A/N: So here it is, the last chapter. I always have problems with last chapters, especially ones that you guys like, since I'm always worried that I'm going to completely screw it up all of a sudden. I was agonizing over this chapter and the way I wanted it and it probably would have been another couple of days, but it seems that CSI4EVA has grown tired of waiting, and so thanks CSI for helping me past my own personal angst over this chapter.

I hope it holds up to your expectations and thanks to everyone who has been reviewing so positively.

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She had waited contentedly for his return, happily savoring the quiet of the balcony. It was no where near as empty as it had been when they had come out for their pre-dinner conversation, but the sheer lack of Diane and her friends blew away any annoyance she might have felt about the presence of other people enjoying the night air. She shivered slightly despite the warmth of the air around her, and that chill, which seemed to flood her entirely, confused her until, with a sudden shock she realized what it was. Sometime during the night, she had become so adjusted to Gibbs' presence that his absence now left her feeling empty and cold.

She tried desperately to shake off the sensation, telling herself repeatedly that it was an insane idea, while equally repeatedly cursing herself for letting the 'thing' between them go so far. She had known that this could happen, it's why she hadn't asked him to accompany her in the first place. It was just going to make seeing him at work so incredibly difficult.

With a resigned sigh, she accepted the fact that all she could do now was finish off the evening as normally as possible, enjoying their closeness while it still existed. With that thought rolling through her head, she suddenly realized that Gibbs had been gone for quite a long while. Laughing lightly out loud at the image that that notion brought to mind – Gibbs, marine and NCIS agent extraordinaire, lost in a five-star hotel – she went in search of him, fervently hoping that he hadn't gotten himself into trouble with one of the other reunion guests.

It hadn't take her very long at all to find him, in an all but empty hallway that she suspected led to the restrooms. It didn't look as though he had actually made it as far as the men's room yet, his progress apparently halted by another guest.

Sharon had been one of the women that Diane had dragged to their dinner table and Kate would have to have been blind to have missed the looks she'd been throwing at Gibbs all night. Now she stood almost inside his personal space, smiling seductively up at him.

Frozen in place, unable to either back away and return to the ballroom or move forward to interrupt them, Kate found herself listening to their conversation as she watched their reflections in the large gilded mirror that hung at the hall's intersection. At the same time that her heart was being crushed by the other woman's obvious pass at Gibbs, she also took pleasure in his stiff posture and balled fists, both of which she recognized as indictors of annoyance and dwindling patience.

Her breath caught in her throat at Sharon's next words. "So, Jethro, how much is little Caitlyn Todd paying you for playing escort tonight? You are far too gorgeous to possibly be with such a plain little thing for real. And if you are, we should really talk about how much better you can do." Kate didn't want to think that that was how Gibbs actually saw her, but a deep sense of worry took a hold in the pit of her stomach as she waited for his response.

Taking a deep breath that she had long learned to recognize as a self-calming procedure designed to keep him from blowing up at whomever he was speaking to, he spoke, his words calming much of Kate's earlier worries.

"I don't need your permission to date Katie." The other woman scowled deeply at the nickname and the affection that crept into his voice while he was saying it despite the otherwise hard edge of his tone. "More importantly I don't need your permission to be in love with her, or anyone else's for that matter."

Kate's breath had caught in her throat at his words and she wondered how much he was just continuing with their acting and how much he might actually mean. Sharon seemed distinctly taken aback by his response and moved slightly further away from him as he continued, his tone sincere.

"I don't care what you or any of the other harpies in that room think of her and I don't care about how much you don't think she deserves a little bit of happiness." His voice had lost its hard edge, filled instead with honesty and a slight edge of mirth, as though even he was just realizing the truth of what he was saying. He ran a hand haphazardly through his hair, causing it to stick up in random directions - Kate always loved it when his hair was like that: out of control in his otherwise ordered world - and continued speaking. "Kate deserves so much better than I could ever give her, she deserves the entire world and so much more, and so while I can never give her everything she should have, it's not your place to make those decisions."

Sharon seemed to suddenly find her voice, words cold and distainful. "What in the world could YOU possibly love about HER?" Despite wondering the same thing, Kate smiled as Gibbs fired a fierce glare at the other woman.

"I love that she says what she is thinking, never beating around the bush or backing down from a fight. I love her quick wit and her willingness to use it. I love that she smiles at my insane behavior, and that she doesn't hold my mistakes against me." His hand unconsciously went to his empty ring finger and Kate knew that he was thinking about his past relationships. "I love that she throws herself completely and totally into her work and that she excepts that there are some things she can't change while all the time fighting to do something about the things she can. I love a million things about Katie, but all that really matters is that I love her. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to use the restroom before heading back to her."

He brushed past the other woman with more force than necessary, Sharon's stunned expression never leaving her face as she watched him stride down the hall. A million thoughts boiled through Kate's head, never sticking long enough for her to dwell on any single one and it was only the realization that Sharon was moving towards her location that forced her feet into motion, silently but swiftly taking her back to the party, and her 'solitude' out on the balcony.

He found her there just minutes later, perched precariously on the stone railing, eyes gazing unseeing into the night, her mind quite obviously a million miles away. He understood how she felt, his own thoughts a jumble of uncertainty and the sudden, unexpected clarity that had come from his earlier words.

Even as he had spoken to Sharon, words fierce as he fought back the desire to hit her for her disrespectful behavior towards Kate, he had realized just how much he meant what he was saying. He did love Kate. That truth had come crashing down on him, while at the same time the belief that she would never love him back, could never love a beat-up, emotional trainwreck like him, persisted to ruin all possible happiness at the revelation that his feelings for her went deeper than he'd ever before admitted.

Leaning back against the railing next to her, their shoulders just barely touching, he allowed himself to just enjoy the feeling of being near her. While he was sure that his new realization would make working with her everyday a trial of self-control and misery, he was willing to take what was currently in front of him: the chance to spend the rest of the evening in her company.

The residual smells of dinner and drinks wafted out from the double doors in front of them, and he caught more than one curious glance being fired out in their direction. They had only been sitting a few moments, both lost in their own thoughts, when the first bars of a slow song floated out to them. Noticing that Sharon was making her way back into the ballroom and over to Diane and company, Gibbs' eyes narrowed in a glare, before he turned to Kate, his brain refusing to dwell on the unpleasant woman when he had Kate right in front of him.

His light touch on her shoulder, brushing along one of the thin dress straps, brought her out of her reverie. She seemed both startled and apprehensive as she took in his presence and he felt a wash of disappointment at the forced smile she gave him. Pushing away his curiousity about what had happened to put her so out of sorts, he gave her a gentle grin as he offered his hand.

Several seconds passed before her features relaxed into a genuine smile and her hand reached out to grasp his, allowing him to help her down from her position on the railing. She had expected him to lead her back inside to the dance floor and was startled when he settled a hand on her waist and began to sway to the quiet notes that drifted to them.

I can't fight this feeling any longer.
And yet I'm still afraid to let it flow.
What started out as friendship,
Has grown stronger.
I only wish I had the strength to let it show.

Happy that she wouldn't have to face the rest of the crowd just yet, she allowed herself to sink into his arms, her free hand sliding up his chest and around his neck while she stepped into him, all but eliminating the space between their bodies. Her mind still tried fiercely to sort through all the emotions that she had felt since she heard him in the hall, but she forced herself to stop thinking and just enjoy his touch and company.

I tell myself that I can't hold out forever.
I said there is no reason for my fear.
Cause I feel so secure when we're together.
You give my life direction,
You make everything so clear.

The words of the song made it slowly into her mind and she couldn't help but realize how right they seemed in the circumstances. He really had, in the few short years she'd known him, become an absolute necessity for her. His quiet confidence and steady charm helping her make it through more than one hard day.

And even as I wander,
I'm keeping you in sight.
You're a candle in the window,
On a cold, dark winter's night.
And I'm getting closer than I ever thought I might.

Closing the remaining distance between them, she rested her cheek on his chest, his steady heartbeat echoing her own. She gave a quiet sigh, as she forced herself to admit that she wanted his words to be true, that she wanted him to have been telling the truth when he'd said he loved her.

And I can't fight this feeling anymore.
I've forgotten what I started fighting for.
It's time to bring this ship into the shore,
And throw away the oars, forever.

Cause I can't fight this feeling anymore.
I've forgotten what I started fighting for.
And if I have to crawl upon the floor,
Come crushing through your door,
Baby, I can't fight this feeling anymore.

She didn't want to fight against how she felt about him anymore. She wanted to be able to tell him exactly how much he meant to her, how much he had taken over her heart. but she wasn't sure that she could do that, not sure she could stand it if he had just been continuing their charade when he spoke to Sharon.

My life has been such a whirlwind since I saw you.
I've been running round in circles in my mind.
And it always seems that I'm following you,
Cause you take me to the places,
That alone I'd never find.

And even as I wander,
I'm keeping you in sight.
You're a candle in the window
On a cold, dark winter's night.
And I'm getting closer than I ever thought I might.

Closing her eyes, she melted into his embrace as far as she could go, her mind producing image after image of what it would be like to stay in his arms for the rest of time. She was becoming increasingly sure that she had to know, that never finding out if it was the truth would drive her slowly insane.

And I can't fight this feeling anymore.
I've forgotten what I started fighting for.
It's time to bring this ship into the shore,
And throw away the oars, forever.

Cause I can't fight this feeling anymore.
I've forgotten what I started fighting for.
And if I have to crawl upon the floor,
Come crashing through your door,
Baby, I can't fight this feeling anymore.

The song ended, the last line ringing in her mind and she made her decision then and there. Pulling only far enough away to look into his eyes, she asked the question that she knew could make or break her for the rest of her life.

"Did you mean it?" Her voice was soft and unsure, but loud enough that she knew he would hear.

His eyes gazed into hers, features twisting with confusion, unsure what she was asking. Running back through their last conversation at the dinner table, he thought briefly that she might be refering to his comment that she looked beautiful and was about to reinforce the statement, when she clarified her meaning.

"Did you mean what you said to Sharon?" Her voice was stronger, less unsteady.

For a brief moment he was taken aback, surprised and embarressed that she had obviously overheard his unplanned confession. He considered playing dumb, asking her what she was talking about, but stopped himself at the look in her eyes. She was asking for the truth, and he knew that she deserved it.

"Yes...every word." His voice was shaky and he was quite convinced that his response would cause her to pull away from his embrace; to tell him just how ridiculous he was being. He kept his eyes fixed with hers and was shocked when, instead of pulling away, she moved to close the distance between them, her eyes dropping to his lips as the last inches disappeared.

Her kiss was light, just a gentle brush against his, as her eyes watched his own; chocolate brown assessing and questioning ice blue. The touch lasted for a mere second before she began to pull away. His mind screamed at him not to let her stop or regret, and he followed her retreat, lips latching determinedly onto hers. The hand that had wrapped around her waist as they danced pulled her closer even as he released her hand to bring his up to her neck. He wasn't sure that he would ever be given another chance to kiss her and he was going to make the absolute most of it.

Opening his lips slightly he sucked gently at her top lip, grinning against her mouth as he felt her hands wrap tightly around his neck, their bodies now flush against one another. His grin disppeared, lost in his groan as she nipped at his lower lip, tongue darting out to sooth the spot before demanding entrance.

The kiss was heated and passionate, his hands roaming over the expanse of her back as hers tangled in the short hairs at his nape and it was only the burning in his lungs from lack of air that forced him to pull back just far enough to take in a deep breath. Opening his eyes, he was pleased to see her breathing was just as uneven as his own, and he smiled as her lids fluttered open, eyes locking with his before she spoke.

"I love you too." Her gentle smile sent a wave of happiness through him and he gave her a sexy grin as he responded.

"Yeah?"

Her reply was nothing more than a nod as she leaned back into him, once again catching his lips. Unlike the first kiss, their second was slow and heady, both attempting to pour all of their love and desire for the other into it. A muttered "get a room" from nearby broke their embrace and Gibbs pulled away from her reluctantly, keeping his hands firmly on her hips even as he put some space between them. Glancing at the balcony doors and the amused glances cast their way by more than one reunion-goer, he brought his eyes back to Kate's with a smile.

Letting go of her with one hand and wrapping the other firmly around her waist, he led them slowly back inside, pausing at the entryway to whisper in her ear. "What do you say we make up for those two boring years of high school?"

Releasing a light laugh, she nodded enthusiastically before taking his hand and pulling him onto the dance floor, where she stepped quickly back into his embrace, his hands resuming their positions on her waist. Her hips moving to the quick bass of "Train in Vain" she was suddenly very glad that she had come to her reunion.

The End

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A/N: "Train in Vain" belongs to The Clash. "Can't Fight this Feeling" belongs to Reo Speedwagon.

Please let me know what you all thought. I really enjoyed writing this piece. I've got plans (and basic plot) for a Valentine's Kibbs in the works so look for that soon. And again another big THANK YOU to everyone who reviewed the various parts of this story.