Spoilers: Major for Hiatus, minor for Blood Bath

Prompt: #51 Hand

Disclaimer: NCIS does not belong to me in any way. If it did, there'd be hot sweaty sex against the boat.

II

The day Gibbs quits, Abby drives to his house. She sits in her hearse with the window rolled down and stares at the empty driveway. For an hour she sits there, wondering if he was going to come back soon, or if he had already come and gone. When the same neighbor comes out of the house next to Gibbs' three times to glare at her car she leaves.

The next night she parks in the driveway, and sits on the front porch. She watches as the sun sets and the stars appear on by one. She knows that no one is coming home, but still she waits. Nothing went right at work today without Gibbs, and she needs to be close to some part of him, even if it is just an empty house.

Gibbs is not the kind of person to leave a key hidden near the door. Luckily Abby had a boyfriend once who taught her the finer points of lock picking. On the third night she lets herself into his house. The air is thick and stuffy from the lack of circulation. She ignores the rest of the house and heads for the basement stairs. Standing in his living room feels like an invasion of his privacy, but once she climbs down the stairs she felt better. It is dark and there are no signs of technology, but the subterranean atmosphere reminds her of the lab and she is home. When she flipped on the light a part of her is crushed to find the room empty. Gibbs not working on his boat was even more alien then Gibbs quitting NCIS. She leaves after giving the room one last sweeping glance.

She's back the next night. She walks in slow circles around the boat before laying on the floor to observe it from another angle. She squints her eyes and tries to see what Gibbs does when he looks at it. It's a skeleton, she decides, the same as a human's. When the boat is complete this framework will be hidden, but it's what will hold everything together. She counts the wooden ribs over and over, and it is better then counting sheep. Despite the hard floor she fall asleep in minutes.

Lucky for her it was a Friday night, and missing work the next day isn't a concern. When she wakes up the next morning she is stiff and sore, but more rested then she's been in a week. She doesn't want to leave the comfort of the basement, but her bladder insists. Reluctantly she uses the bathroom on the first floor. It's clearly a man's bathroom, without anything more then is absolutely necessary. Before she returns to the basement she washes the sleep out of her eyes and neatens her pigtails.

There is a stray piece of sandpaper on the corner of the workbench, and she picks it up. She remembers Gibbs instructing her to sand with the grain. Was that really only a couple of weeks ago that they were together down here? She was frightened and drunk and angry at the time, but she'd give anything to relive those moments. She can still see where she hit the boat that night, and she runs the sandpaper up and down the wood until it is no longer noticeable.

She doesn't go to his house on Sunday. She need to prove to herself that she can stay away, so she buries herself in tasks. Her bills are all stacked neatly on the table so she can drop them off at the post office on her way to the grocery store. Halfway there she drives past a book store and on a whim she turns into the parking lot. She plans on buying something light and humorous to amuse her, but finds herself walking to the back of the store where the resource books are. It doesn't take long to find a book on boat building. It has detailed instructions and full color pictures and although it doesn't look quite like Gibbs' boat she is sure that she can make it work.

She forgets about going to the post office, the store, or anywhere else. Instead she returns home and spends the rest of the day reading the book. The next day when she leaves work she takes her red work coveralls with her. They'll be much better for working then the black skirt and tank top that she is wearing. That night she stands in front of the workbench and familiarizes herself with each tool until she knows them as well as any piece of equipment in her lab. She doesn't touch them, but imagines each one being held in Gibbs' firm grasp. It's a week before she gathers the courage to touch any of them, and longer before she stops looking over her shoulder every time.

She buys scrap wood to practice on. Sandpaper, awl, lathe, plane, saw; she uses each one over and over until she is completely comfortable. She messed up Gibbs' boat once, and can't do it again. He's been go for almost two months when she touches the boat with anything other then sandpaper. There are five books and a pile of printouts on the workbench now, and she's read them all. Her hands are shaking when she picks up the plane, and she takes a couple of deep breaths to steady herself. It's no big deal, she lectures herself. It's not like Gibbs is going to run into the room and yell at her. She wishes he would.

She still sleeps at home, but the rest of her nonworking hours are spent on the boat. She doesn't tell anyone what she's doing, but she can tell from their puzzled expressions they suspect something. She's changing. On Fridays she wears jeans to work so that she doesn't have to change before going to the house. Her lab is quieter, because she's gotten used to the silence in the basement. It never seems right to listen to music down there; she knows Gibbs doesn't. On time Tony makes a joke about her becoming more like Gibbs. She hits him on the back of his head and they laugh about it, but he never brings it up again.

He's been gone for the entire summer, and now fall is here. Despite the cooling weather the basement is humid. She's steaming planks of wood, bending them to fit the curve of the boat. There are a few boards already in place, half hiding one side of the boat's skeleton. She's beginning to see what it will look like when it's done.

As she works she tries to imagine Gibbs' expression when he sees all that she has accomplished. Will he be proud and surprised, or annoyed and displeased? She prepares for both. She doesn't really care what his reaction is, because either way it will mean that he is home, and that is all that matters. Until that time comes she works and she waits.