Disclaimer: I do not now own, nor have I owned, nor do I anticipate ever owning NCIS. No characters belong to me- no matter how much I wish they did.
Spoilers: I dunno. Everything before Ari, I guess.
Summary: Kate shoots a guy to save Gibbs' life. She feels guilty so she decides to leave. Can she find a reason to stay?
"Move on Kate."
Her hands curled into fists and her nails dug painfully into her palms. 'The bastard,' she thought, 'The absolute bastard.' She had shot a man to protect her boss, and now he was telling her to get over it. To 'move on' as if it didn't even matter that she had taken a life. She didn't turn away from the body that lay on the slab before her as she almost choked on the words that were bubbling up inside her. But she didn't say anything. She wouldn't. She couldn't show anyone that she was weak- that he had hurt her with his indifference and his business-like calm.
She might be confused about her feelings for her boss and horrified by what she had done, but one thing was certain: Caitlin Todd was no fool. And as soon as she could she would be leaving NCIS, and Jethro Gibbs.
Everyone noticed the change in Kate. She was harsher than usual and quieter. Her habitual friendly smile was absent and had been replaced by an expressionless face. She still came to work, she still did her job in her usual efficient way- but the real Kate was missing. And the Kate that came to NCIS everyday was just a shell- a bad copy of a normally vibrant person.
Gibbs knew it was his fault. He should have comforted her. He should have asked her if she was ok. That day in the mortuary he had found her looking so lost, as she stared at the lifeless body in front of her. He wasn't even sure why he had said what he did, all he knew was that he had spoken and now she was different.
It was too late to take it back.
He couldn't complain about the quality of her work- it was impeccable as always, but when he saw her blank face and dead eyes he knew that she needed help. He just wasn't able to give it to her. He couldn't help her without breaking all of the rules that he had made long ago to protect himself. And he wasn't prepared to do that for anybody- not even for someone who meant as much to him as Agent Kate Todd.
It was three weeks after the shooting that Gibbs heard Kate laughing. He was walking out of the lift and into the bullpen, his habitual coffee in his hand, when he heard it- musical and full of vitality. Just like the old Kate. Turning the corner her saw her, standing at he desk talking to two suits. And that's when he knew- they were Secret Service Agents and Kate, his Kate was leaving.
"I'll see you guys tonight," she said laughing again, "Now go on, get out of here, I've got work to do."
"That'll be a first!" Responded the taller and more handsome of the two.
"Charming!" she answered, pretending to be annoyed, "Well, if that's what you think then why to you want me back?"
He grinned mischievously. "Because I've been going out of my mind…" she cast him a mock stern look, "…with boredom of course."
She smiled, looking amused. "Of course."
Then the smile disappeared as she saw her boss approaching.
But he walked right by them, without so much as a 'good morning', set his coffee on his desk and switched on his computer. Kate couldn't stop her eyes from following her boss and she could feel her old colleague's curious look. With an effort she dragged her gaze away and turned her attention to the two agents.
"Anyway, I'm going to clear all that up with the Director." He said.
"Sure." Kate murmured somewhat distractedly.
The younger agent spoke up. "I'm looking forward to working with you again, Kate. We really missed you when you left."
Kate smiled at him, but inwardly began to panic. She still hadn't told her boss that she was leaving, and she had no idea how to broach the subject. Still, she was certain that this was neither the time nor the place to do it. Simon came to her rescue.
"We'd better leave Kate in peace. She's got a mountain of paper work to do."
She cast him a grateful glance. "I'll see you guys tonight."
When the had left she finally looked over at Gibbs' desk. He was gone. It didn't bode well. She was certain that he would be suspicious about two Secret Service agents turning up out of the blue at NCIS. However, the fact that he didn't want to talk about it meant that he didn't care that she might be leaving or that he really mad. She wasn't sure which one she was hoping for. Sighing, Kate Todd sat down and pulled her stack of paper work towards her: it was going to be a long day.
When Kate got home she headed straight for the liquor cabinet. She supposed that it was a little cliché, but then she had had a hell of a day. A horrible, rotten, traumatic day. Gibbs had completely ignored her. He's barely spoken two words to her, and when he had they had barely been civil. McGee had noticed. So had Tony. Hell. Everyone in the entire of NCIS probably knew that Gibbs was pissed at her. But not just pissed, they were used to that, she was certain that he was furious.
She kicked off her shoes and curled up on the couch, one hand holding her glass of scotch (something she rarely drank and reserved for really awful days), the other clutching her NCIS badge that she knew she would have to part with soon. She wasn't ready, but she knew that she really didn't have a choice.
She was aware that she had done the cowardly thing in not telling Gibbs herself. The minute the Director had called her boss into his office she had headed home as fast as she could. She hadn't wanted to be there when they told him- when he realised that she wasn't just considering leaving, but that she was doing it, and soon. She hadn't wanted to see the look on his face when he realised that she was throwing his job back in his face and returning to the Secret Service…
'Oh God'. She sat bolt upright. She had completely forgotten that she was supposed to be meeting Simon and Alan for drinks after work. She checked her watch- she had only ten minutes. Knocking back her drink, she leapt up and raced into her bedroom. She had nothing to wear, she thought desperately. Living alone, she had no real motivation to spend her time washing and ironing. In any case, she was usually so tired at the end of the day that even if she had wanted to, she wouldn't have been able to keep up to date with all her domestic chores.
She searched through her closet. It was by chance that her eye alighted on the suit that she had been wearing the day she met Gibbs. She smiled at the memory and pulled it out. It was perfect for drinks after work with colleagues. How ironic that she should wear it tonight.
She quickly changed, brushed her teeth and grabbed her purse. Her cell phone was ringing, and she answered breathlessly it as she made her way to the door.
It was Simon.
"Katie? Where are you? I was worried. You're never late."
She laughed. Trust Simon to remember that about her. "I'm really sorry. I got held up…" she replied as she swapped the phone to her other hand, pulling on her jacket at the same time, "…you know how it is…" she was saying as she opened the door.
And that was how Gibbs saw her: dressed in the same black suit and smart white shirt as when he had first met her, so long ago, on Air Force One.
She stopped in her tracks. What the hell was her boss doing at her apartment? She just stood in the doorway, staring at him.
"Katie?" Simon's voice reminded her that she was still on her cell.
"Simon, can I call you back?"
"Sure." He sounded concerned. "Is there something wrong?"
"No, no. Everything's fine. I'll call you back in five minutes."
"Ok. Talk to you then."
She hung up. "Well? What do you want?"
He was impossible to read, as always.
"I wanted to discuss your replacement, Agent Todd."
So that was how it was going to be, she thought angrily. He wasn't even going to ask her to stay, or wish her luck. The bastard.
"Gibbs, I'm off the clock, and I'm going out. So, if you have anything to say to me I'm sure that it can wait until work tomorrow." She pulled the door shut behind her as she spoke and tried to get past him.
He moved into her path and blocked her escape.
"You wouldn't even do me the courtesy of telling me that you were leaving. I had to guess if from those agents hanging around your desk this morning- and then have it confirmed by the Director. The least you can do is give me an explanation- you owe me that at least." He said angrily.
"I owe you an explanation?" she started furiously, but she stopped herself and tried to calm down. There was nothing to be gained from an argument with Gibbs. Moreover, she had just realised that since she hadn't eaten anything all day she was probably over the limit. There was no way she could drive and a taxi wouldn't get out to her apartment for ages. However, her boss was right here. She spoke again at last, and the heat had disappeared from her voice and in it's place was a frosty tone. "Fine. I'm late as it is. You can give me a ride downtown. We'll talk on the way."
Without waiting for a reply, she stepped around him and got into the lift.
He joined her in silence thinking that she was just like the Kate he had met on Air Force One- strong, confident and utterly beautiful.
Kate called Simon from the car to apologise. He said that he didn't mind waiting. She promised him that she'd be there as soon as she could.
The atmosphere was terrible. He wasn't saying anything, and neither was she. The silence hung thickly in the air, and she began to feel claustrophobic. About ten minutes into their journey she finally cracked:
"Are you ever planning on talking?"
He responded in an even tone, without taking his eyes off the road for a second. "I'm waiting for that explanation you promised me."
She felt her lips twitch involuntarily. She might be hurt and pissed off at him, but she had to admire his ability to put people in their place.
"I was offered a job with the Secret Service. It's a step-up from last time. I decided to take it. That's it."
She saw his eyes narrow and his lips tighten. What had she said? she wondered. He remained silent and kept driving. She noticed the needle on the speed-o-metre shoot up. Good, she thought in relief, we'll get there faster. But as they came to the turn that he should have taken, he accelerated again and continued straight on.
"Gibbs! What are you doing?" she exclaimed.
"You said that you'd tell me the truth."
"I did." She answered in confusion. "They offered me the job and-"
He cut her off. "I know that you went to them first and requested a position. And the reason I know that is because you went to the FBI too." He watched her face as the realisation dawned that she had been caught out.
She sighed resignedly. "Of course. Fornell."
"Yes. Fornell. I was surprised to hear from him today that one of my agents had been looking to move to his agency, and that he was prepared to offer them a job. I was even more surprised to hear that he had been beaten to it- by the Secret Service. Apparently, that was your first choice. I told him that he was mistaken, and that none of my agents would consider quitting without telling me." His voice started to rise. "And then, the Director told me that you were leaving. The Director, Agent Todd, not you. You wouldn't even tell me yourself out of courtesy-"
She cut across him. "Stop the car now!"
"What?" he asked in alarm, clearly thinking that she had gone mad.
"RIGHT NOW GIBBS!" she yelled.
He pulled over, and as soon as the car had stopped she jumped out. He followed suit.
"Kate?" he tried to grab her arm.
"Don't, Gibbs, just don't." She said, twisting away.
"What is your problem, Agent Todd?" he barked.
"My problem? What is my problem?" she asked in disbelief. "My problem is you Agent Gibbs. You are my problem. How dare you talk to me about common courtesy? I shot a man to protect you. I killed him, and all I got was a 'Move on, Kate.' How do you think that made me feel? I killed him, and you didn't even care." Her voice was now barely a whisper.
He just stood there staring at her.
She pulled out her cell- ready to call a cab.
He finally spoke: "You said you were ok."
"You knew I wasn't." She responded sharply.
He was silent. He couldn't argue with that. He had know that she was falling apart, but in order to protect himself, he had done nothing.
"You're right." He answered unexpectedly. "I'm sorry."
She looked up at him then, her fingers frozen in the act of dialling the number of the cab company.
"What was that?" She had to have heard wrong. Gibbs never apologised.
"I said I was sorry."
"Thank you." She said quietly and got back in the car.
He joined her a second later, and turned the car around. They didn't speak until he had pulled up outside the bar where she was meeting Alan and Simon.
"You're still leaving, aren't you?" He sounded resigned.
She was silent for a moment. If she didn't leave, would anything change? She doubted it. One apology did not make him a new man. He was still her boss, and still as inaccessible as even. But she loved him. She loved him so much that whatever decision she made was going to hurt. Why did it have to be so hard?
"Yes. I think I probably should." Gibbs had his answer. She climbed out of the car slowly, and turned to face him as she slammed the door shut.
"Thanks for the ride, Gibbs."
"Any time, Kate." He watched her walk into the bar and then began to drive home. He had a feeling that he wouldn't be getting much sleep tonight.
Simon was alone, standing at the bar when she entered. He was nursing a drink and looking pensive. Kate gave herself a moment to pull herself together. With difficulty she smiled and advanced to greet him.
"Sorry I'm late."
He turned to face her. "Kate. I'd almost given up on you! You look great."
"Thanks. Where's Alan?" she asked, as she pulled up a stool and sat down beside him.
"He had a date."
"Lucky him! But at least it means I get you all to myself." She was engaging in their usual banter, but even to her own ears it sounded forced. She could feel him looking at her curiously, and she was glad of the opportunity to turn away from his gaze and order some drinks.
"Do you want to get a table?"
He nodded. "Sure, we need to talk."
They gathered their drinks and made their way to a table in a corner in the bar. When they had settled themselves in their seats Kate asked:
"Well, what do we need to talk about?"
He was silent for a moment, and seemed to be choosing his words carefully. "Why didn't you come to the meeting with the Director?"
She shrugged her shoulders carelessly. "I was tired and I had to get ready to go out. Then I got held up."
He nodded. "Ok. Are you sure that's all?"
She smiled. "Of course."
He didn't look convinced. "I thought it might be because you don't want to leave NCIS."
She smiled and attempted to answer flippantly: "And miss the change of working with you again? Why on earth would I do that?" For her it was purely a rhetorical question.
He swilled the contents of his glass meditatively, carefully avoiding her gaze and answered anyway. "I don't know." He looked up suddenly. "It's just that your heart doesn't seem to be in it."
She sighed. She hated that she was so transparent. "I need a change, Simon. I'm tired." She took a sip of her beer. "I just need a change. I have to do something different." She looked at him, imploring him to understand. Her pride just wouldn't allow her to explain further.
He nodded again.
She finished her beer and stood up. "I'm going to get us a couple more drinks." She turned away to head to the bar. And as she did, he spoke:
"He said that you're his best agent."
She looked around at him in surprise. "I'm sure the Director was joking-"
He cut across her. "Not the Director- Agent Gibbs."
"Ah." She had no idea what to say.
"You're going to miss him, aren't you?"
She gave a weak smile as she sank into her seat. "Like crazy."
"Then tell him." She looked sceptical. "Think about it," he continued, "you're leaving anyway. What have you got to lose?"
She didn't know how she did it, but somehow she made it from the bar to Gibbs' front porch. Everything in between was a blur. And now that she was there, she couldn't quite work up the courage to knock. It's a stupid idea, she thought. After all, why would he care that she would miss him if she left?
She hesitated, and then decided to try anyway. Life was too short. And Simon was right: what had she got to lose? She knocked and waited. Nothing. She tried again. There was no reply. Of course. How stupid of her. Had she really imagined that he would be sitting at home brooding over her imminent departure? God, she was so pathetic, she thought in disgust.
She swung away from the door abruptly, wanting to just get home and crawl into bed, and as she did so she crashed into someone. The force almost knocked her backwards, and she would have fallen if they hadn't grabbed her arms to steady her.
It was Gibbs.
Now she really had to get out of here. "God! I'm so sorry Gibbs! Are you ok?"
He nodded. "How about you?"
"Yeah, yeah. Fine." She seemed a little distracted. "You're sure you're ok?"
He looked at her curiously. "I'm fine Kate, you already asked me that."
"Yeah." She pulled her arms out of his grip. "Listen, Gibbs, I have to go. I'll see you tomorrow."
She tried to get past him but he stopped her. "Kate, where are you going?" He looked confused. She couldn't understand why.
"Home, Gibbs. Where else?"
"And how are you getting there?" his voice sounded amused, she couldn't understand what was funny about the situation, and he seemed to be looking for something out on the street.
Shit. She hadn't driven here, and she hadn't asked the cab to wait. It was a residential area, and there was no way she'd be able to hail a cab.
She had no idea what to say, and she was glad that it was dark and that he couldn't see how embarrassed she looked. He seemed to take pity on her.
"Come inside for a minute, Kate, and then I'll give you a ride home."
It would have been rude to refuse, but she knew deep down that if she had wanted to, she would have just said 'no'. He propelled her towards the front door, unlocked it and motioned her inside.
She looked around her. It was strange that she had worked with this man for so long, and that this was the first time that she had been inside his house. She heard the door click shut and she turned around to find him gazing at her.
"Kate, what are you doing here?"
She was instantly wary. "You invited me in."
"I suppose I meant: what were you doing outside my house at midnight on a Tuesday?"
He was making her sound like a stalker, she thought in dismay. "I wanted to talk about my replacement." She said, before she realised what a lame excuse it was.
"And it couldn't have waited until tomorrow?"
The conversation was beginning to sound more and more like an interrogation, she thought angrily. "Look, Gibbs, you appeared on my doorstep to talk about my quitting, I'm returning the favour. I wouldn't have called around if I had known that you were going out. I'm sorry."
He seemed to struggle with himself for a moment before asking: "Kate, where do you think I was?"
"Out with one of your redheads, probably." Oops. She hadn't realised that she'd said that aloud. Shit, now she really had to get out of here, but he didn't look like he would move away from the door, and it would be embarrassing to have him stop her again. She looked at him slightly fearfully. He was, after all, still her boss and she really didn't have any right to talk to him about his personal life.
But he didn't seem angry. He looked amused (was he laughing at her?), and there was something else too. Something in his eyes that she couldn't quite decipher. It was almost like…hope? No. It had to be something else.
"Actually, no. I was at your apartment, but you weren't home. So, I came back here."
"Ah." Now she really felt stupid. He seemed to be waiting for something. They just stood there staring at each other, until Kate couldn't take it anymore. "So…do I need to call a cab, or are you going to drop me back to my place?"
She could have sworn she saw disappointment sweep across his face, but it was gone in a second and she couldn't be sure. He moved away from the door, and opened it, clearly expecting her to go out ahead of him.
She almost did, but then Simon's words came back to her in a rush. 'What have you got to lose?"
Taking a deep breath, she walked towards him and put her two hands on his shoulders. He looked alarmed, but she didn't let it deter her. Kate went up on her toes, until they were eye-level, and then leaned into him and brushed her lips against his. Softly at first, and then, as he responded, the kiss became deeper. She slid her tongue into his mouth, tasting him. He hands moved up his shoulders and into his hair. She couldn't believe it- she was kissing her boss. She was kissing Gibbs, and he was kissing her back. And just as she registered this fact, he seemed to as well, and he pulled back.
"Kate…I…" he looked horribly guilty.
"It's ok, Gibbs." She smiled at him gently. "Look, I'm not doing this because I want to sleep with you before I leave."
He looked relieved, and then a thought seemed to strike him. "But you are still leaving."
It wasn't a question. Her smile widened. He didn't want her to leave. He did care about her. "No, actually. That's what I came to tell you." He looked at her in disbelief. "I couldn't leave. I'd miss you too much."
He sucked in his breath and, sliding his arms around her, he leaned down for another kiss. This one was more explosive than the first and when they finally came up for air, Kate's head was spinning.
"Kate, I think I'd better drive you home now."
She looked at him in dismay. What had she done wrong? "But Gibbs, I thought…" She didn't continue. She felt too embarrassed. What had she thought? That they were going to kiss, have sex and declare their undying love for each other? She needed her head examined.
"Don't bother," she responded icily, as she stepped around him and made her way to the door, "I'll get a cab home."
"Kate." His voice was so gentle that she stopped. "I'd like to keep kissing you- I really would. But it's late, and we've got work in the morning." She turned to face him, feeling foolish. "And I also think that we need to talk before this goes any further."
She nodded. He was right. But sometimes she wished he wasn't.
The ride back to her apartment was a silent one. They were each lost in their own thoughts. Kate was thinking about what Gibbs had said, and Gibbs was wondering what was going to happen, now that she had decided to stay on at NCIS.
When they reached their destination, neither one of them made a move to get out of the car. She wasn't ready to leave just yet, and she also knew that he was trying to gather his thoughts.
He spoke at last, but his voice was slower than usual, as if he was carefully choosing his words: "Kate, I need to tell you how sorry I am that I didn't take care of you after the shooting." She looked surprised, two apologies in one night? It had to be the most that her boss had given in his lifetime. "I knew you needed help, and I wanted to give it to you- I really did, but I knew that if I did, and I'd start breaking all my other rules, and I couldn't let that happen- not yet anyway."
Her lips curved into a slight smile. (How many of his rules had he broken tonight? She'd have to ask him later on if he had his pen-knife with him).
She reached out and placed a hand on his arm. "It's not your fault Gibbs. And I've realised that it wasn't mine either. I shot him to protect you. I was doing my job. I had no right to expect you to give me any special treatment because of it. It's what we do. I just needed to understand that."
He the look he gave her was one of gratitude, and he covered her hand with his. "Kate, I'm really glad you're not leaving. I don't know what I'd do without you."
It was as close to a declaration as she was going to get. And she understood. He clearly didn't want to rush into anything. She knew that her boss was a careful man, and that he had three failed marriages behind him.
"Gibbs, I think we should take things slow." He looked at her in surprise. "I really want this to work out between us. So, let's not get ahead of ourselves."
He nodded. "You read my mind. Let's just see what happens." He gave her his heart-stopping smile and she couldn't resist giving him a soft kiss good-night on the lips.
"You'd better go," she said, smiling at him. "We've got work in-" she checked her watch, it was two am, "seven hours."
He laughed as she climbed out of the car. "Good morning, Kate."
"Good morning, Gibbs."
Even though it was still dark, for Kate as she entered her apartment, it was as if the sun had just come out.
'Let's see what happens.'
She smiled to herself as she remembered Gibbs' words, and as she sank onto her bed and closed her eyes, ready for some much-needed sleep, Agent Kate Todd knew that she would be dreaming only of him.
AN: what do you think? Too corny? Not angsty enough? Please review, it helps me improve my writing...and I love reading them!