It was only when his weapon was spent that he noticed a movement out of the corner of his eye. Turning, he saw Ari standing there, a colt .45 in his hand and a malevolent grin on his face. They were no more than 30ft apart with only a low crate between them.

'Well, I guess this is goodbye, Special Agent Gibbs.' Ari said calmly, as he raised his gun to eye level.

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As soon as Kate cleared the room she realized that Gidds was missing. Tony and McGee had gone upstairs but Gibbs had stayed to deal with the shooters in the main part of the warehouse. She paused and listened intently, but she couldn't hear a thing. Holstering her weapon she quietly exited the storeroom. She was shocked by what she saw: Ari had his gun drawn and was preparing to fire on her boss. She heard him say: 'Well, I guess this is goodbye, Special Agent Gibbs….'

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'….I can't believe it was this easy but….'

Before Ari could pull the trigger Gibbs saw some one jump in front of him- it was Kate Todd, one of his agents. He went cold. She was too far away for him to grab her and thrust her out of harm's way, and he was afraid that any sudden movement on his part would cause Ari to open fire on them both.

Kate was aware that the terrorist was debating whether or not to shoot her, but the fact that her arms were raised above her head and that her arms were empty made him pause.

'Caitlin,' he said, 'to what do I owe the pleasure?'

'Well, I couldn't know you were here and not see you, now could I?' she asked somewhat coquettishly, as she took a small step towards him. She had a plan, but she needed to keep Ari distracted for a few moments.

'Agent Todd! I want you to get your ass out of here!' she heard her boss yelling from behind her.

She ignored him and took another step forward.

'That is an order Agent Todd!'

Ari seemed more amused with her antics than anything else and said softly: 'One more word out of you Agent Gibbs and this bullet goes straight through her head.'

Gibbs shut up and began to think desperately about what he could do to save both their lives.

Meanwhile, Kate was still inching towards Ari. 'So,' she said, looking straight into his eyes, 'did you miss me?'

He laughed. 'I can see you missed me.'

She had finally reached her target- not Ari, but the crate that now lay at her feet. 'Actually, there's something that I've wanted to do to you from the moment we met, and you shot Gerald- do you remember?'

'Of course, Caitlin, how could I-'

But before he had time to finish Kate had kicked the crate in front of her with all her might, sending it crashing into Ari so hard that he stumbled and then fell forward, firing his weapon as he did so. She barely felt the searing pain in her left shoulder as she drew her own side arm and fired three rounds right between his eyes.

She wasn't very aware of what happened next. All she would later remember was the look on Ari's face as he went down, the NCIS agents that crashed through the warehouse doors, and the pair of strong arms that caught her as she sank into darkness.

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Jethro Gibbs was at the office giving a report to the Director when Caitlin Todd came around. It was probably just as well- he was the last person that she wanted to see. The gunshot had been a through-and-through and luckily just a flesh wound, but her shoulder still hurt like hell. Abby, McGee and Tony were there, however, seated around her bed. They were discussing Gibbs, it seemed.

'I don't think I've ever seen him so angry,' McGee was saying, 'but then, I haven't been here that long.'

Abby and DiNozzo shared a glance.

'Actually, McGee, you're right. I've been working at NCIS much longer than even Tony and this is the first time I've seen Gibbs as mad as hell,' Abby continued: 'I mean, he's always pissed- but this is different.'

Kate, still pretending to be asleep, felt cold. What if he fired her for disobeying his order? She'd never see him again. Before the others could say anything else her doctor came in.

'I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to leave- visiting hours are over, and I need to check on the patient.'

The three of them got up, took their leave of the immobile Kate, told the doctor they'd visit tomorrow and then left.

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Three hours later Kate was dressed, discharged and in her SUV. Ignoring the nursing staff's dire warnings about leaving less than 24 hours after being admitted, she had signed numerous forms absolving then of all responsibility in the event of her death, and left them to it. She had taken a taxi to the lot where she'd left her car before the raid in the warehouse and hit the road. She knew that she wasn't supposed to be driving, but she needed some time to think and clear her head. She was very aware that she wouldn't get it in hospital with the nurses poking and prodding her every 15 minutes.

She drove out of the city and kept going until she found a lay-by. Pulling in, she got out of the car and sat on its hood. She sat there, without stirring, for at least two hours before she roused herself and decided to head home. It was no use anyway, nothing was clearer then before. If anything, things were now more complicated.

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'Agent Todd.'

She was so startled by his harsh voice that she dropped her keys.

'Gibbs,' she said, attempting to speak normally, 'you scared the hell out of me. It really isn't necessary to use your sniper training all the time you know. Civilians hate people sneaking up on them.' She still hadn't looked at him.

'What the hell do you think you're doing?' There was so much raw anger in his voice that she was glad she couldn't see his face.

'Well, right now I'm picking up my keys-' she rose from her bended position and fitted one into the lock, 'and now I'm unlocking my front door.'

'I meant: what are you doing out of hospital?' he snapped.

She didn't respond and continued to push the door open. Before she could step inside he grabbed her by her uninjured arm and swung her round to face him. She was shocked by the rage visible in his face. 'Abby was right,' she thought in dismay, 'I've never seen Gibbs so furious.'

She managed to keep her face blank however, and said firmly: 'Look Gibbs, I really don't want to have this conversation right now, but more than that, I don't want to have it on my front porch. I'll compromise. You should too. So either come in or fuck off.' She walked into the hall, but not before she had registered the surprise on her boss' face. Kate never cursed at work.

She was in the living room shedding her coat when she heard the front door slam shut and saw Special Agent Gibbs appear in the doorway. He looked a little less furious, but there was something in his eyes that she didn't really like.

'You look like you need some coffee, Gibbs,' she said, carefully watching him, 'I'll make you some.'

'I don't want coffee Kate,' he enunciated every word carefully as if to keep himself calm.

She laughed briefly, a short one, almost like a bark and so different from her usual melodious laughter. 'No, I suppose not.' She poured them both neat scotches and crossed the room to hand him one. She felt the jolt of electricity as their fingers touched and her heartbeat began to quicken. She walked deliberately away from him.

Settling herself down in an armchair she asked: 'Now Gibbs, what was it you wanted to talk to me about?'

And that was when he started shouting: 'what the fuck did you think you were doing? You disobeyed a direct order and you could have been killed! Didn't they teach you anything in your Secret Service training? I don't know how the hell you lasted so long in the field-'

Before she knew it she was on her feet and yelling too: 'you ungrateful bastard! How dare you talk to me about orders? Your orders nearly got you killed! Asking us to clear the other rooms before we were sure the rest of the warehouse was secure- what was that about? You certainly didn't show much sound judgment there! You screwed up, and now you're pissed at me because I wouldn't let you pay for your mistake- or is it just because you're embarrassed that you were saved by a woman? Well, tough shit! You're going to have to get over it if were going to continue to work together.'

They were toe-to-toe at this stage and she could feel his angry breath on her face.

'Don't worry;' he said venomously, 'we won't be working together. I don't want a liability like you on my team.'

And with that he turned on his heel and stormed out of the room. A second later the front door slammed shut. And Kate was left stunned, in the middle of her newly decorated living room, clutching her empty glass and trying to decide whether to cry or to break something.

She settled on another scotch.

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Kate knew she wouldn't be able to sleep that night. Her mind was still racing after her encounter with her boss. She was still sitting on her couch, steadily making her way through the bottle of scotch when she heard the phone ring. She leapt up, thinking it was Gibbs calling to tell her the she still had her job (she knew he didn't apologize). She answered it hurriedly: 'Hello?'

'Kate, I'm so glad I got through to you.' She couldn't hide her disappointment at the sound of Abby's voice.

'Oh, hey Abbs. What's up?' she asked, trying to sound cheerful.

'What's up? I got a call from Gibbs saying you'd left the hospital and asking if I knew where you were.'

'Oh. Well I'm at home now.'

Abby laughed: 'I know that. I'm calling you there,' (oops, her brain was a little foggy from the alcohol), 'but where were you before that? We've been calling you there for ages. And why wasn't your cell phone on?'

'Oh, I must have forgotten to switch it on after I left the hospital. Sorry…wait a minute, what do you mean by 'we'?'

'Everyone, Kate!' Abby was beginning to sound exasperated, 'Gibbs called all of us when he found out that you had left the hospital. When none of us knew where you were he got McGee to try and locate your car, he told us all to keep trying you, and he went to your house…we left you a ton of messages…. but that was hours ago.'

'Yeah, I went for a drive.'

'That's what Gibbs thought, but since you lost so much blood he was afraid that you might have an accident. He even got Tony to listen to the police scanner for any RTAs. Poor DiNozzo had to go out to three of them before we realized it wasn't you. You know, you'd better call Gibbs and tell him you're ok. He's been worried sick.'

'I saw him.' She said somewhat distractedly.

'He was at your place?'

'Yeah, he came around about two hours ago, just as I was getting home.'

'Well, that's alright then. Did he try to convince you to check back into hospital?'

'Actually, I think I'm fired.'

'What? There's no way! He needs you around, we all do…'

'Yeah, maybe it was just because he was so mad at me.' She replied half-heartedly.

'Mad at you?' Abby repeated blankly.

'Yeah. At the hospital you said you'd never seen him so angry.'

'Oh.' She could practically see Abby's brow clearing, 'I meant at himself. He's not mad at you, but he's furious that he put you in that situation.'

There was silence as the guilt began to sink in. 'Abby, how did Gibbs know I had left the hospital?'

'He told the nurses to call him as soon as there was any change, but he was at the hospital to visit you when the doctor told him.'

'But visiting hours were over.'

'Kate, it's Gibbs we're talking about,' Abby replied in an amused tone of voice, 'he would have stayed the whole time if the Director hadn't demanded a full report. He had to leave, so he sent us.'

'Oh. Listen, thanks Abby. And I'm sorry about earlier.'

'Don't worry about it. I'm just glad you're ok.'

'I'd better go. I need to get to bed.'

'Sure, I'll call the guys and tell them you're ok. Talk to you tomorrow Kate. Bye.'

'Thanks Abbs, bye.'

She hung up and looked at her answering machine- there were 11 messages. She pressed play. One was from the dry cleaners to tell her that her dress was ready; another one was from a bookshop saying that a book she had ordered was in. The rest were from Abby and McGee asking her to call them. She deleted them all and pulled her cell phone out of her pocket. After switching it on she checked her messages. There were 23 of them. The first 18 were from Ducky, Tony, Abby and McGee.

The last five were from her boss:

'Kate, it's Gibbs. Give me a call when you get this.'

'Kate, it's me again. Where are you? Call be back when you get this.'

He sounded a lot more worried in the next one:

'Kate, you're not home. Where are you? Are you ok? Call me.'

In the next one he sounded almost panicky:

'Kate, where the hell are you? We've been looking everywhere! Just call me and let me know where you are.'

But it was the last one that got her attention:

'Katie, it's Gibbs. Please call me. I need to know that you're safe.'

The sound of his pleading voice and the use of her nickname sobered her up completely. The poor man had been worried. And she'd treated him like crap. She felt like a total bitch. There was only one thing for it- she'd have to go and apologize. She was nervous, but hopeful. She loved him- the second she had jumped in front of him she had been certain of it. And for the first time, she felt that maybe he might care about her too.

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It was lashing rain when she knocked at Gibbs' front door. There was no response, so she tried again. And again. 'He's not home.' She thought disappointedly. 'Oh well. I'll just wait until he gets back.' She sat herself down on the front step- just as the door opened behind her. She turned and found herself looking straight up into her boss' face.

'Hi.' She said. And then could have kicked herself for such an inadequate greeting.

'What are you doing here?' He asked, his face stoney.

'I had to talk to you.' She said as she rose to her feet. They stood looking at each other. 'Can I come in?' she asked at last.

He moved aside, letting her enter the hall and shutting the door, as she stood motionless and ill at ease, dripping water all over his carpet.

'I just wanted to apologize,' she began, 'I had no right to say what I did. I was wrong, and I hope you can forgive me,' When he said nothing, she continued in a stronger voice: 'But I'm not sorry that I didn't let Ari shoot you…' her eyes began to fill with tears (why did this have to be so hard?) '…and nothing you can say will make me apologize for what I did, or say I was wrong. Even if it means not being on your team, or losing my job, or not seeing you again…' she took a deep breath to calm herself, but she couldn't prevent a tear escaping and rolling down her face, 'I'm just glad that I was there. That I was able to do something.' She finished softly.

'Kate, why did you jump in front of me?' his face and his tone of voice were expressionless. 'You could have been killed.'

'Because I love you, you idiot,' she answered, annoyed by the lack of emotion in his voice, 'I thought that was obvious. Although I don't really see what business it is of yours.'

'It's my business because I love you too.' He said as he came towards her.

Kate was dumbfounded. But she relaxed as his arms came around her. It felt familiar, and safe. He didn't kiss her. He just held her close.

'It was you.' She murmured, 'You caught me when I fainted.'

'You really scared me Katie. You walking towards Ari- it was the bravest thing I ever saw. I realized then how much I loved you and I how I wouldn't be able to live with myself if anything happened to you.'

'It's ok,' she said softly, 'I knew what I was doing. It wasn't your fault.'

And that was when he kissed her.

Later, as they sat on the couch, their arms wrapped around each other, she asked: 'So, do I still have my job?'

He smiled at her: 'If you answer me one thing.'

'Shoot.'

He grimaced.

'Sorry.' She said gently.

'Stop apologizing. You know my rule about apologies.'

She laughed. 'Yes, but I also know your rule about romances between agents.'

'Don't remind me!' he grinned, and then suddenly became serious. 'How did you know that Ari wouldn't shoot you?'

She paused for a moment before replying. 'Because when he held me hostage I could have killed him, but I didn't. And because he was curious about me.' She hesitated again. 'And I also knew that I couldn't die before I told you how much I love you.'

Her eyes met his. He was looking at her in such a way that made her want to start kissing him and never stop.

'Good answer?' She breathed.

'The best.' He said softly, as he lowered his lips to hers.

THE END