Title: Exhaustion
Rating: G
Spoilers: Bloodbath
Summary: "No place is safe! If he can get to me on the Navy yard, he can get to me anywhere!" "Not anywhere."

Author's Note: Dialogue in Abby's section taken from the episode, barring the last line.


"Stay there. I'm gonna make us some coffee."

Abby nods, her usually bubbly demeanour muted by fear and exhaustion. As I step out of the room, she's switching on her laptop. By the time I return, a song is quietly emanating from its speakers, and she's standing at the window, peering through the drapes at the street outside. I don't have the heart to tell her it's the same song Mawher was listening to at his office last night.

"Abbs, come away from the window."

"Sorry." Sheepishly, she lets the drapes fall back into place and comes to sit beside me. Her eyes fall upon my gun, lying beside my mug on the coffee table. "If Mikel gets in here, are you gonna kill him?"

I hand her a steaming mug of coffee. As she reaches out to take it from me, her sleeve pulls back, revealing a livid purple bruise where Mawher grabbed her last night. I feel the muscles in my jaw tighten in anger, and force myself to calm down. "If I have to," I answer, not bothering to lie to her. We know each other too well for that.

She takes a sip, her large green eyes distressed. "I don't want him dead, Gibbs. I just want him to leave me alone."

"And I won't kill him unless there's no other choice, Abbs." No matter how much I want to.

Abby leans her head on my shoulder. "Thanks, Gibbs. For taking care of me."

"You're welcome." I slip my arm around her, and she snuggles up against me, her eyes sliding shut. She obviously needs to sleep – after Mawher got into McGee's apartment last night, she dosed herself with Caf-Pow! rather than risk letting her guard down, and she hasn't slept tonight either. "Abbs, I think you should get some rest."

"I'm resting," she murmurs into my shirt. I'd happily let her sleep in this position all night, but if Mawher somehow manages to find her, I won't be able to get to my weapon in time.

"Don't you have court tomorrow?" I remind her.

That wakes her a little, and she struggles into a sitting position, almost spilling coffee over us both. "I do! And I forgot, and I don't have my notes or my suit, and I'm not prepared! Gibbs, I need to–"

"Relax," I cut in, taking her coffee mug from her and setting it down alongside my own. "I'll wake you in time and drive you home. After you get some sleep."

She sighs, smiling ruefully. "Will it do any good to argue?"

"Spare bed's all made up. Go." I kiss her cheek, then nudge her off the couch. "Sleep."

Reluctantly, she does as I ask. I stay downstairs for a while longer, drinking my coffee, then Abby's, listening to the silence. Briefly, I wonder whether to go down to the basement and work on the boat, but decide against it. I want to stay close to Abby. Mawher's a clever bastard – I can't take the risk that he might somehow track her down.

Before I head upstairs, I double-check that all the doors and windows are locked. I haven't bothered to lock my door since Stephanie left, but tonight it's not me I have to worry about. Once I'm satisfied the whole place is secure, I grab my SIG and ascend the stairs.

The guest bedroom's door is shut, and there's no sign that the light is on behind it. I'm tempted to open the door to check that Abby's not lying awake and worrying, but I don't want to disturb her.

I get ready for bed as quietly as I can and deposit the gun on the nightstand, leaving the door ajar and snapping on the bedside lamp. I don't plan on sleeping tonight, not while Abby's in my care. Instead, I pick up McGee's book – the one that only came out last week and that he doesn't know I know about – and begin to read.

I'm only four sentences in when I hear a scuffle out in the hall. Pushing the book aside, I sit up, one hand on my weapon.

"Hey, Gibbs…" Abby appears in the doorway, wearing one of my old Marine shirts as a nightdress and her black pants underneath for modesty, her voice scratchy from sleep. "I left my pyjamas at work, so I took one of your shirts. Hope you don't mind."

Relaxing, I smile at her. "Can't sleep?"

She wanders in, takes a seat on the bed and draws her knees up to her chin. "Not for a while. Every time I closed my eyes I thought I heard him coming in through the door or the window, y'know? Then I managed to fall asleep, but I had a nightmare about him. And now I'm awake again." She pauses, then looks over at me awkwardly, as if afraid of my answer. "Can I sleep in here with you?"


Relieved, she slides under the covers, settling back against the pillow and turning her head to look up at me. "Thanks, Gibbs," she tells me softly. "I feel safer already."

"Want me to read you a bedtime story?" I ask dryly, holding up McGee's book.

"Does it have shoddy forensics?"


"Then it'd just make me angry."

I put the book on the nightstand with a chuckle, and turn off the light. "Night, Abby."

For a while, I hear her fidgeting in the darkness, but it doesn't take long for her breathing to slow into the rhythm of sleep. Despite my intention to stay awake, I feel drowsiness steal over me. With Abby accounted for, less than two feet away, I allow myself to fall into slumber…


For the second time tonight I'm yanked back into consciousness, images of Mikel racing through my brain. This time he had a knife. I swear these dreams are getting worse.

I look over at Gibbs, just able to make out his sleeping form. I'm glad at least one of us is getting a good night's sleep. Sliding out of bed without waking him, I head downstairs, through the kitchen and down into the basement, stopping only to put on my boots. I know Gibbs has a bottle of the good stuff down here somewhere, and if there's ever a time for getting falling-down drunk, it's when you have a deranged stalker on the loose.

Over the next forty minutes, I manage to down half a bottle of bourbon, watching CNN on Gibbs' ancient TV. When the sensationalism starts to get to me, I shut it off, looking around for something to keep me occupied. My eyes fall upon a sandpaper-wrapped block of wood, and I pick it up, taking it and the bottle over to the skeletal frame of Gibbs' boat.

"Nothin' like a nice, quiet, dungeon-like basement to calm the nerves," I mutter to myself to fill the silence. My mind is starting to fill with thoughts of Mikel again, and to numb them I take another generous swallow of alcohol, beginning to sand the boat with my other hand.

The overhead light suddenly snaps on, and Gibbs comes down to join me. I see his gaze flick from me, to the alcohol, to the boat.

"You need to sleep, Abby," he says gently.

"I know. I tried. Every time I close my eyes I see Mikel."

Gibbs takes my hand and corrects the way I'm sanding. "With the grain."

In the back of my head I know that I knew that, but the alcohol makes thinking difficult. "I thought I was." I make a concentrated effort to do as he advises, but my hand won't obey my commands properly. "I don't understand why people drink alcohol when they're depressed," I tell him, knowing my words are slurring, not caring. "Because alcohol… is a depressant. And now I'm still depressed. And I'm nauseous. And I'm really drunk."

I try to gesture for emphasis, but the only thing I achieve is to drop the sandpaper. I consider retrieving it from the floor, but I don't think my roiling stomach would be able to take it. More alcohol is what I need…

Gibbs takes the bottle from me. For a second I resist, but if I drink any more the judge is gonna have to come and take my deposition at my bedside, so I let him take it. As Gibbs sits down within the framework of his boat, I head over to the workbench for something else to fidget with. Ooh, a saw… "Which means that tomorrow I need to go fight a hangover while I'm in court, while some ambulance-chasing attorney tries to attack my credibility."

I eye the boat, wondering if there's anything that needs cutting off it, but Gibbs takes the saw from me before I can find anything. He has a point. I'd probably saw my own finger off. Wonder what else he's got over here…

"What is wrong with me, Gibbs? What did I do to deserve this?" I don't realise I've said the words until they leave my mouth. Suddenly the answer to that question seems more important than anything else in the world. What did I do?

"It's not about you, Abby, it's about him."

I'm so not convinced. "Then why do I feel so guilty?"

"I don't know. Why do you?" Gibbs regards me calmly.

"Because… I think this might all be my fault." It must be. Maybe I led him on. Maybe the straitjacket was overkill…

"Maybe it is."

His words hit me like a kick in the stomach, and I stare at him in disbelief, my eyes filling with tears. He was supposed to make me feel better! "How can you say that to me, Gibbs?! Just because some defective lunatic can't get it through his thick skull that I think… he… is a defective… lunatic…" Wow, Abby, that was real eloquent. "That is not my fault, Gibbs! That's not my fault at all!"

I'm rambling like an alcoholic, and he just continues to look at me, without a word or a change in his expression. "It's not my fault." Oh. I see what he did there. "It's not my fault. Hmm." Feeling a little better – no less drunk, but a little less hopeless, I look up and see his smile.

Ooh, chisel. Chisels are fun. I'm not too drunk to use a chisel. "I see why you like to work on your boat, Gibbs… It's very, very cathartic." There's a little bit of wood hanging off the edge of that beam. Carefully, I position the chisel and hit it with the mallet, my eyes widening as a whole chunk falls off.

"Oops." I hold out the offending tools to Gibbs, who takes them, looking a little pissed off. "Suddenly having a stalker on the loose isn't so scary."

"He's not on the loose, Abbs. That's what I came down here to tell you."

They found him? All this is over? Hardly daring to hope, I wait for his next words. He doesn't disappoint. "DiNozzo called. The coastguard picked up Mikel Mawher trying to cross the Anacostia."

Relief sends my emotions spinning out of control, and before I know what I'm doing I'm clutching onto the side of the boat, giggling. It's not funny, but I have to laugh or I'll cry. "Guess now I have no excuse for not sleeping, huh?"