The bullpen was deceptively quiet. To an outside observer, it looked like a regular day but to anyone who knew Gibbs and his team, there was an underlying tension that permeated the very air.
There had been a collective sigh of relief when Tony was found but Abby noticed that Gibbs just became more withdrawn and began to snap at every little thing.
He had taken to pacing in her lab when the bullpen's tension became too much for him. Abby understood why he was so upset even though he refused to talk about it to anyone. She didn't pry or try to prod him into talking about it like Ducky, McGee and even Ziva had. She just let him pace and listened to him when he needed to rant.
Abby was staring at her screen as her fingers flew over the keys entering in the parameters of her search, when she heard the ding of the elevator. She gave a small smile, never taking her eyes off the monitor.
"Hey Gibbs. Come to wear another rut in my floor?"
"Not exactly." The voice had her whirling around on her stool so fast her pigtails whipped her in the face with the force of her motion.
"TONY!" Abby jumped off her perch and ran to hug her best friend.
She gingerly embraced him, knowing that he was still healing from the injuries Alejandro had inflicted on him.
"I thought you weren't supposed to be back for another 3 weeks..." Suspicion and happiness warred in her voice as she pulled back to look him in the eyes.
Tony gave a ghost of a smile. "Yeah I'm not, but I couldn't stand sitting at home knowing this guy is still out there..."
He trailed off and pain entered his voice. "Especially because he still has Catalina and I want to do everything I can to help get her back."
"Oh Tony..." Abby gave him another hug. "Does Gibbs know you're back yet?"
"I do now." The man in question stood behind them next to the stairwell door that he'd exited from.
Tony winced and his shoulders instinctively hunched forward.
Gibbs waved a hand to silence his Senior Field Agent. He trained his gaze on Abby who had backed away slightly and was looking at him with an air of expectation that had him fighting a slight smile away.
Aligning his expression back to his current norm of solemn and slightly angry, he voiced the reason he'd actually come down to the Lab.
"Have you got anything for me yet on that new search Abbs?"
A slight blush colored Abby's face and she looked down, intently studying her calf high, lace-up platform boots. "Well not quite yet, Gibbs..."
"Let me guess, you got distracted by 'Mr. I-Shouldn't-Be-Out-Of-Bed-Yet' ?" Amusement laced his voice and she looked up relieved.
"Well, only because I thought he was you coming to make sure your pacing path was permanently etched into my floor!" She grinned at him, teasing.
A smile that didn't quite reach his eyes briefly alighted on his face, when his phone began buzzing.
Tony couldn't quite pin the emotion that came across his boss' face but judging by the way he paled rapidly and the strength with which he was clenching his jaw, he didn't think it was a good one.
"Both of you, upstairs with me. Now."
As they exited the elevator, Abby and Tony hung back, letting their boss practically sprint out of the elevator towards the bullpen. They exchanged a look and without a word, Abby took Tony's hand.
Rounding the corner, they saw the reason for Gibbs' speed. Fornell stood in the the center of the bullpen talking with Ziva.
As Gibbs' neared the conversing pair, Ziva moved around her desk and sat down, leaving only Fornell in the path of her boss.
"You found her?" The question was tossed out with such vehemance that even Ziva flinched.
"No." Softly replying to his friend's request, Fornell allowed himself a small smile. "She found us."
A tremor passed across Jethro's face, quickly suppressed. "Is she- is she at Bethesda then?"
"Other than a few cuts and bruises, Catalina appears to be fine." The slight hesitation that accompanied Tobias' words was not lost on his close friend.
"What is it? Where is she then?" Gibbs was tensed, as if ready to move at the slightest sound.
"She's at home." No sooner had the words left Tobias' mouth, Gibbs was turning and already heading towards the elevator.
Fornell hurried after him. "Gibbs wait!"
"What!" Gibbs waited impatiently for the elevator as he punched the button again.
"She doesn't want to see you."
"What?" He turned, facing the FBI agent with a deceptively calm look on his face.
"She doesn't want to see you."
"She said this?"
Fornell nodded. "It's one of the only requests she's made so far besides telling us where we can find that bastard Rojas. I intend to make sure she gets what she's asked for."
Gibbs opened his mouth and began to object but Fornell silenced him with a raised hand.
"She has a team of agents surrounding her house, making sure she's not disturbed by any visitors unless she wants to be. " His voice gentled slightly. "The only person she's asked to see has been Adrian, her brother. He's on a flight home now from Iraq as we speak. When she's ready to see you, any of you, she'll let you know."
The elevator gave a soft ding and opened, waiting for it's future occupants to board.
Gibbs' put a hand out to hold the elevator open while he held Fornell's gaze. Reaching some conclusion from his own internal debate, he nodded and stepped into the elevator and pressed the down button.
Tobias watched him leave and then pulled his phone out and made a few phone calls.
As he finished, Tony came up beside him. "So what do you think the odds are that he'll actually listen to you?"
Tobias glanced at the agent and gave a smirk. "Even I wouldn't take that bet, DiNozzo."
I had just stepped out of the shower when there was a tap on my door. I jumped, placing a hand over my heart as my pulse raced. Taking deep, steadying breaths, I reassured myself that the team of agents around were protecting me well.
"Yes?" I began to change into a pair of soft cloth pajama pants and a large oversized sweatshirt that said 'Semper Fi' .
"Ma'am, we have a man outside who says he's your brother, Adrian. Should we let him through?" The voice of Agent Sophie Calvert filtered through my bedroom door. I smiled.
"Sophie, for the thousandth time, you don't have to call me ma'am just because you're on assignment. And yes, please let him in, thank you."
"Girl, when this thing is finished I will call you Cat but until then, you're ma'am to me."
I could hear the amusement in her voice as her southern drawl became more pronounced as she said "ma'am".
I pulled out a pair of large, fluffy socks and was pulling them on when there was another, more firm tap on my door.
A rush of relief flooded through me. I needed my brother's reassuring presence. He'd always been my lodestone throughout our childhood and in times of great turmoil or stress, I always turned to him.
"Come in." I turned away from the door to pull my hair up into a messy half pony tail and when I turned back around my heart began to pound.
Jethro stood just inside my room looking like he'd rather punch something than stand there looking at me.
I didn't realize I'd been backing up until my back hit my dresser with a thud. Swallowing hard, I struggled to steady myself but found that I couldn't seem to catch my breath.
"Why? Why don't you want to see me?" His voice was soft, so soft that I thought I might have misheard him.
"Jethro, I- I..." My voice broke and I felt tears burn my eyes as I blinked them back.
"I can't. I just can't." I felt the first tear fall and shut my eyes to stop anymore from leaking out.
I felt rather than heard him move across the room to stand in front of me. "You can't what?" His voice was soft and gentle. His fingers whispered against my cheek, wiping my tear away. "What can't you do?" His hands cautiously moved about my face, stroking, soothing.
"I can't tell you!" I burst out and I opened my eyes to look up at him, tears glistening. "I can't- I need my brother. I need him, he- he'll know what I need to do."
I couldn't hold my sobs back any longer and I collapsed to the floor, hands over my face, crying.
Then Jethro was there, gathering me into his arms, rocking me slowly. I clung to him as the storm of my grief ebbed.
As my tears subsided, I began to relax, leaning more fully against him, my head nestled in the crook of his neck.
"Can you tell me now why you didn't want to see me, Catalina?" He kept his voice soft as he continued to stroke my hair and rock me gently.
I sniffed. It seemed silly now.
"Because I didn't want you to see me like this." I gestured to myself - my red, running nose and puffy eyes.
His chuckle rumbled through his chest and I felt it in my own. "I've seen worse. Trust me."
"I don't doubt it. It's just... I just... I don't like being- appearing... weak." I said as I sighed.
Jethro turned my head to look at him. "Catalina, the last thing you are is weak."
I gave a watery smile and sniffled again. I moved my head to place it back where it had been, when his hand on my face stopped me.
The kiss was subdued and tender and I could feel my heart melting.
When he pulled back though, what he said had my heart stopping.
"I love you Catalina."