Title: Since Feeling is First
Author: Shannon/Raindrops on Roses
Category: Romance, Crossover (JAG/NCIS)
Disclaimer: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No copyright infringement is intended. "since feeling is first" belongs to e.e. cummings.
Author's Note: This was my entry for the 2004 Chaz Awards--Other Romance and Challenge categories. The challenge this year was to incorporate an NCIS character into a JAG storyline. This tied for first place in the Challenge category.
since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world
my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
--the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says
we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph
and death i think is no parenthesis
--"since feeling is first", e.e. cummings
Kate Todd sat on a bench and smiled. It was a gorgeous April day, and she got to spend part of it on the Mall. She took a deep breath, enjoying the scent of the cherry blossoms.
People-watching was one of Kate's favorite pastimes. She loved watching and interpreting the interactions of the people walking by. Perhaps that was why she enjoyed profiling so much.
"Jeffrey, get over here!" a woman huffed. Kate watched as she dragged a redheaded boy back to a group of tourists.
"But, Mom..." the child whined.
"How many times have I told you? Stay with the group! I don't want you getting lost!"
"Yes, Mother," Jeffrey said in a sullen voice.
Kate shook her head. Her nephew--okay, her cousin's son--was just like that.
She watched a couple of rollerbladers for a while, munching on her salad. She couldn't remember the last time she had been rollerblading. Hell, she couldn't even remember if she still owned rollerblades. NCIS took up too much of her time.
Kate's cell phone rang, and she sighed. Standing, she pulled the phone out of her pocket and flipped it open. "Hello?" she answered, making her way to a nearby trashcan.
"Hiya, Kate!" the voice of Tony Dinozzo said cheerfully. Kate suppressed a groan.
"What do you want, Tony?" she said patiently. She tossed her container into the trashcan and started toward her car.
"Ah, Gibbs is wondering why you're not back from lunch yet," her colleague replied.
"I haven't even been gone for half an hour!" Kate exclaimed.
"Hey, I'm not the boss."
"Whatever, Tony," she sighed. "I'll be there as soon as possible." She turned off the phone and stuck it back in her pocket. She sighed. At least she had gotten a lunch break.
Suddenly, two small children ran past her. She tried to quickly get out of their path. Unfortunately, she couldn't see where she was stepping. She missed a step and fell, crying out as a sharp pain tore through her leg.
She gritted her teeth as she pushed herself up from the ground. Her cheeks flamed with embarrassment. She was the epitome of grace.
"Ma'am, are you all right?" a concerned voice asked.
"Fine--I'm fine," she muttered, trying to stand. She gasped and stumbled as she put weight on her right ankle. A pair of large, warm hands caught her arms before she went down again.
"You're not all right, ma'am," the voice said firmly. "You need to see a doctor."
"No! I just need to sit down for a bit." She hobbled over to the steps and plopped down.
"Women. Ma'am, your ankle is probably sprained. You need to see a doctor," the man repeated in exasperation.
Kate looked up and caught sight of her "rescuer". She closed her eyes and groaned. She resisted the urge to curse and said, "Admiral, I really need to get back to work. I don't have time to see a doctor."
"Then you make time," the admiral said, crossing his arms. He glared down at her. Kate glared back. Seven months of working with Gibbs had made her immune to that tactic.
"And if I don't?"
"Then I will carry you there. But you do have to see a doctor." God, this man was stubborn! But then, he wouldn't be an admiral if he weren't.
Kate curbed her automatic sarcastic response. She looked up at the admiral and studied him for a moment. He was tall--maybe six-three. He was highly decorated, she could see by the ribbons on his chest. He had a very commanding presence. She looked further--and closed her eyes again. He was a two-star. And he was wearing JAG insignia.
Gibbs was going to kill her. Or laugh. She could never really tell what that man's reaction would be.
"Admiral, I appreciate your concern. I'll make you a deal." His brown eyes locked on hers, and she swallowed. "If you get me back to NCIS headquarters, I'll have someone patch me up enough to survive until I get off work."
He studied her. His gaze fixed on the gun holster on her hip. "You're NCIS?"
"Special Agent Kate Todd," she replied. "It's nice to meet you, Admiral Chegwidden." She held out a hand.
He reached down and pulled her up. He slipped an arm around her waist. "You have a deal, Agent Todd." He didn't even seem fazed that she knew his name. But then, this was Washington. Everyone knew everyone else in this town--or at least knew someone who knew someone.
God, Kate thought through her pain, she was beginning to sound like Tony.
Kate turned to her impromptu chauffeur and smiled. "Thank you for the ride, Admiral."
He gave her a half-grin. "Couldn't have Agent Gibbs come after me, now could I?"
"Oh, I think you could hold your own," Kate laughed. She lowered her voice and said playfully, "But don't tell him I said that."
"Don't worry," AJ returned, a mischievous look in his eyes. "Your secret's safe with me." He climbed out of the Escalade and walked around to open Kate's door. Kate started to ease out of the vehicle. AJ grasped her around the waist and helped her to the ground.
Kate's breath caught in her throat as AJ pulled her flush against his chest. She licked her suddenly dry lips and tried to avoid his piercing gaze.
"So where are we headed?" AJ asked, supporting Kate enough so that she could limp toward the front door.
"Uh... downstairs. To autopsy."
AJ raised an eyebrow. "Autopsy?"
Kate shrugged. "I'll have the ME bandage my ankle enough to walk, then I'll take a cab to the doctor's office after work."
"I have a better idea." Kate looked up at AJ expectantly. "Why don't I pick you up?"
"Oh, Admiral, I don't want you to go out of your way--"
"It's not," AJ interrupted. "Besides," he said, smirking, "this way I'll be able to ensure that you get to the doctor."
"Oh?" Kate replied archly. "Is that the only reason?"
"Well..." AJ hesitated.
Kate reached out and pressed the button for the elevator. "I don't bite, Admiral," Kate said, smiling. She paused for effect. "That is, unless you want me to." Her eyes sparkled.
AJ grinned. "Really?"
"Definitely," she purred.
The elevator arrived, and they stepped on. "Will you have dinner with me, Agent Todd?" AJ asked gallantly.
She made a show of thinking. "Only if you call me Kate."
"Very well... Kate." He gave her a disarming smile that set off butterflies in her stomach. These butterflies were quite pleasant, however. "Then call me AJ."
"Okay, AJ." The elevator stopped and the door opened. Kate, with the assistance of AJ, hopped over to Ducky's lab.
"Well, my friend, it looks like your mysterious demise is no longer a mystery," a cultured voice spoke.
AJ looked at Kate bemusedly. She just shrugged. "It's a Ducky thing."
The man currently hunched over a body on an autopsy table turned. "Caitlin! Hello, my dear. Come to keep an old man company?"
"Actually, Ducky," Kate replied, sinking into a chair, "I was hoping you could help me." She winced as she extended her leg. "I had a fight with a set of steps, and I lost. Could you wrap my ankle enough to see me through the day?"
The medical examiner sighed and shook his head. He started to search for some gauze. "You and Jethro are two of the most stubborn people I have ever met. Why didn't you go to a doctor?" he scolded. He knelt in front of Kate and lifted her ankle gently.
"Actually..." Kate hissed as Ducky prodded at the swollen joint, "AJ here is going to take me to a doctor after work. It was the only way I could get him to agree to bring me back here." She rolled her eyes at the uniformed man.
Ducky looked over his shoulder. "Oh! Good afternoon, Admiral." He went back to what he was doing and said, "At least one of you has some sense. Though I don't see why you agreed to that at all, Admiral."
"It was that, or stand there in front of the Lincoln Memorial and argue all day." AJ turned to Kate and said, "I'd better get back to work before my staff sends out a search party. When should I pick you up?"
"I don't know. What time is good for you?"
"Well, I can get out of the office at 1700."
"1730, then." Kate paused, then added, "Provided there's no traffic, of course."
AJ snorted. "Yeah, right. Goodbye, Kate."
"'Bye, AJ." She smiled as she watched him leave the lab.
Ducky patted her ankle gently. "There you go. Do try to keep off of it, Caitlin." He gave her a weary look.
"Yes, Doctor Mallard," Kate said in a singsong voice.
"You'd better get back to work before Jethro sends out a search party for you." Ducky chuckled.
Kate grimaced. "Good idea."
"Hey." Kate smiled and limped to the front door.
"Hey." AJ smiled back and reached out to hold her arm. They turned toward the door. AJ glanced behind them, and saw a gray-haired man glaring in their direction.
"I don't think your boss is too happy about this," AJ murmured in Kate's ear.
Kate rolled her eyes. "I don't think Gibbs is ever happy. Unless he's working on his boat." AJ chuckled at her obvious annoyance.
"They give you a hard time?"
"Of course." Kate shook her head. "Why can't they realize that I'm a grown woman, and I can make my own decisions?"
AJ, knowing of his own overprotective streak, wisely chose not to answer.
"Now... where to?" AJ asked after helping Kate into his Escalade.
Kate directed him to her doctor's office. Dr. Lowenstein was not happy with her. However, she did much what Ducky had--sighed, scolded her, and immobilized her ankle. The doctor also gave her a prescription for a painkiller that Kate knew she wouldn't take. AJ, however, insisted on getting the prescription filled. Kate didn't know whether to be amused or irritated by his concern.
"So, where are you taking me for dinner?" Kate asked after they finished.
AJ looked at her sideways and smiled mysteriously. "You'll see."
They pulled up in front of a little restaurant. If Kate hadn't been looking for it, she probably would have missed it. AJ helped her out of the car and handed her her new crutches. He stayed close to her as he led the way to the bright red door.
He held the door open and waited patiently for Kate to ease her way down the stairs and through the doorway. He followed her and let the door swing closed.
Kate paused for a moment, allowing her eyes to adjust to the sudden darkness. She gasped as she saw the interior of the restaurant.
It was a gorgeous Italian restaurant. Someone had obviously put a lot of time and effort into the décor--someone with a lot of knowledge about Italian architecture and style. She turned to AJ and smiled happily. He smiled back, obviously glad that she liked it.
"AJ! È stato troppo lungo! È cosí buono per vederlo ancora!" A tall, dark-haired woman hurried toward the pair. She hugged AJ fiercely.
"Hello, Elena," AJ replied, chuckling. "I'll try to make it again sooner."
"You better!" she admonished, shaking a finger at the chagrinned man. Kate stifled a laugh.
"Elena, this is Kate Todd. Kate, Elena DeSilva. Her father owns the restaurant."
Kate held out a hand, precariously balancing on one crutch. "It's nice to meet you, ma'am."
"Oh, please, call me Elena," the other woman replied. "AJ!" She turned accusing eyes on him. "You should have told me that your lady friend was injured! Come, come--sit!"
Kate took the proffered chair gratefully. "Thank you." AJ sat across from her, and Elena hurried off to get menus. "Someone's in trouble," Kate teased.
AJ gave her that half-grin again, and again, Kate felt the butterflies. "Always," he said in a low voice. Kate raised an eyebrow and gave him a slow smile.
Kate was really beginning to enjoy getting to know this man. Particularly when the food arrived. "Oh, that smells so good," she moaned.
"Hungry?" AJ teased.
"Starving," Kate admitted. The food tasted even better than it smelled, if that were possible. They ate, and conversed, and laughed more than Kate had in months--years, even.
"You know, AJ," Kate said when they finished their meals--and she had caught her breath. "I'm having a really good time tonight. Even with the ankle," she finished ruefully.
"I'm glad," AJ replied. He paused. "Would you like to do it again sometime?"
Kate took a deep breath. Suddenly, after a night of flirtation and innuendo, she felt ridiculously shy. She blurted the first reply that came to mind.
"I'd love to."