Five months later
Kate awakened—again—and noted the time, wincing, as the pressure of another contraction began to build. It was six a.m., and though her due date was not for another week, she had been contracting regularly for the past three hours. She breathed deeply as she glanced toward the bathroom, making sure her husband was duly occupied with getting dressed. She hoped he would hurry and leave for work—she had no intention whatsoever of letting him know she was in labor until she was ready to go to the hospital. The last thing she needed was an anxious, overbearing husband breathing down her neck as she labored through hours of contractions.
She glanced at the clock once again as the contraction began to fade. The discomfort was minor at this point, but she knew that, at ten minutes between contractions, she had hours to go still. He'd be pissed when he found out, that was for sure, but she didn't care. She had her own way of dealing with pain, and it was imperative that she be able to concentrate on keeping herself in a certain mental zone. She needed to be able to manage the pain as effectively as possible, for as long as possible, in order to wait until the last minute to go to the hospital. Not only did she not want to be confined to a bed until it was absolutely necessary, but she fully intended to do this naturally, and she didn't want to get to the hospital too early, only to be tempted by the epidural.
She heard her husband clipping his badge and gun onto his belt, and she quickly rolled over, feigning sleep, before he exited their bathroom. She felt him approach and she opened her eyes with a sleepy smile as he pressed his lips gently to her forehead. "I'm gone, Babe," he murmured quietly. "Enjoy your day off." She managed another small smile even as she was inwardly muttering, "Fatchance."
Kate gritted her teeth as the contraction wound down, trying valiantly to focus on the balance beam routine she was watching. She had recorded April's NCAA gymnastics championships in preparation for just this occasion, in the hopes that critiquing gymnastics performances would be a good distraction from the pain of labor. She wasn't sure yet if it was working or not.
"Nice dismou-," she muttered to herself a moment later, only to be cut off as the pain of another contraction wracked her midsection. She was progressing more quickly than she had expected, and she was finding that labor sucked every bit as much as its reputation suggested. She still felt as though she was in control, but it was requiring more and more of her concentration—and more and more energy—to manage the pain.
She stood to pace her living room, one eye on the TV, in an effort to speed things up even more. She was dying to meet her daughter, and though the pain was intense, she had no doubt it would be worth it.
Kate panted, trying to control the pain, rather than letting it control her. It was getting more difficult. She rocked back and forth, counting her breaths as she waited for the end of the contraction to arrive at last. They were getting longer and harder, with less and less time to recover between them. She glanced at the clock—it was noon. She knew that she was getting close to the most difficult part—transitional labor— and she would need help navigating that intensity of pain. It was time to call Jethro. She hit "send" on her phone as the contraction was tapering off, intending to talk quickly—she had only a minute at most before the next one began.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs stood staring at the flat screen as McGee flashed through images of evidence related to a case they were working. His phone buzzed and he held it up to his ear absently. "Gibbs," he muttered absently, his practiced eyes scanning the evidence before him.
"Hey, Babe, what's up?" ame his wife's voice, sounding vaguely breathless.
Gibbs frowned. "Uhhh, you okay?" he asked.
She ignored his question. "You in the middle of something?" she asked, her voice still not quite right.
Gibbs turned away from the plasma screen, narrowing his eyes, and gave her his full attention. "Kate, are you all right?" he demanded.
"Umm, not exactly," came her reply.
Gibbs sighed. Then, in a tone more suited for a five-year-old than a thirty-year-old woman, he asked, "Kate, are you in labor?"
"Yes," she admitted.
"When did it start?" he asked, torn between concern and annoyance.
She sighed mentally. "About three this morning," she admitted.
She could hear the fury in his voice as he barked, "What?" He was every bit as pissed as she'd expected. "You let me leave for work without telling me you were in labor?"
"I knew it would be hours, Jethro—I didn't need you breathing down my neck all day," she spat. "I'm trying to—" her words were cut off in a whoosh as another contraction slammed into her. Jethro's eyes widened at the sounds of her gasps as he hurriedly tried to pack up his stuff with one hand. She managed a strained and breathy, "Hurry," and his anger instantly dissipated. He stood, abandoning his things, and headed for the elevator, tossing a nod and a look back at Tony, who had been listening to the conversation. Tony gave him a reassuring nod and a thumbs-up, indicating that he had it under control, and Gibbs nodded back before rushing into the elevator with a muted but forceful, "Hang on, Kate, I'm on my way."
Kate lay on the couch, waiting for Jethro to arrive, gasping as she tried to recover from the latest contraction. She had only thirty or forty seconds between them, and it was taking all of her concentration not to panic. She was more exhausted than she had ever been, and the hardest part was still to come. She heard the door open, and she attempted to rise from the couch, only to collapse back as another contraction wracked her body. Jethro moved quickly toward her, kneeling on the floor at her feet. She grabbed for his hands, and he willingly obliged, concern etched in his face. She locked her eyes with his as she panted through it, and he was alarmed by the exhaustion and fear he saw there. Jethro tried not to wince at the pain coursing through his hands as she squeezed them. He ticked off the seconds in his mind as she panted in front of him, and was shocked as he passed 45 seconds, 60 seconds, and then 90 seconds, with no sign of the contraction coming to an end. Finally, after nearly two minutes, Kate's breathing began to slow, and she loosened her vise-like grip on his hands. She slumped down, exhausted, and Jethro rose from his knees to sit beside her, smoothing a damp strand of red hair off of her forehead and tucking it behind her ear.
"What do you need me to do?" he asked her softly, his previous anger forgotten.
She shook her head helplessly as she tried to catch her breath. "Grab the bag," she panted, nodding to the duffel bag by the front door, "get me in…the car…" she continued, "and call my mom," she finished, trying desperately to catch her breath, knowing the next contraction would begin at any time. "We need to hurry, J…it's getting close—"she ended the word with a sharp hiss as the next contraction hit, and Jethro began to understand why she hadn't wanted him around earlier. To see her like this, unable to do anything to alleviate her pain, was maddening. He had no idea what to do—if she wanted to be touched, if she wanted to be talked to, if she wanted him to just leave her the hell alone. He settled for sitting there, gently caressing her hair away from her face, until it was over. She sucked in a deep breath and said, "We need to go—now,' and attempted to rise from the couch. He jumped to his feet and pulled her up, then gently led her to the front door. He grabbed the hospital bag from by the door and slung it over his shoulder as he guided her out and locked the door behind them. They made it to the car door before the next contraction hit, and she let out a dull moan before leaning her arms against the hood of the car and dropping her head onto them to wait it out. Gibbs took a gamble and rubbed her lower back gently as she leaned there, remembering vaguely that Shannon had had back pain while in labor with Kelly. He was gratified when, as the contraction tapered off, Kate reached around and squeezed his hand wearily in thanks. She moved aside as Jethro yanked her car door open and helped her get seated inside, leaning her head back heavily against the headrest. Closing her eyes, she mumbled, "There's a towel in the duffel bag. Grab it for me."
Jethro didn't question her, opening the bag and retrieving the towel as ordered. "Roll it up," she commanded wearily. He handed it to her, and without opening her eyes, she wedged it between her legs so that she was seated somewhat straddling the rolled-up towel. Jethro jogged around the car and got in, buckling his seatbelt and starting the ignition simultaneously as Kate, eyes still closed, explained, "My water hasn't broken yet. Won't be long. Might as well be prepar—" she left the word unfinished as another contraction washed over her.
Unable to do anything to help her while driving, Jethro clenched the steering wheel in frustration and nudged down on the accelerator just a bit, until he remembered Kate's request that he call her mom. He reached for Kate's cell phone and scrolled through her speed dial contacts with one hand on the wheel and one eye on the road. Finding the one labeled, "Mom," he pushed "send."
Three rings later, Laura Andrews answered in her demure way, a light, "Hello, dear—how are you feeling?"
"Hi, Laura," Jethro grunted in reply. "Kate asked me to call you."
"Is she all right?" Laura Andrews answered, concern in her tone.
Jethro slid his eyes sideways at his wife, who was still in the throes of the latest contraction. "Well," he answered, "I doubt that she would classify her current condition as allright, but yes, she's fine," he answered, earning a mild scowl from Kate in response. "She's in labor," he clarified. "Hard labor, from the looks of things," he muttered. "We're on the way to the hospital now," he finished.
Jethro could practically hear the grin spreading across his mother-in-law's face at this news. But to her credit, she remained calm, asking only, "Does she want us to come now, or wait?"
Jethro glanced sideways once again at Kate, who was recovering from the contraction, breathing heavily. "I really don't think it's going to matter one way or the other. Judging by how hard and fast the contractions are, I don't imagine it will be very much longer," he said.
"Tell 'em to come on," Kate muttered breathily.
"She says to go on over there," he relayed.
"All right," Laura answered. "GWU Hospital?"
"Yeah," he replied. "We'll be there in about fifteen minutes, depending on traffic."
Ten minutes later, Kate began to worry that they weren't going to make it to the hospital on time. They were still a good two miles from the hospital, and she had no more than twenty seconds to recover between the contractions that were now lasting well over two minutes apiece. She was about to open her mouth to say as much when she launched into yet another contraction. She sucked in a breath and groaned when she felt the tell-tale gush of her water breaking and saw the wetness spreading through her thin, grey sweatpants. She knew it was about to get a lot worse—only she didn't see how that could conceivably be possible. But almost instantaneously, the already nearly unbearable pain seemed to double, and she involuntarily let out a strangled cry and doubled over. Judging by the lurch of the car, her cry of pain must have scared the hell out of Jethro, but she couldn't open her eyes long enough to look over and see. She wasn't sure she was going to live through this, and suddenly, she felt like a dumbass for not wanting the epidural.
Jethro was growing increasingly irritated with Beltway traffic. They were still a couple of miles from the hospital, and Kate had not spoken in the past ten minutes. It seemed that she was devoting every ounce of her energy to dealing with the pain of her contractions, with nothing left over. He peeled his hands off of the steering wheel every so often to offer a comforting caress of her cheek or a gentle squeeze of her hand, but said nothing, choosing to manage his stress and anxiety by clenching his jaw instead.
He swore mentally as he was cut off yet again, and glanced over at Kate, who was apparently launching right into another contraction, the last one having barely just ended. Something caught his eye, and he looked down to see her sweatpants darkening between her legs. He barely had time to register that her water had broken before she let out a guttural cry of such magnitude that he nearly jerked the car into the next lane of traffic. She doubled over in agony and he was shocked to see tears escaping from her tightly clenched eyes. He had never seen her cry as a result of physical pain before, and given her tolerance, couldn't imagine what she must be experiencing. He clenched the wheel more tightly and began weaving through lanes, traffic laws be damned. He was suddenly very glad he hadn't had to go through all this with Shannon. Shannon had gone for the epidural early on, and he had been spared the frustration of watching her suffer through hours of excruciating labor. He had been glad then, and he'd had no idea of what natural labor was like. Seeing Kate like this—especially knowing how much pain she was able to endure, as a general rule—was nearly unbearable. He was inexplicably irritated with his wife for insisting on the natural route. He was torn from his thoughts by the sound of Kate struggling to speak as her contraction began to taper off. "Jethro," she whimpered, "we've got to hurry," she said, tears now coursing down her face. She looked at him in desperation. "I need to push."
Jethro said nothing, only ground his teeth more tightly together, glanced in all his mirrors, and began weaving more quickly than before. He could see the hospital up ahead, and as he blew through the final light just as it turned red, he breathed a sigh of relief that they had made it in one piece.
A few harrowing moments later, Kate was being wheeled onto an elevator. As the nurse reached to push the button for the appropriate floor, Kate decided she had had enough and barked, "You have thirty seconds to get me somewhere to deliver this kid or I start pushing regardless."
Jethro suppressed a grin. There she was—Feisty Kate had finally arrived. He was glad, too, because Weak Kate, Pitiful Kate, and Flustered Kate were not versions he knew well how to deal with. Feisty Kate he could handle.
He was entertained by the reaction of the nurse, who was clearly taken-aback. "Ma'am," she said in a patronizing tone, "you can't push yet. We have to wait until we've got a doctor or midwife present."
"I am a doctor," Kate growled. "And bullshit—what do you think women in the rest of the world do when there's no doctor handy?" She paused as another contraction began, uttered, "Screw it," and Jethro was moderately alarmed as he watched her take a breath, clench her eyes shut, and begin to bear down right in the wheelchair she was slumped into. Entertaining as he found her attitude, he was notprepared to play catch with his own baby in an elevator—she was still wearing her sweatpants, for God's sake!
"Kate," he growled warningly.
Stress aside, he completely failed at suppressing a laugh as he watched his wife raise her middle finger at him, without opening her eyes. He slid his eyes in helpless amusement to the indignant nurse as the elevator dinged their arrival to the labor and delivery floor.
Her contraction winding down, Kate, eyes still closed, muttered tiredly, "She's crowned."
The nurse raised her eyebrows as the elevator doors slid open. "Guess we better get on with it, then, huh?" She maneuvered to get behind the wheelchair, but Jethro blocked her.
"No, just get her where she needs to be. I've got it."
The nurse took Jethro in, decided he was serious, and nodded once, succinctly. She moved out of the elevator without looking back, and Jethro followed her, pushing a gasping Kate.
Jethro pushed his wife quickly, watching carefully as the nurse requested a doctor—IMMEDIATELY—without breaking stride, and made her way to a room a few doors down. He walked briskly, following the nurse into a spacious and neat labor, delivery, and recovery room. Kate, who could feel another contraction coming, propelled herself from the wheelchair into the bed, and began pushing again before she was even settled. She shoved her sweatpants off even as she pushed, and the attending nurse's eyes grew large as she saw the crown of the baby's head grow larger. "Push," she commanded forcefully. "Push, Kate!" She placed her hands on Kate's abdomen, feeling for the end of the contraction. "Ok, rest," she said soothingly, glancing over her shoulder at the door. Within seconds, a doctor breezed in, and Gibbs caught the relieved look of the nurse as she gave way to him at the foot of the bed.
The unknown doctor slid smoothly into place and began to coach Kate as the next contraction began. Kate looked nothing less than pissed as he commanded her to push, and Jethro watched with some fascination as she bore down with even more force than previously. Before he had time to even register what was happening, he saw his daughter's head emerge.
When asked later, he would not be able to recall the next moments in any specificity. All he knew was that one moment, his wife had succeeded in birthing their daughter's head, and the next, there was a wailing infant in the room. He was never entirely sure that he hadn't simply fainted from the overwhelming emotion of it all, but he was pretty sure that Kate wouldn't have kept that from him. As a result, he had to conclude that he had simply been overwhelmed.
The next words he recalled hearing were, "Congratulations…you have a daughter."
A/N: OMG…and you guys thought it was all myth. This is, flat-out, for Bamacrush.