Title: Reassurances

Author: Shannon/Raindrops on Roses

Rating: PG
Category: Episode Reaction

Spoilers: "Left For Dead"

Disclaimer: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No infringement is intended.

Author's Note: Sequel to "Worries".


"She's not answering her phone," Tony said, flipping his cell phone shut. Gibbs nodded, but didn't reply. "Do you think we're doing the right thing, going over there?"

Gibbs shrugged. "I think she probably wants to be alone, but if it makes you feel better..."

"You know, Gibbs, you can be a real bastard sometimes," Tony said, annoyed by his companion's seeming nonchalance. Gibbs just smirked. "I think that even if we just sit there, she'll feel better. Well, not better, but at least she'll realize we don't hate her."

"You're rambling, Dinozzo," Gibbs interrupted.

Tony grinned. "Yeah. Just... don't say to Kate what you said to Viv, okay? I think she's been traumatized enough tonight."

"Kate didn't get me almost killed out of sheer stupidity," Gibbs said, pulling into a parking space. Tony assumed that he was agreeing to his request.

They walked up to the entrance to the building in silence. Tony reached out and pressed the buzzer to Kate's apartment. They waited for a few minutes, but there was no response. Tony pressed the button again.

"Can I help you?" a quiet voice answered. Tony smiled slightly. Even when she was upset, Kate was polite. He was sure that she would drop the politeness as soon as she realized who it was.

"Kate, it's us. Let us up," Tony said.

"Go away. It's three o'clock in the morning," Kate replied.

"But you're not sleeping, are you?" Her silence affirmed his suspicion. "Come on, Kate, it's cold out here."

"I don't care. Go away."

"Agent Todd," Gibbs said, "we are not leaving until we see that you're all right. Now let us up before we get arrested for loitering." Tony snuck a glance at Gibbs. His face was his usual mask... but after two years, Tony had grown used to reading Gibbs' moods. This one was a mixture of annoyance and worry. Tony hid a smile. The door buzzed, and Gibbs opened it. They climbed the stairs to Kate's floor. Tony knocked on the door. It swung open, revealing a darkened apartment. Kate walked back to the couch and curled into a ball.

"What do you want?" she asked dully.

"Kate..." Tony sat next to her on the couch. She avoided his eyes. "Did you even bother to change when you got home?"

"What does it matter?" She rested her head against the back of the couch.

Tony and Gibbs exchanged a look. "Agent Todd!" Gibbs barked. Both Kate and Tony jumped at his tone. Tony glared at Gibbs, who suppressed a smirk. "You will take a shower and get changed. When you are finished, you will eat something. Then you will talk to us."

"Or what?" Wonderful. Now they had to deal with belligerent Kate. At least it was better than depressed Kate.

"Or we will hold you down in the shower, change you like a child, and force food down your throat," Gibbs threatened.

Kate stood up. "How dare you walk in here and order me around my own apartment!" She swayed slightly.

"Kate, we're only worried about you," Tony said, trying to placate her. "Please?"

Kate sighed. "Fine." She stomped into her bedroom. They heard drawers open and shut. She returned to the living room, glared at the two men, and walked into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her.

"Well, that went better than I expected," Tony said.

Gibbs grunted. "I wonder what she has to eat around here?" He wandered into the kitchen. Tony shook his head.

Fifteen minutes later, Tony was wondering whether Kate had drowned in the shower. Finally, the water stopped running. Kate stepped out of the bathroom, wearing a basketball jersey and a pair of sweatpants. Her hair lay in limp strands on her shoulders. She returned to her place on the couch.

Gibbs walked into the living room and plunked a plate down onto the table. "Eat," he said, gesturing to the sandwich.

"I'm not hungry," she said petulantly.

"Did I ask if you were hungry, Agent Todd?" Gibbs raised an eyebrow. Kate glared at him. Tony hid his amusement as the two started a staring contest. Finally, Kate relented, picking up half of the sandwich and tearing a small piece off. She popped it into her mouth and chewed slowly. Gibbs and Tony watched her closely.

"Do you mind?" she said after she swallowed.

"Not at all," Gibbs replied.

"Bastard," she muttered halfheartedly. Gibbs grinned as if this were the greatest compliment he had ever received.

She finished half the sandwich, then pushed the plate away. The men did not insist she finish the sandwich. "What do you want?" Kate asked.

"Kate... are you okay?" Tony asked softly.

Kate looked up at him. She looked startled, then laughed bitterly. "You're asking me if I'm okay? I almost got you killed!"

"Ah, but you didn't," Tony said, trying to inject a bit of humor into the situation. By the look on Kate's face, it didn't work. "Look, Kate," Tony changed tactic, "you made a mistake. We understand that you made a mistake. It's not the end of the world."

"You screwed up; you move on," Gibbs added.

"Move on? Move on?" Kate said. Gibbs and Tony exchanged another glance. The last thing they wanted was for belligerent Kate to turn into hysterical Kate. "You want me to move on? Two people are dead--because of me. Two others are injured--because of me. I nearly screwed up an entire investigation because I got attached to the victim--who didn't turn out to be a victim so much as a suspect. God! How can you not hate me?"

Tony reached out and took Kate's hand. "Because you're our partner... and our friend," he replied quietly. Kate's shoulders began to shake. She gripped Tony's hand. Tony looked at Gibbs helplessly. Gibbs shrugged his shoulders, as clueless as Tony. When the tears began to trickle down Kate's face, Tony hesitantly put an arm around her shoulders. She leaned into him and grasped the front of his shirt. She finally released the tears she had been suppressing.

Tony shot Gibbs a glare, as if to say, 'Help me out here, would you?' Gibbs rolled his eyes and sat on the other side of Kate. He wrapped his arms around her and began shushing her. "Kate, it's okay. We're all here, and we're all fine. We'll be right back at work in the morning." She only cried harder. "Hey. Hey. Calm down. We don't blame you," he murmured. "We don't hate you. But I may just have to yell at you if you ruin my shirt." Kate gave a watery laugh, and Gibbs smiled. "See? It's not so bad. If anything, you've learned an important lesson."

"Oh, I knew I shouldn't get too attached to the victims. In theory, that's a great idea. But in practice... I didn't know it would be so hard." She sniffled.

Tony handed her a tissue. "I'm not going to lie to you, Kate," Tony said. "There will still be cases that get under your skin. But over time, it will get easier to distance yourself."

Kate tried to smile. "Thanks, Tony. Thanks... both of you." She sighed and closed her red, swollen eyes.

"You going to be okay?" Tony asked.

"Tonight? No. And I still feel guilty. But at least I know that you don't think I'm a complete idiot. Though you probably think I'm a weak fool."

"Kate," Tony said, eyes flashing, "if anyone's a fool here, it's Suzanne McNeil. She's the one who killed herself because her lover rejected her. And I'm sure anyone who called you weak would be at the wrong end of a Sig Sauer before they could apologize." Kate snorted. "Did you do something stupid? Yes." Kate's eyes filled with tears again, and Tony continued, "But does that make you a stupid person? No. Understand?" Kate nodded and took a shuddering breath. "Good. Try and get some sleep, okay?" Tony stood and started toward the door, where Gibbs was already waiting.

"Could you...?" Kate said quietly. Tony turned around. "Never mind," she muttered, flushing with embarrassment.

Tony looked at Gibbs, a question in his eyes. The older man nodded. Tony turned back to Kate. "Do you want us to stay?" he asked.

"Forget it," Kate replied, biting her lip.

"Answer the question, Kate. Do you want us to stay?" Gibbs asked impatiently, but not unkindly.

Kate nodded. "Please?" Tony was struck by how vulnerable she sounded at that moment. He hung his jacket back up. Gibbs slid his off and placed it beside Tony's. They rejoined her on the couch. Tony rubbed Kate's back, while Kate rested her head on Gibbs' shoulder. She relaxed for the first time since she had gotten home.

"If I had known you were finally going to invite me to sleep with you, I would've been more prepared," Tony grinned. Kate opened her eyes and glared. The blow to his arm wasn't entirely unexpected.