Tagged to episode 8x01 "The Spider and the Fly." An expansion of Gibbs and Abby's scene in her lab. I think Abby went through more than she let on during the Mexico story arc, and even though Abby isn't the easiest character for me to write, I wanted to explore that. This is the third tag I've done to "The Spider and the Fly" - it just took me +16 months after the episode premiered to get around to writing it!

Can you believe that when I started writing this one, it was supposed to be funny? But, as is always the case with my stories, the angst took over!

"This one? Or this one?" she asks, dangling two collars in front of Agent Darren – one with silver studs, and one with spikes. Darren doesn't answer, of course, but he silently points to the spiked collar, and Abby smiles. Her team doesn't understand why she enjoys his company so much, but his quiet presence in her lab is constant and reassuring. Abby sometimes wonders if it's a cosmic sign that Darren appeared in her life just when her relationship with another functional mute was starting to change.

"Got something?" Gibbs asks her just then, entering her lab with long, purposeful strides. Abby turns away from Darren and slaps the two collars down on her lab table. Gibbs sets his coffee cup next to them. She's still happy to see the silver-haired fox, but lately, Gibbs showing up in her lab doesn't make her smile in quite the same happy-goth way.

"I got a lot," she answers, instantly switching from goth-fashion-mode to work-mode as she briefs Gibbs on what was in the dead man's stomach. Analyzing it had hit close to home for her. "Paloma and her men were eating their way through the south. I found traces of blue crab, salt pork, and alligator."

Abby pauses for just a second, just long enough to remember the salty breeze off Lake Pontchartrain, where her parents used to take her and Luca crabbing. Blue crabs were still so plentiful then. She remembers laughing and rubbing ice cubes on her lips at the crab boil later. Just the thought of it makes her mouth water.

"It's a food trail that leads from Mississippi to around the Florida panhandle," she adds to Gibbs, as he steps closer to her monitor for a better look.

"I was just telling Darren..." she goes on, a mischievous little smirk playing on her face. "...that he must've wanted us to know where he's been. Lucky for us, right, Gibbs? I mean, why else would these guys have sampled so much of the local cuisine? If they'd been eating fast food on the road, I wouldn't have a clue about where they'd been."

But Gibbs gives her that look to say that she's rambling again, so Abby pulls up her analysis on Lopez's bug bites (chigger bites, and that also brings back memories – itchy, uncomfortable ones) and shows him how she used it to retrace Paloma's drug route through the south. She and her men had traveled through most of southern Louisiana, but they went around Jefferson Parish, almost on purpose, as if they knew how much Abby wouldn't like them traveling through her hometown.

She recklessly jumps in front of Gibbs when he turns and starts to leave her lab. That movement alone is enough to make Abby uncomfortable – it was the exact same thing that she did a few months ago, when she confronted Gibbs and forced him to talk to her about what happened in Mexico, to confirm whether he really had such an ugly, stinky skeleton buried in his closet.

That was the day when he fell off the pedestal that she had always placed him on. Abby had literally hero-worshiped Gibbs until then.

Still, she jumps in front of him and stares him down, trying to make him understand how big of a threat Paloma really is. "She knows things about you, Gibbs, dangerous things," she tells him.

But she doesn't tell him, I know things about you, too, things I never wanted to know. I can't look at you the same way anymore. She doesn't tell him, It's tearing me apart.

No, she tells him instead, "I just think we need a plan."

"Yeah, I got one, Abs," Gibbs answers easily. He kisses her cheek, but he doesn't elaborate. Her shoulders slump in disappointment, and she stares after Gibbs as he leaves her lab, wondering gloomily when she became the one of his kids that he didn't share information with. Maybe she wasn't even his favorite anymore.

She walks slowly back to her monitor, where her analysis of Lopez's bug bites is still on the screen. Abby can't help but wince a bit as she looks at the tiny red chigger bites. Even if Lopez was a drug runner for Paloma Reynosa, Abby still wouldn't have wished chigger bites on him. She got the worst ones of her life when she was a little girl and her family went canoeing on Lake Salvador. Abby had wandered off along a brambly part of the shore, picking sweet blackberries off a bush and popping them in her mouth. That evening, she was so busy using both hands to scratch her ankles that she couldn't even sign to her parents what was wrong. Fortunately, her father guessed what had happened, pulled Abby into his lap, and dabbed each bite with fingernail polish.

That was how she used to feel around Gibbs – as safe as she did on her father's lap.

Her eyes drift back to the list of foods in Lopez's stomach. Alligator and blue crab. Her family used to hold crab or crawfish boils a few times a year, usually in the spring, when crawfish season first kicked off – for Easter, the end of the school year, Memorial Day. They covered their long picnic table in old copies of The Times-Picayune, until the black-and-white print disappeared beneath boiled crawfish, corn on the cob, potatoes, lemon slices, and sweaty glass pitchers of sweet tea and lemonade.

"You know what I need, Darren?" she asks, but she's speaking more to herself than to him. "I need a crawfish boil." She was half-joking, but as soon as the sentence leaves her lips, Abby realizes that it's true. She should hold a crawfish boil for her team. Probably none of them have ever eaten crawfish, and now that McGee and Ziva are back in DC, they could all get together for it. Abby loves happy team moments even more than Caf-Pow.

But then again, she slowly remembers, McGee doesn't really like spicy foods, and shellfish aren't kosher. But that didn't matter. McGee would pretend to like it, for her sake, and Ziva doesn't keep kosher anyway.

Abby goes back to her computer and begins searching for a place in DC that sells crawfish. Until she sees her reflection on the screen, she doesn't realize that she's grinning.


Abby is a Louisiana chick, like me! ;)