Kate was not disappointed to have missed the party. She was not surprised either. She'd told her mother that her new job and her new boss did not adhere to regular working hours and not to expect her at her annual New Years Eve bash till later. As it happened the case they were working on broke at about 8:30pm, a few short hours later, it was finalised and all that was required was for them to write out their final reports. Something Gibbs graciously conceded could wait till the New Year.
With half an hour left of the old year, the agents gathered in Abby's lab where Ducky had smuggled in champagne and Abby, beer. They'd clinked mugs with bottles, made the obligatory toast to the coming year, and collapsed, exhausted, to watch the last few minutes pass in peace.
Kate surveyed the human debris with a vacant eye and noted that their midnight toast had officially turned into an early morning lay around. Conversation was scarce, movement, impossible.
This had to be illegal, she thought, alcohol on the premises, but if Gibbs wasn't protesting then who was she to argue? She swirled the remaining beer in her mug and frowned. She'd started with the champagne – much more her drink – while the others had gone straight for the beer. She was not a good drinker and now the mixture in her stomach was making her feel a little queasy. Could be the fact that she'd barely eaten in 12 hours too, aside from one and a half protein bars. She picked up the champagne bottle from the floor but Ducky had guzzled most of it and promptly passed out on one of the work benches behind her. She peered round at him as he started to snore softly.
Setting her mug aside, Kate kicked off her heels and turned sideways in her chair, slinging her legs over one arm. Much better. In the chair beside her, Gibbs watched this movement with consternation. How come he looked exactly the same at 1am as at 10am? Abby started to hum. She was sitting cross-legged on the floor, also having done away with shoes; in her case black combat boots, so that now she sported knee-length black and red striped socks. Tony was horizontal above her on a desk, one hand dangling down so that she could play with it. She linked her hand with his and swung them back and forth still humming something Kate did not recognise. Gibbs watched them and took a swig of his beer. He'd been drinking that same beer for nearly an hour now, she noted, and half of that he'd poured into her mug. Kate glanced at the clock: 12:14.
"Hey. It's the new year."
Gibbs followed her eyes and checked for himself, unwilling to believe second hand information. Tony lifted his head and opened his eyes halfway. Ducky snored, and Abby pinched Tony's arm.
"Pinch 'n' a punch!" she announced.
Tony took back his arm, rubbing the injured portion and slung his legs down, sitting up on the desk.
"Happy New Year, everyone," he handed another beer to Abby and opened one for himself. Gibbs watched this silent communication with amusement.
"Alright, people," Abby announced, after a long swig: "time for new years resolutions."
"Nooooo!" Tony groaned.
"Yes!" she pointed her beer bottle at Gibbs: "Master and Commander, you first."
Kate looked to Gibbs keen to hear if he'd spill. She was always interested in any insight into the man that had recently captured her thoughts so entirely. As she expected, Gibbs just smiled, sanguine and secretive.
"Maybe you should try to finish that boat this year, Boss," suggested Tony, garnering the glare from Gibbs everyone expected it would.
"Tony, it's the journey, not the destination," Abby explained.
"I never got that. I mean, why do the hard work, if you don't want the payoff?"
"Precisely why you never get laid, Tony," Kate said before she thought better of it.
Gibbs chuckled under his breath and Abby grinned.
"Like you can talk," spit Tony, throwing a bottle cap at her.
"Okay, Tooony," Abby interjected between the two: "Let's hear your new year's resolutions."
"Get a girlfriend?" suggested Kate and Abby couldn't help but giggle.
"Good luck, DiNozzo," Gibbs said into his beer bottle, which made Kate giggle.
Looking wounded, Tony wrapped his coat around himself and lay back down. Abby grunted and turned to Kate expectantly:
"Kate, talk some sense."
"Okay, well…" Kate was a person with many resolutions, ambitions and dreams. She'd always been the type to anticipate the future and what she wanted for herself. Usually around this time, she did record a few goals in her PDA, a seed to cultivate over time, and keep herself on track. But this year had offered her an unexpected twist in her personal and professional timeline. And up until now she'd barely had time to think about what she wanted to create for the next year. For the first time, Kate was not looking onwards and upwards; with surprise, she realised she was happy where she was. Meeting with Gibbs had been a fortuitous circumstance she could never have imagined and the job he gave her was everything she did not know she wanted. She was excited to go to work each morning, she was fulfilled by the work at NCIS and best of all, she worked with people she respected, trusted and valued. She loved it here and she loved being part of this little team. She wasn't going anywhere.
She looked over at Gibbs, who was patiently waiting for her answer. She wanted her first full year at NCIS, to be everything the last few months had been. There were mistakes that she would learn not to make again and there was always more she wanted to know, but basically, her life was here now. And she just wanted more of the same.
"Well-?" prompted Abby. She was a really loud drunk. Cheerful, Kate thought, but loud.
"Okay," she started slowly: "It may sound a bit dicky-"
"Dicky?" snorted Tony.
"But…I just want to become the best agent I can be."
Gibbs said nothing but gave her that gleaming look that made her feel she was everything he wanted her to be.
"You're right, that does sound dicky," mumbled Tony.
"DiNozzo!" Gibbs snapped, exasperated.
Tony peered at her from his position on the desk.
"Teacher's pet." He sulked under his breath.
"Class clown," Kate mouthed back.
"Abby?" Gibbs spoke up: "What about you? Got a resolution to share with the class?"
"Eeeeeasy question!" Abby's eyes twinkled: "Wanna learn to unicycle."
"Yeah, you know those….one wheel bikes that clowns ride on."
"That's cool, Abby," Kate grinned.
"And that's useful for?" Gibbs was confused.
"I dunno what it's useful for but it's fun as!"
"Just 'as', Gibbs!"
Tony sat up suddenly, demanding: "I'd like to mess up Kate's hair, is that a resolution?"
"Vindictive, Tony" Abby grinned.
"What's the matter with my hair?"
"It's always so perfect!" he said, screwing up his nose.
"Wow, alcohol really brings out the best in you, Tony."
Gibbs examined Kate's head. Kate rolled her eyes. Abby snorted and downed the last of her beer.
"He's drunk," said Gibbs doing the same, and rising.
"So am I," giggled Abby: "I always wanna dance when I'm drunk….but when I'm drunk, I'm a really bad dancer."
"Okay, I think it might be home time for Abby," said Gibbs, reaching down to pick her up off the floor.
"Come on, I'll drop you home. Tony, I assume you're sleeping here?"
Tony grunted and pulled a stack of files towards him as a pillow.
"Take that as a 'yes'," mumbled Kate, stealing the half empty bottle from his hand and bagging it with the rest of the evidence of their party.
"Kate, you right to drive or you need a lift?" Gibbs was guiding Abby out. Kate grabbed Abby's boots and followed.
"As long as I can locate the steering wheel I should make it."
They'd reached the elevator and turned out the lights, leaving Ducky and Tony to their rest. Gibbs looked at her.
"I'll be fine," she whispered.
Abby leaned on Gibbs' shoulder as they rode the elevator, the NCIS building quieter than Kate had ever heard it. The doors opened and Abby stumbled out beginning to hum again.
"Drive slow," Gibbs ordered as Kate took out her keys.
"Happy New Year!" Abby threw her arms around Kate in a hug that sent her stumbling back a bit.
"Happy New Year, Abby," she laughed, returning the hug and raising her brows at Gibbs who raised his back. Kate patted her on the back a few times and Abby finally released her.
"You rock, Katie-girl, really. It's so cool having another chick in this outfit!"
"Okay," said Gibbs, pulling her away and turning her gently in the direction of the car. His eyes shone with amusement: "Well-"
Kate looked up.
"Happy New Year, Katie-girl," he said, borrowing Abby's words but somehow giving them a far more intimate edge. Kate laughed nervously at the endearment coming from the older agent, but the laugh caught in her throat when, quite casually, quite unexpectedly, he leaned down and kissed her cheek. He lingered only half a second. The totally innocent contact made her blush and wonder how she could get such a big thrill from such a small gesture. What was it about this man? She wished she'd known it was coming so that she could record and remember every detail of what his lips felt like, his cheek, the warmth of his breath, she wished she'd seen his eyes. What she was left with was just the phantom tingle on her cheek and the absurd thought that she might never wash it again. She wished him a happy new year in return though she was not sure how, and then he was gone.
She bit her lip, not sure why she called him back. He looked at her expectantly. She remembered her thoughts from earlier, her realisation and resolution. She remembered the look he gave her. She clenched and unclenched her hands a couple of times, then said simply: "I just wanted to thank you," she paused: "- for bringing me to NCIS."
She found it hard to talk looking into his eyes so she let her eyes wander; landing on a sign behind him that read: "No Loitering".
"I…. couldn't imagine myself anywhere else," she smiled, softly.
"Good," Gibbs nodded conclusively: he didn't want to imagine her anywhere else either. He half-turned to go, then glancing back at her from under his brows, said in a low voice: "It's a pleasure working with you, Agent Todd."
Kate's smile grew slowly as she savoured the rare compliment. Their eyes held a long moment and she lifted her head as if to say 'you too'. He hesitated momentarily then turned back to Abby who was sitting on the trunk of his car, tying her boots with great difficulty.
Kate watched his retreating back for a moment, knowing he was aware of her doing so, then moved quickly towards her own car.
Gibbs dropped into his seat and fired up the engine. One resolution down, he thought with a smile; he'd kissed Caitlin Todd's left dimple.
Maybe next year he'd go for the freckle on her neck.
He turned the wheel and pushed the accelerator: the year after….well, who knew?