Summary: Investigating a series of double murders brings Kate and Gibbs in fatal danger. Will the rest of the team be able to save them in time?
Rating: PG-13 (Language, Violence, Sexual Situations)
Disclaimer: The characters are not mine, I am just using the possibilities DPB and CBS are not. ;)
Pairing: KIBBS ( Kate/Gibbs )
Category: Angst, Romance
A/N: About the title… I chose that one very quickly, since I had absolutely no other idea, and after scrolling through my Winamp playlist, the title of the song “Blue Sky” by Coco Lee sprang into my eyes. It felt just right – and since writing is all about feeling, this became the title… (^.^)v
Mild Violence and Sexual Situations
Until then, please excuse the many flaws, and rest assured, I know better now. ;) (Or at least I hope so.)
Darkness… it destroys the human being’s sense of time, their orientation in space and – eventually, if kept there long enough – it will destroy their spirit. Nothing is as frightening as darkness to us. Children fear the darkness, having nightmares of terrible monsters which crawl out in the shelter of the night. Even adults try to avoid darkness. The whole life has been organized around it, so that human beings have as little contact as possible with the threat of the night.
Kate had never cared whether it was day or night. Her job forced her to spend as much time in the daylight as at night at some crime scenes or in front of her personal computer, finished some report for her boss. She had never found anything particularly threatening in a dark room.
When she awoke now, that was totally different at once. She was lying on what felt like a cold stony floor. Somewhere in the complete darkness she could hear what seemed to be water dripping to the ground. Her mind was spinning and she had trouble to remember how she had gotten there – or who she was in the first place.
Carefully supporting herself on her hands, she tried to get up, her mind focused on not giving in to the dizziness in her head. Her lips tasted like dried blood and she carefully felt for injuries of her head. Fortunately, she found that her cheek was the only part of her body injured – set aside a few spots on her hip and her ribs that felt like bruises.
A little unsteady, she managed to carefully walk a few steps, her hands stretched out in front of her while she tried to feel for an exit or a door. All the while she still couldn’t remember what had actually happened? How had she gotten there? Had she been on an investigation? If so, where?
She decided to use a technique which she had once learned when she had been with the secret service. Try to focus on the last memory you have, she told herself, suppressing the upcoming feeling of panic complete desertion in her stomach. Her last memory… yes, there it was…
~~~ Around 18 hours earlier ~~~
„80 percent of American women do deep inside wish for a male partner that is more dominant than they are and goes to earn money while they stay home and take care of the house and the family.“ Tony couldn’t help but grinning widely when he read out those lines from the report of the latest issue of the FHM magazine.
Kate rolled her eyes, not looking away from her computer screen, where she was reviewing the report on the serial double murder cases they had been investigating the week before. „Tony, I don’t think your porn magazines qualify as competent guides concerning women’s wishes and thoughts,“ she dryly replied.
Tony held up the magazine, his look almost offended. „FHM does hardly qualify as porn magazine!“
„Oh please…“ Kate said, her eyes now turning from the screen to the man on the desk opposite to her. „Lots of barely dressed women and reports about how to improve you sexual techniques? What exactly is not porn magazine-ish about that?“
„It’s not like it’s just about that? They have interesting reports in here about… um… cars… politics. Katie-girl, you should really have a look before you judge it.“ He smiled at her in this typical Tony way where you could never know what to expect next.
„Not interested…“ she replied, smiling back provocatively, „and instead of reading… whatever… you should probably start working on your report. If Gibbs arrives and finds out that you’re not even half-finished he’s going to kill you.“
He chuckled and leaned back in his chair relaxed. It was his way to provoke her and entice her into this kind of playful banter they always shared. He held the magazine up in front of his eyes, giving Kate a full view of the half-naked woman who was presenting herself in a very lascivious pose on the cover. „And a good amount of sixty percent of American women want their men to make important decisions. Interesting… Do you want to know about favorite sexual positions?“
„Please, spare me!“ she said with mock desperation, then louder, „Tony! The report!“
He sat up in a sudden move, throwing the magazine over onto her table. „You’re right… maybe I should hand the magazine over to your trustworthy hands while I finish my report. You can read the interesting parts outloud for me, will you?“
Laughing ironically she grabbed for the magazine and turned it around. „Oh, Tony… Tony…“ she remarked compassionately, while she looked at the sexy model that was stretching herself lewdly in front of the photographer. „You obviously have a pitiful private life if you need to look at this every week.“
„Not as pitiful as you think…“ he leaned back again, his eyes resting on her, „…or as other members of this team. At least I do not spend my free time building on a boat which I won’t even get out of my garage.“
„Yes, but I have never seen Gibbs reading one of these… I don’t even know what to call them!“ she murmured, shaking her head while she read quickly over some of the so-called truths that were written there about members of her gender.
„Inspirations? Literary masterpieces? And Kate, I hate to disappoint you, but every man reads them – the more they deny, the more they have hidden under their bed.“ he smirked and folded his hands behind his head, his legs sitting on the surface of his desk.
Kate raised both her eyebrows, when she flipped through the next pages. „’Women tend to say no to whatever a man proposes when he addresses her for the first time’“, she recited, „’but what they actually mean is that they want the man to work harder to seduce them. Most women long for the sexual intercourse after their first date, so if they kiss you goodnight in front of their house, they actually want to you fight for them.’ That’s crap, Tony! I don’t know any woman who says no when she means yes – at least not where dates are concerned! This…“ she held up the magazine, „is what trains stalkers!“
Tony laughed. „Oh come on Katie! Don’t tell me you never had a date and wished for sex afterwards, but kissed your flirt good-night because you thought it was inappropriate to sleep with him after just one date.“
„Well…“ Kate started, recalling one or two incidents where exactly that had been the case. „But that’s a totally different…“
„Ha…“ Tony laughed triumphantly and jumped up on his feet. „That’s exactly what they say. I bet, after a date with me you wouldn’t deny…“
„Don’t…“ Kate interrupted him with a warning glance, „…even finish that sentence! It won’t ever happen!“ She shook her head in disbelief when she read over the more precarious facts about women’s sexual wishes. „Every American woman has had fantasies about sleeping with a complete stranger and nearly half of them are willing to try out that fantasy, so all you need to do is go out to the streets and use that knowledge.“ She went on reciting the part about the most preferred sexual position and how fast a woman could reach an orgasm, a certain amusement mirroring in her voice.
Tony was half sitting on his desk, arms folded, listening to her recitations and amused comments, when suddenly, from the corner of his eyes, he saw the elevator door open. The figure of their boss with the obligatory cup of fresh coffee in his hand could not be overseen.
Tony stood up slowly and straightened out, hissing „Kate“ over to the woman, who was still performing a lecture on successfully bringing a woman to orgasm. She shushed him with a sign of her hand, believing that he wanted to make another provocative remark.
Agent Jethro Gibbs walked through the large room, greeting one of the agents that passed him by and took a sip of his coffee. It was already his second cup today, but somehow the caffeine didn’t seem to take the desired effect.
When he approached the desks of his team, he heard Kate’s voice and slowed down. His eyes went from the highly illustrated magazine she was reading to Tony’s face, that had lost two shades of color.
The younger agent cleared his throat significantly, then shrugged at his boss, sitting down on his desk again and pretending to work intensely on the still unfinished report.
Kate was oblivious to her boss who was standing right behind her, and looked at Tony. „The 30-seconds-way to bring a woman to climax? I must have been sleeping with the wrong men…“ Then she noticed the way Tony amused himself, intensely staring at his computer screen, and the realization dawned on her.
She paled. „Good morning, Gibbs?“
„Agent Todd, I hope those kind of magazines are not the only literature you occupy yourself with in your spare time! I am still awaiting your report.“ Gibbs remarked sharply.
Kate shut the magazine and put it on her desk. „It’s Tony’s… he was just… and then I…“ she started, feeling a blush starting to cover her cheeks. She couldn’t believe that she had read out the best ways to bring a woman to climax while her boss and mentor was standing behind her.
„I swear, I have never seen that magazine before, boss!“ Tony held up his hands defensively. Slapping him on the back of his head while passing, Gibbs went to his own desk. „Well, at least not that issue…“ Tony added, smiling apologetically at Kate, who had narrowed her eyes in a threatening gesture and was shaking her head in disbelief over his betrayal.
„I want to have those reports lying on my desk in an hour, Dinozzo.“ Gibbs reminded, the warning in his voice being more than obvious.
„Yes boss… of course…“
Kate observed as Tony focused his eyes back to his computer and started working on his report as if he was the most hard-working employee in the whole building. She threw the magazine back over onto his desk with an innocent smile, ignoring Tony’s revengeful expression.
The object of discussion vanished under the table in one of his drawers and Gibbs had to force back an amused smile. When Kate had joined the team, he had feared that she, being the lady she was, would not stand a chance against Tony, but he couldn’t have been more wrong. She always found her ways to deal with his little jokes and games without really going down to his level.
She was a woman were intelligence and wittiness were paired with beauty and elegance, a combination very rarely found in women her age. She was attractive without even consciously wanting it. Yes, she was definitely different from all the other women he knew. It was a shame that she spent her evenings alone at home, just like he did.
But he was different. He had his experience – three ex-wives were more than enough. Besides his manner to be in control and his way to put his job over anything private would drive every close friend or possible flirt away.
But she was still young, she should be spending her spare time out in the company of a man who knew her worth and appreciated her humor and intelligence.
In many ways Kate and he seemed to think alike – to feel alike.
Gibbs looked up at the brunette woman, who had resumed reviewing her part of the report. Sometimes he tried to convince himself, that every man in his age felt attracted to younger women. His eyes quickly grazed her slender figure, before he turned them back to the form he was filling out.
One of these days he should read over his own rules again. His scan of Kate was definitely a violation of rule number 12 – or in direction thereof. He needed to get these thoughts out of his head, but how could he when she was sitting right in front of him, practically having read him sex tips a few moments ago?
„Kate!“ he barked, not looking up. „Go down to Abby and bring me the results of the DNA test she performed last week on the victims of our psychopath. I need them for the archive.“
“But Gibbs, the report…” the woman started.
“That was not a request, Kate! Now!” His tone didn’t leave open any doubts that a discussion was absolutely out of the question. She got up, suppressing a sigh and ignoring the mocking faces Tony made.
“On my way…” With these words she hurried towards the doors of the elevator which would take her a few floors down to the laboratory of Abby, their punk analyst and computer expert.
~~~ Around 18 hours later ~~~
Abby… yes, Kate remembered now. After the stupid discussion with Tony and the embarrassing situation when Gibbs had walked in on them exchanged sexual advises, she had went down into Abby’s laboratory to get the report for his archive. Back then she had not been able to fight the feeling that for some reason Gibbs treated her harder than Tony.
He had been the one responsible for the situation and Gibbs knew. Being the clever man he was, Kate was sure of that, he had immediately seen through the facade of Tony’s faked innocence. Still, he had sent her to go down, not Tony.
She moaned when a wave of pain floated through her body, ending in her head. If she didn’t know better she would say that she had been under the influence of some drug. But how could that be?
She leaned against the cold wall she was standing at and tried to listen into the silence. Every now and then she believed to hear some kinds of vehicles passing by somewhere in the distance, but she wasn’t sure where she actually heard them or just imagined it in her still cloudy mind.
Aside from that she was surrounded by complete silence – and slowly becoming desperate. She had no idea where she was, nor how she had gotten there. Or if there were any other people around for that matter. Had she been investigating a case on her own? Was she a prisoner or had she fallen down somewhere and was lying somewhere under the earth?
That last option made her panic for a moment, for it might mean that no person on earth would ever find her. On the other hand, she didn’t know whether the former option was any better.
She sank down to the ground against the wall, deciding to stay rested until the terrible headache vanished. Her mind got lost in the memories she was still able to recall.
She had handed her the report of the DNA analysis and Kate had taken the document to Gibbs and continued to finish her report. The report…
There was some memory connected to it. A phone call… yes, there had been an important phone call connected with the case she was reporting about! She held on to that thought, focusing on putting her mind back into the situation in the MTAC…
~~~ Around 15 hours earlier ~~~
Kate sighed and looked over to Gibb’s desk with a slightly annoyed expression in her face.
“Where is he? This constant ringing of his phone drives me nuts!” she eventually exclaimed, when the phone started to ring anew.
“I don’t know… a chat with the director maybe.” Tony replied and waved with his pen towards the phone. “Maybe you should answer it…”
Kate gave an ironic snort and shook her head. “No way, Dinozzo… you know what he will do if either of us dares to even touch his phone.” They both looked at the black machine that disturbed the silence with another sound of its ringing. “You do it!” Kate decided and looked at Tony.
“Oh.. nonono… absolutely no!”
“Come on, you owe me anyway! And besides, Gibbs is mad at you all the time, so…” Kate reasoned and got up, slowly walking towards Tony’s desk.
“And why would I owe you?” Tony asked, shooting her his casanova smile.
“Does FHM ring any bell?”
“Oh… that!” Dinozzo answered.
“Come on, answering Gibb’s phone is on a completely other level. He will kill me if I do that!” Tony simply stated and bend over the sheet he was scribbling on.
In a fast move, Kate took the pen out of his hand and Tony looked up with a threatening glare.
“Either Gibbs kills you… or I will!” she simply stated, giving him the choice between a rock and a hard place.
“Good point… and since Gibbs obviously is not here…” Tony nodded and got up in a smooth move, grinning at her smugly. “But just so that we’re clear, this time you will owe me!”
Kate raised her eyebrows ironically, and Tony turned and quickly walked over to Gibb’s desk. At that moment, the ringing stopped. Relieved, Tony gave a sigh and turned around to Kate.
“Thank God, it stopped all by itself!”
He had just crossed the distance back to his desk, when the phone started a whole new circle of rings. A loudly exclaimed “Damn it!” could be heard by the young agent. Kate crossed her arms and strolled over to Gibbs desk.
“Aren’t you curious at the least? Could be his girlfriend…” she mentioned in passing, casually trying to catch a glimpse at the display to identify the caller’s ID.
“And you’re going to answer it?” Tony asked almost panicked.
“I’m not stupid,” Kate smiled at him. “I just want to have a look at the caller ID.”
In the blink of an eye, Tony had jumped to her side, almost tripping over the cable of Gibb’s computer. “Why didn’t I think of that?” he murmured in some kind of joyful enthusiasm.
Expectantly, both agents bent over the phone, both eager to be the first to identify the caller – and both their faces reflected their disappointment when they saw the ID of the person calling.
“It’s Abby…” Tony stated, his voice clearly displaying his disappointment. “What a pity… well, I guess we can answer that one!” He grabbed for the receiver, but before he had even touched it, a voice thundered through the large room, coming from above.
“Touch it, Dinozzo, and you will have to live without your hands for the rest of your life!”
Tony jumped, realizing that Kate was already sitting back at her desk as if she was as innocent as an angel. Damned, payback was hell, he thought, when he saw the triumphant smile that she tried to hide while pretending to be busy writing something. He grinned apologetically at Gibbs, who stepped down the stairs slowly.
“Boss… it’s good you’re here… the phone didn’t stop ringing and… we figured… it might be something important and you would want us to…”
“Did I ask you to?” Gibb’s asked dangerously calm, not letting the younger agent finish his sentence, and Tony looked from him to Kate, who shook her head with a smile.
“No, he didn’t!” she lectured Tony, her sparkling eyes giving away her amusement.
“No, of course you didn’t. Sorry… boss…” Tony murmured, hurrying back to his desk humbly while Gibbs picked up the receiver.
“Special Agent Gibbs.”
“Gibbs, thank God you’re there! Where have you been? I’ve been trying to reach you for ten minutes…”
“Then you shouldn’t waste time and tell me what it is!” Gibbs stopped the babbling of his analyst and sat down, leaning back in his chair.
“You remember the case from last week? The one you sent Kate to get the form of earlier?” Abby started babbling excitedly. “Well, I was bored, and so, just for fun I made some random tests – you know, nothing weird… just some casual…”
“Abbs!” Gibbs rushed her, absolutely not in the mood right now for those kind of guessing games about what her techno language meant.
“Well, I was curious, so I tested every single piece that Ducky sent me… and while comparing the different blood samples, I found one that didn’t match either of the victim’s! It was hard to find, because it was all mixed up with the blood of the woman – you know, he practically cut her into pieces – but there was definitely a second type of blood mixed with hers. It was only very little, maybe from a finger cut. You know, those usual accident that happen in the household – you could say that it was pure chance that I found it at all…”
“Abby, what does it mean? English, please!” Gibbs snapped sharply.
“Well…” Abby babbled on hastily. “It took a while for me to extract the DNA of the unknown sample, but I did it. The interesting part is, that this second blood sample did not match the DNA of the sperm sample on the woman’s body! I ran it through our database, but no match…” She stopped talking to allow him to fully understand the meaning of the information she had just given him. “Do you understand, Gibbs? Either we arrested the wrong guy or…”
“He has an accomplice…” Gibbs concluded. “Either way is bad! Thanks Abbs!” He place the receiver back on the phone and jumped up. “Kate, Dinozzo, we have a problem! Dinozzo, get me the director on the phone! Kate, go to the archive and bring me the file from the murder case last week!”
Kate looked at him desperately. “But Gibbs, you told me to archive it down there just an hour ago!”
“And now I am telling you to get it back!” he replied impatiently, but then decided to give his agents a short summary of what he had learned from Abby. “We have a situation here – the man that we arrested as our serial murderer might not be guilty, or we are dealing with a team of two killers here. Abby found a second DNA which doesn’t match any of the victim’s.”
Kate hurried towards the elevator and Dinozzo dialed the number of the director. With a deep sigh, Gibbs took a huge sip of his coffee, then realized that it was cold by now. This seemed to be one of these days where just everything had to go wrong.
~~~ Around 15 hours later ~~~
Kate rolled to her side on the cold stone floor, feeling the need to vomit in her stomach. The case of the serial double murders… yes, they had reopened it after Abby had found hints for a second psychopath.
The young woman moaned lifting herself up to her feet again. When she had steadied herself so that she could walk straightly, she stretched out her hands to feel her way along the wall, again starting to search for an exit. She had a bad feeling in her gut that she had not just had an accident.
Suddenly she could hear a sound… it was like the scratching sound of shoes on sand and stone. She turned her head towards the direction she thought the sound came from and tumbled towards it, bumping hardly against the opposite wall. She moaned in pain, but at the same time felt for something her arm had grazed while she had tried to protect herself from the impact with the wall.
It felt round and cold… like a doorknob. She moved her hands further over the material. Wood! It felt like damp wood. She laid one ear to what she concluded had to be a wooden door and listened into the silence.
No doubt… the sound she had heard earlier were steps… and as far as she interpreted, they seemed to come closer. A knot started to form in her stomach, and she moved backwards away from the door when all her memories of the past few hours flashed on her. Everything… the area around Washington they had decided to investigate… and the old house, the last one on their list…
~~~ Around 8 hours earlier ~~~
Special Agent Jethro Gibbs hadn’t said a word during the whole drive. He had focused his eyes on the street in front of them, although here, outside of Washington on the small street of the countryside, there were barely any other cars. Kate flashed him a look from time to time, recognizing that look on his face. If there was anything that could enrage him, it was if he wasn’t able to solve a case – or if a criminal managed to escape and he had no chance to prevent it.
She knew from experience, that those kind of incidents could turn his determination into something close to obsession. Sometimes she wondered if his three marriages had made him such a bitter man or if it was all the injustice and violence that he had witnessed over the years. He took his failures in his job way too personal. Maybe he should be getting a personal life, she thought – which reminded her of her own personal life, or rather, the absence of it.
Kate looked decently at the digital screen that displayed the time and sighed inwardly. Her shift was supposed to end in exactly five minutes. She could see another double shift coming, when she interpreted the determination to not give up until the case was solved in Gibb’s eyes correctly.
“Need to be anywere, Agent Todd?” Gibb’s asked in his usual tone where you didn’t exactly know whether he was annoyed or not.
Of course, Kate thought. She should have known. Gibbs seemed to have eyes everywhere – even in the minds of his agents.
“No, not at all…” she said, looking out of the window and sighing. The sun had already set a few minutes ago and the darkness was starting to fall. “It would just be nice to… you know… have a normal evening every now and then.”
“By normal you mean boring?” Gibbs asked, the bitter expression for a moment giving way to an amused smile. Kate leaned her head back and looked at him. Did he know that he should smile more often? It made his hard expression softer and more attractive.
Well, not that he wasn’t attractive if he was not smiling, of course he was. Not that she in particular found him attractive, he was her boss after all – not to mention a considerably number of years older than she was. But for a man of his age…
She stopped thinking, wondering why she was justifying her opinion of him to herself. This was ridiculous. She returned his smile softly.
“Yes… boring. Watching TV-shows and lying on my sofa… boring would be a nice distraction every now and then though. With the schedule we have it’s almost impossible to have something that comes close to a private life.”
“Relationships are way overrated.” Gibbs stated. “Take from the man with three ex-wives.”
“Who says I was talking about relationships?” Kate asked. “I was just saying…”
“There it is!” Gibbs interrupted her, when the spotlight of his car hit the metal gate that surrounded the huge old manor.
“Spooky…” Kate murmured. “Reminds me of that Shirley Jackson novel ‘Haunting of Hill House’.”
Gibbs shot her a grin. “Well, then lets hope that the ghosts of this one will be more peaceful.”
“Are you not afraid of anything?” Kate asked while they were getting out of the car. “I mean, this is exactly what people in horror movies do! It’s dark and they hear a sound and instead of running, or calling for backup, they go in there and you know how they end up?”
“No,” Gibbs answered while searching for a way to unlock the old gate.
“Dead! They all end up dead!” The woman shivered and looked around. The house itself was in a good condition, but if she considered the ivy that was ranking through the gate and along the house, she assumed that this house had been deserted for a long time. A few of the windows in the upper floors were broken and the garden looked like a jungle of trees and bushes.
“See, that’s why I never watch movies,” Gibbs stated, trying hard to loosen the rusty lever of the gate in order to open it. “Too pessimistic. Would you help me here?”
Kate sighed and walked over to him, giving him a hand with the lever. “Seriously, Gibbs! This house looks as if nobody has been here for ages. If we can not open this gate, it mean nobody has in a long time. Why don’t we return here in the daylight?”
Gibbs looked at her. “Afraid of the dark, agent Todd?”
“Not of the dark, just of deserted houses in the darkness.” She countered.
It gave a loud metal squeak when the gate finally opened. “Well, I promise you we will be out of here before it gets dark. We will just have a short look and afterwards return to the MTAC and see if Tony and Abby have had any luck.”
Considering that the night was approaching noticeably quickly, Kate doubted that they would be leaving before it was completely dark, but she decided to pull herself together. She was special agent, and she didn’t want to make a fool out of herself in front of her boss – especially not because of some childish fear that had been branded into her brain by the consummation of too many horror movies in her youth.
There was nothing special about this house, it was just like the others they had investigated earlier. Since they had been missing any new hint on who the second killer was, they had decided on closely investigating the area around Washington. One of the victims had had a special kind of sand under her toenails – most likely from an attempt to escape – that could only be found in this area around Washington. And since the victims had been held prisoner for some days, the place where the murders had been committed had to be a house that provided the necessary circumstances: a room to imprison people for several days, and isolation.
Nowadays, there were not many of those houses left, but especially at the East Coast, there were considerably many, originating from Colonial and Early Republic times.
The young woman examined the house again, from the beautiful colored windows under the roof to the beautiful wooden doors with the old doorknobs and figures on it and a shiver ran over her back. How anybody would voluntarily decide to live in a place like that was far beyond her understanding.
“Kate!” Gibbs had turned around and only now did Kate realize that he was waiting for her. “Do you want to spend the night standing there?”
She breathed in deeply and then hurried to follow the older agent through the high grass towards the old house, for a moment wishing she could be as rational as he was.
The wooden entrance door of the house opened unexpectedly easily, as if it had only recently been oiled. Signaling over at Kate to draw her weapon, Gibbs slowly entered the dark entrance hall, carefully releasing the safety catch of the weapon in his hands.
The last beams of daylight bathed the corridor in a dim, shadowy light. The house was decorated in an old fashioned Victorian style. Dozens of portraits of people who had been dead for a long time covered the walls, and on the ground was lying a heavy, dusty dark red carpet. It did indeed look as if this house was taken directly from a Hollywood horror movie.
Gibbs entered and Kate followed closely, focusing her mind on being absolutely professional. One little mistake or distraction could cost her partner’s or her own life in a situation like this.
“Is anyone here?” Gibbs yelled clearly into the silence, and the echo of his voice in the deserted halls sent goosebumps over Kate’s back. “We are federal agents!”
They listened for another two minutes into the darkness, slowly walking along the corridor and checking on the first rooms to both sides of the long hallway. But when there was neither a sign, nor a sound that indicated that anyone was here or had been here during the last months, Gibbs finally lowered his weapon. The furniture and windows were dust covered and he could even see his own footsteps on the ground through the dust.
“I think this is pointless. Obviously, this house has been empty for quite some time. We shouldn’t waste our time. Let’s go…”
“Thank God,” Kate exhaled, securing her weapon back in its holster. “Next time I get to pick the place for the evening walk.”
“Come on Katie, this place has its charms! Furniture from colonial times, ancient clocks and paintings. It must have been a nice place to live in, once.”
“Only if you like to live in a museum, Gibbs. These sculptures, for starters, scare the hell out of me!” She walked closer to the two small wooden faces that were carved into the pillars in the middle of the room.
Gibbs laughed and then turned. “Come on let’s go.” He left the room and looked at the portraits that he passed by while walking back to the exit door. Kate was right, he wouldn’t want to live here either. Walk through and look at, yes, but permanently see those paintings. Definitely not. Too pompous for his taste.
Kate, who had had a closer look at the angel’s faces, finally turned and found Gibbs gone.
“Hey, Gibbs, would you wait for me?” she exclaimed loudly and looked back one more time shivering, then hurrying to leave the room and follow her partner.
Suddenly, when she passed by the opened door of another room they had examined earlier, she felt herself grabbed and pulled into the dark shelter of the chamber, a wet cloth pressing to her mouth. Her shocked scream was muffled by the strong hand that was pressing the heavily scented material against her nose – a sickly sweet scent that turned her mind into a fuzzy cloud. She tried to fight, but felt her bones become weak and her head dizzy.
“Kate, are you coming?” she could hear Gibbs yell – it seemed to come from far away to her clouded mind. She tried to yell, to answer or stomp her foot – anything that would have made him aware of her situation, but she didn’t have the power nor could she feel her legs or arms anymore. And then she faded away.
~~~ Around 8 hours later ~~~
The steps became louder and louder, and Kate could tell that somebody was clearly coming in the direction of the room she was in. Think, she ordered herself hurriedly, going down on her knees and feeling for anything she could use as weapon.
She didn’t know what had happened after she had faded away, but she had to assume that she was still in the old house, and that the person who came closer and closer, was her attacker.
Gibbs, she thought briefly. Where was he? He had been right before her, he must have realized that something was wrong. But if he had been there, how could she have gotten in this room? Why hadn’t he prevented it? Unless…
No. She forced herself to calm down. There was no indication, that anything had happened to Gibbs. Any assumption of that kind would not only be irrational, but also only serve to increase the feeling of panic in her stomach. He was probably already searching for her and would certainly find her. Maybe it was Gibbs who was coming towards the room…
Kate concentrated on the steps that approached. She could now see that there was a small space under the door, maybe one inch of height, through which an approaching light sent its weak beams. Then she could glimpse the shadows of two feet that were standing in front of the door. The sound of steps stopped.
Kate’s heart skipped a beat. There was no was that this was Gibbs, since he hadn’t called for her. How would Gibbs know that she was behind this door without calling to see from where her reaction was coming?
Hastily she looked around. The dim light that shone into the room allowed her to see a little bit of her surroundings, but to her utter desperation, the room was completely empty. There was nothing she could have used as a weapon.
She heard the metallic sound of a key being turned in the lock of her door and stood up on her feet, bracing herself to a possible attacker.
When the door opened, she had to close her eyes to the bright light that was shining directly into her eyes, blinding her.
“Look at that… the little lady is awake…” The male voice said, followed by an evil laughter. “Perfectly in time.”
Kate couldn’t see the man, nor his silhouette or anything else of him, but his voice mirrored everything that she needed to know. It was the mean voice of a psychopath with whom all reasonable talking was superfluous. The giggle that could be heard from him reflected his evil character and left no doubt, that he was a human being who didn’t react to pleas of mercy or cries of pain. Attack was the only choice she had.
And so she blindly stormed forward in direction of the light, intending to punch the man out with the weight of her body. She had had a few lessons in hand to hand combat when she had still been at the secret service, she reminded herself.
But she had not taken into consideration the still considerably high amount of sedative that was running through her bloodstream, and not only slowed her down, but also made her loose her balance and rather tumble against the man instead of knocking him down.
“Well, well…” he murmured, laughing madly, “my little girl still seems to be a little tired, isn’t she?”
He stroked her cheek and Kate blindly slapped for his arm, knocking the lamp out of his hand to the ground. That did at least serve to give her the possibility to see the face of her attacker, since the light of the lamp was not directed into her face anymore.
The man grabbed her hair and painfully pulled her head back. “Let me explain the rules to you, little bitch. You belong to me! And you will do what I want you to do! And what you did just now was a violation of those rules!”
“I don’t care for your rules,” Kate winced as he pulled harsher at her hair and forced her to her knees.
“Give me the lamp!” he ordered, and when she didn’t react instantly, he slapped her so hard that she fell to the ground. She whimpered in shock, holding her hurting cheek – but the shock of the physical violence she was confronted with also counteracted the remaining aftereffects of the drug she had been on.
“Get up,” the man yelled at her and Kate fought to regain her balance. Tears were starting to form in her eyes. What had happened? Why hadn’t Gibbs come to search for her? Focus, she told herself. She had been trained to control her emotions in situations like this. Focus on the reactions of the criminal, try to find out his weaknesses. What could she learn from his reactions? So far she could only tell that a slight misbehavior on her part enraged him to a violent amount, a fact that made him extremely dangerous.
When she couldn’t get up right away, the man pulled her forcefully up to her feet, looking at her, his face only inches from hers. “If this relationship is supposed to work, you will have to follow the rules. Tell me your name!”
Kate closed her eyes, breathing heavily in pain and disgust. She didn’t want this pig to speak out her name. “Janice…” she whispered. The next moment she could see the rage in the man’s eyes again and his hand lifting to beat her.
“Liar! I found your badge, Caitlin! This was a test and you are obviously not willing to stick to the rules.”
“No… don’t…” she whimpered, holding her arm up in front of her face to shield her still hurting cheek. Surrender seemed to be the wisest choice at the moment – at least until she had found out what he was up to or had a chance to attempt to escape. Her whole body was trembling. She had never felt so helpless and degraded in her whole life. “I… I will stick to your rules…”
“Good girl…” The man said, stroking her hair. “You will call me master… now come with me!”
He pushed her out of the room into a small dark corridor. “To the left!” Kate did as he said and they walked the long corridor for about two minutes before they came to a crossing where they could either turn left or right.
Kate waited for his direction, a plan forming in her head. The opposite direction of that which he ordered her to turn to would possibly lead her out of this darkness. Of course she was still unsteady on her legs and trembling, let alone the fact that she didn’t have light and didn’t know these corridors – whereas he obviously did well. But she had to take that chance. It was possible that this was the only chance of escape she would ever get.
“Right!” the man bellowed and that was Kate’s signal. Faster than she herself would have expected, she turned to the left and started to run, blinded with fear. She heard the man curse behind her and start to run after her. She felt herself tumble and the corridor cloudy and dark in front of her eyes, but she didn’t want to give up.
“Help me! Somebody please help me! Gibbs!” she started to yell desperately, unable to keep the panic from her voice. She was a federal agent, trained to defend herself, having received mental training to deal with dangerous psychopaths – but all that knowledge was useless once she had become a drugged victim of such a psychopath.
Victim – the thought of that made her run even faster. There was no way that she would give in to him.
Then a wave of pain rushed through her body. She had run directly against the wall in front of her at full speed at the next ninety degree turn of the corridor – which she was unable to see in the darkness. With a painful scream, she fell back and landed hard on the ground, dazed, holding her hurting and stitching head. The pain paralyzed her for a moment – just the time the psychopath needed to catch up with her.
Furiously, he stormed towards her motionless figure and held her down to the ground.
“Oh, Caitlin, you shouldn’t have done that…” he whispered into her hair. “We could have been real friends, but now I will have to make you suffer like the others… They all didn’t know what was good for them. All I wanted was to protect you…”
He pulled a syringe out of his pocket. When Kate felt the stitching pain of the needle, she protested and tried to pull her arm away from him, but he held her with a steel grip. And then she slowly stopped fighting him, her mind drifting of to other places.
Indifferently, she looked at his face and saw him smile at her.
“This is better,” he murmured. “Come on, get up!”
She tried to follow his orders, but her legs gave way under her. He lifted her over his shoulders and carried her the way back, all the while talking to her. She could hear his voice like a melody without words, without meaning. And she didn’t even care to try to listen. She didn’t want anything at all… the drug had taken its full effect.
Somewhere behind her cloudy mind and muddled thoughts, she heard an old metal door open, then she was put down on her feet and steadied against a wall. Cold metal cuffs clicked around her wrists and then she couldn’t move anymore, just stay there, standing against the wall with her hands chained to the wall next to her body.
She felt the callous hand of her abductor ran over her cheek, then her neck and cleavage. “My beautiful Caitlin… I will be back soon, don’t worry…”
And then the light disappeared and she was surrounded by darkness again.
“No…” she murmured, in a weak attempt trying to loosen her hands from the metal cuffs that were set in the stone wall. “No… I’m a federal agent– you can’t–!”
Tears of rage were streaming down her face and her plea turned into helpless sobs. “Damn it… somebody help me.”
At first the young woman didn’t react, believing that the voice came from the depths of her drugged mind, a shield reaction of her brain to keep her from going crazy from the constant darkness she was in. A darkness which didn’t allow her to see where she was, nor what time of the day it was. For all she knew, she could be his prisoner for days…
“Agent Todd, are you hurt?”
Then she realized that it was not coming out of her mind. It was Gibb’s voice. Gibbs… her spirits seemed to waken up. She had never been more glad to hear the bossy voice of her grumpy boss.
“Gibbs…” she murmured. “I’m here… where are you?”
“I am here, Katie. Are you hurt? What did he do to you?” She could hear the darkness in his voice, the threatening tone that he always had if somebody dared to hurt one of his agents.
“I don’t know… I am drugged… I can barely keep my eyes open… and my cheek hurts, he slapped me pretty hard—and my head…” she moaned. “I want to sleep for a moment.”
“Todd, keep talking to me, ” Gibbs ordered sharply.
“I’m sorry… Gibbs…” The rest of her sentence turned into incoherent murmurs.
“Damned,” Gibbs cursed, pulling at his own chains, not caring for the red marks they left on his wrists. It was his fault. He should have never been so careless to not check the whole house. And he should have never left Kate alone behind – even if it was only a distance of twenty meters they were talking about. With his experience he should have known better – but the playful banter with her about the furnishings of the house had distracted him.
He listened into the silence, angry at himself more than anybody else – well except for the psychopath maybe.
He had been in this room for several hours and still didn’t have any idea where he or who the abductor was.
The last thing he remembered was searching for Kate in the house…
~~~ Around 8 hours earlier ~~~
“Kate, are you coming?” Gibbs was standing in the entrance hall, turning around impatiently. If he hated one thing, it was if he had to wait for somebody – even if it was Caitlin Todd.
He opened his mouth to bark her name again, when all of a sudden his eyes fell on the ground and he froze. A third pair of footsteps – which he was sure hadn’t been there ten minutes ago – could be clearly seen in the dust on the wooden part of the floor. Somebody had entered the house behind them.
“Agent Todd!” Gibbs asked clearly into the silence of the corridor, but didn’t get any reaction. Slowly, he pulled out his weapon, walking back the way he had come while he scanned his surroundings carefully.
He checked the first room, but it was still empty, then the second and third. And then, in the fourth room he found his partner, lying unconsciously on the ground in the middle of the room.
“Damned,” he murmured, checking behind the door for the attacker, then scanning the room. Kate had been right, they should have waited for the daylight, since he could barely see in the dark room. Slowly approaching the woman in the middle, he scanned the room with narrowed eyes.
“I am a federal agent and I arrest you for attacking one of my team members!” His voice didn’t lose its dominant tone, even in a situation of danger like this one.
Gibbs bent down next to Kate, without letting the entrance of the room out of his eyes. Carefully he checked for her pulse and was relieved to find that she was only unconscious.
“Show yourself, and I promise we will talk!” Gibbs continued to reason with the unknown attacker. “You have nothing to fear if you cooperate!”
No reaction. Gibbs looked down at Kate, his weapon still cocked in his hand. Softly, he slapped her cheeks. “Agent Todd!”
When she didn’t wake up, he assumed, that she had not just been knocked unconscious, but that she had been put into this condition by the use of some kind of sedative – maybe chloroform. That meant he would have to carry her out of here – which again meant that he had to put his weapon back into its holster. There was no way that he would present Kate and himself that defenseless to whoever attacked them.
Still looking around, he pulled out his cell-phone from his jacket and hit speed dial number one. He hoped that the back-up would arrive quickly, since every minute they lost gave the unknown criminal a greater chance to escape. Maybe he was long gone, but Gibbs wasn’t willing to take that chance and leave Kate alone.
He listened to the ringing sound on the other end and waited impatiently. “Come on Dinozzo… hurry up just this one time…” he growled impatiently, softly stroking a strand of hair out of Kate’s face.
He didn’t see the blow coming – there had been no sign of it. No sound of breathing or squeaking of wood that would have betrayed another presence in the room. But still, suddenly he was there, behind him. And that was all Gibbs realized, before he felt the knock on his head and darkness took possession of his consciousness.
~~~ Around 10 hours later ~~~
Kate had completely lost track of time when she awoke. The first thing she felt was the pain in her arms and her shoulders from the uncomfortable position she was standing in, her head and upper body having fallen slightly forward when she had been unconscious. She wanted to stretch herself, but then realized that she couldn’t move her arms. With a soft moan, she lifted her head.
A lamp was hanging at the wall next to the heavy metal door, lighting the room in a soft, warm way. It was not enough to see every detail, but at least she could have a look at her surroundings.
Her eyes wandered around until they were caught by the person who was shackled to the wall opposite to her. Gibbs was leaning his head against the stonewall behind him.
Kate wanted to address him, but her throat felt dry and so all she produced was a husky moan. The man opened his eyes instantly, when he heard the sound from her.
“Kate, are you alright?”
The woman looked down at her own wrists which were shackled to the wall. She tried to get her hands loose, but those attempts only served to increase the pain and rub her wrists raw.
“Depends…” she murmured throatily, “I am shackled to a wall and I need water.”
Eventually she leaned back, looking at the dim light of the lamp. “At least it’s not dark anymore.”
“How are you feeling? That bruise on your forehead looks pretty bad,” he asked concerned and only now became Kate aware of the dull pounding in her head.
“I can stand it,” she announced and a faint smile crossed his face.
“Spoken like a marine,” he tried to cheer her up, but failed to make her even smile at him.
“Where is he?” Kate asked lowly, a hint of fear reflected openly in her voice.
“Gone. He came in about half an hour ago and brought the light, but then he disappeared again and has not shown up ever since. Do you still have your cell phone?” Gibbs asked.
Kate looked down at her and thought loudly, “It was in the inner pocket of my coat, but my coat has been gone ever since I awoke. So has my weapon… Although I can still feel the knife at my ankle; it seems he didn’t find that.”
“You are wearing a knife at your ankle?” Gibbs asked in a tone that showed his disbelief as well as a certain amount of amusement.
“Rule number nine…” Kate murmured. “I figured it stupid to wear the knife with my other weapons, because then people who want to disarm me would see it instantly.” She tried to lift her leg to her hand so that she could somehow reach the knife, but failed to do so. That didn’t stop her from trying again, until she finally cried out in frustration.
“Kate, stop it,” Gibbs ordered softly. “There’s no way you can reach it in that position.”
When she looked up at him, he saw the tears glistening in her eyes and felt like a knife was pushed into his heart.
“This is not supposed to happen, Gibbs. I am a federal agent, I have learned to defend myself. I’ve been trained to remain in control over my emotions and to overpower bad guys in hand to hand combat. Well, I am not a an expert, but my skills were enough to send a NAVY commander to the ground and here…” She stopped talking, afraid that her voice would break and that was the last thing she wanted: giving Gibbs the impression that she couldn’t handle a situation like this.
“It is not your fault. There was nothing you could have done. He overpowered me as well. You can not measure your skills with those of a psychopath. Look at me.” When she didn’t react instantly, he spoke more forcefully. “Kate, look into my eyes.”
She did as he requested.
“I will get us out of here…”
“Gibbs,” Kate started, “we are shackled to a wall! What if he is the killer we have been looking for?”
“He most certainly is,” The man growled back. “We may be shackled, but we still have our brains. And the advantage we have over him is the ability to see things rationally, and to analyze him. Therefore it is absolutely imperative that we remain calm, do you understand?”
“Yes,” Kate nodded and inhaled deeply. Gibbs was right. It didn’t help either of them to assume the worst, she should rather use her brains to think of a way to free herself from her shackles.
They both stilled when they heard steps on the outside, and then the lock of the metal door being turned. With a deafening squeak, the door opened and inside came the psychopath, his eyes wandering from Gibbs to Kate before he closed the door.
“I can see that my little angel is awake again,” he touched Kate’s cheek and then brushed his thumb over the bruise on her forehead. “I hope the experience of your last attempt to escape will be enough of a lesson for you.”
She tried to avoid him when he lowered his lips to her face but her restraining shackles limited the range in which she could move and so all she could do when his lips laid down on the soft skin of her cheek was closing her eyes in revulsion. She felt disgusted by his presence, by his touch and his caresses. And she felt a fear inside, that had been unknown to her up to now. There was something incredibly threatening about being at the mercy of a man who was not quite right in the head, especially if you were a woman.
The man looked at her softly and then turned around.
“I can see that you are still nervous, my dear. Well, considering that we just met that is absolutely understandable. Here, I brought you food.” He held a grape to her lips, silently demanding for her to eat it.
Kate’s whole body was tensed and she pressed closer to the wall behind her, refusing to eat the grape out of the man’s hand.
“I’m not hungry,” she whispered and winced when, out of the blue, his mood changed and he furiously threw the glass plate with the fruits to the ground, where it shattered into pieces.
“What did I tell you?” he asked dangerously calm, emphasizing every word. “Who do you belong to?”
Kate took a shaking breath, pressing her lips together. She couldn’t degrade herself that much, despite all reason she was supposed to use. Her pride didn’t allow her to say it again. She had always been strong-willed, even when dealing with dangerous criminals. Not even Ari had managed to blackmail her into what he wanted.
“WHO?” The psychopath yelled into her face, turning her head violently and forcing her to look at him. “SAY IT NOW!”
When she didn’t react instantly, he drew back his hand and slapped her into her face. She shrieked in pain, tasting blood on her lip and fisted her hands to keep herself from crying out in rage.
“HEY!” Gibbs yelled from the opposite site, drawing his attention away from the woman in front of him. “Why don’t you leave her alone and tell me what you expect from us?”
“You…” The mad psychopath let go of Kate and walked slowly towards Gibbs. “I don’t want anything from you…” he spit out disgustedly, then silenced for a moment. “Well, if I think about it, I want you to tell me exactly what you know about me. And don’t play games, I know you are NCIS, I found your badges, Jethro!”
Interesting, Gibbs thought, that he knows what kind of institution the NCIS is.
So he was either a federal agent or a member of the army or marine corps, since no usual citizen of the United States would have ever heard of the NCIS.
“Why don’t we start this conversation then with you telling me your name, so I can address you properly?” Gibbs asked and Kate felt deep respect for the calmness his whole attitude reflected. It had to be a marine thing, that they never panicked, no matter how desperate the situation seemed. Gibbs’ voice didn’t mirror any kind of emotion.
“Caitlin knows how to address me, doesn’t she?” The psycho turned around to Kate again. “Tell him, dear…”
“I was asking you, not her,” Gibbs addressed him firmly, wanting to draw the whole attention of the obviously totally crazy man to himself rather than Kate. The man didn’t react to his words, but approached Kate again.
“Tell him, or do I need to refresh your mind?” he threatened lowly, and Kate cleared her throat, deciding that it was wiser to fulfill his wish than to be beaten down while shackled.
“Master…” she murmured and gasped in shock when he grabbed her sleeves, harshly pulling her close to his face.
“Louder, I don’t think he quite heard what you said!”
“Master,” Kate said, louder now and Gibbs nodded.
“Alright, but do you have a real name? Every master has a name to address him with, because just calling him master sounds disrespectful, don’t you think?” he noted thoughtfully and observed with satisfaction how the man froze for a moment.
“Of course, we do not want to be disrespectful, which is why I am asking you how to address you properly.” Addressing the psychopaths vanity would maybe help him to gain insight into his background.
Kate looked at the face of the man and saw rage, insecurity and thoughtfulness mixed there. One thing was for sure, Kate thought, Gibbs would have made a great profiler. The mind games that he was not only playing now, but also when he conducted an interrogation with a suspect, were brilliant. He had what seemed to be a naturally given aura of authority and respect around him.
“I… I…” the psychopath stuttered and turned around. “Harris… Master Harris.” His eyes scanned Gibbs for a short time, before the realization dawned on him that the older man had tricked him into giving away his name. He cried out in rage, pounding on the shackled agent and punching him into his face.
Gibbs, who had underestimated the man’s strength and overestimated the range in which he was free to move, was fully hit by the man’s fist. He tried to duck away when he saw another blow coming and managed to at least avoid the hardest part of it by moving within the limited range his shackles confined him to.
“STOP!” Kate yelled almost panicked, afraid that the enraged criminal was going to kill her boss. “Please stop! STOP IT!” Tears of rage and frustration about her own helplessness were streaming down her face, and, when hearing her plea, the man stopped his assault and turned around. Very slowly, a wicked smile started to cross his face when he approached the young woman.
“Go on…” he whispered. “Keep on begging me for his life.” His hand stroked along the lines of her chin and then he brushed her lips with his thumb. “I like it when you plead… isn’t a lovers plea the most beautiful sound in the world?” He giggled madly.
“He is not my lover…” Kate hissed furiously, looking him in the eye. “He is my boss.”
“I have seen them all plead for their partner’s life, little Kate. All of them. It was always the same. But I showed them the truth. I awakened them from their stupid illusions.” He explained in a soft and caring tone.
“What kind of illusions?” Kate asked, forcing herself to focus on what Gibbs had told her. Analyze his behavior, his thoughts, his reactions. If they found out what drove him forward, they might be able to find a way to communicate with him.
“Their stupid little illusions of love…” he hissed against her skin, then starting a mad giggle. “And in the end they all found that their love was worth nothing… nothing at all! It didn’t save them – it only made them suffer. Do you want to suffer, Caitlin?”
“No,” Kate replied, shaking her head with a knot in her stomach. “No I don’t, – Harris.”
“Yeah…” he nodded thoughtfully, his face darkening when she made use of his name, “none of them wanted.” Then he suddenly let go of her and went to the door. “But there is no other way… the discovery of the truth always has to be painful… You will soon learn, but afterwards you will be free. Free from lies… free like a bird.”
He shut the door behind him which a loud crash that resounded in the dim chamber.
Kate exhaled, relieved that he was gone, even if it was only for now, and then focused her attention to the man opposite to her.
“Are you alright? Gibbs, say something!”
“That bastard has a strong punch – he is lucky I wasn’t able to show him mine…” A low growl could be heard and the woman was relieved. As long as Gibbs was still in the mood to threaten people, he was alright – or at least not in serious danger.
“You look like you need a doctor,” she murmured and Gibbs nodded ironically.
“If you can, feel free to call one.”
Kate sighed. For a man like him, who was always in control of everything and everyone around him, a situation like this had to be especially enraging. Therefore she decided to leave him alone for some time and rather spend her time reviewing in her mind the information she had just gathered about the man who held them prisoner.
He was obviously some kind of spiritual fanatic who believed that, by killing his victims, he cleansed their souls from lies and freed them. How could you argue with a person like that?
“Hey Gibbs…” she suddenly remembered, looking up at him softly.
“What?” he replied grumpily.
“Thank you… for pulling his attention towards you.”
He looked at her, their eyes meeting for a moment in an intense glance. The hint of a smile crossed his face, before he shut the walls around his heart down again.
“Don’t thank me yet, we are not out of here. Let’s hope Dinozzo spends his time with something different than playing shooting games on a federal computer. Oh, and Kate! Next time just do what he wants for God’s sake. I don’t want to loose one of my agents just because of pride!” He didn’t know why he had to do it. Every time she touched his heart, he had to treat her a little harsher than usual. It was like an automatic defense reaction against any warm feelings in his heart, aiming on pushing her away before she could get too close. And it worked – too well.
“Are you telling me it was my fault that he attacked me?” Kate asked back sharply.
“Just don’t argue with him again! Leave that to me,” he repeated insistently.
They both remained silent, the pressure they were under taking its effect now in aggression towards each other. Kate couldn’t believe that he had just practically made her responsible for what had happened. She tried to calm herself, reminding herself that he was under a lot of pressure and probably feeling responsible for her safety, but still, his hidden accusation had hurt her.
Even if Gibbs would have never admitted it outloud, he had no idea how to get out of their situation. He wasn’t an expert in profiling, but he was convinced that Harris would not let them go again. All this time, he had not even bothered to hide his face from them – a dangerous sign, that showed that he trusted that they would not be able to tell anyone about his face.
He hoped that Dinozzo had been wise enough to answer the phone while it had still been ringing, that way Abby might have a chance to track the last call – but he doubted it. But then, Dinozzo, although being as childish as he could sometimes be, never failed to surprise him with his cleverness in situations where it really mattered.
He just hoped that his team would be fast… before it was too late.
~~~ Same Time at Abby’s laboratory ~~~
“Abbs… any word on them yet?” Tony Dinozzo stormed into the room and the black haired analyst jumped – again. She turned around growling, dark threats reflected in her eyes.
“Damn it, Tony, I would be a lot faster if you didn’t startle me every five minutes with the same set of questions!” Abby replied nervously, refocusing her attention back to screen and the keyboard she was tapping on. “Without an active connection it is not easy to trace a GPS chip in a cell phone!”
“But you can do it, right? You said it’s not easy, but it’s not impossible is it?!” Tony grabbed for her drink and took a sip before Abby snatched it out of his hand.
“Hey! Hands of my drink, Tony, before I have to smack you!”
“Sorry, just nervous! Why would Gibbs call me and then not say a word when I answer? Yell at me, yes! Bellow orders, yes! But not answer at all is just so un-Gibbs, that something terrible must have happened.” He babbled and Abby raised her eyes to the ceiling.
“Tony! Something terrible will happen to you if you keep on pacing around my desk like that! I can not concentrate!”
At that moment, another one of her many screens in the corner of the room beeped and Abby looked over to it, then at Tony.
“Hey, chicken-boy, I need you to do something! Hold Strg and H, will you do this? I need to look what’s happening over there.”
Abby pressed his fingers to the prevailing keys and looked into his eyes. “Don’t move, or I will spank you!”
“Normally I would reply with some kind of dirty joke… but…” Tony said, the concern for his two colleagues standing clearly written in his eyes.
Abby went over to the smaller table and looked at the screen. “Impossible!” she murmured and pressed some key, then she slowly turned around. “Oh damned, I know how it happened!”
“What Abbs?” Tony asked impatiently.
“Remember how the DNA didn’t match? I mean the one from the sperm and the one from the…”
“Bottom line, Abby!” Dinozzo snapped impatiently.
The you woman raised her eyebrows. “You sound more like Gibbs every day… however, it didn’t match, because it was placed! I ran the newly found DNA through the criminal and Navy and Marine database, but no match, and then, for fun I ran it through the database of every federal secret service of this country and I have a match!”
“What?” Tony jumped up from the chair and ran to her workstation.
“It is an NCIS agent, Tony! One of ours!” Abby continued excitedly. “He is the serial murderer! He must have manipulated the data. This says that he is one of the assistants to the laboratories. He had the possibility and the inside knowledge about the investigation! We have an ID!” She turned and looked at Tony proudly, then realized that he was standing next to her. Standing up, she folded her arms in front of her breast. “What did I tell you about pressing the keys?”
Tony shrugged and hugged her enthusiastically. “Abbs, when we have found them, you can spank me all you want! Call me immediately if you find hints on his whereabouts, I am going to inform a search team!” With these words he ran out of the room, leaving back a puzzled Abby.
~~~ Around one hour later ~~~
“I wish I knew what time it is…” Kate murmured into the room after a long time that had passed in total silence. She sighed and shifted uncomfortably, her wrists burning from the hard metal that was constantly rubbing over her sensitive skin.
Gibbs didn’t react to her announcement and Kate sighed. “I mean, it wouldn’t really help our situation…”
“Then why do you want to know?” he asked rhetorically with an undertone in his voice that would have made an agent like Timothy McGee shut up immediately. But Kate didn’t feel intimidated by him at all – she never had, unless he had one of his really bad days of course.
“I just want to know… to feel better,” she replied. He didn’t answer. After another thirty seconds, she sighed. “You’re really not a conversationalist, are you?”
He remained silent, his face not giving any signal about what he thought about her attempt to indulge him into small talk with her.
“Well, I mean, of course you have never really said much – like telling anything about you, so I should have known,” she continued, “still, I would really be glad if you were a little more like Tony right now – just concerning conversations.”
Gibbs couldn’t help but grin quietly to himself when he mockingly asked, “You want me to tell dirty jokes?”
“Not THAT much like Tony… although telling dirty jokes is probably the only conversation he’s good at.” She inhaled deeply, pressing closer to the wall to release the pressure on her raw wrists. “God, you know, I really wish I was listening to his stupid jokes right now, instead of being here, waiting for…”
She became silent, forcing back the thoughts of what was going to happen to them.
“Are you afraid?”
“What kind of question is that?” Gibbs frowned and shot her one of his typically annoyed glances.
She sighed. Of course, she should have known. Even if he was afraid, there was no way that he would ever admit it. As an agent, that was one of his good qualities, but it often also made him look cold and emotionless as person.
Her expression became serious. “I am, Gibbs. And I have no idea how we can ever get out of here again. I admire you for being so in control over yourself, I guess I am just not that tough.” She gave a soft snort and looked up at the ceiling.
“Kate, we will make it,” Gibbs replied, his tone soft and reassuring, “And if it helps, you are one of the toughest agents I have ever had in my team.”
“Tougher than Dinozzo?” she made the weak attempt to joke, and Gibbs had to laugh.
“Yes, especially than Dinozzo.”
“Wow… that is something that you better don’t tell him – let me do that,” Kate smiled at him, his features being relaxed and soft while he was returning her soft glance.
Their playful conversation was interrupted by the sudden sound of the metal lock and the rusty squeak of the door. Both agents tensed, as the psychopath entered the room, a can of water in his right hand.
He didn’t say a word, but put the can down to the ground and then pulled two crystal glasses out of his jacket. He filled the two glasses with water and then went slowly over to Kate.
“Hello, angel… How have you been?” He touched her hair and ran his fingers through its silkiness. “I heard that you two were having a nice conversation… are you cheating on me, darling?” His question was of course more of a hidden reproach, a threat lying underneath.
Kate shot a quick glance over two Gibbs who shook his head almost unnoticeable, signaling her not to answer. She trusted his judgement and remained silent.
“No, I don’t believe you would dare to do that, Caitlin. Do you want a drink?”
“Yes,” Kate replied humbly, her eyes locked with those of Gibbs’, silently questioning him what she was supposed to do next. It was amazing, she wondered, how easily she could just understand what he wanted from looking into his deep blue eyes – as if there was a connection between their spirits.
“Here, I brought you a glass of fresh water,” Harris murmured and held it to her lips. Although she longed for a whole can of water, she took only a small sip, being well aware of the possibility that he had drugged the water.
“Thank you,” Kate said after having swallowed, deliberately not addressing him as he had ordered her to. He didn’t even seem to notice, but pulled off the jacket he was wearing.
“Now, Caitlin, tell me a bit about you – and your relationship with him,” he gesticulated at Gibbs, “Do you feel attracted to him?”
Again, Gibbs shook his head softly, and Kate remembered what he had once taught her. Do not give information about your own person to psychopaths, rather redirect the questions back at them.
“There is not much to tell about me… I work at NCIS, that’s practically my whole life. What about you? Why don’t you tell me more about you?”
He started smiling and then shook his head, shaking his finger no. “Oh, Caitlin, I am not stupid. I know standard protocol… Don’t try your psycho games on me and think I wouldn’t notice. Or do you consider me to be stupid, Caitlin?”
When she didn’t reply, he stepped between her and Gibbs, effectively interrupting their eye contact. “Tell me, do you see yourself in a higher position than me? More intelligent, brilliant?”
Kate lifted her eyes to look directly into his, still not answering. That kind of conversation was already bad to have with a normal person – not to mention a psychopath. Since there was practically no right answer to give on a question like that, she decided on remaining silent.
“Because you are not!” Harris went on, laughing softly. “You are lying at my feet, and it is only a matter of time until you will beg me, little Caitlin.” Then he turned around, facing Gibbs, but keeping distance to him.
The expression in his eyes betrayed only a hint of insecurity, but still enough for Gibbs to notice. So that was it, the special agent thought. Not being able to control a person put him off, most likely destroyed the scenario he had created in his mind.
When he recalled the last double murders – of which all of the victims had been civilian, just the first male victim had been a member of the marine corps – he realized that most likely all victims had plead for their lives at a certain point. It was human nature to be humble when faced with a violent criminal like Harris. But what happened if they didn’t fit into his scenario?
The relationship between victim and criminal was – at least in cases that were sexually motivated – double sided. There had to be the criminal, who chose to be just that; and there had to be the victim, who submitted to the role of being the helpless subject to a crime.
If a person didn’t accept the role of a helpless victim, the world of the criminal shattered, because it didn’t fit the picture in his mind anymore. He was no longer the one in control.
It was just a question of how far he was going to take it to try to make them submit to his rules. Obviously crushing the minds of his victims was part of Harris’s game. He enjoyed seeing people break, it gave him the feeling of absolute power – a feeling of a godlike position.
So, denying him that success would either make him insecure and afraid, eventually leading to him losing interest in them – or it would make him rage and trying more forcefully to break them; after he had recovered from the initial shock of not being in control. Both ways could be able to buy them at least a few more hours of time – time that Dinozzo and the rest of the team obviously needed to find them.
“If I didn’t know better, I would say that you had a bad influence on her! She’s denying me the due respect she should pay me!” Harris stated, not leaving Gibbs out of his eyes. The two men fought a cold, silent duel with their gazes.
“What respect?” Gibbs finally asked ironically, “Respect for shackling her and treating her like a pet? In my world that’s not the way to earn a woman’s respect, Harris!”
“I have been good to her,” the man snapped, “that is how women are! Ungrateful for everything you do for them, when you only want to protect them.”
“Agent Todd is quite capable of protecting herself,” Gibbs noted annoyed.
“Obviously she is not, otherwise she wouldn’t be shackled to my wall, being at my mercy, right? And not even you have been able to protect her.” He snickered madly and Gibb’s features darkened.
Harris had hit his weak spot with reproaching him that he was too weak to protect any of his team’s members. Those who knew him were well aware that just hinting on something like that was the declaration of a dangerous war – one of those kind that Gibbs had never lost.
“And now…” Harris smiled triumphantly. “You will call me master! Say it!”
Gibbs looked at him, the hint of an amused smile on his face. “Bite me, Harris!”
Harris let out an enraged cry and pounded on Gibbs. “Say it!” he raged, pushing his arm against the man’s throat. “SAY IT NOW OR…”
“Or what? Are you going to kill me?” Gibbs asked throatily, “Fine, do it, but you will not make me surrender! I will die still being the one in control!”
“NO! NOOO! You are not the one in control!” He let go of Gibbs, his eyes sparkling with a dangerous fury, while he slowly stepped backwards. “Say it, or Caitlin will have to suffer for your inability to give up!”
Gibbs looked at Kate, who looked more frightened than he had ever seen her. Silently he prayed to the God he didn’t believe in, that he was right with his assumption about how the sick mind of the psychopath worked. He wished he could tell her what his plan was, but there was no time for that – he knew she would hate him for this, but it was their only chance to buy time. Harris needed the feeling of having total control to kill and hurt people, otherwise he was insecure and weak – and unable to commit a murder.
“Go ahead,” Gibbs said in a generous tone. “Do whatever you believe you need to do, but don’t believe that you can make me look up to you. You will just fall deeper in my respect.”
Kate couldn’t believe her ears… no, it was impossible. He couldn’t have said that! He couldn’t possibly just practically given him the permission to hurt her! And yet he had. She felt like she had been punched right between the eyes.
Not from him – from anyone else, but never from him had she expected such a cold and heartless behavior just because he was unable to give up his pride just once.
“Poor Caitlin… did you hear what he said?” Harris whispered, as he turned towards her. “He thinks I won’t do it! He thinks I am bluffing!” His hands were moving over her body greedily, while he scanned her features.
Kate pulled violently at her shackles, trying to somehow wiggle away from his touches. Her eyes started to fill with tears of rage. “He doesn’t think you’re bluffing…” she tried to convince him with a shaky voice, muffling her own scream by pressing her lips close, when he ripped open the blouse she was wearing. “Please don’t…”
“Kate,” Gibbs voice was bossy and insistent, as he ordered, “Don’t plead with him! He is just a bastard who wants to prove himself that he is better than we are.”
The young woman started to whimper when she felt the callous hands of the psychopath moving over the naked skin of her cleavage and her bra hastily, taking in her female body with lusty eyes.
“Don’t you want to plead me for not doing this to her?” Harris asked triumphantly, still falsely assuming that Gibbs was bluffing and that he wouldn’t hold out much longer.
“Gibbs…” Kate’s voice broke, as she nearly begged her boss to comply, to do what Harris wanted. Hadn’t he been the one who had ordered her to comply with whatever the psychopath wanted just a few hours ago?
But Gibbs remained silent. Harris pushed the blouse off Kate’s shoulders violently, not caring that he ripped the material and left red marks on her skin with the brutality of his force.
Her desperate outcry broke his heart, but Gibbs was determined to go through with it, therefore he forced his mind to stay focused in an absolutely professional way. Control was the only ace that they had still left up their sleeves.
Just two or three more minutes and Harris would realize that his method didn’t work. Gibbs lifted his eyes to the ceiling, trying to control the blind rage that he felt when he saw the psychopath ravishing Kate’s body with his touches, hearing the sobs that she was desperately trying to suppress.
When he was free again, he would personally shoot a bullet through the man’s head, just for that, for making her cry – for daring to touch her.
Kate closed her eyes, leaning her head back helplessly. Her sobs died, and only silent tears ran down her cheeks, betraying her desperation about her own helplessness – and a broken heart. She pulled violently at her restraints, using her feet in attempts to push the man away from her, but she knew that it was a lost cause – that all she could do was endure what he was about to do to her.
In a forceful movement, Harris opened the button of the pants she was wearing, looking up at her face. “Don’t you want to plea? Tell me to stop, Caitlin! Beg me not to rape you.”
“Kate!” Gibbs barked warningly and the woman opened her eyes, screaming out in rage, frustration and desperation.
“Damn you, I hate you!” she yelled into the room. “You arrogant bastard!”
Gibbs was sure that she was not talking to Harris, although the psychopath clearly felt addressed, for he slammed her hard against the wall in reaction to her enraged outcry.
Suddenly he stopped his assault of her and turned his head to look at the shackled man behind him, at first triumphantly, but when he saw Gibbs’ cold and indifferent stare, he pushed himself away from Kate and started to yell.
“YOU SON OF A BITCH! Beg me not to do this to her! NOW!”
When Gibbs still didn’t react, Harris started to pace around in the room, holding his head. “This can’t be happening… that never happened! You are not stronger than me!”
And then he stormed out of the room, totally out of control of himself, and not even caring to lock the door in his uncontrolled mixture of rage and panic.
Gibbs exhaled inwardly, feeling the weight of a mountain lifting of his heart, when he saw that his plan had worked. Then his eyes fell on the woman opposite to him, or rather on the expression on her face, and his heart felt heavy again.
“How could you…” she simply whispered, the streaks of her tears still visible on her cheeks. Her whole body was shaking, her face still reflecting her shock of the danger of being raped. Frantically, she tried to find a way to cover herself, but her blouse was hanging too low around her shoulders for her to reach it in her position.
“Kate, I am sorry,” Gibbs murmured, trying not to look at her in order to not humiliate her anymore, than she already felt. He was not a man who used the word ‘sorry’ on a daily basis – in fact, she was the only member of his team whom he had ever apologized to. “If I had pleaded with him, I would have done what he wanted. It was part of his scenario; he needed me to plead for your life. Not doing it was the only way to save you. If either of us had started to beg him, he would have been turned on!”
“Save me?” she hissed, her voice raging with anger now while she tore at her shackles. Her movements became forceful and she didn’t care that she hurt herself by doing so. All she wanted was to get away from this room, from this mad psychopath – and from him, Gibbs. She felt like a wounded deer, wanting to retreat to the shelter of loneliness to lick her wounds. She couldn’t stand his presence, his eyes on her, even though he tried to avoid looking at her.
When she just considered the possibility that Harris returned and might touch her again, she felt the need to vomit in her stomach. She wouldn’t stand his callous hands on her body or his lips as he forced his kisses onto her again.
She put more effort into pulling at the metal chains, crying out when it began to feel as if she tore off her own hands – but the pain only helped to increase her determination.
“Kate! — AGENT TODD!” Suddenly, his thundering voice reached her conscious mind and she lifted her eyes to him. “Calm down!” Gibbs emphasized every word, holding her eyes with his. He was back to his old grumpy tone. “And listen to me! It will serve neither you, nor me, if you freak out on me now. All you will achieve is that you seriously hurt yourself. I understand what you have just gone through, and you are under a lot of pressure right now! I promise you can slap me later if it helps. But now, you will remain calm, professional and focused! Are we clear on that?!”
Kate knew deep inside that he was right, that freaking out would get her nowhere. But he had no way to know how she felt, how humiliated and weak. He was not a woman, so how could he possibly have the faintest idea about what it was like to be sexually assaulted when shackled – how dirty and used she felt at that very moment? Especially since she had always been a strong woman. She had taken courses to defend herself, she carried a weapon and she was a federal agent!
She closed her eyes and leaned her head back. That way she would not have to meet his eyes or react to anything he said. Because right now she needed to be alone, to retreat and lock her heart away from everybody else…
~~~ At the Same Time ~~~
The drumming of the bass could already be heard two floors above that one where Abby’s laboratory was. It was one of those days, her colleagues in the offices above hers were thinking to themselves, while baring with resignation the noise level of what she called music.
In the beginning they had still filed complaints to the director, who in turn, one day, had had a conversation with special agent Gibbs.
That same day, a memo had been sent around, stating that the office supplier would be glad to hand over earplugs to those colleagues who felt disturbed by the music of NCIS’ best analyst.
Nobody in the building had an idea about what Jethro Gibbs had said to the director, or how he had convinced him – and nobody actually wanted to know. They admired those persons who were tough enough to stand one week in his team, but if he even managed to convince the director of the NCIS that easily, a conflict with him was definitely way beyond their physical and psychical ability.
Tony Dinozzo shot two of his colleagues an apologizing smile when he passed them by on his way down to the lab. He winced when he walked through the glass door to the floor and entered Abby’s laboratory.
“ABBS!” he yelled loudly, but the woman didn’t react – which Tony didn’t wonder about considering that the sound level was enough to deafen a healthy person. He admired how anybody was still able to think straightly with such loud music in the background – not to mention perform complex analyses and calculations.
He went to the stereo box and pulled the plug out of the wall. Abby started and spun around.
“Tony,” she protested in a reproaching voice.
“Seriously Abs,” Tony started, waving the plug in front of him. “If I was you, I would be afraid to leave the building at night. Have you ever seen the wishes to kill you written on the faces of the colleagues who work in the offices above yours?”
“Well,” Abby smiled sufficiently and pulled the plug out of his hand to re-connect her precious CD-player with the electrical circuit, “they know better than to start a fight with me. I deliberately spread the rumor that I am sleeping in a coffin – and that I know voodoo.”
Tony raised his eyebrows in doubt. “Voodoo? Seriously? And they believed that crap?”
“Who said it was a lie?” Abby asked close to his face with a dangerous threat hidden in her voice, and Tony started to feel uncomfortable. Sometimes his colleague really scared the hell out of him.
“However…” he stuttered, “you wanted to talk to me?”
“Exactly,” Abby was back to her old self and ran back to her computer. “I did a background check on our agent Brian Harris, and guess what I found out.”
She looked at him expectantly, and Tony returned her gaze until he realized that she actually did want him to guess. “Damned, this is not ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ Abbs! We’re trying to save Gibbs’ life!”
“In his youth, Harris was in a psychological clinic for violent behavior against his classmates in junior high-school. He was also accused of stalking and rape by one of his female classmates, but since she only talked about what happened six months afterwards, Harris was never found guilty due to lack of evidence. Therefore the incident never made it into his good-conduct certificate – which does also explain why the NCIS never suspected him to be a psychopath when he was hired,” Abby summarized.
“So, where did you get that information then?” Tony asked amazed.
“I… or rather McGee had the idea to call the schools Harris visited to gain insight into his personality. You know, all the stuff about good grades, social contacts, was he more the party guy or did he spent his evening at home and so on…”
“McGee? Could it be that the geek is growing up?” This question caught Tony a slap from Abby, before she continued.
“It turned out that Harris does indeed fit the profile of a psychopath – always a loner, none or barely any social contacts, no relationships.”
“Mmm… doesn’t Gibbs fit in there as well?” Tony asked thoughtfully and Abby shook her head.
“Well, Gibbs doesn’t run around and abducts women. He builds a boat, Tony.”
Dinozzo folded his arms and shook his head impatiently. “What I mean, Abby, is: Do you have anything that does really help us to find out where he hides now? Or where he might have taken Gibbs and Kate? Or have you called me down here to read me a profile that fits on at least twenty percent of the American citizens?”
“Okay,” Abby continued, slightly starting to hop up and down, “you’re going to like this! When Harris was a child, he lived in XXXXXX, which is outside of Washington DC. He spent almost his entire youth there and…” She waved a sheet of paper in front of Tony’s eyes. “…thanks to McGee, we have the address of an old house, which once belonged to ancestors of him. Now it is deserted, because nobody actually knows who has a right to claim it, and nobody cares, because it would take more money to repair the damages, the years have left on the house, than it would bring profit when sold. And guess what? The house is on the list of places that Gibbs and Kate wanted to search…”
Tony grabbed the sheet out of Abby’s hand and read over the address. “Great Abbs!” he yelled back before he stormed out of the room.
Abby looked after him, shaking her head. One of these days she would build in an automatic door lock that reacted to her voice commands and only released her colleagues when she was finished speaking!
A few seconds later, the room was filled with the drumming sound of basses again…
~~~ At the Same Time ~~~
Loneliness – it was worse than darkness. Especially because she felt lonely without physically being it. It was that feeling of complete desertion in her heart, the inability to fully understand what had happened – why it had happened.
Of course, her reason could comprehend the logic behind his behavior – but her heart couldn’t make sense of it. Deep inside, she was shocked about his coldness, the absolutely professional way in which he had told Harris to hurt her – to rape her – if he wanted… as if she didn’t mean anything to him.
Kate suppressed a sob and opened her eyes, her head still resting against the wall. She wasn’t sure that she would ever be able to forgive him, to understand him – to consider him a friend again. And the most confusing fact about the whole situation was, that it hurt her more than she would have ever thought – that she felt as if her heart was being ripped apart.
Never had she consciously realized, how much she trusted him, how much he meant to her – and how much he was able to hurt her. Maybe he had been right, relationships between agents never worked – that included friendships. Maybe she had overestimated the bond he had formed with the agents who worked under him.
He didn’t know what to say to her. He had feared that his actions were beyond her understanding, but never had he seen Caitlin Todd the way she was now: silent, secluded – and hurt.
No doubt, the first thing he was going to do once he was able to lose those damned shackles was shoot a bullet through the psychopaths head. Just for her…
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked without looking at her.
“No,” she replied somewhat snappily. Just like that, no. Undoubtedly, she was mad at him. He looked at her. She was staring at the ceiling, her eyes not betraying any of her thoughts.
“Fine,” he finally answered, “then I will start by explaining why…”
“Seriously, not right now,” she cut him off. It was the first time that someone cut him off without being in trouble afterwards. He accepted it from her. Just because he knew what she had been through and what had to go through her mind right now.
The tension was clearly hanging between them in the air. Both remained silent again, Kate because she didn’t want to talk to anybody at that moment and Gibbs because he couldn’t think of any words that could ease her discomfort. Silence was probably the best way to do that, so his mind wandered off to the team again. If Dinozzo didn’t hurry, Gibbs swore to himself grimly, he would be cleaning federal toilets for the rest of the year – and it was only March.
They were both startled by the sound of the door crashing hard and shattering against the stone wall of their prison. Harris paced in, his eyes gleaming darkly, a knife in his hand. That was not good, not at all. Gibbs straightened out, narrowing his eyes when they met those of the psychopath.
Harris mustered him grimly, playing with the knife, then wrapping his hand around its blade so tightly, that he cut into his own flesh without even noticing. It had been quite some time since he had stormed out of the room, and Gibbs had expected him to return at a certain point, but he had figured it to be later. The man had caught himself rather quickly – or he was determined to put an end to this right now. That was bad, Gibbs knew that.
In the last phase of a psychopath’s rage, there was nothing that could possible stop him. He became totally incalculable and Gibbs was not qualified enough to still competently have a conversation with a man as madly furious as Harris.
“Now…” Harris threatened in a low, throaty voice, “What do you say now? You know what I realized? No matter how much you deny it, I am the powerful man! I am the one in control, because you are shackled and cannot do anything against me! No matter how much you pretend otherwise, it’s a lie you tell yourself! A big lie! And I am meant to purify you from the lies you believe in! This is my last test…” He lifted his eyes to the ceiling as if praying.
This was getting close, Gibbs noted mentally. Too close.
“What do you think, agent Jethro Gibbs? Whom should I purify first… you? Or your beautiful partner Caitlin…” He played with the knife again, slowly strolling over to Kate. His hand moved over her cheeks in a soft gesture, smearing his blood over her face, while he ran the cold metal of the knife over the delicate skin of her throat. “I promise, it’s going to be quick,” he whispered against her hair, “then you’ll be free.”
Kate didn’t react – she was far beyond pressure, beyond panic or fear. It was a natural human shield reaction that her mind lulled her body into, an almost peaceful indifference.
“Harris,” Gibbs addressed the man in his firm voice. “Me! Kill me first!”
Time! He needed time to talk to the man, but not with Kate’s life at stake once he said something wrong. Every minute was precious, and maybe the few time he could buy would at least save her life.
Harris looked at him surprised, then a wide grin spread on his face. “Finally submitting to the truth, bowing to my divine power.” Slowly, he let go of Kate and walked over to Gibbs.
“What makes you so sure it’s divine?” Gibbs asked seriously. “How do you know it’s not the devil driving you?” Obviously the man was driven by some kind of religious reason, so maybe he could be reached on that level. If he could convince Harris that he had been blinded by the false voice in his head, they might still stand a chance.
“No,” Harris replied, “you are the ones sent by the devil. It’s the tests God gave me to prove whether I am worthy of him! Just like he tasked Abraham to kill his son.”
Kate lifted her head slowly, her eyes boring into Harris. “But God didn’t allow him to go through with it. He wanted to test how much Abraham was willing to sacrifice for him, but being the merciful God he is, he saved the son.”
Harris looked from Kate back to Gibbs, insecurity standing in his eyes.
“He saved him, Harris,” Gibbs emphasized, pointing out how far Harris was from doing any God’s work. But the man shook his head violently, the knife in his hand shaking when he wiped his forehead.
“No, no, no! He is testing me! The devil is speaking through your mouths! He wants to induce me into his world! God ordered me to…”
“To rape women?” Gibbs interrupted harshly. “Kill innocent people? Torture them?”
“NO! To purify them!” Harris screamed out in desperate fury. “For only death can purify the soul!”
“Harris, you are a murderer,” Gibbs stated lowly, “You are the one who is being blinded by lies! You killed eight innocent people! And you are about to kill two more. Do you really think any merciful God would approve of this?”
“Not— innocent—“ The man growled out in a low voice, then pressed the knife against the throat of the shackled man. “You are all but innocent,” he yelled into his face.
“Fine,” Gibbs murmured, “those who are without fault may throw the first stone. Maybe we’re not innocent – but you are guilty of abduction, torture, rape and murder. What makes you think that you are any better than we are? You raise yourself up to a divine position. As far as I see it, you are not trying to do God’s work on earth. You make yourself God!”
“Shut up, SHUT UP!” Harris yelled, his hand shaking as the edge of the knife pressed harder against Gibb’s throat. “I AM PRIVILEDGED! I HAVE A TASK! And you will not keep me from fulfilling it with your delusional speeches! Pray, Jethro, for then maybe your poor soul will find mercy in front of his throne!”
His last words were spoken in an obsessed determination, as his fingers clawed around the hilt of the knife. That is it, Gibbs thought.
They say, when you know you are about to die, your whole life passes before your eyes in split seconds. In retrospect he couldn’t define whether that was true or not. The following events just happened too quickly for him to precisely recall any thought or memory that had gone through his mind at that very moment.
All of a sudden the sound of a gunshot echoed through the dim chamber for what seemed to be an eternity, and a second later the pressure of the knife against his throat was gone.
Instead, Harris sank forward, against Gibbs’ body, looking at him in a kind of dense bewilderment, traces of blood at the corner of his mouth while he took a rattling breath. Then he fell to the ground.
Gibbs looked up to the door from where the weapon had been fired, and saw Tony Dinozzo with an expression of infinite relief on his face as he found that his colleagues were still alive. He checked the room, then hurried to his boss. Gibbs threw one of his glances at him.
“Damned, Dinozzo, it’s about time! What took you so long?” he barked and when his left wrist was free, worked to free his right hand. “It’s okay,” he snapped when Dinozzo fumbled to help him, “I can handle it. Help Kate!” His order betrayed his annoyance, and impatiently he grabbed the gun out of Tony’s hand.
The younger agent hurried over to his female colleague. “Damn, Katie-girl, what did he do to you?” he asked softly, while he carefully unclasped the metal chains that were holding her to the wall. When she was free and didn’t move, he touched her cheeks softly and pulled off his own jacket to place it around her shoulders. “Are you hurt?” he then asked, pointing at the blood that was smeared over her cheeks.
“No,” Kate murmured, still in shock about the sudden change of events from the previous two minutes, “That’s his blood…” Her eyes fell on the man who was lying on the ground, his eyes staring at Kate while he was breathing heavily.
That was when she totally lost it. Afterwards, she recalled the scene like a cloud, the details swimming before her eyes.
With an outcry of rage, she pounded on her boss, insulting him, beating his chest and ignoring his yelled orders to stop and calm down, and his attempts to grab her wrists. She wanted to hurt him for what he had done to her, for betraying her, for not being there when she needed him – for leaving her alone.
The desperation and pressure she had been under during the last hours took their tribute now. Caitlin Todd had never used so many swear-words as in just those ten seconds, until Tony finally managed to grab her from behind and pull her away from Gibbs against his own chest, his arms closely wrapping around her shaking body as her silent tears soaked his shirt.
“Shhh, Kate, it’s alright…” he soothed her, bewildered about her reaction. Nobody had ever dared to attack Gibbs like that, and Tony could see in his eyes, that, only a few more seconds, and he would have handcuffed his furious female colleague again.
Then they both jumped, when the crashing sound of another gunshot could be heard right next to them. Tony stared in disbelief at his boss, who was still pointing the gun to Harris’ head, his features cold and stony when he observed the man die from the hit to his forehead.
Dinozzo pushed Kate aside and jumped forward to prevent Gibbs’ from shooting again. Were his colleagues out of their minds? First Kate’s totally irrational attack, then his boss nearly executing a man who was already lying on the ground.
Carefully, he took the weapon out of Gibbs’ hand.
“Damn, boss!” he murmured, his eyes wide in shock. “You killed him!” His eyes scanned the dead body on the ground. Gibbs looked at him irritated for this statement of the obvious, his eyes betraying that he was not willing to discuss any of it now.
“That was for what you did to Kate,” he simply told the dead body and then left the room. Tony followed him with his eyes, worried about him. He had never seen his boss so bitter and so blind with rage that he shot an already dying man in the head. ‘For Kate’ had he said, Tony recalled, the expression on Gibbs’ face being one he had never seen before.
Tony turned his attention towards the woman in the corner, who was still, like hypnotized, staring at the dead psychopath on the ground. He placed his arm around her shoulder.
“Come on, Katie, I will get you out of here.”
“I want to take a shower,” Kate announced weakly and Tony smiled softly.
“That’s my girl…” he joked, trying to make her smile, when some of her old spirit returned to her body.
The fact that she didn’t protest him calling her ‘his girl’ as she would normally do, told him that she didn’t only need a shower, but to go to the hospital as well.
Carefully, he guided her out of the room, out of the dark catacombs, out of the old house back into the world, where she was greeted by the sunlight and a blue sky. And Kate was sure she had never seen anything more beautiful than this blue sky in her whole life…
~~~ Five Days Later ~~~
Caitlin Todd felt as if she was going crazy. She had spent the whole day pacing around in her apartment like a locked up tiger who longed to be free again. She had used the last days to clean every inch of her apartment – twice – and now there was nothing left for her to do to ease the boredom caused by the involuntary vacation, she had been forced to take.
At first she had enjoyed the time off, that NCIS’ psychological consultant had ordered her to take. But after two days she felt as if the walls of her own apartment were crushing her. If it had been up to her she wouldn’t have visited a psychological consultant in the first place. She had been in stressful situations before, but after a good night’s sleep and working overtime for the next days, she had always been able to handle it by herself.
Yet, Gibbs had asked her – no, ordered, she corrected grimly – to visit the consultant and talk to her about what had happened. She had protested, but he hadn’t been willing to discuss his decision – as always – instead he had ordered Tony to escort her to the consultant’s office. All the deals she had offered Tony had not convinced him to lie to Gibbs, and allow her to skip the appointment.
She was feeling alright – of course she had initially been crushed from the pressure and experiences, that she had been through. But she was a grown up woman – she had her ways to deal with experiences of that kind. And going back to work would have definitely been the best way for her to get back to the usual routine of her days.
She was looking forward to getting back to work tomorrow – although she didn’t have the faintest idea of how to face Gibbs. He had not even explained his actions to her. In fact, after they had walked out of the house, he had not even talked to her. She recalled the moment five days ago. An ambulance had already been waiting, and on her way out, countless agents had passed them by to examine the place. The ambulance doctor had helped her into the car and treated her wrists and the bruises on her forehead and cheek.
Gibbs had been standing twenty meters away, talking to some officers. He waved the doctor, who wanted to treat his bruises, away grumpily.
At that moment, Kate couldn’t understand him. She’s didn’t understand how he could remain so completely focused and professional, not even now taking a rest and letting other agents do the job.
At a certain point he had come over and asked the ambulance doctor how she was – as if she wasn’t there. After the medical assistant had assured him, that she was fine and had no serious injuries, he looked at her with an indefinable look on his face.
“I expect you to visit our psychological consultant.” That had been it, just like that.
“I don’t need…” she had started with clear anger standing her voice, but he hadn’t even let her finish.
“That was not a request, agent Todd! Dinozzo, make sure she visits the consultant!” he snapped, as the younger agent approached him from behind, starting at his grumpy tone.
“Yes, boss…” Tony had said and then looked after the older man as he walked away. “Maybe he should visit the consultant as well. Would be a great opportunity to get over his ex wives as well. Marriage therapy paid by the government,” Tony half-joked and handed Kate a cup of hot tea to warm her up. He winced when Gibbs, who had obviously overheard his last remark, turned and barked.
“And if I learn that she didn’t visit the consultant, Dinozzo, you can look for another job!”
The ringing of the doorbell snapped Kate out of her memories. She nearly jumped up and ran to let the visitors in. Any distraction from the loneliness in her apartment was welcome.
When she opened, she looked into the grinning faces of her colleagues Dinozzo and Abby.
“Hey,” Tony greeted happily.
“Abbs, Tony! What are you doing here?” she exclaimed happily, opening the door wider and signaling them to enter.
Abby shrugged her shoulders when she stepped into Kate’s apartment. “I thought you must be bored like hell, so I decided to get you a copy of my newest CD. It rocks, you have to listen to it.”
“Yeah, and I accompanied her, mainly because I wanted to see what your apartment was like…” Tony joked, looking around interested, finally able to discover all the secrets, his colleague Kate Todd was hiding from him. Kate rolled her eyes and laughed.
“Oh…” Tony continued and handed her a rolled magazine, “and I brought you that – just so we have something to quarrel about tomorrow. And it helps to expand your obviously thin knowledge on certain topics.”
Kate shot him a dark glare and shook her head while she looked at the latest issue of the FHM magazine.
Abby glanced at her male colleague, reproach standing in her eyes. “Tony, you lied to me! You said it was for you when we were at the newspaper shop.” She smacked his shoulder and Kate had to laugh.
It was refreshing to see that between her colleagues nothing had changed. They were like her family and she couldn’t even express how thankful she was for their company right now.
“Oh,” Abby suddenly remembered and searched her bag for something, “Gibbs sends you these.” She handed Kate her badge and her weapon, which had been missing since she had faded out in the old house. “And he told me to remind you that he expects your report on his desk tomorrow morning.”
“Oh,” Kate murmured, the tone in her voice becoming colder, “Of course. Reports. That’s all he cares about.” She threw the badge and her weapon on her sofa, slightly too forceful for Tony and Abby not to notice the anger she tried to hide when she hugged herself with her arms.
The colleagues exchanged a confused glance, then the goth analyst hugged Kate closely.
“How are you, is everything okay?” she asked worriedly.
“Perfectly fine,” Kate murmured, not convincing them for her eyes spoke a different language.
“Listen,” Abby started, “I don’t know all the details about what happened, but I overheard Gibbs talk to one of our profilers. Whatever he did, it seems he saved both your lives. Ducky told me yesterday that he was amazed that you two had still been alive, for the other victims had all died within ten hours after their disappearance.”
“Now I am supposed to thank him?!? I don’t care what his intention was,” Kate snapped angrily, “He was willing to sacrifice me. He is absolutely cold inside – and I trusted him to try to do his best to protect me!”
Tony shrugged his shoulders. “Well, he once told a female ATF agent, who held me hostage and threatened him with my life, to shoot me. It’s just the way Gibbs handles things – he will not bend to anyone’s rules, and that’s what makes him such a good special agent. And besides, Katie, he would have never let anything happen to anyone of us. No matter how much he slaps me, or makes us run around to fulfill his orders – he would never admit it, but he does actually like us. Especially you…” he added, his eyes meeting Kate’s.
Tony knew that it was the truth. He had often seen Gibbs’ furtive looks when Kate had playfully fought with him or received a call by one of her dates. Tony had seen his face darken for a split second, his mood being a trace grumpier than before for the rest of the day. There was no doubt that his boss was feeling more for his subordinate colleague, than he was ever going to admit to her – or himself.
He was too obsessed with his own rules, Tony thought grimly and recalled the last time that Gibbs had, out of the blue, asked him to quote rule seventeen. And he remembered very vividly the rest of the day, which he had spent searching garbage for a piece of evidence as some kind of punishment for not being able to give the correct answer.
Kate gave an ironic snort. “Maybe Gibbs is a good agent, but the point is that he provoked Harris although he knew that there was no way he could have prevented him from…” she swallowed, the memory of the scene in the chamber making her uncomfortable, “…hurting me if his strategy had been wrong. And yet he didn’t care for just one second.”
Abby laughed. “Kate, I played poker with him once, and believe me, whatever this man does or says, he is definitely going to achieve it! I have never trusted anyone as much as I trust Gibbs.”
“Well,” Kate murmured with a trace of sadness in her voice. “You didn’t hear his tone when he said it.” Her thoughts trailed off, back to the moment in the chamber, when Gibbs had told Harris to do with her what he wanted. She recalled the cold tone of his voice, as if she was merely a casualty that had to be accepted. She forced those thoughts aside, and instead turned towards her kitchen.
“Can I offer you something to drink?” she asked, her voice faking a cheerfulness that she didn’t feel inside. “Coffee? Tea?”
She couldn’t tell her colleagues all the details about what she felt, how she felt betrayed and used, and most importantly why. She didn’t even know herself. Rationally, she had to agree with Abby. In retrospect, it was certain that Gibbs had never lost control over the whole situation, but she was too emotionally involved to consider the happenings objectively. It had been a situation not much different from countless before and neither of them had seriously been hurt.
And yet, it made her angry how naturally he had told the criminal to take advantage of her, how controlled he had been in that situation, and how helpless she had felt. She couldn’t talk about that with anybody, because deep in her heart she was unable to accept that there were situations – feelings – that she couldn’t handle – despite her years of training and experience with the secret service.
~~~ Next day ~~~
“Morning boss!” Dinozzo greeted cheerfully when he saw the well-known figure of Jethro Gibbs step out of the elevator, two cups of coffee on a paper-tray in his hand. “Did you sleep well?”
Gibbs shot him a grumpy glance that said as much as ‘Do you really want to go on my nerves this early in the morning?’ and continued to walk towards his desk.
“Obviously not,” Tony murmured, then louder. “Guess who is back!” He looked at Gibbs with cheerful enthusiasm, a wide grin on his face, but when Gibbs didn’t even react, he decided to answer the question himself. “Right, it’s Katie-girl!”
“And what makes you believe that this fact allows you to jump around me like a schoolboy instead of doing your job?” Gibbs countered annoyed and Tony’s smile faded. With a murmured “Sorry boss,” he ducked and hurried back to his desk. This seemed to be one of those days where he better stayed out of Gibbs’ way and hoped, that the third or fourth cup of coffee would finally improve his mood.
Gibbs passed by Kate’s desk, where the woman was already working, intensely looking at the screen of her computer and not paying attention to him when he walked in.
“Morning Kate,” he greeted her curtly.
“Report is on your desk,” she announced, even briefer than he had been, her tone cold as ice as she didn’t even bother to return his friendly greeting. Gibbs frowned, mustering the report on his desk. Usually she was trying to start some time of casual small-talk. He looked over at her.
“Good job,” he approached her desk and put down the second cup of coffee in front of her, then turned without comment to his own desk to complete the file of the serial killer. It was unofficially known in the whole office, that a cup of coffee was his way of showing his appreciation to one of his team members.
Tony growled. Damned, why had he never managed to earn a cup of coffee from Gibbs. All he got were slaps on the back of his head.
But what happened next was so unexpected and out of the blue that he caught his breath in his throat, silently waiting for an armageddon to come and praying that he would survive it.
For Kate got up without a word, took the cup of coffee, went straight towards Gibbs’ desk and slammed it down before his eyes, not caring that drops of it spread over the sheets of papers lying there. Then she simply turned around and sat back down on her own chair, resuming her task of tapping her keys.
‘Oh man,’ Tony thought, one part of him anxious to see how his boss would react, the other one afraid for his life. Nobody had ever declared war at Jethro Gibbs that openly – at least nobody at NCIS had been stupid enough to do so.
And stupid it was, that much Tony could read in the eyes of his boss. He looked as if he was ready to throw Kate out of the office. Intending to prevent the worst from happening, Tony jumped up.
“Boss, Kate is…” he stuttered hastily to defend his female colleague, but Gibbs thundering voice barking “Dinozzo” in a level that, Tony was sure of it, could even be heard by the director, shut him up at once, making him wonder for a split second what had gotten into his mind to try to defend Kate’ absolutely irrational behavior and draw Gibbs’ rage to himself. Quickly, he sat back down, observing with wide eyes as his boss stood up, slowly walked over to Kate’s desk and leaned forward.
“Agent Todd, would you care to explain your behavior?” he asked, deadly calm, and yet his voice could be heard throughout the whole office. It became almost deafening silent as all present agents held their breaths in bewilderment, observing the scene that was taking place in front of their eyes.
“Since we obviously stopped informing each other of our motifs, I don’t see a reason to do so,” she countered snappily, her voice challenging while she didn’t even bother to look at him, but continued to write on her computer. She was well aware that her behavior crossed all boundaries of what was appropriate to say to a superior – not to mention to Gibbs. At that very moment, she didn’t care. She was determined to tell him what she thought of his stupid arrogance and yelling at him was the only way to get his serious attention. The last time she had done that, she had not been part of his team yet.
“Todd, elevator. NOW!” Gibbs pressed out, barely hiding his rage anymore, and hurried towards the doors of what had become his own personal conversation room.
Tony shook his head, as Kate got up. “Damn, Katie! He’s going to fire you…” he whined, catching an aggressive glance and a muttered “Shut up, Tony!” from her as she followed her boss into the elevator.
Neither of them said a word when the elevator set into motion, until Gibbs forcefully hit the ‘Stop’ button. His eyes were now openly betraying his rage at her misconduct, as he approached her, intending to back her against the elevator wall. But Kate didn’t move, instead she simply stayed where she was, holding his glare with the same force and rage sparkling in them, as there was in his.
“Are you out of your mind?” he barked at her and Kate folded her arms, her eyes holding his when she took the challenge.
“Am I out of my mind?” she snapped, the level of her voice matching his. At that very moment, she didn’t care that he hated it if one repeated his question instead of giving him an answer right away. “I thought you were my friend! Obviously, I was wrong considering that you gave that psycho permission to ravish me without even blinking. What I expect is at least an explanation!”
Gibbs was now standing right in front of her, and she still didn’t move. His eyes bore into hers with the cold intensity that she had often seen him using towards suspects. He didn’t say a single word and with every second that passed, she felt the more and more urgent need to turn her eyes away from his – but she was determined to go through with it; to tell him that she was not willing to be a figure in the mind games that he played with some criminals.
“Agent Todd,” Gibbs finally snapped, silently appreciating the courage she was demonstrating. No other agent had ever dared to hold his glare and still yell at him, while he was standing right in front of them. But then, Kate had already told him that she wanted to shoot him when they had first met. He should have expected nothing less from her. “I understand what you’ve been through was painful and degrading. But you are wrong if you think that it was any easier for me! What I still expect you to do is stop whining about what happened and do your job like a professionally trained agent! I appreciate you as member of my team, but if you ever dare to disrespect me again like you just did in the office, I will personally fill out your dismissal.”
His last words were spoken dangerously calm, and with a hidden threat that left no doubt that he would do exactly what he had just announced to do. He turned and slammed the ‘Stop’ button again, and the elevator started moving again. For him, the discussion was over – not for Kate though.
She inhaled deeply, then made a step towards the control panel and hit the button with the same force that he had applied, which made the elevator come to an abrupt stop again. She turned to face him, ignoring the fact that Gibbs was close to throw her out right there, right then.
“Then let me tell you something, special agent Gibbs,” she raged, moving so that she was standing right in front of him. “Right now I don’t care whether you dismiss me or make me scrub toilets for the rest of my life. In fact I am thinking about transferring to Norfolk or doing something entirely different with my life – and you know why? Because I don’t want to be killed in a chamber or… or… wherever the next place will be when you decide to risk one of your agents’ life in an attempt to prove your arrogance or whatever you want to call it.” Her voice was shaking now and she had to take a deep breath.
She turned her back to him and started to pace up and down the small room. “I talked to Abby… she told me that you probably saved us with what you did. But tell me, what would you have done if he had assaulted me? What was your plan B? Or would you just have let him rape me? Was that just a risk that you were willing to take?”
He didn’t answer. He didn’t even move. Agent Gibbs had never given any reasons for his behavior to his subordinates – and he had never been asked to. He required them to trust his judgement. And the fact that she demanded a justification of his decision now enraged and bewildered him at the same time. Especially since he refused to admit – to her as well as himself – that he did not know what he would have done if his plan hadn’t worked.
“Tell me!” Kate yelled while spinning around, hitting his chest furiously, angry about how emotionless he was again – as if he didn’t care at all.
Gibbs mustered her, raging at her insubordination and the way she dared to talk to him.
“Agent Todd, I have never justified any of my decisions to any of my agents, and I am not going to start doing it right now. What I did served to buy us time, which saved our lives. But if you can’t trust on my judgement, I think it would probably be the better choice for both of us, if you considered a transfer to another team.”
“That’s your answer?” In a mixture of fury and sadness, she started to hit his chest more forcefully, angry at the tears that were starting to form in her eyes – at how he still had the power to hurt her against her will and didn’t even seem to realize it.
“You arrogant idiot!” she cried out furiously, when he grabbed her wrists and effectively stopped her enraged attack by pulling her against his body and holding her hands tightly on her back.
“You think I was willing to sacrifice you?” he barked angrily at her, shocking her with his sudden outburst while she desperately tried to free herself from his strong grip. “You should know me better than that! Did I take the risk, that my plan wouldn’t work? Yes, I did! Because no matter what we would have done, he would have raped and killed you anyway – and me afterwards. That’s what his plan was. So excuse me if I took a risk to buy us some time!” Gibbs was in a state of fury that matched her own by now. “The point is, special agent Todd, do you want to leave or do you want to remain a member of my team. Because if you want, I expect you to act as one and trust my judgement! I expect you to follow my orders, without questioning them. And what I do not expect you to do is attack me and demand justifications for anything I did! What just happened up there was so far across the line that I could have your badge on my desk for insubordination!”
“Orders! That’s all you care about? Your own authority?” she snapped back angrily, their faces only inches apart, while she still fought to pull her hands out of his steel grip. Gibbs nodded, his expression getting darker with every contradicting word that she threw into his face.
“Yes! Because we are professional federal agents! A professionalism which you seem to lack at the moment! What is the matter with you?”
“I am sorry if I am not as cold as you!” she snapped back ironically. “You know what? This is obviously pointless, because you are just being all ‘Gibbs’ about this and I just… I can’t be… because I…” She interrupted herself. Yes, why exactly couldn’t she just accept what had happened and move on? She looked up into his eyes, stopping her physical attempts to free herself from him. Only then did she realize how close they were standing to each other – and how oddly comfortable it felt to her. Suddenly she became consciously aware of how good he scented – a mixture of heady after shave, coffee and just Gibbs. She fought to suppress the erotic thoughts which crossed her mind and were not only completely inappropriate concerning that they were having a serious discussion, but also off limits since he was her superior – not to mention a good number of years older than her.
All of a sudden, his silence made her uncomfortable; his features didn’t show any hint of what he was thinking, he was just returning her look – and slowly she started to feel stupid.
That brought her mind back on track and her rage back. Even now, when she was right, he was just too proud or absorbed in his own arrogance to admit it.
“The fact that you don’t justify your decisions may be accepted by agents like Dinozzo or McGee, but don’t think that your grumpy character or your absolutely bossy way to bark around orders, intimidate me!” she ranted on, inhaling deeply to get ready to tell him what she thought of his unwillingness to explain himself, when suddenly, he pulled her harshly against his body, his mouth closing hers in a forceful, almost ravaging kiss that effectively interrupted her speech.
Her initial reaction was to shriek in shock, a sound that was muffled by his lips. Then her shock gave way to a feeling of arousal that seemed to take possession of her body like a wave rolling through her veins and turning her blood into molten lava. She softened, intuitively pressing herself closer against him.
When he felt her mouth open under his, he softened the almost bruising kiss by starting to nibble at her lips and seducing her into joining in the tender game.
His rage was gone – in fact it had been gone the instant his lips had touched hers and he had been lulled into the sweet taste of her lips and the pleasant scent of the soft perfume that she wore.
He let go of her wrists and instead used his hands to pull her female body closer into his own.
Not even realizing that he had let go of her hands and, theoretically, she would be able to shove him away, she moved her hands over his shoulders and finally clasped them into the material of his shirt on his chest.
A soft sigh escaped her throat when he deepened the sweet and yet forceful assault on her mouth, her tongue starting an erotic duel with his – a duel which she was more than willing to lose. The taste of coffee on his lips and the feel of his body pressed against hers were like a drug to her mind.
All of a sudden he broke the kiss and pushed himself away from her, bringing as much distance as possible between them, while he fought hard to regain control over himself again. He took a sharp breath, his head leaning against the elevator wall while he was staring at the ceiling. “Damn,” he muttered, with a hint of new rage betrayed in his voice – rage directed at himself rather than the female agent opposite to him. What the hell was the matter with him to kiss Caitlin Todd?
Angry at himself and his absolutely inappropriate behavior, he hit the stop button forcefully which set the elevator into motion again. Being in a room with her that offered so little space was not a good idea at the moment.
Kate was still standing like frozen, staring at him, her eyes clouded and her mind lulled into the aftermath of the erotic kiss they had just shared. She touched her lips with her fingers, her consciousness unable to fully grasp what exactly had just happened.
She was no longer angry at her boss. Kate was torn between confusion, arousal and awkwardness as she reconsidered how she should ever be able to look him in the eyes again and not have immoral thoughts.
Neither of them said a word during the ten seconds until they were back on their floor. Still, the ten seconds seemed to last an eternity that was filled with awkwardness between them.
When the doors opened, Gibbs stepped out of the elevator, not looking back at her.
What had he been thinking to just drag her to him and kiss her until they were both breathless? Not only was she almost twenty years younger than him, he was also her boss. And just that fact turned the incident into sexual harassment.
“Boss,” Tony jumped up when he saw Gibbs approach. “Where is Kate? Did you fire…”
“Back to work, Dinozzo!” Gibbs barked enraged, not willing to listen to any of Tony’s crap right now. Just right after he had reproached her of being unprofessional, he recalled angrily and hit his desk with his palm. And now? Kate was nowhere at sight, so where was she? Was she crying?
Damned, he thought to himself, unable to comprehend what exactly had motivated him to act like he had done. Had it been her soft body pressed to his? Or the way that she had challenged him with her soft brown eyes? Or her female scent? Whatever it had been, he had to make sure that a slip like that never happened again.
Kate was still standing in the elevator, not moving although the doors had already closed again. He had kissed her – just like that. Totally out of the blue. She knew that she should be outraged and angry, and that the appropriate response would have probably been to push him away and slap him, but part of her had longed for this kiss without even knowing it.
Instead of pushing him away, signaling him how far beyond the line he was, she had returned the kiss; even given him permission to deepen it. With a tortured moan she leaned back against the cold wall, her hand at her forehead when she imagined what he had to think of her now.
How had this able to happen, that one second she had ranted and then she had willingly kissed him, and now… What now? How could she ever look at him again? And more importantly, prove to him that she was just as professional as he was? Being the jerk he sometimes could be, she considered it quite possible that the whole situation had been a test of her professionalism. She knew that he had always judged her for the affair she had had with her colleague when she had still been working with the Secret Service – even if he had never said anything outloud.
After another short moment, which she needed to catch herself and rearrange her clothes, she pressed the button for the elevator door to open and then stepped out. Better to start handling the situation right now, she thought insecurely. Tony looked up, when she approached, his face showing infinite relief.
“Thank God, he didn’t kill you! Please tell me we’re still working together…” he started to babble, but Kate walked around her desk and got back to work without reacting to him.
Tony figured it wisest to remain silent – otherwise he could already see himself getting fired if he took the dark expression on Gibbs’ face into consideration.
The rest of the day passed by in awkward silence, from time to time interrupted by some discussions between Tony and McGee, but aside from that, nobody said a word.
When Kate needed Gibbs signature under a form she had filled out, she simply walked over to his desk and put it down under his nose. And he would sign it and hand it back to her without even looking up. The whole situation was of course closely observed by their two male colleagues.
Even Abby sensed the emotional tension the instant that she entered the office, and hurried to leave again as fast as she could.
It had already become dark outside, when Tony lifted from his chair and grabbed his jacket, almost relieved that the ‘day of hell’, as he would call it the weeks afterwards, was over. Only that made Kate realize that her shift ended and that the office had already emptied, only few agents remaining, who still needed to finish reports or work on active cases.
“And another wonderful evening starts with beautiful Mindy…” Dinozzo informed the people around him proudly, making a last desperate attempt to ease the tension. Normally, Kate would have made an ironic remark or asked a sarcastic question, but tonight she just remained silent. Tony sighed and shrugged, then left the office.
Kate lifted her head to look over at Gibbs, who was still, in a concentrated manner, writing and moving the sheets of paper around on his desk. After a short while of observing his actions, she got up and slowly approached him.
She had no idea what to say, and so she just stood uncomfortably in front of his desk. After some seconds, when she still hadn’t said a word, Gibbs finally lifted his head to look at her – for the first time since the kiss, their eyes met.
“I…” Kate started, lowering her eyes since she was not able to return his look for long without bringing back memories. “I wanted to know if I shall return tomorrow… or if I should report to NCIS headquarters in Norfolk.” That was not what she had actually wanted to say – in fact she didn’t even know what she had wanted to say, since she had no idea what his opinion of the whole incident was.
Gibbs looked at her thoughtfully, then resumed writing on the sheet of paper. “That’s your decision to make, special agent Todd.”
“Oh…” she murmured and nodded, inhaling deeply. “Actually, that was not… what I wanted to say. What I meant was… I am sorry, Gibbs.”
“What for?” he asked, a hint of surprise in his voice as he looked up again and laid his pen aside.
“For what I said this morning – for some of the things at least. I guess you were right, I was seeing things too unprofessionally and I assure you, something like that is never going to happen again. I was just…” She could truly say, that she had never been in a situation that had made her feel weirder in her whole life than this conversation with Gibbs did.
“Maybe we should just forget about it,” he offered at her lack of words. If she didn’t know better, she would have said that he was just a insecure as she was – at least she believed to read a hint of it in his eyes. Of course he would never show it openly. “We’ve been under a lot of stress – both of us – so maybe we should just put it behind and go back to our work.”
“Yes.” Kate nodded, a tiny part of her having expected something else from him; having hoped for something else. “So I am still part of your team?”
“Do you still want to be?” he asked, diverting his eyes back to his sheet of paper. They both knew what hidden question was lying underneath those simple words. Would she still be able to respect him after what had happened in the elevator? They both recalled the kiss at that very moment.
“Yes I do,” Kate finally said firmly, then after another five seconds of silence, “under one condition: Next time you listen to me if I tell you that people who go into old houses at night end up dead.”
She smiled faintly when he looked up at her attempt to ease the tension and returned her soft glance. He could symbolically see the weight lifting of her heart when her expression lightened up. Still smiling, she returned to her desk and grabbed her purse and her coat. “Good Night, Gibbs.”
“Kate,” he called when she was almost out the door. She looked back at him expectantly, when he didn’t speak right away, but glanced at her with an expression on his face that she had never seen there before. “Just so you know, it would have mattered to me if Harris had hurt you.”
Kate held his eyes for another second, then turned and left the office, still stunned at what he had just said. Gibbs never let his agents know that they meant something to him – except for Abby of course.
She was totally confused. Something had changed inside of her, something in her view of him. And when she thought of his smile, she could feel something in her heart that she hadn’t felt for a long time.
She sighed. It was better to stop thinking about him. It was never going to happen. He was her boss, and he was a principled man who always followed his own rules – especially rule number twelve.
The kiss had been a one-time slip, there was never going to happen anything between them.
“Relationships between agents never work…” she reminded herself, sighing, and silently added a rule 12a which referred to age difference. Unfortunately, her heart wouldn’t pay attention to any rules…
Gibbs sighed when Kate had left, and leaned back in his chair. Somehow his life had become much more complicated since he had gotten up this morning. And she was the reason. What had been the matter with him to kiss her?
Now all he could think about was how sweetly she had tasted, how fragile her body had felt against his and how desperately he wanted to kiss her again and beyond – which was, of course, out of the question.
If his occasional scans of her slender body when they were working had already been a violation of his principle, then the kiss was on a whole other level in the world of violations.
Gibbs sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. He had to get her out of his head. He would not compromise his professionalism with one simple kiss.
He moaned inwardly when he remembered the kiss. She was so much younger than he was, and yet, for a moment, it had felt perfectly right to caress her lips with his. And when he had felt her move closer against him, he had, for the blink of an eye, assumed that she felt the same. A stupid assumption, he thought grimly to himself. She had most likely just been totally frightened and only returned the kiss because he was her boss – who, aside from that, had also held her hands to her back and by that refused her any possibility to free herself from him.
When he recalled her puzzled reaction and her totally confused stare, he got the awful feeling in his gut that he had simply taken advantage of her.
She would have every right to file a complaint and report his behavior to the director, and yet she obviously didn’t intend to.
He decided on acting absolutely professional towards her during the next months.
After three failed marriages he should know better than to blindly fall for a woman – especially if she was so much younger as Kate was.
If he had learned anything, then it was how to close his heart away from the world. And in a few days, he was sure of that, the normal routine would have returned into their office.
And yet, in the depth of his heart, a tiny voice remained, a part of him that knew the truth. A part of him, that was too dangerous to be listened to. And yet the tiny voice kept whispering that she meant so much more to him than a colleague…
The End (Mar 18, 2007)
There is a sequel available for this story, called “After Tonight” which you can read here.