You guys rock completely! *hugs to all* And here's the last part :) It's almost twice the length so hope it has everything you guys want to read :)

The door opened before the words came to him. Jackson looked up to see his son, wondering why the flash of hope in Gibbs' eyes faded fast until he glanced back towards the bed himself and saw Abby had fallen asleep again.

"She was awake," he told his son quietly, pulling his hand back from Abby's as Gibbs approached and took the seat closer to the bed. It didn't take long, Jackson noted, for Gibbs to cover her hand with his own.

"She say anything?" Gibbs kept his gaze on her face, watching her intently as if waiting for her to wake up again.

"She said..." Hesitating, Jackson glanced between his son and the sleeping woman on the bed. When he looked back to Gibbs, it was to find blue eyes so like his own fixed on his face. "I think you should talk to her about it."

"About what?" Gibbs' eyes narrowed and Jackson noted his hand seemed to tighten over Abby's. "Is she okay? Alejandro didn't..."

"No. No!" Jackson's eyes widened as he realised what his son meant. He shook his head, sharing Gibbs' relief. "Nothing like that," he answered softly. He paused again, considering his options before continuing with a sigh. "We were talking about you, actually."

"Me?" A genuine flash of surprise lit his son's face for a moment before it vanished behind a mask of indifference. "What did she say?"

"She said..." Jackson looked between them, torn between his loyalty to his son and his loyalty to the young woman who was rapidly beginning to mean so much to him. He'd never promised her what they discussed would be done so in confidence, he told himself; Abby hadn't asked him to. "She's definitely sure you're involved with another woman," he settled for saying eventually, "and she's definitely sure you're not interested in her in a romantic way." He arched an eyebrow at Gibbs' stunned look. "You can't be surprised."

"At what part?" Gibbs murmured, running the hand that wasn't holding Abby's through his hair.

"At the part about her being sure you're not interested," Jackson clarified. "And in me being interested enough to ask." He shrugged when his son looked at him blankly. "You're my son, Leroy. I'd like to see you happy. I have a right to interfere when I think I could do something to help that happen."

"And you think what you're doing now is going to help?" A note of embarrassed irritation crept into Gibbs' voice. "Talking with Abby behind my back?"

"Getting to the bottom of this, banging your heads together if I have to..." Jackson shrugged and looked away. "I think that might help."

"I don't know what you think you need to get to the bottom of," Gibbs began, only to be cut off by his father giving him a hard look he normally used himself on his agents.

"I need to get to the bottom of the root of this miscommunication between the two of you," Jackson explained. He lifted his arm, planning on running his hand through his hair in frustration only to stop at the jarring pain the action produced. He waved off Gibbs' concern and frowned at his son instead. "Why does she think you're involved with someone? And why have you let her go on believing you love her like a daughter when you and I both know that couldn't be further from the truth?" His glare hardened when Gibbs opened his mouth to protest. "I've seen the way you look at her, Leroy. I've seen the way she makes you smile. Only one other woman besides your mother could make you smile like that and you know as well as I do who that was."


The name filled the air between them.

Gibbs had resigned himself to the fact there would never be a woman who meant as much to him as his first wife some time ago. Even his second wife, and his third and fourth, hadn't been able to hold a candle to the memory of the redheaded beauty who'd taken his heart and his breath within moments of him first laying eyes on her.

She'd touched him in ways no one else could, made him feel alive, given him a reason to fight and defend his country with everything in him so he could come home to her loving arms.

Part of him had died with her and Kelly, retreated so far into himself that he started to forget what it was like to life more than just the half-life he'd created.

Until Abby, Gibbs realised with a familiar ache in his chest.

Abby, who hadn't been dissuaded by his initial scepticism of her abilities. Abby, whose smile could light up a room and make his own lips twitch with the need to smile with her.

Abby, whose boundless enthusiasm and determination to see those around her happy had begun to wake up areas he'd condemned to darkness some years before they'd met.

But, his conscious reminded him, she was *Abby*. Abby, who could sometimes seem too young and untouched by the cruelty in the world around her. Abby, who could look after herself – had done for a long time before he'd walked into her life – but who he felt an undeniable need to protect, even if the protection was from himself and the hurt he was worried he'd inflict on her if he gave into his feelings.

Watching the play of emotions pass over his son's face, Jackson nodded to himself and held Gibbs' gaze when the younger man turned his head to look at him. "You know how rare it is to find someone you feel that way about, someone who feels that way about you. You'd be a damn fool to let this chance slip away from you, and a selfish one to deprive Abby of the experience. I didn't think your mother and I raised a fool, Leroy. Don't prove me wrong."

A small nod was the only response he got but Jackson sat back in his chair, a little more relaxed than he had been, hopeful that his words had done some good and that his son would do the right thing.

The sight of the hospital room around her was still as disorientating the second time as it had been the first. Abby blinked, her brain sluggish with the various doses of medication running through her body and stared in confusion at first when she caught sight of the man sleeping in the chair beside her bed.

Gibbs' usually immaculate suit was crumpled and she could see the telltale signs of yesterday's stubble on his face, a sure sign he hadn't been home despite no doubt having been told to leave by both the nurses on duty and other friends who she knew would have been willing to sit with her while she slept.

The events of the previous day returned to her slowly and she found herself blinking again, her mind unable to process the fact so much had happened in such a small space of time. After a few more moments passed and the various aches and pains in her body began to register, Abby found herself feeling more grateful than ever that the ordeal hadn't lasted any longer; she wasn't sure she would have survived it if it had.

She followed the line of his arm, noting he seemed to be reaching for something, an eyebrow shooting up when she realised the warmth she felt around her own hand was actually his. Pleasantly surprised, Abby turned her hand under his, entwining their fingers, and contented herself with watching him sleep.

He looked unguarded, something she rarely saw, though evidence of the strain he'd felt could be seen in the shadows under his eyes and the stubble she'd already noticed on his face. Still, there was something undeniably peaceful about the way he slept, almost as if in slumber the pain he'd felt over the years could be momentarily forgotten.

After what felt like only a few minutes, Gibbs began to stir. She watched him through hooded eyes, a small smile playing on her lips despite the dull ache she was beginning to feel in her chest. He frowned first, his brow furrowing as the fingers entwined with hers twitched. Then he yawned and opened his eyes, closing them again only for them to open straight away as he sat up straighter, tension returning to him as he remembered where he was and why he was there.

Her smile was tired but in place when he looked at her, relief flashing in his eyes when he realised she was awake replaced by mild embarrassment when he realised she'd been watching him sleep. He didn't let the emotion linger on his face for long, distracting them both by getting up out of his chair only to settle himself on the edge of her bed. He helped her up into an upright position but paused when a low groan escaped her.

"You okay? You want a doctor or a nurse...?"

"I'm fine." She took a deep breath before moving again, grateful for the support of his hands against her aching body as he helped her. "I bet I look better than you do," she added with a little more cheer in her voice once she was settled against the pillows he quickly rearranged behind her. "Have you been home at all since you found us?"

The sheepish expression on his face said it all. "I've been busy."

"Busy pestering the medical staff, I'm sure." Abby arched an eyebrow, a mischievous sparkle in her eye. She licked her lips and gave him a teasing smile. "You know, they're just trying to do their…"

Her words were cut off with the sudden pressure of his lips against hers. She stared at him, eyes wide open in shock for several moments before relaxing into the kiss, her eyes sliding shut as one of his hands moved to the back of her head while the other cupped her cheek tenderly.

After a few moments, Gibbs drew back, uncertainty flashing momentarily in his eyes until he took in the dazed look on her flushed face and the slight smile playing around her lips. "I have what is arguably the world's worst case of morning breath and you choose now to kiss me? Seriously?"

The smile on her face took away any sting or doubt her words might have created.

Gibbs found himself grinning back at her, not sure if it was due to relief or the infectious smile on her own face. "We can always try it again, Abby. When you're stronger."

"You promise?" Her eyes lit up and he couldn't keep his grin from growing wider, ducking his head to hide it for a moment before lifting his face to press his lips against her cheek.

"I promise, Abs."

"Good." Evidently satisfied with the promise, Abby settled back against the pillows but clung to his hand stubbornly. "So you gonna tell me what's going on? I vaguely remember Alejandro being… out of the picture… but what happened with his sister?"

A shadow passed over his face, answering her question before he started to speak. "She got away. We're looking for her, Abby," he added on seeing the flash of panic in her eyes, wrapping his hand around her own and squeezing her fingers. "Until we find her, you and Jack will be staying with me."

"Jack?" Abby's gaze flittered automatically to the chair where she'd last seen the older Gibbs. "Is Jackson okay? Really? I know he said he was but…"

"He's fine." Gibbs ran his thumb over her knuckles reassuringly. "He was more worried about you than himself. Said Paloma really did a number on you."

Glancing down at herself, Abby shrugged self-consciously. She couldn't see her face but was sure it would sport bruises and healing cuts to match those she could see on her arms. "Well, I doubt I'm going to win any beauty contests right now thanks to her and her brother but it could be worse. I thought he was going to kill me when he realised…"

He gave her a moment, waiting for her to continue. When she didn't, he lifted the hand that wasn't wrapped around hers to touch her chin, tipping her face up gently so she had no choice but to look at him. "When he realised what?"

"When he realised he was wrong. About us." Her expression changed and she lowered her gaze, fixating on his chin rather than holding his gaze. "He thought we were together. I told him we weren't."

"You're wrong, you know." Recalling the conversation with his father and Jackson's comments that Abby believed he was involved with someone else, Gibbs waited until she looked up at him. "There is no one else. You really think I'd have kissed you if there was?"

The look on her face said no but the doubt he saw in her eyes told him she wasn't so sure. "I know there's something between you and Bell's lawyer. Ms. Hart. You know she's interested, Gibbs."

"Doesn't mean I am." He ran a gentle finger over the bruise on her cheek, pleased when she leaned into his touch. He watched her silently for several moments, studying her intently, committing everything about the way she looked as she closed her eyes and leaned into him to memory. She looked peaceful despite the bruises, maybe even content. When she opened her eyes and gazed at him, a sleepy smile curving her lips, he couldn't resist leaning down to brush his lips against hers. "Get some sleep, Abs. I'll see what I can do about getting you out of here soon."

She gave him a grateful smile and let him help ease her back down on the bed, a sure sign that she was still suffering the effects of the ordeal. She reached out for his hand once she was comfortable settled against the pillows, holding it in both of hers as he retook his place in the chair at the side of her bed, scooting it a little closer to her in the process.

"Stay until I fall asleep?" Her eyelids were already drooping as she made the request.

Bringing her hand up to his mouth, he brushed his lips against her knuckles softly. "I'll stay as long as you want me to, Abby."

With a smile on her face, Abby slipped back into a peaceful, healing slumber.

Her recovery progressed well enough over the next week for the doctor in charge of her case to agree on her medical discharge on the condition that there would be someone around to help her out. The cast on her arm would be cumbersome enough without the added inconvenience of her recovering knee injury and healing ribs but Gibbs and Jackson had quickly volunteered their services, the older man giving Abby a wink over his son's shoulder at Gibbs' insistence that she be released into their care.

Abby had wanted to insist she'd be fine on her own but decided to appease Gibbs due to Paloma Reynosa still being free. It wasn't until she tried to dress herself the morning she was released that she realised she needed more help than she'd thought, a defeated expression arranging her features as a nurse helped her into her clothes.

Her expression was the first thing he noticed when he walked into the room but, having been briefed by the nurse in question, Gibbs knew and understood the reason for it. Abby was a fiercely independent woman, older and more experienced than her appearance and behaviour suggested most of the time. He understood her reluctance to rely on others and suspected it stemmed from her childhood where she'd had to grow up quickly when her deaf parents had found themselves with not one but two hearing children.

He met her downcast gaze with an easy grin, covering the area between them to press his mouth against hers briefly. Drawing back, he was pleased to see a small smile playing on her lips, one that brightened even as an eyebrow arched as he presented her with the gift he'd brought with him.

"A Caf-Gulp? Really?" She looked from the miniature cup in her hand to him and back again. "That's all I get?"

Pleased to have distracted her, Gibbs let his grin grow a little. "You'll get more when you're out of here." He kissed her again, with a little more pressure and a little more heat. "Told you that already."

"That's great, but can I have a bigger Caf-Pow, too?" Abby attempted a coy look but couldn't quite suppress the mischievous smile that accompanied it.

Gibbs arched an eyebrow but said nothing, moving away from her instead so he could pick up the small bag of personal belongings on the bed beside her. "You think you can walk out of here if you lean on me or should I go get a chair?"

Abby wrinkled her nose. "I can walk."

"You sure?" Concern warred with amusement at her determination. "Don't want you to make yourself worse..."

"I'll be fine." She rolled her eyes but couldn't quite keep from grimacing as she gingerly eased herself off the bed.

Gibbs swung her bag over his shoulder and moved close enough to her that he could wrap his arm around her waist and help support her weight. He didn't comment when she leaned into him heavily but didn't miss the quick, grateful smile that she shot him.

They made their way out of the hospital together at a slow but steady pace, with Gibbs pausing every time he sensed Abby needed a moment to catch her breath. He helped her into the passenger seat, closing the door after her before putting her bag in the trunk and walking quickly to the driver's side of the car. Settling in his seat beside her, Gibbs glanced over to see her struggling with her seatbelt and fought the urge against doing it for her; he knew she'd appreciate his help but would hate it if he tried to do things for her.

After a few moments in which he busied himself with his own seatbelt and starting the engine, Abby succeeded in securing her seatbelt and they started their journey to Gibbs' house in comfortable silence.

It was strange in that it didn't feel strange to be living with the two Gibbs men. The banter between father and son, once strained due to years of separation, seemed comfortable around her.

Though Jackson was still recovering himself, he was just as eager as his son to ensure she relaxed and did as little as possible. Abby found that while Gibbs was at work, Jackson entertained her and kept her mind off being unable to work herself, usually by telling her stories about his son as a child. Abby was sure she had enough little Gibbs stories to keep herself in Caf-Pow's for the foreseeable future.

When he was home, Gibbs was as attentive as she'd ever known him. He didn't go overboard – didn't crowd her or make her feel like an invalid but he seemed to be there whenever she needed him, seemed to know whenever she was getting tired or needed another dose of pain killers.

The only thing that disappointed her as the days passed in quick succession was that there didn't seem to be any follow up to what he'd started in the hospital. There'd been one or two close calls, near misses where she'd thought he was about to kiss her only for Jackson or one of their well-meaning friends to interrupt before he actually did something.

She shook her head and took a breath before pushing herself up off the bed she'd been using in the master bedroom. Gibbs had insisted she used the biggest bed, and that his father use the newly arranged spare room. The man himself spent what Abby was sure were restless nights on an old camp bed in the living room.

Her bruised body ached as she stood but the pain was somewhat lessened by the painkillers she'd taken earlier. Abby longed for a long, lazy soak in the bath but knew she wasn't up for either getting into it or getting out. Settling instead for a shower, she promised herself with a sigh that as soon as she was able – before she moved back into her apartment – she'd take advantage of the generously sized bathtub in the en-suite bathroom.

She took a change of underwear into the bathroom with her, smiling at the sight of a fresh towel already hanging near the shower, wondering who – Gibbs or Jackson – had put it there. She shut the door behind her to keep in the heat but didn't bother locking it; both Gibbs men would respect her privacy and both would only worry about not being able to get to her quickly if she slipped and fell while showering.

Abby was halfway through her shower, washing the shampoo through her hair when the painkillers began to wear off. Her head felt full of clouds, her vision dimming momentarily. She couldn't bite back a low groan that echoed around the room.

"You okay, Abby?" At the sound of Gibbs' voice through the closed door to the bedroom, Abby jumped and felt her feet slid against the wet floor. She swore viciously and reached out to grab something to keep her from falling.

The shower curtain thankfully held but the action jarred her ribs and caused another groan to escape.


His voice sounded closer and se could tell by the sudden dip in temperature that he'd opened the bathroom door. "I'm okay," she called out, knowing even as she said it that it was a lie – and one he wouldn't believe. "I'm just seeing stars. And not in the good way," she added mostly to herself.

"We'll see what we can do about that." There was a trace of amusement in his tone but he sounded mostly concerned.

She wondered if she should have felt embarrassed when he appeared on the other side of the shower curtain, instead feeling nothing but gratitude when he gently eased the curtain away, wasting no time in bundling her up in the towel she'd noticed earlier.

He lifted her out of the tub before she could protest, carrying her out of the bathroom and into the bedroom, setting her down carefully on the edge of the bed before leaving her line of sight for a few moments, returning with a glass of water and two painkillers she took with a grateful smile.

He sat beside her on the bed, watching her but saying nothing. Abby felt his gaze on her and turned her head to meet it only to watch his eyes drop, his gaze following a drop of water that dripped from her hair and ran from her shoulder down towards her cleavage, disappearing eventually beneath the towel.

Her cheeks felt flushed and her breath caught in her throat when he looked up at her. She opened her mouth to speak but was kept from doing so by the pressure of his lips against hers, gentle at first but more confident, more demanding when she made no attempt at pushing him away.

His arms slid around her, holding her close but he forced himself not to tighten them around her, mindful of her healing injuries. She manoeuvred herself to sit on his lap instead, straddling him, and he felt her smile against his mouth when his hands moved up and down her spine.

Neither noticed the towel slip away.

Neither cared.

Abby pressed a hand to the back of his head, fingernails raking gently through the hair at his nape. She pressed herself against him more fully when the sensation of cool air hitting her bare skin registered, the wonder of being so close to him distracting her momentarily from the pain.

If it wasn't for the crash from downstairs and the muffled cry that sounded a few seconds later, Abby knew they wouldn't have stopped.

He deftly avoided the stair halfway down that creaked, securing his grip on his gun as the sound of voices drifted towards him.

"I should have just killed you when I first saw you." Familiar but unwelcome. Paloma Reynosa

"You should have, but you didn't." His father's voice was firm but quiet.

"We all make mistakes, old man. I will not make another where you are concerned."

"You already have, lady." Jackson told her calmly. "You think my son will let you get away with this?"

Gibbs moved in the doorway, getting a clear view of Paloma's face as she gave his father a cold, cruel smile.

"I am counting on him deciding not to." Paloma held a gun at his father's head, her hand as steady as Gibbs' own. "My father's death will only be avenged when your family no longer lives."

"Then I'm afraid to tell you his death won't be avenged." Jackson's gaze strayed momentarily to his son but focused back on the woman holding the gun at his head before she noticed. "You might kill me but you'll never get to my son."

Paloma gave a short, unpleasant-sounding laugh. "He is here, is he not? He and his lover? I'll kill you, and then I will kill her while he begs for her life. And then I will kill him."

"On your own?" Jackson arched an eyebrow. "Seems like a big undertaking."

"Who said anything about being on my own?" She smiled again and lifted the gun, her finger tightening on the trigger.

Her body fell to the floor with a muted thud while the gun she'd been holding fell from her limp hand with an impossibly loud clatter.

Jackson gave his son a relieved smile, one that faded when another, similar sounding thud came from upstairs.


The moment she heard the creak of the stair, Abby felt her heart begin to pound. She darted for the bathroom, almost completely closing the door but leaving a small gap so she could see who it was coming towards the room.

The footsteps didn't sound like Gibbs, nor did they sound like Jackson, and she tightened the towel around her body protectively even as she started to look around the bathroom for something she could use as a weapon.

The toilet lid caught her eye and she bit her lip, remembering a time in the past when she'd considered using it as a weapon before. Shrugging to herself, she decided that it was better than nothing and tugged it free, hugging it almost protectively to her chest as she returned to her place by the door.

The man who walked through the door, dressed all in black, wasn't familiar but the gun in his hand made her blood run cold. She held her breath as he moved further into the room, instinctively moving back when his gaze moved swiftly over the mostly closed door.

A small sigh escaped her when he went past the bathroom door. Moving as quietly as she could, she opened the door a little more and walked up behind him, lifting the toilet lid in her hands as she did. Her heart pounded in her chest and a bead of cold sweat ran down her spine as she lifted it higher, inhaling sharply before bringing it down on top of her would-be assailant's head with a sickening thud.

The stunned man crumpled to the floor before he had a chance to turn and face his attacker. Abby let the lid fall to the floor with a clatter and wrapped her arms around her upper body, the sudden rush of adrenaline deserting her now the danger was passed.

Two sets of footsteps pounding up the stairs caused her eyes to widen in alarm until she realised that the second set were slightly slower and both were familiar.

Gibbs had barely entered the room before he found himself with his arms full of Abby, still clad only in the towel he'd wrapped her in earlier. He held her tightly for a moment, until he was satisfied she was okay, reluctantly passing her over to his father so he could deal with the unconscious man sprawled out on his bedroom floor.

Wrapping an arm around her waist, Jackson led her out of the room. He paused at the closet, taking out a blanket and wrapping it around her shoulders. "It's all over now," he told her quietly, rubbing her back through the blanket as they stood in the hall.

"Paloma..?" Abby glanced up at him, closing her eyes briefly at the expression on his face. "I thought I'd heard a shot but I wasn't sure..."

"She's gone." Jackson smiled at her when she opened her eyes. "You don't have to worry about her anymore. None of us do."

Abby smiled back even as her eyes stung with tears of relief. She went willingly into Jackson's arms, staying there until the team descended on Gibbs' house and took care of the body downstairs and the unconscious man, leaving Gibbs himself free to comfort her, both of them needing the reassurance the nightmare really had come to an end.

The group gathered in the same bar the aborted celebration of Ziva's newly granted citizen status had been held in. Abby and Ziva sat side-by-side at their table, sharing a smile when they caught one another's eye.

Everyone who should have been there in the first place was gathered around them, with Jackson Gibbs as a welcome addition to the close-knit group. Tony sat opposite the two ladies in his life, trying to bait McGee into a shot-drinking competition. Ducky entertained the Director and Jimmy with stories of his youth while Ziva indulged Jackson in some harmless flirting. Abby looked to the man sitting on her other side when she felt his thigh brush hers and couldn't keep the smile on her lips from growing even wider at the almost content expression on Gibbs' face.

The Reynosa Cartel was gone, the threat they'd once posed a threat no more. Gibbs' past was securely behind them where all pasts should be, leaving nothing but a future that she had every right to believe would be good.

Gibbs' hand brushed her on top of the table, in full view of anyone who might have been looking. Abby glanced around the table, blushing lightly at the approval on Jackson's face and the intrigued speculation she read on the faces of their friends. When Gibbs' fingers wrapped more firmly around her own, Abby watched Tony smirk and nudge McGee in the ribs, turned her head slightly and saw a slightly indulgent expression on Ducky's face while Ziva decided not to bother trying to hide her smile behind a glass.

The future, she decided with a happy sigh, looked very good indeed.