AN: Okay, it's been a few years since I originally wrote this. I won't be adding on to it. Ever.

The prologue starts during 'Twilight', and continues. This references reincarnation, which, while I don't personally believe in it, I don't not believe either. Either way, keep an open mind; please review when you're finished, as maybe it will inspire me to add a little more. No promises though :o)


Prologue

Kate was the only person who saw the movement behind the door, the glinting of sunlight off the barrel of the gun and she didn't hesitate. Kate took a running leap in front of Gibbs even as she screamed, "Shooter!" The bullet impacted her vest and knocked the wind out of her and it was all Kate could do to stay conscious while she listened to another hail of gunfire from her teammates.

"Kate!" Gibbs called as DiNozzo turned, both honestly alarmed when they realized that she hadn't gotten up. DiNozzo holstered his Sig even as he gently rolled her over onto her back and unzipped her windbreaker. He and Gibbs both breathed sighs of relief when they discovered the flattened bullet on the outside of the bullet-proof vest.

Kate couldn't suppress her pained groan as she came to. That was definitely going to leave a mark, she mused. "You all right?" Tony asked, and, for once, worry was the clearest emotion in his voice.

Kate resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "I just got shot at point-blank range, DiNozzo. What do you think?"

There it was. A flash of his usual smile even as he retorted, "You're not going to Pilates class tomorrow?" Tony helped her up and stayed close, which told Kate that the few seconds when he wasn't sure if she was dead had rattled him worse than usual.

She faced Gibbs as he said, "Protection detail's over, Kate."

"You did good, Kate," Tony added from right behind her as he gently rubbed her arm, apparently needing some kind of tactile contact. She might have told him off for hovering, but, to be honest, she needed him nearby as well.

Kate kept all her attention on Gibbs though. "For once, DiNozzo's right," he conceded.

She couldn't help the tiny smile that crept across her face at that. "Wow. I thought I'd die before I ever heard a-…"

And everything went white.


At George Washington University Hospital, the on-call ER surgeon sighed as he prepared to cover the poor young woman who'd died on the table. A victim of a drunk driver, she'd succumbed to her injuries despite their best efforts. And considering that GW had one of the best ERs on the East Coast, their efforts had been considerable. "Time of Death," he pronounced heavily, double-checking the time, "5:13pm."

He had the sheet up to cover her face and got the fright of his life as her mouth and eyes opened wide and she inhaled sharply.

There was no time to waste as the well-trained team quickly hooked her back up to the monitors and got back to the business of trying to save her life. Catherine Hastings would live another day.


Chapter 1

Something in Tony DiNozzo broke when Kate was killed.

Oh sure, he still joked, and grinned, and flirted, and did everything he usually did to drive his coworkers insane but there was something missing.

It was like the spark that made him "Tony" had died and he hadn't made any effort to relight it.

He stuck exclusively to blondes now, Kate having ruined him for any other brunette, and redheads being too close to brunette for comfort. And except for that disastrous encounter with Ziva while they were undercover – he still got the shivers over that – he'd stuck to it. He'd considered stopping dating altogether but had decided that it would be too much, too soon for everybody else.

So, he laughed, and he joked, and he flirted, and he dated (even though it was nothing but a series of First Dates and one-night stands), and every day a little bit more of him died.

Tony knew Gibbs was keeping a very close eye on him, and for good reason admittedly. Tony made stupid mistakes, took stupid risks with his life. For four months the need for revenge, to take down that bastard who had taken Kate's light from them had consumed him. And when the final showdown came, he hadn't even been there.

He hadn't been there! He hadn't gotten the chance to look Ari in the eye; to ask him why, of all people, had he taken Kate from them, and not Tony himself.

Tony had bull-shitted his way through the psychological assessment that always followed a traumatic event (like, say, your teammate and best friend dropping dead right in front of you because of a psycho with a grudge), but he was beginning to wish he hadn't. He hadn't lied to Paula either when she'd asked him how he dealt with it; he couldn't actively think about it at work, because the memories alone were enough to cripple him for hours. He'd start off on one of his usual rants, making sure to be extra obnoxious whenever he found one of Kate's buttons to push, and he'd look over at her desk expecting to hear her sarcastic rejoinder only to discover Ziva.

He'd drunk himself unconscious the night after the first time Ziva had pulled all her hair under her NCIS cap. From the back, the physical difference between the two women was almost indistinguishable.

Tomorrow, it would be six months. Six months since she'd been ripped out his life. Six months since he'd had the opportunity to just suck up his pride and his ego to just tell her how he felt. Six months since he'd heard her voice, seen her smile, heard her laugh, touched her, held her, teased her, anything!

With a howl of grief-stricken rage, Tony hurled his beer bottle at the wall and listened as the glass shattered satisfyingly. He collapsed on his couch and buried his head in his hands, willing the tears to come, wishing they would.

But they didn't; they hadn't.

Not since that day on the roof when she'd laid on the filthy concrete as crimson blood slowly spread around her head like some kind of demented halo, and he'd fallen to his knees beside her and grabbed her hand like a lifeline, caressing her cheeks with his fingertips, begging her to get up because Ari was still out there and they had to catch the bastard… Please, Kate, wake up. Kate, it's time to wake up. We've got to get him, Kate, but you've got to get up

It had taken 3 men to pull him away from her body. He'd fought them the entire way, cursing and crying and begging Kate to wake up, until the paramedics had been forced to sedate him. He hadn't cried since. Not even at her funeral.

But Tony was so sick of missing her that he nearly did cry at the injustice of it all. Tony lifted his head and considered his coffee table.

Rather, he considered the sleek, black Sig Sauer on the coffee table.

With hands that almost terrified him with their steadiness, Tony lifted up the weapon, automatically checking the magazine as he did so – full – and he thumbed the safety off. Gently, carefully, he maneuvered the weapon so that the barrel was flush against the underside of his jaw, directly above his carotid artery. His finger tightened on the trigger…


Chapter 2

His cell phone, lying next to the gun's holster, chirruped. Tony exhaled quickly and pulled his now trembling hand away, quickly thumbing the safety back on. He placed the weapon back on the table and ran his fingers through his hair, shaking all over. He picked up the phone and answered it without looking at the ID. "DiNozzo."

"Tony." The word was brief and the voice familiar and Tony suddenly felt the urge to cry all over again.

"Boss."

"Tony, whatever you're thinking, stop it. Get your sweats on, come on downstairs, and we'll go for a run and some coffee. I'll meet you down here in ten minutes." Tony clutched the phone like the lifeline to his sanity that it was and barely managed to mumble out an affirmative.

Whatever Gibbs was expecting to see when DiNozzo stumbled out of his apartment building, what he got wasn't it. Absolutely astonished, Gibbs let his gaze wander over the younger man, noting the red-rimmed, bloodshot eyes, the flushed cheeks, the heaving chest, and the normally cheerful green eyes clouded over with misery and grief.

Oh, Tony. Despite his best interests, Gibbs felt dismay and guilt wash over him. "Jesus, DiNozzo, what truck ran over you?"

The fact that Tony couldn't even make up some snappy comeback, let alone glare at him, spoke volumes to the suddenly desperately worried Jethro Gibbs. If Tony was like this six months after the fact, Gibbs didn't even want to think about what kind of state Tony would be in when it hit one year. "C'mon, kid, let's go." Gibbs set off at a nice, slow pace and Tony obediently caught up and kept pace. "How are you, Tony?"

"Fine, Boss," Tony replied with barely a trace of his usual humor, "can't you tell?"

"Oh, yeah, you're doing real fine. I don't know how I missed it before." Gibbs barely restrained himself from going with instinct and popping the kid upside the head. "Listen, kid, everybody who knew her is coming over to my house for a little memorial tomorrow. I've already cleared it with Director Shepard." There was a pause as Gibbs buried his pride enough to finish, "We'd love to have you there."

Tony cast him a sideways look. "Thanks all the same, Boss, but I think I'd really rather be alone tomorrow."

"Tony, you can't dwell forever."

"Wanna bet?"

"Tony, she would have wanted you to be happy. The least you owe her is to try."

DiNozzo stopped and whirled on him, full of righteous anger. "You think I haven't?" he demanded. "You think I haven't tried to move on? Tried to be happy? Ari took that ability from me the moment he took Kate's life! But she's always there, over my shoulder, always with some smart-ass comment or observation!

"I can't do this anymore, Boss. I tried to let her go, but I can't! I tried to live without her here, but I can't do that either! Can't you see?" Tony's knees chose that moment to buckle and he slumped to the cold pavement. "Why her? I would have taken her place in an instant, so why her and not me?"

Gibbs knelt beside the distraught man and carefully chose his words. "Because she would have been doing the exact same thing you are now. Would you really want to put her through this?" Tony took a deep, shuddering breath and shook his head. "I didn't think so. You didn't see her when you got the plague this spring, Tony. She cried in Ducky's arms because you were dying and she couldn't imagine her life without you in it in some way. When I cleaned out her desk, I found her sketchbook and saved it. There's something in there that I think you need to see."

When Tony lifted his head, Gibbs could see the hope behind the grief.

Gibbs flipped the lights on in his house and gestured Tony to the couch in the living room. "Have a seat, I'll be right back."

Emotionally spent, Tony obeyed without a word. Gibbs automatically checked to make sure that there was nothing that Tony could use to hurt himself with and vanished into the depths of the house to put a pot of coffee on and to fetch Kate's sketchbooks. When her brothers had come to pack up her apartment, they'd also found a small box of sketchbooks entirely devoted to her co-workers and had given them to him with Mrs. Todd's blessings. He'd been holding on to them with the intent to pass them out to their subjects when things died down, and then forgotten about them altogether in the turmoil.

Gibbs emerged to find that Tony hadn't moved an inch and took a deep breath to settle any nerves. He was going to need every iota of control to help Tony survive this. He placed the whopping five sketchbooks in front of the younger man, holding back the one he'd discovered in Kate's desk and fleetingly flipped through.

For almost three hours, Tony looked through the chronicle of their relationship. At times he was outraged and indignant at the less than flattering view she'd depicted him. At others he paused to lightly touch his fingers to the picture, as if he could touch her by touching something she'd put so much effort and care into. There he was, the day they'd met, sitting at the President's desk on Air Force One, a.k.a. Alpha-Foxtrot 29,000; freaking out at Gitmo when he'd woken up to find an iguana on his pillow; at the firing range as he recovered his newly aerated NCIS ball cap; clipping his fingernails at his desk; dressing up as the Jerry-Springer trailer-park-trash couple at the clinic; meeting Stan Burley for the first time on the Enterprise. It was all there.

Finally, Tony put the last book down, completely drained. He really wanted to bury his face in his arms and pray once more that this was all just a bad dream. That he would wake up and discover Kate sitting across from him, throwing him that dirty look that she reserved especially for him. "Tony, I found this in Kate's desk. According to McGee, she was working on it the day you came back, the day before she was… killed." Ignoring his hesitation and the catch in his throat, Gibbs flipped to the correct page and handed it to Tony.

There he was, in graphite and paper, leaning back in his chair, feet up on the desk, phone to his ear, hair mussed, sunglasses rakishly perched, cheeky grin firmly in place, mischief in every line. Fingers starting to tremble, Tony gently traced the sketch, noting the care – the love – that had gone into creating such a perfect likeness of him. Very carefully, he closed the sketchbook and placed it with the others and covered his face with his hands.

And for the first time since Special Agent Caitlin Todd had been murdered, Tony DiNozzo began to cry.


Chapter 3

Six months later

The day after the Anniversary

Tony jolted awake, disoriented and unsure what exactly had roused him out of his slumber. The rhythmic pounding on his apartment door answered that question and Tony groaned and looked at his alarm clock.

Four in the morning. Tony fully suspected that the person at the door was Gibbs, and so it wouldn't do to ignore him, but at the same time Tony was not inclined to be pleasant. He heaved himself out of bed, stopping long enough to pull on boxers and a t-shirt, and stumbled to the door. "Somebody had better be dead," Tony growled as he opened it, only to stop short when he realized that the person behind it was not Gibbs.

Shoulder length, toffee-brown hair framed a heart-shaped face. Hazel eyes with long, long eyelashes peered up at him above a pert nose and full lips with just a hint of a natural pout. Instantly charmed and distracted by her beauty, Tony let his gaze wander. She was tall, almost as tall as him, with lush curves and an athletic hourglass figure. Long, muscular legs encased in denim jeans and feet in little pink flip-flops completed the look. Despite the fact that he had never seen this – admittedly gorgeous, and very, very young – woman before in his life, Tony instantly knew exactly who she was. "Hi, Tony," she offered, cocking her head to one side and peering up at him with familiar eyes that were the wrong color.

Tony was beyond words. He wrapped his hand around the back of her head and yanked her forward into a savage, passionate kiss. Her hair and eyes were the wrong color, her body was too curvy, her voice too husky, her lack of freckles somewhat disconcerting, and yet she was more familiar to him than his own shadow. He broke off their kiss, breathing heavily, and stared into her eyes. "Is it really you?" he breathed, fingers roving restlessly over her face and hair.

A shy smile spread across her features, charmed and disarmed by the fact that he could recognize her even now. "Yeah, it's really me." He smiled widely, happily, unshed tears glinting in his eyes, and captured her mouth again.

Tony dragged her inside, kicked the door shut, and then shoved her back against it. This time she was the one to pull back, panting with need for this beautiful, irritating man who knew exactly how to press her buttons. "Hi, Kate."

A tear escaped and slid down her cheek as her left hand lifted and cupped his face, smiling as he leaned into her touch. "Officially, it's 'Cat' now, DiNozzo. Catherine Hastings, to be exact."

Reluctantly, he let her go and led her to the couch. "Tell me everything."

She settled comfortably against him and after taking a few seconds to regroup herself, started her tale: "The original Catherine Hastings was in a car accident and died at the exact same time I did. For some reason that I have yet to divine, her soul went on and mine got transplanted into her body. I would have come to find you sooner, Tony, but I couldn't remember anything. Not her past, not my past, her parents, my parents – nothing, absolutely nothing. Everything personal that I knew about her – or me, for that matter – was in her wallet. I didn't realize until yesterday why I'd preferred being called Cat instead of Catherine or Cathy.

"When I woke up after the accident, I looked like this," she said, gesturing at herself. She pulled a driver's license out of her purse and handed it to him.

There, beside the name 'Catherine J. Hastings', was a photo of a slightly overweight blonde woman with bottle-green eyes. Tony understood now; because the original Catherine was gone, her body had sort of formed to look about halfway to what the person who now occupied it had last looked like. He wasn't about to lie and tell her that the change was unwelcome, because she was smoking hot like this. Tony took a peek at the birth date on the license and nearly had a coronary when his mental math caught up. According to the license, Catherine Hastings was only 22!

Sweet!

A sharp elbow to the ribs interrupted that line of thought just in time. "What have you been up to then?" he asked, hoping to avoid more physical abuse.

She laughed and covered her face with her hands. "You're never going to believe this," she muttered.

"Try me."

"I leave next week for FLETC; in 5 months I'll be at NCIS."

Tony burst out laughing.

Only to receive another elbow to the ribs. "It's not funny!" she insisted indignantly.

"Yes, it is!" Tony howled. "You applied and got interviewed and accepted for NCIS before you even remembered you used to work there! That's hilarious! Besides, there's an upside: you'll be a hotshot because you already know everything. Do well, and we might even get you working with Gibbs again."

She sobered suddenly. "Tony, what about Gibbs? Remember, Rule #12?"

"That does pose a problem. However, those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Apparently, Gibbs has had a romantic relationship with our new Director, who is also a redhead."

"You're kidding. What is it with him and redheads?" Kate demanded.

"Besides, he never threatened Abby and McGee."

"That's because Abby's not a Field Agent, Tony."

"Abby!" Tony cried, suddenly looking electrified. "We gotta tell her! She took you going the hardest."

"You didn't miss me, Tony?" she prodded teasingly.

In response, her kissed her again. This time it instantly turned incendiary and Kate soon found herself on her back with Tony looming over her, comfortably nestled between her thighs. "Is that proof enough?" he asked with a leering smile.

She wiggled naughtily against him, smiling widely when he groaned. "Is that a cell phone in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?"

He dropped forward so his face was burrowed into the curve of her neck and gently nuzzled the soft, sensitive flesh he found there with his nose and lips. "I'll show you who's glad to see whom, Todd." She arched up into him and let every curve and dip in her body press up against every inch of his.

Though Tony was more than willing to take everything to the next level and all the way, he really didn't want to rush it or her and so restricted them to kissing and petting after rushing off to get some clothes on. He took Kate out onto the balcony to watch the sunrise and they stayed curled up on the little bench in the cool, early morning air.

At six, Tony started to get ready for work and emerged from the shower to the smell of bacon and eggs cooking. With that incentive, he was fully dressed and coiffed in less than ten minutes, a personal best. Kate found herself admiring him shamelessly and grinned when he caught her at it. "Thanks, Kate," he said through mouthfuls of scrambled eggs.

"Don't get used to it, DiNozzo. I'm just jealous that I have to wait five months to get back there," she insisted, chucking a dishrag at him.

Tony caught it with one hand while he sipped at his coffee with the other. "I'll make sure to put in a good word for you."

"Don't you dare! Gibbs'll never take me then!"

"And what about Rule #12?" Not that he cared; he'd just heard a rumor that Gibbs had told Kate when he hired her that if she broke it, he wouldn't give her a chance to resign.

"Once the novelty wears off, we should be able to keep it out of the office, don't you think? What Gibbs doesn't know can't hurt us, right?"

"You're forgetting the fact that he knows everything, Kate. Like with your tattoo, remember?"

"I had to put it down under "Identifying Marks" on my paperwork. He has access to my file, remember?"

"Yeah, so what about when he knew that McGee had gotten a tat on his ass to impress Abby? It's not like he consulted any of us over it." Tony was still amazed that Gibbs had known about that.

"That was strange, I'll admit. However, if we're careful – and that means we take different cars there, nothing relationship related while we're in the office, except maybe by email, and no hiding in closets or elevators – we should be all right." Kate leveled a finger at him in admonishment.

"Deal," Tony agreed instantly. He would have agreed to anything if it kept her in his life. He checked his watch and nearly swore. "Look, why don't you come in with me; you can see Abby again and get a glimpse of the team and we can make plans for dinner tonight, and then you can take my car for the day," he offered. He walked back into his bedroom and rummaged around in his drawers for several seconds, finally coming up with a key. "I want you to have this."

She gave him a teary smile and Tony's control broke again as he pulled her in for a kiss. "I didn't think you ever gave girls a key to your apartment, Tony."

"You're special," he said with a soft smile. "Come on, it's getting late."


Chapter 4

"Abby!" Tony called as he walked into the lab rat's domain.

"Hey, Tony, what's up?" Abby greeted cheerfully. She looked askance at the lovely young woman walking beside him with a stride that was alien and familiar to her all at once. "Who's this?"

The other woman stepped a little closer and met the Goth's eyes, which widened to gigantic proportions. "Hi, Abby."

"Kate!" Abby shrieked. She leaped forward and enveloped the prodigal daughter into a huge hug. "Ohmigod, proof of reincarnation right in front of me! How are you? Where've you been? Have you met Ziva?" The last was asked in a slight undertone that Kate laughed off.

"In order: I'm fine now; I didn't remember anybody so I couldn't find you all; and no, I haven't yet had the pleasure of meeting Officer David. Oh, it's so good to see you!" Kate laughed, leaning in for another hug, which Abby happily complied with.

"Abbs, have you seen – DiNozzo!" Gibbs bellowed as he caught sight of his missing agent.

"Yeah, Boss?"

"Who are you?" Gibbs directed at the strange woman. There was something familiar about her, but he couldn't put his finger on it…

"Catherine Hastings, Special Agent Gibbs," Kate replied smoothly. "I leave for training next week and I wanted to get a look at the building I'll hopefully be working in when I complete the course. I ran into Special Agent DiNozzo at the doors and he offered to give me a tour." Kate smiled winsomely at the older man as Tony edged towards the doors so as to get out of Gibbs' sight.

"I'll just bet he did," Gibbs muttered as he shot DiNozzo a glare. "I'm sorry, Miss Hastings, but the tour is over. Abbs, would you mind…?" Tony caught Kate's eye over Gibbs' shoulder and mimed holding a phone to his ear.

"Oh, sure, Gibbs, no problem," Abby agreed instantly, nodding to both agents. Tony grinned and turned to leave, two steps ahead of Gibbs, and the women watched as Tony got cuffed upside the head once again as the elevator doors closed. After making sure that they really were going back to the squad room, Abby pressed the down button for the elevator. "We'll just go say hi to Ducky, and then I'll escort you right to your car," the Goth explained with a smile. "So, are you really going in for training?"

Kate laughed embarrassedly. "Yes. After I finished the real Catherine's Psychology degree, I just applied without even thinking about it. They told me to report for training next week. I didn't even remember any of you guys or working here until last night."

"That is too perfect. See, Kate: this place is your destiny."

"I wouldn't go that far."

Gibbs made it all the way to his desk and was just opening up a Cold Case file when it hit him. "DiNozzo!"

Tony gave him a purely innocent glance in return. "Yeah, Boss?"

"You didn't hit on that woman because she reminds you of Kate, did you?" Gibbs' tone implied that it would be extremely detrimental to Tony's health if he replied with anything but a negative answer. Granted, Gibbs was also the only person who knew that Tony had sworn off dating, and women in general, since he'd finally allowed himself to grieve six months before. Any stories of conquests were mostly made-up, or repeated stories from his first three years with NCIS.

"No, Boss, I didn't offer to show her around because she reminded me of Kate," Tony replied honestly. "Because she is Kate," he added in an undertone.

"What was that?"

"Nothing, Boss, you must be hearing things." Gibbs knew he was onto something when guilt flashed through Tony's eyes.

"Kate's gone, Tony. Nothing can bring her back."

Any other time, Tony might have bit Gibbs' head off. Instead, he smiled serenely and nodded, "I know."

That set off alarms. Gibbs stood and stalked over to lean on Tony's desk. "What aren't you saying, DiNozzo?"

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you, Boss." Luckily for Tony his phone rang, giving him an excuse to turn away from Gibbs and his glare. "Special Agent DiNozzo."

"She's waiting for you in the parking lot if you want to say goodbye," Abby said quietly.

"Thanks, Abbs, I'll be right down." Tony rose and skirted around his desk – and Gibbs – and made for the elevator. "Sorry to cut this short, Boss, but Abby wants to see me about something."

Gibbs' eyes narrowed as he tracked the younger man. He waited until Tony had gotten on the elevator and then made for the stairs. Something was up and he was going to get to the bottom of it, by God.


Chapter 5

Abby led the way into Autopsy and grinned as she discovered the ME hunched over the piles of paperwork that came with being the head of one's department. "Got a minute, Ducky?"

Ducky's head instantly rose and swiveled around. He grinned and stood with alacrity. "I've always got a minute for you, Abby. Anything to put off paperwork."

Abby gave him a sympathetic smile that quickly turned excited. "I've got a surprise for you Duck-man. Close your eyes." One of Ducky's eyebrows rose with curiosity, but he obliged. Abby beckoned Kate into the room. "Okay, you can open them."

Ducky eyed the newcomer inquiringly. "Hello, my dear; and who might you be?"

Abby and the admittedly lovely young woman exchanged an amused look and the stranger took a step closer. "How's it going, Ducky?" she asked with a quiet smile.

Ducky let his eyes meet hers and nearly stumbled back with surprise. "Caitlin?" he breathed. He blinked for a second and recovered himself. "Forgive me, my dear. Of course your name isn't Caitlin, how silly of me."

"Technically, you had it right the first time, Ducky."

"But, how?"

"I doubt you'd believe me if I told you. Listen, Tony, Abby, and I, we're all going out to dinner tonight and it'd mean a lot if you came."

"Of course."

"You guys can work the details out with Tony and then I'll see you when I pick him up tonight, or I'll just meet you at the restaurant." Kate stepped in to the ME's embrace and hugged him fiercely. "I missed you, Ducky."

"And I you, dear Kate."

"I'll see you tonight," she finished, planting a kiss on his cheek before heading out with Abby. It wasn't until they were almost to the car that Kate realized that nobody had her cell phone number. She quickly amended that and hugged Abby again.

"Hang out here for five minutes and I'll let Tony know it's safe to come say goodbye," Abby suggested with a wicked smirk.

Kate grinned back, already anticipating Tony's methods of saying "goodbye". "You do that."

Sure enough, a little over five minutes later, a man strode around the back of the building and Kate straightened from leaning against Tony's car in expectation. Unfortunately for her, it was Gibbs. He kept walking until he directly invaded her personal space – so as to be more intimidating – and used his self-confidence as a weapon, seeming to tower over her, despite the fact that she was now only three inches shorter than him.

"Look," he growled at her, "I don't know what your game is, but you'd better not be playing it with Tony. He recently lost someone very dear to him and if I find out that you've been taking advantage of that, there is no law on this earth that will keep me from coming after you. Is that clear?"

Kate blinked, surprised and impressed. "Wow, Gibbs, I never thought I'd see the day when you got protective of DiNozzo's feelings," she said without thinking.

Gibbs pulled up short. "Excuse me? What did you just say?"

"Nothing," she replied innocently. "Your hearing must be going the same way as your eyesight."

Tony rounded the building before Gibbs could rip into her and he faltered for an instant. "Boss? Kate? What's going on?" He drew abreast of them and shot Gibbs a glare.

Gibbs reluctantly backed away, watching as Tony checked up on 'Catherine' and brushed a kiss across her knuckles. "Nothing, Tony," she responded with a reassuring smile. "Gibbs and I were just having a minor difference of opinion."

Gibbs snorted as Tony gave a bark of laughter. "Like that's anything new," he teased, nudging her playfully. His smile widened when she shoved him back, hard.

Gibbs took the opportunity to study them, noting the proprietary grasp Tony had on her hand, the way he gently kissed the tip of her nose, the soft expression in his eyes as he looked at her, and the very familiar matching expression in hers as she returned the favor. It was that shielded look of devotion that Gibbs recognized and he couldn't stop the gasp that escaped his lips. "Kate?" he demanded incredulously.

She looked up and leaned closer into Tony, if that were possible. "Caught me. Miss me, Gibbs?"

"Holy shit, Kate! The hell happened to you? How are you alive?"

"Well," she started.

"We're all going out to dinner later, Boss; we'll explain everything then, I promise."

Surprisingly, Gibbs took it at face value and nodded. "Okay. Good to have you back, Kate."

Kate smiled and stepped forward to hug the very astonished older man. "You have no idea how good it is to be back."

Gibbs briefly hugged her back and then unwound her arms from around his neck. "You got five minutes, DiNozzo," he ordered gruffly and then spun on his heel and stalked back around the building.

Kate smiled after him, but quickly found herself shoved back against the car, Tony's magical lips on hers, his arms wrapped around her, and his masculine scent surrounding her. He kissed her until she forgot her own name, broke away for a second to gulp in some air, and then kissed her again until he forgot his. "God, Kate," he moaned.

Kate! That's what her name was! She practically hummed with pleasure and forced herself to pull back before Gibbs came looking for him. "I'll see you later," she whispered, gasping for air.

"Definitely," he agreed. One quick, hard kiss and he was gone. Kate slumped back, head spinning, heart pounding, nipples aching fiercely.

Tony walked back into the NCIS building and nearly stopped short as he realized that Gibbs was waiting for him by the elevator bank. Swallowing hard, Tony completed the check-in and very slowly wandered over to the older man, desperately wanting to stay out of striking distance.

Without a word, Gibbs punched the up button and they waited in silence. Tony was caught between amusement and fear as Gibbs absolutely refused to let anybody else get on with them, knowing that meant Gibbs wanted to have a private discussion with him. Not good.

"Keep it out of the office and we need never speak of this again."

"Thanks, Boss."

"Oh, and Tony… If you hurt her, remember: Abby isn't the only one who knows how to kill somebody and leave no forensic evidence."

Tony forced himself past the instinctive fear that gripped him for a moment and settled on outrage. "Boss, I'm offended that you think that I'd hurt her."

"I know you love her, Tony, but it had to be said. When you guys finally decide to tie the knot, I want to be the first to know."

"But, you just said…"

"I know what I said, DiNozzo," Gibbs barked, carefully hiding his amusement. "If I find out that you two have eloped, I'm going to be very, very disappointed in you both. I was hoping to walk her down the aisle."

Tony couldn't help the soft, sappy look that came over him just then, but he grinned happily all the same. "We'd be honored, Boss." He paused, but couldn't resist adding, "Hey, Boss, I thought you'd be warning us away from marriage, what with the fact that you've been married all those times."

Tony didn't duck away fast enough.


Chapter 6

The day passed by slowly – with no active cases they were busy catching up on paperwork, correspondence, and cold cases. Except for a near blow-up when Ziva inquired as to Tony's whereabouts the day before (he'd called in sick and spent the day in vigil by the memorial gravestone he'd had installed in a local cemetery), the day was peaceful, quiet, and relaxed.

In other words, Tony was nigh on bored to tears in less than twenty minutes.

Still, he slogged on, looking forward to dinner and fantasizing about their first night together (when it came). More than once, Ziva and McGee caught Tony staring into space with a stupid grin on his face. He snapped out of it quickly enough, but since the average human male thinks about sex once every four minutes – and Tony generally being over-sexed – he soon fell back to his plotting.

He was jerked out of his pleasurable pastime a few hours into the prison sentence when Ziva chucked something hard at his head. "It" turned out to be a very heavy pen and it landed smack-dab in the middle of his forehead with an audible "thunk". Tony recoiled so quickly that he overbalanced and fell backwards - and the back of his head connected solidly with the filing cabinet behind him.

Tony had enough time to marvel at all the pretty colors the stars were before everything went black.

"David!" Gibbs bellowed as Ziva practically vaulted over her desk to check on him. McGee's head had snapped up at Tony's initial cry of pain and he'd been forced to watch the whole episode in slow-motion, unable to move let alone try to break Tony's fall.

To her credit, Ziva's fingers shook as she checked the fallen agent's pulse and sighed with relief when she found it, strong and regular. He was going to have a very interesting bruise on his forehead, but the skin thankfully hadn't split. Luckily, he only had a huge knot on the back of his head, instead of blood streaming everywhere. Gibbs ordered McGee to get Ducky up to the squad room. "I'm sorry," Ziva apologized frantically. "I had no idea!"

"That's why you use things like rubber bands to get somebody's attention, Officer David!" Gibbs retorted. "Get back to your desk, you've done enough damage today."

Ziva obeyed slowly, eyes wide and alarmed, hands trembling. Ducky rushed off the elevator moments later and dropped to his knees beside Tony and Gibbs. "Oh, Anthony, you just can't stay out of trouble, can you?" The ME took a moment to sigh over Tony's miserable bad luck and examined the younger man's wounds. "Jethro, Timothy, we need to get him downstairs so I can make sure his skull isn't fractured. He's almost definitely got a concussion," Ducky added. He gently tapped Tony's cheeks and called his name.

Tony's eyes snapped open and closed just as quickly as he gave an agonized groan. "Somebody turn off the sun, please," he requested. "Did anybody get the number of the semi that ran over my head?"

There was a brief scramble as McGee stripped his coat off and held it over Tony's head. "Tony, how many fingers am I holding up?" Ducky asked, making a peace sign with his hand.

"Oh, goody, the concussion test." Tony reluctantly peered up at the ME and considered him thoughtfully. "I suppose that depends, Duck."

"On what, DiNozzo?" Gibbs impatiently interjected.

"On whether the room will stand still long enough for me to decide."

That startled a snort of laughter out of Ducky. "He's definitely got a concussion. Think you can make it down to Autopsy on your own power, Tony?"

"I dunno, Duck. Let's see." Tony levered himself up onto his elbows and paused with a moan as his stomach turned. "Gimme a sec, Ducky. I don't think you want my breakfast to come up any more than I do." Tony couldn't help the smile that emerged when Gibbs and McGee both took a swift step backwards.

After several moments, Tony finally got to his feet. However, his knees buckled almost instantly. McGee and Ducky caught him, and Gibbs quickly moved to take Ducky's place. The strange procession headed for the elevator and Tony briefly caught Ziva's eye on his way past. "Tony, I'm so sorry."

"Don't worry about it, Ziva. I'll be fine." His stomach lurched suddenly and his face blanched. "I think." Ducky nabbed a plastic garbage can and handed it to McGee, who gamely held it under Tony's nose.

FIN


That's it. Please review; flames will be used to power the furnace until Jack Frost finally gives up the ghost and GOES AWAY!!! Sorry, little bitter....