by B. Cavis. This story is a followup to the Lion Series.
by B. Cavis
When she looks in the mirror now, she sees someone different, and it took her three years to be comfortable with that but it happened. When she glances up and catches her own reflection now, there's no moment of "Is that me?" the way there used to be. She is not the same woman, not even close, and she has accepted that because she had to in order to keep moving and keep living.
The woman who used to hold herself like she was still trying to figure out just what was happening (but who wasn't going to let the weakness of not being all knowing show through) now walks like she is God in a skirt, and may the devil take pity on anyone who tries to fuck around with her. She moves as if her whole body is steady and sure and as if she has never known pain because she is just too powerful to know pain and be a victim to weakness.
Caitlin is now Kate, and in only one rare case, Katie, and she is just fine with that because she has had years to adjust.
There are scars on her body. Despite the surgeons work and the forgiving nature of time, her back will never be the same. It aches when it's going to rain, and when she touches certain parts of it in the shower, it has no sensation.
There is a thin white line through her left eyebrow where no hair grows. She came close to losing the eye once upon a time-- another few centimeters or a larger piece of glass-- but she didn't and therefore she doesn't allow herself to think on the subject.
She sees fine out of both eyes, better than she did before, and the scar looks like it belongs. It looks like it is a part of her; a badge of honor and personality, and she wears it with pride.
It makes her face look defined, and she loves it for how very truthful it is to her past. She is beautiful, yes, but there has been pain enough visited upon this body of hers, and that is as much a part of her as her hands or her feet.
There are places on her body that are shiny and numb, and she accepts that part of herself because there is nothing else for her to do with it. Her being has been altered by something beyond her control, and to try and fight against it is ludicrous and hopeless, and she accepts that because she has to.
Her palms are calloused in ways that would scare her mother, a woman so focused on propriety and the need for women to be soft and weak in comparison to men. When she offers a handshake, a trained individual could tell that they are due to her gun and the rough parts of her existence. She avoids shaking hands with trained individuals.
There are weapons of pain and hurt tucked into various places on her armor, and she goes no where without three ways of killing an individual accenting her outfit.
Her tongue is the most dangerous of all, of course. The words that bubble up and out of her mouth are embers on paper, and they burn unrelentingly on whomever she turns them towards. Kate can destroy a man with or without a weapon, with or without her hands, and that makes her grin when she pauses to contemplate it.
Of course, some things haven't changed. She still wears clothes that, if anyone bothered to look, they would see are way too expensive for anyone on a government salary to afford. She still gets her nails done at least once a week by the sweet little Korean woman down the street who sits and talks with Kate about the latest government scandal and the latest bad turn of the war. Tony still throws jibes at her and she still volleys them back. She can tie a knot in a cherry stem with her tongue, and she can shell a pistachio without using her hands or her fingers.
It feels good to have some constants, and she clings to them quietly with the dedication of a woman who knows what it feels like to lose something that she thought would never stray.
Her hands are always steady and her eyes are always firm. She smiles at things she wouldn't have viewed as funny five years ago, and sighs at things she would have laughed at.
Her body has changed. Her spirit has evolved.
She always beats Tony at the shooting range now. It's not hard. Her hand is firm and her eyes are clear. She can see for miles on a clear day, and when she looks down at the target, her bullet always manages to find it's own way into the right place on the black outline. She's not sure how it happens, but she hasn't missed in over four years now, and she shows no signs of doing so in the future.
Her entire being is new and advanced.
And that's just the way she likes it.
They stumble towards the morgue, arm in arm, yawning desperately as they fight to stay away and upright. The world is blurring around them and the past few hours have vanished into the methodical comfort of reports and technicalities. They wrote out their experiences, then met in the middle of the office and joined each other in the fight.
It's one AM, and Kate and Gibbs are tripping over their own feet as they try to make it down to the morgue and find a flat, cool surface to warm with their body temperature and sleep away the past week on. His arm is wrapped around her waist, and her arm is thrown over his shoulder, and the whole world seems to be against them and their quest to get to sleep because they are just not getting there fast enough.
"Gibbs," yawns Kate, "talk to me. Keep me awake."
"Can't," he mutters back. "I can't sleep and talk at the same time."
The elevator takes them both in and swallows their bodies. They lean against each other for some kind of guidance, and find nothing but warm bodies but don't pull away.
Sometimes a warm body is a nice change of pace when you go to bed emotionally, if not physically, alone every night. Neither one of them protests.
Kate feels her body start to fail her, and pinches her own arm hard and firm to stay awake. He watches the red bloom on her skin with detached fascination. "Gibbs," she grumbles, "I wanna go to sleep. Keep me awake until we can go to sleep."
"I think Ducky might be sick of us doing this," he tries, and ventures further when she makes no sound of disapproval. "We might be better off just getting cots and setting them up in the bullpen."
Kate snorts into his shoulder. "Or we could try going home before midnight."
"Let's try and take things slowly, Katie. No use jumping the gun here."
The doors of the morgue are locked, and she leans up against his back as he fumbles with the key. He drops it twice, and she follows him down as he bends, almost toppling him as he come back up. He makes a sound of annoyance, and she just moans against his back. They're too tired to be bothered with pissing each other off or being pissed off at all.
The doors give and they trip inside. The room is cold and brittle, and they find the tables blissfully clean in the dim light that came on when they stepped inside. She climbs on one and he takes the other, and they curl into their own bodies as exhaustion takes them. Two living people in identical positions on morgue tables.
Symmetry in a pseudo death.
Over the past three years, Abby has started calling Kate and Gibbs "Butch and Sundance."
"Quick," she'll mutter to Ducky when the elevator door rings. "Hide the Bolivian Army."
She laughs when she sees one of them without the other. It's become a source of personal humor for her; how close they are to each other. It makes her think of all of the famous bank robbing couples of the old days, and since she can't say Bonnie and Clyde without thinking of bullet riddled corpses, she took the next best thing and gave it to them.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in pants suits and badges. It makes her laugh whenever she thinks about it.
"I mean, come on," she'll say to Gibbs with a smirk on her lips and in her eyes. "She's like your evil twin with a much nicer hair cut."
For Tony's part, when he saw the two of them becoming who they are today, he bowed out quickly and cheerfully. "Hey, I have a life. The last thing I need is to be Gibbs' go to guy-- the one he calls at three AM to investigate something in the third stage of decomposition and smelly. Let him bug Kate for that. My nights can be spent in much more... memorable ways."
Neither Kate nor Gibbs think of this as a partnership of two-- it is a team of three and possibly four depending on the circumstances beyond their control. Tony is a third part of a three person puzzle, and without him the other two are lacking. Subtly, but truly.
Tony has never fallen asleep on a morgue table in his life, and he has never worked voluntarily on a case past midnight. When he falls asleep at work, it's under his desk the way he and Kate used to, and it's because he can't bring himself to drive home or because he just has to close his eyes for a moment which suddenly manifests itself into a long night.
Ducky had started leaving pillows on the metal slabs when he knows there's a case going on. It makes Abby grin and do a little dance every time she sees them there, pristine white cotton laid out for the dead and the just visiting members of the morgue.
Kate and Gibbs just... do what they do. Neither one of them have noticed the change and neither one of them instigated it. It just sort of happened. One day they were just together all the time and neither one could tell anyone who asked what had lead to it or when it had really started.
Not that either one is complaining.
Somewhere lingering in the back of his head is the knowledge that, three years ago, he carried her bloody and bleeding body out of the White House and felt her pressed up against his chest as she screamed for help and God and relief. Somewhere lingering in there is the knowledge that he looked down at her and knew that somehow, for some reason, this woman was important to him in a way that he had never felt before.
Somewhere behind his eyes, there's a scene in her apartment involving himself, his worst enemy at the time, and a gun, and when he lets himself look at her as more than an agent or a friend, when he glances at her in unguarded moments, that scene colors his vision with a remembered desperation.
He was ready to commit murder to bring her back to life and consciousness.
Butch and Sundance, Abby calls them, and he smiles grimly. Butch and Sundance would kill and die for each other in a heartbeat-- hell, in the end they did.
Her sleeping face is peaceful and still in the light from the lamp on the other end of the room. He watches her rest with his fingers laced behind his head.
The room is quiet. His thoughts are unceasing.
Beautiful. Truly... beautiful.
God he shouldn't be doing this-- he has no right to look at her as anything more than another brain and another pair of gun totting hands. Seeing an agent as a woman instead of an agent is what gets his coworkers in trouble on a regular basis, and he refuses to make the same mistakes. He should be looking at her and thinking how brilliant she is. How she solves crimes with him and Tony and shows no mercy with the cool savagery of her logic. He should be able to see her for her ability as an agent, and for that alone.
Only he can't. And he really doesn't want to, if he's at all honest with himself.
Her fingers are wrapped around her own arm and her breath disturbs the hair lying across her mouth like a veil of peace. There's a bend in her posture. He shouldn't keep her this late in the day and night. She must have a life outside of this place.
No matter how the pit of his stomach hopes and prays that she really, truly doesn't.
The idea flickers briefly through his head; Kate lying in bed he's never seen with a much younger (than him anyway) man wrapped around her back and body, hands on her hips, eyes on her breasts, no love in his heart. Does she have someone like that, he wonders. Does he hold he like she deserves to be held, or is he simply another ass hole out for a good time?
God, is she just someone's "good time"?
His teeth seize his tongue in frustration to force the image back into it's place. Kate wouldn't let herself be used like that. She's a smarter woman, he tells himself-- much smarter and with much more self respect. She wouldn't cling to a man like that dopily, and he refuses to see her as weak and insecure enough to take that kind of bullshit.
Besides, it makes his teeth itch to imagine her with the asshole in his head, and if he lets it continue to play across his vision, he might just be forced to dwell on why he even cares at all.
Three years ago, through a thick cloud of tears and sadness, Ari Haswari told him that is was a good thing to love and woman and be loved in return by one. Called him a "lucky man."
Trailing back to the hospital hours later, he rubbed his eyes clean and stood in front of her bed and watched her chest rise up and down with the pump of the ventilator, he had asked himself if the man who had almost been murdered that night by his hands was more observant than Gibbs was willing to be himself.
He spent time with Kate, more so than with anyone else in the office besides, on occasion, Ducky. He viewed her as something intrinsically necessary to his work and his every day life. When he didn't see her come in on time in the morning, his initial thought was not that she was late, it was an almost nervous twitch of the mind, asking "Where is she?"
The right word from her could bring him to a stand still, and only her quiet persistence could cause him to smile when directed at him.
He stood there and watched her, and she owned his fragile soul, wrapped delicately around her wrists, waiting for her to rejoin the physical world and save him from his own darkness.
Lying in the morgue, watching Kate sleep across from him, he is ass over tea kettle in love with her, knows it, and shrugs to himself as he rolls back over and closes his eyes.
And over on her table, eyes half closed half open, Kate lets out a shaking breath into her palm and shivers once.
In ten hours, they will be on opposite sides of the world.
But for now they sit and languish in their unspoken... thing, and in the memory of a chunk of blood drenched days three years ago that took such tolls on the both of them and gave them each other as a return receipt.
And the morgue hums.
Ducky flips up the lights around 9 AM that morning, two cups of coffee already in his hands. A wise man expects everything, his father used to tell him, and on that Ducky must agree.
A wise man expects everything.
But a wiser man knows when to expect it.
"Jethro, if you do insist on keeping Kate to such hours of the night," he begins, as the two on the tables sit up and rub their eyes, disoriented. "The least you could do is to provide proper sleeping arrangements and blankets to spare her back."
The graying man looks at him, hair sticking up in all directions, eyes unfocused. "Ducky? What are you doing in my bedroom?"
Ducky sighs and looks to Kate, who is combing her fingers through her hair with her eyes closed gently. He shoves the coffee at her, and she drinks deep and quickly. Gibbs blinks at her. "Why is Kate in my bedroom?"
The radio that Abby bought him last Christmas turned on when the lights did, and the soft sounds of Mozart start drifting through the speakers and filling the room. It brings Gibbs back to reality, just in time to see Kate take the coffee cup from her lips and offer it to him. He accepts it in a shaking hand.
Ducky takes his coat off and hangs up his hat. The air smells of coffee beans and stale preserving fluid. Kate's nose wrinkles.
"What time is it?"
Ducky glances over at the clock on the wall. "Nine oh two exactly. Tony is upstairs waiting for you." Kate rolls off her table. "You may want to change your clothing before going to see him; the both of you."
She grabs the cup back from Gibbs and finishes it off. He looks more like a person and less like a rag doll, and when he stands up, he only stumbles for a second.
The two clean outfits that he pulls out of Ducky's freezer still smell like the dry cleaners. Kate takes hers, and shoves her hand into one of Ducky's drawers to pull out her travel make up kit.
They have this down to a science.
"Thanks Ducky," she yawns, and he smiles paternally at her.
"Your quite welcome my dear," he says, before turning a glare on Gibbs. "I mean it Jethro. Petition the director for some cots or a sofa or two. Sleeping on a metal table is not good for one's hips."
Kate tosses the empty cup into the basket, and Gibbs moves to catch up to her without realizing he's doing it.
"My hips are fine," he throws over his shoulder as the doors swing closed, and Ducky sighs, turning his eyes towards heaven, but seeing only the ceiling.
Oblivious young people will be the death of him.
When she walks out of the ladies room, makeup applied and hair done, he has only been waiting for her for a minute.
She learned the benefits of "FAST" long ago, and she can make herself look presentable in a quarter of the time it took her just a year ago. Over four years with Gibbs inspires one to go quickly at everything they do.
The elevator takes them up towards the bullpen, and they don't say anything to each other because there's no need. She knows that he is pleased with her and himself about solving the case as quickly as they did. He knows that she is wondering how quickly she can get more coffee into her system, and trying not to shift around too much and reveal the cricks in her back and neck.
He makes a mental note to look into the couch idea, then shrugs it away gently. More important matters right now.
The doors open and they step out together. Tony looks up from his desk, sunglasses still on. He's hiding a hang over and doing a poor job of it.
"Have you two been here all night?" he asks.
"After we had sex with that third hooker, we just really needed a place to crash," Kate answers back smoothly, and he grins into his water bottle.
Gibbs flips through the files that have accumulated on his desk over the night and picks out the one with the highest priority sticker on it. Corporal Sadam Obar.
"Anyone up for a suspected terrorist in the morning?" he asks dryly, and Kate slips her cell phone into her pocket.
"Does he come complete with checkered past and attractive relatives?" Tony asks.
Gibbs hands her the folder, and she glances through with a quick eye. Her lips turn up wickedly. "Don't worry," Kate responds, "I'm sure his brother will be more than willing to sit down and give you a little heart to heart chat over candlelight."
Tony's face falls, but he rises and pulls his bag out from under the desk without complaint. "Well then, I suppose I'll just have to keep my prospects open. You never know when you might run into a nice looking suspect or witness as well."
The three of them make their way towards the elevator, hands checking automatically for weapons and gear, and they pause to wait for the car to come up, standing together in a group.
"You two really need to get out more," Tony says gently, and Gibbs raises his eyebrows.
"Or I just need to start keeping you in to help with the work. Get it done faster." Tony's face pales.
"Besides," Kate says cheerfully. "We have all of the real fun once you leave."
Tony's face goes blank, and he glances back and forth between two identical expressions of "I'm not spilling anything."
"You're kidding right?" She says nothing. "You guys really aren't having fun without me, are you? I mean-" he pauses, "you're just kidding, right?"
Kate and Gibbs look at each other, and the elevator dings behind them.
"Tony," he starts.
"Why on Earth would we want to jerk your chain like that," she finishes, and as the elevator opens, they turn to load.
Ari Haswari stands there, surrounded on either side by four CIA agents, his face blank and his eyes calm. There's a scar on his lip and a look on his face like this is a necessary evil of life.
"Agent Gibbs, Agent Todd, and Agent Dinozzo," he acknowledges, and the men on either side of him edge out of the elevator with him. "Your services are being commandeered for an operation of the utmost importance, in conjunction with Mossad and the United States government."
Tony, Kate, and Gibbs stand there, look at the men in front of them and then look at each other. In silent agreement and silent confusion.
"Oh you are?"
Gibbs' fist making contact with the man's nose doesn't surprise any of the three. The four agents surround Haswari in a sea of protection, and Gibbs backs away, shaking his hand out. Tony's lips quirk up for a moment as he crosses his arms over his chest and cocks his head to one side.
Haswari is pulled to his feet, and he wipes the blood on his palm while glaring at the stone that is Gibbs' face. No emotion shows on one, hatred shows on the other.
Antonyms to the extreme.
"I think we might have a miscommunication here," Tony remarks cheerfully. "What Gibbs meant to say was-"
"This." And Kate's fist makes contact with Haswari's lip with such force that is knocks him back on his once more.
She sucks the blood off her knuckles and glares down at the man that killed a little bit of her soul forever, and spits on him.
"Lech le azazel, ya ben Zona!" she hisses, and walks away with spite in her veins. Gibbs is beside her, rubbing his sore hand still.
Tony smiles serenely. "Leave it to Kate to finish Gibbs' sentence." He turns and follows after them, already going towards the elevator to get ice from Ducky's cold storage freezer.
Haswari lies on the carpet. And hates fate's sense of humor.
Well? Um, was it suckage beyond repair? I promise to try and
fix it if it was-- I mean, I should have time to do it-- this is a series
Feedback makes all the insecurities go astray.