Author: B. Cavis
Category: Romance, Angst
Spoilers: Bete Noire, Reveille
Disclaimer: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: "She feels dangerous and elite. It's a good look on her." Sixth in the Lion Series.
The silk is soft on her skin, and the baby powder she sprinkled her body with makes her feel pleasantly clean. The shoes don't pinch and the lack of a bra hasn't started to hurt her yet. He watches her prepare from the warm comfort of her bed, head propped up on his hand, eyes lazy and satisfied.
"Beautiful," he rumbles to her, and she smiles, oddly shy considering he had her crying out to God in more than one language a good hour ago. He wonders how she can accept him inside her body with a grin and a pant, but a compliment on her appearance is cause for embarrassment. Hmm. Perhaps, he thinks, this is something that all women are taught to do at an early age--never know how beautiful they are, and become flustered when someone else tells them.
A strange beast, woman. He is rather hoping that this woman will let him spend the next lifetime or so studying her as an example, but even he doesn't entertain the thought consciously. It's too early for that, and even if it wasn't, the cold reality of their lives would make the thought a bittersweet one.
Mossad agents don't settle down and have the white picket fence with the children and the happy wife. NCIS agents who had spent the better part of a year hunting for an assumed Hamas terrorist after he burst into the morgue and shot several people don't get to have it with the Mossad agent.
Subconscious details have no place in the bedroom.
Ari takes a deep breath of Caitlin and Chanel-scented air and lets it permeate his lungs completely before exhaling. Perhaps, he thinks hopefully, she will hate the party to such a degree that she will come back here early and find him waiting for her in the shadows. Perhaps, after she finds him waiting for her, they will indulge in each other's... company.
Perhaps his company can make her head fall backwards while she screams for him and the whole world to hear.
Her dark hair has been carefully tamed and pinned back ("What are you doing?" "Arranging my hair." "It looks better down." "I know.") and every part of her body has been carefully shaved, waxed or plucked into smooth submission. He watched the whole process curiously, eyes smiling to hide the puzzlement in his head at the sight.
The male brain cannot handle tweezers.
She looks nothing like what she looked like last night or the numerous nights before, and he has made his preference for the previous Caitlin clear. "How will I know it's you," he teased, "when your hair doesn't fall upon my chest in greeting?"
"Because," she had answered back, and slunk very close to him, leaning just close enough to make a kiss possible but improbable. "I'm the only one who's going to pinch your butt hello tonight."
"That should work."
She turns to look at herself sideways in the mirror and sucks in her breath for a moment before letting it out and dragging her hands over her stomach once more. She likes the dress. It's being very... good to her.
"You look lovely," he says, and this time she doesn't blush, she just turns to him and smiles. Her feet want her to go over to him. The knowledge that if she climbs back into bed with him, she will never get out keeps her from doing so.
The necklace is in her hand, a fistful of stones and warm honey, and she holds it up to her throat in front of the full-length mirror and lets herself be content for a while longer. No need to think of Gibbs, who has sent a car for her so he and Tony can meet her at the right time. No need to think of Tony, who will stare at the skin she has left bare for the night.
No need to think of anything but the feel of Ari's eyes on her back.
Dark hands crawl across the cream silk that holds her in the bonds of professionalism, and she lets her head loll back against his shoulder as his fingers explore what she has placed between them and her skin.
He does not look entirely pleased. "I like you better without the dress," comes his breath hot and soft in her ear, and she meets his hooded gaze in the mirror. "You should not cover yourself with fabric that draws from your natural," his lips find her neck, and she lets herself get lost as he traces paths on her skin, "wonderful," kiss, "beauty."
Her fingers come up to tangle in the dark head pressed so firmly against her neck, and she smiles into the air with a little sigh. She had forgotten how good it felt to be in an honest, full relationship.
She wonders now if she ever knew this bliss before.
"Yes," she sighs, "but so would Tony." She feels his snicker against her throat, but when he pulls away his eyes are dark and serious, and the humor in his face is hidden away.
"I suppose you have a point, Caitlin. If your associate was ever to see you like this... I would hate to have to involve you in a murder." And she laughs, because she can laugh with this man without being seen as an airhead or a bimbo, and that is an experience she has wanted all of her dating life.
He presses one last kiss to her throat before plucking his offering from her sweaty hand and smoothing the tangled metal work out against her thigh. The amber is clean and flawless. He presses his thumb against the back of one of the stones to leave a tiny mark of himself. Good.
"Remember me while you dance at the ball, Cinderella," he purrs, and the stones are suddenly warm against her throat as he links the clasp closed behind her neck and slides it away from the tendrils of carefully arranged hair that drip down her back and tease his nose. "And come home for me tonight."
She takes the fist she kissed last night in hand and brings it up to her lips once more. His entire body pulses with the beat of their combined hearts.
"Will you be here?"
His hand presses firmer against her stomach, and she can't look away from the eyes in the mirror. "I will always be here, Caitlin. I will always be wherever you are." The breath passes from her in one deep exhalation, and she lets her hand trail down to meet his on her stomach.
"Yes," she whispers, and she's not sure what she's answering to, but he smiles at her just the same--like she has just granted him the rights to a very large prize. She smiles back. She doesn't know why and she doesn't care.
She feels right.
He helps her into her coat and buttons her up the front. His knuckles brush her nipples gently and she shudders even as she laughs. "I will never get tired of what you can do to me."
"I will never get tired of doing it." He leans in and tastes her. A sweet Israeli sunrise on her lips. Beautiful.
She smirks as she pulls back and the amber glitters like it knows some big secret. "I'll be back around midnight if all goes well. One if Tony gets drunk and Gibbs gets involved in something else."
Her fingers drip off him as she turns to leave, and he watches her movements, capturing her image in his head and swallowing it to warm the inside of his stomach.
"I'll see you later," she smiles from the doorway, and he smiles back softly."I'll be here."
The door closes softly behind her, and he hears her click down the hallway in her heels. The couch beckons him over, and he takes the easy way out by sitting down and flipping the television on.
He won't see her again for three years.
Tony whistles as Gibbs hands her out of the limo, and Kate smiles to herself. Not as flattering as Ari's quiet whispers, but still a small ego boost. It's never a bad idea to be told you are attractive, and for Tony, a whistle is kin amount to worship at an altar.
Gibbs glares at him, and Tony works his tongue fat in his mouth. She feels Gibbs step up beside her and places her arm through his instinctively. Tony slips to her other side and takes the other half of her into custody.
"You look lovely, Katie," Gibbs says, and this time she grins wide and happy. Much better than a whistle.
"Thank you Gibbs. You look like James Bond in a tux."
Tony straightens his bowtie one-handed. "Yeah. But I'm hotter."
The doors are guarded by two Marines in uniform, and Gibbs salutes out of habit. Kate smirks to herself. Semper fi.
There are medals somewhere in this building with their names on them. NCIS is being honored by the President for their work in bringing down a terrorist before he could follow through with a plan to topple the Empire State Building, but no one but the elite know that. There's a room off to the side where they will be receiving the awards, and no one from the press will be there.
Silence is a great weapon against those who would cause bloodshed in this country of theirs.
A few Secret Service members give Kate a smile and a wave, and she smiles back serenely. I have risen above you, she thinks to herself, slightly giddy for some reason. I have done more in the past two and a half years than you have all done combined.
She loves the thought. Loves the danger and the risk and the thrill that no one would associate her with if they saw her in this dress. Today she looks like Gibbs' arm candy--his girlfriend or an easy-on-the-eyes assistant. No one knows about the gun she has so carefully concealed to his orders on the inside of her leg. No one is meant to.
She feels dangerous and elite. It's a good look on her.
Tony spots something in a skirt and ducks out of view, but Gibbs maintains his hold on her arm and she doesn't complain. She does, on occasion, enjoy his company and now is one of those occasions.
He hands her a glass of champagne, and they toast to each other and their pasts.
"To the NCIS," he says, and she smiles.
"To us." They drink, and the bubbles fizz and pop going down their throats.
Everything is done in white and blue. The amber around her throat clashes with the surroundings, and when he reaches out to touch it gingerly, she's had enough to drink to forget how exotic it looks. "Nice."
"A friend gave it to me."
His eyebrows go up out of habit. "A friend?"
She smiles serenely and takes another glass off a passing tray. "A good friend," and leaves it at that. He doesn't press.
When he takes her hand and offers her a dance, she smiles and accepts. The alcohol has made her soften around her edges, and while she is acutely aware of everything in the room, she is also calm enough not to stress out when someone brushes by her just a little bit too close or touches her arm in passing. She accepts the greetings of those she knows, and keeps her mind focused on the heat of his hands on her hips and the movement of their feet on the floor.
Her heels make beautiful little clicking noises. She loves it all.
The air is soft and smells like flower arrangements. The champagne goes to her head quickly, and when she feels the world fuzz just a little bit too much, she puts a hand on his shoulder and smiles weakly.
"Mind if I get some air?"
He looks numb around the edges too. "I'll come with you. If one more person wearing bad perfume passes by me, I'm going to go postal." She smiles with teeth. Tony nods as they point towards the exit, and the Marines open the door for them. Someone will come and get them if the President decides he wants them now.
A man is trimming the bush right under the balcony when they show up. He plays with the branches, picks up his trimmings, and walks off. Kate watches him go with a distant fascination.
Off to her right, Gibbs takes a deep breath of clean air and sighs.
"I hate formal parties," he grumbles, and she smirks as he pulls at the edge of his bowtie. "I always feel like a butler in this suit."
"I used to love coming to these with him. It made me feel like a princess with a gun. In fact, I feel that way now, only now I can mock all of my old friends with how much nicer my salary is at NCIS. Besides," she murmurs comfortingly and smiles, "It looks good on you."
Their eyes meet for a long moment, and he looks away suddenly shy. She lets him escape into his contemplation of the lawn outside. "Still... You look nice tonight, Kate. I know I said it earlier, but... you look nice."
She feels strangely at peace with herself. Must be the alcohol numbing her mind. She takes a deep drought of air into her lungs and smells nothing but fresh dew and the gentle chill in the air.
"Do you ever miss it?" he asks, and she looks up quietly from her contemplation of the uneven bushes.
"Miss what?" A shiver runs through her quickly, and she rubs her hands over her arms once or twice to increase circulation. She hears a small snap, and suddenly his coat is over her shoulders and he is much closer than she thought he was a moment ago. She smiles and murmurs a thank you.
"Miss the Secret Service. Getting to do this every day. Protect the most powerful man in the world. That."
"That?" She chuckles to herself. Something is funny. "You mean you're not the most powerful man in the world, Gibbs? I'm shocked and appalled."
Tension shatters, and he laughs with her as the sprinklers come on and paint colored lights across the grass. There are a few flashes from inside--the President has arrived and now the press is making him at home.
They don't move to go back inside. Kate fingers the amber at her throat absently and the dress skims across her thighs as she shifts from one side to the other. "They couldn't ask for a nicer night for a party," she whispers dreamily, and imagines being held firm and safe in the arms of the man sitting at home on her couch. The jacket is warm on her shoulders.
Something clicks off to her right, and she glaces over for a second before shrugging it out of her head. The rustle of branches and the movement of the earth is nothing to get excited about. The status quo remains firm.
Huh. Status quo.
Is that what you call having a man at home that no one will ever be able to meet, questions the echoes of her mother's voice in her head. Having a man who would be shot or arrested if he stepped outside in front of the wrong people? A man who can never give you a family or a real home, only half-truths and regrets?
Is this her status quo? Is this destined to be her life?
The skin he loved only a few hours ago is soft underneath her gown and suddenly hyper-sensitive. She drags her hands over her stomach again, the way she did this afternoon, and tries to picture his eyes upon her again. Her hands press hard into her sides through the jacket, and she tries with every inch of her being to feel as warm as he makes her feel, and can't do it without him there.
She can't feel warm without Ari there to warm her.
Status quo, she thinks wryly, and smiles against the cold pressing against her face.
Let us have each other for as long as we can, she asks a star off in the distance. Let him be here for as long as he wants me and let me hold him for as long as I want him.
Her heels clicking together would be too cliche. She settles for puckering her lips up and blowing a silent kiss to the moon.
Worth a shot.
Gibbs shoves his hands into his trouser pockets and shifts his weight evenly across both of his feet. "We should probably go inside."
The sky is dark and all-powerful. She can't take her eyes away from it, black nothingness and everythingness occasionally torn by a spot light or a security detail. She could let all of her secrets go into the air, let them sink into the fabric of stars and darkness, and her heart would be open and lighter than a feather.
Gibbs comes over to her at the railing and looks her over quickly. "Are you okay?" The concern in his voice is iron and cotton--no room for denial, but no room for misinterpretation as crossness. She takes his hand and squeezes without conscious effort. His eyes are drawn quietly to where she's touching him.
"I'm fine," she says, and means it. "I just had to sort something out in my head, but I think I get it now."
He loves me, she tells the doubts, and silences the concerns. He loves me, and I love him, and that is all that matters right now and forever.
I love him, she whispers to her demons, and they huddle away from the noise.
The doors open behind them both, and Gibbs nods to someone over her shoulder. It's time.
The crook of his arm is offered, a slice of peace and sanctuary, and she takes it with a smile.
"Thank you for being here with me tonight, Gibbs," she says, and means it. If she can't have Ari here, she's satisfied to spend her time with a friend who holds her in the regard that Gibbs does. His eyes glow blue and happy at her words, and her hand fits perfectly on his elbow as he steers her inside.
"Any time, Katie," he whispers, and takes a deep breath. "Any--"
The pain comes first. Sharp, ripping, furious pain that tears into her skin and pierces her skull and makes her body rattle with agony and the knowledge of mortality. She feels the pain and smells her own blood before she hears the boom. Before she sees the fire.
Pain is faster than the speed of sound or light, clarifies her head, before it all evaporates into howling, scratching, horrible hurt that makes her its slave and owns her soul. Gibbs' elbow has disappeared from her hand and his warmth is no longer beside her and oh my God where is Gibbs and where is Tony and where is Ari?
Someone is yelling in her face.
Someone is pulling at her arm, and she wants to move, wants to follow and make them stop yelling, but her legs aren't working and her body isn't responding through the haze of red that has dripped over all of her senses and coated her body in the fuzz of shock. She hears people screaming. Somewhere, someone is cursing and begging, and there are hollers for help of any kind coming from all around.
The person pulling her suddenly stops, and she feels a great sense of disappointment in herself--I can't even follow a simple order. Gibbs, you should fire me. I'm sorry. Her legs are shaking and she doesn't realize it, and her head is bleeding and she has just enough awareness to know that quite clearly.
The pain eats her. The pain owns her.
Her legs are swept out from under her, and it takes a moment for her to realize that the reason her back and legs hurt even more now is because someone is carrying her and someone is hitting all of her wounded areas with their arms. There are screams coming from somewhere, her maybe, and she bites down on air and tastes blood.
Gibbs' smell is all around her. She can hear his voice and smell his body and his comfort, and she's crying out to him now instead of God because he seems to be doing a lot more.
His voice is garbled and distorted, rough as heard through her bleeding head, and she would answer him back if she could get enough breath to do so. Somewhere off to her right, Tony's voice is pokes into her conscious, and Abby is screaming for him. Her ears pick up a few sounds of safe reunion, but her brain doesn't recognize it.
Ari, she thinks desperately. Ari, where are you? Why aren't you here? Why aren't you the one around me and why can't I smell you and why can't I see you and Ari where are you?
Gibbs is cursing and there are sirens and shots being fired and someone somewhere is praying in the sweet caress of Hebrew that she's known since she was young enough to sit on her adopted uncle's knee and watch his fingers trail right to left over the symbols that made her eyes dance.
"Yeet'barakh, v' yeesh'tabach, v' yeetpa'ar, v' yeetrohmam, v' yeet'nasei..."
Mourner's kaddish, recognizes some part of her. Is she dead already? Does she need to be mourned?
Will the pain stop if she is dead?
There's air again, fresh and heavy on her face, and this time it tastes like iron. She can feel little droplets of something splashing upon her eyes and her lips.
There's blood in her breath. She's misting herself red.
"Katie," Gibbs bellows, "hang on and don't you dare stop breathing! Don't you fucking dare!"
And the most shocking thought occurs to her right before the air vanishes and is replaced with a hard plastic lip against her face--Gibbs just cursed.