Author: Jo. R (driftingatdusk)
Spoilers: Very slight for 'Twilight', 'Hiatus pt 1 & 2'
Word count: 8020 words.
Summary: Written for TaylorGibbs for the GAFicathon on Livejournal. Requests were: Gibbs in peril, psychic connection, elevator sexual tension.
The same dream haunted her night after night. Abby Sciuto tightened her grip on her pillow, her legs tangled in the dark maroon sheets of her bed. In her sleep, she whimpered, her brow furrowed as tears leaked out from behind closed eyes.
Blood. There was so much blood. She saw it as if from afar, unable to do anything but watch. She saw Tony and Ziva and McGee run, their mouths open in silent shouts and screams she couldn't hear. She saw the bullet leave Ziva weapon, hit their suspect right between his smiling eyes but she didn't care for him, didn't feel anything as his body fell lifelessly to the ground.
She felt everything when she looked at the dying man lying in front of her.
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs stared at up her, through her, with the blue eyes she adored so much. Clouded over with pain and the onslaught of death, Abby wanted nothing more than to drop to her knees, press her hands against the blood flowing from his body as if sheer force of will alone would keep him from leaving her, keep him from dying.
She watched his dry lips move, felt her eyes still with fresh tears as she made out the name he whispered, the last name he'd ever speak.
Not Shannon or Kelly or Jenny, not any of the women he'd loved and lost over the years but hers.
There was an apology in his eyes, regret joined pain in lining his face and aging him beyond his years.
She was helpless as Tony DiNozzo leant over him, anguish on his own face as he tried and failed to order Gibbs to live. She wrapped her arms around her shaking body, hugging herself as Tim McGee wiped a tear from his eye as he called for back-up. Ziva David stood over the body of Gibbs' killer, such hatred and despair on her devastated features.
Gibbs was dead.
His name was torn from her lips as she sat up, tears stinging her eyes, coursing down her cheeks. She touched her cheek with one hand, pressed the other against her racing heart.
It took several minutes and many more deep breaths before she realised it was just a dream, the same damn nightmare that had tortured her for six days, ever since the investigation into the death of Gunnery Sergeant Andrew Simpson had begun.
She kicked her legs free of the sheets angrily, barely sparing a glance at the clock on the bedside table. She knew what time it was, the same damn time she'd taken to waking up every night since the nightmares had started: 03.07am.
Abby stumbled around her darkened room, blindly grabbing clothes from the dresser and making her way to the bathroom for a quick shower before heading off to NCIS for another long day spent in her lab, desperately hoping for a break in the case – and a break from the nightmares that awaited her whenever she closed her eyes.
He watched her from the doorway of her lab, concerned etched into his face. In one hand, he held a rapidly cooling coffee and in the other, an over-sized plastic container of Caf-Pow. Watching the way her eyelids drooped and shoulders were slumped, Gibbs couldn't decide if it was a good thing he'd decided to bring her a caffeine boost or not.
The case had hit her hard but he couldn't figure out why. He'd mentioned it to Ducky but his friend had just looked from him to the corpse on the table in autopsy and arched an exasperated eyebrow. He'd heard his team talking, knew they'd made some comparisons between himself and the man whose murder they were investigation but, personally, he couldn't see it and couldn't see how a resemblance that wasn't even there could be causing his forensic scientist so much concern.
"Hey, Abs." Purposely keeping his voice gentle, Gibbs bit back a sigh when she jumped anyway, startled at his presence. "You okay?"
"Nothing a Caf-Pow and a visit from my favourite person in the world won't fix." Her smile was a little over-bright, the hand that closed around the bright orange cup a little desperate.
He noted the black smudges under her eyes, the ones that weren't caused by make-up and put a hand on her shoulder. "Expecting the lead singer of Android Lust to stop by?"
"What? Oh. My favourite person." A strained laugh escaped her and she took a long sip of the caffeinated drink. "Not that favourite person. My real-life favourite person." She shook her head, sending her unusually messing pigtails dancing about her. "So to what do I owe the visit, anyway? I've got nothing new for you – just re-running everything in case I missed something vitally important."
"If you didn't catch it the first time, there's obviously nothing to find." His confidence in her ability brought a smaller, more genuine smile to her richly painted lips but it didn't last long, much to his disappointment. "What's going on, Abby?"
Big green eyes blinked at him and he noticed the red around them had become just a little more pronounced, eyeliner and mascara unable to hide the evidence of another restless night. "Nothing?"
His hand on her shoulder tightened, his gaze intense as he said nothing. Just stared at her and waited for her to break.
Abby glanced away. She put the Caf-Pow down and clasped her hands – trembling, he noted – and stared at them for a few moments before moving her gaze around the lab, avoiding having to look back at him. "I'm fine, Gibbs," she said eventually, so softly he had to lean in to hear her. "I'm just tired."
Again, he waited. He could be a man of indefinite patience where she was concerned and was confident she'd confide in him eventually; she almost always did.
"Look, I've just not been sleeping well, okay? I keep having these dreams. These stupid, horrible dreams." Her pale brow furrowed and her eyes shone suspiciously under the glare of her computer screen. "I know they're not real and they don't mean anything but they feel real and it hurts so much..." She bit her bottom lip, shaking her head again as if to rid herself of the images just talking about her nightmares had conjured up. "I'm okay," she repeated, turning a little on her stool to face him. "Don't worry. You can't be worrying about me, Gibbs. Not when you go and get this guy."
Confused at the urgency in her request, Gibbs moved his hand slightly so it was more against her neck than her shoulder. He felt her pulse quicken beneath his touch, watched the play of emotions in her eyes. "Tell me about the dreams, Abs."
"No. No. No, Gibbs." She shook her head, eyes impossibly wide.
"Please, Abby." His hand curled under her chin, gently tilting her face upwards so she had to look at him. "I can't help you if I don't know what's wrong."
"The only way you can help me is to promise you'll be careful when we catch this guy." She lifted a hand to his, pressing his palm against her cheek, needing the warmth and sense of security his touch usually gave her.
"I'm always careful." He tried to lighten the sombre mood with a half-smile but, although she tried, Abby couldn't return it. "I'm not him, Abs."
She blanched and turned her head away, letting her hand drop listlessly into her lap. Her other hand moved over the keyboard, bringing up an autopsy image of the deceased Gunnery Sergeant Andrew Simpson. "He's your age, Gibbs. He was the rank you were before you joined NCIS. He looks like you. Sure, he's not as handsome but he could easily be your brother or a close cousin. And he's dead." The last part was added quietly but it and the shiver that ran down her spine didn't go unnoticed.
Gibbs returned his hands to her shoulders, standing directly behind her. He rubbed her tense muscles through the thin, fitted t-shirt she wore and studied the image on screen. "I'm not him," he repeated gently. "I'm not dead and I plan on staying that way."
Images danced across the insides of her eyelids. Abby moaned softly and shifted in her sleep, trying to find a more comfortable position against the workbench in the hopes it would ease the horrors she couldn't help but see.
In moving restlessly, her hand hit the half-drunk Caf-Pow that sat on the bench beside her, the clatter it made against the lab floor startling her into consciousness before the ding of the elevator bell could. She stared at the spilt liquid in surprise, frowning at it as Gibbs and his team trouped into the lab.
"Woah. Undrinkable orange goo spill on aisle three." Tony raised his eyebrows as Gibbs stepped around the pooled drink to approach the dazed forensic scientist. "You okay, Abby?"
"Yeah. Yeah, fine." Shrugging off the hand Gibbs lay on her shoulder with a quick smile, Abby got off the stool and moved mechanically around her lab, picking up some paper towels before returning to the scene of the spill. She knelt on the floor, hoping they wouldn't notice her trembling hands. "What brings you all down here? I've still not got anything..."
"We do." Ziva David knelt down on the other side of the Caf-Pow puddle, reaching for some paper towels as she studied her friend with a critical eye. "McGee found a picture with our dead Gunnery Sergeant in it."
Abby frowned again. "A picture?"
"A picture taken twenty years ago." Tony bounced on the balls of his feet, showing an excess of energy and no way of using it. "Show the lady, McGee."
McGee bypassed the spill and the two women still kneeling on the floor to type in some commands on the keyboard when Gibbs nodded for him to do so. He hesitated as Abby straightened and reluctantly stood aside so she could see the image on the screen. "Boss doesn't remember it being taken," he told her quietly, hating the flash of alarm in her green eyes. "It could be nothing, Abby."
"It is nothing, McGee." There was an edge in Gibbs' voice they didn't hear very often but no one questioned it. "We were in the same place at the same time. No big deal."
"Who are the others in the photograph?" Abby studied it closely, any amusement she had at seeing a young, pre-silver-haired-but-still-a-fox Gibbs lost under the dread she felt looking at them all. "Do you recognise any of them?"
Gibbs stood close behind her, choosing to look at it over her shoulder instead of joining the rest of his team at the big plasma screen. "Can't say I do. It was a long time ago."
"I hear the memory's the first thing to go," Tony said in a stage-whisper, a grin on his face that Gibbs couldn't see because the older man was too far away to dish out the customary head-slap.
"What was that, DiNozzo?"
"Nothing, Boss." Tony turned, an innocent look on his face. "It's too much of a coincidence to ignore, and we know how you feel about those."
"There's no such thing as a coincidence." Abby's fingers flew over the keyboard and the image shrunk, her computer scanning the facial features of the other men in the photograph in an attempt at finding their identities. "Bad timing, bad luck, yeah."
The computer beeped within minutes, easily identifying the first, then the second and third man in the photograph.
"All marines," Tony read from the screen when Abby pulled up their information in a split-screen.
"All dead," Abby added, clenching her hands into fists to keep from clinging to the man standing behind her. "That's not a coincidence, Gibbs."
"Maybe." Gibbs stared at the three dates of death, his brow furrowed. "McGee, find out how they died."
"On it, Boss." McGee nodded, his own concerns showing briefly on his face as he walked to the second computer station in Abby's office.
"DiNozzo, you and Ziva go and question the witnesses. Again," Gibbs added firmly when it looked like Tony was about to argue. "I'll be in autopsy."
His choice of words had her shuddering but Gibbs didn't notice, already heading out of the lab. Abby hesitated for a split second before running after him, only just managing to sneak through the elevator doors as they slid closed.
"Guess we're taking the stairs," Tony muttered to Ziva. "Good thing you didn't wear the heels."
Ziva snorted and walked ahead of him. "I would still beat you if I had, Tony."
"Gibbs." Abby wrapped her arms around her middle, biting her lip nervously as she stood opposite him in the elevator. "You can't deny it now. You can't pretend there's nothing wrong..."
"There is nothing wrong, Abby." If she didn't know him as well as she did, she would've easily mistaken the underlying concern in his voice as annoyance. "It's just a case."
She snorted indelicately and reached a hand over to the emergency stop. "It's never just a case with you. The day it is, is the day you quit. But this one is personal and you can't pretend it isn't."
"I'm not pretending anything." He stared at her through unwavering blue eyes. "It's not personal; you just want to believe it is."
"I do?" She blinked and crossed her arms over her chest, foot tapping the floor in an agitated gesture he wasn't sure she was conscious off. "Sure I do. What was I thinking? I want to believe you're in trouble. I want to keep having these stupid dreams. Hey, maybe I really want you to die and it's my subconscious's way of telling me that. Maybe we should ask Ducky. He's the psychology expert. Let's ask him why I'm so keen to believe I might lose you and hey, why we're at it, we'll ask him why you're so stubborn and pig-headed you can't or won't see what the rest of us can."
His hands were on her shoulders before she could draw in another breath to continue her rant, his body invading her personal space in a manner that was entirely unapologetic as was their way and had been since the second year of their friendship. "That's what you're dreaming about? Me?"
"You dying, to be specific." She felt her cheeks warm at the thought of some of the other dreams she'd had involving him and hoped he'd just think it was anger and fear causing her face to flush. "Every night, since you caught this case. It happens the same way, Gibbs, every time. Not one difference. You're tracking this guy and you follow him to the roof, with the others behind you. He's there, waiting, and he shoots you and you die. I watched you die, Gibbs. I watched you leave me and there's nothing I could do about it."
A tear slipped down her cheek as her voice broke and Gibbs didn't hesitate in sliding his hands down, around her, drawing her against his chest. "I'm not going to die, Abby. Not for a good while yet. I'm not gonna leave you," he added gently, pressing a kiss to her forehead. "I promise."
"Don't. " She drew back, her green eyes shining earnestly. "Don't make promises you can't keep, Gibbs. You've never lied to me before, please don't start now."
"I'm not lying. It's a promise I fully intend on keeping." A hand rose to cup her cheek, his eyes searching out hers. "I promise, Abs. I'm not going anywhere. I am not leaving you."
She shook her head wordlessly, pressed closer to him. She let her head rest on his shoulder, arms slipping around his waist beneath the jacket he wore. "You better not," she mumbled, words muffled against his neck. "I'd have to hurt you if you did."
He smiled and kissed the top of her head, trying to reign in his body's response to the feel of her hot breath on his bare skin. "I don't doubt that for a second."
Abby lingered in his arms for a little bit longer, drawing back with a reluctant sigh and shy smile. She said nothing as she moved away, hitting the emergency stop button to reactive the lift before crossing her arms over her chest. Gibbs got out when the doors opened but, instead of walking straight into the morgue, he turned back to glance at her as the doors began to close. He smiled when she waved and turned, satisfied she'd be okay.
Abby's smile slipped as soon as solid metal separated them and the arms she'd wrapped around herself tightened, fingernails digging into flesh. She slumped against the back wall of the elevator, eyes closing as a weary sound escaped her.
There was no such thing as coincidences; ten years working with Gibbs had taught her that.
His own gut told him something was wrong but he was damned if he'd admit it to Abby, not now he knew the cause of her sleepless nights. Gibbs walked into the morgue, purposely keeping his gaze averted from the body of the Marine on the autopsy table.
"To what do we owe the pleasure, Jethro?" Ducky appeared from the corner of the room, drying his hands on a paper towel. "I'm afraid our Gunnery Sergeant has told us all he can..."
"Not enough to catch the bastard who did it." Gibbs tilted his head from side to side, tension making it ache. "I think we've got a problem, Duck."
The British Doctor arched an eyebrow. "Anything I can assist with, Jethro?"
With a heavy sigh, Gibbs walked over to the body he'd been avoiding. He stared down at the still features, trying to recall ever meeting the dead man. "McGee found a photograph of Simpson."
Ducky waited patiently, coming to stand beside the gurney opposite his friend.
"I was in it, along with a couple of others. I don't remember it being taken." Gibbs ran a hand through his hair, his expression troubled as he lifted his gaze from the body to look at his friend. "They're all dead, Ducky. Everyone in the picture, except me."
To the Doctor's credit, the concern that flashed in his eyes was only visible for a brief second, covered by a calm expression as he crossed his hands behind his back. "Is there any connection between their deaths?"
"McGee's looking into it." The way he held himself, the way he spoke, told Ducky all he needed to know.
"You don't think it's a coincidence; you don't believe in them." Ducky studied Gibbs closely. "Your gut is telling you you're in danger."
"My gut, my team... Hell, even Abby's telling me to watch out." Gibbs looked at the body again and berated himself inwardly for not being able to remember the dead marine personally. "I don't want her knowing I've got doubts," he said quietly, knowing Ducky would understand his concerns; both were protective of the Goth forensic scientist and had been since the early days of their acquaintance. "She's not sleeping, keeps having nightmares where the guy responsible for this kills me, too."
An eyebrow rose and Ducky brought his hands out from behind his back. He pulled the sheet up over the body on the gurney, hands resting lightly on the edge of the metal table. "She began having nightmares before a connection was established?"
"She started having them the day we were given Simpson's case. I knew something was up but she only told me today what it was." A sigh escaped Gibbs and he shrugged. "She's not sleeping, trying to avoid it, I think."
"Jethro..." Ducky's hesitation had him lifting his eyes from the covered corpse to watch him. "It isn't the first time Abby has had such dreams. Perhaps it would be best to err on the side of caution in this case..."
Blue eyes narrowed, Gibbs stared. "What other dreams has she had?"
"I promised I wouldn't say," Ducky sighed softly. "She was quite shaken by the experience."
"Just tell me, Duck. I need to know."
Torn between his loyalty to Abby and his loyalty to the man in front of him, Ducky busied himself with rearranging the instruments of his trade on a wheeled tray. It had been some years since Abby had come to him in confidence, eyes still red following the death of their close friend and colleague, Special Agent Kate Todd. She'd cried in his arms and spoke of the confession she'd made to Kate prior to her death, describing the nightmare she'd had that had eerily foreseen her friend's death.
"You'll have to ask Abby, Jethro. I'm sorry." His shoulders squared, Ducky prepared himself for his friend's anger. "I made a promise but I think you should talk to her. It might help you to understand why she's struggling to overcome her fears."
Instead of appearing angry or hurt like Ducky feared, Gibbs seemed to consider his answer. His fists clenching and unclenching and the tensing of his jaw were the only outward signs of his agitation. After a moment, Gibbs nodded and his hands relaxed. "I'll talk to her."
"Thank you." Relief showing on his features, Ducky gazed down at the covered body. "Be careful with her, Jethro. You know how much she worries about you."
The two men exchanged a long, silent look. Gibbs eventually nodded, acknowledging the warning in his friend's eyes. Abby's feelings for him and vice-versa were discussed regularly during late-night drinking sessions between them and, while Ducky wanted both of his dear friends to be happy and couldn't understand why Gibbs put up so many barriers between them, he wouldn't stand by and let Abby be hurt, not even by his closest friend.
"You should tell her how you feel," Ducky had insisted more than once, a little worse for wear thanks to the half-drank bottle on the table between them. "Regrets are a terrible thing, Jethro. There's nothing worse than losing something you never gave yourself the chance to truly have."
Gibbs saw the same look that had been on his friend's face then as he stood opposite him in autopsy. He felt the familiar lurch in his stomach and jolt in his chest, awareness of his feelings hitting him at the same time as fear of what it might do to his friendship with Abby if he ever let her know. She was too important to him, a light in his otherwise dark life he refused to let be tarnished by the mistakes he was sure he'd make.
"I'll talk to her," he repeated, his voice soft.
"Good." Ducky smiled approvingly. "If Tim needs any help with the causes of deaths, tell him I'm more than happy to use my contacts."
"Thanks, Ducky." With one last look at the covered body, Gibbs strode out of autopsy and towards the elevator. His fingers hesitated over the buttons but he eventually pressed the button for the bullpen; he'd talk to Abby later when they'd both had a chance to calm their nerves.
Her nerves were shot.
Abby paced the lab, her fourth or fifth Caf-Pow of the day in hand. McGee, with Ducky's help, had uncovered the cause of death of the other marines in the photograph: all of them had been murdered, all shot with same weapon in the same manner. She glanced at the screen mounted on the wall and shuddered at the neat holes in each of the men's foreheads.
Just like Kate, she thought to herself with a shiver. If it weren't for the bullet wound and the unusual, wax-like pallor of their skin, she might've been able to convince herself they were just sleeping.
The team were out interviewing and re-interviewing suspects in the other murder cases, trying to find something other than the photograph – someone other than Gibbs – to connect the dead marines.
So far, they'd found nothing.
Abby ran a hand through her hair in agitation. Her pigtails had been taken down earlier, too messy to stay up and, besides, she needed to let her hair down to give her hands something to do every once in a while. Her fingers tangled in a knot of too-tousled hair and she tugged at it in annoyance, ignoring the pain as she pulled at the tangled strands.
"Easy there, Abs. The bald look might work for some but I don't think you'd be one of them." Tony carried an evidence box into the lab, the code on the side showing it was from the archives. "Gibbs asked me to bring this to you. Said you might find something that was missed the first time."
Startled at his presence, Abby pressed a hand to her chest and glared at him. "When did you get back?"
"Ten minutes ago?" Both eyebrows rising, Tony set the box down and gave her a worried look. "You okay, Abby?"
"I'm fine," she snapped, whirling away from him. She slammed her Caf-Pow container down on the counter beside the box, pulled the hair band from her wrist and fastened her tangled hair back in a messy bun in a manner so vicious, Tony couldn't help but wince. "Couldn't be better," she continued, muttering under her breath. She grabbed a pair of latex gloves from the box and swore as the first glove she tried to put on tore when she gave it a particular hard yank. "Damn it."
It wasn't her swearing that caused the alarm to show on his face but the tears that accompanied it. Tony stepped forward and put his hands over hers when she fumbled for the box of gloves, fingers trembling too much to pull them free. "Abby. Hey." He wrapped his arms around her when she turned and buried her face in his chest, her own arms sliding around his waist. "It's okay." He kissed the top of her head and glanced at the door, half-hoping, half-worrying that Gibbs would be there with a glare on his face, ready to blame Tony for being the cause of Abby's misery. He rocked her when she began to cry, biting his tongue against a blithe comment about the $200 shirt being used to soak up her tears. There was a time for humour, he knew, and it wasn't when the sensitive lab tech was so upset.
"I'm sorry, Tony." Abby mumbled after a while. She pulled away and wiped her cheeks with one hand, patting his damp shirt with the other. She cringed when she saw the mascara smudges staining the otherwise crisp white shirt. "I'll buy you a new shirt," she promised. "It'll have to wait till payday but…"
"Don't worry about it." Tony grabbed her hand and held it still. "You want to tell me what's wrong?"
"Nothing." The answer came too quickly. "I'm just really tired. Sorry for snapping at you, Tony." She tried to pull her hand away and reluctantly lifted her eyes when he refused to let her. "I'm fine. Really."
His expression was doubtful. "You sure you don't want to talk about it? Or if you want, I can get Gibbs or Ducky…?"
"No. Not Gibbs." She shook her head, letting several strands of hair escape the confines of the bun at the back of her head. "He'll just think I'm being stupid."
"You're the last person Gibbs would ever think that about." His reply was accompanied by a slightly knowing grin and a gleam in his eye Abby would have ordinarily questioned him about. When she didn't, when her eyes began to shimmer again, Tony lifted a hand to her chin and kept her face up when she would have lowered her head. "Is it something to do with Gibbs? I doubt he'd intentionally upset you, Abby. He doesn't have it in him, not with you... "
"It's nothing." Abby wiped her cheek with the back of one hand, tugging the other free from his grip. She turned away from him despite his attempts to the contrary and began taking plastic evidence bags out of the box. "I'll have a look through this and give you a call if I find anything."
Tony hesitated, lingering in the lab. "You sure there's nothing you want to talk about, Abs?"
"Positive." Abby gave him a quick smile. "You better get going. Gibbs'll want to know what kept you."
Resisting the urge to say he planned on telling him, Tony returned her smile with a short nod. "If you need anything, you know where I am. Call anytime, Abby. I mean it." He paused at the threshold of her lab, glancing back over his shoulder and biting back a sigh at the dejected slump to her shoulders. "Gibbs will be okay," he said quietly, acting on a hunch. His instincts were rewarded by the straightening of her spine. "We won't let anything happen to him."
Her quiet 'thank you' followed him out of the door.
The lab was too quiet when he entered it. Gibbs glanced around the darkened room, wondering why the lights weren't on and where Abby had got to when he saw she wasn't at her usual place in front of the computer. He saw something flash on the screen but decided to ignore it for a moment, Tony's not-so-concealed concern at Abby's frame of mind being his first priority.
Quietly, he walked into her inner office, the door opening with a soft hiss, closing behind him.
He still couldn't see her, and had just turned to leave when a soft moan caught his attention. He turned back to her desk to see a foot sticking out from beneath it and berated himself inwardly for not considering checking under her desk before. It was Abby's instinct to find somewhere small and dark to hide when she was worried about something, hence the fact she kept a coffin in her apartment that she sometimes favoured over the wrought iron bed she'd spent a small fortune on in an antique shop – and spent a weekend cursing over before eventually asking for his help in assembling it.
Crouching down beside the desk, Gibbs inched forward, squinting to make out her features. He didn't need to see her face to know she was in the midst of another nightmare, the tortured sound that escaped and the foot that narrowly escaped hitting him in the face as it flailed outwards told him that.
"Abs." He kept his voice soft, not wanting to wake her, just wanting to soothe her fears and ease her into a sounder sleep. Shuffling under the desk as much as his size and her position would allow, Gibbs carefully wrapped his arms around her and moved back, easing her out with him. He glanced across to the work unit where she kept the futon in her lab and wondered if he'd be able to move her over to it without waking her up.
She moaned again and in the dim light of her office, he saw a tear slip down her cheek. "No..."
The anguish in her voice caused his heart to ache, more so because he knew he was the cause. "Shh. It's okay, Abby." She settled a little when he moved her into the cradle of his arms, her head against his shoulder. Gibbs stood slowly, trying to balance her weight as well as his own, biting back a groan of his own at the way his muscles strained under the extra load. He glanced down at her, hating the frown on her face and the shadows under her eyes.
He carried her the short distance to the work bench, balancing her carefully in his arms while he kicked at the futon beneath the bench, easing it out from under the counter. He laid her on it just as carefully, smoothing her hair back from her face with his hand as he crouched down beside her. She curled up on her side, face turned towards him as a small sob escaped her.
The sound of his name said in such a broken tone would've been enough to make him wish a slow, painful death on the bastard who'd killed his fellow marines if he hadn't already felt that way. He allowed his fingers to trail over her cheek, tracing the tear tracks left over her pale skin. If she'd opened her eyes then, she would've seen the unguarded emotions on his face, the love and devotion that he did his best to conceal. She would have been surprised at the depth of his feelings, would've known in that instant that the feelings she had were fully reciprocated.
"I'm right here, Abs." He leaned in, brushed his lips over the crease in her brow. "It's okay, sweetheart. Eveything's gonna be okay."
He ran his fingers through her hair, lingering by her side. He wanted to stay with her, he realised, he wanted to be there when she woke up, to reassure her he was okay and to... What? Gibbs sighed softly, finding himself at an all-too familiar impasse. On one hand, he wanted to follow Ducky's advice and tell her how he felt – show her how he felt – but, on the other hand, he didn't want to do anything that could mean the end of their friendship or could result in him hurting her.
Gibbs stood before he could convince himself to stay. He looked around her office for the blanket he knew she kept there and stayed only long enough to drape it over her before heading into the main part of the lab, the flashing text on the computer screen catching his attention once more.
He'd seen her use the computer enough times to know how to navigate from the declaration to the photograph it referred to, his jaw clenching at the cold smile of the man who stared back at him.
The killer, his gut confirmed. A man who would kill him if given the chance.
Neither the name nor the face were familiar but they didn't need to be. He jotted the name down on a piece of paper next to her computer and strode out of the lab, knowing he could rely on McGee to track down an address so he didn't have to wake Abby to perform the small task.
Once in the bullpen, surrounded by his team, Gibbs found it easier to ignore the coil of dread in his stomach, pushing aside the thought that maybe he should let his agents face this one alone. Still, he couldn't stop himself from making a final phone call before leaving NCIS, speaking briefly with his friend before leading his team out into the dead of night.
At 2.47am, Abby woke up with a start. Her heart was racing, her cheeks were wet. She looked about her in confusion, trying to remember getting the futon out. She frowned into the dim light of the lab, staring through the sliding glass door when she saw something move in the shadows.
"Ducky," she whispered, eyes narrowing at the sight of the Doctor walking through her lab, a cup of tea in hand. Why was Ducky in her lab...?
She pushed the blanket she couldn't remember wrapping around her body to the side and walked towards the door, watching him start as it slid open to allow her entrance into the main room. She tried to smile but couldn't, her heart was pounding so loudly in her chest she was convinced he could hear it. "Hey, Duck-man. What brings you here?"
Mimicking her on an unconscious level, Ducky also tried to smile, unaware that it looked more like a grimace as he turned towards her. "Jethro called and asked if I'd stop by. He said he didn't want you to be alone."
"Gibbs called?" The feeling she couldn't define increased and her stomach turned uneasily. She glanced at the computer screen, frowning at the screensaver, convinced there should be something else on display. "Why isn't he here himself?"
As she moved over to the computer and reached out for the mouse, Ducky watched her cautiously. "He's gone after the suspect. He, Tony, Ziva and Tim left half an hour ago."
A gasp coincided with a sharp, stabbing pain in her chest as the screensaver disappeared and revealed the face of the cold-blooded murder it concealed. She pressed a hand to her chest and took an involuntary step back, her green eyes wide with horror.
"Abby? Abigail?" Ducky was beside her in an instant, a hand reached out to her as he glanced from her bloodless face to the photograph. "Are you alright, my dear?"
"That's him," she whispered, grasping at her throat with her hand. Darkness encroached on her vision, her lungs straining for the air she couldn't quite get her mouth to supply them with. Her legs felt weak, crumpling beneath her but she didn't feel the pain as her body fell to the floor, didn't feel the chill creep into her bones as the world around her grew dark. "That's the man from my dreams... He's going to kill him, Ducky. He's going to kill Gibbs!"
"Breathe, Abby." Ducky knelt down beside her, hands gripping her arms to the point of bruising but she didn't react. "Abigail. You need to calm down and breathe."
She shook her head, struggling against him, her breath coming in shallow pants as she struggled against the panic, against the fear. "I can't... Gibbs..."
Her eyes rolled back into her head and she slumped forward into Ducky's waiting arms.
Gibbs caught a glimpse of the time on his watch, wondering why he'd looked as he snuck forward. Their suspect, Paul Graham, a former marine dishonourably discharged just months after taking the photograph of Gibbs and his comrades, had fled his apartment as their car had pulled up outside according to his landlord. He hadn't left the building though had run towards to the stair well if the witness statements were to be believed, meaning that he was still within reach – and still a threat.
Sending Tony and Ziva up in the elevator, Gibbs kept McGee at his side as they followed the murderer up four flights of stairs towards the roof.
The fire door above them slammed, the sound echoing around the unpainted walls of the stair well. The echoing thuds seemed to sound in time with the beating of his heart and Gibbs took the steps two at a time, confident his agent was right behind him.
Pushing open the door, weapon at the ready, Gibbs didn't react to the cold night air as it hit him. He did, however, react to the sound of footsteps both on the stairs below him and on the roof in front of him.
"Just us, Boss," Tony called into the gloom quietly. "No sign of him on the top floor."
"He's on the roof," McGee whispered on Gibbs' behalf. "We heard the door slam."
"Then we have him cornered." There was a note of satisfaction in Ziva's voice, a feeling Gibbs could understand as it became apparent that their suspect had nowhere to go to evade capture.
Beside her, Tony snorted. "Nowhere but down."
Ignoring the comment, Gibbs motioned to them silently, giving his orders without needing to speak. They were a good team, a team he trusted more than any other he'd led and he found himself wondering for a split-second why he'd never told them that before.
Together, they stepped out onto the roof.
Gibbs let his instincts guide him, keeping to the shadows as much as possible as the gravel-like surface of the roof crunched under foot. His keen eyes scanned the darkness for any sign of movement, his pulse quickening at the flicker of something moving on the edge of his vision.
He could hear his breath, unusually loud in his ears, as he crossed the roof towards the movement. His finger was poised over the trigger of his gun, his arm perfectly poised. His shot would not miss.
Another movement, a slight clicking sound he associated with someone preparing to shoot came from his left. He spun soundlessly, gracefully, eyes scouring the shadows.
"No, Gibbs. He's waiting for you. Get down!"
Abby's voice, a whisper he heard as keenly as if it had been a scream reached him just before he heard the tell-tale bang of a bullet leaving its chamber. He threw himself to the ground at her order, for a second not questioning how he could hear her when she wasn't there and felt his hair flutter as the bullet aimed at his head whizzed past him with mere millimetres to spare.
A muttered curse, a second gunshot.
He rolled over onto his back, watching McGee and Tony approached as he sat up. Ziva, he noted, glanced over at him from where she stood over the body of their suspect, gun still pointed at his head as though she expected his corpse to move.
"I'm fine. He missed." Gibbs didn't look at them as he waved away their concern, blue eyes instead gazing straight ahead.
She wore the same clothes she'd been wearing when he'd tucked her up on the futon in her lab, a little creased from sleeping in them. Her face was ghostly pale in the darkness, her eyes eerily luminous as they glinted with tears even he could see from a distance.
"Abby." He murmured her name, ignoring the worried looks exchanged by those around him. She smiled at him, her image beginning to grow faint.
"I couldn't let him kill you," she whispered, her voice hoarse as her pale features were seemingly devoured by the shadows already consuming her body. Her hands moved, speaking to him wordlessly as she faded out of existence. 'I need you, Gibbs. Come back to me.'
Gibbs closed his eyes for a split second, unsurprised that she was gone when he opened them, replaced by the sight of Tony's hand. Accepting the help to get to his feet, Gibbs wiped his damp hands on his trouser pants and walked to the dead body Ziva stood guard over, staring down at it impassively.
He was staring at the man who would have killed him, he knew. A man he didn't know but whom hated him, resented Gibbs for what he had enough to kill him in cold blood without regret.
Further investigations would reveal a deep obsession that had begun over a decade ago, growing more twisted and perverse with time. They would discover in-depth plans to make the marines in the photograph Paul Graham had taken suffer the way he had, to take away the one thing that had meant something to him that he'd been stripped off – an honourable career, life as a marine, and they would find photographs of each of his victims, a vile intrusion of their lives, and follow twisted strands of logic only a mad man could follow to his motive.
Gibbs let the sound of the approaching sirens wash over him as he stood, glancing down at his watch on impulse more than any real desire to know the time of death.
She came to on her futon, her eyes staring up at the ceiling blearily. Still in her office, she mused – or in her office again, anyway. For the second time in one night, Abby couldn't remember getting onto the futon or wrapping herself up in the blanket and she sighed heavily, brow furrowed as she tried to remember getting there.
She'd had the dream again, she knew. Her eyes closed as she struggled to remember it, which was unusual as she could usually recall her nightmares with sickening clarity and vivid detail. She remembered watching from the shadows, feeling the wind on her face as the all-too-familiar scene had played out. She remembered watching Gibbs approach, seeing the twisted smile of glee spread out over Paul Graham's features as the Special Agent walked unwittingly into the trap laid out for him.
She remembered calling out to him, remembered how startled she'd been at being able to hear her own voice above the early morning traffic rumbling on the streets below.
She remembered Gibbs falling to the ground, his blue eyes finding and locking with hers in the dark as two shots had rang out, one after the other.
"Abby?" The sound of his voice and the familiar smell of coffee had her eyes opening. Abby sat up and reached out for the cup even as his hand moved to offer it to her, wrapping her hands around the polystyrene for warmth, grateful for the caffeine hit even if it wasn't in the form of her usual Caf-Pow. "You sleep okay?"
Abby moved her legs to make room for him beside her on the futon, surveying him over the rim of her coffee cup as she took a sip, sighing in appreciation; he'd added just the right amount of cream and sugar, even though he hated to ruin what he saw as a perfect cup of coffee by doing so. "I don't know," she answered honestly, her voice hoarse. "What happened?"
"You passed out. Scared a few years off Ducky's life." And mine, he added silently, recalling the fear he'd felt when he'd spoken to Ducky. "If you didn't wake up soon, we were gonna have to take you to hospital."
She made a face at that, making her displeasure at that idea known. "Glad you didn't. Hospitals are full of blood-thirsty vampires and creeps with needle fetishes." She took another sip of coffee, tilting her head to the side. "What happened with you? Ducky said you'd gone after the guy..."
"Paul Graham," he supplied, noticing the shiver that worked its way down her spine when he said the name. "He's dead. Ziva shot him."
"Before he could shoot you."
"After, actually." Gibbs watched her carefully, noting her lowered gaze. "Strangest thing happened, Abby. He shot at me and would've hit me but something made me move just in time."
Abby wouldn't look at him, her eyes averted to the coffee cup she lowered to her lap. "Your trusty gut saves the day again."
"Not my gut, Abs." He waited until she looked up at him before reaching out to take the coffee from her hands. He set it on the floor beside his own before taking her hands in his, warming her slender fingers with his own. "I don't know how, don't know if I want to..." He squeezed her hands and leaned in, brushing his lips against her cheek. "Thank you, Abby."
"For what?" Her voice was barely loud enough to be classed as a whisper, her fingers tangling with his with a desperation she strove to keep from showing on her face.
Gibbs gazed at her, fighting the temptation to lean in and cover her trembling lips with his own, knowing the timing wasn't right, but knowing he'd act as soon as it was, unable to deny his feelings or the bond they shared anymore. "For saving me," he answered simply, not going into details, not sure himself if he was thanking her for what had happened on the roof or for something else.
Her smile is easy and understanding, reaching her eyes for the first time in days. "Anytime."
He reached down for their coffees, handing one to her before picking up his own. Their other hands remained clasped, bound together as they drank in silence, celebrating the end of the nightmare and the beginning of something new.