The inside of Abby's head is hard to get into. Which is probably why this thing is so long - it's the longest single-part story I've ever written! I don't own them...if I did, Abby and McGee would be onscreen together for more than ten seconds every other episode. Grrrr.

Five years ago

I don't do serious, she'd told him after they'd made up from that first fight at the poetry reading. Nothing to do with you, it's just the way I am. So they'd stuck to the simple stuff – having fun, enjoying each other, not worrying about the future.

Abby stretched like a cat in Tim's bed, pulling the pillow she'd appropriated closer and sighing contentedly. It wasn't her coffin, but the boy did have a really comfortable mattress…and sometimes, she reflected with a grin, having some extra room to maneuver was nice, too.

Next to her, McGee lay sprawled on his back, one arm behind his head. As she watched him through half-closed eyes, he turned to look at her with a smile, about to say something. Then, suddenly, his smile faded, and he rolled back over, staring up at the ceiling.

She waited.

Eventually, he turned back to her. "Abby," he sighed, and his serious tone was seriously ruining her post-sex haze. "We can't – I mean, we shouldn't…I think…"

Abby propped herself up on her elbows. "Use your words, McGee."

He reached out and ran his hand over her bare back, his touch almost absentminded. "I wanted…" He sighed again. "The first thing I thought when I looked at you just then was 'I love you.'" Her muscles tensed under his fingers. "And I almost said it. But I caught myself in time, because you…we…don't say stuff like that. Not the way I meant it."

She'd known this was coming. She'd caught that look in his eyes more than usual lately, and she'd been prepping herself to end it before they got in too deep. But she'd put it off again and again, not wanting to hurt him, afraid of losing him altogether.

Tim leaned in and kissed her shoulder. "I wish…I want to believe that if I hang in here long enough, you'll change your mind, and you'll feel the same way." He studied her face for a minute, and she resisted the urge to fill the silence with I love you, just not like that.

Somehow, she knew it wasn't what he wanted to hear right now.

"But I know that's probably not going to happen, and if we keep going like this…"

"…we won't stay friends," she finished. "Tim –"

He cut her off. "It's okay," he told her. "I know."

Impulsively, she leaned in and kissed him, long and slow and sweet.

A good-bye kiss.

Their lips finally parted reluctantly, and she brushed a last kiss over his cheek. "I should go," Abby said.

McGee slid his arm around her waist. "It's late." There was a tiny note of pleading in his voice, not quite ready to let her go. "Just stay tonight."

Abby wasn't quite ready to be let go. With a smile, she curled against him, her head on his chest.

Later, when he thought she was asleep, she heard him whisper, "I love you."

She told herself that the ache in her heart was just because she hated hurting him.


"Well, at least Ziva told me before I made too big an idiot of myself," McGee sighed.

He was slumped in the chair at Abby's desk, staring gloomily at the computer screen in front of him.

Abby reached across his arm and tapped a few keys. "She can't have been that great, McGee," the bear said from the desk beside him.

He barely cracked a smile. "If she'd been real, instead of Tony's antidote to boredom, she would have been." He glowered at the disembodied bear face, which he'd brought down to Abby's lab. "I'm going to die alone," he groaned.

"You're being melodramatic, Timmy," Abby told him, ruffling his hair as she unplugged the bear's cords from her computer. "Now, help me get all this stuff inventoried so that I can take it back to the evidence garage." She grabbed his collar and ignored his protests as she dragged him over to the evidence table.

They worked quickly, Abby's music and her chatter flowing over McGee's cloud of gloom. Finally, she logged the last piece of evidence. "Thank God. I might actually get out of here before nine. I haven't done laundry in, like, two weeks." She bumped her shoulder against McGee's. "Thanks, McGee. You rock."

McGee grunted.

Abby sighed and studied him for a minute, and then flung her arms around his neck, squeezing him tightly. "Stop being so grouchy, McGee. Remember," she told him sternly, "I love you. That should be enough."

He returned her hug. "Maybe it should, Abby. But you…you don't worry about anything past today. And you're happy that way, and that's great, for you." He gave her a final squeeze and stepped out of her embrace, picking up his backpack and slinging it over his shoulder. "Maybe I'd be happier that way. But I want more than today. I want a life with someone, and…" He shrugged as he headed out the door. "…I can't have that if I can't find her."

When Ziva stuck her head into the lab a few minutes later, she found Abby still frowning at the door. "What's wrong?" she asked.

"Oh, McGee's all bent out of shape about his fictional dream girl," Abby told her, turning back to her computer. "Level 5 Sorceress," she muttered, hitting the keys with slightly more force than necessary. "Even if she were real, that's not so great. I'm at level seven."

Ziva perched herself on the edge of the Abby's table, folding her arms across her chest. "Abby, have you noticed that every time McGee finds a new girl, you get a little…twitchy?"

Abby turned and narrowed her eyes at Ziva. "Twitchy?"

Ziva frowned. "Was that not the right word? Maybe I meant…touchy?"

Abby's eyes narrowed a little more. "I do not get twitchy or touchy. He's just got bad taste in women. He's my friend, and I don't like him drooling over girls who aren't nearly good enough for him." She turned back to her computer and started closing out of programs. "Ziva? Do you think about your future much?"

Ziva studied the back of Abby's head. "I try to focus on the present," she said.

Whirling, Abby gave her a satisfied smile. "See? I don't see what McGee's all upset about. He's got plenty of time to worry about finding 'the one.'" She rolled her eyes.

After studying her for a moment, Ziva let out a long breath. "Abby, I don't think about my future because I do not have much control over it. Ten months ago I had a job and a life that I loved. And then I was given two days notice to pack up everything I owned and move back to Israel." She paused, trying to phrase her sentences carefully. "There are things that I loved about being home, but I missed you all very much. I missed my life here. But eventually…" she shrugged. "I readjusted. I went back to being Mossad. And just as I was getting used to that life again, I was told that I had a morning flight to D.C." Her smile was a little sad. "I wish I could think about my future more, Abby. Here, or in Israel, or anywhere. But I do not want to get too attached to what I think could happen tomorrow, because I know that it can be taken away from me very quickly."

Abruptly, she turned and headed towards the door. "It is perfectly normal for McGee to want to think about a future with someone, Abby," she said over her shoulder. "He is lucky to know what he wants."


So what, they were saying she was some kind of freak?

Bad choice of words.

Abby paced her apartment, glancing at the clock periodically as she waited for her laundry to finish.

It wasn't like she lived totally in the moment. She saved her money, avoided activities likely to cause disease or arrest. She was good at her job, which required a lot of attention and planning. She didn't even run out of groceries…all that often.

Okay, maybe once or twice a month.

Grabbing the Caf-Pow she'd brought back from the lab, she sucked angrily at the dregs.

Fine. Future. Not, like, McGee-anal-retentive future, but general future. What did she want?

She tugged at one of her pigtails. Well, her job, of course. And her team. She loved what she did, and she loved who she worked with.

See? She knew what she wanted. Go to work. Catch the bad guys. Have lunch with McGee. Go to the bar with everyone. Listen to Ducky's stories. Make Gibbs laugh. (She was up to four times this month, a personal best.) The occasional graveyard party to keep her from stagnating.

Easy. Future done. Time to switch her laundry.

Except…She paused, balancing the second of three black loads on the edge of the washer.

Someday Ducky would retire. So…she'd go visit him. Gibbs would go with her. Unless he decided to retire for real, and went back to Mexico.

He wouldn't go back to Mexico. Would he?

And Ziva could get transferred back to Israel anytime. Tony…well, Tony wasn't going anywhere. He might get married, of course, but he'd probably choose somebody fun – hey, maybe he could marry Ziva. Half the time the two of them looked like they wanted to jump one another. And then she'd stay, always. Except they probably wouldn't be able to work on the same team anymore, which would be a problem…

But McGee. McGee would always be there. The days after the Director's death were still fuzzy with misery, but she remembered clinging desperately to him after they'd said goodbye to Tony and driven Ziva to the airport, refusing to let him leave her apartment. Not Tim, was the only thought in her head. They took everyone else. They can't take Tim.

It was horrible, him being in the sub-basement and everyone else being gone. Horrible beyond belief.

But it would have been ten times worse if they'd sent him away.

Sometime over the past six years, she'd stopped being able to imagine her life without McGee. She had plenty of exes she was still friends with – most of them, actually – but he was the only one who'd stayed so much a part of her life. Maybe it would have been different if they hadn't worked together. Maybe they wouldn't have been so careful with their relationship if they didn't have to see each other every day. Whatever it was, it didn't matter now. As long as she had him, it would be okay.

She did want him to be happy, though, she mused, dumping detergent on top of her second load of laundry. So…he wanted a life with somebody. Wanted somebody to share his life. Well, what was McGee's life?

His job. His writing. His dog. His computers. How could it be so hard to find someone who fit with all of that?

The job was a problem for some people, she knew. She even hated it, some of the time, knowing she could never be absolutely positive she'd see her friends again when they left for a crime scene, or to go after a suspect. But Tim loved his job. It was one of the things she liked best about him; even though people could argue that he wasn't naturally suited to law enforcement, he'd never wavered in his determination to do what he'd always dreamed of doing.

He could have quit after he sold his first book, but she knew (because she'd asked him) the thought had never crossed his mind. And the books…okay, that wouldn't be a problem for anyone. Famous novelist with a decent stream of royalty checks? She knew of a few girls who wouldn't need to know any more than that. Of course, McGee would never date them, she thought with satisfaction. He sometimes had questionable taste in women, but he wasn't that dumb.

The truth was, she thought his books were great. He wrote well, and she loved recognizing herself in them, seeing herself the way he saw her. He'd wanted to give it up after that incident with his crazy obsessive fan, but she'd talked him out of it.

Though he did pay a little more attention to how closely art imitated life now.

And who wouldn't love Jethro? She'd had a pang of guilt about making McGee take him after she'd gotten a good look at the wound on his neck, but after a couple of days, he was as crazy about that dog as she was. Abby glanced over at the picture on her fridge. McGee had taken it at the park that summer, before Tony and Ziva had come back. She was flat on her back in a pile of leaves, with Jethro on top of her, licking her face while she laughed. He was really good about giving her plenty of time with the big German Shepherd; he knew that if it weren't for her landlord, she'd have kept him herself in a second.

The thought of having to share those trips to the park with someone else hurt a little, but she ignored that.

She slid to the floor and leaned back against her washing machine, hoping it would help her remember to switch loads if she could feel it stop. Where was she? Oh, the computer thing. She never got those girls who turned their noses up at computer geeks. For one thing, computers were awesome. For another, even though she gave him grief about the MIT thing every chance she got, nine times out of ten Tim could fix every computer problem she had, at work or at home. Plus, he was one of the few guys who could give her a run for her money on any computer game. She still beat him most of the time, though.

Well, it was at least fifty-fifty.

Abby sighed and heaved herself to her feet, tugging the elastics out of her pigtails. What was he whining about anyway? she wondered, running her fingers through her hair and pulling her drying rack out of the closet. He had a life, with her.

She froze, her favorite black shirt slithering damply through her fingers and falling back into the laundry basket.

He what?

She ran the absent thought back through her head. He had a life, with her.

But…she didn't want a life with him. Not like that. Not the way he wanted a life with someone.

Did she?

Of course she didn't. She liked her life the way it was. Free. Independent. Making all her own decisions. She just wanted McGee in her life. He could still be in her life if he found some other girl.

She tried to imagine a girl who'd be okay with her boyfriend/fiancé/husband spending so much time with someone he used to see naked on a regular basis.

She tried to imagine someone else in McGee's apartment, playing with Jethro, using his computer, in his kitchen, wearing his shirts…in his bed. She frowned. Not her favorite thought of the evening.

Fine. Maybe she did get a little twitchy. Or touchy. Whatever. She had been with the guy for almost a year, after all. And he was one of her best friends. She was allowed to be a little possessive.

Somehow, the ache in her heart didn't feel just a little possessive.

Anyway, she wasn't what he wanted. He wanted someone to set up house with, have babies with, get old and grey and wrinkled with. She wasn't the type.

She wandered over to the mirror and studied herself. Lifted her tank top and examined her stomach, turned to the side and imagined it stretched and swollen, all her tattoos distorted with a baby.

He wouldn't care. The thought floated, unbidden, to the top of her mind. It made her smile. He'd still think I was beautiful.

Abby shook her head sharply and turned away from the mirror, trying to clear out the crazy talk going on her brain. Focusing her attention on the basket of wet laundry in front of her, she concentrated on making sure everything lay perfectly flat and smooth to dry.

That was the thing about McGee, though. A lot of guys had told her she was hot, or sexy. Even, sometimes, beautiful, but they usually said it while staring at her boobs or groping her ass, which totally didn't count. She tended to be guys' walk on the wild side, which she didn't mind, mostly. She liked it.

But McGee…he liked that she was wild. And he definitely thought she was both hot and sexy. When he told her she was beautiful, though, it was while she was tying up her pigtails, or beating him at a computer game. He meant it, too. In his eyes, she was beautiful wearing a pair of old pajama pants and one of his t-shirts, her hair a tangled mess and her mascara smudged. He'd think she was even more beautiful eight months pregnant, with caffeine withdrawal and raging hormones, or at seventy with grey hair and wrinkles.

Clearly, she had temporarily gone completely insane. And wow, she was way too good at multitasking, since all that was left in the laundry basket was the stuff that went in the dryer, and everything else was meticulously hung up.

Did she even want kids? Sure. Someday. She hadn't really…

She sighed, and pressed the heels of her hands hard against her eyes.

She hadn't really thought that far into the future.

The temporarily completely insane part of her brain decided it was time for her to start thinking about it, and created a house with a den for McGee's typewriter, a coffin in the bedroom, and a basement full of computer equipment. The ninth Caf-Pow had obviously been a mistake, because the same part of her brain kept going at a crazy pace, and gave her a picture of a little girl with her green eyes and McGee's sandy hair in pigtails.

So, apparently it was good that she was usually busy worrying about her friends being shot, stabbed or otherwise hurt on the job, since when she stopped worrying about it, she found other ways to occupy her mind.

Abby flung the last of her clothes into the dryer and slammed the door. What the hell was wrong with her? This was…not her thing. Serious wasn't her thing. Well, only when it came to work. And her friends. Serious like the weird crazy things she was thinking would take away her…her…

Spontaneity. Freedom. Independence. Something. She kicked the corner of the dryer in frustration. It would take away something important, she was sure about that.

They weren't worth it. Guys who twisted you up inside so that you couldn't get untwisted. It was McGee's stupid fault she'd even started thinking about this crap.

Except, she grudgingly admitted, for the part where he hadn't actually done anything wrong. He was just a really good guy who wanted somebody to love.

She took a deep breath and simply stood, for a moment, thinking. About that mental picture of a weird crazy mash-up of a house, and the little girl with pigtails, and taking the dog to the park, and Tim's arms around her when everything else had gone wrong, and the way his eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled.

What would…

Her stomach lurched and her brain shut down. She tried again.

What would be so wrong with being the somebody he loved?


Abby hammered on McGee's door until she heard Jethro bark, and then waited. She heard footsteps inside, and then he must have checked through the peephole, because she heard him say, "Abby? What the hell?" faintly through the door before it opened.

"What's wrong?" he asked immediately, blinking in the light from the hallway.

"Nothing," she said, pushing past him into the dark apartment, dumping her coat on the floor, and flicking on the light over the stove. "I needed to talk to you." She bent down to scratch Jethro behind the ears. "Hey, buddy!"

McGee closed the door behind her, still not quite awake. "Abs, it's one in the morning."

"Huh? Oh, I know." She boosted herself up to sit on the counter. "So, I've been thinking."

He groaned and leaned back against the wall. "That's always dangerous."

She smiled sweetly at him. "Don't you want to know what I've been thinking?"

His eyes were closed. "Yes, Abby, I would love to know what you've been thinking," he said in his best I'm-humoring-you monotone.

"Come here." He cracked an eye open to glare, but dragged himself upright and came to stand in front of her. The gel had come out of his hair, and some of it was falling in his face, so she brushed it back.

"I've been thinking…" She'd liked touching him, her fingers brushing against his temple as she fiddled with his hair, so she smoothed her hands over the shoulders of his t-shirt, and then took a fistful of the worn material and tugged lightly, bringing him a step closer. "You keep looking for this magical mystery girl who's going to change your life, make it better."

He blinked. "Yeah…" he said, though he was clearly thinking she has finally gone totally insane.

Since that was pretty much the conclusion she'd come to, it didn't bother her. "I think you and your life are pretty great just the way they are." Her heart was pounding, but she tried to ignore it, instead pulling him another step closer. "So, you just need someone that fits in with that."

"…uh-huh…" Now he was starting to sound nervous.

"In all that thinking I was doing," she continued, and now it was impossible to ignore her pounding heart, because the sound of it filled her ears, "it occurred to me," she focused on his face, since it was the only thing that was still making sense to her, "that we kind of already have a life together."

Whatever he'd been expecting her to say, that had not been it. "What?" he half-yelped, and would have stepped back if it weren't for her firm grip on his shirt.

Keeping her voice steady was taking a lot of effort. "Well, we never run out of things to talk about," she said as she tried to gauge his reaction. He was staring at her as though she'd grown a second head. "We already know all about each other's job, so we won't have any nasty surprises there. We like a lot of the same stuff. We know how to fight and still stay friends." Glancing down to where Jethro was sniffing at her feet, she added, "We have a dog."

McGee's mouth was still hanging open, but it looked like he was getting closer to being able to form words. She tried a smile. "It's a good start."

He stared at her for another second. "Abby," he said finally, "have you been drinking?"

She made a face at him and shook her head. "Thinking, McGee. Thinking, not drinking. Pay attention."

"Abby…" He trailed off, stopped, and she could see him organizing his thoughts. She couldn't help but smile a bit at that.

He was cranky, sleepy, and bewildered, but he was still McGee.

"What's gotten into you?" he asked, and now he started to sound irritated. "You know this isn't a joke for me. Hasn't Tony tortured me enough this week? What, are you bored too?"

"Tim!" She caught his face in her hands. "I'm not joking. I'm not bored. I'm not trying to torture you. Just…think about it."

At least now he looked more confused than angry. "I did think about it, Abs. I thought about it a lot. Five years ago. And then it was keep thinking about it or keep you, and so I stopped thinking about it."

Abby kept her eyes on his as she groped for words. She hadn't actually gotten this far in her thinking when she'd left her apartment – apparently, even when she was contemplating a major life-altering decision, she still acted mainly on impulse. She searched desperately for something, anything to say to convince him she was serious.

Her hands trembled against his face in the moment of silence, and instantly his expression turned concerned. "You're shivering. Are you cold?" He rubbed his hands over her bare arms.

She'd been wearing a tank top and sweats while she did laundry, and hadn't bothered with anything except her jacket when she headed over to his place. Without it, she was a little cold, and she was about to nod. She could still get out of this. He was used to her doing crazy things…he'd just chalk it up to being Abby. And that would be that.

Then she let out a long breath and shook her head. "I'm scared," she admitted.

He stepped closer and pulled her into a hug. She wrapped her arms tight around his neck. He was warm, solid, and wonderfully comforting. "Abby, you're not afraid of anything," he said.

Her laugh was a little shaky. "Right now I'm terrified. I don't know how to do this, Timothy."

McGee sighed. "Then maybe…Maybe you shouldn't be doing it. If it scares you that much." He started to pull away, but she wouldn't let him go.

"Yeah, I should," she said, her words slightly muffled against his shoulder. "Because it scares me that much."

"Abby…" His voice was raw and vulnerable. "You can't do this to me. Please. I don't think…I know I can't get over you again."

She let him step back just far enough so that she could see his face. "I don't want you to." She stumbled over the next part. "I don't really know – not like you do – what I want in a year, or five years, or…whenever. But I was thinking about it. And I know… No matter what else happens, I know I'll always want us. This…thing, that we had. That we have. It's good. And I don't want to lose all of it to some…Level 5 Sorceress you meet online."

"She wasn't real, Ab –"

"But someday she will be," Abby interrupted. "It'll be too late then. That's what I don't want." She still couldn't get a read on his expression. "Unless…" she said hesitantly, loosening her arms from his neck, "unless, you don't…want…me…anymore."

McGee looked at her silently for another moment, and then he was kissing her so hard she would have slammed back into the upper cabinets if his hand hadn't been there, catching her head before she so much as bumped it. She made a small, surprised sound against his mouth, and he pulled away instantly. "Sorry!" he said contritely. "Sorry sorry sorry. Did I hurt –"

"Don't you dare stop," she managed breathlessly, dragging his lips back to hers.

The sparks were still there, she realized happily. She'd forgotten how much she loved kissing him. He tasted like sleep and toothpaste, and she held him as close as she could, reveling in the feeling of his hands on her back, cupping her cheek, tangling in her hair. She'd always wondered what it was about kissing Tim that was different. Now she realized – it was the feeling that she could do it forever.

Eventually, they separated to catch their breath, and he touched her face gently. "I don't know how not to want you, Abs," he said, his voice not quite steady. "I know how to pretend I don't, and I know how to forget about it most of the time. But I'm fairly certain not wanting you altogether is impossible." He kissed her again, softly. "Please be sure, Abby. Please."

Abby smiled and pushed herself off the counter. "I'm sure," she told him, wrapping her arms around his waist. "Anyway, I think I just forgot how not to want you, too."

She lay her head on his shoulder. "Still a little scared," she murmured.

He held her a bit tighter. "That's okay," he said. "I'm not."


He still had a really comfortable mattress.

"Now what?" she asked quietly, as they lay curled together in the dark.

She felt him smile against her neck. "Sleep?" he suggested.

Abby laughed. "No, I mean with…" she gestured vaguely. "…us. This. Being together. You're the one who's thought this all out. I don't know what's supposed to happen next."

It was McGee's turn to laugh as he propped himself up on one elbow and looked down at her. "Strange," he said. "You seemed to have a very clear picture of what was supposed to happen next when we came in here."

She elbowed him in the ribs. "I didn't hear you complaining."

"Abby, if you ever hear me complain about anything you do in the bedroom, please have me committed." He kissed her temple and lay back down. "Sleep," he informed her, stroking her hair. "We sleep. And then tomorrow we wake up, and just…go from there."

"That," she sighed contentedly, closing her eyes and snuggling deeper into his embrace, "sounds good to me."

Later, when he thought she was asleep, she heard him whisper, "I love you."

This time, there was no ache in her heart. She lifted his hand to her lips and brushed a kiss over his fingers.

"I love you, too," she whispered back.