Title: Mea Culpa
Author: Shannon/Raindrops on Roses
Category: Angst, Episode reaction
Spoilers: Heart Break
Disclaimer: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Notes: This story has heavy allusions to Catholicism. If you're not comfortable with that sort of thing, turn back now.
(Also, while I attended Mass for a year or so with foster parents, I'm not actually Catholic. So be easy on me, okay?)
"Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen."
Kate heard her voice fall off from beyond the roar in her ears. She stared down at the ensign lying on the cold metal slab. Her thumb rubbed against her left hand reflexively, as if trying to finger a rosary.
She'd shot to kill before this. She was a Secret Service agent. She had trained for it.
But she never thought she'd take an innocent life. God, what kind of person was she?
Her back stiffened. She turned at the sound of the soft British accent. He was startlingly close.
"Ducky." He reached out and pushed the body back into the freezer. Kate shuddered as the door closed with a muffled thud.
"Are you busy tonight, Caitlin?" Ducky asked gently.
'I confess to almighty God, to blessed Mary ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy apostles Peter and Paul, and to all the saints, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.'
"Kate?" A touch on her shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Ducky. What were you saying?" She offered him a wan smile.
"Are you busy tonight?"
Harrison was probably waiting for her to call. "No. I'm not busy."
Ducky paused for a moment. "Would you like to--"
"I'm not really in the mood to go anywhere tonight, Ducky," Kate cut in. Ducky, used to interruptions in his long tales, didn't flinch.
"I was going to ask, 'would you like me to take you home?'"
"I--" Kate paused at the beginning of her refusal. For all that he was a nice guy, she didn't think Harrison would understand this. "Yeah. That'd be nice. Thank you."
"It's not a problem, dear." The medical examiner patted her on the arm kindly. "Let's go get your coat, and we can get out of here."
"Yeah." Kate turned to go. She wasn't cold, but she wrapped her arms around herself and shivered.
Ducky was a gentleman. Kate almost smiled as he offered her his arm. They crossed the parking lot in silence. Ducky opened the passenger-side door and helped Kate inside.
For once, Ducky did not fill the silence with one of his interminable stories, for which Kate was grateful. At any other time, she would at least humor the older man. At the moment, however, she was afraid she'd snap at him.
The streetlights flashed through the windows as they passed. Kate kept seeing the soft blue glow of the pool in the sky overhead, and the twin beams of hers and Gibbs's flashlights in the cars passing by, and the bright flash of the gunshot in the changing of traffic lights.
She couldn't put it out of her mind. She couldn't just 'get over it'. A brief pang of fury rose in her chest before the numbness overwhelmed it.
The car eventually pulled to a stop in front of Kate's apartment building. Ducky turned off the engine, and Kate unbuckled her seatbelt.
"If you'll suffer an old man's slowness, I'll get the door for you."
Kate blinked at Ducky. He merely smiled, and she nodded, relaxing into the seat. As Ducky walked around the car and opened the door, Kate thought about Gibbs's remark.
'Ducky's older, Kate, not dead.'
Her first thought had been, 'Gibbs has a sense of humor--who knew?'
But then, she took a good look at the 'older' man. He was quite charming. And attractive, if one went for the older type. He was intelligent--no doubt about that. But overall, he was a gentleman.
She shook herself. What the hell was she doing? Checking out a man old enough to be her father--her grandfather? She climbed out of the car and led the way to her apartment.
"Hey, pretty girl," Kate whispered as she opened the door and a cat twined itself around her legs. She carefully forced her way further inside, then set down her bags and picked up the insistent animal. It butted her chin with its head and started purring. "Silly girl."
"Aren't you going to introduce me?" Ducky asked. She could hear the smile in his voice.
Kate turned to Ducky. "Ducky, this is Weasel."
He let out a chuckle. "Weasel?"
"Now you know why I generally call her 'girl'." Kate smiled slightly.
"You didn't name her, I take it?" The cat twisted in Kate's arms. She loosened her hold, and it leapt into Ducky's.
Kate snorted. "No. My brother Dan did."
Kate hung up her coat. "Would you like some tea?"
There was a pause, and Kate fidgeted a bit. "Certainly," Ducky replied.
"I'll go put some water on."
The tea was weak, but Ducky didn't seem to mind. Once Kate set the cup in front of him, she went back into the kitchen. The sound of an electric can opener roused Weasel's attention, and she leapt off of Ducky's lap and padded into the other room.
Kate fed the cat, who fell on the food like it hadn't eaten for days, and returned to the living room. She curled up on the couch and stared unseeing at the coffee table.
"Are you a practicing Catholic, Caitlin?"
'O, my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend thee, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.'
"What?" She didn't tend to discuss religion with others. But Ducky was more open-minded than most people. "Um... yes. Usually. I try to make it to Mass every week, but sometimes it's not possible. Crime doesn't stop on the weekends, and all that." Ducky nodded. "How about you? Any religious affiliation?"
"I was born Anglican. I don't attend services, but I think there's a certain reassuring aspect to religion."
Kate sighed. "And sometimes it just makes everything a lot harder."
"There is that," Ducky said, smiling a bit. "But talking out your problems--even if you don't expect an answer--can help."
"I don't really feel like talking right now, Ducky," Kate sighed.
"No? Then why did you ask me to stay for tea?"
Kate fell silent. When she spoke again, her voice was small and vulnerable. "Because if I was alone, all I'd think about was... him."
"Uh-huh." Kate hugged her knees to her chest.
"It's not your fault, you know."
Kate closed her lips on a sob. "That's what everyone keeps telling me. But... I killed an innocent man, Ducky. I can't just put that behind me."
"Gibbs means well," Ducky said, "but sometimes he forgets that others deal with problems differently than he does."
"Sometimes?" Kate huffed, a bit of her usual sarcasm returning. Ducky laughed softly.
Ducky left after achieving his goal of making Kate smile. Kate watched his car pull away, then let the curtain fall back against the window.
She went through her nightly ablutions, aching at heart, but not quite as frozen inside as before. She pulled back the comforter and climbed into bed. Her hand paused halfway to the lamp on the nightstand.
She pushed the blanket away and rose. Padding quietly to her dresser, she opened a jewelry box. A soft tinkle arose from the box. Kate pulled out a string of beads.
Kneeling beside the bed, Kate stared at the beads in her hand. She wound them between her fingers. She crossed herself quickly. Rubbing her thumb over the crucifix, she closed her eyes and murmured, "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth..."