8 weeks ago

A horrific case that left an entire Marine family murdered in their home had taken its toll on the whole team. Gibbs was in the bullpen, silent save the grinding they could all hear as he kept his jaw clenched in anger. McGee just looked shell shocked as he finished his report. Ziva's emotions were hidden as always, but to those that knew her, there was a pain deep in her eyes. Tony was furiously focused as he typed his report, all the emotions and the rage he felt kept flashing across his face as he worked.

He wanted the report to be perfect, and he wanted the two scumbags' lives to be forfeit for what they had done. The images of the Marine captain with a shotgun blast removing most of his chest and his wife who had suffered not only the injustice of being murdered but raped as well kept pushing their way to the front of Tony's mind. But those images he could push back, and look at with an almost clinical detachment. It was the images of their two murdered children that made Tony want to throw everything in reach and punch the nearest wall. Two and four, the little girls were beautiful, sandy haired princesses. Their pictures decorating the house showed their sweet smiles and sparkling green eyes.

Pausing in his typing, Tony opened another folder on his desk and stared at the photo inside, it was a copy of one from the crime scene. It was a candid shot taken on a sunny beach with the two girls in their bright, colorful swimsuits laughing as the incoming surf tickled their toes. He tried to implant this image in his mind, tried to overwrite the image of the girls' bedroom spattered in blood, and he tried not to think about the image of what the two shotgun blasts that had killed them had left behind.

Others in the building were taking the case just as hard. It had been Palmer's first case involving children and with a strength of purpose belied by his normal lighthearted demeanor, he had worked diligently to assist Ducky in taking care of the family.

As Ducky put on his overcoat and hat, he sighed to himself one more time as he looked towards the shiny doors that held the family. No matter how much violence and depravity he had see throughout the course of his career, some cases would haunt him, this was one.

There was one other person involved with the case that was trying to put some perspective on it in her own mind: Abby. She had studied the evidence endlessly, from blood patterns to DNA that the killers had left behind. She had looked at all of the crime scene photos so intensely that she could call up any one of them in her mind. She had managed to push her emotions aside as she worked, treating each piece of evidence like the puzzle piece it was that they needed to catch the murderers. But she would be lying if she said it didn't affect her, and now with the case closed and the paperwork done, she sat in her quiet lab with the music turned off and Bert in her arms as she let her horror at the crime wash over her.

Tony finished his report and handed it to Gibbs who acknowledged it with a simple nod and said quietly, "Go on, get out of here, Tony. It's been a long day."

Their eyes met for a moment, understanding passing between them. Tony replied, "Yeah. See you Monday."

Tony grabbed his stuff and was going to head for the elevator to go out to his car when he decided to make a detour and headed for the other elevator where he hit the button that would take him to Abby's lab. He hadn't seen her for most of the day and he wanted to check on her. He knew how kindhearted she really was and cases like this always affected her hard. Just like him.

The quietness in the lab hit him, along with the muted lighting. For a moment he thought she might have already left but then he saw her sitting in the dark at her desk.

"Hey," he said softly as he approached.

Her little downtrodden, "Hey," in return let him know that she was taking the case hard. He was glad he decided to stop down although he suspected that Gibbs would most likely be making an appearance down here in the near future, Abby was "his girl" and he took care of his own. Gibbs said it was a Marine thing, but Tony knew better- it was a Gibbs' thing.

Tony tried to pull her into conversation but it wasn't working, she just sat there hugging that hippo with a haunted look on her face. Oddly, he felt a twinge of jealousy that the hippo was getting hugged and he wasn't. Abby's hugs always made him feel better, and he got them often, Abby liked hugs.

Thinking about that for a moment as he stood behind her chair, he leaned over and wrapped his arms around her, chair, Bert and all, and rested his chin on her shoulder. He knew it was the right thing to do when she leaned her head to rest against his and she reached up with a hand to stroke his arm.

Tony had been right about Gibbs coming down to check on Abby, and it was that scene that he saw from the doorway of the lab. Smirking to himself, he left as stealthily as he had arrived not alerting them to his presence. He knew that the two of them had a special bond and that they would take care of each other.

Almost simultaneously Abby and Tony said, "Wanna go get a beer?", and that brought a little chuckle to both of them.

In short order they found themselves at a favorite little bar both feeling their beer, not enough to be stupidly drunk, just enough to take the edge off and bring down their walls. And enough that the bartender happily called them a cab when they closed down the bar and were some of the last patrons remaining. The cab took them to Abby's first and Tony walked her to her door with the cab waiting at the curb.

Tony gave her a big hug goodnight and when they pulled back so she could go inside they found themselves instead meeting halfway in a fierce kiss. Something about death makes people want to reconnect with life, and when they broke the kiss but stayed close enough to share breath Abby whispered, "Stay."

And after paying the cabby, he did.

When the morning sun's gentle rays started filtering in, Tony cracked an eye. For a moment didn't know where he was, then it all hit him and he looked down at the woman he had tucked protectively under his arm. He tried to process it all as he looked down on Abby, looking like a tired angel sleeping on his chest.

He found some feelings coursing through him that he didn't know if he really wanted to examine, didn't want to recognize, and he silently prayed that this wouldn't ruin their friendship. He unconsciously squeezed her in tighter at that thought, and an ever complying Abby snuggled in closer and sighed contently.

Tony's mind was still spinning when he heard her sleepy voice say, "I could get used to this, Tony," as she planted a feathery kiss on his chest.

He bent his head and kissed the top of her head and said honestly, "Me too, Abs. Me too."


tbc...