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Cold Hands, Warm Hearts

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Cold Hands, Warm Hearts


 

"Hey."

Gibbs' head whipped round. His face registered disbelief, surprise, then the corner of his mouth twitched up before a smile claimed his features.

"Hi, Katie."

He turned back to his coffee dealer for a moment, and then he was walking towards her with two cups, one held out towards her. Kate took it with a nod and a mumbled thanks, wrapping her chilly fingers around it and feeling about twelve. Gibbs' hand rested casually at the small of her back as he guided her away from the queue and towards a stone balustrade where he propped himself up and looked down at her, smiling again, studying her almost the same way she'd studied Abby and McGee and all the others back at the Navy Yard.

Coming out to find Gibbs had seemed like a good idea at the time. She'd wanted - needed - to see for herself, in the flesh, that they were all okay, that they were all recovering.

It had been easy enough to check up on the rest of the team, to find them, hug them, look in their eyes and see that no lasting damage had been done. She had felt better with each familiar face that had proven unscathed, had been so relieved that even Tony reenacting the 'comedic' moments from their last few cases had her openly laughing instead of rolling her eyes. A terrorist attack on HQ wasn't something they'd forget quickly, but it was reassuring to see them all bouncing back in their own particular and sometimes downright peculiar ways.

Gibbs being Gibbs, though, he had been out getting his caffeine fix, and she hadn't been willing to wait for him to return.

Now she'd found him, she was wishing she'd had more patience. It would have been easier to be Agent Todd and Agent Gibbs within those orange walls, surrounded by desks and agents. Out here she was uncomfortably aware that they were just Kate and Gibbs, no longer colleagues, but still... friends? Yes, friends. At least friends.

In Hawaii that had been unexpected but surprisingly comfortable. Here in DC it was disconcerting. Especially when Gibbs was just standing there, smiling at her in that unGibbslike manner between mouthfuls of his coffee.

She took a large gulp of her own, grateful for the warmth, and tried not to fidget under his gaze. They'd exchanged mail, talked on Skype, gotten somewhat used to keeping in touch, and she'd expected to react to their reunion like they were both adults, not like she was a teenaged girl with an unruly crush on her handsome teacher.

"So," she tried. "You're... all right."

He cocked his head to one side and raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, I'm all right." He seemed amused.

Kate was sure her cheeks were turning pink, but hopefully Gibbs would put that down to the icy wind. One of these days I'll get used to feeling as if he can read me like a book, she told herself.

The annoyingly honest voice in the back of her head laughed heartily and told her she wasn't kidding anybody. She told it forcefully to bug off.

"Good." She nodded firmly, as if she wasn't feeling decidedly confused, then lowered her eyes and raised her coffee. At least if she gave her mouth something else to do, she couldn't go from saying inane things to saying stupid or embarrassing things.

Gibbs shifted a couple of steps towards her, and she fought the twin temptations of leaning in for a hug or running away. "Are you okay, Katie?"

Kate bit her lip. "I'm fine." There was still something so intimate about the nickname. She liked it, and at the same time it made her nervous. She cursed her voice for shaking, partly from the chill in the air and partly from uncertainty. She downed the last of her coffee, willing it to both warm her up and give her back a degree of composure.

Gibbs frowned, setting his coffee down. He pressed his knuckles briefly against her wind burned cheek, then took the empty cup from her and chafed her hands between his. "You're cold."

He just had to get all sweet and concerned about her now, didn't he? "A bit. I guess I forgot how bitter it can get in DC. After the Serbian winters you'd think I'd be immune, but Hawaii and LA have turned me soft."

He moved towards her, unbuttoning his long winter coat. She was about to demur, say she wasn't that cold, that he didn't need to give it to her, when he wrapped his arms and the coat around her, covering them both and pushing her against his body.

She wanted to protest, but she was cold and he was warm and it was nice to be held. Nice to be held by Gibbs, supplied her internal narrator. She studiously ignored it.

Tentatively she unfolded her arms and reached around him under the coat. He was so solid, so reassuring to touch, and though moments before she'd been trying to convince herself she was just fighting off the chill and giving him a friendly hug, now she splayed out her hands to enjoy the feel of his strong back under her fingers.

"I was really worried about you," she confessed into his chest. "All of you, I mean." She hadn't meant it to come out like that. "Even Tony." It was easier, safer, to make a joke of it. "I wanted to come sooner."

"You had a job to do." She felt him shrug a shoulder. "That's how it goes."

She nodded. It was true of course, a conversation they'd had more than once already, and Gibbs of all people understood the situation, understood the nature of duty and sacrifice and service - but she still felt better for hearing him put it into words. She let herself lean in to him more closely, the thump of his heartbeat under her ear a reassuring rhythm. "I'm just glad you're okay."

He chuckled lightly. "Yeah, I'm fine. We're all fine." Kate couldn't help wondering if that qualification, that clarification, was for her benefit or for his. He wasn't exactly known for encouraging or willingly accepting concern for his well-being. Best not to question it or push it, she decided.

She was reluctantly steeling herself to let go and step back from the warm cocoon of his embrace when he sighed and gently rested his cheek against her head, tightening his hold on her. She swallowed hard. One of his arms was folded around her shoulders, the other firm around her waist (now that's a little bit possessive pointed out the voice in her head, gleefully), and Kate let her eyes drift closed. For all her doubts and fears, her persistent confusion where Gibbs was concerned, she couldn't deny he made her feel secure, protected, belov- no, cared for. She loved Hawaii, her team, her work, was beginning to feel at home there, but she would give anything for DC not to be so far away.

"How are you doing, Katie?"

His voice was soft but somehow she could hear that he wouldn't let her get away with brushing it off. She could feel his thumb lightly rubbing her shoulder, just the tiniest reassuring movement.

The question wasn't really a simple one to answer, and she chewed on her lip as she thought about it. She was still seeing her shrink, still had stuff she needed to deal with, still sometimes woke in a cold sweat from vague but threatening dreams... she still sometimes wondered if she would ever really get to grips with a normal life, with simply being herself. "I..." She paused, searching for the words to explain.

She almost expected him to draw back and use The Glare on her, but he waited, and the silence was friendly and patient. "I'm doing okay, better, I think. I- I'm talking about it more, and thinking about it less, I guess?"

"Mmhm." She felt him nod.

"I-"

Gibbs' pocket began to vibrate against her back, startling her, and then the ringtone set in. Gibbs harrumphed, reached around her to fish his cellphone out, his other arm still holding the coat closed about her. She could hear in his voice the switch back to work mode, and looking around it suddenly occurred to her what an odd picture they must make - her drowning in his coat and swallowed up by his arms and his tall frame, only her head really poking out, and Gibbs all businesslike, barking orders and chopped sentences into his cell while at the same time he was idly playing with a strand of her hair where it had tumbled across his hand.

Maybe it didn't matter so much after all. Maybe this something between them just... was... and she should enjoy it and stop trying to figure out exactly what it was.

She snorted. Yeah, I'll stop worrying, just like that. That's gonna happen. She could almost hear her sister's slightly exasperated tones berating her for overthinking things, as usual, and she knew the accusation would be spot on.

She shook her head with a little smile. Rachel was definitely one of the people she needed desperately to catch up with in DC, now she'd satisfied herself that Team Gibbs was okay, and she knew that as well as lots of sisterly love and girl talk and catching up, she could also expect to get the third degree about things here and back home on Oahu. Rachel had formed her own friendships and relationships with Kate's former colleagues, and Kate had no doubt that one way and another Rachel was aware of much more than she'd ever been directly told.

Having a slightly overprotective big sister who was also a canny psychologist was something she'd always considered both lucky and unlucky at the same time, but Kate knew that right now it was a blessing. Being analysed wasn't her idea of fun, but she needed and would be grateful for Rachel's input, in both roles.

Gibbs shut his phone off and slipped it back in his pocket. He sighed again and Kate looked up at him with a smile she hoped conveyed some of her gratitude. She made herself step backwards as he loosened his grasp, though his hand still rested on her shoulder. He was becoming her rock, her anchor, and though she wouldn't deny to herself that she needed that, relished it, she couldn't take him back to the islands with her. It wouldn't be fair on either of them for her to rely too heavily on him when she lived five time zones and more than four thousand miles away.

"Got a case," he said simply.

She nodded and grinned. "I figured."

He returned the grin. "Conversation's not over," he added, a note of warning in his voice, and she smiled a bit more. Having an overprotective Gibbs isn't so bad, either.

"Okay."

He ran his fingers oh so gently over her cheek, then tilted her chin up to look her full in the face. Kate blinked, looked down, looked sideways, then berated herself for behaving like a schoolgirl again and made herself meet his gaze. His smile widened a little and she couldn't quite decide whether he looked amused by her bashfulness or proud of her for getting past it.

"Look after yourself, Katie." He brushed his thumb softly across her bottom lip, then leaned down to drop a kiss on her cheek just as he had months ago as he left Pearl.

"You too, Gibbs."

"Count on it." His eyes crinkled up with another smile at her concern, and then his arms dropped to his sides, and Kate stepped back.

"Bye," she murmured reluctantly.

Gibbs winked. "I prefer doviđenja."

Kate couldn't help herself. "Do skorog viđenja."

She left him chuckling, and strode away, more confidently than she really felt. As she passed the coffee stand, she gave in to temptation and glanced back. She half expected him to already have gone, or to be engrossed in another phone call, but he was still standing where she'd left him, watching her. He raised a hand in farewell, and Kate nodded and smiled a goodbye, then turned and walked away once more.