Gibbs stood there staring at her, damming his phone, wishing he could get one thing figured out before more came barreling toward him. “Doc. Listen. I want ...”
She pursed her lips and shook her head. “No. No time. Answer that.”
He growled, opening up the phone, getting the news. “Shit. He's done something more. C'mon. Talk on the way?”
Sam looked at him in that annoying, probing way she had, and nodded once. “Come on, Gibbs, time's a wastin'.” She grabbed his shoulder and they were on the way. Once they were seated in the car, she turned to him, crossed her arms across her chest, and pursed her lips. “You wanted to talk, so talk.”
“I get the whole 'cloak and dagger' thing,” he began, then stopped, using the time he needed to segue into traffic to get his thoughts into order. “Okay. Here's the thing. I really like spending time with you. I can't figure out how we're gonna manage to keep doin' this when the world's not fallin' apart, but I'd like to try. I'm a stubborn son-of-a-bitch, and I don't like talkin' much at all. Just ask...” He waved his hand and changed lanes, falling quiet again.
“I've enjoyed our time together so far, too, Jethro,” she commented, using his name in a way she hadn't except when they'd been rolling around on his bed. She looked over at him managing to catch his eye, and he saw something there he recognized all too well. The wary, ancient pain.
“Aw, hell, Sam,” he blurted, surprised when she flinched.
“Not Sam, please. Sammy or Samantha, or something else... not Sam.” He sighed, nodding at and immediately acceding to her request. She continued. “I don't know what would happen if I didn't dress it all up in layers. I say something plainly, and it gets misunderstood anyway, and ...” He heard the pain there. Whoever it had been, he'd done a number on her.
“Parker too?” He found himself asking the question before he could censor himself. She nodded, lips still set in a terse line. “And he was military, or ex, and you trusted him. Let him in. Met him here at work?” He gestured toward the building they were parking at. This was his work, but she knew what he meant.
“Yeah. He was charming. Absolutely charming. And we dated for several months. I've always been a bit reticent by nature, Gibbs. You can understand that, I'm sure.” She twinkled at him, and he found himself snorting at her words. “But I let Johnny in. And we had a wonderful time. For about --” He saw her mentally counting something out. “Two months. Then, it was gone. It started with small mind games. That I could handle. I'd sharpen my claws and he'd growl at me, but he'd move on. I liked it at first, because it was like he was testing me, testing the waters to see what I was made of. I liked the intellectual exercise. Like we do. The give and take. Interplay. Banter.” She smiled at him, the small smile that warmed him, made him realize she was thinking about him. “Then, he started to do it to Parker, and started to get insulting to both of us. Then, more blatant. It wasn't long until he'd convinced Parker that if he chose to hit him, it was because Parker was a worthless little bastard who didn't deserve anything but pain. I knew better, of course, so he went for my weak spot: my son. I kicked him out – literally – and I haven't let anyone in again.” She fell silent, unbuckling her seatbelt and moving to open the door.
“Hey.” He stuck a hand on her arm. “You know about my girls.” She nodded. “Only person I let in was Shan.” He closed his eyes. “Kells didn't count, because she was born there. She was mine.” When he opened his eyes again, he saw her nod in agreement. She could understand that; it was the same with Parker. “Felt like I couldn't protect her because she didn't tell me a damn thing about the druggie. For a long time, I told myself if she woulda told me about what happened, I coulda protected them. I've learned differently, but first instinct is to make sure I know so I can do every damn thing I can to protect those I care about. S'why I pry into the kids' lives. I don't give a hot damn about Tony's bunnies or Tim's games. Whatever gets 'em through the night. But I find out about 'em, because both of 'em have led to problems for all of us.” He released her arm, cupping the hand behind her head. “Sammy, I wanna do this. I wanna see how things go. But I'm scared.” Her eyes widened and her breath caught. “I'm scared.”
“Me too, Jethro, me too.” They leaned in together, lips touching gently, just enough to reassure each of them of their feelings. “So, what do we do, then?”
“I don't know, Sammy. I don't know.”