The Promise

A/N: This is my first NCIS story. So far I've only seen up till the beginning of season 6 but apparently I'm fully addicted already ;)

This story isn't meant to actually be with a romantic theme but I guess you could be read it either way if you want to.

Thanks a lot to Gothgirlreid for taking on the job as beta for this one!

Characters: Abby, Gibbs
Setting: Right after the end of Season 5.
Genre: Hurt/Comfort, a little bit dark maybe

Summary: He's an unexpected visitor that particular night but maybe she just hadn't realized how likely it had been for him to turn up anyway.

Disclaimer: All characters belong to D. Bellisario, Paramount Pictures and several others whom I have no connection to. This is fanfiction and not for profit…

xxxxxx

It was late and darkness had long since claimed her apartment for itself, when something slowly penetrated through the thick layer of sleep that was keeping her captive. Stirring only slightly she tried to push the feeling away; wanting nothing more than to return to sleep; nothingness; this place where her consciousness couldn't rule her every thought – wouldn't remind her of the past day. But the more she tried to go back to whatever dream might have made her feel better, the more aware she got of her surroundings and the insistent feeling that something was 'off'.

The silken cover below her gently grubbed against the bare skin at her thighs and arms; the thin t-shirt she was wearing instead of some pjs barely keeping the sensation from the rest of her body as well. She liked the feeling though, liked the material; mostly because in the depths of her sleep it would feel like the skin of a body close to her; moving against her - with her. A smile graced her lips while her hand slowly slid over the cover, reveling in the feel and connecting it to various memories of bodies lying next to her; arms coming around her, holding her. For a moment she got lost in the memories, stretching even further and fully expecting to bump into the side of her coffin like bed before some part of her brain reminded her that she had lowered the right side. After today, sleeping in a coffin hadn't felt right - still didn't. So when her hand slid further she actually reached the open side of her bed; only to bump into something else than the side wall. This was different, much... softer; another sensation very similar to her hand sliding over the cover – just as silken but different anyway.

Slowly, still unwilling to leave the depth of her sleep, her consciousness demanded she'd investigate further into where this other sensation came from. So her hand slid even further, her upper body already moving along to help her reach out. Silken strands, short and despite the fact that her eyes were still closed and the whole room was plunged in darkness, some part of her brain insisted that they had to be grayish in color. Keeping her eyes closed she moved even further. This time her hand left the strands alone, instead sliding slightly forward and encountering the rough feel of stubble - and even further something else. Cotton, maybe?

"Whassit?" she murmured. Her brain was still fuzzed with sleep but it slowly started to get into gear, telling her that what its unconscious part suggested couldn't be true and that she should open up her eyes and inquiry further into this – assess it, analyze it, work through it like the scientist she was during her days.

"Go back to sleep," a low voice ordered quietly; the voice much softer than it usually was – although to her this particular voice had never sounded harsh or unyielding, no matter how angry its owner had seemed to be to everyone else.

She was almost willing to follow the order but while her brain insisted that it would be a really good idea to go back to sleep right now, another part of her knew that there had to be a reason for him to be here at this ungodly hour; in her apartment – the one place he usually kept away from. She should really try and ask him why he was here; find out what had driven him to get here in the middle of the night after that day from hell.

On the other hand, it wasn't all that hard to guess why he wasn't at home either...

So instead of answering, she pushed her body closer to the edge of the bed until she could feel his hair gently brushing against her right cheek; the rough material of his sweater against her chin. Her hands sneaked around his neck until she was effectively hugging him – albeit in a somewhat awkward position. The part of her brain that had apparently made the transition to a somewhat lucid state, started to analyze once again and after some seconds came to the conclusion that he had to be sitting on the floor next to her bed.

"It's cold down there," she heard herself murmur before the fact that she had spoken aloud again penetrated her still fogged mind. "Come up here…"

She could feel him shake his head; something rough and sandpaper like briefly brushing against the tender skin of her right cheek. A smile threatened to overcome her, when her sleepy brain connected the sandpaper with the smell of freshly chopped wood. For a moment she was sure the smell was actually there but maybe she was just too tired because she could already feel the pull of the darkness; trying to lure her back into the void - away from him. She managed to resist though, knowing that him being here could only mean he needed her. Although she wasn't sure what to say or to do or even if her being awake would help in finding a solution for that.

If she had known, she would have said or done it earlier today; before she took the coward way out and left work to get home and away from… everything.

"I'm sorry," she whispered against his neck, her warm breath ghosting over his skin.

He didn't reply, just shook his head again and frankly, she wasn't actually sure what she was apologizing for. Maybe for leaving today, when she should have known he would need her; maybe for… what had happened although none of it was her fault. But now she was out of words anyway and it was probably better that way because next thing she could feel him tense and then shake slightly. Instinctively her arms tightened even more, despite the fact that there wasn't much room left. His body was already pressed tight against the side of her bed. Since the side was lowered, his back was at least leaning against the lining of the side-wall that would usually be facing inwards. Maybe that way his back wouldn't be hurting so much. Unfortunately, the thing that was hurting him right now was something she couldn't do anything about.

He never made a sound while she held him; his body merely shaking ever so lightly.

Just like him, she had lost a lot in her rather short life by now. So maybe that's why she had always felt comfortable around him – even when she hadn't known the full extent of the loss he had suffered. Losing a loved one was tough; no matter whom; no matter when. And maybe that was part of the strong connection she had always felt to this man who was now sitting beside her bed, mourning for another loss. This loss they were both feeling - and it wasn't even the first one they shared - but that one still must be much harder on him. Although she wasn't really sure about that. Maybe she had been mistaken all that time; maybe she had been wrong in her conclusions because he had never admitted to anything.

Suddenly feeling the need to know getting stronger than the pull of sleep, her hand started to move again, loosening the strong hold she had kept around his shoulders. Slowly, as if to ask for permission first, her hand wandered down his chest until it was resting right in the middle of it. The warmth of his body was barely penetrating through the thick layer of his sweatshirt and disappointed her increasingly aware brain realized that she couldn't feel anything through it. He hadn't stopped her though; hadn't moved at all in fact. For the moment it seemed as if he had calmed down because the shaking slowly subsided as well.

So she decided to take one more chance and this time she slid her hand down the inside of his shirt until it came to rest on the same spot as before. For a second she expected him to growl at her but now that she could feel his strong heartbeat below her palm, she realized it wasn't elevated and also not speeding up. Even when she kept her hand there, for a second reveling in the until then unknown feeling, his heartbeat continued in the same slow and calm manner.

"You need to sleep," she whispered, not sure if maybe he had already fallen asleep. If so, it must be a highly uncomfortable position, sitting up straight like this, with her restricting him even further. As if to prove her wrong, the sandpaper-feeling against her cheek returned when he silently shook his head once again.

She wasn't sure if he just wasn't sleepy or if there was another reason that kept him away from sleep; something her brain still refused to think about because that would have required for her to fully wake up and go through some memories she'd rather not unbury tonight. So far she had managed to stay somewhere in the neverworld between dream and reality and frankly, she preferred to stay right there. This was a place where she wouldn't hurt that much. But obviously it was also a place he couldn't reach anymore – or he would never have come here in the first place.

The longer he remained silent while his heartbeat steadily vibrated in her palm, the clearer her own mind got; finally, albeit unwillingly, bringing back the memory of today's events and with it the familiar pain in her chest she had tried to ignore all evening. Only this time it wasn't just her pain. As if this small patch of skin connecting them both would not only show her the basic biological function of the muscle contractions in his chest; every beat of his heart seemed to seep some of his pain into her own body – her heart aching with every calm beat of his'.

"Please," she whispered again. And again she wasn't sure herself what she would want to add to it. Please go to sleep; please try to let it go – at least for tonight.

Please stop hurting - because the knowledge about it is hurting her as well.

But he didn't answer and this time he didn't even move. Maybe he had already fallen asleep and that was the reason for his heartbeat being this steady, for his breath to be this regular. She didn't want to wake him though. The sleep might help him; ease his mind. If something like this was even possible at the moment. Somehow she had her doubts about that. Even if this wasn't his first loss – and probably not the worst one either – she wasn't so sure if that meant it was supposed to be easier than the ones before. At least she knew it hadn't gotten any easier for her so far.

Right now his steady heartbeat was reassuring her though that maybe, everything would be alright again – as it always had been. She just had to give him some time to straighten himself out. If they got lucky he would get that time; although she suspected that the fact their new boss had robbed him of three of his support pillars wouldn't help matters much. If anything it made this loss even deeper. The pain inside her chest spiked again and all she could do was tighten her arms around him in response; hoping she wouldn't wake him up by doing so.

Or maybe that was what she was hoping for after all. If he was awake, she might get him to actually come to bed; which would make this hug a lot easier and less stressful on her back – which in fact wasn't as young anymore as everyone seemed to think. Not to mention that he would probably sleep a lot better.

Maybe. Probably. Hopefully.

She had almost dozed off again, when she could feel him move slightly, his head leaning more against hers. A silent sigh ran through the chest below her palm; she could feel it but never heard the actual sound coming out of his mouth. Suddenly he moved again, jostling her fuzzy brain once more. Instantly her arms tightened again; to at least hold him where he was and not let him leave in the cold darkness outside. She was under no illusions that his movement probably didn't mean he was actually taking her up on her offer to join her on the silken white sheets of her bed. Even if this wasn't the first time she had offered it to him, it would definitely be the first time he would stop over-thinking it and just do as she had asked and get comfortable.

Her worries were unfounded though because he didn't move away from her or the position he had taken up besides her bed. Instead his right hand came up to cover hers, the only thing between the two the thick material of his sweater. Again she felt a pang of disappointment because, while she could still feel the heat from his chest, she could barely feel the warmth from his large palm covering her hand – or rather clutching at it.

"Can you promise me something?"

For a moment she wasn't sure if she had actually heard him since she really wasn't sure anymore if she was still somewhat awake or already on the highroad back to dreamland. But when his hand's grip on hers tightened due to the lack of response on her side, she knew it had actually been him who had uttered these softly spoken words. Mutely she nuzzled his neck instead of actually answering; the hand that was still lingering his chest at the same time recognizing a small spike in his heart rate. He should know she'd promise him anything without actually thinking about it.

"Don't ever leave me."

Her hand on his chest tightened in response to the fierce pain that stabbed into her upon hearing his broken voice. This would be a careless promise; one she could never be sure to fulfill and still she felt the urge to give it to him anyway. Not only because she knew he only needed to hear her say it and would never hold it against her if some unforeseen circumstances kept her from keeping it. Still, it felt wrong to just nod and ask him again to come to bed and finally get some rest.

"Do you promise to watch over me and keep me safe?" she heard herself ask him in return; neither knowing where the words had come from, nor how they had made it past that gigantic lump in her throat.

His answer came promptly, within a thudding heartbeat against her palm: "You know I will."

Smiling, she briefly kissed the side of his neck and tightened her arms around him. "If you're keeping an eye on me, how could I ever leave?"

xxxxx

Please leave a comment before running off to let me know if you liked it or not!