Fandom: NCIS, or Navy CIS
Word Count: 4,655
Spoilers: Up to and including 6x06: Murder 2.0
Credits: Screencaps created by the talented denorios and used with permission.
Notes: There are a dozen more quotes and moments that could've been used but I ran out of space and time and energy :) Best thing to do would be to watch the episodes and see for yourself ;)
'NCIS', originally known as 'Navy CIS', is a spin-off of the ever-popular 'JAG', with its pilot episodes actually being episodes of 'JAG's 8th season – 'Ice Queen' and 'Meltdown'. 'NCIS' stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service which is possibly why it's most often compared to CSI although, as Special Agent Anthony 'Tony' DiNozzo points out in the series official first episode, 'Yankee White', when asked if NCIS is anything like CSI, he responds with a glib but telling "only if you're dyslexic."
As of 2008, the show is currently in its sixth season and has created a bit of a stir as a silent hit, gaining more and more ratings and loyal viewers whilst somehow staying under the radar of most critics and awards show panels. Whereas most shows start to lag after hitting the '100th' episode, NCIS is going from strength-to-strength and will hopefully be around for 100 more.
NCIS is made up of a core-team of Special Agents and associates who work under the command of Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, a former Gunnery Sergeant in the US Marines though as Gibbs himself has stated, "there's no such thing as an ex-Marine."
In season one and season two, Gibbs and his team answered to Director Tom Morrow, who left in the season three opening two-parter 'Kill Ari' and was replaced by Director Jenny Sheppard, a former lover of Gibbs who was director up until her death in the first half of season five's finale, 'Jeopardy part 1'. Her place was taken by Director Leon Vance in season six. Likewise, in the season two finale 'Twilight', the character of Special Agent Caitlin 'Kate' Todd was murdered and replaced in season three by Officer Ziva David, a Mossad Liaison and former contact of Director Sheppard. These cast changes aside, there has been little change to the line-up of NCIS though it was widely feared at the end of season five when the team was reassigned – only to be reunited by the third episode of season six.
Four characters have never missed an episode of NCIS – Gibbs, Tony, Doctor Donald 'Ducky' Mallard and Abigail 'Abby' Sciuto. Special Agent Timothy 'Timmy' McGee hasn't missed an episode since officially joining the team in season two.
This essay focuses on the pairing of NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs and Goth forensic scientist Abigail Sciuto. Both are interesting characters in their own right but, in the eyes of many Gibbs/Abby shippers, it's something altogether more so when you look at them as a pair.
Married four times, Gibbs has three ex-wives. His first wife, Shannon, was murdered alongside his daughter, Kelly. He was an obviously devoted husband and father as shown throughout the series but most notably in season three, wherein his first marriage was revealed to the other characters in the two part 'Hiatus' episodes. He's had several love interests throughout the course of the show, the most notable being his former lover, Director Jenny Sheppard, and his Army counterpart, Lieutenant-Colonel Hollis Mann.
His age has never been revealed on the show, though he's thought to be 'fourty-ish', which makes him younger than the actor who plays him. He has friends though is rarely seen socialising with them outside of his house, preferring to stay in his basement and work on his boat. Gibbs has so far made three boats – one for each of his ex-wives – and burned them following completion. His fourth boat, nearing completion if not already finished, is named after his daughter, Kelly, and its future remains undetermined.
Gibbs is a hard man to get close to but he cares a lot for the victims his team encounters, more noticeably so when there's a child involved. He has close friends in the form of Ducky, FBI Agent Tobias Fornell, former boss/partner, Mike Franks, the latter of whom still calls him 'Probie' and, of course, Abby Sciuto. He cares about his team but still keeps his distance, perhaps scared of getting hurt should something happen to them – as evidenced when Kate died in season two/three.
One of the best at what he does and having been a NCIS (then called NIS) agent since 1992, Gibbs has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) award seven times, most recently in season six's 'Murder 2.0' but has never collected them in person suggesting that he neither wants nor needs recognition for his work. All medals currently reside in a locked drawer of Tony's desk.
His caffeine addiction is as infamous as the rules he teaches to those he works with, rules we learnt in season six's 'Heartland' were the suggestion of his late wife, Shannon. In the earlier seasons of NCIS, he was considered to be a bastard – even stating once that that was what the second 'b' in his name stood for (the first three letters, 'GIB' standing for 'Guy in Black' – 'The Curse', season one.)
Referred to as one of the best in her field, Abby Sciuto is a forensic scientist at NCIS with a Masters Degree in Criminology and Forensic Science. She is a Goth and has at least nine tattoos, most notably the cobweb/spider combination on her neck and the ornate cross on her lower back, as seen in 'Silver War' (season three) and 'Witch Hunt' (season four). She joined NCIS sometime after Gibbs and Ducky, but before the team as it stands was formed – where as Tony DiNozzo is the longest standing field agent on the team after Gibbs, Abby worked at NCIS/for Gibbs at least two years prior to his joining the team ('High Seas', season one.)
While she may seem young due to her upbeat personality and jubilant characteristics, Abby is no doubt a little older than she seems given the experience and qualifications she has in her chosen field of expertise. She is one of the "smartest people" Gibbs knows ('See No Evil', season two) and claims, probably with only a little exaggeration, to do the work of ten people ('The Voyeurs Web', season three.)
Little is known about Abby's past or family situation. We know that her parents were deaf – Gibbs told Tony in season one's 'Seadog', using the past tense, which implies they are deceased - and, as a result, is fluent in ASL (American Sign Language) though isn't as confident in her skills to lip read, though they've certainly helped the team in the past. We know her mother's name was Gloria, she has one brother and, like the actress who plays her, originally comes from New Orleans. It's a long-standing wish of Abby's fans that the show would reveal more about her past as it has done with the other characters.
In the earlier seasons, Abby was shown to be a big fan of parties, often leaving to go to a club straight from work. This, like her ability to sign, hasn't recently been revisited. Her sense of clothing is unique to her and garners as much attention as her ability in the lab, particularly to those who don't know her. She wears her black hair in pigtails or plaits, owns an assortment of collars, high boots, short skirts etc. but doesn't seem to notice or mind the attention it gets her ('Dogtags', season five). She has been known to dress up – wearing an old-fashioned nightgown to sleep in ('Cover Story', season four), a 1960's style poodle-skirt ('Under Covers', season three) – but the most notable occasion was in season four's 'Witch Hunt', where she was summoned to work straight from a Halloween party dressed as Marilyn Monroe, which had an undeniable effect on the male members of the team.
Abby has also had a few love interests throughout the series including Tim McGee, with whom she had a casual relationship with during season one-early season two; Mikel Mawher, who later stalked her in season three's 'Bloodbath' and Marty Pearson, who appeared in two episodes 'Once a Hero' and 'Smoked' before breaking-up with her off-screen in season four's 'Skeletons'. (Note: Marty was due to be a recurring love-interest for Abby but the storyline had to be revised following the death of Michael Gilden, the actor who played him.)
Parental versus Romantic
"Gibbs and me, we're tighter than blood." – Abby, 'Hiatus, part one', season three.
The exact nature of Gibbs and Abby's relationship is widely debated and often a subject where the participants of said debates need to agree to disagree. There are some who see the relationship as purely that of a parental figure and child while others see their relationship as romantic.
There is a lot to be said for the parental argument. Gibbs lost a daughter and treats Abby with the favouritism that could be associated with a parent. He often refers to her as 'my girl' both verbally and with sign language and shows a pride in her work that could be described as being that of a father. The age difference between them, though the extent of which is never revealed on the show, is also a reason some see them as parent and child. Though she is older than Gibbs' daughter Kelly would have been had she survived by at least ten years, there are those in fandom who see Gibbs' fondness and affection for Abby as an outlet for the love and adoration he would have shown his daughter had she lived.
However, the relationship between Gibbs and Abby has always had a flirtatious, sometimes sexual element that has no place in a paternal bond. While Gibbs is rarely comfortable discussing themes of a sexual nature with Abby, it isn't a topic of conversation that has been avoided completely on the show nor have some of their conversations been appropriate for that of a father-figure and surrogate daughter:
Abby: So, what about you, Gibbs? Any fetishes?
Gibbs: I have three ex-wives. I don't have time for fetishes.
Abby: Latex is, um, very popular in, uh, certain... circles.
Gibbs: Yeah? What kind of circles?
Abby: Gibbs, I dunno if you're ready for this. It might upset your delicate sensibilities.
Gibbs: Oh, I'll stop you.
Abby: Okay... maybe he was wearing a latex hood, like bondage gear, S&M fetish. I dated this guy once who just wanted me to bounce up and down on a balloon -...
Gibbs: Okay, you can stop.
- 'The Truth is Out There', season one
Gibbs: I'd hate to start smacking you the way I do DiNozzo.
Abby: You wouldn't! You would?!
Gibbs: It won't be on the head.
- 'Switch', season three
Gibbs: Did you learn anything?
Abby: I'm not nearly as flexible as I should be...
- 'The Voyeurs Web', season three (discussing porn)
Abby: Of course you're back; I can feel your badge! That is your badge, right?
- 'Escaped', season four
Abby is, without a doubt, physically attracted to Gibbs and there is enough evidence to suggest that the same is true in reverse.
Gibbs: Not bad for a blond.
Abby: There's more, if you're interested... Mr. President.
- 'Witch Hunt', season four
Abby has referred to him as her 'silver-haired fox' and is, without a doubt, Gibbs' biggest fan. Her faith in him is absolute, as is her confidence that, whatever the problem, Gibbs can fix it if given enough time. While the adoration she shows for him could be seen as the hero-worship of a child, the way in which she expresses it is far from being completely innocent or naive. Their exchanges, whilst seemingly innocuous at first glance, are often full of double-entendres and deeper meaning if you care to read into them and the way in which they are delivered with a flirty smile or coy glance certainly suggests something more adult-like in nature.
Gibbs: Mmmm. Particularly feisty today, Ab.
Abby: Thanks for noticing.
- 'The Good Samaritan', season one
Abby: Are you honestly asking me that?
Gibbs: No, Abs. I called to flirt.
- 'Chained', season two
Gibbs: Tell Abby I want her.
Abby: Oh, Gibbs, I never knew!
- 'Red Cell', season two
Abby also has a tendency to imitate Gibbs, most often in front of him than to others without his being there. Through mimicking him, Abby shows how she secure she feels in their relationship to do so – if she were his child, he would perhaps be angry instead of amused – and it also reveals how well she knows him as she's able to anticipate his mannerisms and reactions.
Abby as Gibbs: How long Abby?
Abby as Abby: It’s gonna take some time and since this stuff doesn’t smell very good, I don’t think that laundry was a big priority…
Abby as Gibbs: Abs!
Abby as Abby: Umm… two hours, whenever I know something, you’ll know something.
Abby as Gibbs: You got one. Anything else?
Abby as Abby: Yes, as a matter of fact. This is for you. (Hands Gibbs a cup of coffee)
Abby: For getting me out of sensitivity training. We were just about to do trust falls and some of those guys in administration have wandering hands.
Abby as Gibbs: Just give me their names and I’ll break them for you!
Abby as Abby: I know Gibbs and that is why I love you.
- 'Light Sleeper', season three
Abby as Gibbs whilst sitting at his desk: I heard that DiNozzo, another wise ass comment like that and I'll smack you so hard your grandchildren will feel it. Think it's funny McGee? Wipe that smile off your face. That goes for you too David. (picks up Gibbs phone) Special Agent Gibbs! (Abby takes off glasses as she realizes Gibbs is behind her)
You're standing behind me aren't you?
Gibbs: Yep. (Abby puts the phone down)
- 'Leap of Faith', season five.
"You're my favourite." – Gibbs, to Abby, 'Tribes', season five
Gibbs has a gruff manner when dealing with suspects, members of the public and members of his team barring Ducky and, of course, Abby. The difference in the way he treats Abby to the way he treats everyone else has been commented on, not only by the two characters in question but also by outsiders to their relationship.
McGee, Tony, Ziva and Kate all know that Abby is Gibbs favourite; she can get away with things that they can't such as indulging in banter with their boss, baiting him and winding him up. Yes, he sometimes loses his patience with her scientific babble, but he is more often than not willing to indulge her.
Not only does Abby sometimes receive preferential treatment in a way, she's also the only member of the group we know Gibbs treats on her birthday. They have a long-standing tradition, as revealed in season three's 'Ravenous' of going out to dinner the night before her birthday, though we're left uncertain as to when the tradition exactly began. In fact, when Gibbs seems to forget about her birthday, Abby reacts as a spouse would at a forgotten birthday or anniversary, not as a colleague or even good friend would. For the entire episode, she is obviously unhappy with Gibbs, making comments that he wouldn't tolerate from anyone else and only just puts up with from her.
Gibbs: I've had a few wives, Abby.
Abby: And yet you know so little about women.
- 'Ravenous', season three
By the end of the episode, although their tradition of going out to dinner the night beforehand has been missed, Gibbs has made it up to her by placing a present on her desk without her knowing – we never find out exactly what it was but, from Abby's reaction, we know that it was something special.
Gibbs is known to be Abby's confidant. He was the one she turned to – albeit reluctantly – when her relationship with Marty Pearson ended. She describes him as the 'person who knows her best' in 'Sharif Returns', season four. In season five's 'Leap of Faith', the team are surprised by the rumour that Abby is planning to leave NCIS – more so because she hasn't told Gibbs. Even Gibbs, when he hears the rumours, seems upset and perhaps hurt when he confronts Abby, appearing suitably abashed when she responds angrily that she would never consider leaving and can't believe he'd even entertain the idea. Again, he makes it up to her – this time with a bouquet of her favourite flowers, black roses. As Abby herself says, the gift proves "that he still loves me", which is enough to keep her from being angry or upset with him.
Ziva: She will always be his favourite.
- 'Leap of Faith', season five
When Gibbs leaves the team – temporarily – at the end of season three/beginning of season four, Abby is the one he leaves his number with. Ziva acknowledges this by calling Abby when she's on the run from various government agencies including NCIS and, when she calls him, Gibbs doesn't question how Abby got his contact details, suggesting that he, in fact, left them with her and that the goodbye they shared in front of the others at the end of 'Hiatus, part two' was not the only contact he and Abby had prior to his departure.
Gibbs: Ziva, how did you get this number?
Ziva: From Abby. And if it helps I forced it out of her.
Gibbs: No, it doesn't.
- 'Shalom', season four
"I'll keep you safe, Abby. I promise." – Gibbs, to Abby, 'Kill Ari, part one', season three
Abby is extremely defensive of Gibbs. As mentioned before, she has complete faith in him. This faith is shaken when he leaves the team but is quickly restored when he returns.
Agent Lee: If you ask me, the agency’s better off without him.
Abby: I like you Michelle, so I’m just gonna pretend like you didn’t say that. NCIS is lucky to have Gibbs back.
Agent Lee: Except he’s not staying.
Abby: You do realize...
Agent Lee: You can kill me without leaving any forensic evidence behind? Yep. You mentioned that.
Abby: Good. Settled. Gibbs is staying. He has to.
Gibbs, in return, is extremely protective of Abby. Some would say it's because she isn't a field agent and therefore might need more protection than the other members of the team - and the other women in his life – but others would argue that Abby has demonstrated time and time again that she is more than capable of defending herself, once in 'Frame-Up', season three, against her lab assistant, Chip, and once at the end of 'Bloodbath', also season three, against her would-be hit man.
At the beginning of season three, Gibbs is evidently scared when Ari, the man behind Kate's murder, takes a shot at Abby through the window of her lab. He tries to reassure her, using physical contact as much as his words to do so.
Gibbs: I will get you bullet-proof glass.
Abby: There's no such thing, Gibbs.
Gibbs: Ok, bullet resistant glass.
Abby: Ari didn't shoot at you and hit Kate by mistake, did he? He's after me now.
Gibbs: I was walking by that window when he fired.
Abby: You're just saying that to make me feel safe.
Gibbs: I'll keep you safe Abby. I promise.
- 'Kill Ari, part one', season three
In 'Frame-Up', Gibbs is first the comforter, supporting Abby during her time of need when she believes she's failed. Although her forensics is not at fault, Abby believes she has let Tony down by finding enough evidence to convict him of a murder she knows he didn't commit and it's Gibbs who realises how upset she is and visits her in her lab to make sure she's okay. Later in the same episode, when the real culprit is revealed to be her lab assistant, Gibbs is the first to reach her lab, his reaction one of extreme concern and worry that is only abated when he can see for himself that she's okay and that her attacker has been subdued.
In 'Bloodbath', season three, there are a series of moments that shows just how much Gibbs cares for Abby and how protective of her he is. He is hurt that she didn't go to him when she realised her ex-lover was stalking her and is unsurprised when she claims the reason is because she "wanted him restrained, not beaten to a pulp with a baseball bat!" He later confirms her theory that he might behave violently towards anyone who is a threat to her by saying as much to her ex.
Gibbs: The only reason you are still able to walk is 'cause I never heard about you until today.
- 'Bloodbath', season three, to Mikel Mawher.
After a failed attempt by Mawher to get to Abby while she is under McGee's care, Gibbs reacts angrily and punishes McGee by refusing to give him his chair back until he redeems himself. When he learns Abby has secluded herself in the safety of the elevator at NCIS, Gibbs wastes no time in going to see her and, instead of trying to convince her to leave the sanctuary she has created for herself, instead offers to make it more accommodating for her. Their whole exchange during the scene speaks volumes as to how much he cares for her and how much he hates to see her scared and vulnerable.
Abby: Hey, Gibbs. Did you know that only five of the two and a half million deaths every year occur in elevators?
Abby: Ziva gave me this. And Cynthia gave me the pepper spray. The knuckles are Director Sheppard’s.
Gibbs: No one is going to hurt you, Abby.
Abby: You’re just saying that to make me feel better.
Gibbs: Did it?
Abby: Yeah. Can you say it again?
Gibbs: Nobody is going to hurt you, Abs.
Abby: Can I stay at NCIS until you catch him?
Gibbs: Mm-hmm. I’ll move your whole lab into the elevator if it’ll make you feel better.
- 'Bloodbath', season three
In season four's 'Cover Story', Abby is once again in peril. Though the reason she's in danger is her former relationship with McGee, it is Gibbs who embraces her and offers a physical form of comfort. In fact, Gibbs is still in the shot when Abby breaks it to McGee that there is no future for their relationship, the expression on his face suggesting that while he feels sorry for his Agent, he is pleased with Abby's decision.
'Driven' in season four is another episode where Gibbs' protective nature is allowed to shine through. Abby's life is threatened by a computer programmed car and it is Gibbs who once again comes to her rescue. He exhibits a great deal of concern for her when she confesses to being light-headed as a result and insists that she goes to see Ducky to get checked out despite her claims that she's okay. Later in the same episode, Gibbs again reacts in a violent manner towards the person he believes threatened Abby's life, proving once again how fiercely protective he is of her and how angry and potentially scared it makes him to think of losing her.
Season six's 'Murder 2.0' was a notable point in the Gibbs/Abby relationship. At various times during the episode, both Abby and Gibbs were believed to be in danger. Once again, reacting to Abby's plight, Gibbs behaves in a manner much more like a lover than a parent or boss. After the moment of danger has passed, he soothes her again with physical contact – this time with a shoulder rub. Seemingly confirming the belief that there's more to their relationship than meets the eye, Abby responds to this latest threat by asking Gibbs – in full view of the others – if she "can stay with you tonight?" As Gibbs doesn't respond verbally, viewers are left to make up their own minds as to what the answer would be though it's hard to imagine he would deny her request.
In the same episode, Abby displays anxiety at Gibbs being in danger. She exhibits panic as well as concern when she realises he could be the serial killer's next victim.
One of the unique and most interesting aspects of the Gibbs/Abby relationship is their ability to communicate without needing to speak aloud. Lack of communication is the cause of the failure for a lot of relationships but it's nothing something you can ever envision happening to Gibbs and Abby. They might be complete opposites in some respects but they understand one another perfectly and are more in tune with each other than they are with anyone else.
Their ability to speak in sign language excludes the rest of the team and the occasional visitor – most notably in the case of Lt. Colonel Mann, who later becomes Gibbs lover – but neither Gibbs nor Abby seem to mind. It is their language and their conversations are private leaving them able to say whatever they want without fear of anyone misinterpreting or overhearing. Although there has been little made of their use of sign language in recent episodes, many fans hope to see a reappearance of this skill as not only did it add something to the Gibbs/Abby relationship, it also added an additional depth to the characters as individuals.
Through this non-verbal method of communication, Gibbs has told Abby he loves her. It isn't the only time he's made this declaration without having to say it aloud – in season four's 'Friends and Lovers', he gave her a Caf-Pow, which featured a little heart on the straw declaring 'I love you' regardless of the fact he was, at the time, involved in a relationship with Lt. Colonel Mann.
When Gibbs leaves the team – temporarily – at the end of season three, it's his silent goodbye to Abby that is perhaps most poignant. While he has words for the other members of the team, with Abby he is perhaps unable to verbalise what he feels and prevents her from doing the same by pressing his finger to her lips whilst kissing her cheek. It's a possibility that Gibbs kept Abby from saying more as he either knew she was about to declare her feelings for him or was about to ask him to stay, the latter of which he knew he was unable to do and didn't want to cause either of them anymore pain by having to deny her request.
As mentioned previously, there is a very physical aspect to Gibbs and Abby's relationship. Abby has more freedom around Gibbs to be physical with him as he allows her into his personal space with hugs and touches and indeed returns the favour by invading hers on a regular basis with chaste kisses.
Abby: Permission to hug?
Gibbs: Oh, you never have to ask, Abs.
- 'Driven', season four
There is no shortage of touches, hugs and kisses between Gibbs and Abby – the evidence speaks for itself!
You're my favourite – the Gibbs/Abby fanlisting is a must for all Gibbs/Abby fans. It contains a comprehensive picture gallery, links to music videos and has the hugest archive linking to almost all fanfiction relating to the pairing on fanfiction.net - http://gabby.luve-me.net/
gibbs_abby - the LJ community dedicated to the pairing, open to fanfic, discussion, icons and lots more
The Gibbs/Abby forum at NFA - fantastic place to talk to like minded shippers!
gaficathon - the Gibbs/Abby ficathon with its first assignments due early in 2009
Youtube.com – best place to find Gibbs/Abby music videos. Just type the pairing into the search box and enjoy the results!