Chapter 8

It took several weeks, but Abby had finally begun to heal, both mentally and physically, with the warmth of her friends and in the circle of Gibbs' arms. Since he carried her out of her prison cell, Gibbs had rarely let her out of his sight, and only then for short times.

Not that Abby was complaining. It had taken a lot of convincing before she would release her death grip on Gibbs. With her daily visits from her hallucinations, it took her awhile to finally believe that he, as well as the rest of the team, wasn't going to leave her, that they were real.

The first few days she spent in the hospital, despite her understandable desire to go home. Once she was well enough to be released from the hospital, her days were filled with visits to different types of doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists, and interviews with the director. The concern for her wellbeing as obvious, but Abby knew they also had to make sure, that when the time was right, she'd be ready to go back to work safely. Director Vance's primary concern had been to make sure NCIS didn't have a forensic scientist who would crack under the pressure and whose work would stand up in court.

Abby understood all of that, she just didn't have to like all the pricking and prodding and questions. She wanted it to be done, wanted to move on.

When she had been released from the hospital, she'd been sure there was nothing more she wanted then to return home. But after unlocking the door to her apartment, Abby had found herself unable to step inside. It was too dark, too cold, and somehow danger lurked in the shadows. Fear froze her before she could step inside.

Standing closely behind her, Gibbs could feel the dread vibrating off of Abby's body. Fighting the sudden urge to pull her back into his arms and leave, he settled for putting his arm around her shoulders, drawing her into him for support. "You're safe, Abbs. Not gonna let you get hurt again." He turned and pressed a kiss to her head.

Following her inside, he stopped alongside of her when he realized a tear was sliding down her cheek. He stepped in front of her, putting a finger under her chin so that he could make her meet his eyes.

"I'm not going to let you go again. Got it?" He kissed her forehead when she nodded yes. "If you can't…" This time it was his turn to hesitate. From the moment he had carried her from that dank and dirty prison cell, Gibbs had been considering how to protect her.

Oh, who as he kidding, he thought. When he had finally been able to free her, he had been toying with the idea of asking to her to stay with him. In his guest bedroom, she'd be able to recuperate, sleep safely, and if something disturbed her dreams, he'd be right there to hold her. For himself, he'd be able to have the peace of mind of having her near. Plus, there was also the matter of that extraordinary dream he was sure they had shared.

But when she lifted her eyes at his hesitation, he just couldn't stammer the words out.

"If I can't…what?" she offered, her eyes pleading with him to finish his question.

The finger under her chin moved to become the hand that he cupped her cheek with. His thumb caressed her skin, as he considered what to say.

"Come home with me, Abbs. Stay with me. You need to know that you're safe, and I need to know you're okay." He didn't want to push it; she'd been through hell. But she had to know that he was there, that he would never leave her.

He watched as her eyes slid shut, and her head nodded yes. The stress visibly left her body as she finally allowed herself to relax. Pulling her closer to his body, he sighed in his own relief. He spoke against her hair. "Let's get you some stuff to take home."

Through the weeks, Abby's bruises had healed, with only the faintest green tinge on the worst of them. The knife marks would take longer to heal, though the skin had healed over to leave only angry red lines. Nightmares still plagued her, though not nearly as much now that some time had passed. Gibbs and the rest of the team spent their days making sure that she was never alone, or at least for long. And with their help and their love, her mind had begun to heal as well.

After the first night, her screams of terror causing Gibbs to charge into her room, Abby had started spending the nights in Gibbs' bed, his arm pulling her in close. His warmth helped to sooth her mind and chase away the dreams and memories. These nights were spent in platonic companionship. They talked quietly, holding each other, letting the dark soothe instead of frighten. Eventually, she talked to him about her time as a prisoner, told him the details she hadn't been able to confess to any of her interviewers. And he held her while the tears spilt, whispering words of comfort.

Their contact with each other had started chaste; he held her, and she clung to him. Gradually, soft touches and gentle kisses grew from that connection.

And then, one night, with her body healing and her mind calming, Abby turned in his arms. This night, her body trembled, not from fear, but from need. She locked her eyes on his as he dipped his head, his lips brushing hers, as if to make sure she was okay with his touch. When she didn't pull away, she heard him whisper before kissing her more fully.

"I've got you, Abbs."