AN: Title is from the Phil Collins song Against All Odds. This chapter's title and lyrics come from the song This is a Call by Thousand Foot Krutch, one of the big inspirations for this story. Against All Odds will be 4 parts, and it will be followed by a multi-chapter Abby/Gibbs fic. Friendly warnings...I have not watched most of the episodes after the fourth season yet, so my knowledge of later canon is a bit shaky. The story is set during the events of Hiatus, the intervening four months, and Shalom, and plays a little with the events in those episodes. I also will eventually be taking some liberties with Abby's backstory.
against all odds ;; i – she still sleeps with the light on
she fools all of her friends into thinking she's so strong
but she still sleeps with the light on
and she acts like it's alright on as she smiles again
and her mother lies there sick with cancer
and her friends don't understand her
she's a question without answers who feels like falling apart
she knows she's so much more than worthless
she needs to find a purpose
she wonders what she did to deserve this
and she's calling out to you
this is a call, this is a call out
cause every time i fall down i reach out to you
and i'm losing all control now and my hazard signs are all out
i'm asking you to show me what this life is all about
Later, after he's gone, Abby confides in Tony that she snuck into Gibbs's room at night while he was in the hospital. She couldn't help it, you see. Seeing him lying there in that hospital bed, trapped with his pain...it manages even to pull her from the investigation for a few brief hours here and there. Between visiting him and trying to catch Pula, she doesn't think she sleeps at all until Mike Franks shows up.
She doesn't tell Tony what it feels like to sit there, alone, as he breathes through a tube. She doesn't tell anyone, especially Tony, that she thinks she knows what he's dreaming about; Ducky suspects, of course, but Abby feigns innocence, something she's good at. It's Gibbs's story to tell. The only reason Abby even knows about it is because once, a long time ago, they shared scars. She doesn't tell Tony that she believes Gibbs saved her then, and that's part of why she watches over him now.
And the rest of the reason? Well, that she doesn't even reveal to herself.
After the first few nights, she gets braver, and moves the chair to his bedside. The abrasions on his face make her want to cry; they make her want to touch him, to beg him to wake him up, to let him know she doesn't know how to cope without him there. She does none of these things. Eventually she works up the courage to hold his hand. Mostly she just sits and prays.
At first, after hearing he's woken up, she still comes in at night when everyone else is gone. The nurses are used to her now, although she usually manages to stay out from under the watchful eye of Madame Director. Everyone is so tied up in the investigation that she's grateful they don't notice. There's no one there to make her leave, as long as she is careful.
The first night she comes in after he wakes up, she is a little shaken after learning of his memory loss, and she moves away from his bed again, settling in the chair across the room so as not to startle him. He's mostly asleep and probably medicated, so she's pretty sure he doesn't notice, and she makes sure to leave before he wakes up.
The next night, the TV is still on when she comes to see him, and she lingers in the hallway, wondering if she should just leave. This is insanity, and she's lucky that no one but the hospital staff and Ducky have caught her at it yet. She's pretty sure she's broken some caffeine intake record a thousand times over, and she has to be back at NCIS by six am to work on the case. A sigh escapes her as she debates, and she supposes he hears it, because a gruff, "Come in or get out of the damned doorway," issues from the direction of the hospital bed.
She peeks her head in, and after a few seconds, she walks over to the chair near the bed and sits down, unzipping her boots and pulling her bare legs up underneath her. Reruns of Seinfeld are piping in through the speakers on either side of the bed, and Abby supposes there's nothing else really worth watching on at two am, anyway.
"Who are you?" he asks in the same gruff tone, his eyes not moving from the TV.
She doesn't flinch at the words, and this surprises her. She's tried to wrap her exhausted, terrified brain around the fact that Gibbs – who knows her more than anyone in the world – could forget her, but knowing this fact is far different from experiencing the reality.
"I'm Abby," she says quietly, wrapping her arms around herself and studying him. Usually, when she is around Gibbs, she is moving and talking nonstop, but the last few weeks have taught her a patience she didn't know she possessed.
After a few more moments, he impatiently turns off the episode and finally looks at her. "You look like hell," he says.
"Thanks, Gibbs," she whispers with a short laugh, her voice breaking on the words. She changed her clothes on the way over, but she's pretty sure the shadows under her eyes are growing shadows of their own, and her usually meticulous makeup application is halfhearted at best.
He studies her with an intent curiosity, and finally having the weight of her own stare turned back on her makes Abby self-conscious. Her eyes drop to her lap, where her hands are intertwined. She's fighting the urge to hug him, or maybe to run out of the room.
"Shouldn't you be trying to jog my memory?" he says abruptly. "It seems like every time I get a new visitor I have to hear their life story."
She looks up at him again, a guarded smile on her face, imagining Ducky re-telling every one of his long, drawn-out tales in this hospital room. She wonders if amnesiac Gibbs is as impatient with Ducky as the old Gibbs, and then she figures if she were in his position, she'd be pretty damned impatient with everything.
She clears her throat. "My name is Abigail Sciuto, but everyone calls me Abby. I'm the forensic scientist at NCIS. I started working there six years ago, just before you transferred permanently to the Washington office."
A look of disbelief crosses his features, and Abby has a flash of deja vu. "You're a forensic scientist?" His pointed glance at her many – visible – tattoos doesn't escape her notice.
"You said the same thing when we first met," she responds quietly. "But not too long after we became – well, we were – friends."
He looks a little chastened and a little like he's wondering if she's putting him on. "I'm sorry I don't remember you," he says.
"Never say you're sorry. You taught me that."
The conversation afterward is a little stilted, and Abby needs to get back to the lab, anyway, so she pulls her boots back on to leave just as he's getting his next dose of medication. She gives him a little wave before clasping her hands again to keep herself from grabbing him and not letting him go. She feels his eyes following her curiously as she walks away.
The following night, as she gets into her hearse to drive away from NCIS, she tries to convince herself that she should go home. She hasn't been back to her cold, empty apartment in what feels like a lifetime, though, and before she can stop herself she's taking the exit for Gibbs's house and she's in his basement, inhaling the scent of sawdust with such relief that a few tears finally escape down her cheek.
She sits down heavily in the chair next to the Kelly, drawing her knees up to her chest and letting herself cry for the first time since Gibbs got hurt. It's the first time she's cried, really, since Kate died. It doesn't last very long and it's not very loud. It doesn't really make her feel better; it just brings back the moment that McGee called and told her Gibbs was in an explosion, the moment she's been trying with everything she has left to forget.
After she dries her eyes, she grabs his red hoodie from where it's resting on the unfinished planks of the boat and impulsively slips it over her head, hugging it to herself and inhaling the smell that she thinks of as uniquely Gibbs.
For a second it feels like home.
After she walks out of his house and carefully closes the door, she gets in the car and drives to the hospital, almost on autopilot. He's dozing when she reaches his room, but one eye cracks open after she's settled herself in the chair.
"Hi," she says, unsure of herself.
"Hey, Abbs," he says unthinkingly, reaching to press the button that'll raise up the headboard of the bed. Then he meets her eyes, surprised.
He shakes his head. "Not...really. I just...it felt right."
"You call me that sometimes," she says. Then she signs, 'Do you remember this?'
A glimmer of hope settles in her chest when he raises his hands hesitantly, signing, 'Sort of. At least...I think I know how.'
"My parents...were deaf," Abby says after a moment, drawing her knees up to her chest and resting her chin on them, holding his gaze. "You had a deaf friend who taught you. Sometimes we use it to annoy the others, especially Tony," she adds with a small smile.
He doesn't return the smile, not quite, but his gaze softens a little. They sit in silence for a little while and then make small talk. She says she's fine and he doesn't question the lie, just lets his eyes linger on her wan skin and the shadows under her eyes. She ducks her head from the intensity of his gaze.
When she gets ready to leave, she takes off the sweatshirt and gives it to him. "It's yours," she says. "I was...borrowing it. Maybe having some of your own things around will help." She doesn't add that the smell of antiseptic doesn't suit him, that it's no wonder he's not himself in this place. They both abhor hospitals, and the fact that he's not asking her for help to break out is more than enough to convince her of the severity of his amnesia.
"Bravo yankee echo," he says to her retreating back, and the corners of her mouth quirk up.
After work the next evening, she doesn't even bother fighting the urge to return to the hospital, although she won't be able to stay for long. Things have heated up with the investigation, and anyway, Madame Director and the former Agent Franks are hanging around most of the time, trying to help him remember. She's not really needed.
He's blessedly awake when she comes, though, eyes on the door as if waiting for her.
She takes the same chair, scooting it a bit closer to his bed. "I should probably stop coming," she says. "Let you sleep."
He reaches for her hand, surprising her. "Don't," he says, and she squeezes his hand, hesitantly letting hers rest on top.
"Can't stay long," she adds, but the sadness of that thought is chased away by the comfort of feeling his fingers in hers. "Have to get back to NCIS. Work on the case." She stifles a yawn with her other fist.
"You should be the one sleeping," he says impatiently, tugging her down until her head rests on the bed next to him.
"You sound like the old Gibbs," she responds softly as her eyes close. "Can't sleep. Worrying."
He lets go of her hand, and she sits up quickly. "I still don't remember," he says. "But...I feel...more comfortable when you're here."
She half-shrugs and half-smiles tiredly. "That makes two of us," she responds.
He motions for her to rest her head again and she does so, because as much as she's determined to get back to the lab and help the rest of the team, her body has long since passed its limits. And it's only when she's with him that she's able to relax enough to even think about sleeping.
His hand hesitantly finds its way into her inky hair, and she lets out a sigh at the touch. "I remember doing this," he says as he smoothes her hair down, but she barely registers the meaning of the words, just the sound of his voice, as she drifts off.
When Ziva shows up in the pre-dawn hours, she finds the two of them like this.
With a start, Abby wakes and sits up quickly. "Oh, God, what time is it?!" she exclaims. "I have to get back to the lab."
"It's only four-thirty," Ziva responds from behind her. "Tony can wait another hour or two, Abby."
The kindness in Ziva's voice makes Abby hope that maybe things will be okay between the two of them, but in her urgency the thought is replaced with the worry of her babies sitting alone in the lab. She offers Ziva a small smile, though, as she stands and collects her things, and then, still fighting the overwhelming desire to hug Gibbs, hugs Ziva instead.
The other woman seems surprised, but Abby is out of the door with a quick goodbye before either of them can say anything.