Title: Falling is Like This
Author: dannica webb
Spoilers: Anything's game, but mostly spoilers for Gibbs's past/his relationship with his father/the Mexico storyline.
Summary: Gibbs gets a gift, a wake up call, and the birthday girl, not necessarily in that order. Post Mexico, sorta-AU.
AN: Title & lyrics from Falling is Like This by Ani Difranco. SO sorry for the delay for this - writing with Jackson is fun but it's really difficult for me, and a week and a half of flu didn't help. Very sorry for the delay! Gabby exchange fic for Hanne (ncis_love), who requested "first time (non-established relationship), Jackson!, a little angst." I hope it turned out okay (and not too angsty)! This is a post-Mexico sorta-AU fic. After the Mexico arc, Gibbs goes out of town for a few weeks on Vance's orders til things calm down, and when he gets back he has to deal with the consequences and complications of the situation on his relationship with Abby.
you give me that look that's like laughing with liquid in your mouth
like you're choosing between choking and spitting it all out
like you're trying to fight gravity on a planet that insists
that love is like falling and falling is like this
feels like reckless driving when we're talking
it's fun while it lasts and it's faster than walking
but no one's gonna sympathize when we crash
they'll say you hit what you head for, you get what you ask
and we'll say we didn't know, no, we didn't even try
one minute there was road beneath us and the next just sky
i'm sorry i can't help you, i cannot keep you safe
i'm sorry i can't help myself, so don't look at me that way
we can't fight gravity on a planet that insists
that love is like falling and falling is like
love is like falling and falling is like
love is like falling and falling is like this
Abby wondered idly as she lay on the floor of Jackson's huge garage if this was how Michaelangelo had felt. Then she figured Michaelangelo had never had to deal with an interrupting Gibbs. Lucky bastard.
She hadn't sensed him come in, oddly enough; she was on her back underneath the biplane, iPod blaring Android Lust, paint dripping into her eyes, but that was no excuse. He rarely got the drop on her, but she knew it was him as soon as she felt his hand on her ankle. With a sigh, she let him tug her out from under the plane, and pulled her earbuds from her ears.
"You're supposed to be gone," she said pointedly, blowing a strand of hair out of her face and not bothering to get up.
He didn't say anything, just held out a hand. She looked at it for awhile as though unsure of what to do with it, then she allowed him to haul her off the cold floor. She took the glass of iced tea in his other hand, holding it in both of hers, and downed half of it in one go. She was thirsty. Jackson's sweet tea rivalled the best restaurants in the bayou, and she figured it was a decent way to stall. Until she couldn't stall anymore.
"It's your birthday," he said.
She rolled her eyes. "Wouldn't be the first one you've missed." It was a cheap shot, bringing up his resignation from NCIS several years before, but it gave her a moment of bitter satisfaction before the guilt hit.
She tried very hard not to lean into his touch when he reached up to brush flakes of paint from one of her pigtails. "Abbs - "
She shook her head. "No. I'm not done being pissed at you yet, Gibbs," she said as she caught her lower lip between her teeth. It wasn't quite true; she'd never been able to stay angry with him for long, and after weeks of not seeing him, it was almost difficult to work up the necessary ire, but he didn't need to know that. "Or, for that matter, Tony and Jack." Her lips twisted wryly. "It was Tony who tipped you off, yes?" No matter how much things had changed in the weeks she'd come to think of as After Mexico, there were some things that were still the same - and the hard and fast rule of never being unreachable was one. Tony was the only person she'd told about her weekend visits to Stillwater.
"Tony felt guilty about giving you up," Gibbs offered, as if that made it any better.
She shrugged. She privately figured it was just that Tony was conditioned to have a guilty conscience around Gibbs, period. The silence settled uncomfortably between them. Gibbs had always been terse, but in the years Before Mexico they'd had their own comfortable sort of rhythm. Now the shiny antiseptic new car smell of After Mexico permeated the atmosphere anytime they were in the same room, making her feel slightly ill. She could barely force out her words around the tightness in her chest. "The paintbrush," she demanded.
"Hmm?" Gibbs asked.
"Give me the paintbrush," she said. She set the glass down on the workbench and held out her hand. She tried to ignore the electricity in his touch when he slapped it into her palm. She flopped down onto the floor, sliding back up under the old biplane she'd spent the last several weeks restoring. It was no Sistine Chapel - it wasn't even hers - but it was a refuge from thinking about the gulf between them, the mistakes she'd made. If she kept working on restoring the plane, she wouldn't have to think about how she'd stupidly trusted Rivera, or how alone she had felt when Gibbs was avoiding her, or the things she'd said in his basement about loving her like a daughter.
"That was quick."
"Don't start, Dad," Gibbs muttered as he walked back into his father's house and closed the back door behind him. "How long's she been like that?" He sat down at the kitchen table, across from where Jackson was going through the store ledgers.
"She came up to visit last year a few times before all this mess started, saw the photos of the plane. Talked me into letting her restore it," Jack said quietly. "She wanted to give it to you."
Gibbs scrubbed a hand over his face. "You're not telling me the damn thing'll actually fly?"
"She's good with her hands, that girl." Jack took a swig of tea. "She's come up every weekend since you royally screwed things up. She barely leaves the garage." Jack got up and poured a glass for Gibbs, setting it down onto the table with a dull clunk.
Gibbs stared down into the drink, wishing he had his bottle of Jack Daniels. An eternity passed before he looked up again. He couldn't get Abby's voice out of his head, that night in his basement, when she'd whispered his name like a prayer.
"What are you going to do about it?" Jackson interrupted his reverie.
"What?" Gibbs asked, raising the glass to his lips.
Jack laughed, that smug laugh that said he knew all the answers, the one that had set Gibbs's teeth on edge since he was a child. "That girl is head over heels for you. What are you going to do about it?"
Gibbs had to restrain himself from spewing tea all over the table. He was suddenly reminded of why he'd kept his distance from Jack for so long - the anger had been a huge part of it, but the truth was he and Jack were too much alike and their personalities had chafed since he was a teenager. Jack took every opportunity to knock him off balance, and that fucked with his very official Senior Supervisory Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs mojo, as DiNozzo would put it. "Excuse me?" he choked out, coughing and straightening the collar of his red polo.
"That plane was barely a heap of scrap when she asked me for it. She built it back up from the ground, Leroy," Jackson said. "And the girl works sixteen hour days, so we both know it's not because she doesn't have anything better to do." He stood and walked the few steps, closing the gap between them. Gibbs felt the heavy weight of his father's hand on his shoulder. "Tell me one of your ex-wives would have even bothered to visit me - let alone ask about the plane," he said. "Hell, I know Shannon loved you, and she wasn't half as perceptive when it comes to the things that matter to you."
Jackson walked out of the room, leaving Gibbs alone with his thoughts and the uncomfortable weight of his father's observations.
She heard the words almost before his footsteps, and she had to remind herself to breathe. She hadn't really thought he'd give up that easily and just drive back to D.C., but she hadn't thought through what she was going to say to him yet, either. She felt the air shift as he laid down beside her, sliding himself underneath the plane. "Rule six," she responded automatically, then after a moment, added, "You'll ruin your shirt." She didn't take her eyes away from the underside of the plane.
"Rule fifty-one," he countered. "Sometimes I'm wrong."
She brushed her sweaty bangs back from her face with one hand and wracked her brain. She had a very good memory, particularly for all things related to Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Including the rules - his and her own. "I don't know that one."
"It's new," he replied conversationally.
She tried very hard to swallow around the lump in her throat. "Why are you apologizing?" she asked.
He waited a brief moment before responding. "Shouldn't have pushed you away."
She exhaled slowly. At least they were on the same page, in some respects. "I should never have gone to Mexico in the first place. Stupid, stupid - " she let her voice trail off into a wordless grumble of frustration as she jabbed the paintbrush at the underside of the plane.
"You didn't know, Abbs," he said. "I shouldn't have let things get so out of control. None of this was your fault."
He grabbed her hand, threaded her fingers through his. She almost pulled away, afraid if she opened herself up to the intimacy all her confusion over her feelings for Gibbs would come flooding out, but she couldn't bring herself to let him go, so she just laid there, next to him, holding onto the tenuous peace. Several minutes passed before he spoke again.
"Daisies, Abbs? Really?"
A smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. "You know that picture your dad has of your mom standing next to the plane in that field?" It was the one that had made her ask about the plane in the first place. She'd been feeling a bit homesick and she'd driven up to visit Jackson one weekend the team had off, before everything got all weird, and she'd been going through some old photos when she found it and coaxed the story out of him. At first she'd felt like she was intruding on something private, but Jackson seemed to need her visits even more than she did, so she kept coming.
"There were daisies all around her," Gibbs said. He turned his head to look at her.
Abby shrugged off the surprise in his voice and the heat of his gaze. "I finished all the repairs the weekend before last, and I finished painting the body of the plane yesterday, and I just - " she sighed. "I just didn't want to stop, so I thought I'd add some detail." She'd been painting daisies on the bottom of the plane for hours because the thought of getting off the floor of the garage and driving back to D.C. and returning to what passed for normal these days was overwhelming. Not to mention losing the tangible connection that she felt here - however tenuous - to Gibbs. But she kept that to herself. No need to sound desperate.
He felt the exact moment when she relaxed beside him, and the exact moment when she tensed up again. "I'm sorry if this is overstepping...I know things are complicated with Jack and your mom, and - " she said haltingly, "I didn't even think - "
He started to shake his head, but the absurdity of the two of them lying confined on the floor underneath the plane, where she could barely see the gesture, propelled him to get up off the floor and pull her with him. He didn't want any confusion between them, not anymore. He brushed the dust off of his jeans and impulsively pulled her into a hug. "It's the sweetest thing anyone's done for me, Abbs," he said, his face pressed in her hair, his lips next to her ear. She wrapped her arms around him instinctively. The close contact sent a lazy wave of contented desire straight through him, and he waited for awhile before pulling away. "And I think Jack appreciates it, too," he added with a smile.
"He's fun to hang out with," she said. She glanced down, scuffing the toe of her combat boot against the garage floor.
Gibbs decided to try for what passed for normalcy between them again. "So...birthday dinner?"
Abby stepped back and leaned against the workbench. When she looked up at him again her eyes were full of emotions all tangled together, making it hard for him to read her. Usually he could tell what she was feeling. "Don't - " she started, then stopped. Her gaze darted away and then back to him. "Take me flying tomorrow for my birthday, Gibbs. Take me to dinner tonight because - just because." She caught her lower lip between her teeth for a moment. "Because you like my company. Because you don't want to be anywhere else but here."
He swallowed hard. "Abbs, I've never wanted to be anywhere else but here."
"Oh," she breathed, clasping her hands together tightly.
"What do you want?" He couldn't deny how his stomach tightened with nerves at the serious turn the conversation had taken, again, but he was tired of fighting history. They'd been mixing up signals for the better part of ten years. Maybe it was time to get it all out in the open after all.
She threw up her hands in frustration. "I want things to go back to normal," she said, frowning. "I want things to go back to the way they were before, when we were okay and the team was okay and we were happy and - " she stopped with a heavy sigh. "Too much has changed."
"What if I said I didn't want things to go back to the way they were before?" Gibbs asked quietly. "Maybe change isn't always bad, Abbs."
She cut her eyes at him. "I've had enough circular nonsense from you in the last few months to last me a lifetime, Gibbs. What does that even mean?"
He thought guiltily back to their conversations surrounding the case and what she'd found in Mexico. He needed to be direct - he owed her that much - but words didn't come easily to him at the best of times. Especially when it came to relationships. Three failed marriages were evidence enough of that. "What if - what if I said I loved you, but not like a daughter?" he responded finally.
"Oh," she said again, then, before he could respond, she stood up on tiptoe and pressed her lips experimentally against his.
His neurons forgot how to fire for a few seconds, and he stood stock still, then his brain caught up with the rest of his body and he brought a hand up to her face, brushing his thumb along her jaw. She wrapped her arms around him and pressed her face into the crook of his neck. She murmured something against his skin, but he didn't catch it. "Hmm?"
She pulled back and grinned up at him impishly. "Dinner, remember? Gotta go change," she said with a wink, and she ducked out of his embrace and took off for the house before he could respond. There was still much to be repaired between them, but this was a more promising new beginning than he could have ever hoped. He laughed freely for the first time in weeks as he watched her go.