Author: Carrie

Title: Should Have Taken Another Week Off

Rating: T (age 13+)

Feedback: Good or bad, I'd like to know what you think. Can be sent to c. Tony/Kate

Spoilers: Everything up through, and especially, "Twilight," and specific references to "SWAK."

Summary: Tony's first day back at work turned out to be a pretty bad one. What happens in the aftermath?

Disclaimer: I don't own NCIS. DPB, CBS Television, Belisarius Productions, and other people are the lucky ones who do own NCIS. I might own my sanity, but some days that's debatable. I'm making no profit off of this, so please don't due. If I have any sanity left, I'd like to hold on to it.

AN: Yet another post-"Twilight" fic. This is part one of three.

He felt it in an instant. Mid-sentence, she was gone, her smile cut tragically short, her voice fading into nothingness, into eternity, never to be heard again. He felt her blood as it hit him, the warmth fading far quicker than he knew possible. Time quit moving as he turned his attention to her, watching her fall, the small hole in the middle of her forehead so final, like the period at the end of a sentence.

Just like that, she was gone.

While Gibbs raised his gun to shoot her killer, Tony couldn't move, couldn't breathe, as if a part of him had been killed when the bullet shattered her skull and tore through her brain. He already knew it was hopeless; neither of them had a weapon capable of reaching Ari across the open space on the other rooftop. Chances were, Ari knew it too. Tony could picture the sick and twisted smile on his face, hear his words, whispered across the distance, as he uttered an apology to Kate. And Tony knew, without a doubt, that if Ari ever crossed Gibbs's path again, any of their paths, he would never live to see another moment. His fate was sealed as surely as Kate's.

Looking down at her now-still form, a body so filled with life just a moment earlier, he broke. He would never know if they had a chance. He would never know if she really was too smart to get involved with a guy like him or, as she claimed, if she really could see herself one day marrying a guy like him.

He would never know.

There was no undoing what had been done, no rewind button for him to hold his finger on and send these last few moments in reverse, bringing Kate back to life. No way to correct this.

Her blood was still on him, coating him, still cooling. It was on his face, his hands, his chest, so close to his heart. As time began to move again, he realized he was going down, beside her, the roof of the building moving quickly upward to greet him.

In an instant, Gibbs was beside him, beside them, but Tony never knew that. He never heard Gibbs's shout of anger, frustration, pain, and sadness. The darkness had already claimed him, pulling him down into someplace where none of this had happened.

He should have taken another week off.

When he came to, he was lying flat on his back on something far softer than the roof of the building should have been. Opening his eyes, he blinked in the sunlight, focusing on Gibbs's face. The expression Gibbs wore should have told him all he needed to know, but he had to try, he had to know for sure, had to erase all doubt in his mind. He could replay every moment that had passed on the rooftop, but some part of him hoped it hadn't happened, that he was really still lying back on that bed in isolation, Kate sleeping peacefully sleeping in the next bed. He could still hope that he was only dreaming. If a man didn't have hope, what else did he have?

The answer appeared to be nothing.

Gibbs shook his head slowly, saying sadly, "She's gone, Tony. There was nothing anyone could have done. It was a shot that was meant to kill."

Closing his eyes, Tony felt his world spin even though he wasn't moving. He could feel the burning of his tears as they welled behind his closed lids. There was no hope and he was left with nothing.

"Stay with me, Dinozzo," Gibbs commanded, his voice amazingly strong.

Tony didn't want to stick around. He wanted to go somewhere, anywhere else, some place where Kate was still alive, a place where she would come walking around the corner, a smile on her face, pulling off her Kevlar vest and laughing because he had been so concerned. But that wasn't going to happen. And he didn't want Gibbs to see him cry, didn't want Gibbs to see how much this hurt him. Gibbs would never cry like this.

"Dinozzo," Gibbs demanded again.

Reluctantly, Tony opened his eyes, looking up into the stormy blue ones of his boss. Tony felt the tears as they spilled out of his eyes, cutting a salty path through the blood, now dried, on his cheeks. In the eyes above him, he saw pain and sadness… and tears.

Gibbs was human after all, and capable of feeling loss.

"I never got to tell her, Boss," Tony whispered, his voice choking on sobs threatening to break free.

"I know, Tony, I know," Gibbs assured him, gripping Tony's hand, still secured by body straps to the stretcher on which he was lying.

"But she won't know," Tony insisted, unsure now to what he was even referring: how grateful he was that she was always there for him, or how much he loved her, which was something he himself had only recently realized.

"I think she does," Gibbs said sadly. "I think she knew."

Turning his head to the side, Tony took in the scene around him. Medical and law enforcement personnel were milling everywhere, going in seemingly a million different directions, all going about a hundred miles per hour. Across from him, no more than ten or twelve feet away was another stretcher, the body on this one zipped up in a black body bag. Her. Kate. Gone. A few feet beyond her was McGee, looking sadly at the stretcher supporting the body of their coworker. Tony could see the tears falling from his eyes, too, and for once, Tony felt no urge to make fun of him. Instead, Tony felt like they all belonged to the same special club, a club now mourning the loss of their raison d'être.

Turning away, Tony looked once more at Gibbs. Suddenly aware of his position, Tony asked, "Have I been shot?"

"No," Gibbs answered, shaking his head, "thankfully. But you passed out cold up there. They're going to take you to the hospital just to make sure you are okay, though."

For once, Tony felt no need to protest. He didn't have the energy to protest, nor the will. If it would have brought Kate back, he would have put up a hell of a fight, but it wouldn't have changed anything. Nothing would change anything.

From here on out, life would have to go on, a little bit dimmer without her life shining in his.

Closing his eyes, Tony surrendered to the darkness that was calling his name. He didn't want to deal with this anymore. Dealing with it ever again would have been too soon.

He took another week off.

As he understood it, everybody on the team took a few days off, took the time to mourn. Her funeral had been held the day after Memorial Day, a cold and rainy day, very unusual for late May, but somehow appropriate, as if all the heavens were weeping for her. Perhaps they were, though Tony found it odd that the heavens would choose her to waste their tears on, not when children were killing other children every night, not when fathers and mothers were killing their own flesh and blood. Why should the heavens weep for Kate when others were far more deserving?

But weep Tony did. They all did.

The rain fell as hard as his tears did as he watched the coffin as it was lowered into the ground. Though he knew Gibbs was holding onto his shoulder to give him comfort, it didn't reach into his soul. Nothing could penetrate that deep, except the pain of her loss. Tony didn't even know the depths of his own emotions for her, until it was too late. Rain drops hit the polished wood, paused, and slid off, destined to be buried with her. Tony was the last man standing as the dirt was thrown on the coffin, covering Kate's final bed for all eternity. Turning, he trudged back to the black SUV where the remaining members of the team were waiting for him.

Dressed in her usual black, though far more subdued, her hair not in their usual pigtails, Abby took his hand and led him into the back seat of the vehicle. Resting her head on his shoulder, she squeezed his hand tightly. "We all miss her, Tony. But it will get better."

"That's what they say," Tony acknowledged. He wasn't sure he believed them, whoever they were.

Understanding the meaning of Tony's words, Abby just squeezed his hand once more, leaving him in peace.

At the reception, Tony met Kate's brothers, all good guys, and their children. Her mother, too, was there, a quiet and broken woman, displaying none of the strength Kate had shown in life. After staying for an appropriate amount of time, and picking at food he didn't want to eat, Tony gave up and went home.

Walking into work for the first time, the first day without her there, was one of the hardest things Tony had ever done. Her desk sat empty, unused, all her stuff cleared in preparation for a new agent. Tony already knew her voicemail had been disabled, as he had called it several times just to hear her voice, only to find it gone one day. Just like her. NCIS was nothing if not efficient.

"How you doing, Tony?" Gibbs asked as Tony took a seat.

"I'm alright, Boss," Tony responded, not even believing his own words. "Hanging in there."

"Good," Gibbs nodded, also unsure of Tony's answer. He was taking Kate's death harder than any of them, and given everything that was there, or had the potential to be there, between the two, it was understandable.

Opening his desk drawer to grab a pen to take notes as he listened to his voicemail messages, Tony was startled by the appearance of a spiral bound book in the drawer. Kate's sketchbook, full of her drawings. Pulling it out, Tony gently opened it and flipped through the pictures. There were a few of Gibbs hard at work, one or two of McGee, Ducky, several with Abby at her equipment in the lab (and one of Abby posing in a very seductive position), and a few of himself, more than he thought she had. Though Tony couldn't remember ever telling her how good she was, Kate had been quite talented. The last picture in the notebook, the last one she had been working on, was of him. It hadn't been completed, and never would be. He would remain forever frozen at his desk, asleep, and incomplete, but in that reality, Kate was still alive, her hand poised over the paper, gripping the pencil between her slender fingers.

"We thought you'd want to have that," McGee stated quietly as he watched Tony thumb through the images.

Looking up at the less experienced agent, Tony said, "Thanks, McGee." He was glad they had given it to him. No matter what happened in his life from here on out, he would treasure this forever, some small part of her. Setting it down on his desk, the cover closed, he was reluctant to turn away, as if someone might snatch it from him, much like she had been snatched from him.

Picking up a notepad and a pen, Tony lifted the receiver on his phone and listened to his messages, struggling to get on with his own life.