Author: Raindrops on Roses
Category: Drama, Romance (AJ/Kate), JAG/Navy NCIS crossover
Spoilers: Through "One Shot, One Kill" (NCIS), "Crash" (JAG)
Disclaimer: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No infringement is intended.
Author's Note: This story begins directly after the events of "Left for Dead" (NCIS) and "A Girl's Best Friend" (JAG). Warning: There is mention of a f/f homosexual relationship between non-canonical characters in chapters 17-19.
Chapter 1: The Meeting
Kate Todd paced her apartment. She just couldn't seem to keep still. Something in her was unsettled. Perhaps it was her sense of contentment.
For months, she had been finding her way in her new job. She had finally grown used to the relatively relaxed atmosphere with an undercurrent of tension at headquarters, when that relaxation disappeared in an explosion. Literally.
Kate had been trying to come to grips with her mistake, but it was difficult. This wasn't misplacing evidence or following the wrong lead. This was trusting the wrong person.
How could she have been so na´ve? She was former Secret Service--a trained profiler, for God's sake--and she had been duped by an innocent look; a vulnerable air.
Kate ran her fingers through her hair. Sighing in frustration, she grabbed her keys and jacket, and hurried out the door.
She drove. She didn't care where, or how long; she simply steered her car toward the Beltway. Stupid, really--with the price of gas so high, she couldn't afford to waste it, but at that moment, she didn't much care.
Kate picked an exit at random and pulled off. She didn't worry about her friends looking for her. They hadn't wanted to talk about her screw-up--but then they were men. And neither was known for his openness.
Kate absently drove past a strip of fast-food restaurants, gas stations, and movie theaters. The drive wasn't really helping her nerves--it allowed her too much time to think. She scowled.
Kate pulled into a parking lot. It was half-full and not very well lit. Two people stumbled out of the bar at the other end of the lot. She parked her car and got out.
A wave of jukebox music and murmuring of customers washed over Kate as she entered the bar. It was a bit warm, but then Kate preferred the warmth. Not like Tony, who had a love for tropical locales, but like a girl who had grown up in southern California.
Her eyes swept the room, taking in the crowd that had decided to visit tonight. She made a mental notation about suspicious or dangerous-looking characters, as well as possible exits. Even off-duty, her professional side took over.
Kate sat down at the bar, ignoring the surreptitious glances some of the other patrons were giving her. She looked down at the bandage around her wrist and rolled her eyes. She probably looked like she had been on the wrong end of a boxing match--or a catfight.
"So what'll it be?" asked the bartender. He didn't even blink at the healing scratches on Kate's face.
Kate thought about it, then mentally snorted. 'It's not like he asked you to marry him, Kate,' she thought sardonically. "Gin and tonic," she replied. She nodded as the man set her drink in front of her.
Kate rested her elbows on the bar and studied the scarred wood like it held the secrets of the universe. She took a sip of her drink.
"Hey, there. Is this seat taken?" Kate heard a voice next to her ear.
She turned and relished the look of shock on the man's face. "S-sorry," he stammered and hurried away.
Kate smirked and shook her head. She had never frightened anyone away by looking at them before.
She felt a pair of eyes on her and looked to her left. A man sat two stools down from her, watching her with a raised eyebrow. "Is there something interesting?" she snapped.
"Yes, actually," he replied blandly. He was an older man, bald and strongly built. He wore a flannel shirt over a white t-shirt and a pair of jeans. He was rather attractive--if one ignored the 'talk to me at your peril' demeanor he radiated.
Kate pressed her lips together in annoyance. She got enough of avoidance techniques from Gibbs--she really didn't need it from some guy she didn't even know. "Like what?" The man shook his head and turned back to his beer. "It was a work accident, okay?" she said irritably. 'That was the understatement of the century,' her conscience whispered.
The man simply nodded. "Okay."
Kate grumbled and finished her drink. She grabbed her purse and started toward the ladies' room. She normally didn't like to use public restrooms, but nature was calling, and she didn't want to hang up.
A few minutes later, she walked out of the restroom, vowing silently to never use it again. Suddenly, she felt a hand grab her arm. "Hey, little lady," a man sneered. She could smell the alcohol on his breath. "Can I buy you a drink?"
"No, thank you," she replied, injecting her voice with a hint of anger. It wasn't difficult.
"Aw, come on. Loosen up. Me and my buddies just want to have some fun." He started to drag her toward a table to join his 'buddies'.
Something inside Kate snapped. She had been through enough that week--from having her competence questioned to surviving an explosion. She wasn't going to let some drunken slob manhandle her. She pulled her fist back and let it fly.
"Shit!" Kate wasn't sure who said it first. She cradled her right in her left. Pain radiated through her fingers and down her arm. She looked over at the man, who no longer had a hand on her. Both were covering his nose, which, she noted with satisfaction, was bleeding profusely.
"You bitch!" the man snarled. Well, it would have been a snarl if the man could enunciate his words correctly.
Kate felt a presence behind her. "Is there a problem, gentlemen?" a pleasant baritone voice asked with a hint of menace. The man with the broken nose glared, but didn't reply. "Good; good." Kate turned and frowned. It was the man from the bar.
He walked back to his stool, and Kate followed. "I was taking care of the situation," she said in annoyance. "I didn't need a rescuer."
The bald man shrugged. "Some men don't know when to back down. Or how to treat a lady."
It was Kate's turn to raise an eyebrow. She turned to the bartender. "Can I get some ice?" She smiled her thanks as the man handed her a bag of ice. She placed it on her hand and sighed in relief. "So, my knight in shining armor," Kate began sarcastically, "what's your name?"
"AJ." He held out his left hand. Kate couldn't hide a slight smile. He was certainly thoughtful.
She placed her left hand in his. "Kate," she said. He didn't want to give his last name? Fine with her.
"So... what kind of work do you do that causes that?" he said, gesturing to Kate's injuries.
"Law enforcement," Kate replied tersely. "Look, can we not talk about work?"
AJ shrugged. "Sure." He took a sip of his beer.
"Come here often?" Kate asked. She couldn't resist asking the inane question.
He smirked. "I used to come here quite often. This is my first time in about a year." He didn't seem to want to volunteer any more information. By the scowl on his face after he said it, Kate deduced it had been either a romance gone sour--or he'd just been out of town.
"Ah. This is my first time here. I went for a drive and ended up here. Not sure how." Kate gestured the bartender over and asked for a Coke. "So, AJ... what topics aren't taboo to talk about?"
This elicited a bemused grin from the seemingly taciturn man. "You're very direct, aren't you, Kate?"
She shrugged. "I find tact is useless in situations like these."
"Situations like these?"
She smiled slightly. "I don't know you, but you rescued me from the idiot over there. We're two strangers at a bar. We don't know each other well enough to hurt each other's feelings. What's the use of tact?"
He laughed, and Kate found herself inexplicably warmed by the sound. "That's certainly a refreshing view. Since we're disposing of tact, then, what made you break that guy's nose?"
Kate flexed her fingers slightly and winced. "I've had a bad week."
"I always go around and punch people when I've had a bad week," AJ said, his voice heavy with sarcasm.
Kate grinned. "Doesn't it relieve so much stress?"
AJ gave her a half-grin. "Sure does."
A few hours later, Kate was laughing for the first time in days. "So I look straight at him and say, 'Come on, Jack! Would I really do something like that?'"
AJ smirked. "Did you?"
Kate blinked innocently. "Who, me? I was at home, studying for a calc exam!"
AJ chuckled. "And he believed you?"
"No, but he had no proof." AJ just shook his head.
"Last call, people!" the bartender called out.
Kate smiled at AJ. "I guess this is it. It was nice meeting you, AJ." She threw some money on the bar and hopped off her stool.
"Same here, Kate." He paid and stood as well. He walked out with Kate. "Will you be all right driving home?"
Kate flexed her hand. "Yeah. I drive an automatic, anyway. And I switched to soda after my first drink, so I should be fine."
AJ nodded. "Have a nice night. Or should I say morning?"
Kate rolled her eyes. "My co-workers are going to tease me relentlessly when I get into work."
AJ smiled. "Mine won't dare. Good night."
"'Night, AJ." She smiled warmly and got in her car. Pulling out of the parking lot, she wondered how a complete stranger could improve her mood so drastically. She shrugged and turned onto the Beltway, pointing her car for home.