Disclaimer: NCIS does not belong to me. No copyright infringement is intended.

A/N: Takes place between "Hiatus" and "Shalom"


Mexico Calling

It's been eight days. Eight days with no Gibbs. No kisses. No Caf-pows. No "What've you got for me, Abbs?"

Eight days. It feels more like eight years. Tony has already proven himself capable of handling his own team, but no one can replace Gibbs. Without him, NCIS just seems…empty. Even her beloved forensics seem less certain these days, now that her world has been so thoroughly shaken. Because if Gibbs can leave, how can she really rely on anything?

But almost a week has passed, now, and Abby has slowly gotten better. She has. Not good, by any stretch, but better. She still sits in her lab between batches of evidence, cuddling Bert and staring at her many identical screensavers, but at least now she can look at the pictures of him without crying. And OK, she might still sniffle uncontrollably every time she catches sight of those blue eyes, but at least now there are no actual tears. Usually, anyway. And that's a start, right?

Abby tries to tell herself that it will be OK, but she knows it's a lie. Because the rug has been pulled out from under them all, and things will never be the same again. And every time she sees those photos staring back at her, her hand strays to her cheek, treasuring the memory the motion triggers. She can still feel his calloused finger on her lip, hushing her as he'd given her that one last kiss goodbye. But memories and pictures only go so far, and she would gladly give up every last gizmo in her lab to have the real thing back.

Somehow, she suspects she's not the only one. Tim has really stepped it up, trying so hard to rise to his new position as Tony's right-hand man. But still, it's not the same. Competent though he is, Tim has just seemed a little lost since Gibbs left.

And Tony's doing an incredible job as team leader, maybe even better than any of them expected, but he still feels more like a substitute teacher than the real deal. He tries hard to maintain a sense of normalcy, even as he struggles to fill the gap left by Gibbs, but something's not quite right. The humor's a little too forced, the confidence a little too strong to be entirely convincing, and his new air of authority still feels a little like an act.

Ziva, too, is feeling the loss. At first, Abby had thought Ziva was taking it best, but if Abby had needed any more convincing that Ziva isn't always the strong, emotionless Mossad agent she likes to play, this past week would have been enough. Oh, it's not that Ziva walks around all teary-eyed, or anything. That seems to be Abby's prerogative. But she's too quiet. She doesn't respond to Tony's teasing anymore (not that Tony has been doing much of that lately, either), and Abby can't remember the last time she saw her smile.

And then there's Jenny. Jenny, who pretends to have it all together, hiding even more than usual behind her Director mask. But she's just as shattered as the rest of them, and it shows more than she would like. She seems…brittle, somehow, and it's almost scary, watching her, wondering when she's finally going to crack.

Abby feels an unusual degree of protectiveness these days, a need to make sure that the rest of the team, at least, are still safe, and there. She makes excuses to go upstairs to visit them, and has taken to grabbing them and hugging them in passing. Tony, in particular, makes a show of rolling his eyes when she does it, but Abby notices that he never pulls away. He might huff and glare, but there's something telling about the grateful way he leans into the embraces.

Now, Abby begins to sort through the evidence that Tony has just brought down to her, along with her first Caf-pow of the morning. Here, too, Abby has improved in the past week. On day two, she'd had to run the same test three times. Now, she can usually manage to hold onto her concentration long enough to get through it without error.

They say time heals all wounds. She doesn't know about that, but if nothing else, the last week has given her enough time to slap a band-aid over the gaping hole inside her, and the quick-fix seems to be enough to let her run a test without completely screwing things up.

But healed? No, she wouldn't go that far. Because one of the people she loves most in the world has just up and left her, and Abby feels like she's still standing there in the middle of the squad room, gasping for air.

So she gives Bert a tighter squeeze and looks at those blue eyes sparkling back at her, staring so intently that she nearly falls off her stool when her phone rings. "Hello?"

"Abbs." The voice is so unexpected, so deliciously welcome and familiar that Abby almost drops the phone. She manages to hang on to it, feeling a warmth spreading through her body, right down to her toes.

"Gibbs?" But then a new thought occurs to her, and she frowns suspiciously into the receiver. She pinches herself, but the pain in her leg isn't enough to convince her. "It's not really you, is it? Am I hallucinating? Because I haven't had that much caffeine today. No more than usual, anyway. On the other hand, I haven't been getting much sleep, either, and sleep deprivation can cause hallucinations, you know. Not that I usually get a lot of sleep, but – "

"Abby!"

Usually, that stern tone would make her pout a little, but today she just wraps her free arm around herself and grins happily. "OK, you're real. Even my imagination couldn't do such a good imitation of the Gibbs Growl!"

"Abigail." This time he's doing his dangerously quiet, "shut up and listen to me, now," voice, but it still isn't enough to wipe the silly grin off her face.

Until, that is, she remembers something else. "Hang on!" She'd been so happy to finally hear from him that she'd almost forgotten something. "I'm mad at you, Gibbs! You left me! Why did you leave me?" She's aware that she sounds more like a toddler than anything else, but she doesn't care.

Abby hears a heavy sigh on the other end of the line. "Abby…"

"Yeah, I know," she allows grudgingly, echoing the sigh. "You had to. But I miss you." She's quiet for just a second, before something else occurs to her. "You're not hurt again, are you? Is that why you're calling? Because if you're in a hospital or something somewhere, I'm on next flight to Mexico. And I don't care if you like it, because I'm coming. So you can just deal with it!"

"I'm fine, Abbs." He sounds tired.

"Oh. OK." She doesn't quite know what to say to that. "Well, good."

"You got a pen?"

"Um…" She rummages around in a desk drawer before pulling out the pen Tony had given her for her last birthday – black, with a bobble-head bat on top. "Yup."

"Good. Write this number down for me." He rattles off a phone number, and she takes it down carefully in blood-red ink. "Got it?

"Got it. What is it, Gibbs?"

"Number where you can reach me." She's about to say – or maybe squeal –something, but he interrupts sternly, "For emergencies only, Abbs."

She doesn't like how final that sounds. "Wait, Gibbs! Don't hang up. Please."

He sighs again. "I have to, Abbs. I have to go. You'll be okay. You help Tony out for me. He's gonna need someone he can rely on."

He needs you, she thinks, but she doesn't say it. Instead, she says quietly, "You left me! And I think I might still be mad at you." It sounds unconvincing, though, with the combination of tears and pleading in her voice.

"I know, Abbs. I know." He's using his gentle voice, now, and it almost breaks her.

"Can I at least call you on your birthday?" she wheedles. And then she's too choked up to say anything more, as it hits her that he's really going to be gone that long.

"Abby…"

"OK, OK," she concedes, because what's the point in arguing about it now?

"I gotta go Abbs," he says again.

"Love you, Gibbs," she whispers. She can barely get the words out around her sob.

There's a heavy sigh from him, and then a quiet, "Yeah, Abbs. Love you, too." And then all she hears is a dial tone.

She sits there for a moment, trying to gather herself, but all she can manage to do is cradle her head in her hands and sob. When she can finally breathe again, she takes the post-it with Gibbs's phone number on it, folds it up carefully, and puts it in her pocket

Then she turns back to one of Gibbs's faces on her screen, addressing it sternly. "You're coming back, Gibbs. I'll give you a couple of months to figure things out, but that's it. If you're still gone by then, well…" She pats her pocket. "You'd better expect a phone call, Mister!

Feeling a little better, now, she turns back to her evidence. For the first time in a week, it's not an enormous struggle to concentrate.

Because Gibbs might think he's gone for good, but Ms. Abigail Sciuto has other ideas.


A/N: Feedback is more than welcome. I'd love to hear from you!