Title: Feet of Clay (1)
Disclaimer: I don't own anything to do with NCIS.
A/N: This is a sequel to "I'm Not Sorry" and "Resolution" and occurs about 2 months after Jackson's birth. Abby finally confronts Gibbs with the feelings she suppressed.
Abby had a worried look as she swiftly moved to change the baby's diaper. He had been crying more than usual lately, and she wondered if there was some problem related to his premature birth. Jackson had been born 12 weeks early; he had done well so far, for his developmental age, but still, it was impossible to predict what could happen during a preemie's first year.
"It's okay, Jackie, Mama's got you all clean now," she soothed, picking him up to rock him in her arms. He began to scream more loudly, so she grabbed a blanket nearby and swaddled him tightly. She sang to him, pushed him in the stroller, played his favorite music, checked his diaper again and even offered him a bottle. Nothing worked.
Finally she laid him in his crib, frustrated, trying to think of some way to get him to calm down. "Jackson, sweetie, please stop crying! Please – for Mommy?"
His eyes wandered a bit then locked onto hers, and the crying subsided slightly. Abby was just about to let out a sigh of relief when Jackson took a deep breath and began to wail loud enough to be heard all the way in the basement.
Without thinking, Abby grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him as hard as she could. "Stop it!" she yelled, hysterically. "I said stop! Stop it!"
Jackson coughed twice then went back to wailing, but the interruption was enough to bring Abby back to herself. She released his shoulders and stared at her hands as if they were someone else's. "Oh my God," she breathed. "Oh my God. What have I done? Jackson, baby, I'm so sorry! Mommy's sorry for hurting you like that!"
She started to pick him up and try again to soothe him, but something told her not to. Instead, she left him crying in his crib and ran downstairs. "Jethro?" she called.
"Down here," he replied from the basement.
She stood at the top of the steps, looking down at Gibbs who was working to complete his boat. She tried not to let him see that she was shaking like the fragile wing of a butterfly. "Jethro, I need to go out. My friend, um, Tika called and she needs my help right away. Car trouble," she added, inventing something on the spot.
"Sure," he replied, setting down his tools and switching off the television. "I'll be right up."
Abby felt a bit relieved but not much. She returned to the nursery where Jackson, red-faced, was still howling like a banshee. A panicked thought struck her – did she hurt him? She knew that shake-the-baby syndrome usually developed over time, not with a single incident, but still, she could have broken his neck or damaged his spinal cord.
Gibbs walked into the room. Trying to keep her voice from trembling, Abby said, "Jethro, I think we should take him to the hospital."
Giving her an odd look, he picked up the infant, holding Jackson close to his chest. Almost immediately the crying slowed and his breathing began to even out, punctuated by the occasional sniffle.
Abby slowly began to breathe again herself. "Never mind. I thought something was wrong because he wouldn't stop crying." She fidgeted a moment, an uncertain expression on her face, then said, "I guess I'll go give Tika a hand now."
Gibbs nodded and gave her a kiss. "See you soon." As she started to leave, he added, "Abbs – anytime you need help with Jackie, just say so. I'm his dad, you know. We're a team. This is not some '50's sitcom."
Abby had to giggle, looking down at her attire. She wore a tank top that proclaimed "Poisoned apple" in bright red letters, and a short black skirt, along with a silver spider necklace that fell almost to her cleavage. Definitely not '50's sitcom appropriate!
She turned back to kiss him again. "Thanks, my fox. Love you."
"Love you more, Abbs."
Once she was in her car, Abby allowed herself to recall what it was that made her flee the house so quickly. 'I hurt my son,' she thought despondently, dropping her head into her hands. 'How can I be a good mother to Jackson if I hurt him?'
She started the car and began to drive, not sure where she might be going. She simply knew that she had to get away for awhile and determine what to do next.
When she found herself headed for Reston, Virginia, she realized that her unconscious mind knew what it was doing. 'I'd better call first,' she decided, pulling off at a convenience store.
The number was third on her speed dial, after 911 and Gibbs' cell. "Mallard residence," came the Scottish-accented response.
"Ducky! I need to talk to you. It's urgent. Can I come over?" She tried to sound as cheerful as possible, but the good doctor had known her long enough to recognize nuances in her voice that most others could not.
"Of course, my dear, you're always welcome," he replied. "Is something wrong?"
Abby hesitated. She couldn't possibly explain over the phone; she wouldn't be able to finish the drive. "I'll tell you when I get there," she promised.
'Oh, dear,' Dr. Mallard thought. He had been expecting a crisis to arise soon. "Very well, I will see you shortly, Abigail."
"Thanks, Ducky." She closed her phone and groaned inwardly. Would the problems never end?