Summary: Dead bodies aren't the only ones in Ducky's Autopsy sometimes. They just weren't expecting someone else there. Two team members meet in the darkness.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs sighed, looking around the darkened Autopsy. Ducky had gone home sometime ago, but that was fine with him. He hadn't come for a talk, or advice. He'd come for rest.
He stepped in and let the door shut behind him, walking over to a table and feeling around for a familiar roll of towels. He knew roughly where they were, after all, this wasn't the first night he'd slept there. Usually it was when his team was involved in a long, hard case. When he was reaching his third or fourth night with no sleep, and Ducky forced him to rest. Sometimes though, he couldn't stand the emptiness of his own house, and the memories, so he simply didn't go home. Those times were rarer, but still frequent enough that Ducky had stopped asking him about it years ago.
He sighed again, making his way over to the table farthest from the door. None of the tables were occupied at the moment, but that was his preferred spot, for some reason. He supposed he could have gone home, but he felt tired, and his mind and body rebelled at the thought of the long drive. Sure, a cup of coffee would see him through, but it would also keep him away after. He didn't want to go home only to stay awake until dawn, driven by caffeine induced restlessness and preoccupation with his current project. He wanted to sleep.
He reached the table, exhaled slowly, then sat down and swung his legs up so he could stretch out. He'd changed into his workout sweats almost as soon as the last of his team had gone home, so he was fairly comfortable. The room was at a decent temperature, and the table wasn't too cool, and certainly not much more uncomfortable than his couch. He stretched out, then got the towel roll positioned, further cushioned by the hood of his sweatshirt. He shifted a little, finding a comfortable position on his side. Then he reached into a pocket to remove his cellphone, and dump it into the inset tray near his head, and settled back. He was just falling into a doze, when the door hissed open and footsteps too light for Ducky's entered the room.
Abby stepped into Autopsy, breathing in the faint smell of disinfectant and chemicals. It was pitch dark, except for the lights outside the door, but that didn't bother her.
She loved Autopsy. She sometimes slept there simply for the atmosphere. The silence was nice as well. She didn't mind sleeping in her lab, but there, something was always running, humming softly in the background or something. Her computers, the mass-spec., even her music sometimes. And as much as she loved all those sounds, sometimes she wanted the quiet of Ducky's Autopsy.
She could have gone home, but she didn't feel like driving. She'd had a long day, like everyone else on Team Gibbs. Besides, with a blanket and pillow and her stuffed hippo, the tables in Autopsy were almost as comfortable as her bed.
She let the door shut behind her, looking around the darkened room. She frowned slightly, seeing the far table occupied by something, then shrugged. It was probably a project of Ducky's. She started to settle onto the table nearest the door, when something rustled in the darkness. Abby froze, adrenalin rushing through her bloodstream. All at once, her mind registered the faint sound of breathing, coming from the far side of the lab. She peered into the darkness, her eyes wide as if she could suddenly develop night vision. She started to take a step back, then froze as she heard another rustle. Then, to her shock, the shape lying on the far table moved, and sat up.
There was silence for several moments. Then Abby swallowed nervously. "Ummm...hello?" Her over active imagination was supplying her with images of zombies, and Frankenstein monsters, or even terrorists with guns, but she couldn't think of anything else to say.
"Hey Abs." To her surprise, the voice that answered her was a familiar, well-loved one.
"Gibbs?" She blinked. "I didn't know you were here."
"I could say the same." There was a tinge of amusement in his voice.
"Yeah, well, it was just such a surprise." Relief and tiredness loosened her tongue. "I mean, obviously it was a surprise, but, I mean...what are you doing here? Ducky went home hours ago."
"I know." Gibbs surpressed the urge to sigh. "I was taking a nap." Still he felt a vague sense of amusement, despite his tiredness. He didn't have to see Abby's face to know how much he'd startled her.
"Well, I guess that explains the lights, but...it doesn't explain what you're doing here." Abby shifted, pacing slightly. "I mean, it does, but...you're Gibbs. And Gibbs doesn't sleep in Autopsy. At least I didn't know you did." She shifted, thinking out loud unconsciously. "I mean, I know I do, but...I like Autopsy, and it's kind of a Gothy thing. Plus, I like the atmosphere, which I guess is the same thing. But...you're not a Goth Gibbs. You're Gibbs. You sleep at home, like in a bed, or in the basement with a boat or some other wood-worky type thingy. So Gibbs sleeping in Autopsy is just like, you know, really not normal, and..."
"Take a breath, Abs." he broke into the monologue with a quiet command, knowing she could go on forever if he let her wind herself too far. "This isn't exactly the first time I've slept here."
"I know." She stopped pacing and faced in his general direction across the room. "But it's the first time I've seen you here. And it still doesn't explain why you're not at home, sleeping in a bed or something."
He sighed again. "Cause I sleep on a couch at home, and I'm too damn tired to drive that far tonight."
"Oh...well, I guess that makes sense." Abby blinked as the words registered. "Actually, no it doesn't. Why would you sleep on a couch? I mean, beds are way more comfortable, unless you don't have one, which I guess is possible. But in that case, I know this really great mattress place, and..."
"Abs, slow down." Abby stopped as Gibbs cut her off again with another gentle command. Gibbs exhaled softly, a slow deep breath from his chest. "I've got a bed, okay? I just don't use it much. It's a long story." he paused a moment, then asked softly. "So, were you planning to stand there all night?"
Abby swallowed. "Ummm...no. I was going to get some sleep."
Gibbs felt a small grin touch the corner of his mouth. "Don't let me stop you." He gestured toward the table, then settled back onto his own and stretched back out.
"Right." Abby hesitated a moment, then moved the rest of the way to the table nearest the door. Within moments, she had herself settled, tucked securely in the blanket, with her pillow under her head, and Burt in her arms. She shifted a little to get comfortable, then looked over at the vague shape on the other side of the room. "Ummm...Gibbs?"
"Yeah?" There was a slight slurring of tiredness to his words.
Abby smiled. "Good night, Gibbs."
The smile on his face widened a bit. "Night Abs."
Silence fell over the Autopsy room for several minutes, leaving their breathing as the only sound in the darkness. Then Abby's voice came hesitantly out of the gloom. "Gibbs?"
Gibbs exhaled softly, trying not to be irritated. "Yeah, Abby?"
"Sorry. It's nothing." She'd heard his exasperation, but still, the apology sounded hesitant. And he knew she wouldn't have disturbed him for nothing.
Gibbs sighed, then pushed himself up on one elbow. "Talk to me Abby." He turned his head to face her, seeing the small, blanket shrouded form on the far table. "What's on your mind?"
Abby hugged her hippo tighter. "It's just...it's weird, you know? Being in Autopsy and having another person lying there. Another live person, I mean. And...you're breathing and all, which is kind of creepy, like one of those old-fashioned monster movies or something..."
"You want me to go somewhere else?" He was already comfortable, already tired. Still, it was Abby. And he knew of a few other places he could catch some shut-eye. Behind his desk for one. The employee break room or lounge for another. He'd even slept in the conference room once, stretched out on the table.
"No. It's not that...it's just..." She stopped, but he could hear the unfinished sentence in her tone.
"Just what, Abby?" He waited, looking at her, even though it was highly unlikely that she could see him.
"It's just...I have these nightmares, sometimes. About you and Tony and Ziva and McGee. About what it would be like to come down here and find you, you know...here." She swallowed hard, curling deeper into her blanket. "Do you ever have dreams like that?"
Sympathy washed through him. "Yeah, Abby. All the time." He still remembered Kate's death. He'd had nightmares for weeks of her dying, followed by more nightmares of seeing the other members of his team stretched out on the tables beside her. "All the time."
"Sorry. I didn't mean to bring up bad memories." Abby bit her lip for a moment. "It's just...when I have those dreams...I like to come down here. Then when I wake up, I look around, and you're not here. And so I feel safe, cause I know you're not dead. Only...you are here, and..."
"And you're afraid to wake up and think I'm dead?" Gibbs swallowed. He hadn't guessed that she'd feel that way. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep.
"Well, sort of. That, or I'll wake up and realize you're not dead, but then I'll think it's a dream, and you really are and...I'm not quite sure what I'm saying here...but...Gibbs, I'm just really scared." Abby's voice sounded so incredibly young, it almost broke his heart.
Gibbs sighed, then sat up again, scrubbing one hand over his face. They both needed sleep, but it was obvious that neither of them were getting it in the current situation. He rubbed his face again, then stepped off the table, moving toward the storage closet on one side of the room.
"Gibbs?" Abby's voice was questioning and a little fearful.
"Just relax, Abs." Gibbs found the door, twisting the handle to see if it was locked. The door slid open. Gibbs frowned. He knew Ducky kept the temporary autopsy tables in here, for when they had an overload of bodies on a case. It was too dark to see, but he knew where Ducky kept them, and the doctor was usually very organized.
His searching fingers found cold metal, exactly what he was looking for. Seconds later, he managed to pull it out, bending over as his fingers searched for the way to unfold and snap the legs into place. It was difficult in the dark, but he managed. Within a few minutes, he had the table unfolded and locked into position. He straightened, then flipped the table upright.
Abby jumped at the thud from the other side of the room. She could just barely make out a dim silhouette moving there, but she couldn't see what Gibbs was doing. She swallowed. "Gibbs."
"It's okay." He spoke softly, then grabbed the corner of the table and pulled, wincing at the slight screech of metal on tile. He sighed again, then grabbed the sides, lifting the awkward burden in his arms before turning and taking a few quick steps to Abby's side.
Abby jumped again as Gibbs set the table down with a thud. "Gibbs, is that one of Ducky's autopsy tables?"
"Yeah." He shook it lightly, checking to see if he'd gotten everything locked down. Then he looked up at the figure only a foot or so away. "Just relax, okay?" He swung himself up onto the table, settling into a semi-comfortable position, then reached out and brushed where he thought Abby's shoulder was. "I'll be right here. It's okay, Abby."
Abby swallowed, then slipped a hand out of her blankets to capture his warm one with her own. Gibbs didn't pull away, just let her take his hand to pull him closer. Close enough that she could feel his warmth. "Thanks Gibbs."
"Not a problem. Get some sleep." In the dimness, she saw his shift, settling his head on the arm she hadn't captured. Abby swallowed, then closed her eyes, feeling the warmth of the man beside her, the presence of the father figure she'd come to rely on so many years ago.
As if he'd read her mind, the hand she held shifted in her grip, moving to take her hand and rub soothing patterns across the back of it. She smiled in the dark, recognizing the way Gibbs was trying to soothe and relax her.
The thought led to others, and one in particular. She closed her eyes, trying to make it go away, but it remained, hovering on the edges of her tired thoughts. She opened her eyes. Gibbs hadn't moved, and as near as she could tell, he might have been asleep, except that his hand was still holding hers. She swallowed. "Gibbs?"
"Yeah?" Gibbs sighed, feeling resigned. He wanted to sleep, and he wanted Abby to sleep, but it was clear there was something on her mind.
"Can I ask you something?" She felt her voice quavering a little.
"Always." He moved then, propping his head on his hand.
"Well, I know that, but...this is like a really, really personal question, and I don't want to upset you, so I don't know if I should. I don't want to make you mad or anything. It's just, it's kind of on my mind and..."
"Just spit it out, Abs." he spoke softly. "It's okay. I promise, I'm not going to get angry at you."
"You don't know that for sure." She stopped, feeling the warmth of his hand, hearing the kindness in his voice, even when he was tired and slightly exasperated with her. She swallowed again, feeling nervous and uncertain. "It's just, the way you're with me and trying to make me sleep...did you ever do stuff like this for Kelly?"
Gibbs' hand froze, and his thumb stopped tracing patterns on her hand. She couldn't see his expression in the dark, but she could feel the sudden tension in his touch, and hear the slight rustle of fabric and shift of the table as he stiffened. She bit her lip. "I'm sorry. It's just...I know you miss her. And I don't want to hurt you. It's just, you know..." She paused for a split second, looking for the correct words to soothe the distress she'd caused him. "It's just, you've always been such a father figure to me and everything, always taking care of me, you know. And I know I'm not Kelly or anything but I just wish sometimes that I could, I don't know...like, be her for one night for you or something. If it would help. But then I think it wouldn't help, and I'm not sure, and I never really wanted to say anything, only you're here now, and you're acting very fatherly, and it just sort of slipped out. And I'm kind of rambling and everything, so...I'm sorry, and I'll be quiet now." She stopped speaking abruptly, wondering what he would do.
His voice came out of the darkness, so soft she could barely hear it. "I was away a lot."
She nodded. "Cause you were in the marines. But you were home too, right?"
"I was." There was silence on his part for a moment, then Gibbs sighed. He was tired of fighting, just plain tired. He exhaled again, then spoke softly. "Roll over."
"Huh? Gibbs, what..."
"Do me a favor, okay, Abs." There was an exhaustion in his voice that she hadn't heard there before.
"Okay." She shifted, turning so her back was to him. "I just don't understand..." She gasped as his arm reached over her shoulders, embracing her gently. "Gibbs?"
"I used to hold Kelly like this all the time, when she was having trouble sleeping." His voice was soft, still carrying that undercurrent she didn't quite recognize. "Close your eyes."
Abby nodded slightly and let her eyes slip closed, relaxing into the warmth of his embrace, his touch. It felt oddly comfortable, his embrace wrapped around her from behind.
Gibbs felt her relax under his hand, though her breathing told him she was still awake. He hesitated a moment, then raised himself slightly off the table he lay on. His hand moved, brushing her cheek in a gentle gesture. Then he took a deep breath.
Hush little baby, don't say a word
Daddy's gonna buy you a mocking bird.
Abby's eyes shot wide open at the first words of the lullaby. Gibbs' voice echoed softly in the room, gentle, rusty with lack of practice, but still warm and sweet and gentle. She stayed still, listening as he continued in that hesitant, gentle baritone.
If that mockingbird don't sing
Daddy's gonna buy you a diamond ring.
He felt his throat closing, felt tears threatening his eyes. But he couldn't stop now even if he wanted to. It had been years since he'd sung this song, holding his baby girl. He knew it was Abby, not Kelly, that was in his arms, knew the truth, but still...
If that diamond ring turns brass,
Daddy's gonna buy you a looking glass
And if that looking glass falls down
You'll still be the sweetest...little...baby...in town.
He felt his throat locking around the last words, and tears dripping down his cheeks in spite of himself. And yet, despite the bittersweet pain and the rush of memory, he felt oddly relieved as well. He was glad Abby couldn't see his face. He hesitated, then sat up partially. He leaned over hesitantly, then moved his hand to brush her hair and plant a gentle, fatherly kiss on her cheek. "Night Abs."
Abby heard the breaking of his voice, the sorrow in it, and her heart ached for him. She wanted to comfort him in some way, but she remained silent. She knew how terribly vulnerable Gibbs was at that moment. It was rare that he let anyone in his team see him like that, and she didn't want to do anything to add to his distress. She was almost surprised to feel him brush her hair back, then she felt him lean forward and kiss her lightly on the cheek, the way he always did in Autopsy when he was thanking her for something.
Moments later, he settled back down on the table. Abby felt his weight shift. She half-expected him to draw back, but his arm remained across her shoulders, embracing her. After several minutes, she heard his breathing slow, settling into a rhythm that she recognized as sleep.
A small smile crossed her face. She waited a few more minutes, to be sure he was asleep, then got one hand out of the blankets and wrapped it around his. Gibbs didn't move. Abby smiled a little wider, then snuggled down into the blankets, still holding his hand. "Night Gibbs." The she closed her eyes, and allowed his breathing to lull her to sleep as well.
Ducky stepped quietly into autopsy. It was early, but he liked to arrive early sometimes, to revel in the quiet of his domain, and mentally prepare himself for whatever might come. It might be a day of paperwork, or it might not. He frowned, finding the door unlocked, then remembered. Abby had mentioned she might nap on his table again, and he'd promised to leave it open for her. He smiled, then pushed the door quietly open, so as not to disturb her if she was still here. Then he blinked.
The table closest to him looked as if it had expanded during the night, and his eyes made out not one, but two forms on the surface. He frowned, then moved softly over to switch on his desk light. It's wasn't terribly bright, but he could at least see what was going on. He set his bag down as quietly as he could manage, then flicked the switch. Then he blinked again, startled.
Abby was lying on the table closest to him, securely wrapped in a blanket with a pillow under her head. But the stuffed hippo that usually took up residence on the table with her had toppled to the floor, and instead, her hands were clutching another. Gibbs lay sprawled on his side on a temporary table behind her, his head pillowed on one arm. His other arm was draped loosely over Abby, embracing her in a protective manner that looked very much like a father holding his little girl. Both of them were still sound asleep.
Ducky felt a gentle smile breaking across his face. Abby certainly looked content. Jethro's face was slightly obscured by the sleeve of his shirt, but still...the stern expression was relaxed. There was a touch of sadness in the lines of his face, but also a peace that Ducky had rarely ever seen in the man's face, waking or sleeping. And the posture was more relaxed than Ducky had seen for a very long time, as if whatever troubled his friends mind had finally left him alone, at least for one night.
Ducky smiled softly, then made his way back toward the door. Preparations for the day could wait. He got to the sliding door, hesitating as it hissed open, waiting to see if his two visitors would wake. Neither of them stirred. He smiled again, then stepped out and shut the door behind him, locking it against the possibility of Palmer's arrival, or the intrusion of any of the team. They weren't likely to come down in the morning for no reason, but then...the whole scenario he'd just seen was unlikely. He pocketed the key with a sense of satisfaction, then headed for the elevator, wondering where he could find the best cup of coffee, and a Caf-Pow.
It would be time soon enough to wake his sleeping visitors. But until then...best to let them have all the rest and peace they could find.
Author'sNote:Yeah, so...this scene just popped into my head. Couldn't help it.