Thump… Thump… Thump… Thump…

A small marching band was wreaking havoc inside her head, causing Abby to cover her ears in pain as she buried her head underneath her pillow and tried to ignore the shrill ringing of the alarm clock. Normally Abby was the one to turn off the offending device, but that would mean she'd have to uncover at least one ear, and that wasn't happening… Not this morning, anyway. When did the alarm clock get so loud?

Several seconds later, she felt a warm body lean across her to reach the alarm, and she said a silent prayer as Tim ended the noise. Her joy was short-lived as the marching band was still there, and Abby realized with an inward sigh that it wasn't the alarm that had caused her head to throb so. She tried to breathe in through her nose only to discover that she couldn't.

Groaning Abby stretched her arms as much as she could without hitting the headboard and moved the pillow before pushing herself up to a sitting position. She really wanted to take a shower – maybe it would loosen up her stiff, sore limbs and help her to breathe a bit easier – but she wasn't 100% sure she'd make it to the bathroom without stumbling just yet.

Abby was still contemplating how to get to the shower when she felt a pair of arms wrap around her waist. "Good morning, Abs," a voice said moments before Abby felt soft lips on her shoulder. Looking back, she smiled as much as she could at the man behind her without grimacing.

"Mornin,' McGee," she murmured while wiping the sleep from her eyes.

The hands around her waist came to rest on the bare flesh of her belly, just underneath the hem of her t-shirt. Those same hands then moved out from under her shirt without warning up to her collarbones, then to her neck, then to her cheeks. It wasn't until gentle hands had turned her head just enough for his lips to settle upon her forehead that Abby realized what Tim was doing.

"Timmyyyy," she whined a bit, trying to pull her face away from his lips. Any other time she would've welcomed his touches, but his hands and lips were very deliberate upon her skin, and she knew that meant one thing and one thing only – he knew she didn't feel well.

"You're hot, Abs," he told her in a soft voice as his hands continued to gauge the warmth radiating from her skin.

"My head was just under the pillow," Abby replied, hoping it would sound like a good excuse. It really didn't sound so great to her, but if Tim fell for it, she would be grateful.

"I'm getting the thermometer," Tim continued as if Abby hadn't said a thing. "Stay here."

"Tim…" she tried again, but he had already pulled away and slipped off of the other side of the bed. She didn't want to stay on the bed. If she'd had her way, she'd already be in the shower. However, the fact of the matter was that the thermometer was in the bathroom, so that's where Tim was, and there was no way she would possibly sneak past Tim into the shower. To top it off, she'd have to hear it from Tim for getting off the bed in the first place after he'd told her to stay put. For someone who had been a pushover for such a long time, it was amazing how pushy he could be now.

Sighing, Abby pulled a blanket from the foot of the bed and wrapped it around her shoulders, trying to ignore the sudden chills she felt running through her body. She didn't have long to sit there and think about how bad she felt before Tim was standing in front of her, thermometer in hand.

"Open up, Abs."

She eyed the small tool warily. "What if I refuse?"

"We can do this the easy way or the hard way, Abby," Tim replied, his voice firm. "The easy way would be for you to hold the thermometer under your tongue like a good girl."

She shuddered to even think about the other choice, but she had to ask. "And the hard way…?"

He didn't blink. "There are other ways to take your temperature, Abigail."

Abby shivered a little. She always felt like a child in trouble whenever Tim called her by her given name, and she knew exactly what he was implying. No way in hell was he going to take her temperature like that!

Relenting, she opened her mouth just enough for him to slide the thermometer in under her tongue and then closed her lips around the plastic device. Abby hated thermometers; they were traitorous objects that always ratted her out when she wasn't feeling particularly peppy. The number on the screen determined how miserable she'd be for the next day or two. The higher the number, the more miserable she'd be… but not because she was sick. No, she'd be miserable because she'd be stuck in bed with nothing to do and no one around to keep her company because everyone else had to work. Abby hated that even more than the actual illness.

She prayed that it would read at less than 100 ºF. If her temperature were just 99-point-something, she wouldn't have to stay in bed. But, Tim and Gibbs had a rule – or, rather, it was Gibbs' rule and Tim had adopted it – that if Abby's temperature was 100 ºF or greater, she had to stay in bed. No ifs, ands, or buts.

The "evil thing" in her mouth beeped, and Abby scrunched her eyes in anticipation as Tim removed it from her mouth. Please let it be under 100, please let it be under 100, please let it be under…

"One-oh-one-point-five," McGee interrupted as Abby's hopes came crashing down. "No work for you today, Abs."

"Oh come on, Tim… I'll take a couple of Tylenol and I'll be fine…"

Tim shook his head. "Correction. You'll take a couple of Tylenol and you'll go back to bed."

"But I don't want to go back to bed." She knew she was whining, and she knew it usually didn't work, but Abby felt like crap and she didn't want to be stuck in bed all day, alone. The mere thought of it made her feel like crying. And to top it off, her head still throbbed and her sinuses still felt like someone had poured cement in them overnight and it had hardened.

Instead of arguing with Abby, Tim merely pulled back the covers, nodding toward the pillows. "Back in you go."

Abby shook her head, wincing at the pain. "No…"

"It's not up for debate, Abs," he told her. "Now, you have two choices. You can lay back down now, and I'll go get you some Tylenol and help you get settled before I get ready for work; or, you can fight me, and you'll still lay back down and take some Tylenol and get settled, but you'll be doing so with a sore behind."

"That's not fair…"

"What's it going to be, Abby?"

Abby sniffled – well, tried to sniffle – and slowly eased back onto the pillows. She rolled on her side, facing away from McGee as he covered her with the sheets and comforter, and indulged herself in a pout. She half-expected him to roll her over and make her talk to him, but instead he headed back into the bathroom and Abby angrily wiped away a few stray tears.

Less than a minute later, Tim scooted up on his side of the bed, right in front of Abby, a bottle of water in one hand and two capsules in the other. "C'mon, Abs," he said gently. "This'll help you feel a little better."

She took the Tylenol without argument, or any comment whatsoever, and then dropped her head back onto the pillows, looking anywhere but at Tim. If he was going to bully her into staying home alone just because she had a little temperature, then she was going to be mad at him!

"Abby…" She heard him sigh, and then felt his fingers gently massaging her scalp. Damnit, it was hard to stay mad at him when he did that. "Abs, I know you're mad at me, but you're obviously not feeling well and you know I won't budge when it comes to your health. You need to stay in bed and rest so that you can feel better sooner. Okay?" Abby shrugged as she felt his lips on her forehead. "I'll check on you before I leave for work," he promised, and then he was on his way into the bathroom to get ready.

An hour later, Abby heard the front door shut as Tim left for NCIS Headquarters. She waited an extra five minutes, just for good measure, before slowly dragging herself out of bed. Tim or no Tim, there was no way she was staying home all day while he got to work and see everyone. No, Abby was going to work, too, even if it meant having to sneak around so that Tim wouldn't find out.

With an air of determination, Abby shed her nightclothes and headed for the shower to make herself presentable.

o o o o o

After only two hours at work, the Tylenol was already beginning to wear off and Abby felt the marching band begin to creep back into her head. In her haste to pass herself off as "normal," Abby had forgotten to pack some extra Tylenol for when the first dose wore off. She couldn't very well go around asking for Tylenol – people might get suspicious – so Abby decided she would just have to suck it up and suffer through. It was that or go home, and being at home alone still didn't appeal to her.

Abby was in the middle of searching for something on her computer when the sliding glass door opened and Tony came striding in.

"Gibbs wants to know if… Wow, Abs, you look like crap."

Abby rolled her heavy eyes at Tony, though on the inside she was beginning to feel nervous. She'd heard from several people already that she didn't look herself, but none of those people were as close to her as Tony was, and they predictably hadn't pursued it any further. "I swear if one more person says that today, I'll…"

Tony quickly closed the distance between them and placed the back of his hand to Abby's forehead, silencing the woman for a moment. "Abby, you're burning up. What the hell are you doing at work?"

"I'm fine, she insisted, turning her back to him and starting toward Major Mass Spectrometer.

"Oh no you don't," Tony said, grasping her arm before she could go anywhere. "Does Probie know you're sick?"

Abby wanted to tell him to mind his own damn business, but she didn't figure that would help her cause too much. It certainly wouldn't get him off her back. "Yes," she told him almost indignantly, wishing she could turn around and walk away. She had work to do!

"Does he know you're here?"

She faltered. "Yes…"

Tony narrowed his eyes. "You suck at lying, Abby."

"Okay, so he doesn't know. He wanted me to stay home, but I'm fine. It's just a little head cold."

"Little head colds don't include fevers," Tony pointed out in his typical, matter-of-fact way. Abby hated that he sounded so sure of himself, especially since she knew he was right. "And I know Gibbs doesn't know you're sick, because he would've sent you home if he did." He gave her a pointed look there, and she fought not to blush. "Go home, Abby. You need to rest."

She shot him a glare. "I need to do my job without a bunch of overgrown apes trying to boss me around."

"Who's bossing you around, Abs?"

Abby turned to see Gibbs standing in the doorway. Her nerves shot through the roof, but she was determined to stay cool and collected. If she acted fine, maybe he wouldn't suspect otherwise. "Tony and Tim," she said with a huff. Feeling a tickle in her throat, Abby managed to cover her mouth a split second before coughing.

Without a word, Gibbs strode across the lab, his hand immediately pressed to her head. "What are you doing at work when you're sick, Abs?" he asked her in a gentle tone. So much for fooling Gibbs…

"Gibbs, I'm okay," Abby insisted.

"You are anything but okay. Come on, I'll have McGee take you home."

She shook her head quickly, regretting the movement as she felt the sudden pounding within her skull. "That's okay. I'll drive myself home."

"You will do nothing of the sort. McGee will take you. Now, get your things so you can go home and rest."

"Gibbs…" she tried again, feeling a lump form in the pit of her stomach. Tim was not going to be happy. Forget not happy, he was going to be pissed. "Please… I promise I'll go straight home if I can just drive myself home."

Leroy Jethro Gibbs frowned as he studied his lab tech. She was stubborn on the best of days, but her refusal to let her fiancé drive her home didn't make a lot of sense, unless there was something said fiancé didn't know about.

"Abby." He used one hand to tilt her chin up so he could see her face clearly. "Does McGee know you're sick?"

She wanted to say no. Tony had mysteriously disappeared, so he couldn't rat her out to Gibbs. But Abby had never been able to lie to the man. Never. "Maybe…"

The look on his face wasn't good. "Does he know you're here?"

"Technically not…"

Gibbs growled. "Abby."

"It's only a head cold!" she whined. "Tim wanted me to stay home, but I wanted to work. Everyone else gets to work when they have a cold. But if Tim has to take me home, he'll know I've been here and I'll be in trouble…"

"Oh, you're in big trouble, Abby."

Abby whipped around in horror to find Tim leaning casually against the wall, his arms folded over his chest. He was anything but happy, and Abby suddenly felt sick to her stomach.

"Hi, Timmy," she whispered, biting her lip.

"Why aren't you at home in bed, Abby?" he asked, one eye perfectly arched, just waiting for whatever weak excuse she might give him.

"I don't want to sleep…" she tried to explain in a calm, rational voice, but it came out as more of a whine.

He took a deliberate step toward her, his arms still folded over his chest. "I never said you had to sleep, Abby… did I?"

"N-no…" she stammered, taking a step back herself.

Another step forward. "What did I say, Abby?"

She couldn't take her eyes off of him as she took another step back. "To stay in bed…"

"And why did I say that?"

"B-because I wasn't f-feeling well?"

"What was your temperature, Abigail?"

One final step back, and Abby backed into the counter. She immediately grasped the counter on each side of her body, glancing nervously up at Tim. "One h-hundred one p-p-point f-five…"

She wasn't sure what exactly Tim was going to do right then, but she was caught by surprised when he reached up to press the back of his hand to her forehead. Both hands then moved to rest on her cheeks before his lips found their way to her forehead. "You're warmer than before," he murmured as he dropped his hands. "Go get your things, Abby. We're going home."