Language warning that will extend through the rest of the story. Sometimes it becomes necessary. I try not to overuse it and keep it in-character. Unless it's Tony Stark, but he does it for shock value and that's another fandom. :) How did I end up with two playboy Tonys on my hands?

Tim was afraid he was going to have to fight his way into the back of the ambulance, but the lead paramedic took pity on him and said he could ride with Abby as long as he didn't get in the way of treating her. It meant he was relegated to the bench seat of the ambulance, instead of crouching next to Abby, holding her hand as he wanted to be, but he was with her.

Abby's injuries looked even worse in the light. From the time of her texts to him, Tim knew it had been less than an hour between the attack and him finding her. But the bruises were already blossoming and Tim worried he still hadn't been in time. She was already in shock, and Tim knew shock alone could kill, never mind her injuries. And those were just the obvious ones. The paramedics were positive she had internal injuries, but those couldn't be diagnosed until they got to the hospital. They were able to tell she had at least two broken ribs – and more worrisome, a serious head injury. Pain was the only thing she was responsive to, and Tim didn't need a medical degree to know how bad that was.

Once at the ER, Abby was rushed into a trauma suite while a tech pulled Tim aside to answer some questions. Tim knew the hospital was a Level One trauma center, the best and the closest, but he was still frantic with worry. He gave them Abby's name and what he knew of her medical history, retold the story of finding her and his initial assessment. He didn't want to answer questions; he wanted to be with Abby. But as soon as the hospital tech was done with him, the Metro cops had arrived at the hospital and had questions of their own. Tim cooperated with them out of professional courtesy and his deep desire to find Abby's attacker and make him pay. But he had to steel himself to sit down and be interviewed and not rush to Abby's side.

Someone in scrubs hurried into Abby's room with an ultrasound machine, and Tim tried to catch a glimpse of her, but she was surrounded by people and monitors. The arm that didn't have the IV in it hung limply off the edge of the exam table and Tim wanted to shout at them to make her comfortable, but the door closed, and he knew they were more focused on saving her life.

The Metro police officer's hand fell onto Tim's arm – McKinley, his name badge read. Tim didn't know him personally, but he seemed nice enough. "Agent, would you like us to contact her next of kin for you?"

For a brief, fuzzy moment, Tim tried to recall when he had told McKinley that he was NCIS. Then he remembered showing the officer his ID. Everything was a blur, and not just because it was late. "No, ah, I'll do it." Gibbs was listed as Abby's next of kin and he deserved to hear bad news from one of his own and not some stranger. It was not a phone call Tim wanted to make, but he had to – and he needed to do it soon.

Tim was about to step outside to use his cell phone – he didn't have any signal inside the ER – when a nurse slipped out of Abby's room and approached him. "Sir, we need to take her to a CAT scan, then surgery."

Not entirely unexpected, but Tim's heart dropped anyway. He was glad he was on Abby's list of emergency contacts so he could get information; the hospital staff had already checked the computer. It wasn't the first time any of them were visitors to the hospital, unfortunately. "What's wrong?"

"She has several internal injuries, including a lacerated liver," the nurse reported. "That's all we can tell from ultrasound. We'll know more when the surgeon gets in there to do repairs."

"What about her head?" Tim asked. He not only wanted to know for himself, but also knew Gibbs would want all the information available.

"CAT scan will tell more," the nurse reported. "The doctor suspects a hematoma – bleeding on the brain, but we'll need the scan to confirm. A neurosurgeon is on call to meet our trauma surgeon in the OR if surgical repair is needed."

It made sense to Tim, the less time Abby spent under anesthesia, the better. But so much talk of surgeons and the growing severity of her injuries made Tim want to scream. "Can I see her?"

The nurse nodded. "For a minute, while the transport team is on its way down." She led him inside, and an idle part of Tim's brain noted that someone had been kind enough to put Abby's arm back on the cot beside her.

Tim struggled with his emotions as he approached Abby, taking her hand and putting it to his cheek for a moment. He needed to feel that it was still warm, that she was still with them. "Abs...God, I'm sorry I didn't see your texts. I'm sorry I didn't get there sooner." Tim reached out with his free hand to stroke her hair. He stopped short of touching her face, not wanting to inflict any more pain on her. The brutality of the attack became clearer the longer he looked at her in the light, and Tim was furious. He wished the hospital had a room where people could go to destroy things and get it out of their system, because it would certainly have come in handy. But, no, he had to keep it together, for Abby. Until he called Gibbs. For his team, once they arrived. He had to stay strong; there was no other choice. "I'm about to call Gibbs. He'll be here soon."

The door opened and four men in scrubs walked in, pulling a stretcher. Tim knew his time was up. He nodded in acknowledgment at the team, then squeezed Abby's hand gently. "Hang in there, Abby. We'll be waiting for you." He stepped out of the way and watched as the newcomers transferred Abby from the ER bed to the stretcher and hurried from the room. Tim turned to leave the room, but paused and looked back where Abby had been.

The sheets were mostly clean, but there were small drops of blood, dotted into a pattern, that corresponded roughly with the hateful words carved into Abby's back. Tim wanted to snatch the sheets away and throw them out, but he knew they might be evidence. He really, really wanted to wreck the room, so he settled for storming outside and throwing a punch at the wall. It did nothing but scrape his knuckles; he didn't really feel any better. He hadn't expected to. But he did have to call Gibbs.

Tim took a deep breath and called up the familiar number on his phone. This wasn't going to be pleasant.

Decades after his life depended on his ability to snap from sleep to full alert at any unexpected sound, Leroy Jethro Gibbs still did. Typically, he was able to quickly determine the threat status – and most times, go back to sleep. But sometimes action was required.

Gibbs grumbled to himself as he grabbed his ringing phone. Some prank caller had gotten hold of his number and had called him half the night last week, before he got McGee to show him how to block the number. This time, however, the caller ID said it was McGee, and he knew his agents wouldn't call him in the middle of the night without a reason. The problem was, late-night calls rarely brought good news. "Gibbs."

"Boss." With only one word, Gibbs was able to tell that McGee was not himself. He sounded lost.

When McGee didn't immediately continue, Gibbs prodded him. "McGee? What is it?"

McGee sighed. "It's Abby. She's hurt, Boss, real bad. Someone attacked her."

"What?" Gibbs was on his feet and getting ready to leave his house immediately. "Who? How is she?"

"They took her to surgery," McGee said, talking quickly, as he often did when upset. "She's got a lacerated liver and a head injury, they don't know how bad yet. Don't know who did it yet."

"Where are you?" Gibbs asked, heading out to his car. "I'm on my way."

"George Washington ER," McGee answered, then took a shaky breath. "Gibbs,'s pretty clear it was a hate crime."

"What?" Gibbs didn't immediately think of any traditionally targeted demographic Abby fell into.

"I think she was targeted because she's Goth." McGee sighed again. "I got a text that she was being followed, but I was driving so I didn't check my phone until I got to her place...I was too late, it took me awhile to find her..."

"We can assign blame later," Gibbs said, mainly to cut off the rambling and partly because he knew McGee would expect him to say something similar. "What makes you think she was targeted?" The investigator in him was taking over to keep the panicked father figure at bay.

McGee was silent for a moment. "There were cuts on her back. They...kind of spelled it out, with a knife."

Though he was fighting a murderous rage, Gibbs softened his tone a bit, because he sensed he wasn't going to get the details any other way. "McGee, what did it say?"

"'Die, Goth bitch,'" McGee finally replied, his voice barely above a whisper.

Gibbs cursed. "What do we know about this piece of shit?"

"Not much," McGee confessed. "Metro PD is going over the scene now. They've been here. I...I didn't do a full search, I was just trying to find Abby..."

Gibbs sighed. McGee had come a long way as an agent and a man, learning to stand up for himself, but he still had his moments. "McGee, you didn't screw up, okay? You got to her, you stayed with her." He knew McGee and Abby were particularly close, and he hardly expected McGee to stay and search for evidence when Abby needed someone by her side. "I'll be there soon."

"Okay, Boss." McGee was beginning to pull himself together, but Gibbs knew he would. Even if it was a front, to keep on keeping on, his people knew how to handle a crisis. "I'll call Tony and Ziva...oh, and I should call Ducky, too..."

"I'll call Ducky," Gibbs volunteered. He needed some of his old friend's unearthly serenity before he charged into the ER.

"All right," McGee agreed. "Thanks. I'll see you soon."

"See ya." Gibbs wasn't usually one to offer emotional platitudes to his team, but sometimes, they needed it. "Hang in there, McGee. Abby's a fighter."

He wasn't sure if he was trying to convince McGee or himself.

Tony was actually awake when his phone rang. Just barely, but enough to recognize the ringtone and snatch it up. "Did I not tell you I had plans tonight?"

"Tony." McGee sounded eerily calm, and in retrospect, Tony would kick himself for not noticing. "Is Ziva with you?"

She was, snoozing contentedly on Tony's couch beside him. "What's it to you, McVoyeur?"

"Tony, please." McGee's breath hitched and that was when Tony began to realize something was seriously amiss. He and his teammates had called each other at odd hours for no particular reason before, but not sounding like this. "Abby's been attacked. We're at George Washington. She's in surgery now."

"Shit." Tony shook Ziva's shoulder to rouse her; they'd been watching movies together and were still in their clothes. Unfortunate for Tony's sex life, but a good thing now that they needed to move quickly. "We'll be there."

Ziva looked at Tony curiously. "We will be where?"

"ER," Tony explained. "Some son of a bitch attacked Abby." He didn't know for sure it was a male, but Abby was feisty and for someone to overpower and injure her that badly, odds were it was a male with a physical advantage.

"What?" Ziva made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a growl. "I will kill him. How is she?"

"Yeah, you might want to get in line behind Gibbs for that one." And everyone else who knew and loved Abby. "McGee said she's in surgery." Tony waited while Ziva grabbed her phone, then they headed for the door.

The first few minutes of the drive were silent, then Ziva said, quietly, "She will be fine. This is Abby."

"Yeah." Tony nodded. To believe anything else would be devastating. Abby was the heart of their little family. Tony didn't know how they would function without her, especially McGee. That "just friends" business – Tony wasn't buying it. He saw through them they way they saw through him and Ziva. "She'll be okay."

Surgery sounded serious, but it meant she was alive. If she was alive, there was a chance – and Abby was never one to turn down any chance offered to her. That was what Tony was going to keep telling himself until Abby was able to tell him herself she was fine.

TBC! Also, for the curious, the chapter title is a Goth metal band. :)