Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 1623
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Caitlyn (Kate) Todd
Category(ies): Angst/Drama, Episode Related
Episode(s): 1-10 Left for Dead
Summary: After the explosion Gibbs offers Kate comfort and understanding in his own way.
For the first time, Gibbs had broken one of his own rules.
It was a general rule, guarding against many undesirable outcomes, in his mind: Don’t Get Involved. Just don’t get involved, stay back, step away.
This was a particularly important rule for him, forged as it was, he felt, by the blood from his own heart. He formed the rule rather late in life actually, around the time when he and Carol, his second wife began to break apart.
He should’ve known better, he told himself. Getting involved, getting close, getting married to someone you worked with, someone in his world, had to lead only to disaster. And his marriage to Carol had been a disaster of fairly epic proportions. And she was only a JAG lawyer he came into contact with intermittently. At first, that contact had been stimulating, exciting, thrilling. In the end, it had been spiteful, painful, dreadful.
He didn’t want things to go that way with Kate.
They were still at the thrilling stage. Meeting her was like a shock to his system; a system he felt was and should remain over such shocks. ‘I’m too old for this crap’ he told himself, feeling like a cliché.
But his contact with Kate was anything but intermittent – she was there everyday, under his nose, in his face, at his side. Thrilling him.
He could have saved himself the torture, of course, by not hiring her in the first place. But he did; for many good reasons and one really bad one, that he’d never admit to her or anyone. Jaded as he was, Gibbs still believed in chemistry and he believed he and Kate had it.
He thought it would wear off, he’d start to get over her, see through her, she’d loose her appeal. No such luck. Kate fascinated him. Ceaselessly.
He hadn’t been watching closely enough on this one though. He knew she was at risk, becoming too involved and he hadn’t prevented it. Had he wanted her to screw up? Get hurt? – the thought horrified him.
He hadn’t looked out for her and she had a right to expect that – that he protect her emotionally as well as physically. She’d just looked so strong, so certain about taking this woman into her custody. He’d admired that; he’d allowed that and hadn’t seen what was happening. And he should’ve.
He’d realized that before the dust had even settled on that fearful explosion. For a shocking moment he was certain she was dead. He was sure it was his fault. She’d taken the brunt of the impact, was half-buried under debris, dusty and unconscious, but alive. One arm, and one leg was injured and she had a dozen little cuts on her face. She’d coughed for an hour afterwards, coughed till she cried and sitting up on that stretcher, she’d looked like a ten year old in need of detol and a band aid.
At the same time, when she met his eyes across the car park, stoically disallowing her eyes to tear, she’d looked older than he’d ever seen her. Don’t get involved, he told himself; she’ll deal with it on her own.
He’d turned to go, when one of the EMTs ran up to him:
“Sorry, Agent Gibbs – she’s gonna need someone to take her home. Even without her injuries, she’s on enough painkillers to-“
“Sure,” Gibbs nodded walking away from the man mid-sentence. The other EMT was assisting her off the stretcher as he approached. Kate winced slightly as she stood and Gibbs resisted the urge to put out a hand to help. He probably couldn’t touch her anywhere at this point that didn’t hurt.
“You ready to go?” he asked while, she tried to arrange the ragged flaps of her trousers to cover her leg. The EMTs had had to cut them away in order to treat her right leg. She nodded, reached with a stiff arm into her pocket and dropped her car keys into his palm. Still without a word or meeting his eyes, she headed off in the direction of the car, on rigid legs.
Gibbs followed, feeling unable to offer any assistance beyond a hand hovering at her back. He could see her brow creased and her thoughts still possessed with events she couldn’t change now anymore than he could.
He spotted the car she’d requisitioned and jabbed the button, beeping it open. She allowed him to help her with her seatbelt, which he fastened as quickly and as gently as possible, while staring at her disheveled head. He made quick call to Tony, telling him to take the car they’d brought and he’d see him later.
He watched as Kate pulled her sleeves down over her cut up hands and looked back at the partially destroyed building. He had told Tony not to offer false comfort, but now felt himself compelled to a gesture of understanding or assurance. The urge was unfamiliar to him and left him at a loss. In such a situation, Gibbs was man who would rather do less than more.
So he started the car, letting the engine warm for a few minutes and adjusted the heat vents so that they were turned towards her. Then he spun the wheel and headed out of BFFs’s swarming car park and onto the slick empty roads. Their progress was slow, in the snow and mist, but inside the car was warm and dark and the silence became easier by the minute. Looking over at her, Gibbs saw that Kate’s eyes were closed though her brow still looked troubled.
“Kate,” he said, quietly: “Going to need directions soon.”
She opened her eyes, lifted her head and took in where they were for a moment. She gave the directions in her usual voice, perhaps a bit softer, and Gibbs pulled up in front of a redbrick apartment block. He shut off the engine. Kate didn’t move.
She looked straight out at the night: “I let you down, I’m sorry.”
“You made a bad call, Kate.”
“I put you and Tony at risk,” she insisted.
Gibbs sighed. “Tony and I have survived worse,” he said gently.
“But you were right, I got too close – I should’ve seen--!” she shook her head and looked at her lap.
“You couldn’t have predicted this.” Gibbs gripped the steering wheel and shifted in his seat. He really didn’t know how to have this conversation. “Beating yourself up over this isn’t going to help, Kate. You’re no good to me like this. You made a bad call, we all do, from time to time. Next time –“ he paused: “We’ll both use better judgment.”
Finally, she looked at him.
“I let you expose yourself, Kate. I’m responsible for the agents under me and I didn’t…” he watched the headlights of the passing cars in the wet streets, while Kate stared at him, probably in shock.
“Never say you’re sorry” he’d told her and that had sounded very much like an apology. One rule down, he thought, ruefully. He sighed and let the unfinished sentence die. Kate looked away, shivering. At least she was too tired to rub it in.
“C’mon, it’s late,” he said, taking the keys out of the ignition and stepping out into the cold. Kate struggled with her seatbelt, as he went round to open the door for her.
He pushed it shut behind her and watched her slump a little against the car, looking up at the stairs to her door. He smiled and offered her his hand. She returned the smile, looking like her usual self again and extended her uninjured arm, putting her hand in his. He guided her hand across his shoulder ducking his head under her arm and picking her up under the knees.
But he’d already started up the stairs with her. ‘I’m so out of line here,’ he thought, avoiding her eyes and feeling her hair tickle his cheek. He counted the steps in his head then quickly disengaged from her at the top. He caught her surprised expression before she redirected her eyes downwards, but she was smiling. His heart pounded.
She nodded a few too many times and fiddled with her keys. “Thanks.”
‘I’m too old for this crap,’ he told himself for the hundredth time since Air force One.
“Right. Email me your report. I’ll give you a week, tops—“ He said starting back down the stairs, knowing Kate would take no more than one or two days leave. He turned: “And Kate?”
She looked up.
“When you come back in, I want to see the agent I hired.” He lifted his eyebrows.
She nodded, slowly, her eyes finding that steely certainty again he found so compelling. She smiled briefly and slipped inside out of the cold.
Tugging his jacket around him and feeling his shoulders ache with the movement, Gibbs made his way back to the car, thinking that if this innocuous, dark-haired little girl scout could make him break not one but two of his most deeply-held personal beliefs, in only a few months-- then how long was he really going to hold out against all the rest crumbling at his feet?
Because one way or another, however he fooled himself, when it came to Kate Todd, he was already involved. Irrevocably entrenched.
And that made two down.