Disclaimer: Not mine.
Rating: PG. Set: Coda to The Good Wives Club.
Notes: Erm. New at this writing NCIS stuff. And this one, literally, smacked me upside the head while writing something completely different (SG-1 Halloween party. How does this makes sense, for cryin' out loud??). So I wrote it, and... Yeah. Erm.

Ritual of Silence by Ana Lyssie Cotton

She only does this after a particularly bad case. If ever asked, she would deny that she does it at all.

This was a very bad case. Women kidnaped and locked in basements until they died of suffocation. Never knowing how they would survive, never knowing if they would ever be found.

And now they've put the case to bed, set it in the ground and slammed the coffin of paperwork over it (and the irony of her mental images is not lost on her, but here in the half-light of her bedroom it's something comforting).

The candles are half-burned before she finally settles under the covers, having spent time cross-legged on the floor, simply. Thinking. Remembering. Wrapping her memories in a box and storing them.

The lid on this box is beginning to bulge slightly, with new horror and old horror.

And everything in between.

She curls into her bed, covers half over her head, and stares blankly at the slowly dying candles on her bedside table.

Women locked in boxes, chained to beds. And she can still feel the cold metal of the manacle on her wrist as Gibbs snapped it closed. Play-acting. Pretending. Getting inside the criminal's head, only it wasn't his head she stepped into.

It was the victim's.

Kate knows Gibbs had known. Had read the sudden distaste and disgust that screamed through his body when she'd turned towards him unexpectedly.

He'd put the manacle on her, and he hadn't liked it.

She supposes she can take some small comfort in that, here in her half-lit bedroom.

Her boss didn't want to tie her up and knock her down.

He just wanted to snipe at her.

The candlelight flickers, and her eyes track across the room to the small cross on her wall. She might not kneel on the floor anymore, preferring to sit or stand, but she knows he is there. Watching her. She has to believe that.

And if that belief isn't visceral enough, there is always the teddy bear she is cuddling in her arms.

Kate has to find the humor in this life. Or the next one will fail her. She feels a smile touch her lips and closes her eyes, burying her nose for an instant in the soft head of the bear. He smells of incense and dust and the back of her closet.

Because she only does this after particularly bad cases.

When the candles go out, she silently pads across to the closet and replaces the bear in the back, letting her clothing fall against him and block him from sight again.

Tomorrow was another early day.