by B. Cavis

by B. Cavis

On the third night, sipping a glass of his good bourbon and leaning up against the wall, Ari opens his mouth and asks with all of the considerable lack of tact in his body, "And how is Caitlin? You've been reluctant to talk about her. Or mention her name. At all."

The smarmy little bastard is standing next to his picture-- the one that Gibbs had printed off the security camera from that first day in the morgue. The one with the bullet hole in the forehead. It gives him a dark little kick to do it, too, and Gibbs knows it.

He understands this man. He's not sure how long it's going to take him to get to a point where he's completely comfortable with that fact, but, well, he's letting the fucker drink his alcohol so maybe it'll be less time than he thinks.

Gibbs pushes harder on the sander and tries not to imagine what "Caitlin" would say if she knew that he was entertaining this particular guest tonight. He doesn't actually *know*, which is more than a little scary.

He can never understand and he can never predict how Ari Haswari and Caitlin Todd will interact. He couldn't understand why she didn't stab him. He couldn't understand why she stuck to her kind eyed guns. He didn't understand why Ari didn't kill her. He doesn't understand why he stopped the other Arab man from hitting her again.

He doesn't get the softness that comes around Ari's mouth when he mentions her proper name, and he certainly doesn't get the sad little look Kate gets when she thinks about that day on the farm. Not pain, not hurt, just... sadness. Like she's missing something big and she knows it.

They're... weird about each other.

"She's fine," he says briefly. Ari cocks his head to one side and examines the sawdust escaping into the air. "She's seeing some lawyer, I think." Ari takes another sip. Gibbs watches carefully from the corner of his eye as the younger man gives nothing away, and is suddenly very, very frustrated with the whole damn thing.

The sander makes a loud noise as he slams it down. Ari looks at him evenly, without blinking.

"Why do you care?"

Ari's mouth curls. "I am curious."

"You like her."

"That as well."

Gibbs bites back something hard and mean, sighs, and grits his teeth. "Why didn't you kill her?"

Ari blinks. Like this is some really stupid, obvious-answered question that is unforgivable when asked by anyone besides a four-year-old like "Why is the sky blue?"

"Would you have prefered I did?" His spontaneous grin flashes and he laughs low in his throat. "I do not kill people I don't have to."

"You could have justified it," Gibbs argues, voice very low and very dangerous. Rough. Ari straightens and holds the chipped "USMC" coffee mug in one delicately fingered hand. "The Mossad would have covered your ass."

"It was unnecessary," Ari says again, slowly and firmly, and that's all he's going to say about that.

His picture grins obscenely from the wall next to his head. He lowers his eyes to his cup and drinks deeply, throat working hard over the liquid fire.

He gasps breathlessly, and Gibbs picks up his sander again, working over the wood with slow, steady motions.

Ten minutes later, Ari sighs deeply and pours himself another two fingers without asking. "A lawyer?" he mutters. Gibbs grins to himself and laughs out a bark of amusement.

"Yeah, I know," he sympathizes. "He'll be gone soon. She never keeps them around long enough for me to have to remember their names."

Ari brightens considerably. Gibbs, graciously, pretends not to notice.

At the end of the night, Ari leaves quietly and Gibbs doesn't think about when the sneaky, untrustworthy little bastard became welcome to his liquor and a twisted comfort at the end of a long day.

The next time he shows up, three weeks later, he brings Gibbs a new bottle of bourbon, and Kate is dating an FBI agent.


Feed me. It stops the voices and soothes the hunger. Really... Okay, not really. But it helps.

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