Author's Note: Sorry about the delay with this one, folks - internet troubles yet again. And for those who asked... no, this isn't going into romantic territory. I have plenty of other fics for that. :p This is strictly friendship. Though I might write a scene or two set around the same 'verse for a separate fic. Who knows?


Abby sheds her uncomfortable heels and interview suit quickly, pulling on the first items of clothing she sees: a black and red shirt and a skirt to match. Throwing her toothbrush and a couple of changes of clothes into a bag, she takes a second to buckle a studded collar around her throat. It was Rick's gift to her on her seventeenth birthday, and she stares at it in the mirror, blinking back tears, before exiting the bedroom.

Her eyes stray to the bloodied patch of carpet where Rick had lain, and her stomach turns. Okay, Abigail. Focus. Think about it later. Just get out of here for now.

Agent Gibbs looks over at her as she approaches, and although his eyebrows raise in slight surprise at her attire, he makes no comment. One of the junior agents, the woman, is examining her suspiciously, though.

"We're taking you to the Navy Yard, not a club."

The slightly hostile tone grates against Abby's raw nerves, and she scowls at the agent, making no attempt to mask her dislike of the woman. "Is that really what you think of me? That my reaction to having a friend murdered is to get dressed up to go clubbing? This is an everyday outfit – if you don't believe me, go look through my closet."

The agent takes a breath to answer, but a warning headshake from Gibbs stops her. "Willoughby."

With a final sidelong glance at Abby, the blonde runs a hand through her boyishly-styled hair and leaves the apartment, followed by the third agent. Pushing back her rage, Abby looks up at Gibbs. "She thinks I did it? That I killed-?"

It's too hard to speak Rick's name right now, and she swallows hard to try to get rid of the lump in her throat. Agent Gibbs rests a hand on her shoulder, which only makes her want to cry more. "We haven't started looking into this yet. Give it a little time."

Reluctantly, she inclines her head and lets him shepherd her from the apartment and down to the waiting sedan. Sitting in the backseat with the younger guy, she rests her head against the glass of the window, staring out at the not-quite-familiar city streets as they pass.

Moving up north had seemed like a great idea. She'd planned on renting Rick's apartment while he was deployed to help him out with the bills; on finding a job that allowed her to make use of her forensic skills; on getting to know a few new people and having fun.

It had taken less than two weeks for those dreams to shatter, and she feels profoundly alone; homesick and adrift on a sea of uncertainty. She wants the familiarity of Louisiana. She wants to hear Rick laugh and tease her about the Southern accent he mostly managed to shed during his three years in DC.

Instead, she's planning to sleep in a law-enforcement conference room while the blood's cleaned from the floor and walls of the apartment. She'll never hear Rick's voice again. And – oh, god – how can she tell his parents that he's dead?

"We're here." It takes her a moment to realise that the agent next to her has spoken, and she blinks at the building the sedan has drawn up to while she's been lost in her own thoughts.

"Oh. Sorry," she mumbles, and gets out of the car.

The next fifteen minutes pass in a blur. Agent Burley, as she finally hears him addressed, obtains an NCIS visitor's pass for her, then escorts her to the conference room where she'll be staying. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't contain a bed, but she's slept on more than her fair share of floors while she was growing up, and if all else fails, the long conference table looks relatively comfortable, too.

Burley leaves her there, promising to return later with food and drink and locking the door behind him. Alone in the silence, Abby sits down at the head of the table and rests her head in her arms, sighing.

Her mind keeps replaying the way she found Rick, over and over. The way his blood saturated the uniform he was so proud of; the pallor of his face; the expressionless glaze to his eyes. She'd crouched over him, reaching for him, but the second she met his deadened gaze, she'd known there was nothing she could do.

Nausea churns in her stomach, and she breathes deeply to try to dispel the urge to vomit. It's touch and go for a while, but she manages to push the feeling aside, brushing the tears from her eyes.

She's only just managed to compose herself when the door to the conference room opens again, and Agent Gibbs enters.