Chapter One

The soft sound of sandpaper brushing along wood was the only sound that surrounded him. It was a soothing sound. Was it any wonder why a man with a stressful job and a past that could haunt anyone's dreams would find solace in its simplicity?

It also allowed him to be aware of even the slightest of other noises that occurred around him. Like the car that pulled into his driveway and idled for a few moments as the driver tried to decide if coming to his house was the right thing to do.

He smirked when he heard the engine turn off and the driver door close. He had a good idea who it was and why the visit on a snowy night couldn't wait until they were back to work in the morning.

Though as good as he was at anticipating what others may opt to do, he wasn't as capable of predicting the weather and all the outcomes an unexpected storm could provide.

He listened to the clicking of heels on his hard wood floors and glanced up grateful that she had a gentle gait and wasn't apt to scratch the finish. He heard her pause at the door before she opened it and began to descend the stairs.

"Hi Jen," he greeted not pausing as he continued to gently sand.

"Jethro," she smiled seemingly unsurprised he'd known it was she who came calling unannounced.

He watched as she made her way down the stairs appreciating that she was still as beautiful as he remembered back in the days they were partners. He gave her time to settle on a stool, folding her coat on her lap as she gathered her thoughts to voice her reasons for coming to him.

He didn't rush her; content to share the quiet atmosphere of his basement. He blew lightly as he rubbed some surface dust away from where he finished sanding. Pleased with the work he'd done he stepped back to get his cup and take a sip of his drink. Without asking he emptied a jar, took a clean cloth from the work table and gave a cursory wipe before pouring some bourbon for Jen.

As he handed the drink to her he raised an eyebrow in question.

She smiled at his subtle politeness. "Thanks," she raised her glass to him before taking a sip. Knowing he was waiting patiently for her to share the explanation for her presence, she got up, put the cup down and began to pace slowly.

Gibbs watched enjoying the woman he knew that hid beneath the tough exterior of the director. He also knew her coming to his house was a vulnerable venture. It was both business and personal.

His team had solved the case; not adhering to her set guidelines. But after dressing him down in front of his team, he knew she didn't fault him for being himself, following his gut and bringing down the man who was responsible for at least the half dozen assaults for which they'd gathered evidence.

She had been intense about finding the staff sergeant they'd suspected of the crimes and hopefully garnering a confession. Gibbs figured her tenacity had been due to the fact that the assaults had been grossly barbaric and the women so traumatized that only half of them were able to talk about what he had done to them. Even those accounts were sketchy details at best.

Thankfully the physical evidence, along with the photographs taken at the hospitals told a convincing tale of what transpired. Finding the staff sergeant's journal in his home told the rest.

Still Gibbs wanted to get a confession out of him to seal the case. It was a criminal's word against a decorated agent's when it came to how the confession was obtained. Director Shepherd had only nodded in a satisfied way when she heard Staff Sergeant Michaels had admitted to the crimes.

Now she was here, in his basement, searching for how to tell him what was behind the determination that drove her to absolving him of his antics to nail the case closed, regardless of the means.

Gibbs watched and waited. He sensed there was much more to her motivation than seeing justice served by putting the guilty man away, but he didn't have a clue what it might be.

She stopped pacing and turned to face him. He saw the raw pain in her eyes and moved quickly to her side. He took her hand and placed his other on her cheek as he saw tears pool in her eyes.

She allowed his touch to comfort her, though it did little to ease the pain that resided so deep within her she'd almost forgotten it was there. She'd buried the memories and pain so long ago. She had first been filled with rage when they resurfaced that the focus of the investigation was all that kept her from being consumed by them.

Now with a case no longer there allowing her to vent her anger she was left with only the harsh memory and the emotions she'd bottled up for decades.

She allowed Gibbs to lead her up the stairs though physically she felt detached from her here and now. He sat her on his sofa as he added some logs to fuel the fire which had dwindled down to near embers.

Satisfied the fire would last for the evening he returned to sit beside her. He sat back into the corner of the sofa and pulled her to lean against his side as he ran his fingers lightly down her arm, eventually folding his fingers over her hand. With his other hand he caressed her cheek feeling the wetness of the trail from her quietly wept tears.

"Whenever you're ready" he whispered kissing the top of her head as it rested on his shoulder. It wasn't a long wait before she began her story.