Another Bites the Dust

By Lizabeth S. Tucker

"Want to explain, Abs?"

Abby sighed, looking up from her desk to see Gibbs standing the doorway of her tiny office. "I see the office grapevine is as fast as ever. I only submitted my resignation two hours ago. I guess Tony was right, LEOs gossip worse than old ladies at a bridge tournament or old men sitting outside a barber shop."

Gibbs winced at the mention of his former SFA who had quit two years earlier. "Why?"

"I seem to have outlived my usefulness, just like Tony did."

"What a load of crap," Gibbs snapped.

"Is it? You rarely come down to my lab any more, Gibbs. And never alone. I can't remember the last time you kissed me on the cheek. You're too busy with the new kids on your team."

"So, you're jealous?"

Abby shook her head, making Gibbs realize for the first time that she wasn't wearing her hair up in pigtails.

"A few years ago, I might have been. But I'm not actually a child, even if I've acted like one for entirely too many years. Thanks to some tough talk from the nuns and a little therapy, I'm ready to take control of my life back, to move on to a life as a capable adult."

"Therapy?" Gibbs scoffed. "You are the last person who needs all that touchy-feelie crap."

"C'mon, Gibbs. You've had to talk to psychologists or psychiatrists before."

"Only when I was forced to."

"Looks like something made you change. After you came back to work after Luke shot you, you had changed. Your clothes, your hair, even your attitude, but not toward Tony. And not with me, although I didn't see it at first."

"Again with DiNozzo. He's gone, Abby." He ran his hand over his face, frustrated.

"Because he finally realized that you weren't gonna change and got the hell out of Dodge. Even the most loyal Saint Bernard will give up if he's kicked too many times."

"DiNozzo left because he had a daughter."

"Keep telling yourself that, Gibbs. Tony was already looking for job openings for SSA. I also know for a fact that, after Talia came, the Director was willing to find him something behind a desk with regular hours if he could hang on just a bit longer with you. He decided it wasn't worth the aggravation."

"How do you know all that?"

"Gossip," Abby replied. "Then he was veiller with me over dinner a week before he left."

"Veiller?" The older man was puzzled by the word.

"Oh, sorry. I was talking with some friends back in N'awlins yesterday. It means we talked. I asked him if it was true."

"Then why did he leave?"

"Oh, for… Gibbs, maybe you should watch this." She picked up a gold disc from her desk drawer, handing it out to the man she had loved and admired for so many years. "It might not do any good, but maybe seeing things from outside can help explain how you made Tony feel."

When Gibbs made no move to take the DVD, she shook it at him.

"What is it?"

"Let's call it the highlights of your interactions with Tony once he returned from taking down Daniel Budd. I went back through the security tapes and edited this, hoping you might be open to watching it."

"DiNozzo come whining to you?"

The look of disappointment on Abby's face was one he never expected to have aimed at him. The younger forensic specialist had always put him up on a pedestal, called him her Silver Fox. Now she seemed to pity him.

"No matter what any of us did to him over the years, he never 'whined'. He had plenty of opportunities to complain, even officially, about what we did to him, from the Director on down. Hell, even SecNav tried to screw him over. Tony really only had one person to vent to, confide in. Before Mexico, that was you, but you messed that up."

"After?"

Abby placed the DVD at the edge of the desk closest to Gibbs. "I don't know who for certain, I could only guess. But even if I did know for sure, I wouldn't tell you. I wouldn't be any of your business."

"Still doesn't explain why you're quitting."

"Like Tony, I've come to realize that I deserve more, I deserve better. I deserve a life outside of work. It started so slowly that I didn't realize how many hours I was spending here. You won't work with anyone else, calling me back in even if a case wasn't time sensitive."

"Every case demands our best!"

"Yeah, yeah," Abby replied, waving her hands about. "I haven't had time to work for Habitat in three, no, five years. I haven't been to a party that I wasn't called away from in more years than that."

Gruffly, Gibbs tried to defend himself. "You're still bowling with the nuns."

"Mostly. But even with that I sometimes have to leave mid-frame because you refused to work with whoever was on the night relief shift. I've barely had enough time to write up any papers in ages. I love research, I love sharing new discoveries in forensics. But even if I manage to submit something for peer review, if I'm invited to present my paper at a symposium, I'm forced to turn it down most of the time. I love my job, Gibbs, but not to the extent of it pushing everything else in my life to the side."

Gibbs moved closer to where she sat, a frown flitting across his face. "We can work something out."

"Sure, until the next time you get fixated on a case. You'll forget, Gibbs. You always do. I get that you mean it right now, but…" Abby shrugged. "I'm almost past my expiration date for another good job in my field. I'm 48 years old. It is time for me to take Tony's example and leave for something better rather than staying as you shun me. I'd like to think that you'd keep in touch, but I know better. Once someone leaves the team, the minute we're out the door, it is like we never existed."

"Abby…"

"No, Gibbs. You know that's true. The only people you keep in touch with outside of NCIS are the people who make all the moves, keep pushing. They contact you, you never contact them. Unless you need something from them. I've spent too many years trying to convince myself and all of you that we are family. We aren't. Some of us are friends. Most of us are just coworkers. I know you don't like apologies, but I'm sorry."

There was no reply from Gibbs. He continued standing near the doorway, staring at her. The silence in the small room became oppressive, but she didn't speak. Leaving the DVD on the desk, Gibbs turned on his heels and strode out of the room.

Abby watched him go, tears welling up in her eyes as she realized how much she would miss him. Or rather, how much she would and had missed the man he had been so many years ago, when they were all younger, when Kate was still alive. When Timmy was so shiny new. When Tony's smile would light up the room.

Dabbing at her eyes, Abby got back to work. She had two weeks to catch up with all the required paperwork and a new replacement who would be coming in for training as to the idiosyncrasies of her babies, especially Major Mass Spec.

January 2018

Author's Note: I haven't watched more than two complete episodes since Michael Weatherly has left, although I have caught bits and pieces. But as word came that Pauley Perrette, who had long maintained her love of working on the series, was leaving at the end of this season, my muses were agitated. Add to that the word on social media that scenes between Gibbs and Abby alone in the lab have almost come to a complete halt and questions arose. Frankly, I'm wondering what the hell is going on at that set. And who will leave next? Will it be David McCallum? If so, that will leave just Mark Harmon of the Original Core Four.