Gibbs stepped out into the bright sunlight, and immediately squinted at the sun. At the same time, he lost the cool breeze of the airport and stepped right into an oven. Or hell. Kate hadn't been kidding. "Jesus, it's hot out."
Kate looked over her sunglasses at him, smirked and then rolled her eyes, "Thought you were used to taking heat, Agent Gibbs."
"We're on vacation. Ya should probably just call me Gibbs." He groped in his pocket for his own sunglasses, sighing as he realized couldn't find them. He'd just gotten the damn things. His reading glasses were also doubtlessly lost somewhere in his luggage. What a great start to the week.
He looked up only to see Kate holding out his sunglasses and smiling. He grabbed them from her without so much as a thanks. "You're welcome." She retorted, walking away.
Once they had their rental car, and could start the drive from Orlando to Tampa, he finally thought to ask. "Kate?"
She looked over from where she was consulting a map, "Yes Gibbs?"
"Why exactly… uh… do we have some kind of cover story?"
"We met through work." Naturally she had an answer for everything. "We sort of… realized our feelings for each other after you were seriously injured last year, and got together. So naturally, we were together when I went down in May."
"Ah. And your parents- they'll believe it?" He was still having trouble believing it himself, and he was the one sitting here in a car, driving towards a reunion he had no business being a part of, only to act as Kate's effing boyfriend for a week.
"They'd better." She sighed. "I mean, I did take a bullet for you. That wasn't exactly bullshit, and they don't need to know the real reason.
"And what's next?" he asked, exhaustion from their early flight causing him to run his mouth. Somehow though, he still couldn't ask the real reason she did take a bullet for him. "A fake long term relationship? A fake engagement? Because then next thing ya know, you're up at the altar sayin' vows ya don't mean."
"Would that really be the worst thing?" she asked, looking over at him. "Marrying me?"
"Not for the reasons you're talking about. Wouldn't be right."
"So this is a one-and-done kinda deal?" she asked, mocking his gruff tone.
"Well, Kate, since this ya practically blackmailed me into it, I don't exactly see it as a good start to a real relationship."
"Gibbs," her voice had changed. "I'm so glad that you agreed. Really."
"Ya just didn't want to have to pretend to date Tony."
"Well, no." She laughed. "I somehow feel that it would definitely cross a few lines."
"And dating your boss wouldn't?"
"My boss doesn't act like he never got past puberty."
"Definitely did. And I've got the hair to show it," he said, proud of his own joke.
"Leroy Jethro Gibbs, did you just make a joke?"
"I don't know, it's kinda a grey area." He was laughing harder at that point, and had to focus quite carefully on staying on the road. She was giggling too, and somehow she couldn't mind having to spend a week pretending to be in love with him. He was starting to think that if he just kept telling jokes, he might not have to pretend. "I'll even buy ya dinner if you'll laugh at my jokes."
"Are you sure? Aren't you paying like three alimonies?"
"Jesus, you never can let that go." He switched subjects. "So what's this house like?"
He glanced over for a second, and saw her smile, dreamily. "It's gorgeous… it's huge."
"How many rooms?"
"About ten bedrooms, I think?" Kate kept going, "There's a pool in the backyard, and it isn't too far from Clearwater and Madeira Beach… it's got a gorgeous kitchen. Uh, no basement though. Sorry Gibbs."
He smirked, "How soon can I get a flight back to DC?"
"Oh shut up. How about for once, instead of building a boat, you try sailing one?"
"Are you doubtin' my sailin' abilities?"
"I might have to fake break up with you."
"I'm devastated. Really."
"C'mon, Kate, what else is interesting about the house?"
"There's a guest house in the backyard."
"A guest house? Didn't know you were part of the Royal Family, a house with a guest house." He shook his head at the frivolity of it all.
"Shut up. The whole family contributes so that we pay rent for a week. It's right on Tampa Bay. The backyard is full of trees and gardens. And the guest house isn't really a guest house. Yeah, there's a bedroom, but it's more of a changing house. There's a sauna… hot tub on the deck."
"Sounds like a nice little hideaway."
"I'm sick of sharing it with lovesick couples," she muttered, a tinge of bitterness in her voice.
"Well now you're sharin' it with your boss. How is that better?"
"Because you're not family."
"Ouch, Kate. Sure know how to wound a man."
"What all do ya do when you're down here?"
"At least one really fancy dinner," Kate was thinking, her brow furrowed in concentration. "Go to the beach a few times. If we're lucky, we go to Disney World for the day." He noticed the hint of excitement in her voice.
"Lookin' forward to Disney World, Kate?"
"Of course. I love Disney."
He added it to his mental list of Things about Kate. "What are ya, five?" He was teasing, and hoped she could actually accept that he was in no way dissing Disney (though he'd never seen the appeal).
"I'll have you know, that its appeal is timeless. Walt Disney himself said so. Don't tell me you've never been?"
"No," he grumbled. "Didn't have reason to."
"What do you mean you didn't have reason to?" She was scandalized, and he chuckled at the sound of how upset she was. "You know what Gibbs, I'm going to beg my mother to include it on the itinerary. You are going to be thoroughly educated."
"So ya really think ya can teach an old dog new tricks?"
"Well, I never said you were a dog. Bastard, maybe."
"Is liking Disney appealing to women?" Gibbs asked, looking over as they came to a red light.
"Naturally it is!" She was shocked.
"The babes, they like it?"
"Well, this babe does." She smiled, and pushed her sunglasses up from where they'd slid down her nose, hiding her brown eyes from view again.
He shook his head, "Any stops we gotta make before we get there?"
She grinned, "Only groceries."
"This is quite possibly the sleaziest grocery store I've ever been in," Gibbs said, pushing the cart down the aisle in the Publix. They were only ten minutes away, and Kate had insisted they stop for groceries.
"Clearly you've never gone grocery shopping in Wal-Mart."
"Do ya have a list or anything, or are we just here for a pleasure cruise?"
"I can think of better things to do than grocery shop with you, Gibbs-,"
He choked on his coffee. "What?"
She looked horrified, realizing, "I- Oh God, Gibbs, that's not what I meant." She walked over with a napkin, dabbing at the coffee dripping down his face. And then realized what she was doing, immediately stepping away. "Sorry."
"There's a rule against that. What do you want to grab here?"
"Ice cream," she said, hurrying ahead. He watched her, completely convinced that this had been a foolish idea. The last time he'd eaten ice cream with him- well he hoped that this time any slamming against a wall would have a different ending.
"What flavour?" he called.
She stuck her head back around the aisle, "Pumpkin?" Giggling, she took off again. He followed, wondering how he'd agreed to pretend to date an actual teenager. She and Tony would have been well-suited.
Who the hell was he kidding?
He looked over the cart, staring at the various types of candy, as well as boxes of cereal and bags of snack food, wondering if there was any way he could slip something healthy into it. The Kate he knew was a health nut, so to see that she had a sweet tooth… it was oddly endearing. He only hoped that there would be plenty of healthy groceries at the house they'd be staying in.
To distract himself from his shaking hands and nerves for what was to come, he reached his hands into his pockets, absentmindedly, trying to remember where he'd put his sunglasses. How he kept misplacing them, he had no idea…
"Kate?" he called, turning into the freezer aisle.
"Yes, Gibbs?" she asked, looking up from what looked like an internal conflict over what ice cream to buy.
"First off, you should buy both," he nodded at the ice cream, "More to share, right?"
"Right. What did you need?" she asked, eyes narrowed in confusion.
"My sunglasses," he said helplessly.
"You lost them again?" He saw she was trying desperately not to smile.
"What the hell's so funny?" he grumbled.
"Don't be such a grouch. I'll help you find them." She walked over, dumping both cartons of ice cream in the cart, but reached up and pulled them off his head. She started giggling, and he rolled his eyes. "I'm going to start making you wear them on a chain."
"I just forgot where they were. Don't make it into a big deal."
She reached up and kissed him on the cheek, causing him to tense up majorly, because they hadn't even gotten to the house yet, they shouldn't be performing yet, but she did it so naturally- he wondered if he wasn't crazy and maybe she did have feelings for him? Doubtful. "Then don't pout about it," she said with a smile, as she pulled away. "Let's go."
"I don't pout," he protested.
"You pout," she teased. "Don't deny it. You know I'm right."
Righteously, Gibbs did not pout. Instead he muttered curse words under his breath, following Kate. It was going to be a long week.
They were walking up to the front door. Kate was carrying groceries, and Gibbs was tugging along her suitcase, a duffle bag slung over one arm. He felt like a packhorse, but it was his own fault. He'd volunteered to take the bags, and Kate had taken charge with the groceries. His heart was beating hard in his chest, and he was trying to avoid seeming nervous. He had no doubt that Kate's ten thousand meddling relatives could all smell fear.
Kate set down one of the bags, and opened the door, "Hello?" she called, and Gibbs followed her inside, only for both of them to be literally mobbed.
"You must be Leroy!" crowed a woman with greying hair, immediately rushing over, and grabbing Kate's grocery bags, "Caitlin, you didn't tell me he was-," Old? Gibbs wondered, but she shook her head instead of finishing, and pulled Kate into a bone-crushing hug. "Caitlin, you're so thin! Haven't you been eating properly?"
"I've been trying. I work long hours."
"You really need to take care of yourself, dear." She turned away, leaving Kate glaring after her, crossing her arms.
She walked over and offered a half-smile, along with a proffered hand. He could see she was sizing him up, and tried to look as non-threatening as possible. It wasn't easy. He wasn't at ease, and no doubt it showed.
He shook her hand, "Leroy Jethro Gibbs, ma'am."
"Caitlin's told me about you." Her voice was cool, as she appraised him, one eyebrow raised. This was a grandmother? She looked more like an aging soldier, ready to shoot anyone who got in the way or creased her fine tablecloths. "I'm Rosalie, her mother."
"It's a pleasure." He smiled, but the smile definitely didn't come as naturally as it did with Kate. He couldn't see any relation between Kate and her mother, bar the brown eyes. And Rosalie's eyes weren't friendly.
She smiled back, and he wondered if he'd sized her up too quickly. He hoped his gut was wrong for once, but he doubted it. She turned away, "Michael! Daniel! Please come help your sister with her bags!"
Two men walked in, and stopped dead at the sight of Gibbs. One, the older looking one, raised his eyebrows as he looked between Gibbs and his sister. He looked like his mother, the smirk on his lips adding an arrogant edge to his features. Gibbs didn't like the look of him, and wondered again if it was his gut overcompensating for agreeing to this harebrained scheme.
Gibbs cleared his throat. "I'm Gibbs."
"I can see that." The older one grinned.
"Mike," Kate warned. Ah, so it was the middle brother. Michael. "Play nice."
The other man appeared to have come out of his trance, and walked over to Kate, pulling her into a hug of his own. "Hey sis, shot anyone interesting lately?"
"I almost shot Gibbs here. But no, Daniel, my forte lately has been taking bullets not shooting them."
"Oh, yeah, that reminds me." He pulled away, and punched her in the shoulder.
"Ow!" She winced, pulling away.
"That's what happens when you scare us all half to death! Do you know how close I was to driving all the way to DC to personally kill whoever it was that shot you?" Daniel was shaking his head. "No one asked you to play the hero."
"It's part of personality," she retorted. "Deal with it."
"And you!" Daniel pointed at Gibbs, who blinked and stared back, taking off his sunglasses and sticking them in his pocket.
"Me?" he asked.
"She was protecting you, wasn't she?" Dan asked, narrowing his eyes.
"Um… yes?" Gibbs hesitated, not wanting Kate's brothers to all dislike him. Maybe the oldest one would like him? He doubted that. If this was the welcoming committee, it was going to be a hell of a week.
"I should punch you too. But I'd hate to make a bad impression." Dan grinned and held out a hand, "I'm Daniel Todd, Kate's favorite brother."
"Not right now you're not."
"C'mon," Dan grinned at him, "Gibbs, right?"
"Come meet the rest of the family. C'mon Kate. Let's go introduce your boyfriend to the rest of the nut house."
"Can I please go put my stuff in our room?"
Daniel snorted, staring between her and Gibbs, "Kate, if you think you and your boytoy here are going to be sharing a room… you don't know mom at all."
Daniel threw an arm around Gibbs, "You gotta meet my dad. He's got a baseball bat that would like to meet you…"