Author's notes:

Uri, with regards to your review, the answer is no. I am not from Kosovo nor have I ever been there. If you are, and see any mistakes in upcoming chapters, please do let me know.

Sixth Fleet is the US Navy's operational unit in Europe.

The Marine Corps was still using the term BDU (Battle Dress Uniform) in 1999, as opposed to MCCUU (Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform). The transition to the latter started in 2002 and was completed in 2004. From what I have been able to understand, officers wore their rank on the collar. I apologize in advance if anything herein is incorrect. I tried to do my research – but there is so much out there (and so much of it has changed since 1999) that it's easy to get confused.


Naples Field Office, Italy

April 4th, 1999

1900

Gibbs sat at his desk.

Waiting to be called into a meeting with Decker and the Special Agent in Charge.

Will hadn't said why he wanted to see him, but when he'd called a few hours earlier there had been a note of uncharacteristic exuberance in his voice which had made Gibbs wary.

That wariness had morphed into uneasy expectation by the time he was summoned into the office a few minutes later.

"Sniper killings in Kosovo over the past nine days," Decker said as he slid some documents at him across the table. "Looks like your man."

Gibbs felt something inside him spark; almost like a match taken to a propane burner.

"We got a name?"

"Anatoly Zhukov," Decker said slowly.

"NATO intelligence caught it," the Special Agent in Charge said. "But their focus right now is settling the insurgency, so we're going in to .. provide assistance."

"How'd we find out?" Gibbs addressed Decker.

"Petrov."

"Uh-huh."

"I've made arrangements for you to cop a ride with Sixth Fleet," Decker continued. "You leave in the morning."

The exuberance was back in Will's tone, and Gibbs' gut told him that something was going on beneath the surface.

So he nodded - and waited for the other shoe to drop.

He didn't have to wait long.

"Take Pacci, Callen, and Calhoun," Decker said as he started to pull all of the papers on his desk into a pile.

"What about Shepard?"

Decker looked up at him with a look of pure disdain.

"Shepard? At last count she didn't assess situations well tactically, couldn't follow directions, and couldn't even follow a straight line."

"She's come a long way since then."

"Calhoun's a better fit," Decker argued. "He has more experience than Jenny."

Gibbs' eyes narrowed at the use of her first name, and found he couldn't shake the feeling that Decker had something up his sleeve. That his gung-ho attitude had nothing to do with the op and everything to do with Jenny.

"I need to know what the people on my team are capable of, Will," he said slowly. "I've never worked with Calhoun and this is not the time or the place to start."

"So you're going to take a woman into a war zone .." Decker said in disbelief.

"Unless you want me to tell her you don't think she's capable."

He watched Decker blanch slightly – and was more convinced than ever that the man had had another agenda.


Kosovo

2100

Anatoly let loose a strong of curses as he threw his phone aside.

All he wanted was to get out of this godforsaken country - and yet everything seemed to be conspiring against him.

Although he was in no position to turn down the work, he made himself a promise. He would do this one last job in Belgrade and after that he would return to Paris and get on the first available plane to Washington D.C. while he was still in time to do so.

Svetlana had planned to spend a few extra days there after the charity event – and with luck he would catch the tail end of that.


Jethro's apartment, Naples

2230

Jen yawned as she looked at her watch.

They had to be up and out at the crack of dawn, and the day was slipping away more rapidly than she would have liked.

To make sure they didn't attract undue attention once they got to the NATO installation in Serbia, Gibbs had recommended they travel in military garb.

Decker was dealing with the logistics of that - and now they were waiting for Pacci to show up with the uniforms.

She looked at her watch and willed him to get here soon.

As if on cue the door bell rang, and Jen checked her blouse in the mirror before stepping out of the bedroom.

The grin on Pacci and Callen's faces as Gibbs let them in was the first indication that something was up.

"What?" he asked

Pacci draped four sets of BDUs across the sofa and tried not to laugh.

"What's so funny?" Jen asked as she caught the packet that Callen was tossing at her in mid-air.

"Nothing," Pacci said as he crossed his feet over the coffee table.

"Don't you mean Nothing, Ma'am?" Callen shot as he dropped onto the sofa next to him, his body shuddering with repressed laughter.

They watched in amusement as Gibbs' head snapped up.

"Son of a bitch .." he muttered under his breath as he took the package from Jen and emptied its contents onto the dining room table.

"Is anyone going to tell me wha-"

She was in the middle of her sentence when she understood, and as she picked up the subdued silver First Lieutenant bar she had to work very hard not to laugh out loud.

"We clear on what's happening tomorrow?" Gibbs asked gruffly as he turned away from the table.

Pacci almost made a joke – and then thought better of it.

"Once we get to Serbia, Petrov's people will be standing by with civvies and transport. We hightail it out of there. G and I are going one way, you two are going another. We're going to pound the pavements – or whatever's left of them – and meet halfway in three days. Sound about right?"

"Right. Now get outta here. Early start tomorrow."

Callen was the first one to get to his feet.

"Can we give you a ride, Ma'am?" he said with a sharp mock salute in Jen's direction.

Jen giggled, and Gibbs bellowed, "out!"

He could hear them laughing all the way down the stairwell, but when he looked back at Jen he thought she looked slightly pale.

"What's the matter, Jen?"

"Just worried I'll draw the wrong kind of attention tomorrow," she said honestly.

"Weren't you a military brat?"

"Yes, but .."

"You know how to salute if necessary?"

"I guess."

"Right hand up till the tip of your forefinger touches your – that's right," he said as her hand rose in demonstration. "Thumb and fingers extended and joined, upper arm horizontal, forearm inclined at forty-five degrees. Forty-five, Jen."

He wasn't trying to be abrasive but Decker's little stunt had grated on his nerves.

"Hand and wrist straight while turning your head towards the person being saluted. Then .. drop your arm to your side in one motion while turning your head and eyes to the front. Yeah, that's ri - you already know all this don't you?"

He flapped an arm at her and stalked away towards the kitchen.

Jen watched him for a moment and felt another surge of the giggles coming on. She knew how to execute a salute perfectly, but couldn't resist teasing.

"So .." she said as she sauntered towards him. "If I'm a commissioned officer and you're a non-commissioned officer, does that mean you have to salute me?"

Gibbs looked her up and down once, cornered her, and rubbed himself roughly against her.

"That's the only salute you're getting," he whispered into her ear.

It only made her laugh harder.


Author's note:

Dressed as a First Lieutenant, Jen would have outranked Gibbs' Gunnery Sergeant (his real rank in the Marine Corps). I can't take any credit for Decker sticking it to Gibbs, however. That was completely the brainchild of Cap'n Renault (aka ltjvt1026). I just took it and sort of ran.