by B. Cavis
by B. Cavis
He pulls the phone out of his belt as it starts to vibrate, glances quickly at the screen, and feels the smile that she always manages to inspire slip onto his face as he flicks the ear piece up. Her voice spills into his ears before he says anything to let her know he's there. She knows.
"So I was thinking, maybe I should take up Italian."
Gibbs grins and closes his eyes calmly. Hearing her voice makes him feel much better about being trapped in an airplane for seven hours with Ari Haswari glaring at the world on his left and Tony Dinozzo flirting with the stewardesses on his right. "Oh, yeah? I take it the French hasn't been going as well as you had hoped for?"
"I speak three languages besides English, and not a single one of them has been of any help in this job. We need to find some Hebrew, Russian, or French bad guys, Gibbs. These clean-cut white boys and swarthy Italians just aren't cutting it."
"I'll send out a memo."
"Thank you." She sighs. "Talk to me? Make me feel a little bit better about being left behind?"
"Feeling useless. The spooks won't let me go and interview the witnesses on my own, and they haven't gotten off the phone for the past two hours. I'm about ready to kill them both with a stapler."
"Use Tony's." She laughs, and he smiles gently.
"So what's going on with you guys? You can't be on the plane already, or I would've gotten your voice mail."
He pauses for a moment, running the words over in his head. If she thought he was already on the plane, than what was she calling for? To leave a message?
He has the sudden flashing image of her calling his voice mail just to hear his voice, and shivers quickly, opening his eyes. Haswari is still arguing in a low voice with a woman dressed in a black business suit, and Tony is flipping through a magazine with two fingers. "Haswari is being an ass to some spook up front and Tony is... surprisingly quiet."
"Did you drug him?"
"I don't think so. Haswari might have."
"And what are you doing?"
"Talking to you. And regretting getting out of bed yesterday morning. Or rolling off the lab table. Same thing."
"I'm feeling the same. We should have just rolled ourselves into one of the body filing cabinets and slept. Is it too late to do that now?"
"It might just be--"
"I miss you," she breaks in quietly, and he sits up straighter in his chair. "I seriously don't know what to do with myself when you're not here with me. I just... play computer games."
"We'll be back soon, Katie," he whispers, and there is too much emotion in that voice for him to sit three yards away from Tony and keep talking, so he gets up and makes his way over to the large windows to gaze out on the runway. The planes look like white birds, spread out and waiting. He finds one that he thinks might be his plane and sighs. "Trust me, going on this trip is the last thing I want to do."
She sighs, and there is nothing he wants more in the world than to be back in the office, working by her side with Tony by his. He does not want to be here, about to leave for God knows how long. He does not want her to be left behind.
He doesn't want to not be in the same country as her. He doesn't want to not be with her, and that thought scares him because it's a little bit too much for him to deal with at the moment. Yes, he loves her. Yes, he knows it. But wanting to refuse a case of national security just to stay with her is a little bit too focused, and it frightens the part of him that remembers falling ass over tea kettle with his three ex-wives, only to be thrown on said ass when they fell out of it quicker than he did.
Kate sighs once more, and he brings himself back to reality and the sound of her voice in his ears. "I should have taken Italian in college--I don't think I've worked a case without you two in the entire time I've been at NCIS. Are you sure I'm ready for this?"
He smiles and sees it reflected in the window he's facing. "I trained you, Katie. I know what you're capable of. Besides, this isn't a real case. This is the CIA being a wild hair up our asses. You'll go, you'll find what you can, and you'll write up a report."
"While you two go off risking your lives and necks under Ari Haswari's command," she finishes bitterly. "You see my problem?"
"I see it. But you don't have to worry about us, Kate. We've got guns and we both speak the language. We'll be fine. Trust me."
"Katie? Do you trust me?"
She sighs. "You know I do."
"Then you have nothing to worry about. We'll be back soon, you'll be fine while we're gone. I trust you, and if you trust me, you'll trust yourself."
"There's logic in there somewhere, I know it."
He laughs softly. "Go be a professional. I'll call you when we get to wherever the hell it is we're going."
"Sounds solid. Take care of yourself, Gibbs. And don't let Tony get into too much trouble."
He feels that pull--that ache that lets him know he has to get off the phone and be an adult now. He really, really doesn't want to be an adult right now. "Keep Ducky and Abby safe," he offers, and hangs up before he can add to his goodbye; before he can tack three forbidden words on the end and potentially ruin her life and his.
I love you, he whispers into the disconnected line, sighs, and shoves it back into his pocket.
When he turns around to return to the waiting area, Haswari jerks his eyes away from the older man's back and bites down on the inside of his cheek.
Tony plays with a deck for the first thirty minutes before deciding that the tension in the cabin would be best escaped by going to sleep. He puts the rubber band back around the deck and shoves them into his carry-on bag.
Gibbs has been sitting with his arms folded, flipping through his notes on some old case, pointedly ignoring the glare that Haswari sends his way ever ten minutes or so. The plane is empty but for them and the pilots, and the lone attendant who offers no drinks and no peanuts. There's little to keep themselves occupied, and what little there is they want no part of.
There's a low hum of hatred that rolls between Gibbs and Haswari, and Tony isn't oblivious to it, though he pretends to be. "Gonna catch some shut eye," he says and props the uncomfortable pillow under his head with his eyes closed. "Wake me when we get there."
Gibbs nods absently and turns a page.
Silence, thick and sticky, fills the air-conditioned space. Haswari pulls a book out of his bag and flips through it to find his place.
Neither one of them is reading.
Gibbs shifts to one side and looks out the window, watching the uniform blue that rolls past at what seems like a snail's pace. He wonders what he is going to have to experience over the next few days, and winces. He wonders where Kate is right now and sighs. Haswari turns the page, shifts, and finally closes the book.
"Is Agent Todd working with the agents, or should I have them reassigned?" he asks finally, repeating the name over and over again in his head--Agent Todd, not Caitlin. Never Caitlin again.
Gibbs closes his own notebook and looks up at the man in front of him. Is it just his eyes deceiving him or is this man showing... concern?
Something is amiss. Something has been amiss since Ari Haswari showed up again.
He thinks back to the scene he witnessed this morning, before they left NCIS headquarters for the airport. Kate had said her goodbyes to the two of them as Tony kissed a pouting Abby on the cheek.
Haswari had been pointedly removed from it all, standing a few feet to the right and watching the display before him. Gibbs had nodded at Kate and she had nodded back. "See you in a few weeks."
And then she had looked over at Haswari with something he can only identify as... a warning in her eyes. A gentle threat. And Haswari had nodded in understanding, with a threat of his own in his eyes.
There was a silent understanding between the two, and it had reminded Gibbs of all of the scenes he had witnessed involving two coworkers who slept together. The silent agreement not to say anything. It left him feeling slightly sick and more curious than before.
There is something here. Between Haswari and Kate. Something happened between his star agent, the woman he holds in his head as his own personal Venus, and the man who he hates more than anything else in the world for, ostensibly, shooting Gerald and kidnapping Kate and making all of their lives hell once before, but really, for maybe being just a little bit too much like him.
He flashes back for the umpteenth time during this investigation to that night in her apartment, and wonders what the greeting would have been like if Kate had been alive and well enough to accompany him inside. Would she have thrown her arms around the man's neck and kissed him with all of her heart and soul thrown behind the manipulation of her lips on his? Would she have slapped him?
Or would she never have allowed Gibbs to come up with her in the first place?
"She's working fine," Gibbs says quietly. "The agents won't let her go anywhere with out them, and they've spent all morning on the phone instead of going to the base. She's frustrated."
Haswari's face relaxes gently. "She'll survive." He looks down at his book, as if contemplating opening it, and Gibbs knows that if he doesn't get answers right now, he is never going to.
"You seem awfully concerned about a woman who keeps threatening to kill you in cold blood," he comments mildly.
"I am concerned about her ability to do her job. This is an operation, not a place for vengeance. If she insists on trying to make those responsible for her injuries pay with injuries of their own, she could compromise the investigation."
"She is no longer concerned with getting justice with her own two hands," Gibbs assures, careful not to actually tell a lie. "She understands that making people pay with your own hands is not always possible."
"Smart girl," Haswari remarks, "to have picked up that lesson in less than a day."
"Very smart," Gibbs responds.
"After all, what use is vengeance with your own hands when your boss will get it for you in true ex-Marine fashion?"
Gibbs doesn't look away from the dark, all-seeing eyes in front of him.
"I care not for your revenge, Agent Gibbs," he says, "but do not let your actions hurt my ability to complete this operation or my country's ability to receive intelligence from Mahmed."
"He'll still be breathing when I give him to you. Don't worry."
"A generous offer, compared to what your female counterpart would have given me."
Gibbs blinks. There's bitterness in that sentence, and he knows it, but why he can not even begin to fathom. What the hell did Kate do to this guy?
Or, more importantly, what the hell did this guy do to Kate?
"Is that why you left her behind?" Gibbs asks. "Because you were afraid of her objectivity being compromised by this investigation." He raises an eyebrow. "Or is it because you were afraid of her getting hurt again?"
There is no sound in the cabin. The jet engines outside hum low and whining, but Haswari does not look away from Gibbs's face. There is nowhere to look but Gibbs's face.
"Agent Todd's health and well-being is not my concern," he offers finally.
"No, not professionally, I suppose," Gibbs concedes. "But we both know this isn't a professional matter where it concerns Agent Todd. She knows French, Russian, English, and Hebrew. We're going to the European Union; any one of those languages would have been of great help on this investigation, and we both know it. I didn't stand up for her because I don't want her in the same country as the man who blew her up. It's not good for her, and it's certainly not good for me to have to wonder if she's packing an unregistered weapon to kill the man who made her back what it is today." He shrugs and leans back in his chair. "But as you said, you don't care about her revenge as long as the man is still breathing when she finishes. And we both know that for her country, Agent Todd would have made that sacrifice.
"I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the reason the agents haven't left NCIS yet is because you've kept her there on a fool's errand on purpose. You've told them not to let her get hurt and not to let her out of their sights. She's not going to find anything out from the officers, you told her as much, but this way you know where she is and where she isn't." He tilts his head to one side. Haswari hasn't said anything yet. "You know she's safe. And that's why you refused to let her accompany us, isn't it?"
Haswari raises an eyebrow. "I don't have to justify myself to you, Agent Gibbs."
"When it involves agents under my command, yes--yes, you do." His voice has gone deadly soft and low, and Haswari judges him for a moment before settling back in his own chair in a position similar to Gibbs's.
"You're under my command for the time being, Agent. That makes you my concern. I tell you what you need to know," he growls out, "and nothing else is something you need bother with. Including Agent Todd."
"What happened between the two of you?"
Gibbs pales. He hadn't meant to actually say that--it was a thought that sort of just... spilled out of his lips and into the room. Too late to take it back now, though.
Might as well go with it, he thinks to himself, and tries not to show how much he is dreading the answer.
Haswari raises an eyebrow and sets his jaw. "What happened between Agent Todd and myself is a matter of public knowledge. I held her hostage in the morgue, and then I kidnapped and held her to further a ruse to allow Mossad to prevent the deaths of both my president and yours."
"There's something else." Come on, be persistent. Even if it kills you, be persistent. "I think you've had a relationship with each other. One that goes beyond professional. I think you've slept together. I think that's why you were waiting for her at her apartment that night, and I think that once you heard she was injured you left her high and dry, which is why she hates you so much." There's anger building in his throat, and without his permission it starts to seep into his words. "What? Did you not like the idea of her having a scar or two? Did that just repulse you so much that you had to run as far and fast away from her as you could?"
Haswari's hands have gone white knuckled on the armrests. "You should not talk of things that do not concern you, Agent Gibbs. It is going to get you into trouble one day." And he picks his book back up, opens to a page, and starts to read again.
Gibbs watches him for a moment or so more, the lack of confrontation chewing at him, before sighing and looking out the window at the puffy white clouds rolling by.
In his seat, Tony snores.
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