Author's Note: Okay, final chapter! I can't believe I've finished this already… Thanks for sticking around all this time, and I hope this doesn't disappoint. Huge thanks to everyone who's taken the time to let me know what they think – I appreciate it!
Abby closes her apartment door and looks around as if she's never been here before. Gibbs watches her take a deep breath, and puts a hand on her shoulder. "If you'd rather sleep at my place tonight…"
Quickly, she shakes her head. "No. I'm okay."
She walks over to the table that was overbalanced when Gibbs and Tony arrived at her apartment, straightens the lampshade and moves the telephone to one side. Then, nodding, she manages a smile. "Want some coffee?"
As she moves around the kitchen, finding everything where she left it, she's comforted by the familiarity of her apartment, despite what happened the last time she was here. As she curls up on the couch next to Gibbs, she asks, "Will you stay here tonight?"
"You thought I was gonna leave you here alone?" he asks, and she leans against him, comforted.
"Ziva knows about the psychic stuff, doesn't she?"
Gibbs hadn't expected her to catch onto that fact so soon after her rescue. "Yeah. How'd you guess?"
She shrugs. "She keeps giving me these weird looks, and I know how freaked out she gets about that kinda thing."
"She'll get over it."
Abby tilts her head up to look at him. "Will you?" Off his look, she giggles. "Okay, okay. It never happened."
He kisses her slowly, and she smiles against his lips, wrapping her arms around him. He pulls back to look at her, and she raises a suggestive eyebrow at him. "Wanna-?"
He kisses her again, cutting her off before she can finish. "No," he tells her quietly, although her resulting pout is so alluring that it's almost enough to make him reconsider. "You need to rest, Abby."
"You know, too much chivalry can be bad for you," she says dryly, and puts her head on his shoulder.
He smiles, his arms tightening around her. She's quiet for a few minutes, and it's not until her coffee mug begins to tilt dangerously that he realises she's fallen asleep. He takes it from her with care and carries her through to her bedroom, pulling the covers up over her and then heading back through to the living room.
He's not sleepy in the slightest, and he sinks into his own thoughts, replaying the showdown with Mawher in his head. There are so many things that might have gone catastrophically wrong. It seems like a miracle to him that Abby made it through unharmed.
Before an hour has passed, he hears the sound he's been half-waiting for since she fell asleep: a muffled, disoriented cry of terror. He makes for the bedroom, to find Abby sitting up in bed, her arms around her knees, staring at him fearfully.
He sits on the edge of the bed, and she throws her arms around him, clinging on tightly. Gibbs strokes her hair, trying to calm her. "Bad dream?"
She doesn't reply, but from the way she's holding her breath he knows the words have brought her to tears. "Let it go, Abbs," he murmurs, and she releases the breath, her body shaking with the force of her sobs.
She cries until she can't cry any more, dragging herself through the painful process of beginning to accept what's happened to her. When her breathing calms, she whispers, "He nearly killed me."
"But he didn't." He sits back to meet her eyes, making sure she knows she's safe.
"I dreamed I was back there, in that room. When I woke up I thought..." She can't finish, shaking her head.
"I know." Gibbs kisses her forehead gently, and she squeezes his hand in appreciation.
"Will you sleep in here with me? I mean, not sleep, just sleep?"
He nods, and she tries a smile, gesturing down at the skirt and shirt she fell asleep in on the couch. "I'm gonna change."
She vanishes into the bathroom, emerging a few minutes later wearing black pyjama pants and a camisole top, her hair loose around her shoulders and her face cleansed of makeup. She's tired and her eyes are a little red from crying, but to Gibbs she looks just as good as ever.
She lies down beside him, and he draws the covers up over them both. Abby burrows into his arms, his chest against her back. Their bodies fit perfectly together, and Gibbs listens to her breathing gradually slow as she relaxes.
After a while she seems to have fallen asleep, but as Gibbs lets himself begin to drift her quiet whisper splits the silence. "Gibbs?"
"I didn't thank you for saving my life."
Amused, he opens one eye. "Sleep now, thank me later."
A tinge of laughter in her voice, she shifts against him playfully. "Oh, I will."
He's tempted beyond belief, but she's too emotionally fraught right now for him to even consider initiating anything. "Later, Abbs…"
She twists in his arms, kissing him briefly, sweetly, and then settling down again. "Night, Gibbs."
He wakes the next morning to the sensation of Abby kissing her way along his jawline. The next couple of hours are more intense than Gibbs would have thought possible. Abby treats sex the same way as she leads the rest of her life: with joy, enthusiasm, energy and emotion. Gibbs can't get enough of her.
When neither of them can summon the strength to move, Abby entwines her legs with his, her head on his chest. Their conversation meanders from topic to topic, until Abby asks him, "So tell me the truth. How bad is my lab? I mean, now we don't have a homicidal maniac to worry about?"
He anticipates her train of thought and shakes his head. "You're not going into work tomorrow."
She raises herself up on one elbow to frown at him. "Yes, I am! I don't need to convalesce like an old woman – I need to get my life back. Anyway, I have a psych assessment with Ducky in the afternoon. He'll recommend therapy, and trust me, I'll go. But I miss my lab, Gibbs. You know how much I love my job."
Gibbs listens without interrupting, knowing on some level that she's right. If their positions were reversed, he'd want to do the exact same thing – and he has done in the past, against all advice. It's only because of his own experience that he acquiesces.
"You'll go to the therapy sessions?"
She raises an eyebrow. "Thought you didn't believe in therapy?"
"Had enough of it to know it doesn't work for me. But that's me." He knows that the more she represses the experience, the more spectacularly it'll blow up in her face later. Abby feels things so deeply that even the thought makes him wince.
She drops her head back onto his chest. "You're just a difficult patient." He doesn't reply, waiting for her answer. Finally, she says, "I promise I'll go to therapy if you let me go back to work tomorrow."
Reluctantly, he nods. "Deal."
She hums with satisfaction at her victory, and silence descends on the room for a couple of minutes. Though their psychic link seems to be broken, Gibbs can almost hear her thought processes. When she speaks again, the words are exactly what he expects, and he can't help but laugh.
"So how bad is my lab?"
When they arrive at the Navy Yard the following morning, Abby fidgets with excitement as the elevator ascends to the third floor. Only she could be so happy about coming into work, and Gibbs watches her without comment, glad that she seems to be feeling better by the day.
The doors open, and Abby steps out of the elevator first, looking around the squad-room with a nostalgic smile, as if she hasn't been here for years. A couple of the agents at nearby desks glance up and notice her, and immediately jump to their feet to greet her. As she's enveloped in hugs of welcome, word spreads around the large office, and the entire place erupts into spontaneous applause.
Over to their right, Ziva, Tony and McGee are on their feet. Gibbs' gaze moves past them, up toward MTAC; Jenny and her assistant, Cynthia, are standing on the balcony, looking down, applauding with the rest. Gibbs' eyes meet Jenny's, and she gives him an almost imperceptible nod, which he returns.
Abby's surrounded by people, and Gibbs leaves her to her reunions, heading over to his desk. "Good weekend, Boss?" DiNozzo asks, and Gibbs entertains himself by imagining his team's expressions if he told them exactly how he spent much of the day before.
"Not bad, DiNozzo. You?"
"Director Shepard!" Abby's yell commands their attention, and they turn to watch Abby almost suffocate the startled head of the agency with a hug. "I missed you!"
"Only Abby could get away with that," Tony says, grinning.
It takes ten minutes for Abby to greet everyone. Once she's done, she makes a beeline for Tony's desk, hugging him, then McGee, and then Ziva in rapid succession. "Wow, I missed this place so much! What're you working on?"
They all see past the question to what she's really asking: do you have forensic goodies for me?
They still haven't wrapped up the case Jenny gave them when Abby's trail went cold, and McGee gives her a brief run-down, adding, "There's evidence down in your lab. The temp made a start, but he's not as fast as you are."
Abby casts a sidelong glance at Gibbs. "Remember those words next time you're hounding me for results…"
Gibbs takes a sip of his coffee, letting the comment pass. She sees past his impassive façade to the amusement within, and her eyes sparkle as she looks away again.
"Okay, I'm gonna go see my babies." She starts toward the rear elevator, and by unspoken agreement, McGee, DiNozzo and Ziva converge to follow her. Knowing exactly what she'll find when she reaches her lab, Gibbs does the same, and they ride the elevator down together, Tony filling Abby in on some of the office gossip she's missed.
They head into the lab, and Abby stops dead, staring around her. Gibbs follows her line of sight, taking in the thirty or so bouquets of black roses scattered around the room. An entire shelf of her refrigeration unit has been filled with Caf-Pow!, and a banner stretches across the top of the glass doors that lead into her office, proclaiming in large letters, Welcome Home, Abby!
"Awwww!" Abby launches herself at everyone in the room again, then spins around the lab, examining everything. "This rocks! Thank you so much!"
"I think there's something from pretty much everyone who works with you," Tony says.
One of the many machines scattered around the room beeps, and Abby whirls to face it. "Ooh, DNA…" She shifts the mouse of one of her computers, and the screen lights up with a service record. "I have no idea if you know who this guy is, but according to this, his hair was found at your crime scene."
Gibbs doesn't recognise the name or the face of the unsmiling Gunnery Sergeant staring out from the screen, but Ziva apparently does. He dispatches his team to pick him up, leaving him alone with Abby.
She shrugs into her lab coat, donning the garment like a fragment of her identity, and looks over at him, smiling a little. "I'm home."
For the first time since her rescue, she looks as though she really believes it. Gibbs kisses the top of her head, relieved that she's not showing any signs of strain at being back at work. "Call me if you need me," he tells her.
"Oh, I will," she says mischievously, as he makes for the elevator. As he steps into the enclosed space, a wave of the noise she calls music surges through the air at an ear-splitting level, and the lab is her own again.
Gibbs drains his coffee cup as the doors close, finally letting himself relax. It might take a little time, but Abby will be just fine.