'Ok, I'll take care of that as soon as... oh, wait, he just got here. Ok, I'll tell him. B... Hi, Tim! Gibbs just hung up on me. He said to tell you that they caught the guy and he confessed, so you're off the hook about the defence lawyer, whatever that means. Apparently one of the petty officer's mother's neighbours got turned down by a recruiter because he's nuttier than a fruitcake, and he decided to blame the fact that there are so many women in the Navy these days, 'taking jobs away from men,' as he put it, so he... what's wrong?'

Tim set the box he was carrying down on one of the tables and seized Abby by the shoulders.

'You've got to help me!'

'Ok... what's wrong? Tim? You're scaring me...'

'I tried making some myself on the way back, but the store didn't have everything, and I wasn't sure I remembered everything you put in it anyway... and I hoped it would be good enough, but it didn't really do very much other than make a mess, and the guys down in the motor pool are probably going to kill me, trying to get the upholstery clean... and then I had to change so I could come in to work, so I had to put a garbage bag on the seat so I could drive the car back here, and...'

'Tim! You're not making any sense! You tried to make what?'

'Your cream! You know, with the avocado and...'

Abby's eyes widened.

'Gibbs spanked you?'

Tim nodded, finally breaking off his rambling.

'What for?'

'Because I didn't tell him that I knew the victim, and he said that was the same as lying to him, and...'

'You knew Petty Officer Black?'

'Yeah. Well, sort of. We played the same MMORPG, chatted a few times, were going to meet up while she was home on leave...'

'Omigawd! Tim, I'm so sorry! Are you ok?'

Abby's question hit him like a shockwave. He'd been so focused on hoping that Tony didn't find out about his on-line encounter, and then upset about Gibbs's reaction, that he hadn't really dealt with the fact that someone he knew had died. His face must have shown his sudden distress, because he found himself pulled into one of Abby's rib-crushing hugs. He wrapped his arms tightly around her and buried his face in her hair, soaking up the comfort she offered.

He eventually stepped back, swallowing hard to get rid of the lump that had formed in his throat and hoping that he looked more pulled-together than he felt.

'Yeah, I'm ok, Abby.'

She raised a sceptical eyebrow at him but didn't say anything.

'So... about that cream?'