Title: Breaking the Web
Author: Jo. R (driftingatdusk)
Characters: Abby, Gibbs, Jackson
Category: Post-ep, Drama, Angst, Fluff, Romance, Friendship
Spoilers: The season seven story-arc, especially 'Rule 51'
Summary: An alternate universe continuation of the episode 'Rule 51', teeny tiny mention of 'Bloodbath'
Author's Notes: Taking a few little liberties with the timing of the last few scenes in the season seven finale here – the last scene and the ceremony overlapped somewhat for the purpose of this story.
Her phone beeped as they were leaving for the nearest bar. Abby Sciuto exchanged a smile with Ziva David, both hoping it was from their errant leader, both hoping it was an explanation for his absence throughout the citizenship ceremony.
Her smile began to fade when she saw the unfamiliar number and the colour drained from her face entirely when she opened the image attached to the ominous message of 'Tell anyone and he's dead'.
Jackson Gibbs stared at her from the phone's small screen, one side of his face marred by an ugly bruise, a trickle of blood running down the side of his face from a wound at his temple, merging with a drier trail from a wound at the corner of his mouth.
"Abby?" Ziva looked at her in concern, slowing to a halt when she realised her friend wasn't keeping up. "Are you okay..?"
Taking the threat in the message to heart, Abby forced herself to smile and tilted the phone away from Ziva's curious gaze. "Fine." She cleared her throat when her voice sounded feeble. "I'm fine. Just a message from a friend. You guys... You guys go on, okay? I'll meet you there."
"Are you sure, Abby?" Ziva studied her intently as Tim McGee walked back to join them and see what they were doing. "We could wait for you."
"No, no, I'm fine. Really. She's just having a bit of man trouble." Her smile was overtly bright but Abby hoped they didn't notice. "I won't be long. Ten minutes, tops. Really. Go. Celebrate. I'll be right behind you."
"If you are sure." Ziva's dark gaze looked uncertain but she let herself be led away reluctantly by McGee, who also threw Abby a concerned look over his shoulder.
The NCIS forensic specialist managed to keep her smile in place until they were far enough away not to see it and stared down at her phone again as it began to vibrate in her hand, signalling an incoming call since she'd had it on silent for the actual ceremony.
She hit the accept button and lifted the phone to her ear, her green eyes narrowing as she looked around on the off chance there'd be someone else talking on a cell phone nearby. "Who is this?"
"You have forgotten me already, Abby?" The voice of Alejandro Rivera greeted her smoothly. "That is a shame. I have a mutual acquaintance of ours who no doubt wishes he could."
"Alejandro?" A cold shiver swept down her spine and her heart began to race. "Why... You have Jackson?"
"Si, Abby. I have Senor Gibbs with me. He is not being very cooperative but he is here." The smile she could detect in his tone made her shudder. "We were wondering, perhaps, if you would care to join us."
"Join you where?" Her stomach churned uneasily and she pressed a hand against it, willing herself not to throw up. "What are you doing, Alejandro? Why...?"
A humourless laugh escaped her caller. "Your Special Agent Gibbs did not tell you? I would have thought he'd have learned his lesson regarding keeping secrets." Alejandro muttered something she couldn't hear clearly under his breath. "No matter. We will explain all when you get here, Abby. If you wish to join us, of course. If you do not..." He sighed dramatically. "If you do not, I fear Senor Gibbs will not make it through another night of our company."
A dozen questions or more ran through her mind at once. Abby squeezed her eyes shut against the dull ache in her head, the hand that wasn't gripping the phone clasped so tightly her nails left crescent-shaped indents in the flesh of her palm. "I want to speak to Jackson first."
"A wise request, Abby," Alejandro sounded almost approving. "And one I would be happy to grant. Senor Gibbs? Perhaps you would be so kind as to invite Abby to join us?"
There was a slight scuffling noise, a muffled sound that could have been a cry of pain as flesh encountered flesh. "Abby. Whatever they do, don't come here. Don't..."
The cry that cut him off wasn't entirely muffled and Abby felt her stomach lurch once more.
Jackson Gibbs meant a lot to her, though she could count on one hand the amount of times they'd met. Not only was he Gibbs' father, he was a genuine old-fashioned gentleman who'd been kind to her, flirted with her, intrigued by the things that made her different rather than being disgusted or disturbed like so many others when she met them for the first time.
"Tell me where you are," she found herself saying. "If you give me your word he'll be alive when I get there, I'll come."
"I give you my word, Abby. Senor Gibbs will be alive when you join us." Alejandro gave her directions, repeating them twice to be sure that she understood. "If you tell anyone or bring anyone, we will know, Ms. Sciuto, and Senor Gibbs will die. Do not be foolish. His life is in your hands."
He hung up before she could reply, leaving her feeling cold and scared and wanting, more than anything, to contact Jackson's son and let him know what was going on.
She couldn't risk it, though. Not with Alejandro's threat still ringing in her ears.
Abby took a deep breath that didn't seem to help at all and hurried back in the direction she'd come from, away from the bar where the others waited. She needed a taxi to her apartment, where she could pick up her own car and do as the Mexican official had instructed.
'Hold on, Jackson,' she thought to herself as she slipped into the backseat of the yellow cab that pulled up in response to her hail. 'I'm on my way.'
It wasn't a warehouse, a dark and dingy stereotypical hangout for bad guys and kidnappers alike. It was a large house in the middle of a vast estate, with acres of trees and landscaped gardens separating it from the next residential property, a good two hours away from the bustling city she'd come to think of as home.
Far enough away from the next house in what was undoubtedly an upper class neighbourhood that a gunshot could sound and no one would hear.
Abby thought that maybe she'd have preferred the warehouse as she drove up the long and winding driveway towards the building that was unmistakably someone's well-tended home.
Alejandro's home, she wondered, or were the true owners unwilling captives like Jackson – or worse.
There was a woman waiting on the front steps of the property, immaculately dressed in a crisp white suit. The woman, Paloma Reynosa, smiled in welcome but it was a cold, calculating look that instantly made Abby begin to regret her decision to follow Alejandro's instructions and tell no one of her plans.
"Ms. Sciuto," Paloma greeted her after Abby got out of her car and approached cautiously. "It is so nice of you to join us."
"You didn't really give me a choice." Abby worked hard at keeping her voice civil – and at keeping the tremor in it from being too noticeable. "I want to see Jackson Gibbs. Now."
Paloma's eyes glinted. "Of course. Alejandro said that you would. If you will follow me..."
"Again, not like I have a choice," Abby muttered under her breath. She fixed another smile on her face as Paloma cast a questioning glance over her shoulder and hurriedly moved to follow.
The inside of the house was just as impressive as the outside, with a mass of rooms and hallways all decadently furnished with rich, luxurious colours and pieces of furniture Abby was sure were antiques.
Her mind was still a whirlwind of activity, struggling to piece together how the Mexican Official she'd actually liked could be in business with the leader of the cartel who'd been out for Gibbs' blood. Struggling to keep calm as a little voice at the back of her mind told her she was walking straight into a trap.
A trap that sprung shut the moment Paloma led her into a room that could have been a study, a room where Jackson Gibbs sat prone in the chair he was bound to.
He looked even worse in person than he had done in the photograph on her phone and he didn't stir when she gasped or when she started to move towards him.
For a horrible few seconds that seemed to last a lifetime, Abby was sure he was already dead.
"He is still alive," Paloma said idly as Abby hurried over and dropped to her knees beside his chair. "At least, he was when I last checked."
Her fingers clasped around his wrist, searching for a pulse even as she turned her head to glare at the other woman over her shoulder. Abby couldn't bite back the sigh of relief that escaped her when she felt a pulse even as her eyes prickled with tears as she turned her attention fully on the man in front of her.
The blood had dried in a crusty stream running down his face and ugly bruises of purple and yellow mottled his too-pale features. His skin was warm and clammy to the touch, his breathing laboured and uneven.
He'd aged a decade, Abby thought, in what she hoped had only been hours as their guest.
"Why are you doing this? Why is he here?" She fastened her hand around his wrist and turned her head to look at Paloma, schooling her features into a neutral expression when she realised they'd been joined by not only Alejandro Rivera but two armed men as well. "What's going on?"
Paloma and Alejandro shared a look. The woman smiled and motioned to Alejandro to answer. "She is your guest, brother. It was you who decided to have her brought here."
"Brother?" Abby shrank back instinctively when Alejandro swaggered towards her. "If you're her brother, than means..."
"That Pedro Hernandez was my father, yes." Alejandra smirked at her as he moved closer. "I see that your Agent Gibbs forgot to mention that. Perhaps he thought the danger had passed? Or perhaps he does not care as much as I believed him to?"
Abby forced herself to stay silent, her hand tightening around Jackson's wrist. Her heart was pounding in her chest, adrenaline-laced blood racing at alarming speeds through her veins. She told herself to breathe slowly and deeply, afraid she would pass out if she didn't keep calm.
"So here we are. The father and the lover." Alejandro beamed, evidently pleased with himself. "Which will he choose, I wonder? That that he can really save either of you, you understand, but it will be interesting, no, to see if he tries?"
"Um. I hate to interrupt but you've got this so wrong." The non-truth in his speech gave her courage even as it made her heart ache a little more in her chest. "I'm not... It's not like that with Gibbs and me. He doesn't... I'm really not his type."
Alejandro arched an eyebrow while his sister glared at him. "Alejandro, you said..."
"Hush, Paloma." The Mexican Justice Department Official dismissed Abby's claims and his sister's concern with the wave of a hand. "You mean much to Agent Gibbs, yes? And he means much to you." Alejandro crouched down in front of her when she didn't – couldn't – deny it and reached out to touch her cheek, chuckling lightly when she flinched away. "He will come for you and his father, Abby. It is just a shame that neither of you will be alive when he does."
The smile dropped from his face and his expression hardened as he turned his attention to the two armed guards who'd entered the room with him. "Take the old man to his room and secure him. I think it is time we had a little chat, Abby, about a certain report you were supposed to send to me..."
The party was in full swing when he got there three hours after the end of the ceremony – as full as it could be with several people missing. NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs hesitated over the threshold of the bar, forcing a smile and lifting a hand in greeting when Doctor Donald 'Ducky' Mallard spotted him and pointed him out to his companions.
Ziva turned to smile at him, obviously pleased to see him, but there was a shadow in her dark eyes, one he had no doubt he'd contributed to.
He hadn't meant to miss the whole ceremony but memories of his past and thoughts of his future had kept him distracted for a lot longer than he'd thought they would.
It didn't surprise him to find Tony DiNozzo wasn't in attendance – his senior field agent's assignment in Mexico wasn't something Director Leon Vance, who was in attendance, had chosen to keep from him, something Gibbs appreciated more than he could put into words.
What did surprise him was that he saw no sign of Abby Sciuto among the small crowd of NCIS representatives gathered around the woman of the hour. He recognised several agents, saw Jimmy Palmer on one side and Tim McGee on the other side of Ziva, but the black-haired woman he expected to see hugging Ziva every five or so minutes wasn't anywhere to be seen.
Maybe somewhere in the throng of people at the bar, ordering fresh drinks, Gibbs mused as he made his way across the room towards the group. Or maybe she was in the washrooms or dancing on the small but crowded dance floor with whichever guy had got up the nerve to ask her.
Any uneasiness or discomfort he had at *that* thought was quashed almost immediately; he had no rights to her, no claim, no reason to feel jealous and no desire to acknowledge the emotion that flared up inside him at the thought of his forensic specialist in someone else's arms.
"Hey, guys." He greeted them with an easy grin he didn't completely feel and put a hand on Ziva's shoulder. "Sorry I missed the ceremony," he told her, leaning in to kiss her cheek softly in apology. "Something came up."
Ziva gave him a small nod of acceptance, her lips curving upwards in a soft smile at his gesture though the concern still shone in her eyes. "Is everything okay?"
"Everything's fine." For the first time in a long time, Gibbs believed it almost was, too. He scanned the crowd, searching the faces he saw for Abby's trademark grin and bright green eyes, frowning when he couldn't spot her. "Abby not here?"
"A friend called," Ziva shrugged, a flash of hurt he wasn't meant to see in her eyes before she ducked her head. "She said she would meet us later but..."
"If she said she'd be here, she will." Gibbs squeezed her shoulder before letting his hand drop to his side. "Abby won't let you down."
Not like he had, Gibbs thought but didn't say. Ziva smiled, momentarily assured, and let herself be swept away by the conversation around her. A few moments later, a drink was pressed into his hand and Gibbs followed her lead, letting the first sip of bourbon soothe away the nagging sensation in his gut.
Her head was aching, her jaw throbbing, when she was shown to the guestroom where Jackson Gibbs laid breathing shallowly on the lone bed. She glared at the armed guard who pushed her roughly through the door, ignoring the grin on the man's face as he pulled the door shut behind him and locked it.
Alejandro's interrogation techniques left a lot to be desired, Abby thought as she made her way over to the bed, sinking down on it gratefully.
The dip of the mattress caused him to stir, blue eyes so much like the ones she knew so well looked back at her, momentarily dazed with confusion before clearing, concern and despair shining in their depths. "A... Abby?"
"Shh, Jackson." Leaning closer, she ran a soothing hand over his white hair, concerned at his laboured breathing, worried about the injuries she could see and panicking about the ones she shouldn't. "You need to save your strength, okay?"
"What... What are you doing here?" Jackson frowned at her, reaching out to take the hand she offered with fingers that were bruised and swollen but thankfully all there – thumb included.
Remembering what had happened to the last person she knew who'd gone up against the Reynosa cartel, Abby barely managed to suppress a shudder. "I'm here for the same reason you are. They want to hurt Gibbs." She watched the expression on his face shift, biting her lip uncomfortably at the almost knowing glint in his eye. "It'll be okay, Jackson. Gibbs'll come for us, I know he will."
"Does he know we're here?" The question was followed by a coughing fit that made her wince and brought tears to his eyes.
"He'll know," Abby reassured Jackson with a confidence she didn't quite feel. "And as soon as he does, he'll come for us." Of that, she had no doubt. Her faith in Gibbs might've been shaken a little over the events of the last couple of weeks but she was certain he'd come for them when he knew they were in trouble.
Gibbs didn't believe in leaving anyone behind, especially not those he cared about.
Before Jackson could reply, the sound of the door being unlocked told her that her respite, temporary though it had been, was over. She looked up and over at the door in time to see Paloma step over the threshold, a wicked grin on her face and a cruel glint in her eyes.
"My brother feels it is time you and I had a chat, Ms. Sciuto," Paloma smirked, the blade of the knife in her hand glinting ominously. "He feels a woman-to-woman chat may loosen your tongue. And if that fails, perhaps I will just remove it and send it to your Agent Gibbs as a token of my regard."
Swallowing hard, Abby eyed the knife warily, getting to her feet despite Jackson's attempts at grabbing for her, the old man trying to protect her from what Abby knew was inevitable at greater risk to himself.
Like father, like son, Abby mused, but couldn't find anything to smile about at the thought.
"I'll be fine, Jackson. Really. Just rest, okay?" She didn't look back at him, didn't want him to see the lie as well as hear it. She flinched when Paloma reached out for her, hand tightening around her arm in a bruising grip, and knew without a shadow of a doubt that in the case of Paloma and her brother, the female of the species was far more deadly than the male.
The ringing of his cell phone didn't register above the din of the bar, which seemed to be getting more and more crowded though the person he wanted to see failed to materialise. It was the vibrating in his pocket that had him reaching for the phone, a frown on his face at the unfamiliar number on the display.
"Probie." The voice was familiar, and one he'd thought he'd never hear again.
"Mike." Gibbs bit back a relieved sigh, turning away slightly from the group he was with so he could hear more clearly. "You okay?"
"As I can be." There was something in Mike Franks' tone, something that immediately had him on edge. "You missing somethin', Probie?"
"I don't know. Am I?" An image flashed unbidden in his mind, the thumb he'd been presented with by Paloma Reynosa, and he winced unwittingly. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ziva and McGee move closer to him and wondered what about his body language signalled to them that something was up.
There was a momentary pause on Mike's end, a sound of gravel crunching underfoot. "Maybe one forensic scientist and a father?"
For a split second, his blood ran cold and the world seemed to stop. Gibbs tightened his grip on the phone until he heard a small crack as the plastic casing threatened to give way under the pressure. "Abby and Jack?"
McGee and Ziva moved closer still, alarm in both of their faces.
"Careless of you to lose 'em both, Probie." There was no humour in Mike's voice, none of the dry, sarcastic amusement Gibbs was used to when talking to his mentor. "Lucky for you, I've got my eye on them."
"Where?" Already head towards the door, Gibbs didn't need to look to see if his agents were following him.
"Big house midway between DC and Stillwater. Sending the address to your phone." Mike's voice dropped as if he was afraid someone would overhear him. "Gonna need some backup on this one, or I'd go in myself. DiNozzo's on his way back here but we could use another pair of hands."
Allowing himself only a second to be relieved that Tony was okay and on the way to help, Gibbs quickened his pace as he was finally able to see the door through the crowds between him and it. "They okay?" When Mike didn't answer straight away, Gibbs felt his pulse begin to race with dread. "Mike?"
"Your Dad's in bad shape," Mike answered after what seemed like an age of silence.
His heart pounding in his chest, Gibbs cursed his decision not to bring his car at the same time as being grateful he hadn't given in to the urge to drink too much, too fast. "And Abby?"
Another hesitation, followed by a sigh Gibbs didn't like the sound of floated through the phone. "She's holdin' her own, Probie. Our girl's stronger than we think."
"That's not an answer, Mike." Frustration had him lashing out, hitting the nearest thing available to him. "Is Abby okay?"
Both Ziva and McGee stopped and looked at him, waiting.
"She'll be better when she's out of there," Mike answered tersely, eventually. "You're wastin' time, Gibbs. Time they might not have."
His mentor hung up before Gibbs could say anything else, a shrill beep a few moments later signalling the arrival of the text message holding the address of where Abby and his father were being held.
"Abby and Jack are in trouble," he told his agents grimly, watching as they went from being concerned to serious and determined in a flash.
The celebrations would have to be put on hold, they knew. Until they were all safe and together again.