3 weeks later...

McGee took one last look around the lab, making sure everything was where it was supposed to be. After he'd come back to work a little over a fortnight ago, Gibbs had assigned him to be Abby's replacement. He'd protested a little- he was no forensic scientist- but Gibbs had stood firm. He'd finally told McGee that Abby had refused to let anyone else take care of her lab. That had settled it. It had been a frenetic couple of weeks since Al- Kaziri's arrest. He'd been the kingpin on the US end, but Townell's records had implicated so many more people. The case had spiralled into a massive inter agency effort involving NCIS, the FBI, Army CID, Homeland Security, the CIA and even ICE and Customs. Almost every federal investigative agency. Vance had assigned them the task of investigating every 'person of interest' that fell within their jurisdiction. He'd been swamped with forensic tests, necessitating a lot of referring to 'Abby's Lab for Dummies' and a lot more phone calls to her at the hospital. He'd ended up with increased respect for her ability and intelligence.

But his time as the interim lab tech was done. He'd probably still be helping her in the lab a lot, as the walking cast they'd given her didn't exactly allow her much mobility; she had plaster almost up to her hip. But she came home from the hospital today, and he seriously doubted that she'd consent to taking any more time off. He picked up the keys from the lab table and headed out to the parking lot. He was stuck driving her hearse for today; there was no way she'd fit that cast in his Porsche. He felt slightly ridiculous driving the thing, but he didn't have much of a choice.

He walked down the hallway to her room for the final time, greeting most of the nursing staff by name. He'd been here every night since his release, and he'd gotten to know the staff, at least by sight. Abby was waiting for him, her bag on the bed with her already signed release papers. She was so excited to be finally getting out of there; he couldn't blame her. She'd tried not to complain, but he knew how bored she'd gotten.

"Hey Abs" he greeted her "Ready to leave?"

"You have no idea, Tim" she struggled to her feet, the cast and crutches making it awkward. He watched her, wanting to help but knowing that it made it more difficult. Instead he grabbed her stuff off the bed.


"Home or the Yard?" he asked once she'd gotten comfortably settled in the hearse. She rolled her eyes

"The Yard, of course"

He grinned at her. This had been a running debate when he'd visited her last night. He'd maintained that she didn't need to go back to work straight away, she'd protested that she would go just as crazy with boredom at home as in the hospital. As per usual, she'd won. Truth was, he understood. His enforced absence had irked him, especially as he knew how busy they were, and Abby had been out for a lot longer.

He'd also lost the debate about her staying with him for a while. He understood that, too. While he knew she loved him, they'd kept their burgeoning relationship low key; they hadn't even had a date yet, though that was set for tonight. He'd made the offer without ulterior motives, knowing from his own experience how difficult managing such an awkward cast was. She'd been insistent that she wanted to sleep in her own bed, and he really couldn't argue with that.


Gibbs, Ducky and Palmer were waiting for them when they exited the elevator on the main floor of NCIS headquarters. She greeted them all with a characteristic Abby-hug, talking a mile a minute before she looked around and noticed the absence of two of the team.

"Where's Tony and Ziva?" she asked

"Right here, Abs" Tony said from behind the little group. He and Ziva had clearly been in the field; they both had their backpacks slung over their shoulders. Abby spun to hug them, overbalancing from the cast. Tony caught her as her crutches clattered to the ground. Stifling a grin, McGee picked them up and handed them to her. He could see this becoming a common task in the next few weeks. He caught Gibbs' look and nodded. Tony and Ziva must have deposited another batch of evidence to process in the lab. He'd head downstairs and give Abby a chance to catch up with everyone.

He was examining a fibre under the microscope when she entered

"I wondered where you'd gotten to" she commented. He looked around and smiled at her

"The sooner I get this stuff processed, the sooner we can leave" he told her "Here, sit" he pulled her spare chair over so she could get off the crutches "Tell me what you think this is..."


Abby sighed wearily as she got ready for bed. It was wonderful to be back in her own apartment with its absence of hospital smell. It had been an exhausting day, and she was more tired than she'd cared to admit, though she knew Tim had picked up on it. The thought of him made her smile. Their date had gone brilliantly, even better than she'd expected. Ever the gentleman, he'd made sure she was ok after dropping her home, eventually leaving about an hour ago.

She unwrapped the last of the plastic she'd wrapped around her cast to stop it getting wet and ran the brush through her damp hair, then shuffled into her bedroom. She wanted nothing better than to curl up in a comfortable bed-well, coffin- and go to sleep.

Half an hour later, she was still balanced on her crutches beside her coffin, frowning. She'd tried every angle she could think of, and she still hadn't managed to get herself and the bulky cast into the coffin. To make things worse, she was starting to get the idea that if she managed to get into the coffin, getting out in the morning would be another story.

Admitting defeat, she picked up her cell phone and hit the speed dial.

"Tim, I don't suppose that offer to stay is still open..."