have no problem putting a mission ahead of her.

He debated letting her know what was going on before he called Gibbs in – and decided that it would be in her best interest. If nothing else, she'd know he was on her side when Gibbs revealed just how much of an ass he was.

He looked at the clock on his kitchen wall and decided he could call.

She'd been alone at the bar when he'd seen her yesterday. Pat had never shown up, and they'd driven around looking for her when she hadn't answered her phone. When they'd exhausted every possible avenue, he'd driven her home himself.

At most she'd be asleep and wouldn't hear the phone.


Jenny's apartment

Jethro drank his coffee without really tasting it.

Planning on making her number three?

He was still sure that if he so much as intimated anything like that, Jen would run. But a lot of Pat's words had insinuated themselves into his brain, creating fledgling anxiety, and he was finding it hard to separate them from the innate desire to create something tangible with the woman on the bed.

A phone started ringing in the living room – and he stepped out of the bedroom quickly. Closing the door behind him.

When he had ascertained that it was the landline he looked curiously at his watch.

Probably Pat.

Even if it would be incredible for someone with the hangover she'd been inviting last night to be anywhere near coherent at this time of morning, he thought.

The phone stopped ringing – and Jen's cell phone went off almost immediately.

Gibbs picked up the phone and looked at the caller ID.

Decker?

At seven forty-five on a Saturday morning?

He replaced the phone on the coffee table before it stopped ringing and made his way out on the balcony.

Deep in thought.


Dulles International Airport

Washington, D.C.

1300

Svetlana walked slowly out of the baggage claim area – still fighting the sense of disappointment that Anatoly hadn't made it. She'd held out hope all through the boarding process in France that he would somehow materialize at the last minute. When that had come to nothing, she'd managed to convince herself that he would be waiting for her in Dulles. Having somehow caught a flight from wherever he was – and arrived before her.

She was so lost in thought that she walked straight into the man in her path.

"Ms. Lenkov?"

She looked up to find a tall man in her path.

"Ludlow Lipari," he said when she stared blankly at him.

It took her only a millisecond to recognize the name as belonging to the man who had been instrumental in securing her spot as keynote speaker at the upcoming charity event.

"Oh .. hello," she said pleasantly as she shook his outstretched hand. "I wasn't expecting anyone to meet me."

"I've got a car waiting," Ludlow said as he bent down and picked up her bag. "If you haven't already made arrangements, that is."

Svetlana smiled as she fell into step by his side.

"No, I haven't. Thank you for doing this. How nice to be thought of."

Ludlow gave her a broad smile.

"Are you hungry?"

"No. They gave us lunch just before we landed."

"Perhaps dinner then. If you aren't too tired, of course."

Svetlana thought longingly of Anatoly and reined in the strong emotions that his lack of presence had evoked.

"Dinner would be lovely."

"Excellent," Lipari said as a driver stepped out of the car at the kerb and opened the back door for them. "I'll pick you up at your hotel at eight o'clock, then. There are a few people who are very much looking forward to meeting you."