Summary: Every little piece of the puzzle doesn't always fit.
Disclaimer: If it was mine, I would be planning this in actuality, not wishing by writing them here.
Author's Note: Please bear with me here. This is a few years down the line, not right now. Also, this is my first NCIS fic but if you really don't like it, let me know what you really don't like when you review.
How long he'd loved her he couldn't count. It had probably started sometime around that first case on the plane. She was one of the few people who could hold their own against him, rarely backing down when he chewed her out. She'd worked hard since he'd added her to the NCIS team and they'd prospered having a different view on most of the cases. Her profiling skills were invaluable and he was glad he had them.
Now she sat, shoulders hunched, facing the artificial light of her computer screen.
They'd been spending more and more time together, away from the office, away from the prying eyes of the childish agent sitting across from her and he liked to think they both enjoyed it. There were things he told only her, things he hadn't even told his last ex-wives, and she'd listened patiently and hadn't belittled him or showed him sympathy…
At least not where he thought he didn't deserve it.
She was a strong woman, something he knew from the day he'd met her, and he knew that day he could make her so much more than she was on the President's security detail. She was intelligent, she was focused and she was independent. He hadn't admitted it to her but he was intensely proud when she'd taken down the Italian mobster – of course, not in the literal sense – and he was quite sure she would have kicked him like he had McGee earlier that day if it wasn't for the rest of them being there. She was always modest and being called "hot" by scum didn't help her self-esteem at all.
That was the other part of their interesting relationship.
He was becoming more and more sure that she loved him like he loved her but he would never go on a feeling without a tidbit of concrete evidence, but there were other things that she didn't have to tell him. He just knew. He knew when she was stress, he could see it in the lines on her face. He knew when she was upset by the emotion in her eyes. He knew when to back off when she was angry or just needed time to vent. He knew that she didn't like the way she was day to day, that she didn't like being looked at as an uptight bitch that did nothing on Saturday nights but watch CNN and order in.
But he didn't see her like that.
He'd never told her, never mentioned to her that he saw their relationship as his only real connection to reality that he had left. He had allowed his job to consume him and he was more than thankful for the day she stubbornly told him she wasn't leaving that plane. She was a breath of fresh air to his work soaked senses. He had to admit, he was generally harder on her…
But it was because he knew she was so much more.
She was more than another agent, more than a fellow colleague, more than an acquaintance and more than a friend. She was his lifeline, the one thing that, these days, seemed to keep him afloat in the forever waters of murder, rape and general mayhem that wreaked havoc on the United States Armed Forces. He'd allowed himself to get lost around her, to wrap her in his arms on their Friday movie nights and enjoy conversation with her when they went out to dinner on Sundays.
All in all, he loved her.
"Jethro?" she asked softly. He looked up at her, noticing for the first time that the entire office was empty. It was a Friday and he guessed that every one else had left early. She called his name again and he resisted the urge to smile happily. He'd told her to call him that when they'd started their weekend swaps, movie at her house he bought Sunday dinner, movie at his house and she bought. He loved how it rolled off of her tongue.
"Yes, Katie?" There was the comeback. She'd been less anal about being called that after he'd asked her to call him by his name, not Gibbs. He watched a soft smile blossom across her face. He realized he was wearing his glasses, something he did more and more frequently since she'd told him he should. He'd been self-conscious, she knew, but she'd dispensed with that when she softly told him they looked good on him.
"Movie night, tonight."
"That it is."
"Yours I think." She smiled at him, retrieving her coat from the hangar by her desk.
"You making dinner?"
"Of course." She glanced down at her watch.
"As always." She nodded and left. He allowed himself a few moments to lean back in his seat and think only about Kate Todd. She was beautiful, she was intelligent, she was independent, she was strong-willed, she was everything he loved in a woman.
Then his rule came back to haunt him.
Romance between agents never works.
He could remember telling her that, could remember her stony look of understanding, but was he strong enough to break his own rule for her? Was it time that he let her in? It wasn't like she didn't know him too well already…
She was his subordinate.
It was about time he retired, he'd been here too long.
She was much younger than him.
That was what constantly stopped him dead. She was younger. If he pursued a relationship with her, what was there to tell him that she wouldn't wake up one day and look to see and old man where she wanted to see a man her age? Then things would get messy. His phone rang shrilly, breaking him from his downcast thoughts.
"We can't have movie night if you don't leave," her teasing voice floated over the line. He scowled playfully.
"Where are you?" he asked, looking at his clock. She'd left twenty minutes ago.
"Pulling into my complex. I know you, Jethro, you haven't even left the office yet." He rolled her eyes knowing she couldn't see him. How she knew, he would never understand.
"And don't roll your eyes at me. Now, get packing, Mister!" He smiled softly as they'd said their goodbyes and hung up. She'd become much more confident around him since their relationship change. He'd allowed her to be frank when they were behind closed doors but they both respected each other in a professional capacity in the office. It was a rule they'd both placed on their relationship when it had moved from once in a while to once a month, to every week. It kept personal away from professional.
That gave him hope.
Maybe, just maybe, if they took it to the next level, if they started dating publicly, there would be no problem in the office because they were always able to separate the different parts of their lives. Plus, if they worked together…
But the director wouldn't allow them to work together once he found out.
He'd always been a pessimist, or, at least since he'd gotten divorced for the second time. It was one of the few things he could honestly say Kate hated. She tended to be an optimist or a realist, depending on what the situation called for, but he wasn't. At least not regularly.
He allowed his mind to wander to how much she'd changed him as he drove home. She'd forced him to look at things from all angles because if he didn't, she came at him with a totally different one that he wouldn't be prepared for. She challenged him to try and find a different way to solve things, to find something that might be a little out of the ordinary. She'd forced him to try and be optimistic even when past experience told him that nothing ever went his way. She'd forced him to change the way he looked at going home, as a relief to the office, not an enemy intent on telling him he was a loner.
She'd changed him, and he couldn't say he minded.
He turned on the radio, just for some sound in the background of his thoughts and found one of Kate's favourite CDs in his stereo. He rolled his eyes at the song and moved to eject the CD…
Until he took a moment to listen, really listen to the lyrics.
Every dinner doesn't have to be candlelit
Its kind of nice to know that it doesn't have to be
Every little piece of the puzzle doesn't always fit
Love can be rough around the edges
Or tattered at the seams
Honey if it's good enough for you
It's good enough for me
They his some chord in him that made him realize something. Their relationship wasn't perfect, but if he loved her and she loved him, wasn't that all that mattered? He drove with a new resolve, the song still playing in the background. He wasn't surprised to find her car already parked in the drive way and his kitchen light on. It wasn't long ago that he'd given her a key to his house, telling her he would be running slightly late finishing up a case with Abby. Originally, she'd insisted that she stay behind too, but he'd pushed harder. Additionally, it was an excuse to give her his house key. Two mornings later when he'd walked into the office he'd found a small box on his desk with a key and a letter from her. He hadn't shown any emotion at the time but had thanked her honestly and modestly the next time they were alone. She'd waved it off with a smile and three words that shocked him every time she said them:
I trust you.
"Kate! I'm home!" He resisted the urge to smile at how domestic it sounded as she padded out of the kitchen a mug of his industrial strength coffee in her hands. He raised an eyebrow in question. He hadn't known her day was that hard.
"Hard day?" She smiled, looking down into her cup.
"My boss drove me a little hard on a serial rapist case today. Profiling and all," she answered honestly, her forgiveness shining in her eyes. He winced.
"I'm sure he didn't mean it," he answered, continuing their little charade. Kate rewarded him with a smile of reassurance.
"I'm sure he didn't. Now, what are you creating tonight?" she said, smoothly moving to a different subject. He smiled at her and moved passed her into the kitchen, where she'd exited from moments before. Making sure to keep "her spot" clear, he pulled out a couple of pots, filling one with water and setting it on the stove. She, as per usual, hopped up to sit on the counter while he worked, her legs dangling over the edge.
He'd yelled at all of his ex-wives for doing that.
A frying pan was the next cooking utensil to find its way to the stove and soon after four pork pieces, previously marinated in Teriyaki sauce, were sizzling as they chatted about everything and anything. He relied on her for office gossip and she relied on him for the firm ground of reality when she talked in wishful tones. Soon he was putting the food on plates, one piece of meat for her, two for him, the other slipped into a baggie in the fridge for lunch or a late dinner and they moved to the kitchen table, sitting across from each other. Their conversation remained light, as they slipped into their domestic routine of eating and cleaning up. She knew her way around his kitchen, putting away the things they just didn't feel like putting in the dishwasher before they moved to put in their movie.
She'd picked a romantic comedy much like he would have picked an action/adventure or horror for her house. He dimmed the lights of the living room. She curled up on the couch beside him, pulling the blanket he kept on the back down across her folded legs and his outstretched ones as his arm found its comfortable place over her shoulders. They watched the movie in general silence, laughing and gasping at all the right moments throughout the film. It was about a love struggle between a subordinate and her boss. He wondered idly throughout the film if she'd chosen it for any specific reason. He found her teared up at the end and pulled his arm just the slightest bit tighter around her shoulders. She smiled gratefully at him.
"I wanted to tell you something," she said after a few moments, after she'd collected herself.
"Me too," he responded, his voice husky from not using it over the last two hours. She blushed and smiled.
"You go first." He saw the insecurity in her eyes but he also saw something else, something he was pretty sure had been in her eyes for a very long time, he just hadn't taken the time to notice. It was this emotion that gave him the strength to carry on.
"You are a very special woman Catilin Todd, did you know that?" She shook her head, not sure if he was asking her a rhetorical question or not. "You're one in a million. You do things that no other person has done before. You make me laugh, you make me worry endlessly about you, you make me self-conscious, you make me strive, but most of all, you make me love you with every little thing that you do." He'd looked away from her by this point, not sure he wanted to see her reaction to his words.
"You know," she said nonchalantly, "I love you, too."
That got his attention.
He knew they'd danced around it for too long, knew that they'd allowed trivial things to get in the way of what they truly wanted, but never in his wildest dreams had he ever thought that she would tell him what she just had. He knew she admired him, put him above every one else, tried to make sure she did her best around him, but he never thought that the spark he saw in her eyes when she looked at him could be love.
"It won't be easy, getting around regulations," he heard her whisper. He faced her, pulling her closer to him as her head found its way to her shoulder.
"We'll manage. We always have." It was true. Even when their personal relationship changed, their professional one had stayed close to the same. If they took their relationship deeper and continued to keep their professionalism, if – when, his mind told him – they ever considered taking it to something more than a steady relationship, the director couldn't very well do anything about it.
"This could ruin your career." He looked her straight in the eyes when he gave her his answer.
"At this point, I don't care." She believed him. He found himself telling her things he'd never told his exes, things that he felt true to the bottom of his heart and he found himself giving up things that he would have never considered giving up for anyone else. He could tell she was honoured and somewhat flustered at what exactly they were risking by doing this, but taking their relationship from next to best friends to something akin to lovers.
"Are you ready to do this, Katie?" he asked her softly, his eyes searching hers for any hint of doubt.
"I am if you are, Jethro," she answered just as softly. He smiled, bringing his head down as she craned her neck. Their lips met and what was only really meant as a kiss to seal their relationship, turned into something so much more.
I originally meant this as a one shot fic but if you guys want to see what could happen if their secret gets out and then a proposal just say so. I'd be more than happy to write those chapters.