Gillian doesn't expect Gibbs to appear in her office, but she's more than happy to see him, and happier still when he pulls her up from her desk chair and into his arms, squeezes her so tight that for a moment she can't breathe, then strokes his hands up to her shoulders and holds her at arm's length, looking at her with something akin to delight.
"What?" she asks with a smile.
He grins back at her, even more goofy and happy than he's been over Kate, and bends down to drop a short, sweet kiss on her mouth. "Just wanted to say thanks."
She bites her lip. There's something about Jethro - not his looks, much as she appreciates them, but something about his character and his heart - that has a tendency to leave her feeling overwhelmed when he focuses his attention on her like this.
"I don't think I can take credit," she says, blushing.
"Certainly no more than anyone else. It takes two... or four, in our case."
He brushes her hair back from her face, then tenderly cups her cheek, his thumb sweeping lightly over her bottom lip. "Dunno if me an' Kate would even've got here without you, Gillian. Damn sure nothing else woulda come of it." He shakes his head, grins again, wry and amused. "'Course, could be argued you lumbered us with Lightman, who's a pain in the ass, but-" his grin widens "-kinda fond of the little shit I guess."
She giggles. "I think he's kind of fond of you, too."
He looks even more amused. He isn't stupid - he's been aware of Cal's crush for a while now - and they both know Cal moved past 'kind of fond' a long time ago. "Yeah. Guess he is." His smile turns tender. "Kinda fond of you as well."
Gillian fights the urge to look away. She's seen Jethro aim this expression at Kate sometimes, this intense warmth, like he's looking at his whole world in one person; she just never imagined she'd get any fraction of it directed at her. But his eyes are gentle and full as he looks at her, and it's both familiar and overwhelming.
Jethro, she realises, is all in, surprising as that is. He may have been taken aback at what happened, at his own responses, at his willingness to let her and Cal past his defences, but that hasn't stopped him from jumping in with both feet.
On impulse, she steps in close and wraps her arms around him as tight as she can manage, burying her face in his chest. He chuckles softly and returns the embrace. His hands are big and tender on her body, and he drops a kiss on her hair.
"Thank you," he murmurs again, his voice cracking slightly.
She nods against him. Her throat is tight and she has to swallow down the emotions threatening to overflow. She needs not to cry right now. He'd try to help, she knows, he'd hold her and comfort her, but it would detract from this moment, and she just can't. Any more than she can stick her hand down his pants and feel him up. This moment is about so much more than that, and she loves him, and-
The thought stops her in her tracks. She analyses it and finds it rings true, so true it's a little frightening. She does love him. She's not sure if she's in love with him, not yet, but she loves him, and she has for a while, and she's finally admitting it to herself. It's scary, but it's also a relief to let that feeling rush over her, to make no effort to temper it or push it down.
"Thank you," she says.
She feels him laugh. "If I don't gotta thank you, you sure as hell don't owe me any thanks, Gillian."
She tilts her head up at him. "Sure I do."
He blinks and looks away, almost shy, and now she laughs, soft and amused. She really loves him, and she's so lucky. She reaches up to touch his face and turn him back to her, then pulls him into another kiss. Kate's right; under all the layers of bastard, there's a very sweet man lurking in Jethro Gibbs, and Gillian loves him, and she thinks he might love her too.
~ fin ~