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by: Beckymonster (Send Feedback)
Series: The Babylon Project #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 2592
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Ducky Mallard, Abby Sciuto
Pairing(s): - No Pairing -
Episode(s): 4-13 Sharif Returns
Summary: One night, three perspectives
Author Notes: Minor character death makes this an AU. Also not canon, due to 'Grace Period' Jossing it. Humpf.
My thanks to Periwinkle, Wiccagirl, Nakeisha and Toomuchfandon (all on Livejournal) for reading, betaing, cheerleading and advice over this story. Without you guys, this story would have been still in my head, taunting me. Thank you so much.
Reference for Abby's article - Crane, N. Batrick, E. etal. Infrared Spectroscopic Imaging for Non-Invasive Detection of Latent Fingerprints. Journal of Forensic Sciences 52 (1) 48-53.
“Understanding is a three edged sword”
Kosh - Babylon 5
Gibbs didn’t realise that something was amiss until he had locked his gun away. He didn’t bother to turn the lights on as years of living in this house had gifted him with the ability to move from front door to attic with his eyes closed and without injury. He had turned to drop his keys onto the hall table when he noticed it.
On the coat stand, adjacent to the hall table, was a traditional khaki trench coat with a grey fedora on top of it. After the day he’d had, it was to be expected. He had turned to start up the stairs when he noticed something else, lying on the floor. A pair of boots; knee high, platform soles, black patent. Again, not totally unexpected. He smiled briefly, taking a moment to tidy them away before he started climbing the stairs.
Ducky didn’t usually make house calls. It was understandable; nearly all of his patients were dead. Yes, there were some live ones who would come see him in Autopsy with a minimum of grumbling and prodding, usually. Bar Jethro Gibbs, who, in his defence, did get himself checked out earlier in the day. Even so, given the time span for symptoms to manifest, Ducky felt justified in double-checking. Hence the house call.
As he locked up the Morgan, it struck Ducky that this was the first time he’d visited Gibbs’ home since he had returned from ‘extended leave’. It gave him momentary cause for concern but he pushed it to one side. His duty as a doctor to his patient overrode all other considerations.
Abby had had a bad day. Not as bad as some, true, but it wasn’t one for the books, either. Unless said tome was entitled ‘Crappy Days at Work I have known’ by A. Sciuto.
If it wasn’t dirtbag terrorists hitting out at people she loved, it was know-it-all Colonels questioning universal constants (the speed of light, her faith in forensics, Gibbs’ gut…) and interrupting her. Which just Did Not Happen.
Add onto that her research on BZ gas and its effects on humans… well, she had to see with her own eyes that Gibbs was all right. She was a scientist and science was all about the evidence.
Gibbs would understand; he always did.
Ducky hadn’t seen Gibbs’ car in the driveway, but still he checked the basement and the rest of the house for signs of the vehicle’s owner, before making his way up the stairs.
As Ducky did so he felt a momentary pang of guilt. His subconscious was demanding that he accepted the ‘real’ reason why he was coming to visit his old friend at such an ungodly hour; the one that had nothing to do with medical duty and everything to do with his own selfish needs.
There had been an ‘understanding’ before Gibbs had gone to Mexico. Neither of them talked about it, which suited Ducky down to the ground. Something that would have surprised his friends and co-workers, given his usual garrulousness on any subject under the sun. Old-fashioned British reserve dictated that there were some things that One Did Not Talk About; this was one of them.
Ducky turned his attention to the main bedroom. Sooner or later, Gibbs would return home and he would be waiting for him. In the meantime, he would make himself comfortable.
Gibbs made for the bathroom. He’d left a t-shirt in there this morning. It was still reasonably wearable; might smell of sawdust, but then most of his clothes did eventually. He wanted, no, needed a shower, he smelled of sex. They wouldn’t ask and he wouldn’t tell. Not out of chivalry, but because it was nobody else’s damn business.
With 20/20 hindsight, sleeping with Hollis Mann had not been the best idea he’d had all day. Then again, he hadn’t expected to be poisoned with BZ gas in his own home either. Best chalk it up as a visceral reaction to a life-threatening situation. After all, all cats were grey at night.
One thing he was certain of. It wouldn’t be happening again. Rule #12 applied. There could and would be no repeat of what happened in Paris.
Gibbs shucked his clothes, throwing most of them into the laundry basket as he turned the faucet on the shower. As the spray hit the porcelain of the tub, he glanced at the door. He reached over and silently pulled the door closed. Once done, he stepped into the shower, to stand motionless in the spray, letting the day wash away from him.
After the first two or three times, Abby had thought it wise to be prepared. There were only so many t-shirts that she could borrow from Gibbs, not to mention that she preferred something softer than cotton against her skin.
Hence the small overnight bag in the trunk of her car, packed with a little toiletries bag, a change of clothes and a nightdress.
Gibbs had said she could come around at any time she needed to. The first time had been after Mike had been carted off to jail. She had driven around aimlessly after finishing work until she had found herself sitting outside Gibbs’ place, nervously drumming her fingers on the steering wheel.
The next thing she knew, she heard a gentle tap on her window and there was Gibbs, standing by her door, gesturing for her to come inside. He’d fed her and given her coffee. When the stress of the previous few days had caught up with her, he’d quietly suggested that she lie down. When she had protested, he had gently taken her hand, leading her up the stairs to his room. Any protests she would have uttered had been cut off by the jaw-breaking yawn that had escaped her. Instead, Gibbs led her to the bed, eased her onto it, untangled her boots from her legs and drew a cover over her.
She didn’t hear him leave the room. Next thing she knew it was morning and there was a t-shirted and tighty-whiteys clad Gibbs lying next to her in the bed.
At first, Abby just stared at him, wondering to herself when was it that her life had taken a left turn and tumbled down the rabbit hole. As it was, she was quite enjoying having a Gibbs shaped teddy bear next to her.
Unfortunately, Abby wasn’t able to follow that line of thought any further forward as Gibbs chose that moment to wake up.
“If you need someone, come see me.” Gibbs had whispered in a voice husky with sleep. “Doesn’t matter what time, you’re always welcome here.” She remembered him reaching out to touch her cheek. “I ask for nothing in return, you got that?”
Abby nodded as Gibbs pulled her to him. They had stayed like that, cuddling, before their combined need for caffeine had driven them out of bed.
After that, she’d been fine. She had coped, like everyone else, when he went away, but he was back again now. He was the one to hint that nothing had changed, that she could come around when it suited her. He was different, sure, but he was still her Gibbs.
So, once she’d washed up and changed clothes, Abby climbed into the bed and turned the bedside light on. She wasn’t all that tired and besides, she had an excellent article from the Journal of Forensic Sciences on non-invasive detection of latent fingerprints to read. Who could ask for more?
The soft halo of light peeking from under the door of Jethro’s bedroom, gave Ducky instant cause for concern. Even if it was Jethro himself (which Ducky had ascertained it couldn’t be) then why had he left the light on? It wasn’t like him at all.
With a sense of trepidation, Ducky gently pushed the door open. What he saw both surprised him and relieved him greatly.
Lying on the bed, in a halo of soft light from the bedside lamp, was Abigail Sciuto, fast asleep, a scientific journal clasped to her chest, rising and falling with each sleeping breath she took, dark hair unbound, framing her face and a black silk nightie barely covering her pale beauty.
Ducky let out the breath he was holding as he crossed the threshold of the room. By rights, he should simply turn around, leave the room, the house and go home to his own silent abode. He wasn’t going to. For starters, his dear friend couldn’t be comfortable lying like that, so much so that she would pay for it in the morning. He wasn’t going to allow for that.
With a gentle hand on her shoulder, Ducky shook Abby awake. Her response was not what he had hoped for.
“Wizburf” she mumbled, not waking, the journal falling to the floor.
“Abby?” Ducky asked as he knelt down to pick the journal up and place it on the bedside table.
“Ducky?!” Abby’s reaction might have been funny in other circumstances. She sat bold upright, a look of sheer shock painted onto her features. “What are you doing here?” she asked, blinking sleep away.
Ducky sighed and seated himself on the edge of the bed, as far away from Abby as he could manage without ending up on the floor. He loved her, as much as he loved Jethro, but he felt slightly uncomfortable like this, as if he was invading her privacy. Something a gentleman would never do.
“I could ask the same of you, Abby.” he replied, resting his hands on his knees, looking over at her. She had shifted up the bed, back against the bed’s head, legs straight out in front of her. Ducky thought she looked like a 1950’s pin up, if they had run to gothic beauty as opposed to all-American girls next door. She was just as beautiful, but more realistic than they could ever be.
“I needed to see Gibbs,” she began, voice quiet and head held up, meeting his sympathetic gaze. “Needed to know he was alright,” She dropped her gaze to her toes, which were covered in the same black polish as her finger tips were. “Why are you here, Ducky?” she asked, “Didn’t think you did house calls.”
Ducky met her gaze with a wry smile, “Normally I don’t but…” he paused, wondering if he should come clean and tell her the truth. She was the most open minded, forgiving person he knew. Surely she would understand?
He took a deep breath and began to talk. He mentioned his mother’s passing, giving some small clue as to how it had affected him. Noting how intellectual preparedness didn’t always follow through to emotional acceptance. Confessed that he had hidden it the best he could, until Gibbs had invited him to dinner one evening. He hadn’t been eating much, but he was canny enough not to refuse food and company, especially from a good friend.
Ducky chuckled as he noted that he had thought that Gibbs would have treated him the same way he would a suspect in the interrogation room. Of course, with hindsight, nothing could have been further from the truth, but at the time he wasn’t so sure. He had been hoping that someone do something to shake him out of his depression.
Abby’s tackle-hug temporarily knocked both Ducky’s glasses and train of thought askew. Finding oneself with an armful of a beautiful, lovely lady tended to do that to him. He was older, not dead and he could appreciate a pretty girl as much as DiNozzo did, but with a little more discretion, obviously.
“I kinda guessed something was hinky with you, Ducky,” Abby commented as she positioned herself on the bed, next to her friend. She put her hand around his waist and laid her head on his shoulder. “Jimmy was worried about you too, but neither of us could put our fingers on it.”
“There was nothing you would have been able to do, Abby,” Ducky noted, happily accepting her comfort. “Besides, you had enough on your plate dealing with your treacherous assistant. Anyway, to continue with the story….”
Ducky explained that the evening had finished with him and Gibbs ending up sharing a goodly amount of bourbon and lying on the same bed that he and Abby now sat on, talking about nothing in particular until he fell asleep, head resting in Gibbs’ shoulder.
He had woken up the next day, with a headache, no glasses and his head in exactly the same place; still on Gibbs’ shoulder.
Abby had laughed at that, telling him that they would have looked ‘so sweet’.
Ducky just smiled and told her about Gibbs’ offer of company whenever he needed it. He’d taken it up a couple of times since then. He hadn’t known that Gibbs had extended the same courtesy to Abby before tonight.
“It doesn’t bother you?” he asked. It still felt strange talking about the ‘arrangement’ with Jethro (if it still existed) with another living soul.
“Course not, Duckman!” she replied emphatically, raising her head off his shoulder for a moment, meeting his gaze as she did so. “It would be hypocritical for me even to go there,” she mused. “When I asked Gibbs about it, he likened it to being in the forces. That your buddies are there for you, no matter what? Admittedly, I think he was talking about fuck buddies rather than cuddle buddies.”
Ducky nodded. He knew exactly what she meant. Nobody talked about it, of course, but it went on. It helped, like this did; the simple comfort of being with someone who understood.
“As ever, you are right my dear.”
“Damn right I am, though, that doesn’t help us right now, does it?” she replied.
“But it does give me an idea…”
The only light in the room for Gibbs to see by came from the full moon shining down from the clear sky. It gilded everything, including the two sleeping figures, shades of white and silver. He silently moved to the window and twitched the curtains closed. It wouldn’t do for them to be woken up now.
With the same care, he pulled back the bed covers to allow him to also get into the bed. As he did so, he noticed the entwined hands, resting over Abby’s collarbone. It made him smile as he sat down on the bed. Neither of them moved, both soundly asleep, spooning chastely together.
Gibbs swung his legs into the bed and settled down, propping himself up on an elbow to watch them before he gave into the tiredness that was soaking his bones.
They were beautiful, they were at peace and he loved them.
Impulsively, he reached out to ruffle Ducky’s hair and to brush his thumb against Abby’s cheekbone. Thankfully, neither motion stirred the rhythm of their soft breathing; the only sound to be heard.
As he lay down to sleep, placing a gentle hand on their entwined hands, Jethro Gibbs mused that being with Hollis Mann had meant nothing to him. Being there, with them, meant something.
MTAC - NCIS Fic