Category: Drama, Romance, JAG/NCIS Crossover
Spoilers: Through "One Shot, One Kill" (NCIS), "Crash" (JAG)
Disclaimer: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No infringement is intended.
Author's Note: Will someone tell them to stop bickering and get into the bedroom already?!
Chapter 13: The Dinner
Kate gave the apartment one final once-over. Everything was in its place. The candles were lit, and the table set. The roast was in the oven; the vegetables were almost finished, and the potatoes were mashed. The living room, though cluttered (as usual), was more organized than it had been for months.
Kate resisted the urge to pace. She puttered around in the kitchen and waited impatiently for the buzzer to ring. Finally, it did, and she pressed the button to let AJ into the building.
A knock sounded. Kate straightened her blouse and slacks and opened the door. She smiled at AJ. "Hi. Come on in," she said warmly.
"Good evening, Kate." He leaned down and kissed her lightly. "I brought some wine. If that's okay?"
His nervousness was endearing to Kate. "Of course." She took the bottle and disappeared into the kitchen. "Have a seat. Dinner will be done in a few minutes," she called. She poured two glasses of wine and carried them into the living room. She handed one to AJ, and took a sip of hers. He had good taste.
AJ stood in front of her bookshelf. He reached up and ran a finger down the spine of one book. Kate recognized it as her leather-bound edition of Shakespeare's sonnets. Her father had brought it back from one of his business trips. AJ's face was one of regret. He blinked and moved on.
He examined the pictures on the wall. He stopped in front of a sketch of a girl in front of a mirror. On one side, a child in pigtails stood, wearing a t-shirt and dirty overalls and holding a baseball glove. On the other, a young woman was reflected, dressed in a graduation gown and mortarboard. She held a diploma in one hand. It was one of Kate's particular favorites.
"This is nice. Who did this?" AJ asked.
"I did." The timer went off in the kitchen. Kate smiled and stood.
AJ followed her into the kitchen. "You never told me you were an artist."
"You never asked." She slipped on a pair of oven mitts and pulled the roast out of the oven.
"Kate..." AJ said in exasperation.
"What?" Kate replied innocently. She laughed at the expression on AJ's face. "Drawing was really one of the only pastimes that I enjoyed that my mother approved of. Why don't you carve the roast?" She switched off the burners on the broccoli and carried the pot over to the sink to drain. "She wanted me to quit the basketball team and focus on my drawing; I said I could do both. Finally, Dad put his foot down and said I could stay on the team." Kate smiled with the memory.
"He sounds like a good man." AJ placed slices of meat on a plate.
"He is. I don't know what I would do without my dad. I mean, I love my mother and all, but..." Kate shrugged, not sure how to phrase her thoughts. Her dad was the sun and the moon to her.
"I understand. Can we eat now?"
Kate laughed. "Men! Yes, we can eat now." She led the way into the dining room. She set the broccoli on the table and turned around to get their glasses. She came back in to find AJ serving both of them. He paused to hold Kate's chair for her.
"What a gentleman," Kate grinned. AJ smiled back. "So what's your family like?" she asked as AJ sat.
He thought for a bit. "We're not as close as we used to be. My sister, Adele, lives in Virginia, but we rarely see each other. My dad died about ten years ago. My mom still lives in Texas with my brother. He's the only one of us kids to provide her with grandbabies she sees more than once every couple of years. Mom's never let me or Adele live that down." He paused to eat. Kate was fascinated--AJ had never spoken much about his family. "My daughter, Francesca, divides her time between Milan and New York. She's a fashion editor for some big magazine--I don't remember the name of it."
Kate nodded. "It must have been difficult, not seeing her when she was growing up."
"You have no idea." AJ sighed. "What about you? I know you have a sister in Miami, and at least one cousin, but do you have any other family?"
"Mostly on the West Coast. That's why we moved out there--to be with them. My dad had a brother and two sisters, and Mother had three older brothers. I have a bevy of cousins--it would take a chart to list them all. I also have a younger brother--Jeff. He's Dad's heir apparent at the company. Dad was disappointed when both Lisa and I decided not to join them."
"What kind of company does your father run?" AJ asked.
"Advertising; mostly magazines, occasionally television. I wish Jeff luck--I've never really been interested in that sort of thing. I prefer interrogation to power games." She paused. "Though when you think about it, they're not much different in the end."
AJ smiled. "You're right."
They continued chatting over dinner. Kate was relieved that their fight hadn't hurt their relationship much. There was a mutual wariness that faded as the evening went on.
After clearing the table, they retired to the living room. Kate turned on the stereo. Strains of light jazz filled the apartment. She sat on the couch beside AJ. She rested elbow on the back of the couch and propped her head on her hand. She took a breath. "AJ, I'm going to ask you a personal question. You don't have to answer it if you don't want to, but I just need to ask."
AJ was suddenly tense. "Go ahead."
"Who burned you so badly that you're afraid to trust another woman?"
He smiled bitterly. "How much time do you have?"