|My Own Little Piece of You
Author: Oxymoronic Alliteration PM
A look into how Abby and Bert met and what their relationship represents. Written for the NFA Community "Bert the Hippo" Challenge.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Angst/Drama - Abby S. - Words: 3,284 - Reviews: 13 - Favs: 15 - Follows: 1 - Published: 07-28-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4429708
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: NCIS and all of its characters are the property of CBS.
The forensics lab was quiet, with neither the sound of a death metal band nor the caffeine-induced chattering of Abby piercing the silence. In fact, if one were to walk into the lab they would immediately notice that Abby wasn't her usual bouncy self, turning cartwheels about the lab, coddling her many machines, and guzzling Caf-Pows like they were about to be discontinued. Instead, the goth girl was huddled in the corner of her lab, sitting with her knees bent up to her chest, crying. It was a silent kind of crying, not the kind with huge sobs and a gasps for breath. Her body was unmoving as the tears slid down her cheeks, smearing her heavy eyeliner and leaving trails of black along her face.
When she finally forced herself to look up, rubbing the heel of her palm against her eyes, the first thing she spotted was Bert. The stuffed hippo was sitting on the table, looking down at her. Maybe it was because her vision was currently distorted by tears, but she was almost positive he looked sadder than he ever had before.
"I know," she sympathized as she gently plucked him from the table, pulling him against her chest. He, of course, didn't respond, except with a fart. Still, Abby buried her face into his back, not caring that her make-up would likely stain his fur. He needed her…she needed him.
"Abigail, I don't want you getting into any trouble," her mother signed as the young girl stood in front of Jefferson Parish Elementary, anxious for her first day of kindergarten to begin.
"Yes, momma," she replied, saying the words as she signed them, having heard (or rather seen) this warning many times before. It's not that she was a bad child; she just didn't always like to follow the rules, especially when she felt they were suffocating creative freedom (her own words). She was precocious and even at age five one could see she wasn't much like children her age. Her mother worried about it. Her father applauded it.
"She's going to be fine," her father signed to his fretting wife. "Let the girl go already."
Her mother relented. "We'll pick you up at 3:00pm." With a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek, her parents were off and Abigail half-ran and half-skipped into the building. She whizzed pass teachers, ignoring their scowls.
"What a baby," a voice nearby jeered. Quickly forgetting her promise to her mother, Abby halted and turned, ready and willing to defend herself against whomever she had to. But the voice, belonging to a sneering fourth grader, wasn't talking to her. The comment had been directed at a small, scared looking girl who had flattened herself against the wall. In her arms was a silly looking stuffed hippo which she clung to for dear life. "Only babies have stupid stuffed animals," the older girl said with a sneer. Her two friends nodded in agreement.
The younger girl looked down. She knew that if she tried to speak she would cry and she didn't want to give them the satisfaction of seeing her cry. Instead, she stood there silently, hoping they would simply go away and find another young student to tease.
"I think the baby's gonna cry," one of the older girls said.
Abby felt an anger rise inside. "She is not a baby," she snapped before she could stop herself. "Why don't you pick on someone your own age? Or are you too scared?"
All eyes, including those of the younger girl, were on Abby. "What the hell do you want, squirt?" asked one of the older girls. "We're not bugging you. Scram!"
"What the hell is up with her outfit?" snickered another girl. "Look at those stupid skull and crossbones hanging around her neck! Are you some voodoo witch?" The three older girls cackled.
With the three of them no longer watching her, the younger girl tried to slip past them into the safety of one of the classrooms. Unfortunately, as she tried to make her escape she squeezed slightly too hard on her hippo and he emitted a farting noise. With that the girls were back to her like vultures. "He farts!" the leader of the girls exclaimed, snatching him out of the young girl's arms. "I say we cut him open and see how he works!"
"No!" the girl cried, trying to grab him from the older girl. She jumped as the girl held him just out of her reach. "Please, give him back!"
"You bitch!" the Abby shouted, not caring that the last time she said that word she was whipped so hard she couldn't sit down for a day. Without thinking, she sprinted and dove at the girl, sending both of them sprawling across the floor.
"Ow! What are you doing!" she girl screeched, dropping the hippo and focusing her energy on removing the five-year-old from her torso. Abby, however, was not going to give up so easily. Her hand smacked across the girl's face harshly and she continued to throw wild punches until two sets of arms wrapped around her and pulled her off.
"What is going on here?" A very angry woman stood at the end of the hall, hands on her hips, her mouth twisted into a harsh frown. The older girl was still lying on the floor, trying to figure out what had just happened. Abby was still being held by the other fourth grade girls, though at the sight of the woman she had stopped kicking and screaming. The younger girl was standing completely still, having picked up the hippo where it was dropped, her eyes wide at the entire scene. "All of you to the principal's office," the woman ordered. "Now!"
Abby squirmed out of the girls' grasps and walked with the group, her head low as she remembered her promise to her mother. Beside her the younger girl was silently sucking her thumb, still holding tightly to the hippo. They caught each other's glances and shared a smile. "I like your hair ties," the young girl whispered to her. "The bats are really neat."
Abby smiled slightly thinking about that day. Her mother had been so embarrassed that her daughter had managed to get in trouble before her first day of school had even begun. Even Abby's explanation that she had been defending Ashley—that was the young girl's name, Ashley Whitmore—did nothing to soothe her mother's anger. Principal Newman let her go with a warning after Ashley explained how Abby had saved her and Bert—that was the hippo's name—but warned Abby that he would not tolerate anymore fighting.
Even though she wasn't allowed to watch TV for two weeks, Abby didn't regret her actions, especially after she and Ashley became best friends.
"I can't believe you still have Bert," Abby commented as she dropped her sleeping bag and overnight bag on the floor next to Ashley's bed. The two thirteen-year-old girls were having a sleepover to celebrate the end of the school year.
"I don't think I could ever get rid of him," Ashley said, picking up the stuffed animal. "We've been through too much."
Abby smiled softly, nodding in understanding. Bert had been given to her by her father when she was three. Five months later, when her father died in a car accident, Ashley holed herself up in her room for days, just holding Bert and crying. "He's like my own little piece of my daddy," Ashley had explained in first grade when Abby asked why she was so protective of Bert. To be honest, Abby quite liked the little fellow.
Still, the farting hippo stuck out like a sore thumb in Ashley's room. The walls were pink with a flowered border and a lace curtain hung on the window. The bed was made with pink and white linens and a ruffled comforter. Her white writing desk was tidy with the rose stationary stacked neatly in the top right corner and the pens sitting in a small vase in the top left corner. Even her other dolls and stuffed animals were more feminine than the flatulent hippo. One of these things was not like the others, and there was no doubt that Bert was it.
Kind of like me, Abby thought, hugging him in closer. In fact, that may have been why she liked Bert so much. With him around she hadn't felt so out of place in Ashley's life.
"I don't get how you two are friend," Geoffrey Reese confided to her over their snowballs. "She's all rainbows and unicorns, and you're all skulls and vampires."
Abby licked a trail of fruit juice that was trailing down her Styrofoam cup. Geoffrey was definitely her kind of guy. Not only did they share the same taste in music and similar interests, but he wasn't put off by her interest in science and her bubbly personality. Still, he could be really dense at times. "Haven't you ever heard the expression 'opposites attract'? Ashley and I balance each other out," she explained. She glanced over to the pick-up window where Ashley was standing with her date for the evening, Brian Hoberman, as the two waited for their snowballs. "She's structure and I'm chaos."
"What was she talking about before with her hippo?"
"Bert," Abby corrected. "She has to get Bert's approval on a guy before she dates him. It's not as weird as it sounds," she whispered when Geoffrey gave her a strange look. "It's just a cute little thing.
"So does the hippo—," he cut off when Abby shot him a look. "Sorry, Bert… does Bert talk to her or something?"
"Of course not. She just introduces the two of them and if the guy is put off by a stuffed farting hippo then she knows he isn't her kind of guy. I think it makes total sense."
"I suppose," he said, though Abby could tell he still wasn't completely sure that Ashley wasn't a few cards short of a full deck.
"You should just be glad that Bert approved of you," she teased. "I take his opinion very seriously."
Abby giggled in spite of herself. How many stupid guys had been turned away thanks to Bert? Quite a few, for her as well as for Ashley. Then again, Ashley didn't have much time for guys between her studies and her volunteer work at the nursing home.
"I can't believe you're going to St. Bernard," Abby mumbled and she and Ashley shared a hug. Ashley, now a registered nurse, had been given a position at St. Theresa Nursing Home in St. Bernard Parish. She had already found a small apartment and was in the process of moving her things down there.
Abby had hoped to help, but she had some moving to do herself. "At least I'm staying in the same state," Ashley teased. "You're the one going all the way up to D.C. Just promise me you won't forget about your Southern roots."
"As long as you promise not to become a Chalmatian," Abby said. "And promise that you'll come visit me sometime."
Ashley placed her hand over Bert who was situated in the passenger seat of her car. "I swear on Bert that I will not become a Chalmatian and that I will visit you every chance I get."
Abby still looked uncertain. "Pinky swear?"
Ashley hooked her pinky into Abby's. "Pinky swear."
Ashley had kept her promise, coming up to visit the previous April. The girls hadn't seen each other in almost two years, though they had kept in touch, writing to each other at least once a month. Abby happily put Ashley up at her place and the two spent the weekend visiting museums and monuments. It seemed to go by too quickly.
"Are you sure you don't want to stay up here," Abby pestered as Ashley packed her things the night before her flight home. "You can stay with me until you find a place and there are plenty of places for you to get work." She wrapped her arms around Ashley's shoulders in a tight hug. "Please," she begged.
Ashley smiled and disentangled herself from Abby's grasp. "Abby, you know I could never leave Louisiana. It's too much in my blood." She snapped the suitcase closed, setting it on the ground. "Besides, you'd get sick of me after a while."
Abby scowled slightly, though she knew her friend was right, at least about Louisiana being in her blood. She plopped down on the chair with a pout. "I guess having you here just made me a little homesick. I love everyone here, but there are some things that they just don't understand about me."
Ashley giggled. "Abby, I grew up with you and even I don't understand some things about you." She sat back on the couch, grabbing Bert and pulling him against her stomach. There was a small bout of silence, Abby still pouting and Ashley trying to figure out how to cheer up her best friend. She looked down at Bert, staring up at her with the open-mouthed grin he always had. And she smiled. "Abby, would you like to keep Bert for a while?"
Abby looked between her friend and the stuffed hippo. "Ashley, I couldn't take Bert away from you. You said he's like a little piece of your dad."
Ashley shrugged. "Maybe now he can be a little piece of me for you. You can keep him until you feel better." She held out Bert tentatively. "I think Bert likes D.C. and would love to see more of it."
Abby gently took the hippo from her grasp, pulling him into a hug. "Thank you," she said softly.
Abby looked down at Bert, again hugged against her chest. The tears she had been holding back began to flow once again when she caught sight of his open-mouthed grin. This time her cries were louder and harsher. Her body trembled as she sobbed, her coughs resonating through the lab. With every deep breath she took she hugged Bert tighter and he, in turn, farted. It would have been almost funny if it weren't all so sad.
Abby held the phone against her ear, her heart beating anxiously. Only two days prior Hurricane Katrina had rampaged through southern Louisiana and she had been going crazy making sure everyone was alright. Her parents had gone to Baton Rouge for the storm, staying with a cousin. They told her the house would probably have some water damage, but for the most part Jefferson hadn't been hit very hard. Most of her friends were further up north or had at least evacuated to a safe area and they had all been accounted for. Except for one.
"Mrs. Whitmore!" Abby exclaimed. "It's Abby Scuito, Ashley's old friend."
There was a pause. "Abby…yes, of course. I was just about to call you."
"I hope you guys didn't get too much damage from Katrina. My parents said Jefferson wasn't hit too hard so I'm sure your house is fine."
"Yes," Mrs. Whitmore said softly, "I think it is."
"I was calling because I couldn't get in touch with Ashley and I just wanted to make sure she was okay. I'm guessing she went with you?"
There was another pause, this one longer than the first. "No, dear, she didn't. She…well, the nursing home asked her to stay with the residents…"
Abby's stomach fell and her throat began to dry. "But…but they evacuated the residents…didn't they?"
"No, not St. Theresa's. The owners declined any help."
Abby slid down into a seat, willing herself not to cry. "But everyone is alright, aren't they?" she asked in a small voice.
On the other end she heard Mrs. Whitmore give a strangled cry. "We don't know yet, dear. They're having trouble getting in there." The woman sniffed and sobbed softly. "They're getting people out slowly, but they said there have been some deaths. It's too soon to know."
Abby's chin was trembling. "Is there anything I can do?"
Mrs. Whitmore let out a shaky breath, obviously trying not to cry. "Pray."
And so Abby had prayed. She had prayed when she woke up, she had prayed on her way to and from work, she had prayed as she worked, she had prayed during her meals, and she had prayed as she lay in bed trying to fall asleep.
But it wasn't enough.
Five days after their conversation Mrs. Whitmore called back and confirmed that Ashley's body had been found along with thirty-four others, most of them elderly patients who couldn't have left without assistance.
The levees had broken so quickly…the water had gushed in all at once…no one could have known just how disastrous it was going to be. At least, that's what people said. It didn't change the fact that all of those people had been left to die and it didn't soothe the anger Abby felt building up inside of her. It didn't stop the hot tears from falling. Most importantly, it didn't bring Ashley back.
In a spurt of rage Abby threw Bert across the lab, watching as he smacked against the wall and fell to the ground. He rolled over onto his side so that he was facing her. And she hated him. She hated looking at him suddenly because when she did he reminded her of Ashley.
When Ashley's mother had called with the news, Abby had mentioned Bert. "I know how much he meant to her. I thought she may want to be buried with him."
"I think Bert is going to need a good home," Mrs. Whitmore had told her. "Ashley gave him to you for a reason, Abby. I think she would want you to have him now."
Now Abby felt ashamed for taking her anger out on a poor, defenseless stuffed animal. Bert deserved better than that and she was sure that Ashley wouldn't be pleased to see him thrown against a wall. She pushed herself up and walked over to him. She picked him up carefully and looked down at his face.
"He's like my own little piece of my daddy."
Abby sniffled, rubbing her hand across her nose. She fell into a chair, settling Bert on her lap. She began gently petting him, her hand shaking slightly. And together, the two of them mourned their loss.
"Maybe now he can be a little piece of me for you…"
AN: Sorry if that was incredibly cheesy. I'm a bit green when it comes to the angsty side of fanfiction. Constructive criticism is always appreciated! Also, thank you to the reviewer who reminded me that Abby's parents were deaf (completely slipped my mind!)
In case anyone was confused, a Chalmatian is a somewhat derogatory term given to people who live in Chalmette, a city in St. Bernard Parish.