Summer of Extremes
Rating: Eventual MA in later chapters
Category: Romance / angst
Spoilers: Season 9, Till Death Do Us Part and Season 10, Extreme Prejudice
Summary: A series of missing scenes from after the finale of Season 9 and during the summer covered during the opening episode of Season 10. First time Gabby.
Author's Note: There'll be four parts to this series with tags / missing scenes (some lighthearted, others angsty) for all the episodes in Season 10. This first one: Summer of Extremes leading to first time Gabby (about 5 chapters in total); then following their established relationship through Fall of Recovery, Winter Squall and Chasing Spring.
This first chapter was written for the prompt 'Survive' on the Gabby Shipper Forum last summer, so was written before Extreme Prejudice was broadcast so it won't fit canon entirely. It was originally included in Random Ramblings, so I've just deleted it from there, so no need to review again if you were kind enough to do so over there, but I wanted to keep all this together.
And a final A/N unrelated to this story. Gracerealised left a review for Distance Nightmare and Closer Reality but as it was a guest review, I couldn't respond directly, so I'm sneaking a big thank you in here for the lovely comments.
Chapter 1 – Wasted Time
It was the silence that struck Gibbs first.
The silence that followed in the seconds after the initial shockwave and noise of the blast diminished… after the flash of the explosion and wave of heat rolled over them, and after the debris stopped raining down on his head.
The silence before a muffled roaring registered in his ears and his numbed brain realized he might be squashing the woman pinned underneath him.
Willing himself to move, Gibbs eased back far enough to check on Abby, relieved at least when all his limbs obeyed his brain without too much pain and the roaring in his ears diminished to a dull ringing.
Conscious they were lying in something sticky, Gibbs felt an initial surge of panic, thinking it was blood, but realized as his hand slipped that it was Abby's Caf!Pow which had spilled on the floor as they'd fallen.
His mind flashed back to his frantic dash back into the NCIS building against the tide of people coming out. As he raced downstairs, the image of Abby still in her lab, oblivious to the danger just outside her window, dominated everything.
He'd had no thought in his head other than to reach Abby and get her out, his brain beating out a tattoo of... please God, not again, not Abby.
Seized with the gut wrenching fear that he was going to be too late, the thought of losing someone else he loved had almost paralysed him.
That it was going to happen right in front of him only added to the horror.
It was only his training that allowed Gibbs to control the terror so he could still function.
As Gibbs raised himself off Abby's prone form, he began to cough in the smoke swirling through the lab. Conscious of the crackle of fire somewhere nearby, Gibbs gazed down at Abby's face, aware she wasn't moving.
He could see blood from a cut on her neck and his hand shook as he tried to find a pulse…
… and felt his own heart start beating again when green eyes opened and fastened on his immediately.
Her eyes widened with fear as her hands came up to clutch the front of his jacket. Abby was shaking slightly and her mouth formed words Gibbs could barely hear. He shook his head in an attempt to clear it but the ringing in his ears persisted.
He replied anyway, figuring at least his voice would work, keeping his hand cupping her neck, hoping the contact might stop the panic he could see rushing into her face as her eyes began darting about.
"You okay, Abby? Are you hurt?"
Judging by the frown on her face and the way her eyes dropped to his mouth, Abby was in a similar predicament with her own hearing and Gibbs repeated the question, the vibration of his voice sounding muffled in his own ears.
This time Abby lip-read him easily and shook her head, her breathing fast and shallow but she began to unclench her hands from his jacket. Her face was pale, cheeks smudged with dirt, but Gibbs could see no other obvious injuries, other than on her neck.
In turn, Abby captured his face in her hands, staring at him intently and although he couldn't lip-read as well as she could, Gibbs saw the concern in her eyes as she mouthed her question and nodded, "I'm fine, Abbs."
Abby narrowed her eyes as she read his expected reply but allowed Gibbs his deflection for now, and began struggling to sit up. She wanted to get a better look to check Gibbs really wasn't injured.
It wasn't quite how she'd imagined one day having Gibbs on top of her, and she was still stunned over the speed of events, the sudden appearance of Gibbs in her lab, followed so soon by the shock of the blast.
Her mind was whirling in a hundred different directions but Abby was almost sure she wasn't badly hurt, apart from this disorientating deafness which she prayed was only temporary. Her heart was racing and she could feel it thudding rather than hear it, a side effect of the deafness.
As soon as he'd dragged her to the ground, almost at the same time as the bomb detonated, Gibbs had rolled on top of her, shielding her from the worst of it. She'd spent most of the explosion with her face buried in Gibbs' chest, surrounded by his larger body, his arms almost cradling her head.
Once again, Gibbs was protecting her... keeping her safe.
And the fact that Gibbs was here... solid... safe... alive ... was keeping a lot of her own fear and panic at bay.
Surviving the explosion herself but not knowing where Gibbs was, whether he was alive or dead or badly injured, that would have been enough to freak her out. That he might have been injured in an effort to protect her was making her feel guilty enough.
But Abby felt she could cope with anything if Gibbs was by her side.
He'd always been her anchor, her rock, and even more so now, as the full horror of what had happened began to sink in, and the consequences for people she cared about and worked with, her friends... her family.
But there'd be enough time to grieve later.
Together, they helped each other sit up, their clothes damp and sticky from the spilled Caf!Pow. Gibbs was partially covered in dust and debris, but there were no obvious serious injuries that Abby could see, beyond the cut on his forehead and blood on his ear, but she knew he would hardly admit to anything less than full blown agony.
He ran his hand over his forehead and felt the slight sting from several cuts. Dismissing it as minor in favour of examining Abby for injuries, Gibbs grabbed her hand, caught and held eye contact, and signed.
Can you stand?
Abby nodded, and ignoring the protests from what felt like bruised muscles, Gibbs helped her up, noticing the grimace as she put weight on her leg and immediately tried to take a closer look. Her black pants were torn and what looked like a thankfully shallow cut on her right leg was oozing blood.
Abby attracted his attention, shaking her head when she saw the worry on his face, signing, I'm okay.
Abby could feel the sting of the cuts on her neck and leg but apart from a few bruises where she'd hit the floor, she was in pretty good shape considering what had happened. She was more worried about what they both might be breathing in.
Gibbs looked round at the devastation of what had once been her lab… the windows gone, every surface covered in glass and shards of metal, the stench of smoke in the air with fire damage across the ceiling, and the condition of much of her precious equipment unclear.
He could see through the gaping holes which used to be her windows but there was no sign of the car… just twisted pieces of metal on the sidewalk. But at least it looked like the car itself had been blown away from the building, which was one small mercy.
His training began kicking in, mind began running through what to do next. Outside rescue would be a long time coming so they had get out of here by themselves. He needed to get Abby somewhere safe so he could concentrate on finding the rest of his team and assisting with the rescue effort for other survivors... if there were any.
For now, he pushed away the thought that maybe dozens of people he worked with every day might well be among the dead.
Anyone who'd already made it out of the building when the bomb went off hadn't necessarily been any safer either; the fireball from the explosion and wreckage of the car would have been just as lethal to those caught out in the open.
The fireball had most likely gone upwards, after taking out the lab windows, the ground floor entrance and security. So the full length glass of the bullpen on the third floor had likely felt a good force of the blast, and he felt nauseous at the possibility the fireball had taken the line of least resistance up the stairwell which people were using to try to get out of the building.
His attention was drawn back to Abby when she began tugging on his jacket. Turning his head, he saw Abby was gesturing at his back, mouthing something but he still couldn't hear anything too clearly. When she'd tugged it off him, he could see that the back of the jacket was ripped and had begun smoking from where embers had fallen onto the cloth.
He'd no sooner registered that than the few sprinklers which hadn't been melted completely in the original fireball sputtered into life, dowsing some of the flames from the equipment and soaking them.
Gibbs moved towards the window, trying to assess if it was safe to get out this way or if the jagged edges of the window above his head were too dangerous. As he moved, he became conscious of the sting from what felt like more cuts on his back and that his left leg was beginning to protest. He turned and waved his hand to catch her eye, from where Abby was peering intently at something in the corner of her lab.
Abby waved him over urgently, gesturing at her cabinets where most of the glass was broken and various bottles were spilling their contents or had already shattered on the floor. Her mind was rapidly processing the results of some of those chemicals mixing and not liking the answers.
Gibbs glanced at her determined face as she began signing rapidly; too fast for him to follow at first. He grabbed her hands, calling loudly, "slow down."
He trusted her enough to follow her lead in her own domain, guessing what she was worried about.
Abby took a deep breath and tried signing again. Out now this way. Must seal door.
And he could just about hear her this time as she went on, raising her voice, "Too many chemicals, Gibbs. We can't wait… we need to get out now and seal this room."
Sounds were beginning to seep back through his muffled hearing and he could hear distant sirens and intermittent cries and shouts from outside.
Gibbs nodded and took her hand as they turned towards the door, the glass underfoot crunching under his boots. Abby bent and scooped up Bert and her bag as they left the lab.
Smoke and dust in the air darkened the hallway and the emergency lighting had kicked in. When they were outside the door, together they pushed the heavy door shut. Fortunately, it was still on its hinges but the considerable glass debris in the doorway itself scraped and crunched as they forced it closed.
Abby slammed her hand onto the locking mechanism, grimacing when nothing happened and when they let go of the door, it began opening again. Gibbs leaned his weight on the door to keep it shut while Abby rummaged in her bag. Gibbs felt a surge of affectionate pride when Abby produced a knife and started on the control plate for the lock.
Her hands were shaking slightly as she worked, but Abby was desperately concentrating on doing something in order to keep panic at bay, trying not to think too closely about what was happening elsewhere in the building and how many people had make it out alive... and how many hadn't.
And even if Gibbs couldn't hear her clearly, Abby needed to talk; to get it out of her system as she attempted to trigger the door's locking mechanism.
"We couldn't wait, Gibbs. There's some pretty lethal stuff in there; stuff that should not be exposed to either fire or water, and certainly shouldn't be mixed with some of the other chemicals in there, and we really don't wanna be breathing that stuff in. You gotta trust me on this."
As the solid door was muffling the noises from the street, and they were standing closer together, Gibbs was beginning to hear her voice slightly more clearly, as well as his own.
"Hey," he raised his voice to catch her attention. "I trust ya, Abbs. Just tell me what we need to do, and speak up… still can't hear too well."
He could guess most of what she was about to tell him but knew it was Abby's way of coping with stress, so didn't interrupt.
She took a deep breath and turned back to the panel. "Okay, it may seem silly to be trying to seal the door when there's a gaping hole onto the street, but if some of that stuff gives off the fumes it's capable of, we want it drifting out into the air and not back this way into a confined space; and adding to what anyone trapped in the building might breathe in. Also if there's a fire or an explosion from some of the equipment, we want that room sealed off from the rest of the building… whatever the hell's going on in the rest of the building."
They were both silent for a second, instinctively straining to hear and Gibbs felt his gut clench as faint cries for help penetrated, meeting Abby's gaze and trying to pour all his reassurance into it as he saw her eyes fill with tears.
Gibbs could see the monumental effort it took for her not to give into her tears and turn back to working on the panel. It was only his training that was allowing him to keep his own despair and frustration at bay.
It felt like hours since the bomb had gone off but in reality, it had only been minutes.
Time had a way of expanding in a disaster.
He needed to find out what was happening in the rest of the building. Protocol meant that no rescuers would be allowed to enter the building until bomb disposal declared it safe. He hoped that the rest of his team were outside, doing everything they could to make that happen as quickly as possible. In the meantime, neither he nor Abby could move away from the lab and get out because of the damn door.
As Abby continued to work on the panel, she tried to occupy her mind by asking, "Where was the bomb, Gibbs?"
"In Vance's car."
He recognized the distraction technique for what it was and went along with it, while looking round for something to brace the door in case Abby couldn't get the lock to work. He knew the room had to be sealed as opposed to just propped shut but it would be better than nothing.
Her breath hitched, eyes widening as she remembered the Director pulling up in his temporary parking spot. "Right outside the front of the building."
"Yeah. Why didn't ya leave before, Abbs?" He remembered the horror of looking up from the car and seeing Abby still in her lab, mere yards away from the bomb.
"I was securing evidence, Gibbs, from all my open cases. And I didn't know where the bomb was anyway and I can't just leave stuff unattended, you know that..." she paused, "though I guess it's a bit academic now." Any evidence that wasn't already destroyed was now so contaminated that no court would accept it.
Suddenly, Abby cursed and slammed her hand against the wall as her penknife broke. "Goddammit. We need to get outta here; find out where everyone is, how many survived, find the team, find out how many of our... how many have died."
"I know, Abbs," he kept his voice level in an attempt to keep her calm.
"And there's a crime scene to secure... I've got evidence to process," she broke off. "Have you got your knife, Gibbs?"
Gibbs automatically reached for his pocket, cursing when he remembered. "Gave my knife to Cole."
Abby glanced at him. "Cole?" He could see her quick brain make the connection as she went on. "Bomb disposal."
Gibbs nodded. "Yeah… left him there. He told me to come get you."
He remembered Cole's understanding expression, his last words and how he'd felt a flash of gratitude to the guy who'd made it possible for him to reach Abby. If she'd been any nearer the windows when they'd blown, she'd most likely be dead.
"Then it may not change what he did to Tony but… he saved your life, Gibbs… and you saved mine. He sacrificed himself."
"Yeah... yeah, Abbs, he did."
If Cole had still been in the car, and he had no reason to think the guy had cut and run the minute Gibbs' back was turned, then he was very dead.
"You wouldn't have moved from that car, would you, if Cole hadn't been there?" she whispered, distress lurking in her eyes. "You'd have tried to defuse it yourself."
One look at his blue eyes gave her the answer and Abby bit her lip. "I nearly lost you, didn't I? I'm not sure I'd have survived that, Gibbs."
He sucked in a breath at the flash of... something he saw on her face for a moment. "You'd have been okay, Abbs."
Abby shook her head, tears once again threatening to spill over. "Wouldn't have wanted to live, Gibbs... not if you were gone."
Did he really think it would be that simple? That she could just move on without him?
She'd loved Gibbs for years... had wanted him for as long as she could remember. She certainly didn't want to live in a world without him, even if he wasn't hers.
He looked at her, startled by her words, not sure whether to put that down to the fear of the moment or something else entirely.
Feeling the weight of his stare but not sure how to interpret it, Abby averted her eyes. She gestured with one hand while pushing her hair off her face, leaving a smear of grease across her cheek. "Bert's collar… there's a knife in the buckle."
That triggered a small smile which reached her eyes. "Of course he is… he follows your rules too."
Gibbs shook his head in amused disbelief. Only Abby could give him the urge to smile in the midst of this hell.
Her wet hair was tangled, her face covered in smears of smoke, grease, blood and her eyes were battling tears, and he could see her whole body was close to losing the fight not to start shaking.
… God, he loved his woman.
He'd tried to ignore his feelings for Abby for so long... had tried to bury himself in other relationships, some good, some bad.
Some had worked better than others for a while but they'd all ultimately faltered for one reason or another, including his latest attempt to move on; this one crashing and burning in a mire of Dearing, a mother's fear for her son and above all, exasperation, distrust and anger at mind games which eventually spilled over from the professional to personal.
Abby had always accepted him for who he was and hadn't tried to change him. Her friendship had sustained him more than anything else in his life in recent years, even if she didn't share his feelings.
When Gibbs freed the knife from Bert's collar and handed it to Abby, she gave him a brief smile of thanks. From where he was holding the door closed, he could just reach a hand onto her shoulder and squeezed it encouragingly as she turned back to the panel.
Gibbs was conscious that the air was becoming thicker in the corridor and he started coughing. When Abby glanced at him worriedly, he shook his head, trying to reassure her.
But she frowned at him, her worry intensifying when her brain ran through what they might be breathing in. "You gotta tell me if you have trouble breathing, Gibbs."
He rolled his eyes, impatiently. "I'm not havin' trouble breathin', Abbs... and we can't do much even if we both do." He didn't have time for her to fuss over him.
"Doesn't mean you shouldn't tell me," Abby snapped back. When he merely raised an eyebrow, she shrugged. "Sorry... I get real bossy when I'm scared. But I'm not kidding, Gibbs. If either of us have difficulty breathing, we have to tell each other, in case one of us passes out and we need to tell the medics. No point being all brave and superhero about it. So I'll tell you if I have problems breathing and you do the same, right? Deal?"
Gibbs nodded, inwardly amused at her determined stare down but conceding she had a point. "Deal."
While Abby worked, Gibbs had been trying to get a connection on his cell long enough to get a call out, cursing when the signal became intermittent.
Abby eyed him, nodding her head at her bag at his feet. "Try mine… it's a better phone. The local cell tower might be overloaded coz everyone's trying to make calls, or it could be this door. The signal's always been hinky just outside here."
"Sooner we can move away from it the better, Abbs. Need to get through."
"Workin' on it."
The door was shaken by the boom of something inside the lab exploding and they stared at one another grimly. He couldn't yet feel the heat of anything through the door, so presumably the sprinklers were coping but Gibbs needed to get them both the hell away from here to a safer place… if there was such a thing in the building.
"Okay... I've nearly got it." Abby bit her lip as she concentrated.
Within a few seconds, Gibbs heard the hiss of the locking mechanism and the door 'clunked' shut behind him and he breathed a sigh of relief.
"Okay, what next?" Abby asked Gibbs as he took her hand and they set off down the corridor.
"We find a way outta here. Rescue teams won't be allowed in till the bomb squad are certain there are no more bombs. So we gotta get ourselves out, and then see who else is still trapped."
They checked the other rooms along the hallway for anyone trapped, finding no one... to the relief of them both.
Not intending to use the elevator, Gibbs nevertheless stopped by it, pulling Abby to a halt. Holding out a hand to the door, he stopped when he was close to the metal surface, feeling it warm but not overly hot... wondering if that meant that fire was using the elevator shaft to spread through the building, his stomach clenching at the thought of what could be raging over their heads.
Abby's voice drew his attention back. "Where were the team, Gibbs?"
"Tony and Ziva were working to get everyone out. McGee was in the bullpen when I left with Cole. Don't know where Vance was." He wrapped an arm round Abby's shoulders as they moved off towards the stairwell.
"At least there's one good thing out of all this."
He looked down at her worried face. "There is?"
"Yeah, Jimmy and Ducky aren't here, thank God… so they should be okay, right? And Dr. Ryan wasn't in the building, was she?" When he shook his head, Abby went on, somewhat nervously. "You must be relieved about that… perhaps you should try and call her? She'll be worried about you, won't she?"
Watching his relationship develop with Dr Ryan over the past couple of months had been difficult to watch. Abby wanted nothing but happiness for Gibbs... even if it wasn't with her.
And initially Gibbs had looked happy with Ryan, or with a bounce in his step as Ziva had put it, but lately he'd seemed sad, almost troubled and Abby had wondered at it.
When Abby glanced at him, startled, a question clearly visible in her eyes and Gibbs hesitated before admitting, "We're done... she's left town by now." He turned away quickly, ignoring her eyes on him as he tried again to reach Vance.
Abby's mind was whirling, knowing this was neither the time nor the place to pursue the sliver of hope that was uncurling inside her.
As they moved on, they both tried to make contact with the team... with anyone, but either their calls would go to voicemail, get cut off or there'd be no reply.
Gibbs held up a hand after one attempt finally connected, leaving a quick message as to their situation and snapped the phone shut, turning to Abby. "Vance… got his voicemail… no idea if it'll get through."
"I can't reach anyone, Gibbs. It's totally freakin' me out." He could see her starting to unravel, hands gripping her phone tightly as she tried not to lose it.
Gibbs closed his hand round her fingers, leaning his forehead against hers, whispering her name as he made a familiar sign against her cheek. "Need you to focus, Abbs. Need you."
Whether it was his presence or voice, it seemed to calm her and he pulled her into a hug as her shaking eased. Abby clutched at him, her arms wrapping tightly round his back as she murmured. "Need you too."
Gibbs curbed his impatience, knowing if he could just get her brain to focus, she could get through this. And calming Abby down was helping to ground him too.
Eventually Abby took a deep breath, easing back to look up at him. "Okay… okay… I'm back, Gibbs. I can do this. Focus… time to fall apart later, right?"
He cupped her face. "Yeah… plenty of time when we're all out. Deal?"
"Deal." She nodded, smiling slightly at the echo of her own words, reaching up to squeeze his hands. Squaring her shoulders, Abby turned towards the stairwell.
Repeating the testing of the door for heat, Gibbs pushed at the door with his shoulder, Abby adding her weight as they pushed the debris in the doorway out of the way so they could enter the stairwell.
As they began climbing the stairs, Abby hanging onto his hand, Gibbs made himself a promise.
If… when… they got out of here, when they found his team and the rest of his NCIS family, he was gonna make that bastard Dearing pay dearly for what he'd done.
And then he was gonna quit wasting time. He would find the courage to tell Abby how he felt, no matter what the outcome.
The close call today... the fact that he could have died, or worse, that Abby could without knowing how he felt about her, that was far worse than taking a chance on telling her, even if she didn't return his feelings.
So, he had a plan.
Survive this and move on... either together, or alone.