Title: A Friend Indeed

Author: Shannon/Raindrops on Roses

Rating: PG
Category: Humor, Fluff

Spoilers: Yankee White, Left For Dead, Reveille

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

Author's Note: Written for Kris for the member recommmendation challenge at gibbskateff.

Oh, and in case anyone's wondering, Gibbs' rule number seven is "Always be specific when you lie."

Sartre was right.

Kate suppressed a scream as Maureen chattered on about how Kate needed to find herself a man, one she could have a serious relationship with, not just a string of boytoys...

Hell was other people.

More specifically, hell was Kate's matchmaking cousin, Maureen Ingalls.

Why Maureen had fixated on her (nonexistent) love life, she would never know. Maybe she had a list of people she wanted to fix up. Kate didn't particularly care about that. All she wanted to do now was escape from the restaurant before a) her cousin set her up on a blind date, b) she reached across the table and strangled her best childhood friend, or c) she said something that, though satisfying at the moment, she would regret later.

"So I told him that I knew someone that was just perfect for him. You two have a date tomorrow night."

Kate blinked. Had she agreed to something while lost in the labyrinth of her thoughts? "What?"

"You need a life, Kate. Hank is a great guy. A little on the shy side, maybe..."

Kate groaned. "Maureen, has it ever occurred to you that maybe--just maybe--I enjoy spending time by myself?" The other woman gave her a blank look.

As Kate tried to decide on another tactic to dissuade the demon sitting across from her, she glanced around the restaurant. She saw Tony and Ducky enter, a very unhappy-looking Gibbs in tow. Of course, what else was new?

An evil smirk played around her lips. Maybe there was a way to get Maureen off her case and disturb the hell out of Tony at the same time.

"Excuse me, Maureen," Kate said smoothly, with all the grace her mother had instilled in her at a young age. "I'll be right back."

She rose from her seat and restrained herself from bolting. She sauntered over to her colleagues' table and cleared her throat. Three heads swiveled her way.

"Kate!" Tony exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"

"Suffering. You guys gotta help me," she pleaded.

"What can we do for you, Caitlin?" Ducky asked.

"My cousin's trying to set me up again..." Kate saw grins spread across her friends' faces and scowled. "It's not funny! You have to get me out of this!"

"Can't you just tell your cousin you're already involved with someone?" Tony couldn't stop smiling.

Kate rolled her eyes. "I've tried that. She doesn't believe me. She wants 'proof of a prior relationship'."

Ducky and Gibbs gave Tony meaningful glances. Kate caught the looks. "What--you think--?" Kate smirked. "No offense, Tony, but you're what Maureen refers to as a 'boytoy'." When the man straightened in his chair and adjusted his tie, Kate continued, "And that's not meant as a compliment. There's no way she would take Tony seriously."

"So..." Tony started. The gleeful grin returned to his face as he turned toward Gibbs.

The older man frowned repressively. "No. Absolutely not."

"Come on, Gibbs! Help a friend in need." Tony was having way too much fun with her plight.

"It's only for a few minutes, Jethro," Ducky added.

Gibbs looked unconvinced. "Please?" Kate said softly, her brown eyes wide and pleading.

He sighed. "Fine. All right." He pushed back from the table. "Order me a scotch." He muttered, "I'm going to need it."

Kate tried to hide the hurt look that crossed her face as she caught the words. She wasn't that bad, was she? She knew she wasn't always the most pleasant person to be around--she was snarky and sarcastic, and she knew how to bring a man down with words and hands--but then, Gibbs was no ray of sunshine, either.

Kate forced a smile onto her face and put her hand on Gibbs' arm. He stiffened, and Kate murmured, "Relax, Gibbs. Pretend we're undercover, if you need to." She felt him relax considerably under her hand--then tensed herself when he placed his hand on the small of her back.

"Relax, Katie," Gibbs whispered in her ear. She glanced up and saw a smirk firmly planted on his face, and a mischievous twinkle in his clear blue eyes. Oh, so that was the way they were going to play it? Kate returned the smirk.

"Remember rule seven, Kate," Gibbs said as they approached the table, where Maureen sat impatiently.

"Maureen, I'd like you to meet Jethro Gibbs. Gi--Jethro, this is my cousin, Maureen Ingalls."

"It's nice to meet you, ma'am," Gibbs said, taking Maureen's hand and giving her a charming smile. Wait... Gibbs, charming? This was unnatural.

"Please, call me Maureen," the woman replied. "Would you like a seat?"

"Thank you." Gibbs held Kate's chair for her. Kate nearly had a heart attack. She took her seat swiftly before her knees gave out.

Gibbs sat next to Kate and took her hand. She forced herself to relax, and squeezed his hand, smiling flirtatiously.

"So... where did you and Kate meet?" Maureen asked Gibbs. Kate just sat back and watched. Her cousin versus her bastard of a boss... this would be an amusing few minutes.

"Kansas. Wichita, actually. They overbooked the flight, but Kate was the last one on." Kate's lips twitched as she heard Tony's words to Agent Fornell echoed back to her.

"Unfortunately, I had to sit next to him for most of the flight," Kate jumped in. "I actually threatened to shoot him once or twice."

"Then you got sick and had to run to the he--bathroom, remember?" Gibbs replied.

"It was a twenty-four-hour bug!"

"It still wasn't very pretty."

"Gee, thanks."

"What were you doing in Wichita?" Maureen asked, eyes narrow.

"I had to make a connecting flight," Gibbs replied smoothly. "I was headed home from a conference in California and had no desire to stay over in Kansas for any amount of time."

"And since I was sick, they didn't want me on Presidential detail until they could figure out what it was and I got better."

Gibbs raised Kate's hand to his lips, and Kate almost stopped breathing. "Well, their loss is my gain." Kate wondered if he really meant that, or if it was just part of the playacting. "I'd better get back to my table." He stood and dropped a kiss on Kate's forehead. "I'll see you later."

"'Bye," Kate said weakly, completely off-balance. She summoned a smile for his retreating back and studiously avoided looking at her other colleagues.

"He seems nice," Maureen said, taking a bite of her pasta.

"He is," Kate replied. Whoopsie. She'd have to confess that lie.

"You should bring him to the Fourth of July picnic."

Kate's hand froze, her fork hovering in the air.

She was in Hell, all right.