Bad Influences

by Juli

February 2005

“What’s a nice girl like you doin’ in a place like this?”

Kate Todd looked up sharply, relaxing when she saw the face of the man who’d just tried to use a cheesy line on her. “I think I like you better without a sense of humor, Gibbs.”

Gibbs grinned briefly before settling on the barstool next to her. “DiNozzo’s a bad influence.”

“I’ve been trying to tell you that since before I joined NCIS,” Kate said, sipping her wine spritzer. “But you never listen.”

Her boss shrugged. Oh, I listened,” he said easily, rocking his glass back and forth, causing the remnants of his beer to swirl and foam, “I just decided that I needed a bad influence.”

Kate’s eyes drifted to the dance floor. Paula Cassidy and Anthony DiNozzo made a striking couple. Not only were both special agents tall and lean, but they also danced with eye-catching grace. In fact, the other dancers had pulled away from them a little, clearing an area so they would have ample room to move. It, in effect, put the two in the spotlight; something that neither Tony nor Paula had ever shied away from.

A nudge to her arm brought Kate’s gaze away from her lover and her lover’s dance partner.

“So, why isn’t it you out there with Paula?” Gibbs asked.

It was a fair question. When the two couples had decided to double date, the whole reason they’d picked Cafferty’s in the first place was that it was known to cater to open-minded clientele. Not truly a gay establishment, it nonetheless was a safe environment for same-sex couples to relax and enjoy themselves. Even so, when Paula Cassidy had wanted to dance, it was Tony who’d accompanied her.

Kate turned back to Gibbs. “Have you ever been a bridesmaid?”

A smile tugged at Jethro’s mouth, but he simply answered, “No, can’t say that I have.”

She nodded. “The worst thing about being a bridesmaid isn’t that one of your best friends temporarily turns into a wedding Nazi, or that you have to attend far too many bridal showers, or even that you have to wear a dress picked out by someone else.” Kate’s narrowed as though she were lost in memory. “No, the worst thing is that you have to dance with the groomsmen and the other guests. The idea of dancing in public loses its appeal after you’ve been groped by a few Uncle Ira’s or had one too many pre-teen boys try and look down the front of your lovely puce-colored dress.”

“I suppose it would be unpleasant at that,” Gibbs admitted.

Kate sighed and shrugged, as if casting off unwanted recollections. “That explains me. How about you?”

“What about me?”

She nodded towards the dance floor with her chin. “Why aren’t out there with Tony, showing off your moves?”

Gibbs snorted. “My dance repertoire is limited and DiNozzo refuses to polka. Says it’s more of a contact sport than a dance. I can slow dance too, but that's for at home.”

“You like country music, don’t you?” Kate asked. “What about line dancing?”

Her companion looked at her as though she were crazy. “You been line dancing, Kate? It involves a whole room full of people, all doing the same moves at the same time.”

“So?” Kate asked, a confused expression on her face. “That’s kind of the point, isn’t it?”

“Think about it, Kate,” Gibbs said with strained patience. “When has DiNozzo *ever* done what everyone else does? I don’t think the man knows what ‘fall into line’ means.”

Kate thought about it a minute and chuckled. “Okay, I see what you mean.”

The two lapsed into a comfortable silence as they watched the dancers. Finally, Kate asked, “How do you do it?”

Gibbs tipped his glass back and gulped the last of his beer before asking, “Do what?”

“The two of you, you’re so different,” Kate said, struggling for words, “how do you make it work?”

Jethro settled more firmly on his stool as he thought about it. After several minutes, he finally had an answer ready. “The key is to let the differences work for you instead of against you.” He smiled ruefully. “Three bad marriages taught me that. I’ve been compared to being as tightly closed as a hermetically sealed jar. So, I let Tony pry the top off and found I enjoy it. I let him talk me into things I never thought I’d do and when I can’t join him, I indulge him. Like now.”

Gibbs looked briefly at the dancers and then turned to stare deep into Kate’s eyes. “But he comes home with me. Always.”

Kate blinked. “Gibbs, I think that’s the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard you say.”

“Hell, I’m not romantic,” Gibbs protested. “Everybody knows that.”

“I think Tony might disagree,” she said with a smile.

“Disagree with what?”

The two non-dancers turned around, surprised to find Paula and Tony standing right behind them. Both were panting lightly and Tony had a gleam in his eye that indicated that he knew that he was being talked about.

“That Gibbs isn’t romantic.” Kate supplied helpfully, dodging Gibbs’ foot as he tried to kick her on the shin.

Tony’s responding grin was so big, it took it a moment or two for it to spread fully across his face. “Romantic? Snookums here is *real* romantic.” He draped his arms loosely around Gibbs’ shoulders and leaned into the older man.

Jethro looked at him fondly. “You danced enough?”

“Oh, yeah,” Tony said, nuzzling into Jethro’s neck. “Want to go home and get sweaty.”

“You’re already sweaty,” Gibbs said, but was getting up even as he spoke.

“I’m talking about a different type of sweaty, Boss,” DiNozzo said, winking at Kate and Paula. “The kind of sweat that you work up in private.”

“And that’s our clue to go,” Gibbs said, nodding at the women. “Good night, ladies.”

Goodbyes were quickly made and the two men walked off, Tony frequently bumping his hip into Gibbs’ as they made their way through the bar. Kate rolled her eyes at his antics, but then stopped and looked at Paula closely. Swaying slightly to the music, the other woman was eyeing the dance floor as she assessed the remaining couples.

“Wanna dance?” Kate said, getting up from her stool to whisper into Paula’s ear.

Her lover turned around, an expression of pleased surprise on her face. “But I thought you didn’t like to dance in public?”

Kate took her hand and led her out on the floor. “Sometimes,” she said, “you just have to give in to a bad influence.”

“I don’t know what that means,” Paul said, pulling Kate into her arms as the next song started, “but I’m not going to argue with it.” The two women made a couple of twirls around the dance floor and she smiled widely in pleasure. “I think we need to double date with Jethro and Tony more often.”

Nodding happily, Kate could only agree.

~the end~


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