by B. Cavis. This story is a sequel to Freddo.
by B. Cavis
The pack of ice that alternates from being pressed against Haswari's lip and nose is wrapped in a plastic Ziplock bag with a small hole somewhere on its surface. It leaks down the side of his face and makes a mess on his shirt, but no one moves to get him a paper towel. No one moves at all.
Under the table, Tony is playing with a credit card because his hands need something to do. He runs the pads of his fingers over the numbers and tries to decipher them through touch alone. He has run out of ways to distract himself by finding humor in the situation.
There really isn't all that much anyhow.
Standing off to the right are Kate and Gibbs, in identical positions. His arms are straight and firm at his side, and his hands are loose and open. If he clenches them into fists, he is going to hit this man in the face once more, and if he hits him again he will probably be arrested by the CIA and taken into government custody.
Which would greatly interfere with his plans of killing Haswari in a gruesome and painful way, so he keeps his hands still and at attention. If anyone moves towards him, his hands are free to grasp whatever might be used as a weapon and make good use of it.
If anyone moves towards Kate right now, he is going to shoot them, and whenever he glances over at them, Tony sees it. Gibbs moves quietly closer to her every time one of the CIA men looks in their direction, and he may not know he's doing it, but everyone else does.
He moves into the air that smells of her and her fear because he can't bear not to. She accepts his encroachment on her personal space because she cannot bear to tell him no right now.
For her part, Kate hasn't been able to draw her hand off her gun since they first saw Haswari in the elevator, and it stays firmly planted there now. If she needs to do something to save herself, she will, without hesitation. And if Gibbs were to suddenly raise his gun up and point, she is ready and willing to do the same without a moment's hesitation.
She doesn't let the part of her that might still remember how his skin felt out of its cage. The piece of her that was identified by "Caitlin" remains dead and buried under the emotional pain that she can still recall three years later.
She has never let herself think about it. Never. Three years have passed since he broke her body and spirit in three words, and she doesn't let herself recall it because if she did she would go crazy or go after him and kill him. Sometimes, when she is piss faced drunk, she'll let a few memories of the good times play over her, but even then it's just the good times.
She will never be able to look back on those few months without wanting to hurt something, namely him, so she keeps them out of her head.
If she were honest with herself right now, she would know that there is a fear building in her chest that she has never felt before-- like a spike growing thick and strong inside her chest that is puncturing her heart and her ribcage. There is a terror in her body right now that the past four years have never managed to replicate, and her back itches in that annoying way it does when something is terribly wrong and something is terribly upsetting a part of her.
She has felt Ari Haswari inside of her body.
There is a bond created between two people who have held each other in a bed. When you have licked your way down someone's body and tickled their throats with your teeth and lips, there is something formed there that cannot be forgotten just because you want it to be. She had Haswari in her body and in her life and in her apartment, and there is no way that she can just forget that.
He knows what she sounds like when she comes, and that thought scares her because she can no longer trust him and possibly never could. And the lack of trust brings up the very important question in her mind of what might he do right now, because she certainly can't depend on him to keep her secrets if she can't depend on him to act the gentleman.
And confidence is something that, in this room with Tony and Gibbs (good God, Gibbs), she has a very big issue with.
Her head produces horrible scenarios on cue, and her mind is filled with horrible nightmares of this man she wrongly trusted opening his lips and spilling her personal confidences and her personal matters into the air. She can see the look of shock on Tony's face already.
But worse than that, she can see the look of complete and utter hatred, mixed with despair and disgust that would come upon the face of the man she puts so much stock into, and she just cannot deal with that. To have him know that she had sex with his worst enemy-- numerous times. That she not only had sex with, but also had a relationship with the man, and was genuinely disappointed to see it end...
It would break his trust in her. And it would destroy her entirely.
There must be some of her thoughts on her face, because she can feel Gibbs stepping up gently behind her, protective to the last. His arm brushes her back, and her entire body is cold and hot at the same time, while her mind fights between the urge to turn around and throw herself upon his mercy and to hold her tongue and hope that Haswari does the same. His hand comes soft and brief on the small of her back, and she glances up at him to see what his eyes might tell.
There's an offer of protection and friendship in those eyes, and she reaches back subtly to squeeze the hand that dropped from her back too quickly to be reassuring. The worry leaves his eyes, and she hides the fear in hers behind the knowledge that this man would do anything for her and that she would do all of it and more for him.
It works surprisingly well, and she feels her fear start to drip out of her body and puddle on the floor under her shoes. He moves closer to her, and his heat beats a strong beacon of friendship and safety and maybe (if she lets herself dream) love, and that is what she needs right now, bless his psychic heart.
One of the CIA agents clears his throat quietly, and once he's sure the three of them are looking at him and not at each other, he fluffs up with self-importance and begins.
"Now," he says, "the United States Government has been tracking a group of terrorists for the past five years." The lights click off, and an image appears bright and bold on the projection screen. A man who would blend with everyone else on the street appears, and because of his blandness, everyone can tell he's dangerous. "This is Arat Mahmed, aka Michael Raphel, aka Nicholas Mancini. Age 35. He first came onto our radar in Saudi Arabia about ten years ago when he tried to organize a bombing in an American owned oil company in Saudi Arabia. The bombing never happened, and he went off to a jail on a lesser charge."
Tony glances over at Kate, and she shrugs. What this has to do with NCIS is beyond the both of them.
"When he got out," the agent continues, "Mahmed slipped out of the public eye and virtually vanished into thin air. When we found him again six years ago, he was the leader of a small terrorist off shoot of Hamas. We can currently attach him to three attacks on American owned businesses and organizations, as well as a United States Naval base. All in all, if we acknowledged his existence, he would be pretty high up there on the Most Wanted list."
"I'm sorry," Tony interrupts, "but you haven't told us why the hell this involves NCIS. You haven't told us your name, and frankly, that's just rude. It's been over an hour since you five showed up." He sits forward in his chair and ignores the glares of the other agents. "It's time to be a little bit more forthcoming."
Kate smirks behind her hand. Gibbs suddenly finds the bottoms of his shoes very funny.
The agent throws his shoulders back and narrows his eyes. "I was getting to that, Agent Di-"
"See?" Tony says, pointing his finger. "You know my name-- that's just cheating!"
"I am Agent William Garden," the agent says. "And you are a very irritating, frustrating, stupid man!"
"Yes!" Exclaims Tony. "But I have a name and enough manners to give it when introduced."
Haswari's dark chuckle comes like a knife into the room, and everyone goes quiet. He grins, flashing white teeth in the dark, and Kate suddenly wishes, desperately, that she were allowed to grab her boss's hand and not let go. Tony glares over at the table and all of the humor has left his body.
Haswari waves a hand, still smiling. "Agent Garden, I believe that there is a question on the table. How does this affect NCIS?"
Garden clears his throat and settles back into his chair with one more glare towards Tony. The younger agent doesn't say anything. "As I was saying, Mahmed attacked a navy base. Only he did it at exactly the right time." The screen fills with images of scorched buildings and dead men. Gibbs shifts uncomfortably behind her. His foot inches closer to Kate's.
"He chose the moment when there was the most men on the base, the most officers, and when all of them were preparing for a raid on a suspected terrorist training camp. When he attacked, the op had to be aborted. By the time it was rescheduled, the camp had been moved." The agent shifts uncomfortably in his chair, and when he presses the button again, another picture fills the room and suffocates the viewers.
"And then," Garden continues, "he did this."
White and red and black and smoke paint the room violent shades of color and death. The silence that had existed before is suddenly a lot less uncomfortable, and a lot more horrified.
"The White House bombing," Kate says in a cool voice. "He was responsible for that?"
Behind her, Gibbs reaches out his hand and touches her back. She feels his palm covering her scars, coating her weakness in strength and comfort, and her own fingers trail up the small of her back to touch his wrist. He squeezes softly, gently, and there's a dull burn in her chest knowing that he's touching flesh that just three years ago was a mass of Frankenstein like stitching and grafts.
When he sees her back for the first time, as she knows he eventually will, she will not be the perfect woman he sees in his mind's eye, and that pains a small, secret part of her soul.
Tony folds his hands in front of him, and his jaw clenches tightly. He saw the blood smeared on his boss's shirt that night, and that image will never fade from his memories. He wants the man who is responsible for that smear dead and punished. He wants the entire group in Hell, where the Devil can dish out a punishment he can only dream of.
"What do you want us to do?" he asks, and there is no objection from the corner.
Haswari leans forward in his chair and settles his leather jacket around his body. "Ten days ago, Mahmed approached an associate of mine, claiming he was interested in buying the materials necessary to make a dirty bomb. When asked what he was planning on doing with said materials, he mentioned the 'dirty American infidels.'" He folds his hands on top of the table, the image of professionalism and focus. "In three weeks, there will be a military excursion by your armed forces in association with the Italian army into a large training facility and Al Qaeda stronghold in Saudi Arabia."
Kate's arms cross over her chest, and she takes a deep breath of air. "And you think that the same mole that told him about the op going on at the naval base."
Haswari's eyes turn towards her, and she feels warm, protective fingers tighten over her damaged back as the other man answers. "Correct."
Agent Garden clears his throat. "If there is a traitor, it falls under your jurisdiction to find him in association with the CIA. We need you to work that side of the investigation."
The thin numb lines on her back are itching again. Something is most definitely not right here-- something is most definitely wrong here. Something wicked this way comes, and it's coming fast.
"Said investigation," finishes Haswari impatiently, "will take place on both Italian soil and American, due to the location of the naval base and the location of many of the officers. The sale of the bomb will be held in just over a week. It is of the utmost importance that we capture both the mole and Mahmed before then. You are the only three agents who have been granted the clearance necessary to work on this assignment, and you are the only three who are permitted to know. If any one of you discusses-"
"My people don't break classification, Ari," Gibbs says harshly, and the man in front of him pauses.
"My name is Haswari," he says, and the voice is stone and death. "Kindly call me by it." The two of them stare each other down; Gibbs with his hand still pressed against Kate's back, Haswari with water still dripping down his face and onto his collar.
She moves forward smoothly towards the screen, and both men tear their eyes away from each other to follow her movements. Her body calls them both out of their place of petty arguments and dark hatred. The White House is scarred and soot stained in the image in front of her. She links her hands at the small of her back.
"When do we leave?" she asks softly, and the tension in the room is broken but the silence isn't. The four agents at the table settle their bones calmly.
"Agent Gibbs and Agent DiNozzo will accompany me to Italy, where one of them will investigate the identity of the mole, while the other assists me in the search for Mahmed's home base."
There's silence for a moment, and when she speaks again, Kate's voice is soft and warning. Tony shifts his chair away from her. "I take it my name not being included in that little statement was not a mistake of my ears, Haswari?"
He smirks, and Gibbs's fists clench quietly, nails digging into his hands. Haswari's head tilts to one side. "You would endanger yourself in such a manner, Cait-"
"My name," she hisses, "is Agent Todd. You don't have the right to call me by my first name. That's for my friends, and you don't deserve my friendship you black hearted bastard." She turns all the way around, and now her jaw is set firm and angry. Haswari glances over at Gibbs, but he doesn't move to reign her in. "Why are you under the impression that I will not being going to Italy? Answer carefully, because if I dislike the answer, I'll simply shoot you and take your plane ticket."
He glances around the table. "You don't speak Italian."
"That's the reason?" her hand is heavy and angry on her gun. "That I don't speak Italian? Gibbs isn't Italian and you're bringing him." She can see her chances of revenge slipping down the drain.
A warm hand brushes by her arm, and she glances up at Gibbs's face to see something she really does not like. His voice comes soft in her left ear. "It was Gibestie. They had my grandfather change it at immigration."
She can feel the foundation slipping out from underneath her, and she stumbles for justification. "We'll be on an American naval base-- Italian won't be a prerequisite. I can still aid the investigation, and you know it."
"You can not be self sufficient, and therefore you are a liability and an unimportant part of the investigation," he replies smoothly. "You will be interviewing men and women who were on base at the time of the attack and have been currently reassigned to the states. All of their commanders are under orders not to assign them out of your reach for the next two weeks. Understand you are not going to find the mole on American soil-- if he is anywhere he is in Italy. You are simply looking for information on his identity."
"I need Agent Todd to assist me in my investigation," Gibbs inserts. Haswari turns his eyes on him, sizes him up, and turns away.
"You will just have to make due without assistance from her capable hands."
"Bastard," she spits. "You know that I won't find anything here because there is nothing to find. If there was information here, you're little pet spooks would already have it. I'll find nothing but people who tell me that they already talked to the CIA about this, why do they have to tell it to me again?" She grits her teeth, and fights down the urge to stomp her foot. "You're shutting me out of the investigation."
"If this is how you act when faced with a problem," he drawls, hands folded, "It would be better that I did."
Something breaks, something snaps, and she is taking meaningful steps towards him and she can hear her own heart beat in her ears. Her gun is in her hand and the feel of him inside her body is in her head, and suddenly she is no longer in control.
And if she stays in the room for a moment longer, she is going to pull out her weapon, cock it, and kill him in his seat, and that is just not something she is mentally prepared to do right now so she spins on her heel and leaves, hate in her eyes and fear in her stomach.
There's a warm burning sensation in her throat, and when she breathes out, she feels like her heart is going to come up out of her throat in pieces. Her skin is electrified, and all of the hair on her body stands on end in one joined salute of the man who single handedly changed the course of her life, changed the person she is.
Changed someone who didn't need to be changed.
There's a wall that's cool and comforting against her back, and she feels her knees break down as she stands there. She keeps herself upright from the pressure between the ground and her back and her feet, and there is no way she can collapse because that's just too stupid and too melodramatic and please God don't let me collapse.
"Would you have shot him?" asks the soft voice that she is only permitted to hear on certain, rare occasions that become more and more frequent as the years go by. She opens her eyes and there is Gibbs, standing by her side, no judgment in his eyes. She can feel her cheeks, sticky and wet, and when the hell did she start crying?
He shoves his hands in his pockets. She swallows down the mucus in her throat.
"I would have. If I had stayed, I would have. Without remorse." Her voice sounds clogged, and she scrubs her sleeves over her face roughly. She's crying in front of Gibbs. God, the world is just against her today.
He nods quietly. "I thought you would."
"I can't let them get away with this," she whispers. "Who ever attacked that base, who ever attacked the White House and put the President in danger-- who ever decided to take my flesh and my blood for payment--" and now she's snarling "--I can't let them get away with it. It's..." She shakes her head and pounds both fists back against the wall.
"It fucking sucks," he fills in, and the sound of the profanity coming out of his lips jerks her back to reality. He looks to his left, unable to meet her eyes, and she watches his face gather tension and anger. "It's a raw deal and it's not fair. It's not fair that you can't make him feel the pain you felt. It's not fair that you can't take a knife and carve the same marks into his back that he left on yours." He looks over at her, and she can see the shared anger in his eyes and it makes all of the hatred in her drain out of her body with one sure sigh. "But that's the way it goes," he finishes softly, and she nods in exhaustion.
"You can't always get your pound of flesh. Even when it's deserved." They are suddenly the same age in the dim light of the corner, and she can feel her strength crumbling under the weight of reality and the world she lives in. "Katie, I have to ask you something, and you have to answer me truthfully. Can you do that?"
Does he even have to ask? She couldn't lie to him if the beat of her heart depended on it.
He takes his hands out of his pockets, and suddenly he's holding her by the shoulders. She can feel the warmth of him through her clothing, and his fingers are strong and firm through the fabric.
He's anchoring her with his own two hands, and she has never been more grateful for something tying her down.
"Let me get it for you," he says. Her throat is suddenly perfectly clear and the tears in her eyes are dry. She must have misheard-- did he just...
"I'll take your pound of flesh for you. And I'll do it for you with as much pain as can be drawn from a person without leaving them dead and unavailable for further torture." He steps into her space. "I'll get him for you, if you trust me to do that."
And she looks up at him, and his hands tighten, and she can feel her lips parting slowly.
Gibbs's hand clenches gently against her, nails just scraping on the barrier between numbness and sensation, and she gets a glimpse of the anger he holds about that night that up until now she has only heard about from Ducky when a slip of the tongue occurs while he's distracted by a corpse or by a different thought springing into his mind.
He hates the man who marked her, and that thought makes her entire body tingle the way it does when she's about to take someone into her home or her bedroom or her bed.
"Okay," she says, and the grim satisfaction appears in his eyes once more. "I... Okay." She can feel the world shrinking to hold only the two of them. "I'm asking you because I trust you, Gibbs. Go and get him for me."
Feedback. Stops the ranting. Somewhat.