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It had been rough going at NCIS as of late. Nothing had been going right. Everyone was on edge and every case seemed to resonate with them personally. For weeks, one person or another was letting themselves get too close. They had all been taking turns dangerously mixing the feelings involved with the cases into their regular lives. The boundaries had been marred. Too much had changed too quickly. All with a blast.

The lab was back, fixed and rejuvenated. That was pleasing. The walls and equipment had been repaired. Buildings were easy to make whole again. People were harder. Physically they were all up to what could classify as 'fine'. Mentally was another matter. In a second everything had changed, sent them all reeling. They now had another definite before and after moment in their lives. A new fixed point. The fallout had still not settled completely, they were still floundering, trying to get their grip on solid ground again.

Mcgee had been watching her all day. His trips down to her lab had become increasingly frequent, almost to the point where she wondered if he was developing some sort of obsessive disorder. He kept coming but he never said much. Not that she minded him in her lab, ever, but it was a brooding silence. Ducky had come to bring her more samples from their victim. The doctor's arrival happened to coincide with Mcgee's most recent departure. Abby tilted her head towards his retreating form. "What's going on Ducky?" "I believe Timothy has let himself allow this young lady to become something she's not." Their latest victim was a troubling case that eventually, they'd be able to determine if it had been murder or suicide. The latter seemed the more likely.

It was a sad story of loss and grief. "Abigail, surely you can draw the same conclusions, this girl, exceedingly bright, had already lost so many people. She was essentially alone, her spiral downwards begins as she loses the last few people she holds dear. I do not believe Timothy has been working solely for her." Without waiting for a response, Ducky nudged the clipboard towards her for her signature. Once she had halfheartedly finished signing, he was gone.

Tony, Ziva and Gibbs, for better or worse, had more experience with the almost dying thing. This was new for him. He was never the one that came back from assignments in pieces and had to be mended back together. This time he had lost the draw. The hospital stay had been unpleasant, the time recovery had taken had left him with too much time to ruminate. Philosophical Mcgee was a little dark as it turned out. Bad choices led to bad outcomes. Turns out, he wasn't a fan of dancing with his own mortality. Their current case wasn't helping. Mcgee would be the first to admit that he wasn't in the best of mental spaces. He had let himself get too close to the case.

This girl had gotten under his skin. It wouldn't end well. Gibbs had seen it happening. The whole team apparently had. Mcgee had let the victim become what she wasn't. If he couldn't protect her, stop the crime before it happened, who was to say he'd ever be able to save anyone? Even Abby? For reasons unknown, his mind had linked the two. It was terrifying to think of losing her. If Gibbs had figured out the bomb a minute later, if he hadn't gotten to her, if any of them had been standing a few inches in any other direction… He didn't understand the outcomes. But they were both there and alive. He didn't think he'd survive it intact if anything ever happened to her. For years he had thought it but the past months had proven it.

But, the what-if's wouldn't leave him alone. The darkness in his mind told him that it was the game they played and that there were two ways in the everyone dies round that could have been played. If everyone finally left her, if she was totally alone, he was certain that she'd never be the same. Though, if he had survived along with her, he'd do everything he could to keep her safe and happy.

If it wasn't the head of the coin, it would be the tail. Would he be enough? How many people would be the limit? Did she have a number picked out? How many people did she require to keep her from longing for the eternal other side? They had dodged the bullet this time but their friends still seemed to be dropping like flies. He knew with undoubted logic, that if she ever chose the other side of the coin, he'd never see her again. There would be no bringing her back. That he couldn't take. Not even for a second.

Mcgee was sitting in the weak light from his desk lamp. He'd been there for hours. The main lights were already off on the floor. Gibbs was the only one still there besides him. Mcgee was pretty sure Gibbs never actually left anymore. He had been alone in the bullpen and jumped slightly upon hearing the boss speak from behind him. "It's not the same Mcgee." He nodded his agreement because Gibbs expected him to but it was just words. They both knew that Abby tottered on the edge of turning into someone similar to the victim. Once you got close to her, you could start to see the parts of herself that she tried to keep hidden. Abby was not all hugs and rainbows. The light usually overcame the dark but he knew that if the stars aligned, it could all change. So many thing had changed in the blink of an eye. That was one he couldn't risk letting happen.

Gibbs had maneuvered himself over to his desk and sat down. Mcgee watched him rummage through some papers before Gibbs looked up and caught him staring. "Go home, Tim." He shook his head in the negative. The last place he wanted to be was his empty apartment. He had had enough alone time lately. Gibbs thankfully chose to not force the issue. Despite that choice, he didn't intend on letting Mcgee watch him work all night. "She's still downstairs. Something about her equipment's reboot being inadequate. Go help her." It didn't take long for Mcgee to decide that if he didn't go of his own volition, Gibbs would probably throw him down the flights and hope he landed in the lab. He took the stairs, the elevator was still looked at with trepedation by all on team Gibbs, and found her, talking to herself, as she flitting between her machine and it's instruction manual.

Her futon was spread out on the floor in front of her computer. She hadn't noticed him come in so he sank down onto it and watched her revolving trip between Major Mass Spec and the book. After a few minutes she paused in her movements. Somehow she always knew he was watching her. He never lasted very long unseen. Abby turned to face him, pulling off her work glasses. "What are you still doing here?" He couldn't admit he didn't really have anywhere better to be than the Navy Yard. She came and sat down beside him. They sat in silence for a few minutes. He knew she was waiting for him to talk, he didn't know what to say. Everything had gone so wrong. She knocked into his shoulder in an attempt to get him to speak.

When her first course of action didn't achieve its' result, she gave it a few more seconds. She had a pretty good idea of how much he'd been beating himself up lately. He could be such a masochist. Eventually she settled her hand on the side of his face for a second. "What's going on Mcgee?" He broke his moratorium on speech. "Why did everything have to go sideways? I let myself down. I almost left you. I promised. After Kate, before we left for Somalia, every time anything happens, I promised myself, and you, that I was not going to be another person who left you, Abby. No matter what we were, I was always going to come back. And I came so close to failing that it's terrifying."

He wasn't looking at her anymore but felt her shifting beside him. It took him a second to figure out what she wanted but eventually he let her pull him back to laying on the futon. Abby settled herself against his chest and let the room be quiet at his admission. "It was terrifying, but you have never let me down. You came back, you're still here and I'm not going to let you leave so you'd better get used to that idea." He was calming down some. The lab was quiet, for a change. "Abby? Promise you're not going anywhere either?" He could feel her tighten her grip on him. "Of course not, Tim."

It wasn't long before he was asleep. She knew he was overwhelming tired and that it couldn't have been easy for him to admit what he had to her. She didn't move after he had fallen asleep. She had been sentenced to enough of her own deep thinking and self-evaluation recently. Not too long later, she looked up to find Gibbs in the lab doorway. "Gibbs…" she trailed off. He was looking at her with a very un-Gibbs softness. He could see the situation for what it was. He felt the fear and could read her face like a book, silently begging him to not make her choose, not between the rules with all their likely probabilities and Mcgee. It had finally become an unbearable choice. "I know, Abs. It's okay." So much had happened. He wouldn't do it. They didn't need anymore choices. Not this time. He wouldn't ask her to.