Ma'aminim
by B. Cavis This story is a sequel to Caffeine Sunset.


Ma'aminim
by B. Cavis

Considering how well the last meeting had gone-- how completely and utterly perfect every step he had taken had turned out-- Ari should have been expecting something to go horribly wrong in the near future. To have everything blow up in his face in some huge and probably very painful way was the logical next step in this dance. Things had been going well. Therefore, things had to start going very badly to compensate.

And, perhaps, in someway he had been expecting cosmic retribution. God was not vengeful, but He did seem to like to keep everyone on their toes about just how much happiness was allowed before things started turning into a monumentally large pile of harah.

A little bad luck or unseen universal revenge he could understand. Evadon, he probably would have been a little uneasy if it had never occurred.

But when he thought retribution-- punishment for kissing Caitlin Todd in a sun drenched cafe-- his thoughts strayed more to Gibbs beating the daylights out of his hide in a dark alleyway and then leaving him for the CIA to pick up and cauterize.

After all, if anyone was likely to have a problem with his actions it was Jethro Gibbs. The man was too protective for Ari's own good; if he had suspected that the man who (Ari was sure) he still thought of as a terrorist and a bastard was anywhere near the strong woman he had been cultivating into a brilliant example of all that was right with the federal system of law enforcement, he wouldn't have thought twice about making him bleed.

In fact, Ari had the feeling he would have quite enjoyed it.

Gibbs would have been expected-- Gibbs could have been dealt with in the usual way; picking himself up off the pavement and brushing the blood away (because angry as the man may be, he was still technically on the side of clean white good, and that meant he had a weak enough stomach for Ari to escape mostly in tact).

Ari knew Gibbs, and therefore he was nothing but a mild adrenaline rush.

Therefore, Gibbs had been the last person to show up. Ari's universe has a sick sense of humor, and it's just a little bit of a sadist.

No, of all the people Ari had been expecting to find ready and waiting to beat him breathless, a mugger (a common damnable mugger!) had not been high on his list of people to look out for. Of all the people he expected to be trained in the art of kicking one into the ground, the man in the stained blue coat with a nose bleed was not one of them. And if someone had asked him if a strung out drug user could have gotten such a jump on him that he would find himself slashed across the stomach at 9 o'clock at night on a Wednesday, he would have laughed right into their faces.

If laughing didn't hurt so much right now, Allah be damned.

There goes my man of mystery look.

Ari's hand curls protectively around his stomach, and his thumb traces the thick bandaging through his shirt as a perverse touch stone. He can feel the uneven wrapping through the fabric. Doctor he may be, it is extremely difficult to bandage one's self while trying not to move or pass out.

He hadn't known that when he stepped out of his apartment this morning. He knows it now.

Personally, he liked the former much better as a state of awareness. It was less harmful to his ego, and a lot better for the state of his skin.

He now hates junkies, too. Before they were just considered weak-- people who let their addictions control them and own them to the point where nothing else mattered by getting their fix on time. Now? If his stomach wasn't hurting so much, he would go out and start up a free clinic.

Really.

No, not really.

Ari smirks into the darkness of the apartment and picks at the bottom button of his shirt with fingers that he refuses to define as "nervous." Nervous implies weak, and weak implies that he has no choice in where or what he is right now.

And that might just hit a little bit too close to the truth of the matter for his comfort, so he ignores the thought entirely. He is plucking at his shirt buttons because he needs something to keep his mind off the pain. End of story.

He wonders if this is the normal progression of all relationships. Is this the reason his father and mother never married? Because his father didn't fancy the idea of being stabbed and bleeding and still wanting nothing more than to see his dark haired lover at every possible interval?

Ari is starting to consider that maybe he was smart in never dating anyone outside of his role as Hasswari. The concept of finding one woman to match one man is a little... daunting, to say the least.

His stomach is really painful right now, and the pillow off to his right looks oh so tempting. His head hasn't stopped floating since his initial adrenaline rush wore off, and now that he's sitting still, it's really begun to throb in earnest. Pain is shaking through his whole body, and the knowledge that he can't go to the hospital or have the CIA's skilled medical men and women patch him up is making the agony increase ten fold. He should be at his apartment, swallowing an OxyContin down and letting the world disintegrate into a pile of nothing and dreamless sleep, but instead he's here.

Here.

In the lion's den, in a manner of speaking.

There are pillows here. Lots and lots of pillows, and his eyes trail over to the pile of down and silk on his right, and his head moans without the consent of the rest of his body.

Just a place to rest. Just a moment to close his eyes and... ponder his fate and the situation he's put himself in and has no desire to get out of. It would only be a minute.

He's never been one to lie to himself. Starting now is not too appealing, all things considered. He's about to fall asleep on Caitlin Todd's couch.

He supposes he might as well enjoy the sensation.

Ari's head hits the pillow that smells so much like what he needs it to smell like. His eyelids are dropping before he can settle his position around his injury, and his hands are still wrapped around his midsection when he feels his lips part involuntarily and his entire being shut down.

He hopes she's alone when she comes in. To have the woman he promised a conversation to walk in with her boss would put a quick end to any association he may hope to have with her.

Being dead is no state to find one's self in when on Caitlin Todd's couch. It tends to interfere with previous made plans.

But God is on his side-- for all he does, some reward is cosmically destined to be visited upon him, and this is it.

When she comes in, Kate is neither accompanied by one of her associates, nor is she trigger happy. Her gun is safe and locked underneath her arm. Her hair is down and pooling around her shoulders. There is no desire to shoot him, no desire to scream, and she walks quietly through to the kitchen to pull a bottle of water out of the fridge.

She doesn't move to upset him. She doesn't wake him up. She doesn't see him, and she doesn't look. Her spine has been pressed down so low by hours of work that she can't bring herself to be alert of intuitive about what's going around her.

If someone walked up to her and pulled a gun, she would shoot them dead. If someone stepped into her line of sight and tried to threaten her, she would lay them out on the floor and step on their throat until they passed out.

If someone lay asleep on her couch and didn't threaten her or anyone else, she wouldn't see them. And she doesn't.

Various curses drift through her head in various languages, and she bangs her wrist against the counter top in her clumsy exhaustion. It hurts, but it sounds worse than it was, and it's the sound that jerks Ari back to reality on her couch.

She puts the bottle of water back in the fridge and kicks her heels off in the kitchen. Her toes are cramped after so many hours of being on her feet doing menial but required case work, and she rubs circulation back into them while standing on one foot. Pain is the least of her concerns right now, and everything else is much more overwhelming.

The urge to sleep until the world ends is almost overpowering. She wonders if Gibbs would give her too much grief for never coming in again, and decides she doesn't care.

Rule number 22 on the Kate List of Rules: Fuck Gibbs.

Hey. New rule. Cool.

Her neck itches, and she scratches it absently, before stumbling back into her living room. The heels lay where they fell on the tiles, and she makes no move to pick them up. Fuck it. Tomorrow's a Saturday-- shoes aren't required on Saturdays.

The carpet feels good on her toes. The pillow feels good against the back of his head, and her image feels amazing on his eyes.

Her fingers start to work her belt open, and as he catches a glimpse of her fly button, he feels it might just be time to speak up.

Perversion does not define him.

"If you are going to provide a show, Caitlin, the least you could do is to also provide a drink."

A younger version of her would have jumped and he would have laughed quietly before moving onto his conversation. She would have hunched up her shoulders and narrowed her mouth and eyes in frustration at not being quicker.

Caitlin Todd pulls her gun and levels it at where his voice comes from which is, incidentally, right at his forehead.

Grown up, indeed.

"If you could refrain from blowing my head away for a moment longer, Caitlin, I might be able to provide you with the conversation I promised earlier."

The gun doesn't drop immediately, and his breath stops coming, his stomach expanding.

The little grunt of pain he lets out isn't voluntary, and it isn't stoppable. The gun lowers, and if he wasn't in so much pain, now would be the time he could start to breath normally again.

His entire midsection is on fire-- burning bright and hot like he rubbed salt directly into a shrapnel wound. Apparently, the rest did something for his head, but very little for the injury itself. He should have known that. Somewhere in med school, he remembers learning about these sorts of things.

Maybe the blood loss is affecting his mind.

"What's wrong?"

It must be the blood loss. He blinks heavily up at her, and gun has been replaced by a pair of dark, curious eyes. Her visual scan absorbs the image of his hands around his stomach, and suddenly she is in his personal space and he can't smell anything beyond her perfume and her sweat and his blood mixed together.

"It is nothing."

"Bullshit. If it was nothing, you would have met me at the door with some snarky little dig at how exhausted I looked."

"I was going to save that for..." His voice is dying off, and his braincells must be starving from lack of blood, because he couldn't possibly have just seen what he thinks he just saw. His vision must be blurred, or perhaps he's still dreaming.

There is no other way to explain why Caitlin Todd just willingly sank down to her knees in front of him and placed her head within reach of his hands and her throat within reach of his fist.

There is no other way to explain the feeling of her cool fingers on his overheated hands, nor the gentleness she uses as she peals his defensive clutch around his wound.

He must be dreaming. Because she's here, she's aware, and he's not lying dead at her feet.

His fingers have locked around his stomach, and she pulls them apart stubbornly to reveal his weakness. "Let me see!"

"I said it was nothing. I'm a doctor, I should know."

"Yeah? Well, you should also know better than to lie down on my couch and fall asleep while bleeding from the stomach too. The blood-loss is effecting your brain."

He laughs, and it hurts, but he can't stop it. "That's what I had thought, actually, but..."

Caitlin Todd has just started undoing the buttons on his shirt, slow and steady, and each one lets out a tiny pop of hopeless submission as it gives up the good fight. He can feel the pressure from her hands as she opens and pulls apart his shirt.

He won't forget the feel of this either. He will never let this moment vanish from behind his eyelids when he closes them-- never. It slips into the box he's marked as CAITLIN, along with the sight of the sun painting her beautiful, the feel of his finger against her cheek, and the way her mouth tasted like hope and coffee.

She's got her own place in his mind. He wonders how she would react to that if she knew.

Delicate and dangerous fingers pop one button after the other, from belly to chest, and when her hands reach up to the area surrounding his throat, she pauses for a moment, and glances up at him.

His eyes haven't left her the whole time. He couldn't look away; hasn't tried, but couldn't and he knew it. But now, when she pauses, he has to meet her eyes full on, and she flushes at the idea of being the object he's focusing on.

Her hands are going up near his throat. Is he okay with that? Her eyes ask what her lips can't even begin to comprehend, and he watches them for a moment longer before tilting his head back and offering his throat to the lioness.

If she wanted him dead, her hands could do the job right here.

If she wanted him incapacitated, her hands could do that too.

The last of the buttons gives, and he lets out a soft breath of air through his nose that wraps around her fingers and makes her leg itch. She parts the shirt with a soft touch, and he hears her soft intake as she sees the mess he's made of his stomach.

"God."

"No, a drug addict. God had nothing to do with it." She ignores him, but sends a pointed glance up at his face, and he smirks into the darkness.

"This looks bad-- let me get the light-"

"No."

The silence suddenly becomes heavy, and it occurs to both of them who the other one is and what they are to each other as opposed to what they are allowed to be to one another.

They are supposed to be nothing. And they are most definitely becoming something.

This has the opportunity to end poorly. Kate doesn't say anything.

The First-Aid kit provides bandages and pain killers, and he accepts both with little hesitancy. She keeps the lights off but for the shine from the kitchen, and it's just enough to see the important part of each other's faces and bodies. Their eyes are bright and guilty in the illumination.

Her fingers are fast and nimble, like they were that day in the cafe, and he never imagined it would feel so good to be the center of her attention. He lifts up when she tells him too, and he watches numbly as she produces a pile of blood stained cloth from next to his skin to replace it with clean white aid.

She swallows thickly and touches the freshly bandaged wound. "It looks painful."

"It was. It is... not so much anymore."

She nods, as if the hidden meaning is something she's allowed to appreciate, and he doesn't tell her otherwise. If he offers her truth, she'll stop touching him. He doesn't think he could bare to lose her skin so soon after finding it.

Caitlin swallows something down and meets his eyes with determination. "You promised me a conversation, that day in the cafe."

"I did."

Her mouth twitches, and she knows that he's just being difficult right now and that makes her want to give into the forbidden smile. "Now's a good a time as any to give me a reason not to kick you out of my apartment, Ari."

Shiver. He wonders if she'll ever be able to call him that without his entire body shaking in response. He hopes not.

"I am here sharing information with your CIA." She cocks her head to one side and her eyes narrow slightly. He can see her cataloging and judging the information as he says it. "I had just completed an operation when I saw you in the cafe. There were several men who were quite intent on blowing up a large part of your country and mine this past Thursday. I arranged for the majority of them to be turned in by another member of the group."

"Same trick. Aren't you afraid they'll catch on?"

"No." And there's no room for argument in that tone, and she doesn't try to argue. It's not the most important issue on her mind right now anyway.

Other things take precedent.

"Did you seek me out, that day in the cafe?"

He ponders his answer-- trying to work the wording out in his head, and her suspicion starts to grow. "No. I saw my... your red motorcycle by the side of the road." That is a deliberate falsehood on his part. He had sought her out-- he had kept tabs on her and found out where she was, and then arranged to be there himself.

He had been looking for her. He had wanted to see her.

But she doesn't need to hear that from his lips.

There's a strange look in her eyes, and Ari gets the sick feeling that he might have already told her. Her fingers don't come off his wound.

"Okay."

The fridge hums in the corner. Quiet sentinel to their little... sexless tryst.

The next question comes soft and low, and he has to strain to hear it, but he's been listening for it for a while. "When you left, you... touched my face."

"Yes."

He can't read her eyes. Why can't he read her eyes? He can read everyone.

"Why... Why did you do that?"

He does not want to give her an answer to that question on more than one level. He swallows and feels the pride he thought he had suppressed pooling in the back of his throat and edging up on his molars. "Why not?"

Her mouth tightens. "You said you'd give me a conversation. If I'd know you were just going to lie and be evasive, I would have kicked you out-"

"I touched your face because I wanted to."

The fridge is extremely loud.

All of the air is deflating from his body when he exhales, and she watches him for a hint of a new lie and finds none. She's not sure if that's reassuring or more disconcerting than finding one.

He doesn't look away from her, and the smile is soft in his eyes. "I wanted to touch you, Caitlin."

She swallows, and all of her nerves are there now, pressing and pushing against her rib cage. Her heart is vibrating in her chest, and she prays that he can't hear it.

"And when you kissed me?" Her voice is a whisper that she never knew she could produce. "What was the reason for that?"

His fingers reach down to where hers rest soft and thick as the new fallen snow on his wound. Her hands are small and dangerous in his own palms, and he holds them like they can do no wrong or no harm. He drags them up, both pairs of duty and promise, and she feels the bare skin of his stomach and chest paint sensation thick on her hands.

They stop to rest over his heart, over the place of warmth and vulnerable force in his body, and she can feel his heart beating just as fast as hers is against them both. She could not look away from his face for everything and anything in the world.

No one moves. No one can.

"Because I needed to," he whispers soft and low, and his pride melts down into his belly. This is so hard and this is so painful and God he can not stop himself from making a complete and utter fool of all he is, and that's just how it's going to have to be.

"Oh," she whispers, and the air is shuddering in her mouth and lungs. He closes his eyes for a moment, trying to stop everything in him from boiling and either lashing out at this woman or lashing out at himself, and when nothing happens he feels so relieved that he could cry.

Is that relief? Or pain?

"I... I don't know what to say to you," she laughs softly, and it's not a humorous sound. He winces. "I've never... No one's ever kissed me like that before." And his eyes fly up to her face. She sacrifices a smile and he feels his being holding onto the threads to keep from flying apart. "I don't know what the Hell is going on with me, and frankly, you probably would be better off getting as far away from me as possible as quickly as you can." She smiles, and it's the saddest thing he's ever seen.

"I don't know if I can ever... kiss you like that, and I don't know what you see in me that you feel you need to do that." She winces, and her teeth show for a second. Her canines are pointed sharp. "All I know is that I can't seem to stop looking at your eyes." She shrugs. "I don't know what that means, and I don't expect you to take it as an answer. It's just... I can't look away from your eyes."

She presses her hand, soft and firm against his heart for a moment longer, and he relishes in the sensation. Cool touch on heat and beat, and there is no greater feeling in the Universe of Adonai than her on him.

He will never forget any of it. Never.

Caitlin smiles and pulls away. "You can't leave like that, Ari. Gibbs would kill me if he saw you here, but I'm guessing that because of what you've been doing a hospital is out?" He nods. "Okay. Then let me get you a blanket."

She stands and walks over to a small closet, posture straight. He watches her move with a feeling in his chest like he might never seen anything greater than this, and that maybe he doesn't have too.

The blanket is dark green. She unfolds it and spreads it over his legs and chest gently before walking into her bedroom and retrieving a pillow from her bed. When he lifts up to allow her to put it behind his head, her smell engulfs him in peace, and he swims in her aura.

This is where he wants to be.

"You do not have to do this," he whispers to her, though if she asks him to leave now it might just destroy this new piece of him with one fell click of the lock in the door. If she were to change her mind now, he would leave. And then he would go and let himself become a soulless, joyless agent; pleasure in the job and a job in the pleasure.

If she makes him leave, it will kill a piece of him forever.

And she looks up at his face for the final time tonight and smiles. "No," Caitlin whispers, before bending over and pressing her lips to his in a silent echo of his actions just a few days before.

She tastes sweeter this time, but overwhelmingly the same. He can feel his future wet on her lips, and when she touches his shoulder to have something to do with her hands, he can feel his past melting into a happy reminiscent state.

She pulls away, and he stares up at her with adrenaline in his veins that no cheap thrill has ever granted him before. "But I want to. And maybe I need to."

Her fingers smooth over his skin one last time, before she straightens up and smiles gently. "Get some sleep." He hears her vanish behind the safety of her bedroom door, and when the bedsprings creak, he pictures her lying there with her eyes closed and her hair flowing.

He can't close his mind down.

His eyelids won't slip down to allow him the release of oblivion.

Her demon lips trace wet and firm against his own, and in his mind they trail sand storms down his chest to rest above his heart and hold him in the palm of her hand. Maybe, he tells the ceiling. This is something more than I thought it could be.

The light from her kitchen mocks him quietly with the voice of some father figure past. Romantic tripe. Drivel. Don't get drawn in.

And he knows it-- knows this won't end with children and flowers and lazy Sunday mornings wrapped in sunlight blankets on sex steamed sheets. He knows this won't be the normal relationship that maybe all company men want at one time or another, and maybe he is just a company man at heart to the end.

Or maybe he's just a believer.

The fridge hums in his ears as her scent and her softness take him away.


If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to: B. Cavis