Gibbs looked down at the checklist Abby had written for him, then studied the screen. She'd made it sound so simple, but he was kind of wishing he'd gotten her to stick round in the bullpen to make sure he did everything he was supposed to... and possibly to supply some conversation fuel, just in case. He was willing to give this a try - it had to be better than nothing, right? - but he was still concerned that he might make a complete fool of himself.
At least the caseload was quiet, so most everyone had gone home and he didn't have an audience. The main reason for leaving it this late was his awareness of the time difference, but the lack of spectators was a welcome bonus.
He sighed, gave the list one last glance, then clicked and hoped.
The computer made a few strange noises, but it did seem to be doing something. When Kate's face appeared on the screen, bathed in the sunlight of a Hawaii afternoon, he breathed a sigh of relief.
"Hey, Gibbs! You're on Skype? My God. The world really is ending."
He chuckled. "Yeah, Abs set me up."
Kate grinned. "Okay, that explains a lot." She seemed to be searching the screen for something, and he smiled a bit, for want of anything better to do. Truth be told, he was impressed that he'd managed to make the thing work, but now he did feel like an idiot, sitting here staring at her. Why'd I let Abby talk me into this? It might be easier than a phonecall, but it didn't change the fact that verbal communication was never going to be his strong suit.
"You got a webcam?"
She raised an eyebrow. "A camera on your computer, since this is supposed to be a video chat."
"Uh..." What had Abby said? "I think so?"
"It's just that I can't see you."
Oh. At least that meant she'd missed his inane grinning. "Do I need to- um-"
Kate shook her head with a smile. "Never mind. It's still good to hear your voice."
"You too, Katie."
"How's it going over there?"
Gibbs shrugged, then realised that the fact she couldn't see him had downsides as well as upsides. "Well... We're gettin' back to normal, I guess."
"Same old orange walls?"
He laughed at that. "Yeah, looks that way. Couple people wanna talk 'em into a different colour, but..."
They sat in mutual silence for a minute or so, just long enough for Gibbs to wonder if this had been the worst possible idea he'd ever had. He didn't usually mind silence, but he badly wanted this to go well. Fear that it might not was making him twitchy.
Maybe if he could get Kate to talk instead... "So, uh, how's Oahu?"
Kate leaned back in her chair, her face thoughtful. At least his ineptitude with the camera meant she couldn't see him watching her intently. "It's... it's good," she said at last. "It's beginning to feel like home, finally." She looked down before continuing more softly. "I don't like being so far away." She shook her head, shrugged. "It's silly, I mean, I was in Europe for so long and I didn't get to see any of you for years, or my family, but... I guess I'd resigned myself to that. It's different now. I chose this."
"You can always come back, you know."
Her smile finally returned. "I know. I do like it here, though. It was the right choice, even if it wasn't the easy one."
There was another long pause, and Gibbs tried and rejected a dozen ways to tell her how proud he was of her.
"I'm sure you're real useful to the team," he said, finally. "And you seem, uh, happy there."
She nodded. "I am, most of the time. I think it's been good for me."
"You look really well."
"Thanks." Her head bobbed in another nod and she looked- almost embarrassed?
The impression that his compliment had affected her gave him a boost, and his next attempt at conversation was a bit more confident. "What case you working on?"
Work was an easy thing to talk about, and he started to loosen up as they compared notes, caught up on the ongoing refurbishments in DC and the intricacies of working with Five-0 and HPD on Hawaii, and talked shop. It was a whole lot easier to keep a conversation going than it was to actually start it, and Gibbs had finally begun to relax when they were interrupted.
"Kate, why are you talking to your computer?" A tall figure appeared behind Kate, apparently the possessor of the unfamiliar British accent, and then a face popped into view wearing a quizzical expression.
"No, that's a blank screen, Kate."
"Yes, that's a blank screen, Will, but-"
"And you're talking to it." He looked back and forth between the screen and Kate's face, frowning. Gibbs had a strong suspicion he was trying to wind Kate up. It seemed to be working.
"Well yes, because-"
"Dear me, Kate, have we been working you too hard?"
Gibbs recognised the exasperated expression on her face as the one she usually wore when Tony was around, and decided to put her out of her misery. "I'm here. Can't figure out the webcam."
The man grinned mischievously at the camera. "Hallo, Gibbs. You'll have to forgive me, I can't resist a chance to tease her."
Kate thumped him. "This is Will," she explained. "He's usually not quite such a pain in the ass."
"You wound me, Kate." Will adopted a hangdog expression. "I can assure you, Gibbs, I'm always a pain in the arse."
Gibbs laughed. "Good to know."
Will grinned again, and Gibbs couldn't help returning it. He didn't generally trust first impressions, but Will exuded goodwill even over a telephone line. It would be pretty difficult to dislike him.
"How's life in DC? Navy Yard back in one piece yet? You are all still very much in our thoughts and prayers."
Gibbs pulled a face and shrugged, then remembered that they couldn't see him. "Ah, yeah. More or less, I guess." He appreciated the concern but he didn't really know how to respond to it, especially when he and his team had come through it all relatively unscathed. It made him feel almost dishonest to accept sympathy, when there were others who had lost so much in the explosion. "We'll get there."
Will nodded. "I'm very glad to hear it. It was a big shock to everyone, especially to Kate." He placed a hand on Kate's shoulder. "We must all look out for one another."
Gibbs got the impression that the man was lost in thought for a moment, but he quickly recovered. "Well anyway, it's terribly nice to meet you, though I feel I know you already. Kate is always talking about you, Gibbs this, Gibbs that..."
Kate looked alarmed.
"Is that right?" Gibbs asked with a grin. Interesting.
"Oh yes, we've all heard such a lot about you." Will was either oblivious to the face Kate was pulling, or was exceptionally brave. Or maybe just foolhardy. "Kate is just full of stories about Agent Gibbs."
Kate contrived to look furious and embarrassed at the same time, and shot an accusing glare at Will. "Shut. Up." Gibbs wondered if Kate had forgotten that although she couldn't see him, he could see her. He wished he could take a picture of the expression on her face and frame it for his wall somewhere. It was priceless.
Will didn't appear remotely fazed. "All good, I assure you. She's clearly a fan."
Gibbs actually winced at the punch she administered to Will's right arm for that. Apparently Will was tougher than he looked, though; he just shrugged and grinned a little more widely, then sauntered off out of frame.
"Ignore him." Kate shook her head. "He's always trying to embarrass me."
Gibbs decided not to point out that by the looks of it, Will had succeeded this time. He was too far away to earn a punch of his own, but he wouldn't put it past her to pass the task on to Abby, as the only other person likely to get away with it.
He'd just quietly enjoy the knowledge that Kate apparently talked about him. A lot.
"Seems like a good guy."
"Yeah, he is. Big kid, but he has my back when it counts." She shook her head and laughed, rolling her eyes. "I think he's decided I need a little brother just in case I start taking myself too seriously or something. He takes it as a personal challenge to make sure I laugh at least once a day. Oh, and to annoy me constantly, of course."
"I'm conspiring with his girlfriend to give him a taste of his own medicine." She grinned. "It should be fun."
Gibbs hadn't gotten a romantic vibe from their banter, but he was still a little relieved at the mention of a girlfriend. There were plenty of reasons Kate might not turn out to be interested in him that way, but as far as he could tell, at least he had no immediate rivals on Oahu. It gave him a fighting chance.
"You have a good team out there."
She nodded. "I've been really lucky again, even if it's not quite the same. I do miss you guys, though. All of you." She grinned suddenly. "Don't you dare tell DiNozzo that, though. Admitting I actually miss him sometimes? I'd never live it down."
Gibbs laughed. "Yeah, you know, you're right. He'd eat out on that for months." He winked. "Don't worry. Your secret's safe with me."
She giggled. Giggling wasn't really typical Kate Todd behaviour, but if anything that just made him enjoy it more. He wondered if he could make it happen again.
He wasn't exactly known for his sparkling wit, but this was definitely worth the effort. He fell back on repeating one of Ducky's recent stories, on the grounds that she'd always had time for the old man's tall tales.
She smiled and laughed and expressed disbelief in all the right places, and for a while it was almost possible to believe he was sitting across from her in Oahu, with people wandering by and the sun streaming in through the windows. It was a definite improvement on a DC evening with rain whipping against the glass, but it was her company he really craved.
The elevator dinged suddenly and had Gibbs spinning round in his seat. He breathed a sigh of relief when he realised it was just Abby. "Hey, Abs." He beckoned her over and gestured to the screen. "Got Kate on the line here."
Abby bounced over, pigtails swinging, leaned over Gibbs' shoulder, and waved. "Hey, Kate! So good to see you!"
Kate smiled and waved back. "I wish I could see you too, Abby, but it's really good to hear your voice."
"What?" Abby leaned over a bit further. "Why can't she see us, Gibbs? I Skyped my friend Ashton at NASA from here, I know it works."
Gibbs shrugged. "Dunno what to tell you. I did everythin' you said."
Abby shook her head, booted his chair to the side with a swing of her hips, then grabbed the mouse and started clicking. "It's not that... or that... no... hang on a second." She gave him a sideways look and a shake of her head that was half exasperation, half pity. "Oh, Gibbs. You really gotta get to grips with this. Your webcam is offline."
He shrugged. He wasn't even sure what that meant. "How'm I supposed to know that?"
Abby gave him a patient smile. "You're a dinosaur, Gibbs." She pressed a few keys. "Voilà! Sorry Kate, I'm trying to get him trained, but you know how men are."
Kate laughed as Abby stepped back from the screen, allowing Gibbs to roll back in front of it. Kate's face broke into a warm smile, her cheeks dimpling.
"Hey," she said, softly. "Now I can see you too."
"And me!" Abby ducked down over his shoulder to see her friend. "I'm saving up to come visit, Kate, I promise. I want you to show me everything, and take me surfing, and snorkelling... Oh, and have really good sushi, maybe go see some volcanoes, and a proper luau, and-" She caught Kate's somewhat overwhelmed expression, shrugged, grinned, looked a little sheepish. "I just want to come for as long as I can and make sure we see everything, okay? And still leave this place in good hands, which is the difficult part."
Kate chuckled. "I'm not planning on going anywhere Abs, I promise. I'll be here whenever you can make it down."
Abby did a little excited bounce. "I can't wait. It's so good to see you." She glanced sideways at Gibbs, and waved her hands expressively. "But I, um, have a rush job on down at the lab, soooo I really should..."
Gibbs was nearly 100% certain that was a lie for his benefit, and he signed a discreet thank you to her.
He hadn't said anything to Abby about his visit with Kate in the spring, but she was one of the few people in DC who knew exactly where he'd disappeared to for a couple days. Clearly, she had read between the lines. He supposed the fact he was voluntarily using a computer for communication, not to mention fighting back a silly grin, probably didn't leave much to Abby's imagination.
Abby winked, and signed back you owe me. "But we should definitely Skype sometime, Kate."
"That would be fun, Abs. It is wonderful to see your face."
"You too. Love you!" Abby blew a kiss to Kate, planted another on Gibbs' cheek, and scampered off.
Kate smiled. "She hasn't changed, has she?"
"Yeah, she's... she's still Abby."
She looked at him. "What?"
He frowned. "Whaddya mean, what?"
Kate gave him a look, one of those looks that meant something like 'Really? You think I'm letting go of this?' It was one he recognised, and he almost smiled at the familiarity except that he wasn't sure why it was being aimed at him.
"What's up with Abby?" The look was turning into a glare. "Gibbs, I can tell from your face there's something wrong. Tell me? Please?"
He sighed, rubbed a hand over his face. Abby. That was a whole other issue. He hadn't been intentionally hiding anything, exactly, but...
"Well." He had been keeping an eye on Abs - hell, he'd been keeping an eye on them all the last couple of months - and there was something off, but she hadn't yet confided in him. He'd been reluctant to press, but if Kate had picked up on his concern from an ocean away... Maybe he should talk with Abby, make her spill, make her at least admit something was wrong.
"Gibbs." Kate's voice was soft but there was a note of pleading. "You have me worried here."
He gave her a one sided smile. "Sorry." One of these days he'd get through a conversation with Kate without breaking a rule for her. Maybe. He thought about it for a few moments longer. "Honestly, Katie, I'm not even sure what's up with Abs. She's just not..." He shrugged. He really hadn't realised the depth of his own concern and frustration till he'd tried to put it into words. "Most of the time she seems fine, but-" He sighed, lifted a hand in a weary gesture "-somethin's up, and I don't know what, and she ain't tellin'."
Kate leaned in closer to the screen, resting her chin on her hand. Her eyes were dark and worried as she stared into space, and Gibbs wished he could reach out and touch her face, reassure her, as if she really was just a few feet away rather than thousands of miles.
"It's... She's getting there. We're all getting there. It's gonna take time."
She shook her head. "I hate that I can't be there with you guys, helping you rebuild... Abby, she's... She's one of my best friends, you know? I really wish I wasn't so far away from DC."
Me too. He wasn't ready to say that out loud yet. It was one thing Kate missing all of them; it was quite another admitting that he badly missed her. "You got a job to do, Katie. We all do. We understand."
Her focus returned to him and she nodded. "I know. Just... make sure Abby's okay. Please, Gibbs?"
"I'll try," he promised.
Her smile came back, though it was still sad. "I'll try, too."
"Hey." He smiled, coaxing a more convincing one out of her. "We got the guy. Life goes on. We'll get through this." He felt like he was talking about more than NCIS's recovery from the explosion, but Kate didn't need to know that.
When she spoke again, her voice was soft. "I know." There was a pause, a humourless laugh. "Sometimes I really hate this job."
The way she said it, the expression on her face... he really wished he could put his arms through the screen, pull her close, hold her awhile.
"I don't mean that," she continued. "I want to keep everyone I love safe, that's all, and it's hard when some of the people you care about most are federal agents."
"Tell me 'bout it." He rolled his eyes exaggeratedly. As he'd hoped that made her giggle, and he could see the tension in her shoulders easing.
"Just- try not to get blown up again any time soon, okay? I'm not sure I could take it."
"I'll do my best." If Kate was including him in the list of people she cared about the most, he'd stay alive out of sheer stubbornness, no matter what.
The silence that fell between them was a lot more comfortable than it had been to start with, and he was grateful, but he really wished he could think of some way to cheer her up. It was obvious that concern for Abby and talking about the bombing had got to her, and it really wasn't what she needed to be dwelling on right now. He cast about for a new, more cheerful subject. Unfortunately, the last few months hadn't exactly provided them with a lot of happy conversation fodder.
She was worrying at her lip with her teeth. Just now he'd give anything to be able to pull some small talk out of the air.
She looked up at him, blinked. "Sorry, I was miles away."
All of a sudden she looked almost gaunt. The last time he'd seen that expression on her face she'd been on the verge of a full blown panic attack. She didn't seem to be about to disintegrate, in fact seemed quite calm, but it still concerned him.
For want of a better subject, he started quizzing her about work again, this time extracting all the information he could about her colleagues. Gradually, she brightened up, the light coming back into her eyes. It was fun to watch her slip into unconscious mimicry of her teammates, and he was relieved to note that talking about them seemed to be a good distraction from the negative thoughts that had ambushed her.
Just as she was in the middle of relating a particularly strange anecdote that involved Will and a frozen swordfish, the man's voice cut over her and then he reappeared behind her chair.
"Kate! Must you tell everyone that story? You're going to absolutely wreck my street cred."
She looked up at him with a cheeky grin. "You have street cred?"
Will seemed to consider this for a couple of seconds. "Well, okay. Still. I'm sure you must have at least one story that makes Hana or Rich look like a complete pillock, not just me. Why can't you tell one of those for once?"
"Because they're not nearly so funny."
He pouted. "You're a cruel, heartless woman, Kate Todd."
She giggled again. "And you're ridiculous." She reached up to pat his cheek affectionately, and he shrugged.
Gibbs couldn't help laughing at his resigned expression. Will might have taken on the role of annoying little brother willingly, but it seemed that Kate was just as comfortable playing the big sister card.
There was a silvery, tinkling sound, and Kate picked up her cellphone. "Drat. Sorry Gibbs, I just have to deal with something."
He nodded. "No worries." She turned to rifle through some papers, muttering, and Gibbs grinned at the faces she pulled as she had quite the animated discussion with herself. It was pretty entertaining.
Distracted by Kate being unintentionally cute, it took Gibbs a moment to realise that Will wasn't just fidgeting behind her shoulder, but was actually signing something out of her line of sight. He obviously wasn't very confident in ASL, using a couple of basic signs mixed in with a lot of fingerspelling, but with a little concentration, it was possible to follow.
U realy like her lot, yes?
The question was unexpected, though maybe it shouldn't have been. It was nice to realise her new team were looking out for her.
Kate was still looking at her phone, so Gibbs felt safe enough to nod.
Good, signed Will. She quise lives u 2.
Gibbs frowned as he tried to figure that out. It must've been obvious from his face that the message hadn't been received; Will exaggeratedly pointed at Kate, correctly spelled likes this time, and then pointed straight at Gibbs. Suddenly, the intended meaning became clear: She quite likes you, too.
He could no longer fight off the silly grin which had been threatening to take over his face since Kate had appeared on the computer screen, and signed a big, not at all subtle thank you.
With an unerring sense of timing, Kate returned to the conversation just in time to see it. "What was that?"
"What was what?" Gibbs pulled out his best poker face, and Will had also manufactured an innocent expression.
Kate looked between them, lips pursed, clearly not buying it for a second. "I'm pretty sure it's rude to sign behind someone's back."
"I'm learning the ASL alphabet, Agent Gibbs was just kind enough to let me practise on him." Will shrugged casually, and sat down just out of view.
Gibbs was impressed. The explanation would never have occurred to him, and it was even vaguely truthful, though it did leave out some rather important details.
Kate narrowed her eyes, looking back and forth between them, but subsided a little. "I thought you already knew sign language, Will?"
"Ah, well you see, I'm fairly fluent in British Sign Language, but I'm only a beginner when it comes to the American variety."
"Oh." She still didn't look convinced, but obviously couldn't figure out any other holes to pick in the story. "Okay." She turned back to Gibbs, and seemed to be considering something, chewing on the inside of her lip in a way that he recognised. "Maybe you could... you could teach me some?"
He blinked. "Ah - yeah, sure, if you want." He hadn't expected that. It was a useful skill, though, and maybe it would be easier chatting with Kate if he felt like he had a good excuse, and didn't feel like he should be making small talk.
"Oh, can you teach me, too?" Will reappeared, leaning in front of Kate, looking excited. Kate rolled her eyes.
"If it's okay with Kate," said Gibbs. "Means you'll be able to practise together."
Kate shoved Will's head out of the way, not very gently, but smiled tolerantly and edged her chair over a little so that they could both easily see the screen from their seats. "It's okay, as long as you behave."
Will shook his head, looking hurt. "I'm sure I don't know what you mean."
She rolled her eyes again and gave a long suffering sigh before turning back to Gibbs. "I reserve the right to change my mind, but yes, he can join in."
Thank you, Will signed, and Kate picked up on it immediately. "I recognise that one! What does it mean?"
Gibbs had never tried to teach anyone sign before, never mind over a video chat, but it helped a lot that both of his students were attentive and enthusiastic. They ran through the basic greetings, please, thank you, then some core vocabulary. Will knew some of the signs, though he seemed keen enough to revise his knowledge, and Kate was a quick study.
When they'd exhausted those, he moved on to question words. He rapidly discovered the limitations of teaching sign over the net, and he was grateful for Will's help. Although new to ASL, Will was familiar with how important facial expression and posture were in sign language, and it was a lot easier to explain to Kate with two of them contributing, especially as Gibbs was pretty fuzzy on some of the technical details and the underlying grammar. Kate was a little self conscious about it, and as Will tried to tease her into loosening up, Gibbs racked his brain to figure out what was the best thing to teach her next.
He was so deep in thought that he didn't realise the impromptu class on body language had ended till Will interrupted him.
"While we're talking about questions, Gibbs, how would you ask someone, 'do you come here often'?"
"Will!" Kate looked scandalised.
"Hey, you never know when that might come in handy." He turned to Gibbs and winked. "She doesn't get out much, you know, but we do our best to keep her from becoming a recluse. I'm just trying to help."
"Okay, that's it." Kate got up and Gibbs watched with amusement as she wheeled Will offscreen, still in his office chair, ignoring Will's protest that he was just trying to learn. Gibbs couldn't help wondering if it had been Will's not very subtle plan to give them back a bit of privacy. He'd have to find a way to thank him.
When Kate reappeared, she was wearing her DiNozzo face again, and Gibbs couldn't help laughing. She looked away from him for a moment to bark "Oh, get on with your work, William," and then shook her head. "Honestly, I don't know why I put up with him sometimes." Her tone was affectionate despite the words.
"Reminds me a little of Tony," offered Gibbs, and Kate laughed.
"Yeah, kind of. Except this one's British and PG rated." They grinned at each other, and Gibbs made himself look away for a moment before he could do or say something he might regret. Concentrate.
"So... What else would you like to know? In sign, I mean."
"Well, I guess you could teach me the alphabet, now that I've sent the class know-it-all to detention."
"I heard that!" Will sounded like he was probably pouting again.
"Well, I said it pretty loud." She threw the comeback over her shoulder and then all her attention was back on Gibbs. "How would I fingerspell my name?"
He thought for a moment, and decided to take a very small, calculated risk. Holding up his hand, he slowly and carefully spelled out K-A-T-I-E.
He could see realisation dawn on her face as she realised there were five letters and he had called her Katie, not Kate. She smiled shyly and caught her bottom lip in her teeth as if she was holding back from saying something.
Gibbs didn't comment, just repeated the nickname with his fingers, one letter at a time, and Kate obediently copied each one, her face a picture of concentration.
He paused to let her absorb it and she waved a hand impatiently. "Again." She was a good mimic, quickly picking up the hand shapes and accurately reproducing them. He couldn't help being impressed by her focus, or keep himself from wondering whether she was interested because it was sign language, or because of him. Either way, it was nice to be able to share this with her.
He repeated the sequence of letters several times, each time a little faster, until she closed her eyes and repeated it to herself. When she opened them again, she looked at him for reassurance and he grinned. Good, he signed, and then grinned a little harder when she signed back Thank you.
"You're a good teacher."
He shrugged a shoulder. "You're a good student," he countered.
There was a pause, then:
"I didn't know we were allowed to call you Katie." It was Will, sounding petulant.
She glanced heavenward. "That's because you aren't."
"Oh, don't be such a baby." She leaned off screen for a second and Gibbs heard a familiar 'thwack' and Will's ouch of protest. "He deserved that," she said with a shrug when she reappeared.
"No doubt." He couldn't spare much sympathy for Will's head when he was busy processing the fact she wasn't letting other people call her Katie. He thought, he hoped, that was a promising sign.
"So - um, the alphabet?"
He really needed to stop getting sidetracked by unhelpful thoughts like those. "Sure, let's get started."
They went through it a couple of times, letter by letter, and he could see her frustration with her inability to pick up all the letters immediately. She looked a little defeated. "It'll take time," he told her. "You'll get there, just be patient."
She signed the start of the alphabet again, and this time got to G before she stopped. Spelling her own name out again, she frowned. "It shouldn't be that much harder, should it?"
He suspected that nothing but perfection was going to sit well with her, but she had given him an idea. "Maybe start with a couple more names?"
Kate didn't look convinced. "Will that help me remember?"
He shrugged. "Can't hurt. Who'd you wanna start with?"
After a moment's thought, she smiled. "I think..." She tilted her head to one side, looking rather mischievous. "I think perhaps I should start with yours."
He couldn't help it - he smirked. He had hoped she might say that, but he hadn't wanted to assume. "Yeah?"
"Yeah," she replied, copying his drawl.
"Any preference which?"
She gave him a calculating look. "I think I'll stick with 'Gibbs' for now."
His smirk still firmly in place, he spelled out the letters for her, and they got into a good rhythm. Once she'd mastered 'Gibbs', she wanted to learn 'Abby', then 'Rachel' and 'Will', and 'NCIS', and it was only under protest that she let him put off teaching her the rest of the DC and LA and Hawaii teams till another time. She reluctantly agreed that she had enough to practise and remember without trying to learn how to address everyone in her entire life.
"This was really fun, though."
"Yeah, it was."
"We'll have to do it again soon."
The way she said it was almost a question, and he grinned, a warm sense of satisfaction settling into his body. "I'd really like that, Katie." They shared another smile. Maybe this whole Skype thing wasn't such a bad idea.
"I'll practise on him," she said, jerking her head in Will's direction. "He's got to be useful for something, right? Even if he doesn't know much more ASL than I do."
"I do know one other ASL sign," Will piped up again from his desk.
Gibbs stifled a chuckle at the eager expression on Kate's face. It was adorable, but he didn't think she'd appreciate being told that.
She turned off to the side and it was obvious from the snatches of conversation that Will was helping her perform the sign properly.
"Yeah, then put your two middle fingers- yup, that's right, you've got it."
When Kate turned to face him again, she was beaming. And then she held up her hand in a familiar salute and-
Gibbs nearly choked on his coffee.
"What? Did I do it wrong?"
He could hear Will's laughter, and once he could breathe again, he turned back to the screen to see an empty chair, and Kate chasing after Will's retreating back.
"I'm going to kill him," she announced when she returned. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm all right. Coffee went down the wrong way is all."
"So what did he make me say?"
Gibbs frowned. "I thought that was why you ran after him?"
She shook her head. "He wouldn't tell me. Don't worry, I will get him back, I guarantee it." She narrowed her eyes, but the grin that slowly spread across her face was indulgent. Gibbs was glad she had someone there who could tease her and get away with it. She had often needed someone to remind her to lighten up every so often way back in her DC days. If anything, she needed it more now, given the issues she was dealing with.
That said, he had left Gibbs in an awkward spot. Probably on purpose, too. "Well, uh, the sign, it means-" If Kate doesn't kill him for this, I might. He wondered if it would be too suspicious if he 'accidentally' turned the camera off again so his own sudden embarrassment wasn't on show. Of course, that was assuming he could figure out how. "It means 'I love you'."
Kate's eyes went wide and he could see two spots of pink blooming on her cheeks.
"It's, uh, kind of a shorthand thing." Why was he still talking? "I, L and Y from the fingerspelling, and you get..." He held up his hand to sign it to her, then quickly dropped it again when he realised what he was doing.
She gave him a little smile that made him feel a whole lot better, though she was still blushing. "Well, I guess it might come in useful one day."
He grinned back, relieved. "That get Will off the hook?"
She pursed her lips and looked around behind her, presumably searching for Will who had wisely scarpered. "Maybe," she conceded thoughtfully.
They chatted for a few more minutes, the occasional silences comfortable, and Gibbs was incredibly grateful to find the initial awkwardness had almost completely gone. He would definitely be using this Skype thing again, he thought, and made a mental note to thank Abby properly next time he saw her.
A woman Gibbs didn't recognise at all appeared on the screen, and Gibbs guessed she must be the team's fourth member. She was slender and petite, and didn't look nearly old enough to be a federal agent, but having heard a few of Kate's stories and seen how lethal Ziva was despite looking so delicate, he knew appearances could be deceptive.
"Hi Hana." Kate gestured at the screen. "Hana, this is Gibbs." H-A-N-A she signed quickly, and he nodded that she'd done it right. She looked pleased with herself.
"Hey Gibbs." Hana nodded a hello and wiggled her hand at him in the sign for yellow. Gibbs was taken aback for a moment as his mind caught up with the change of pace, then realised it wasn't ASL, just 'hang loose'. "Howzit?"
"Good, thanks. You?"
She nodded. "All good." She smiled briefly, then her attention was on Kate. "We gotta case - you know where Will's got to?"
"Oh, he's probably hiding because he knows I will kill him the next time I see him."
Hana just shrugged. "Right."
Gibbs got the impression from her non response that Kate threatening to kill Will was a pretty regular occurrence.
Hana took her phone out and started tapping. "So, I'll call Will, you call Rich?"
Kate nodded, then turned back to the screen. "I'm sorry Gibbs, I really have to go."
"'S'okay, Katie, totally understand." He injected as much sincerity into his voice as he could muster. "Duty calls."
"Speak again soon?"
The fact she'd asked made him smile. "Count on it."
She hesitated for a second, glanced up to look at something happening the other side of her desk, and gave him a wry smile. "Why do crooks always have such crappy timing? Bye, Gibbs."
She didn't wait for an answer, and the screen went blank, leaving Gibbs alone with his thoughts.
It wasn't so bad. They were better company today than they'd been for quite a while.