Kate checked her answering machine messages.
"Hey, Kate, it's me. Was wondering if you wanted a ride to work tomorrow--"
Kate shook her head as Tony continued to ramble. Tomorrow was supposed to be her first day back at NCIS after a short leave. And she wasn't exactly looking forward to it. Yeah, she craved going back to a normal life, to her job and normal routine. But, she thought, as she fingered her badge, fingers tracing the letters thoughtfully, it was hard to know how she could ever go back to that life.
"--anyway, call me back when you get a chance." Tony finished. Kate picked up her phone, and dialed Tony's number.
"Oh, hey. You get my message?"
"You want me to pick you up?"
Kate paused before answering. "Tony, I don't know how to say this….but, I think I'm giving Gibbs my resignation."
There was no answer for what seemed forever. Then Tony spoke, his voice strangely quiet. "Kate, why don't I come over now? I'll take you out for coffee; we can talk about this?"
Kate answered her door, and found Tony waiting patiently on the step.
"Hey," he greeted.
"You can come in while I get my coat," Kate offered, and Tony stepped in, and looked around curiously. Kate laughed. "I know, it's kind of bare. My parents offered for me to stay with them until my old place is repaired….but, I kind of needed to get away from all their questioning."
Tony smiled lightly. "Really? You mean they are actually surprised that you are alive?"
"Oh, you have no idea. Out of state family called about every five minutes to hear my voice and make sure it wasn't a hoax; everyone wants to stop by and convince themselves I'm real. And the whole if-I-told-you-I'd-have-to-kill-you line really does not satisfy people. All except Great-Aunt Ruby. She is too busy telling me 'it's too bad, really, my dear. It was such a lovely service. And closed-casket. What a shame--you would have been a beautiful corpse.'"
They both laughed a t Kate's imitating her aunt, as she buttoned her long coat up. Tony offered his arm and she gave him a quizzical look. It was when he opened her side of the car that she spoke. "Tony, do you want something, or are you just being nice to me for no reason?"
Tony tilted his head and raised one eyebrow. "Oh, I always have a n ulterior motive, Katie." he said in his old teasing voice.
Kate let the "Katie" slip by, but she shook her head as she settled into the seat of Tony's car.
"So you did get a new car?"
Tony patted the steering wheel fondly. "Mmm-hmm. After that maniac stole and wrecked my old one….well, it got kind of humiliating riding with Probie everyday."
"Oh, c'mon, Tony, his car isn't that bad."
"True, if you are Henry Ford.."
Kate rolled her eyes.
Tony pulled the car into a space in front of a little coffeehouse with a deck over the Potomac River. Kate was almost a little disappointed they had already arrived. The banted felt so normal, and they hadn't even touched the issue of Kate leaving NCIS. However, she knew that Tony would bring it up soon. Especially when he chose a table in a secluded corner.
Kate looked around. "You know all the places to go to in town, don't you?"
"I hate taking a girl to the same place twice," he winked in answer.
"Hmmm. I should have known. Is it you playing your rich-boy-grew-up-going-to-every-place-imaginable card again?"
"Ouch, Kate." Tony smiled.
The young waitress brought their coffee. Tony reached for a packet of sugar , and while stirring it in, spoke. "So you are really leaving?" He wouldn't look at Kate, but continued to stir his coffee.
Kate warmed her hands on her mug. "I don't think I can come back."
He then looked up. He had the tip of his spoon on his lower lip, staring thoughtfully at her. Now it was Kate's turn to look away. She focused her attention on the toddler in the booth across from them, not wanting to see the questions in her partner's eyes.
"Why do you think, Tony?"
"Don't be a coward, Kate! Don't let this stop you from doing what you have to!" Tony stopped, when he saw Kate wince at his anger. "Listen, I'm sorry, Kate. But you can't go. We need you."
"Well, I'd like to think I'm the brains behind our team, but you seemed to do well without me. After all, you did find me!"
Tony did not smile at her light words. His eyes gazed across at hers seriously. We barely did 'well'. Yes, we found you, but that was because we were fighting for you. Kate, I don't know what we would have done when it finally hit us you weren't coming back. I wouldn't have been able to face the day. I wouldn't have been able to face life. It would have been over for me, Kate."
He was looking at her so earnestly that she felt tears tugging at the corners of her eyes. She fought to control her emotion. Tony continued, "Come back, Kate. For our team. For me. For another chance to bring justice to Haswari."
Kate smiled sadly at his last words. "We are never going to get him, Tony."
"Sure we are, Kate."
"He's smarter than us." Something about the way she so desperately spoke the words made Tony reach across the table and squeeze her hand gently. Neither spoke for a few minutes, until Kate looked up. "So I guess Gibbs is still seething over Fornell's keeping all this from him."
"Well, you know, if you rearrange the letters of FBI, you get 'fib'."
Kate laughed, and Tony continued charmingly. "And, if you rearrange NCIS, take the 's' off, add an 'e'---"
"and pretty much respell the word completely," Kate interrupted.
"--you get the word 'nice'!
"Nice isn't exactly the word I' use to describe Gibbs," Kate commented.
Tony paid for the coffee, and soon the two were walking along the river, the Washington wind blowing steadily. Behind the, the dome of the Capitol lay; the Washington Monument towered over them; and the blue sky which was once grey with the smoke of the smoldering Pentagon stretched from horizon to horizon.
"Its not just Haswari, is it?" asked Tony suddenly.
"You aren't just afraid we'll never catch him, are you? There's something else to it?" They said Haswari had never hurt him, Tony thought. But he had hurt Kate. Was there any difference?
Kate answered slowly. "I admit, he terrifies me."
"Wow. A bit of truth from the hard hearted, hard to read Caitlyn Todd?"
"Okay, fine. You want the truth? The truth is, I can't walk in that building every day, knowing the only reason I'm there is because several people gave their life for me to continue mine. It was one thing, if they had died for a cause. But they didn't. They died for no reason. I failed. Failed everything. Sure, we made a couple of random arrests, but we did not capture Haswari. We did not foil any great attack. We simply let people die. Eric…and Heather…What kind of agent am I? I'm not sure I'm cut out for this."
Tony took Kate's shoulders and shook her gently. "Listen to yourself! You are one of the best; yes, Bradsahw and the girl died. Yes, we did not accomplish our main goal. But we did make those 'random arrests'. And they will lead to something, I promise you that. We will never let any agent, whether NCIS, or CID, or FBI, die in vain."
Kate continued, seeming not to hear his reassuring words. "And, as selfish as this sounds, I don't know about me. I'm so used to being the cop, not the victim. I don't know how I'll deal with that. I got close to our vics before, now what will it be like? Can I handle objectivness? " her voice cracked, " Can I handle watching other people suffer when we can't help them? I don't know, Tony."
Tears were falling down her face freely now, and Tony, who still gripped her shoulders, drew her into a friendly hug. He stroked her hair. "Its going to be all right, Katie. You are going to be fine." he whispered.