These Old Anchors

Disclaimer: Not mine.

Rating: R

Random: Gibbs/Abby in moments, spoilers for season three, and the ever-ubiquitous dash. Initial line is Bukowski.

Random II: This is for Steph, she gave me the who, and subsequently all this room to move.

Summary: An exact word for this cannot be imagined.


(We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities. We are eaten up by nothing.)


The doors slid open with a hiss and she didn't wait for a greeting before walking past him and into the lab (her lab, now). He got a whiff of gunpowder with an undercurrent of something he couldn't identify. It made him want to stand up straighter.

He followed her over to her desk. "Abigail Sciuto," he said, pronouncing her last name like a statement, an irrefutable fact.

She turned towards him while sliding off her coat. "Leroy Jethro Gibbs," she countered. He offered no reply and his face remained expressionless; she supposed it was his norm. "You're not the only one who does their homework. A woman likes to know what she's getting herself into." There was still no response from him. "Can I call you Gunny?" she asked with a smirk as she hung up her coat. "It's hot when a man knows how to handle small arms. I had a boyfriend once—"

"What's wrong with your name?" he interrupted.

She wrinkled her nose. "My name?" she asked.

"Your first name," he told her. "You made a face when I said it."

"Oh, that." She frowned slightly. "I like Abby, though I do have this nickname that's an anagram—"

"Abby," he interrupted again. She shot him a vaguely amused glance. "You've got five tattoos," he paused when she began to fidget under the weight of his eyes, "that I can see. Any particular reason?"

She shrugged. "Because my other tats are under my clothes," she replied and grinned until she dimpled.

He was slightly alarmed when he began to give her back her smile. "Abby—"

"Come on," she exclaimed. She threw her hands up and continued. "A lot of great stories are written on skin." She looked him up and down. "What about you? Any tats, Gunny?"

"Gibbs," he corrected. And it happened when he backed into her desk—he accidentally knocked her recently purchased Caf-Pow to the floor. He looked at the floor and then to her, raising his eyebrows, "It's Gibbs, and—"

"Gibbs!" she cried and gestured to the floor. He winced at her tone of voice, which was eerily close to what his ex-wife had sounded like right before she tried to scalp him with a golf club. "That's only like my favorite drink, ever. I just got here and it's my first day and I can't just leave whenever I want and I can't be responsible for what happens—"

"Abby," he said, trying to calm her down.

" … I get irritable, noticeably irritable Gibbs, and maybe that's fine with some people—"

She was in full-fledged rant mode. "Abby," he repeated as he took a step closer to her. "Abbs," he tried again and winced at the involuntary way in which he had just given her a nickname. Of course, she noticed and stopped talking immediately.

"You don't seem like the nickname type," she said and pursed her lips. "I like it." She grinned.

"Your drink," he stole a glance at the now empty cup on the floor, "the Caf-Pow, I'll buy you another one." What was he doing? He liked her. Traces of it were slipping out everywhere.

"Gibbs," she said quietly. His name sounded awkward as though its elocution had remained stuck in her throat. He began to speak but she shook her head. "Thanks."

He left to make reparations and she started speaking to herself regarding the insipidly decorated lab.


She found him holding a cup of coffee and staring out the window. It wasn't six yet and there wasn't anything for her to do in the lab. The last hour had been spent making a model of the Eiffel Tower out of paperclips and the hour before that she'd spent constructing a small clipper ship from Popsicle sticks. It was not seaworthy.

"Hey," he said, not surprised to see her at that hour.

She moved to stand next to him and was silent for a few minutes until she blurted out the first thought that popped into her head, per usual.

She motioned towards the sky outside the window and confessed, "It always make my head spin to look at things that far away."

He tilted his head and said, "You bored, Abby?"

She nodded. "You would not believe how bored I am. Okay, so maybe you would, but—and don't get me wrong, I'm glad I'm not examining a murder weapon right now—Gibbs, I am so very bored."

"No one forces you to come in at 0400." He took a sip of his coffee.

She couldn't wait any longer. "I know you and know that, I mean, you don't celebrate things," she was reconsidering her timing. A package held behind her back was the real reason she'd been looking for him and she thought it was finally the perfect time to hand it over. She took the box from behind her back and held it out to him. "Here."

He stared at it, definitely a gift, and was confused. "Why?"

She moved closer and lowered her voice. "Don't pretend you don't know." His eyes widened at her tone of voice. "Take it."

He wasn't budging. "It's a nice—"

"Gibbs," she hissed. "Today is your birthday and this," she shoved the box at him, "is yours. You can't barter with me over a birthday present." She straightened up and squared her shoulders. "Open it," she ordered, loving the fact that the boots she was wearing made her taller than him. "Now."

He moved closer to her. Very close. Closer than her breath. She wanted very much to kiss him, really kiss him, with lips and tongue and teeth until his moan forced its way down her spine.

"Please?" she added. He looked up at the crack in her voice, as if surprised. "Open it."

He handed her his coffee, she noticed it was cold, and took a pointed glance at the wrapping paper: black, with a black bow on top for good measure.

"Are you going to unwrap it with your brain?" she asked dryly. "We all know you're a hands on type of guy, so open it." She shifted from one foot to the other as he stared. "Open it open it open it—"

He held up a hand. "Fine. Promise me you'll stop repeating everything you say."

"You know I can't do that."

He unwrapped it and nearly gaped at her. It was all the impetus she needed.

"It's a plane, Gibbs. More precisely, a block plane, but you probably knew that. The blade is bedded at a lower angle than average," she said, demonstrating the degree of slant with her right hand, "as that particular plane is typically used for cleaning up components." She took a breath. "A boat is no good with bad joints. Your baby will sink like a stone."

He walked over to his desk get a better look at the plane. She followed and turned his lamp on for him before putting his coffee down on the desk.

"Do you like it?" she asked excitedly. "And don't tell me you don't because, well, it's rude, and it was very hard to find. Lucky for you I know a guy."

Gibbs smiled that smile where it's a real smile: broad, eye crinkles, and a flash of teeth, but there was an undercurrent to his expression. "First woman I ever loved gave me a plane like this," he said so quietly she was sure it was accidental.

Abby wasn't sure what to do. He hardly ever volunteered personal information and never in such a pensive tone. However, she wanted to ask him and there was no perfect time with him.

"Really," she said and crossed her arms. "So, what happened with her?"

The smile left his face and he lowered his eyes in an uncharacteristic moment of insecurity. "I asked her to be my wife, Abby," he said, his voice like dust.

It was then she decided to tell him what she knew because it was only them, none of his rules or her forensics, nothing they had ever hidden in or behind. She may be stepping up at the absolute wrong time, but was no good at keeping secrets and was very aware of the terror that occurred beneath unsaid words.

"I, um," she stuttered. "You realize what I can do what a computer, right?" She drew a deep breath. He stared at her hard and she had to lean a hip on the side of his desk, anything for her to stay upright. Gibbs knew the weight of a look better than anyone she had ever met. "I mean, you've seen what I can find out—"

He was getting frustrated. "Out with it, already."

"I know about your wife and daughter," she told him, sounding more apologetic than she would have liked.

His fingers drummed heartbeats on the surface of his desk as he stared off into space, somewhere far away from there. If his eyes were any indication, she thought, it was so far she couldn't even imagine the distance.

"I'm sorry, Gibbs." She wanted to be able to breathe. "Really sorry."

She remembers how she found out—accidentally through an initial computer search before she started working there. When she mentioned doing her homework she was being completely serious and had found a newspaper article from several years ago. It was rush hour as Gibbs, his wife, and daughter were passing through an intersection when their car was T-boned by a truck that had run a red light. She sees the conflict in him, the need to be strong and silent because years ago all he could do was hold his head high while three feet away paramedics tried to breathe life into his dead family.

"Not more than me." He cleared his throat and picked up his present. "Thanks," he said, meeting her eyes for a moment before he left the room.

She couldn't stand when he looked at her like that, as if he wanted more than he could bear. Tattooed on the inside of her left forearm is a benediction for the dead, and if her job has taught her anything, it's that in death life is the only thing left to define you.


He strolled into Autopsy looking for Ducky. Instead, he found Abby sitting on an examination table with her black tank top pulled up to expose her abdomen and her feet swinging back and forth. Ducky was standing behind her and staring with some interest at her back. He went over to the examination table.

Gibbs heaved a big sigh and felt the beginnings of a headache. "Abby?"

She didn't respond, only grinned at him as Ducky's hand slid onto her shoulder.

"Somebody want to tell me what's going on here?" he asked.

"Ah, Jethro," Ducky said as he walked around the examination table, "you really should see this. It's quite fascinating."

He was face to face with Abby's back before he knew it and had to admit, though he never would, that maybe Ducky was onto something. A sizable portion of her back was adorned with a tattoo of a cross, a rather new tattoo if the irritation surrounding certain parts was any indication.

She turned her head around to face the two men. "So, Gibbs, what do you think?"

He didn't answer, only stared at her tattoo convinced it was the eighth deadly sin. Not that he'd ever been a religious man, but—

"… the craftsmanship. Did you know," he nudged Gibbs with his shoulder, "that European sailors were known to tattoo the crucifixion onto their backs to prevent flogging as a punishment? You see, during that period in time it was illegal to deface an image of Christ."

"None of that explains what she's doing here, Duck," he said while his eyes refused to leave Abby's back.

She laughed. "Ducky was just checking up on my new tat, Gibbs. It's hard for me to reach and I wanted to make sure this sucker was free of infection." She turned to Ducky and said, "We done here? I've got tests running upstairs."

"Hmm," Ducky looked up at her, "oh, yes. No worries about your newly acquired artwork."

She pulled the hem of her shirt down and was about to hop off the table when Ducky stopped her.

"One more minute, dear." He pulled Gibbs to stand in front of her. "Have you ever taken a glance at her spider? The attention to detail is stunning," he pointed to the left side of her neck.

"I don't have time for this," he shook his head, intent on leaving.

"I know for a fact you aren't doing anything as of this moment," Ducky said to Gibbs' astonishment and Abby's amusement. "Take a minute to admire her arachnid," Ducky lowered his voice, "catch a thrill, man. Lord knows you could use one." He gave Gibbs a slight shove, which resulted in him standing about three inches from the edge of the table and between Abby's legs.

"You know," she said, "most guys I make buy me computer hardware before they get such a close look at this particular tat."

He was not surprised when Ducky left the room.

"I can't sit here all day, Gibbs." She tilted her head to the right so he could get a better look. "Come on."

He leaned closer, it was not because he was farsighted, and admitted to himself for the second time in ten minutes that Ducky was right. It was very well done. He could even see small hairs on the spider's legs and the web looked natural wrapped around the side of her neck.

Abby shifted. "You fall asleep?"

"Nope." He refused to dwell on what her closed eyes implied. "It's nice," he said, his face nearly brushing against the edge of her collarbone. Her skin remembered and stored it away for later. "It suits you."

"There are some tribal cultures in which a tattoo is created by placing small cuts into the skin and then rubbing ink into the resulting wound!"

He hadn't heard Ducky come back into the room and started to move away from Abby, but she'd somehow gotten a tight grip on his jacket's lapels—he wasn't going anywhere and she grinned because she knew it.

"You shouldn't," she wrinkled her nose. "Be in a hurry all the time, I mean." She gave his lapels a final tug before letting go.

He offered her a hand down from the table and followed her back to the lab. He felt like he was in a car with her, the clock in the dash set to a neon green too late, and she was always giving it just enough gas to burn them both alive.


"What do you have for me, Abbs?" asked Gibbs as he walked into the room followed by Tony and Kate.

Abby bounced over to her computer. "Let me tell you, and it's hot Gibbs, very hot." She pointed to an image up on the screen. "See? Very hot."

Gibbs just squinted while behind him Tony and Kate shared a smirk.

"You going to tell me what I'm looking at?"

"Boss, it's the bullet from our dead commander."

Gibbs turned around and glared Tony into submission. "Yeah, I got that, DiNozzo."

Kate chuckled. It didn't go unnoticed by Gibbs.

"On the left is the bullet removed from our dead commander and on the right is one test fired from the wife's Smith & Wesson," she said, gesturing to the screen, "which is odd, I mean, most women wouldn't buy a gun this size, it's huge and—"

"Abby," Gibbs warned.

"Okay," she said and glanced at Tony. "Now what we have here is … a bullet."

"Some men you just can't reach," Tony interrupted. "Cool Hand Luke! I love that movie. Paul Newman, George Kennedy, Dennis—ouch."

Gibbs predictably smacked Tony.

"Thank you, Boss," he smiled apologetically.

Gibbs sighed. "Abby, stop encouraging Tony and tell me what you've got."

"A bullet. Eight lands and grooves with a left-hand twist." She laughed and took a counterclockwise spin in her chair. "Bottom line: a perfect match to the test fired round."

Gibbs turned to Tony. "I want his wife here now," he said. "And take Kate with you."

"On it," Tony said and turned with a huge grin to Kate, "You want to guess who's not driving?" She elbowed him in the chest. "Right," he gasped. "Me."

Abby smiled as they both left the room and turned to Gibbs. "So." He stared at her questioningly. "We're playing poker tonight."

Gibbs shrugged. "Who?"

"Me, Tony, Kate, McGee, if it's at all possible for him to relinquish his role as Elf Lord for a night," she hesitated, "and you."

He almost spit out his coffee. "I never said anything—"

She stood up from her chair and grabbed her Caf-Pow. "Yeah, you did. Two weeks ago, I said we should play poker sometime, and you agreed with a terse 'Yeah, we should.' I've decided sometime is tonight."

He smiled nervously. "I was just—"

"I know you didn't say that just to placate me, did you?" she asked and took a sip of her Caf-Pow. He swore she batted her eyelashes. "My place—2100 hours."

"No," he shook his head. "I'm working on my boat."

"You and your boat need some time apart," she told him matter-of-factly, "it's not healthy."

"Abby," he tried a second time, "it's just weird."

"You know what's really weird? Waking up one morning after having a really bad dream to find out you've been transformed into this huge bug," she said excitedly. "And then having your father throw apples at you."

"Not coming, Abbs," he said with a tone that brokered no argument.

He raised his hand to knock and thought for the millionth time that he'd never agreed to this at all. It was ridiculous and if anyone were to ask him about it, he'd tell him or her that his mind was on his boat the entire time. The door swung open and Abby stood in the doorway. She offered him a throaty chuckle and he tore like a stitch.

"First things first," she said and blocked his entrance. "No wild cards."


"It's five card stud, Gibbs." She put her hand on the doorframe. "The mere presence of a wild card changes the hand frequencies—an increased chance of stronger hands while the weaker hands slide basically into nonexistence."

"Uh huh."

"It's unfair," she said simply and moved aside to let him walk past.

"Can't have that."

He walked inside and hid a smile from the room.


He was a step away from his desk when suddenly he felt something wrap around his calf.

"One more move," came a very familiar voice from behind his desk, "and your balls go splat."

He winced at the mental image. "Abby?"

She slowly slid into view on the floor in front of him. "Gibbs?" she asked and let go of his leg. "What are you doing here?"

"It's my desk," he said.

She didn't make a move to get up from the floor.

"You going to tell me why you're down there?"

"No," she told him.

"Okay," he accepted.

He maneuvered around her and sat down at his desk as if she weren't there. He became occupied with paperwork and had actually forgotten she was there until Kate approached his desk.

"Where's Abby?"

"Here I am," she replied as her head emerged from behind Gibbs' desk.

Kate pointed. "Okay, so," she put a hand on her hip. "What's Abby doing down there?"

"Don't know," he replied. His eyes never left the paper in front of him—until Abby slid a hand onto his thigh, which was thankfully still under his desk. He looked down at her but she purposely avoided his eyes.

"The floor in the lab is freezing," she told Kate as if that explained everything.

"What does the floor have to do with anything?"

"I lay on the floor when my back is stiff." She dug her fingers into the lean muscle of Gibbs' thigh, shrugged and said, "It feels great. You should try it." She smiled.

Kate didn't understand at all, but smiled back. "We still on?"

"Are you kidding?" asked Abby incredulously. "You're going to love this place."

"We should get going then," Kate told her. "I need to change."

"I'll meet you at your car," she said. Gibbs wrapped his hand around Abby's wrist and she added, "Give me a few minutes."

"Okay." Kate grabbed her things and walked to the elevator.

As soon as Kate got onto the elevator Gibbs let go of Abby's wrist.

"Move your hand, Abby."

She let go of his leg and got up off the floor.

"Next thing I want you to do is tell me what's going on," he said flatly.

She started tapping her foot. "What do you mean?"

"First, a family of morticians tries to kill Ducky, DiNozzo is out with the plague," he raises his voice, "and now I have to worry about your wandering hands."

She took a seat in his chair. "Geez, it's not like I was under there—"

"Please," he asked, "don't finish that sentence."

"I'm not a kid, Gibbs." She absentmindedly tugged at her collar. "You forget that sometimes. Don't treat me like one."

He glared at her. It had no effect.

"I wasn't doing anything lewd. I'm playful, you know, I'm—"

"Abby," he said. "You're Abby."


"And McGee?" He wanted to tell her he could close his eyes and map her veins. "Doesn't seem like the playful type, Abbs."

"Hmm." She was very curious about what he had just said and her mind found it hard to keep up with his reasoning. Maybe she never really understood him at all. "McGee and I were better when work was involved."


"I'm hyper, outgoing, I hardly sleep at all," she said exasperatedly. "I mean, you've already said it, I'm Abby. I have to keep moving, Gibbs. This job is a rush, all right, but—"

"McGee isn't," he finished. "I wasn't saying—"


"It's," he had his rules and wasn't going to start apologizing now. "Nothing. It's nothing."

She wanted to force the sympathy in his words out of the room; it didn't belong anywhere near either of them. He wasn't overly empathetic and she hated that he decided to start with her.

"Come on," he said as he looked down at her. "I'll walk you to Kate."

Gibbs tugged her to her feet and they left NCIS in silence.


He should be used to this and be content with the fact that he can simply look her in the face and not want her to turn away. It's been years since she's started working there, and it's not as though he doesn't respect her as a scientist or as a woman but he takes the elevator down to her lab because she's "got something for him" and her findings are accompanied by morbid puns or smiles that start in her eyes and end in her hands. There's no doubt in his mind they're going to catch this guy because of her, but that doesn't mean he paid any less attention to her wardrobe.

( - all those dark colors and fishnets and tattoos peeking out from under layered sheer tops and and and – )

He hands her a Caf-Pow and the tips of his fingers brush across something inviting, definitely hers, and his hand stops, clenches, and then hesitates a moment before swinging back down to his side as he follows her to one of several computer monitors. He notices (she's wearing a pleated skirt that shows just enough skin to convince him that she thought of him long before he thought of her) those precise instants in which her existence makes him completely male. He wants to dig his fingers into the backs of her knees as he forces them apart and makes room for himself in between.

He's had those thoughts before and about other women, although not so intense, and there is something in him that she senses. He has no clue what, but it's there and she picks up, picks up, consistently picks up on it to the point where his own dead weight has him pinned to the spot as he'll suddenly realize he is captured, intrigued by the contradictions she possessed.


First Kate, now this, and she'll never forget the exact moment she realized Gibbs was no superhero. She fell in love with him a little bit right then, suddenly forced to acknowledge his faults, but a few minutes earlier she'd also acknowledged Tony's ass, and even bad ideas seem good when they're brand new. When Gibbs pulled a piece of glass out of her hair, it was all she could do not to cry. He was hunched down next to her and speaking to Tony, though afterwards she only recalled the sound of her own breathing. Tony crept from the room with his gun drawn and there was no way in hell Abby was going to crawl around her lab on account of Ari.

"I will get you bulletproof glass," he said.

She could smell the rain on him and wished it could wash her away.

"There's no such thing, Gibbs."

"Okay. Bullet resistant glass."

"Ari didn't shoot at you and hit Kate by mistake, did he?" Gibbs' hand on her shoulder, she added, "He's after me now."

"I was walking by that window when he fired."

"You're just saying that to make me feel safe," she accused.

There is one certainty that he's seen in Kate's corpse, Tony accented with ultraviolet lights, and now with Abby, the lone thing of which he's sure: no one will ever be safe around him.

"I'll keep you safe, Abby. I promise."

He wrapped an arm around her and tried to reassure her otherwise. One of his hands gripped her knee and the other was curled in her lap. The damp air between them shrunk until he was so close she felt his chest expand against the right side of her body. Though his face was pale and aged in the dark lab, it was honest like never before when she hastily peeled off her gloves to trace its familiarity with her fingers. She started at his brow and then moved to his cheek, his throat, his neck, and came to rest at the corner of his mouth. The pads of her fingers were warm against the edge of his lips while he shut his eyes and hoped he'd never wake up.

He finds her sitting on the small set of stairs that lead up to the front door of his house, her black dress is in a puddle on the step behind her calves, her cheek pressed against the railing. Her hair is loose and as he gets out of his car, he notices she's barefoot and her shoes are on the step next to her. He started to walk over to her but paused mid-step because his gut was telling him absolutely nothing. He stood two feet away from her and watched. She didn't speak or even look at him, but slowly moved her shoes, offering him a place to sit.

Long after the sun goes down, Abby whispered in the dark, "Tell me it's going to be okay."

He briefly considered the dead. That months, years later, he'll always remember where the bodies rested, when the fires burned, or how his gun had suddenly felt very heavy, and that its weight made him nauseous.

There's no answer to give, but her voice is hoarse and her eyes are red, and Gibbs just knew, so he said, "Come here," and Abby moved across the step they shared and buried her face in the crook of his shoulder, inhaling deeply in his arms.

He does not take her to his bed and make her scream every vulgar thing she's held inside since the funeral. She does not confess she's falling head over heels for him at the speed of light. It wasn't what they did. She thought his service weapon was sexy (I cannot possibly make that promise, Gibbs. Stainless steel slide, twelve round magazine, aluminum alloy frame—how could I not want to touch it? Oooh, is that an enhanced foresight? Let me hold it once and feel the weight of it?), he knew things about her (there is something about Abby that makes men want to rise and she hides nothing if you know where to look), and they flirt throughout murder investigations. He doesn't know what they are so he allowed her face to bleed into his memory and she never mentioned he lived with ghosts.

She had so much to tell him, but couldn't bring herself to speak. He didn't ask, didn't know how. Hours passed and they shared nothing but silence. She sat in the corner of Gibbs' basement and cried while he worked on his boat. Sometimes she hardly made a sound and it was easy for him to forget she was there. At other times, her sobs were loud and painful, hitting him like lightning as they forced him open and demanded a place. He knew then that she was thinking of the moment when she heard of Kate's death or how when she closed her eyes she could still find the alarm.

She spent that night curled up in his bed while he sat in his basement with a half empty bottle and a half finished boat as he replayed Kate's death (overandoverandoverand–). He finally made it upstairs as dawn broke and told Kate, "I'm sorry I couldn't save you," as his head thumped down on the floor in front of his sofa.

The next morning she found Gibbs asleep on the floor in his living room. She stood motionless above the sleeping man and inwardly traced the curves of his shoulders and arms, down to his hands that even in sleep were curled into fists. Taking a deep breath, she knelt down beside him and thought of the night before when he'd been like some sort of invisible comfort. Nothing had changed, but he'd grown into her at some point, and she had found it difficult to stop looking at him. Well, she thought, their truth had to break eventually.


"I'm great at my job and I like it." She took of her coat and tossed it on his sofa. "I love my job, Gibbs. But I can't do it, not like this."

He rubbed a hand over his tired eyes. "Abby—"

"We have an awesome amount of bad luck. Do you know how many specific events had to occur in order for Tony and Ziva to get stuck in that shipping container?"

It could've been the late hour, but he found it hard to keep up with her, convinced he was too slow for living like this.

"Or Kate? We're talking millions of variables: the weather, traffic, and even timing. Timing is everything, Gibbs, and if just one thing had changed—one difference, no matter how small—it'd have been someone else."

He crossed his arms and watched her as she paced in front of him. She wasn't prone to random bouts of apprehension; there was usually a trigger. Most of the time, it was a dream. The one she had about Tony turned out to be prophetic and there was no way he'd disregard anything she had to say, regardless of his feelings on the subject.

"What happened?" he asked.

She had stopped pacing, stopped talking, stopped everything and uttered a clipped and graveled, "Fuck."

He didn't respond, not even to her curses, and resisted the urge to get and up do something. This woman was detached and angry; this wasn't Abby, not ever. He'd been in similar situations with a few other women, and more often than not, they ended with him burning a sailboat. It's worse than anything he could ever imagine, his inability to reach out.

"Sit," he told her.

Abby sighed and dropped herself down next to him on the sofa, "I found this," she pauses to hand him a sketchbook, "in my desk. I didn't know it was there." She takes out her pigtails and runs a hand through her hair.

He doesn't look at her or at the sketchbook. She moved closer to him. He always let her. It was so much easier when he let her.

"I'm forgetting her," Abby said, her face pressed against the warm fabric of his t-shirt.

He said nothing, just opened the sketchbook and started flipping through the pages. Most of the drawings were incomplete.

They reached the last one and Abby said, "I miss you, Kate," when each sketch disappeared one after another as the book was flipped closed.

As he put the pad down on his coffee table, he heard her stifle a sob and wondered what he could say that wouldn't hurt. There was enough pain there.

"Hey." He wrapped his hand around her forearm. "It gets easier."

She disagreed. "I can't do this every night and come to work the next day." Her voice became louder. "I'm literally a wreck, Gibbs, and I just … I don't know."

Abby without an answer? He needed coffee. He turned towards her. She always smelled like something tangible that left him restless.

He wrapped an arm around her. "Nothing we break down from leaves us broken in the morning," he told her, brushing his tired hand through ink-black hair. "Learned that in the Corps."

"Too bad you didn't learn how to give each other haircuts." She laughed and leaned into his hand. "I didn't know where else to go," she said, "I'm sorry."

"Never apologize," he said. "It's a sign of weakness."

"Not so sure—"

"We are not cowards," he told her with his fingers firm on her scalp.

"I am sorry," she insisted. "Let's face it, you don't exactly have a welcome sign out front—"

"Well, yeah, not at 0300 hours, Abbs." She smiled. "Speak up, okay?"

She then hugged him so tightly he thought she'd snap a rib. As she let him slip, her expression shifted slightly.

He frowned. "What?"

"Why are you being so nice?"


The inside of the elevator is nothing but bright lights and reflective surfaces, which makes it near impossible to hide anything from anyone. Gibbs turned to Abby intent on a terse 'goodnight' until he got a glimpse the specific expanse of reddened skin with a dusting of freckles occurring at the edges of her tank top. Sunburn. His brain makes the connections before he does: her skin is sensitive to sunlight, prone to freckling, and she has green eyes. Oh. Oh. Sierra—Hotel—India—Tango.

He stared straight ahead at the elevator doors. "What came before the black?"

She slowly turned to look at him. "What?" she asked, and thoughtlessly tugged at one of her pigtails.

He gestured towards the dark locks and said, "You weren't born with black hair, Abby."

She didn't answer. He was watching her intently and she'd never wanted to move so badly in her life. When she opened her mouth to speak the elevator doors slid open and a woman entered. She smiled tentatively at them both and came to stand in front of Gibbs as the doors closed.

Abby quietly cleared her throat to get his attention. As soon as she felt his eyes on her, she took her index finger, pointed it at her lips, and then moved it downward.

"You're a redhead," he signed in return. There was a rhythm to his signing, unlike hers, which tended to be jerky at times. She supposed he wouldn't be building a boat in his basement if he didn't have confident hands.

"Was a redhead," she responded firmly, though was unsure why she wanted the tense to matter to him or why it did to her. "Actually, it was more of an auburn—"

The doors slid open a second time and the strange women left as wordlessly as she had entered.

"Is, are, was?" He shook his head to hide a smile and stuck out his hand to prevent the doors from sliding shut. "It's semantics, Abbs."

She put on her hard hat with a grin and punched him on the cuff of his arm. "It's nothing that matters, Gibbs. Don't let it bring you down," she said as she walked out of the elevator.

He waited a moment before following her.


She felt it very strongly on the drive home, the lilt of this, and when he suddenly pounded in her ears it occurred to her that people lived on futures and it's as if they hadn't budged from the beginning, that she had blindfolded herself.

She turned her car around and went to see a boat about a man.

Twelve minutes later, she had him pinned against the skeleton of his own boat as she tried to catch her breath. She chewed her bottom lip, sure that everyone knew, that everyone could see except him. All Gibbs knew when he saw Abby bounding down his basement steps was that he must kiss her.


So he did. They kissed like they expected to change something. His tongue traced her lips and she tasted like sugar and when her eyes closed his stayed open. Her timid touches and his muffled gasp—they kissed as if something was slipping away and it had to be forced back into place. They pulled apart and he stared at the ceiling like it was on fire.

"Gibbs," she said.

He didn't move. Sawdust tickled her nose when she inhaled the scent of him she'd never know how to miss.

"Gibbs," she gripped the collar of his shirt in her fists and made him look at her.

He blinked. "Doesn't this seem the least bit—"

"Hinky?" she supplied. He nodded. "Very much so," she pressed her hand against his side and spread out her fingers until she felt him shiver. "Cool, huh?

And still he doesn't know what they are, how to take his place in this, etc., etc.—

(His gut was telling him: everything falls apart sooner or later. Even you. And even her.)

He ignored it.