"You want me to do WHAT?" he shouted, his heart racing and a sudden lump forming in his throat.
At least, that's what his brain said. That certainly was not what came out of his mouth, for if he even considered questioning his orders he knew it would be a certain death, and likely a slow and painful one.
"Yes sir," was what he really said, trying to swallow back the bile bubbling up from his stomach. "I understand."
He flipped his phone closed with a flick of his wrist, throwing it so violently down on his jacket that laid upon the floor that he swore it would be broken. Of all the things he'd had to do since taking this assignment, all the lies and the deceptions and the tricks, he never in a million years expected to have to do this.
They'd told him to kill a cop. It was the only way to get further in, to be accepted in their ranks as one of the elite, to get him into the inner circle and access to the secrets he so desperately needed.
To make things even worse was the timing. They told him to do it now…right then, that evening, from that very building and in that very room. He wasn't allowed to leave, so he couldn't make contact with anyone on the outside. Aziz would be bringing him a rifle to use, so he couldn't equip himself with any sort of dummy bullets. His cell phone belonged to them so he couldn't risk making any phone calls, for they may be traced or tapped. It was as if they'd thought of every possible contingency, watched every television show and every movie to look for the loopholes, and closed each and every one.
No more than five minutes after the phone call had ended he heard footfalls coming closer, and soon Aziz appeared in the doorway with a briefcase in hand. He spent the next few hours assembling the rifle, checking and rechecking it, trying to get used to the scope and the way it felt in his hands. As soon as everyone arrived in the warehouse across the street he'd crouched down in the window and stared exclusively through the scope, watching the meeting play out and trying to read everyone's lips. His shoulder eventually cramped from being in the same position for hours, and his leg had long since fallen asleep, but he didn't dare move. Two years were riding on this one moment in time, this one task that would make or break his undercover "career". And possibly his life.
"Pull the trigger Liam," the voice whispered in his ear. "The detective has to be in there by now."
He hesitated. This just wasn't going to be worth it, no matter how much the government had invested in this operation. "Not yet," he replied. "I don't have a clear shot. Yousef is in the way."
"Damn stupid punk. He's always getting in the way."
"Patience Aziz," he muttered, not caring if he understood the comment or not. He hated that he was being watched, scrutinized really, while gazing out the window. He knew that it was all part of the initiation, that if he balked or slipped or outright refused to take the shot Aziz would be more than happy to empty a few rounds into his chest. Being monitored just distracted him, gave him one more thing to balance - and to potentially screw up.
After about fifteen more minutes, some of the longest of his life, Yousef finally moved and he got his first clear view of his mark. He almost gasped in surprise when he saw the slim frame, the long black hair and the flowing curves.
It was a woman.
His arms twitched slightly and he shifted his aim imperceptibly, almost without thinking. In a split second his thinking altered, and the other outcome he'd been considering was quickly put into play. He just hoped that his aim would be true, and that it wasn't going to be a fatal shot.
"Bless me father, for I have sinned," he thought to himself in the millisecond before pulling the trigger.
Abby hadn't slept for much more than a few minutes that evening. It wasn't for the lack of trying; her mind simply was not going to let her rest. By all rights she should have been exhausted, between the lack of sleep from the night before, her foray at the gym, and her general life over the past week. As she lay in her bed, tossing and turning her thoughts drifted back to Toronto, when they both had seemingly slept better in each other's presence. She quietly crept out of her bed and down the hall, intent upon crawling under the covers with Gibbs; but something stopped her and forced her to lie down on the couch instead of by his side. That was where she still found herself, several hours and countless infomercials later.
Tim had told her perhaps it was time to open her heart to someone else. At first she'd taken the suggestion as harshly as a slap in the face, but the more she thought about it the more she could understand the comment. She never had been completely honest with them about her life in Boston and they knew it; it was like a secret that ate away at her very soul. But with him…with him it didn't matter. Gibbs didn't know her past and she didn't know his, but it never made a difference. What mattered was being together now, joined through some strange twist of fate. She was beginning to think it wasn't random, that they were meant to help one another even if she didn't want to admit it.
Abby looked over to his sleeping form, trying to ignore that she'd spent more time staring at him during his slumber than she spent watching the television. He'd thrown his blanket off again revealing that on this particular evening he was wearing only flannel pajama bottoms. No top. Watching his bare chest was like a drug for her, captivating her thoughts in a way she'd never imagined. Maybe that was the real reason why she resisted sleeping next to him, because she knew her thoughts were straying to anything but sleep. His draw on her was almost magnetic, intoxicating somehow, making her abandon rational thought for the promise of something more. It had been years since she'd watched a man in the way that she was watching him; and she was scared she wouldn't be able to hide herself behind her walls, both real and imaginary, for much longer.
Not long after some light had started to creep in from behind the curtains he started to thrash about, obviously disturbed again by another dream. Having learned her lesson from his last nightmare she simply called out rather than trying to approach him. "Gibbs?"
His eyes flew open and he saw the room outlined in faint pre-dawn light. He could feel his heart racing, his breathing speeding up slightly to compensate.
"You okay?" her voice called out once more. "You were muttering in your sleep again."
Gibbs sat up slightly while trying to straighten his pajama bottoms. When he looked over to the couch he saw Abby laying quietly, covered by one of her blankets, with her attention focused not on him but on the faint glow of the television. "Have you been there all night?" he asked, his voice hoarse from sleep.
She nodded lightly, still not moving her gaze.
"Couldn't sleep," she answered as if it were the most natural thing in the world. "No big deal."
She looked fairly serene but he could see the slight droop of her eyes, the telltale redness of someone who had been awake for far too long. He couldn't imagine the infomercial on the latest in vacuum cleaner technology was all that riveting, so she was obviously avoiding him for some reason. Or, at least avoiding the question, a thought confirmed when she simply shrugged her shoulders and continued to stare passively at the illuminated screen. He sat up slowly and crept along the floor to settle down closer to her. "Why?" he asked again. "You sleep less than me. What are you so scared of?"
"What are you so scared of?" she replied in return. "Why do you keep having nightmares?"
"Why do you?"
Her first instinct was to come back with some pithy retort, but she was able to stop the thought just before verbalizing it. "Everybody has a ghost."
"Yours is not like mine…"
Abby chuckled softly. "Never pegged you for liking Live."
"Mmm hmm. Good band."
"Never heard of them," he muttered softly.
"What was your dream?" she asked.
"What's making you so scared?" he replied in kind. He figured if he kept asking the same question, she might eventually give in.
Abby started to flip channels, continuing to ignore his attempts to draw her into meaningful conversation. It was another one of her long-standing defense mechanisms, the belief that if she ignored something for long enough, it would just go away on its own.
Before Gibbs could second-guess his intentions he leaned up slightly on his knees and leaned into her, capturing her lips while closing his eyes. He lingered longer than he had with their previous kiss, savoring the taste of her lips beneath his own. He broke away and half expected to feel her hand striking across his face, but the blow never came. He opened his eyes and saw she was watching him intently. "What?" he muttered dejectedly, afraid to hear her answer.
Abby frowned slightly, biting her lip, obviously disturbed by something. Then, she did the last thing he'd ever imagined - she leaned forward and kissed him in return.
Once she'd initiated the contact the sensations changed slightly. They seemed more charged, the current between them having a stronger affect, drawing them together faster. He moved slightly to get closer and she tugged at his arms, trying to guide him up on to the couch with her. He gave in, kneeling on either side of her lithe form, for the time being keeping his body separated from much contact with hers. Moving one of his hands off her face he slowly trailed it down her side, stopping at the barely visible gap between her camisole and boyshorts. He hesitated, initially intent on lifting the bottom hem of her camisole, somehow knowing she wasn't ready for too much. Yet he was desperate to feel the smooth skin of her stomach with his bare hand, much like the way her hand was continuing to caress his shoulder and back.
He broke away without any warning, refusing to meet her puzzled look as he was overcome by sudden doubt. This woman, this most amazing creature, had become far too precious to him in the past few days to risk over a few misplaced hormonal urges. He didn't want to go too far, to cross any line from which he wouldn't be able to retreat.
"Do you trust me?" she whispered into his ear.
He slowly looked up towards her face, his jaw hanging slightly slack. "What did you just say?"
"Do you trust me?" a voice whispered softly in her ear, the first thing she'd heard clearly in hours.
She had the sensation of being moved, loaded into a car like a sack of potatoes and shuttled somewhere different, somewhere unknown. The sounds around her were usually muted but at other times they were so loud and painful she would have flinched, had she been able to move. She knew she had been fading in and out of consciousness, her mind occasionally working when it seemed nothing else would.
She struggled to open her eyes, feeling an overwhelming need to see the person behind the voice but finding the task nearly impossible. She felt a hand, first on her forehead and then lingering slightly on her cheek, smoothing her hair back away from her face. "Don't struggle too much to open your eyes. Keep your energy for other things."
Finally giving up, knowing the voice was right, she slowly swiveled her head slightly to indicate "no".
"That's okay. I wouldn't trust me either."
She heard footsteps walking away and into another part of the room. "Problem is," the voice continued from slightly farther away, "you're going to have to. Because I'm your only way out of this alive."
In some contexts that statement could have been taken as something sinister, but the tone in this man's voice was different from the voices of the others. He had an air of authority about him, but not the cockiness and certainly none of the malevolence. Her curiosity stirred, she continued to force her eyelids and after much effort was finally able to get them slightly opened. It did take a while to focus on anything in her surroundings, but when the haze cleared from her vision she glanced quickly around the room. She was in some sort of house, or apartment, lying on a couch. The only thing she could see without moving was part of the room where she was laying, a kitchen, and a man standing at the sink with his back to her.
She watched as he turned around and started to walk towards her. He was dressed entirely in black, almost as if he was meant to disappear into the darkness of the night. The shadows that seemed to shroud his body didn't extend to his face, however, as she gazed into some of the most expressive blue eyes she'd ever seen. He knelt down to the floor while holding a glass of water with a straw, dipping his finger into the cold liquid and rubbing it lightly along her lips, trying to relieve some of the dryness for her. "Here," he said gently, finally holding out the straw. "Drink a little. Small sips. Not too much and not too fast."
She tried to sit up but he quickly put out a hand to stop her. "Careful, don't try to move. I finally got the bleeding stabilized. You don't want it starting up again."
He held her head gently at a slight angle and she took the straw between her lips, somehow controlling the overwhelming urge to down the whole glass in one large gulp. Even the small bit of liquid made a difference, making it slightly easier to swallow and somewhat easier to find her voice.
"Just hold on a little while longer. I'm going to try to get a call out. The cops should be here soon after that."
She squinted her eyes slightly, trying to look into his but he was refusing to look at her directly. "Why?" she managed to whisper, her words barely audible.
"Why what? Why am I helping you?"
She nodded her head slightly. "You're not…"
"…with them." he finished for her. He sat back on his heels slightly, finally meeting her gaze. It was impossible for her to hide the pain she was feeling, but he also could see the intelligence, the part of her soul that had the need simply to know things, to figure them out. Part of him wanted to sit and tell her the whole story but he couldn't risk it. He knew she was unlikely to remember this given the severity of her injuries and the way she kept drifting in and out of consciousness, but he'd also seen stranger things happen. The biggest risk right now was someone returning when he didn't expect it and overhearing him talking, and he couldn't take that chance. "The less you know the better off you are with these people."
"…more than I think? Because you're a detective, right? You were working on a case involving them."
She tilted her head slightly, indicating he was correct.
"So am I. Working on a case."
He deliberated dodged the question. "You never should have been part of this. It was bad planning on my part. It's my fault you're here so I have to try to get you out."
He couldn't look her in the eye any longer. "I'm the one who shot you. I never expected them to…" he paused, his voice hitching. "They were supposed to believe you were dead. I took the closest shot I could without killing you. They were supposed to leave you and then your partners could have found you, and saved you. I never meant…for them to…" he stopped again, trying to recompose himself. He was getting too involved, letting his emotions take over, and that was going to get him into trouble if he wasn't careful. "It was the only way to save your life, and you never even knew you were in danger."
"Not your fault," she managed to say while wincing.
"Stop straining yourself," he admonished, a little more sternly this time. "You don't have to talk. Concentrate on your survival." He inclined his head slightly, the sound of approaching voices starting to make themselves known. He quickly grabbed the straw out of the glass and hid it under the cushion, making it look like the glass was his own and not meant for her. "You're going to be fine, you have my word. I won't ask you to believe in me, but I'll be by your side whether you know it or not. Okay?"
"Angel," she murmured as her eyes drifted shut once again.
"That's right," he answered, reaching up to smooth her hair back one more time. "I'll be your guardian angel, until you get back home."
She didn't respond for she was quickly fading again into nothingness. He released her hand before standing back up, and as it fell limply back to her side he heard the faintest whisper, almost so soft it could have been imagined.
"I trust you."
Abby gazed at him, her head inclined with interest as she tried to figure out what was going through his mind. When she'd spoken to him he'd frozen, his gaze becoming unfocused as if he was in a trance, suddenly transported to another place and another time. "Gibbs?" she asked, her voice quavering slightly. "Are you okay?"
He shook his head slightly, obviously snapped out of his thoughts by the sound of her voice. "Why did you say that?" he whispered, not looking her in the eye.
"Do you trust me?"
She blushed brightly, biting her lower lip. "I was…" she said, wavering before finishing the thought.
"You were uncertain. Holding back. I was going to say that if you trusted me, you should just relax. Let yourself go, be part of the moment."
Gibbs rolled his eyes slightly. "Isn't it the man that normally should be saying that?"
"I suppose, but like you said…everybody has their ghost. I think one of yours is intimacy. I…I know it's one of mine, and getting me to admit that is difficult."
Pausing for a moment he took in the meaning behind her words. "Do you say that often to people?"
"What? That I'm scared of…"
He cut her off before she could finish her thought. "No, not that. The other thing."
She was thrown off, growing a little defensive that she had just revealed something very difficult for her to admit and he totally blew her off. "You mean when I said do you trust me?"
"Yea. That particular phrasing."
"I suppose not," she replied, wrinkling her brow in puzzlement. "Although it is from one of my favorite Disney movies. Aladdin says it to Jasmine, and it becomes the expression that gives him away to her when he's acting as someone else."
Acting as someone else. Her words echoed in his head. He'd been someone else. Doing things as someone else, living a life that was not his own. "Undercover," he whispered.
"I was an undercover agent."
Abby could tell he was holding back, there was more that he remembered, just like when they were in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Something was bothering him but he wasn't about to let her close enough to be of help, or a source of comfort. "You just remembered something else, didn't you?"
"Yeah," he replied faintly.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"That's it? Okay?"
"Yes. Okay. I'm not going to push you for answers Gibbs. You haven't pushed me to talk about things I don't want to say, so I'm not going to do that to you."
He stared at her, slightly disbelieving at first that she would give up so easily. He eased down next to her, as best as he could on the narrow couch, melting into her embrace and placing his head on her chest. He was content for the time being to listen to her heart beating, finding the rhythm and her warmth to be soothing. He expected her to get a little restless from their extended contact but she didn't make any attempt to move. Instead she continued to flip through the channels on the television, eventually selecting some random morning cartoon to fill the silence of the room. After she set down the remote she picked up her blanket and covered them both with it, keeping her hands underneath it and on his bare skin. Feeling her hands alternate between tracing designs and lightly scratching his skin he drifted off once again, this time far more peacefully. Something told him that over the years he was always the one there for the women, not the other way around. This was just another in the growing list of role reversals that seemed to have possessed his life.
The next time he opened his eyes the light in the room was brighter and the time on the television was reading slightly after ten. He tilted his head slightly and found her light green eyes watching his every move. Despite that, it looked like she had been asleep as well. "Let's…"
"…go get some breakfast," Abby finished. She had an idea that wasn't what he really was going to say, but it was the safest course of action for now. Safer for who, she wasn't sure.
"Yea. Breakfast. Food is good. Coffee, better."
She smiled shyly in return. "I agree on the coffee. Do you want the bathroom first?"
"No. You go ahead."
Standing up she stretched slightly, exposing the skin he'd been longing to feel earlier that morning. He quickly shifted on the couch, trying to hide the effect she was having on him. Perhaps he should have asked to go first, since a cold shower seemed to be a growing necessity. Suddenly a stray thought popped into his head, the realization that there were far fewer people in their presence than the day before. "Hey Abs?"
She couldn't help but laugh and roll her eyes. "You're never going to believe this story…"