Title: 'No More Excuses'
Characters/Pairings: Abby/McGee with a smattering of Tony & Team
Word Count: 1,141
Rating: PG for language

Disclaimer: All characters are the property of DPB, CBS & Co. No copyright infringement is intended.

Summary: McGee is taken aback by Abby's reaction when he returns from the mission to Somalia.

Written for lukecanwaltz88 for the NCISVerse "Birthday Gift" challenge

Unbeta'd - Comments & concrit welcome.

Timothy McGee stood quietly waiting in the wings as Abby clung to Ziva for what felt like an eternity. As gratifying as it was, the thunderous applause from their colleagues in the bullpen was like a jackhammer splitting his brain into tiny fragments of gelatinous matter. The sound gradually died down and people slowly began to disperse and resume their duties. He held out his arms to Abby, who gave Ziva one last, quick squeeze and scurried back down to her lab, without so much as a glance in his direction.

With a nod, Vance telegraphed his request for a debriefing to Gibbs; he and Ziva made their way up the stairs silently, as Tony and Tim sank down into their chairs – relishing the comfort of soft, smooth leather after the long, bumpy ride in the belly of the cargo plane. Tony's head sank down onto the desk, and he let out a soft moan. One eye opened and trained on McGee, who sat dead straight in his chair, a befuddled look on his face.

"What's wrong, Probie?" Tony muttered, wiping the drool from his lips. There was no response. McGee stared blankly across at Gibb's empty chair, his hands splayed out on the surface of his desk. "Probie?" Tony nudged once more, sitting up a little too quickly and closing his eyes in an effort to prevent the room from spinning.

"She didn't even look at me."

"What? Who?"

"Abby. I kind of expected..." Tim let out a long sigh and gazed heavenward, shaking his head. "I don't know what I expected, but that wasn't it. I thought she'd be worried about me."

Tony snorted. "Oh, believe me, Probie, she was worried about you."

"You really think so?" The moment the words were out of his mouth, Tim realized he was projecting 'insecure high-schooler' in spades. Any moment now, DiNozzo would seize on the opportunity to stomp on what was left of his self-esteem.

"Talk to her." Not the reaction he was expecting. Tony must really be exhausted. After a few moments..."Well? Go on." He shooed McGee with his hand. "She's waiting for you, Tim."

McGee's eyebrows raised as he took in Tony's advice. He raised himself up out of his chair - slowly; he hadn't been this stiff and sore since that day five years ago when Kate worked him over in the NCIS gym - and shuffled towards the elevator.

"Like a lamb to the slaughter." It was barely a whisper, and McGee could tell he hadn't been meant to hear it. But it was just the sort of thing he might expect, coming from Tony. He stopped dead in his tracks and spun around.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Tony leaned back in his chair and laced his hands behind his head. "Oh, you're toast, my man. When Abby worries, she gets mad. That's how she deals. If I were you, I'd stop off at the men's locker room and pick up some protective gear on the way down there." He shook his head. "You've known her for seven years, McTarget. I would've thought you'd have this stuff all figured out by now."

"You're the one who volunteered me for this mission. If she's mad at anyone, it should be you," Tim retorted.

Tony shrugged. "Sure. But when have you ever known Abby to think logically when it comes to her emotions?"

McGee stood contemplating Tony's facial expression. Was this genuine advice, or was his partner sliding back into the old routine of trying to psych him out? He could never tell for certain, but it was true enough that he'd seen that sort of behavior from Abby before. Tony's words couldn't be ignored. He nodded, almost imperceptibly, turned on his heels and left the bullpen. If Tony was right, the longer he delayed this, the more time she'd have to stew. And in any case, he couldn't stand not knowing.

McGee stood outside the open lab door and took a deep breath. There was no reason for a highly trained Federal Agent to fear the Wrath of Goth. Was there?

She was hunched over her electron microscope examining a sample. Tim smiled – the combination of platform shoes, lab coat and pigtails was both fun and sexy.

The music was blaring and she didn't hear him slink up behind her. "Hey Abs!" He kept his tone light, in the hopes that some of it would rub off. She whirled around, her pigtails whipping his face. He blinked in shock and took a step back, noting the fire in her eyes and the clench of her jaw.

"Don't you EVER do anything like that again, Timothy McGee!" she bellowed.

"I...uh...I'm sorry, Abs, I didn't mean to startle you, I just..."

"I'm not talking about THAT. I'm talking about that crazy suicide mission. Ducky says Tony wasn't expecting to come home again. And you let him talk you into going with him. What the HELL were you thinking?"

She was struggling to maintain a domineering posture – hands on hips, chin jutted out. But as her bottom lip began to quiver, relief washed over him and he took one step towards her, tugging one of her pigtails affectionately and grinning.

"I'm ok, Abs."

He took her in his arms, but to his surprise she did not respond in kind. She stood frozen in place, and he pulled back to gaze into glassy green eyes that were, even now, filled with fear and panic. She began pacing the room, arms uncharacteristically crossed in front of her.

"Why didn't you tell me you were going? You just...disappeared. And then Ducky came and told me where you'd gone, and I freaked. I mean, it's one thing for Tony to go off and do harebrained things like that, but that's not YOU, Timmy. You're supposed to be the sensible one. I never would've helped you find Saleem if I'd known you were gonna run off and do something stupid like that. And then to not even TELL me - "

"There wasn't time, Abs. It all got decided at the very last minute, and – "

"DON'T make excuses, Timmy. You have a cell phone. You could've called me, or sent me a text, or – "

He lifted a finger to her mouth, and she went mute. It was all so obvious now. Why had he never seen it before? He leaned in and lightly caressed her lips with his own. It took a moment or two before her eyes fluttered shut and she relaxed into his arms, letting him deepen the kiss. Tim felt something wet against his cheek, and pulling back to gaze at her, he wiped away the tear from her face with his thumb. He nudged her nose playfully with his own, and smiled.

"No more excuses, Abs. I promise."