When they'd asked her who they should call, she hadn't thought twice, had rattled off his name and number, cried into the phone, and he'd come without protest or hesitation, taken her home - to his home - and put her to bed with the sweet tenderness of a parent.
She'd curled up, buried her face in a pillow that smelt of security and comfort and safety, and barely moved for thirty-six hours, shrugging off offers of food and did she want to talk to Abby and should he call her sister and was there anything, anything at all he could do?
It was assault, not rape, they said, because it hadn't been successful, because apparently there is such a thing as a 'successful' rape (which strikes her as absurd, obscene), and having dried semen on her clothing, on her underwear, doesn't count. Though at least they have DNA, and her account of the crime, and he has priors, as it turns out. Which is supposed to make her feel better, apparently, and doesn't, which makes her feel like she went out on a date with a man who was inches away from becoming a monster and had somehow been unaware enough to agree to a second.
She didn't ask what was being done. Suspected 'helping Metro with their inquiries' meant 'have taken over the investigation in all but name and DiNozzo and McGee are running themselves ragged, and if you weren't looking at me with sad eyes and a shake of your head every time I crack the door an inch and ask if there's anything I can do, anyone you want to talk to, I'd be out there, and when I found him his face would be pounded into mush, and if he made it into custody alive, it would only be by accident'.
In some dimly functioning part of her brain, she was aware she didn't want him to leave, not because she was at risk from a man who didn't know where she lived, never mind where her boss lived (and shouldn't that have been a warning sign, that she had instinctively made sure he didn't know her address or anything close?). No one outside the agency knew where she'd gone, so it wasn't because she feared being tracked down, or even that she felt safer with Gibbs around, although she did.
She wanted him here because she didn't want him to take vengeance for her, take it on a man who deserved to rot in jail, not to besmirch Gibbs' fists or conscience. She wanted him here so he wouldn't accidentally-on-purpose kill someone for her. She wanted him here so he couldn't end up getting hurt himself trying to avenge her. She just wanted him here.
After a day and a half of breathing Gibbs-scent until it permeates every cell in her body, she gets up and creeps to the ensuite to inspect her reflection. She looks pale, her eyes look red, but surprisingly there is no mark on her to say 'a man tried to seduce me, and when that didn't work, he tried to rape me instead'.
There was no scarlet letter, no V for Victim on her forehead or on her clothing, but she suddenly wanted out of the sweats she'd gratefully crawled into when they took away the clothes she'd chosen to look pretty, pretty and inviting and oh-so-fuckable. She wasn't sure she ever wanted to look that way again, but she also didn't want to wear the clothing that represented her feeling broken and tainted and a fool.
That's why, when Gibbs comes looking for her, when he panics because she's no longer in his bed and bursts into the bathroom with her name breathy and worried on his lips, she's curled into a naked ball in the bottom of his shower.
She didn't consciously notice he was there until the water was turned off and a towel was being carefully draped over her and a familiar and beloved voice was murmuring comforting, incomprehensible words as hands coaxed her out of the shower and dried her hair while she huddled under the bath sheet.
She couldn't even manage to feel embarrassed ('ohmigod I'm naked and it's Gibbs and he saw me' just won't come and the failure to freak out doesn't even surprise her till later), she was too busy feeling scared and vulnerable and fucking traumatised, okay? Too busy feeling her feelings to notice when he leaves or when he comes back or that he's brought a handful of fabric with him.
Then he touches her head and leaves again and she realises it's a comfortable, worn out flannel shirt and a pair of soft boxers she'll drown in, but they're clothes and they're clean, and they aren't the clothes she wore to a date turned nightmare or that she's been sleeping-brooding-crying in, and that is more than enough for her to pull them on with gratitude and relief and then go back to bed.
When he comes to tell her they caught the guy, they have him in custody and he made a full confession, not just to assaulting her but to several other attacks in the area, she doesn't feel any triumph or even relief. She just cries, and when he pulls her into his arms and strokes his hand up and down her back and through her hair, she lets him, lets him try to comfort her, lets herself feel what it's like to be held and soothed. She wants to wind her arms around him and cling on tight, but she doesn't quite trust herself. If she grabs on, she might not be willing to let go, and while she trusts Gibbs to care - even, to her surprise, in his own quiet, undemonstrative Gibbsian way, to love her enough to be there for her as best he can - he is going to need to go to work at some point.
If he arrives at the Navy Yard with Kate wrapped around his waist and refusing to be disentangled, someone will probably notice.
It occurs to her after a couple more days that maybe she should go home, to her home, but Gibbs hasn't said anything and 'should' is one of those words that would make her dig her heels in and refuse even if she'd wanted to leave in the first place. Which she doesn't. Somewhere in the blur of the last few days, someone said something about compassionate leave and she signed some papers, but she feels like she should - there's that damn word again - be making some effort to get her shit together.
She should be starting to pick up the pieces. She should be talking to someone about this, about her continued failure to even try. She should at least be wondering at her own strange contentment with letting the world carry on without her, with living in a peculiar selection of things someone picked up from her apartment and clothes of Gibbs' filched from his drawers and floors because she's finding that smelling of him makes her feel better. She should be eating properly and not spending quite so much time in bed, especially someone else's bed, even if said individual apparently doesn't use it very much.
When Rachel calls to talk and reminds her to be kind to herself and 'it's only been nine days, baby sister,' she's startled. It feels like a lifetime.
"I want you to fuck me." She was impressed by her own certitude, voice not even shaking, clear and precise and firm, and for a moment she honestly thought it'd do the trick.
He froze for a few seconds, and when he looked up, she saw the shock and disbelief and the complete and utter failure to understand what she was asking.
Maybe she should have waited for a better opportunity, or at least spent some time with him first.
Probably, she conceded to herself later, just wandering down into his basement (when she's been curled up in his bed mostly ignoring him for over a week now) and casually demanding he fuck her was... not her best plan ever.
But Gibbs had been there for her more competently and completely than she had ever expected he could be, so even in the face of logic, she didn't doubt he could be made to understand.
"I need to feel good. I need to feel someone besides - him, I need..."
He stared at her, his face so blanked out of emotion she knew it had to be deliberate, then laid down his tools and crossed the room to her side. She knew, knew as he so gently pulled her into his arms, that for the first time since she'd arrived here in his house he was going to refuse her, and she started to cry silently into his shoulder before he even spoke. "Oh, Katie."
"Please, Gibbs... I- I... please..." Her voice was snotty and desperate and she despised herself for the way she was begging.
He shook his head, his mouth against her ear. "Not gonna fuck you, Kate."
It was almost apologetic, and it would've made her laugh if she had actually been capable of laughter.
She's gotten used to him tucking her in, even if she hasn't actually moved all day, has grown to love it a little more than she thinks she should, but 'should' has become a word she hates and so she has decided - or at least, is trying very hard to convince herself - that she doesn't care.
She's beginning to feel more normal, less crazy, less like she's losing the plot, but she still lets him tuck her in for reasons probably neither of them could adequately explain, and she's pretty certain it makes him feel better, too.
"'Night, Kate." He brushes her hair back from her face, and in the near darkness his expression is one of warmth and of something she can't or won't name, but nevertheless knows she wants.
He looks almost startled. "Not going anywhere, Katie. Be downstairs if you need me. Promise." He arranges the duvet around her, drops a kiss on her temple, and is turning to leave when she reaches out and grabs his wrist.
She hears his quick intake of breath, can almost hear him thinking, then he moves back toward her and she can relax - a little - now he isn't moving away. She looks up to meet his gaze again, studies him, taking in all the exhaustion, and the confusion and concern he can't hide because he is so exhausted.
And she tugs at his hand. "Don't go."
He takes another step, and now he can't move any closer because he's hit the edge of the bed. Can't move any closer without joining her. She shuffles over, flips back a corner of the duvet, inviting him without words to do exactly that.
"Kate, I'm not gonna-"
"I just don't want to be alone." She can see he's wary, and with hindsight she can't blame him. Some days or some hours later - she can't honestly figure out which - she realised how much she'd freaked him out, and she's tired and disoriented and not completely sure how long ago it was. And she has absolutely no idea how to apologise for it. "Please, Gibbs."
His mouth and his forehead tighten and she can tell he's trying to think and also - if she's not much mistaken - that he's really too tired to be thinking at all. In a different situation she might throw him a coy smile, cock an eyebrow, but just now he really, definitely couldn't take the joke or the come on.
Instead she rubs her thumb over the surprisingly soft skin on the inside of his wrist and wills him to believe it's okay. She's not sure where he's been sleeping, or if he's been sleeping at all, and while she does want company, she has the feeling he does, too. Or at least maybe needs it, even if he doesn't realise it and wouldn't admit it if he did.
He lets out a sigh she takes as defeat, and there's a wry, amused smile on his face as she moves across a bit more, makes space. He shakes his head and slides in beside her.
She lets him get situated, then rolls over to tuck herself in against his chest. He laughs softly, his arms coming round to embrace her quite naturally. She reaches up to touch his face. "I'm sorry."
He shakes his head again, takes a breath as if he's going to say something, then just brushes another kiss against her skin like a benediction and pulls her in closer.
"I don't want you to be so tired, Gibbs. Or so sad or so angry. I'm sorry."
"Katie." He sighs again. "Not your fault. None of it's your fault."
A few minutes later when his breathing evens out and he relaxes into her, she feels like it's a personal triumph.
Everyone thinks it's weird, everyone. Kate's well aware of it, and it amuses her enormously - when she gives it a moment's thought.
In any other situation there would probably be gossip or even teasing. But almost everyone at NCIS is scared of Gibbs, a considerable minority is scared of Kate, and the very few people who aren't scared of either of them are above gossip or can't find anyone to gossip with.
If they realised that as well as coming to work in the same car she and Gibbs were sleeping in the same bed (even though it is just sleeping), she suspects more people would brave making it scuttlebutt. But no one who knows is about to make it common knowledge.
The only person who 1) has certainly figured out more than he's been told and 2) might at a different time have ragged her about it is Tony, but Tony is at heart a good guy. Under almost any circumstance, her personal life is something he considers fair game, but the 'almost' doesn't include sexual assault and attempted rape, and she suspects anyone who does dare gossip has an even chance of being slugged out by him or Gibbs first.
Kate knows him too well to be surprised by his protectiveness, finds she even rather adores him for it, though she isn't about to admit that out loud. Annoying, overgrown frat boy he may be, but he cares and he loves her, and anyone who misjudges him in this situation better be prepared to get beaten to a pulp.
(While McGee is a lot less likely to punch somebody, he and Abby have been glaring at anyone who so much as looks askance at Kate in such a way that no one is especially willing to tempt fate or their anger or their combined knowledge of forensic science.)
Kate is able to laugh about it because she is, to her own surprise, past caring what anyone else thinks. She could've stayed away longer, didn't really think she was ready to come back, but it had taken two days of being home alone to realise she'd rather be at work.
Which is shorthand for she'd rather be with Gibbs. That's a lot more interesting and curious and slightly disturbing to her than whether anyone's gossiping, but it isn't nearly disturbing enough to make her want to change it.
A little less than three weeks is, it seems, long enough to change her life.
Her sister has promised faithfully she won't always have irrational fears about a certain tone of voice, about a man grabbing her shoulder in a particular way, assures her the idea of chicken piccata will one day make her mouth water again instead of making her stomach turn. Rachel is as honest as older sisters get, and she never, ever lies about mental health, so Kate is inclined to trust her despite current evidence to the contrary. She'll do her best to hold on to mantras like 'it's only been a couple of weeks' and 'take it one day at a time'.
Not all of the changes are bad.
Somewhere along the line, somehow, without anyone ever making an actual decision or saying anything, in increments she now can't quite recall, she seems to have moved in with Gibbs, and the strangest thing about that is how strange it isn't.
She's not sure anymore how she ever got to sleep without having him as her pillow, or curled into her back, an arm slung casually around her waist. Her toothbrush is on his sink, and although she's still wearing an odd hybrid of both their wardrobes when she's at home, her work clothes hang in his closet. If he wanders into the bathroom while she's in the shower, it's usually to bring her a towel and beg her to leave him some hot water. And it's noticeable, when she thinks about it, that she uses 'home' to mean his house more than she ever used it to mean her own apartment.
At some point they will probably have to have a conversation, figure out what this thing is between them, but for now she is, recent trauma and all-too-frequent nightmares notwithstanding, happier than she can remember being in a long time. Which... probably is kind of weird, to be honest, and which no one (up to and including Abby and her sister) really understands except Gibbs, but then it seems his opinion is the one that matters. She's sleeping better, and he's actually sleeping, period. Those both seem like good things in her book.
And when he smiles gently at her for no reason in the middle of the afternoon, his eyes crinkling in a way she has always been fond of and now outright cherishes, when he casually slips an arm around her waist or her shoulders as they walk out to his car, or nuzzles sleepily into her hair in bed, she thinks however strange it is, it seems to be working for them. For once in her life she's doing her best not to borrow trouble from tomorrow. If this is a temporary arrangement while she heals, she'd rather enjoy it while it lasts than fritter it away in speculation and anxiety.
(When she told Rachel that, her sister had gone completely silent for almost a minute, then demanded to know who this woman was and what she'd done with the worrywart known as Kate Todd.)
She sleeps every night in the arms of a man she trusts absolutely, and if her sleep is disturbed almost every night by bad dreams, at least she always has someone there to hold her hand when she wakes up.
There is something peaceful, Kate thinks, in watching flames weave and dance in the fireplace. Especially when she's full of good steak and, if not exactly sitting in Gibbs' lap, getting pretty close. Technically, her butt is on the couch, but since she has her legs draped across his and her head resting against his shoulder, since his arm is snug around her waist, 'technically' seems an awful lot like an excuse. The old Kate might have been self-conscious about it. This new, 'screw it, I do what I want' Kate just happily snuggles in closer and smiles, ridiculously content.
Up until now Gibbs has seemed similarly content, but suddenly he makes a slightly desperate noise, and when she looks up at him his eyes are clamped tightly closed.
He makes the noise again and half opens one eye, his expression pained.
She looks down, then abruptly realises there's something firm against her thigh and she's moving against it in an unintentionally teasing manner. She laughs nervously and shifts away to a safer distance. "Oh."
He lets out a breath, sounding relieved and maybe slightly disappointed, too, his eyes closing again as he regains his composure.
It isn't the first time he's gotten hard from her proximity, but usually it's first thing in the morning and she's been half asleep, rarely awake enough to do more than blush or chuckle. One time she'd been feeling particularly mischievous, had let herself arch back into him and make a happy noise, and that morning he'd been first in the shower and had stayed in there a really long time.
She'd felt slightly guilty, rather amused and somewhat flattered, but she hasn't done it since. And anyway, morning wood? Not something she's inclined to read too much into.
This is... different. She thinks.
He grunts, grumbles, looks down at her. Scrutinises her face, making sure it isn't bothering her. When he's satisfied himself she's okay, he shrugs. "Gorgeous woman in my lap, hardly surprisin'. 'M only human."
Given the 'gorgeous woman' comment, she decides she can probably forgive his mildly tetchy tone. She manages a grin. "I wasn't complaining."
She can hear the slight shake in her own voice. What she wants is to press her body fully into his, nip at the side of his neck, reach down and touch him, slip her fingers up under his shirt... let nature take its course.
In some ways it would be so easy, so perfect. There's an open fire in the grate, for God's sake, sending warm, flickering light over his face, they're alone, she's wearing his clothing, it's almost painfully romantic. His smile as he looks down at her is so soft, she wants his hands and his lips and his body on hers so much it aches, it's hard to breathe, she can't...
And yet she hesitates because it's also terrifying.
She keeps wondering when, if, she will ever be ready, and if Gibbs is going to wait around that long, if this unorthodox relationship is strong enough to stand the uncertainty. If he even really wants to or if it's just his body doing what it does in response to a pliable and kinda sorta willing accomplice.
There are tears on her cheeks when she curls back into him (more cautiously this time) with a regretful sigh, and like always, he's careful and kind as he wipes them away, and like always, he's read her mind.
"Told y'already, Katie. Ain't gonna fuck you." His touch is gentle as he cradles her face and strokes her lip with his thumb. "Not gonna do that when you're still hurtin'." He hasn't qualified it before, and she can't help the way her stomach leaps. The way she wants to read so much into it.
"Won't take advantage," he continues. "Not that kind of guy. But..." He sounds like he's still in the middle of deciding what he's going to say, whether he's even going to say anything at all, and she would swear she can feel the way his eyes are studying her in minute detail. When he continues his voice is warm but low, almost a whisper, and while Gibbs isn't known for his eloquence, even by his standards this comes out unusually convoluted.
"But if you wanted, maybe, when, if you - I mean, I could... not yet but... when you were ready..." She sees his Adam's apple bob when he swallows, and his voice gets even quieter. "I could... make love to ya."
It takes a second for her to process what he's said, the deliberate contrast, his very deliberate words, and then she looks up at him and she can only imagine how wide-eyed and startled and outright gobsmacked she looks.
He shrugs, a bit embarrassed maybe, almost shy, but not turning away, not taking it back, and she gulps. The expression in his eyes as he looks down at her... they're so full, full of empathy and tenderness and... something else she has seen there before but hasn't been able - hasn't dared - to pinpoint. He's no longer hiding that he... wants her. There is desire on his face, in the way his gaze traces the line of her mouth, the way his breathing quickens under her frank perusal. He wants her, and he's letting her see how much, and she's nothing short of stunned.
And more than that.
"I love you, Katie." He breathes it over her so quietly but with such fierce, open adoration, and she could almost cry.
Her mouth is suddenly dry, and she swallows before speaking. "Good," she whispers. "I think I'd... like that."
He searches her eyes, gauging the honestly of her response, then his grin blossoms and he leans down to press his lips to hers, gently and sweetly but with a simmering, banked up heat underneath it that makes her eyes flutter closed and her heartbeat pound.
Their first kiss. Not their last.
When they surface she feels hazy, almost lightheaded, and she presses her lips together and keeps her eyes shut tight for a few more seconds. She doesn't want to forget any of this, wants it branded into her memory and doesn't even care if she's being silly and sentimental.
His smile when she looks at him is lazy and lopsided and quite gloriously self-satisfied. "Yeah?"
Smug bastard, she thinks fondly. She wonders if he realises she loves, needs, adores him right back. I love you. You're wonderful. I still don't understand quite how we got here, but I'm so glad we did.
She's not very good at the mushy stuff either.
He grins again, looking every inch his cheeky, irreverent self, and it makes her laugh and loosens her tongue.
"I can't wait."
~ fin ~