AN Sorry for the delay but this has been a really difficult chapter to write, keeping them in character and getting across what I wanted. I am not sure it is right but it is the best I can do!

Chapter 9

Gibbs and Abby sat side by side in the skeleton of his boat, a bottle of Jack just behind them, two empty glasses next to the bottle.

They had sat in silence for awhile now, each comfortable with the other and the silence, each knowing that eventually they would talk. Gibbs turned to stare at Abby, his blue eyes intense. He had three ex-wives, and had had countless relationships but Abby was the first woman he had been with that had been able to deal with his need for solitude and silence. Yes she had ignored him by coming here tonight, but he was glad she had. He had thought he needed to do this alone but he now realised that he needed to deal with this for himself, but not necessary alone. It was easier to think about Kelly with Abby sitting next to him, silent but there.

"I have a Caf Pow moustache growing?" Abby asked with a side look at him and a grin.

"Nope" Gibbs replied with a small smile, "but I better check" he said raising his hand and running his thumb along her top lip, his hand slipping to cup her chin as his mouth met hers. The kiss they shared was tender and gentle, his mouth brushing over hers, tasting and savouring it. He pulled away with a half smile.

"Nope no moustache" he said with a flick of his finger along her lip.

"Sweet" Abby said with a returning smile, "I was getting really worried there the way you was staring at me" she watched him carefully, knowing that he needed to do this in his own time, his own way. That was one of the things she understood most about Gibbs…you did things on his time frame, his way. Well most of the time she thought impishly.

She tucked her hands under her bum, her legs swinging under the boat, like a child waiting for something impatiently. Gibbs watched her, knowing what it was costing her to stay silent, knowing that she wanted to ask him what was going on, and loving her all the more because she didn't.

Gibbs scooted closer to her, his arm coming around her shoulders, pleased at the way her head automatically came to rest on his shoulder, her hand finding its favourite place over his heart.

"Shannon was my first wife; we had a daughter called Kelly. She would be 22 now if she had lived" he said quietly, his eyes staring into the distance, no longer really seeing Abby or his basement but seeing his daughter and another basement, another boat. He felt Abby still under him, but she said nothing. He could picture Abby's face clearly, her large dark eyes would be wider still, her face would be registering her shock, but not anger that he hadn't told her, only concern at the pain he had gone through.

"Shannon and I were happy, Kelly was an amazing little girl, she used to love working on the boat with me." He smiled slightly at the memories those words bought him. "We were going to sail her together when it was finished." He felt Abby shift in his arms slightly, her face watching him, but he didn't really see her locked away as he was in his own memories.

"They had gone to the mall" he said, his voice dropping, the words coming quietly but filled with pain. "I dropped them off and arranged to meet them later on. I had some work to do." He continued not really talking to Abby.

"I was late, and when I got there they were no where around, so I headed home thinking they had caught a cab." He paused for a moment, his eyes distant remembering that day as if it had happened moments ago. "But when I got home the house was silent and empty, I remember driving back to the mall, it was closing time but they weren't there. I found a pay phone and called home, but there was no reply" His voice rang with the fear and frustration he had felt on that night so long ago. "I tried a few friends' houses, just in case Shan had got a lift with someone, but no one had seen them." He finished quietly, his guilt and pain evident in his voice.

Abby had moved away from him at some point, her large dark eyes glistening with tears both for the younger Gibbs and her Gibbs. She laid her hand on his arm, her head resting just above it.

"It isn't your fault" she said quietly, knowing that he would have carried this guilt with him all this time.

"I was late" he said angrily, shaking her off, unable to accept her comfort.

Gibbs stood up and paced the room, a caged tiger in pain. He reached behind Abby and took a long swig from the bottle. Abby watched him silently then held out her hand for the bottle, Gibbs stared at her a moment then handed it over, and she too took a swig then handed it back to him.

"My Marine, my hero and fox" she said softly, her eyes sad and hurting. "You we're late, you didn't kill her" she said softly. Unable to sit still any longer she jumped up and paced the room, feeling Gibbs's pain turning to anger.

"If I had arrived when I said I would, if I had put my family before my damn job maybe Kelly would be here, alive" he told her harshly, taking another swig from the bottle, his control slipping away from him. Abby watched silently for a moment.

"What happened next" she asked him quietly, knowing he needed to tell the whole story, knowing he needed to let go for once.

"I called in NCIS." He said simply. "Security tapes weren't as good back then but they showed Kelly and Shannon being bundled into a car by a man, at gun point. We couldn't get a licence number on the car." He swallowed another swig of alcohol, needing the burning sensation to dull the pain in his heart. "The tape was black and white so we didn't even have a colour, only a make. I had to sit at home and wait for someone to make contact. No one ever did. Two days later the car was found in West Virginia, down a ravine. Shannon was alive but just barely and she had perforated her ear drums, she never got her hearing back. The kidnapper had died immediately, but there was no sign of Kelly." Gibbs paused, unaware of the tears glistening in his eyes, remembering only the moment he had been told, he bowed his head, as if unable to continue before raising it slowly and meeting Abby's eyes for the first time since he had started. "It had been raining hard and they figured he lost control on a bend. The ravine was deep; it took them two days to get the car back up." Gibbs ran his hand through his hair, his eyes once more distant. "They searched but found no sign of Kelly, it was assumed she went into the river, or was taken by animals. We never got her back." Gibbs stopped, his eyes haunted. "I had had his brother dismissed from service and he had later killed himself, so his brother took my family as revenge." Gibbs stopped and stared at Abby, not realising that tears fell from his eyes. "If I had been there on time they would have been safe, Kelly would have lived, and Shannon would still be able to hear" he finished looking away from Abby. He didn't hear her cross to him, her arms slipping around his waist once more, her head resting on his back, holding him tightly.

"You didn't kill Kelly" she whispered to him, wishing she could take away his pain, knowing that she couldn't.

"No I didn't, but I didn't save her either" he whispered, his body unable to sustain the weight of his guilt any longer, he fell to his knees on the dusty floor, allowing Abby to hold him as his pain and guilt consumed him.