So while attempting to finish my Gabby/Tiva fic Secrets, I thought up this plot and it magically flowed from my fingertips. A bit longer than expected, but at least it only took two days. Reviews are love!

It was the twelfth victim that had come through their jurisdiction and Abby was about to pull her hair out from the lack of evidence that had been left behind once again. She sat quietly at her computer, her eyes blurring from exhaustion. The Caf-Pow! that sat next to her had grown warm, and was still almost full. Part of her wanted to drink more – needed to – but the other part of her felt too ill.

In the last three months a serial rapist had gone after twelve women, all military-affiliated. Gibbs and his team had been working around the clock to track down the monster behind it, but without any luck. The victims always reported that he wore a condom, as well as latex gloves and a mask over his own face, and forced them to shower afterward – scrubbing them roughly with soap to wash away anything that may have transferred from him. Rather than leave evidence, he took it – taking an object from each home after he'd tied the victim to her respective bed. Each time he had broken in to their apartment with excellent lock-picking skills, and he knew exactly when they would be alone. He had obviously followed each victim for at least a week beforehand, as each rape was almost exactly a week apart – always on a weekday night, as those schedules were easier to figure out, as they were repeated more often.

Abby shuddered at the thought that the next rape was only three days away – that the rapist was already following his next victim who was completely unaware that she was being watched. Over the last several years at NCIS, she had had problems with nightmares that came suddenly – first about autopsy, then after the explosion. This time the nightmares she'd begun to have weren't new. They were recycled from years before – but with minor twists here and there. Just thinking of the dreams, Abby shivered, and out of habit, reached for the Caf-Pow! She withdrew her hand as it touched the cup, her stomach turning over unpleasantly.

Gibbs appeared from behind her suddenly, "What have ya got, Abbs?"

She jumped a bit as his voice, having been too absorbed in her thoughts to hear him enter the lab.

Gibbs raised an eyebrow, "You okay, Abby?"

Abby nodded warily at him. "Fine, Gibbs. I'm afraid I don't have much more than we already had. There's nothing new." She sighed, her eyes staring downward to the floor.

Gibbs came up close behind her and laid his hand on her shoulder, leaning over her. "Don't blame yourself, Abby. We'll get him." His other hand reached around and held her cheek, his thumb stroking it gently.

Abby tensed unexpectedly. Gibbs had always shown his affection for her through touches and cheek kisses, but this felt off now. The dreams had ruined everything. She shoved away, trying to be nonchalant through the action. Gibbs' eyes narrowed at her back, wondering why she was so jumpy and out of sorts. He'd noticed it more and more in the last two or so weeks, but she'd never pulled away from him before. His mind raced through his own interactions with her – was she mad at him?

Gibbs started to say something, but was interrupted by his phone. "Yeah, Gibbs." He listened to McGee on the other end who explained that the last victim had remembered from where she'd recognized the rapist's voice, a first in the case so far.

"We'll talk later, Abbs." With that, he disappeared from the lab before she had a chance to speak.


The case was slowly wrapping itself up – the suspect was in the interrogation room after the last victim had pinpointed that she knew his voice from the local coffee shop. Tony and Ziva had found his stash of stolen objects hidden in his apartment as well as a journal that he had written of each victims' whereabouts at a given time. Having been so thorough during the actual rapes, he had been less careful with things that remained in his possession.

Abby was shutting off the machines for the day after the Director had explicitly ordered her to go home. It was only an hour until the usual quitting time anyway, so Abby had finally agreed and set herself to shutting down the lab for the night. She took her time, not at all anxious to go back to her empty apartment where she would most likely fall asleep from exhaustion, and end up jerked awake from nightmare after nightmare.

By the time she was standing outside the elevator, waiting for its arrival, she was interrupted from her departure as Gibbs was revealed inside the elevator doors.

Gibbs studied the dark circles under her eyes, and her slouched posture as she stepped into the elevator. "I'll come by your apartment at seven. I'll bring Chinese."

Abby was tempted to turn him down, but knew he would argue with her, and she was too tired to argue. "Alright." The elevator reached the main floor and they both stepped out. Gibbs caught her arm before she could walk away.


She turned back toward him, trying to shove back the urge to wrench her arm from his grasp.

"Try to get some sleep in the meantime."

Abby nodded, not bothering to explain why that would be impossible. "Okay, Gibbs."

He kissed her on the temple, taking note of her slight flinch and closed eyes as he did so.

Gibbs stayed standing still, watching her shuffle slowly away through the bullpen and towards the main elevator that would take her to the front exit. With a sudden fervor he crossed the floor to his desk, determined to finish his report in record time.


Abby settled on her couch and flipped on her TV, stopping on a Cary Grant movie. It was still only five-thirty, despite the extra long shower she had taken and the light cleaning she had done. She was convinced that time was slowing down just to mock her. All she wanted was for it to magically be tomorrow morning, so she could go back to work and try to get through another day.

Disturbed by an alert playing on her phone, Abby plucked it off the coffee table and smiled at a text message from Carol that merely said, "Love you! It'll get better." Abby sighed, wishing it already was better. Or, that it had never been bad at all. That would be a better wish.

Her eyelids kept falling further and further, heavier each time. Abby shook her head in an attempt to wake herself up. Again, she began to drift off. This time she tried smacking her cheeks to keep from sleeping on the couch. Sitting up she tried to focus on the movie, then contemplated making some coffee. It was a good part of the movie, when Cary Grant was finally kissing the girl for the first time.

Abby's eyes closed slowly, her brain already ready for sleep. Leaning over slightly, Abby cradled the arm of the couch as she drifted off, Cary Grant's voice echoing in her mind.

The dream began slowly – normally. It was a typical day in her lab – a Caf-Pow! half finished on her desk and AFIS scanning for fingerprints on her computer. She heard Gibbs come in behind her so she turned around to mockingly chastise him for rushing science. The sight in front of her was not Gibbs, however, but rather the face of a once-close friend.

In her dream Abby squinted at him, "Bryce? Why are you here?"

"Hello, Scuitz."

Abby knew Bryce was a friend. They'd been friends since freshmen year of high school. So why did she feel the need to back away from him?

"Scuitz, what's wrong?" Bryce came closer to Abby, grabbing her by the hand as she backed into the desk.

"I-I…" Abby swallowed, suddenly panicked. "You shouldn't be here, Bryce."

"But I always come visit. Why is today any different?" He placed his other hand low on her hip and pulled her close to him. Abby pushed against him, but his grip tightened as his hand slid to her ass. The hand that had been holding her's slipped away and instead slid across her left breast.


"Shh, Scuitz. It's okay. We've done this before, remember?"

Her mind was foggy. She vaguely remembered making out with him in the backseat of his beat up Ford sedan. "But, that was…"

"It was amazing, I know." He leaned down and kissed her forcefully as she felt his hand slid from her behind to under her skirt, and suddenly it was as if she hadn't had anything on. The lab was dark now and they were lying on the floor, Bryce heavy on top of her, both of them covered in sweat as their nakedness created more warmth between them.

"Bryce, we shouldn't…I don't want…" Abby struggled to get the words across. How had they gotten there? What had happened?

Bryce shushed her again, "It'll be okay."

Abby suddenly shook her head, the word that she wanted discovered. "No. No, Bryce. Stop!"

She repeated it over and over, louder each time, as Bryce held her to the floor and thrust into her. Abby cried out and flung forward, smacking at Bryce and yelling out over and over in protest.

"Abbs! Abbs. It's a dream!"

Abby was disoriented, still flailing as her brain scrambled to recognize that voice. "Gi-Gibbs?"

The lab was gone, and she was clothed again, lying askew on her couch. Gibbs hovered over her, a worried expression painted across his face.

He sat down next to her as she took in her surroundings. Two large bags of Chinese food sat in front of her on the coffee table and a different classic movie that she didn't recognize was playing on the TV.

"Abbs?" Gibbs looked over at her before reaching for her hand. She winced and pulled away, still feeling as if she had really been in that lab with Bryce. For a moment she thought she saw a painful flash across Gibbs' face, as if he were wounded that she had rejected his touch. But as soon as the thought had crossed her mind, his face was back to a stony, investigative look. "You were screaming. I could hear you through the front door."

Abby closed her eyes and shook her head, as if shaking the dream out from her ears to never be thought of again. "I'm fine, Gibbs. Just a strange dream."

He cocked his head slightly, contemplating. "Wanna talk about it?"

"No, no, I'm okay now. What did you get from the Chinese place?" Abby wanted to change the subject, to forget about the feelings that had been invoked with the dream that once again tormented her.


Gibbs sat in his basement, sipping at a glass of Bourbon and thinking over Abby's nightmare. She had been screaming so loudly he was shocked the neighbors hadn't come by to check on her. The dream was obviously vivid, as he could clearly understand the words "no" and "stop." It sounded as if she were dreaming of the serial rapist, and given her erratic behavior in the last couple of weeks, he wondered how long it had been going on. Gibbs was familiar with Abby's problems with nightmares. Her imagination was so vivid she often took a great deal of it to bed with her – dreaming of the things her mind had stewed over during the day.

He wished he had had the ability to say that he would stay with her and comfort her, but he knew better than to risk being in the same bed with her. Each kiss, each hug, drove him a little crazier, and a little more hopeful simultaneously. Before this last case there had been an obvious spark between the two of them, and their flirtation had become more pronounced and less subtle. It had all changed after the second victim, however. Once that second victim came forward, everything was set aside and he could tell Abby was stressed. He'd assumed it was because of the case in general – the lack of evidence that she had that could help them catch that bastard. But now he wasn't so sure. Now he was reconsidering his next move.


The next two days sped by for Abby – so much so that she began to wonder if she wasn't nodding off at her desk. Since the wrap-up of the serial rapist case, she hadn't had as much work to complete – just minor ballistics and a couple of fingerprint scans. It was finally Friday, and a large part of her was dreading the weekend. The lab was her haven – how could she leave it? How could she go home to the empty echoing of her nightmares?

Friday was speeding by as quickly as the previous two days had. It was already three, and she would have to go home within the next three hours – any longer and people would wonder why she was still there given her light workload. Emotionally and physically wrung out, she sat on the futon in her office and brought her knees up to her chest, trying to gain some focus. Already that day she had consumed three Caf-Pows! but she hadn't felt any better – as if the caffeine were making her more tired than ever. Settling back, Abby closed her eyes, hoping it would rid her of the headache that was beginning to plague her.

Gibbs first noticed the lack of music as he exited the elevator and came into the lab. In the last week, the music had still been present, but the volume had been greatly decreased. Today, there was no music at all. Abby was nowhere to be seen – the computer was idle, a screensaver of pictures of the team flashing through, and two empty Caf-Pow! cups were in the trash can by the door. Gibbs swooped through to her office and softened at the sight of Abby curled up on her futon sleeping quietly. An empty Caf-Pow! cup was tipped over on the floor next to the futon and one of Abby's shoes was dangling off her foot and over the edge of the metal frame.

Gibbs smiled down at his sleeping forensic scientist and moved to cover her with a blanket that sat on the end of the futon. She flinched in her sleep at the sudden touch of the fabric, and when he leaned down to stroke her hair and kiss her on the head, Abby began to whimper.

Gibbs sat down on the edge of the futon, still stroking her hair. "Abby." He whispered lightly, hoping to wake her without startling her. He whispered a bit louder, "Abbs." Abby merely curled up further into herself, muttering nonsensical words. "Abby, wake up." He spoke in his normal voice, but with a softer edge than usual.

Abby jerked away – her eyes wide with fear as she gasped for her breath.

"Abby," Gibbs cocked his head at her as he placed his hand on her cheek.

"Gibbs." Abby blinked up at him, a stray tear streaming down from her eye and over his hand.

"Wanna tell me what's wrong, Abbs?"

Abby was still trying to regain her thoughts – caught up in the nightmare's emotions. "N-nothing, Gibbs. Just a dream."

"Second dream in two days. That why you've been so tired lately?"

Damn. She was hoping he hadn't noticed. Which, of course, was stupid when she thought about it. He was a damn good investigator. "It'll get better."

Gibbs was silent for a moment, his hand still gently resting on her cheek. He stroked her cheek with his thumb, receiving the same flinch he had gotten from her recently. "Then why do you keep avoiding physical contact, Abbs? That's not like you."

She'd held on to it for years – since long before joining NCIS. No one here knew. What would they think if she told them? If she told them how long she'd hid it from them. How the nightmares returned after particularly bad cases, but typically only once or twice before disappearing into her unconscious again. She could deal with this – get past it. It was only a matter of time. She didn't need to tell Gibbs – she worried about him the most. How would he see her afterward? How would he ever erase that image from his mind? He'd think she was a silly child. They had come so close lately – so close to having from him what she'd always wanted. Abby had loved him for so long – she couldn't ruin that now. After everything that had happened, she couldn't fathom living without him. It would ruin everything.

Abby's mind raced trying to think of a response to Gibbs. "Felt sick, Gibbs. Didn't want you to catch something." As soon as it was out of her mouth she knew he'd see through it and she silently cursed herself for being so stupid.

Gibbs raised an eyebrow at her. "Abby, you wanna tell me the truth?"

"Nothing to worry about." Abby's voice was quiet.

Abby had never tried to lie to him so continuously before. Even with Mawher she'd eventually come clean – even though it was after they'd discovered the ex-boyfriend. The last time she'd had steady nightmares she was quick to come to him – call him in the middle of the night for comfort. What was different now?

Both sat quietly together, Gibbs contemplating whether to push it further. His eyes ran over her tired face noting the circles under her eyes and how bloodshot her eyes looked. He thought of a way to get her to talk to him. "Maybe you could help me then, Abby."

Her expression was one of confusion, trying to figure out why he'd suddenly let up. "With what?"

"My new boat. I can't decide what to name her. Thought you could come over and take a look, see what she feels like?"

"I didn't think you were that far into it yet." Abby furrowed her eyebrows.

"Far enough. It's about the feel of it. I'll even make dinner." Gibbs knew she wouldn't resist that – he rarely cooked.

By this point Abby was suspicious of his motives, but was too tired to care. She nodded in agreement. "What time?"

Gibbs stood from the futon, "How about you go on over there now? I'm sure Leon won't mind you leaving an hour early. I probably won't be long behind you – almost wrapped up entirely upstairs."

"You sure? I don't mind waiting."

Gibbs shook his head. "Go ahead. It'll help if you spend some time alone with her."

"Oh…okay. I'll just call the Director-"

"Don't worry, Abbs. I've got it."

Abby looked confused again, but shrugged, pulling herself up off the futon and gathering her things. "Door unlocked as always?"

"Go on in." Gibbs nodded, "There are a few things in the fridge. Help yourself."

Gibbs escorted Abby out, reassuring her that once he'd finished up there and been by a grocery store he'd be on his way.

As Abby drove to Gibbs' house she thought through her conversation with him. She knew he intended to find out what her nightmares were about, and she was sure he was aware that she had figured that out – it wasn't everyday he offered to cook anyone dinner – even his favorite. Would it really hurt to tell him? This was Gibbs, after all. Somehow he just made everything better.

She shook her head, muttering aloud to herself. "No, Gibbs would think I was so stupid. He'd never expect me to have been so idiotic. Any chance I would have had with him would be out the window. How many secrets and skeletons does Gibbs have? Surely I can have one." Abby sighed. She wasn't one to keep secrets from anyone – the only things she'd ever kept from Gibbs had been stupid things that she'd done, like date stalker-types. This was just another one of those. It had been this long, after all. If Gibbs could keep it secret for almost five years that he had had a child and a wife who had died, then this could stay with her.

As Abby pulled into the driveway she paused, determined that Gibbs wouldn't have any reason to see her differently, determined to keep living as she had for the last fifteen years.


Gibbs arrived just an hour and a half after her. She heard him shut the door behind him from where she sat next to the skeleton of his newest boat. Knowing that he most likely didn't expect her to come up with a name, she'd halfheartedly brainstormed some ideas, none of which had seemed satisfactory. Getting up, she headed towards the stairs to meet him.

"Hey, Gibbs."

It was odd to see him putting groceries away – such a domestic, mundane activity.

"Hey, Abbs. I was thinking something simple for dinner. Spaghetti with meat sauce okay?" A small pack of Thin Spaghetti sat next to him on the counter.

"Yeah, that's fine. Sounds delicious." She ventured a smile, hoping he would realize that she was okay and didn't need any help. "I couldn't think of any names for the boat. Well, actually I could think of some names and I did, but nothing really seemed to fit, ya know? I was trying to think of maybe fictional characters that reflected the feel of the boat – or some funny or ironic name. No luck though."

Gibbs was busy pulling out a pot – from the speed of the action, Abby had to wonder if it was his only pot. Filling it with water to put on to boil he looked over at Abby. "Well maybe after I get a little more done on her."

Abby joined him at the stove, pouring some sauce from a jar into a small sauce pan that Gibbs had just as quickly plucked from the cabinet where the pot had been. She flipped the burner on and turned to Gibbs who had busied himself opening a bottle of red wine.

"Wine?" He held up the open bottle.

"Sure." Abby wasn't sure how long it would take before the wine made her want to sleep, but one glass wouldn't hurt. She accepted a glass from him, holding it for him as he poured her a large amount, though still not as much as she normally would pour for herself. "We could put in a movie until dinner is finished?"

She wasn't really sure what they could put in – Gibbs wasn't well known for having an extensive movie collection. Plus she suspected he gave her wine hoping she would give in and tell him about the nightmares. He was sneakier than she gave him credit for somedays.

Gibbs sipped at the small glass of wine he had poured for himself. He typically preferred his Bourbon, but felt the need to drink the same thing she was drinking – to make things more cohesive for dinner. "We could do that. Not sure what you'll find though."

Abby discovered a dusty VHS player in Gibbs' living room, the time permanently blinking 12:00. Digging through the few tapes he had she settled for a John Wayne film that was one of her favorites, The Quiet Man. She mused at how perfectly it described Gibbs.

The pair sat on either side of Gibbs' couch, though Gibbs was a little surprised that Abby didn't curl up closer to him as she normally would've done. Gibbs got up from the couch every ten minutes or so, first to put the spaghetti into the now-boiling pot and then to add hamburger meat into another pan to brown. He returned after the second time, "Should be ready in about fifteen minutes. We can eat in here if you want. Keep watching the movie."

Abby nodded, "Yeah, I'd like that. I love this movie. The passion between John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara was always amazing."

"It helped that Maureen O'Hara was such a gorgeous woman."

Abby flicked her eyes over to Gibbs, raising her eyebrow at his remark. It had been sometime since he had openly discussed a woman, any woman, in such a way. Not since his last divorce, anyway. She smiled genuinely for the first time all week, "She was gorgeous. Still looks good, really. I would've done her." She chuckled at his raised eyebrow.

"Something I didn't know about you, Abbs."

Abby shrugged, "It's just a matter of good taste, really." She smirked at him mischievously and he smiled back, happy to see her in such a light mood for the first time in a while.

The buzzer in the kitchen alerted them to dinner and both moved to get up. Gibbs waved his hand at Abby, "I've got it."

She settled back down, and took another sip of wine, really happy for the first time since the beginning of the rapist case. Maybe if she played things the right way… She paused and sighed. Tonight was definitely not the night to hope that Gibbs would suddenly seduce her and pick back up on the flirtation they had given up when the case had begun.

Gibbs held a plate in either hand as he came back into the living room, each plate covered with a large helping of spaghetti with red sauce and topped with a generous helping of meat.

"More wine?" Gibbs nodded to her half-empty glass as he set the plates on the coffee table.

Abby looked at the glass as if pondering. "I probably shouldn't – I still need to drive home."

Gibbs shrugged, "If you need to, you can stay here. You have emergency clothes with you, don't you?"

She thought about the bag of clothes she had stashed in her trunk for overnighters at work. "Yeah, I suppose so." It wasn't until after he had poured her more wine that she thought about having to sleep here – having him be close enough to hear her wake in fear from the nightmares. Maybe with enough wine she'd sleep through them tonight without making noise that would wake him.

The Quiet Man still had another half-hour to go when Abby started drifting off following dinner and another glass of the wine.

"Abbs." Gibbs rubbed her shoulder. "Come here." He motioned for her to lean against him, and she did so happily, a bit too tipsy to really care what could happen.

The credits were rolling when the wine was slowly drifting from her system and she started to come to, realizing that it was a bad idea to fall asleep against Gibbs. She shook herself awake and quickly sat up, distancing herself from the sexy man that had been holding her.

"Go ahead and sleep. Unless you want to go on up to bed."

Abby shook her head. "It's only eight. Way too early to sleep."

Gibbs nodded. "I was going to work on the boat some more. Come down and get more ideas?"

The pair shuffled down to the basement, both abandoning their wine glasses. Gibbs had plans to reach for some Bourbon, but Abby had decided she'd had enough alcohol already. Taking her usual spot on a stool in the corner, Abby watched him sand down a portion of the boat, his long arms moving steadily and smoothly with each thrust. She sighed lightly to herself before shivering, images of her nightmares flooding into her mind.

Gibbs handed her some sandpaper. "You remember how."

"Oh, I don't know, Gibbs. The last time I tried to help I broke part of it…"

He shrugged. "You won't this time."

"How do you know?"

"You know better this time." He smirked at her with the half-grin that always made her want to instantly jump him.

The wine suddenly overtook her, "Can you show me again?" She held out her arms expectedly, hoping he would show her by reaching around and moving her arms with his own.

Abby wasn't disappointed as Gibbs did just that – resting his hands over her own as he demonstrated the right movements. The mixture of the smell of Bourbon and sawdust flooded Abby's nose and she closed her eyes for a moment, almost lightheaded at the rush she received from his nearness.

Gibbs was also fighting to restrain himself – feeling her in his arms was so perfect that he didn't want to pull away. He saw her close her eyes and felt her body relax as if for the first time in a while. Seizing the opportunity, Gibbs pulled his hands from hers and instead placed them on her shoulders, massaging the knots from them.

She moaned lightly, letting out a deep sigh. "That feels amazing, Gibbs." As he pressed his thumbs deeper into her shoulders she twisted her neck slowly to each side, stretching it further to relax the muscles. Leaning back into him, she allowed her body to go limp, only strong enough to remain standing.

The alcohol flooding Gibbs' own system whirled through him, and his own attraction overtook him as he leaned down and kissed the base of her neck, working his way further down until he turned her around slowly to face him. Lifting his lips from her collarbone, he pulled upward and touched his lips lightly to hers.

The two kissed softly at first, but then allowed it to grow fervent and desperate, finally giving in to what they had put off months ago. Gibbs wrapped his arms around her and stepped in closer as they kissed, her tongue sliding across his. Reaching his right arm up, he loosed a pigtail and tangled his fingers in her hair, lowering her back against the boat.

As Abby's back touched the hard wood of the sanded boat, she moaned into Gibbs' mouth as he lightly tugged at her hair. Gibbs drew himself closer, crushing his own body against her so that she was perfectly sandwiched between himself and the boat.

The force of his body struck Abby suddenly and she yanked herself away from him, gasping and flailing her arms. "Stop!"

Gibbs almost tumbled backward from the abrupt motion he used to pull himself away, afraid he'd hurt her.

Tears streamed down Abby's face and her breaths came in heavy gasps. "I'm sorry. Oh, Gibbs, I'm so sorry." She collapsed to the floor in a heap, sobbing.

"Abbs." Gibbs crouched next to her. "Abbs, I shouldn't have. Don't be sorry – it's my fault."

Abby shook her head, still crying through gasps of air, "No, it's not. It's not. It's mine. It was my fault."

He wanted to pull her into his arms, but was afraid of how she would react.

"Talk to me, Abbs."

"The nightmares. They're my fault."

"How can they be your fault?" Gibbs reached over gently and delicately laid a hand on her shoulder. He was relieved when she didn't pull away or flinch like she had been.

"It was so long ago, and they'd gone away, but then the case-" she broke off, letting out another sob.

"Breathe, Abby. Calm down." He rearranged himself so that he was no longer crouching, but sitting next to her, his back against the boat. Rubbing her upper back he encouraged her to breathe slowly so that she could speak. Once she had begun to calm down, tears still falling to her nose and chin, but the sobs no longer disrupting her speech or breathing, she began to explain.

"It was the nightmares that I've been having." Gibbs had to strain to hear her, her voice quiet and trembling. "The nightmares are memories."

He waited for her to continue, but when she didn't, he encouraged her to continue, "What memories, Abbs?"

She sighed. "Just…please promise me something first." Abby paused and waited for his reply.

"Anything, Abby."

"Please don't hate me."

Gibbs was taken aback at the idea. "Why would I hate you?"

"It was stupid." Her eyes were closed as if she didn't want to look at him – didn't want to fess up to something she'd done. Gibbs waited for her to continue, and after a moment she did, her voice still quiet and nervous. "I had just turned 18 – it was senior year of high school. Some of my friends and I were celebrating the end of the year with some beer we'd gotten from our families. We were at my friend Bryce's house. His parents were away for their anniversary, so we had our run of the place." She paused, remembering, "Ben and Gloria thought I was at a girlfriend's house for a sleepover. I'd had a couple of beers when I spilled one on myself, so I went upstairs to change into a new shirt. Bryce followed me."

Gibbs' breath hitched, and she knew he had realized what was coming.

"I'd always secretly liked Bryce, so I was really happy when he closed the door behind him and started kissing me. I still had my shirt off, but I wasn't thinking clearly enough. My crush was kissing me while I stood in a skirt and bra – how amazing was that?" She laughed bitterly at the thought. "Then somehow my bra was on the floor and my skirt was hiked up. We were laying on his bed. And it was like everything came into focus." Abby paused and Gibbs pulled her closer to him. "I told him…I told him no. Told him to stop. But he went on about how much he liked me – how sexy I was. The whole time he was still touching me – still unbuttoning his pants and pushing them down. I wavered, and started kissing him again. I was 18, after all, and…well, it wasn't the first time I'd –" Abby let out a sob. "But it was too fast with Bryce. And I didn't want to while almost drunk. But he-" She broke off, sobbing again. "I kept on going until right at the last second, right before…and then I tried to stop him again. We didn't have protection and we had both had drinks. I shouldn't have kept going. I should've stopped him from the very beginning."

Gibbs hugged her tightly into his chest. "That's not your fault, Abby. Don't ever think it was your fault. You said stop – he should have stopped." He could feel his own throat closing up as he fought back tears.

Abby pressed her face into his shirt, the tears still coming though she felt entirely cried out. "You don't think I'm stupid, Gibbs?"

The expression on his face would have been terrifying had Abby not known the purpose behind it. "Never say that again, Abby. You're one of the smartest people I know."

She started to shake her head, but he cut her off. "No arguing, no apologizing. You were raped, Abby. You were never to blame, do you understand me? Never. And there is nothing that you could ever do that would make me think that you were stupid."

Abby nodded, absorbing his words.

"I am glad you told me, Abbs. Don't ever feel that you have to hide something from me. I care about you too much to know that you're hurting about something."

She had finally stopped crying, but a last stray tear lazily zigzagged across her cheek. "Really?"

Gibbs smiled warily at her, swiping his thumb across her cheek to brush away the tear. "If anything, I'm stupid for waiting this long to tell you just how much I care about you." He leaned over cautiously and lightly kissed her on the lips, just long enough to let his feelings be known.

Abby let out a sigh she hadn't realized she was holding and adjusted herself in his arms. The images of Bryce were still there, lurking in the back of her mind, but the presence no longer seemed so overwhelming.

And it was in the basement, leaning against Gibbs and his latest boat, that Abby sank into a deep, comforting sleep, interrupted only by dreams of a gorgeous, silver-haired fox.