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Old Time Since
By Geonn


Abby sat at the piano, idly playing "Auld Lang Syne" with two fingers. Behind her, the bar was abuzz and focused on the widescreen TV at the opposite end of the room. Dick Clark was readying the countdown, prompting noisemakers and loud laughter to echo across the room. The champagne had been handed out, courtesy of the house, five minutes ago. Abby had declined and, when the waitress insisted, had stowed the glass on top of the piano.

Now, closing in on the 'magic hour' of midnight, the buzz was getting unbearable. She sighed and abandoned the bench, picking up the champagne flute at the last second before she began weaving her way through the door. Several people stopped her, asking if she had someone to kiss at midnight. She brushed them all off, hoping one or two found a breath mint before they found a willing victim.

She gathered her coat around herself and stepped outside, breathing in the freezing air and revealing in the relative silence. Everyone in the world was inside, awaiting the start of the new year, making resolutions which wouldn't last to February.

She would have said bah, humbug, if it wasn't so goddamned trite.

Gathering the coat around herself with her free hand, she picked a direction at random and started walking. With any luck, midnight would come and go while she was walking and she could miss the whole insane deal. The kissing, the drunkenness... she could do without this whole pseudo-holiday.

By the time she realized she was walking towards the NCIS building, she had a pretty hefty list of holidays she could definitely do without. She kept walking, deciding that at the very least she could hole herself up in her lab and wait out the sobering light of day. January first, who gave a rip besides the calendar makers?

As she approached the building, she saw someone sitting on the steps just outside the windows to her lab. She groaned, thought about changing course, but decided she could mutter a 'Happy Holidays' to whoever it was and slip past before she was drawn into any kind of celebration. As she got close enough to recognize the person, she brightened slightly.

"Hey, Kate," she said, calling from the corner.

Caitlin Todd looked up, surprised, and smiled. She waved back, motioning at the windows that were almost flush with the sidewalk. "I was looking for you in your lab."

Abby sat next to Kate, pulling the ends of her coat up onto her lap and held the champagne glass with both hands. "Escape the party?" Abby asked.

"Yeah. How is it you managed to get out of it?"

"Told Gibbs I didn't want to go."

Kate smiled. "Yeah, it would be that easy for you..."

"Why'd you have to escape?"

"The noise, the people... it was just too much. Besides, Tony kept trying to convince me to kiss him at midnight."

Abby smirked. "What a dumb tradition... Valentine's Day doesn't even force you to kiss people."

"I know! If you feel like kissing someone, by all means. But don't make it mandatory." She sighed and looked over at Abby, eyeing the flute in her hands. "Where'd you get the champagne?"

"Bar down the street. I thought it'd be less insane, but..."

"There's no escaping Christmas or New Year's Eve," Kate bemoaned.

"Want a drink?" Abby asked, holding the drink up.

Kate shrugged and took it, taking a small sip before handing it back. "Mm, it's cold," she said, dabbing her lips with the cuff of her sleeve. "Icy."

"Little ice crystals in there," Abby noted. "I guess I've been walking around for a long time."

Kate reached out and flattened the back of her hand against Abby's cheek. "You're freezing!" She slid closer, wrapping her arm around Abby and pulling her close. Abby smiled and ducked her head, pressing her face against Kate's warm sweater. Kate played idly with Abby's ponytails, watching as streetlights down the road changed from green to yellow to red, the sequence repeating every few minutes.

When the chunk of ice resting against her breast was once-again human temperature, Kate eased her cell phone from her pocket and looked at the time. "Hey, we missed it," she said triumphantly. She showed the display to Abby and said, "12:03."

Abby grinned. "The first time I managed to miss it entirely!"

"Well, congratulations."

Abby sat up and drank half of the champagne before letting Kate finish it off. "So, the New Year is come. Look any different?"

Kate made a show of looking around and then shrugged.

Abby sighed. "Me neither. But now that no one is forcing me..." She reached over and hooked her finger under Kate's chin, turning her head. She pressed her lips to Kate's without preamble, her tongue pushing against Kate's bottom lip. When they parted, Abby said, "Enjoy this year, Kate."

"Yeah," Kate said, too numb to say anything else.

Abby stood and said, "I'm going to go in. Thanks for keeping me warm, Kate."

She turned and disappeared into the building. Kate touched her lips and said, "No... thank you, Abby..."

The End

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