Category: Angst, Episode Reaction, slight Tony/Kate implied
Spoilers: "Bete Noire"
Disclaimer: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No infringement is intended.
I've never had nightmares before. I've never been afraid of the dark or the monster underneath the bed. I've never been afraid of death, or illness, or pain. I've met those fears and faced them head-on.
Tony seemed shocked when I told him this. Well, I was just as shocked when I heard of Tony's fear of vampires--and Abby's fear of autopsies. I mean, where did that come from? She's a forensic scientist.
I shouldn't have laughed at Abby's phobia. Or Tony's. Now I know what it is to face fear and not be able to defeat it.
Why didn't I stab him? Why did I let him manhandle me like that? Besides the obvious, of course. I mean, I had already gotten Gerald shot once--what was once more?
God. The feeling of his hands on me... I don't think I'll ever forget that. I suppress a shudder.
Tony's voice startles me out of my reverie. "The way he escaped was always his backup plan; he just needed someone he could count on to shoot him in the chest and trigger the assault. Gibbs figures he was wearing a bulletproof vest all along."
Bile rises in my throat. I pick up my pencil and look at my paperwork. "He was. I felt it," I try to say offhandedly.
Tony looks at me incredulously. "You felt it?"
I nod curtly. Tony stands and walks toward me. "Well, how close did you get to feel it?" He sits on the corner of my desk. "Close enough to touch him," he answers his own question. "With your hands--or did you touch him with...?"
I can't take this line of questioning. Not now. Maybe not ever. "Close enough to stab him with a knife in my hand," I cut him off.
"And you didn't."
You think I didn't try, Tony? You think I wanted him to touch me that way, with his hands all over me? To feel his breath on my face, close enough to kiss me? To feel that gun in his hands, knowing that he could do anything to me, and I wouldn't be able to stop it? I swallow this back and reply, "No." I avert my gaze and scribble a few more lines of my report.
He considers this for a moment, then leans closer and asks gently, "Stockholm syndrome?"
This time, I say the first thing that comes to my mind. "You can't identify with your captor in an hour."
"Oh, I don't know," he says, giving me a significant look. "Maybe it's like fallin' in love. It can happen," he snaps his fingers, "like that."
He goes back to his own desk. He sits, and I can feel his eyes glued to my face.
I don't think I've ever had a more serious conversation with Tony. He's being so kind, so gentle. I don't want that right now. I can't handle it.
My mind flashes on the freezer. It was so damn cold in there. All I could think about was Ducky, and Gerald, and Gibbs risking his life to rescue us. I knew that he wouldn't wear anything to protect himself.
Ducky and I were sitting in the body cooler. That bastard had placed us far enough apart so that we couldn't share body heat. Our mouths had been taped shut, but I remember his eyes on me, trying to communicate his thoughts.
Later, when we were walking out of the autopsy room, I nearly broke down. I started shivering uncontrollably. I took a deep breath to calm myself down--and regretted it when my dry, cold lungs protested. Ducky looked at me with those calm, wise eyes, and said, "It wasn't your fault, Caitlin. You couldn't have done anything."
He didn't understand. None of them understand. That's exactly the problem. That's my own bête noire. That feeling of uselessness... of... of helplessness.
And now Tony's treating me with kid gloves. Damn it! Where's the Tony Dinozzo that makes me laugh; that banters with me? Where's the Tony that insults me and lets me insult him?
I don't want him to be all serious with me. That's not the Tony I know. And that look he gave me? Where in the world did that come from? Oh, please don't let it mean what I think it means. I don't think I could handle it at the moment.
Not to mention rule number twelve.
I look up at Tony. He's smiling supportively. Not the lady-killer grin that he usually wears, or the arrogant smirk he gets when he knows he's right. His lips are turned up just enough to soften the corners of his eyes.
I can't seem to summon a smile. Not even an unconvincing one. I look down at my report and continue writing.
"Kate. Are you sure you're all right?" Tony asks softly.
I don't look up. I can't look up. I can't let him look into my eyes. "I'll be fine, Tony."
"That's not the same as 'I'm fine,' is it?" he replies shrewdly.
"Drop it, Tony," I snap. He looks... hurt. Deeply hurt. "I'm sorry, Tony," I say, immediately contrite. "I... I just don't want to talk about it right now, okay?"
He pins me with an unflinching gaze. Finally, he nods. "Okay. If you ever want to talk..."
No, Tony. Not about this. Never about this. "Yeah."
Work, Kate. Throw yourself into your work, and forget the horrifying experience you've just gone through. Work, and forget about watching a friend getting shot because you mouthed off. Forget about nearly freezing in that cooler. Forget about his hands on you... touching... wandering...
Work. Don't sleep. I can't afford that.
Because now I know what nightmares are. And laughter is the furthest thing from my mind.