“Here we are, then!” the Doctor announced as the TARDIS landed, with a cheerfulness that could have been slightly false. Of course, that could just be wishful thinking on Abby’s part. “NCIS Headquarters.”
Tony looked so relieved that Abby wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he dropped to kiss the ground as soon as the door opened. Gibbs said nothing, just moved to the door, opened it and stepped out, looking back at the other two expectantly.
They both followed: Tony eagerly, Abby a lot less so. Once she stepped outside that door, the Doctor would be out of her life again, maybe for good. While she didn’t regret the decision she’d made twenty years ago, she did regret a bit that they’d been so busy finding Harry and rescuing the hipocra that they hadn’t had any time to talk. She still didn’t know why he was wearing a new face–hell, a whole new body–or why the TARDIS had been redecorated so much, or even just what he’d been up to since the last time they met. She hadn’t learned why he seemed so much sadder, so much angrier than the man she’d known.
They were standing outside, in the middle of the parking lot, when Abby stopped and turned to the Doctor. He smiled weakly at her and she found herself fighting tears. Funny, it hadn’t been this hard to leave the first time, even though at the time he’d been her best friend in the entire universe.
“So,” he said fondly. “Abby Sciuto.”
As if triggered by him saying her name in that way that was so reminiscent of who he used to be, Abby found herself blurting out, “Couldn’t you stay for a couple of days? I mean, it’s been twenty years. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do and we didn’t get a chance to do it.”
She knew the answer even before the awkward expression appeared on his face. “Well…”
Abby grinned: she couldn’t help it. It was nice to know some things didn’t change. He still couldn’t bear to stay in one place if there wasn’t something going on to capture his attention. “Yeah, that’s kinda what I thought.”
“You could come along, you know,” he suggested instead.
Abby rolled her eyes at him. “Didn’t we already have this argument?”
“I don’t mean long term,” he defended himself. “But perhaps just one trip for old times’ sake? We could go to Vorja…it’s been a while, and you never did get the chance to see if civilisation had collapsed in your absence.”
Oh, damn it, he still knew just how to tempt her. Abby hesitated.
“Where’s Vorja?” Tony asked. Abby almost jumped–for a moment she’d forgotten he and Gibbs were still there.
“Somewhere in the Orion sector,” the Doctor answered absently, not giving the crucial information as usual.
“It’s a planet. I won it in a card game,” she explained. “Long story, but the Doctor tried to use it to get me to stay when I’d decided I was ready to go home.” She glared at him. “Like just because they’d been owned by aliens for centuries meant they couldn’t govern themselves or something.”
DiNozzo’s jaw made a dive for the asphalt. “You own a planet?”
“Like I said, long story.”
“Well?” the Doctor asked.
Abby looked at Martha. “Can he even do ‘just one trip’?”
Martha grinned and the Doctor looked suddenly sheepish. “No, he can’t. Still, I think between us we ought to be able to keep him mostly in line.”
“Abby,” Gibbs objected. All the excellent reasons why she shouldn’t go were summed up just in the way he said her name.
“It’s okay, Gibbs,” she reassured him. “It’s a time machine, remember? You guys go on ahead.” Abby glanced back at the Doctor and Martha, grinning. “I’ll be right behind you.”
“Are you sure, Abs?” he asked, giving her that intense, protective look that he reserved just for her.
“Trouble does seem to follow him,” Tony pointed out. “If the number of people and species he knew involved with this mess is anything to go by.”
“Oh, it’s definitely dangerous. But so is working here, even when I stay in the lab. Remember Chip?” She looked at both of them pointedly before giving Tony a hug and Gibbs a kiss on the cheek. “I told you. It’s the Doctor. Before you guys came along, there was no one in the universe I trusted more than him. I’ll be fine.”
She could tell neither one of them wanted to leave her alone with the Doctor–which she wasn’t, Martha was there too, after all–but eventually they turned away with murmured admonitions to be careful. She’d just have to surprise them when she got back by catching up before they even made it into the building.
With that pleasant thought in mind, Abby turned back to the Doctor and Martha.
“So,” the Doctor said, grinning so broadly it nearly split his face. Boy, it was still a bit weird to look into those eyes and see brown staring back at her instead of blue. “Shall we be off, then?”
“You know,” Martha remarked as the three of them turned back to the TARDIS. “There’s just one thing, Doctor, that I still don’t quite understand.”
He stuck the key in the lock (a real key now–that was weird too!) and asked,”Oh? What’s that?”
“Well…the hipocra captain said they didn’t discover Earth until the Forties, but you’d rather implied that the Hippocratic Oath was based on their culture. How is that possible?”
The Doctor looked sheepish. “Well…I suppose I might have mentioned something to Hippocrates…what with the similarity in name…”
Martha and Abby looked at each other and laughed.