DISCLAIMER: This is a fan fiction story written solely for the entertainment of the readers. All characters are the property of Donald Bellisario Productions and CBS.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is set before the events of the finale of season six. You can read up on the cast and the show @ http://www.cbs.com/primetime/ncis/bio/
BETAS: I want to thank the wonderful Betas who helped edit my errors, Danyelle, pocketnympho, Jessie, and Mammothluv who helped make my writing more polished with great suggestions and corrections.
SPOILERS: Ziva never dated the Mossad agent, Tony never killed the man, and Ziva's father isn't quite the monster he turned out to be on the show.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Close Protection Officer
By Lisa Countryman

 

CHAPTER FIVE

Ziva's visit to the company on Harbor Street didn't give her any leads to Mawher, but it did provide something useful. The company was a redistribution center for beverages, specifically, a proprietary beverage available only as a fountain drink at a small chain of convenience stores. The beverage in question was Caf-Pow. It had been a long shot, but it was the last place Ziva could think to check for Mawher. The distribution manger was an attractive man who had been both helpful and flirtatious. Ziva told him that a friend was being stalked, and that until the stalker was apprehended, that friend must suffer the absence of Caf-Pow. The man had offered an excellent solution, one that was sure to please Abby.

McGee and DiNozzo were dispatched to the burglary scene. Their search of Swabby's Dry Cleaner had yielded no other leads. The uniforms belonged to three Marines. They had never served together, didn't work in the same fields, and had never even met each other.

Ziva came through the front door of Swabby's and nodded to McGee. He was busy looking over computer files with Sam Nelson, the owner.

"Nice of you to join us, Ziva," DiNozzo said. He was leaning against the wall looking bored.

"Did you find anything?" Ziva asked, ignoring his taunt.

"Absolutely nothing," DiNozzo said. "Oh, wait, there was a suspicious lint trap, but it turned out to be nothing."

"Where was the trace evidence found?" she asked.

DiNozzo sighed and pushed off the wall. "Back here," he said in an indifferent tone. He walked over and pointed to a broken window near the back entrance. "The glass was broken from the outside. When the perpetrator climbed through the window he left goo on the window frame."

"Goo?" Ziva asked, suddenly realizing DiNozzo didn't know about the lab report yet. She knelt and studied the broken glass.

"Goo," DiNozzo said again. "Gunk. Sticky stuff. Crap you'd expect to find on the bottom of a shoe."

"Goo?" Ziva asked sweetly. "In other words, the Semtex plastic explosive residue Abby found?" She loved getting the better of DiNozzo. It tended to wipe the smug look off his face, at least momentarily.

"What?" McGee asked. His fingers paused on the keyboard. "Did Abbs find that?"

Ziva nodded, but continued studying the floor.

DiNozzo's demeanor instantly changed. "That doesn't belong on the bottom of a shoe." He paused. "Well, maybe your shoe."

"Do you spend much time thinking about my shoes?" Ziva asked. She moved across the room toward the storage area.

McGee left the computer and joined the other two agents. "He's shoe obsessed," he pointed toward DiNozzo's expensive footwear.

"Glass debris on the floor," Ziva said as she followed the thief's path. "It goes in a direct path to where the items were stolen, no deviation. How did they know where the uniforms were?" She stood in front of a huge motorized device that held the clothing waiting to be retrieved by customers. "There are hundreds of items here, maybe thousands." She glanced over to where the owner was standing. "Are these listed on the computer by customer?"

Mr. Nelson looked up. "They're listed by number," he said. "You need a ticket to pick the item up. Well, unless you have an account." He rubbed his bushy moustache.

McGee interrupted. "All of the Marines who had clothing stolen had accounts."

Ziva went over to the owner. "How would you find their clothing, if they have an account?"

"Well," Mr. Nelson twirled one side of his moustache. "The clothing would be listed under their account number and you could just use the computer to pull the item to the front." He typed in a number and hit enter. The clothing rack spun for a moment and then stopped. "The item stops there." He pointed to the front counter where the thief had taken the items.

"Was anything else stolen?" Ziva went behind the front of the counter and bent down to scan the floor.

"Not that I know of," Nelson answered. "These Marines pick up their uniforms early, right after I open. That's how I realized they were missing."

"So we do not know what else may have been taken." Ziva was still scanning the floor. She stood when she found nothing and put both hands on her hips. She smiled and then went to a nearby trashcan.

DiNozzo sighed as he watched Ziva pull on a pair of latex gloves and remove the lid of the trashcan.

She reached to one side and pulled a piece of paper stuck to a piece of gum on the side of the can. "Bongo!" she said triumphantly. She opened the paper and saw that there were four numbers written on it.

"I think you mean, bingo," DiNozzo said as he moved to her side. "Nice dumpster diving, but this has four numbers, not three. You are holding someone's gum encrusted trash that has nothing to do with our case."

"My case," Ziva said. She went to the computer and motioned McGee over. She held the numbers for him to see. "Check these."

He quickly entered the first number. "Lieutenant Davis," he told Ziva, and then glared at DiNozzo. "Robbery victim number one." He checked the second number. "Captain Stockton, vic number three." He nodded and smiled at Ziva. "This is our last vic."

"And that one?" Ziva pointed to the last number.

"Checking," McGee said as he typed. His eyes widened. "Oh." He turned and met Ziva's expectant gaze. "Lieutenant Amit Stavi."

"That name is Israeli," Ziva said grimly. "Where is his clothing?"

"I'll check," Mr. Nelson said as he looked at the paper and then went to the revolving rack and entered the number. "He's a nice man, works for the Israeli Security Agency. Handsome uniform, olive green with khaki. Always needs to look his best." He waited as the rack spun and then stopped. "I think he works at the embassy." He frowned at the rack. "There should be two freshly pressed uniforms here. They're gone."

"How bad is this?" McGee asked.

"If he works at the embassy, he could be Shin Bet," Ziva said, her expression full of dread. When she saw that neither DiNozzo nor McGee understood she explained. "Shin Bet is the Israeli Security Agency's equivalent of your secret service. They work at embassies or protect dignitaries."

"That can't be good," McGee whined.

"So not good," DiNozzo said.

"What would someone want with Marine and Israeli uniforms?" McGee asked.

"Any number of things," Ziva said. "None of them good." She slammed her hand into the wall. "Why would Stavi send his uniform to a public cleaner? That is a direct violation of protocol."

"I'm better at getting the stains out than the embassy staff," Mr. Nelson said defensively. "And when I'm finished pressing a uniform, I guarantee no wrinkles."

"Wrinkles?" Ziva narrowed her eyes. "Your wrinkle free uniform just may cause an international incident." She shoved the front door open and turned toward McGee. "Get Stavi's address so we can pick him up. Now," she said as she hurried toward her car. She was dialing her phone as she stormed down the sidewalk.

"Not good," McGee said.


Abby always knew when something was wrong in the NCIS building. Something was currently very wrong. "We're going upstairs, Wilbur," she told her Marine guard.

"Ma'am?" He moved to her side.

"Something is hinky," she told him, pointing at him and squinting her green eyes. "Can't you feel the hinky vibe?"

He looked at her with a bewildered expression.

"Of course you can't." Abby patted his shoulder. "You're not even used to the building's normal vibe. How could I expect you to detect the hinky vibe?" She looked to the stairs, knowing she should follow Ziva's instructions, but the intensity of the hinky vibe overrode that. She stepped into the elevator with Wilbur and tapped her foot as she waited to reach her destination. The door opened, and the first thing she heard was Ziva screaming in fast, short sentences like machinegun bursts. Abby had no idea what was being said because Ziva wasn't speaking English.

McGee's eyes were as wide as silver dollars as he watched Ziva arguing in Hebrew with an Israeli Intelligence officer who had just arrived.

"Hey," Gibbs yelled. "If you can't keep it down, at least yell in English so the rest of us can follow along."

Ziva took a deep breath and held it for a moment before releasing it.

"Major Alon," Gibbs said as politely as possible. "Why don't we take this into the interrogation area."

"My people are not to blame for this," Alon said bitterly.

Ziva's eyes flashed with anger. "Your imbecilic officer sent his uniform to a public dry cleaner," Ziva yelled.

"And it has caused no security breech," Alon snapped.

"Only because the terrorists haven't acted yet," Ziva pointed out.

"You can't know that," Alon said with a sneer.

"Tistom tapeh, yanaal," Ziva said in a disgusted tone, telling him 'Shut up, idiot' in their native language.

Abby backed up until she was leaning against the wall. She grabbed Wilbur and yanked him to her side. "This is just getting good," she whispered.

Wilbur nodded, but he looked more nervous than interested.

"Interrogation," Gibbs ordered.

Ziva rolled her eyes and cursed under her breath in at least three languages, none of them English, but she did as she was told and walked past Gibbs toward the interrogation area. She briefly met Abby's eyes and shot her an angry glare, then nodded toward the stairwell before hurrying off.

"We are so busted, Wilbur," Abby whispered.

Ziva paced in front of the door to the first interrogation room.

Alon came alongside her. "This is a simple matter of theft," he said. It was obvious that even he didn't believe his words.

Gibbs came up beside them. "You damn well better hope it stays that way," he said. "Ziva, get in there and interview Stavi."

Alon opened his mouth to speak, but didn't get the chance.

Gibbs was in no mood to argue. "At the moment, Stavi is only a witness in a simple theft," he stressed the word witness. "Agent DiNozzo picked him up from the embassy and is with him now, as a witness," Gibbs said. "Ziva will interview the witness and make sure nothing other than a theft happens." He met Alon's eyes. "Or we can treat him as a suspect. The choice is yours."

Alon glared at Gibbs and then nodded.

"Why don't we wait in observation," Gibbs offered, though he would have rather slapped the back of Alon's head.

Ziva opened the door and calmly walked into the interrogation room. She nodded to DiNozzo who was sitting across from Stavi.

"Officer David," DiNozzo said as he stood. "Lieutenant Stavi has just been explaining to me that the stolen uniforms couldn't be his. Apparently, it's against protocol to have a uniform sent to an outside cleaner."

At the mention of her name, Stavi sat a bit straighter and studied her.

"Imagine that." Ziva acknowledged DiNozzo, and then pinned her gaze on Stavi, gauging every weakness of her prey.

Stavi looked nervously around the room.

Ziva read a few of Stavi's reactions and had all the information necessary to interrogate the man. She turned to Tony. "Agent DiNozzo, I can handle the interrogation on my own, thank you."

DiNozzo nodded and started toward the door. Ziva's hand on his arm stopped him.

"Could you bring me a bottle of water, please?" she asked nonchalantly.

DiNozzo nodded and left the room.

Ziva moved behind the empty chair that was directly across the table from Stavi. She rested both hands on the back of the chair and continued studying him.

"I told him all I know," Stavi said.

Ziva merely nodded, not speaking. Her eyes never left his as an uncomfortable silence built between them. "Do you like being in the US?" she finally asked. The question and tone were conversational, but her eyes were empty, devoid of emotion like a shark's.

"Yes," Stavi said slowly.

"I find the Americans a bit too soft," Ziva said. She patted her firm abdomen and smiled. "A bit too much good food softens the body." She paced in front of the table, slowly, like a shark circling its prey after picking up the faint hint of blood in the water. "Of course, they haven't experienced daily war in the streets. That softens them, too." She met his eyes before adding, "in a different way."

He slowly nodded, not really having an answer.

"Are you soft, Lieutenant Stavi?" Ziva asked. The shark was now circling her prey.

"No." He shook his head.

There was a tap, and Ziva went over and opened the door for DiNozzo and took the water bottle. "Thank you." She closed the door without waiting for him to reply. She locked the deadbolt and came back to the table. "I think you are soft, Lieutenant Stavi." Ziva placed the bottle on the table and sat in the chair facing him.

"Ma'am?" Stavi asked.

"Well, you obviously broke protocol." She leaned back in her chair, leaving the water untouched on the table. The shark was tightening her circle.

"I explained to your other agent," Stavi said. "I don't send out my uniforms." He relaxed into a casual position, but the move didn't look natural.

"Soft?" Ziva said as if asking herself a question. "Or a traitor?"

Stavi sat up abruptly. "I am no traitor."

"Well, we know you are a liar." Ziva said then sighed, "and not a very good one, at that."

He opened his mouth to speak and Ziva held up one hand, silencing him. He didn't know it yet, but the shark was inches away.

"Do not insult my intelligence," she said quietly. Her tone was dangerous and sharp. Her words sliced as deep as any shark's teeth. "You had an account at the dry cleaners, in your own name, using a credit card." She lowered her hand. "So, you were either too stupid to realize you were leaving a paper trail, or arrogant enough to think we would not check your story."

Stavi puffed his chest with false bravado, but his voice cracked revealing his growing fear. "You think because they send in a beautiful NCIS officer with an Israeli accent I'll say whatever you want?"

"Whatever I want? I want you to tell me the truth." Ziva picked up the water bottle and turned it in her hand. "The more time we waste waiting for you to admit your mistake, the more time the terrorists have to carry out their plot." She continued turning the bottle and studied it. This shark enjoyed playing with her meal.

In the observation room, DiNozzo stood next to Gibbs and Alon. "Why did she make me fetch her water like a waitress if she's not even gonna' drink it?"

"Watch and learn, DiNozzo," Gibbs said quietly.

Alon was focused intently on Ziva. "How did an Israeli woman join NCIS?" he asked.

"On permanent loan," Gibbs said cryptically.

"David?" Alon asked. It was a common name. He knew a man with the same last name, and he was beginning to think they were related.

"Yep," Gibbs said noncommittally.

Alon studied Ziva with added interest.

In the interrogation room, Stavi squirmed in place. "I don't know anything about a terrorist plot."

"Perhaps you do not," Ziva said. She glanced at the large mirror on the wall and then back to Stavi. "Do you want to know why I am interviewing you alone?" The shark was coming in for kill.

"They think I'll talk because you will remind me of home?" He smiled, but he was obviously frightened.

"Plausible deniability," Ziva said. She leaned forward and put the water bottle in the center of the table. "As I said, the Americans are soft. They do not like to get their hands dirty." She held her hands out and studied them. "They leave that to me."

"You work for NCIS," Stavi pointed out. "You are bound by the same laws."

"With," Ziva said.

Stavi's brow crinkled in confusion.

"I work with NCIS," Ziva corrected. "You said for. Amazing what a difference one tiny word can make." She reached behind her back and pulled her dagger from its resting place in her belt and placed it casually on the table. "I am on loan to NCIS." She stood and picked up the knife and paced, spinning the knife with the kind of skill that took years to develop. "In our country, we learned to tailor our… methods… to whatever we had on hand." She held the knife up for him to get a better look. "But I find blood to be so… incriminating." She smoothly tucked the knife into its hiding place at the small of her back, never taking her eyes off of Stavi.

"And who are you on loan from?" he asked. He swallowed, though his throat was tight and his mouth was suddenly dry.

"I had to adapt." Ziva ignored his question. She picked up the water bottle and went around the table and sat on the tabletop, so that she was facing him, almost touching him. She smiled at him, looking like a shark eyeing a very tasty looking seal.

He scooted a few inches away but couldn't seem to break his eyes away from Ziva's. He'd seen the same dead eyes back home, and the people who had that expression scared him to the core. He felt the blood draining from his face.

Ziva continued smiling but her eyes only hardened. "Did you know that the Patriot Act legalized waterboarding?" she asked conversationally. "If you are dealing with terrorists," she added helpfully.

"I am no terrorist." Stavi's voice cracked and held a pleading tone. Sweat was beading on his upper lip. His eyes focused on the water bottle.

Ziva slowly unscrewed the cap on the water, placed the bottle directly in front of him and pinned him in place with an icy stare. She left it there for a long moment, letting him squirm in the torturous silence. Finally, she dipped her index finger into it and then intensely studied the drop on the tip of her finger.

He shifted in his chair, his eyes now locked on the water on her finger.

Ziva didn't move her fingers, but her gaze shifted to meet his eyes. "Did you know, that it is possible to drown in one tablespoon of water?" she asked as if sharing an interesting bit of trivia.

His focus drifted back and forth from the water bottle to her predatory eyes. "Who do you work for… in our country?" Stavi asked.

She leaned down close to his face, until her cheek was almost touching his so she could reach his ear. She inhaled, as if drawing in the scent of his fear.

He sat frozen, terrified to even breathe.

"Metsada," she whispered the one word in a husky tone like a lover's name. It was the term for the specialized unit that handled assassinations for Mossad. Ziva had spent years in the unit as a handler, and had performed some of the kills herself.

"I send my uniforms to Swabby's twice a week!" Stavi pushed away, the chair feet scraping loudly as he tried to get as much distance from her as possible. "I know it's against protocol, but several of my commanding officers commented on my uniform being wrinkled or stained. I'm just an office worker in the embassy." He sucked in a shaking breath, near tears now. "I didn't think I would put anyone at risk. The Marines said Swabby's was the best place in town. The Marines trust the owner. I thought it was safe. I swear I thought it was safe." He was now visibly shaking as he tried to tell her everything she might want to hear.

Ziva held up one finger and he immediately stopped talking. She picked up the water bottle and took a long, slow drink and then licked her lips. "Write down every person you have ever had a conversation with about your uniform or the dry cleaners."

Stavi scrambled to get the notepad from the table without getting too close to Ziva. Once he had it, he scooted his chair against the wall, the furthest he could get from her, and began scribbling. He was breathing heavily, each exhale coming out in a shaking breath as if he had just run two marathons back to back.

In the other room DiNozzo was now pouting. "How does she do that?"

"Who does she work for?" Alon asked Gibbs. He hadn't heard her whispered reply, but he had his suspicions.

"Ask her," Gibbs told him. "I sure don't want to piss her off." He left the room, smiling briefly once out of Alon's view. Watching Ziva do an interrogation truly was a thing of beauty.

 

CHAPTER SIX

Abby came out of the stairwell with Wilbur in tow. She saw McGee and DiNozzo and headed toward them. She'd gotten bored in the lab while waiting for Ziva to return.

Ziva took an NCIS vehicle and left the Navy Yard, so that if she were being observed, it would appear that she had left for home alone. A few blocks away, Gibbs was picking up Ziva in his own car and returning to NCIS.

It was another layer of security Ziva insisted upon. She knew Mikel Mawher would not give up. If he didn't see Abby coming and going, he was sure to begin tracking her friends to see if they were transporting her. Which was why Ziva parked the decoy vehicle in a privately secured parking structure for a high-end apartment building. If Mawher followed Ziva 'home', he would see her car enter the lot. Ziva would then duck out of the building and meet Gibbs around the corner at a safe location.

Wilbur took his position seriously. He knew what had happened the last time Mikel Mawher had stalked Abby Sciuto. After having the dangers explained to him by McGee and DiNozzo, he was certain to be careful. After having it explained by Gibbs, he was certain to stay as alert as a cat sneaking through a Doberman Pinscher kennel. After having it explained by the ever so scary Ziva David, he wasn't about to let Abby Sciuto more than two feet away from him at any moment, and he kept one hand poised to reach his weapon.

Abby smiled as she approached her two friends. McGee was sitting at his computer and DiNozzo was standing in front of McGee's desk holding up a bottle of water doing his best Ziva impersonation.

"Did you know, you can drown in one tablespoon of water?" DiNozzo mimicked Ziva's earlier interrogation and glared at McGee with Ziva inspired menace. Unfortunately, the expression made him look more constipated than frightening.

McGee looked at him dubiously.

Abby giggled. "I'm sure it was much scarier with Ziva saying it," she said.

"Scary?" DiNozzo turned to face Abby. "That guy almost wet his pants like a little girl." He looked back at McGee. "Probie would have wet his pants for sure."

McGee raised an eyebrow. "I'll make a note to never go to the water cooler alone with Ziva," he said tolerantly. He looked at Wilbur and then Abby. "She ever try to drown you?"

Abby smiled. "Nope."

"There you go," McGee told DiNozzo. "I'd say Abby feels perfectly safe with Ziva and water. Bet she'd even go swimming with Ziva."

Ziva stepped into view from around the corner. "As soon as Mawher has been captured, I will take you swimming anywhere you like."

"Gaa!" DiNozzo took a leap backwards.

Abby let out a startled squeak. "Ziva!" She rested a hand on her own chest and took a gulp of air. "It doesn't do any good to have Wilbur guard me if you're gonna' give me a freakin' heart attack."

Wilbur's hand was on his weapon and his body was tense. He sighed and slowly relaxed.

"Nice reflexes," Ziva complimented. She turned to DiNozzo. "You jumped like a little girl, Tony."

DiNozzo blustered, unable to come up with a reply.

"Abby?" Ziva asked. "Ready to go?"

"My chariot awaits," Abby said with forced enthusiasm. "See you tomorrow?" she asked Wilbur.

"Yes, ma'am," the Marine replied. He smiled shyly, not looking at Ziva, as if she would read his thoughts and know he was afraid of her.

Ziva paused and studied the Marine for a moment.

He swallowed with a gulp and rushed toward the nearest exit.

"Come on." Abby yanked Ziva's arm and pulled her toward the stairwell. "Leave him alone." She waved at her coworkers. "See you guys tomorrow."

"Need some company?" DiNozzo asked. He hadn't been to Ziva's for dinner since he had dated Jeanne Benoit as an undercover assignment and he missed Ziva's cooking and company. Since that assignment had ended, something between them had shifted.

Ziva glared at him. "No visitors. I do not want anyone leading Mawher to my door."

"And we have to follow up these leads," McGee reminded DiNozzo.

"I thought this was Ziva's case?" DiNozzo whined.

"I am delegating," Ziva said as she opened the door to the stairwell and then leaned in to make sure it was safe. Once she was convinced it was secure, she allowed Abby to follow.

"What do you think they do all night?" DiNozzo asked when the door closed behind the two women. "Bubble baths for two?"

"I'll be sure to let Ziva know your theory." McGee held up the water bottle and smiled.

Tony grabbed the bottle. "You would have wet your pants, Probie."


Ziva opened the door to her apartment and carefully scanned the living room before guiding Abby inside.

"Come on." Abby jumped up and down. "What's in these duffle bags?" She placed both bags on the ground and then stomped her feet like a three year old throwing a tantrum. She had found the bags in the morgue van and was dying of curiosity.

"Abby," Ziva said sharply. She took Abby by the hand and led her to the bedroom, then checked for danger before going inside with Abby in tow.

Abby was quiet. She realized that until she humored Ziva, the mystery of the giant duffle bags would not be solved. She watched Ziva bolt the door, then check the closet for intruders, then the master bathroom, and finally under the bed. Once Ziva was certain the bedroom was completely secure, she turned toward Abby. "Wait…"

"Here," Abby finished for her. "Hide in here while you search the apartment. Got it." She sat on the bed and swung her feet.

Ziva paused at the door and waited.

Abby sighed and went to Ziva's side. "Okay. Bolt the door behind you and then wait in the room. Got it." She rolled her eyes.

Abby had no reference for the things Ziva had seen in her short life. Ziva knew that a moment of distraction or deviation from the safety plan could cost lives. She wouldn't risk Abby. She reached out and lifted Abby's chin. "Please, humor me."

Abby looked into Ziva's expressive eyes and nodded. 'Like I could deny her anything,' Abby thought. She dutifully bolted the door and waited. She knew that Ziva was being careful because she had experienced very real threats in the world, both Abby's world and Ziva's own spy-filled world. Abby frowned and leaned toward the door, suddenly intent on listening for any sign of trouble outside.

After a few minutes, Ziva knocked. "It is me."

Abby started to unbolt the door and then smiled. "Me who?"

"The Spy Queen," Ziva answered. She blushed, wishing she hadn't let Abby pick the code phrase.

Abby swung the door open. "Duffle bags?" she demanded.

"Go sit at the table like a good girl and I will bring your surprise." Ziva sighed, deciding she should just get used to the idea that Abby had stolen her heart.

"I love surprises." Abby sprinted through the apartment and sat impatiently at the dining room table. "Is it a change of clothes? Because I need more clothes. You should let me go to my place to get some of my own things." She nervously tapped her hands rapidly on the table as if playing the drums.

Ziva raised both eyebrows and tossed the larger duffle bag onto the table. "McGee said there are enough clothes for a week."

"Yes," Abby said excitedly. She dug through her things with glee, and then froze when she came to healthy selection of underwear. "Wait, you sent McGee to get my underwear?"

"It was either McGee or Tony," Ziva pointed out. She paused for effect and then added. "Or Gibbs."

"Good point," Abby agreed. "So, what's in the other bag?" She wiggled excitedly.

Ziva lifted the bag, which was quite heavy, onto the table. "I was going to give this to you after dinner."

"Ziva!" Abby pawed at the bag, deciding to help herself.

"Patience." She swatted away Abby's hands. "I am taking pity on you, but I could still change my mind." She unzipped the bag, keeping the contents hidden. She dug around the duffle bag and finally pulled out a two-litter bottle of carbonated water, which she proudly presented to Abby as if it were the finest champagne.

"Oh, Ziva…" Abby said in an extremely unimpressed tone. "You really shouldn't have."

Ziva gave her a stern glare.

"Really, it's too much." Abby's scowl made it perfectly clear that she was less than impressed.

"That goes in a glass of ice," Ziva explained.

"Wow," Abby said in a monotone voice. "I am so thrilled. Maybe we should get me some valium to contain my excitement."

Ziva chuckled at her friend's displeasure, knowing things were about to change. "Five parts carbonated water and then you add one part this, and viola."

"Viola?" Abby asked with the teeniest bit of interest.

"Viola." Ziva pulled a cardboard box out of the duffle bag. It was a commercial box containing a Mylar bag filled with syrup concentrate. Written across the side in bright bold type was the equivalent of Abby's Holy Grail, the word 'Caf-Pow.'

Abby took in a huge gasp of air that would have burst a lesser woman's lungs. "Caf-Pow!" she squealed. She leapt to her feet and ran her hands over the box like it was a delicate artifact in King Tut's tomb. "Caf-Pow syrup? How did you get Caf-Pow syrup?" She rested her forehead on the box and took a few seconds to savior the moment. "Oh, sweet Caf-Pow, I've missed you." She actually caressed the box like a long absent lover.

"You like?" Ziva asked with a smirk.

Abby lifted her head and rushed to Ziva side. "I love it!" She took Ziva's face in both hands and kissed her on the lips. She had meant for it to be a kiss of thanks, a quasi-friendly, quasi- I like you more than a friend and don't know how to move forward kiss. She really had. She had certainly not planned for the thank you kiss to involve dipping her tongue into Ziva's parted lips. That hadn't been part of the plan.

Abby was shocked, though not displeased, to find herself twisted around and guided onto the table and straddled by a very aroused Ziva. The Caf-Pow was now the last thing on Abby's mind. Her mind was clouded by the delicious feeling of Ziva's compact body moving on top of her, the feeling of Ziva's rock hard belly sliding against her, and the overwhelming sensation of Ziva's soft breasts pressed deliciously against her own chest.

After several minutes of increasing passion, Ziva finally broke the kiss to take in several deep gasps of breath. "I guess you liked the Caf-Pow?" She smiled down at Abby.

Abby nodded, her expression dazed. She reached up and traced Ziva's bottom lip with one finger. "You kissed me." Her voice was full of wonder.

Ziva settled into a comfortable spot on top of Abby, obviously not planning to give up the coveted position. "Technically, you kissed me."

"Technically, you knocked my socks off," Abby said, still looking a bit out of sorts.

"I am trained to act when an opportunity presents itself," Ziva pointed out. Her brown eyes sparkled with excitement, and something Abby hadn't ever seen there before, sincere, bone deep happiness.

Abby wrapped her arms around Ziva's waist, content under the weight of her beautiful companion. "You've been wanting to kiss me?" she whispered, not quite believing her luck.

Ziva smiled a bit shyly. "Very much."

"You did promise that I could play with your software tonight." Abby moved her hands lower and squeezed Ziva's shapely derrière.

"We agreed to a date, if I recall." Ziva's smile widened.

Abby nodded. Her eyes drifted slightly closed and she arched up into Ziva, smiling when the action made Ziva moan. She moved one hand up and tangled it in Ziva's hair, gripping the French braid in the back, and guiding their mouths together again.

Ziva kissed exactly the way she worked, with complete focus and attention to every detail. Abby had often wondered what kissing Ziva would be like, but her imagination did not measure up to reality. Ziva was tender and passionate in just the right combination. Each time Abby would break her mouth away, Ziva would move her delicious barrage of kisses to Abby's throat until Abby's mouth couldn't survive their parting any longer. Abby would whimper and guide Ziva back to her. It felt like she was breaking to pieces again and again, or just maybe, the pieces were coming together for the first time.

Minutes passed and Abby was amazed at the level of passion building within her. Each time she thought she couldn't possibly get any more aroused, Ziva's hand would move to some new area of skin and Abby would reach new levels. She decided she'd better act quickly or she'd be begging Ziva to make love to her on the dining room table. She shifted her weight and suddenly she was on top of Ziva and the position offered fabulous new choices. She lowered her face and began kissing Ziva's throat.

Ziva shivered. "Abby," she whispered uncertainly. "Wait," she asked, though every inch of her body wanted nothing more than for Abby to continue.

"Don't wanna wait," Abby said as she pulled back. "Do you want me to wait?" She bit her lip and gave Ziva a questioning glance. "Really?" She dipped her hand under Ziva's shirt and her eyes closed at the heat and softness she found. "Oh. My. God."

"I do not want to stop," Ziva said with difficulty. "But I think we should stop." She arched her back, offering more of herself to Abby's exploring hand.

"Are you sure?" Abby's hand was now at the bottom of Ziva's bra and her fingertips were slowly moving the fabric out of the way.

Ziva nodded and swallowed hard. She placed her hand over Abby's and guided both out from under her shirt. She closed her eyes, exhaled slowly, and smiled when she felt Abby's forehead press to her own.

"That was totally hot," Abby whispered.

"Umm, hmm," Ziva agreed without opening her eyes.

"And we're stopping…because?" Abby asked. Her eyes were closed as well, and she was playfully resting her forehead on Ziva's.

Ziva lifted her head a bit to move Abby's head up a few inches, then put her own head back on the pillow to create some space between them. Ziva opened her eyes. "Because if we do not stop now, we will end up making love here on the table."

Abby shifted her weight slightly and chuckled. "And again, we're stopping…because?" She ran her fingers across Ziva's cheek.

"I want more for us than this." Ziva nodded toward the table.

Abby sighed in defeat. "Not exactly comfortable," she agreed, though she was a big fan of spontaneity. "And I suppose this isn't a tactically sound location," she suggested.

"No, it is not," Ziva agreed. She leaned up and gave Abby a quick kiss.

Abby's stomach chose that moment to growl.

"And you obviously need dinner," Ziva pointed out. She gave Abby an adoring look and smiled. "It will give us time to talk about things," she said gently.

"Things?" Abby combed her fingers through Ziva's hair. "Good things?" she asked nervously. "Or… I'm getting cold feet things?"

"Cold feet?" Ziva asked. She leaned into Abby's fingers so that Abby began massaging her scalp.

"Cold feet, changing your mind about this… us," Abby explained.

"I am not changing my mind about us," Ziva assured her. She rolled to the side and untangled from Abby. "I just want us to be in the same page." She pulled Abby up so they were sitting next to each other. "Why would changing my mind be called cold feet? American sayings make no sense at all."

"On the same page." Abby corrected and then leaned her head onto Ziva's shoulder and sighed happily. "I love the way your mind works," she whispered, and then her chest began to shake as she held back a laugh. She wrapped her arm around Ziva and leaned over to kiss her neck. "I love the way your lips work, too." She moved her hand up and tucked a few loose strands of hair behind Ziva's ear. "What did you want to talk about?" she asked sincerely.

Ziva turned toward Abby and studied her face. "You are so beautiful," Ziva whispered. "I have never seen eyes such an incredible shade of green." She used her fingers to trace Abby's cheekbone. "There were so many times I was speaking to you and simply lost my track of thought because these eyes are so distracting."

"Train of thought." Abby turned her head so she could kiss Ziva's exploring fingers. "What do you need to talk about?"

"Ah, yes." Ziva sighed and moved away from Abby and stood. "Perhaps I should start dinner?" She moved toward the kitchen and began looking through the refrigerator for ingredients.

Abby hopped off the table and went to the kitchen. She moved behind Ziva and snuggled against her, but being careful not to startle her. "Hey," she whispered into Ziva's hair next to her ear. "There's no reason to be nervous. Just tell me."

Ziva sighed again and then slowly turned in Abby's arms and embraced her. "I am not interested in a one night stand," she said bluntly.

"Good." Abby smiled warmly. "Because neither am I." She felt Ziva relax in her arms. "My feelings for you aren't new. I've been having them for a while."

Ziva nodded in agreement. "I do not want to ruin our friendship. You are very important to me."

"Me too," Abby said. "Well, me too about you. You're important to me."

Ziva laughed and squeezed Abby closer. "I know you had something with McGee…"

"Timmy and I are over," Abby assured her.

"I know," Ziva said. "But I also know that what you had was, how do you say? …Casual."

Abby nodded.

"I do not want that with you," Ziva admitted. She looked down at the floor feeling vulnerable. It was not a feeling she liked or was used to having.

Abby pressed her lips to Ziva's temple and cradled her gently. "I adore you," she whispered. "I don't know when it happened, but you got inside my heart." Her voice was low and husky. "I can't make any guarantees. No one can, but what I feel for you… it's not casual."

Ziva let out a breath and squeezed Abby tightly, only then realizing that she had been holding her breath. "You have also gotten inside my heart," she whispered. "I do not let people inside, Abby." She pulled back and met Abby's eyes. "I liked Lieutenant Sanders," she said thinking about the soldier who had been poisoned by radiation. She shook her head, her thoughts coming from every direction at once. "He was a good man, but as much as I liked him, he did not get in here." Ziva pointed to her own chest. Her fingers lingered there and traced the pattern of the golden six-pointed star. "His death was such a waste," Ziva said sadly. "Maybe he could have gotten inside, but there was no time." She pulled away and paced.

Abby waited, letting Ziva have all the time she needed.

"Maybe I just think he could have. Maybe because he was dying, he was safe. Maybe, I needed someone safe because I already had feelings for you when I met him." Ziva paused and looked back to Abby, who was patiently waiting. "It is very messy in here." Ziva tapped her own skull. "Are you sure you want to start something with me?"

Abby moved slowly toward Ziva, nodding the entire time. "Yeah, I'm sure." She pulled Ziva into a brief kiss. "Very sure."

"Last chance to run," Ziva offered with a smile.

"The only place I want to run is to the bedroom." Abby took Ziva's hand and tugged her toward the hallway. "Dinner can wait. I want dessert."

"Well, I do have a sweet tooth," Ziva said. She let her eyes roam over Abby's curves, and then paused. "Do you not want your Caf-Pow first?"

Abby shook her head and continued backing toward the hall. "I have everything I want right here." Her eyes sparkled. "Well, unless you have your handcuffs."

Ziva laughed, but shook her head. "That is one of the things we will need to discuss."

"Hey, I don't expect kinky restraints the first time," Abby said quickly. She had led them to the hall and was well on her way to the bedroom door.

"My dear Abigail," Ziva said with a sexy leer. "There are so many ways to have fun without handcuffs." She pulled Abby to a stop. She didn't add that handcuffs lost a lot of their appeal when you used them everyday to apprehend criminals. Restraints of any kind lost their appeal when a person had been confined under real world conditions and tortured, as Ziva had on several occasions. Ziva shuddered. That was a discussion for another time. This night was for pleasure. "Perhaps you just have not met the right woman," she suggested playfully.

"I think you might be right," Abby agreed. She had been joking about the restraints, but something told her Ziva wouldn't leave her unsatisfied no matter what the circumstances. Something in Ziva's eyes revealed a darker hesitation that Abby intended to ask about later.

Ziva nodded and marched down the hallway, pulling Abby along behind her and into the bedroom. She nodded toward the bed and then turned and secured the door.

Abby waited next to the bed, curious as to what Ziva would do next.

"Venez avec moi, mon petit Chaton," Ziva whispered as she guided Abby until she was sitting the bed.

"I have no idea what you said, but it was freakin' hot." Abby shivered as Ziva began kissing her neck.

"It is French. I said, 'come with me, my little kitten.'" Ziva blushed.

"Me-ow," Abby said happily.

Ziva knelt down and lovingly began removing Abby's clothes, first her boots, then her pants. She looked into Abby's eyes and smiled. "You are like un petit Chaton," Ziva said as soon as she had removed all of Abby's clothes except her bra and panties. "So curious and full of life." Ziva never broke her gaze as she removed all of her own clothes except her bra and panties. "Petit Chaton, playful and happy."

Abby licked her lips and watched, mesmerized as Ziva moved up the bed and settled in next to her.

"I have always thought of you as a little cat." Ziva leaned over and kissed Abby, slowly enjoying every inch of her mouth. "Just watching you makes my heart rejoice, mon petit Chaton." She stressed the word meaning my.

"That's a nickname I can get on board with," Abby said breathlessly. "Just as long as you keep speaking French." She gasped when she felt Ziva's hand under her back unclasp her bra.

"Quelque chose que vous voulez, mon amour," Ziva promised. "Anything you want," she repeated in English, though she didn't translate the last phrase. She wasn't sure Abby was ready to be called 'my love.'

Abby rolled over and commandeered Ziva's mouth. Abby had grown up in New Orleans, so she knew exactly what 'mon amour' meant. She also knew that Ziva was probably self-conscious about translating that expression. They were just beginning. Oddly enough, it didn't bother Abby. It just sounded right.

The bed creaked as they each focused on getting the other fully undressed without stopping their kissing. Once that task was complete, each relaxed and began to explore the other's exposed skin. Abby was so incredibly aroused she couldn't understand why she hadn't already passed out. She decided to leave that mystery for another day and gave up all rational thought. Nothing existed beyond Ziva's kisses. Nothing mattered beyond Ziva's skilled touch. No one existed outside the bedroom they shared. Everything was right and good in Abby's world.

Ziva was dazed. She had imagined this night many times, but she was not prepared for the rush of emotions that came with each touch of her fingers to Abby's skin. There was no outside world. There were no threats just beyond the walls. Nothing bad could exist in the same universe as the feelings overwhelming her. For the first time in her life, Ziva knew what it meant to shut out the world, or more precisely, at this moment, this place, Abby was her world. It felt right.


Across town, Mikel Mawher sat at his computer and hacked the NCIS mainframe. Nothing mattered except finding Abby. He would find her, of that he had no doubt. She was his. Why couldn't she see that? He didn't care who he had to hurt or kill to get her. Once he had Abby, all would be right with his world.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

Abby awoke to find herself wrapped around the wonderfully naked body of Ziva David, her own personal Spy Queen. That Spy Queen was now her own personal pillow as well. Abby smiled and snuggled a bit closer, relishing the heat radiating from every inch of skin that rested against Ziva. They had both fallen asleep after several lovemaking sessions and Abby was surprised to be the first to wake from their nap. 'Cat nap, or should I say Chaton nap?' she thought with grin. She really liked when Ziva spoke French, so much so that she was considering taking French lessons herself.

She yawned and glanced over at the clock. It was almost ten p.m. and Abby's stomach was more than ready for dinner. She was about to roll out of bed and surprise Ziva by cooking dinner, when she realized that surprising Ziva was never a good idea. The first night Abby slept in Ziva's home, the Mossad officer made it clear; wake her before wandering around.

"Ziva?" Abby whispered as quietly as she could. She gasped when Ziva's arm tightened slightly.

Ziva twisted her head so her mouth was at Abby's ear. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah. Everything's great." Abby exhaled slowly. She would have to get used to sleeping next to a super spy. She rose up on one elbow and leaned to give Ziva a proper greeting. She moaned into the kiss and was smiling like the village idiot when the kiss finally broke. "Wow."

"Are you getting hungry, mon Chaton?" Ziva sat up and stretched her arms over her head. The blanket pooled at her waist revealing her upper body in all its glory, but Ziva was uninhibited.

"Wow," Abby said again, this time admiring the view.

Now Ziva reacted. Her cheeks darkened to an adorable blush. She rolled her eyes and reach for the sheet.

"Nuh uh," Abby said, putting her hand over Ziva's on the sheet. "Now that I can look without being a perv for checking out my coworker, I'm gonna look." She shifted her weight until she was sitting up on bent knees and she let her eyes dance across the human landscape she had been enjoying earlier. She sighed and moved forward and took Ziva's face in one hand. "Stunning," she whispered. "I have no idea how I'm supposed to keep my hands off you at work." She placed a quick kiss on Ziva's nose and then jumped out of bed completely naked. "Feed me, woman!"

Ziva's laughter was like music. She tilted her head back and the joyful sound erupted in short staccato bursts. "As you wish, my kitten." Her eyes were pinned on Abby's exposed skin. "As for the dilemma of work, I cannot help you." She shrugged. "Now that I have explored the treasures and pleasures of Abby Sciuto, I may be unable to stop myself from tossing you onto your lab table and ravaging you."

"Works for me." Abby grabbed a tee shirt from the top of Ziva's dresser. She held it to her face and inhaled deeply it. Ziva's scent permeated the fabric, which made Abby smile. She pulled it on over her head and looked to Ziva. The former spy didn't seem to mind that she was appropriating the garment.

Another lyrical burst of laughter and Ziva was out of bed and getting herself a fresh shirt from the dresser.

After Abby's third glass of Caf-Pow, Ziva rummaged through the kitchen for ingredients to make dinner. She had a good selection of fresh vegetables and several meats, all kosher of course.

"Hey," Abby said as she sat a little straighter on the sofa. She had been studying the food Ziva was tossing onto the counter. "How about I cook you a nice New Orleans meal?"

Ziva turned and smiled almost shyly. "I would like that." She moved across the room, bent down, and kissed Abby. She meant it to be a brief kiss of thanks, but when it came to Abby, brief thank you kisses led to heated embraces, this time with Ziva falling on top of Abby on the sofa.

The kiss broke and Abby twirled her finger in Ziva's hair making ringlets on one side. "I guess you really like Cajun?"

"Just one Cajun." She tapped Abby's nose and sat up, and pulled Abby up beside her.

"I have a great recipe from the French Quarter," Abby said. She pulled Ziva onto her lap so she had better access to her hair. "Mon amore," she added with a smirk.

"You caught that?" Ziva asked, referring to her earlier use of the phrase. She glanced away, feeling exposed.

Abby gently guided Ziva's face toward her and ran her fingers over Ziva's cheek. "I don't miss much," Abby reminded her.

"No, you do not," Ziva said as she closed her eyes and enjoyed Abby's touch.

Abby's attention was drawn to Ziva's coal black hair. She ran her fingertips along Ziva's hairline, enjoying the soft skin of her face and the dark locks. Finally, she focused on the feature that had fascinated her since meeting Ziva. She used one finger to explore Ziva's widow's peak, tracing it again and again. After several moments she leaned closer and pressed a kiss to Ziva's forehead.

"Are you having fun, my kitten?" Ziva asked without opening her eyes.

"Um hmm," Abby replied. She kissed the soft skin again and then sighed. "Guess I should get to the kitchen," she said without making any effort to move or stop her caresses.

"Um hmm," Ziva agreed, but she didn't move either.

"Okay, food," Abby said. She took a deep breath, and with extreme effort, she removed her hands from Ziva's face.

Ziva opened her eyes and gave Abby a loving smile. She was having difficulty moving away from Abby. She sighed dramatically, leaned over and gave Abby a short kiss, and then climbed off her lap. "Do you mind if I make some calls while you prepare dinner?"

"Sure," Abby agreed. "Is this about the uniform thing?"

"How did you know?" Ziva turned and crinkled her brows.

"I figured you must need to call overseas, what with the time difference." Abby headed into the kitchen and started gathering the items she wanted.

"You certainly do not miss much," Ziva said. "It will be five in the morning there soon. Most of the people I need to talk to will be up already."


Abby worked in the kitchen preparing dinner. She chose French Onion Soup and a mildly spiced version of Blackened Chicken salad. She felt immediately warmed when she found the cupboard stocked with Cajun spices, just another clue that Ziva had been Abby-fying her home. Abby made the portions small, given how late they were dining. She didn't want to go to bed with a heavy meal in her belly.

As she diced the ingredients and made the soup, Abby was struck by how nice it felt to be doing something so domestic. She'd never really seen herself as the domestic type, yet here she was, cooking dinner while her woman worked late. That thought made her roll her eyes. She glanced over at Ziva and paused. Ziva had made half a dozen calls already, and it seemed she needed a different language for each one.

Ziva was attentive even when occupied with international calls. She could sense Abby's eyes on her and would look over to acknowledge her. Ziva knew the inquisitive lab tech was trying to figure out which language she was using. She surprised and delighted Abby by using rudimentary sign language to fingerspell the answer.

Ziva was currently on a long, boring call to the city of Eilat. It was on the northern tip of the Red Sea. She was chatting with an Ambassador named Josep Luz. He was a long-winded bore and a womanizing cad who tried to convince Ziva to sleep with him every time they spoke. He was also a bigger gossip than any fishwife and tended to have information about things happening all over the world.

Ziva rubbed her forehead. She was speaking in her native tongue and was glad that Abby didn't have to be subjected to hearing her deflect the amorous lecher.

Abby glanced over and frowned, seeing Ziva's discomfort.

Ziva shook her head and listened to him. She smiled at Abby and fingerspelled, misspelling 'Hebrew' as 'Hedrew' in answer to Abby raised eyebrows.

Abby put her spoon down and came over to Ziva's side and took her hand. She fingerspelled 'Hebrew' for Ziva, showing her the difference between the B and the D Ziva had misused. It was a common mistake, but Abby knew Ziva would want to be accurate.

Ziva nodded in understanding and grabbed Abby's hand and kissed her fingers, an unspoken thanks.

Abby was warmed by Ziva's affectionate action. She turned and went back to cooking. As she added a few finishing touches to the shimmering soup, she was distracted by her own thoughts. 'How could I have ever thought she was cold and emotionless?' she wondered. Now that she was seeing Ziva's demonstrative affection, she had a more pressing question, 'how hard does Ziva have to work to hide her gentle heart?'

When Ziva hung up she shuddered violently. "Eww," she said grouchily. "I think I need a shower."

"Were you calling some naughty Hebrew sex chat?" Abby asked. Her eyes darted to Ziva and then back to the chicken she was blackening in a pan.

"You have no idea how accurate you are." Ziva twisted her head, sending crackling noises down her spine. "That man is eighty years old. He has been trying to seduce me since I was seventeen."

"And you missed this Mr. Grabbyhands so much you called halfway around the world to chat?" Abby asked.

"Ambassador Grabbyhands," Ziva said tolerantly. "He makes the rounds to all of the international parties, so he usually has great intel." She stared at the phone as if it was going to bite her.

"No help?" Abby tasted the chicken and then added more spices.

"No," Ziva said dejectedly. She was now glaring at the phone.

"Who are you calling next?" Abby asked. She could see the dread written across Ziva's unhappy expression.

Ziva sighed and rubbed her face with both hands. She slowly pulled her hands down and scowled. "My father."

"That is not a happy face," Abby pointed out.

Ziva's glare was briefly directed toward Abby, though it was tempered with affection.

"Would some coffee help?" Abby offered.

"I would prefer a glass of wine, a very large glass of wine," Ziva suggested. "There are several bottles in the pantry."

"I'll pick something that'll go with dinner," Abby said.

"Can you bring it to me before you open it?" Ziva asked.

"Sure," Abby said slowly, thinking that Ziva must be very picky about her wine selections. When she brought the bottle to Ziva, the Mossad officer ignored the label and studied the wax coating that completely covered the top inch of the bottle before handing it back to Abby.

"Anything I should know?" Abby asked.

Ziva shrugged and looked at the phone. "Wine corks are an excellent place to inject poisons. I dip mine in wax to allow detection."

Abby stood frozen, staring with her jaw suddenly slack.

"What?" Ziva asked. She decided she wouldn't share the fact that she was quite adept at injecting poison through corks.

Abby looked from the wine bottle to Ziva several times.

"It has not been tampered with," Ziva assured her. She reached out her hand and pulled Abby closer. "Come here," she whispered.

Abby sat on Ziva's lap and put the wine on the desk. "You are definitely the Spy Queen," Abby whispered.

"Right now, the Spy Queen needs her petit Chaton." Ziva rested her forehead on Abby's chest.

"You really don't want to call your father, do you?" Abby kissed the top of Ziva's head.

Ziva shook her head. "I would rather be locked in an elevator with Ambassador Grabbyhands."

"Poor Ziva." Abby ruffled her lover's hair and kissed the top of her head again. "Want me to call him for you?" she offered playfully.

"That, I would pay to see," Ziva said, her mood improving slightly.

"It made you smile," Abby said as she climbed off Ziva's lap.

"You always do." Ziva gave Abby a swat on the butt. "How long before dinner is prepared?"

"Trying to put off the call?" Abby asked as she went back to the kitchen.

"Trying to plan the call so I can use dinner as an excuse to hang up," she admitted.

"Ten minutes," Abby said as she poured two bowls of soup and covered them with cheese. "Does that work for you?" she asked as she slid the bowls under the broiler.

"Perfect," Ziva said. She didn't reach for phone, instead she watched as Abby opened the wine bottle and poured a generous serving. The tee shirt Abby appropriated clung to her in an almost criminal fashion. All of Abby's mesmerizing curves were perfectly accented.

"You're staring," Abby said without looking.

Ziva cleared her throat. "I was just remembering earlier." Her eyes drifted toward the bedroom.

"I'll refresh those memories as soon as we go back to bed," Abby promised. She brought the glass to Ziva.

"I look forward to that." Ziva sipped the wine, watching Abby over the top of the glass.

Abby spun and returned to kitchen with a swing of her hips that bordered on pornographic.

Ziva let out a breath and tried to clear her now smut-filled mind. She took a long drink of wine and then dialed the phone. She spoke with her father briefly. Luckily for Ziva, he was busy with other things and quickly suggested a contact in Washington DC that she could question. The woman was named Anna Sadeh and she worked at the Embassy of Israel as a social attaché to the consulate. Ziva's father made an out of character offer to contact Sadeh and have the woman call Ziva's cell phone. Ziva didn't dwell on the fact that her father had the woman's home phone number. Knowing her father, the connection with the young woman was probably romantic.

When the woman called, she spoke English, so Ziva followed suit.

"Good evening, Miss Sadeh," Ziva began.

"Call me, Anna," she said. "Your father said it was urgent. How can I help?" Her voice was sultry even though her tone and words were professional.

"I am currently attached to NCIS." Ziva looked over and smiled at Abby. The mention of NCIS always made her think of Abby.

"What do you need?" Anna sounded genuinely curious.

"I am investigating a case in Alexandria," Ziva explained. "Several Marine uniforms were stolen as well as the uniforms of an Israeli Lieutenant."

Anna drew in a breath, understanding immediately how serious the thefts could be.

Ziva continued. "Do you know of any upcoming events that would involve Marines and IDF officers interacting?"

"I'm sure you have your NCIS checking for any political meetings and parties," Anna said after a moment.

"Yes," Ziva said. "I thought you might have some other suggestions." She knew Anna would handle the social calendar for the embassy.

"I might," Anna said.

Ziva could hear papers shuffling as she waited.

"Was the theft recent?" Anna asked.

"Last night," Ziva replied. She knew what Anna was thinking. Whatever group had stolen the uniforms would want to strike fast, before anyone could sort out the plan.

"Well, I have an idea then," Anna said. "There is a celebration in East Potomac Park at 1:00 p.m. tomorrow."

Ziva straightened in her chair. "Why did this not come up in my search?" Ziva asked a bit grouchily.

Anna laughed. "Because I am certain your search was for dignitaries," she said. "This is a gathering for families of the Marines stationed in Israel to help set up the early warning radar system near the Gaza strip. It is a picnic and carnival for about one hundred Marine families. It's being co-hosted by Tzahal." She used the Hebrew acronym for the Israel Defense Forces. "Many of our officers will attend in uniform and there should be dozens of Marines in attendance."

Ziva took a deep breath and held it. The event would be a perfect terrorist target for a group like Hamas. Attacking the families of Americans helping Israel set up defenses would send a brutal message and demoralize the troops overseas. "What about security?" Ziva asked.

"Of course, Tzahal and the Homeland Security are handling that," Anna said. "But with this theft, perhaps your NCIS should assist."

"We will," Ziva promised. "Do you have clearance to email the information to NCIS?"

"I can send the itinerary and contact information immediately," Anna said.

Across the room, Abby could tell by the change in Ziva's demeanor there was a break in the case. It didn't look like good news. She removed the soup from the broiler as Ziva finished the call. She heard Ziva immediately make another call, to Gibbs. Abby had to smile when the first thing Ziva told him was, 'Abby is fine. This is about the uniforms.' She set the table as she heard Ziva repeat the important information.

"Very well," Ziva said into the phone. "I will pull the documents off the server from here." She glanced to Abby and smiled. "My system is secure. Abby checked it for me yesterday."

"I want you to stick with Abby," Gibbs said firmly. "I'll put DiNozzo and McGee on this tonight. By morning we should have the IDF and Homeland Security up to speed. You can join us in the morning. For now, don't let Abby out of your sight."

"I will not." Ziva's smiled like the Cheshire cat and licked her lips as she watched Abby bringing their meal to the table. She had no intention of taking her eyes off Abby any time soon.

"Abby get her Caf-Pow?" Gibbs asked almost as an afterthought. Ziva had told him of the special delivery.

"Yes. She was most pleased," Ziva said. Her smile was so wide it was almost painful.

"I'll bet," Gibbs said. "Good work on the uniform case. You'll have to tell me where you get your intel sometime."

"Then I would have to kill you," Ziva said sadly.

"Take care of Abby." He hung up without saying goodbye.

Ziva hung up and went to the table and sat. "Gibbs told me not to let you out of my sight," Ziva said and then let her eyes roam Abby's body.

Abby smiled and glanced down at the table, feeling Ziva's gaze like a sensual caress.

Ziva cleared her throat. "He also told me to take care of you," she said casually.

Abby slid a bowl of soup in front of Ziva. "Well, after dinner, you can do just that."

"He is the boss," Ziva agreed. She tasted the soup and her eyes widened. "This is excellent."

"Don't sound so surprised, Miss David, or you'll be taking care of yourself tonight," Abby teased.

"Not surprised," Ziva said quickly. "Impressed."

"That still implies a certain lowered expectation." Abby was smiling, making it clear she was not serious. She filled a plate with the Blackened Chicken salad and slid it toward Ziva.

"I am afraid to taste this," Ziva said. Her lips formed a perfect pout. "I had big plans for tonight. Plans involving you and me and the shower," Ziva said. "I mean, if I like the salad, you will get mad. If I do not like it, you might not even put in."

"Put out," Abby corrected playfully. "And I'm pretty sure that won't be an issue."

Ziva tasted the chicken and smiled. "Excellent," she said. "As I knew it would be," she added hastily.

"Now that's how you make a compliment," Abby said. "I'm definitely gonna put out." She waggled her eyebrows.

Ziva had another spoonful of soup. "I cannot decide whether to savor this wonderful meal or to hurry through it so we can savor dessert," she said with a rakish grin.

"Savor dinner," Abby said reasonably. "And then savor dessert."

"Agreed." Ziva lifted her wine glass.

"L'Chayim," Abby said as she lifted her glass of Caf-Pow.

Ziva's eyes widened and she smiled brightly, thrilled to hear Abby offer a toast in Hebrew. "To life," she said, using the English translation of Abby's toast.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

Timothy McGee was a good agent. Sure, he wasn't suave like DiNozzo, or scary like Gibbs, or really scary like Ziva, but he was a good agent. When he moved around his apartment, his mind was on his two major cases. He had a print out of Potomac Park and a list of the various businesses donating food or services. He'd been over both enough times to know the basic setup of the celebration at the waterfront park. He'd also spent a great deal of the night before logged on through the NCIS system to look for clues to find Mikel Mawher.

McGee loved Abby. He was not in love with her, but she held a special place in heart. He also loved Ziva, in an almost sibling capacity. It was his love for the two women that made him hope his suspicions about the two were true. He suspected his two friends were finding love together.

He was thinking about the two women when he left his building, and wondering how far they had progressed as he went to his car. Ziva was a good friend, and had taught him many things. One of those things was to spread his senses and feel for anyone around him. He always felt like Luke Skywalker trying to use the force, but after some practice, he had learned to notice things he used to simply ignore. He paused with his key in the car door and had no doubt someone was watching him.

He looked at his car window, using it as a mirror like Ziva had taught him, and he saw movement and a flash of metal behind him from across the street. He dropped to the ground and heard a gunshot even as his knees met the rough pavement. The glass from his window showered down onto him and he pulled his weapon and rolled toward the attacker. All he managed to see was a young man sprinting around the corner. He recognized him instantly, Mikel Mawher. He sat up and pulled out his cell phone and called Gibbs. He decided to let Gibbs call Ziva. At least Gibbs would understand some of the curses Ziva was sure to unleash.


Ziva and Abby arrived at work early. Ziva had an early meeting and Abby decided to catch up on any backlog in her lab.

Abby was at her computer in her lab going over a batch of tissue samples the Navy sent the night before. The tissues needed to be tested for CO2 content. Three sailors had been found dead in a small area off of the main engine room of a Navy freighter. Abby prepared the samples and was now sitting in her chair spinning side-to-side trying to focus on her grim task. Every time she stopped actively focusing on work, her mind would drift to the previous night and making love with Ziva. The problem was, every time she actively focused on work to avoid thinking about Ziva's naked body moving beneath her, she promptly thought about Ziva's naked body moving beneath her.

She closed her eyes and sighed and then spun her chair in a circle. It was a delicious catch 22. Every path led back to Ziva's toned, athletic, flexible, naked body. Being a pragmatic woman, Abby decided to just go with it. She leaned back in her chair, keeping her eyes closed, and let a satisfied smile cover her features. A few more thoughts and she was tempted to moan when she remembered Ziva's mouth doing wonderful things. She whimpered quietly when she thought about the torturous ride to work.

The trip in the back of the morgue van had been almost impossible. She had the soft, flat, bedlike surface of the gurney and an hour with nothing to do but undress Ziva with her eyes. It didn't help that Ziva's smoldering gaze made it crystal clear Ziva's mind was in the same wonderful gutter. When the van passed through a tunnel on the way, Ziva had lunged forward and kissed Abby in the total darkness. Abby had time to run a hand along Ziva's side and steal a quick squeeze around Ziva's breast before the van left the tunnel and Ziva pulled back as if nothing had happened. Now, sitting in the lab, caught up in the memory, Abby let out a groan that could only be called obscene.

Abby was not pleased. Ziva was gone and Abby was suffering in the lab with only Wilbur to keep her company. She sat straight up and opened her eyes, realizing she was sprawled in her chair prancing through her memories of the previous nights sexual escapades… with a witness. She turned toward the door and saw Wilbur standing at attention trying his best to not look at her and yet still guard her.

"Uh, hi," Abby said lamely.

"Ma'am," he replied, really not wanting to look at her.

"Just, uh…" She stood and looked at her chair. "Doing some chair pilates," she lied. "And meditation."

"Yes, ma'am," Wilbur said politely. He'd seen the same meditative expression when he walked in on a bunkmate in a shared tent in Iraq. The bunkmate had been meditating with a Maxim magazine. On that occasion, Wilbur had excused himself and went to the mess hall for a late lunch. This time, he was trapped.

"Abby," Gibbs said as he hurried into the lab.

"Ack." Abby jumped away from her chair as if it was a crime scene. "Don't do that," she yelled.

"Stevens, I want you on high alert," Gibbs told Wilbur. Gibbs was the only one who used Wilbur's last name.

"Yes, sir," Wilbur said as he snapped to attention.

"What's wrong?" Abby asked.

"McGee saw Mawher," Gibbs said.

"Here?" Abby grabbed Gibbs and squeezed against his chest.

"No," he said, trying to calm her. "At his apartment, but McGee's fine."

"Why are you telling me he's fine?" Abby asked suspiciously. "Unless there's some reason why he wouldn't be fine…" Her eyes widened. "Did he hurt McGee?"

"He took a shot at him," Gibbs said gently. "But he missed. McGee is fine."

Abby's breathing became shallow and fast. She felt like the room was closing in around her.

"Abbs, calm down," Gibbs said quietly.

Abby's pupils dilated and she was breathing in short, rapid bursts. Her face went red and then stark white.

"You need to breathe, Abby." Gibbs took her by both arms and knelt so she was squatting on the floor with him. "Put your head down between your knees." He guided her as she bent, then he rubbed her back in slow circles. "Big breaths," he suggested.

Abby was trembling. "He's gonna find me. He won't give up." She dug in her pocket and opened her cell phone. Ziva only put the battery into the phone when Abby was on NCIS grounds, to avoid being tracked away from the building. "I need Ziva," Abby said. She felt light headed. She sent a text message with shaking fingers.

"She's with the Director," Gibbs said. "On a conference call with the Israeli embassy and Homeland Security. I doubt she's taking calls."

Abby shook her head and continued hyperventilating.

Gibbs looked at his watch. He had expected the meeting to have already finished, but it was going long. Abby had obviously come to depend on Ziva. He sighed and pulled Abby closer. "Abby, you need to slow your breathing or you're gonna pass out."

He had comforted her for less than a minute when there was a loud crash in the hallway. The door to the stairwell swung open with serious force and slammed against the wall. Footsteps, obviously at a sprint, announced someone's approach. Gibbs and Wilbur each pulled their weapons and pointed toward the sound. Ziva burst through the door with her gun drawn. "Abby!" she yelled when she saw her lover on the floor. "Are you hurt?"

Abby lifted her head and reached for Ziva.

Ziva fell to her knees and pulled Abby into a one-armed embrace. Her right hand held her gun at the ready, so when her cell phone fell out of her pocket, she ignore it as it skittered to a stop a few feet away. "Is she hurt?" Ziva asked Gibbs.

"She's fine." Gibbs holstered his weapon and nodded for Wilbur to do the same.

"She does not look fine," Ziva snapped.

"She is fine," Gibbs assured her. "And there is no threat." He nodded at her weapon, which was still held out in a defensive position.

Ziva nodded and holstered her gun and immediately took Abby into both arms. "Abby, what happened?"

Abby was now silently crying and clinging to Ziva.

"Mahwer surfaced," Gibbs explained.

Ziva's eyes narrowed.

"He took a shot at McGee, but he missed." Gibbs moved to the wall and leaned against it, wishing he had a cup of coffee. He studied the way Abby clung to Ziva and the way Ziva's embrace was firm, yet extremely gentle. He was doing some relationship math in his head and he didn't like the way it was adding up.

"Did McGee get him?" Ziva asked. She rubbed Abby's back offering comfort.

Abby sniffled and pulled closer to Ziva, but her breathing steadied and slowed.

"No," Gibbs said darkly. "But apparently, he used your ninja skills to dodge the bullet."

Ziva let out a relieved breath.

Gibbs' eyes were drawn back to Ziva's hands on Abby's waist. Her fingers kneaded the muscles at the small of Abby's back. She didn't hesitate or seem uncomfortable. She looked like she was used to touching Abby intimately, and it seemed like that touch was familiar and more than welcome.

He bent down and picked up Ziva's cell phone, smiling for a split second when he saw the message on the screen, '911 LAB,' from Abby. As Abby's surrogate father, he had doubts about Ziva as a suitor, but her willingness to put Abby's safety first was not one of them. Ziva had probably sprinted out of a high-level security meeting without a second thought when she received the text. She came through the door looking ready to kill, ready to die.

Abby took a deep breath and relaxed against Ziva, her body almost going completely limp.

"I'll go take McGee's report," Gibbs said. For the moment, what Abby needed was Ziva. "Stevens, take up a defensive position in the hallway until Officer David gives you other orders."

"Thank you. I mean, yes, sir," Wilbur said with relief. He spun and practically sprinted out of the room.

"When Abby is feeling better, I need you upstairs," Gibbs said and then quietly left the room.

For a moment, Ziva said nothing, she simply held Abby. She shifted and sat on the floor and Abby crawled into her lap and draped her arms over Ziva's shoulders.

"I am here, mon Chaton," Ziva whispered. "You are safe. McGee is safe."

"Can I just stay right here and run my tests from your lap?" Abby asked.

"If it were any other day, wild whores could not stop me from letting you do just that," Ziva promised.

Abby laughed and pulled back. "Wild horses," she said as she continued laughing.

"I assure you, wild whores would be a more effective distraction," Ziva said reasonably. Her brown eyes sparkled with mischief.

"You knew it was horses." Abby smacked Ziva's arm.

"Yes." Ziva nodded. "But it made you smile."

"Yeah," Abby agreed and then sighed and stood up. She offered a hand to Ziva and pulled her lover to her feet. "I know you have to leave," Abby said. "And believe it or not, I will be okay." She ran her hands through her hair and adjusted both ponytails nervously. "Really."

"I am completely torn," Ziva admitted. "I know I must be at the site today. I have the most experience and the targets are Israeli soldiers and American families." She leaned forward and gave Abby a brief, chaste kiss. "Yet my heart tells me to stay by your side."

"I'm in a secure building with an armed Marine guard," Abby said. "Yeah, sure I had a panic attack when I heard about Timmy getting shot at, but come on, it's Timmy." She shrugged. "He's like a big nerdy teddy bear."

Ziva nodded. The description was accurate. "I will make you a deal," Ziva said. "You stay here with Lieutenant Wilbur, and I will take care of your nerdy teddy bear today, okay?"

Abby grabbed Ziva's jacket lapels and yanked her closer. "You will take care of yourself," she insisted and then frowned, "and McGee, and Gibbs, and Tony."

"Deal," Ziva said.

"But I want you home unharmed, got it?" Abby insisted.

"I am the Spy Queen," Ziva reminded Abby. "Nothing is going to go wrong."


Gibbs pulled into East Potomac Park and turned to the agents in the car. He was not happy. The scene was packed with families and if things went wrong, they would go disastrously wrong. Gibbs looked to McGee in the back seat next to Ziva. "McGee, after the briefing, you get to the main gate and check every ID with the military database," he ordered. "Homeland picked up some intel from an informant."

"Nice of them to share the information," DiNozzo whined.

Gibbs glared at him. "They're going to share that intel right now. Let's go."

They exited the vehicle and went toward a large tent at the far end of the peninsula for the briefing. They were all wearing their Navy issued Kevlar vests covered by their unmarked field jackets. It mostly concealed who they were, and if they wanted to be identified, they need only open their jackets to reveal the large white letters, NCIS.

As they crossed the brightly decorated area, they watched people file into the park on foot, most carrying picnic baskets and lawn chairs. Each was stopping at the main entrance and was searched. Two bomb-sniffing dogs worked the gate. Another set of dogs and handlers moved through the crowd.

"Boss, there's like two hundred civilians out there," DiNozzo said.

"Then I suggest you work with the NSWC and Homeland and make sure they're ready for whatever we find, DiNozzo," Gibbs said. "Play nice," he added as he led them toward the tent.

"NSWC? Why don't they just say, bomb squad?" DiNozzo always rambled when he was nervous. "I mean, so they report to the 'Naval Surface Warfare Center.' That takes forever to say. Of course, Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division takes even longer."

"Tony, they just go by EOD, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal." McGee liked to needle DiNozzo when he was nervous. "EOD, that's faster to say than bomb squad."

DiNozzo ignored him and continued, "What the hell is surface warfare anyway? We're on land. Of course it's surface warfare."

Gibbs cleared his throat as they reached the tent.

"I'm just saying…" DiNozzo had to squeeze in one more comment. "Just call 'em the bomb squad."

Gibbs shot DiNozzo a glare and went inside.

"Gibbs, is this your whole team?" a muscular African American man asked.

Gibbs nodded and glanced at his team then nodded toward the other man. "This is Mike Adams, he's with the Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division."

DiNozzo elbowed McGee and raised his eyebrows.

Adams gave a short nod to acknowledge them. "Homeland's intel suggests we've got two subjects planning to take out a soft target today. We have dogs on the ground and a half dozen EOD techs working the crowd." He saw Gibbs's eyes narrow. "I'm guessing your team will work the crowd as well?"

Gibbs looked to Ziva. "Officer David and I are going to work the crowd looking for our guys," he said quickly. "Now, if we're done with the formalities, we've got a terrorist cell to take down."

"Maintain radio silence unless you've got a viable target," Adams said. "Happy hunting." He turned and went to a small command table next to an EOD truck.

"Nice guy," McGee commented sincerely. "Not all possessive about the bad guys."

"He's a good man," Gibbs said. "Knows how to stay out of the way and let people do their job." He led his team out of the tent.

Ziva quietly scanned the crowd. Hundreds of people milled around the park, many of them children. "There could be more than two bombers," she said quietly as she stared at the carnival rides next to the trail that ran alongside the bay. She hated missions where children were at risk.

"I know," Gibbs said. "What are we lookin' for Ziva?" he asked. He leaned his arms on the top of a car parked in front of the tent.

"All of the uniforms were from heavy set men who are short," Ziva said.

Gibbs turned to DiNozzo and slapped the back of his head. "Why wasn't that in the report?"

"Ouch," DiNozzo complained. "It's not like they were the exact same size," he pointed out. "Yeah, none of them are gonna' pose for GI GQ, but I didn't think it mattered."

"What does it mean?" McGee asked.

Ziva continued scanning the crowd. "Short uniforms mean our suspects are short," she said flatly. She pulled a pair of small binoculars from her pocket and studied a man standing at the edge of the crowd, then quickly decided he was harmless. "The heavy build suggests…"

"Oh, wait!" DiNozzo interrupted. "Fat terrorists?" He stepped away from Gibbs to avoid another slap.

"Actually," Ziva said as she paused to check another possible target, then dismissed him. "It means the terrorists need a large uniform to hide something. Most likely, a bomb."

"I prefer the fat terrorist theory," DiNozzo said glumly.

"Let's move people," Gibbs said quietly. "Try to blend in Ziva," he said as Ziva headed toward the crowd.

She nodded and pulled out a pink baseball cap and tugged it down over her ears.

"That's much better," DiNozzo said snidely.


Almost an hour later, McGee felt like his eyes needed a bottle of Visine and his fingers need a vacation. He was at the main gate and typing in every person's information and checking the database. So far he'd caught six people with outstanding warrants and one embarrassed mom with an expired license.

DiNozzo was hanging out with several EOD technicians. They were in their Navy uniforms, but not wearing anything that would identify them as part of the elite Explosive Ordnance Disposal division. They scanned the crowd and waited to take action.

Tony didn't like their bomb truck; he loved it. He wanted one of his own. It was like a monster truck on steroids. It was parked inside the tent to keep as low a profile as possible. Next to the EOD truck was a huge, spherical container. It was on loan from Homeland Security. It was called a TCV or 'total containment vessel.' If they found any explosive devices and couldn't disarm them, they could put them into the TCV and it would safely contain the force of up to twelve kilograms of TNT, the equivalent of a dozen sticks of dynamite.

DiNozzo paused when he heard a crackle in his earpiece.

Gibbs was fifty feet from DiNozzo's position. He casually reached up and rubbed his cheek and spoke into the microphone at his wrist. "Ziva, I've got something."

At the opposite side of the crowd, Ziva was near a small restroom following a short man in an Israeli uniform. "Who?" she asked into her wrist. She knew precisely where Gibbs was, having tracked his progress as the two worked the crowd with the Homeland Security agents.

"Short Marine near the chow line," Gibbs said.

Ziva pretended to rub her neck and looked across the crowded park. "I see him," she said. "I think I have his partner," she whispered, her eyes locked on her own target. She ducked behind the building and took out her binoculars and observed Gibbs' suspect.

"Well?" Gibbs said.

"I see your man. His uniform has bulges." Ziva was trying to estimate the amount of Semtex, the explosive capacity, and type of device so she could relay the information to Gibbs and the other listening agents. "Wires," she said quickly. "Left hand, a firing device."

"Got it," Gibbs whispered.

"His finger is not, repeat not, on the device. It is a trigger device, not a dead man's switch," she relayed. She turned the binoculars back to her own suspect and saw that he had the same setup. "My subject has the same device."

"If you can take him out, do it," Gibbs whispered.

"Understood," Ziva said. "We need to coordinate this. If we take one of them down and the other sees it, things are going to go badly."

Gibbs bent down and pretended to tie his shoe. He spotted Ziva's suspect. He whispered into his microphone. "DiNozzo, my guy is closer to you. Have the EOD ready to disarm this thing when I take him down."

"Got it, Boss," DiNozzo replied.

Ziva calculated a plan. "My subject is moving toward the children's area. Once he is past this building his partner will lose line of sight."

"McGee?" Gibbs asked.

"Here, Boss," McGee answered.

"Work your way to Ziva's position and watch her six." Gibbs followed his target and saw DiNozzo in the distance.

"I'm on it," McGee said.

"Ziva, on your mark," Gibbs told her.

"Copy. I will take my suspect down once he is out of sight, then I will examine his device." Ziva scanned the area, pausing when she saw a female Marine with a baby a few feet away. She checked the woman's insignia and saw her rank. Ziva calmly approached her, keeping the subject in view. "Captain, I am with NCIS," she whispered rapidly and opened her jacket revealing her NCIS vest. "We have a situation." She closed her jacket, taking time to zip it completely closed.

The captain nodded and cradled her infant closer.

"I need you to move out of this area with your child." Ziva's eyes were on her target.

The captain nodded. Her eyes darted to where Ziva was looking and she inhaled deeply as if sensing the danger.

"I also need your diaper bag," Ziva said quietly.

The woman looked stunned, but handed Ziva the bag and quickly made her way in the opposite direction with her family.

Ziva walked toward her target, scanning the area. "Timmy?" she called out, making enough noise so the bomber turned toward her. "Timmy?" She met the bomber's eyes and gave him a pleading look. "My son was just in the restroom. Timmy is three years old with short brown hair. Have you seen him?" She walked toward him, leaning side to side as if looking behind him.

The bomber hesitated. It was human nature to have some response to a direct inquiry. The hesitation was all it took.

"Timmy!" she said with relief and pointed at a small child in the distance. She had noticed the child earlier and now used it to her advantage. "Where have you been?" she rushed forward.

The bomber turned and the saw a little boy who was busy eating a handful of dirt at the edge of the bike trail.

Ziva dropped the diaper bag and in a split second her left hand went around the bomber's waist and her fingers covered the trigger device. At the same instant, Ziva's other hand plunged her dagger through the side of his neck. Before the man's eyes had even shown his surprise, Ziva twisted the dagger, severed his spine, and smoothly removed the blade as his body went limp. He was dead. He collapsed in Ziva's arms and she half-dragged, half-carried him to the railing in what looked like a friendly embrace. She propped his dead body against the railing and used her hand to cover the wound. She smiled at a man who gave her a questioning glance. "Too much to drink earlier," she said sweetly. "Subject one is down," she whispered into her wrist microphone.

Gibbs and DiNozzo where both working their way toward the other man while McGee was working his way through the crowd toward Ziva's position.

Ziva cautiously unzipped the man's jacket and quickly scanned the device with her eyes and took in every detail of the bomb. "Timed suicide belt," she said into her mic. "The hand device is an override to trigger the bomb." She noticed duct tape around the entire device holding nails in place. "The Semtex is covered with nails." She mentally calculated the explosive force of the materials. Thick blocks of Semtex surrounded his entire waist. "We will have a shrapnel radius of at least fifty meters."

"Hey," McGee whispered and knelt next to her. "Dang," he said as his eyes locked on the massive amount of Semtex strapped to the man's body.

Gibbs was ready to strike, but had another concern. "Ziva, there were eight uniforms taken and we've only got two guys."

"I know," Ziva said. "But intel says two, and we have worked this crowd. I have not seen anyone else." She peeked further under the jacket and studied the connections. "The device was activated when they buckled it," she told Gibbs. "I can see the timer, and this one only has two minutes and thirteen seconds before the automatic detonation." She exhaled in frustration and scanned the area. "We are out of time. Take your subject down. Forget about disarming it. Put him into the TCV. I will deal with my suspect." She turned to McGee. "As soon as Gibbs makes his move, evacuate the crowd."

"What are you gonna do?" McGee asked.

Ziva looked across the crowd to the tent where the EOD vehicles were concealed. She knew she'd never make it to the TCV in time.

She heard a grunt in her earpiece, then Gibbs' voice. "Target down. Move."

"Everyone, can I have your attention, please?" McGee held out his badge. "I need you to vacate the area immediately."

Ziva needed to contain the bomb. "McGee, give me your vest," she ordered. "Now!"

As McGee removed his jacket, and then his NCIS Kevlar vest, they could hear DiNozzo on the earpieces.

"Make a hole!" DiNozzo yelled. "This guy had a heart attack. Make a hole." His heavy breathing made it clear that he was running through the crowd.

"Move," Gibbs yelled.

Ziva assumed they were rushing the other bomber's body to the TCV. She stood up and heaved her dead subject up and onto her shoulder in a fireman's carry. She glad he was short and had a rather slight build beneath the bomb. She yanked McGee's vest out of his hand and then ducked around the railing and leapt off the edge of the jetty into the water. It was a fifteen-foot drop into the deep-water channel.

"Ziva!" McGee yelled. He ran to the rail. "Oh, my God," he said as he stared down at the water. Ziva and the bomber were already beneath the surface.

Gibbs and DiNozzo rushed into the tent. The EOD techs had the TCV open and waiting. "We don't have time to remove the device," Gibbs said.

"In you go, Hansel," Tony said to the bomber. "Or was the boy Gretel? Stupid German names anyway."

"Just get him in there, DiNozzo." Gibbs had snapped the man's neck when he took him down, and his limp body was difficult to maneuver. DiNozzo and Gibbs struggled to shove the body into the tight space.

"Okay, why didn't we bring the jumbo size TCV?" DiNozzo asked. The bomber's legs were sticking out of the spherical device at an odd angle.

Gibbs bent the dead man's legs and tucked them inside. An EOD technician closed the heavy door.

"You gonna stand there all day or run?" Gibbs asked DiNozzo.

DiNozzo turned toward the EOD members and saw that everyone was gone. "Aw man." He ran after Gibbs.

"Ziva!" McGee yelled over the rail. He felt dread, like ice filling his belly with each passing second.

"McGee, report," Gibbs yelled over the earpiece.

"Ziva went into the channel," McGee said numbly. "She's gone. She grabbed the guy and just jumped."

"Get the hell away from the water," Gibbs ordered. "And get the civilians out of there!"

As if on cue, an announcement alerted the crowd. "We have a dangerous situation," a man announced. "Please leave your things and proceed immediately to the front gate." Many of the people had noticed the commotion and were already moving back. The announcement caused everyone to hurry toward the main exit. Marines and Israeli Defense Forces in uniform gathered the stragglers and calmly moved them along.

McGee paused and looked at his watch. Time was running out. He shot a last glance at the water and hurried into the crowd. "Just move quickly. Don't panic." He helped a woman with three small children, picking up the smallest and carrying her. "Keep moving."

Ziva had hit the water and sank like a stone. She knew the combined weight of her vest and McGee's would drag her to the bottom of the channel with the bomber in tow. The channel was painfully cold. It was February, so the water was less than 40 degrees. It felt like thousands of needles jabbing into every inch of her skin. It made her want to both scream and suck in a gasp at the same time. She did neither, focusing on holding the trigger device in her hand to avoid letting it hit the bottom and accidentally fire. She had to clear her ears several times as she sank farther into the frigid, murky water. The Washington Channel was deep, dredged to allow boat traffic.

Finally, she felt the muddy bottom of the channel and went to work. She groped in the darkness, her hands already shaking against the cold. She was able to place McGee's vest on top of the bomber and then removed her own vest with some difficulty, working completely blind in the icy, black water. She added her vest on top of the McGee's and quickly pulled her handcuffs off of her belt. Years of training in the Mossad prepared her to work quickly and efficiently in total darkness despite the pain the numbing water caused. She found one of the bomber's wrists and cuffed it through buckles of the bulky vests, using her hands to feel the way. She pulled her knife and performed a rather gruesome task. Her chest ached in protest of the time under water, her fingers were numb, and her body shook uncontrollably from the cold.

She pushed off the muddy floor of the bay and swam toward the surface. She relied on her innate sense of direction because the visibility was so poor she couldn't see any light from the surface.

Her lungs begged for air and her legs felt like lead. She felt her thoughts become foggy and she kicked even harder. The icy water sapped her strength and her skin was so cold it began to feel like it was actually burning. Thoughts of Abby, getting back to her and holding her one more time filled Ziva's mind and forced her body to fight. She had promised to come back and didn't plan on breaking her word. Suddenly light broke through the muddy water above her. She kicked harder and finally her face broke the surface. She took in a gulp of air and swam as fast as she could for the shore.

Gibbs checked his watch and knew the bombs would go off within a few seconds. He looked around and saw that the majority of the crowd had passed the main gate more than fifty feet away. It helped that many of the spectators were military officers who had immediately jumped in to help disperse the crowd safely. He crouched behind a car. "McGee, get down," he ordered.

McGee was standing up as tall as possible, looking like a rather large prairie dog, as he stared at the spot where Ziva had taken her leap two minutes earlier.

"Probie!" DiNozzo yanked McGee down beside him. "You trying to get killed?"

A muffled explosion rumbled from inside the TCV. Everyone turned toward the sound and then another explosion erupted in the channel and a wall of water shot eighty feet into the air, then splashed back down.

"Wait," Gibbs ordered, his arm pinning DiNozzo in place against the car.

Water, mud, and rocks showered down onto the pavement around them. A fish bounced across the hood of the car and pieces of metal clinked against the vehicle sounding like gravel thrown against a tin shed. Showers of splats continued for a brief moment as bigger debris landed, and then, silence.

"Now, we move." Gibbs was up and jogging toward the water instantly. DiNozzo and McGee followed.

They were ten feet from the railing and stopped next to three of the EOD team and two Israeli military officers who had gotten there first. Gibbs pushed his way around them and saw what they were all looking at. A large piece of black Kevlar, torn into tattered shreds, with only the letters CIS remaining, was crumpled on the pavement. It looked like a pincushion covered in thick strawberry jelly.

"What is that?" McGee asked as he pointed to the jelly.

The EOD techs ignored him. Mike Adams knelt next to the fabric. "There must have been five pounds of nails strapped to that guy," he said as he leaned closer to look at the nails that penetrated every inch of the fabric. "If the bomb hadn't been under water…"

"Those nails would have showered everything for a hundred and fifty feet," Gibbs said quietly. He looked over his shoulder. The evacuating crowd was barely fifty feet away and would have certainly sustained injuries. Gibbs knelt next to the vest. He swallowed hard, and looked out over the channel where the surface was still churning. "The water absorbed most of the force and shrapnel." He pointed to a few twisted nails that had gotten through. The metal fragments were embedded in the side of the car they had crouched behind. A small crowd of agents from different agencies gathered in a solemn crowd around the scene, staring at the mangled vest.

"Your agent saved a lot of people," Mike Adams said quietly. He looked at the red jelly-like substance and sighed, and then looked across the pavement at various piles of debris. Chunks of mud, rocks, tin cans, and fish had been tossed from the bottom of the channel, but some of the items were obviously chunks of human flesh and bone.

No one would say what they were all thinking.

Gibbs felt someone moving through the group behind him but didn't really care who it was. He stared at the letters on the remains of the Kevlar vest. He thought of another woman wearing an NCIS vest that had not saved her. Kate, and now… He couldn't finish the thought.

"Well, that is disgusting," Ziva said. She leaned closer and scowled. She was breathing heavily and shivering.

Every head in the small group whipped around and stared at Ziva with stunned expressions.

"Well, it is," she said. She was completely soaked, her tan tee shirt more like a wet second skin. She had dozens of tiny streaks of blood on her arms and a few on her face. There was a trickle on blood on her upper lip and another running from her eyebrow down her left cheek. There was already a bruise forming under and above the left eye. Waves of shudders punctuated her shivering.

McGee grabbed her and pulled her into a fierce hug, lifting her off the ground and swinging her legs like a pendulum.

"Hey," Ziva protested, but the heat from his body felt wonderful against her chilled skin.

McGee put her down, pulled back, but then hugged her again. "Thank God you're okay."

DiNozzo shoved McGee aside. "Ziva, we thought you were goo." He pointed to the substance on the vest. "I could kiss you." He reached for her, fully intending to do just that.

"You could…" she said in a dangerous tone, holding her shaking left hand out to stop him. "And then you would be goo."

DiNozzo gulped. "McGee got a hug," he whined and gingerly gave her a quick hug.

Gibbs was smiling, a rare occurrence for him. "David, I don't think that is an approved method of bomb disposal," he said. "I should send you back to Israel while you're still in one piece." He tilted his head to one side. "Mostly in one piece."

"I know," she said as she looked down at the torn fragment of vest. "But there were children." She looked up and met Gibbs' eyes. "I have seen what those bombs do to children."

Gibbs leaned closer and kissed her wet cheek, her skin chilling his lips. "You did good," he whispered. He pulled back, suddenly all business. "We should get you checked out by a doctor."

"Yes, we should," Ziva agreed. Her whole body seemed to sag. She was shaking uncontrollably.

McGee and DiNozzo both spun toward her.

Even Gibbs' eyes widened. "If you're volunteering to see a doctor, we should probably rush you straight to the ER," he said.

She closed her eyes and let out a shivering breath. She was exhausted, her reserves gone.

"She's getting hypothermic," Gibbs said angrily. He yanked off his jacket and tossed it around her shoulders. "Don't just stand there," he told McGee and DiNozzo.

"Tov, toda," Ziva said. Her eyes remained closed and she was violently shivering. "Rak rega, bevakasha."

Gibbs gave her a blank look as McGee and DiNozzo wrapped their jackets around her.

One of the Israeli officers translated. "She thanks you. But she needs a moment."

"Ziva?" Gibbs asked, truly frightened. "You're scaring me."

"'Biglai ma at omeret et ze?" Ziva bent forward, curling around herself trying to get warm.

The Israeli man spoke again. "She asked, what makes you say that?"

"Get the damn EMTs," Gibbs told the EOD tech. "Now."

The technician ran toward the area where the emergency vehicles were gathered outside the main gate.

Gibbs knelt in front of her. "Ziva, you're not speaking English," he said slowly.

She seemed confused, then nodded. "Yediat safa ahat eina maspika," she said, more to herself than to Gibbs.

Gibbs looked to the Israeli soldier.

The soldier's concern was evident in his eyes. "One language is never enough," he translated. Even he realized Ziva wasn't making much sense.

Gibbs took her face in both hands and made direct eye contact with. "Ziva, in English."

She nodded, taking a moment to pull English from the library of languages bouncing through her mind. "I am alright, merely shaken," she said as she touched the fingers of her left hand her to forehead and closed her eyes, fighting a wave of nausea.

"You're bleeding." McGee pointed to the ground. There was a growing puddle of blood dripping to the pavement next to Ziva's right foot.

"It is not mine," Ziva said slowly, focusing on speaking English. She lifted her right hand and held out…a hand, a severed human hand, neatly whacked off where the wrist bones should meet the radius and ulna.

"Gaa!" DiNozzo jumped back.

Even the remaining EOD members took a step back. The Israeli officers merely stared, noting the skill required to remove the hand.

"We need to ID the bomber," Ziva said, still concentrating on which language to use. "We cannot print goo." She turned to the EOD tech. "Your guy is goo too, yes?" It would have been a reasonable question, except she was using the bomber's severed hand to point at the frightened man.

"That was cut off," the EOD tech said. His eyes were locked on the precise slice that had removed the hand like a chicken leg lopped off for frying.

"Man." DiNozzo scooted a bit farther back. "I thought you just collected some random bits along the way, like a Mossad Easter egg hunt. I didn't know you helped yourself."

"Bag it, Tony," Gibbs said. "Ziva, you have an appointment with the ER."

She nodded and took a step toward the main gate. Her leg buckled and she staggered, but she managed to stay on her feet. She paused and shook her head, causing the jackets around her to slip down her back. Her ears were still ringing and every inch of her body hurt.

"Oh man," McGee said as he rushed to Ziva's side and stared at the back of her shoulders the jackets had been covering. "Boss, that's a lot of blood."

"Get me that God damn EMT," Gibbs ordered. He moved forward and took the hand from Ziva and shoved it at DiNozzo.

"Thanks. I think," DiNozzo said as he reluctantly took the hand and held it at arms length.

Gibbs was focused on injury assessment. "Easy," he told Ziva gently. His eyes were drawn to her back. Only the top of her tan shirt was visible above the jackets draped around her, but the fabric was no longer tan. Her shoulders were drenched in blood. "Sit," Gibbs ordered Ziva and eased her to the pavement. "Sorry," he said as he pulled away the jackets she was using to get warm. He needed to check the rest of her body. He hadn't even seen her back when she approached him earlier.

"Geeze," DiNozzo said. He pointed at Ziva's back with the severed hand.

The back of her shirt was covered in bright red blood down past the middle of her back, some of it still oozing through the various sized holes speckling the tan material. Other smaller red spots were spreading through the fabric above the waist of her black pants.

"Boss," McGee said, suddenly pale. He pointed to the head of a nail protruding about an inch through the tee shirt on Ziva's right shoulder. A slow flow of blood accounted for much of the growing stain.

Gibbs saw the nail, calculating that it must be embedded at least two inches, given that it was a sixteen-penny nail. He moved in front of Ziva and gently ran his fingers through her hair, searching for any head wounds.

"Ouch." Ziva closed her eyes and pulled out of his touch. "Can we just let Ducky examine me?"

Gibbs responded angrily. "If we don't get you to a hospital, you just might end up on Ducky's table for real."

"It is nothing," Ziva said. She pressed her fingers to her forehead. She used her left hand, still favoring the right side. "I hit a small tree. I think it was a tree." She looked into Gibbs' eyes and pointed at him with her left hand. "You should try to avoid the trees," she said in an odd tone.

"I'll take that under advisement," he said, and then looked around for the EMTs.

"It is good advice," Ziva said. She reached her left hand back and rubbed the base of her skull to relax a kink there. "Also, never wear an evening gown to a night club if you are expecting a bomb," she added, pointing to him again.

Gibbs gently grabbed her hand. Her fingers were now covered in blood. "Hold still." He leaned around her to run his fingers through her hair on the back of her head.

"Well, you should not," Ziva insisted. "I have been blown up in a nightclub while wearing an evening gown, and I do not recommend it."

"DiNozzo, go find those EMTs and drag them over here if you have to," Gibbs said as he leaned around Ziva to examine the source of blood. He was staring at a piece of metal the size of a mangled half dollar protruding from her scalp beneath her braid.

"Will the ER have the good drugs?" Ziva asked with a yawn. Now that the excitement was over, her adrenaline rush was gone and she could feel herself crashing.

"You in pain?" McGee asked. It might seem like an odd question, given that Ziva looked like a tank ran her over several times, but he had never seen Ziva show any outward sign of pain, ever. She always seemed to simply tune out pain. "Ziva?" he asked, concerned that she hadn't seem to hear him. "Are you in pain?"

"Oh, yes," Ziva said. She yawned waved a finger at him. "But you are safe, my nerdy teddy bear."

McGee's eyes widened.

Ziva just wanted to take a hot shower and have Abby curl up in bed with her. "Ben zonah," she muttered under her breath. 'Abby's going to kill me for getting hurt,' she thought. She rubbed one aching shoulder and then moved her hand to her Magen David and rubbed it like a worry stone.

Gibbs' Hebrew was limited, but he knew the basic swear words. "Son of a bitch," he translated for McGee before the Israeli officer could. His eyes were narrowed and a concerned scowl was etched on his features.

Part 9

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