by B. Cavis

by B. Cavis

The pages underneath his eyes were blurred and hard to read without his specs, and Gibbs took a quick look around to see who was watching, before pulling them out of his desk drawer and sliding them on.

Much better.

Much... older.

Damn it.

Gibbs had a peripheral awareness of everything in his universe. That's what made a good investigator, after all-- an alertness that blanketed and consumed everything that might be of importance, especially those things that don't immediately seem to be. The little things were often the most devious.

Usually, always, this is a good thing. It had kept him from being shot on more than one occasion, and it kept him from being oblivious to the glares that Tony directed at his back every now and then, equal parts confusions, frustration, and admiration.

Being alert was good. Being alert was his friend.

But "Caitlin Todd Awareness" was not.

Caitlin Todd Awareness was not at all his friend, because Caitlin Todd Awareness (he really needed to find out her middle name, he thought to himself. It made the whole idea much more entertaining, if a little bit more disconcerting) could not be turned off, could not be overruled, and could not be ignored.

Caitlin Todd Awareness was always there, and always capitalized.

Gibbs quickly digested the page and took his glasses off, hiding them behind a thick file so that they were out of view unless someone were to stand behind him directly. His Spidey Senses were tingling.

Fucking Caitlin Todd Awareness.

He had never had a problem with women. Really, as grouchy as most people perceived him to be, he was that way with everyone.

No one got special treatment with him, no siree.

Besides, he liked women. He really did. They were fun and clean and usually much smarter than their male counterparts. They were much less biased, in most cases, and they noticed little things with their guts that many men missed. Women reminded him a lot of himself with their hunches and how much they were like his gut instincts.

A woman's guess was much more accurate than a man's certainty. Rudyard Kipling had said that, and Gibb's mother and sister reminded him of it on a regular basis whenever they had the chance.

Gibbs liked women. He even liked female agents. Abby was intelligent and witty, and her sense of humor made him smirk accordingly. She was never intimidated by him, and she usually understood whatever it was he was talking about or hinting at. Women were, as a whole, and extremely sensible race.

It was just Caitlin Todd he had a problem with.

No, he corrected himself, he did not have a problem. Because a problem would indicate that a confrontation was necessary, and the very last thing he wanted was to face this thing and Caitlin Todd head on.

She'd end up winning, and Gibbs hated losing. HATED it.

But the fact remained that Gibbs could not think of Kate in the same way he thought of Abby and the numerous other female agents he worked with. She was an (friend?) associate, sure, but she was... different.

She was curvy, but so were a lot of other women. She was beautiful, but so were his first three wives. She was intelligent, but hell, who in this life wasn't?

Kate was Kate. And he knew just how much... Kate she was.

That was exactly the problem.

God damn it, he’d never avoided wearing his glasses for any one. Woman or man. Age was age, and there was no getting around it. So why exactly did he seem to be going out of his way to make sure she never saw him with the chunky pair of bifocals he had been told to wear when trying to read tiny writing? Why did he hide them whenever he sensed her coming near.

Gibbs had a feeling that not only was he not going to like whatever answer he came up with, but that it would also be closely tied into this whole “Kate is just Kate” kick he seemed to be on.

She'd been different when he first saw her. Special. So far beyond her associates and work friends and lovers, she'd stood out for him even before he'd known she was the victim's lover and therefore worthy of interest. Kate had demanded his interest from the very start, and that scared him just a little.

Interest was just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Awareness. And Awareness was a stone's throw from Undying Affection (read: that horrible emotion that had led him ass over tea kettle for his first three wives and numerous girlfriends, but to a much more extreme level).

He'd baited her in that bathroom because she was so different. because he really could picture her having hidden depths deep enough to drown a man, literally. He had hoped against hope he was wrong, but he could see her killing someone who she believed deserved it and feeling no visible remorse.

And then she'd proven him so far off base that he'd wrapped his arms around her back and waist and hugged her in sheer relief masked in caring.

He'd offered her a job because she was so different; because she had so much potential. He'd known it when he first saw her: Kate could be a brilliant Agent if she wanted to be.

And she'd proved him right, damn it. Every problem he put before her, she solved, every gut instinct of hers had panned out to be right, every reaction had been correct and perfect and clean cut.

She'd been wonderful. She would keep being wonderful.

Hence, his sizable problem.

"Romance between Agents, Kate. It never works."

That had been his mantra for the past few weeks. Every time he had felt the deep urge to ask her out for coffee, or take shameless advantage of a case to stay in with her and order Chinese, he'd run his chant over in his mind.

...Romancebetweenagentromancebetweenagentsromancebetw eenagents...

He had replayed all those past office romances he'd been aware of, all of those transfer requests and broken hearts and careers. He'd thought of her in ten years, a powerful, intelligent player of the game; working the court to her advantage with little or no effort and making everything turn out the way she wanted no matter who her opponent. He could make her that, he was sure. He could help make her even greater. The last thing she needed to screw that up was a boss with a crush.

He'd watched her progress and her friendship with Tony, and hoped, silently, that it would go beyond friendship just so that she would be OFF LIMITS for him in some personal capacity, and was just a silently relieved when they developed a brother and sister like banter. He wasn't that good of a man-- the image of Tony and Kate together made his teeth itch despite his most professional thoughts.

The point was: Gibbs had been fighting a battle to keep from ruining two careers and tarnishing the NCIS, and it had been working too, until that goddamned submarine surfaced.

Gibbs had never intended to get to second base without going to first, and he had certainly never intended on getting there before giving her permission to call him by his first name. But there he was, and *whoops* there his hands were, and shiiiiiiittt...

Behind his desk, Gibbs pulled the file folder closer into his own body protectively.

She'd felt good.

Really, really good.

BAD good.

And Gibbs had been screwed. Completely.

Damn it.

The elevator doors opened, and his Caitlin Todd Awareness tingled, and he took a deep sip of cold coffee to keep himself from giving her a warm "Good Morning" smile.

Kate dropped her stuff at her desk and sighed and tired sigh. "How long have you been here?"

He looked up blankly, which more or less translated to a "Do you really want to lose your job today" look. Kate was unfazed. "Long enough."

"That looks suspiciously like the suit you were wearing yesterday."

He glanced down. Oh. So it did. "It's not." It so totally was. He winced internally and made a note to pick one of his many spares out of the cold storage room in Ducky's lab. Kate did not look impressed.

"O-kay." She dropped, perfectly clothed and clean, into her chair and took a sip of hot Starbucks coffee. His eyes followed the progression of the cup to her mouth, longingly. Cold coffee was disgusting.

There was a time, not too long ago, when Gibbs would have never have been distracted long enough for his coffee to get cold. He silently cursed someone, but he wasn't sure who he could blame this on.

Kate put the cup down, examined his face, and smirked. He glared back.

"You really want my coffee, don't you?"

"Gloating is not attractive, Kate." Oh yeah it was. On her, it totally was.

Kate grinned. Slyly. "See? That's exactly the kind of comment that makes you undeserving of my coffee. Or the extra cup I have sequestered in the nice brown paper bag sitting on top of the Melendez file." She sighed. "Maybe Tony would-"

"Gimme the coffee, Kate, and stop being so high and mighty."

Her grin shrunk, but remained in the corners of her eyes, and he felt a rush of pride in her that he hadn't managed to crush her fun with his bad mood. A woman who could hold her own against him was a sight to behold.

She crossed the great sea of carpet and professional walls with ease, unwrapping the cup from the bag with deft fingers capped with clean fingernails that were covered in a clear polish that reflected the light. He tried to remember the last time he had paid so much attention to the fingernails of a woman who wasn't a suspect, and shuddered at the thought.

She offered the cup, he took it in his own much larger hand, and when her fingers brushed his, he thought he would drop it. She smiled. "To make up for the cup I spilled, I guess."

"That was a while ago." Thank you.

"Not too long. And years working with the government have left me paranoid of retaliation." You're welcome.


She sat down. Gibbs sipped the new cup, watching her silently from the corner of his eyes.

Kate Todd was different.

Thank God.


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