With a stunning clarity that belied his less than perfect sight, Gibbs watched as blood seeped through Abby's white shirt, pooling just above the breast pocket to trickle down her chest.
Apart from the two of them and McGee, Ziva and Tony who were already in the car, the NCIS car park had seemed abandoned. She'd been bringing him coffee to tide him through a five AM case.
She'd called out his name and he'd turned. She'd smiled, holding up the coffee cup liked it was very special and as the distance between them closed, she'd reached out to hand it to him.
Before he could take it from her, the shot rang out. Her eyes widened, her entire body flinched, and she fell towards him as she gasped, inhaling with a rasp. The coffee cup fell from her grasp as her fingers went limp, splattering on the concrete. That was when the red appeared.
Feeling sluggish, he reached for her to hold her up. Seeking cover as the team sprang into action, he lowered her down to the ground behind the nearest car. Her eyes lost their focus, the pupils not indicative of what they were seeing.
"Abby! Abby, look at me! Focus!"
She seemed to hear his voice, tilting her head slightly in his direction.
"You're bossy." She choked.
He took off his NCIS windbreaker, rolled it up and pressed it to her. She cried out and he felt something vile rise in the back of his throat.
A sad, lonely tear rolled down her cheek and he noticed how pale she was. Trying to convince himself that she was always pale, he pressed down harder on the wound.
"I have to stop the bleeding."
"Thanks," she whispered.
Her response almost made him laugh. Almost.
In the background, he heard Tony angrily, energetically yell that they'd got the shooter. The desire to put a few extra rounds into the bastard was only surpassed by the desire to stay right next to Abby.
Scrubs appeared in his peripheral vision. "Jethro! Jethro, let me get to her."
He felt Ziva's hand on his arm. "Let Ducky help."
He looked up at her, but clutched Abby's hand in his larger one, fingers weaving tightly into hers.
He was a Marine. A sniper. An NCIS Special Agent. He didn't panic. He'd watched people die before.
All this was true, but it didn't calm the feeling of electricity in his heart, as it stuttered and shook.
Shaking himself into action, he made room for Ducky. He didn't let go of her hand.
Lt. Colonel Hollis Mann jogged down a hallway of the hospital. Seeing the red of Jen's hair, she slowed her pace and headed towards a sea of familiar faces.
McGee, the Director and the strange morgue boy were all seated, looking uncomfortable. Ziva paced a ten foot track and Tony stood, his back to the wall, hands clenched, a murderous look in his eyes.
"I got your call Director. What happened? Where's Gibbs? Abby and Ducky?"
Jen stood. "Ducky is consulting with the doctors. Abby's in post-op ICU, and Gibbs is with her."
Mann blinked. "Post-op? What happened?"
Pushing away from the wall, Tony let loose. "Abby got shot, that's what happened!" The glare of a passing nurse had him retreat back into his murderous mood and against the wall.
As she stood still, taking the news in, Ducky appeared through one of the many doors that lined the corridor. Everyone converged upon him, but he sat down wearily in one of the chairs.
"Abigail is holding."
Tony crossed his arms. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"It means that that tone won't get you what you want. Which, Anthony, is exactly what we all want, just for the record."
Suitably chastised, he nodded in apology.
"You wouldn't know it with all the caffeine she drinks, but beneath the sugar and coffee, she's a fit, healthy lady. Lord only knows how, she doesn't exercise."
McGee fiddled with the band of his watch. "What happened?"
Sighing, Ducky ran a hand through his hair. "The bullet missed her heart, but it punctured the left lung. Tension pneumothorax. The doctors released the pressure in the pleural cavity and the chest tube is helping to re-inflate it. The blood loss was less than what it could have been, thanks to Jethro. As annoying as it is, the phrase is fairly accurate; critical but stable. The main thing to look for is blood clots, pulmonary edema."
"Air in the lung?" A voice that was known but not particularly familiar piped up.
Ducky looked up. "Lieutenant Colonel Mann? What are you doing here?"
She blinked at him.
"I'm sorry, that was rude of me. I'm just flustered."
"That's fine, Doctor Mallard. Director Shepard called and asked me to come in."
"I'm afraid Jethro is in with Abby at the moment. I couldn't tell you when he'll be out. I think he's determined to keep Abby alive by sheer force of will through orders. She wouldn't dare die when told not to." A ghost of a smile played on his features.
Tony chuckled. "Well, I can attest to that. There was no way I was going to die when Gibbs told me not to. He'd have killed me."
The same door that Ducky had appeared though banged open, as three nurses and a burly security guard, all with their hands clamped on Gibbs' arms, ushered him out to his team.
"You do realize I can shoot you, don't you?" Gibbs threatened.
The security guard patted his own gun reassuringly and with a push, they let him go and walked back the way they'd came.
He turned to face his team and friends.
"Boss…" McGee trailed off.
Gibbs' blue shirt had red smattered all down the front, the windbreaker in the crook of his right arm splotchy with deep blue where the blood had soaked in. A smudge of blood dotted across his cheek and his hands, though roughly washed, were slightly raw with red on the sides of his fingernails.
He looked at them blankly. "I need coffee."
He walked down the corridor without a word as seven pairs of eyes watched him.
Mann found him staring at the coffee machine blankly.
Leaning against it, her shoulder pressed up against a large picture of a cartoon coffee bean with eyes, she looked at him and waited.
"She's going to die."
Mann frowned. "You don't know that."
He pressed a button absently. "Yes, I do. She's going to die."
"It's the same as before." It was clear he wasn't talking to her, and although it looked like he was talking to the coffee bean, she knew that also wasn't the case. "The same feeling, when I knew something had happened to them. Something bad had happened."
"Happened to who?"
Shaking himself into coherency, he focused and made his selection. With a slap, the paper cup fell into its slot and hot liquid started to pour into it.
"That was a long time ago." The cup filled and the machine went quiet. "If she…if she dies…I won't be able to…"
He turned and made his way back to the corridor the team was staking out. With a frown, Mann picked his cup up out of the machine and followed him.
Down the end of the hallway, Gibbs sat rigidly in one of the chairs, his eyes to the ceiling.
At the other end, McGee, Ziva and Tony sat on one side of the corridor, facing them on the other side sat Ducky, Jimmy, Jen and Mann.
"You should have seen Abby's first day at NCIS. Gibbs was being…well, how he gets when things don't go his way, bless him, and Abby gave back as good as she got. Told him that unless he knew how to work a mass spectrometer then he should shut up and sit down because she would keep working until she solved it. Then she rolled a chair right at him. Nearly bowled him over. I almost felt an army roll was imminent. Three things Gibbs likes; spirit, a hard worker and results."
"So did she solve it?" McGee asked.
Ducky smiled, an eyebrow raised. "Of course. You know, they knew each other before she came to work at NCIS."
Tony sat up straighter. "Abby said they met at church."
Ducky laughed. "No, no. I don't know all the details. They both seem to get vague when I question them about it. From what I've gathered, they met at a lake."
"A lake?" Mann asked with disbelief.
Ducky nodded. "Yes. Abby was swimming, Gibbs was fishing. Somehow or rather their paths crossed. Neither will tell me more."
Ziva rubbed her cheek in memory. "Abby certainly does have spirit."
Tony shrugged. "She took a while to get settled with me. Apparently there's an adjustment process that people have to go though. The DiNozzo Effect, she called it."
Mann frowned. "Calls it."
Tony nodded and looked down the corridor at Gibbs. "Yeah."
Ducky and Ziva turned to look at him also.
"How do you think he is, Ducky?" she whispered.
Ducky sighed. "Angry, I'd say, although I am surprised he hasn't charged back into the office to investigate. Abby is…well, like I said, I don't even know exactly how they met because they won't tell me. Abby is and always has been special to Gibbs. The first year she was here, people used to talk because he brought her coffee. Then we all got used to it. She was the person you went to if you needed a favour from the boss. I think he's disappointed that Tony shot the bastard, because he would have liked to have done it himself."
Tony crossed his arms. "Well, I'm not going to apologize."
With nods of agreement, silence fell upon the group, each caught up in their thoughts.
Jen stood, stretching. "We should head on home. Try and get some sleep. It's going to be a long day…" she looked at her watch, "…today."
Mann nodded and rose also, followed by Jimmy and Ducky.
Ziva shifted in her seat. "I might just go and get some food from the cafeteria. I don't feel like sleeping. Hungry, McGee, Tony?"
Tony shook his head, but McGee nodded and together they made their way down the corridor.
Shrugging her jacket on, Mann made her way down to Gibbs. He saw her coming and rose.
"Come on. I'll take you home."
He shook his head.
"Jethro, you need to get some sleep." She reached for his arm, but he moved backwards.
"I'm going to stay. You should go home."
Staring at him, in what she knew was a futile attempt to read his mood, she gave up and turned to follow Jen and the others.
As the corridor cleared out, Gibbs ambled down to sit next to Tony, who hadn't left his chair.
"We're not going to let her die, are we boss?"
He was quiet a second, breathing deeply before replying. "No, we're not."
Moments later, Ziva and McGee returned, bringing enough food and coffee to feed an army. Gibbs settled the sandwich that Ziva had handed him on his knee and took the cup of coffee McGee offered gratefully.
He was just about to take a sip when a flock of nurses ran down the corridor and the PA called a Code Blue to Abby's room.