One Man's Poison
Disclaimer in part 1. Cmdr. Coleman, Maj. MacBurney, and P.O. Coates do not belong to me.
This add-on chapter/ending is for Em, who complained that I never bring Gibbs and Kate together in my casefiles. Thank you, Em, for all the beta work you did for me.
"JAG is looking for him to plead guilty, maybe get life or less because of paranoia, mental disturbance," Yates finally said, stopping to take a sip of her coffee.
They were sitting in Gibbs' living room, Gibbs and his team and Cassie and Balboa and Axelrod. Cassie had to admit Kate looked a lot better than she did when she'd been released from the hospital, but she still looked tired and pale, and she'd lost a lot of weight. Nothing sat well on her stomach, even now.
As soon as Kate could go, the hospital had suggested that she return to Washington, where the better hospitals could monitor her condition. Without another word, they'd bundled Kate into Gibbs' car and they'd left.
Cassie had gone to her apartment and with 'Nina''s old coworkers had cleaned up her apartment and packed it up. The waitresses had been more than willing to help out and promised to file the paperwork to turn the apartment back over to management. Gunnery Sergeant Howe and the Marines had packed Gibbs' space up, loaded up the NCIS truck with his things, putting them next to Tony's. There was a sense of relief that the killer was caught, albeit a sober one - news of Kate's near miss had made the rounds of the town pretty fast.
Kate had spent two more days in a DC hospital as doctors tried to figure out if there was any way they could speed up her recovery besides using an IV drip to give her the nutrients she needed. Cassie had to admit some surprise when she'd called Abby to find out where Gibbs was and was told that he was at the hospital with Kate - still. He only came in to the office when Abby had something for him, since Ducky was spending most of his time at the hospital with Kate.
Ducky Cassie could see; he was such a soft-hearted man. Gibbs? Cassie had to admit some surprise.
Kate was released two days later to go home, and there had been a fight about where she was to go. She'd won out and got to go home, back to her own Georgetown apartment, but she'd had a bad spell just an hour after she got inside. Thankfully Gibbs - like some d-mn stalker, Kate had muttered disapprovingly - had been nearby and immediately taken her to his home, where she'd been for two harrowing days.
According to Tony, who'd been witness to it - Kate would try to hide the vomiting, going upstairs when she felt sick so Gibbs wouldn't hear her. He'd hear - man heard like a bat, Tony claimed - and then Kate would get coddled more, and that would drive her insane. It was like watching TV to see them fight, Tony had said with glee. Tony wasn't averse to throwing wood on the fire to keep himself entertained, either.
Cassie wasn't sure that Gibbs' anger was just about Kate's intractability involving her care. Gibbs had a dark expression on his face when she'd delivered JAG's decision about MacDow. The man had killed many people, and there was no excuse for it, but he seemed genuinely disturbed and mentally ill. The psychiatrist who evaluated him had advised them not to tell MacDow how Kidwell had really died - at Jack Canton's hand and not because of formaldehyde poisoning. MacDow was already horrified when, after much counseling, he came to realize that he had killed women who were not threatening his Marine friends and that he had been unduly influenced and blinded by his past. Finding out that his "past experience" - Kidwell and Peary supposedly poisoned by women - wasn't even true... The psychiatrist didn't think he could take it.
Considering all that, a little compassion would be nice. "Anyhow," Cassie said, "we figured you'd want to know."
"I'll do the talking."
"You think I can't do it?"
"I don't want a star witness to end up helping the other side, Jack," Coleman replied with all innocence although her tiny smirk and twinkling eyes gave her away.
"Touché," MacBurney muttered, but returned her amused smile. He pressed the doorbell, and after a moment, an unfamiliar female face appeared.
"Agent Todd," Coleman greeted.
"Cmdr. Coleman," came the friendly reply, and then a hand extended out for a handshake to MacBurney. "Kate Todd."
MacBurney took her hand and kissed the back of it. "Jack MacBurney. Now I see why Gibbs has never asked me to NCIS again," he said charmingly. "I'd keep you to myself too."
Coleman rolled her eyes, and Kate laughed, apparently amused but not impressed. "You're better than Tony at this."
"Hey!" came the protest from inside. "He is not."
"Have you ever considered that Gibbs asked for me because I'm a better lawyer?" Coleman pointed out, looking at her colleague in amusement.
MacBurney looked at his colleague thoughtfully. "Eeeehhh...that's not it."
Coleman just shook her head, an amused smile as Kate chuckled, letting them in. "Have you considered the possibility that the men ask for Cmdr. Coleman so they can see HER?" Kate proposed with a grin, to a raised eyebrow.
"Oh, it's certainly not that."
Coleman rolled her eyes. "Thank you. Every woman loves to hear she's stupid and unattractive to other men. Especially in her hearing."
"Now, Faith," MacBurney replied, stepping forward so he was toe-to-toe with his JAG colleague, a flirtatious twinkle in his eye. "You know I didn't mean you were ugly and stupid. You should hear yourself complain when you get called, and if they complain anything like the way you do, it's a wonder they ever call you."
"Hey!" Tony protested. "You complain about us?"
"I think you wouldn't be able to spend more than an hour outside of the office with either of them," MacBurney chuckled.
Coleman conceded. "True."
"But at least," MacBurney grinned, "you wouldn't have to hire a slick defense lawyer after you killed Gibbs - well, or DiNozzo - for, I don't know, pushing the toothpaste tube in the middle instead of from the bottom up."
Kate just shrugged at Coleman, smiling, as the lawyer shook her head and sat down. After a moment she turned sharply to him. "You! That trip we had to take to Pensacola with Petty Officer Coates. YOU were the one who turned my toothbrush upside down in my cup. And you tried to blame that on her."
MacBurney just grinned to himself as he nodded his thanks to Kate, taking a cup of coffee from the tray and sipping from it. He started to set down on the coffee table when Coleman slid a coaster across at him.
"Agent Yates informed us you're going to plea," Gibbs replied sharply, sitting down.
"Prosecution has offered it, yes. Capt. MacDow is no position to stand trial," Coleman replied, unlocking her briefcase and taking out a pad and a pencil. "He suffers from deep paranoia."
"That's not an excuse for killing people," Tony pointed out.
"You wanted us to plead that for Col. Ryan," MacBurney replied. He patted his pockets, looking for a pen. Next to him, Coleman held out her pencil to him without looking up.
Kate smiled to herself in amusement; Tony chuckled outright. Gibbs shook his head. "Col. Ryan didn't kill anybody," he pointed out.
"He almost did," Coleman agreed with her colleague. A second later, she held out a small notepad. MacBurney smiled gratefully, taking it. "We want to hear from you yourselves what happened the five months you were down there."
"Gibbs, the man was genuinely disturbed," Kate argued. "He didn't do it out of malicious intent."
"You seem to forget he was targeting the very people you worked with," Gibbs replied sharply. "He shot Marines and poisoned women to death."
"He in his sick way was trying to protect the men he worked with! He could get death for what he did."
"Well, that's what most serial killers get."
"Gibbs! Have a heart," Kate exclaimed. "Like you don't get obsessed about cases and let it build up."
"He tried to kill you, Kate," Gibbs snapped.
"He was trying to protect you, Gibbs!"
"I don't need protecting."
"He didn't succeed in killing me or you," Kate pointed out.
"Because we found it out," Gibbs replied.
"Jeffrey White tried to kill Tony to protect himself, and you didn't get this het up about White's sentence!" Kate exclaimed, throwing up her hands. "For once, could I be counted as the same as Tony or McGee! You do this just to me, or to all the female agents?"
Kate stared at Gibbs pointedly, waiting for an answer, gearing up to counter whatever glib response he'd toss at her. He just looked back at her steadily, for a long time, not saying a word. Then he turned on his heel and left, the door to his basement slamming distantly.
She stood at the closed door to his basement, a little nervous about knocking.
The two hours apart had been needed, and Kate had calmed down a little. She had started to think of it as if somebody else had been in her position - if it had been Tony, McGee, Abby - and she had to admit that she wouldn't want MacDow off so easily. She remembered when she had finally come face to face with the crazy psychos who had kidnapped Ducky right out from under her, and Tony and McGee barely got in between her and that mother.
Gibbs - Kate shuddered. She didn't want to think about him. She remembered her brief panic back at Rade's when MacDow had stuck a gun to her back and walked her out; he'd said something that led her to think MacDow had broken his pattern and killed Gibbs first. The feeling of shock and dread... Luckily she hadn't had time at all for her mind to deal with that possibility before MacDow had said that Gibbs was alive and fine.
Still, once she'd had time to dwell on it...
She'd finally discovered for the first time how in the world Gibbs'd ever managed to be married in the first place. As Thomas, he could be sweet and charming if he wanted to be - which was rarely - and he was observant and watchful of her needs. It was easy to forget oneself, being the center of Gibbs' attention...
She'd tried to convince herself that Gibbs was just acting, but deep down, she wasn't so sure she wanted to hear that.
But reality was reality, and she wasn't about to go flirting and running after a man who wasn't really interested in her. She'd never done it before, and she wasn't going to do it now. She had her dignity. So Kate had resigned herself to trying (fruitlessly) to keep her mind off of him and back on her cases and her own friends.
That's what she resolved, anyhow. Now to see how well she was going to do while facing him.
Taking a deep breath, she finally rapped on the door.
She opened the door and stood above the stairs. After a moment, she blurted, "Major MacBurney called again. Said that we're to be in court in three days."
He stopped sanding long enough for her to finish, and without acknowledging what she had said, started up again.
She came down the stairs halfway, standing primly on the stair, not venturing further into the basement. "I want to - apologize for earlier," she said calmly and clearly, her confident tone masking her nervousness. "I thought about it, and I think I would be less forgiving if MacDow had drugged up...one of you." She thought a moment, then added, "I still think that he needs to get help first. But I do understand."
Gibbs just stopped to look at her, and after a moment of silence, both just staring at each other, she gave him a small smile and turned to go.
Kate turned on the step. "What?"
"The boat," he said finally, quietly. "When a case frustrates me, when I start to get obsessed. I work on my boat."
She hovered on the step, still, looking at him between the ribs of the boat. He crooked his finger at her, with almost a nervous smile, and hovered on her right as she carefully gripped the handlebar of the stairs and descended the rest of the stairs slowly, eyes still on the boat. She stepped close to it and ran a slim finger up a rib. "It's as smooth as silk," she said a soft, reverent voice. "You did this?"
"My mom and dad would be so impressed," she smiled, almost to herself as she slowly circled the boat.
Kate nodded, still continuing around the boat, marveling at it and almost talking to herself rather than to him. "My dad - his hobby was building stuff, and my mother's father had started in carpentry." She smiled a little shyly as she came full circle, back to where he was standing. "As kids, my older sister and my older brothers and me - there was a small playpen downstairs where they could watch us when they worked."
Gibbs smiled. "They do it a lot?"
"There were five of us kids, and we weren't well off. Dad worked hard, but there wasn't ever that much money." She paused, looking at the boat. "Most of the stuff in our house they made, or they had passed down to them. The extra rocker in the living room - Dad and Mom made it when she was pregnant with my sister - their first. All the little nightstands, the bureaus, the shelving - they made those. It was their together time." She smiled a little wistfully as she thought about it.
Kate nodded, sticking her hands in her jeans pockets. "That was their special hobby together," she said with a quiet smile as she continued to look at the boat. "Mom always joked that she thought the smell of sawdust on my father was really sexy."
Gibbs held up a file. "You know how to use one?"
Kate looked up, startled. "Sure, but I've never worked on a boat."
Gibbs held it out to her, and Kate picked it up expertly. She turned towards the rib, and then she felt the gentle pressure against her back as Gibbs pressed her into the rib. His hands covered hers, as he leaned into her, and Kate swallowed hard.
"Just file up the rib," came Gibbs' low, almost hoarse voice as he guided the file up the side of the wood. "Just slow and easy-like." The breath tickled her ear.
Kate was determined not to fall all mooney-eyed at his feet, and she nodded as professionally as she could, pulling the file down towards her and then carefully filing up the rib. She concentrated as hard as she could on the task at hand.
And then she realized his hands had dropped from the file to her waist. His mouth was hovering about her right ear, and she could feel the soft breaths as he inhaled and exhaled. Her hands stilled, and she brought the file slowly down and turned her head just the tiny fraction of a bit. His face was close to hers, and Kate tried to take slow, calm breaths.
"Your mother thought the smell of sawdust was sexy," Gibbs said softly into her ear. "What does her younger daughter think?"
Kate could almost hear the hesitation in his voice. Her fingers closed around the file, her knuckles turning white as she felt the edge dig into her palm. "I think she'd agree," Kate murmured.
"Really?" Gibbs breathed into her ear, soft, warm, teasing - and hesitantly hopeful.
Kate tried not to sigh at the warmth enveloping her. She turned to look at him, her face just inches from his, looking at his hardened and worn but quietly patient, almost nervously hesitant eyes. She could see his relief when she nodded a small yes to his question.
"Good," Gibbs murmured, his arms wrapping around her from behind, enveloping her tightly in his embrace. "Good."
END (for real this time)