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Timothy McGee hesitated, peering out from the cover of the car. The shooting had stopped, following one final retort a few seconds after all the others. Silence reigned supreme, pushing in on him from all sides. The battle had to be over, else Gibbs would be on the radio barking at him. But did he dare step into the open to see? When it finally seemed he had no other choice, he rose to his feet.
He kept an eye on the windows looking down on him as he approached the building. Just as he reached the door, it swung open and Gibbs stormed out. "Boss!" he said.
Gibbs froze and McGee felt a shudder of fear race down his spine. He couldn't form words, petrified by what he saw in his normally unflappable boss's eyes.
"Call Dona... Dr. Mall... c-call Ducky, McGee," Gibbs said, his voice choked. He refused to look McGee in the eye, humiliated by his gaffe.
Gibbs put both hands on McGee's shoulders. "Oh, God, McGee, what am I gonna tell her?"
McGee felt faint.
Gibbs stood behind the glass, watching Abby speak animatedly to herself. Her blue gloves rose and fell as exaggerated punctuation, her hands sometimes unconsciously forming words in sign language. She walked around the table, looking up when she saw him out of the corner of her eye. She waved, pausing mid-motion when she saw his expression. She signed, "What's wrong?"
He motioned her to step out.
Abby came out of the room, looking at him with a mixture of fear, sadness and anger in her eyes. "Don't tell me he got away again," she said out loud, exhaustion evident in her voice. "Damn it, Gibbs, I am getting sick of this guy! I mean, the son of a bitch..."
"Abs," Gibbs rasped. He couldn't look at her. His face was drawn and it felt like the skin was too tight against his skull. He looked into the clean room, the experiment Abby had been conducting. He brought one hand up and, unable to think of the right words, spelled out eight letters.
S. H. E. S. G. O. N. E.
Abby tilted her head to the side. "Who is gone?"
"Kate is dead, Abby. I... am so sorry."
Abby bounced one foot on the tile floor, staring at him with wide eyes as if expecting him to keep talking. Her hands were balled into fists, her fingers flexing and relaxing involuntarily. She backed up a step, looked to the left and right and picked up a beaker. She looked at it, turned it over in her hand and then let it fall to the floor.
She turned and walked away and Gibbs followed. She stopped halfway across the lab and held her hand up in a stopping motion.
She signed 'fifteen minutes' over her shoulder and turned to see his reply.
She walked away, moving faster as if pulled by gravity to the small closet at the back of her lower-level dungeon. She closed the door, the claustrophobia wrapping around her like a blanket as she pressed the heels of both hands against her eyes. She was shuddering, nearly convulsing, her pigtails swinging as if caught in a freak hurricane. She felt herself begin to throw up, held back just barely and sank to her knees in the small closet.
She didn't know the how or the where, but she was pretty damn sure of the who.
She put out one hand, pushing herself up into a standing position. Ari. He'd broken into the morgue and had taken away Gerald. Ari. He had shot Gibbs, humiliated him on his home turf. Ari. He had taken Kate.
No way. No way in HELL was he getting a free pass on this. No way was he going to use Kate as a distraction. No way.
She opened the closet door and stormed back to her lab. Gibbs was still there, still looking shaken. He looked up when she came through the doors and she said, "Whatever you need. I'll have it."
"Abs, you're not..."
"Okay? God, no. But I can cry at my desk."
Gibbs looked down, a ghost of a smile on his face. It was gone by the time he walked towards her, cupping her head in his hands. "You've always been stronger than me, Abby."
"And you're stronger than Ari. Together, his ass is ours." She cupped the back of his head, holding him like he was holding her. She closed her eyes and whispered, "I love her."
"Did you tell her?"
"Whenever I could."
"Good girl," he said. He squeezed the back of her neck and released, stepping back. "I'm... there's other stuff to be done. I should... get to it."
"We'll get him, Gibbs."
He nodded, not looking particularly convinced, and finally left.
Alone, Abby walked over and searched the drawer until she found it. A portrait, her face on a bat. Kate had drawn it, redone it more than once, and it was so sublimely perfect that Abby kept each separate drawing in different places; one was at home, in the kitchen drawer. One was in the bedroom. This one, she kept here so she could look at it whenever she wanted.
She propped it up against the computer and pulled over a stool.
Sooner or later, Gibbs would bring something to her. Something related to Ari, related to Kate's murder.
Until then, she was going to get lost in memories.
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