Disclaimer: I don't own NCIS at all.

For my first McAbby fic, a little moment I could see happening at the end of 9x3 "The Penelope Papers."

She was heading into the bullpen to say good-bye when she heard Penny talking to McGee. Abby froze just before she was seen and ducked below the partition, eyes wide as she unintentionally eavesdropped on McGee and his grandmother's private conversation.

"His cold, despotic ways - really part of his charm," Penny said. "Who knew?"

Abby knew she was talking about Gibbs. Who else would be that way?

"He actually reminds me a lot of..." Timmy faltered, then continued, "you know, a little bit."

His father? Abby wondered. She'd heard precious little about him, other than the fact that his father was a Navy Admiral. Actually, this explained a lot about her Timmy and his natural need to have other people's approval, especially Gibbs's.

"Yeah," Penny said. "In other words, he loves you but has no idea how to show it."

"Does he?" Timothy sounded so...sad, Abby realized. She'd never heard him this way. Like a kid who wasn't completely sure he wasn't alone in this world. Her heart partially broke for him.

"Oh sweetheart, he loves you so much." Penny sounded very certain as she insisted, "He always has, Timothy. Deeply." A slight pause followed, then she said, "You need to take the first step, Timothy. Call him."

He sounded torn, and scared. "It's been almost seven years. I wouldn't know what to say."

But Penny was adamant. "Oh, you're a smart boy. You'll figure it out."


"Ducky," Abby said, turning to see the medical examiner standing behind her. "Don't tell him I'm out here."

"Of course not, my dear," Ducky assured her. "But perhaps you could wait until after he does what must be done before trying to help him."

Got me in one. Nothing got past the Duck Man.

Abby stayed squatted behind the partition, where she heard the playful banter, then waited as Ducky and Penny left McGee in the bullpen. She heard him sit down, then dial a number on his phone.

"Hi, Dad? It's me, Tim."

She bit her lip and willed strength to him. This had to be tough, but Timmy had gotten a lot tougher in recent years. Being on Gibbs's team invariably made you develop a pair of brass balls and thicker skin than a rhino.

When he hung up with his father, McGee sighed. "You can come out now," he said with a smile.

From behind his partition rose the black-haired Goth princess of NCIS. "How long did you know I was there?" she asked.

McGee swiveled around and looked up at her. "Honest? I heard you and Ducky talking."

She blushed, then made her way around to stand beside his desk. "I didn't mean to, Tim. I wanted to say goodbye to Penny, but you were talking so I ducked so I wouldn't interrupt, and then you called your dad and I couldn't pop up then because you'd hear me..."

"Abby, Abby, Abby," McGee said, holding up his hands to calm her down. "Relax. It's okay." That kid grin of his appeared, making Abby's stomach flip-flop in odd ways. "Actually, it's a good thing you were there."

She tilted her head to the side, puzzled. "Really?"

"Yeah. If you hadn't I might've chickened out." True sincerity and appreciation warmed his voice. "Thanks, Abby."

Impulsively Abby bent down and hugged him. He returned it with a small laugh. When she pulled away, Abby took his hands and pulled him to his feet. "C'mon McGee, let's go out tonight," she said. "My treat."

"That sounds nice, Abby. Thanks." He grabbed his coat and offered her his arm like the gentleman he was. "Shall we?"

"We shall," she replied, hooking her arm through his and hugging it close.

Together they headed for the elevator.