Author's Note: I'm staying with ncislove at the moment, and she's nudged me into another chapter (what a shock!). Hanne, happy belated birthday and thank you for being awesome. *hug*
Oh, and for the people who have bought and read the de-Gabbified Sir/Little Tease novel (Dominance and Deception by Amy Valenti) - once again, thank you. I appreciate it. I couldn't have written that much without you guys. ^_^ There's a 25-minute audio clip read by a real life Dom with an ultra-growly voice on YouTube if you search for the book - it's not quite Mark Harmon, but I love the guy's voice anyway. *drool* I'd link to it directly but this site won't let me... as usual. Le sigh! But Google is your friend.
Despite his need to recover from his long-haul flight, Gibbs doesn't sleep well without Abby in his arms. After deciding to get into work early, he doses up on his usual strong, black coffee and heads out.
He manages to check his email once he gets to his desk – something he only attempts when it's urgent, or when none of his team members are around to see him cursing his computer. Once he's done that, he turns his attention to the memos and reports that need his attention.
He's just about up to speed when members of the day shift begin to trickle in. Gibbs keeps half an eye on the elevator, knowing McGee will soon be arriving. Ziva gets there first, though.
"Good vacation, Gibbs?" she asks with a sidelong glance.
He just nods, takes a sip of his fourth coffee of the morning. You have no idea, Ziva.
After a second's hesitation, she comes out with it. "How is Abby?"
He gazes at her for a second, then shrugs. "She's good. Seems happy out there."
"Good." Ziva nods slowly, as if pondering her approach. "Gibbs, I think I should warn you that McGee—"
"I got it, Ziva. DiNozzo was waiting for me when I got home last night."
"Don't be too hard on him," Ziva says simply, then sits down at her desk and begins to check her email. "I saw him in the parking lot, and he does not look good."
The sound of the elevator arriving interrupts them, and Gibbs can't help but raise an eyebrow as McGee steps into view. His agent's jaw is set, his shoulders squared, and as he strides over to his workstation he avoids looking at Gibbs.
"Good morning, McGee," Ziva says.
McGee gives her a tense nod in acknowledgment, shrugging off his jacket.
Let's get this over with.
"McGee." When Tim gives no sign of having heard, Gibbs gets to his feet. "Special Agent McGee."
McGee reluctantly looks up at him, his anger plain.
Gibbs beckons, then heads towards the back elevator, which people are less likely to be using at this hour. Sure enough, the doors open immediately, and Gibbs steps inside.
Just before the elevator doors slide shut, McGee joins him, and once they're between floors, he hits the emergency stop switch before Gibbs can do it.
"The hell you do," Gibbs growls, turning on him.
"This isn't your decision, Gibbs. I make my own choices."
"So do I. And so does Abby."
Her name seems to take the wind out of McGee's sails entirely. His shoulders slump and he sighs. "I don't wanna have this conversation with you."
"So you're gonna run away instead?" At the pain on Tim's face, sympathy rolls over Gibbs and he calms his voice slightly. "Cause if so, you're not the guy I thought I knew."
McGee swallows hard. "You don't understand."
"You love her." Gibbs doesn't like the fact, but he knows it's the truth. "So do I."
Through gritted teeth, McGee demands, "Would you stick around if you were me?"
He gives a derisive snort. "No, you wouldn't."
"I would, because in this job I can make a difference. Save lives. And you know it's the same for you, McGee."
As he watches McGee's jaw clench, his eyes fill with tears, Gibbs leans back against the elevator wall and gives him time to compose himself a little. What he just said is the truth – he'd stick it out. He's been through enough angst in his time to handle it; built plenty of boats.
He doesn't envy McGee's plight, though.
"You know, when she broke it off with me she said it was partly because of your rule twelve. That we worked together too closely and she could see the sense in it."
Gibbs mentally winces. Now I get it.
"That wasn't the only reason, but it was… the easiest to accept." McGee runs a hand through his hair. "I always hoped you'd end up breaking your own rule, so maybe she'd… But now you are. And so is she. How about that?"
"Neither of us did this to hurt you, Tim. Any other woman, and I'd step away. But Abby…"
"Is Abby," McGee finishes when Gibbs doesn't elaborate further. "I think the thing I'm most pissed off about is that I can't blame you."
They spend a moment in silence, contemplating the woman they both love so fiercely.
"But she's coming back one day, and I don't know if I can stick around to watch you together. I need to be reassigned. San Diego, maybe."
"Like you said, I can't stop you. But for the record, I'm against it. You're one of the best agents I ever worked with, McGee." At the surprised pleasure on his agent's face, Gibbs curses his natural tendency towards laconicism. "Don't screw that up because of a knee-jerk reaction."
"Knee—?" Irritation sparks in McGee's eyes, followed closely by resignation. "Fine. I'll stay until Abby gets back. Then we'll see."
"Sounds like a good compromise."
Sighing, McGee flicks the switch, then hits the button to return the elevator to the bullpen. "For the record, I'm still pissed off at you."
"Noted." The elevator doors open, and Gibbs steps out first, throwing a parting shot over his shoulder. "And for the record, I won't hold it against you."
Time passes. It's uncomfortable at first, but as the team adjusts to the idea of Gibbs and Abby together, the atmosphere gets easier. Abby doesn't tell him if she and McGee have talked about it, and Gibbs doesn't ask. It's none of his business, and he's secure in the knowledge that Abby is long over McGee.
Gibbs misses her, and she's not shy about telling him she feels the same way. Despite that, as Spring Break – the end of March 2011 – approaches, Abby becomes harder to reach. Her phone often goes to voicemail, and Gibbs is left with the distinct impression she's up to something. Either that, or in some kind of trouble.
After three days of her having to call him back, hours after he's originally tried to reach her, his concern outweighs his resolve to let Abby tell him herself. "You sound exhausted, Abbs. What's going on?"
"Why would anything be going on?" she asks, too quickly.
He can't help his grin. "Even over the phone, you're a terrible liar."
"Fooled you for ten years," she says, sounding unoffended by the statement.
"I wasn't asking directly for ten years. Question still stands. You okay?"
The sound of her flopping down onto some variety of soft furnishing reaches his ears. "I'm fine. Just a little tired, is all."
"So tell me why."
She pauses. "Intensive research period. Lots of library time, lots of lab time. But it should calm down soon. Let's talk about something else."
Something about what she's saying strikes him as off, and he can't help but pursue the subject. "If you're in trouble, Abbs—"
"Gibbs." There's a smile in her voice, and it's only then that he relaxes. "I'm fine, really. The only trouble I'm in is with my board for overspending my research budget."
"You been buying perfume again?" He's referring to a case seven years ago, back when Abby had been trying to identify a specific brand of perfume, and had drastically depleted her yearly budget as a result.
She laughs. "You're never gonna let me forget that, are you? In fairness, it was you who gave me permission to do it." Her voice drops, becomes more intimate. "Anyway, the whole time I was going crazy because you asked me if the victim's cologne turned me on. Which it didn't, but you did."
Gibbs had forgotten, but her words bring the memory back to the surface. "Didn't you spend most of your non-perfume-testing time watching porn on that case?"
"That and half the other cases I've worked. I swear I've watched more porn than Tony, and gotten paid for the questionable pleasure."
Amused by her dry tone, Gibbs teases, "Never found something you've sent home to watch in private?"
"Occasionally." She giggles, and his pulse skips. "Anything you'd be interested in seeing when I get to your place?"
Her words ignite a sharp craving he can't deny. The idea of watching Abby as she watches porn is more than he can stand, and he groans. "Please tell me you're coming home soon."
"Flying in next Friday," she confirms.
"Then hold that thought."