Title: Bittersweet and Broken
Rating: NC-17
Spoilers: Borderland, season seven
Summary: Tag to Borderland. Abby demands answers from Gibbs, and gets one she doesn't expect…

Author's Note: Every Gabby fan knows that since Gibbs didn't confirm that Abby was like a daughter to him, that means that she's not like a daughter to him. XD Dialogue taken from the episode until about a third of the way in.

The second I saw her upon her return from Mexico, I knew she knew. Until then… when Ducky told me whose body was on the table, there was always a possibility that she hadn't found anything yet; that she might not discover the truth. That the way she saw me remained unchanged.

The moment our eyes met; the second she said my name, that hope was dashed. And as I handed over the evidence we both knew would condemn me, I knew this moment was coming.

Her footsteps on the stairs are slow and reluctant, and she halts halfway down to the basement. "Hi, Gibbs."

I glance up, see her expression, and have to look away. This is gonna be tough. "Hey, Abbs."

"Can I come in?"

She's never needed to ask before; not even the first time, after she drove me home in her clunky old hearse when my car wouldn't start. The fact that she does so now… it hurts. "Yeah. You're already in."

"All right," she murmurs, psyching herself up to continue down here. I concentrate on fixing the chair leg beneath my fingers in place, waiting.

She arrives at my side. "Okay," she says softly, hoping I'll open up the conversation, but what can I say to her? I look over at her, force a brief smile and focus on the chair again; enough to let her know I've heard her, but nothing more.

Abruptly, she spins and begins to head for the stairs, muttering over her shoulder, "Well, it was nice talking to you."

Ah, hell. "Abbs…" When she turns, I ask the question we're both dreading. "Why are you here?"

"You know why I'm here." The look in her eyes kills me. I keep my eyes on my hands, and my hands busy, moving through routine tasks automatically.

All my focus, though, is on her. I hear her set down her bag, and the stressed steel in her tone as she accuses me. "I matched the bullet in Pedro Hernandez's head to your sniper rifle."

I should say something, but the words stick in my throat. I don't regret what I did, and she knows it. Knows me. "You killed him. In cold blood."

Knows me too well.

"I mean, I know what he did, Gibbs. He killed your wife and your daughter, but Gibbs…"

If I look at her, I won't be able to speak. "I know."

"Gibbs doesn't do things like that. Or-or does he? Now I don't know! I don't know anything."

This is what it takes, then, to break her trust in me. There have been countless times when she's defended me; her faith in me has always been unshakable. Or so I'd thought.

The silence hangs between us; raw with pain, streaked with dirt and blood and desert dust. Its hold over me is too strong to break.

She changes tack, granting us both a temporary respite. "The only thing I do know is that I didn't find this out by accident."

"Rule forty." I've already had the same thought. Tomorrow is when I start looking into who orchestrated it.

"If it seems like someone's out to get you, they are," she recites from memory. Of all of my people, she's the one I'm the least strict with, but she knows every rule I've made inside and out.

Her mind is forever a wonder to me; not that I'd ever admit it to her.

Abby approaches my worktable, coming close enough to register in my peripheral vision, and her body language is agitated, the way it always gets just before the dam breaks. I can only steel myself for it.

"You have no idea how much I wish it was yesterday. Maybe if I could just close my eyes and open them again, it… will be."

I chance a look up at her, knowing her eyes will be closed, and when her fingers cross over her heart, something in me eases, just a little. She wants so much to believe in me, even knowing what I did. It's a small comfort, but it's all I have, and when her eyes open and meet mine, I can't help a fleeting, bittersweet smile.

Abby interprets it wrongly, and she begins to pace, frustrated. "Do you realise the situation that I'm in, now?"

"Yeah, I know." It's all I can say. Apologising would be useless. I'm not sorry I did it; only that it didn't stay buried.

"I mean, do you understand the choice that I have to make, now?" she continues, as if she hasn't heard me.

"I know."

"Stop saying 'I know'!" she explodes, turning on me, and I stare her out, slamming up a defensive wall against this whole damn situation.

"What do you want me to say?"

With a slight flinch at the sharp words, she pleads, "Tell me that I'm wrong!" Her eyes are huge in her pale face, and I can tell she's hardly slept in the last twenty-four hours. "Tell me that I made a mistake… with the ballistics, or…"

I can't watch the sick look I know will cross her face when I confirm my guilt to her, so I stare at the bottle of wood glue, swallowing the lump in my throat. "No. No, I can't say that."

She quits pacing, her gaze intense on my face. "Then… tell me how much I've been like a daughter to you?" she asks hesitantly. "And how much you love me…?"

A daughter. Is that what she thinks she is to me? Does she think of me as a father? The bond between us has always been indistinct; there's so much we've always left unsaid. Abby's chosen to voice that now, and this is how she interprets it?

It's just one more hurt in an agonising conversation, and I evade her request. The truth would only make the coming days harder for her to bear, even if she doesn't feel the way I do. "Will that help?"

Her eyes fill with tears, and her voice cracks. "No…"

The urge to take her in my arms is so strong that I almost give in to it. But she wouldn't let me; her strong moral code is in too much turmoil for that. For the first time in years, I can't touch her if I want to, and god, it's never seemed more important to me that I do.

I hold my ground, though her fingers twist into half-formed expressions of distress. Barely able to force out the rest through the urge to cry, she says, "What I really need to know, Gibbs… is if you're gonna love me, no matter what."

She plans to turn me in, then. I can't blame her for it; she's Abby. And as she loses her battle with composure and the tears begin to fall, I can only watch her fall apart, and know I'm responsible.

Her breath catching in a sob, she reverts to ASL, her eyes shining with tears. Talk to me.

I can't; not without my own composure breaking. And for her to see me cry, on top of the things she's learned about me today… it'd destabilise her image of me even further.

Instead, I make one gesture, clear and slow, so she can see it through her tears. I love you.

Biting her lip, she scrubs the back of one hand over her cheekbones, mopping up the moisture there. With a shuddering sigh, she crosses the basement to the stairs, and my first thought is that she's leaving. She only sits down on the bottom step and rests her elbows on her knees, her chin in her palms, and watches me.

With nothing else to do, I return to my work on the chair, my jaw clenched against the emotion that threatens to spill out. The work seems meaningless, now. I've lost Abby's trust; maybe even her respect. And yet she won't leave me to nurse my wounds in peace.

I'm almost afraid of what will happen if she does.

A couple of minutes pass, and then her voice splits the quiet, dispirited and weary. "What are you thinking?"

"You don't want to know what I'm thinking, Abby. I'm not gonna make this harder for you."

"Yes, I do wanna know." Fire in her eyes, she glowers up at me. "I just bared my soul to you. For the millionth time. After I just found out that maybe… I never really knew you at all. You owe me this."

Something tells me that to deny her this is a deal-breaker. That if I shut her out, she'll shut me out – to protect herself for the inevitable next step.

Then again, I can't lie to her. If I give her my answer… I might lose her anyway. Maybe I already have.

"I'm thinking that I'm sorry someone manipulated you into finding out this way." Once one admission breaks loose, it's easier for the rest to follow, and I cross the room to see her better, leaning against the wall a few feet away from where she's sitting. "I'm thinking that I wish I could tell you I regret it, but I'm not gonna lie to you again. Ever."

Abby nods slowly in appreciation of the sentiment, though her expression is still guarded. I bring myself up short of expressing the last thought dominating my consciousness, biting down on the words, letting pain drag them back down into the darkness.

But she sees. She knows me too well, and she knows I'm holding back. "Say it," she whispers, her expression a mixture of curiosity and dread.

"I wish I could tell you that you're like a daughter to me, Abby. But you're not."

She stares at me, hurting and uncomprehending. "What?"

I push off the wall, heading for the bourbon I was holding off on drinking until after her inevitable visit. As I reach the workbench, her hands grab my arm and pull, spinning me to face her. "Gibbs, what are you saying?"

I face her down, unable to help myself from stepping in closer, and she holds her ground, a little intimidated. She's never shown fear around me before, and despair tightens my gut.

"Think it through, and you'll figure it out. God knows, you're smart enough-"

Her kiss cuts off the rest; every thought, every word. Her lips are hard, desperate, and desire flares through me, hot and insistent. She presses herself against me, closer than I thought I'd ever feel her again, and her fingers dig painfully into my shoulders.

"Why?" she demands brokenly, between kisses. She punches my shoulder, hard, her anger and frustration and sorrow and lust mingling to form a powerful energy. "Why? Why? Why?"

There are so many interpretations to her question, and so many potential answers, that I don't answer. I let her hurt me, her tearless sobs becoming sighs as I meet every kiss with one just as forceful, my fingers digging into her waist, maybe even hard enough to bruise.

We're in pain; both of us. Broken trust and doubt lie between us, and neither of us know where it will lead us. At least this is real and honest – the pain, the need, the sting and the heat and the fury.

Abby shoves me away with surprising strength, beginning to pace again, her emotions laid bare. "All this time, I thought you didn't see me this way. Ten years, Gibbs! Ten years of wanting and doubting and wishful thinking, and now that I know that you want me, I have to betray you. Why did this have to happen? Why can't I fix it? Why won't it go away? Why didn't you say something?"

Her face is twisted with infuriated anguish as she rounds on me, and I can only shake my head, needing her, loving her, hating the nameless enemy who's thrown us into this situation. With a cry of helpless anger, she throws herself at me again, the scratch of her fingernails down my arms a welcome sensation as I crush her to my chest so hard that she gasps.

None of my fantasies about Abby have ever been like this, but god, I want to lose myself in her, to take what I'm afraid I've lost, to hear and see and feel something that isn't the ruins of my life collapsing in on me. I shouldn't; god knows, I should be protecting her from people who treat her this roughly, but her nipples are hard beneath my fingers and her breath is hot against my throat and the palm of her hand provides delicious friction against the front of my jeans…

"Abby." It's the first time I've spoken since my admission to her, and I grab her shoulders, drawing back to arm's length before I lose all control.

Lust, hurt and sick, stricken love in her eyes, she tells me, "Don't be a gentleman, Gibbs. I can't handle that right now. I can't think about tomorrow - just let me have this."

My strength of will lasts only a fraction of a second before I give in to her, driving her up against the wall and holding her there. She grinds her hips forward against me as I suck and nip at the tattoo at the side of her neck, hard enough to mark. She kicks off her boots, shimmies out of her tight pants with a little effort and undoes my jeans while I bury my fingers between her legs, making her cry out over and over.

The second she works my pants down enough, I lift her off the floor and nail her to the wall with a growl of frustrated possession. She arches her hips, pushing me deeper, and demands that I take her – hard.

With every thrust, every groan, every time I manage to tear a cry of pained pleasure from her lips, I regain control, just for a little while. Her fingers scratch through my hair, slip up under my shirt to rake down my back, and I find the strength to push us further toward the brink; slamming into her faster, harder; feeling her writhe and shiver against me, around me, until I forget everything in the white-hot sensation of release.

We slide to the cold concrete floor in a breathless heap, clutching each other tightly, calming slowly. Her scratches become caresses, and I press my lips to the top of her head, physically satisfied but mentally aching. This shouldn't be tainted with the shadow of what's to come; it should have been mischief and teasing and drawn out for hours.

It's not until we've pulled on our clothing and made it upstairs to my bed, lying cocooned together under a blanket, that Abby begins to cry again. And the only thing I can do is hold her, wondering what tomorrow will bring and denying my own tears the right to fall.