AUBB Story: The Ties That Bind by Lyndasty, Art by Xocoatldreams, Rated PG-13/R
Fandom: NCIS/Syfy's Alice
Rating: PG-13/R (mainly for allusions to violence)
Warning: Mentions of violence (off screen but the descriptions are graphic).
Word Count: 19,616
Summary: Set after the events of Syfy's Alice. When Jack Heart, King of Wonderland, is accused of murdering his wife, Duchess, he flees through the Looking Glass to the only person he knows can clear his name. On this side of the Looking Glass, Abagail Sciuto, forensics expert for NCIS, is hiding a past that is coming back to haunt her courtesy of her little brother, Jack.
Link to part 1 here.
Abby got Jack settled onto a pallet on her floor and made sure he was sleep before retiring to her home office to think about things. She knew she'd do anything to help Jack but she had no idea how to convince the rest of her team not only to help but that she wasn't crazy when she told them where she was really from. She pulled her black gloves off and unbraided her long black hair. Late at night was the only time she allowed herself to think about her former life. She'd grown up here, on this side of the Looking Glass, but she couldn't completely cut ties with Wonderland. She loved her family and her adoptive parents. They'd gladly taken her in as they'd been smuggled out of Wonderland not long before her. Their time at the Casino had taken its toll on them; they'd lost their hearing but Abby didn't care. They loved her and doted on her like she was their own child and, after a while, she stopped thinking of them as adopted parents. They became her entire world. She'd never completely forgotten about Wonderland as the White Rabbit still came to check on her every so often but she never spoke to him.
Abby flourished here. She went to school and got several advanced degrees, making her an ideal candidate for NCIS. She learned things so much faster than her classmates. Her teachers all thought it was because she was a genius when, in fact, things were so much easier here that she learned at an accelerated rate. Her parents smiled proudly each time she received an academic commendation and new degree. Her eccentric style of dress was often overlooked by those in positions of power and authority as acceptable considering how good she was at forensics and criminology.
She got up and went to her bedroom. She decided to forgo sleeping in her coffin tonight in favor of sleeping on her own pallet that she kept in her room for whenever McGee came over. He didn't like staying in the coffin now that he knew it was a coffin. She smiled when she thought of McGee. The smile faded as she mentally went over possible scenarios telling her very skeptical by nature team about Wonderland.
Once she had that hurdle cleared, she had no idea how they'd run an investigation like the one this was shaping up to be in Wonderland of all places. Unless there had been some massive leaps in technology, Wonderland was stuck in what would've been the equivalent to the 1920s here. No computers, no CT scans, no x-rays, no gas chroma-graph. Abby sighed heavily. She had to figure something out because the alternative was either to let Jack go back and be punished for something he could never do or try to handle the investigation here. Both options were out of the question.
Abby crept back into her office. She logged onto her computer, dialed into her VPN, and checked her calendar for the following day. They had no cases pending so her day was pretty much open. She mentally flipped through her friends, trying to figure out who would be the best person to tell her secret to first. McGee would think she was playing a joke on him as would Ziva. Tony and Gibbs would think all her loud music had finally driven her insane and would probably have her committed. No, she had to wade into this carefully so she decided she'd go to the next most eccentric person she worked with: Ducky. She signed off the network and shut down her computer before creeping back into the hall. She heard Jack tossing and turning in the living room.
She leaned against the wall and watched her brother sleep in the muted light of the room. He looked so innocent as he slept, but that innocence was wiped away as she realized he was crying softly. Abby moved a step closer to her brother to hear what he was saying and her breath caught in her throat as she heard him quietly begging Duchess to wake up. In the face of all her baby brother had gone through, convincing the best team at NCIS that Wonderland was real and they were needed there seemed small.
"I won't let you down, my little heart. I promise," Abby whispered softly into the darkness. It didn't matter what it would take, Abby was determined that they, she and her teammates, would get to the bottom of this and clear her brother's name.
The next morning, Abby bustled around her apartment quietly until she was sure Jack was awake.
"Morning sleepy head!" She didn't want to come off too chipper but she was feeling quite optimistic which, considering she hadn't had her caffeine yet, was a miracle.
Jack groused and sat up, stretching his tired muscles. "How long did I sleep?"
"Oh about ten hours. I was worried you wouldn't be able to sleep but, once you were out, I knew you were out for the count." She smiled at her brother and continued gathering her things for work as Jack stood up and stumbled into the kitchen. Abby handed him a glass of orange juice. He'd always loved it and, in Wonderland, it had been a delicacy. His smile was thanks enough as he drained the glass. "There's more in the refrigerator." She opened the door and pointed out the juice container. She spent her last few minutes before leaving for work showing Jack what was where in her apartment, like the bathroom, towels, guest shower stuff, and how to work the television.
"You're forgetting I lived here for several months." Jack chuckled at his sister's surprise when he knew how to surf through the channels to find something to watch. She swatted at his arm playfully.
"Now, just to be on the safe side, don't answer the door. I have no idea what time I'll be back but, if I'm gonna be late, I'll call you. I'll have my cell on me at all times so if you need anything or anything hinky happens, call me." Abby had to stamp down the growing sense of dread in the pit of her stomach at leaving her brother alone and vulnerable but she knew she could get more accomplished towards getting her team to Wonderland if she went to work. She smiled nervously at Jack before dropping a kiss on the top of his head and heading out to work.
During the shorter than usual commute, she did have time to think about how to approach her team about going with her to Wonderland. She'd decided last night that Ducky would be the easiest person to convince because he, like she, was open to alternate ways of thinking. He talked to corpses after all.
She parked the hearse in her usual spot and bounded towards the building. She was her usual chipper, upbeat self as she bounced through security and down to her lab, speaking to various people here and there.
"Well good morning, Abigail. And how is our favorite Goth princess today?" Ducky chimed from behind her as she stepped into the elevator.
"I'm just ducky, Ducky. How are you?" She leaned against the side of the elevator car and smiled.
"Grateful for the lull in activity. It seems death has taken a holiday, atleast where the Navy and Marine Corps are concerned. Anything exciting on your agenda for the weekend?" He laughed softly and shot her an exaggerated eyebrow waggle, earning a giggle from her immediately.
"Well, actually, I wanted to talk to you about that. You up for lunch?" The chime signaled their arrival on her floor as Ducky eyed her warily.
"I believe so, unless things change between now and then. What are you up to, Abby?"
"Tell you at lunch. Later Ducky!" She turned towards her lab as the elevator door closed behind her. The doors to her lab slid open and Abby was pleased to find a Caf-Pow waiting on her computer table for her. Gibbs must have come in early.
The day was a dreadful bore. Her team was working on cold cases since they didn't have an active case. Gibbs had been down a few times to check on her and to ask her to re-run some tests but kept giving her the strangest looks. McGee called down to ask her if she had plans for lunch and she didn't fail to notice the shock in his voice when she said she had plans with Ducky today but that maybe they could have dinner.
All day long, Abby kept wondering how Jack was holding up back at her place. He seemed well rested from his long sleep the night before but there were times, during the night, that she woke up to him crying out in the darkness, sometimes to Duchess and sometimes for her. The first few times, she'd gone to sit by him until he quieted down and settled back into a deep sleep but, after that, she just let him be. He seemingly didn't register her presence and she found that she was more tired than she thought; she also knew that she needed to be well rested with her wits about her to face the skepticism and cynicism of her team.
Abby fished her phone out of her pocket and dialed Jack's number quickly. It rang five times before going to a voicemail that wasn't even set up. She was suddenly very worried about her brother. She ended the call, waited five minutes, and called back. Again, it went to Jack's voicemail. Abby was contemplating skipping out on lunch with Ducky in favor of running back to her apartment to check on Jack when her phone rang.
"You scared the hell out of me! I thought they'd found you!" Abby's voice was rushed and panicked.
"I'm sorry, Abby. I've seemed to have fallen in love with your shower and couldn't pry myself away from it." Jack's voice was all calm and stress-free. Abby could've smacked him.
"I thought the White Rabbit..." She heard her lab doors slide open and shut. A glance out of the corner of her eye confirmed that Ducky had arrived for their lunch date.
"There aren't any of them left. Well, not many of them at any rate. Why? Did you see something?"
"Uh no, sorry. My mistake. Next time I'll double check before dialing." Abby sat ramrod straight on her chair and motioned to Ducky that she'd only be another minute before ending the call and slipping the phone back into her pocket.
"Abigail, what do you know of the White Rabbit?" Ducky regarded her momentarily before flipping over the lapel of his overcoat to show her the White Rabbit pin hidden underneath it.
Abby was, for the second time in as many days, shocked into silence. She'd carefully guarded her secret origin for years and had been so successful that there were some days she had to wonder if Wonderland had been the product of an overactive imagination growing up. But Aceline Heart is who she was, deep down, and she knew that was real. She didn't need to see her brother again all those months ago to remind her of what she knew in her heart of hearts, no pun intended.
But now, as she looked skeptically at someone she thought she knew, she wondered what was real anymore. She'd heard so many stories from Ducky about his years growing up and all the things he'd seen and done. How much of it was real and how much was just a lie?
"Come along, my dear. We have a lot to talk about." Ducky held his arm out for her to join him, which she did, but she couldn't shake the fog his revelation had put her in. She followed him willingly, trusting him to pick their destination for lunch and not speaking until they were seated at a restaurant not far from the Navy Yard. She didn't miss the fact that he'd requested a table at the very back of the establishment. Abby was thankful of Gibbs' rule nine: never go anywhere without a knife.
"So, Ducky, if that's even your real name..." She leaned forward slightly, putting her hand on the knife concealed in her boot.
"It's more real to me than Abigail is to you, Aceline. And stop fiddling with your knife. I have no intention to harm you."
That knocked Abby back in her chair. "Don't call me that." She all but growled. "Who the hell are you and what the hell do you want?"
Ducky leaned forward to ensure she was the only one who heard her. "I'm one of the White Rabbits and I was sent here, at first, to ensure the Queen's casino always had fresh oysters but, well, I've never been good at following orders." He smiled slyly and winked at his lunch partner.
Abby shook her head in disbelief. "But your mother...I've met your mom. And Gibbs has known you for years. I mean he KNOWS you...how?"
He sighed and leaned back. "Mother was a White Rabbit, too. That's part of why she's suffering from dementia. Too many years in the Queen's service and too many trips back and 'forth through the Looking Glass finally took their toll. As a matter of fact, her refusal to continue in her duty to the Queen was the real reason for my parents' divorce."
"So how did you end up a Rabbit?" Abby sipped her water and listened intently as Ducky told her about his father's insistence that he be sent back to Wonderland for White Rabbit training and how, for a time, he was a dutiful servant of her mother's. That changed when he fell in love with an oyster and was banished to this side of the Looking Glass. That was when he and his mother had walked away from their traditional duty, and his mother walked away from his father.
"Okay but what about all the stories you and Gibbs are always telling? I mean have you really known him all that time?" Abby shifted uncomfortably in her seat, not sure she was ready to hear the truth about this but knowing she had to.
"Yes and no. Yes, I have known Jethro for years and, while some of the stories are true, some are not. Jethro found himself on the wrong side of the Looking Glass not long before his first coma and, while he was there, we arranged for those memories to be erased and memories of combat implanted. When he came back through, his unit was attacked and he wound up in a coma. Thankfully, when he lost his memory, none of his memories of Wonderland resurfaced. I shudder to think what would've happened if they had." Ducky was seemingly so nonchalant that Abby had trouble believing he was telling the truth. "And now I bet you're wondering if I knew about you."
"It had crossed my mind, especially since your dad was so loyal to my...to the Queen." Abby munched, nervously, on a cracker as Ducky took a drink of his water and seemed to gather his thoughts.
"There were rumors, of course, that the Queen's first born had been secreted away to this side of the Looking Glass but it was never proven. As far as we were told, Aceline Heart was put to death for conspiring against the Queen. I had no idea who you were until I heard you mention the White Rabbit on the phone earlier. Might I say, your highness, that you've covered your tracks remarkably well." He smiled but the smile wasn't returned.
"I'm not a highness. I'm just Abigail Scuito, forensics and ballistic expert for NCIS." Abby sneered as Ducky flinched from her words, holding his hands up in surrender. The waitress chose that moment to approach their table and take their order after listing the day's specials. Silence descended on the pair once the waitress walked off, Abby keeping a careful eye on her friend.
It was Ducky who finally broke the silence with a question of his own. "Who on earth were you talking to about the White Rabbit?"
"How do I know I can trust you?" She narrowed her eyes at him.
"Because, if I wanted to, I could either killed you or worse, out your secret and have you committed by the end of the day." There was a cold undertone to Ducky's words that scared Abby but also hammered home his point.
She leaned over the table and motioned for him to do the same. Once their faces were mere inches from each other, she took a deep breath and told him about Jack and how he'd come to her for help, more importantly why.
"So the Queen's dead and Jack's king. He'll make a good king...a better ruler than your mother. I don't mean to be cruel but..."
"It's okay, Ducky. She ordered my death remember? I'm not harboring many warm and fuzzy feelings for her." Regardless of her words, she had been sad to hear of her mother's death. Regardless of the past, the Queen had been her mother and part of her loved her. It just so happened that a bigger part of her didn't. She continued on with the story of Jack and how he was wanted for Duchess's murder.
"Duchess...I think I know her family. Ah yes. The Diamonds. Not one of the more popular suits in court but a smart family with good relations with the other suits. I would've thought your mother would've had Jack marry a Club. That was her favorite suit once upon a time...but that was years ago." Ducky mused and Abby realized how natural it felt to be talking about Wonderland with someone other than her brother.
"He didn't do it, Ducky. I know Jack. He's not the Queen. He could never have killed anyone." She fell silent as the waitress brought their order to them. Abby attacked her salad as Ducky did the same to his chicken. They sat in companionable silence as they ate their lunch, making random comments here and there about the food, the weather, but not about Jack or Wonderland until they were done.
"What does Jack think you can do about this?" Ducky folded his napkin and dropped in onto the table, waiting on Abby's response. She fidgeted under Ducky's scrutiny, finding random things on the table to fiddle with until he cleared his throat, prompting her to answer.
"Clear his name. Ducky, we have to. He's my brother and there's no way I'm gonna let him take the fall for this." She searched his face hopefully but found only discouragement.
"Abby, how are we supposed to do that? The murder happened in Wonderland and we're...you can't be serious." Abby held her breath as the realization of what she was really asking dawned on her friend.
"We have to. I mean it, Ducky. We have to go to Wonderland. All of us."
"Do you have any idea the danger of what you're proposing?" Ducky's voice was harder than he meant for it to be but he needed to make a point.
Abby sat quietly, mentally going over just a portion of the things that could go wrong with this plan, but, in the end, she didn't care. Jack was her family and he'd asked for her help. "Yes, I do." She shot him a defiant look and, for the first time in a long time, she felt as noble as she'd been born.
Ducky studied the young woman across from him. He'd known Abby for over 8 years now and she still surprised him every day. Today was no exception. He sighed and leaned back into his chair, resigning himself to his fate as her friend and co-conspirator. "Then we'll do what we can to see this through. The question is, who do we start with?"
The duo finished their lunch hour and headed back to their respective offices. As Abby held the elevator doors open, she had a thought on their next step.
"McGee would be our best bet! He's a writer and is more open to the suspicion of disbelief." She watched doubt play across the older man's face and was about to step up her argument when Ducky held his hand up.
"I believe you're right, my dear. And, if I may be so bold, the sooner we talk with Timothy, the better. Then maybe he can help us figure out how to approach the others." Ducky smiled and nodded to Abby as she bounced off to her lab.
She went through both sets of doors to her desk and sat down to call Jack to check up on him and give him the latest news. He sounded groggy when he answered but perked up when she mentioned Ducky being a former White Rabbit. When she mentioned his family name, Jack recognized it immediately.
"Mallard! They were close to Father. As a matter of fact, Victoria was one of the first formal White Rabbits. Her husband was one of Mother's closest associates but Victoria was one of Father's. For a time, she routinely kept him updated on your well being. I believe we can trust him." Jack's tone irritated Abby.
"Of course we can trust him, Jack. He's my friend and has been for almost ten years. If I hadn't trusted him, I wouldn't have told him about you and...what happened. We're gonna talk to another one of our teammates later after work, things willing. Tim's a good guy. He's a writer and we think he'll be more amenable to believing us." Abby organized a few things on her desk as her brother rambled on about inconsequential things like there being nothing on television. She teased him good-naturedly before ending their conversation so she could focus on the afternoon's tedium. They still had no active cases so she was relatively sure Tim was upstairs working on some random cold case file. Calling him would raise suspicions so she decided to email him instead.
Hey Timmy. Busy tonight? Wondering if you wanted to have dinner with me and Ducky. Let me know!
She hit send on the email and turned to put some music on to break the monotony of silence as she caught up on some outstanding paperwork. Abby was wondering if death by boredom really were possible when she saw her email symbol blinking on the desktop.
No plans but why are you and Ducky having dinner? There something you need or want to tell me? Meet you in your lab at 6.
Abby laughed and fired off a quick email confirming their date and called Ducky to let him know to be at her lab before 6 if possible. He sounded about as bored as Abby felt and she momentarily wished they had something other than paperwork to do but stopped when she realized that, if they had an active case, sneaking off to Wonderland would be even more complicated than it already was.