Disclaimers and other info in part 1.
Gibbs jogged up to Tony. "What'd you find?" he asked tersely.
Tony pointed. "Her cover. And I'm assuming her blood." Gibbs examined the rocks and nodded.
"I want to talk to the witness."
"I think she wants her privacy, Gibbs."
"I don't care. She's the only link we have to this crime, and I want to see what she knows."
"Quinn took her statement. She just got here yesterday. She said she slipped on the rocks and found the cover. She was about to call the police when Quinn and I showed up."
"How do you know she wasn't involved?" Gibbs asked.
Tony hid a smirk. "Oh, I think she's pretty trustworthy, boss."
"You sure about that?"
"I would trust her with my life," he said honestly.
"Tony, you just met this woman. Which cottage is it?" Gibbs strode away.
"Sorry, Kate," Tony muttered under his breath. He ran after Gibbs.
Kate lay on the couch, an arm across her eyes. She heard a knock on the door and yelled, "It's open!" The door squeaked open, and Kate said, "Couldn't stall him any longer, Dinozzo?" She sat up and opened her eyes.
Tony shrugged. "I tried. He doesn't listen to me, you know that."
"Will you two stop talking about me like I'm not here?" Gibbs said. "So you're our witness?"
"I told you I'd trust her with my life," Tony said.
Kate smirked. "Pretty brave, Tony." He grinned cheekily.
"How did you get here?"
"Through my mother," Kate shot. "I'm sure you're too good for that, though." Tony's jaw dropped. He had seen Kate angry before, but he had never heard her be nasty.
"That was uncalled for," Gibbs said in a low tone.
"Maybe it was. But I'm not the one interrupting your vacation."
"I'm the reason you're on vacation in the first place."
"Well, I'm not getting much rest now, am I? I gave Quinn my statement. That's all I know. You can see yourselves out," Kate said, walking into the kitchen.
Gibbs strode after her. "You're not going to help us?"
"Why should I do that? You're the one who wanted me to take a vacation. That means no work."
"I was being honest when I said our superiors ordered your leave."
"Yeah? Well, you didn't argue with them, did you?" Kate opened the refrigerator and pulled out a carton of eggs. When she closed the door, Gibbs was still there, Tony standing behind him with a quizzical expression on his face. Kate sighed and rolled her eyes. "Look, if you're staying for dinner, you can set the table. Dishes are in that cupboard."
"I never said we--"
"So either set the table or leave. Your choice." She smirked as she heard the cabinet door open and plates rattle.
"I think we've found a pattern," Gibbs said, handing the plates to Tony. He frowned and set them on the table.
"Really?" Kate said idly, turning on the stove. "Omelets good?"
"Yeah. The victims were all women; they all had the same physical description--brown hair and eyes, medium height, no piercings or tattoos; and they're all Naval officers. The first two were ensigns, the third a lieutenant junior grade, and the last one a full lieutenant."
"So obviously our guy has a problem with women in the military. It looks like he's working himself up the ranks, too," Tony said, placing silverware on the table.
"How were they killed?" Kate asked, cracking eggs over the frying pan.
"Blow to the head. Other than postmortem injuries caused after being tossed onto the rocks, that's it," Gibbs said. "What do you have to drink?"
"Look in the fridge," Kate said. "We can probably assume that he's going after a lieutenant commander next. Warn the women on base that rank or higher not to go anywhere without an escort. He's probably someone these women trusted if there's no sign of a struggle. No fingerprints?"
"A partial on the first victim. None on the others."
Kate nodded. "So he also knows what he's doing." She sprinkled in some shredded cheese. "You think it's a romance gone bad?"
"Probably," Gibbs said, "but I'm not assuming anything."
"Always good to do," Kate said, not turning from the stove. "Could also be someone with a problem with women in authority."
"Wonderful. That's probably half the men on base," Tony said, plopping down in a chair.
"Exactly. It's going to be a long, hard slog, gentlemen," Kate said. "Want to make some toast? Bread's in the bread drawer." She pointed with her foot.
Tony leaned back in his chair and put his feet up on the table. "How domestic," he said, grinning at the two agents fixing dinner and chatting.
"Feet off the table, Dinozzo," they said in unison. He put his feet on the floor and scowled.
"You're no fun," he pouted.
"Sure I am--not that you'll ever find out," Kate said, smiling sweetly. Tony stuck his tongue out at her.
Kate turned off the burner and picked up the frying pan. She scooped eggs onto the three plates and set the pan in the sink, running the water. "Eat," she said unceremoniously.
"You're a pretty good cook, Kate," Tony said. "Why haven't you told us before?"
"Probably because I like my privacy, and I have better things to do with my free time than cook for two bachelors."
"You're so selfish," Tony teased.
"I know. But you love me anyway," Kate grinned.
"Ha! You wish," Tony said. Kate's smile faded. "Kate? You okay?" Tony asked.
"Fine," she said brightly.
"Where have I heard that before?" Tony said. "Oh, yeah... Friday. Before you were held hostage. Out with it, Kate."
She glanced at Gibbs, who was watching the proceedings with something bordering on amusement. "It's nothing, Tony. Drop it, okay?"
He narrowed his eyes, his gaze swinging between the two agents. Whatever was going on, he was staying out of it. "Okay." He dug into his dinner with gusto.
Gibbs lay still in bed and stared at the ceiling. Kate was trying hard to hide her feelings for him. Knowing they were there, however, threw a completely new light on their interaction. She avoided touching him through the entire meal and kept the discussion to a strictly professional area. Even if he had declined to answer them, she had never restrained herself from asking personal questions before. The change disconcerted him.
Romance between agents never worked. He ought to know. He'd seen it himself. Hell, he'd experienced it himself.
Nevertheless, his gut said otherwise. And Gibbs usually trusted his gut. Should he now?
He heaved a sigh and rolled over.
Kate woke up, her phone ringing shrilly in her ear. "Mmm... 'Lo?" she mumbled.
"What are you doing still sleeping, Kate? We need your help down here!"
"Go 'way, Tony," Kate said. She hung up the phone and pulled her comforter over her head. The phone rang again, and she groaned.
"I'm on vacation, Dinozzo. I'm supposed to stay out of it," she said, yawning into her phone.
"We could really use a trained profiler down here, Agent Todd," Gibbs responded.
"Doesn't Newport have one? A particularly good one, as I recall," Kate said. She swung her legs over the edge of the bed.
"Yes, well, he and Tony just can't seem to agree to disagree," Gibbs said dryly.
"Tony get into another fight?"
"He win?" Kate smiled at Gibbs' bark of laughter. "Where do you want me to meet you?"
"How about at your front door?" Kate shook her head and walked out to the living room. She opened the door. Gibbs waved at her and turned off his phone.
"You ready?" Gibbs asked. Kate gave him a look.
"Do I look ready?" Kate asked. Gibbs' eyes sparkled with mischief. "Don't answer that," she said, shaking her head. "Give me ten minutes."
"You planning on helping me get dressed?" Kate winced internally at the question.
"I am not going anywhere near your wardrobe, Kate. I know better."
"Smart man," she grinned. She disappeared into the bedroom. "So, tell me about Tony and the profiler," she called.
"They had a difference of opinion, and Tony got upset."
"What did he get upset about?" Kate asked.
"The profiler said that the women probably couldn't do their jobs, and that's why they died."
"He what?!" Kate said in shock.
"That's what I thought you'd say. It seems that we have a model for our man."
"If not the man himself," Kate snorted. "But why do I have the feeling our profiler didn't stop there?"
"Because he didn't," Gibbs said. "But I'm not telling you what he said. It doesn't bear repeating."
Kate rolled her eyes. "Believe me, Gibbs," she said, coming out of the bedroom, "I've probably heard worse."
He nodded. "Probably, but I'm still not repeating it."
"Fine." Kate clipped her badge to her belt. "Let's go."
"No gun?" Gibbs asked.
Kate shrugged. "Left it in my lockbox at home."
Gibbs nodded. They got in the car.
"Kate--" Gibbs started.
"Not now, Gibbs. I just woke up." Kate stretched her neck and heard the vertebrae pop.
"I was just going to ask how you wanted your coffee."
Kate smiled slightly. "Regular."
Kate twirled her pen between her fingers. "No visible links between the four women?"
"None that we can find," Gibbs replied, pacing the room.
"Perhaps they're just crimes of opportunity. He sees a woman fitting the description, lures her away, and bashes her over the head," Tony said, holding an ice pack over his eye.
"Yeah, but how would he get them to go with him without struggling?" Kate said, frowning. She stared at her notebook. "Have we gotten anything back from Abby yet?"
"She said the samples we sent her were contaminated," Gibbs said.
"Wait--all of them?" Kate asked.
"Well, the last three, at least," Tony replied.
"Something about this doesn't seem right," Kate frowned.
"One of these things is not like the other," Tony quipped.
Kate looked at him sharply. "What was that?"
He shrugged. "It's from 'Sesame Street'. My nephew likes to watch it."
"No--say it again," Gibbs said, following Kate's train of thought.
"One of these things is not like the other?" Tony repeated.
Kate scrambled through the files strewn about the table. "We've been assuming that the five women were killed by the same person. But there are discrepancies between the first and the last three." She found the file she wanted. "What if there were two killers?"
"And the second was a copycat?" Gibbs asked.
"The guy would have to have access to the records in order to know what to do and what not to do," Tony said.
Kate bit her lip. "We've also been assuming that it's a 'guy'. Women are just as capable of killing as men are." The two men snorted, and she shot them a warning look. "What if it was a woman? Most women wouldn't think twice about going off with another woman."
"She would have to work in the lab, or have contacts there," Gibbs said.
"Enlisted or officer?" Tony asked, perusing a list.
"It could be either." Kate thought for a moment. "Look for a woman passed over for promotion, who works in the lab or has contact with those who do. She's probably had some psychological issues that may or may not have been addressed."
"I would say she definitely has some issues," Tony said.
"She thinks of these women as replacements for the person she thinks she should be. So she probably looks for women resembling herself," Kate continued.
Tony did a search on his laptop while the other two went through the papers. "Patricia Watkins," Tony said. "Ensign Watkins was up for promotion in the last round, but was passed over because, quote, 'The ensign, though an excellent technician, does not show enough initiative in her work.'"
"She's a lab tech?" Kate asked.
"Yeah. And look at this." He turned the laptop around.
"Well, she certainly fits the description," Gibbs said.
"She's visited a psychiatrist twice--both times for depression," Tony added.
"I think we should talk to the good ensign," Gibbs declared. Kate stood. "Not you, Kate--you're on vacation, remember?"
Kate bristled. "So I can help you now, but once you find your suspect, I'm discarded?"
"Kate, if the higher-ups get wind of this, we're all in trouble. You're not supposed to be anywhere near this investigation--especially as a potential witness," Gibbs said.
Although she was still annoyed that he could write her off so easily, Kate had to admit that Gibbs was right. "Fine. I'll go back to the cottage. But I'll need a lift," she said.
"Can you wait until after we question the ensign?" Gibbs asked.
Kate sighed. "Yeah, okay," she answered. "I'll wait here, then." She crossed her arms and watched the two men leave. Frowning, she began to clear the mess on the table.
Kate pressed the pencil to the paper--then stopped. She wanted to draw; she just didn't know what it was she wanted to draw. She glared at the paper. Even this was failing on her. She sighed in disgust and threw the notebook on the table. She rested her head on the table and closed her eyes.
He trailed his fingers down her sensitive neck. She giggled. He knew she was ticklish there.
"Kate," he murmured, running his fingers through her hair.
"Mmm?" she responded, too relaxed to be coherent.
"Kate. Wake up." Her brow furrowed. "Come on, Kate. You gotta wake up."
"Wake up, will you?"
Kate cracked her eyelids open. "Leave me 'lone," she mumbled, closing her eyes again.
"Kate, if you don't wake up, I'm going to go through your sketchpad and hand out copies of all your drawings," Tony threatened.
Kate was up in a flash. "You do that, and I swear I'll tell everyone at headquarters about your sleepwear--or lack thereof," she hissed.
Tony smirked. "It got you up, didn't it? Come on, Gibbs is waiting in the car."
"Yeah," Tony responded. "She was one scary woman, let me tell you." He held the door open for Kate.
She turned to him before they got to the car. "Never threaten me about my drawings again, Tony. Because I have no qualms about sharing intimate details about you with the general public."
"Hey, I just wanted to wake you up!" Tony said.
"I don't care. My drawings are important to me. What would you do if someone stole your football jersey?" Kate asked.
"Kick their ass, that's what I'd do," Tony said.
"Exactly." Kate got in the car. Tony shook his head in disbelief. Some people took things way too seriously.
"So we'll see you next week," Tony said as Kate climbed out of the car.
"I'll be there," Kate replied. She looked at Gibbs, who didn't say anything. She rolled her eyes. "Thanks for the help, Kate. It was so generous of you to take time out of your vacation to help us. You did a good job." She slammed the door after her sarcastic outburst and stomped up the steps.
"Come on, Gibbs. You couldn't even thank her for helping us?" Tony said.
Gibbs shrugged. "Why? It's her job."
Tony shook his head. "It's her vacation, Gibbs. Usually, vacation means no work. Oh, I forgot--that word probably doesn't exist in your vocabulary, does it?"
"Watch your tone, Dinozzo," Gibbs said in a low voice. Tony rolled his eyes and stared out the window.
Kate reported to work promptly on Monday. She refused to talk to Gibbs unless it was about a case. Gibbs, for his part, did nothing to soothe her ruffled feathers. Tony was really becoming frustrated with the two agents. They couldn't agree on anything.
"It could have been--" Kate started.
"But it wasn't. There's no evidence to support that assumption," Gibbs cut her off.
"What about the prints?" Kate raised her voice.
"They're not clear enough," Gibbs replied.
"Stop!" Tony yelled. The other two agents looked at him in shock. "I'm sick of this! You two are acting like... like... well, I don't know like what! But you're either going to work out whatever the hell is going on, or I'm asking for a transfer!" Tony stared them down angrily. Gibbs and Kate refused to meet each other's eyes.
"That's it." Tony grabbed their arms. "You are going to talk this out."
"Where are we going?" Kate asked.
"Interrogation room. You two can fight it out in there." Tony dragged them to the elevator. Abby followed in amusement. She had never seen him so angry before.
The elevator door opened. Tony stormed down the hallway and threw open a door. "Now you go in there, and you don't come out until this is resolved. Debating a case is one thing. Going for each other's throats is another. We're supposed to be a team."
"Tony?" Kate said before he closed the door on them. "Never grab me like that again. I will take you out."
"Don't give me a reason to, then," Tony said. He slammed the door.
"Wanna watch?" Abby asked, waggling her eyebrows.
"Eavesdrop?" Tony asked, smirking. "Abby, I never knew you had it in you."
"You kidding me? This is better than a soap opera." They slipped into the darkened room adjacent to the interrogation room and watched the drama unfold.
Gibbs and Kate stood at opposite ends of the room. Kate was leaning against the door, her arms folded over her chest in a defensive manner. Gibbs paced the other end, his hands behind his back.
"We should probably invite Ducky down here," Tony grinned.
"I'll go get him." Abby left the room at a brisk jog.
Gibbs spoke first. "You do realize they're probably watching us, don't you?"
Kate nodded and looked directly at the mirror. "Dinozzo, if you're in there, I'm going to rip out your still-beating heart and stick it on a pike," she threatened. Tony blanched.
Gibbs laughed. "That was cold, Agent Todd."
"I'll do the same to you if you call me Agent Todd during this," Kate said, turning to Gibbs. "This isn't NCIS business. It's personal, and you know it."
"It's between two NCIS agents. It's threatening to disrupt the smooth working of the team--"
"It already has disrupted the smooth working of the team!" Kate said. "Why else would Dinozzo drag us down here?"
"Good point, Kate," Tony muttered behind the mirror. Ducky and Abby entered the room. Gerald followed behind them.
"What did we miss?" Ducky asked.
"Kate and Gibbs are arguing over whether this is personal or business," Tony said, never taking his eyes off the glass.
"Personal," Abby and Gerald said in unison.
"--I don't want to hear it, Gibbs!" Kate shouted. "You know this all goes back to my stupid confession!"
"I never said it didn't! But you're the one making a big deal out of it!" Gibbs argued.
"Big deal? Big deal? It is a big deal! No, wait--of course not! My feelings aren't a big deal! My heart breaking every day--that's not important at all! All that's important is that the job gets done!" Kate kicked the table.
"The job is most important! We can't let our personal feelings get in the way!"
"I told you that I wanted a transfer. Why wouldn't you let me?"
"Because running won't solve anything, Kate!"
"I think it would solve a hell of a lot!"
"Like how I feel about you!"
Gibbs sat in a chair. "Look, Kate. You know that romance--"
"Yeah, I know. You've told me plenty of times. 'Romance between agents, Kate. It doesn't work.' Unfortunately, Gibbs, I can't just turn off my feelings as easily as you can."
"Ten bucks says she's in love with him," Gerald said.
"Come on, Ger. That's obvious. Twenty says he's in love with her," Abby chimed in.
"Betting on our colleagues' love lives? Not very professional," Ducky said. Without missing a beat, he added, "I'll take that bet, Abby."
"You think it's easy for me to turn off my feelings, Kate?" Gibbs asked. "I'm not that cold."
Kate snorted. "Please. Other than that smart-assed remark after the emergency blow, I don't think you had any reaction to it."
Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "You want to test that hypothesis?"
"This is not a time to crack jokes, Gibbs! I'm serious! I love you, and you'll never feel the same way about me!" Gibbs went perfectly still.
"Oh, direct hit!" Tony crowed.
"Go for the gold, girl!" Abby grinned.
"He'll never admit it," Ducky said.
"Why do I always have to fall for men that are off-limits?" Kate said, throwing her hands up in the air. "You know what? I give up. You don't want me. Why should I torture myself--" Kate suddenly found herself pressed up against the wall.
"I never said I didn't want you, Kate," Gibbs said, breathing raggedly. "But I was serious when I said that romance between agents never work. I'm living proof of that."
"Don't screw with me, Gibbs," Kate said in a low voice. "I don't think that I could handle it after--" He cut her off with a kiss.
Tony's mouth dropped open in shock. "Gibbs just--he just--" he stuttered. "Gibbs kissed Kate!"
"Ha! Pay up!" Abby exclaimed.
"He never said he loves her, Abby," Gerald interjected. She gave him a look.
"Now I'm really confused," Kate said when they broke apart.
"Me, too," Gibbs agreed.
"If you're that confused, why did you--" He kissed her again. She practically melted into his embrace.
"Would you please stop cutting me off?" Kate said, catching her breath. "You better not be messing with me, Gibbs. Because I really will shoot you."
"I'm not messing with you, Kate. And for God's sake, call me Jethro."
Ducky sighed and reached for his wallet. "I must say, I never saw that one coming," he said, resignedly handing Abby a crisp twenty. She did a short dance of triumph.
"I want a transfer, Jethro," Kate said.
"Approved." She smiled and kissed him. "Where to?" he asked.
"Don't care. Nearby." He spun her around and backed her against the table. Drawing back slightly, he looked into her eyes. "Something wrong?" she asked.
He shook his head. "I still think romance between agents--"
"Doesn't work. I think that's more of a guideline than a solid rule. Now shut up." She pulled his head down for a long, steamy kiss.
Ducky cleared his throat as Gibbs' hand strayed perilously near Kate's breast. "I think it's time to go." He led the way out of the observation room.
"Tony. Come on," Abby said, taking his arm and pulling him away.
"He--she--they--" Tony sputtered. "My eyes. My EYES!" he moaned in pain as Gibbs bent Kate over the table.
"I think it's kinda sweet," Abby said.
"You would," Tony replied. "What the hell just happened?" he asked in bewilderment.
"They're in looooove," Abby grinned. "And I won a bet." She turned off the light and closed the door.