Author's Note:

This is my first try at a novel about Navy CIS (or any TV series at all). Perhaps I'll do some errors about the different executive organs (FBI, State Police, NCIS), how they interact etc. I hope you'll cope with that and enjoy the story nonetheless. This story will be somewhat AU but mostly follow the normal story line (apart from romances).

The story starts two years before the events of season 1.


Chance Encounter

Rome –Ponte Sant'Angelo – 8th of July 2001 (Caitlin's POV)

Breathing was a bit difficult with no shadows to hide and not the slightest breeze cooling my skin. I had hoped to find some relief on the Tiber Bridge but even here the air was deadly calm. Another group of Japanese tourists found its way behind my back, this one with yellow kepis. They followed their leader, an Italian student of arts I assumed, with a brightly colored parasol in her hand which she used to point towards the statues that lined the bridge on both sides.

I had stepped aside to the edge railing to avoid them and the harassing of their cameras. For a moment I mused about the number of photo shots that would show me. Then the student stopped, the tourists now successfully blocking my way, denying me any possibility to take flight. So I had to endure her awful English as she started to talk about Castel D'Angelo that was overlooking the bridge, its rotund structure being a very imposing sight with the statue of an angel on top that gave the building its name.

Allowing the student to enlighten the tourists with its babbling about the structure, that it had been the mausoleum of Hadrian and how the Vatican used it for a time as a fortress, I turned to the water below. Slowly it went under the bridge, the sunlight glittering on its surface and veiling the grime and mud in the water. Some boats and a handful of small ships were on the Tiber, built of exactly the height and width to allow them to cross the bridge. Perhaps I should use one of them in the evening. One of the older agents who had been in Rome seven years ago told me how wonderful the lite-cruise on the Tiber had been. Not that I was a very romantic type or expected to see many lights at the buildings around before I had to go back.

The last days had been very arduous. With a dozen other agents I belonged to William – never Bill or Willy – Baer's advance unit, sent to Rome to prepare the stay of our Secretary of State, Mr. Colin Powell. He would stay in Rome for a workshop with his colleagues from France, England and the other countries before the official G8-meeting will begin in two weeks. The heads of state would meet in Genua but at least these days I would experience Rome, the immortal city.

We had arrived five days ago and this afternoon and early evening would be my first real spare time, the first moment to allow me to move slowly, deliberately. At least for a few hours Baer's eyes would not linger on me, his brain would not use any opportunity to criticize and scorn my actions. More than once in these past days I had wondered if he hated every young woman or if it was only me. After the second team's arrival he had announced that we would have some leisure, but it hadn't been before I left the area that I allowed me to believe it.

With the gurgling below and the babbling behind I sighed deeply as I sensed the touches of the sun on my skin. I had chosen some airy garment, needing a change to the dark suit of clothes I normally wore irrespective of the temperature. I had learned the hard way how to survive hours and hours standing still in blazing heat without losing consciousness but this didn't mean that I had to like it or endure it if I had a choice.

In that moment I sensed the eyes that lingered on me. Perhaps it was my training as an agent of the Secret Service; perhaps it was the simple fact that I had endured more than one look of desire from my colleagues in the last days. The heat obviously had done some bad to their nerves and level of hormones. I suppressed the urge to immediately spin around and instead behaved normally, turning my gaze here and there until my eyes met hers at last.

The first I saw of her was a large beige sun hat with a dark brown hatband and a sunflower fixed to it. Shoulder-length fire-red hair framed a face that was nearly invisible under the shadow of her hat brim. She wore a long-sleeved cotton tee, formerly yellow but now very washed out with an unreadable logo on it, a simple light blue jeans and more or less white canvas shoes without socks. Tall was my first notion. She was sitting on a chair, her hands holding a sketch block and … wait, what?

I blinked heavily but there couldn't be a mistake: she was obviously drawing something on that block with the charcoal in her surprising slender left hand. And even so obviously it was me that seemed to be her … inspiration. She lifted her head a bit and I saw her pleasant smile in response to my blushing cheeks. For a minute I stood still, pondering about how to react, using the time to take in the picture in front of me. She had an alabaster skin, certainly not well suitable for the Mediterranean sun and perhaps the reason for her choice of top. The shoulder as well as the rest of her frame told about some sports activity, perhaps swimming or rowing. Her height was difficult to estimate but certainly she was at least a handbreadth taller than me.

Beside her worn chair stood a little scaffold and a case with further sketch blocks and caskets for other materials as well as a Thermos flask and a few cups. As I started to move she simply raised her hand with the charcoal. Somewhat fascinated like a rabbit in front of a snake I stared at the hand and stopped. Another smile, open, thankful for my patience, she showed and turned back to her block. Unused to this kind of attention I awaited her allowance to move again. Slowly my feet went a bit numb and my legs ached as they urged me to move them around. But I endured it, fascinated that this time it wasn't me with the sketch block. Not that I had much opportunity to use my own in the last months. Too much work and apparently sketching was … improper for an active agent.

"Thank you for your patience," her voice startled me. Caught in my daydreams I had missed that she had finished and passed the distance to me. Her voice was dark and full, pleasant to hear and lulling to relax. I had no problems to imagine me resting on a bed with her reading something aloud for me.

I reciprocated her smile and pointed towards the block. "May I see the sketch?"

For a moment she hesitated, her smile weakening as she looked at it. But then she handed me the block. "I like to do sketches very much. But it is only a hobby. I'm not really good at it," she apologized.

It was a real sketch, perhaps some points of my face too accentuated but all in all natural, unlike the more humorous sketches I often did. I had seen better ones, yes. And there were some errors in the proportions and the sight lines of bridge and the background. But I liked how she captured the moment, my face, my emotions and even the uneasiness to stand still. "I like it, very much actually."

Her shoulders relaxed, a small sigh escaped her throat and now it was her turn to blush. "If you like I would give it to you." On my nod she walked back, loosened the sheet from the block carefully, made a roll from it and put it in a case. "Here it is."

I accepted the case, pondering how to react. What would be an appropriate response? She seemed not to be a paid sketcher as some others on the bridge, selling her abilities to the tourists. So money was beyond debate. Then I remembered …

"There is an ice-cream parlor at the end of the bridge. May I invite you as a small reward for the sketch?" My words caused her to smile broadly, her open joy instantly proving me that I made the right decision.

"That would be great." Turning around to an older dark-skinned painter near her scaffold she started to speak Italian very rapidly, pointing to her belongings until the painter answered with a smile and a nod. She fetched her purse, waved him farewell and linked arms with me, startling me a bit until she soothed me with another smile. As we started to cross the bridge her eyes went down and for a moment another blush appeared on my face as I realized that she had a real good look into my cleavage. But before I had the chance to think about it, she let loose and began to rummage thru her purse.

"You're too careless," she censured me, pressing a tube après-sun into my hand. "You should use more sun milk for the first days even with your skin not as delicate as mine." To make a point she pressed the tip of her index finger on a place next to the spaghetti strap of my dress and instantly a wave of pain shot thru my shoulder. "Don't be such a sissy," she commented my flinching, but her smile took the edge of her words. "Err … thanks … I think." I smiled back. "By the way I'm Caitlin T…" she interrupted me with a gesture. "Caitlin will be enough. No surname, no hometown … we're simply two American beauties in Rome. My name is Tamara but never call me Tam or Tammy if you appreciate an unbroken nose." Somehow I had no doubts about that.

I nodded, relieved to hear this from her, even with me being more prepared to speak about my family than my job. A bit distracted I opened the tube and started to rub the milk onto my arms as I felt me dragged to the bridge's railing. Looking up I saw a smirk on her lips. She took the tube, shoved some milk on her hands and started to rub it onto my skin, starting with my hands and going up to my shoulders, pushing the straps aside to reach every point before she turned me around and worked my upper back. There was nothing erotic in her moves but nonetheless I had to force my breath to stay even.

As I thought her to be finished her hands gripped my waist with surprising strength and lifted me to sit on the railing. I felt like a child as she took my hand and poured some milk on it. "Your cleavage you should rub yourself … unless you're adamant otherwise." Her words and the nearness of her body caused small shivers on my back. Kate, you're catholic, you can't have such thoughts.

As if answering to my thoughts Tamara grinned broadly and grabbed my ankle, lifting my foot to put the shoe away before she began to rub the milk on my foot and leg, following with the other one while I sat there dumb-folded with the milk for my cleavage still in my hand. She pointed towards it: "You should use it before it runs down on your dress." Wordlessly I nodded and followed her advice, listening to her humming a melody that was unknown to me. At last Tamara seemed to be content and put my shoes on my feet again before she grabbed my waist and pulled me from the railing. For some seconds … too long to be solely coincidence … she held my body against her own before she set me down.

"Ready we are … the ice-cream is waiting," she tried to relax the situation. This time she didn't link arms again but waited for me to walk beside her. Had she realized my uneasiness? It seemed this way, because more than once in the following time I saw her stop a move that would lead to our skins touching again.

As we reached the shop she played the attentive gentleman, helping me on a chair and ordering two cups of ice. Normally I would have opposed someone to choose for me but I liked to hear her voice. "You seem to speak Italian very fluent, Tamara."

"Not so, I must confess, Caitlin. I had an Italian nanny for a few years and she tried to teach me her language. And I used the last weeks to practice. But it is still only enough for simple things, not sufficient for difficult conversations."

"That's way more than I could do. And you may call me Kate, Tamara."

To my surprise she shook her head. "No way could I do that. Why should I shorten such a wonderful name? Caitlin, the 'pure beauty' it is and nothing else."

How many times I had blushed in the last hour? I had lost count. "And your name, what does Tamara mean?"

"It is a name used in Israel and Egypt. My parents made a voyage on the Nile before my birth and chose Tamara for me. It means 'She who loves the land'. Despite being Egyptian I think it is a very Irish name, don't you agree?" This I did.