Chapter 20: Kate and Abby
From SWAK, you know the scene:
Special Agent Caitlin 'Kate' Todd: He's dying Ducky.
[starts crying, Ducky Hugs her]
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs: [as Gibbs walks past them] Ah, the hell he is.
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs: [goes to Tony's bed. Whispers]
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs: Tony, can you hear me?
Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo: [weakly] I'm listening, Boss.
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs: You will not die.
[Tony starts closing his eyes]
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs: [Gibbs pats him on the head]
[Tony opens his eyes]
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs: You. Will. Not. Die.
Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo: Gotcha, Boss.
"Tony, can you hear me?" Fuck this. Tony promised, promised. Promised.
"I'm listening, Boss."
"You will not die." Do you hear me, Tony? Don't you fucking close your eyes. He taps him on the head. "You. Will. Not. Die."
He can't hear Tony's breath, he's afraid it's too late.
A greater rush of relief than he deserves, he knows. This is bad, bad still. Jethro pulls from reserves, keeps his voice level and calm. Whispers in Tony's ear, almost a kiss.
"You...and...Tony. No. I mean that's not possible. I mean...what?"...You...You...You said I needed to break things off with Tim. Well you never said it, I said it, said that I was going to anyway, but you obviously approved, it was important to you, and your opinion mattered even before I knew I'd be working for you." Kate stopped talking. Angry and confused.
Gibbs voice was gentle but implacable. "I know, Kate. And I know I never said it but you heard me anyway. And that was important to me, then, even before I knew you'd be working for me. And I was right. You were right. Co-workers shouldn't sleep together."
"But nothing. I don't have an answer. Maybe I need a new rule. Sometimes you need to break a rule." Now his inner turmoil revealed himself and his voice was harsh with strain. He turned away, ran his hand through his hair in a rare nervous gesture. She heard him breath in and out deeply, calming himself, watched his back rise and fall with breath. He turned and spoke firmly, honesty less difficult for him than the sharing of it. "I want say 'Sometimes rules get broken' but rules don't break themselves. I know that. People break them. I broke it. My own rule."
Kate pressed on.
"Then what the hell, Gibbs?" Kate rarely swore. "Tony is lucky that he is asleep in that hospital bed and...and...and...sick." She trailed off again, hearing what she said. "I don't mean that I want him to be sick. But I do want him to be healthy so I can be pissed at him too!"
"Kate, that is part of why I am telling you. My part. The other part of you knowing is all Tony. I'm telling you because this is serious, this thing between us, and I needed you to know that before all hell breaks loose at work."
"Why? How does that matter? In fact, that might make it worse."
"No, it doesn't." The intensity in Gibbs' voice caught Kate's attention and she listened instead of just waiting for her turn to talk. "Do you think that I would tell you this, potentially change our team, for anything other than something important, a battle that—" he glanced at the bed, lowered his rising voice, "—a battle that I fought and lost already?"
Kate blinked and for the first time, seemed to think about what it meant that Gibbs and Tony were together as a couple, what it must have taken for that to happen.
"I need to make things right at work, and Tony plays a big part in that, but I think that maybe you and McGee, Abby and Ducky, maybe you have a right to weigh in too, if you want."
Kate swallowed, went back. "What is the other reason for telling me?"
Tony's voice, still weak and raspy, but awake, a little better every day, came from behind her. "Because I wanted to tell you. I felt bad about you not knowing, when it has just been us, partners." His lips barely moved but his eyes lit up suddenly. "Even though I annoy the hell out of you. When I knew this was serious, when I really wanted to tell someone—"
His eyes shifted to Jethro, anxious, but when the older man nodded and tightened his lips in approval, Tony relaxed and turned back to Kate. Kate had never seen Gibbs give any of them that kind of advance approval. Usually he just let them make their own decisions, take the consequences of any mistakes, help them sort it out later. This wasn't a test, Kate realized, and Gibbs was Tony's partner in this, not his boss. Tony probably called him Jethro, she thought apropos of nothing.
"—and I realized the person I wanted to tell was you." Tony coughed weakly, then harder. Kate and Gibbs both tensed, but Tony's breathing evened out, quieted, and he finished, softly. "Even before the plague. I wanted to tell you."
Kate struggled to not feel moved but her emotions were already close to the surface after the last week. Her eyes grew misty. She stepped up to Tony's bed, leaned down and hugged him suddenly. His arms came up around her and he sighed in relief. When she pulled back, she kissed his cheek lightly, whispered. "You are always trying to rattle me, DiNozzo. And if you remember this later, I will deny ever saying it, but...you succeed far too often."
Gibbs just watched from his place by the door. Kate stood at Tony's bedside as he grinned, a sad attempt at his usual arrogant smirk. He reached out. She put her hand in his and held it for the few minutes it took before he was asleep again. Not letting go, or turning back to the older man, she asked,
"Months. More." He didn't see the need to give it a date. "But seriously, probably four months."
"But Tony...he...the tall girl with the headlights...the coeds...the...spring break…" She had continued to look down at Tony but now she turned, just her head, to look at Gibbs.
Gibbs smiled, that sudden, crooked, happy, slightly mocking smile that made you feel like the sun had come out and you had a hand in it, and said simply. "Not for a long time."
And then Gibbs did something that made Kate believe every word of it, and it would have turned everything she knew upside down if she hadn't been prepared by the last 20 minutes. Gibbs walked across the room and held out his hand. She put Tony's hand down gently on the hospital bed and turned to take Gibbs'. He pulled her into a brief hug, kissed her cheek in the same way that he kissed Abby, deliberate and sweet, spoke gruffly into her ear.
"Thank you for staying with him. Thank you, Kate."
She nodded numbly and her teary eyes followed him as he moved away. "Going to get coffee. I'll be back. You okay to stay with him a while?" He turned at the door. She nodded. That seemed to be what he needed to know and then he was gone and Kate was left to her thoughts.
Another week passed and Tony was getting better but the doctors had never had anyone who had contracted the plague and so in addition to being cautious about his recovery, they were also interested in documenting and discussing and measuring it. He really felt that he could be recuperating at home, preferably at Jethro's but the possibility that he wasn't welcome for weeks on end—he still couldn't quite believe the invitation to stay was an invitation to move in—was the only thing dampening his eagerness for release.
And so, Gibbs found him entertaining Kate and Abby one Friday evening just after work.
"Thought I'd find you here."
"Gibbs!" Abby tap-tapped across the tile in her heels and gave him a hug. "You were looking for us?"
Kate raised her brows in question.
Gibbs reached into his coat for the envelope tucked into an inner pocket. "I owed you." Typically short on explanation, he thrust the envelope at Abby.
"Gibbs!? What is it?" She squealed when she saw the flyer, the receipt. "Kate! Gibbs got us a new reservation for the spa! And a hotel room! For…" She scanned down the page. "this weekend!"
"You are both free this weekend, right?"
Kate had moved over to Abby to check the details. Abby pressed the sheet in his hand and grabbed Gibbs in a hug. "Great work, bossman! How did you manage it?" Gibbs didn't bother to answer. He had made a few calls, was surprised how easy it had been, once he thought to call Miranda Langevin. She seemed to be doing alright, but seemed glad for the chance to talk a little about Mark, and then to do something for Jethro.
Kate seemed stunned, "Gibbs…"
He shifted uncomfortably, ground out. "It's just a night's stay, Kate, you two are still on the hook for the spa. I'm going to go get coffee," He kissed Abby's cheek, nodded at Kate. "so you can leave when I get back if you want. I only booked the one night but they have space tonight too if you want to go early." He left the two women to talk it over, sure they would bring Tony into their conversation, and made his escape.
The next morning, after a bottle of wine and talk made all the more delicious by the fact they didn't need to go anywhere, but could curl up on soft clean sheets, each in her own personal queen sized hotel bed, Kate and Abby found themselves two feet off the floor, sitting in cushy armchairs, sipping cold iced tea, soaking their feet in tubs of water so hot it almost hurt. The gentle clink of the smooth stones at the bottom of the tubs was soothing. Each woman had her head tipped back against the chair cushion, eyes closed, not sleepy but as relaxed as they had ever been. After the long soak, they would be getting foot massages.
Stretched as Kate's vocal cords were, her voice was husky as she asked the question she had been dying to ask for days now. "So...what if...I...knew...something. How could I find out if you...knew it too?"
Abby's laugh was delighted and equally husky. "Oh, Kate. I know. When did you find out?"
Kate squeaked and couldn't keep her eyes shut, sat up a little, looking over at Abby. "When did you find out?!"
Abby's smile was smug and happy. "Oh, months ago. I think they were avoiding being in the same room with me together I still don't know how I missed that because they probably figured I would sense something but one day I think it was the Paterson case, the one where there were those blue handprints all over the body...they were both in the lab. It was one of those days where everyone wakes up on the wrong side of the bed you know when that happens? and they were arguing when they got off the elevator, though really it was Tony mostly doing the complaining and by complaining I mean whining but Gibbs wasn't not so secretly amused by it who does he think he is kidding, this time, he was really irritated and it looked like smoke was going to start coming out of his ears like a comic book character and I thought that I should try to cheer them up but then I was irritated too because after all I am not immune to the mysterious forces in the universe that make one roll out of bed in the wrong direction and Tony smirked at my skirt which was my pink polka dot one and Gibbs did not have a caff-pow for me and so then we were all three snapping at each other and then…"
Abby's eyes snapped open and she grinned over at Kate. "And then I figured out what was going on, and hugged Gibbs to make it all stop."
"Of course you did."
"Hey, it works. Plus it feels good to hug Gibbs."
"Of course it does."
"Well, Kate, it really worked because Gibbs was back again to his more cheerful grouchy self and gave me a peck on the cheek and then I hugged Tony and he felt better too and when that was done I just knew to make everything perfectly right, they needed to make up too although I thought then that they could hardly hug it out how wrong I was—" The two women took a second to high five before Abby continued, not even out to breath, "—so I insisted that they shake hands."
And now she sat up. And, to Kate's surprise, she was actually breathless. "Gibbs glared and Tony rolled his eyes, but well you know...blue handprints...they really wanted to know about the blue handprints, so Tony held out his hand for Gibbs to shake but was still looking at me and Gibbs was glaring at me when he reached over to shake Tony's hand, and then…"
Kate had almost forgotten her feet, this was so good. "Then what?!"
Abby's voice was quieter suddenly, but her eyes were bright and happy. "Then, when their hands touched, they weren't looking at me anymore. They were looking at each other. And then I knew." Abby shrugged, settled back with a satisfied smile.
Kate settled back too. "So, did you confront them? Do they know you know?"
"I didn't tell them. They'll get around to telling us sooner or later. Gibbs probably knows I know because he knows everything. But it has been so fun watching them, once I knew, and it is going to be even better now that you know too."
A soft swish of a curtain heralded the arrival of the masseurs, and the two women sighed in satisfaction.
"Alright Sciuto, I want to hear it all. Everything you saw or heard. Start at the beginning…"
"I miss your mattress."
Jethro looked up from the newspaper he was reading, peering at Tony over his glasses. Tony turned his head toward Jethro to say more but started coughing. Jethro was up in an instant, helping roll Tony up onto his side, easing the pressure on his lungs. Tony's coughing quieted almost immediately.
"I'm okay, Jethro. Really, I'm fine." Tony smiled and shifted to get comfortable, pretending this was what he wanted all along. "Go ahead, sit down."
Jethro leaned on the edge of Tony's bed instead of going back to his chair and said, "You hate my mattress."
"I do hate your mattress, but I miss it too. I mean not just because I'm in the hospital and wish I was anywhere but here. But that mattress has seen some good times. I really love that mattress…" Tony smiled even let out a huff of laughter at the expression on Gibbs' face. "What?"
Gibbs just shook his head. Sentimental nonsense.
Gibbs hadn't done much of that while Tony was in the hospital, had confessed that he was scared to cut off Tony's air. After a pause, though, Gibbs leaned forward and kissed the other man, heedless of the open door. He kept it light, short kisses to reassure himself that Tony could breathe but he ended up feeling deeper reassurance, hadn't realized how much he needed the intimate contact. Before he pulled back, Jethro felt the smile on Tony's lips. After he pulled back, he saw Tony's eyes blink heavily, drop shut.
"M'gonna sleepsomemore." It alarmed Gibbs how quickly Tony passed in and out of sleep and was one of the reasons he hadn't helped Tony leave the hospital yet.
Jethro swept Tony's hair back with gentle fingers, stroked his forehead, kissed his temple. Couldn't resist one last kiss on his partner's mouth, but satisfied himself with kissing Tony's bottom lip, unwilling to block his air for even an instant.
In the end, instead of going back to the chair, he pulled it forward even closer to Tony's bed so he could hold Tony's cool hand loosely in his warm one.