A Few Clumps of Earth
Five Choices that Changed Abby's Life
Who: Abby, Gibbs/Abby
Random: A warning, there's character death and fourteenth amendment issues. Classy.
Summary: The path clings to your shoes. This can't be all.
She meets Mikel in a cemetery. The hair, the piercings, the job description - he seems exactly her type, but there's something. It is quiet and undeveloped and it frightens her. After excusing herself, she leaves the cemetery and walks quickly to her car. Once inside, her hand hovers at the ignition, and while she thinks the whole thing is just silly, part of her wants to go to the lab and wrap herself in everything safe and familiar.
Six months later, Abby doesn't show for a court appearance, and when she still hasn't been found by mid-morning, they drop everything to find out why. His agents scatter across three states as they search for their dimpled, cheerful forensic scientist and the postponed trial is the least of Gibbs' concerns. Ever since that first phonecall, his gut has been telling him something very ugly, and he tries to stifle it with coffee and the worry he never lets surface.
Gibbs considers his surroundings: a van with its front doors open like wings, a half-empty parking lot, and three pairs of eyes looking to him for something he refuses to give. He crouches down and stares at Abby, who lays on the ground at his feet, as lifeless as her environment. He has to force his hand to behave when he places it on her forehead. Not a mark on her save for the hole between her eyes, which are wide open and as green as ever.
This was the only time in his bed, the first night her body arched above him like a warm, heavy dream. Her palms on his chest and lips on his jaw as she counted all the ways he seemed alive.
Now, though, he's asleep and she's restless. His windows are open, a breeze splits the curtains, and they flutter as her feet hit the floor.
Gibbs hears the front door shut as she leaves. It's for the best.
The next morning, he finds Abby in his kitchen, along with three medium sized black suitcases arranged neatly in front of his refrigerator. She walks over to him and starts talking immediately.
"I understand that you have to leave. To Mexico," she squints, "or wherever. The thing is …" she lets it hang because she knows he understands the space between words. "I'm coming with you."
He sighed. "Abby-"
"Don't." She slid a hand onto his shoulder, palm flat against an old wound, and leaned into him a bit. "I'm tired of talking. I am always talking. It's like I've been in some sort of stasis, and seriously Gibbs," she paused. "There's a reason you don't say no to me."
As she walks down into his basement, she takes a deep breath, and then exhales loudly. She loves the smell of this basement. Sure, there's the dust and dampness that varies with the barometer, but there's also something very straightforward in the air, Gibbs-like and solid, that's very comforting.
She approaches his workbench and frowns. It hasn't hit her yet, that Kate's dead, and she hopes it doesn't. It was very sudden and she's more for the slower kind of grief, something she can anticipate that won't come to mind so viciously.
She hasn't seen Gibbs all day, but knows he will be home to change soon, and her plan is to wait for him. When he doesn't want to talk, which is all the time, she's noticed, she has to sort of sneak up on him. There's a noise upstairs and she slides off her boots that are too loud and heavy for sneaking around.
He gets closer to the basement and something is very wrong. She knows Gibbs' stride and this is not it. It's too hesitant and too soft. Shitshitshit, Abby thinks, as the door opens, as the footsteps get closer, as her heartbeat settles in her throat.
It's dark, but she can tell it's a man, and when he stops for a moment on the last step, there is no doubt in her mind who this is; she's spent too long looking at his picture to not know. Ari.
There's a feeling in her gut, an urgent feeling she hasn't had before, and she isn't sure what to do with it. Abby's an instinctual type of girl and does what her brain tells her: she takes the gun out from under the workbench, quietly flips open the cylinder to ensure it's loaded (it always is), and takes a deep breath when she flips it shut. Ari's about ten feet away and when she cocks the gun, she notices the line of his shoulders stiffen and it gives her a different type of power than she's used to having.
Ari turns at the slight sound. She fires before he gets a good look and her vision is blurred before his body hits the floor. Gibbs arrives seconds later, gun drawn, and when he sees her, then Ari, who's on the floor all shallow breaths and still-warm blood, he is terrified for her.
"Oh, Abby," he says, and uncurls her fingers from around the gun, putting it on the bench.
He runs his hands over her scalp, face, neck and shoulders. Checking for injuries and something he's certain she's now lost.
She's had the same nightmare three times this week. When Ducky calls and asks her to bring the evidence back down to autopsy, she has to do it, she decides, as she hates this fear and is going to kick its ass.
After leaving the evidence next to the door like Ducky asked, she skips triumphantly back towards the elevator, and once back in the lab, enjoys an unhealthy breakfast. It's only later in the day that she finds out the real reason Ducky wanted that evidence and she is very upset.
Her plan is to go out after work and promptly get shit-faced. She stops by Kate's desk on the way out, as being shit-faced alone in the middle of the week is somewhat depressing, but Kate sees right through her intentions.
"Abby," she says, and puts down her pen. "What's wrong?"
"What's wrong?!" Abby replies, incredulously. "Oh, well, let's see. Um, Ducky and Gerald were held hostage for several hours and if I wasn't scared I maybe would've noticed the hinky."
"You know this isn't your fault, right?"
"Well, duh," Abby says, and lowers her voice. "When they were down in autopsy with a gun trained on them, you know what I was doing?" Kate tries to interrupt but Abby shakes her head. "I was eating a doughnut and downloading ring tones."
"There was nothing you could've done, Abby."
"Exactly," Abby responds, and walks away.
Kate watches her leave, thinks Abby is already looking like a shadow of something else.
The following Monday Abby does not show up for work. Before they manage to arrange the unofficial manhunt, the director informs them that Abby's taken some time-a break, he says-and that she should be back in a matter of weeks.
A matter of weeks turns out to be three months. Gibbs is one for permanent loss and doesn't expect her to return. Everyone else knows Abby just doesn't leave, that she will be back, one way or another. They are both right.
It's mid-November and Gibbs gets in early after having stayed late the night before. He notices immediately, as he is prone to do, the woman standing in front of his desk. He slows his stride to get a better look at her. She's tall with dark hair, pressing a set of four fingertips against the edge of his desk like she has a feeling worth sharing. She turns around the sound of him clearing his throat. He finds her eyes, sees the face that surrounds them, and knows perfectly who this woman is.
The lack of pigtails and a short skirt has him a bit thrown, but then he looks towards the floor, notices her old shit-kicking boots, and smiles. She starts talking and doesn't stop for fifteen minutes, telling him that she wants to be an agent, she has five more weeks left of training, and lastly, she's sorry she hasn't called.
"No more forensics for these hands," she says, wiggling her fingers. "Not for a while, anyway." And she's holding her breath because she wants it to be okay with him: that she wants the gun and the badge, the unpredictable hours, the way they all work together so well it sometimes makes her want to cry. "I hate feeling helpless."
He doesn't respond, only pulls at her hair, trapping it between his thumb and forefinger. What he remembers after all this time is her hair. There's a reason he doesn't do this.
"Everyone does," he tells her, dropping first his hand and then his eyes. "You can't use it as an excuse."
"Are you speaking from experience?" she asks.
"Abbs," he says, for the first time in what seems like forever. There are only so many thoughts a man can have before he's forced to speak and there is no way he can narrow it down now. "Welcome back."
She smiles and kisses him on the cheek. He is glad for it.
Gloria Sciuto is in love. She is nineteen, her boyfriend twenty, and as for the child she's just discovered she's carrying, the doctor says about five weeks. What he doesn't say: Are you all right? Are you sure about this? Deaf isn't deficient; you'd be a wonderful mother.
The ride back from the clinic is short (left hand pressed against her abdomen, right foot tapping out the passing seconds) and she looks down to her lap, counts out eight months on her fingers. November. Her child would've been born in November and she cannot forget it.
Each Thanksgiving over the next seventy-three years reminds her of the child she had torn from her body. She closes her eyes, imagines her insides, how she's trying to heal the wound she caused. Sometimes the wound has a face and other times it even has a chance.