Title: Interrogation

Author: Shannon/Raindrops on Roses

Rating: PG-13
Category: Drama, Romance

Spoilers: Through "Marine Down"

Disclaimer: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al.

Her watch ticked loudly in the small concrete room. Normally, she would have worn her digital watch, but Gibbs had taught her his interrogation methods well. She remained silent, staring at the woman dressed in a wrinkled suit. The woman stared back defiantly, a sneer marring her pretty features.

Kate stood and walked over the door. Clasping her hands behind her back, she gazed out the window, seemingly complacent. Inside, however, she was a mess.

Gibbs had been missing for a week. When he hadn't called in to work on Tuesday, Kate and Tony had become worried. Gibbs was one of the most responsible men Kate knew--even if he was a bit unorthodox at times--and she was certain that he would have called if he could. She had gone to Gibbs' house. Nothing there was out of place. Gibbs' answering machine light had been blinking. When she pressed the button, she discovered that the first message was from his ex-wife--his third one. She had demanded to meet him at a bar in Georgetown. Kate had gotten a gut feeling that something was up.

When she had told Tony her suspicions, he had laughed. When she had told him the state of Gibbs' basement, he took it very seriously. Whoever had kidnapped Gibbs (because she was sure he had been abducted) had completely destroyed the boat he had so diligently been working on. The person obviously wished him emotional damage as well as physical harm.

Kate had gone to the bar the woman had named in the phone message. It was a seedy, rundown place. Kate wasn't sure how much information she would get there, but she spoke to the bartender anyway. To her surprise, he had been the break they needed. The burly man had told her that yes, Gibbs had been there on Saturday night with one of their regulars--a blonde woman who harbored a seething hatred for her ex-husband. His actual words had been, "Crazy bitch comes in here every weekend, gets drunk out of her mind, and starts rantin' 'bout how her husband loved his job more than he loved her. Never leaves a tip, either." He had said that the man couldn't hold his liquor-one drink had nearly incapacitated him. The woman had dragged him out of the bar. He didn't know where they had gone after that.

Kate inspected the woman still seated at the table. She did not appear nervous in the least. Well, Kate would just have to change that.

She returned to her chair. She imagined that, behind the mirror, Tony was becoming impatient. She nodded slightly to the mirror. Gazing directly into the other woman's hazel eyes, she began. "Agent Gregory."

"Agent Gibbs," the woman replied.

Kate forced herself to smile. "It says in your record you changed your name back to your maiden name after your divorce. So it's Agent Gregory. Of course, I could always call you Linda."

"Not if you value your voice," Agent Gregory snarled. Kate nodded, never losing her little smile.

"Very well. Now, Agent Gregory," she stressed, "you have been informed of your rights, have you not?" The woman glared at her stonily. "And you have waived your right to a lawyer?" Kate continued, unfazed. When Agent Gregory still did not answer, Kate said, "Please answer the question, Agent."

"Yes," the woman said through clenched teeth. Kate nodded. She folded her hands on the table and grinned.

"Wonderful. Your cooperation will not go unnoted." Agent Gregory grunted. "You're not very talkative, are you?"

"Agent... Todd, was it?" When Kate nodded, Gregory continued. "I've done my share of interrogations. I know all the little tricks. I worked with Agent Gibbs," she spat the name like a curse, "for five years. As much as I hate the bastard, he was one of the best."

"Was?" Kate raised an eyebrow coolly, but the butterflies in her stomach suddenly became elephants.

"I think you could give him a run for his money," Gregory said, smiling poisonously.

Kate raised an eyebrow. "Flattery. One of the best ways to get information from a suspect."

"No. I've seen you working as well, Agent Todd. You can rein in my ex-husband like I never could."

Kate was becoming very uneasy with this. The tables were turning, and she had to get back in control. "Agent Gregory, I don't think this is relevant to the case." She cut to the chase. "Where is he?"

"Where is who?" Gregory asked innocently, hazel eyes wide.

Kate bit back a scream. "Where is Agent Gibbs?" she asked patiently.

"I have no idea what you're talking about." Kate deliberately relaxed her body. Her face never left Gregory's.

"You were the last one to see him before his disappearance. The bartender at that bar in Georgetown said that you dragged him out, drunk." Kate dropped the friendly act. "But he wasn't drunk, was he? He was drugged."

"I have no clue what you're gibbering about." Agent Gregory tossed her long mane of hair disdainfully.

Kate raised an eyebrow and smirked. "I've seen Agent Gibbs drink before. He was never knocked out by one glass of scotch. So either he was drinking before he left to meet you, or he was drugged. Gibbs would never drink and drive, and he would certainly want a clear head before dealing with any of his ex-wives." Kate paused. "Also... your fingerprints were found all over his basement. You really ought to have worn gloves while trashing his basement. Very sloppy work, Agent."

The woman snorted indelicately. "You think you can pin this on me?"

"I'm not pinning anything on you, Agent Gregory. Because you did it. Now, I'm only going to give you one more chance. Where. Is. He?"

The other agent looked at Kate, who could see a flash of fear in her eyes before it was covered up by a sneer. "Even if I did know, what makes you think I would tell you?"

"Because if you don't..." Kate leaned in and lowered her voice so that the recording wouldn't pick it up, "...I will personally make your life a living hell."

Gregory laughed derisively. "You don't have the clout to do that." However, a spark of nervousness flashed in her eyes.

Kate bared her teeth in a feral grin. "Do you know who my father is, Agent Gregory?" A look of shock crossed the other agent's face as she connected the dots.

"No..." she breathed.

Kate nodded. "That's right. Your license to practice could be revoked at any time. And you couldn't do a damn thing about it."

"That's blackmail!"

"No," Kate shook her head. "It's a bargain. One man's life for your livelihood."

Gregory leaned back in her chair. She narrowed her eyes. Kate could practically see her calculating her odds of getting out of the room unscathed. "You're in love with him," she said suddenly.

Kate blinked, nonplussed for a moment. "Pardon me?"

"You're in love with Agent Gibbs." A sly smile crossed the agent's face. "That's why you're so determined to find him. You are head over heels for the man."

Kate regained her composure. "That's ridiculous," she scoffed.

"I don't blame you in the least, Kate. Can I call you Kate? After all, I was once in love with the man myself." She leaned in as if to share a juicy secret. "Just remember... Agent Gibbs loves nothing but his job. And that stupid boat."

"That you destroyed?" Kate snapped.

"He needed to learn his lesson." Kate struggled to hide her anger, but it came through. Gregory laughed. "You're so obvious. Tell you what... I'll help you find Agent Gibbs. You can experience firsthand what it's like to be in love with a man who will never give you a second glance."

"Where is he?"

Gregory reached out and plucked a pen from the table. She scribbled an address on a piece of scrap paper. "Here you go. He's in the basement. You may want an EMT or two on hand when you find him." She smiled mockingly as Kate's fists tightened on the table. "After all, you don't want to get back broken merchandise, do you?"

Kate stood and walked around the table. She leaned in until they were practically nose-to-nose. "You listen up, and listen good," she growled. "If Agent Gibbs is injured in any way--if one hair on his head is out of place--I will come after you. No one will be able to fix you up after I'm done with you. Remember that."

"You're protective of the people you love, aren't you?" Gregory said. She tried to sound amused, but her voice trembled.

"Extremely. It's too bad you're a psychopath--you're a pretty good agent." Kate stalked out of the room, not watching as the guards removed the suspect.


Kate pulled to a screeching halt in front of the two-story Victorian. "Jeez, Kate, trying to give me whiplash?" Tony complained as they rushed up the steps.

"Shut up, Tony," Kate snapped. "I'm in no mood for your jokes." She shoved the door open and entered the house cautiously, her weapon at the ready. She crept through the house, searching each room for any sign of Gibbs.

"Kate!" Tony called. She hurried to the second floor, taking the stairs two at a time.

"Tony? Where are you?" she called.

"Up here!" Kate saw a ladder leading into a trap door in the ceiling. She climbed into the dusty attic.

"Oh, my God," she breathed. She dropped to her knees beside Gibbs. "Get an ambulance here, now!" She carefully tore the tape away from Gibbs' mouth, then removed the blindfold. His head flopped to the side lifelessly. His hair was matted with dried blood. Swallowing her fear, she took his pulse. It was weak, but it was there. Breathing a prayer of thanks, Kate worked on unbinding his arms and legs from the chair.

"Come on, Gibbs. Wake up. Don't you give up on me," Kate muttered.

"Kate. We shouldn't move him." Kate looked up at Tony, whose usually cheerful expression was one of worry and fear. She nearly smacked herself. His ribs were probably broken--she could have punctured a lung.

"What the hell did she do to him?" Kate said, rage building inside of her. She heard the ambulance approaching.

"She worked him up pretty good," Tony said, adopting a more professional air. Professional for Tony, at least. "Baseball bat?"

"Pistol-whipped." Kate pointed to a nearby nightstand, which was the only dust-free item in the attic. The open drawer contained a gun covered in blood. "I'll kill her," she growled. The front door opened.

"Only if I get to help," Tony replied, a violent light in his eyes. "Up here!" he yelled to the EMTs dragging a stretcher into the house.

Two EMTs climbed the ladder and surveyed the scene with a detached air. "Careful, Jim," the first said. "Don't want to injure him any more than necessary."

"Hey, I may be new, but I'm not stupid," the other replied.

"Good, because I think that our friends here would gladly beat the shit out of you if you were." Kate and Tony nodded.

"Where to?" one asked.

"Wherever's closest," Kate replied.

"You wanna ride with him?" Tony asked quietly as they climbed out of the attic. Kate gave him a grateful look.

"You don't mind?" she asked.

"Not at all. After all, you're in love with him, aren't you?" Tony grinned. Kate scowled.

"Don't start with me, Dinozzo. I'm in a really bad mood right now."

"Hey, don't worry about it, Kate," Tony replied. "My lips are sealed." Kate nodded as she climbed into the back of the ambulance. "At least until Gibbs wakes up." She opened her mouth to yell at him, but the doors closed. She turned her attention to the unconscious man on the stretcher.

"Ma'am?" the young EMT said nervously. Kate looked at him impassively. "He'll be okay, ma'am." She shook her head at the young man.

"You don't know that," she said quietly.

"Can I do anything for you, ma'am?"

She looked at him. His eyes were honest. He was obviously spooked by the severity of Gibbs' injuries. "Pray for him."


Kate paced the waiting room. She couldn't sit still. Gibbs was in surgery. His ribs had been badly broken. His left leg had been nearly shattered. His right shoulder had been dislocated. His jaw had been broken. He had been hit on the head repeatedly--fortunately, the doctors believed there would be no lasting damage. Kate smirked half-heartedly. Gibbs' hardheadedness had been useful, after all.

"Is he out yet?" a soft voice asked. Kate turned to see Abby and Tony standing behind her. She shook her head wordlessly.

"Ducky's on his way," Tony said. Kate nodded and stopped pacing. She sat down in a hard plastic chair. She placed her head in her hands, pressing the heels of her hands into her eyes.

"I wasted so much time," she whispered.

"What do you mean, Kate?" Abby asked gently.

"Talking to that woman," Kate spat. "I spent too much time. I should have just asked her. She was all too willing to tell me. She practically laughed in my face."

"You couldn't have known, Kate. She was... well, she was nuts," Tony said.

Kate shook her head. "No. She was perfectly sane. She knew what she was doing. You heard her," she said, looking at Tony. Her face twisted into a pained mockery of her usual smile. "He had to learn a lesson." Even now, the words made Kate physically ill.

"Excuse me," a voice interrupted. "Which one of you is Agent Gibbs' next of kin?" They turned to see a doctor waiting.

"I am, doctor," a familiar voice said, running up to them.

The surgeon nodded. "Would you like to...?" he gestured to an empty spot.

Ducky shook his head. "No. Tell us all, please."

"Very well. Agent Gibbs is stable at the moment. He is still unconscious, but we hope he will be waking up within the next day or so. We were able to fix his ribs. Fortunately, his lungs were not punctured, which is a minor miracle. His leg was a bit more trouble. He'll have to have pins to hold it together. He'll also be in a cast for the next eight weeks."

"He will not be happy to be riding a desk," Tony murmured.

"We had to wire his jaw shut. He'll be eating liquids for a while," the doctor continued. "Agent Gibbs is a lucky man. If he hadn't been found so quickly, he may have bled out."

"Yeah. Lucky," Kate muttered.

"Would you like to see him now?" the surgeon asked.

"Please," Ducky said.

"Room 114. Two at a time, please--and for no more than ten minutes." Ducky nodded.

"Thank you, doctor." The doctor nodded and left the room. The four sighed in relief.

"So--who wants to see him first?" Ducky said. They looked at each other.

"You and Abby can go, Duck," Tony volunteered. "I think Kate and I need to have a little chat." Kate glared at him. Abby and Ducky left to visit Gibbs.

"C'mon, Kate, sit down." Tony patted a chair, and Kate sighed and sat. "Before you say anything, Kate--no, I won't tell Gibbs about what happened in the interrogation room." Kate smiled in relief. Her smile disappeared when Tony continued, "I'll leave that to you."

"I'm not telling him anything, Tony. It's not important," Kate said.

"Are you in love with him?" Tony asked. "Because I think that's pretty damn important."

Kate shook her head and pinched the bridge of her nose. "It doesn't matter, Tony. You heard Gregory. He's in love with his job."

"Ah." Tony nodded. "So you're going to listen to the jealous rantings of an ex-wife?"

Kate snorted. "It's kinda obvious, even without her saying it, Tony."

"I think you should tell him."

"I think that it would give him a heart attack."

"Probably. But hey, he can handle it." Tony grinned and stood. "You want something to drink?" Kate shook her head. "Suit yourself. You can have my ten minutes too, okay? Just let me know how it goes." He headed for the cafeteria.


Kate entered the room silently. She bit back a gasp. Gibbs looked like one big bruise. What wasn't garishly purple was stark white. They had managed to clean most of the blood out of his hair. His eyes were shut, and he was sleeping peacefully, probably assisted by the painkillers flowing through his bloodstream.

Kate sat in the chair on the right side of the bed. She reached out and touched Gibbs' hand. It was cold as ice.

"Hey, Gibbs," she said quietly. "I know you probably can't hear me. They've got you on some pretty good stuff." She smiled slightly. "You scared me to death this past week, Gibbs. We had no idea where you were. I'm still thanking my lucky stars we found you alive." She fell silent, listening to the constant, reassuring beep of the monitors he was hooked up to. She gripped his hand fiercely. "Don't you ever scare me like that again, Leroy Jethro Gibbs," she whispered. "I thought we were never going to find you. You'll be up and back to work in no time. Anything less is unacceptable, you got that, Agent Gibbs?" He didn't move. "Stubborn. Hard-headed." She chuckled. "That's pretty much what saved you. I suppose I shouldn't complain about it after this. But we both know I will." She stood and reached out. She brushed a lock of hair away from his eyes. She hesitated. Finally, she leaned over and pressed a soft kiss to his forehead. "I'll be back soon." She left the room. A redheaded woman was waiting outside the door. Kate nodded, suppressing her curiosity for the time being.


Kate took a cab home. She showered and changed. After grabbing a quick sandwich, she hurried back to the hospital. The redheaded woman was still there, sleeping in the waiting room. She stirred as Kate took a seat a few chairs away from her.

"Hello," the woman said in a husky voice. "You were here for Jethro earlier, weren't you?"

"Yeah. Kate Todd," she said, holding her hand out to the woman, who shook it. "I work with Agent Gibbs."

"Rachel Perry. A sister," she said to Kate's questioning look.

"A sister?" Kate asked.

The woman nodded, smiling slightly. "Yes. There are four of us. Jethro is the oldest."

"Ah." Kate nodded. "He does have that big-brother overprotective thing down," she said. Rachel laughed.

"Oh, yes, he does," she replied. "Jethro's always been protective of the ones he loves." She gave Kate an odd look. Kate shifted uncomfortably. "My brother talks about you a lot," she said.

"Really? He doesn't talk about you at all, I'm afraid." Kate smiled. "He's a very private man."

Rachel nodded. "I can never get him to talk about his work. But whenever I see him, it's always, 'Kate this,' and 'Kate that.'" Kate blushed.

"For some reason, I don't see Gibbs talking like a teenager about me," she said.

Rachel shook her head. "Not like a teenager at all. Jethro respects you immensely. He says you'll make 'one hell of an agent someday,' and that's a direct quote, by the way." Kate blushed again.

Two women walked down the hall toward them. "Kate, this is Julie and Erica," Rachel said. "Jules, Erica, this is Kate Todd."

"Kate? The Kate?" Erica said. Rachel nodded. Erica threw her arms around Kate, who stood in shock. "Thank you for finding our brother," she said. "I don't know how we can repay you."

"Don't worry about it. NCIS just wouldn't be the same without Agent Gibbs." Kate smiled.

Julie was a bit more reserved. Actually, she was downright hostile. "Don't go getting any ideas about Jethro," she said. "He's already been hurt three times. He doesn't need another woman breaking his heart."

Kate's jaw dropped. "I wasn't thinking anything like that! And I do not like your tone of voice," she added. "Agent Gibbs is a respected colleague. Nothing more."

"Julia Catherine!" Rachel scolded. "You shouldn't say things like that! Besides, you know that Jethro is a grown man. He can make his own decisions."

"Not when it comes to a beautiful woman," Julia said snidely.

"Julie..." Rachel warned.

"Sorry." She didn't sound sorry at all. She glared daggers at Kate.

"Come on, Agent Todd," Rachel said, staring down her younger sister. "Let's go check on my brother." She practically dragged Kate away. "Don't mind Julia," she said quietly. "She's just been itching for a fight since her divorce."

Kate nodded. "She doesn't like me very much, does she?"

Rachel laughed. "She didn't like Miranda, Elizabeth, or Linda either. Jethro's ex-wives," she said to Kate's confused look. "She just doesn't seem to understand that Jethro can make his own decisions."

"I don't understand why she's so hostile toward me, though," Kate said, shaking her head. "I mean, I'm no threat." Rachel smiled, but didn't respond. She pushed open the door to Gibbs' room.

His appearance came as less of a shock this time, but Kate still winced. Rachel gave her an understanding glance. She stepped up to Gibbs' bed. "Hey, Jethro," she murmured, brushing a kiss on his forehead. She stood back so Kate could greet him as well.

Kate squeezed his hand. "Hi, Gibbs. You still not awake? Too bad. I have another installment in the 'Anthony Dinozzo Rejection' series," she teased lightly. She heard a slight laugh behind her and turned.

"He loves your drawings, you know. Though he is curious as what you drew of him." Rachel winked.

"Well, if he wakes up anytime soon, maybe I'll show him." She grinned.

"Ooh, a bribe. I think he'll like that," Rachel said. The two women watched the unconscious man in silence. "I'm going to run for some coffee. Want some?" Rachel asked.

Kate shook her head. "I'm good, thanks," she replied, her eyes never leaving Gibbs.

"Okay," Rachel said. She left the room. Kate sat in the chair.

"You are one stubborn bastard, you know that?" she asked. "We're all impatient for you to wake up, so you won't. Is that how it goes?" She tried to keep her voice light, but an undertone of fear ran through it. She picked up his hand and kissed it. "You know, Gibbs, I was the one who had to interrogate Linda. She was one twisted woman." Kate shook her head. "But she saw things that no one else has noticed. Probably part of being a psychologist." She cleared her throat. "Anyway. I kinda... um... threatened her. She was laughing about your disappearance, and I lost it. I showed my hand. Not a good thing, huh?" Kate tried to smile. "You know what she said? She said I was in love with you." Kate jumped. "Gibbs? You awake?" No response. She supposed she had imagined his hand clenching in hers. "No hurry, then. I probably ought to shut up now, anyway. If I continue, one of your sisters is going to run in here and wallop me. Julie doesn't like me much. She thinks I'm a threat to your emotional well-being." Kate sighed. "So did Agent Gregory. But she seemed to think that you were more likely to break my heart." Kate fell silent for a moment, then whispered, "I'm beginning to wonder which one of them is right."

Kate felt a tug on her wrist. She looked up. Gibbs stared at her, his brilliant blue eyes boring into hers. She blanched. "You're awake," she said, trying to smile. "Let me go get the others." A strong hand kept her in place. "You don't want me to go?" He shook his head, obviously frustrated by his inability to speak. "I need to get the doctor." He pointed to the call button. Kate smiled and pressed it. "Stubborn." His eyes sparkled in agreement. Kate imagined that he would be smirking smugly if he could.

A nurse entered the room. "Agent Gibbs! You're awake! Let me go get the doctor." She scurried off, and three women entered the room.

"Jethro!" Erica cried, hurrying toward him. "You're up!" She was about to throw her arms around him when she remembered. She settled for a peck on the cheek. Julie did the same, glaring at Kate the entire time. She subsided at a look from her brother.

The doctor came in. "Hello, Agent Gibbs. It's nice to finally meet you. I'm Dr. Oliver. If you ladies would please step outside for a moment?" The women nodded and backed away. Gibbs' hand tightened on Kate's again.

"I'll be right back in, Gibbs. The doctor needs to examine you. I'm fairly certain you don't want me here for that." Kate blushed as Gibbs' eyebrow went up as if to say, 'Wanna bet?' He loosened his grip, and she left with the others.

Julie and Kate looked at each other tensely. Kate made the opening gambit. "I don't know why he was so insistent on me being there--but I'm not apologizing," she said, raising her head. Rachel and Erica stood by, ready to intervene if necessary.

"I warned you, Todd. You hurt my brother, you deal with me." Julie's eyes glinted with an anger that reminded Kate of her own when she had spoken to Agent Gregory.

"It's Agent Todd to you, Ms. Gibbs. And I have no intention to hurt your brother in any way. If he wants me in there, I will stay. If he wants me to go, I will leave. But I will not let you chase me away."

Julie got in Kate's personal space. Kate was not intimidated--after interrogating six-foot-four Marines, she wasn't going to back down from this woman. "That's Dr. Gibbs. And leave my brother alone," the pudgy redhead growled.

"No," Kate replied in the same tone of voice.

"I'll take you down, Todd."

"Name the time and place, and I'll be there," Kate snarled. This woman really got her hackles up.

"Well, the testosterone is certainly flying here. Or should I say the estrogen?" an amused voice drawled. Kate and Julie looked over to see Tony Dinozzo leaning against the wall, watching the two women argue.

Kate rolled her eyes. "Dinozzo, do you always have to be an ass?"

"Only when you are, Katie, my girl," Tony said cheerfully.

"For the last time, don't call me Katie!" she said in exasperation.

"Why not? Gibbs does." He flashed a charming grin at the other women. "Hello. It's nice to meet you," he said, holding out a hand. "Anthony Dinozzo. I work with Agents Gibbs and Todd."

Julie took his hand first, obviously distrustful. "Julie Gibbs."

"May I buy you a coffee, Ms. Gibbs?" Tony asked, smiling again.

"Dr. Gibbs," she replied.

"I apologize, doctor. May I buy you a coffee, Dr. Gibbs?" Julie, while still suspicious, also appeared flattered by the attention. She smiled slightly and took Tony's arm.

Rachel and Erica breathed sighs of relief as the two walked away. Kate just stared in shock. Tony's relentless flirting had actually been useful for a change.


"Shh--he's sleeping again," Rachel whispered as they reentered the room. The three women gazed down at the sleeping man.

"He looks so peaceful," Erica said wistfully. "He never looks like that when he's awake." Kate had to agree. While awake, Gibbs was ever alert. Not that it was a bad thing--his intensity was one of the most attractive things about him.

Kate tilted her head to one side as she looked at him. What had made him even consider meeting Linda? Why hadn't he called for someone to accompany him? He knew about her violent temper. Kate shook her head minutely. Gibbs was too independent to ever admit he needed anyone's help. Stubborn, proud, insufferable man. She was startled by a soft chuckle.

"That he is, Kate," Rachel said.

Kate blushed. "Oh, God--I said that out loud?"

"Yes. But it's true. Jethro is one of the most stubborn men I know. It takes a special kind of person to be able to handle him." Rachel gave her another strange look. Kate looked away.

Gibbs' eyes fluttered open. He looked around the room sleepily. His face practically lit up when his gaze landed on Kate. She assumed that it was the drugs that let him drop his guard so easily.

"Awake again, Jethro?" Rachel said lightly. "You certainly like your sleep, don't you?" She and Erica grinned at each other when Gibbs scowled. "Oh, poor baby can't talk. How sad." He made a scribbling gesture in the air.

Kate took pity on him and handed him a notepad and a pen. 'Thanks, Kate,' he wrote quickly. She smiled.

"No problem," she said.

He looked directly at her. 'No. Thank you. For Linda. And... you know.'

Kate swallowed. "You heard me?" He nodded. "Oh, God," she said, burying her face in her hands. He tugged them down and pointed to the pad.

'Why are you so embarrassed?'

"Gibbs..." A look of irritation flashed over his face. He picked up the pen and wrote in broad strokes.

'You saved my life. Call me Jethro already.'

Kate nodded. "Jethro... I don't know what to say."

'What did you say to Linda?' he wrote. He raised an eyebrow.

Kate reddened. "Um... well, first I threatened to have her license revoked if she didn't tell us where you were."

'Kate, I never took you for someone who manipulated the system.'

"Time was running out, Gibbs. Jethro. I did what I had to do."

'And then?'

"Well, after she finally gave us your location... I... uh..." She looked away. When she looked back, Gibbs was still staring at her. She swallowed. "I told her that if you were hurt in any way, I would go after her." She looked down at her hands. She hadn't realized how territorial that sounded until just then.

He lifted a hand and stroked her cheek. Kate blinked at the display of affection. She gazed into his dazzling blue eyes, mesmerized. She had never known exactly how expressive those eyes could be. She frowned as his brow furrowed. "What is it?" she asked worriedly.

He picked up the pen. 'Kate, I' he wrote hesitantly.

Kate stilled his hand. "Don't say anything you may regret, Jethro," she whispered. "Besides, Julie will kill me. She thinks I plan on breaking your heart."

Gibbs' eyes twinkled with merriment. 'Nah. She'll just rough you up a bit.'

Kate laughed. "Well, I'm glad you find that so amusing!"

'Hey, you can hold your own against her.'

Kate shook her head. "I don't know why I put up with you," she scowled, trying to hide a grin.

'Ah, you know you love me.'

Kate bit her lip and looked away. A gentle hand lifted her chin. Questioning eyes met hers. Kate swallowed. Turning her head, she kissed his palm. No words were needed.

Twin sighs sounded in the room. "How romantic," Erica cooed. Gibbs glared at her. Kate turned. She had forgotten that Rachel and Erica were still there.

"That has to be the sweetest thing I've ever seen," Rachel added. "Come on. Let's leave the two lovebirds alone." She winked and pulled Erica out of the room.

Kate laughed and shook her head. "Are they always like that?" Gibbs shook his head and rolled his eyes.

'No. They're worse. They're going easy on me because I'm an invalid. I'm sorry about that, Kate.'

"Never say you're sorry," Kate murmured.

'Okay. I won't.'

"Brat," she said, wrinkling her nose at him. His eyes became serious.

'Do you love me?'

"I..." Kate started. His eyes never left hers. She nodded.

'Good.' His eyes closed.

"Why don't you get some more sleep now?" Kate said, standing. She turned away. She took not three steps before getting hit in the back with something. She whirled around. Looking down, she saw the notepad on the floor.

'What? No kiss this time?' Her head snapped up. She glared at the man in the bed. She knew that if he could, he would be grinning unrepentantly.

"You really are a brat, aren't you?" She leaned over and kissed his forehead. "Go to sleep." He nodded and closed his eyes again. She shook her head fondly and left the room.