A Twist of Tate
"I love you Tony," Kate had said. The two of them were in the empty isolation ward at Bethesda. Tony had come back to take one last look around before he was discharged – one last look at the place where he'd almost died. And Kate had followed him there.
She'd looked at the room with him, and when he sat down on the bed to let out a breath and get his emotions in check, she'd put her hands on his face, looked into his eyes, and told him she loved him. She told him how she'd been attracted to him from the very beginning and had fallen in love with him not long after that. She told him how she'd been frantic with worry when he'd been hurt or in danger and how she had covered that with teasing and sarcastic comments. She told him how she'd stayed and watched over him after Gibbs had ordered him to live; how she'd kept her vigil beside him, hoping to get a chance to talk to him again; how she had begged God to keep him alive long enough for her to tell him what she was telling him. And then she said it again, because life was too short and too precious not to.
"I love you Tony."
Tony stood and looked at her. At his Kate. Kate with the huge expressive eyes and the hopeful, trembling smile. Kate of the nasty comeback and the flirty entendre. Kate, who had stayed with him for a week in isolation even if he didn't remember any of it. Her confession of love and caring swirled around in his head, trying to find a place to land, but it was coming up short. No place in his brain had been ready for this; no part of his consciousness was expecting a declaration of love. He'd hoped that she would be glad he hadn't died, but this was so much more than he could have ever imagined. He couldn't bungle this. He had to choose his words very, very carefully. This would be a moment they would remember forever.
Kate stared up at Tony, oblivious to the time it was taking him to speak. She had just professed her love. She knew it would stun Tony, just a little bit, and she wanted him to take however long it took for him to form his response. She'd used all the good stuff, she knew. It would be hard for him to top it. She had, after all, been practicing for nearly a week – the whole week where he was between consciousness and sleep, between life and the death, between health and the plague. She'd had time to think and to plan and to work out what to say. But this was new information for him, and she was okay with his taking a bit of time. In fact, his confusion and bewilderment were endearing and made her love him even more. This would be a wonderful story to tell at the engagement party, she thought. She smiled up at him even more tenderly.
Tony pleaded with the gods for the right words. He wanted to respond to Kate in a way she deserved. He knew she'd probably waited her whole life for this moment, and he didn't want to disappoint her. He was lousy with words. Action was more his style, but this wasn't a time for action. He didn't want to cheapen the moment by doing something impulsive and stupid. She was still staring at him with those misty eyes and that intense smile. He had no idea how long it had been since she'd said what she said, but he knew he had to say something. He took a deep breath; she leaned into him, her hand reaching for his face. He caught her hand in his and looked at her with the most serious, grown-up look he could muster.
"Wow, Kate …" he began, lamely. He couldn't believe he'd just said, "Wow, Kate" after all she'd said. But …well … there it was. Out there. He continued, "I … I don't know what to say."
"You don't have to say anything, Tony," Kate began softly. He took his hand – the one that had hers in it – and moved it up to cover her mouth.
"Yes, Kate," he said. "Yes I do." She waited. He cleared his throat. "I … um … wow. I … I never in a million years thought that you would say something like this. Feel something like this."
She started to speak; he pressed his hand a little more firmly on her mouth.
"I … um ...," he said, smiling sheepishly. Her expression never changed. He decided to just say what he felt.
"I so do not feel the same way," he said, with the most apologetic look he had in his repertoire.
You could almost hear the thud.
Kate's eyes registered shock, and it occurred to Tony that he needed to move his hand away from her mouth before she regained her senses and bit him.
"It's not that I don't like you, Kate," Tony said hurriedly, trying to make the whole thing sting less and end quickly. "Or even that I don't love you. I do …" he said, trying to make her understand. "I do love you. Like a sister." Ouch. Even he cringed at that. "But I … I mean … a relationship? And the whole 'being in love and having my children' thing? Wanting to share my life and my bed and my future? I know that I flirt and play and make all sorts of silly comments about you and me and sex, but that's … well … I can't even really imagine that. Not even fathom …" Kate cut him off.
"OK, DiNozzo," she said, with a mixture of anger and disbelief, mixed with just enough vitriol to be seriously, seriously dangerous, "I get it. I. Get. It." She pulled her hand from his and clearly wanted to slap him, but whatever self-control she had left was winning that battle.
"Kate … seriously," Tony said, backing away. "I'm flattered, really. And it's not you at all. It's me. It is all totally me." She took a menacing step towards him.
"You're damn right it's you," she spat out. "I sit here and watch you almost die, and then I profess my love – love that I have had buried for two years now … dreams that I've had for two years – and you look at me and say, 'I so do not feel the same way'?" She walked away and then spun around and looked at him, daggers coming from her eyes. "You're flattered?" she said, as if he'd called her a name. "You're flattered?"
"Kate," he tried, in his most soothing voice. "Katie," he cooed, smiling and oozing charm. He just wanted to get out of the room alive.
But, as it turned out, he was safe on that score. Kate stormed out without so much as a look back. Tony sighed.
Work on Monday was so going to suck.