She loved him, that much was undeniable, but when had it happened? When had she let her careful, controlled nature fall away to reveal this desirous young woman? Kate rolled onto her side, curling up tightly against the ache her dream had left her with. Her dark eyes flicked to the glowing numbers on her alarm clock. Five fifty nine. The minute ticked over and she slammed her hand down on the off button, ending the shrieking alarm before it began. She pushed herself up, her cool cotton sheets sliding down her bare skin like water. She moved to her closet, pulling out clothes and carefully choosing today's outfit; a reddish-brown skirt set and a crisp white under shirt. She reached for her underwear drawer before hesitating. She'd never been one to trust hunches before she came to NCIS, but working with the formidable Navy cops had made her more attuned to the feelings and hints that her mind sent her, however unimportant they seemed. And today, something was telling her that she should be a little more careful with her clothes. Her hand moved to another, rarely used, drawer that contained the results of drunken nights out with girlfriends in college. She grabbed a matching set of underwear, grinning, and got dressed. She glanced herself over in the mirror as she headed out of her apartment, and her smile widened. "Maybe you're going to get lucky today, Special Agent Todd."

She'd been anything but lucky today. She punched the 'stop' button on the elevator, and slid to the floor, sobbing with fury and hurt. First she'd bumped into Gibbs, spilling his coffee, and that on its own was something that would ruin someone's day. But then, because her dream and been so close to the surface, she'd blushed and stammered and had no clue what to say and he'd just watched her with those incredible bluish-grey eyes like he knew everything that was going through her head. She could've cursed herself. And then, they'd been called to some toxic waste facility where a body had apparently been submerged in acid for twenty four hours. She felt horribly guilty, because she'd let Tony mess with poor McGee without doing anything about it. But in the end, it had been the insult she'd received from that damned sexist marine. He'd made her so furious that she'd assumed the worst when Gibbs asked her to leave, and then blew her top at him when he came out, angry that he would agree with the man when he knew her so well. And she'd been totally wrong. She'd been torn between alternatively jumping for joy that she was going to see the inside of a sub, and sinking into the ground that she'd yelled at her boss over something stupid and unnecessary. And she'd never even needed the lingerie. She took a deep, calming breath and turned the elevator back on, striding easily out of NCIS headquarters.

Kate sat at the bar, flirting casually with the young college student who had taken to buying her drinks. She was going to be trapped on a sub for who knew how long before she got back to dry land, so she might as well enjoy herself. Besides, it helped her keep her mind off the fact that she'd be stuck in tight quarters with her boss for God knew how long. Just the two of them. She wrenched her mind away from that idea and back to what…Adam, was it?...was telling her about being in Veterinary school. She remarked appropriately in all the right places, seemingly fascinated by his tales of the anatomy of chinchilla's, but her mind couldn't stay on the conversation. He seemed to notice her distraction, and tried to bring her back into the present. "So what's your major?" he asks, hoping that she'll like talking about herself more than she seems to like talking about him.

"Me? Oh, no," she shook her head. "I'm not in college, I work for NCIS."

"National crop and irrigation services?" he asked curiously. "A buddy of mine works there, Eddie Hart. Maybe you know him."

Kate wrinkled her nose. "Crops and Irrigation? No, I…"

"Oh yeah, she's real good at figuring out how pork belly productions affect corn futures." Came an amused voice from behind her, and she tensed, wanting to tell him to get the hell out of her favourite bar.

"Don't listen to him, Adam." She sighed, not feeling like lying to the poor boy. "This is my boss. We work at Naval Criminal Investigative Services. It's okay, it's a common mistake."

Adam flushed as Gibbs' steely gaze appraised him. Gibbs' hand grasped her shoulder and he steered her away from Adam. Kate flashed an apologetic smile over shoulder as she let her boss navigate them through the crowd, glass in hand. "What the hell are you doing?" demanded Gibbs, brusquely. "He's got to be, what, twenty? It's not very polite of you to lead him on like that."

"I like to think age doesn't matter as long as other things are present." Replied Kate tersely, and she could see from his eyes, before he masked them, that the statement brought a new thought to his mind. "What did you want, Gibbs?"

He shrugged. "Nothing. You just looked bored, so I thought I'd come and rescue you." He pushed her into a chair and sat down across from her, gesturing to the young woman working the tables to refill them. "How're you feeling about the submarine thing?"

She grinned. "I think it'll be fun. Thanks. For standing up to the Lieutenant for me." She added hesitantly.

He shrugged again, looking uncomfortable. "You're the best profiler we have." He muttered. "It's for the good of the investigation."

"Right." Kate smiled, but it was a reminder to her that even outside of work, they wouldn't ever have something. "So what are you doing out of your basement? Finally finish the boat or something?"

"Uh, no." How could he tell her that he'd had a totally random hunch that going out for the night would be a good idea? "Just felt like a change of pace I guess. What about you? You don't strike me as the kind of person who goes out to a bar on a Tuesday night."

"I guess I just felt like being spontaneous." She laughed, nodding in thanks as the barista set glasses in front of them both. Warmth spread through her once she'd tossed back the shot, and she realized that she'd lost count of the number of drinks she'd had. She should probably stop, but with Gibbs sitting across from her, staring at her like he could see into her soul, she wasn't sure she could handle him without a few more drinks. So she let her glass get refilled again. And again. And again, all the while chatting with her boss about nothing at all.

It had been a shock to see her at the bar when he arrived, sitting there looking gorgeous as always. But the surge of jealousy he'd felt when he'd seen the young man she was talking to had surprised him even more. Gibbs had worked very hard to suppress his feelings for Kate, and he was quite proud to say that, aside from a few moments where he simply couldn't stop himself, he'd kept everything very professional and safe. But now, here he was, laughing with her and drinking the way he always drank at home. Unfortunately, he wasn't all that concerned about being drunk off his mind at home, and soon he realized that he was not only going to need a taxi to get home, but he was going to be hard-pressed to walk to his front door from the cab. He glanced over at Kate, hoping she hadn't yet noticed his mistake and saw that she was listing slightly and grinning like a mad-woman. He reached out and touched her arm, his body less affected by alcohol than hers. "I think we should call a cab." He slurred, helping her to her feet. She, nodded, stumbling against him, and he grabbed her waist to hold her up. She leaned on him all the way out to the taxi, giggling when he opened the door for her. He kept his arm around her waist the whole ride home, and her head fell onto his shoulder as she yawned. Neither of them seemed to realize that they'd both gotten out at Gibbs's house and that it was his bed they tumbled into, falling asleep fully dressed.

Kate's eyes fluttered open and she groaned, rubbing her eyes. She had one hell of a hangover, probably her worst one yet, and she'd managed some good ones over the years including the day after that damned wet T-shirt contest. She reached out, fingers searching for her nightstand drawer and the painkillers she knew she had put there for exactly this reason. They found something else instead, something that made her panic. Someone else was in bed with her, another body under the sheets. She scrambled out of bed, glancing down at her body, beyond relieved to see that she was still wearing yesterday evening's jeans and blouse. She took several deep breaths before she got up enough courage to look at whoever she'd been sleeping next to, and, pray God, not sleeping with. She raised her eyes cautiously. "Oh, Holy mother of God!" she gasped, whirling around so that her back was to him. This so could not be happening…

The feeling of a small hand brushing over him woke Gibbs up, and the slight bounce of the bedsprings as someone got up in a hurry further alerted his mind that he needed to wake up and fast. He rolled over and almost swallowed his tongue. Katelyn Todd stood with her back to him, looking deliciously rumpled and fresh from sleep. He traced the curves of her body for a minute, grateful to see that she was fully dressed. It didn't make it any less awkward that she'd woken up in his bed, but at least they could be fairly sure they hadn't done anything. "Can you remember anything?" she asked him, shakily.

"Bar." He replied hoarsely, pushing himself up and checking to make sure that he was dressed as well. He was. "I think we just didn't manage to get you home."

"We...we didn' anything, did we?" she asked hesitantly.

"I don't think so." And he felt a little tug of sadness. He'd gotten to wake up with Katelyn Todd in his bed, but hadn't gotten to make love to her like he'd always wanted. "We're both dressed, and I'm pretty sure neither of us would try anything that stupid."

Her heart sank at the idea that he didn't want her. She should've known of course, but up 'til now she'd been able to fantasize. Now that would be all she had, fantasies and impossibilities. "Of course not." She agreed with a nervous laugh. "Um, I think I'd better go, we're heading out to the sub today."

He nodded and watched her go in silence. When he heard the front door slam, he groaned, pulling the blankets over his head, and paused. A very sexy piece of chocolate brown silk was stuffed down at the foot of his bed. He reached down and hooked the strap on his finger, pulling it out. The bra was a sinful piece of cloth, all silk and lace and sex, and there was a lingering scent of roses clinging to it, just like her. He closed his eyes, letting her scent wash over him and was not disappointed by his horribly perfect memory this time.

He awoke around midnight, still drunk and hung-over, to the feeling of a lithe, compact body draped over him, cuddled up to his own larger frame. He turned to look at the woman in his bed, sleepily, and his mind had practically exploded when he recognized the dark brown locks even through a drunken stupor. He reached out to touch her hair, not sure she was real, and the movement woke her. She let out a cute little mewl, opening her eyes sleepily, and he could see the same haze of liquor in her eyes, the same inability to mask her thoughts. And right now she was thinking how happy it made her to wake up in his bed, to see him there next to her and to be allowed to have her hands on his body like this. Before either of them thought, he'd leaned over and captured her mouth. She kissed him back desperately, her lips parting to grant him deeper access. He moved to hover over her, sliding his hands up under her blouse eagerly. She moaned, her spine arching to press closer to his much-wanted touches, and her arms snaked around his neck, sliding into his hair to pull him closer. His hands passed over the silk of her bra and her drunken mind was very grateful for the hunch that had told her to wear it. Suddenly, he bit down hard on her lower lip, forcing a mewl of mingled pain and pleasure from the back of her throat. She arched again and he took his opportunity to reach around and unclasp the bra, never once breaking the kiss. He managed to untangle the straps from her shirt and the bra simply disappeared. He groaned as she squirmed towards him, her breasts pressing into his hands where they lay idle under her shirt. It was a silent plea, one he couldn't deny her. He let his hands roam over her torso without restraint, plucking at her nipples and enjoying the soft moans the action garnered him. Finally, he withdrew his hands, and she sighed, relaxing again, but he wasn't done. His mouth swooped down to suckle at her breasts through the crisp white blouse and she gasped wildly, pushing up into his mouth. He slid one hand down to cup her through her jeans, able to feel the heat and dampness on his fingers even through the solid denim. He rubbed his thumb into her core, pressing the seam of her pants up so that it scraped mercilessly inside her folds, and she let out a set of strangled gasps and moans that turned him harder than anything had in a long time. After a long time he moved his hand away from her crotch, ignoring the sound of protest she gave as she lay, trembling on the edge of orgasm, and teased at her neck with gentle kisses to bring her down from her high. Somehow, his half-dead brain knew that he couldn't make her come, not tonight, it would be impossible to explain in the morning. But he would tell her how he felt about her, he promised himself, he would make sure she knew that he loved her so that he could take that final step and bring her screaming over the edge, bring her this much pleasure and finish it for her as well. She was still shaking, but her breathing had become a little more normal and she gazed at him with a look that asked how he could do that to her, how he could possibly take her so high only to force her back down again. He pressed a gentle kiss to her lips and she sighed into it, her frustration melting away, mostly. While he was distracted by the taste of her, by the exploration she was allowing him to make of her mouth, she reached down to stroke at his hardness through his own jeans. He jumped a little, trying to yank away, but her arms were vise-like around his neck and he fell to the mind-killing power of her touch quickly. She teased and touched and caressed and stroked, until he felt like he would explode for want of real, skin-on-skin contact with her. His hips jerked forward, straining to intensify her touches, and she seemed to understand what was going through his head because she unzipped his jeans, leaving the button alone, and wrapped her fingers around him carefully. He groaned at the feel of it, unable to believe anything could feel this good, and she went back to her skillful caresses, this time with her cool fingers a direct contrast to his heat. He pushed forward again and she pulled her hand back instantly, zipping up his pants again. He watched her through hazy eyes as she flipped them with one of her Secret Service moves and climbed atop him. She let her hips buck against his arousal and he thrust back, groaning with desire and pleasurable pain. She rode him well, gloriously, her face filled with wanton arousal as she arched and moaned, their bodies thrusting together luxuriously. He couldn't take his eyes off her, she was a goddess, pure sex and woman, and when she grabbed his hands and set them over her breasts, he did as she asked, running on autopilot as he fondled her body in encouragement. She tossed her head back, an incredible sound pouring out of her mouth as she shuddered over him. He watched the rapture in her eyes with anticipation, feeling her body's reaction strengthening as she continued to ride him as hard as she could. And then suddenly, it was all gone, the heat, the desperate panting, the feminine sex thrusting against and encouraging his own. She had moved off him, before her climax, and was now curled up beside him like she had been before. She smiled at his confused expression, a wicked sparkle under the haze of alcohol. "D'you need to come Gibbs?" she asked, her voice low and sweet and unusually relaxed. He nodded, mutely, and groaned in desperation as she caressed his thigh, not touching his arousal. "Good." She whispered, and rolled over to the other side of the bed, promptly falling back to sleep. How she managed that, when her body was still on the edge of release as well, he wasn't sure, but he knew that it would take him a long time to calm down enough to sleep.

Kate blushed furiously at the memory, passing a hand timidly over her bare breasts that still held the marks of his enthusiastic handling. Maybe he wouldn't find the bra, maybe it was thrown far enough away that he wouldn't find it for months, until after he'd had another woman in his bedroom and maybe then he would think it was hers instead. Maybe, if she were really lucky, he would never find it at all. No. A voice in the back of her mind corrected. If you were really lucky, you would've come for him, and you would've made him beg for his release, and you could have that memory to keep you company for the rest of your miserable, boring life. If you were really lucky, you would've gotten something more than half-drunk, wild, unfinished sex in return for potentially destroying your career. That would've been really lucky, this is just a disaster. Shut up, she told herself firmly. If I want to pretend I got more than that, it won't be hard considering how close we got. Besides, he won't find the bra, life wouldn't be that cruel.

She realized that reliving the memory had made her body bring itself back to that point of extreme unresolved arousal that she'd been in earlier in the night, so she hurried into the bathroom to take a cold shower and get ready for their trip later that morning.

Kate managed to keep her mind off what had happened before they left so far, and had acted as if she hadn't woken up in her boss's bed just that morning, which was more than Gibbs could say for himself. He was constantly having to reign his mind in, and the tight quarters of the sub really weren't helping any. He'd been caught off-guard a couple of times, fantasizing about pushing her up against a wall and repeating last night's adventure, only this time he wouldn't leave her hanging, she would come for him like she'd never done for any of her past lovers. He didn't care about himself so much, he knew perfectly well that he'd be bringing himself off to that memory for quite a while, and it wouldn't be difficult, but he wanted to see the look on his Katie's face when she realized what he could do for her. He wanted to teach her body how to respond to him so that she'd never want another man to touch her again, wanted to show her that he could make her come at a word, that he could be the lover she'd always dreamed of, one that would never fail her, sexually at least. But that was why he couldn't do it, here or anywhere else, anytime else. He might be able to do all those things for her, but his talent as a lover stopped at the physical. He would fail her every other way, and eventually sex wouldn't make it up to her anymore, just like his ex-wives, just like his ex-girlfriends. Eventually, his bitterness and inability to connect would break her and he would be forced to watch sweet, perfect Katie become jaded and hurt. This was the thought that kept him sane enough on the two day trip on the submarine. He'd teased her, played innocent games with her, in order to appease his need to see her smile or hear her laugh, and he'd acted as if that last night on dry land had never happened. But then the Skipper had been forced to declare an emergency blow, and all of his barely controlled thoughts had been unleashed on his poor, unprepared mind. He watched in horror as Kate was thrown backwards, and caught her as she slammed into his chest, wrapping his arms tightly around her narrow waist. Instantly, all of his energy was directed towards keeping his body from responding to the way she was fitted against it, and she gazed up at him in astonishment as gravity forced her ever closer to him, as if that were even possible at this point. "What's happening?" she gasped, crushed against his chest and having trouble breathing from being so close to him. She slid her small hands over his shoulders, gripping herself closer without realizing it, and noticed that he looked very annoyed for some reason.

"Emergency blow." He replied, strained. Which is what I'm going to need if this doesn't end soon. Thought the less appropriate side of his brain. He had to bite back a groan as she shifted, trying to move away from him but only succeeding in grinding her hips deeper into his and slipping completely between his legs.

The C.O.B. appeared in the doorway, fighting gravity to enter the room without falling flat on his back. "Skipper wants you. But hold on a moment." He muttered, noticing the two agents' pose from the corner of his eye.

Suddenly, the boat righted itself and Gibbs they all breathed a sigh of relief as gravity no longer halted their breathing. Kate's muscles seemed to have cramped up where they were from the shock, and she couldn't quite force herself to move. "Wow." She breathed, not realizing that her astonished gaze was still locked on Gibbs's ice blue eyes.

"Yeah, that's what they all tell me." He replied, and she was too embarrassed to notice the strain and breathlessness in his voice. She pushed away from him with annoyance on her face, giving his chest a small shove for good measure, and moved over to where the C.O.B. was standing by the door. She'd almost left when she took a step back, seeing how hard he was trying not to smile knowingly, and glared at him, daring him to speak, to say anything. He remained silent and she strode to the main control room of the sub, still glowering. The C.O.B. tossed Gibbs a sympathetic glance and left as well, and Gibbs let his head fall back against the wall with a quiet groan. He waited there, eyes closed, for a moment until he was sure he was back in control, and then he followed.

He was pacing the room, looking feral and annoyed as he sipped meditatively on his coffee. Something about the case wasn't sitting right with him, and it was driving him crazy, along with the heat and the sight of Kate in as few clothes as she could reasonably wear. Her crisp white shirt was open farther than was modest around the collar and she'd kicked off her shoes under the table and pinned her hair up. He watched her hand slid over her shoulders, trying to relax her tired muscles, and the revealing flash of creamy skin made him take another, bigger sip of coffee and pace more. He hadn't realized she was watching him until her voice, filled with annoyed confusion, sounded in his ears. "How can you drink that?" she demanded, frustrated. "It's like a hundred degrees in here." She was getting hot just watching him, tossing back coffee by the gallon with his shirt unbuttoned so that silver strands peeked over his collar, and with his muscles tensed as he moved lithely around the room. Okay, so it had very little to do with watching him drink coffee and more to do with the fact that, since he was stripped down to the final layer of clothes he could appropriately be in, she could see every well-defined muscle in his chest and it was making her hot, not temperature-wise, although the room did seem to have gotten hotter with every layer he'd removed. She was hot and bothered, she was aroused, and she desperately wanted to tear off that final shirt and reenact the memory that she'd been blocking from her mind since it's occurrence. She wanted to feel the hardness of him pressed deep into her core as their bodies danced to that ancient union of male and female. Damn, she swore, getting even more frustrated as she realized that she'd managed to get herself even more worked up and that she would have to move carefully when she got up or risk revealing the fact that she was lusting after him.

"Helps me think." He replied gruffly, glancing at her for a half-second before realizing that was dangerous to his concentration. Yeah, it helped him think, by giving him something to keep his mind off of the woman in front of him, the woman who was shifting uncomfortably in the heat and who had a look of general desperation and disarray that was never present in Katelyn Todd and that he could far too easily link to another feeling. "Why did he kill himself?" he asked, trying to distract himself from the disturbing path his thoughts were taking. "He knew he was going to die as soon as he released that gas, so why kill himself before he could?"

"We closed in on him before he could release the gas, so he killed himself rather than get caught." Replied Kate carelessly.

"Yeah, but what was his back-up plan?" demanded Gibbs. "He would have had one."

Kate shrugged. "Well, like you said earlier Gibbs, the guy was psycho,"

He frowned, about to argue, but then the door opened and a submariner came in pushing a cart-full of ice-creams. "We've got vanilla, chocolate, rocky road, and the Skipper's favourite, pumpkin."

"Pumpkin?" asked Gibbs dryly.

The man shrugged, offering them both spoons. "I don't get it." Said Kate, glancing at the two men in confusion.

"To make room for the body." Pointed out Gibbs calmly. "Freezer's the only place on a sub cold enough to preserve a body."

"S.O.P. on a sub." Agreed the younger man.

"Nice." Kate rolled her eyes in disgust and annoyance.

Gibbs paused, midway through a spoonful of ice-cream. He stared into space thoughtfully for a moment, and then stuck his spoon back into the scoop of ice-cream, jumping to his feet. "And anyone who'd worked on a sub before would know that."

Kate realized what he was saying and jumped up, hurrying after him. This could be very, very bad.

In the end, none of it had been nearly as bad as it could have been. Petty Officer Drew's body had been torpedoed off the sub, and Kate remembered, vividly, the men's reaction to the adrenaline rush.

"I don't need to tell you what the most important thing to do now is, do I Skipper?" asked Gibbs grimly, and from the seriousness of their expressions, Kate expected something of vital importance to everybody's safety.

Instead; "Get the ice-cream back in the freezer." Answered the Skipper urgently.


Kate rolled her eyes, falling back on her bed in exhaustion. She was very grateful that she had a day off tomorrow and didn't have to get up in the morning. She decided that she would just lay here for a while and then she would get up to write her report so she could relax for the rest of her mini-vacation. She closed her eyes for a moment, taking in a deep breath and then letting it out slowly.

The next thing she knew, the pale morning light was spilling through her window, and she was wide awake. She groaned, sitting up with a hand against her forehead. Great. So much for a fun day off. She'd be stuck writing her report all day, Kate got back up and headed out to her kitchen to fix some coffee, dragging her fingers through her rumpled hair. She curled up in her favourite armchair with her laptop and a cup of coffee, grabbing the remote to her stereo and turning on the music. Tony always teased her about her style, calling her a good little Catholic girl and a prude and too modest for her own good. For this reason and many more, it always made her giggle to think how the Italian agent's world would be shattered to bits if he'd ever seen Kate in her natural environment. Her normal PJ's were cute little bikini shorts and T-shirts that she'd stolen from various boyfriend's over the years. The tattoo on her ass that he couldn't seem to stop teasing her about was actually not the only ink on her body, and definitely not the most sexy, and for all that she dressed modestly and professionally for work, her off the clock wardrobe was filled with hip-hugger jeans, leather, sexy black dresses that seemed to barely reach her thighs, and baby pink tops that hugged her generous curves tighter than Tony would if she let him. She had a wicked side, in fact, her wicked side pretty much dominated, except at work. As such, only Abby had seen it so far, Abby and McGee, although the young computer-geek was too intimidated by her to tell anyone about it. The boy seemed to have a thing for the Dominatrix, that was clear based on his hopeless attraction to Abby, and the Goth had managed to convince Kate to attend one of her parties. D/s wasn't really Kate's thing, she preferred simplicity and sensuality in her lovers, but it had been fun to play the part for a night, even if she didn't really participate in any of the activities. She'd shown up in black fishnets, black stilettos that made her legs go on for miles, and one of said sexy black dresses that was hardly a dress at all. She'd even borrowed some of Abby's metal-studded bracelets and worn a necklace that an ex-boyfriend had bought for her in the hopes that she would play such games with him. With the strips of leather wrapped around each wrist and the wicked-looking leather choker with delicate looping chains and glittering jewels, she'd terrified young McGee into a heart attack, and he'd scuttled around her like a mouse all night and for a month after, doing anything she'd said.

The point was, really, that the image she presented at work was that of a good girl and a good agent, but in the real world, she was so much more than that. She'd found herself wishing several times over the last few months that she could show Gibbs that side of her, and that she could use it to make him belong to her before he realized that it was his perfect new agent who had seduced him.

She sighed, forcing the thoughts out of her mind and letting her mind fill with Evanescence before she started working on her report. About two hours later, she'd finished completely, and she closed her laptop, quite pleased with herself. She glanced out the window and realized that it had started to rain furiously. It was a regular hurricane outside her apartment as jagged bolts of lightning tore open the sky followed by earth-shaking thunder and the rain lashed at her window panes. Her phone rang suddenly and she picked up quickly. "Todd."

"Hey, my dark princess!" bubbled Abby happily. "So, my friend's throwing this great party tonight and she wanted me to invite you."

"Is this the same one who tried to give me a vampire bite the last time?" asked Kate dryly.

"Of course!" replied Abby, totally un-phased. "She has personal boundary issues, but she throws the best parties. It's not D/s stuff this time, promise, I know you weren't so crazy about that one." While Kate had a wild side that allowed her to experiment with anything thrown her way, Abby had been the one to introduce her to most of the things she'd been toying with lately. She'd heard of them, but Abby had an all-access pass that included bringing guests, and she could get Kate in to see the real deal, not the wannabes who were practicing bastardizations of the same games. "So, what d'you say, are you coming? You've been really tense the last couple of months, you could use the release, and you know it."

Kate glanced at the clock thoughtfully. She did need the release. It had been four months since she'd woken up in Gibbs's bed and what she really wanted was that release, the one that had been denied her that night, but she could probably make do with some young, easily manipulated boy-toy from one of Daria's parties. "Sure, I'm coming. So what is it this time?"

"Just a party." Replied Abby, sounding pleased that she'd managed to talk her friend into going. "But it's costume, so you've gotta dress up and come with an alias. You know, protect the identity of your fellow partiers."

"Yeah, so the lawsuits can't go through this time." Teased Kate easily. "Alright, I'll be over at your place's six?"

"Perfect! I'll see you then darlin'! Ooh! And do you think I could borrow that necklace you wore to the D/s party? It would go perfectly with my outfit."

"Only if I get to use your poison ring." Countered Kate. She'd fallen in love with the delicately engraved ring and had been wanting to borrow it for ages.

"Deal! Bye!"

Kate hung up and meandered back to her room, music still radiating from her stereo. She rifled through her closet quickly, choosing her outfit and setting it out on the bed. She smiled, pleased with the look she'd arranged, and then pulled a mask out of the little box that Abby had given her long ago. It was filled with costume pieces that the Goth had moved on from, including several eye-only masks that glittered and added an air of mystery to any costume. Kate shucked off yesterday's clothes and headed into the bathroom, stepping into the shower. She could spend the next little while prepping for the party, and then she would do a few sketches to relax, and then it would be time to go. She turned on the hot water and reveled in the hot spray, singing along with her stereo as the tension slowly drained from her body.

Gibbs hesitated outside her front door. They'd been dealing with a lot of difficult cases lately and this last one had been the hardest yet, especially for Kate. She'd just looked so defeated when he'd last seen her, wrapped in a blanket, cut, bruised, and hurt emotionally as well as physically, and he'd wanted to comfort her but hadn't known how. In the four months since their little drunken mishap, it had become far easier to work with her, had gone back to the way it was when he was merely in love with her and wasn't spending every moment, waking or not, lusting after her as well. They still flirted at work, and he did his best to look after her without seeming to go easy on her, and it still drove him crazy to be in the same room with her, but he could control himself again. But this time, he hadn't been in control, and he'd somehow managed to convince himself to go and see her, just to make sure she was okay, and to get away from DiNozzo who had taken over his house since the younger agent's water and heating had gone out again. He took a deep breath and knocked. He waited a minute, and then knocked again, with still no answer. He peeked in the window and saw a light on. He stood perfectly still for a moment and heard the low thrumming of a heavy bass. So that was it. I guess Kate's more like Abby than we gave her credit for, thought Gibbs to himself. He tested the door handle and found it unlocked, so he opened it and stepped in, glancing around himself curiously. He'd never seen the inside of Kate's house before, and he found it in complete contrast with everything he knew of Kate. He'd expected pastels and crosses and tasteful furniture and lots of adorable family photos, instead he found rebellion. The living room was painted a neutral colour, yes, but the art on the walls was obviously Kate's own and it was Gothic and ancient and beautiful in a very renaissance way. Furniture and decor were all in darker tones, blacks and midnight blues and reds and deep purples. The couch was sleek and stylish but pitch black leather with a scarlet throw blanket over the back, and the rug that lay over the hardwood floor was a maze of passionate colours that twisted and turned and swirled with minds of their own. He moved back through the house, noticing how the world of historic Gothica began to envelop the house as he went deeper into his agent's personal space. Finally, he was far enough away from the stereo to hear Kate's voice singing along with the song and he found himself outside the door to her bedroom. The walls were painted a blue so dark it was almost black, and she'd painted a night sky on the ceiling. Her bed was made up with black sheets and silver accents, and the cherry wood furniture with brass finishings heightened the sense of depth and passion in the room. He noticed the outfit on the silver trimmed comforter and his eyes widened in surprise. It was a ragged black miniskirt, black corsets with red accents, silver chains that he really didn't know what she might do with, a scarlet off-the-shoulder peasant blouse, and strappy black stilettos. He caught sight of the glittering black bra and matching panties, and the flared scarlet eye-mask, and swallowed his tongue. Clearly Kate was more like Abby than they gave her credit for. Before he'd realized what he was doing, he'd stepped into the room and up to the bed, fingering the miniskirt vaguely. Silk. Black silk so thin it would tear even more than it already had if he twisted it in his hands. He realized that the singing was louder and glanced up. That was his mistake. She'd left the bathroom door open and had her back to him in the shower. By some insane twist of fate, her shower doors weren't made from the usual frosted glass and he could see every line of her perfect body from his spot by her bed. He stood, frozen in place with his eyes locked on the amazing sight before him, as she showered, sliding her hands over her body in a way that looked so natural that she couldn't really know just how sensual it was to a watcher. Her eyes were closed, and her lips moved with the song as she smoothed the suds out of her darkened locks. His eyes traced the flex of her muscles as she bent down and picked up a razor, and he watched in fascination as her body stayed curved while she attended to her legs. Suddenly, he realized where he was and tore his eyes away, backing out of the room quickly. He moved back into the living room and thought about leaving, but his sex-dazzled mind must have been running in slow-motion compared to the rest of the world, because just as he was about to turn and head back out the door, her puzzled voice called to him. "Gibbs?" she asked curiously, ruffling her already mostly-dry hair as she gazed at him. "What are you doing here?"

He was very, very grateful that she was in a robe now, a short silk robe that fluttered against her thighs and made it even harder to ignore those slender legs, but still, it was better than her being in a towel. Or naked. "Uh, I just wanted to check on you." He muttered. "Make sure you were okay after what happened with Susanne." Kate only looked sad for a moment, but it was enough to make him hurry on. "You weren't answering your phone, or the door, so I got worried. I...I didn't mean...I probably should've just called back later."

Kate watched him flounder, not bothering to help. It was obvious that he was stricken by her appearance and by how different her house was than he'd imagined, and she found it very amusing to see the normally cool team leader struggle to keep his eyes off her breasts where they were pressed against the silk of her robe. She reached up to rub her neck where it met her shoulder, managing to let the silk slip down her arm and flash the swell of female skin at him, enjoying his reaction. "And if I'd been depressed like you were worried about, I could have done something really bad in that time." She pointed out finally, pushing calmly past him, her hip brushing against him as she slid past. She could hear his unsteady breathing and smiled to herself. This was fun. "Did you want some coffee Gibbs?" she asked calmly.

"Uh, sure." He agreed. Anything to give his mouth something to do, or it would be all over her in about three more seconds.

She sauntered into the kitchen and he followed, like he was helplessly attached to a cord. He stood, uncomfortably, in the doorway, watching her make coffee and trying to concentrate on something other than the way her hair smelled every time she drifted past him, something other than the amount of creamy skin she was showing him, anything other than the fact that he could see the curve of her breasts despite, or perhaps because of, the V-neckline of her robe. "Anyway," she said, handing him a cup matter-of-factly. "I'm doing fine. I'm going to a party with Abby tonight, and that should be a lot of fun. But not too much fun, I know, I have to come into work tomorrow. Don't worry, I'll make sure the both of us show up on time, presentable, and sober." She folded her arms under her breasts and watched him with honey-coloured eyes that he was sure could see past every wall he'd built up to hide his thoughts and wishes and dreams.

"Kay." He muttered, not sure what else to say to that blunt summary. Instead he gestured to the house at large. "Not really what I pictured for you, Kate. Too much Goth."

She smiled, amused. "When I was a girl, my school took a field trip to France to visit the Cathedrals. I've been addicted to the Gothic style ever since." She replied easily.

He was stunned, had she really just revealed something personal about her true self to him? "Guess that made it really easy to get along with Abby."

"Yeah, I actually found out that we went to a lot of the same parties." Agreed Kate. "We'd actually run into each other before, but we didn't really recognize each other. They're a lot of fun, you know Gibbs. Even you might enjoy going to them if you stepped out of your basement more."

She turned away from him as she said this, her voice teasingly light and he wondered if she meant that as an invitation. He knew it was definitely a critique though. "I used to." He said, determined to surprise her. "After I left the corps." She looked up, mild curiosity in her reddish-gold eyes. "Haven't been in a really long time though. Never had much time."

"You don't have time because you don't make time." Chided Kate gently, going back to doctoring her own coffee. "Anyway, I'm fine, so you don't need to worry."

"I beg to differ." Corrected Gibbs, making his voice easy and calm. "Like I said, I've been to those parties, and they can get you into a lot of trouble, that's why I never went until after I left the corps."

"They only get you in trouble if you don't know what you're doing Gibbs." She pointed out conspiratorially, and his mind flashed back to the outfit that was laid out on her bed. Definitely not that of someone inexperienced. Those tended to be so far out there and obviously naive that even now he could spot them. Hers was confidant and exactly what she meant it to be. He shrugged, not saying anything, and finished the rest of his coffee. Damn, now what could he do to keep busy? Luckily she saved him the trouble of figuring out, although it came in the form of one last gibe. "Besides, these things have changed in the last fifteen years. I doubt you would know your way around them anymore. Now, if you don't mind, I've got to go finish getting ready. I'll see you at work tomorrow."

She disappeared into the back of her house and he recognized the dismissal. He shook his head, stifling a laugh, and headed out. As soon as he got into his car, he pulled out his phone, dialing a number he hadn't used in a very long time. "Well what d'you know, it's the devil dog come back to play!" laughed a familiar voice on the other end. "I didn't expect to hear from you again after you married that shrew of a woman, Diane."

"Chasing another one, Liz." Explained Gibbs calmly. He and Liz had never been a couple, but they'd often attended such parties as Abby did now, and she still had the run of any party she wanted. "This one has some interesting...contradictions."

"You want to know about an event, don't you?" guessed Liz knowingly. "Alright, what is it? I'll see what I can do for you."

"Party, tonight." He replied promptly. "Costume I think, and something Adara's got a place in."

"Don't tell me you're chasing after that little nymph!" exclaimed Liz, shocked. "She's gotta be, what, thirty years younger than you and way out of your league!"

"Twelve, Liz," corrected Gibbs, darkly. "And I'm not after her, I just know she's going to the same party. What can you do for me?"

"That'll be Daria's." sighed Liz, not bothering to start up a power struggle right now. "It starts at seven, and it's just a costume party, no real theme, simply bring your alter ego. So who are you going after, Jethro? I'm curious now."

"Where would the fun be in telling you, Liz?" he teased. "If you want to find out, I guess you'll just have to come and see for yourself."

"Watch yourself devil dog." Growled Liz, but there was amusement in her voice. "I may just take you up on that, and then where would you be with your little quarry?"

"Gone before you could even say hello." He joked back. "Maybe we'll be spending a little more time together, little miss steel."

"Maybe. Au revoir Jethro."

Kate stepped out of Abby's car, looping arms with her best friend calmly. While they had never been lovers themselves, they'd shared or exchanged partners more than once, and neither went to a party without the other anymore. "I really think I'm going crazy, Abbs." She sighed. She'd been explaining the direction her thoughts had been taking lately and Abby had been listening in thoughtful silence. "I mean, it's not like there really could be anything, even if it's at something like this. Speaking of which, did you know he went to these things when he was younger?"

"I'd believe it." Replied Abby calmly. "But you're being silly. If you think for a second that Gibbs wouldn't break every one of his rules for you, you're crazy. I think you should invite him to the next party. Once he sees you like this, none of his precious self-control will be any use to him, and you can make things work however you want them to. I'd be willing to bet that he hasn't stopped thinking about you either, especially after what you said about that bar night."

"But we were both wasted, Abbs, I hardly remember it, and you know how I am with liquor." Pointed out Kate, miserably.

Abby laughed, coiling an arm around Kate's waist and kissing her cheek. "However quickly you metabolize alcohol, Katie honey, his brain is practically hardwired to resist addictive substances. Trust me, he remembers, and believe me, he also knows how different you were acting than you do at work. He'll be out of his mind with curiosity, don't you worry. Just go ahead and invite him to one of these and see how quickly he says yes and how quickly you two wind up in bed again."

Kate sighed. "But I don't want to just end up in bed, sweetie, it's more than that. God, I want it to be more than Major Kerry and I had, I want it to be an actual relationship, like functioning outside of all of this."

"Well, start with the easy stuff, babe, and take it from there." Advised Abby. "It won't take long to get him hooked on you, and after that, all you have to do is start taking him out of the bedroom for dates. If you wanted normal dating advice, you should have gone to one of your Secret Service friends, if you wanted a reenactment of that night, though, you came to the right girl. I can tell you how I do things, and it's just up to you to figure out how you want to do it. From what you said though, things were pretty hot on their own, and it sounds like you won't have any trouble getting him to turn boyfriend once you've had your fun with him."

Kate smiled gratefully. "Thanks babe." She sighed, draping her arm over Abby's shoulders. "Well, nothing's going to happen tonight anyway, so we may as well forget this crap and see what kind of fun we can rack up. Daria does have good taste in boy-toys, I'll give her that."

Gibbs had never been very interested in the costumes, it seemed pointless to him. His personality was one that couldn't be altered by simply dressing it up differently and people always recognized him anyway, so he hadn't usually bothered when he'd been a part of these things. This time, however, he'd gone with the flow of it because there was still a chance that he could trick Kate with a costume and a good acting job. He'd gone Gothic pirate in order to match his quarry's apparent interest, and he'd just stepped into Daria's huge house, mansion really, when he felt a familiar body nestle up to him. He glanced down at Liz in amusement, kissing her temple gently. Other than a few visible years on her, she looked the same, cheery blonde pixie cut with careless spikes, heart-shaped face that looked good in a smile or a glare and rarely held anything else, petite frame that made her a good foot shorter than him, and a flare for style that made him wonder why she'd never become a designer. "Hey there, devil-dog, I decided to take you up on that offer. So, who's this mysterious little bird being pursued by my handsome fox?"

He chuckled and ruffled her blonde spikes fondly. "Haven't found her yet, Steel." He laughed. "But when I do, you'll be the second to know."

"Who's the first?" she teased.

"The bird." Retorted Gibbs. "Now go play with your other toys and leave me alone, I'm not so young as I used to be, and I tend to get distracted by shiny things like you."

"I doubt that." snorted Liz. "If anything, you get less distractible with every candle on your cake babe. You know, if you told me what she looked like, I could help you out a little."

He glanced down at her with a laugh. "I don't trust you with chicks, Liz, you'd eat her up before I knew you'd found her."

"Oh, so she's a baby bird." Observed the blonde lightly. "Robbing the cradle devil-dog?"

"Eight years, not even close to it." Replied Gibbs calmly. He'd spotted Kate and Abby from across the room and decided to end the teasing. "Alright, come on, Steel, ready to play my wingman?"

"Wingwoman, you idiot." She laughed, smacking him on the arm.

He just grinned. "Whatever. The point is, I need help with this one, and you've gotta follow my lead."

"What do I get in exchange?" she challenged.

Gibbs considered this. "I can get you in with Adara." He replied finally.

Liz's eyes widened. "How in the hell can you do that?" she demanded. "I don't believe you!"

"Oh, but I can Steel." He promised gently. "See, she's been working for me for almost twenty years, and my little bird is her best friend. If this all goes smoothly, I'll get you in with the new Queen of Darkness. You won't ever lose your touch with Adara on your side. I could've asked her about tonight, but it would've tipped her little friend off and besides, I missed you."

"Flatterer." Accused Liz. "But it worked. Alright, I'll do it."

Kate and Abby grabbed their drinks and headed deep into the party, garnering jealous and admiring glances from everyone they passed. Abby was truly the Queen of the DC parties, and as such, was royalty at all of them. Kate was simply the new young protégé who would do damn well in her own right. The outfit Gibbs had seen laid out on her bed looked even better on her, and the two women looked like Goddesses incarnate with their poise and looks and confidence. Abby's alias was Adara, and Kate's was Serafine. These were basically the names they used at all their parties, it protected their identities and provided an extra mystery to their appeal. Kate sipped at her drink calmly, glancing around the crowd and making note of the guests that might be interesting for later. She was just finishing her scan of the crowd when she caught sight of a couple heading their way. The woman was about a foot shorter than her partner and looked like a pixie. She had her arms around his waist, leaning against him with a bright smile on her face that looked like it had always been there, and he had his arm draped around her shoulders carelessly. His whole being exuded an easy confidence, and he was handsome but in a rugged manner. Kate could see the muscles through his shirt, defined and trained and oh so solid, and she took a moment to examine him more carefully. He had hair that was carelessly ruffled and light, although she wasn't sure on the colour through the lighting, and his eyes sparkled behind a bandits eye-mask. He had dressed to thrill, and he did it well with a 16th century pirate look that made it clear it wasn't just his broad chest that was well-toned, his whole body was strong and lithe and dangerous, and she could feel that danger radiating off him as the pair approached. He was a leader, and she was drawn to it. Screw all the others she'd been considering a moment ago, she wanted this man or none at all. "You must be Adara!" bubbled the woman, holding her hand out Abby. "I've heard so much about you, but it's nice to finally meet you in the flesh. I'm Steel, by the way, and this is Fox."

"I've heard of you two!" exclaimed Abby, her eyes lighting up. "It's a pleasure to finally meet a pair of legends. Serafine, Fox and Steel are, like, the original party pair. They don't throw 'em, but when they attend, it's like shining a spotlight on your parties for the rest of your life."

"There's a lot of misconception about that." chuckled Fox, and even his voice made her shiver. It was low and soothing and it made her want to curl her body around him and purr. She didn't do that kind of thing. Maybe she wasn't a Dominatrix like Abby, but she pulled the strings and made the choices, not the other way around, and she was surprised to find that she liked the state that his aura lulled her into. "Steel here makes the picks, I just tag along for the fun."

"And we're not a pair." Added Steel, grinning up at her partner fondly. "Just friends. I just don't like to show up anywhere alone, so I drag Fox with me and he finds a way to stay busy after I bounce off."

"Maybe he can stay busy with us." Suggested Kate lightly, her honey-coloured eyes tracing over him with interest.

Fox smiled, glancing down at Steel and rubbing her arm gently. "What d'you think, love, think you can handle yourself tonight?"

"Oh, I'm sure I'll be fine." She replied with a laugh, rolling her eyes. "I've had an eye on a couple of vampires since we arrived. Maybe they can keep me company while you're out hunting." And with that, she slipped out from under his arm and disappeared into the crowd. They caught sight of her a few moments later, arm in arm with a young vamp who was absolutely in a daze over her.

Fox shook his head in amusement and turned back to Abby and Kate. "So, what do the visiting royals do with their nights these days?" he asked, bowing to the two women elegantly.

Abby giggled, and Kate unhooked herself from her friend, offering him a sexy smile. "Absolutely anything." She purred, a throaty sound, and she was pleased to see interest in his eyes.

He smiled back, more a slight curve of the lips than a genuine smile, but it made her collarbone flush with excitement anyway. Abby noticed her friend's play mode and brushed her hip against Kate's lightly in signal. "I'm afraid this royal is a little busy. I've got a date with my little elf-lord." She said, licking her lips predatorily. Kate glanced up and saw McGee in the distance, watching her and Abby forlornly. She stifled a laugh, her friend really did have the poor boy on a string. "But I'm sure Serafine will be happy to act as your guide for the night. She's a fast learner." And then Abby was gone too, ready to start one of her games with the man she loved, even if she did treat him like just another one of her boy-toys.

Fox's smile widened and he held out an arm to Kate. "I think I'll take that offer." He replied easily.

She flashed him a brilliant smile and took his arm, tossing her hair back over her shoulder. Screw Gibbs, he had his chance and he passed it up. Twice. She had a date with a fox.

He wasn't shy either, she realized quickly, nor did he push his luck. He seemed to have a perfect balance of arrogance and caution that kept her comfortable with each new opportunity he offered her. He kept his hands in one place and one place only, resting in the curve of her hips, and it was very comfortable. He managed to guide her through the crowded house and keep her from getting jostled too much by other guests with just that one touch, not even the smallest amount of pressure being exerted on her body. They made it to a room that was set up like a club with a dance floor, spinning lights, a bar and surround sound music. Kate felt his silent commands at her hip as he guided her, showing her how to move and how to dance with him. She could read his instructions easily and it both surprised and pleased her. Obviously it pleased him too, because his hot breath washed over her as his mouth teased her neck softly. If she moved wrong, he would nip at her ear, eliciting a soft whimper, whereas if she moved the way he'd asked, he would continue to explore her neck and shoulder, making her shiver and sigh. Every now and then, if she did something he liked and hadn't asked for, he would offer her a surprised groan and she would laugh softly and do it again, earning a murmured compliment in her ear. After a while, she was beginning to feel very worked up and was getting tired of the sultry dance, tired of him remaining behind her where she had no control and no access. She turned quickly in his arms and draped her arms loosely over his shoulders, lining her body up with his as they moved together. He watched her with unreadable eyes for a moment before his hands slid up from her hips into her dark locks, yanking her mouth up to him. Her lips parted in surrender and his tongue plunged in to explore. Their dance became less about reacting to each other and more about their bodies' individual reactions to the hot kisses. She was burning from the inside out, and all she could think about was the disappointment she'd been left with four months earlier. Her arousal reasserted itself to her mind, forcing her to press forward into him, trying desperately to pull herself closer. He, on the other hand, seemed to be perfectly in control of his movements, and he broke away, breathing no worse for wear, pushing his hands back down her sides. "You don't like to lose control, do you, little fire?" he asked lowly, easily translating her name.

She shuddered at the question, recognizing his bid for dominance, his intent to make her do just that. "Sometimes it's good to lose control." She breathed back, rubbing her hips forward unexpectedly, and he groaned in response. "D'you want to control me?" she asked temptingly, shaking her dark locks back and tipping her head up so that her throat was exposed. She expected him to take her offer, just as he had taken every other offer, but he surprised her.

He pressed his lips to her throat gently, then moved to the side of her neck. "No." he rasped, slipping his hands over her bottom to pull her hips flush against his and she gasped at the feel of his desire. "I would never destroy something so beautiful." He assured her calmly, though how he could sound so calm and untroubled when he was that hard was beyond her knowledge. "A woman with fire, a woman with strength, there's nothing more attractive or more necessary. Any man who would want to own such a woman isn't a man at all. But I do want you, after all, I am a man, and I am only human."

"Well, perhaps we can do something about this." She murmured hazily, caressing his hardness through his pants. "And then maybe you can help me with this."

She guided one of his hands in between them and pressing it against her core. When she let go of his wrist, he left his hand where it was, stroking her gently. "I think I'd just as soon help you first." He informed her softly. "I think I may have more patience than you, especially now that you've got something solid between your legs." She sighed, losing herself in the barely-there touches and allowing her head to loll back a little, eyes closed. "Besides, I believe there's a saying, ladies first. Would you like that?"

"Yes." she breathed, ready to agree to anything he asked as long as he didn't stop touching her.

"Do you want some privacy, or do you want people to watch me make you come undone?"

She shuddered, pressing her lips to the crook of his neck. "Whatever you want." She replied desperately, beginning to squirm against his playing.

"Privacy then." He murmured, leading her out. All she knew was that he was no longer stroking at her, and they were moving somewhere. The amount of people around them became less and less dense until there was no one left and she heard a door click shut behind them, and then his hands were back on her hips, grounding her as his breath rolled over her skin. "If I'm going to make a woman scream, it's only going to be for me." He told her softly. "You said you wanted help, what kind of help? Tell me a fantasy and I'll make sure it comes true."

So she told him, this complete stranger, about the memory she'd been dreaming of for the last four months. She was breathless when she finished explaining, and Fox chuckled, pulling her over to the bed. She hadn't realized it was there, but she supposed that's what these rooms were for at these parties. She'd never actually gone to bed with anyone before. She'd allowed them to play with her until she came or until she tired of them, and she often managed to get the men to come a time or two, but she'd never afforded herself or them the luxury of a bed, or even a couch, just what they could manage while standing on the dance floor which was a lot. Fox sat down, sliding his hands down to the backs of her thighs and drawing her close. She kept moving forward until she couldn't go any further and she was settled between his legs with her hands resting on his shoulders and his hands on her hips. "You're more wicked than I expected." He teased her, reaching up a little to press his palm to her cheek. She leaned into the touch until he pulled it away, scooting back on the bed and leaning against the headboard. He tapped his leg and she climbed onto the bed on all fours, crawling over to him and letting her ass hover over his hardness. "You haven't done this before have you?" He asked, knowing it from her eyes. They were open and easily read, especially since he had spent the last year or so learning how to read them when her mind wasn't this open. She shook her head, gazing at him with a calmness she didn't feel. "But you're not scared." He read again, and again she shook her head. "Brave girl. These parties can get you into trouble."

The sentence struck a chord with her somewhere, but her mind was too far gone to figure it out. "Only if you don't know what you're doing." She pointed out vaguely.

Fox grinned and stroked her hair gently. "Very true. So, about that fantasy of yours," He began casually. "Would you like that now or later?"

"Now." She breathed, shifting over his lap.

"Alright." He growled, flipping them over. He did exactly what he'd done before, not even bothering to remove her panties before pressing his thumb deep inside her. She cried out breathlessly and arched into him as he hit her sweet spot, thrashing against the sheets as his fingers worked against her easily. Her panting filled the air for a long while and then he removed his fingers. She glared at him through a haze of desire. Not again, she wouldn't be left hanging again. But Fox merely reached up to undo the hooks on her corsets, letting the panels fall away from her body so that she could breath better and he would have greater access. He moved his hands under the red peasant blouse, unlatching her bra and setting it aside, she wouldn't need it for a while. He closed his mouth over one breast, suckling through the light fabric, and went back to rubbing mercilessly at her sex. She pushed up into his mouth desperately, and he immediately moved to the other breast, not letting her get to used to either side. With his free hand, he plucked at the recently abandoned breast, forcing a whimper of pleasurable pain from the back of her throat. Suddenly, he twisted his fingers inside her and she let out a wail, her spine arching dangerously into him as she was reduced to endless shudders. He didn't stop his work, even as she came, drawing out her pleasure as long as he could before she slumped against the bed, boneless and awed.

She gazed up at him, amazement in her honey-toned eyes as her lips struggled to form words. "Wow." She whispered, tracing her hands up his chest and over his shoulders. Damn, how could this man know so perfectly what she needed? If her mind hadn't been turned to ash and glitter by her orgasm, she might have been suspicious enough to find out, but as it was, she was content to lay in the sated after-effects of his touch.

He didn't seem to be though, and he flipped them again so that she was laying stretched out on top of him. "I don't think we're done, little fire." He rasped, leaning up to tease her neck. "I think there's one more thing I promised you, remember?"

She nodded mutely, reaching down to stroke him, but he caught her wrist. She glanced at him curiously. She'd agreed to make him come in return for him helping her out, so what was he doing? He set her hands on either side of his head, and positioned her hips over him carefully. He pushed her down in his lap and she gasped wildly as she settled over his arousal. It was then that she remembered the other half of her fantasy, the part that had, in real life, left her sort-of-lover teetering on the edge of satisfaction. She hadn't mentioned to him that this was a memory, not just a fantasy, and she realized that he intended to get his pleasure through the remainder of her fantasy. It surprised her a little, most men she'd made her one-time lovers had been very stubborn about equal pleasure, and here was this man who was going to make her come twice as opposed to his one time. She might level the playing field later, just for that kindness. He glanced up at her and she realized that he'd asked her something. "Huh?" she asked, dazed.

He smiled, reaching up to tug on a lock of dark hair. "Ready, Serafine?"

He shifted his hips up once to show what he was talking about and she moaned desperately. "Uh...yeah." She panted, pressing her hips into him for a little relief from the ache that had already reformed in her belly. He set his hands on her hips, holding her in place as he thrust up to her, and he let out a groan at the feel of her sex rolling over him. It was incredible, better than he'd remembered and he wondered why it had taken him so long to realize how much he needed her. She tossed her head back in rapture, squirming against his hold on her and creating a delicious friction between them with every thrust. There had only been two times she'd experienced something like this, this ability to bring her to come even though both of them were fully dressed, and she loved it. It was something she was determined to try again, only the next time, she knew who she wanted to be panting underneath her. What she'd thought earlier wasn't quite accurate. Fox was an incredible lover, and she knew she would come back to him if she got the chance, but with Gibbs there was something more than just sex. She wanted to experience this kind of ecstasy with him, wanted to wake up in his bed again and have them both remember their night and not be afraid that it had happened. She didn't know why she was thinking of all this right now, but just as she came to that final decision, that she would find a way to be with Gibbs, no matter what it took, she felt her muscles clench and she let out another breathless wail as Fox made her come for the second time that night. It only took the first flutter of her sex over him to send him over with her and they collapsed in mutual satisfaction and exhaustion, the sheets damp with their pleasure.

She dropped lazy kisses down his chest, her hands resting near his shoulders, and he reached up to tuck back the locks of hair that had fallen into her reddish-gold eyes. "Sleep, little fire." He murmured gently. Kate's eyelids closed and her head fell forward onto his broad chest. He brushed his fingers through her hair soothingly as her breathing evened out and when he was sure she was asleep, he leaned up and kissed her forehead softly. "I love you, Katie." He whispered, ashamed that he could only tell her when he was sure she couldn't hear, but glad that he'd said it anyway. He let his own head fall back against the pillows tiredly, continuing to pet her hair gently after she'd fallen asleep. Why couldn't he just say it when it mattered? Why did he have to reserve those four words for times when he knew he wouldn't get an answer? Because he was afraid of what that answer might be. It interested him that she'd chosen the memory of their drunken night together as the fantasy she'd most wanted to have brought to life, but he supposed that didn't really mean anything other than that he was very good in bed. He shifted her carefully so that they were lying on their sides and paused when he heard her give a little whimper. Once he was sure she wouldn't wake up, he slipped out of the bed and pulled out the rose that he'd brought along for exactly this reason, setting it in her hand and curling her fingers closed around the stem. He leaned down and kissed her temple, brushing her bangs out of her eyes again. "I love you Kate." He repeated before slipping back out the door.

As he strode back out into the party, heading for the door, Liz materialized by his side. "Did I do good?" she asked, impishly.

He put an arm around her shoulder, kissing the top of her head gratefully. "You did very good." He agreed, not much in the mood for their banter anymore.

She seemed to notice the switch and grabbed his arm, pulling him to a stop. He turned to face her and she set her hands on her hips with a serious expression. "Alright, what is it? You get turned down anyway or something? You find out she's got a boyfriend?"

"I don't want to talk about it Steel." He sighed, dragging his fingers through his hair.

"Well too damn bad, devil-dog." Retorted Liz sharply. "I've put a lot of work into helping you get what you want tonight, and it had damn well better have been worth it!"

"Oh, believe me, it was worth it." He assured her, his voice cracking a little.

She looked stunned. "Are you...crying?" she demanded incredulously.

"Marines don't cry." He snapped, glaring at her. "I'm just a little stressed, okay?"

"Oh stop being such a man!" she sighed in exasperation. "What the hell is bugging you so much? If you got the girl, and you got your fun, then what's the problem?"

Gibbs was quiet for a moment, before he spoke. "It's not enough." He said quietly. "I want her to know it's me and to know how I feel about her, and I just can't say it when I should. And then I finally get what I thought I wanted, and I find out it's not enough. Kate's special, Steel, and I've loved her for a really long time, but you know me, I just can't make myself tell her that." he kicked the wall viciously, frowning down at his feet.

"Oh, for the love of God!" exclaimed Liz, rolling her eyes. "You have got to be kidding me! You're screwed up, devil-dog, you know that? I'd be willing to bet you left her some really cheesy, romantic token to remember her handsome stranger by?" he flushed a little. "Of course you did." She groaned, clapping a hand to her forehead. "Have you ever thought that maybe if you just asked her what she thought about you, you might save yourself all this agony? What even got you on this track anyway?"

"Long story." Muttered Gibbs sullenly.

"I don't care." Retorted Liz, grabbing his arm. "We're going to take a drive, and you're going to tell me everything. And once you have, I'm going to tell you what to do, and you're actually going to listen for once in your miserable stubborn life!"

Kate's eyes fluttered open and she stretched out with a small sound, flexing every muscle in her body like a cat. She glanced at her hand in surprise and blushed like a school-girl. A velvety soft red rose lay across her palm. She pushed herself up and looked around the room to see if Fox was still there so she could thank him, but of course he was gone. She buried her nose in the flower and was surprised to find that it was real with a fragile, sweet scent rising from the petals. She smiled softly. Maybe he was more than just an amazing lover. Maybe he was a good man as well. She stood up and stretched again, grabbing up her corsets and bra and slipping back into them. She checked to make sure that the rose didn't have any thorns (he'd already taken them off, that was sweet), and then slipped it between her high-shelved breasts so that the rose blossomed between them. She pulled her cell out of the hidden pocket in her skirt, checking the time, then swore. She'd used up all of the time they'd allotted themselves so that they would still get to bed on time and have some hope of functioning at work tomorrow. She sent Abby a text that said she was going out to wait by the car and then made her way to the front door. She was most of the way there when she saw him. Fox and Steel were standing near the entrance, arguing. She looked annoyed and exasperated and he looked sullen, and Kate wondered what they were talking about. She snuck over to the couple but before she could reach them, Steel had grabbed Fox's arm and was dragging him out the door. She sighed, disappointed, and then followed them out shortly, watching the red Ferrari rev its engine and race around the corner, the two party-goers in the front seat. Kate went over to Abby's car and leaned against the passenger door, waiting for her friend to come out. She considered, just for a moment, whether or not Steel might have been yelling at her partner about having slept with her, but then vetoed the idea. People came to these parties with the knowledge that other guests might be single, dating, or even married, and the fact was that it just didn't matter because everyone was there to have fun and to be someone else. If you brought your partner to one of these parties, you expected that they might wind up with someone else, and if you didn't like that, you didn't bring them, or you slept with someone else as well to make your partner jealous. That's just how it was. Steel and Fox had been going to these events a long time, so they would know that better than anybody. So then, what could they have been arguing about. Just then, Abby arrived, interrupting her thoughts, and the two exchanged a kiss on each cheek before getting into the car. "So, did you get what you were looking for?" asked Abby wickedly.

"And more." Agreed Kate, letting her contentment seep through into her voice. "Fox knows what he's doing. It was...incredibly satisfying. You?"

"I have just gotten rid of about a month's worth of stress and Caf-Pow overload." Replied Abby with a wicked smile. "And thoroughly reinforced McGee's training. He was starting to wander you know."

"Well you did leave him alone for almost three months, Abbs." Pointed out Kate gently. "You may have been giving him some mixed signals."

Abby shrugged. "Regardless, he knows who he belongs to now, and that's what matters. You're really lucky, you know that?" she added suddenly.

Kate looked up in surprise. "What d'you mean?" she asked curiously.

"I mean, Fox is, like, beyond the term good catch at one of these things. And you spent the whole night with him. Normally he and Steel are pretty much joined at the hip, and when they do separate, It's only for, like, an hour, maybe two. You two were gone for five hours. He's supposed to be really good." Added Abby, a note of envy in her voice as she glanced at her friend. "Was he?"

"I think I might have forgotten how to breathe for a minute." Admitted Kate, blushing.

Abby tossed her head with a small sound. "Lucky." She sighed, wistfully. "He gave you that rose, huh?"

Kate nodded, playing with the scarlet petals for a moment. "He was almost as good as Gibbs." She murmured, half-hoping that her friend wouldn't hear.

Abby glanced at her friend sharply. Was it really possible that she didn't get it? Was it really possible that observant, intelligent Kate had missed that vital part of the equation. It had been obvious to Abby from the beginning, or she'd have talked Kate and Fox into sharing. "Babe, whatever is going on in that pretty little head, you're not thinking straight. Fox is better than Gibbs, no matter what you say, I'm sure of it. Gibbs has too many rules and issues that keep him from doing what he should, or he'd have taken you home already, obviously Fox is smart enough not to make that mistake. If I were you, I'd trade out. If Fox wants you, don't give that up for a man that has a history of doing whatever makes him most miserable."

"Good God, Jethro." Sighed Liz, glancing at him as she turned left onto a side street. "You must be losing brain cells or something."

"I think Kate killed 'em when she threatened to shoot me." He retorted.

Liz shook her head. "When you lost them isn't really the point." She informed him decidedly. "Alright, here's what you do, you go to work tomorrow and tell her everything. You apologize for being an idiot and you ask her out on a legitimate date. Then, after she says yes, and you two make love instead of playing house at a costume party, you introduce me to Adara in the real world, and everyone lives happily ever after."

"It's not that easy, Liz!" sighed Gibbs. "She's one of my agents, it's against the rules. They'll transfer her out of the unit and she'll wind up in L.A. or something, and we'll still be screwed."

"I can't even help you anymore!" muttered Liz, throwing a hand into the air. She shook her head. "Alright, forget the Adara thing, I've already been introduced, I can work it out myself from there. But if you don't take my advice, you're seriously not the man I always thought you were." She'd arrived at his house and stopped the car. "Just think about it, devil-dog, you wouldn't want to lose this woman because you were too proud to take advice." And then she sped off into the night. Gibbs sighed and stepped into his house. He grabbed a bottle of scotch out of the cabinet and poured himself a shot. How exactly was he supposed to face work tomorrow, let alone look Kate in the eyes? It was one thing when two coworkers had sex and they both knew and dealt with it together, and it was another thing entirely for one of them to know that it happened and the other to think that it had been someone else. It really didn't make him think good things about his week. Mondays were generally bad enough as it was, but this Monday was going to be hell.

Gibbs moved carefully around Kate all week, avoiding being alone with her and keeping his thoughts as far from the previous night as possible. She kept looking like there was something she wanted to say to him, but he would make sure to never give her the chance to ask. Finally, he somehow managed to let her corner him in Abby's lab, and the thought crossed his mind that the Goth might actually have had something to do with it. "You've been avoiding me." She accused, looking hurt.

"Just been busy." He muttered, trying to find a way out of the room that didn't involve going through her, but there wasn't one.

"No, you've really been avoiding me ever since you showed up at my house." Said Kate firmly. Oh well, he thought, at least she hadn't pinned him as having followed her to the party. "What did I do to make you uncomfortable? Is it that I go those parties? Or that I was wearing a robe, or is it just because you're weirded out by me being semi-Goth?"

"I'm really not avoiding you, Kate." He replied decidedly. "I've just been kind of stressed out getting everything done."

She pursed her lips and he could tell that she didn't believe him, but she didn't keep pushing. "Alright, well I've been trying to get a chance to ask you something all week. I didn't know you used to do that kind of stuff with the costumes, and I thought maybe you'd like to come with Abby and me to one. There's another one next week on Saturday night, and that way we wouldn't have to go in to work the next day and you would get to stay out as long as you wanted to sort of get used to it again if you needed to. You never do anything except work on that damn boat, so I just figured maybe you'd like to try something with other human beings for once."

Gibbs raised an eyebrow at the defensive tone, but didn't say anything about it. "Sure. Why don't you give me the address and I'll meet you guys there?"

Kate looked pleased to have convinced him so quickly and scribbled out the address for him. "Come as yourself or someone else, it's like club dress though. It should be a lot of fun."

"Thanks for the invite Kate." He murmured, and she smiled.

"Not a problem Gibbs."

"I did what you said and invited Gibbs to Mitch's thing this week." Said Kate when she thought Abby might be too busy to lecture her on it.

She should've known better, Abby was never too busy for a lecture. "Baby, that was before you got Fox's attention." Sighed Abby. "You won't get out of that so easy you know, he's not just going to let it alone after one party."

"After I saw him and Steel arguing last weekend, I don't think I'll have to worry about that." she shrugged carelessly. She wouldn't need Fox if she had Gibbs, the older agent was equally dominant and twice as possessive as any man she'd met. He didn't like when people treated his agents with less than every ounce of their due as the deadly and hardworking unit they were.

"You haven't been going to these long enough to know about Fox, Katie." Warned Abby. "He'll come to the party, whether Steel's with him or not, and you won't be able to say no to him. You can be as sure as you want now that you want nothing to do with it, but when the time comes and he asks you to come with him, you won't be able to refuse. And Gibbs may not even come. He isn't exactly a people-person anymore, you know."

"Don't be such a pessimist, love." Laughed Kate, perfectly sure of herself. "Have a brighter view of life, sometimes. We work with death and destruction too much to let ourselves think that way outside of work."

Abby shook her head at her friend's naiveté but didn't bother to keep trying to correct her.

Kate dressed carefully that weekend, wanting to look spectacular for her boss. She knew very well about his thing for red-heads, and while she couldn't fit that bill, she also knew that his appreciation spread to articles of clothing as well. She chose a deep reddish-brown dress with practically no back and a square neckline that showcased her...ahem...assets. She added dark brown stilettos and some classy jewelry so that she didn't wind up looking too much like she was selling, and arranged her hair carefully. She smiled at her reflection confidently and grabbed another one of her masks, this time an engraved gold one that accented her honey-toned eyes. "Jethro Gibbs, you are mine." She breathed to herself as she examined her final appearance in the mirror.

Abby still looked like a Gothic princess, he noted easily, but then again, she always did, so that shouldn't be a big surprise. Kate, however, he hadn't expected to look quite so...irresistible. She looked stunning in a dress that really could hardly be called a dress, and heels that made her legs look like heaven. He wasn't quite far enough into his character yet to approach the two women, and he knew it wasn't as easy to do without Steel. The two partners had been each other's support for so long that they could hardly imagine attending one of these things alone. "I actually kind of missed these things." He said absently, his eyes still locked only on Kate so that it seemed like he was talking to no one at all. "Nice to see my reputation's still alive at least."

Liz melted out of the crowd and stepped in front of him, leaning back against his chest and setting his arms around her waist. "How do you do that?" she demanded, frustrated. "Tell when people are there, I mean."

"Part of my job description, love." He replied carelessly. "And before you ask, no, I haven't taken your advice yet."

"Well, you're stupid." She snorted, a hint of amusement under her disapproval.

He leaned down and kissed her neck playfully, tightening his arms around her waist. "But you know you love me anyway." He added silkily.

She swatted him away with a laugh. "God only knows why. Well, if you didn't do what I told you to, why the hell are you even here?"

"She invited me." He answered, nodding towards Kate.

"You mean she invited Jethro, devil-dog." Sighed Liz, already knowing it seemed. "You know, it really should be obvious that you don't need to hide behind Fox to get her to want you. You risk a lot by pretending, you know."

"Been divorced three times, Steel, I know that." he chuckled. "Anyway, you know me, I'll jump into any firefight you like, but when it comes to women..."

"You attract them like nobody's business and you have no idea how to handle them." Teased Liz gently. "Alright, well, if you're going to be stupid, you may as well not lose any time with your girl. If I were you, I'd get over there before someone else takes her, she looks yummy tonight."

Liz disappeared again and he shook his head. She was right, Gibbs could already see the young men that were making their way towards his beautiful fire, and an unfamiliar surge of jealousy made him go up to the two women.

Abby smiled coyly at the man who came up to them, perching herself on his arm. "Where's Steel tonight?"

Fox shrugged carelessly, like it wasn't important to him where his partner was at this particular moment. "She's around. She was quite happy to have gotten to meet you two last weekend."

"It was nice to meet her too, after everything I've heard about the two of you." Purred Abby. She wouldn't really mind a night with Fox, but if he had any interest in her at all, he didn't show it, and she rolled her eyes. The two of them really just needed to 'fess up in real life, 'cause she was about ready to kill them both here. She moved off his arm calmly with a bright smile. "Well, I'm gonna go see if I can find her." She brushed past Kate, gently squeezing the other woman's fingers. "Have fun!" she called over her shoulder.

Kate offered him a friendly smile. She never a problem talking to past lovers, unless she hadn't liked them, in which case they tended to stay away from her afterwards anyway. "You look very nice this evening." She offered calmly. She was determined to stay here by the front door until she saw Gibbs so that she could sweep him off into the party and, hopefully if he was overwhelmed enough by the whole thing, into a bedroom before he could notice.

"So do you." He agreed, raking his eyes over her body. She couldn't suppress the shiver that her body responded with. Damn, he was good at this. He seemed to have noticed her slight distraction by now. "You waiting for someone?"

"A friend." She nodded, glancing at the door. It was already a half-hour after the start time, and Gibbs was a stickler for time, but she would wait, just in case. "He's kinda new at all this."

Fox's lips twitched a little. Oh, if only you knew baby, he thought to himself. "Well, how about joining me until he arrives? I'm sure he won't mind, Fire."

His low voice filled her mind and she shuddered, allowing him to put those magic hands back on her hips. "You have an interest in the meaning of names." She breathed as he moved around to stand behind her, his breath teasing her gently.

"Well, if you thought it was important enough for you to choose it as an alias, it's important enough for me to know what it means." He replied easily, setting his lips to her shoulder. "You don't think I really chose Fox as a name, do you? Much too normal, not enough elegance. It's the same with Steel. We picked names that meant something to us, and the meanings became as important as the names themselves. What interests me is that both you and Adara chose names that mean fire."

She was pretty sure there was something she was supposed to remember to be doing right now, but for the life of her she couldn't think what it was. "It suits us both." She murmured.

"Maybe Adara, but you I'm not so sure." He was guiding her through the rooms with the hands at her hips, not bothering to be subtle this time. "I would have pictured something more classical for you, like Meira or Adelaide or Elise or something like that. Adara is all fire, you've got something else." He stopped her and pulled her back against him, playing with her dark locks absently. "Maybe Catherine." He suggested, still in the same tone. "Joining the ranks of so many queens."

Kate sighed, sinking into the lingering touches. That's why he was so much better than the other men here. He didn't go straight for the sex, he treated her like a real-world lover, with tenderness and desire and depth, not just lust, and she liked it. "But I like fire." She replied breathlessly. "It's warm and dangerous and it can kill you or save you depending on how you treat it. That's how I am too." She was settled between his strong legs again, leaning back against his chest as his hands slipped easily over her body.

"So you could kill me or save me?" he asked, amused. "Is that what you're saying?"

"That's exactly what I'm saying." She agreed, losing herself in sensation.

"So what do I have to do to be saved?" he asked softly.

She shuddered, realizing that she was alone from the rest of the world, in a bubble of desire and longing like nothing she'd ever felt. "Depends."

"On what?"

"On what you need to be saved from." She replied, reaching back to run her small hand over his shoulder.

Fox chuckled quietly, leaning down to nuzzle at her shoulder sweetly. "Let's just say I've managed to royally screw up my life, and there's a woman who could redeem me, I just can't tell her that."

"So you want to be saved from love." She commented, letting her head fall back as his fingers ghosted over her belly.

"No." he corrected. "I need to be saved from love, that doesn't mean I want to be." If he wanted to be saved, he wouldn't be here right now, letting himself explore this young woman's sensuality.

She shrugged in a would-be careless gesture. "Same difference. I can help you, but you have to want it."

"Want what?" he asked, and she wondered if she heard resignation in his voice.

Kate turned around, scraping her teeth delicately over his throat and he groaned. "You have to want to be controlled." She rasped, biting at his neck again. "Just for tonight." Anything, he wanted anything as long as it was this woman giving it to him. He would gladly curl up with his head in her lap like a puppy if that's what she wanted, and he would just as soon let her control his body the way she controlled his heart. She bit down one last time, hard enough to taste the tiniest salty tang of blood and he gave a small cry followed by a sigh as she licked the speckle of blood from his skin. "What d'you say, Fox? D'you want it?"

"Yeah." He sighed, letting his head fall back against the wall. "Yeah, I do."

She smiled wickedly against his skin and touched his cheek gently, forcing him to look into her eyes. She was pleased to see the cloud of desire in his eyes and she trailed a finger down from his cheek to his neck and twisting her fingers into the collar of his shirt. "Then I can save you." She purred, pressing her body along the length of his. "All you have to do is beg."

"I don't beg." He growled, glancing at her sharply.

"Well, you do tonight." She replied calmly. Kate brushed her lips over his jaw, tracing her finger down his leg. "It's too late to back out now, lover."

He'd begged. He'd done it in a very dignified way, more of an order really, but she'd accepted it and he'd gotten an even more intimate taste of Kate Todd. He doubted she'd ever let him make love to her, not in this environment, but he'd learned just how talented the young agent truly was, and just how badly he'd fallen for her. He was completely addicted to her now, that was clear to him, and he knew he was going to need these weekly parties the way a meth addict needed regular hits of the drug. She was his drug, and she was so much more dangerous than any chemical that some druggie could cook up. They lay together spent and satisfied, the vibrant sounds of the party muffled by the door, and he laid claim to her body with a few lazy kisses. "I guess I'm lucky to have gotten a second night." Murmured Kate, flexing her back carefully. "Adara tells me you rarely leave Steel, and you've never spent this much time on one woman before."

"That so?" he asked, seeming to consider this for this first time.

"She also says you're the best lover here." Added Kate coyly. "I wonder how she knows that?"

Fox chuckled, playing with the dark locks that hung around her face. "Not from experience." He replied. "I introduced her to these things, just like Steel. Besides, I don't play with the Dominatrixes."

"Could've fooled me." Teased Kate.

"But not a Domme." He pointed out.

Kate glanced at him curiously. "So, if you brought Adara and Steel in, how come you just tag along?"

He shrugged. "I bring in women that I think would take to the environment, some of them don't, and some take better than others. Adara and Steel took to it really well and wound up turning it into a lifestyle. For me, it's just a hobby."

"And a release." She pointed out dryly.

"Sometimes." He agreed. "What about you? Are you and Adara...?" he trailed off, sounding only a little curious.

"No." smiled Kate. "She's way out of my league where wild is concerned. I just need the relief after working all week. Coming to these things gives me something to look forward to at the end of the week."

"Mm." it wasn't an uninterested noise, just the only thing he could really think of right now. She went weekly. That was going to catch up with him eventually. Oh well, it would be worth it if he could keep getting these doses of her, that was worth the world and more.

Suddenly Kate remembered what it was she'd meant to be doing right now. "Oh, crap." She sighed, dropping her head against his chest as she pushed herself up. "I've gotta go, but thank you, for tonight."

"No problem." He replied, watching her get up.

She slipped her dress back over her head and straightened the hem before moving back over to drape herself over his chest. She gazed up at him through her lashes innocently and he clasped his hands behind his head, watching her in amusement. "I don't suppose I would be lucky enough to get a third night next week?" she asked sweetly, tracing patterns on his bare arms.

"There's nothing lucky about it, little fire." He laughed, sliding one hand down the silky material over her back until it came to rest on her perfect ass. "I'll be back next week, and if you want me, well, I would never refuse a lady."

She smiled and ducked her head to press a kiss just under his ear. "Good." She breathed, straightening up and turning away. She swung over to the door, lifting a hand a wiggling her fingers with a sexy little giggle, her back still facing him. "Bye Fox."

He grinned, watching her leave, and then got up, grabbing his shirt. Maybe it wasn't enough to just have these weekly trysts, but he could make do, he always did.

He was determined to avoid her again this time so she couldn't get pissed at him for 'missing' the party, and he succeeded for about five minutes. She seemed to have waited until there was the biggest audience before going off. She strode up to his desk and slammed a file down in front of him. All three male agents jumped and stared at their furious female colleague. "You know, you could've at least called to tell me you weren't coming Gibbs." She informed him angrily. "At least then maybe I wouldn't have spent half my night waiting for you to show up!"

"You asked the boss on a date?" asked Tony incredulously.

"A party, DiNozzo." Corrected Kate, not taking her reddish-brown eyes from his ice blue ones. "With me and Abby. You are such a bastard, Gibbs, you know that?"

"Wait, you and Abby are going to parties without me?" whined Tony. "I love parties!"

"Trust me, Tony, they're not your thing." Warned McGee.

"Well than why would Gibbs go?" Everyone ignored the Italian agent which made him sullen.

Kate glared at her boss, more angry at herself than him, but having to take it out on someone, and he did deserve it. "It's just a party Gibbs, not tea with the Queen. You could've called and cancelled, and it wouldn't have been the end of the world."

"I'm sorry Kate." Sighed Gibbs. "I just sort of went home on autopilot on Saturday."

"Yeah, I'll bet you did." She snorted, rolling her eyes. "Whatever."

"I'll come to the next one, Kate, I promise." He told her, tiredly. "I really will, I was just stressed last week."

She relented, at least enough to give him another chance. "There's one on Friday." She told him, scribbling down the address and time.

"Do you go to one every week or something?" he asked, surprise colouring his voice.

Kate nodded, handing him the slip of paper. "After working with you people all week, I need it, so yeah, I go every weekend. You're welcome to tag along any time you like, but just talk to Abby or me before you do so you don't look like a newbie. Things change a lot in fifteen years, Gibbs."

"Yeah, so you mentioned." He muttered. She smiled innocently and he knew she'd deliberately pulled the age and experience card, trying to intimidate and/or embarrass him. Well, five points out of ten, baby, 'cause I'm embarrassed but you don't scare me. Kate turned away and was about to head back to her desk when he called her back. "Kate?" she paused and glanced back at him. "Do I really have to dress up? For a party?"

She smirked. "Well, it's one of Daria's, so yeah, you do Gibbs." She retorted. "Like I said, these things change."

There was a nagging doubt in the back of Kate's mind that warned her he might have just been trying to save face and he wouldn't show. Shut up, she told herself. He promised, and the one thing that could be counted on with Gibbs was that he kept his promises. She chose the same outfit she'd worn to the D/s party to wear tonight, determined to show Gibbs that she was nothing to mess with. A black silk dress that stopped mid-thigh, the choker necklace that glittered wickedly even in the dark, the black heels, and Abby's loaned spike-bracelets. She touched the mostly faded marks at her throat that she'd received the previous weekend. She'd asked Fox to be there, made sure she could have him tonight, but she'd be using the night to seduce Gibbs instead. He'd understand, after all, he'd mentioned being in love with someone as well and needing to be saved from it. He'd find someone else to save him from his mystery woman tonight, and she would make sure that hers was the only name Gibbs could ever say again.

He couldn't do it. He couldn't figure out how he would explain all this to her, how he could make her see that she was the woman he'd needed saving from. He was almost grateful when her phone went to answering machine, grateful that he wouldn't have to say it to her directly. He left a message and hung up and got out of the red Ferrari, ignoring Liz's exasperated sigh. "You're crazy devil-dog." She told him, climbing out of the car. "Go have fun with your new toy, but don't come to me for help when this all blows up in your face. You should've just taken my advice to begin with."

"So I'm a masochist," he retorted. "It fits in pretty damn well with all my other flaws, don't you think? Go have fun, Steel, I'll take care of myself."

She waved to show that she'd heard him and headed off into the throngs. He shook his head when he saw her lean up to kiss the young Goth that he worked with. He gave the match good odds where style was concerned, but only three weeks to live based on temperament and personality. He came up behind Kate, slipping his arms around her waist and pulling her with him. He leaned back against the wall, clasping his hands over her belly, and moved his lips to her neck. She laughed and pressed back against him, but only for a moment before averting her attention. "Looking for your friend again?" he asked easily.

"Mmhmm." She agreed, enjoying his soft attentions. "He promised he'd come tonight."

"I guess that means this is all I'm going to get tonight then." He observed, his breath tickling her ear.

"You guess right." She shook her hair back to give him full access to her neck. "You'll have to find someone else to make this go away." She teased, reaching back to touch him lightly before setting her hands back over his.

"Too bad." He murmured. "I doubt it'll be anywhere near as fun. You've spoiled me Serafine." She smiled as he nuzzled the choker around her neck. "Did you get all dressed up like this for him?"

Kate nodded. "Absolutely. Maybe if I'm lucky, he'll let me hold onto him for the night."

"You shouldn't need luck for that, Fire." Laughed Fox in amusement. "What's wrong with this guy that he doesn't see what he's got in front of him?"

She frowned suddenly, and he wondered if he'd said something wrong, but her next statement put him at ease. "He likes red-heads." She muttered, annoyed by this fact. She'd considered dying her hair for the night as well, but had decided it would be just a tad too blunt. Her frowned deepened as Fox laughed. "What?" she demanded.

"I highly doubt that any man, regardless of how picky he is, could resist something like what you present, Fire. He's not likely to care what colour your hair is, not when you look the way you do, and especially not once you've got your hands on him."

"Well thank you for the compliment Fox." She purred, tapping him under the chin as she smiled at him over her shoulder. "That's high praise from you. I may even let you stick around until he arrives just for that."

He chuckled and kissed her neck teasingly. He liked her neck and shoulders, they held a smooth curve and tasted amazing, not to mention that it was the only place on her body that he was both willing and able to explore at any time in any place. "I would appreciate that. If you're going to disappoint me today, the least you can do is let me have a few tastes."

He inched one hand lower but she yanked him back up to her belly with a laugh. "Not that much of a taste, baby." She warned. "Look, don't touch." He tossed her a wicked smile and relaxed back against the wall, prepared to wait as long as it took.

Kate began to shift restlessly after twenty minutes, and her body was tingling with desire from his absent-minded kisses after forty. Once an hour ticked over, though, she was simply annoyed, and not even Fox's soothing presence could heal her injured pride and broken heart. "Maybe he called." Suggested Fox gently, reaching up to tug in a lock of hair. She pulled her phone out of her hidden pocket and flipped it open, dialing her voicemail. Her heart cracked a little bit more with every second that the message lasted, and by the time she slipped the cell back in her pocket, the fragile organ had been shattered into a thousand pieces of ice.

Fox was surprised by the pain in her expression as she hung her head, slumping against him. "He promised he'd come." She mumbled, more to herself than him. "He never breaks his promises, never."

"What's wrong?" asked Fox, rubbing her hip comfortingly.

"I guess you could say I need to be saved from love too." She sighed, her head falling back against his chest.

"I could help you." He offered softly, but she shook her head.

"No, no you really can't Fox." She replied quietly. "It's just not that easy."

He glanced at her, puzzled by her reaction. "What's so special about this guy?" he asked, curiously.

Kate laughed softly, her face lighting up for just a moment. "He's the most inconsiderate, egotistical, stubborn bastard in the world."

"That doesn't really sound like a good thing." He pointed out.

"But it's worth every second of it." She breathed, closing her eyes. "It's worth every critique and every stupid, caffeine-induced drama. He's noble and loyal and brave, smart, absolutely lethal, and handsome on top of it all."

He glanced down at her cautiously, but her eyes were still closed. "Why do you have to seduce him here? It doesn't seem like you would have too much trouble convincing him to give you a shot."

"We work together, Fox." She sighed, her eyes fluttering open to gaze at him sadly. "More than that, I work FOR him. He has this rule, romance between agents never works. Actually he has about a thousand rules, but I think that's number 12."

"Rules?" repeated Fox incredulously.

"Yeah, rules." She replied with a small smile. "I think I know about fifteen of 'em by now. No," she corrected thoughtfully. "Double that, I forgot about the ones he mentioned the first time. God, I should've just shot him when I had the chance!" she dropped her head in her hands.

"What d'you do for a living?" he asked dryly. "All this about killing and saving, and lethal bosses, and shooting people. What d'you do, protect the president?"

"I used to." She laughed. "I quit for him."

"The president?"

"Gibbs." She corrected lightly. "Well, I was quitting anyway, but I probably would've turned down the agency's offer and gone back home to Montana after if it hadn't been for him. Why am I even telling you this?" she asked suddenly.

He shrugged. "I'm easy to talk to." He pointed out.

"Yeah, you are." She agreed, smiling weakly. "I think I'm just going to go home now."

"You want me to help you find Adara so she can give you a ride?" he asked.

Kate shook her head, pulling away from him. "I need to walk it off a little. I only live a few blocks from here anyway."

He wondered a little at the lie, but that wasn't what worried him most. "Dressed like that?" he asked incredulously, touching her hip. "That's really dangerous Fire."

"I'll be fine." She laughed. "Don't worry." She turned around and for some reason, felt another tug of pain when she looked at him. She moved back and pressed her lips to his, cupping his cheek. His fingers tangled in her dark locks and he pulled her closer, kissing her as deeply as he could. He wanted her to stop hurting, and he wished more than anything that he knew how to tell her that she didn't have to worry about him not loving her, it was far too late for that. She pulled back slowly, a peaceful light in her eyes as she offered him a sad smile. "I'll see you later Fox." She murmured, touching her lips to his again for a brief moment, and then she turned and left, hips swaying and head hung low.

He touched the cheek that she'd used to draw herself closer and stared after her in wonder. How was it possible for a woman to do this to him? He wasn't susceptible to these things, hardly at all. And yet he couldn't spend more than a few minutes with her before he started tingling with that long-lost emotion; love. What the hell was he doing? He had to tell her, had to make sure that even if she was angry with him, she was angry for the right reasons. He couldn't let her keep thinking that he didn't love her back. But more than that, he couldn't let her walk home through DC looking the way she did, it was practically suicide, or worse. He made his way out the door, making his best guess as to which path she'd have taken, and hurried down the road.

Kate wiped at her eyes hastily, striding down the street. She would be walking for a good hour before she got home and she knew it probably still wouldn't be enough to heal her heart in any way. And, God, she had to go in to work tomorrow. She let out a hopeless laugh, and paused, bending sideways to unbuckle her shoes. If she was going to be walking for an hour, she sure as hell wasn't going to do it in narrow, three inch heels, that was just begging for a broken ankle. She pulled off both stilettos and hung them on her finger, straightening her dress carefully. Suddenly, she felt a hand on her arm, and fear thrilled up her spine as she realized that it didn't belong to anyone she knew.

"Hey, look man, it's one of those D/s bitches." Sneered a young man, holding tightly to her arm. "What do they call 'em?"

"Dominatrix." Replied the man's friend, eyeing her dress.

Kate rolled her eyes, just a couple of drunk college kids looking to get into trouble they didn't understand. "I'm not a Domme." She informed them crisply, trying to pull away, but the man held onto her.

"You hear that, man? She ain't a Domme!" he laughed cruelly. "That means she must be the other kind, the slave."

"Get off me!" she ordered, not liking where this was going. When he still didn't let go, she elbowed him as hard as she could, yanking away from him, but she lost her balance and the other man grabbed her, pinning both her arms behind her back. The first man, straightened up, looking furious, and he strode over, back-handing Kate across the face. She cried out, her cheek stinging and her eyes watering, trying to glare up at the man. "Let go of me!" she cried, trying to jerk away. "Stop!" There was no point trying to explain to them that the D/s lifestyle wasn't about control over another person or about abuse, it was about trust, having so much faith in your partner that you could turn over your body to them and know that you would be safe. Her lecture wouldn't hold in their drunken minds and would only aggravate them in the meantime.

"Shut up!" ordered the man, slapping her again. She spat on him and he growled. "I thought you were supposed to follow orders, bitch." He growled, grabbing her by her necklace and yanking her head up.

"I told you, I'm not a part of that!" she yelled, angry and humiliated and scared. She wished desperately now that she hadn't taken off her heels, at least she could've used them as weapons. "Let go of me!"

The man who had her arms pinned shoved her up against the brick wall of a nearby building and she hissed in pain, seeing stars. The first man pulled her dress down to reveal the scratches and bite-marks that Fox's gentle loving had left behind. "Like hell, you're not sweetie!" he laughed. "Come on, you D/s freaks are up for anything, right? We're just trying to have a little fun, come on. We can make it worth your while."

She kicked out at the man behind her, but he jumped back and the first man hit her, hard, his fist landing on her spine. Kate bit her lip sharply but a strangled scream still wrenched itself from her lips and tears leaked down her cheeks as the men spun her around again. "You're not a very good slave are you?" demanded the man who was holding her in place.

"I don't have to be for you!" she spat, venomously. "You're not my Domme!"

"I thought you said you weren't a slave baby." Laughed the first man, sounding meaner and less sane by the second.

"Hey!" yelled a man's voice, furious. "Get off her!"

"Shit!" The man holding her shoved her away from him as hard as he could to get momentum as he ran, and her head cracked against the brick wall.

Gibbs saw Kate's head slam into the wall and panic filled his mind as she crumpled to the ground. He raced over to her, more worried about her than about the two men running off into the distance right now. He would deal with them later, he promised himself. He knelt beside Kate, lifting her limp form so that her head lay in his lap. "Wake-up, Katie honey, come on." He pleaded, petting her hair gently. "You've got to wake up sweetie!"

She coughed and her whole body spasmed in response, but at least her eyelids fluttered, half-open as she struggled to stay in the realm of consciousness. She let out a soft moan, pain and exhaustion on her face. "Fox?" she whimpered, barely able to see him through blinding pain.

"It's alright, Fire, I've got you." He promised, fumbling to pull his cell out of his pocket. He flipped it open and dialed 911. "I just saw someone get attacked, I think she might have a concussion." He told the dispatcher. He rattled off the location and once they'd promised to send an ambulance and a cop car, he hung up and redialed, calling Abby this time. "Abbs, get McGee and get out here, now! It's Kate."

"What happened to her?" demanded Abby, panicked.

"Some drunk morons figured out that she was coming from your friend's party and were trying to get her to play with them." He explained, not really wanting to do this right now. "Would you hurry up? I need one of my agents here when the police arrive." And with that abrupt order, he hung up. He cradled Kate's head in his lap carefully, petting her hair. "Come on, baby, you've got to stay awake." He begged. "Please just talk to me Katie."

"Hu...hurts." she whimpered, struggling to do as he asked. But it would be so nice to sleep, to just fade...

"Don't even think it, Fire!" he ordered sharply. "Talk to me!"

She grimaced, her whole body aching, but mostly her head and her chest. "You...were right... I sh...shouldn't have...tried walk home. Should...should've waited for...for Adara." She slurred, stumbling through the sentence. "Hurts, Fox!"

"Okay," He soothed, keeping his voice as low and as calm as possible. "It's okay, Fire, no one knew this would happen." That wasn't true, he'd known, and he'd given her too much of a head start. If he'd arrived on the scene just a few minutes faster, none of this would've happened. "Don't blame yourself."

"Tell...tell Gibbs...," She mumbled, unable to hold her eyes open anymore. The throbbing pain was too much, and she was slipping farther into the sweet darkness. "I love him... I don't...don't blame him for...for not coming... Or he'll...never forgive himself." Her eyes fell shut and her breathing slowed, became less ragged.

"I already know, baby." He whispered, brushing his fingers through her dark locks as the flashing lights and wailing sirens drew closer. "But I'm not going to forgive myself anyway, you should know that."

Gibbs watched, pain on his face, as the paramedics loaded Kate into the ambulance. He'd given a statement to the police car that arrived and he'd explained what he'd seen of her condition as best he could to the medics. Abby and McGee had arrived a few minutes earlier, and the Goth was standing by McGee's dark sedan with her hand over her mouth, trying not to cry, while McGee looked surprisingly intimidating, explaining quite firmly that NCIS had jurisdiction and there was nothing whatsoever that the officers could do about that. Just then, Kate's body jerked a little, and she cried out. "Fox!"

Gibbs darted over to her, levering himself into the back of the ambulance. The medics didn't think twice about letting him on, and he held Kate's hand, rubbing it with his thumb comfortingly. "It's okay, you're fine." He soothed, and she nodded, fading back out. He sighed, swallowing back his fear. She would be fine, he wouldn't have her death on his conscience. Would he?

He'd ridden with her all the way to the hospital, and then he'd managed to B.S. his way into the hospital itself. He wouldn't leave her to wake up alone in some strange room. Now, in the tiny hours of the morning, he sat by her hospital bed, waiting for her to wake. When she finally stirred, he leaned forward, brushing her hair out of her face. "Fox?" she asked, hoarsely. She blinked a little, swiping her tongue around the inside of her mouth.

"I'm here, Fire." He assured her gently, leaning in to kiss her forehead. "I'm here."

"Please don't leave me." She whispered, a frightened look in her eyes. "Please."

He shook his head. "I'm not going anywhere, sweetie, don't worry."

She relaxed a little, closing her eyes again. "Did you tell...tell Gibbs not to worry?" she asked softly, sleepily.

"Yeah, I told him." He replied, his heart breaking for her in that moment.

"Good." She murmured. "Is he pissed?"

"No, baby, not even a little." He promised. Kate nodded slowly and fell asleep again. Gibbs let his head fall back against the wall in exhaustion. This wasn't maybe the worst thing that had ever happened in his life, but it was pretty high up there, probably tied with the day his mother died. Her injuries had been, luckily, very minor. Most of them were mere surface wounds, cuts and bruises on her face and arms. There had only been two major things, and even they weren't really that bad. The first of course was her head. She'd cracked it against the wall pretty hard and they'd been pretty worried about that for a while. The other was an injury he hadn't seen occur. She'd been hit in the spine, and while there was no permanent damage, it would hurt like hell for quite a while. He was trusting McGee, Tony and the sketch artists to find the two dirt-bags who had done this because he just couldn't leave Kate. It was his fault she was here, from beginning to end. He'd had several hours to work out just how many ways this whole thing came back to him. First, his cowardice had made her want to leave the party early. Second, he hadn't insisted on taking her home, or getting her a ride, even though he'd known something like this could happen if she went walking through DC looking the way she had. And three, if he'd gone after her sooner, he could have prevented the attack. There were probably more, but he hadn't figured them out yet. It wouldn't take long to figure it out, but for now, he just wanted her to get better so he could tell her how sorry he was that he'd screwed up again.

Kate didn't really remember the last time she'd woken, all she remembered was that Fox had been there and she'd asked him to stay with her, and he'd reassured her that he wasn't going anywhere. When she woke for a second time, she was actually awake, and she groaned softly at the pain in her back. "Fox?" she asked, rubbing her forehead.

"He had to go home, babe." Replied Abby gently, grabbing her friend's hand. "How're you feeling?"

"Like I got hit by a truck." Answered Kate. "He said he'd stay."

"He stayed as long as he could, Kate." Said Gibbs wearily. He'd gone home for a little while when she was asleep to shower and change, but then he'd come right back. He'd forgotten, in his worried mind, that she still had no idea that he and Fox were one and the same, and now he cursed himself silently. Of course, now she thought they'd both abandoned her at least once.

Kate threw her arm over her eyes tiredly. She didn't want to deal with Gibbs right now, and she hadn't really wanted him to know about Fox. She'd hoped that she could keep that her little secret. "What happened Abby?"

"Don't you remember, baby?" asked the Goth. She hadn't managed to get home to change yet, and Kate felt her mind settle into its normal state in connection to the outfit. "I wasn't there, Katie honey, can't you remember?"

"Sort of." Replied Kate thoughtfully. "They thought I was a Domme at first, but when I said I wasn't they figured I was a slave."

Abby's expression darkened with fury, and she looked truly frightening for a moment. "I'll kill 'em!" she hissed, angrily. "Stupid, idiotic, drunk morons! Nobody screws with this Domme." She jumped up, glancing down at Kate. "I've gotta go baby, but I'll be back really soon, okay? Feel better." She leaned down and kissed Kate's forehead before storming out of the hospital room.

Kate sighed and let her head fall farther back into the pillows. She'd actually forgotten Gibbs was in the room, so his voice surprised her. "Abby's your Domme?" he asked, surprised.

She shook her head. "I don't play D/s, but Abby IS a Domme, and to her, any insult to the game or to her friends is a punishable offense, whether or not it involves one of her subs." She corrected.

Gibbs winced a little, looking wary. "I'd hate to be those boys when she or the others get a hold of them." He said dryly. "DiNozzo's beyond pissed, I don't think I've ever seen him like this."

"Great, because all I need now is for Tony to know what kinds of parties I go to." She sighed, pulling the starched white sheets over her head. "I wanna go back to sleep." She muttered.

"Do you want me to stay with you Kate?" he asked, and she was surprised by the softness in his voice. She peeked out at him, curiously, and he just gazed back at her sadly.

"No thanks." She answered, puzzled by his behaviour. She'd expected him to be pissed and to blame himself and to yell at her for not carrying a weapon, but she hadn't expected him to look exhausted and lost and even a little broken. "I'll be fine."

He nodded and got up, brushing her shoulder gently as he left. "Just feel better, Katie."

Director Morrow had ordered her to talk to one of the agency's shrinks, and then to go home and not come back for a week. She was now stretched out on her couch, her scarlet blanket over her legs as she read her book. Music poured out of her speakers, soothing her soul as the book soothed her mind and the ice cream on the table soothed her body. She still looked bruised and battered, although the physical scars hurt far less than the emotional ones right now. It still made her stop breathing whenever she thought back to how she'd felt as she listened to Gibbs's phone message, and she felt drained and like she was about to cry when she realized how close she'd come to being a victim of such an unspeakably horrible crime. She, who had been hand-picked to protect the President of the United States, had been inches away from the same fate as some of the women who's deaths she investigated, and it made her want to curl up in a ball and wilt away from the world. She hated that she had been reduced to something so usable by those men who shouldn't have been able to match her, she had always been strong, and she didn't like feeling this way. She hadn't realized how long she'd been brooding on the memory until she jumped like a terrified bunny at the knock on her front door. She wiped the tears from her cheeks hastily and pushed the blanket off, hurrying for the door hopefully.

Kate opened the door in her pajamas, and her face fell a little at the sight of her boss standing on her doorstep. "Oh, hi Gibbs, I...I thought you might be someone else." She stammered, backing up to let him in.

He stepped through the door, watching her with unreadable eyes. "Fox?" he asked dryly, noticing the way her breath hitched at the name. She flushed, the skin above her neckline tingeing pink, as she remembered that his name had been the first thing she'd said when she woke.

"He's just someone from the party, she replied, a little breathless and trying to sound nonchalant. "He was the one who called 911 for me, he got those guys to let go of me. I wanted to thank him." Gibbs nodded, not saying anything, and she fluttered nervously. "Did...did you want some coffee or something?"

"Sure." He agreed quietly. "Thanks." He followed her into the kitchen, watching her bustle around and feeling a sense of déjà vú. "I just came to check and see how you were doing. I know it can't be easy for you to go through all this."

She flinched, pressing her palms flat against the counter top and hanging her head low on her chest. "It could've been worse." She whispered, closing her eyes. "I just keep telling myself that it could've been a lot worse. At least they didn't..." she stopped, not letting her head go down that path. She took a deep breath and looked up, calm again, handing him his coffee. "It was nice of you to come check in, but I'm fine Gibbs, really."

"You're not fine Kate." He corrected, shaking his head. "If you were fine, you'd be yelling at me for bailing out on you again. I'm really sorry."

"It's okay." She shrugged, folding her arms over her belly defensively. "It's not your fault this happened."

"But it is." He replied miserably. "It's completely my fault, Katie. If I'd done any one of a million things differently, none of this would have happened."

"I thought Fox told you not to worry!" exclaimed Kate, exasperated. "But you always have to blame yourself anyway! Look, Gibbs, I'm fine, and you need to stop trying to take on the world's problems! You're just one man, for God's sake."

He almost laughed at that last phrase, seeing as he'd been playing two different people the past couple of weeks. At least she was feeling well enough to yell at him, that was a good sign. "I'll try." He promised. "But don't hold your breath."

She huffed, rolling her eyes. "Men!" she muttered to herself. "Ridiculous."

Gibbs decided that now would be a good time to get back to the subject he'd really wanted to talk to her about. "D'you want some ice or anything?" he asked solicitously, having noticed how carefully she moved. "For your back, I mean."

"Yeah, that'd be nice." She sighed, rubbing her forehead tiredly and walking over to the fridge.

"Go sit down Kate," He instructed. "I'll take care of it." She looked puzzled, but did as he said, curling up tightly on the black couch. He appeared a moment later with and ice-pack wrapped in a towel, and she slipped it behind her back, sighing with relief at the cold. He frowned, not liking the idea that it hurt so much. "What did they do to you, Katie?" he asked, only a hint of danger in his voice.

"One of 'em hit me." She muttered, closing her eyes. "Because I tried to kick his friend." Gibbs frowned deeper. Damn, stupid, idiots. They weren't going to last long at NCIS, not after all they'd done. "I'm really lucky Fox showed up when he did," She added, not seeing his expression. "Or I would've been in real trouble."

Gibbs watched her intently, so he could measure her reaction to his words. "He seemed really attached to you, Kate." Pointed out the agent casually.

She glanced at him with narrowed eyes. "What's that supposed to mean, Gibbs?" she asked sharply.

He shrugged. "It's just that you don't usually see that much devotion to someone who just happened to go to the same party as you."

Kate eyed him for a moment before deciding that she didn't care to lie right now. "We're lovers, yeah." She replied calmly, and Gibbs was surprised. Why would she admit that to him? "But mostly friends. I'm pretty sure he and Steel are too close for him to really be with anyone else. They may not be partners, in fact I think Steel might be seeing Abby right now, but there's a bond there, and I certainly wouldn't want to try to break it."

"Why would you sleep with someone you're not interested in?" asked Gibbs, surprised. He'd thought she found Fox very interesting, what had he missed?

"No one said I wasn't interested, Gibbs." Sighed Kate. "Just not interested enough, and I don't believe I said I was sleeping with him either."

"But you said..." he began, confused.

"I said we were lovers." Finished Kate matter-of-factly. "I told you before, these parties only get you into trouble if you don't know what you're doing. I do. I don't go out to get laid, in fact, I haven't slept with any other guests, ever, and I don't intend to either."

Well, if she didn't call what they'd done sleeping together, then what the hell did she call it? Wondered Gibbs to himself. "Why not?"

She shrugged, not really knowing the answer. "I guess I just don't want to give myself to someone like that when I know nothing's going to come of it. I would want to know that I cared about the person I was with, and I'd want to know that they cared about me, that's all." This was not at all the answer he'd expected. He had no idea what to make of any of it. She'd said she loved him, but she hadn't been thinking and she hadn't known it was him she was talking to. Plus, he had sort of betrayed her last night, so he really didn't know what to do now. She seemed to have noticed his thoughtfulness because she was watching him curiously when he looked up. "What did you really come for, Gibbs?" she asked quietly.

"I, uh, I don't really know how to put it, Kate." He muttered, looking down uncomfortably.

"I see." He glanced up in surprise and saw the pain flash across her face. "I remember what you said Gibbs, it's okay, I understand."

Maybe she understood, but he had no idea what she was talking about. He froze when she reached into the side table drawer and pulled out her gun and badge, handing them over to him calmly. "What was that for?"

"You said if I ever pulled a stunt like what happened with Major Kerry again, you wouldn't give me the chance to resign." She reminded him quietly. "It's okay, I get it."

He frowned, handing the symbols of her job back to her. "No, you don't Kate, that's not what I'm here for." She looked puzzled and he took a deep breath. "I'm here for you. I don't know how you feel, really, but I'm completely in love with you. If you're not comfortable with that, I understand, and I won't argue with whatever choice you make, but I just needed you to know. I was really scared to go with you to one of those parties 'cause I knew I wouldn't be able to see straight. I asked one of my friends to help me."

She froze, an odd look on her face. "Fox." She whispered, stunned.

He nodded. "Yeah, I..." but he didn't get to finish.

Kate jumped up, ignoring the pain in her back at the sudden movement. She was trembling with fury as she glared at him. "I can't believe you!" she yelled, her cheeks flushed with shame. "You sent someone to scout me out? To get information for you? I can't believe this! I let... He was... I wanted..." she couldn't finish any of her sentences, she was too angry, too ashamed, and her eyes were stinging with tears.

Gibbs realized very quickly she thought he meant, and hurried to smooth it over. "No, Katie, I called Steel, I asked Steel for help." He clarified urgently. "I didn't send Fox to scout you out, I am Fox." She stared at him, astonished, and dropped back onto her couch, eyes unseeing. "I told you, I used to go to these parties, we used aliases then too, and mine was Fox. Liz gave it to me, and I picked hers, Steel. Liz and I have known each other since we were kids, but I'm in love with you."

"Are you saying that I...that we..." she trailed off, her voice low and empty of emotion.

"Please forgive me Katie." He pleaded. "Liz says I should've told you from the beginning, and she's right, I should have, but you're too good for me Kate. I couldn't find the way to tell you. I'm so sorry, please forgive me."

He was saying please, and apologizing. He was strictly against both of those actions, but he was willing to break those rules for her, she realized. She remembered what Abby had said; If you think for one second that he wouldn't break every one of his rules for you, you're crazy. "You're begging." She realized, not really all there at that moment.

He cast her a pained glance. "Is it any surprise?" he asked, shakily. "You don't have to be a Domme to be able to control me, Katie."

Kate rose up like she was attached to marionette strings and glided over to him, settling into his lap and sliding her hands over his shoulders. She leaned in, touching her lips to the skin just under his ear and he shuddered. "D'you have any idea," She breathed, her sweet breath washing over him. "How happy it makes me to hear that?" He shook his head mutely and she smiled, burying her face in the crook of his neck. "Put it this way," She whispered, her lips brushing over his ear as she spoke. "I'll be over to collect that bra I left at your place. Very soon. Tomorrow."

"Why not tonight?" he asked, hazily.

"Because I don't need it tonight." She replied, pulling away just long enough to drag his shirt over his head. "It's late, and it's pouring rain outside. There is absolutely no way you could get safely home tonight."

"I guess I'll just have to stay here." He agreed, coiling his arms around her narrow waist. "But what about your back?"

"My back doesn't stop me from kissing you senseless." She rasped, her lips hovering over his. "And besides that, maybe I'm kinkier than you give me credit for. Maybe I'm willing to sub for you."

He shook his head, his mind lost in the fog of her scent, and it was all he could do to make his throat work. "I was telling the truth Kate, I don't do that kind of stuff, I think it's a waste of fire. And even if you could enjoy that, I'd be scared out of my mind that I was hurting you."