DISCLAIMER: NCIS and its characters are the property of CBS, no infringement intended.
SEQUEL/SERIES: Second in the "Corruption of Caitlin" series, following Jesus in a Pacer.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
A Little Lipstick
The sounds of the party upstairs wafted through the floor, reaching their ears like ghosts of woebegone days of reveling and happiness. Kate and Abby lay side-by-side on the floor, staring at the ceiling of the lab. Both had removed their shoes, their fancy clothes wrinkled by their positions. Abby was wearing a silk blouse with lace gloves, the fingers cut away to accommodate the rings on each finger of both hands.
Kate was more conservatively dressed, as usual. Her green-and-white sweater was about as wacky as she got on the holidays. Abby had been trying for fifteen minutes to get her to try a little experimental make-up and Kate was adamantly refusing. "It's just lipstick," Abby said, turning to look at Kate's profile beside her.
"It's a statement," Kate said. "It's saying that I'm... someone I'm not."
"Do you think I'm trying to be someone I'm not?"
"No," Kate said, looking at Abby now. "No, you... it fits."
Abby smiled. "It could fit you, too."
"No," Kate said again, looking at the ceiling. "No, it couldn't."
"Do your feet really hurt?" Abby asked. "Or were you just scared of being up at that party and making a fool of yourself?"
Kate licked her lips and didn't answer. Abby jumped up, using a hand to balance herself against the counter. "Whoa... okay, step up." She took Kate's hands and hefted the other woman to her feet. "You're going to go up there, you're going to mingle and you are going to get drunk. If you're not nursing a hangover tomorrow, you've failed."
Kate smiled. "Abby..."
"No! You asked me to help you loosen up. This is your first lesson."
Kate exhaled and looked at the door of the lab. "Okay. Fine. I just have to go up, mingle for a few minutes..."
"Fifteen?" Kate gasped. She rolled her eyes and nodded. "Okay, fine. For fifteen minutes and then come back down here? That's all?"
"No," Abby said. "To successfully complete step one, there's just one tiny adjustment I have to make..."
Tony weaved through the crowd, a cup of punch in each hand. "Hey, kids," he said, passing McGee and his date. "Only a few minutes until midnight! Let's keep it PG, all right?"
McGee tried to snag one of the cups, but DiNozzo twisted out of his reach. "Oh, probie, you have to try harder than that!" He laughed and continued through the maze of cubicles, spotting Gibbs across the room with the mysterious redhead that occasionally picked him up from crime scenes.
Christmas music blared from the speakers due to the lack of New Years' Eve songs. Currently, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra was rocking out to O Holy Night. Tony bopped his head along with the beat, looking for any familiar feminine figures. Abby and Kate were both AWOL and he thought he'd seen Copeland around...
He froze where he stood, immediately changing course to intercept the mop of blonde curls he'd spotted across the room. It couldn't be... She wasn't even in the country, was she? "Cassidy!" he called over the din.
Paula turned and smiled at him. "Special Agent DiNozzo."
"Punch?" he asked, offering one of the cups to her.
"How did you know I'd be here?" she asked, taking the cup with a suspicious tilt of her head.
"I have powers beyond those of mere mortal men. Like Steve Austin."
She arched an eyebrow. "The wrestler?"
Tony looked offended. "No. The Six-Million-Dollar Man."
"Ooh, Lee Majors," Paula said, taking a sip of her drink as she recalled the show.
Tony glanced at the clock and said, "You know, it is almost midnight on New Years Eve. And I would... hate to be one to step on tradition."
"Mm," Paula said, casually scanning the room.
"So, come on. What do you say? Need some lips to pair up with at midnight?"
Paula scoffed and said, "A guy like you is alone on New Years?"
Tony shrugged and hitched his pants up slightly. "Well, you know... I'd have to break a couple of hearts when I told them you would be taking the honors, but..."
"Everyone, this is it!" McGee called from the center of the squad room. The music was turned down and the crowd hushed.
"Ten! Nine! Eight!"
Tony glanced at Paula and quickly said, "All right, I don't have anyone to kiss..."
"Seven! Six! Five!"
"...I couldn't even get a date to this thing..."
"Four! Three! Two!"
"...so, please... help me out?"
She pulled him close and kissed him soundly. He kept his eyes open, surprised at her taking charge. Couples around the room parted, clapping and whooping as they celebrated the start of the new year. Tony smiled at Paula and said, "Well."
"It's just a tradition, DiNozzo," she assured him.
Tony spotted Kate coming through the crowd and waved her over. "Hey, Kate, you remember Paula Cassidy, right?"
"Yes," Kate said, extending a hand. "How are you?"
"Good!" Paula said. She frowned at Kate's lips and then said, "I'm sorry, I know I'm staring... it's just... When did you start wearing black lipstick?"
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