Author's Note: I know this is short and a long time in coming. I promise, I'm nearly done with the next chapter, and I hope to have it up before I leave tomorrow. Or definitely by the 9th of September. The summary for this chapter is basically the same as the last, if you've forgotten what happend. I confess, even I did, for a moment. Anyway, I hope this is at least acceptable.
Gibbs stepped into the elevator with a sigh. The bright lights hurt his eyes, but aside from that he was feeling marginally better or at least as well as could be expected. Once he had finished with his cross, he had taken a shower and grabbed a cup of coffee on his way back into the office. Not for the first time, he found himself thankful that his coffee shop was open 24 hours. The elevator dinged, letting Gibbs know he had reached his destination. As the doors opened, he closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and steeled himself for what was about to come.
As he walked into Ducky's autopsy lab, he frowned. Kate was thrashing in Tony's firm yet gentle grasp. Gibbs raised an eyebrow as Tony looked at him helplessly. Meanwhile, Kate was in hysterics, yelling something not quite intelligible.
"Tony, let Kate go, okay?"
With an incredulous stare, he let her go, and Kate turned to face him. "It's not her," she insisted.
"Honey, we've been through this already, Abby-"
"-Cannot be lying on that table!" she finished, angrily cutting Tony off.
Gibbs frowned, thinking that this was the last thing any of them needed, especially now. "Kate, please, don't do this, okay? Not right now."
Her face fell and she looked at him with all the hurt of a wounded puppy. "You won't even listen to me?" Her chin quivered slightly, and Gibbs could tell that this was no act, but that she really was on the verge of tears and doing her very best to hold them in.
"Alright Kate," he nodded resolutely. "Tell us why that can't be Abby." He spoke slowly, as though he was speaking the words without really wanting to.
She nodded slightly. "A month ago, Abby and I went out together, kind of like a girls' night out. It was really hot outside. She- I- We- We both drank a little more than we could handle." She stopped for a minute looking to the floor and regaining her composure. "Somehow, the next morning, we woke up in her living room with matching tattoos. They're horrible lime green smiley faces on our left ankle." As proof to her claim, Kate lifted up her pants and rolled down her knee highs to show them a bright green sphere.
Gibbs and Tony exchanged confused looks. "Um, Kate, darling baby girl, what's your point?" Tony asked hesitantly.
"Ugh, men." She rolled her eyes and mumbled something to herself. Looking at them and realizing they truly didn't get it, she sighed. "That Abby doesn't have a smiley tattoo."
"You're basing the idea of her being alive on a tattoo?" Tony raised his eyebrows, then remembered his role and walked over to her and hugged her tightly. "Look, honey, you don't know she doesn't have the tattoo. And even if she doesn't, what's to say that she didn't just get it removed or something like that?" He stroked her back soothingly, murmuring something in her ear.
"I'm not just making this up because I miss her!" Kate screamed. "I swear, the tattoo's not there," she told them, lowering her voice to a normal level. "And she did have it." She glared at Tony.
Tony opened his mouth to retort, but Gibbs cut him off. "Well, let's just have a look and see if there's a tattoo on her ankle, or a scar from having one removed. If there isn't one there…" Gibbs trailed off, wondering what they would do and if it would even mean anything. "Well, we'll figure it out in a minute."
They nodded, and Kate walked over to the autopsy table determinedly. As she reached for the sheet, Gibbs stopped her. "Kate, please, don't- Don't show her face." The pain was evident in his voice.
She looked at him and gave him a sympathetic half-smile. "I won't boss. I promise." She gently reached for the end where Abby's feet would be and lifted it to expose the floor length white dress. Then, almost reverently, she lifted the skirt.
As one, the entire room gasped.
There was no tattoo.