Title: Sometimes They Come Back
Disclaimer: Me no own. They are the property of CBS and Don Bellasario.
Summary: When a man from NCIS's past returns, lives are thrown into chaos.
Spoilers: Major for Reveille and Bete Noir, however, all of season one is fair game for reference.
AN1: I was…inspired after watching Reveille for the 18th time, I decided to write this, it had been flitting around in my head for a while. I hope you enjoy it, and please, please leave a review! This spoils Reveille and Bete Noir big time. You'll also note the NCIS quotes at the bottom of every chapter, they will all be Gibbs/Kate, its just something fun I haven't done in a while with fic and figured this was as good a time as any. We could play a "name ep the quote came from" game…but sadly I have no prizes.
AN2: Big thanks to my ever wonderful beta, M. She is the best.
AN3: This does not mean my fic Shaitan is on hold. It just means I think I'll be altering my posting schedule to accommodate for two fics at the same time. Shaitan will probably move to Sunday nights and this one on Thursday. Twice the goodness….or something.
Chapter 1: Surprise, Surprise
October 4th, Monday
Kate took a long sip of her coffee before setting it down on the edge of her desk and shrugging out of her coat, hanging it on the rack near Tony's desk. She paused a moment and looked out the large glass windows, enjoying the view; the sun was shining, and the leaves had started to turn colors slightly. It was a beautiful fall day in DC, slightly warmer than usual, which allowed her to only wear a light jacket. Finally pulling away from the window, but not before wishing she was outside, she looked around and realized she was the only one in the vicinity. Leaning around Tony's computer, Kate noted it didn't even look like he was in the office yet -- the machine wasn't on and there were no signs of the younger agent. She didn't even have to look at Gibbs' computer to know he was here; he was always here before her. He was either getting coffee or with the director, although there were better odds on the coffee.
Walking back to her desk, she noticed a small package sitting on top of her other mail, which she hadn't noticed while putting down her coffee. The object was the same shape as a box you might receive a necklace or bracelet in, but slightly taller and wrapped in non-descript brown mailing paper. She wasn't working on active cases, and hadn't requested any evidence be shipped to her lately, so Kate was perplexed as to the origins.
She came around her desk and sat down, coffee all but forgotten with the intrigue of the mystery package. It had the stamp from the NCIS mailroom, so it had been inspected thoroughly for explosives or hazardous materials before being delivered to her. Picking it up, Kate noticed there was no return address. There was a mail stamp, but she couldn't read the location. Scrunching her nose in curiosity, Kate pulled at the tape holding the paper and opened one end of the wrapping. The box easily slid out into her hand.
Again, it was a non-descript white box -- very light she noted -- whatever was in it was practically weightless. Looking up, she was thankful that neither of her colleagues had made an appearance as of yet. Tony would be standing over her shoulder watching if he was here, making comments, and Gibbs… well, he would feign disinterest while watching her open it out of the corner of his eye.
But for now she had peace, and took advantage of it. She was very curious about the contents; with work being eliminated, she figured it had to be of a more personal nature. She wasn't dating anyone seriously enough that they would send her gifts to the office. Besides, she never told any of her dates the address of NCIS -- it just wasn't one of those things that came up in casual conversation.
She stared at the white box carefully, scrutinizing every angle. A normal person would just tear into the box, but Kate was more cautious than that. This was highly unusual, and in her line of work, that usually meant trouble. Then again, her sister could have just sent her something from Florida. That had happened before, but Jenna would have told her it was coming.
Grabbing her scissors, she slit the tape where the lid and bottom of the box met, and pulled the top part off, revealing white tissue paper. She was going to be really pissed if Tony had sent her white paper as a joke. But that seemed random, even for Tony.
Holding the box with one hand, she lifted the paper off the contents and realized it was far from a joke. This was so far from a joke, Kate was stunned into inactivity. She stared at the contents like a rattlesnake had just appeared in her line of sight and she was debating whether to fight or flight. Though considering where her gift came from, a rattlesnake might be an improvement.
Nestled on another layer of white tissue paper were three precisely placed walnut shells in a row, and on the end a perfectly preserved pea.
Kate dropped the box and watched the shells rattle on the tissue; she literally didn't know what to do; fear coursed through her along with confusion. Her NCIS training told her to put on gloves immediately, but something else wondered why she should bother. They knew who he was, and despite both hers and Gibbs' misgivings, he was a good guy-of sorts. Plus, any attempt to locate him would be most certainly be blocked by the government. Despite that, Kate opened her drawer, noticing that her hand had started shaking, and she internally admonished herself.
The shaking just came from the surprise of receiving a gift from a man who had held her hostage not once, but twice. Regardless of his actual intentions, he had shot her co-workers among others, which did not endear him to her, by any stretch.
She pulled out a pair of gloves and put them on, even though she had already touched the box – Gibbs' second "lesson" still stuck in her head. Willing her hands to settle down, she reached under her desk and pulled out her backpack, retrieving an evidence bag. Putting the clear plastic bag on the desk she looked around once more; no one seemed to notice her, and Gibbs and Tony were still notably absent.
Sighing, she picked up the top of the box, which had also been dropped onto the desk. As she did, she flipped it over and noticed a piece of paper folded and placed neatly in it. Furrowing her brow, she pulled the paper out, and could see writing on the inside as she carefully unfolded it, If the box wasn't enough to shock her, the words printed in neat, precise handwriting would have been.
Perhaps now we can get to know each other better. No hard feelings, Caitlin.
For a minute, she closed her eyes. The words were unexpected. The fear that had taken hold lessened some; she sensed no malice, no threat to her. He was…hitting on her? Wooing her? Baiting her? Kate wasn't sure exactly, but if this was a personal message - a gift of sorts, then Gibbs and Tony certainly didn't need to know about it.
Making a decision, she placed the lid back on the box and slipped it into the evidence bag, marked it properly and placed it and the contents into the bottom drawer of her desk, locking it securely. She removed the gloves and tossed them out, lost in thought. Part of her screamed to tell Gibbs, to tell Tony, to tell someone about the gift, but something else, instinct perhaps, told her not to mention it. It was none of her colleagues' business. Their dealings with Ari were finished as far as the team, and NCIS, was concerned -- that made this wholly personal, unless it turned out to be something less than friendly. Then she wouldn't hesitate to turn to them and deal with the consequences later of hiding it.
She was staring out the window, still contemplating her conflicting emotions when both Tony and Gibbs appeared. Tony was rambling on about something, but Kate only heard them in the periphery of her consciousness. Her mind was on that evidence bag in her drawer and the meaning of the note. Would he contact her again? What exactly did he want? What were his intentions with her? She was so wrapped in her thoughts that when Gibbs came over and touched her shoulder she jumped slightly, startling him.
"Kate?" he questioned, concern in his voice. He left his hand resting on her shoulder.
Kate had noticed since the second "hostage" incident, Gibbs had been acting strangely toward her. Not all the time, and it was frequently subtle. He touched her more, and she had caught him watching her before, just…staring at her for no reason. He had also softened in his approach; he seemed to act less like a bastard -- at least to her, she couldn't speak for Tony. But Tony hadn't mentioned anything to her about Gibbs' behavior, which was unlike the younger man. Her brain told her he was reserving this new soft side just for her, but she shoved the idea to the back and pretended she didn't see it. Because that would be dealing with something that simply couldn't be.
"Kate?" he asked again, and now she noticed the strange look he and Tony were both giving her.
"Space out on us, Kate?" Tony asked and sat in his chair.
"I reserve that right for you, Tony." She smirked back, but she knew her response lacked its usual bite; she just wasn't in the mood for it. Tony even looked at her funny.
Gibbs was staring at her with an inscrutable expression so she quickly changed tacts. "Case for us, Gibbs?"
He narrowed his eyes at her slightly, but moved on. "No, actually. Abby is running tests for backlogged cases in other departments and Ducky is doing something I'm not sure I completely understand, or want to for that matter."
She raised her eyebrows at him. "What about us?"
"We get to run cold cases."
That earned a groan from Tony.
Kate looked at him, confused. "What's so bad about cold cases?"
"They are cold for a reason, Kate, we are just killing time going over something someone else already has," he said, putting his chin in his hands on the desk. "It's the most futile work ever."
Gibbs shot Tony a look. "The director has one that he wants us to review; it's been on the books for five years now. He wants some fresh eyes looking at it."
Kate nodded; Tony buried his head farther in his hands.
"Let's head downstairs," he said, and Kate followed quickly, giving her drawer a quick glance. Tony moved a little slower, but noticed Kate's expression as she stood. He had a feeling her space-out earlier was directly related to whatever was in that drawer.
Gibbs sent Tony to get several boxes and binders filled with old case information while he and Kate went down into cold storage to get the physical evidence that had been stored there for the past five years. As they wandered down the aisle, Kate wrapped her arms around her midsection, shivering. Suddenly, Gibbs' phone rang.
They paused for Gibbs to grab the phone and he gave Kate the "one second" motion with his index finger.
Yeah, in one second I'll be a frozen Popsicle, she thought, and moved in tight circles to stay warm. She tried to keep her mind off the events of the morning, but failed -- the same questions kept floating through her head, along with a new one.
Why now? What does he want? Why me?
The last one was what really had her curious. After she called the secret service, they had had a conversation -- a pleasant one, considering the circumstances. Ari had even started to change her opinion of him. Gibbs' voice stopped her from thinking about it further.
"Well, I think I may have just made Tony's day."
"Huh?" she asked, not really capable of saying more than that.
He cocked his head at her and touched her arm, rubbing lightly. She nearly moved away from the contact, but the warmth that spread through her body from one light touch was enough to stop her.
"Let's get the box first," he said and moved his hand, the cold immediately came rushing back and she followed him, grabbing a box when he handed it to her and moving back out into a slightly warmer anteroom, where they left both boxes. Since they were technically still in cold storage, the boxes could be left in the anteroom until they absolutely needed the contents. Grabbing them now just saved time later when they actually might have needed something quickly and wouldn't have to search five-plus rows for them.
She shook off the cold and followed him back to the garage. Tony was already there, organizing the files into neat piles.
Gibbs approached and Kate noticed the smirk that hit his face seconds before he called Tony's name.
"Yeah, boss?" he asked without really looking up from his sorting.
"How do you feel about a TDA?"
Tony's head snapped up so fast Kate thought it might come off. "Seriously, boss?"
Gibbs nodded. "Seriously. One shot in New York City, they need another NCIS agent with narc experience and little else to do. Apparently your name came up."
Tony either chose to ignore the jab, or simply didn't get it. "Really?"
Gibbs gave him an annoyed look. "You ask me that one more time, Tony, and I'm going to send Kate. All the information should be on your desk. Go." Gibbs made a 'get moving' gesture.
Tony seemed to pause a moment before bolting to the elevator and disappearing up it. Kate merely watched him go, chuckling lightly.
Gibbs sat on the stool across from her, taking a long drink from his ever-present coffee. "Guess it's just you and me."
"Yeah, guess so." She looked at the closed elevator doors. "Poor New York."
Gibbs gave her an amused glance and handed her several thick files. "Witness interviews, look over them for inconsistencies."
She nodded and opened the first, reading slowly.
The next time Kate looked up, four hours had passed -- all of them in silence. The only noise had come from flipping pages. Had Tony been here, not a one would have been anywhere close to silent. As much as Kate liked him, Tony could really be a little much to take after a while.
Rolling her head back and forth, Kate relieved some of the stiffness that had settled in; she had barely moved an inch in those four hours. Looking up, she realized Gibbs was gone, but she hadn't even noticed. So much for being observant.
Kate closed the folder and pushed it to the side. Ten files with ten witnesses who swore they saw the suspect, a Navy Lieutenant, five miles from his house at a bar the night his wife was murdered. Not one varied; there were minor inconsistencies, like the color of his shirt, but that was expected, as was the degree of inconsistency.
Sighing, she pulled the next file toward her -- this one containing witness statements from the murder scene. Gibbs had been going over physical evidence and the NCIS' theories and notes with a fine-tooth comb. At least he had before disappearing on her.
Kate opened the file and heard the ding on the elevator at the same time. She didn't even look up at him until a fresh cup of coffee from the shop down the street appeared in front of her on the table.
Gratefully, she looked up and gave him a small smile. "Thanks," she said and took a long sip of the liquid. This time, it was perfect, and not too strong like last time.
"It's a little strong."
"Strong is better…"
That had been the last time she had seen him before both their worlds had been turned upside down. Well, at least hers had. It had been shocking at the very least to find out the man she had hunted and hated with every fiber of her being was actually on their side, in a way. She could even almost see his side…
"Yeah?" She looked up. "Sorry, just thinking about the case."
He looked at her strangely, but nodded anyway, sitting back down on his stool. "Find anything?" he asked.
"Nothing. There is not a damn thing out of the ordinary. But I just can't shake this feeling that the husband did it."
He cocked his head at her. "Why?"
"I don't know…gut feeling."
"Feelings are good," he said and stared at her intently.
She looked down from his gaze. "Sometimes, but they aren't always right."
He knew she switched topics and was now talking about Ari. "Kate…"
She cut him off deftly and switched back to talking about the case at hand. "Didn't you say there were domestic calls to their home?"
He narrowed those blue eyes, but went along with her. "Yeah, three in the past four months. Each time she dropped charges, and since it was on-base, the MPs weren't compelled to take either of them in."
She slowly tapped her pencil on the table. "Something…there has to be something."
"Well, let's finish reviewing and then we'll mock up the crime."
She nodded and went back to reading -- her feeling that the husband had done it becoming stronger with every sentence. The repeated 911 calls, behavioral changes in the victim after marrying the suspect, the husband's apparent disinterest in finding his wife's killer. But there was no physical evidence, and his alibi appeared to be airtight; during the timeframe in which the coroner placed her death, he was at the bar.
Picking up her coffee cup, she noticed the contents were ice cold. Scrunching her nose, she looked at her watch. 2 pm. The coffee had been sitting there just over 2 hours, no wonder. Frustrated, she tossed her pen down and looked across the table. Gibbs was nose first in whatever he was reading. She'd noted earlier he had gone and got the physical evidence and was now comparing every piece to the report.
Sitting up straight, she stretched her arms above her head and rotated her head again, satisfied to hear a slight crack. When she relaxed her muscles, she noticed Gibbs looking at her with a curious expression.
She looked at him. "What?"
"Hungry?" he asked and put down his pencil.
She hadn't realized until he mentioned it, but she was. "Yup."
He practically jumped off his stool. "Let's grab some food from that deli down the street you like so much."
She smiled. "You're on."
With stiff muscles, they walked to the elevator, and after a quick stop at their desks to grab coats and Kate's purse, they were on their way. The spring-like temperatures inspired the two to walk the 4 blocks. They walked in silence, but Gibbs noticed that Kate seemed to be a little more tense and quiet than usual. Gibbs wasn't exactly known as a great conversationalist, but she could usually be counted on to start a conversation he would join. Unlike DiNozzo, who not only started the conversation, but would carry it on himself if no one else joined, and not stop unless forced to.
But she was uncharacteristically silent on the walk over, and before he could ask her about it, they were at their destination.
They ate lunch much like they had conducted the morning: mostly in silence. It wasn't a strained silence; they were too comfortable around each other for that. Gibbs was about to ask her what was going on when she smiled at him conspiratorially.
"How do you think Tony's doing? Suppose NYPD are ready to send him back yet?"
Gibbs looked at his watch. "His plane JUST landed Kate."
She looked non-pulsed. "And….?"
He smiled at that. "Point taken. I'm sure Tony is on his best behavior."
She tilted her head. "Why's that?"
"Cause he knows I'd kill him if he wasn't."
She smiled and shook her head. "Why did you hire him if he drives you so insane, Gibbs?"
He swallowed his last bite of sandwich and pushed the now empty plate to the side. "Despite Tony's…frequently childish behavior, he is a damn good cop. He's got instincts like I've never seen before." He paused, looking at her. "And he's a warm body." And winked.
She laughed lightly; being with Gibbs had actually managed to take her mind off her "gift," at least for a little bit. Kate looked out the window and started, sucking in a deep breath. Across the street, staring into the deli, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, she swore she saw him. Ari. She would know that face anywhere. But the figure was gone as soon as she blinked.
Gibbs immediately noticed her sudden movement and looked out the window, following her gaze, and saw nothing. He looked back at the woman across from him who was still staring intently out the window at something he obviously couldn't see.
"Kate? Everything ok?" he asked quietly.
Initially she didn't hear him, but he reached out and touched her elbow, bringing her back to reality. Now she turned to look at him, with an expression of confusion, and maybe a little fear.
"Yeah, fine. Just thought I saw someone I knew."
"You sure?" His gentle tone surprised her and she turned to him.
"Yeah, I'm just losing my mind." She smiled at him.
He looked at her skeptically but nodded his assent and stood up, grabbing his trash. She followed suit and a short walk later, they were back at NCIS, pouring over files.
By the time 7 pm rolled around, neither had found anything ground breaking -- a couple statements to follow up on and that was it. But they each felt they had a better grasp of the crime now, and Kate was still convinced it was the husband. Gibbs was not about to argue with her; he had the same feeling, even though it was unsubstantiated by the evidence.
He brought his head up out of the file to ask her a question, but noticed she was staring off into space somewhere. Kate had been acting oddly since that morning and Gibbs wasn't sure what was going on. She'd been quiet and wasn't arguing her husband theory as voraciously as she normally would have. Gibbs was hesitant to chalk it up to some woman hormone thing; the last time he did that, it earned him a 7 iron to the head. Besides this felt…different to him. Kate was being Kate; she was just a muted version.
Suddenly she turned and caught him staring at her. He attempted to recover, but found himself caught by her eyes. They looked…confused, tormented somehow, and in that second his heart caught. The part of him that stayed firmly away from colleagues' personal matters was overrun by compassion. He hated to see that expression on her face.
"Let's call it a night," he said out of nowhere. Her eyes seemed to clear slightly at his suggestion. "We'll question people tomorrow, be ready."
She nodded. "Good plan. I'll see you in the morning, Gibbs."
She walked past him, and he watched her go another twenty feet before calling her name.
She turned and looked at him confused. "Yeah? Did you need something else?"
"No, I…" he paused and sighed internally; this was going outside his scope now. "Is everything all right?"
Something he couldn't identify flitted across her face. "Yeah, fine. Just tired."
"Night," she said and disappeared into the elevator.
The first thought that ran through Gibbs head as she left was, she's lying.
"People make mistakes, Gibbs."
"Like backseat driving?"
[smirk] "I'm in the front seat."