Title: Chance and Sufferance
Authors: Raindrops on Roses and NCISFanatic
Category: Angst, UST (Gibbs/Kate)
Spoilers: "The Weak Link"
Disclaimer: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: "I will be flesh and blood;/For there was never yet philosopher/That could endure the toothache patiently,/However they have writ the style of gods/and made a push at chance and sufferance."
Authors' Notes: The Shakespeare nut strikes again! This time, the title comes from Act V, Scene I of Much Ado About Nothing.
Kate Todd sat at her desk, busy with paperwork, while Jethro Gibbs watched her intently. Her reaction to Lieutenant Johnson's wife asking her if she had ever been married had been... interesting, to say the least. He wanted to ask her about it, but he wasn't sure about the right approach. Finally, he spoke.
"Yeah?" Kate responded absently, checking an entry on the form in front of her.
"Are you all right?"
"Fine." She shrugged, giving him her standard response.
Gibbs rolled his eyes and pressed on. "What was that with the wife?"
"What?" Kate finally raised her eyes to his crystal blue stare. He could see the conflict lurking behind her own dark brown eyes.
"Your reaction to her question, Kate."
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Katie," Gibbs said softly. He knew that she would answer. He wasn't sure what it was about the nickname, but whenever he used it, he got some sort of reaction. He felt slightly ashamed about his manipulation, but pushed it away.
"What do you want from me?" Kate asked, dropping her eyes and her pen.
"A straight answer, for one." He was such a hypocrite.
"Fine." She stood and paced, exasperated by his question. "I was married."
Gibbs blinked. He had expected at least a few more minutes of verbal sparring. He decided to try his luck. "What happened to him?"
Kate stiffened. She stared at the carpet, her back to Gibbs.
'I can't take this anymore, Kate!'
'No. You're never home, Katie. I love you, Kate, I really do... but I can't stay home while you're flying around the country, putting yourself in danger every day.'
'Do you want a divorce?'
"He's gone." With that cryptic statement, Kate reached over her desk, grabbed her jacket and purse, and strode toward the elevator.
Tom. She hadn't thought about him...
Okay, so she thought about him every day. But it was mostly a wistful feeling, a passing, 'Tom would have loved that,' or 'I wonder how Tom would have done that?'
Kate sniffled and fingered the hem of her oversized basketball jersey. His jersey. It was old, and worn, and comfortable... and the only thing of his she had kept.
She wondered what it would have been like if she had refused the promotion... refused joining the Presidential detail. Would they still be living in Massachusetts--two-story Victorian, white-picket fence, and all? Would she be carting their kids to school, to tennis practice, to band rehearsal, in the ubiquitous minivan? Would Tom still be striving to make partner?
Kate sighed. She stood and wandered into her bedroom. She lifted her jewelry box from the top of her bureau. Sitting on her bed, she opened the bottom drawer. A small black box rested in the center of the chaos of her other jewelry. She opened the box and lifted out a pair of delicate white gold rings. Her engagement ring and her wedding ring.
She rolled the rings around in her hand. The cold metal pressed against the callus on her trigger finger. She blinked tears away. She had given up one to gain the other.
She slid the rings on her finger and swallowed past the lump in her throat. They still fit.
She remembered the day Tom had put her engagement ring on the same finger. He had been so proud. He had refused his parents' offer to pay for it and saved up, bit by bit.
'I'm sorry it's so small--'
'Tom, it's okay. I love it. I love you. All the diamonds in the world wouldn't change that.'
'I wanted to buy it myself. I didn't want my parents to help.'
'That means even more than the size of the diamond.'
'God, I love you, Kate. When I finish with law school, I'm going to marry you.'
'You'd better. I was hoping you hadn't bought this ring for nothing.'
She smiled at the memory.
She wiped at the tears that were now streaming down her face. It was both pleasure and pain to remember those happy, carefree days. But they were just a memory now, and so was Tom. She slowly slid the white gold bands from her fingers and placed them in their box. Putting the jewelry box aside, she stood and walked to her dresser. She put the small velvet box in the back of her lingerie drawer and closed it.
After replacing the jewelry box in its normal spot on the top of her dresser, she lay down on the bed and clutched a pillow to her chest. She couldn't get rid of the lump in her throat, and she wasn't sure she wanted to. She had imagined many times what she and Tom's kids would be like. A boy--just like his father, with the same black hair and shining green eyes. A girl--the spitting image of her mother.
Kate reached over to her bedside table and took out a picture frame. It was of her and Tom on their wedding day. They'd been so happy... so in love.
She could swear, sometimes, when she looked at Gibbs, that she could see something similar sparkling in his eyes. She dismissed it, more often than not... but she now thought it might be something akin to love. Respect? Admiration? She didn't want any of that from him. She wanted to feel loved again, like she'd been in love with Tom. But she had resigned herself to the fact that love wasn't in the cards for her as long as she had a dangerous job. That was why Tom was gone; as were all of the other men she'd dated. 'Gibbs could be different,' she thought to herself. But she dismissed this idea, as she had the last, as wishful thinking.
She had asked Tom if he had wanted a divorce. She had hoped--no, prayed--that he said no. Her prayers had been answered.
'Do you want a divorce? ... Tom?'
'Of course not. I love you, Kate. ...I know I said it's hard. I just... I want to see you more often than once a month. I miss you, Katie doll.'
'Then I'll decline the promotion.'
'Oh, Kate, you can't do that! You've worked so hard...'
'Tom, my career will be fine. I can wait a few years. Besides, I'm sure they can find plenty of people who are far more qualified to protect the First Lady.'
'I doubt that.'
'And that's why I love you.'
'Kate, are you sure about this?'
She took a shaky breath, fighting back more tears. It'd only been a few days after that conversation that she'd lost him forever.
'I'm sorry, ma'am. We did all we could.'
'I'm sorry, ma'am. We couldn't save him.'
She finally let the tears run down her face, holding the pillow close and feeling like it happened just yesterday. God must've laughed himself sick at that one. She hadn't even had the chance to contact her supervisor in order to turn down the transfer. Tom had been hit by a drunk driver on the way home from work. And the worst part was... if she hadn't asked him to come home early, he wouldn't have been on the road at that moment. He would still be there with her.
And that was when she'd promised herself she wouldn't let a man--any man--that close again. Then Jethro Gibbs came along and ruined everything.
"He's a hypocrite," she scoffed.
'But that's not what knots your stomach when he looks at you,' her inner voice said.
"I won't let it happen again."
'You may not be able to stop it.' She was really beginning to hate that little voice.
'Says you. I'm your subconscious, after all.'
"Argh!" Kate pressed her pillow into her face. Unfortunately, that only succeeded in smothering her body, not the smug voice.
There was a strong knock on the door. Frowning, Kate sat up and tossed the pillow to the side. She stood and grabbed her sidearm--not, as Tony assumed, under her pillow, but in her nightstand. Still well within reach, but less of a chance of shooting herself in a moment of panic.
She crept toward the door, gun at the ready. Who would show up at her apartment this late at night?
Peering through the spyhole, Kate received her answer. Gibbs.
She rolled her eyes and removed the security chain. She unlocked and opened the door. "What are you doing here, Gibbs?"
He hesitated. "Aren't you going to let me in?" he asked after a moment, smirk firmly planted on his face.
Kate scowled and stood aside. After he stepped through the doorway, she closed and locked the door. She sat on the couch and placed her gun on the coffee table. "Are you going to answer my question or inspect my furniture?" she asked, irritated by the man who had snapped her out of memories of another man.
"I, uh, wanted to make sure you were all right." Kate stared at Gibbs in disbelief. Okay, where the hell was the real Agent Gibbs? "You kinda left in a hurry, and, uh, I thought... you might want someone to talk to?"
Kate shook her head. She had to be dreaming. That was it. She had fallen asleep (in bed, for a change), and this was all a very, very odd dream. And she would wake up in five... four... three... two...
Gibbs was still gazing at her through the moonlight that illuminated her living room. Damn. That usually worked.
Kate crossed her arms. "Why would I want to talk to you when you would rather leave me out of the loop than even consider letting me into it?" she seethed. She paused. "I--that was uncalled for."
"No, no, you're right."
"No, I wasn't."
"Are you saying you're sorry, Agent Todd?" Well, there was the real Gibbs.
"I didn't say that. I said it was uncalled for. Did you hear me apologize?"
"No, I didn't." Gibbs smirked. She hated that smirk. It meant Agent Gibbs was right yet again.
"What the hell are you smirking for?"
"I don't know."
"Fine." He stood his ground, hands in his pockets, ready to listen if she needed it. "You wouldn't understand..." she finally said softly.
"Fine," she sighed. She needed to talk about it with someone; she'd been keeping it hidden for too many years. "His name was Tom. He was killed by a drunk driver coming home early from the office," Kate said, her voice terse.
"I don't want your pity. I went through two years of it, Gibbs--I don't think I can take it from you."
Gibbs remained silent--listening but not speaking. He'd lashed out because of a case many times, and she'd always listened. He thought it was about time he'd do the same for her. "I wouldn't dream of it." A semblance of a smile crossed his face. Kate lifted her red eyes to look at him, and his heart nearly broke at the pain etched there.
"We'd only been married a couple of months. I was up for promotion--I was going to be the lead on the First Lady's detail. That's what Tom and I had a fight over. He didn't want me to go--so I turned down the offer. That day, he was killed." Her voice and body shook with the force of holding back her tears.
"Kate... it wasn't your fault. You shouldn't blame yourself."
"I know. I just can't help it."
Gibbs knew something about that. He'd blamed himself for his third wife leaving. She was fed up with being alone all the time while he was off 'catching the bad guys,' as she had put it. He'd come home to find her wedding rings on the dining room table, along with the divorce papers.
Gibbs sat on the couch, carefully respecting Kate's personal space. They sat in comfortable silence, lost in their own memories of marriages past.
"So..." Gibbs started, "what was he like?"
"Tom. What was he like?" Gibbs asked, trying to draw Kate out.
Kate smiled a sweet, heartbreaking smile. "Tom was... the kindest, most caring man I've ever known. He was intelligent--he had to be, in order to make it through law school unscathed--but he was never condescending. He loved kids. He wanted a big family--he was an only child, and his parents were, too. My parents loved him," Kate laughed, shaking her head ruefully. "They thought he was perfect. I thought he was perfect." Kate trailed off.
"He sounds like a great man," Gibbs said quietly.
"He was the best friend I've ever had," replied Kate, just as quietly.
"You said that you turned down the offer to transfer. How did you end up on Presidential detail?"
Kate sighed. "I never got the chance to turn in the paperwork. After Tom died, I let go of the house in Massachusetts, rented an apartment--this apartment--and threw myself into my work."
Gibbs nodded. He understood that, as well.
"I guess I should go. I just wanted to make sure you were all right." Gibbs stood.
Kate reached out and touched his hand. "Don't--" She hesitated. Gibbs watched her intently, waiting. "Stay with me?"
"Are you sure, Kate?" Gibbs asked, frowning.
"Oh, for God's sake, Gibbs, it's not like I'm asking you to sleep with me. At least, not in the Biblical sense." Gibbs smirked as Kate's snarky side made a sudden return.
He bit back an equally snarky reply. Instead, he nodded and returned to the couch. Kate yawned and curled her feet underneath her. She leaned into him. Gibbs stiffened, then relaxed.
"G'night, Gibbs," Kate murmured, halfway to dreamland.
Gibbs looked down at the woman in his arms. He rested his chin on the top of her head. "Good night, Kate." He reached up and pulled the afghan from the back of the couch. He slipped off his shoes and covered the both of them with the blanket.
Kate's breathing finally evened out. Gibbs gazed out the window. "Sweet dreams, Katie," he whispered. He closed his eyes.
The moonlight bathed the sleeping couple in a shower of silver light.