He was expecting the knock on his door. He was even expecting the armload of chocolate and microwave popcorn. What he wasn't expecting was the first words out of her pretty red-lipsticked mouth.
"Why exactly do you have half-naked pictures of Ziva on your computer, McGee?"
McGee gulped. "How…how did you find out about that?"
Abby stormed past him and dumped the popcorn, chocolate, and copy of Young Frankenstein on his couch. "From Ziva. She is not happy with you."
"Yeah, I'd kind of gathered that. Abby, I deleted them this afternoon. No trace of them remains. Ziva watched me do it." Desperate backpedaling was a common state of being when he was around Abby, so his brain switched to the track almost automatically.
"But what I'm more interested in is why you didn't delete them in the first place." She sat herself down on the couch, folded her arms, and fixed him with what he'd privately named the "Abby-stare."
His mouth opened and closed a couple of times, during which her eyes narrowed perceptibly. "Waiting, McGee."
Fine, he thought. Walking over to his desk, he pulled a battered shoebox out of his bottom drawer and tossed it to her. She fielded it neatly. "I have a lot of pictures."
Abby stared at him a second, confused. "McGee, I really don't feel like looking –"
"Just look," he told her, sitting down.
Slowly, she lifted the lid off the box.
The first picture was Gibbs, lost in thought at a crime scene.
Tony, mugging with a large stuffed bear at the Smithsonian.
His sister Sarah, asleep on the couch with a book dangling from her hand.
Ziva, squinting into sunlight and pulling her hair into a ponytail.
Ducky and Palmer, arguing over a map as they got out of their van.
A couple of pictures of an older couple she knew were his parents, working in the kitchen.
Kate and Tony, arguing over…something.
Kate and Tony, smiling over…something.
The five of them – Tony, Ziva, Gibbs, herself, and McGee – at a bar on Tony's birthday two years before.
The pictures of Ziva in a swimsuit, glaring at the camera.
Ziva and Tony in a standoff over a piece of evidence, glaring at one another from inches away.
Probably fifty pictures in all, pulled from crime scene discards and random events. Not great photography. Few perfect shots. But all of them catching something unexpected.
Finally, she got to the bottom of the box. "Those are my favorites," McGee said.
Two pictures, better than the rest. Black and white. "Oh," Abby said softly.
Herself, wearing one of McGee's button down shirts, looking back over her shoulder and grinning. She was sitting on his bed, with the shirt half falling off, tying up one of her pigtails. Her lips and eyes stood out dark against her pale skin, as did the black ink that traced over her body.
"You were supposed to delete that," she said, her voice still quiet.
"I did," he told her, quiet as well. "Off the camera and the computer. That's the only copy."
She remembered that day. They'd been going to the park so McGee could practice his photography skills – mostly so Tony would stop making fun of his crime scene pictures. He'd teasingly shot a "test photo" as she'd been getting ready.
They hadn't made it to the park. Long, hot kisses, gentle hands, warm smiles, laughter. They'd spent half the day in bed, which has resulted in…
…the next photo. Taken at arms length, it showed the two of them kissing deeply, intent on one another.
"I like the way we look in that one." He smiled at her, and she gave him a small smile in return.
"Me too." She rifled through the pictures again. "Why do you have all these, Tim?"
McGee nodded towards his typewriter. "Inspiration." Picking up his glass of wine from the coffee table, he took a sip. "You all give me a hard time for basing the characters in my books on you, but you're the most interesting people I know. I like those," he gestured to the pictures, "because mostly nobody's paying attention to the camera. They're just acting normally. I don't mean for the characters to be exact duplicates, but those…They give me starting points." He took another sip of wine. "Though the ones of Ziva I did keep partially because she looks really good in a bikini."
Abby's eyes narrowed dangerously.
McGee smiled. "And the ones of you," he added, "I would keep no matter what."
For a minute, Abby's eyes went soft, and the corner of her mouth turned up. Then she grinned – a close duplicate of her smile from the photo – and tossed Young Frankenstein at him. "You start the movie, McGee, and I'll pop the popcorn."
"Beer's in the fridge," he called over his shoulder as he stuck the DVD in the player.
Half an hour later, they were settled comfortably on his couch, his arm around her, her head resting on his shoulder, eating popcorn out of a bowl on his lap in the flickering light of the tv screen.
"Hey Abs?" he asked.
"Yeah?" Her voice was sleepy. Watching movies always knocked her out. In the six years they'd been watching movies together, she'd made it to the end about five times.
"You can't have it both ways forever, Abby. You can't get bent out of shape every time I look at another woman, but not want us to get involved. Someday…" He passed his hand gently over her hair and kissed the top of her head. "Someday you'll have to make up your mind."
He felt, rather than heard, her sigh. "I know, Timothy. Someday…I will." She pressed a little closer to him, and after a minute, she leaned up and pressed a quick kiss to his jaw.
She didn't make it to the end of the movie that night either, but it was okay. He loved the way she felt sleeping against him.