Title: Losing the Edge
Spoilers: The Ari arc.
Summary: You let your imagination run away with you, and it has led you to this.
For years, in your mind, you've thought of Abby as yours. The tattooed, eccentric forensic scientist is the complete opposite of anyone you've felt an attraction to before, but once you stop denying that you want her, you allow yourself to be mesmerised.
It's not the short skirts, or the way she's never shy about divulging personal details. It's not the way her hips sway as she keeps time to the noise she likens to music, or the press of her breasts against your chest as she hugs you.
No – it's more subtle than that. It's the way her mind flits like a hummingbird from one topic to another, yet at a single look from you, she's able to focus. It's the intuitive leaps of logic that work in perfect harmony with his gut instincts.
It's the slight narrowing of her eyes, the slow creep of a smile to her darkly made-up lips, when you surprise her. It's the flowing movements of her hands as you communicate silently, conversing unheard in a room full of people. It's the details everyone else misses – you see them all, and you want to explore her further.
She's aware of your interest, subconsciously. You try not to show it, and she dismisses the suspicions she has; as wishful thinking, perhaps. Even so, there's a connection between you, an undercurrent of comfortable tension that waits to be acknowledged. She flirts with you a little more than your colleagues, and you never smile more easily than when you're in her lab. You let her get away with things that you wouldn't tolerate from anyone else, and she reciprocates with spontaneous hugs and cheeky smiles.
Your internal debate wages on many a night spent alone in your basement: you're too old for her; too out of touch with the things she holds dear; too set in your ways and too damn destructive. You'd break her spirit, you tell yourself, sanding your boat more vigorously. You'd leave your friendship in tatters and your working relationship in ruins.
But then she smiles, frowns, concentrates, relaxes… hell, breathes… and you forget it all. She's your girl, and you'd lay down your life to keep her safe.
You realise just how much you need her on the night following Kate's murder. Hearing Ari's bullet whistle past you, the sound of breaking glass followed by Abby's terrified cry, you know that if she's succumbed the way Kate did, you'll lose the most precious thing in your life.
You drop the coffee you're holding and sprint back into the building, finding her cowering in the dark with DiNozzo, shaken but unhurt. And as you swear that you'll protect her, picking a sliver of broken grass from her hair, you know that soon you'll tell her that you need her. Not now, not for a while. You need time to deal with the danger, with Kate's passing, with revenge on Ari and the void the concluding of your obsession will leave. But soon.
Then Ziva arrives, and within the space of a month she shatters your hopes. The one thing that you've spent years unravelling your complicated emotions for, the one person you need to claim as yours, she walks in and effortlessly takes, without a backward glance.
You catch them making out in Abby's lab, lipstick kisses trailing over feminine skin, possessive hands all over your girl's body. DiNozzo would have been ecstatic to stumble upon the scene; you just feel sick with betrayal, and you're gone before they realise you're there.
Your friendship with Abby cools after that. She still teases you, still hugs you, still confides in you, but your interactions have lost their edge. Her brightest smile is reserved for Ziva, although they keep their relationship discreet, and it hurts to watch her eyes skip past you to seek out the newest member of your team.
She doesn't belong to you, and never did. You let your imagination run away with you, and it has led you to this.
You begin to avoid her – not so much that your team would notice, but as much as you can get away with. You send McGee or DiNozzo to the lab for results more than you used to, and your Caf-Pow! bribes are more tightly rationed. When she calls you down to report her findings, you leave as soon as business is concluded, withholding the hugs and cheek-kisses she's become accustomed to.
Before long, she catches on to it, and the confusion and distress she feels is obvious in her demeanour. For a couple of weeks after that, she analyses you, a slight crease between her brows, attempting to work out this new puzzle that you've inadvertently thrown her way.
One day, once she's finished her verbal report and you've turned away with a word of thanks, she broaches the subject, hitting the mute button to silence her music. "Gibbs?"
You turn, your senses alert in the stillness, to find her looking apprehensive and a little forlorn. "I miss you."
The words are painful; you want to return the sentiment, but there would be no sense in it. She's not your girl. She belongs to Ziva. "I'm right here, Abby."
"Yeah, but you…" She steps closer, her eyes searching your face, and you hope like hell that she can't see the hurt and frustration you feel. The stare you give her is impatient; let her think you're in a hurry to apply the information she's given you to the case.
She's known you too long to buy it. "What did I do? You've been avoiding me for weeks."
A denial would be ridiculous. You sigh, run a hand through your hair, hope like hell that your cellphone will ring and rescue you from the situation. It doesn't. "Been a little busy to waste time on chit-chat."
That wounds her. She looks down, scuffs her feet a little, and tries to regroup. "If you're so intent on steering clear of me, can you at least tell me why? After five years of friendship, you owe me that much."
What can you say that won't sound petulant or melodramatic? There's no easy way out of this conversation, but she's right: you do owe her. "Look on the bright side – the less time I spend down here, the more time you can spend with Ziva."
A flicker of shock glistens to life in her eyes. She had no idea that you knew. "I… Gibbs, is this a Rule Twelve thing?"
Never date a co-worker. You made an exception in her case when she dated McGee, because you could see before she could that it wouldn't last. With Ziva, you're less sure. She has the intensity that Abby needs, and from working with her you know they're a good match. But your issue isn't just a 'Rule Twelve thing' – there's too much jealousy involved for that.
"You're not one of my agents, Abby, and it's your life."
Frustrated, she grabs your arm as you turn to leave, her eyes blazing with irritation. "Then tell me why this is such a problem!"
Your hand is on her shoulder before you realise it, and she tightens her fingers on your arm, her anger fading to a quiet plea at the expression on your face – whatever that is. "Tell me, Gibbs."
This is closer than you've been to her in weeks. You yearn to pull her into your arms, to hold her close and inhale her faintly explosive scent, to brush your lips over her forehead and reassure her that you love her as much as you always did. You try to dismiss the thoughts before she notices the softening of your emotions, but you're too late, and her breath catches as her thoughts run along the same tangent as yours. The subtext between you, the connection that you've defensively tried to discard recently, sparks into an electric current that neither of you can deny.
"Better stop this now before she walks in here." You can't bring yourself to say Ziva's name.
"We're not exclusive," Abby whispers, reaching up to stroke a finger down your cheek. "She's with a guy she knows right now, and outside of work I haven't seen her in days."
A knot of discomfort eases in your stomach, and you feel stupidly relieved that they're not in an intense, monogamous relationship. At the same time, however, you're shaking your head. "I don't share, Abbs. I can't."
She closes her eyes, and you can almost feel the whirl of her thoughts as she compares what she has with Ziva to what she imagines she could have with you. You don't press her, pulling her into a tight hug and letting her take the time she needs.
Her arms fold around you, her breath escaping in a sigh that tickles your neck, and you relish her closeness, stroking your fingers through one of her pigtails. "I missed you," she murmurs, deferring the issue at hand in favour of a simple truth. "This. Everything. Don't go away again."
You couldn't make yourself, even if she wanted it. Now that she knows how you feel about her, you have nothing to hide, and if she chooses to remain with Ziva, at least you don't have to pretend any more. "I won't. Whatever happens."
She pulls back to look at you, but doesn't speak. The conflict in her eyes is gone, but what that portends, you dare not guess. You wait her out, feeling oddly calm; whatever her decision, you can't influence it.
And then she kisses you, slowly and sweetly and without a trace of doubt or regret for the relationship she leaves behind. Your heart becomes a cliché, skipping a beat and then resuming a hard, strong rhythm as you crush her against you, claiming her as yours with kisses that deepen and quicken with every second that passes. She cries out against your lips, clinging to you as you break off to catch your breath. "Gibbs…"
It's now that your traitorous cellphone decides to interrupt, and you bite back a curse as she backs off to let you answer. It's Ducky, summoning you to Autopsy for another look at the body he's been examining, and you end the call without acknowledging the request. "Ducky."
She smiles, the first time you've seen the expression genuinely cross her face all week, and shrugs. "You know where to find me when you finish with the case."
"And I will," you tell her, tilting up her chin for a final kiss. Despite your better judgment, you linger for far too long in her arms, enticed by the warmth of her body and the promises her lips communicate without speech. When you finally step back, she looks as undone as you feel. "Later."
"Later," she echoes softly, and you leave her domain with a last, brief hand signal that only she will understand. My girl.
It's in the way she looks at you, and in the way she kisses, and in the slight tremble of her body under your hands. She's yours now, and your only regret is that you didn't claim her earlier.