Standard Disclaimer: I own none of them. I borrow them strictly for writing purposes.
Spoilers: It's a tag for Toxic, so obviously, for Toxic. Pretty much a Gen fic.
When Tony first saw the bucket of supplies on the floor, incredulity roiled to the surface. He looked at Abby, he looked at McGee, and he looked at Palmer – who was still on the floor, grinning like a Cheshire cat.
Obviously, in Palmer's mind, misery having company was all that mattered. Either that, or Ducky's compulsive cleanliness in autopsy was beginning to rub off. Given the possibilities, he didn't want to know.
Beside him, McGee sighed, and dropped down to his knees next to a bucket that, unsurprisingly, bore the name "McGee." With Palmer and McGee obeying the implied order, Tony saw Abby giving him a pointed look – one that shifted from him to the bucket of supplies to the floor. Abby obviously expected him to cave in and start cleaning.
Screw that. DiNozzos did not cave.
"Abby, I'm the one who told him he was doing it wrong!" He stalked up to Abby's sliding glass door, and tried to give her his best puppy-dog eyes. "I was the one trying to get it right!"
Abby squinted at him with one eye, then gave her head one clear, sharp nod. The look in her eyes scared Tony, it really did.
"OK." Abby's trademark grin then graced her face. Frightening, really. "But you're also the one who tried to break into my filing cabinet, right, Tony? Some things are SACRED! Besides, you should've stopped McGee. You KNEW better!"
Groaning with defeat, Tony turned slowly and shuffled his way along the floor back to his bucket, mumbling "I tried, I tried…" under his breath futilely. Heaving a sigh, he plopped gracelessly to the floor, and pulled on the pair of industrial strength rubber gloves that Abby had considerately included. Thankfully, she hadn't thrown in a toothbrush.
Beside him, McGee chuckled.
"Could be worse, Tony." Tony turned and glared.
"Of COURSE it could, Probie." DiNozzo let the emphasis settle on the final word. McGee had been a little too insufferable during this whole thing. "I could be YOU. I could be ENJOYING this, Mr. Johns Hopkins biomedical engineering graduate! Oh, wait, I'm saying that like it's something important. Funny how Mr. Biomedical Engineering is the one who made the mess we're all having to clean UP!"
Palmer, who was still wearing his wide grin, let out a sound suspiciously like a snicker. Tony started to grin, but stopped when McGee's expression changed from hurt to surprisingly smug.
"Yeah, well, at least I didn't try to break into an empty file cabinet." The comment brought DiNozzo up short, freezing the smile on his face and then gradually wiping it off by fractions of an inch.
"No." Abby couldn't…no, Abby WOULDN'T do that, would she?
"Yup." This time, McGee's face was split with the Cheshire Cat grin. "A perfectly empty, absolutely useless file cabinet. I think she might have a change of dog collars in there, though … you'd have to ask her."
"You would know, wouldn't you, McGee. Maybe she'll lend you one, since she's got you on such a LEASH!" The insult rolled off Tony's tongue as easily as most of his wisecracks, and he felt not an ounce of remorse. At least, not until Abby's glass door slid open, and Abby came stomping out, her heels clopping the floor at a furious pace.
"That's it, that does it! All of you! OUT!" Abby stood above them and glared, her face as furiously intense as Tony had ever seen it. She was also pointing at the door, her left arm extended with one finger steadily on target.
"Aww, Abs, we're just –"
"No, I mean it, OUT! First you guys mess up my lab, then you try and break into my file cabinet, and McGee can't remember he's supposed to warm up the gel, even though it's the FIRST thing I ever taught him about mixing chemicals and I spend two days away from my babies and I come back to this, this, MESS!"
Tony exchanged a glance with McGee, both of them managing to look chagrined and worried at the same time. Tony made it to his feet first, and he reached out with his rubber-gloved hands to catch her now-shaking finger.
"Abs, c'mon. Let us clean it up. We'll be good now." Tony felt McGee come up behind him, and the computer expert murmured an affirmative. Palmer, from the sounds of it, was still on the floor but agreeing. Tony didn't look away, choosing to keep his eyes on Abby.
The forensic specialist sniffled, dropping her gaze to the floor.
"You guys made such a MESS. It was like it wasn't even worth coming home, and all I wanted to do was come back here and feel like I was home." Tony reached out and tapped her chin back up, and she looked at him, her eyes watery.
"I felt so … so used up, Tony. By everyone. I feel so stupid!" A tear escaped each eye, and Tony couldn't help it, the sucker he was for Abby's tears, he teared up, too. He pulled Abby into a gentle hug, and from the feel of a second pair of arms, McGee had decided to do the same thing. From the scrambling he heard coming from the floor, Palmer was coming, too.
Abby didn't stop talking, thought she did manage to slip an arm around both Tony and McGee in response.
"I was so STUPID! What if … what if they'd used it to kill someone, Tony? It would've been 10 times worse than the rabbits, and that was –"
"Wait a minute, Abs. Rabbits?" McGee pulled away just enough to get a good look at her, and Tony saw the computer expert looked just a little confused. Tony really couldn't blame him, the rabbits had lost him, too.
"Yes, McGee, RABBITS. The lab rabbits! Heller was killing lab rabbits and Sergeant King or Tom or whoever helped me get them loose, and we let them run away." Abby then frowned. "'Course, he also told me God skimped on my brains, so maybe he had a point."
Tony tapped Abby on the cheek.
"Nope, definitely not skimping on the brains, Abby. Never. You're the smartest forensic scientist on the planet."
Abby sniffled again.
"Not smart enough. He almost got away."
This time, McGee spoke up.
"But he didn't, Abby. You made sure of that, and so did we." By now, Palmer had walked over, and he piped in, "Listen to them, Abby, they know. Really."
Abby tried to shrug off the three of them, but Palmer, McGee and Tony hung on tightly. Encircled by the three co-workers, Abby cracked the smallest of grins.
"OK, so you caught him. I can give you that."
"And we couldn't have done it without you." That was McGee, and the comment made Abby's smile grow a little wider.
"Nope, not the way you messed up my lab while I was gone. I wouldn't trust you to run pawprints on Jethro." She finished with a sniff this time, one that was clearly designed to evaluate their cleaning skills, not convey the fact she was on the edge of tears. "You still have to clean my lab."
"We know, Abs." Tony gave her a contrite look. "Of course we do. It's DiNozzo's rule No. 5."
Abby blinked, then squinted at him with one eye.
"Rule No. 5?"
Tony reached out again and pulled her into a hug. The FBI were going to really owe him big time after this mess. There were some things you just didn't do; hence, rule No. 5. He leaned in close to whisper in her ear.
"Yup, rule No. 5. The most important one. Thou shall not fuck with Abby."
He felt her return the hug with an Abby-like fierceness.
"Damn straight, Mister."