Barely discernible in the late afternoon light, a tall man crouched on the roof of a warehouse, waiting. If his legs were cramping from the strain of squatting or his arms sore from their perch just a hair away from the trigger of the sniper rifle in front of him, his face didn't show it.
In fact, his face didn't show much of anything.
Dark eyes were shuttered tightly, mouth set in a thin, determined line. This was it. He was so close.
He was so close to her.
Caitlin Todd stood slowly, feeling her ribs already beginning to bruise from where the bullet had nearly penetrated her vest.
"Protection detail's over, Kate," Gibbs told her firmly.
The brunette's only response was to grimace.
"You did good," Tony added with a grin, his tone flavored slightly with awe.
"For once," Gibbs said, looking her in the eye pointedly, "Dinozzo's right."
Kate felt a rush of blood to her already woozy head. Had she heard right? Had Gibbs just said what she thought he said? Suddenly, her brain caught up with her and she smiled widely, a huge, happy smile that lit up her face and dulled in the ache in her ribs.
"Wow," she said, as calmly as she could, "I thought I'd die before I ever got a…"
Tony hadn't even realized what had happened until he felt something warm splatter across his face. He flinched away instinctively, but turned back just in time to see his partner fall.
Only, this time, it was for good.
Blinking over and over seemed to be all he could do. He saw a red puddle pooling out from under her head, the same head that he'd heard crack sickeningly as it hit the concrete she now lay on. Her legs were tangled on top of one another, knees bent at an awkward angle. Hazel eyes stared up unseeingly, eyes that had never gotten the chance to close before the light in them had flickered out. And, in the very center of her forehead, was a small, perfect bullet hole.
There was only one person who could shoot that well. And Tony knew who it was. He knew he knew. But, for some reason, the name just wouldn't appear in his head. Because, at the moment, his mind was preoccupied with following a much different thought path.
Could anyone possibly have more ironic last words?
Ari Haswari watched silently as Caitlin Todd dropped to the ground, her body arching gracefully in a movement that would have made any dancer jealous.
Even in death she was beautiful.
He watched as her blood covered the face of the young Italian man beside her, saw him blink furiously, his face distorted by flecks of red.
From his vantage point, he could even see the blood that flowed onto the ground beneath her head, draining slowly from her body.
But, what he was most interested in, what he had come to find out, was the look on Gibbs' face. The look that would tell him everything he needed to know. The look that would have been impossible to see, had she not fallen.
He took one last glance at her still form before rising from his position. It really was a shame she'd had to die.
For once, he let out a thought in words and, in doing so, revealed his intentions for anyone who might have been listening to hear. But he'd had to.
Because without saying it, there would have been no way to get it out of his mind.
Gibbs sat on the floor of his basement dressed in old, sawdust-covered sweats, a mug of bourbon in one hand and a scruffy sketchbook in the other. His posture was weary, and with each passing minute his shoulders slumped further forward. He flipped through the thick, cream-colored pages almost hesitantly, always taking the time to examine each drawing, his fingers lingering at the edges of the pad as if he wished to close it forever.
For one long, heartbreakingly painful hour he sat on the cold, hard floor by his boat and mourned in his own way.
Finally, after he'd looked at, admired, every single sketch and moved to close the book, he noticed it.
Had there always been a page missing?
The air around the cemetery was always cold, but even more so at just past midnight. The man standing by the freshly-dug grave near one of the area's many oak trees, however, didn't seem to feel the biting temperature. He simply stood, still as stone for a few minutes, with a shovel in one hand.
Then, he began to dig.
Forty-five minutes later, an American-flag covered coffin rested on the ground by his feet. Almost tenderly, he brushed a bit of dirt from the lid of the box before prying it open.
The first thing he noticed was that someone had closed her eyes and sighed. He'd so been looking forward to seeing them one last time.
Cocking his head slightly, he took in the rest of her body. She was laid out as if she was sleeping, her small hands folded across her chest, nails neatly trimmed and shimmering from the pearlescent nail polish that still remained from the last time she'd gotten them done. She'd been dressed rather simply, he noted. Which really was too bad. She deserved to have been buried in a ball gown and tiara.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a crumpled sheet of paper he'd torn from her precious sketchbook. Smoothing it out gently, he traced his eyes over it for the thousandth time.
A sketch of his own face dominated the page, his face the way she'd seen it. It looked almost…kind.
In a blank corner, though, there was another drawing, nearly identical in skill and style to the one that had been originally drawn on the page. This one, however, had been done by a different hand.
It was a sketch of her, looking over her shoulder and smiling hair blowing freely and eyes sparkling. Her face, the way he saw it.
He folded the sheet carefully in two and placed it under her hands. Gazing at her face reverently, he gently smoothed her hair back before stepping away from the coffin.
Half an hour later the grave looked as if no one had ever been there.
Ari Haswari turned and walked away, not once looking back. His eyes were again closed off from the world, but the words that had been running through his mind all evening escaped softly from his lips.
It takes only two to play a game, Caitlin.