A/N: I took a break from Uncommon Minds to write this. It's a one shot and my first McAbby. It's for Valentine's Day. I feel like the show is finally starting to point them in each other's direction. Please enjoy and let me know if you did. Sheila
Gibbs looked at the man's forehead closely. "One of your horns looks infected."
He could detect a bit of color rising in Spider's cheeks, but the man just laughed it off. "The price of beauty is what I say. They are my persona, my muse, my identity."
Abby jumped in. "You see, uh, Spider here is a poet and a musical artist. He teaches part time at Georgetown University. Did I tell you that? He's a professor. Plus, he fronts the most amazing punk rock band called Sputum. The horns are part of his artistic license."
If it was anywhere else with anyone else, Gibbs would've rolled his eyes and walked off, but this was Abby and she'd been talking about the amazing Spider for two weeks now. He was beautiful. He was brilliant. He was everything she'd ever wanted in a man. She planned to spend the rest of her life with him. After she said that, he finally agreed to meet them for lunch.
Gibbs sighed. "Don't they give you a headache?"
"Therein lies the rub, I'm afraid. The implants have softened in my forehead, and so I will need to have them removed. I'm afraid that headaches are something I suffer daily."
Gibbs studied the young man. He was tall and rangy with coal black hair and eyeliner bordering astonishingly blue eyes. His features were aquiline and delicate. On his forehead were two bumps that he called horns, but what Gibbs would characterize as unsightly tumors. It didn't surprise Gibbs that he was a magnet for Abby. He was a poor, tortured, sensitive artist that she could support.
"I'm trying to help him raise money for his new operation. Poor Spider." For a moment, she looked as if she expected Gibbs to open his wallet and give Spider all of his cash.
"I take it insurance doesn't cover horn removal."
Spider looked away and Gibbs could tell the man was losing interest in him. Gibbs couldn't be manipulated by him and so there was nothing for Spider to gain from him.
"Let's not talk about the horns. I didn't bring you to meet him, Gibbs, because of his horns. I wanted you to meet him because he has become a very important part of my life just like you are, and I wanted you to know him."
Gibbs frowned. "Are you engaged?"
"No," Abby said as innocently as only she could muster. "We're not rushing things, but he is staying with me while he works to raise money for his surgery. It works great for me. I pay the bills which I do already and in return, I get the most sensitive, handsome, loving boyfriend ever."
Gibbs narrowed his eyes at Spider. "She's paying all of the bills?"
He flushed openly now. "It's not ideal, of course. It's temporary. I only need $8,000 to pay for the surgery. Once that's done, I can concentrate better and will be able to finish my doctoral work and write a dissertation. Then, in maybe 3-4 years tops, I will get a position at a university and Abby can be a woman of leisure. Of course, there is also the chance that Sputum will get a record deal."
She looked distressed. Yes, well, I told you that wasn't necessary because there is no way I'll ever leave my job. It's important work and I like my work. I just want to help you, Spider. Gibbs, did I tell you he was an amazing poet and that he teaches at Georgetown?"
"So you have it all mapped out then."
Abby blinked. "Well, we haven't worked out all the details, but I'm flexible and I trust Spider. He says we are soulmates."
Gibbs couldn't mask the impatience in his eyes.
Spider leaned forward. "Listen Gibbs, let's lay it all out there, shall we? Man to man. You are a modern man and I am a postmodern man. You believe the world is shaped by truths and I believe that there is only infinite complexity. To you, it looks like Abby is being taken advantaged of, but the reality is far more complex. We love each other. We share the same interests, and once she has helped me, I can help her by bringing her to a life of beauty and culture. I can teach her so many things."
Gibbs winced. "Yes, that was very complex, Spider. Rather hard for a meathead like me to follow."
"I was implying nothing." Spider said dismissively.
"You don't like him!" Abby's eyes filled with tears. "He's going to be my forever guy and you don't like him!"
"Abby, I'm just asking questions."
"But I can see it on your face. I was so worried about this. I wanted you to like him so badly!"
"Abigail, don't cry." Spider was wrapping his arms around Gibbs' beloved Abby. "It's okay. Are you really surprised he doesn't understand? Come on, Baby. The only ones that need to understand are you and I."
Gibbs got up. "I, uh…need to get back to work."
"Gibbs!" Abby was on her feet, her pigtails bouncing.
Gibbs turned around, his arms spread. "What do you want me to say? I'm not a fan of horned boyfriends."
Gibbs came back to the bullpen to find Ziva and Tony arguing the virtues of various assault rifles while McGee was at his desk hard at working on the Newman case. Gibbs sailed past Tony and Ziva and planted himself in front of McGee's desk. "Are you going to do anything?"
McGee looked up, blinking. "Working the case, Boss."
Gibbs scowled. "Yeah, that's all you ever do."
Tony and Ziva, still stunned that they had evaded head slaps, stopped to watch the unfolding drama.
"I don't understand."
"She has a new boyfriend."
Tim cocked his head. "Newman's girlfriend? I thought we eliminated her."
"No, you idiot. Abby has a new boyfriend."
"Oh! Okay, but doesn't she kind have a new boyfriend all the time?"
Gibbs narrowed his eyes. "This one is moving in and Abby's paying all the bills."
McGee's eyebrows went up. "I didn't know."
"He has huge bumps on his forehead and Abby thinks he's amazing."
McGee nodded, still miles behind Gibbs' reasoning.
"Bumps?" Tony asked.
"They're supposed to be horns," Gibbs said with a growl, adding no illumination to the problem.
Gibbs returned his scowl to McGee. "And you're just going to stand there?"
"Uh…no. He's living with her?"
"And he has this great tumors growing out of his forehead that he calls horns. Abby's going to have to pay to get those damned horns removed because they give him headaches."
"Okay, Boss, does he have a name?"
McGee froze. "A last name, perhaps?"
"I don't know! He's Spider and he fronts a punk rock band and teaches poetry at Georgetown University, and Abby says he's her forever guy."
"Really!" McGee frowned.
"And all you're doing is sitting here working on a case. Did you not realize that this was going to happen one day?"
"I, uh…didn't think…about it."
"I bet you didn't, did you?" Gibbs shook his head and sat down at his desk. "She's mad at me now 'cause I don't like Mr. Freakshow. He's probably going to take her for all she's got. You know that, don't you?"
McGee was on his feet. "Where is she, Boss?"
"Probably down in her lab with big, salty tears running down her face."
"Do you mind if I go see her?"
"What do you think I've been trying to tell you for the last ten minutes?"
"Okay." McGee rounded his desk and ran for the elevator.
Abby was hiccupping sobs at her mass spectrometer by the time McGee got there. She looked up at him, black tears snaking down her face. "He sent you, didn't he?"
McGee ignored her and enveloped her in a hug. "I'm sorry you're having a rough day, Abby."
"I just wanted him to like Spider. Was that too much to ask?"
"Um, I don't know. It seems that Boss doesn't like the bumps on his face."
"They're horns!" She yelled into his chest.
McGee pulled away, holding her at arm's length. "How did he get horns?"
"They were supposed to be beautiful like a centaur or something."
Tim squeezed his eyes closed. "And he is moving in with you?"
She blinked her wet green eyes. "I think he's my forever guy, Timmie."
A small bomb exploded in McGee's gut. "You haven't known him very long. I mean, I have heard virtually nothing about him."
"You don't like it when I talk about my boyfriends."
"Why does he have to move in right away?"
"He's saving up for a de-horning operation and I want to help. Plus, he is so frickin' amazing. Have you ever seen Sputum?"
"In my mouth."
"No, that's the name of his punk band. Isn't it great?"
He dropped his hands from her shoulders. "I don't know, Abs. He sounds like a freeloader to me. You deserve better."
She slapped him on the chest. "You're just like Gibbs."
She went in for another slap but he grabbed her wrist. "I'm your friend, Abby. And frankly, he sounds kind of ridiculous."
"Friend! Friend! Friend! That's all you've ever been."
His green eyes locked with hers. "That's all you've ever allowed, Abs."
She looked away.
"Maybe it would have been different if I had a dentist put fangs in my mouth or if I played in a rock band or wore chains to work or I don't know. I'm not that guy. I'm just the McGeek, an average guy who couldn't spark your interest."
"That's not true. I've never wanted you to be anyone but you."
"But it wasn't enough, Abby."
She pouted but found nothing to say.
He nodded. "Don't ask me to like your Spider, Abs. I happen to be more than a little Arachnophobic."
"Timmie!" She shouted.
He ignored her and got into the elevator.
Gibbs looked up from his desk. "Well, did you talk to her?"
McGee sat down and slammed a desk drawer shut. "I don't like him either."
Tony and Ziva looked at one another.
"Did you talk her out of it?"
McGee took a deep breath. "I don't know what you want out of me, Boss. She wants what she wants, and that's never been me."
"Are you just gonna' give up, McGee?"
McGee dropped a pile of files on his desk. "Yup. And now I'm gonna' work the Newman case. Got a problem with that…Boss?"
The audacity of challenging the boss left the bullpen in stunned silence for a moment. Finally, Gibbs raised an eyebrow, "Maybe you oughta' try some of that backtalk on Abby."
McGee shook his head and went back into the Newman file.
"Ziva, I need you to think like a woman." Gibbs said, leaning across the conference table. "Can you do that?"
"Uh…Boss," Tony said warily, watching Ziva for reaction.
Ziva rolled her eyes. "Relax, Tony, if I got offended every time one of you forgot that I was a girl, I would never be talking to anyone."
Gibbs squeezed his eyes shut. "You know what I mean, Ziva."
"Boy, this thing with Abby and her new boyfriend has really got your panties in a wad, Boss. I mean not in a wad, and not your panties. You don't wear panties…Briefs or boxers more likely. Although, if you did wear panties, that would be your business. No skin off my nose. Of course, I wouldn't know which and you would never tell…I don't see us ever having a conversation about your underwear…help."
"Are you finished, DiNozzo?"
"Okay, now Ziva think! How can I convince Abby that this is not the right guy for her? I was thinking of having her followed until she meets with him. Then we can get some DNA off something he has used. I'm sure he has a record. What do you think?"
She frowned. "I don't like it. It's very stalker and I think it might backfire. Women don't like it when someone digs into the past of someone they love especially without their knowledge."
"I could take McGee out and get him a makeover. Fancy new haircut. Clothes that fit. Maybe a manscape."
Ziva groaned. "McGee looks just fine. Besides, Abby isn't concerned about his appearance. She loves him just the way he is."
"Well, it hasn't gotten him very far."
Ziva tapped her lips with a finger. "I have an idea. I was thinking of asking McGee for his sperm if I ever find my maternal instincts and have no significant other. I could go and tell Abby that I am going to ask McGee to have my children. It will make her very jealous."
Gibbs and DiNozzo stared at her.
She blinked. "I mean, he wouldn't have them; I would have to birth them. I would just require his sperm. Easy enough."
Tony looked at her out of the corner of his eye. "And how does McGeek get to be the father of your children?"
She smiled. "He's so sweet."
Gibbs wagged a finger at him. "We'll worry about your sperm next week, DiNozzo. Stay focused."
"But it's a good idea, no?"
"No, it's not! Ziva, with the exception of DiNozzo, most men are more attached to their little swimmers than you might think. I think McGee wouldn't hold up under your plan."
"I like my swimmers," Tony complained.
Ziva ignored him. "We have to trick Abby when her guard is down. We need to meet him, act like we want to know him. I think we need to know more about our adversary."
Gibbs nodded. "Makes sense."
"Hey, maybe we'll like him."
Gibbs scowled at Tony.
"I have a plan. Next Monday is Valentine's Day. Let's plan a dinner somewhere. We'll all bring our dates. Abby will want us to meet this Spider."
Tony cleared his throat. "Most people do not like group dates on Valentine's Day. I'm pretty sure my date wants something a little more intimate."
Ziva raised an eyebrow. "But you, Tony, will take one team, won't you?"
"Uh, always have, always will."
Gibbs frowned. "We won't call it a Valentine's dinner. We'll call it a team dinner because of all the hard work we've been doing. I'll call Stanley's. He'll give us a table."
Tony wrinkled his nose. "That old steakhouse."
Gibbs glared at him.
"Yeah, Boss, that's a good idea. Haven't been to Stanley's in forever."
McGee popped his head into the conference room. "If you're done hopelessly scheming over something that's never going to happen, you should know that I've gone through Newman's phone records and found calls from our suspect on three separate occasions. It's enough for a warrant."
Abby trotted down the hallway until she caught up to Tony. "Gibbs told me we're going to have a team dinner on Monday and we're supposed to bring dates. Doesn't he know it's Valentine's?"
"Do you think he cares?"
Abby wrinkled her brow. "This is the first team dinner he's ever done, and if it's a team dinner, why are we supposed to bring dates?"
"Ask him yourself."
"I can't. I'm still mad at him."
"Listen Abby, I think he feels bad about not liking your boyfriend. I think you should bring your Spider and give us all a chance to really get to know him."
"That's what I would do."
He started to walk off, but she grabbed his arm. "Tim hasn't been to see me in five days. It's like a record or something. Is he okay?"
Tony sighed. "He lost his love to an arachnid. It's bound to hurt a little bit."
"I didn't know he loved me."
"Really? That story is getting a little old, Abs. He's been at your beck and call for 7 years. You're going to stand there and tell me you never noticed anything?"
Abby chewed her bottom lip. "I've tried not to think about it. Timmie scares me sometimes."
Tony grinned. "Ever wondered why that was?"
She punched his arm. "Mind your own business." Then she turned and marched back to her lab.
"I don't think I can come, Boss."
"You're going, McGee."
"It is now."
"I don't have a good feeling about this."
Gibbs cocked his head at him. "Wear blue. I've always thought you looked nice in blue."
Gibbs walked off and McGee frowned at his retreating back. "I look nice in blue?"
Stanley's was busy on Valentine's night. It had old supper club charm with red leather booths and waitresses who'd been working there since the 1970's. There was a long bar and even a dance floor with a house band playing old standards. Gibbs sat at the head of a long table next to Ducky who had a lovely medical examiner at his elbow. Tony brought in a beautiful blonde named Naomi and Ziva came in with a very handsome man named Robert. The two couples sat across from one another, but it soon became obvious that Tony and Ziva were meeting eyes with each other much more than with their dates.
Abby brought Spider. He looked sullen as if he'd been dragged to the dinner. He immediately ordered an expensive bourbon and told the waitress to keep the drinks coming. Abby frowned a bit at that but said nothing. Gibbs nudged Ducky who got up and wandered down to her end of the table. Abby had talked extensively of his talents, and so Ducky tried to engage him in speaking French. Spider responded with only bits of phrases, and it soon became clear that he didn't understand most of what Ducky was saying. There was an awkward moment until Spider explained that he mostly knew street French. Duck's eyebrows went up, but he said nothing.
They were into their salads when McGee showed up. Gibbs frowned at him, but McGee couldn't be intimidated by his boss tonight. It looked like he was carrying the misery of a thousand lost loves on his back. Ziva patted the seat beside her, and McGee sat between her and Ducky; directly across from Abby and Spider.
Abby looked troubled, but Spider didn't notice. Ducky had successfully engaged him in a conversation about his poetry. Spider soon began a monologue of the different times he had almost been published. Abby linked her arm in his and listened raptly.
McGee pushed his salad away.
Spider finally looked in his direction. "Are you the famous McGeek?"
All conversation stopped at the table. McGee looked directly at Spider. "In fact, I am."
"I'm sorry," Spider laughed. "I remember that your name is really McGee now. It's just that Abby always refers to you as McGeek. I temporarily got confused."
Tony frowned. There were only a small number of people allowed to tease his probie. He started to lean toward Spider but Ziva kicked him under the table."
"No matter. Abby tells me you're brilliant. Logical. Scientific. Sort of a modern day Mr. Spock."
Tim took a drink out of the iced tea he ordered. "And she tells me that you're quite a renaissance man."
Spider smiled a perfect set of teeth and raised bourbon number four. "I am to art what you are to science."
Abby nudged Spider. "Remember, I told you that Tim is a published author. Two bestsellers."
Spider nodded. "If only I was willing to market to the masses. Certainly profitable, but I need to create art in its purest form. Although I have nothing against the writing you do."
McGee's face didn't move. "Glad to hear it, Spider."
"We each have our own road to travel. Isn't that right, McGee?"
McGee's steak arrived and he chose to cut into it rather than answer. Abby frowned. "Spider writes beautiful poetry. He wrote the most wonderful poem for me. Do you want to hear it?"
McGee raised his head wearily. "Absolutely."
Spider frowned. "I don't know, Abs. It's the kind of thing that's just for the two of us."
"Aw, come on. I want them to know how talented you are. Do you guys want to hear it?"
"Of course," said Gibbs.
"Well, it goes like this…You need me like ice needs the mountain on which it breeds. like print needs the page. You move in me like a tongue in a mouth, like wind in the leaves in the summer trees…I can't remember the rest."
"Very beautiful," said Ziva.
McGee just chewed his steak and stared at Spider. When he finished, he said, "…Gust-fists, hollow except for movement and desire which is movement. You taste me the way claws of a pigeon tastes that window ledge on which it sits…"
Abby cocked her head. "How do you know the rest of my poem, Tim?"
Spider sighed. "Because it was written by Monica Ferrell. She was a classmate of mine. We worked on it together for a bit. This passage is really something I developed, but let Monica use. I should have told you, Abby. I'm very embarrassed."
Abby flashed anger at McGee. "That was a perfectly plausible explanation, but you just had to humiliate him in front of everyone, Tim. I can't believe you did that."
The waitress handed Spider another bourbon. McGee snorted, "You're drinking those like water. I suppose, at $25 a drink, it's the thing to do when someone else is picking up the tab."
Spider reddened. "Abby, I've had enough of your friends. It has been one lowbrow attempt to humiliate me after another. I'm ready to go."
Tears watered Abby's eyes. "I wanted so badly for this to go well. Don't let McGee scare you off. He's just mad…because he wishes he'd…gotten my attention before you did."
McGee looked down at his plate.
Gibbs frowned. "That's enough, Abby."
Spider swallowed his bourbon. "Ready to go?"
"No! Let's dance. I want them to see that we're right for one another."
"Oh, please Abby."
Nonetheless, she dragged him out to the dance floor and enveloped him in the soft jazz the band was playing.
McGee threw his napkin on his steak. "I better get going."
"Don't you move, McGee," Tony said.
"Tony's right," Ziva said. "Months from now, we'll be hearing about how impoverished Spider needs more money or how brilliant Spider can't be bothered to finish his doctorate. And finally, Abby's going to realize the mistake she made, and it's going to take another six months to extricate him from her apartment. She's being obstinate, but does she really deserve that kind of misery?"
McGee closed his eyes.
"Come on, Tim. It's like that time we had to diffuse the bomb. You didn't want to go in, but you did it because you weren't going to let me go in there alone. Abby needs you to diffuse this bomb."
McGee opened his eyes. "That's a crappy analogy, Boss."
"You can do it, Tim!"
Without saying another word, McGee pushed away from the table and walked onto the dance floor. He tapped Spider's shoulder. "I'd like to cut in."
Abby rolled her eyes. "You're not serious."
"Abby, I figure that you owe me at least one last dance especially if he's taking your heart away from me."
Spider looked up at the ceiling. "This is ridiculous, Abigail. Why are we humoring these people?"
Abby reached for Tim. "We'll still be friends."
"It'll be different, Abs. You know it will. How about one last dance for an old friend?"
"I won't have it." Spider tried to be menacing, but it didn't translate on his delicate features.
Abby turned to Spider. "Honey, you go sit down and have another one of those bourbons. I'll be right there."
Spider shook his head and wandered back to the table. Tim took Abby in his arms and swung her around the dance floor. She looked up at him. "You actually know how to dance."
"Yeah, ballroom dancing lessons when I was a kid. My parents were preparing me to be Navy royalty. Too bad I can't handle life on a boat."
"Have I really hurt you?"
He looked down at her. "Have I hurt you?"
He blinked. "I didn't know. What did I do?"
She buried her face in his shoulder. "You wanted me and I could feel it and it scared me."
The song changed but he showed no interest in letting her go. He segued into a simple waltz. "Why was that scary to you?"
She bit her lip. "I…don't know how to be the right one for you. I'm not normal like you are."
"Have I ever asked you to change for any reason?"
"No, but how long were you going to be interested in spiky collars and pigtails?"
He held her close and leaned into her ear. "I don't know, Abs. It's what I fell in love with so I'm not sure how I would get sick of it. Plus, you know me well enough to know that I am not normal."
She rested her chin on his shoulder but said nothing.
"Do you really love him, Abs?"
"I don't know. He seems so great. And he's so smart and handsome and he really wants to be with me…Did he really steal that poem?"
"Undoubtedly, you figured out how to do a background check on him."
Tim smiled into her neck. "Of course I did."
"What's the truth, Timmie?"
"He taught once two years ago at Georgetown. They didn't ask him back. He flunked out of his doctoral program last year. His real name is Steven Morse. He had a wife. Left her and a baby four years ago. Is behind on child support to the tune of $49,000."
"Oh my God."
"He's not for you, Abby. Men like him will take you for all you have and then some. He won't appreciate your goodness."
He felt her tears on his neck. "It's okay, Abs. I'm here."
"What does that mean, Timmie?"
"You've been precious to me for a long time. I guess I haven't done enough to show you that."
"Are you kidding? Gibbs practically dressed me for tonight. As long as we keep work at work and home at home, we'll be fine."
"I don't know, Tim."
"You love me too, Abs. I used to tell myself otherwise, but I can feel it."
Tim stopped dancing and looked into her eyes. "We can't go backwards, Abby. We are here now, and the only options are to go forward or say good-bye to one another."
She grabbed him around the neck and held on.
He smiled. "And I'm not worried about you being scared. You're one of the courageous people I know, and once you believe it, you'll be fine."
"I love you, Tim McGee."
"I've been waiting to hear that for a long time."
"How do we get rid of Spider?"
"I think we can afford a few more bourbons. Then we'll pour him into a cab and send him on his way."
"You don't think he'll be heartbroken?"
"If he had any good sense, he would be, but he didn't strike me as someone with good sense."
She smiled wickedly. "I can't wait to get you home."
He ran his hand down her side resting it on her butt. "We'll be taking it slow this time, Miss Scuito. I can't be careless with my most precious girl."
She closed her eyes on his shoulder, and for awhile they just swayed together. He imagined what it would be like to touch her again after so many years. He was older now. Gone was the nervous kid with Mom tattooed on his ass. He planned to take her home and love her slowly and thoroughly until she had no more doubts as to where she belonged.