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The Christmas Guest
Kate turned on the stereo, something classical since Christmas music was starting to grate on her, and carried her novel to the armchair. She'd chosen a book by Diana Gabaldon while at the library; nothing like a good 1,000-plus page novel to get lost in. She sighed, slouching in the chair and looking out the window at the snow falling beyond the pane.
It was Christmas Eve and Gibbs had given them the night off. There was an NCIS Christmas party, but she'd been a member of the team less than two months. It would have felt awkward, being around all those people she'd just met. The Secret Santa exchange would have been pointless, since most people still greeted her with a "Caitlin Who?" expression on their faces.
She preferred to be alone... in theory. It was when the snow started to fall and the cocoa started to run low that she realized that loneliness wasn't really all it was cracked up to be.
Her brothers were out of state and they hadn't exchanged gifts in ages. Her parents were still alive and would likely have a present with her name on it under the tree... if she showed up. She flipped open the book, focusing on the time-travel romance to put her mind off her depression. She'd read half a chapter when there was a knock at the door.
She marked her page, feigning annoyance when really she was glad someone was coming by to see her. Of course, it would probably turn out to be the mail man or her downstairs neighbor complaining about...
She opened the door, surprised to see Abby Sciuto standing in the hall. "Hi," she said. "What are..."
Abby took a step into the apartment and put a pair of antlers on Kate's head. Before Kate could react, a noose of tinsel was wrapped around her neck. Abby stepped back and smiled. "Merry Christmas, Kate!"
"Abby," Kate said, looking down at the green decoration hanging off her shoulders. She took in Abby's get-up, which consisted of a thick black sweater, red gloves and a green elf cap complete with fake pointed ears. Her ponytails stuck out behind the ears, resting on her shoulders. "What are you doing here?"
Abby shrugged, bouncing on the balls of her feet. "Well, you said you wouldn't feel comfortable at the Christmas party, cause you didn't know anyone, and I figured that I'd bring some of it to you. So..." She bent down and picked up the package sitting next to the door, pressing it into Kate's hands. "It's batteries. A ton of them. Like, Double A, Triple A, one package of Ds, some of those weird little round ones that you put in watches and stuff... cause who doesn't need batteries, right? And they're so expensive and..."
Kate held up a hand and smiled. "Thank you... Abby, this is great. Thank you."
"I... didn't get you anything. I was just..."
"No, that's okay," Abby said. "I just wanted to drop this off."
"Heading to the office party?"
"Nah," Abby said. "I don't really like hanging out with those people. They don't get me." She shrugged and said, "I was just... um... dropping this off. In case I don't see you tomorrow. Which, unless a sailor shows up dead, we probably won't." She knocked on the door frame and added, "Knock on wood."
"So... you got any plans?" Abby asked.
"No, just, uh... looking forward to my book. Some hot cocoa, maybe."
"Sounds good... Okay. Um. I'll... head on out. See you after the new year!"
"No problem," Kate said. "Thank you... for the batteries."
Abby nodded. "I'll... see you."
She stepped back and Kate closed the door, smiling down at the package. It was so sweet of Abby to think of her. And batteries... she had to admit, it was a practical gift. She put the present on the table as she returned to her novel, taking a seat as something Abby said rang in her ears. 'I don't really like hanging out with those people. They don't get me.'
Kate wondered. Abby came on a little strong... she wondered if anyone, save Gibbs, Tony and Ducky, actually cared to get to know her. From what she'd heard around the office, most people were reluctant to take evidence down to her. They called the lab "the lair," avoided eye contact with her in the hallway... Maybe Abby wasn't going to the Christmas party because they didn't want her there.
She stood, putting on her boots and running outside. The snow was deep, swallowing her boots up to the ankles. Abby was on the sidewalk, pacing back and forth, apparently waiting for the bus. Kate hugged herself, wishing she was wearing more than a long-sleeved pajama shirt and sweatpants. She called out, "Abby!"
Abby turned and walked back to her. "What are you doing? Go back inside, you'll freeze to death!"
"Come inside with me."
"But your plans..."
"To read and drink cocoa by myself? Come on, Abby."
Abby bit her bottom lip and looked over her shoulder. The bus was heading down the street towards them. In Abby's hesitation, Kate realized how much she wanted the other woman to say yes. She was desperate to avoid going back inside, reading that ungodly thick novel and drink all her cocoa by herself. And Abby... she looked so sad. She needed...
"All right. But only if you have enough cocoa."
Kate grinned brightly. "I have enough."
"Cool," Abby said, smiling a little embarrassedly. "I'd love to share." She stepped forward and put her arm around Kate, drawing her into the fluffy sweater. Kate nestled into the warmth and hurried back inside with her Christmas guest.
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