Apologies on this one… hard chapter to get right, and I'm still not satisfied with it but out of ideas and this seems to work, even though I'm being picky about it. Enjoy.
"You're glowing, Kate, dear," Ducky lightly chided as he side-stepped her in the kitchen and hit the button for the oven light to check the turkey's progress.
She laughed and finished chopping the last of the potatoes to go in the pot before her. "Well, that's probably because I'm a young tart here to tempt away sweet Donald," she teased, sliding carefully from her stool and crossing to the sink to rinse the knife.
"I am sorry for mother's words," the M.E. answered, chastened by the reply.
"Well, my husband was amused," she tossed back wryly. "And it gave me an excuse to elbow Tony … Besides, she's your mother. She's family. We love Victoria, despite all her… quirks."
He shook his head as he scrutinized the turkey steadily cooking away in the oven. "Yes, well, mother pushes the limits of eccentric. And don't think I missed the fact that you are trying to misdirect me." As she resumed her perch on the stool, he returned to the island in the kitchen where she turned her attention to a lump of bread dough. "How are you, Caitlin?"
Kate sprinkled the counter with just enough flour to keep it from sticking and lifted the dough. She took her time, rolling it steadily. "I'm fine. Honestly." When he came to stand across from her, she pressed out the dough and turned slightly to roll across lengthwise. "I spent two days at home sleeping and eating turkey roll, and another trying to convince Gibbs that I was fine."
"And caring for Miss Natalie," he reminded her gently. "It couldn't have been easy."
She almost missed the soft knock on her door, and one that repeated and convinced her to finally untangle from the, frankly, cozy nest she had made when she relented and indulged in an afternoon nap. Kate pushed herself up a bit, reaching over and fumbling a moment before turning on the bedside lamp and adjusting the hoodie she was wearing. "Come in."
The doorknob turned slowly, and Kate caught a glimpse of an adult's arm opening the door while Natalie ducked under the arm and stepped forward carefully. She peeked in, holding out a small plate with a brownie and a fork. "Hi," she whispered.
"Hey," Kate smiled, pushing herself up against the headboard and tugging the pillows up to make room. "Come on up here."
Natalie bit her bottom lip, rich brown eyes staring at her solemnly as she crossed the distance to the bed and let Kate take the plate before she attempted to climb up. It took a good try or two before she made it up. She guided the little girl to her side, tucking her in beside her. "That's a lot of brownie… I'm not sure I can eat all of it." Lie. Blatant lie. Kate could down it in fifteen seconds flat. But she could always sneak a second one later. Hell, she could text L.J., and he would bring it up himself if she asked.
"Gramma and I made it," she said shyly. "It's good. I tasted the bead… the beat… thingies."
"Beaters?" Kate asked gently.
The dark head nodded, and Natalie glanced down at Kate's stomach, scrutinizing it. One small hand reached out tentatively to touch the curve, and Kate carefully shifted, curious to see what was going to happen.
"Kay-kay?" Natalie queried, her hand resting light as a feather.
"L.J. said you got a baby?"
A smile slowly spread across Kate's face, that same dumb grin that his name always seemed to bring to her. "Yeah, sweet girl. L.J. and I have a baby, and it's in my tummy until it's done growing and can grow up and be big."
"Oh," the little girl breathed almost reverently. Her hand pressed ever so slightly closer, and Kate guided it over the swell. For several moments, the agent watched as Natalie's hand rubbed softly, finally shifting so that her ear pressed against Kate's belly. Quiet settled in the room, and still she waited for a reaction.
It took a while before Natalie pushed herself up again, eyes big. "I felted it move."
She smiled softly at this. Kate had yet to feel the baby move, and it was something that bothered her more and more these days. All of her books said she should start feeling movement any day now. Only the video from the ultrasound before she was released the other day had kept her from panic over this. And a few stern self-lectures about how she was being such a paranoid first time mom. But it still bothered her. "You did, huh?"
Natalie's nod was so serious that Kate went with it. "Yeah… Kay-kay?"
"Hmm?" she asked started to pull out the brownie again, ready to have a snack, even if it meant sharing. She never expected the question coming, although later she realized that she should have.
"Are you going to take care of the baby always?"
She shook herself slightly, the concern in Ducky's voice bringing her back to the present as she realized her cheeks were wet with tears. A handkerchief was pressed into her hand, and she thanked him softly, dabbing at her eyes. "I'm okay… I'm… I'm everything right now," she sniffled and swallowed hard. "God, I'm sorry, I got flour all over this—"
"Hush, you don't owe me apologies," Ducky tenderly chided. He stepped forward now, pulling her into a gentle hug and rubbing her back when she relaxed into it, taking slow shaky breaths.
She swallowed hard and dabbed her nose. "We thought… we thought we were okay, Ducky," she whispered. "He woke me up the other night. He had a nightmare, and he didn't say it, but I know what it was about. We should be so happy, and we are, but we're both… God, we're both terrified."
Ducky pressed a soft kiss to her brow. "I promise you, the baby is perfect. Good weight, good movement, the heartbeat was beautiful, Kate, and I would be concerned if neither of you had any fears going into this. He's been through tragic loss, and you've both faced death many times over."
"I… I don't know what I'm doing with Natalie," she confessed. "And we're been so busy. We… I don't… We can't just walk away from her, but I haven't had much time with L.J. lately. Our jobs are crazy, but we made it work, and right now…"
"You're worried you're drifting apart," he summed it up neatly, and the words seemed terribly simple.
The dark head nodded, and she rubbed hard at her eyes, swiping away the moisture gathered underneath them. "God, I'm a hot mess," she sniffled. "I'm not going out any more. No more crime scenes, at least not until after I have the baby."
"Glad you finally came around on that," came a deep voice from the doorway.
Gibbs was leaning against the frame, pushing himself forward when Kate turned at his voice. He crossed the kitchen, sliding up behind her as his hand went automatically to her lower back, fingers kneading the spots where muscles always knotted the worst. "You're damn good at your job, Kate, but crime scenes and protection detail—"
"Protecting this comes first," she agreed, hand rubbing over her belly. Her mouth opened to speak, and she froze, eyes widening.
"Caitlin?" Ducky asked, glancing to Gibbs and stepping closer.
Gibbs turned her gently, leaning in close. "Katie?"
Soft eyes lifted, emotions welling. "I… it… I felt it," she breathed, pulling his hand to her baby bump, only later realizing he wouldn't feel anything yet. "I finally felt it."
His thumb brushed reverently against her before his arms wrapped around her and he pulled her as close as he could without squeezing. "When this is over, we're going to take a weekend. Just us."
"I want to go away—with you," she quickly added, holding tight and resting her head against his shoulder. "Mexico. I want to get away, and see Mike. And I really want this time with you… and I don't know, I want to be with dad and everyone for Christmas—"
"Indiana?" he asked, confused.
"No, dad. I mean, your dad. With Jack. And our family here. I mean, we should see my family, too, but I want us."
"Us and Mike," he rebutted lightly, smirking at Ducky when she gave his shoulder a light swat.
"Emotional hormonal woman carrying your child here," she grumbled, poking his side when he chuckled and rubbed her back. "He can visit his senorita for a few days."
"Okay," he agreed.
"Gibbs, I mean it. We need—" she continued, pulling back slightly and looking up at him in confusion. "Wait.. what?"
"We need it. We're going," he explained, pressing a kiss to her forehead. "You. Me. Mexico. We'll go for New Years. I have vacation time, we're taking it." He ducked down, leaning in for a long, slow kiss.
"Hey, Ducky, McBrown-nose wants to know if you and Kate need any help. I told him it would insult your capabilities and Kate's feminism, but he—oh God," Tony stopped short physically and verbally, and Kate let herself drift more fully in her moment with her husband.
"Come on, dear boy," Ducky skirted the enamored couple and nudged the senior field agent toward the hall. "Jethro and Kate have dinner rolls to finish."
Tony gave a little cough, shaking his head. "I'm not that hungry. Is that sanitary? I mean, they already have a bun in—"
He moved quickly, edging backward and skillfully guiding Kate so their kiss wasn't broken. Lips pressed firmer for a half moment before Gibbs pulled back. In unison, each reached up and delivered a swift slap to the head. "Your mind might be in the gutter, but unless your next career plan is Ducky's compost dealer, keep your mouth out of it."
"Going, boss," Tony quickly answered, rubbing his head and attempting to fix his hair as he ducked out.
One more chapter to go…