The house was dark and quiet. Then again, it usually was. Gibbs unlocked the door, gathering up his armful of groceries and shouldering it open. He flipped on the lights in the kitchen and started putting away each item, considering their places with perhaps more than due care. He could hear Ducky’s voice in his head these days, regardless of where the meddling M.E. actually was.
“Preoccupied, Jethro?” he’d ask now, as Gibbs almost stacked a can of pasta sauce on a loaf of bread. He was preoccupied. He couldn’t shake the expression Abby had given him in the elevator, clutching onto the weapons gifted to her by the field agents and tucked into a corner. She’d looked to Gibbs with the same expression as he’d imagined his daughter giving him, her frail form trembling as she was driven along towards court, and her demise. He heard footsteps, and spun in one smooth motion, pulling his service weapon and settling into a familiar stance, aimed directly at the intruder’s - pigtails?
“Hi Gibbs,” Abby said, softly. He lowered the gun immediately, tucking it back into his holster. She looked more lost than he’d seen her in a long time.
“Hey, Abs,” Gibbs responded, keeping his voice level. “Everything all right? You haven’t been going after my liquor again, have you?” Abby laughed, a flash of her old self returning in the mischievous look she gave him.
“Maybe I have been,” she said, and then her face crumpled back into the lost look she’d had before. “No. Alcohol is a depressant, remember? I have plenty of that without the alcohol.” She stumbled, and he was at her side in an instant, guiding her to a chair. Once he had her settled, he sat down heavily in the chair next to her. She rested her head on his shoulder for a moment, and he patted her head roughly.
“I know it’s not my fault,” Abby said. Gibbs nodded. “I know that the fear will go away.” He rubbed her shoulder reassuringly. “But fear is scary, Gibbs!” she concluded, her voice rising to a higher pitch.
“I bought you some new nail polish,” he said, after a long moment. He rustled through the last, unpacked bag of groceries and handed her the crystalline bottle.
“Awww, Gibbs!” Abby’s eyes lit up again, lingering fear forgotten for a moment. “How’d you know to get this one?”
“It’s that fancy kind you were showing me the other day in the lab.” Gibbs pointed out, and began to unscrew the lid. “Hold still, because I make no promises that this will look flattering if you squirm.”
“I can come back later,” Ziva said, her voice carefully deadpan. Gibbs twisted to see her, standing nonchalantly in the doorway, a smirk on her face. Gibbs turned back to Abby, who’d stiffened at the unexpected voice but relaxed as he used the built-in brush to smooth black nail polish over her nails. Her hands were warm, which never surprised him, and shaking slightly, which was a little more concerning.
“Why are you here, Ziva?” Gibbs said, without looking back again.
“I just came by to tell Abby that I got a new taser, so she didn’t have to return mine,” Ziva said, smiling gently. “Would you like me to paint your nails as well, Gibbs?”
“I think I’ll pass,” Gibbs said, smiling faintly but with his head angled so that only Abby could see. She laughed, once, and admired her completely painted nail.
“You’re really good at this, Gibbs,”
“Abby, I’m trying to concentrate,” Gibbs said, and she mimed zipping her lips shut. Finished with one hand, he brushed off his hands and stood.
“No, Gibbs! I’m sorry Ziva magically appeared behind you! Come baaaaaaack,” Abby whined, as Gibbs lifted her off of the chair in a bear hug and set her gently on her feet.
“I’m cooking pasta. Or rather, whoever appears in my house next is cooking.”
“Damn.” Tony said, from the doorway. “I chose the wrong moment to walk in, huh?”
“You’re Italian. Surely you can manage pasta.” Ducky said, walking in behind him. “I brought rolls, at least.”
“Was there a party at my house I missed an invite to?” Gibbs said, frowning, and Ziva shoved Tony behind the counter.
“I’m going, I’m going,” Tony said, pulling several pots out from the cabinets.
“Of course you’re invited, Gibbs, don’t be silly,” Abby offered him a smile and patted him reassuringly on the arm. Ducky started to get out dishes to set the table, and Ziva left briefly, returning with a crock-pot full of meatballs and sauce and a bottle of wine.
“I am terrified to ask how you already had that ready.” Tony deadpanned at her, and McGee slipped in through the door behind her. The table was set and the crowd began to flock towards it. Rolls, pasta, sauce, meatballs, wine, and a block of gourmet cheese Gibbs was choosing to blame McGee for were set out.
“Uh-huh, and how long until the pasta’s ready, Tony?” Ziva asked, and he swatted at her had with a spatula. Laughing, she backed up into the table.
Gibbs leaned into the warmth and light of it all. The house was not dark, and not quiet. Then again, it usually wasn’t.