My muse has a name. It's Lucy. Why? Because I was born on Lucille Ball's birthday, and not unlike her character, that muse of mine always has some s'plainin' to do. Like when she takes off for weeks at a time, then returns before I hit a busy stretch at work. Or refuses to leave me alone when I have two other WIPs on deck. So, fear not if you're following my other stories – and if you are, thank you! – they will continue. This one just means I'll be spending less of my time off sleeping and more writing!

This fic is primarily McAbby, with Tiva moments, and a healthy dose of father/daughter Gibbs and Abby vibes. It was inspired by a very sad, true story – but this being fiction, it can have a happier ending. As it did actually happen – and has happened to many others, without media attention – it will probably be referenced as the tale goes on. To Sophie Lancaster – rest in peace, in a place where you won't be judged for who you are.

Timothy McGee was no stranger to late nights or insomnia. Or writer-induced insomnia, where he could not rest until he got the pictures in his head translated into words. He wasn't sure what was worse, being chained to his writing desk by the muse or the frustration of writer's block.

Tim had gotten most of the latest scene of his novel written and was taking a break when his cell phone chirped with a text message. It was a little after two in the morning and since Tony and Ziva had both been very secretive about their plans for that evening, Tim quickly ruled them out as candidates. Unless Tony was texting to brag, which Ziva would murder him for. Tim picked up his phone – it was Abby Sciuto.

You awake? Walking back from The Shadowbox with Charity. Wanna come over?

Tim was still wide awake and he had nothing better to do. Besides, he and Abby hadn't had time to get together outside of work in awhile. Even though their official relationship had ended a long time ago, Tim was still very close to Abby and he genuinely enjoyed hanging out with her. He texted a confirmation back. The Goth club she'd been at was close to her apartment, so if he left soon, she'd be home before he arrived.

Tim's phone beeped with a couple of more texts as he drove to Abby's place, but he ignored it because it was out of reach on the passenger's seat. He checked his phone once he'd parked outside of Abby's building and saw the last message from Abby on the screen, timed twenty minutes ago. Almost there.

Tim nodded and slipped his phone into his pocket, then hit the button so she could buzz him into the building. When she didn't reply after a minute, Tim buzzed again. Nothing. Frowning, he cleared the texts from his screen and called Abby's phone. It rang and sent him to voicemail. "Hey, Abs, it's me – Tim. I'm outside. me if you're not home yet and I'll wait in my car." Abby's neighborhood wasn't a bad one, but there was nowhere in Washington DC that it was a good idea to hang out alone in the middle of the night.

Tim went back to his car and called up his missed texts, all from Abby. The one immediately before the last had his eyebrows furrowing together in concern.

Think I lost him.

Who? Tim immediately scrolled back to the beginning and read what he'd missed with a rising sense of dread and guilt.

Creepy dude following. Trying to lose him.

Two blocks away. Creepy dude yelling. Not cool. Called cops.

Think I lost him.

But then why wasn't she answering her phone? Tim tried to called her again and it only rolled over to voicemail once more. The windows of Abby's apartment were dark. Tim called up his phone's GPS locator and had it search for Abby's phone. They'd both enabled the feature out of trust, for emergencies. He figured this qualified.

The app flashed up an address the phone was nearest – Abby's. Tim tried the door once more, with no answer. Trying to think of anything that might help, he called the 911 dispatcher on the non-emergency line and provided his credentials, trying to sound professional and calm. He asked if they had received any calls from a woman who reported being followed.

"There's a few, Agent," the dispatcher replied. "Do you have a name?"

"Abigail Sciuto," Tim replied. "It would have been less than an hour ago."

"Oh, yes, I have it here." There was a brief pause before the dispatcher reported, "We sent a squad car out to patrol the area. They didn't see anything suspicious."

Tim thanked her and hung up, just in time to see one of Abby's neighbors head out the door with a small dog, bleary-eyed and muttering for the dog to hurry up and do its business. Tim caught the door before it closed and slipped inside, walking up to Abby's apartment. She didn't answer when he knocked on the door. He let himself in with the key she'd never taken back. "Abby, it's Tim." The apartment was dark and quiet. "Abby?" He checked every room, with no sign of her. "Abby?" He consulted his GPS locator again – same address. He called her phone to see if he could hear it ring – nothing.

Increasingly worried and running low on options, Tim dialed an old friend in Norfolk who still worked the night shift. They had a more sophisticated tracking system. "Hey, Jake. It's Tim McGee," he said when his friend answered. "I need you to look something up for me."

"Sure thing," Jake agreed. "What's the case number?"

Tim sighed. "No case number yet. I'm trying to find someone."

Jake hesitated. "You know we're not supposed to use this for personal-"

"I know." Tim cut him off. "It's not exactly – I think she's in trouble. And she works for NCIS. I need to find her."

"Okay," Jake agreed. "What's the number?"

Tim provided Abby's cell phone number and waited while the computer initiated its tracking sequence. "Run my current location and tell me which direction to head."

"Computer says you're right on top of her," Jake reported after a minute.

"I've looked – she's not here," Tim insisted. "She's got her phone on her, because she texted me earlier."

"Well, wherever she is, that phone is steps away from you," Jake told him. "Your signals are overlapping on my screen, almost. She's like, just to your west."

Tim sighed. "Thanks – I'll keep looking." He hung up and looked around. Abby's kitchen was the farthest west room in the apartment, and its western wall was an outside wall of the building. He looked out a window and into the alley. There was nothing but a pile of boxes and rags that he could see from his vantage point. Sighing again, he called Abby's phone, praying she'd pick up this time. A flash of light caught his attention in the dark and he focused – a tiny point of light from where he was, but it looked like the light of a phone.

Tim rushed outside and into the alley, calling Abby's phone again. The volume was low; he could barely hear it ringing until he was on top of it. It was definitely Abby's. Tim looked around but didn't see her. He ran back to his car for the stash of gloves he kept in the trunk, then hurried back to pick up Abby's phone. He didn't want to contaminate any possible evidence, as this was looking more and more like a crime.

Tim continued to scour the alley, looking for more clues. He had just passed the pile of boxes when he heard it – a low moan. Within seconds, Tim was tossing aside boxes until he got to the bottom, a large crate. His heart broke as he saw her.

"Abby!" Tim climbed into the crate without hesitation; there was barely room for both of them, but he had to get to her. Her face was marred with multiple bruises, defensive wounds on her arms. She was breathing, but it was shallow and slow. Her pulse was thready and rapid. She groaned as Tim touched her, but didn't respond otherwise. The light in the alley was too dim to check her pupils, but all signs pointed to serious injuries.

Tim had to control his rising rage as he dialed 911. Someone had done this to Abby, then tossed her aside like garbage, hidden her so she wouldn't easily be found.

Blood soaked the sleeve of Abby's shirt, though it hadn't pooled anywhere. Tim was too experienced to be reassured; he knew the lack of external bleeding didn't meant Abby wasn't bleeding internally. "Hey, Abby, it's me. It's Tim. I'm just checking you out. The ambulance is coming." Tim didn't know if she could hear him; she was deeply unconscious, only responding to painful stimuli. But if she could hear him, he wanted to reassure her. Tim peeled back Abby's sleeve, noting a long but shallow cut – thin, as if it had been made by the tip of a knife.

Though the Virginia paramedics Tim had met liked to crack jokes at the expense of their DC counterparts, he would have welcomed anyone with oxygen and an ambulance at that point. Abby needed to be in the nearest emergency room as quickly as possible. He climbed out of the way as the paramedics put Abby on a backboard for safety, then lifted her out of the crate she'd been left to die in so they could treat her.

Tim watched anxiously, knowing he should call people but wanting to know what hospital to tell everyone. He listened to the medics talking amongst themselves and he knew Abby was in serious trouble. And what was left of Tim's heart shattered further as the medics turned Abby onto her side, pulling her shirt up to examine her back.

Bloody scratches, probably left by the same knife that had cut Abby's arm, had been etched across her back, spelling out, "Die Goth bitch."