Disclaimer: Though I've wished on a hundred stars, neither NCIS or Mark Harmon belong to me. I will, however, be on the NCIS set in 26 days.
Spoilers: One very vague reference to Blood Bath, and spoilers if you don't know what happens at the end of Twilight.
The TV had been on for hours, its low chatter the equivalent of white noise as he emerged himself in working on his boat. There was no reason for him to look up at the screen, but he did. A minute earlier and the camera would have been aimed at the anchorman, seconds later and it would have been panning over the destruction of a fire burning up an apartment building. Gibbs looked up at just the right moment, though. The news reporter, a redheaded woman he vaguely recalled from past crime scenes, was standing in front of the blazing structure. Next to her was a painted wood sign with the name of the complex written in an elegant script. i The Whispering Elms. /i "Sounds like the name of a cemetery, doesn't it?" Abby had commented the first time he had picked her up there.
"Holy hell," Gibbs swore as he dropped the awl he was holding. It dinged the plank he had been standing in front of, but Gibbs didn't notice. He was already running to the stairs. He paused in the hallway just long enough to grab his wallet and keys off the table in the entry, and yanked open the front door. The need to get to Abby and make sure that she was okay was his sole desire.
He almost knocked her over.
"Hey Gibbs. Going somewhere?" She was standing on the sidewalk leading up to his house. The light was dim, but he could tell that her face was streaked with soot. The acerbic smell of charred wood clung to her skin, and he breathed it in as if it was the sweetest perfume.
"You're okay," he said as he wrapped his arms around her in a tight embrace.
"Of course I am," Abby teased, but her voice was strained and raw. "In fact I'm more then okay, I'm-" A round of coughing cut off what ever she was going to say.
"Inside," Gibbs ordered. With an arm wrapped around her shoulder, he led her into the house. Passing through the living room he led her into the kitchen. Her legs felt like they were made of jell-o, and rather then let Gibbs see how shaky she was Abby pulled one of the kitchen chairs away from the table and gratefully collapsed into it. When Gibbs wordlessly handed her a glass of water she accepted it, downing the refreshing contents in quick gulps.
"Who are you calling?" she asked when he reached for the phone.
"Ducky," was his monosyllabic reply.
"There's no reason to wake him up," Abby protested, understanding Gibbs' reasoning instantly. "I don't need a doctor."
"You were coughing," Gibbs said as he dialed the first number. "Obviously you inhaled smoke."
"No more then the average person does when they smoke a cigarette." Forgetting about her shaky legs, Abby stood and pulled the phone from Gibbs' grasp. Legs trembling slightly, she allowed herself to lean into him for support. "Besides, the paramedics on site insisted on checking me out before they'd let me leave. There's nothing wrong with me."
"Promise?" he asked roughly. When she nodded her head he resignedly hung up the phone. Privately he resolved to take her to Ducky first thing in the morning, no matter what she said.
"Thanks," she said, placing a friendly kiss on his cheek. Pulling away she couldn't hide a yawn.
"Upstairs," Gibbs motioned. "I think a shower and bed are in order."
"No disagreement here." She hadn't questioned the instinct that had her driving straight to Gibbs' house after the paramedics had allowed her to leave. There were easily a dozen other places she could have gone, but for some reason he was the one she wanted to see.
Gibbs directed her to the guest bathroom, laying out a fresh towel for her and one of his t-shirts to use as pajamas. While she showered he locked doors and turned off lights. He was just walking back up the stairs when the bathroom door open and Abby stepped out of the misty steam with a towel wrapped turban style around her head and a faded green shirt that barely reached mid-thigh.
"One bottle of shampoo and a bar of soap?" Abby commented with a grin as she unwrapped the towel and used it to pat the ends of her hair dry. "There are entire aisles at the store for bath products. You should branch out sometime."
Gibbs raised a single eyebrow in one of his 'did you forget whom you were talking to?' looks, and Abby rolled her eyes. She disappeared back into the bathroom to hang her towel up.
"I don't know about you, but I'm ready for bed," Abby said as she returned to the hallway. "My slave driver of a boss is sure to insist that I show up at work sometime before noon."
"You are not as funny as you think you are," Gibbs contended as he led Abby down the hall and opened the door to his extra bedroom.
"Sure I am." Abby pulled down the covers on the bed. Gibbs waited until she was lying down before pulling them up and tucking them under Abby's chin.
"Goodnight Abbs," he said as he gently kissed her forehead.
"Night Gibbs," Abby returned, her eyes already closed.
The glowing digital numbers on his clock read three eleven when Gibbs woke up. Normally he would have rolled over and gone back to sleep, but an acute awareness of not being alone in the house had him climbing out of bed. The door to the guest bedroom was open, and even in the dim light he could see the Abby was not in the bed. Shielding his eyes, Gibbs flipped on the overhead light, confirming that the room was empty. The door to the bathroom was also open, proving that space to be empty too.
He headed straight for the basement, remembering the last time she had sought refuge in his home. His had was on the doorknob when he heard the slightest sound coming from the living room. She was standing in front of the large front window, starring out at the street. Hair rumpled and face bare, she looked like a child.
"Abbs?" he questioned softly as he approached her. She didn't respond right away, but continued to look out into the darkness. Snaking his arm around her waist, he wrapped himself protectively around her and rested his chin on the top of her head.
"That's it," she whispered after long moments of silence. "That's all I have left."
Following her gaze, Gibbs could see that she was focused on the barely illuminated silhouette of the hearse parked in front of his house.
"Anything that wasn't in my car is gone. My clothes, furniture, coffin, music. My pictures, Gibbs." She pressed a hand against the glass of the window as if reaching out for what she no longer possessed. "The sketch that Kate drew of me, and the photos from the Christmas party the year before she died- they're all gone now."
Although he couldn't see her face, Gibbs knew that tears were falling down her cheeks. One fell onto his arm, and it made him think of rainstorms and the way they always began with a single drop. Squeezing her just a little bit tighter then he had been, he held her against his chest. Tears became sobs, and the woman who never cried finally let the tears fall.
When she turned and buried her face in his shirt, he stroked her hair and rocked her gently. "It will be okay," he repeated over and over.
Abby clung to him, not really believing that anything was going to be alright but wanting to trust in him. Eventually her tears dried and her sobs turned to hiccups, but she didn't release her hold on Gibbs. He was her... port in a storm.
"What?" Gibbs asked when one of Abby's hiccups was punctuated by a giggle.
"I was thinking of the phrase 'port in a storm,' and wondering how Ziva would butcher it." Abby replied.
"My home is your port as long as you need it, Abbs."
"Be careful what you offer, Gibbs. My home is currently a pile of ash, so you could be stuck with me for a while." For the first time since she had seen the smoke coming through the crack under her apartment door, Abby felt a sense of peace.
"For as long as you need it," he repeated.
"Thank you." The clock in the hallway struck four times, and she looked at Gibbs apologetically. "It's late, and I've already interrupted your sleep. Go back to bed Gibbs. I'll be okay."
"I know you will." With that reassurance he scooped her up and carried her out of the room. "You need your sleep too," he said as he carried her up the stairs and set her down at the end of his own bed.
Abby didn't protest, but curled into a ball in the corner of the mattress. She closed her eyes and waited for Gibbs to turn off the light, but instead she heard him open the drawer of his nightstand. Reaching past her, there was a muffled thud as he set something on the table on her side of the bed.
When Abby opened her eyes, she was greeted by a framed photo of the team- Gibbs, Tony, herself, McGee, Ducky, and Kate. It was an exact copy of the one that had burned up in her apartment. Turning to face Gibbs, she smiled at him through the new tears that threatened to fall.
"I told you everything was going to be okay," he said. As she drifted off to sleep, Abby realized that she believed him.