Kate's pouting. He's not sure she even realises she's doing it, but she's got her arms folded across her body and her jaw is set, and she's pouting.
Gibbs is pretty sure he shouldn't be quite so amused or intrigued by her facial expressions.
"You okay, Kate?"
She uncrosses her arms and turns over a page in the report she's reading as if it personally offended her. "'M fine."
Well, there's a 'fine' Gibbs has heard before. He may not be the best at interpersonal communication, but he has been married four times and he investigates crimes for a living. He can spot a 'fine' that actually means 'I hate you and want you to go die in a fire' at twenty paces without any further clues.
It's a perk of the job.
As a profiler, he assumes Kate will be able to promptly and accurately interpret his 'okay' as the one that means 'We both know you're not fine, and sitting here listening to you silently hate me is not my idea of a fun evening, so why don't you just get it off your chest already?'
She spikes a glance at him, eyes narrow and lips pressed into a thin line of anger and annoyance, then glowers back down at the file.
It's gone seven, but it isn't like this is a particularly late night by team standards. The bullpen's even a little quieter than usual since, with his usual level of diplomacy, DiNozzo grabbed McGee by one ear and insisted they would go check out the laundromat that seems to have a sideline in laundering money alongside the clothing. He's at a loss why Kate is so icily pissed she's on the verge of giving him frostbite.
After another few minutes of arctic temperatures, he gives in. "Kate?"
He doesn't need to say anything else. She's perfectly capable of figuring out the implied question, even if she isn't a fan of being expected to be a mindreader as well as a special agent.
She looks up, crosses her arms at him again. "You know it's Valentine's Day today, right?" she asks, her tone acidic.
"Oh." He can't help the slight wince. He didn't know. It's not a holiday he had much truck with even when he was married, and these days... yeah, he doesn't keep track. Usually he knows anyway, against his will, because Tony and his regular conquests kick into high gear this time of year, but either DiNozzo has been unusually discreet (which seems unlikely) or Gibbs has gotten a lot better at filtering out the stuff he really doesn't care about, because he hasn't heard a peep about how this case is ruining Tony's social life.
It wouldn't've made any difference, because the case comes first, always has, always will, and they all know that, but he might've been a bit more prepared to have Kate glaring daggers at him.
"Hot date?" Evidently, his sense of self-preservation is at normal levels (which is to say, nonexistent), because he asks it in a teasing tone of voice he knows is only going to push her buttons.
He's reasonably certain she hasn't realised she's sticking her bottom lip out like a grumpy toddler. She aims her now truly impressive pout away from him, and her cheeks go pink.
"Oh, really hot date, then."
Her eyes narrow and her arms wrap more tightly around her middle, and she looks... defensive, actually.
He resists the urge to poke her again, a sudden impression of vulnerability making him bite his tongue on further teasing, no matter how tempting.
"Kate?" He lets his voice soften into something approaching sympathetic.
She sighs again, and wilts back into her chair, her bravado fading. "If you really wanna know, Gibbs, I had a date with a pint of Phish Food and a feel good movie. Are you happy now?"
He frowns. "Fish food?"
"It's a kind of ice cream."
That doesn't sound any better. "They make fish food flavoured ice cream?"
She rolls her eyes. "No, it's chocolate with marshmallow and caramel and chocolate fish, and it's spelled with a ph, not an f, and- oh, never mind."
"Oh." Okay, now he feels like a shit. Probably because he is a shit. Which admittedly is not exactly a surprise, but he wouldn't have needled her if he'd known her Valentine plans involved a solitary calorie fest.
(Well. He probably wouldn't have. Sometimes it gets away from him.)
He can't help wondering how Kate has managed to end up Valentine-less. Admittedly, she has a demanding job (and an asshole boss), and he'd bet a lot of men are, well, downright intimidated by her. It's their loss, as far as he can see, because he's sure it'd be worth digging in under the arch looks and aloof air for the woman beneath.
Anyone who takes the time to coax out the Kate who ribs him about his hair and laughs at Tony's jokes now and then (when she forgets she's supposed to be above his sophomoric humour), the Kate who listens to Ducky's stories with infinite patience and giggles with Abby and sleeps with a gun under her pillow... he's absolutely certain they're amply rewarded.
She likes to play at being an ice queen, but he's seen too much to believe it's anything more than a necessary part of doing her job.
(And coping with her workmates. Obviously. Since her team stars the aforementioned asshole boss, ably aided and abetted by the sophomoric comedy sidekick.)
The Kate he's now looking at, the one who has admitted out loud the plans she's pissed about missing were so much less than thrilling - the Kate who looks worn and defeated and like she really needs a holiday - is also well worth the effort. The Kate who's not being pointedly self-sufficient and kind of a bitch, or pretending she has no soft underbelly.
He likes the real Kate, and he's mystified why she apparently has no one waiting at home to rub her feet and stroke her hair and generally do all that romance crap Gibbs likes to pretend he would never have time for.
(Truth is, if he had someone he loved whose feet needed rubbing and whose hair needed stroking, he might be a little less married to his job. And likely a lot more cheerful. And Kate would probably be at home right now with her tub of ice cream, or might even have an actual date.)
On impulse, he pushes himself out of his chair, grabs his coat, and swings across the bullpen to land in front of her desk.
Her forehead creases in confusion as she stares up at him, evidently startled by his sudden burst of energy and equally sudden appearance in her line of vision. "What?"
He gives her his very best winning smile. (He's not sure exactly how winning it is. It's rusty from lack of use.) "Gonna buy you an ice cream."
She blinks, shakes her head. "What?!"
He shrugs. "Least I can do. We can take ten minutes, get a little air. Come back fresh."
She glances out the window. "You realise it's pouring down out there?"
"C'mon, Kate, I know this place, sells the best gelato you ever tasted." His voice has gone all cajoling; not at all on purpose, mind, but he's certain there's some huge karmic injustice involved in Kate not having a date (even if she would currently be missing it). While having an ice cream with him hardly seems a fair exchange, he has a sudden, unusual urge to try and make her smile at least once this evening. And hey, ice cream for the (wannabe) ice queen seems appropriate.
"Gelato?" Her expression has gone from derision and doubt to interest.
He decides to push his advantage. "Yup. In waffle cones. Dipped in chocolate." Women like chocolate, right?
She purses her lips, but this time it looks less like she's pouting and more like she's trying not to seem too eager. "Well... okay."
Before she can change her mind, he's helping her into her jacket and leading her toward the elevator. She shoots him a look he thinks means something along the lines of 'Who are you and what did you do with my asshole boss?', and he grins.
Operation 'Make Kate Smile' might be a long shot, but if he can do it by surprising her, rather than by means of his rapier wit and superior flirting skills, well then, he might just succeed after all.
~ fin ~