Gibbs locked his door when he had a guest.
Leaving it unlocked, daring someone who didn't belong there to enter, had seemed like a Gibbs move right from the start. Kate hadn't felt surprise when Tony had presented the new Gibbs fact over a case and Chinese. She'd never taken the time consider it might not be true, as she had driven to Gibbs' house a few weeks later-in the dead of night. Then, the door had responded when the handle turned. It had allowed her inside, to find him in his basement, eyes barely flickering up to her as she descended his stairs.
This time, he'd been the one to let her in. She didn't doubt for a moment he knew exactly how long it had taken to summon the courage to climb from her car, how long she'd stood still on his porch. She had finally managed to knock, softly, against a door that would open without any of the effort. He'd pulled it open at once, smile crooked, as he moved aside to allow her in. She had managed to leave awkward and uncomfortable and freezing on the porch. Inside, it was the same, but much warmer.
Kate could make out the crackling of wood. She nearly let her feet drag her to the source of the noise, to drop down beside it and thaw until she felt somewhat human again. Instead, she peered down the hall into the low lighting that seemed to make up Gibbs' home life. Right now, she'd do just about anything to avoid his eyes-and any potential questions. She didn't need either one of them spending too long trying to figure out why she had called him, instead of going to a hotel, when her apartment had been flooded from above.
"You're freezing, Kate," he said.
Gibbs took a step closer. He moved into her space, eyes moving down slowly over face
"I'm fine," she said. Her grip, on the bag slung over her shoulder, had grown so tight she wasn't sure she'd be able to release it again on command.
He reached around her slowly. Her heartbeat seemed to fill her ears, nearly drowning out the sound of a lock being turned. Kate drew in a breath, as his arm brushed against hers, and he retreated back into his own space. Should she feel honored? Insulted? Or, maybe, Gibbs was only reckless when it was only Gibbs.
"You'll take the bedroom," he said, before turning away from her.
And in a single Gibbs swipe, any potential conversation died in his entryway. Maybe he wasn't actually interested in why she'd shown up here after all. Probably, he didn't care, as long as she stayed out of his way. He wasn't exactly known for taking an interest in his agents personal lives, at least not when it required direct routes to the information.
Gibbs paused at the bottom of the stairs, shot her a look over his shoulder. Kate forced her feet into motion. She had only been here once, but had taken the time to memorize the little of the house she had seen. Which, honestly, had been limited to the hall, a glance into the living room, and then the basement. So, she followed him up the stairs, taking in the lack of anything to see. She stopped when he did, at the first door on the left, waited until he opened up the bedroom door.
Kate stepped inside, dropped her bag onto the nearest table. She glanced back at Gibbs, thinking beyond him to a hot shower followed directly by a warm bed. She yawned, covering it quickly with her hand.
"I'm going to get some sleep, I think," she said. "Thanks. For letting me stay."
"Welcome, Kate," he said, already turning away. "Bathroom across the hall, be downstairs if ya need anything."
She waited until she heard his last footstep, until she knew he must be in his basement.
Kate dug into her bag, gathering up a pair of sweatpants, and a long shirt- items she'd rescued that were still dry enough to wear- and headed across the hall into the bathroom. She closed and locked the door, and fiddled with the shower knob until the water ran hot. She stepped under the stream, leaned back against the cooler wall. The water beat against her skin, still couldn't force out the thoughts of Gibbs.
Her clothes were still damp, when she finally tried to pull them on. They clung to her skin, and she knew the feeling would be enough to keep her from the sleep she wanted, until they finally dried. It wouldn't take long near the fire, closer to the heat source. She stepped out into the hall, dropping her supplies off into her temporary bedroom, and heading down the stairs.
The main floor lacked Gibbs. The door leading down to his basement hung half open. Kate paused, listened to the faint sounds of scrapping from below. For reasons she couldn't explain, they brought her comfort, and for a moment she thought about joining him again. She could use the company, even the one-sided conversation, and maybe it would do him some good as well. But she heard a tool drop against something solid, and she took a quick step back.
She headed for the kitchen instead. Kate hoped he had tea-which seemed unlikely, because he was Gibbs- but would settle for a beer. She'd take anything, to help her sleep her way into tomorrow.
He had to let her stay. When she'd called, there had been no other option but to allow her into his space. He'd been in the same position with DiNozzo several times too many over the years. Gibbs felt certain he'd enjoy her company at least as equally he ever had Tony's. So, he'd agreed, before he realized that the trouble with Kate had never been in the things he felt he had to do. No, the danger had always been in how much he wanted to do things for Kate. The list of willingness ranged somewhere between simple and hopefully thoughtful, to stupid and completely dangerous.
He didn't know which side letting her stay here would settle on just yet.
Because, when she left at the end of a day-when a case closed, or sleep called his agents far more powerfully than his words-he used the space and time to remind himself just how stupid and dangerous his feelings for her were. Hours allowed him to shove her back into her slot. She couldn't be a daughter, not like Abby. Never like that, but a subordinate, his agent. Hell, his friend. He liked to pretend she was someone who needed his guiding hand, his rough way, far more than she'd ever need his broken ability to love.
Sometimes, though, he didn't think Kate cared about the damage he might do upon impact. She'd flirt, and he'd try to stop it, until his own tongue betrayed him again. She'd respond, she'd smile, and he'd forget again why he'd spent so much time, building so many damn walls. He always pulled back a little harder, when she seemed to be able to reach out and yank them down herself. It hadn't stopped her reaching for them yet.
Gibbs stopped, tool pressed against the wood. The shower had turned off, he listened to her footsteps coming down the stairs. The floor just outside the basement door creaked down here, and he heard her pause there. Should he have invited her down? Should he now?
Gibbs turned, dropped the tool onto the table. Above him, he heard her move away. The kitchen, or the living room, he couldn't say for certain from his spot down here. He could go find out. Go check on her. He really should. Gibbs took the final swig from his mug, let it burn a path down to his stomach.
It hadn't been liquid courage-unless it was just the courage to climb those stairs again- in a very long time. Now, he considered another shot, another moment before he faced her.
He slid the mug away with an exhale, moved to the stairs. Gibbs put his hand on the railing, listened to the sounds of life above. He swallowed a few times, spun around and yanked the tool up again. He got back to work.