Kate was still standing in the elevator, not moving although the doors had already closed again. He had kissed her – just like that. Totally out of the blue. She knew that she should be outraged and angry, and that the appropriate response would have probably been to push him away and slap him, but part of her had longed for this kiss without even knowing it.

Instead of pushing him away, signaling him how far beyond the line he was, she had returned the kiss; even given him permission to deepen it. With a tortured moan she leaned back against the cold wall, her hand at her forehead when she imagined what he had to think of her now.

How had this able to happen, that one second she had ranted and then she had willingly kissed him, and now... What now? How could she ever look at him again? And more importantly, prove to him that she was just as professional as he was? Being the jerk he sometimes could be, she considered it quite possible that the whole situation had been a test of her professionalism. She knew that he had always judged her for the affair she had had with her colleague when she had still been working with the Secret Service – even if he had never said anything outloud.

After another short moment, which she needed to catch herself and rearrange her clothes, she pressed the button for the elevator door to open and then stepped out. Better to start handling the situation right now, she thought insecurely. Tony looked up, when she approached, his face showing infinite relief.

"Thank God, he didn't kill you! Please tell me we're still working together..." he started to babble, but Kate walked around her desk and got back to work without reacting to him.

Tony figured it wisest to remain silent – otherwise he could already see himself getting fired if he took the dark expression on Gibbs' face into consideration.

The rest of the day passed by in awkward silence, from time to time interrupted by some discussions between Tony and McGee, but aside from that, nobody said a word.

When Kate needed Gibbs signature under a form she had filled out, she simply walked over to his desk and put it down under his nose. And he would sign it and hand it back to her without even looking up. The whole situation was of course closely observed by their two male colleagues.

Even Abby sensed the emotional tension the instant that she entered the office, and hurried to leave again as fast as she could.

It had already become dark outside, when Tony lifted from his chair and grabbed his jacket, almost relieved that the 'day of hell', as he would call it the weeks afterwards, was over. Only that made Kate realize that her shift ended and that the office had already emptied, only few agents remaining, who still needed to finish reports or work on active cases.

"And another wonderful evening starts with beautiful Mindy..." Dinozzo informed the people around him proudly, making a last desperate attempt to ease the tension. Normally, Kate would have made an ironic remark or asked a sarcastic question, but tonight she just remained silent. Tony sighed and shrugged, then left the office.

Kate lifted her head to look over at Gibbs, who was still, in a concentrated manner, writing and moving the sheets of paper around on his desk. After a short while of observing his actions, she got up and slowly approached him.

She had no idea what to say, and so she just stood uncomfortably in front of his desk. After some seconds, when she still hadn't said a word, Gibbs finally lifted his head to look at her – for the first time since the kiss, their eyes met.

"I..." Kate started, lowering her eyes since she was not able to return his look for long without bringing back memories. "I wanted to know if I shall return tomorrow... or if I should report to NCIS headquarters in Norfolk." That was not what she had actually wanted to say – in fact she didn't even know what she had wanted to say, since she had no idea what his opinion of the whole incident was.

Gibbs looked at her thoughtfully, then resumed writing on the sheet of paper. "That's your decision to make, special agent Todd."

"Oh..." she murmured and nodded, inhaling deeply. "Actually, that was not... what I wanted to say. What I meant was... I am sorry, Gibbs."

"What for?" he asked, a hint of surprise in his voice as he looked up again and laid his pen aside.

"For what I said this morning – for some of the things at least. I guess you were right, I was seeing things too unprofessionally and I assure you, something like that is never going to happen again. I was just..." She could truly say, that she had never been in a situation that had made her feel weirder in her whole life than this conversation with Gibbs did.

"Maybe we should just forget about it," he offered at her lack of words. If she didn't know better, she would have said that he was just a insecure as she was – at least she believed to read a hint of it in his eyes. Of course he would never show it openly. "We've been under a lot of stress – both of us – so maybe we should just put it behind and go back to our work."

"Yes." Kate nodded, a tiny part of her having expected something else from him; having hoped for something else. "So I am still part of your team?"

"Do you still want to be?" he asked, diverting his eyes back to his sheet of paper. They both knew what hidden question was lying underneath those simple words. Would she still be able to respect him after what had happened in the elevator? They both recalled the kiss at that very moment.

"Yes I do," Kate finally said firmly, then after another five seconds of silence, "under one condition: Next time you listen to me if I tell you that people who go into old houses at night end up dead."

She smiled faintly when he looked up at her attempt to ease the tension and returned her soft glance. He could symbolically see the weight lifting of her heart when her expression lightened up. Still smiling, she returned to her desk and grabbed her purse and her coat. "Good Night, Gibbs."

"Kate," he called when she was almost out the door. She looked back at him expectantly, when he didn't speak right away, but glanced at her with an expression on his face that she had never seen there before. "Just so you know, it would have mattered to me if Harris had hurt you."

Kate held his eyes for another second, then turned and left the office, still stunned at what he had just said. Gibbs never let his agents know that they meant something to him – except for Abby of course.

She was totally confused. Something had changed inside of her, something in her view of him. And when she thought of his smile, she could feel something in her heart that she hadn't felt for a long time.

She sighed. It was better to stop thinking about him. It was never going to happen. He was her boss, and he was a principled man who always followed his own rules – especially rule number nine.

The kiss had been a one-time slip, there was never going to happen anything between them.

"Relationships between agents never work..." she reminded herself, sighing, and silently added a rule 9a which referred to age difference. Unfortunately, her heart wouldn't pay attention to any rules...

Gibbs sighed when Kate had left, and leaned back in his chair. Somehow his life had become much more complicated since he had gotten up this morning. And she was the reason. What had been the matter with him to kiss her?

Now all he could think about was how sweetly she had tasted, how fragile her body had felt against his and how desperately he wanted to kiss her again and beyond – which was, of course, out of the question.

If his occasional scans of her slender body when they were working had already been a violation of his principle, then the kiss was on a whole other level in the world of violations.

Gibbs sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. He had to get her out of his head. He would not compromise his professionalism with one simple kiss.

He moaned inwardly when he remembered the kiss. She was so much younger than he was, and yet, for a moment, it had felt perfectly right to caress her lips with his. And when he had felt her move closer against him, he had, for the blink of an eye, assumed that she felt the same. A stupid assumption, he thought grimly to himself. She had most likely just been totally frightened and only returned the kiss because he was her boss – who, aside from that, had also held her hands to her back and by that refused her any possibility to free herself from him.

When he recalled her puzzled reaction and her totally confused stare, he got the awful feeling in his gut that he had simply taken advantage of her.

She would have every right to file a complaint and report his behavior to the director, and yet she obviously didn't intend to.

He decided on acting absolutely professional towards her during the next months.

After three failed marriages he should know better than to blindly fall for a woman – especially if she was so much younger as Kate was.

If he had learned anything, then it was how to close his heart away from the world. And in a few days, he was sure of that, the normal routine would have returned into their office.

And yet, in the depth of his heart, a tiny voice remained, a part of him that knew the truth. A part of him, that was too dangerous to be listened to. And yet the tiny voice kept whispering that she meant so much more to him than a colleague...

The End (Mar 18, 2007)