And the last chapter. Hope you like it!

It was a miracle she hadn't run her car into anything on the drive home. As she fumbled with her house key, she barely recalled any of the ride. She'd been in some sort of trance, and in a way still was.

She had resigned. She had turned in her badge. She wasn't an NCIS special agent anymore…

The finality of it hadn't really sunk in yet. She didn't want it to. Realising what she had done meant realising that she'd probably never see any of her now ex-colleagues again. Sure, they'd promised to call and maybe Abby or Tony would have a serious intention to, but she knew how these things went. Usually you never heard from each other again, not matter how close you had been.

Slamming the front door behind her, she tossed her handbag and the plastic bag full of other stuff from her desk into the nearest corner before staggering over to her coach and crashing there. She promised herself a full five minutes of uninterrupted crying, and then she'd collect herself and get on with her life. She had quit a nice job before, and she survived that, too.

…only back then there had been one Jethro Gibbs to pull her out of the hole she'd dug for herself…

True to her promise, though, she shook her head and dried her tears several minutes later. No use thinking about could-have's and should-have's. God knew there were plenty of both and none of them had ever done anyone any good. She was a big girl, and she could take care of herself.

"Yeah, that's right. I'll find something else ag..."

Her personal pep talk was interrupted by the doorbell. Frowning, she got up and walked to the front door. Who'd call on her when she was supposed to be at work? Surely no one could have found out about her resignation this quickly, could they? Lacking a peephole, she opened the door two inches and peered out.


Kate stared at the man on her doorstep. Half a dozen nasty remarks sprinted through her head, but none made it to her mouth. He was, in a way, still her boss.

And he'd come after her of his own accord. She knew better than to get her hopes up, but she also knew better than to slam the door on him now, literally or otherwise.

"This is…unexpected," she started.

Gibbs shrugged. "You left something of yours back at the office."

"Did I?" she replied in what she hoped was a casual tone of voice. "Oh, well, ehm, care to come in?"

He shrugged again, but didn't hesitate when she opened the door to let him in. She watched him stroll into her living room, using the fact that his back was turned to her to give her face an extra wipe with her hand. It was bad enough her eyes would still be puffy and red from crying; she didn't need visible tears to add insult to her already injured dignity.

She quickly lowered her hand when Gibbs turned to face her. She looked at him, waiting for him to start speaking. But he didn't. He just stared at her. Within moments, she straightened instinctively under this scrutinising gaze. A force of habit, she told herself, which had nothing to do with the slightly haunted look on his face.

"You… said I left something behind?" she said after a few minutes of silence.

He nodded, producing something from his pocket and holding it up to her. It was her badge.

"I never said I accepted your resignation," he told her decisively as he handed it back to her. "But I did tell you to think it over first."

"Yes, but…"

"It isn't a request, Kate."

She squared her shoulders. "Perhaps," she started, trying to keep her voice from trembling, "but since I already resigned, I'm in no position to take orders from you anymore."

His head tilted slightly in his usual 'you think?' attitude. "You're an NCIS agent until I say otherwise," he stated. "And right now I say you give this some serious thought before you do something you're apparently already regretting." He held the badge out to her once more.

Kate made a helpless gesture with both hands. "How can I not resign after breaking the rule you're most adamant about? Heaven knows you told Tony often enough that romance between agents never works!"

"Passing infatuations are not the same as romance, Kate."

She gave him a long, incredulous look. "Is that what you think this is?" she asked. "Because I don't…"

"Shut up!"

She did, her argument dying in her throat. Surprised and a bit shocked by his sudden outburst, all she could do was stare, captured by the unusual myriad of emotions in his eyes.

"Listen to me, Kate," he said slowly, every word punctuated and piercing to get her full attention. "Infatuations are not the same as romance. Unlike romance, they come and go. And that means they need not get in the way of work." He eyed her sharply. "Do you understand?"

It took her confusion-numbed mind a few heartbeats to realise the implications behind the words, but when it caught on, it went into overdrive: Gibbs was offering her a way out. A way to keep her job despite today's royal mess. All she had to do was accept a change in denomination of what she felt for him. But she doubted things were so simple…

"Calling a rose a tulip doesn't take the thorns away, does it?" she inquired.

He nodded. "No it won't. But tulips don't get pruned, either."

Kate knew enough of gardening to catch his meaning. Staring at the badge he was still holding out to her, she quickly weighed her options. Which weren't all that many, really. She'd dug a hole for herself, and again it was Jethro Gibbs who pulled her out. If for no other reason, then she owed him for that not to walk out on him. And if she was honest with herself, she had hated the prospect of leaving behind the life and the people she'd come to love this last year.

With more pros than cons staring her in the face, she took the badge from his hand and reattached it to her belt. She couldn't help but notice his smile when she did. She loved that smile. Maybe she had to keep that to herself now, but at least she could continue enjoying it a while longer.

"So, does that mean you'll think it over?" he asked her, relief obvious on his face.

She shrugged with one shoulder, returning his smile. "I don't think I need to. I can live with tulips if you can."

"Oh, I can." The warm smile now reached his eyes. "I've lived with tulips ever since I met you."

There we are. All done.

I know a nice kiss might've been a more satisfying ending, but for a first-off I wanted to write something that would fit the canon, and as Gibbs probably knows from experience, one kiss leads to another and before you know it you're in Paris making out instead of doing your job, hehehe.

Please let me know what you think.