Title: Any Day Now

Author: MindyHarmon

Rating: PG, bit of language.

Disclaimer: These characters are not mine.

A/N: Okay, I wrote this ages ago and when I did, I envisaged it as being set way down the track -- like after Kate had been at NCIS five years or so. Now we know that that can't happen, so I guess it must take place during season 2. However, I actually began this fic while watching season 1 so McGee is not in it. So just imagine he's on holiday or at his grandmother's funeral, k?

I also mention a situation with Kate's family, her father particularly – it's not something that I intended to develop. It's just something I put in the back of her head to put more pressure on her, make her crack. I hope it's not distracting.


Part 1: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.

"They ask me how I knew,
My true love was true,
I, of course, replied,
'Something here inside,
Cannot be denied.'

They said "Someday you´ll find,
All who love are blind,"
When your heart´s on fire,
You must realize,
Smoke gets in your eyes…"

She took a long drag and spat out the smoke with a sigh.

This is what he was driving her to. That man, that bastard. Complete meltdown.

In the short time she'd known him, she'd begun to smoke again, albeit only periodically when she was feeling desperate. She'd also increased her consumption of caffeine by 300 percent, while the amount of sleep she got decreased by the same, and, worse, she had not gotten laid once. Bastard.

Meanwhile, she never got a decent lunch, she sulked inwardly, and she bet her blood pressure was sky-high from having to hold her tongue between her teeth and her hands behind her back.

Well, she thought, gazing across the autumny park through the smoke from her cigarette; I didn't hold my tongue today. Couldn't, she thought, and closed her eyes as tears gathered in the corners. Bastard, bastard, bastard. Sometimes, Gibbs, you can be a real bastard.

She was aware that this was not all about him. Okay, she was stressed, she was worried. Okay, she had other things happening in her life right now. Stuff that she was trying her best to push to the back of her mind, at least when at work. It was important to her that they not know and that she continue to put in 100 percent. And she was. She was using all her energy, skills and imagination to get the job done – what more could he want? What did she have to do to please this man? To get some respect?

The way he'd look at her, the way he'd talk to her – it had started to really get to her. She knew this about Gibbs – he was no cupcake. She knew too that she was not the only one to suffer because of his moods. But lately…it wasn't just moods. He'd been a nightmare for over a month now and she was starting to feel like she had a target on her forehead. More and more, it was her he seemed to be singling out. She was used to a certain level of grumpiness but this was beyond anything she'd ever experienced from him. He was constantly gruff and occasionally even withdrawn, to the point that she or Tony had to call his name a couple of times to get his attention. And when they did they were glared and snapped at. He'd been snide, impatient and dismissive to her – even downright rude.

She'd joked with Tony and Abby about it while Gibbs wasn't around, but truth was she felt something was off, and every comment, every look, every scold was wearing her down. What puzzled her more was the connection that she used to feel with him, ever since they met, somehow felt blocked. She was getting the distinct impression that he was shutting her out, closing down on her. Deliberately and methodically.

She slumped down into the park bench, tipping her head back and sweeping her fringe off her face with smoky fingers. Of course, there was also the little matter of the redhead who usually showed up the last Friday of every month to steal Gibbs away. Kate had begun to take note of when and how often she spotted them together and had noticed that she hadn't been around for three months now. She sucked on her cigarette and thought vengefully that for all she knew the redhead and Gibbs had simply changed their monthly shag day to Saturdays instead of Fridays. Who knew? Gibbs was absurdly private about his life, in her view. She didn't even know the name of the woman she was so jealous of, whereas, Gibbs, she was sure, knew the name of every guy she'd dated since she'd joined NCIS. He'd even done background checks on one or two. Not that it mattered – none of them lasted.

She closed her eyes and listened to the leaves rustle above her. She really didn't want to go back there. She reeeeealy didn't want to go back there. Now, in the peace of the park, she felt like she had over-reacted grossly. But she was stung by his coldness, and though his last comment was unfair and demeaning, it had been the cruelty with which he'd delivered it that had taken her breath away. The last proverbial straw.

"Dead women don't come back for their jewelry in my opinion," she'd said.

"If I want your opinion, Agent Todd, I'll ask you for it."

His tone was sharp, his eyes had cut her deeply and she was immediately silenced, shocked, her eyes dropped to the floor. Gibbs had never shut her down like that, devalued her opinion – or Tony's or McGee's, Abby's or Ducky's for that matter. Within their little team it was understood that opinions were to be given freely and valued accordingly, even if they weren't agreed upon. The slight wounded and angered her and colour rose to her cheeks, as she'd tried to contain herself. She even noticed Tony look at her, nervously. When she looked at Gibbs again, he was shuffling papers, looking like he'd known he'd gone too far, but she knew his policy on apologies.

"Tony, get the car," he'd said: "Kate –"

She'd slapped the files she was holding down on the desk in front of him before he could finish. They'd made a very satisfying thump, and she leaned in, with both hands on his desk, not allowing him room to rise from his chair. Her heart was pounding in her chest and her face felt hot as she stared down the man whose insensitivity had been torturing her for months and longer.

"I don't know what I have done to piss you off so severely," she said quietly but deadly serious: "But if you have a problem with me — you talk to me about it."

Then she'd straightened to her full height and cast a look at Tony, who'd frozen in the middle of the floor, petrified.

She directed her gaze back at Gibbs with steel in her eyes. "I'm taking a break," she said, her tone still quiet but brooking no refusal. She'd collected her things and headed out of the building, without looking back. She'd walked in no particular direction till she'd spotted the park; the perfect place for a short cry or complete nervous breakdown, she wasn't sure which was coming.

Her life had been completely unpredictable since Gibbs had arrived into it. Everything she used to be sure about, she wasn't anymore. He'd turned life on its head from that first meeting and she'd felt like she was fighting for her life. Every day since she'd gotten up to face that challenge – the challenge he'd laid out by offering her a job beside him – and initially that challenge had motivated and inspired her. But now confusion was starting to set in. Where was she? What was she doing? He had her questioning everything, including who this man was who now dictated not just her career path but influenced her private thoughts constantly. Everything was about him, it seemed to her, and some rebellious part wanted to take back the power. Perhaps that's what her outburst had been about this afternoon – taking back a little slice of something for herself.

Yet even outside in the sunshine and light breeze, who was occupying her thoughts….?

Well. That was the problem with falling in love with your boss.

How could she love a man that was so difficult? How could she adore him when he barely seemed to register her existence at times?

Love – one more thing Gibbs had proven to her was not at all what she thought it would be. He was unlike any of her previous boyfriends and not at all who she'd thought she'd fall for.

Yet, in his own way, he was her hero and one of the finest people she'd ever known.

How she felt about him wasn't at all how she'd supposed Love would feel either. It had taken her a while to identify it as such but when she did she'd looked at him anew.

'I Love You', she'd whispered in her own head, staring at him across the bullpen one morning after a sleepless night, thinking about it. The sentiment fit. It was a revelation to her and her eyes pricked with impending tears. Blissfully oblivious, Gibbs was staring down a television and apparently winning because he didn't feel her eyes on him as he sometimes would.

The truth of the matter scared her. The improbability of Gibbs returning her sentiments scared her. The near impossibility of a future relationship between them petrified her. And the likelihood of harboring this secret longing for years and years to come, while working along side him, seeing him disappear with redheads, while her own love life and hope disintegrated altogether – that frightened the life out of her.

But she loved him, she knew she did; and the precious passion she hid made her feel like she was experiencing some essential and magical element of human existence. Much as she attempted rationally to give it up, her heart refused to even try.

She sighed and sat up straight. Her cigarette had burnt to a string of ash and she stamped it out forlornly. She was going insane.

She spotted a little café across the park with an outdoor terrace and impulsively grabbed her coat and bag. She was going to enjoy a sit down lunch, order something gorgeous and tasty and she was not leaving till she'd had a chance to chill out and forget Leroy Jethro Gibbs. For a few minutes anyway.


Part 2: To Make You Feel My Love.

"When evening shadows and the stars appear,
And there is no one there to dry your tears,
I could hold you for a million years,
To make you feel my love.

I know you haven't made your mind up yet,
But I would never do you wrong,
I've known it from the moment that we met,
No doubt in my mind where you belong…"

An hour and ten minutes later, Kate headed back to work, not sure what she would encounter when she got there. She'd had a leisurely lunch, totally spoiling herself. She'd called and spent a full fifteen minutes talking to her father in the hospital and promised to come see him the next night. And then she'd phoned her sister, who nearly fainted hearing from her in the middle of the day, and a few friends she owed a catch up to. She'd read the paper, catching up on yesterday's news, and for the first time in she didn't know how long, she'd stayed for dessert. She felt a little sick to be honest, but much more equipped to deal with Gibbs. By the time the elevator doors opened on her, she was ready for battle. With a quick glance though, she realized neither he nor Tony were present, so she retrieved the files she'd left on Gibbs' desk and took them to her own, plunging in with all her energy.

When they returned to the office two hours later, Gibbs stopped in front of her desk, staring down at her, but when she looked up, her eyes clear and strong, he retreated slowly, discarding his coat and throwing it over his chair. Meanwhile, Tony nervously prattled and filled Kate in on their interviews.

"You find anything?" he asked, just so Gibbs wouldn't have to, probably.

Before she could speak, Gibbs' phone rang and he and Tony left to pay a visit to Ducky. Kate didn't shift from her chair or look up as they exited. She took a deep breath and continued working. Truth was she'd found absolutely nothing – nothing to suggest their suspect lay in the boxes that surrounded her desk. She massaged her own neck and glanced at the photo of her father and mother in the corner of her desk. The sky outside was darkening, a storm brewing and the bullpen was littered with lamplight. Kate rose and headed for the lunchroom, pouring herself a coffee and stretching her legs. Someone entered and when she turned, she saw Abby.

"Hey," she greeted cheerily, heading for the vending machine: "Heard you told Gibbs off."

"How?"

"Tony called me while he was in Starbucks," she grinned, gleefully: "What happened?"

"Oh," Kate waved a hand: "Not worth repeating, believe me…" She gazed into her coffee: "Abby?" she hesitated, then proceeded falteringly: "Is everything -- okay…with Gibbs, I mean?"

Abby shrugged as she pulled a giant cookie out of the vending machine slot. "I dunno. He does seem a bit weird lately," she admitted, with a nod.

"Yeah," Kate shrugged: "I just thought you might know…"

"I know the redheads gone," she blurted, flinging the plastic wrapper into the trash.

"Gibbs' redhead?" --she felt foolish asking.

"Finito! –apparently," Abby announced with her usual flair.

Kate was surprised: "He told you that?"

Abby hummed a little: "Not directly…but it's definitely over."

She took a big bite and Kate caught the odd glint in her eyes. She didn't know what reaction to give the news and before she could decide, Abby slipped out discreetly, just as Gibbs entered. He stalked to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of water. Leaning against the fridge, he downed half the bottle then plucked his lips, all the while, staring at her curiously. She returned the gaze, wary but determined not to back down. She couldn't gauge his reaction to her earlier outburst. His eyes were hooded and dark; was he angry? amused? confused? disappointed? She took a long sip of coffee, holding his eyes over the rim of her cup, resolutely unintimidated. Few could play Gibbs at this game. His eyes held power – strength and will. They had a perceptible physical effect on her; piercing, pinning, penetrating. Others found it frightening, but not her – to her it was fascinating. She watched as he downed the remaining water and slowly advanced on her. When he stood directly in front of her, consciously invading her space, he broke the eye contact and tossed the empty bottle in the trash by the counter. Then he turned and left. She rolled her eyes at the empty space and wondered how on earth this was going to resolve itself.

She was relieved to find when she returned to her desk the other two agents had each taken a box from behind her desk and were helping troll through the records that she had been sure were going to be occupying her entire night. They worked mostly in silence, Tony providing relief between the two, like a child upset that Mom and Dad were quarrelling. Gibbs addressed her directly only once, but she caught him looking at her again across the dark expanse of desk, a look she could not read and did not attempt to. She only met his eyes frankly, letting him see that she stood by the ultimatum she'd given him. She turned away before he could.

Tony left as soon as Gibbs allowed, obviously not enjoying the tense atmosphere and figuring they were going to need to talk. He handed Gibbs his share of folders containing suspects that they would interview the next day, and gave Kate a small smile as he left.

"Night," she said.

Abby came by in her long coat, ready to go home but wanting to give her final findings to Gibbs. Kate listened closely from her chair as they stood by the plasma screen, discussing the maps that had been up there all afternoon. When she left, Gibbs turned back to the screen, hands in his pockets, lost in thought.

Kate shut down her computer and shoved the last few files into her shoulder bag to take home with her. She felt wimpy sneaking out without confronting this thing with Gibbs finally, but maybe, she thought, shrugging on her coat and reaching for her lamp, maybe he was just waiting, wanting her to go. You couldn't talk to a person who didn't want to talk. You couldn't reach a person who didn't want to be reached, she thought, glancing towards his lonely back as she left.

The elevator dinged open as soon as she pressed the button. She stepped inside and was reaching for the panel, when she heard Gibbs shout out:

"Wait! Hold on a minute!" His hand interjected as the doors began to close and he pushed them back again, standing on the threshold. "I want to talk to you," he said and it sounded almost like a threat. Her guard came up.

"Coulda fooled me," she replied, folding her arms across her chest.

"Could we drop the attitude, Agent?" he demanded, testily.

She looked up at him tiredly: "I'm off the clock, Gibbs. Talk to me tomorrow."

She reached for the control panel again but he stopped her hand, his fingers curling round her wrist with a gentle touch. He stepped into her and the doors shut behind him, isolating them in the silver chamber. She couldn't take her eyes off his face; The Look was back. He was seeing her the way he hadn't for months and she felt her heart rate increase. She lowered her gaze to his hand where it held hers and watched as it slipped slowly away. She swallowed and pressed the button as he turned away, moving to the opposite wall and pacing in the small space allowed to him. The elevator started to move. He rapped his knuckles against the handrail a few times then turned suddenly and flicked the emergency stop switch, the whole contraption coming to a holt and taking half the lights out. She put her hands out to steady herself and looked over at him in the dim light.

"Just hold on a second…" he was muttering and she wasn't sure if he was talking to her, himself, or the elevator. She watched him fidget and try to sort out his thoughts and realized how hard this was for him.

He turned to face her, propping his hands up on the handrail behind him and letting out a long breath. "I'm sorry, Kate. I'm sorry." He shook his head: "I know lately I've been…..tense."

She looked at him steadily: "That's an understatement."

"Yeah, I know," he agreed, letting out a heavy sigh.

"What is going on with you?" she questioned, in an earnest whisper.

Gibbs shrugged and held his hands out to the side, trying to joke: "You said it yourself; I'm a bastard."

She huffed impatiently: "I said sometimes and that's no excuse."

"You're right," he nodded and looked at the floor.

Her eyebrows rose: "Well, that's got to be a first,"

He peered up at her and moved tentatively closer: "Kate…you're right about a lot of things."

"But you saying so is a first," she pointed out, a little humour returning to her tone.

"Maybe so, maybe so," he mused, ducking his head, a smile playing round his lips.

There was a short silence as they looked at each other in the low light and Kate realized her anger had dissipated with his apology.

"You were out of line," she stated, without reproof, deciding not to mention all the other hurts he'd inflicted recently. At least they were communicating now.

"And you put me back in," he replied and managed to get a half smile out of her.

"Someone's got to," she mumbled, only half joking. He bobbed his head and looked at her thoughtfully.

"Kate," he moved closer still, leaning on the wall beside her. His head cocked to the side to watch her, his eyes concerned: "Is everything okay?" He spoke softly, the tone of a friend. It was a magic question, for her anyway, and she felt her eyes tear. She fell back against the wall, her hair covering her face from his view. She let her breath out through her teeth and shrugged a little, as she considered telling him all about her father. Instead, she looked up again – god, he was so close…-- finding solace in the blue eyes she could see once again cared for her.

She nodded slightly and her voice came in a whisper: "Yeah."

He nodded too, not entirely convinced, she could see, but not going to push. It was true though: she always felt okay – stronger, more certain -- with him beside her.

He smiled and reached out smoothing back a piece of her fringe with one finger. She saw him glance at her lips in the semi-darkness and then budge imperceptibly closer. Her entire being swelled and came to life, quite suddenly. She begged him silently not to stop. Their eyes locked and both inched forward, nervously. He bowed over her, and she arched up, their lips meeting softly and freezing in place. They breathed against each other for an irresistible moment before Gibbs cupped her jaw and captured hermouth with his. Her eyes slammed shut, her heart sped, and her body flushed all over, moving closer to his to reciprocate the gentle kiss. She couldn't believe the rush she felt as he pulled coaxingly at her lips and she tasted his mouth for the first time. But before she'd even settled into the kiss, his hands came up and grasped her face, pulling away.

He laid his forehead against hers, and panted: "You realize what a bad idea this is, don't you, Kate?"

She looked up at him but his eyes were closed. "I don't care," she shook her head.

He pulled back and looked at her, cradling her face in both hands: "You should. I do and so should you." He spoke so quietly, so gently, his hot breath brushing her cheeks: "This could ruin your career." His hands began to stroke her hair, almost without his consent. His eyes roamed her face, as he added: "And, god, it could do my head in completely."

"What do you mean?" she breathed, rapt by the way he was looking at her.

"I've thought about this at length," he said, and dropped his hands with a slight grimace.

She was genuinely surprised: "You have?"

"You have no idea," -- and as he met her eyes she suddenly got an inkling of why he'd been so intent on shutting her out. She saw her own feelings of doubt, confusion, fear and longing mirrored in him.

"We can keep it secret," she whispered, sounding to herself like she was grasping at straws. This wasn't just about her career and she knew it.

"For how long?" Gibbs cocked his head to the side and gave her the look she recognized as him wanting the truth and nothing but. Well, she'd asked him to talk to her and now she was getting what she'd asked for. Gibbs was getting honest: "Yeah, we could have a two week fling and keep it secret. We could carry on an affair for six months and maybe no one round here would find out." His voice was husky and strained: "but is that what you really want? Kate? Because I'm not willing to risk your career and my sanity on something so flimsy."

She searched his eyes, and he continued with more urgency.

"We work together. I don't want to compromise that for something that's just for fun, just sex--" he cut himself off and Kate felt sure of what he was getting at. Comprehension was dawning and her chest swelled with joy at the implication.

"Right," she nodded, slowly: "so there'd be no fun and no sex…you're really selling yourself Gibbs." She bit her lip, her eyes twinkling as she watched him try to remain on track.

He took a step back and looked at her from under his brows. "I'm serious. I'm an old man. I've got three failed marriages behind me. Three, Kate. I'm stuck in my ways, nearly twenty years older than you and your boss, to boot."

Her eyes fell away from his. She was not unaware of the difficulties; she'd pondered them many times herself, but having them listed as a reality, not a hypothetical and in such a grave tone made her realize the weight of the situation. If she wanted to be with this man, she realized, she was with him. Not dating him, not sleeping with him, not trying him on to see how he fit like she'd done with other, younger men. Gibbs was laying out his own ultimatum. Be careful what you wish for.

"I just want you to think about it," he said softly, drawing her eyes up to his.

She nodded and swallowed: "Okay. Okay, I'll think about it."

He was watching her face, closely. "Think about this, too--" Suddenly, his arms slipped around her waist, pulling her gently into him, as he bent to slowly place a wet, open-mouthed kiss on the side of her neck. She gasped and closed her eyes, the sheer physicality of him completely overwhelming her again, making her feel dizzy and faint. Everything she was and had throbbed and thrilled. She laid her hands lightly on his coat-covered arms and hoped he would never, ever pull away. His nose ruffled her hair, his big hands squeezed her waist, and she thought she heard him hum against her skin. He kissed his way down to her shoulder, his stubble scratching her skin, lightly, and then he trailed his hot mouth, slowly up to her ear:

"I love you, Caitlin Todd," he whispered.

A warm pang expanded in her chest and all sense of breathing left her. His words bounced around her astonished mind and lodged permanently in her heart, where she could never forget or loose them. Opening dazed eyes, she turned her heavy head to meet his gaze, his lips. He was watching her intently, fully aware of his intoxicating effect.

"I just wanted you to have all the facts," he said in a low voice, a wicked glint in his eyes. He shrugged a little and added: "So you can make an informed decision."

"I see," she nodded, knowingly: "I will certainly consider that."

He leaned in, kissing the corner of her mouth, briefly, languidly: "Mmmm, you do that."

"It's an excellent point," she admitted, between kisses.

"Excellent," he mumbled and pulled back. He rocked up on his toes, looking far too smug for man who must know better by his age.

She smiled as they gazed at each other, openly, quietly, their parallel heartbeats slowing. She reached out and gave his jaw an affectionate stroke then moved in, slipping her hands inside his jacket, and wrapping her arms around him. He returned the embrace, immediately, squeezing gently, and burying his lips in her hair. She laid her ear against his chest, listening to his heart. He'd handed her the choice, but she knew there was none. They had things to discuss and decide, but nothing, nothing, could make her voluntarily leave this embrace, this man. This was what he was driving her to.

"I love you," she whispered. Absolute devotion.


Part 3: Practical Magic

"How long, how long, how long will we take to come undone?
If you know the answer tell me now and I'll write up a calendar for our count down.
'Cos what if what we see is all, is all we've got?

Say you've kept some fire aside to set alight to me some surprising night.
And say you've locked some fire away to set alight to me some surprising day.
To me some surprising day, Any Day Now..."

They left the elevator, left the building and started walking slowly in the cool night; side by side, in silence, both lost in their own thoughts. Gibbs had a real talent for taking all the fun out of things, thought Kate; hadn't they just admitted they loved each other? They should be jumping for joy….or at least jumping each other's bones. Instead Gibbs looked like he was working on a particularly hard problem — she knew that face from many cases over the years and it wasn't necessarily a good thing when he started pulling it. She sighed and looked at the pavement, littered with leaves, and realized they were walking in the direction of the park she'd sat in earlier that day, so upsetwith the man now beside her.

"Is this why you've been so weird lately?" she asked suddenly, breaking the silence.

He looked across at her: "That bad?"

She gave him a raised eyebrow and whispered: "Oh, yeah."

"I've been torturing myself over this…." he muttered, rubbing a hand over his short hair and making it spike up a bit.

"Believe me, the torture has been mutual," she said, turning to face him as they reached a busy road and stopped for the traffic signal: "I thought you were going to bite my head off every time I said your name."

He laughed and looked at her warmly, but some worry lurked in his eyes. He was still holding back, she realized; he wasn't sure about this at all.

She moved into him and reached for his hand: "Don't worry," she said, softly: "I know what I'm doing….We'll work out everything, I know it." She never thought she'd be the one assuring him. The corners of her mouth turned up as she brought his hand to herlips and kissed it: "And you're not an old man," she added, referring to his earlier comment and guessing that that's what worried him.

"Not too old for some things, it seems," he smiled, watching her actions with a light in his eyes.

"I'd hoped not," she smiled back, cheekily.

Gibbs cleared his throat and seemed to take a step back: "Yeah, that's now, Kate. But what about down the track? In a few years, I'm going to be fifty—"

She cut him off, becoming a little irritated: "And in a few more, I'll be forty – will you still love me then? -- Because honestly, I don't see the difference."

"But there is a difference," Gibbs insisted, gently: "We're at different stages of our lives. We want different things."

"Well, if there is a difference, it's an insignificant one," she shrugged and continued at a pace: "It's stuff we can work on, resolve. All relationships require some compromise." She was determined to convince him she was up for this and was not willing to let it slip through their fingers, whatever the obstacles.

Gibbs sighed, unsure, stuffing his hands in his pockets and she felt him slipping further away from her:

"I just feel like…." He studied the ground for a while: "…like you could do better."

She closed the gap between them that he'd imposed and coaxed his hand into hers again: "I love you. And I think you love me." He met her gaze and she saw it was the truth. "I can't do better than that." She lingered on that a moment, and then went on, her voice softly insistent: "I'd rather be with the fifty year old I love than with the thirty year old that was my second choice."

He nodded slowly and she thought she'd made her point.

"I want you to be absolutely sure," he said, taking her by the shoulders and pinning her with his eyes: "this is what you really want."

She looked up at him with wide eyes: "Are you?"

Fear gripped her heart for a moment at his silence. Then his expression changed, softened, and she understood that the question didn't spring from insecurity. It was just that once he had her, he wasn't letting go. He reached out, caressing her cheek, with the barest of touches, and kissed her quickly on her temple. Good answer.

The traffic lights changed so she tugged on his hand and they crossed the road to the little park, now dark and chilly. The wind kicked up, swirling the autumn leaves around their feet as she led him to the bench she'd sat at earlier in the day.

"Alright Katie," he said, sitting close by her and bringing her hand into his lap: "tell me then; what do you want?"

She looked at him, and her mind reeled at the enormity of his question. What did she want? So many things came to mind -- and he wanted to hear all of them, she could see. He would not be content with a pat answer or romantic summary. He was asking her for real.

She took a deep breath, starting slowly and speaking softly: "I want you to trust me. I want to be the first person you turn to. I want to know you better than anyone. I want to live with you and sleep with you and work with you…." She paused, thinking as she went and looking into his eyes. He was nodding, listening attentively. She knew the next bit was harder: "I want to know about your marriages." She stopped to get his reaction.

A slight panic appeared in his eyes: "Why?"

"I need to know what happened and how you feel about it now. I need to know we won't make the same mistakes," she said, softly and honestly: "Because I know you don't want me to be ex number four any more than I do."

He nodded gravely and looked at her hand in his: "So you want to get married?"

Wow, he really did want to ask the big questions. She resisted the urge to ask him whether that was a proposal, instead taking their new honesty as seriously as he was.

She blinked a few times and took a deep breath. "Possibly. Sometime…" she said carefully. Marriage was not a big thing with her really, despite her Catholic background: "it's more the commitment than the ritual that I want."

She'd said the notorious 'C'word, and Gibbs was still here, sitting beside her, holding her hand -- this was gonna work just fine, she thought.

She watched him nod and hesitate briefly:

"What about kids?" he then asked.

Again, she felt taken back and had to breathe for a moment to gather her thoughts. She thought that maybe this would be a difficult issue.

She nodded nervously and admitted: "I want kids, I do."

Gibbs leaned back against the bench, looking out across the park: "I have a daughter."

"You do?"

"Brinley," he said, with a special pride under his tone: "she's nineteen. She's studying in China."

"Really?"

"Yeah," he looked at the ground and said in a darker tone: "and I had two step-sons in my third marriage but I don't get to see them anymore."

Kate shifted a little closer to him in comfort: "Are you close to Brinley?"

"Not as much as I'd like to be," he admitted in a gravelly voice.

"How would you feel," she asked, holding her breath: "about becoming a father again?"

He looked up at her and slid an arm around her shoulders: "I would give anything…..to see you swell up with a child of ours."

She glowed as unexpected tears sprung to the corners of her eyes; "Really?"

"Really," he assured her: "I think I've still got some fatherhood left in me. Actually I think I might be better at it now."

She smiled, pleased, and leaned into him, putting her head on his shoulder, as his arm curled about her.

"What do you want, Gibbs?" she asked quietly and was not surprised when he took a while to answer.

"All of the above, obviously," he started, haltingly: "I'm not sure about marriage.…I want something different to what I've had before…." he continued then looked down at her. "I know I can trust you," he said, and Kate looked up at him, nodding faithfully. Trust was key for Gibbs, and it had been broken in his past marriages, although she didn't know how. But it wouldn't happen again, she'd see to that.

"I want to know you'll always be there," he concluded quietly and Kate knew that was his bottom line. Almost everything else was negotiable, as long as he knew he could count on her.

"I'll always be there," she promised: "I'm not going anywhere."

He studied her face for a moment, tucking her hair behind her ear and smiling.

He took a breath: "I really have to tell you about my ex-wives?" he winced, shifting in his seat.

She grinned slowly: "Yeah, you really do." She put out a hand and stroked his chest, soothingly: "You've got all the experience on your side, Gibbs…" She leaned in and lowered her voice: "…and I want to make sure that I'm the one there, holding your hand, the day you die."

Gibbs looked down at her with a little smile: "That sounds like a threat."

She laughed a little: "It's not." She scanned his face momentarily: "You know what I mean."

"Yeah," he replied, softly. "You're not going anywhere," he whispered, echoing her words and making them a promise of his own. He squeezed her tightly to him and Kate reached her lips up to kiss him, sliding one hand up into his hair. He opened his mouth to her, and finally kissed her with all the passion, love, longing and devotion he'd just pledged her. It left her breathless and wanting more – she couldn't get enough of touching him, kissing him, and being kissed and touched by him.

Above them, the heavens suddenly broke open and dark rain poured down in torrents, drenching them almost instantly. Kate began laughing, gasping at the cold rush tainting her hot skin. Gibbs refused to relinquish her lips for a moment, but when the rain seemed to come down even harder, he gathered her up under his arm and they made a dash for cover. They headed for a bus shelter at the edge of the park and ducked under it as lightening clapped mightily above.

Kate tried to brush herself off rather futilely, turning to Gibbs, as they puffed in unison. She smoothed back the slicked hair from his forehead with one hand as he reached out and turned up the collar on her coat. She tugged his jacket around him – at least she had on her coat, but he'd come out here with just his suit jacket, which was now wet through.

He looked up at the sky warily: "I don't think it's going to let up any time soon. Let's just make a run for it."

"Wait," she said, reaching into her bag, and pulling out a compact umbrella.

Gibbs looked impressed: "That should be a rule."

"It is," she replied, unraveling it and giving it to him, so he could cover both of them: "I never leave home without it."

He shook his head at her, and chuckled. "Come on, let's get you out of this," he said, looking for a gap in the traffic and pulling her close again.

She stopped him with a hand on his arm: "You're coming home with me tonight, aren't you?" she asked, frankly.

He looked down at her, his eyes glowing with anticipation: "I'd like to see anyone try to stop me."

"Just checking…" she smiled, shyly.

He grinned and looked back at the cars passing in front of them. Kate squeezed her arm between them and wrapped it around his waist. An incredible sense of contentment welled in her chest; Gibbs was taking her home tonight and they were going to be together from now on. She had the person she belonged with and the person she belonged to had her. Nothing could be more simple or satisfactory. Everything had changed in a day and the coming night would be the first of the rest of their lives. Together they stepped off the curb and into the deep night.