"Abs, you're kinda breaking my arm, there."
"Oh. Sorry." She apologises, but still stands there with her arms around him, his arm bent back behind his head, before she takes a half step back, handcuffed arm still in place. He can feel the energy pulsing through her, even more than normal. He slides his fingers between hers, gently lifting their joined hands from behind his neck.
"A flight risk?"
"Big, long flight." She manages to squeeze the words out, her brain distracted by the feel of his hand. She has catalogued the touches of him, scant though they are, and
the imprints of his fingers are forever burned on her shoulder and neck from nights where he has pushed the kinks out of her muscles or spread his heat into her for comfort.
"I'm still here, Abs."
"Case isn't closed yet" she replies, the sparkle in her eyes dimming behind the sheen of tears as yet unfallen.
"Still here," he says again, softly running his thumb over the bones of her hand. She feels different under his fingers and he looks at her properly for the first time since he came back.
"You've lost weight." He says, his voice hovering somewhere between concern and accusation while his eyes search her face, before roaming over her body.
"I lost my appetite" She can't remove her eyes from their hands.
"For four months?"
She shrugs in answer, but of course for him it is nowhere near answer enough, and so he lifts her head with a finger under her chin and seeks her out.
"You said you were good. Every night, you told me you were doing okay."
She is nearly undone by the confusion she sees in his eyes. It is far too reminiscent of the face she saw in the hospital and not enough time has passed for the memory to fade to anything other than the vivid burn impaled on her mind. But his hand on hers is warm and still moving and it reminds her how she has missed it.
"What else was there to say, Gibbs? If I'd said I wasn't okay would you have come back?" her eyes flash at him, because she knows the answer and yet doesn't want to hear it.
"I didn't leave you Abs, you know that…and I didn't leave you alone, the others were-"
"The others? The others were trying to stop from drowning, Gibbs." She bites back.
"You know why I had to go, Abbey, we've been through this," he says, his fingers gripping against her wrist, pushing the cuff up, seeking past the restriction.
"I know I wasn't enough to stop you. How do you think that makes me feel?" she tries to turn away, as is her way, forgetting they are bound, and he tugs his arm back, pulling her back towards him.
"You think I didn't miss you?" he asks, lifting his finger to her cheek. "That I didn't miss this?"
Her eyes flicker as he signs against her cheek, her breath hitching in her throat.
He wipes the tear from her cheek with his thumb, and because the movement soothes him, he does it again. And again, as his long, slim fingers slide round the back of her neck, slipping under her collar, digging into the unyielding skin. And again.
"You've been making things," she says, looking at his hand. She runs her thumb over the new calluses, adjusting her mind map of him.
He smiles, because McGee was right. Her mind is like a pachinko machine.
"Mike's god –awful roof was full of holes. Should have ripped the whole thing off and started again" he mumbles, distracted by the feel of her under his hand, the feel of him under her hand.
"Starting again isn't the same" she says, her eyes following the path of her thumb, tracing the contours, familiarising herself with him once more, and her rhythm matches his movement without either being aware, though neither would be surprised.
Quiet and small always hurts his heart and he closes his eyes, drawing her head against him, tucked under his chin, she fits the space as perfectly as she always has, as does his hand in the small of her back. Still she strokes his hand.
"You remember the whole Mikael thing?" she asks.
He swallows. Like he'd ever forget.
"'Why didn't you come to me, Abby?'"
He remembers saying the words. He doesn't remember them sounding like that. But he remembers how hard she tried to look him in the eye; the blush that crept over her face, and how she pulled the skin at the side of her thumb; anything rather than admit to him. She was right though. He would have beaten the crap out of the guy, no questions asked.
"So?" she asks quietly, ceasing her stroking to slide her fingers between his, her breath catching as he squeezes her hand.
"Because you couldn't fix this one, Abs. Not even you," he whispers into her hair
She burrows tighter into him, her cheek rubbing his throat. He finds it hard to swallow.
"I could have tried…if I'd known maybe I could…if it hadn't…" she runs out of steam and he kisses her head, calming her down again. He fills up on the unique smell of her and wonders how he survived a day without that, let alone four months. He doesn't want to find out.
Her fingers are tracing Mobius strips against his back. If he shuts his eyes, he can see the design dancing in front of them, twisting and turning, around and back in on itself. And it's a swift step for his mind to bring up the image that follows; the tattoo on her stomach, the twist of the strip dipping into the tiny hollow of her belly button. His fingers now, as they so often do, itch to follow its path, though more often than not they give way to his tongue, pushing flat against her taught skin. He swallows hard, trying to push the thought away for a more convenient time.
"Not that I wouldn't like to do this all day…"he says, whispering against her forehead, and he feels her smile against him.
"But there are bad men to be sent to the bad men place." She grins up at him, pulling away to look up at him. He'd forgotten how much light floods through her eyes when she's happy.
"So..go on! Go do your thing that's going to solve the case…wait…what is the thing that's going to solve the case?" she asks, abruptly screeching to a halt.
"I need to bust open Tony's cassette thingy," he says with a smirk.
"Oh. I don't think he's gonna like that much. Just so you know."
"So…go do that thing. And I'll, you know, wait here."
He lifts their still joined hands, shaking them in front of her.
"Oh. Yeah, sorry. Uhm…" she looks round the room briefly, screwing her face up in concentration.
He groans softly, rubbing a hand across his eyes.
"I had it earlier, I swear," she says, eyes big, as she tugs him across the room to the shelf, searching among the machines, before asking him, "don't you have your unpicking thing?"
"In my drawer. Upstairs. And I'm not dragging you up there like this, so you can think again."
"Aw, Gibbs," she spins round to face him, braids flying. "You take all the fun out of my day!"
She grins unabashed, turning to her backpack and rummaging inside.
He wonders momentarily how her long socks stay up like that, halfway up her thigh…but again he pushes the thought aside for when he has a moment to carry out a proper investigation. She really is too much.
He wouldn't be interested if she weren't.
"See! I knew I had it somewhere" she says triumphantly, holding the key up to his face. She stands there grinning, proud of her achievement
"Oh, right, sorry," she slots the key in, the click of the release echoes a little hollow in his heart. She frees his wrist, letting the cuff hang from the one still encasing her, then stretches over to her keyboard, punching the button that brings his picture upon the screen.
He leans towards her and holds her face in both hands. Her lips are exactly as she is; warm and welcoming. He had forgotten how wonderful she tasted. He won't ever forget again. He releases her then, his eyes sweeping across her face, before he trails a thumb across her lips.
"I'll be right back," he says, turning on his heels to leave. He stops short of the door, walking quickly back to her. He hits a key on the keyboard and watches his picture vanish off the screen, then retraces his steps. He turns in the doorway and looks over at her.
"Still here, Abs," he smiles, slipping out the doorway.
She slips her hand out of the cuff, dropping them back in her bag. She thinks she will use them later, one way or another.