CHAPTER 23

"Does he…Do you…is that how you all feel?"

I can't cope with this, I can't think, I can't breathe, I need to get out of here. What exactly have they done? What sacrifices have they made? I can't think about this now, my head is going to explode; I need to get out of here.

Gibbs, please let him still want to be my protector, I need him now, I want him now, to shield me from this, to shield me from myself.

I have eye contact, I can see how hard it is for him, please don't let me down now, please, I promise I'll never hurt you again.

"I'd like to go home now please"

Please Gibbs, please, just give me one more chance, please, say yes, please take me away from here.

I can't look, I can't face his rejection, please don't give up on me, please.

Oh thank God, his touch is the best thing in the universe right now.

The car, I can sleep in the car, I just want to sleep, not think or remember, just sleep.

Home, we are home, just get out the car, walk up the path, then up the stairs and then sleep, why is everything such an effort?

Never has a Gibbs hug felt so good, I want to hug him back, but I can't make my arms work, I need to sleep.

He has let go, I think I upset him by not hugging back, too late now, just go, just go upstairs and sleep.

I haven't spoken to Gibbs for 2 days, he must hate me, how do I explain that I'm not pushing him away, not really, I just needed time to figure out what's real and what's not. I think I know now, I think I've got as much figured out as I need to, I know I've hurt them, and it's selfish, I know it is, but I can't face knowing just how much, not yet, right now I know as much as I want to.

They think I hate them, I don't. I don't know how I'll get them to believe that, I don't even know if they want me to try.

Ok, talk to Gibbs, do it now, it's the middle of the night, but it's Gibbs, he doesn't sleep like normal people.

His bedroom door is open, the room is in darkness, but he's not sleeping, not unless he's learned to sleep with his eyes open, but it's Gibbs, it wouldn't surprise me. Jeez Sciuto, quite babbling to yourself and go in.

"Abby?"

Just push the door open, you don't have to go all the way in, you can talk just as well from here.

"Come on in"

Crying, Sciuto? Really? Going for the sympathy vote are we?

I really really want a hug, but what if he doesn't want me too? Should I ask first? What if he says no?

And relax, problem solved, he's hugging me, now can you quit crying and talk to the man?

I can't hug and talk at the same time, I need to move to where I can see his face, try and do it gracefully, don't make him think you're running away again.

"Can we talk?"

"Of course"

"I remember everything"

Well, as much of everything as I want to, maybe should have said I remember enough, does it really make a difference? 2 days you've been going through this Sciuto and you're still stalling with semantics, just move on before you bottle it completely.

"Why?"

Why? Seriously did I just ask why? Why what? Gibbs is good but he's not a flaming mind reader!

"That's a pretty big question Abs"

He called me Abs, surely that means he doesn't hate me, surely that means he still wants me around. Please let be so.

"You never gave up, any of you, despite everything I did and said, you kept trying"

"We love you"

Ok, that was the quickest he has ever responded to a question, EVER. He did say we and he did use present tense, but I need to be sure he means now, still, after everything. Before you ask, are you sure you are prepared to walk away if he says no, if he says he thinks you'd be better off somewhere else, somewhere far away from him and his team?

"Even now?"

I can't look, maybe I should just leave now, pack and be gone, not wait for an answer. I shouldn't make him say it.

He's forcing me to look at him, what do I do, what do I do? I can't run, I asked for this.

"Yes"

Yes? He said yes! And I think he means it.

I need to talk to the rest of the team; they might not be as forgiving as Gibbs, especially Ziva. I can't wait for it to just happen, I have to reach out first, I'm prepared for rejection, for it to take time for them to really be my friends again. A simple message, that's all it need to be, they'll see it when they get up in a few hours.

'I have the best friends in the world. I love them'

At some point I'll need to break rule 6, but I'll do that face to face, one on one.

I'm glad Ducky forced us to come out tonight. It's hard to believe we are here, together as a team, there are still some things I don't know, things that are causing a bit of tension but we are all here and all trying, I look around and still can't believe what these guys did for me, some families couldn't survive that. We're more than a team, more than a family, I don't know what word would describe what we have but it's something from now on, I'll protect with my life.

THE END

a/n… I did not think I was ever going to get to the end of this. Thanks to everyone who has stuck with it, given reviews and set alerts. I'm off to write some one shot fluffy things now…..