Author's Note: Thanks once again to StBridget for the holiday idea. Still taking title suggestions if anyone has one. Much longer chapter than the first two, but as it's their first date, I thought it deserved to be. The rest of them will probably go back to the length of the first two.
Also, sorry for the wait. I've got a lot going on, very little of it good. Like most others, I really need the economy to turn back around, just for starters. Also have a new German Shepherd puppy. Literally every minute not at work or sleeping is spent watching him so he doesn't tear the house apart (also some of the time I am sleeping I have to watch him, lol). Anyway, hope you enjoy.
Thank you to all the reviewers of the previous chapter. Normally I take the time to answer each one (the signed ones anyway) to show my appreciation, but the gap between updates was so long this time that I didn't think anyone would remember what they said in their review. Never doubt that I cherish each and every one, though!
Reading Key: Italics are emphasis or thought. 'These' signify ASL (American Sign Language).
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Abby pulled up in front of Gibbs' house two minutes before nine. He'd already been waiting on the front step for her for three minutes. Abby was out of the hearse and halfway up his walkway before she noticed that he was already outside and headed toward her. He hid a smile when she jumped slightly, holding up the item in his right hand as he drew close to her. Gibbs straightened the tiniest bit… his posture was pretty much perfect anyway… when her green eyes raked his form before noticing the gift. She let out a squeal of excitement as she took the single black rose from him, a red bow adorning its long stem.
The bow tied around the stem wasn't made of a regular ribbon. He'd gone to the mall and picked up a pair of red shoelaces with a black skull and cross bones pattern. It was the longest set they carried, and he hoped it fit one of her pairs of boots. If not, she could probably find another use for them. The girl behind the counter at Hot Topic hadn't even blinked… though he had at some of the items in the store. Regardless of some of the wilder offerings, he would love to shop there with Abby; see her try on some of the outfits hanging on the back wall. They could even make a date of it. He'd broach the subject with her soon if tonight went well.
Speaking of attire, hers was lovely. He felt more confident now about his choice of a nice pair of slacks and a dark blue dress shirt that made his eyes appear lighter than usual. Abby wore a wraparound dress vaguely modeled off a style popular in the forties, though it showed more cleavage and was shorter than the dresses worn then. It was made of black silk. When Abby had skipped up his steps, he'd inadvertently caught sight of the fact that her black stockings were thigh highs with black lace tops threaded through with a red ribbon. There had also been a small flash of something white on the outer side of each. He'd be willing to bet it was a skull.
The classy yet daring dress should have been an incongruous sight when taking in her knee-high multiple-buckle combat boots, but it was an outfit that was all Abby. He wondered briefly if she'd forgone one of her usual chunky elevated pairs as a nod to him being her date. Some of her shoes did make her taller than him. Her hair was pulled up in six buns, three on either side of a middle part. Knowing how silky her hair was from various times playfully pulling a pigtail or comforting her in his arms, Gibbs fought the itch in his fingers that told him to take her hair down for her. Maybe later, he told himself.
"Thank you, Gibbs!" she smiled as she fingered a loop of his creative bow.
Abby leaned in to kiss his cheek, but he turned his head at the last second so the quick peck landed on his mouth. A light blush colored her pale cheeks when she pulled back, and he grinned at her.
She smiled back and said, "My silver haired fox is feeling feisty tonight."
When she turned away to walk back to the hearse, he moved in so that the front of his body was brushing the back of hers, only slightly more than it did when he approached her that way in her lab. Teasing was all well and good, but too much of it when there were hours before either of them could do anything about it was more along the lines of torture.
"You always make me feel feisty, Abbs," he breathed against her ear.
He was tremendously pleased when her neck and what he could see of her shoulders broke out in goosebumps.
"Tease," she accused before dancing away to the driver's side, not giving him the time to retaliate further.
Gibbs let her escape, sitting in the passenger seat of her unconventional transportation with a small smile still lifting his lips.
After spending the first minute in silence, Abby filled the rest of the twelve-minute ride with chatter about her latest bowling expedition with the nuns. Gibbs absorbed the information, but most of his attention was on Abby and not her words. She seemed as peppy as usual, just as much of a chatterbox definitely, but he knew her well enough to catch the little things that showed she was at least a little nervous. Every so often her fingers would spasm on the steering wheel, a sure sign that she had the urge to talk with her hands. Abby was also avoiding looking at him. What was it that she didn't want him to see in her expressive eyes?
They were parking before he could decide whether or not to ask her if anything was wrong. A second later Abby was out of the car and headed for the back, and a black-haired man was leaving the house to join her at the tailgate of the hearse. They started unloading items from Abby's vehicle, and Gibbs hurried to help. With all of the alcohol in three big boxes… Gibbs was glad the glass bottles hadn't been haphazardly stuffed into those flimsy plastic bags most stores favored now… they were able to take everything into the house in one trip. He set his box down on the indicated side table and turned to meet their hosts for the evening.
Abby introduced him to Cal and Jane Miller as simply 'Gibbs.' The way the couple had glanced at each other and greeted him with large smiles told him that Abby must have mentioned him to them before, and apparently in a good light. Not that he'd expected Abby to ever say anything negative about him, but it did make him wonder just what she had said. Gibbs knew that Abby had friends of all shapes, sizes, creeds and lifestyle choices, but Cal was the one of the two that looked like someone who would hang out with her. The man, probably in his late thirties, had jet black hair a shade similar to Abby's, obviously from a bottle, and a bit longer than Abby's when it was down. He also had several piercings in his nose, eyebrows and ears, as well a ring in his lower lip.
Despite his outward appearance… and Gibbs had learned long ago never to judge that way anyway… Cal was a very nice, soft-spoken man. He seemed to be as friendly as Abby, though nowhere near as outgoing. Jane was definitely the dominant one of the pair, her handshake firm and her gaze direct. Unlike her husband, she took a more mainstream approach to her appearance. Her auburn hair was up in a sleek French twist, a basic little black dress draping her body. Her makeup was almost neutral, and a single diamond stud adorned each ear.
Greetings out of the way, Abby asked how she could help with setup for the party. When he volunteered as well, shooting down their protestations of his being a guest with a comment about not liking to be idle, tasks were doled out. After helping Abby setup a makeshift bar on a long, narrow sideboard in the living room, Gibbs headed into the backyard to barbecue the shish kabobs the Millers had prepared earlier that afternoon. Abby was inside with Jane, helping the other woman finish putting up decorations while Cal got dressed for the party. Gibbs could see her since the barbecue was situated so that the person manning it faced the house.
She bounced out of the doorway that led to the patio and over to him as soon as she was done putting the final piece of tape in place to hold up a festive banner. "Need help?"
Gibbs smiled at her and laid the last of the prepared shish kabobs on the grill. "I've got it. Wouldn't mind a drink, though."
"Bourbon?" she asked.
He shook his head. "Not this early. A beer will be fine."
"Okay." She planted a quick, light kiss on his cheek before bopping back into the house.
Her lipstick print was still there when she came out again with his drink. Abby laughed and wiped it off for him. She perched on a patio chair to watch him as he kept an eye on the barbecue. They talked about recent cases for a while as he turned the cooking food. By the time the kabobs were done and they had headed inside, there were more people in the house. Once they had set the plate of kabobs on the buffet table, Abby led him around the room introducing him to the people she knew. Those she wasn't acquainted with greeted them with friendly smiles and an exchange of names and how they knew the Millers.
The evening progressed well from there, though Gibbs wasn't able to spend as much time with Abby as he would have liked. Everyone ate, drank and generally had a good time talking about everything and anything in groups spread throughout the main rooms of the house. Any time someone… usually him… found themselves standing alone, one of their hosts would draw them into a new cluster of people or just spend a few minutes with them making sure everything was going well. Cal seemed particularly determined to make sure everyone had a good time.
The later it got, the louder it got and the more laughter rang out. At eleven thirty, someone took to announcing how much time was left to midnight every few minutes. Through the night, Gibbs had found himself smiling and enjoying himself more than he usually did at parties. He knew part of it had to do with knowing Abby would be more likely to give them a real chance if he could fit into at least some parts of her social life; he had therefore actually made an effort to interact instead of leaning against a wall with a glass in his hand. And from some of Abby's smiles in his direction, he was pretty sure she had noticed his efforts.
"Five minutes!" someone announced when he was in the middle of a conversation with Jane.
Something made him glance up. Abby was watching him, and he automatically smiled at her before he noticed she didn't look too happy. He frowned and instinctively signed to her, 'What's wrong?'
'Nothing,' her response to him was made with quick, sharp movements of her elegant hands. 'I'm glad you're enjoying yourself.'
Clearly she thought he was enjoying himself too much, but hadn't she wanted him to fit in with her friends? If she was even half as interested in things working between them as he was, she couldn't have wanted him to have a bad time. In fact, even if she didn't want to be with him, she still would have wanted him to have fun. This was Abby after all. He felt Jane set a hand on his arm as she asked him if anything was wrong, and Abby's expression darkened further as she deliberately turned so she was no longer facing him.
Understanding hit him with a jolt, and Gibbs couldn't keep the grin from his face. He did manage to swallow the laugh that tried to escape. Abby's jealous! As much as the thought was a happy one… she had to have pretty strong feelings about him to act this way… Abby needed to know she had no reason to be jealous. Not of anyone. Placating Jane with a few quick words, Gibbs moved away from her. He consumed the distance between he and Abby in long, quick strides.
She didn't show any shock when he lightly grabbed her arm and turned her to face him. Abby was still scowling at him, though Gibbs could tell she was trying to suppress her irritation. Her face finally registered surprise when he tugged on her again, this time bringing her in close enough to dip his head and capture her generous lips with his. Gibbs' mouth was going to end up a bright shade of red from her lipstick, but it was more than worth it. And he wouldn't exactly look out of place in current company.
A tiny whimper escaped Abby when he teased the seam of her lips with the tip of his tongue. Her mouth opened under his, but he ignored the blatant invitation… part of him was still aware that they didn't have the kind of privacy they (or at least he) would need to take things any further.
"Jane is a friendly person," he told her when he pulled back just enough to talk. "She was telling me about how she and Cal met and some of the funnier stories of their dating life."
He had been taking it as encouragement for his relationship with Abby since Cal was like Abby… in his choice of style at least… and Jane was more traditional, rather like him.
"They have an open marriage," Abby said softly; she still had a slightly dazed look. "And she's a redhead."
He kissed her again, quick and hard to make her focus. The next time she blinked, her green eyes were clear and locked on him.
"This is you and me, Abby," he told her firmly. "Only you. And only me. No ghosts of former relationships, and no seeing other people at the same time. If that isn't what you want, you need to tell me now."
"Gibbs," she whispered his name, a slight tremble in her voice.
The awe in her tone sent a pleasurable shiver down his spine. She had a million ways that she said his name, and all of them got to him in a way entire conversations with other people often failed to do. This was a new one, and one he wanted to hear again. Gibbs knew without asking, without pushing further, that it had been her way of saying yes. He tilted his head slightly and kissed her again, the caress tender and loving.
"You're supposed to kiss right after the countdown, not just before it," Cal helpfully told them.
Gibbs wasn't sure if it had only been seconds or much longer; either way the interruption had come too soon. But Abby simply smiled at her friend and grabbed Gibbs' hand, dragging him closer to the big screen television that had been showing festivities in New York's Times Square during the party. The volume had been muted most of the night but was now on.
A young blonde man who looked like he'd had the same problem with teeth whitener as McGee was half-yelling into a microphone about the ball dropping ceremony. He wondered briefly where Dick Clark was. The last time he'd seen "New Year's Rockin' Eve" had been a couple years ago when he'd spent the evening at Ducky's. His silent question was answered when the camera switched away from the young guy and to the older man who had been in show business since Gibbs was a toddler. Clark was standing on a rooftop that gave the camera a perfect angle to show the giant lit sphere sliding down its pole behind him.
Gibbs turned away from the telecast to watch the excitement on Abby's face. The way she took such joy in everything around her often humbled him. She was mouthing along with the countdown, and when it reached ten and everyone else was shouting along, she began to sign the numbers as well. Gibbs didn't think she even realized she was doing it.
Less than a second after she said and signed "one," before she had a chance to say Happy New Year, his hands were cupping her head, bringing her lips to his. It took her a moment to react, probably from surprise, but she opened to him as soon as she did. This time he accepted the summons wholeheartedly, tasting her fully for the first time. He groaned at the sensations that having her this close caused. Desire, love… even a sense of truly being home.
Home to him had never been a building. During his time as a Marine he'd been relocated several times, and after Shannon and Kelly had died, their house had become more of a memorial than anything else. Home was being with people, or even just one person, that you loved. And that's where he was right now, where he often was in idle moments spent in Abby's lab. It had nothing to do with the place and everything to do with her.
Someone near them jostled into him, breaking their kiss prematurely with a soft popping sound. Abby, her eyes shining brightly, smiled at him. It was a combination of shy, come-hither, and perfect contentment. Gibbs couldn't think of a better sight to start off the New Year.
To be continued…