Author: Carrie

Title: Un-chained

Feedback: Good or bad, I'd love to know what you think. Feel free to email it to me!

Rating: T (age 13+)

Pairing: Slight Tony/Kate

Spoilers: "Chained" and "Heart Break" specifically, but anything up to "Chained" is included in this little world of mine.

Summary: Takes place shortly after "Chained." Sometimes just being there is enough.

Disclaimer: I don't own NCIS. It is owned by DPB, CBS Television, and other people. Please don't sue; I need every cent I have. I'd like to one day be able to actually afford my apartment, and if I am sued, I'll be homeless, or have to move back in with my parents, and nobody wants that.

Turning off the light that was softly illuminating the paperwork on her desk, Kate rose to her feet and spoke to her coworker across the isle. "I'm going home, Tony. You should leave soon, too," she suggested gently. It had been a long, and nerve-wracking, few days and all Kate wanted to do was go home and take a long, hot shower and scrub every inch of herself clean and eat some good, hot food. As tired as she was, though, she knew the hot food would probably come from the microwave and her shower would be shorter than she would like. "I'll see you tomorrow," she said as she slung her purse over her shoulder and stepped towards the elevators.

It was only then that she realized that Tony hadn't said a word. Looking back at him, she could see he hadn't even moved. Gibbs and McGee had left a while ago, and who knew about Abby and Ducky. "Tony?" she called.

Nothing. No flicker of life. He was sitting at his desk, his head lowered, staring down at his hands in his lap.

Moving towards him, she placed one hand cautiously on his shoulder. "Tony?"

When he jumped at her touch, she jumped back. After the startled expression fled from his eyes, it was replaced by emptiness. "Kate?"

Her voice full of concern she asked, "You okay?"

"Umm…" Tony began, glancing down at his hands, "yeah. I'm fine."

Watching him closely for a moment, Kate asked, "You sure?"

Once again, she was met with silence. It wasn't easy, killing someone. Kate remembered the feeling all too well after the "suicide by cop" incident a few weeks ago. Tony's situation had been different, but the end result was the same: he had killed someone. After Tony's initial cleanup at the scene, he had taken a shower here in the gym before being debriefed, and Kate was willing to bet he had been handed the same card with the same number on it for the shrink Kate had been advised to see after killing Ensign Hayes. She had never gone, as she didn't know how a psychologist that got all she knew from a book and from playing with rats in the lab would know what it's like to kill someone. Kate didn't think it was likely Tony would go, either.

But right now, it was obvious he needed someone.

Touching his shoulder once more, Kate squeezed it soothingly. "Tony?"

"Yeah?" he responded, not looking up at her this time.

"Let's get you home."

Nodding, he said softly, his voice barely a whisper, "Yeah."

Leaning over, Kate closed the file that had been sitting open on his desk and turned off his light. Helping him to his feet, Kate wrapped one arm around his waist and led him out of the darkened bullpen, a janitor vacuuming in the far corner watching them go. There would be other nights for hot showers and microwaved meals.

Waiting for the elevator, Tony finally spoke for the first time without being prompted. "I really liked him."

"I know, Tony." As much trouble as he might have given her about her Stockholm Syndrome with Ari, now was not the time to throw it in his face. All she could do was be there for him, give him whatever support he needed. Holding him closer to her, Kate added softly once more, "I know."

On the trip home, Tony gazed out the window of Kate's car, watching the city lights speed past. He didn't want to talk, and Kate seemed content to leave him be. He was glad to have her there with him, thankful that he wasn't completely alone with his thoughts. He really had liked Jeffery White, and he hadn't wanted to kill him, but he had no choice. That didn't make it easy to take, though. Speaking only to give Kate directions, he watched the world go by.

At Tony's townhouse, Kate led him inside and let him go, let him decide what he wanted her to do. For a moment, they both stood on the middle level of Tony's house, between the living room and the kitchen. "I'm going to go take a shower," Tony finally spoke. "You can stay, if you want," he added, turning to look at her.

The sadness in his eyes begged her not to leave. "I'll stay," Kate smiled gently.

Nodding, Tony ascended the stairs. Dropping her purse on the kitchen table in the dining room, she moved into the kitchen and began poking through the cabinets. She wanted to cook them something hot, quick, filling, and comforting. Grinning when she spotted it, she pulled the box off the shelf and found a pot. Having never been in Tony's place, she had to look for everything. The house looked remarkably clean and organized, far neater than she had been anticipating, perhaps even neater than her own place.

As she waited for the water to boil, Kate explored the main floor of the house. There was the kitchen, and the dining room with the table, both with hard tile floor. A shelf in the corner of the dining room contained a few knickknacks and numerous books. Locating the bathroom, Kate quickly used the toilet before she continued on the exploration. The living room contained a big screen TV, a stereo, a black leather couch and matching loveseat, a glass-topped coffee table, and more shelves full of books. Kate never would have thought of Tony as a book collector. Glancing at the titles, she could see a large variety of reading material, from mysteries and criminology, to science fiction, to the classics and history and biographies. And, of course, in typical Tony Dinozzo fashion, there was a copy of The Kama Sutra. Shaking her head, Kate resisted the urge to pull the book off the shelf and thumb through it, moving instead back to the kitchen.

Kate was finishing dinner as Tony came down from his shower. He was dressed in a pair of sweat pants, an Ohio State t-shirt, and his hair was still wet and tousled. "You cooked?" he asked, sounding genuinely surprised.

"If you want to call making macaroni and cheese cooking, then yes I did," Kate answered, smirking. Sobering, she asked, "You feel better?"

"A little," Tony nodded. "Looking forward to that mac and cheese you cooked," he smiled, the first smile Kate had seen since before he had been chained to Jeffery White.

"Then let me dish it up. What do you want to drink?" she asked as she spooned their dinner into bowls.

"I'll get that," Tony said, reaching for two glasses from a cabinet.

"Thanks," Kate smiled. "I'll just have water."

Glasses filled, Tony's with milk and Kate's with water, Tony led her into the living room. Taking a seat on the couch, facing the TV, he set the glasses gently on the coffee table. Kate set the bowls beside the glasses and sat next to Tony. Picking up the remote, Tony turned the channel to an all-news station. "You mind?" he asked.

"No," Kate shook her head. Whatever he wanted was fine with her.

As they ate in silence, they absorbed the latest events of the day. There was nothing about Jeffery White and the Iraqi antiques, for which they were both thankful. After Tony finished, he set the bowl down and leaned back into the couch. "I really did like him. He seemed so naive… and likeable."

As Kate opened her mouth to speak, Tony cut her off.

"I know, he was a killer. I knew he was a killer. Damn kid got to me anyway." Sighing heavily and closing his eyes, he went on. "It didn't make it easy to kill him. I felt sorry for him, until he held that knife to my throat." Snorting, he reopened his eyes, leaned forward, and said, "I still feel sorry for him."

Setting her own bowl down on the table, Kate placed one hand on Tony's thigh, squeezing it gently. "I don't think it's ever easy, Tony. That's what sets us apart from people like Jeffery White."

"I guess so," Tony agreed, resting one of his hands on hers as it held onto his thigh. "Still, I wish it hadn't turned out like that."

"We all do," Kate said, turning her hand so that she could hold on to his. Leaning over, she rested her head on his shoulder, glad to have him back. She had been very worried while he was chained to a killer, even if she never voiced those words to anyone other than Gibbs.

Resting his head on top of Kate's, Tony closed his eyes again. For a few minutes, the only sound was the television. "I think I'm going to go to bed," Tony said, breaking the silence, lifting his head off of Kate's. "I haven't had a decent night's sleep in days."

Removing her head from his shoulder, Kate nodded and rose to her feet, collecting their bowls and glasses to take them into the kitchen. Stopping her, Tony got his bowl and glass. Turning off the TV, he followed her into the kitchen and loaded the dishwasher.

"Thanks, Kate."

"You're welcome."

"Not just for the dinner," Tony said as he shut the dishwasher. Moving out of the kitchen, he turned off the light. "But just for being here. It means a lot to me."

"I know," Kate said, thinking of her own experience weeks before. Ducky had found her in the autopsy room, staring at the body of Ensign Hayes. He had invited her to some show, she couldn't remember what, if she ever knew. As he started to leave, he seemed to have changed his mind and come back to her. Shutting the drawer on the freezer, Ducky dragged her out of autopsy and drove her home. He never made it to the show, but spent the night with her, giving her support, just being there for her, being a friend. It had meant a lot to her, too.

"There's an extra bedroom upstairs," Tony said, his hand on the railing, one foot on the first step, "if you're too tired to drive home. Sheets are already on the bed. I have an extra toothbrush, too."

"I might do that," Kate nodded. It did sound tempting. "You go on up. I think I'll watch TV a little longer, if that's okay." She wanted to make sure he would be all right.

"Sure," Tony nodded. "I'll leave the toothbrush and stuff in the bathroom in the hallway upstairs."

"Thanks," Kate smiled. "Goodnight, Tony."

"Goodnight, Kate." Tony began moving up the stairs. Pausing, he added, "And thanks, again, for everything."

"You're welcome," Kate responded as she watched him go.

Half an hour later, Kate got up off the couch, turned off the lights, and went upstairs. On the bed in the extra bedroom were a pair of sweatpants, a pair of boxer shorts, and a t-shirt. Smiling as she touched the t-shirt, Kate shook her head. Tony did make a good host. True to his word, he had left her some things in the bathroom in the hall. After taking a quick shower, Kate brushed her teeth, pulled on Tony's t-shirt, and walked to his bedroom. Opening the door, she watched him sleep for a moment, curled up on his side, one bare arm out over the covers, his breathing deep. Although he looked peaceful for the moment, Kate knew that was not likely to last. Still, she knew he'd be okay. He would get past this.

Shutting the door, Kate crossed that hall into her bedroom for the night. Closing the door behind her, she turned out the light and climbed into bed, pulling the covers up to her chin. Yes, he would get past this.