Title: Our Time
Rating: T, sexual references.
Disclaimer: Characters remain the property of CBS Paramount et al. Lyrics to "Cupid" are property of Jack Johnson (I assume). No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: Kate/Other, Kate/Gibbs. Alternate POVs.
A/N: Okay…so when I said that I had written my last fic, it wasn't so much a lie as a miscalculation.
"How many times must we go through this?
You've always been mine, woman, I thought you knew this.
How many times must we go through this?
You'll always be mine, Cupid only misses sometimes.
But we could end up broken hearted,
If we don't remember why all this started.
And if they try to tell you love fades with time,
Tell them there's no such thing as time,
It's our time, it's our time.
It's our time."
He'd never mentioned Caitlin Todd.
He was not a big talker generally, not the sort to chat idly, but I'd heard about DiNozzo -- mostly because he kept doing things that annoyed him. I'd heard about McGee, the nerd who he'd hired basically to make up for his own lack of hi-tech expertise. I'd met Abby and Ducky many times and observed my friends' particular fondness for both of them.
But Gibbs never mentioned Caitlin Todd and I must admit, I found this odd.
Caitlin Todd was not someone you over-looked, not someone you disregarded. Caitlin Todd was a woman you noticed. Caitlin Todd was a woman you mentioned. Caitlin Todd was a woman you told your buddies about.
But I never heard him even say her name till I met her face to face.
I had no idea that Gibbs knew what friends were, let alone possessed any. Aside from copious amounts of extremely strong coffee, I thought he purposely starved himself of all human gratification – including relationships.
But not only did he have friends all of a sudden, he had friends in high places.
"You trust this friend of yours?" I asked as we boarded the elevator on our way to the restaurant. Apparently, he was FBI and the FBI had screwed us over more than once.
"With my life," Gibbs replied resolutely, with a short nod.
My eyebrows rose: "Quite an endorsement," I noted in reply.
"He's saved my ass on more than one occasion," he told me seriously. "The least I can do is grant him a hearing," he added, referring to the case we'd been called in to consult on.
"Ok-ay," I said, following him off the elevator: "But what do you need me there for?"
He'd looked down at me momentarily, eyebrows lifted faintly, as he shot me that look he usually does when I ask him to explain his actions. As I expected -- he gave no reply.
I hate them both right now. I absolutely loath him and I utterly despise her.
Why did I bring her? Why did I have to have Kate tag along for this?
One of the undeniable perks of my job is that I have Kate Todd at my beck and call. I try to be practical and arbitrary in my division of assignments and for the most part, I believe I accomplish this quite easily.
Still, there are those days when I cannot stand to be around her, with all her perky energy and pretty hair and soft perfume, and her lollipop-eating and her homemade cookies and her tight green sweaters.
I never thought green was a particularly sexy color till I saw it on Kate Todd and noticed how it exemplified everything beautiful, everything enticing, everything agonizingly untouchable about her.
But usually on the days that she wears green or brings cookies, I can simply pack her off with DiNozzo or McGee or even leave her in the lab to help Abby.
Some days, however -- like today -- I just don't have the strength and take full advantage of the fact that I can order her to be by my side at every minute.
Why couldn't today be one of my strong days? Why couldn't she have worn green as some sort of forewarning? Why couldn't Daniel have just told me about this case over the phone instead of dragging us to this lousy restaurant?
It was like looking at twins, I thought, glancing between the surly expression of my boss and his smiling former-marine buddy. The resemblance was uncanny. The only big difference was the frown that Gibbs perpetually wore, was turned upside down on the other man. It was like I'd been working with the evil twin all this time and only just met his angelic counterpart. Straight, white teeth gleamed at me good-naturedly only out-done in brilliance by the bright blue sparkle of his eyes.
"Look, Gibbs--" I exclaim, showing him the old photo and coaxing him to join in the fun we are having without him: "You have hair!" I tease, gleefully.
Gibbs doesn't look at the photo, his expression darkening further as he turns his irascible gaze on Daniel Peters and demands: "Why'd you bring that thing?"
His friend shrugs, unrepentant: "Blackmail material. I thought you might take some convincing about this case."
Gibbs huffs unamused, and opens the FBI file Daniel had brought with him. I turn back to the photo and study the figure of my 20-something boss in his marine uniform, standing straight and tall, his chest puffed out and his cover tucked under his arm. It's a pretty impressive image, I must admit.
"That must've been before they ordered him to cut it off," Daniel volunteers, referring to the thick dark-brown hair Gibbs sports. He leans in conspiratorially and I feel Gibbs' eyes lift once more at the minor encroachment he makes into my personal space.
I don't move away and ask Daniel where he is in the photo.
I don't know what possesses me; I'm usually not so bold.
But I like her eyes and I like her smile and I want to sit down with Caitlin Todd and have her all to myself. I'm probably old enough to be her father but she makes me feel like what I'm imagining, after only a half-hour of knowing her, is not impossible, is not irrational, is not imprudent.
For the first time in a long time, I feel like my old self, my true self.
For the first time in a long time, I feel excited about something – about someone. And so I ask her, right then and there, if I can see her again.
"Daniel! -- she works under me, for Chissakes!" Gibbs spits exasperatedly.
I don't look at him – I watch as Caitlin's eyes go wide and her mouth drops open slightly. It begins to occur to me that she has no idea how beautiful she is.
"Means you can't date her," I tell him smugly: "Doesn't mean I can't."
She glances at her boss and I think she's a bit embarrassed by being asked out in front of him. I don't care – because I think she's going to say 'yes', anyway.
He storms off abruptly, fixing up the bill and heading out of the restaurant. She follows, hesitantly, but she slips me her card before she leaves and tells me it was nice to meet me.
"Nice to meet you, too," I say, mostly to myself as I watch her catch up with Gibbs at the door: "…Caitlin Todd."
I want to shake her. I want to yell at her. I want to scrape off my eardrums the sound of him asking her to dinner. I want to erase from my brain the lit-up expressions on both their faces.
Most of all, I want to go back an hour or so and make sure that my best friend in the entire world never met my best agent and protégé.
I grind my teeth together and hurl the car around another corner, faster than is at all sensible. I'm trying to scare her. I'm trying to make her scream. I'm trying to make her practically come out of her seat and land in my lap. But she refuses to give it up.
She remains sitting flawlessly in her seat, a tight rein on her tongue and her eyes cast down, reading the FBI file from Daniel. Without having made the decision to broach the subject, the words are out of my mouth, before I know it.
"It's a bad idea, Kate," I finally tell her leadenly.
"Hmmm?" she asks, raising her head and pretending that she has no idea what's on my mind. I wanna shake her.
"You don't know anything about him," I tell her, reminding myself that Daniel is an old friend, one that I'd trust with my life, one that I value beyond words.
He's a good man, and he's had a rough trot recently. He deserves a good woman and I can't logically blame him for being effected by Kate's appeal. Except that right now, I do blame him. And I blame her for being appealing. And I blame myself for letting them meet, in the first place.
"That's kind of the point of dating," she replies evenly and I cringe at the word.
'Dating' implies more than one occasion, dating implies more than platonic feelings.
"He's just come out of a nasty divorce," I tell her, stopping short of saying she'd just be the rebound girl and nothing could ever come of it.
"I can look after myself, Gibbs," Kate replies absent-mindedly and furtively slips the old photo Daniel had brought to the top of the file. She thinks I don't notice, she's holding the file so that I can't see the photo, and I wonder which of us she's looking at.
"I don't want you seeing him," I almost holler, trying to break her out of her complacency.
"I'm sure you don't," she muses, impassively.
I zoom the car around a corner and the file slides off her lap. She clamps a hand onto my bicep to stop herself from tumbling sideways.
"Gibbs!" she shrieks, before landing back in her seat, with a huff.
Not satisfied by my victory over her poise, I screech into the NCIS parking lot and to a swift halt. Kate's head bangs against the headrest, and she rubs her neck like she has whiplash. I sit still for a moment in shame, wondering if my mouth has anymore insane remarks to contribute. Then, I get out of the car and slam the door.
I've been spending an awful lot of time in Abby's lab these last two weeks. It's not a hardship – Abs and I get on great and we have gotten a lot of work done.
Still, I feel like I've been banished from the kingdom. I feel like I'm missing out on the real work, the real fun. I miss the boys. I actually miss squabbling with Tony and watching McGee fumble about but eventually get it all right.
And I miss my boss.
I miss being put on the spot by his questions, I miss standing at his desk, and looking across at him from mine. I miss him drinking my coffee and standing too close when we watch CNN and his hand on my back when he sometimes opens a door for me. I miss watching him wake up and change his shirt in the morning, or devour Chinese takeout by lamplight; his thigh touching mine when we squish into the truck, his aftershave on stakeout, and his brusque: "Kate, you're with me!"
And I miss the way he on occasion looks at me when he actually stops and sees me.
I sigh for the third time in two minutes. I haven't achieved anything this morning. But if I wanted to do the work of a forensic scientist, I would have become a forensic scientist, not a field agent.
Abby looks across at me sympathetically: "How was your date last night?"
I leave my chair and put on some new music: "Oh, Abs, Daniel is amazing."
"So you keep telling me," she remarks wryly: "What'd you guys do?"
"Cooked, ate, talked…" I muse absently, wandering around the lab and stealing a sip of her lukewarm Caf Pow.
"Aaand?" she hints, twinkling interestedly.
I roll my eyes, refusing to dignify her insinuation with a reply. Abby turns back to her work with a pitying huff.
Daniel and I have been seeing each other for a few weeks now and we are both happy to be taking things quite slow. He has spoken a little about his divorce of seven months past but it's obviously still a subject which causes him much pain and confusion.
For myself, I'm not at all sure what I'm doing. I like Daniel. But when I look at him I still see my boss or something of him. I have to question whether I am simply playing out an elaborate and unfair fantasy, fulfilling some kind of impossible reality with his friend.
I have such mixed and convoluted feelings for Gibbs – but what troubles me more, is that I have no idea, not even an inkling, of how he feels about me. I know Gibbs likes me. He does like me, he respects me and maybe, he's attracted to me. Sometimes. I think…
I just don't know if there is any more to it for him, any more to hope for. I don't know if he spends sleepless nights, thinking about what might have happened if I hadn't joined NCIS and was a free agent, so to speak. I don't know if he replays in his head the two of us being thrown together, quite literally, and into each others arms as that sub resurfaced. I don't know if he catches secret looks and sly remarks and mentally files them away for safe keeping as religiously as I do.
Gibbs likes me. I'm simply not sure how much.
I've tried to push him from my head by dating other men. Something in me always felt pathetic, dishonest. Something deeper felt unfaithful, ashamed.
Daniel is the first man to ever over-shadow Gibbs, in my mind. I enjoy his company immensely, I relish his touch, and I wish to know him much better.
He kissed me last night. I mean, we'd kissed before. But, last night, we, well….we made out. His hands slipped around my waist as I was making coffee and I was surprised at how sensual his touch was. When I turned in his embrace, he kissed me, holding me gently, and pressing me back against the kitchen counter.
I remember the feel of his chest, beneath his shirt and the taste of red wine on his breath. His skin was rough and smooth at the same time, and his kiss wove magic inside my head. He'd lifted me, effortlessly, onto the counter, and stood between my legs as I explored his neck with my mouth and found my hands in his silver hair. Brushing my hair over my shoulders, he said that I was beautiful and tugged me closer to him. Briefly, I wondered whether I should ask him to stay the night.
We kissed for nearly twenty minutes and it was amazing -- but it was obvious, that that was as far as we were going to go that night. Daniel left at eleven with half a bottle of wine and a funny walk.
With a glance towards Abby, headphones over her ears and immersed in her work, I return to my own task, with a yawn.
I had lain alone in my bed, replaying the make-out session in my head. But as I drifted off to sleep, I couldn't help but recall how Gibbs had leaned over me that day as I sat at Abby's desk. With one hand on the desk and one on the back of the chair, I shivered at his proximity and glanced up at his close profile as he read from the computer screen.
He didn't look at me, being focused on work. But when he sighed in frustration, his breath stirred the fringe of my hair and brushed across my lips.
And, of my entire day, that's what I remembered most.
I undo my tie as I stalk up the path, shoving it in my pocket as I step through the door. He never locks his door and I know he'll be awake.
I'm buzzing again. Like every time I leave Kate Todd. It gets worse (and better) each time I see her. I can barely keep still; I can barely contain the feverish energy in my gut.
I grab a mug from the kitchen as I pass. There are angry banging sounds coming from the basement as Gibbs indulges in his own personal version of therapy. He looks up when he spots me coming down the stairs and nods sharply in greeting.
I pour myself a big serve of Jack and take care of Gibbs' mug as well. He accepts it without a word and resumes his banging. I'm guessing he's had a bad day.
I sip my drink with a sigh and stroll about the basement without direction, as my churning gut begins to calm somewhat from the smooth spirits. As always happens, once I'm out of her presence, the inevitable doubts start to creep in and my internal judge begins to scream at me about what the hell I think I'm doing. I take a big mouthful as Gibbs throws down his tool and picks up his mug to drink.
I take off my jacket and throw it away carelessly. "I must be crazy," I say, partly to him and partly to myself.
Gibbs looks over at me non-committally: "Why?"
I sigh and take a seat on an old wooden trunk: "This thing with Kate…"
"Uh huh," he grunts, taking a grubby rag and swiping it over his sweaty forehead.
"I'm fifty-two years old," I laugh deprecatingly and shake my head at my mug: "I'm not supposed to feel like this."
Gibbs smiles ever so slightly and reaches out to absently caress his boat. "I know what you mean," he mutters vaguely.
My curiosity arises at the distant look on his face. Offhandedly, I ask: "Whatever happened with you and, what was her name? Sydney?"
"Cynthia," he corrects and pulls a face: "Afraid of the sea." He wanders to his workbench and picks up a different tool, adding grimly: "Can't date a woman who's afraid of water."
I grin faintly and reply: "Kate was a champion diver, you know."
It didn't take my mind long to return to thoughts of her. The more I find out about her, the more impressed I become.
"Yeah, I know," Gibbs groans, trying to ignore my lovesick bragging.
"She can draw, too," I add proudly.
"Uh huh," he nods curtly, moving to the far end of his creation.
"And dance," I finish, pensively, gulping down the last of my drink.
Gibbs looks up at this seemingly new intel, then mumbles knowingly: "Yeah, she probably would."
I chuff quietly; I know what he means. Kate's a real girly girl and a naturally high achiever. She's bright and brave and gifted and gorgeous and young. I love being with her.
But what I haven't figured out about her yet is what the hell she's doing with an old man like me. As flattering as it is and as good as it makes me feel, something doesn't quite add up. There's something here that she's not telling me, or something that I'm too blind to see. I haven't got a wink of sleep since this thing started. Because, to my sixth sense, something in the air smells like disaster.
I know that look. I know that feeling. I almost feel for him.
Or I would if it were any other young woman he was agonizing over. As it happens though, I haven't had a moment's peace since Daniel Peters met Kate Todd; and worse than the fear that everything is going to end in disaster is the over-whelming fear that it will not.
What if Daniel is Kate's happily-ever-after and I'm only the device that brought them together? What if Kate Todd was never meant for me, never felt for me, never knows what I've felt for her? What if I'm nothing but a meaningless footnote in her life?
Even if it doesn't end in marriage and kids, at least he's had the chance to date her, take her places and talk with her and hold her and kiss her. It's something I never allowed myself. And as excruciating as it is for me to hear him talk of her, of where they went and what she said, and what she wore and how he feels, some sadistic part of me still needs to know.
The first time Daniel visited me in my basement I hadn't seen the man in three years. He turned up in the middle of the night, in the pouring rain, drunk as a skunk. We sat in a miserable mood as he told me in as few words as possible that Angie had left him for her personal trainer. It was as tacky and mediocre as my own marriage breakup. All of them, actually. On that night, I was happy to lend him my couch and at that time, I was glad to offer my support.
But when he started coming down here with the scent of Kate Todd still on his clothes, I started to consider beating him over the head and burying him below my basement.
He appeared after their first date together, instantly launching into raptures over her eyes and her smile and her voice and her ass. I'd never heard a marine describe with more accuracy a woman's red dress.
Worse than seeing Kate Todd at work in her little green sweaters, was dreaming of the vision he painted for me of this goddess in deep cherry satin.
"I can't believe you've never mentioned her," he'd declared excitedly: "Never told me how gorgeous she is."
"Kate's an agent. I don't see her that way," I'd lied blankly.
I didn't want to see Kate that way. But if any man had studied in detail and committed to memory the distinctive color of a particular woman's eyes, every contour of her smile, each sway of her hips and much, much more -- it would be myself of Kate Todd's. Perhaps something of this desire showed in my face at that moment, because all of a sudden Daniel asked if I was interested.
"I don't want to step on your toes, here," he'd said honestly, propping his elbows on the frame of my boat and peering through at me.
"No," I'd chuffed dismissively and moved away. "Go for your life," I'd told him over my shoulder: "Not my type."
"Of course," he'd responded pleased: "The man of a thousand redheads."
And just one brunette, I'd reflected privately. I'd hoped furtively that Daniel was not Kate's type and that any minute the affair would be over, that he would just disappear like most of her short-term boyfriends. I didn't want to consider any other possibility.
But they've been seeing each other for twenty-seven days now -- not that I'm counting. Daniel looks happier every time I see him and Kate more subdued. I wonder what she's thinking, if she knows what she's doing. But I don't have any right or reason to ask. I just order her to stay with Abby or keep an eye on McGee so I can think about work for awhile without her distracting me.
I'd just gotten her out of my head tonight when Daniel came in and started talking about her again. My suspicious mind notices that his clothes look slightly rumpled, like a woman has had her hands in them. I think I spy lipstick on his collar and I swear that's her perfume on him. I grit my jaw painfully and blood blisters burst on my hand as I grip my hand-tool too tightly.
Daniel picks up his jacket and heads for the stairs, asking: "That place you have, that you told me about?"
"Yeah?" I respond gruffly.
"I was thinking of taking you up on your offer," he continues hopefully.
I turn and look at him, mildly surprised: "Yeah, sure." Maybe the relationship is not going so well, if he's taking time away. I wonder how long he intends to be gone.
"I don't get up there very often," I add, with a shrug: "Just let me know when and I'll give you directions."
He nods and heads out. And I wonder if in his absence things will have a chance of returning to normal between me and Kate.
At first, Gibbs' reaction was, I admit, rather gratifying -- and I can't deny I got some sort of sadistic pleasure from seeing evidence of his jealousy and discomfort. But the situation has become so much more complicated in the last two months or so.
I'm pretty sure that Gibbs knows Daniel and I have been seeing a lot of each other. I don't know what Daniel has told him about us, but I have kept my mouth firmly closed on the subject. I make sure never to take phone calls from Daniel in Gibbs' presence, or mention our plans, and only Abby has known of the relationship which has created an atmosphere of mounting tension in our little team.
It was clear to me, from the outset that Gibbs disapproved of the relationship and I felt it coming off him in waves of curiosity whenever we were near.
Of course, of late, he has made absolutely sure that we were not near.
As often as possible, he has had me stuck in Abby's lab, working as her assistant, or paired with McGee whenever we venture out on assignment. He is always serious when he addresses me, he never stands too close now, and if we accidentally bump elbows or touch hands, he makes sure to pull away immediately.
His reaction is no longer fun. It's painful.
It's wearing me down, stressing me out. I need time off from feeling so guilty, so deceitful. I need time to sort out my feelings, to separate my thoughts. I just need time away from him.
So, when Daniel asked me to go away with him for the weekend, I didn't need to give it much thought. I'd said yes last night, having come to the conclusion that all I require is simply to be alone with him for a while, out from under the shadow of my boss and his disapproving stare.
It's time for my relationship with Daniel to move to the next level, I tell myself anxiously. And maybe then, I can let go a little. Maybe then, Gibbs and I can get used to this new situation and recover some semblance of what we used to be.
"So…" comes a suggestive voice from behind me: "how old is he?"
I turn to see Tony standing at my desk, doing his best Gibbs impression of sneaking up and ambushing me. I know I look guilty as I glance from side to side and attempt to conceal the overnight bag I had been fiddling with.
"Who?" I stall, unconvincingly, as Tony peers at the bag nosily.
I'm almost tempted to throw myself on his mercy, admit everything and then beg him not to gossip about it in front of our boss. I have been tossing up how to handle this since last night when, in a freak coincidence, Daniel and I ran into Tony with his current girlfriend-of-the-week coming out of Philomena's, just as they were going in.
I've been dreading this conversation, knowing that it's exactly the sort of gossip that will keep Tony gloating for weeks.
"The guy you were with last night," he prompts knowingly, disregarding the bag behind me, but I'm sure not dismissing it: "How old is the dude?"
I look around for any sign of Gibbs approaching and reply coolly as I can: "The 'dude'? What are you, twelve years old?"
"Don't try and divert me, Kate," he warns with an evil grin: "I'll only become more persistent."
I sigh in annoyance; he has no idea what he's stirring up here. "It's none of your business," I spell out to him, which only makes his grin grow more evil.
"What's going on?" Gibbs demands, appearing suddenly, coffee cup in hand and striding purposefully to his desk.
He is actually asking if we have scored any new cases, but Tony chooses to take it another way and before I can open my mouth, he announces self-satisfactorily:
"Kate has a sugar daddy."
I groan and narrow my eyes reproachfully at his playful expression, then I glance hesitantly towards Gibbs. He deposits his coffee on his desk, taking off his coat and giving me a long, hard stare. I feel my cheeks redden a bit and my insides squirm.
I swallow and drop my eyes: "He's not my sugar daddy," I say quietly, feeling Gibbs's gaze still scouring me.
It's not information that is new to him, but I'm sure he's blaming me for us having this conversation on NCIS time. And he certainly doesn't jump to my defense or reprimand Tony, apparently indifferent to the fun the other agent is having at my expense.
McGee has arrived and is also enjoying the show: "What's happening?"
"Kate has a sugar daddy," Tony repeats cheerily: "She's going away for the weekend with him."
I gasp, appalled, wondering whether he has been snooping in my PDA again: "Tony! How did you--?"
Tony shrugs complacently: "The overnight bag," he points at it and I realize he was only taking a wild guess. "Process of deduction, dear Kate," he informs me.
"How old are we talking?" McGee asks Tony conversationally and I feel my ire really beginning to rise.
"Old," Tony replies drolly and leans in to mutter to McGee: "Dead ringer for--"
"Okay!" I interrupt him hurriedly: "So, I'm seeing someone older--"
"What is it with the older guy-hot woman thing?" Tony questions idiotically and McGee shrugs in bewilderment.
"Okay--" I continue, lowering my voice to a strained warning: "We are spending the weekend together--"
"Ah," McGee perks up interestedly: "Where you going?"
"A small cabin in the woods," I inform them evenly: "Now, you know -- happy? Can we possibly get to work now?"
"Sure," Tony concedes wickedly and I know I haven't heard the last of this but he backs off.
"Of course," McGee nods respectfully, moving to his desk.
"A cabin?" asks Gibbs from his desk and I look over at him.
As much as I hope he hasn't heard the entire conversation, I'm positive he witnessed every word, whether he wanted to or not. For a moment, I think that he's simply reacting as my boss, as the Gibbs I know that dislikes weekend plans, because very rarely does the job actually permit for the luxury of a real break. For a moment, I assume that he's simply worried about my cell being out of range should a case come up.
Then I see the angry fire in his eyes, a second before he jolts from his chair. He moves swiftly, grabbing my upper arm as he marches us out of our area and towards the elevator. He is steamed; I can sense the heat of his anger and the threat of it exploding all over me at any second.
"What are you doing!" I squirm in his grasp, trying to free my arm and walk on my own. I don't know what has made him snap like this. "You're hurting me!" I tell him as his grip only tightens with every attempt I make to extricate myself.
He steers me through the small crowd coming off the elevator and towards the wall where the portraits of the Most Wanted are hung.
He puts me against the wall, holding my body in place with one hand and hissing lowly: "You're not going out there with him!"
I glare at him wide-eyed, as a few passers-by ogle us suspiciously. "Says who?" I demand belligerently as someone bumps into his back, shoving him closer to me.
"I do!" he spits angrily: "I won't allow it!"
I huff, taken aback, and repeat disdainfully: "You won't allow it!" Who the hell is he to order me about? I think spitefully, all sympathy for him vanished without a trace. "This may come as a shock to you, Gibbs," I inform him, sharply: "but I'm a grown woman and I can make my own decisions."
"Dammit, Kate!" he flares, the words escaping like a punch in the dark. His fierceness takes my breath away, and I retreat a little in panic. He moves closer still, boxing me in completely. "That cabin belongs to me--" he whispers heatedly, his face right in mine: "It's mine. And You- you're--"
My eyes blink and my mouth drops open in unmasked disbelief. He stops short of saying the actual word -- checking his runaway mouth just in time -- but I hear it nonetheless. We both do.
Gibbs thinks he owns me, Gibbs thinks he has some right to me; what's more, he thinks I should know this. I pant softly in shock, and glare up into his face, so near to mine, realizing I'm not as appalled as I should be by the assumption.
His blue eyes are still alight with fire, pinning me just as securely as his hand still does. I hold his gaze, lick my dry lips and try to gather my wits about me. And when I think I am recovered enough to speak, I answer his unspoken assertion with two of my bravest words:
Something inside me shatters, explodes violently, and I have no control over my actions. I let go of her arm, grabbing the other with my other hand and dragging her out of the bullpen. I'm not sure where I'm taking her, but this time, she's not protesting.
Her challenge rings in my ears and all I can think of is getting her alone enough to prove to her that no other man should be taking her anywhere. No other man should be anywhere near her but me.
The rage pulses through my body unchecked, my infamous control somehow completely disabled, entirely thwarted by emotion I thought I was strong enough to renounce. Apparently, it was all just waiting, lurking evilly to get the jump on me when she dropped the bombshell that she was going to that cabin – my cabin – with another man.
She'd had no idea it belonged to me, I could see that much in her eyes – just as I had no idea that Daniel intended on taking her up there. But at that moment, I didn't care who the other man was, and I still don't.
That is my cabin and my fantasy, my brain protests, indignantly. That little slice of earth is my special spot, the only real thing I own outright and the only sanctuary I have. I've dreamt privately of taking Kate up there, in some imaginary future and showing her its beauty. I'd let myself imagine us fishing for hours on end and walking out along the lake and sleeping under the stars with her hand in mine.
I'd dreamt other things too, fantasized other things. They were all, it seems, catching up with me with a vengeance.
I haul her down the corridor trying to find a quiet place for us to be alone, while Kate trots docilely behind me. I can hear her breathing heavily and her heels chuffing against the carpet, as she tries to keep up. I check all the interrogation rooms, but with an aggravated growl, I realize they're all occupied by people doing actual work.
Out of desperation, I turn towards the janitor's closet and open the door. It's dark and empty so I urge her in ahead of me and close the door. She nearly trips over a bucket as she backs away from me, not entirely sure what I'm up to. I can't see her eyes in the dark, but her body language is cautious and unsure. I lean back against the door, thrilled to be alone with her for the first time in what seems like an eternity.
"I won't let you go," I tell her determinedly, my voice crackling with barely restrained furor.
She doesn't dispute me again, she doesn't say a thing, and when I draw near to her gradually, she doesn't move away. My body is begging me to touch her; her body is pleading me to claim her. I can't not obey.
I'm close enough that I can smell her perfume, that soft, sweet scent that for two years has progressively overtaken every nook and cranny of my subconscious. I breathe her in and, this time, I don't fight my instinctive reaction. I put out a hand and stroke her gently where I had grabbed her so roughly, smoothing out the indents in her green sweater.
"I don't want him touching you," I mutter, quiet but firm, giving way to the fear in my mind's eye of my friend making love to my Kate in my bed. I grit my teeth against the pain of the picture, entreating her silently to make it all better. "I don't want you touching him," I insist boldly, the image in my head transforming so that Kate is in my arms, in my bed, reaching out to me.
My hands glide down her arms to her hands and I feel her soften under my touch. I take her small hands in mine and look at them.
"Touch me," I demand beseechingly, guiding her hands with my own. I move her left hand to my face, pressing her cool palm to my burning cheek and my skin into hers. "Belong to me," I whisper urgently and lower her free hand to the other part of my body that burns insatiably for her.
Her wide eyes glint up at me in the darkness and I hear her moan breathily as I make her feel what she does to me. I draw in as much air as I can manage and urge her hand to cup my hardness snugly.
I marvel that she doesn't run for her life or, at the very least, smack my face for my crude behavior. I know she could do it, I know she wouldn't hesitate. But Kate's allowing me to claim her, to stamp her as mine and, with an unbelievable rush, I feel both her hands move to stroke me of their own accord. The movement is slight but undeniably there and I close my eyes, groaning at the longed-for contact.
"I do," she answers me finally in a whisper, granting me ownership of all I never dreamed I'd actually possess. "I belong to you," she admits, willingly and confidently.
Before I can open my eyes and look at her, her hand is crushed between us, as her body steals up against mine and her lips, her gorgeous, soft lips, kiss me openly.
I moan like I'm dying as I clutch her to me and sink my mouth over hers. I grasp her head in my hands, her hair twisted around my fingers, as I start sucking the lipstick from her lips with zeal.
Her arms scramble for purchase around my body as I push her back against the wall, our feet tripping over each others as we go. A broom knocks me on the head as we recklessly disrupt our dim surroundings, but I don't have attention to pay to anything right now but the feel of Kate's body and the taste of her lips and the sound of her breath and the knowledge that she's mine.
Like floodgates opening on a dam, I begin to touch her everywhere and in every way I've ever wanted to, longed to. Her fingers lodge in my hair as my hands and lips move down over her body, greeting each part of her with increasing desire and heated affection. Utterly devoid of patience, I never pause long enough to investigate any one spot but vow to revisit each very soon and memorize everything I'm experiencing now for the first time.
I bury my face in her sinful green sweater, picking up from her curves new aspects to the Kate-smell which I realize is the essence of Her, minus all superficial influences. My hands travel up to caress her breasts delicately, as I kneel before her and shove my nose under the hem of her sweater. I kiss and tongue the downy skin of her stomach, hearing her moan encouragingly in response.
Looking up at her face as she tilts her head down to meet my gaze, I let my hands smooth down her sides to her waist, where I pause, squeeze, then continue tracing the shape that my imagination knows well but that my tactile mind is only just learning. She feels better in the flesh than any dream ever could.
I drink in her expression as my hands drift greedily over the swell of her hips, down the backs of her thighs, to where her skirt ends. She squirms restlessly as I run my fingertips up and down her legs, grazing the arc of her calves, circling her ankles briefly and slipping back up under her skirt.
My palms cup the backs of her stockinged thighs as I lean in to bury my nose in her apex, sampling the welcoming aroma that I've detected radiating from her lap. She smells sweet and musky and warm and from this spot, I don't rush to move on.
Kate undulates gently, in the custody of my grip on her lower body, as I draw in her essence and kiss the material covering her core. Then she tugs on my hair, my name escaping from her lips like an invocation from every wet dream I've ever had about her. I'm on my feet and kissing her in a millisecond as her arms entrap me tightly.
Soft, wet moans of desperation and desire permeate our little cupboard as we kiss passionately for a miraculous minute, Kate allowing my tongue to roll about her mouth and me allowing her little nips along my lips and chin.
It feels so incredible to be able to do this after such a painfully long time of denying all expectation of it. But when I feel her hand reach between us to touch me again, with will-power I didn't know I possessed, I stop her before we get too carried away.
I am not making love to Kate in a broom closet, where I cannot see or undress her the way I want to. I am not making love to her here at work where we would have to worry about being heard or discovered.
When I make love to Kate Todd it is going to be long and tender and private and romantic. It's going to be everything she can possibly want or need and everything I've ever imagined.
And it's not going to be while any part of her, even her conscience, still belongs to anyone else. I've done enough to dishonor my friendship with Daniel of late. I have been dishonest and unfair and callous.
And I have now made a play for the woman that he is dating, which is something I never thought I could be capable of. No matter what the circumstances, Daniel deserves better treatment, especially considering his recent history.
I'm not sleeping with Kate -- I'm not even going to kiss her again -- until things between them are all squared away.
"There's someone you've got to talk to before we do anything," I tell her soberly.
She looks up at me with big eyes and for a moment I think she's going to reconsider.
"What can I tell him?" she asks in a small voice, her face creased with shame.
I touch her cheek and stroke her hair: "Be honest. Just tell him what you feel."
She swallows and averts her eyes: "So…I should tell him….that I'm in love with my boss?" Her voice is incredulous, uncertain, and I recognize she's testing me, asking me what exactly is going on.
"If that's what you feel," I concede evenly and pull away from her.
She nods at the floor and drops her hands to her sides. I take a few steps away and stand with my hands on my hips, watching her. I let out a long sigh; it aches not to touch her, hold her.
I shift awkwardly on the spot. "You could also say," I add hoarsely: "that he feels the same way."
Kate goes very still, her eyes still trained on the floor and her hands knotted anxiously.
I shrug indifferently: "If you wanted to…"
I'm not sure how much Kate wants to admit to Daniel. But I want her to know before she talks to him, before we leave this dark little closet, that I, for what it is worth to her, am pathetically, obsessively, insanely, irrefutably head over heels in love with her.
I may not know how to show it or say it very well, but Kate understands me in a way that most women do not. I think she'll get the message.
She smiles suddenly and looks up, her eyes connecting with mine. "Alright," she says softly: "then that's what I'll say."
Alone again, I let myself into the cabin and drop my bag to the floor, creating a small dust cloud as it drops. The whole place is coated with a thin layer of it – Gibbs apparently hasn't been here in some time. I open up all the windows, glancing about at my home for the next two weeks, and head straight out the back door, coughing slightly.
In the yard is a small row boat, sitting by the misty lake. I fling the cover off and see that it's still usable. I gingerly take a seat on the exposed underbelly of the craft, hearing my knees creak as I bend, and gaze out across the still landscape.
Gibbs had originally recommended this place as an excellent spot to get over a divorce. But sitting here, feeling the sun penetrate my shirt hotly, I find myself not dwelling on Angie -- but on Kate. She came to me the previous night with tears in her eyes and a secret to confess.
I miss her already. I remember her smiling brightly at me, across the table on our first date. It's possibly how I will always remember her; as the first woman to make me feel again, after a long, dry spell of not feeling anything at all. As the first woman to make me feel good about myself, after feeling so bad for such an eternity.
I watch the birds glide overhead and wonder how long before I can expect a call from Gibbs saying that after years of working together, he and Kate have started seeing each other. Marines who have been through as much as we have together do not cancel their friendship over a woman – even a Caitlin Todd.
I think back on them walking, side by side, into that restaurant, the first day I met her. Her slight figure enclosed in a smart white suit and her sharp eyes turned up towards his in expectation. I think back on his secret smile as she ordered her coffee triple-strength and realize that I knew – or suspected, anyway -- all along.
At least, that's what I'll tell him when he calls. That's what I'll joke when they decide to move in together. And a few years down the track, we'll all stand at their wedding reception, and laugh about how Kate and I had been a couple for a short time, and how I could've been the one standing with her at the altar.
Except of course, that we all know it could never have been anyone but Jethro Gibbs that got this particular girl. I was just a chapter in their love story. A pivotal chapter perhaps -- but a mere chapter nonetheless.
And Kate Todd, it seems, was never destined to be any more than a short chapter in my book. I am finally ready to open a whole new one and know I have her to thank for allowing me to hope as I'd scarcely thought I would again.
Imagining her and Gibbs together, brings a slow smile to my face, because it occurs to my surprised heart that maybe, in the not too distant future, there will be a another life and another love for this lonely, old man as well.
Her body is soft and heavy in my arms, her breathing deep and measured. She lies on her side, her back to my chest and her arm resting lightly over mine as it curls possessively around her naked waist. Her hair is a mess, her mouth is open and her eyelids flutter delicately with slumber.
I can't sleep.
Don't want to really. She's here – she's here, in my arms, in my bed and she told me she has no intention of ever leaving. If I can trust that, which, I think, I can.
I practice saying the words into her unconscious ear in a low whisper. I haven't said them in forever – it's not as difficult as I thought. But it's scary as all hell.
I say them again, getting used to the new exposure, and watch as her eyelids flutter and her skin goose-pimples in response. Or maybe she's just cold – I pull the covers up over her a little. She rolls towards me sleepily, sliding her arms around me and snuggling close, like a needy child. The movement is languid and completely natural. She sighs deeply and pouts, rubbing her cheek over the skin and hair of my chest. I look down at her and stroke her back, soothingly as she settles.
I kiss her eyebrow. Then I kiss her nose.
She's here and she's mine and it's scary as all hell. But I'm never letting go.
I almost dread the morning because I never want this night to end. I never want this moment to end. I never want this relationship to nose-dive, I never want to see this woman leave.
I question why I'm even prepared to take the risk again. I never thought I would. But then, I never figured that this might happen. I never, in my wildest dreams, expected Katie Todd.
Expected the unexpected, I muse fuzzily, realizing that I'm already addicted to the perfect weight of her sweet body fitted snugly against my own, just like this.
I whisper the words once more, and this time, I say her name. I don't know whether she's awake or asleep or somewhere in between, but softly as a breeze grazing my flesh, I hear her whisper them back:
"I love you, too," she breathes peacefully: "Love you, Gibbs …"
"Honey?" I ask and receive no response.
I watch his face and wait for him to realize he is 'Honey'. He should know this by now. Gibbs does not like pet names – it's kinda the reason I use them. He turns to me witheringly, the wind from the open window whipping through his hair.
"Kaaate?" he answers sternly.
I grin and lean over to kiss the spot just under his ear: "How much further?" I murmur, reaching a hand out to stroke his thigh through his jeans.
He captures my hand in his, and holds it tight so that he can concentrate on driving: "Not long."
We started talking about visiting Gibbs' cabin at the three month mark. We've been together over five now and only just been able to get the time off to actually go. Our bags are packed, our phones are off and our time is our own. Gibbs has told me so much about this place and I know he's looking forward to it just being the two of us alone, without interruption, as much as I am.
"Baby?" I ask sweetly.
He chuckles lowly: "Ye-ah?"
I take off my sunglasses and prop them on my head: "What took you so long?"
"Aaahhh," he groans coarsely and shrugs: "I dunno. What took you so long?"
I smile softly and change the grip of our hands, linking my fingers through his. We spent two years working together, while the agonizing tension between us grew. Now that that tension is relieved, it doesn't seem so quite long, or half as painful.
But sometimes I wonder if it could've been different, if we could've been braver. Sometimes I mourn those years and what we could've had. Gibbs always tells me the same thing. He says we had to take our time.
He says I had to travel my road for awhile and he had to traverse his, before the time could be right for us. Of course, when, all of a sudden, it was our time, neither of us even realized it.
Daniel was sort of our Cupid, I guess – he made us see things and feel things which we were too scared or blind to perceive. I never thanked him properly for that.
I breathe deeply as I gaze out the window at the beautiful countryside, bathed in bronze sunbeams. It feels good to be out of the city, but we are moving far too slowly for my liking. Gibbs' habit of speeding has lessened somewhat recently. Not always at work, but just in general. I like to take it as a sign that he's happy where he is now, and not trying to get anywhere else in a hurry.
Still, I'm somewhat impatient. I want to see his cabin and the lake by the light of day. And I want both of us naked by sunset. There'll be plenty of time to admire the scenery later.
"Giiiibbs?" I hum, leaning close to him again. I nestle my face into the crook of his neck. I love the skin here, I love the smell here. I kiss him light and wet, and let my hand roam slowly over his breastbone.
"Yes, my darling?" he mocks dryly, mimicking my penchant for endearments.
I don't care. He can mock all he wants. I love being his 'darling'. He doesn't mind it so much either. He peers at me out the corner of his eye as I seize a piece of skin between my lips and suck gently for a moment.
"Faster," I demand in a whisper and I feel his foot instinctively push down on the accelerator. We've only got an hour before sundown.