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 NINE

Abby turned toward Wilbur. "CO2 leak in the engine room," she told him. "Never a good thing." She spun her chair and sighed as she stared at the results. "Poor guys never knew what hit them."

"So, it wasn't murder?" he asked curiously. He moved next to her and stared at report on the screen. It meant nothing to him, but Abby obviously found it useful.

"Ah ha." She spun and faced him. "I didn't say that." She tapped his chest. "How did the CO2 get there?" She tapped his chest again. "Was it sabotage?" She poked him one more. "Did they have enemies we don't know about?"

"Did they?" Wilbur asked.

"No," Abby said with a smirk. "There was a faulty connector on the exhaust manifold. I was just verifying the tox screen for the cause of death." She stood and paced. "But you can never be too careful." She spun and pointed at him. "Murder is often afoot."

Wilbur nodded.

The door opened and Wilbur spun around, his muscles tense.

"Abigail," Ducky said quietly.

"Got your results right here, Ducky." Abby pointed to the computer screen. "CO2 poisoning."

"Abigail, I need you to sit." Ducky took her arms and eased her into a chair. "And I need you to remain calm."

"What's wrong?" Abby exclaimed. She tried to jump to her feet, but Ducky held her in place.

"Everyone is fine," Ducky said.

"If everyone was fine, you wouldn't make me sit down," Abby said. Her face went white. "Ziva?"

Ducky sighed. "There was an explosion, but she is…"

"Explosion?" Abby shoved Ducky away and stood. "Where is she?"

"She is fine," Ducky said firmly.

Abby stared into his eyes, trying to see if he was telling the truth.

"She's at the ER getting…"

"The ER?" Abby yelled. "The ER is not fine!" She spun and grabbed Wilbur. "We're going to the ER. Get your little Marine car, Wilbur. Now." She dragged him into the hallway, and then stopped. "Which ER?"

"Abigail, by the time you get to the hospital, she will already be back here," Ducky said reasonably.

"You promise she's okay?" Abby tried to calm down, but she felt like she couldn't take a full breath. "You swear?"

"Yes," Ducky said sincerely.

DiNozzo and McGee came out of the elevator and headed toward Abby and Ducky.

"Hey, Ducky," DiNozzo said. "We brought you Ziva's hand." He held up the bloody evidence bag and swung it. The appendage inside sloshed side to side in an inch of blood.

Abby's eyes rolled back into her head and she dropped like a discarded rag doll.

Ducky glared at DiNozzo as he knelt next to Abby. "Mr. DiNozzo, were you injured in the explosion, or is this just your normal stupidity?"

"Both," McGee said.

Wilbur knelt next to Ducky and adjusted Abby's neck so it was no longer twisted uncomfortably. He gave DiNozzo a murderous glare.

"What?" DiNozzo asked innocently. "It's Ziva's hand. She chopped it off the guy."


Gibbs sipped his coffee as he drove. Ziva was sitting in the passenger seat staring out the window, her eyes glassy. She was wearing a yellow hospital gown and a pair of green scrub pants a nurse had given her. Her clothes had been cut off to allow access to the dozens of cuts, scrapes, punctures, and a few more serious injuries that required stitches.

"I should take you directly home," Gibbs said.

"I am fine," Ziva replied. She turned slowly toward him, the pain on her face making it clear her muscles disagreed. "I can work at my desk until the medication wears off. Then I will secure Abby for the night."

"You're not fine." He focused on the road. "Don't know how I feel about putting Abby in the care of an agent not at one-hundred percent."

Ziva inhaled, preparing to let loose a barrage of reasons why she should guard Abby.

"I know," Gibbs interrupted before she could begin. "Even at fifty-percent you could probably take out a team of Navy Seals." He looked toward Ziva, concern showing in his eyes. "I want you to take it easy."

"I will not let anything happen to her," Ziva swore.

"Never thought you would," he said. "You were blown up, Ziva," he reminded her.

"Yes, I remember the loud boom," she said mildly. "And I was not blown up. There was an explosion… near me."

"That would explain the chunk of metal they pulled out of your head… with a pair of pliers," he said, his voice full of sarcasm. "And the three and a half inch nail they pried from your shoulder."

"Abby is going to kill me," Ziva whispered. She touched her left temple, the bruising now combined with a large lump. She rested her face against the window and closed her eyes.

"You two seem to have gotten closer," he said a bit too casually.

Ziva lifted her head and her eyes opened as she turned toward him. "Is there a question you would like to ask?" Even drugged, her eyes conveyed a sense of danger when she glared.

"Just don't wanna see her hurt." Gibbs pulled into the Navy Yard and the guard waved him through.

"You think I am going to hurt her." Ziva laughed humorlessly and looked out the window as they moved into the parking structure. Abby was the first person Ziva had allowed past her protective walls. Ziva was defenseless. Abby could break Ziva's heart, and that hadn't even occurred to Gibbs. Ziva waited silently until the car pulled into a space and he turned off the engine. "I would die to protect her," Ziva said quietly.

"I don't doubt that." Gibbs turned toward her. "But as a fa-" he stopped himself before he said the word father. "As her friend, I want her to have someone willing to live for her. Someone who'll stop at nothing to make it home to her every night."

Ziva opened her door, pausing to look toward Gibbs. "You do the scary father routine very well." She climbed from the car, emotionally and physically exhausted. Her legs ached and she had to use the top of the door to lever herself to her feet. She groaned. Her left leg had a one-inch gash now closed with eleven stitches.

Gibbs moved around the car and gently wrapped an arm around her to take the weight off her leg. "Concerned, not scary." He nodded toward the elevator. "Let's get you well and Mawher caught."

"Or dead," Ziva whispered.

"Or dead," he agreed with a grin. He and Ziva were of one mind on that point. Abby's life would be much better when Mikel Mawher was no longer a threat, which meant dead.


Ducky was examining the hand from the bombing scene. Abby was there, waiting for the results from the fingerprints Ducky had already taken from the hand. Normally, she'd wait for the results in her own lab, but with Ziva hurt, Abby needed the comfort of her companions. Unfortunately, McGee and DiNozzo were telling Ducky about their eventful day, which was not the comfort Abby was seeking.

"So," DiNozzo said, his excitement evident by the way he rubbed his hands together with glee. "We've had a blockbuster day." He grabbed McGee and shook him by the arm. "First Probie uses his Matrix skills to totally bend out of the way of that bullet like Neo. I'll bet there was air warping and…"

"I thought it was my ninja skills," McGee interrupted.

Abby waved to get DiNozzo's attention. "Last time you said it was a Jedi mind trick, Tony." She was trying to get into the excitement of the discussion, but it was difficult when she wouldn't believe Ziva was safe until she saw it with her own eyes.

"Whatever," DiNozzo said. "It was an escape of cinematic proportions." He waved a hand to silence them all. "Then Ziva, well, wow." He paced. "She totally like bails over the railing and into the channel, and swims off like a half-fish, Kevin Costner in the craptasticly bad Waterworld." He didn't mention that he hadn't actually seen Ziva's leap. "Then we're all ducking behind the car and wondering where she is and then… kaboom!"

Abby's stomach rolled.

DiNozzo was oblivious to the effects of his words. "And we're all, 'no!' and Gibbs is all, 'stay back!' and then fishes and mud and rocks and metal and juicy pieces of bomber guy start splattering all over the pavement like the alien at the end of Men in Black, the first one, not the inferior sequel." DiNozzo made splattering sound effects to add to the story.

"Tony," McGee tried to interrupt.

"And we're all freakin' out." DiNozzo went to Ducky, who seemed most interested. "And we find this mangled NCIS vest, and it's covered in disgusting bomber guy goo, but we think it's Ziva-goo…"

Abby sat in the chair at Ducky's desk and put her head between her legs. Wilbur was at her side and rested a hand on her back.

"Tony," McGee used a warning tone.

"And we're all gathered around the supposed Ziva-goo, all sad, and then Ziva pulls an Indiana Jones- from The Last Crusade, when the tank goes over the cliff and Sean Connery gets all weepy, and Ziva's all 'hey, guys, what are we looking at?"

"She didn't say that," McGee said.

"Whatever." DiNozzo waved a hand to shush him. "She came up when we all thought she was goo. Then she starts waving around bomber guy's hand, and Gibbs is being all stoic Gibbs, until he sees this chunk of metal the size of a sports car jammed in Ziva's head. Then gets all grizzly bear Gibbs, cuz the EMTs aren't there yet."

"Thank you, Mr. DiNozzo," Ducky said sharply.

DiNozzo finally turned and saw that Abby was hyperventilating. "Oh, geeze," he said as he rushed forward. "Ziva's fine."

"Fine?" Abby lifted her head and gave him her most lethal glare. "Blown up. She was blown up, Tony. She had metal… in…her…head." She stood and marched toward him. "And I still haven't forgiven you for making me think her hand was blown off." She hit him on the arm.

"Ouch," DiNozzo said as he backed away from Abby avoiding another hit. "Ouch!" he said as he felt the familiar sting to the back of his head. "Gibbs," he said without turning.

Gibbs moved past DiNozzo. He was walking in front of Ziva, but watching her in case she needed support. She was walking without assistance, but was unsteady on her feet.

"Why didn't you call me?" Abby smacked Gibbs on the arm, but she continued past him to Ziva and wrapped the injured woman in a crushing hug. "You're covered in bruises." Her voice cracked.

Ziva inhaled sharply and stiffened in Abby's arms.

"Sorry." Abby released her grip and pulled back. "You promised you wouldn't get hurt." She sniffled as tears welled up in her eyes. She reached out and started to feel the bruised lump over Ziva's left eye, but could bring herself to touch the injury. She yanked her hand back and covered her own mouth.

"I, ah…" Ziva struggled for the right thing to say. Her color hadn't returned, making her hair look even darker next to her pale skin. "I am sorry?" she said as if asking for the words Abby wanted to hear.

Abby hugged her again, this time careful to not cause Ziva pain. "Gibbs, I'm taking her home," she said without releasing Ziva. "And not in the van. I don't like the idea of Ziva getting blown up and then transporting her in a morgue van. That's a nightmare I don't need to see played out."

"Like it or not, that's how we're moving you," Gibbs said. He stared at the two women. Ziva's eyes were closed and she seemed to be drawing strength from the contact. "I'll be going with you to make sure you get settled in safely," he said.

Ziva pulled away from Abby, missing the contact immediately. "Thank you," she told Gibbs. He was the only person whose skill she trusted as much as her own.

"Hey, if Gibbs is going, maybe you should take a regular car and McGee and I can follow," DiNozzo suggested.

"I don't know, Tony," McGee said. "Mawher may be lurking around."

"Exactly," DiNozzo said. "Then you and I can catch him."

Ziva moved faster than anyone could have expected given her injuries. "You are not using Abby as bait." She was in DiNozzo's face, her chest almost touching his as she backed him across the room. "I do not want Mawher seeing her. Are you out of your mind?" She poked his chest. "He shot at McGee," she reminded him.

"Hey, it was just an idea," DiNozzo said defensively.

"A bad one," Gibbs said angrily.

Ziva stood her ground, glaring at DiNozzo. She was breathing heavily and her dark eyes were full of malice.

Abby gasped and rushed forward. "You're bleeding," she said as she knelt next to Ziva's legs. A red spot was rapidly spreading on the back of Ziva's thigh, clearly visible on the green fabric of the scrubs.

"Probably pulled those stitches out," Gibbs said. He grabbed DiNozzo by the back of the neck and shoved him toward the door. "Give 'em some privacy."

"Stitches?" Abby was not pleased.

"McGee, out," Gibbs said. He turned to Ziva. "Have Ducky check the stitches and then we'll get you two loaded in the van." He left with McGee and Wilbur hurrying out behind him.

"On the table?" Ducky suggested.

Ziva nodded and he helped her climb onto a freshly disinfected steel table. She stretched out on her stomach and the back of her hospital gown opened, revealing the extent of the damage to her back.

Abby froze, her eyes widening. Every inch of skin that came into view was mangled. Her back was covered with raw abrasions and cuts. Ziva's entire body was incredibly pale, like the blanched flesh of a corpse. It made the angry red marks and dark bruises stand out in stark contrast. Abby's eyes lingered on a bandage on the back of Ziva's head. There was blood seeping through in an inch long line. Abby knew there had been a piece of shrapnel there. A tiny bit deeper and Ducky would have been the last doctor to ever examine Ziva.

"I will need you to remove these." Ducky tugged at the scrub pants. He helped Ziva guide them down until her thigh was clearly visible. She wasn't wearing underwear, but neither she nor Ducky seemed to notice or care. "Ah," Ducky said. "One of the stitches at the side came loose." He pressed a piece of gauze to the wound to stop the bleeding and then took the opportunity to examine the rest of her injuries, which she allowed.

"Can you stitch it?" Ziva asked as she felt Abby drape a lab coat across her exposed backside.

"I could," Ducky said. He pulled the back of her gown aside and prodded a few of the larger scrapes and punctures. "I'd rather use Steri-strips. Your skin has suffered more than enough abuse for one day." He went to a cabinet, found what he needed, and went to work dressing the wound. "Reminds me of a hurricane victim I worked on. His back was covered in nicks and scrapes. The debris-filled wind had literally scoured off his skin. Though, he had a great deal less skin, and a great deal more debris in his wounds. These appear clean for the most part."

Abby was completely silent, her eyes unblinking. She had caressed every inch of Ziva's back with her hands and lips only a few hours earlier. Now, that skin was torn and battered.

"What caused this one?" Ducky asked as he touched a small gauze bandage on her shoulder.

"Sixteen penny nail," Ziva replied sleepily. Her eyes were closed and she yawned.

Ducky grimaced. "I do hope they did a complete series of x-rays. Yes?" He leaned closer and ran his hands over Ziva's skull, much the same way Gibbs had at the bomb scene.

"Umm hmm," Ziva mumbled. She kept her eyes closed, her body needing the rest.

"That's some lump." He explored the area around the small bandage. "You were incredibly fortunate. The shrapnel impacted precisely on the external occipital protuberance; that's the thickest area on the back of the skull. A half inch in any direction and you'd have spent the night with a neurosurgeon."

'Or in the morgue,' Abby thought.

"Or here," Ducky said under his breath. He moved his attention lower. "Quite fortuitous that the nail missed your scapula." He poked around the edges of the gauze, his trained eye noting the swelling caused by the puncture. "A sixteen penny nail, three and one half inches long. It's a favorite addition to homemade antipersonnel devices. lethal in most cases. It can cause more damage than a bullet if it tumbles through a body."

Abby put her hand over her mouth. She did not want to puke in Ducky's autopsy bay. She knew she should leave, but she didn't want to let Ziva out of her sight.

Ziva was completely still, her breathing slowing considerably due to the drugs in her system.

"It's a miracle it didn't reach your lung." Ducky made a tsk tsk noise as he continued his exam. "I'd guess the nail didn't completely penetrate," he said. "It appears to have lodged precisely between two ribs. Incredibly lucky it didn't shatter the bone." Ducky titled his head to one side and noticed a bruised gash on her lower back. He diverted his hands to that injury with clinical curiosity. "Any closer to that bomb and this would have gone right through the kidney."

Abby's stomach lurched at the scene of Ziva stretched out on the autopsy table. She had already realized how close her lover had come to ending up on that table in a formal capacity, but Ducky's running commentary was driving the point home. All the blood drained from Abby's face, leaving her as pale as a marble statue.

"Fascinating," Ducky commented. "I so rarely see bombing victims that still have a pulse." He turned toward Abby. "Oh, dear. Abigail, you need to sit down."

Ziva turned her head to check her lover. "Sit," she ordered, frightened by how pale Abby had become.

Abby nodded numbly and simply let her legs crumple so she sank to the floor, not sure she could reach the chair.

Ducky abandoned Ziva and hurried to Abby. "I don't want you fainting again," he said gently. "Let me get you a glass of water."

Abby shook her head. She didn't think she could hold the water down.

"You fainted?" Ziva sat up and pulled her pants into place and gingerly climbed down from the table. "When?"

"After I found out you were blown up," Abby said grouchily. "After Tony held up a bag with a hand in it and said it was yours."

"I am going to kill him," Ziva said through gritted teeth.

"It was an honest mistake," Ducky said. It was to protect Tony, not what he actually believed. He thought Tony had been extremely insensitive. "Mr. DiNozzo merely meant it was your hand in the sense that you'd collected it." He turned to Ziva and smiled. "Rather ingenious, I might add. We would have never gotten fingerprints from the remains any other way. Amazing job on the removal, especially given that you were underwater and waiting for a bomb to explode."

Ziva hissed in pain as she knelt next to Abby. She guided her lover into her arms.

"Can we go home, now?" Abby asked with another sniffle.

"Of course, mon Chaton," Ziva whispered.


Abby and Ducky settled Ziva onto the gurney in the back of the morgue van. Ziva yawned and tried to find a comfortable position on her side.

"You scared me," Abby said. She sat on the floor next to the gurney and tucked her legs up Indian style.

"I am sorry," Ziva said sincerely.

Abby nodded. "I know you didn't mean to." She sighed. "You're the Spy Queen. It's what you do." She touched the dark bruise above Ziva's left eye. It was warm to the touch.

"I would not have taken the risk if it was not absolutely necessary," Ziva said, taking Abby's hand and tucking it under her cheek.

Abby nodded. She felt fragile. The constant stress of knowing that Mikel Mawher was out there somewhere, added to almost losing her new lover, was pushing Abby to her breaking point.

"The park was full of children," Ziva whispered. She had reached the end of her own reserves, and a tear slid down her cheek. "I have seen too many maimed and dead children, Abby."

That got Abby's attention. She leaned over, wiped the tear away, and kissed Ziva's forehead. "One child is too many," she whispered. She honestly had no idea how Ziva could live with the horrors she had seen.

"Yes, it is," Ziva agreed, closing her eyes. She took a moment to control her emotions, which felt as raw as her back. "You made me fight today." She opened her eyes and struggled to sit up comfortably. "In that channel. It was you. I did not think I could make it to the surface, but then I thought of you." She smiled shyly. "I fought for you."

"Good," Abby said. "And you're never gonna stop fighting. I order you to come home to me every time."

"Yes, ma'am," Ziva tried to salute but the action sent pain down her arm.

There was a knock on the door and Ziva's gun seemed to appear in her hand as if conjured by magic. Apparently, she had somehow managed to strap her holster on beneath her hospital garb.

Gibbs opened the door and stared at the gun. "You might want to clean that," he said as he climbed in and sat down on the bench along the wall. If he thought it was odd to find Abby settled in place on the floor, he showed no sign of it. "There's mud and grass in the barrel and I think there's part of a dead fish stuck in the trigger guard."

Ziva looked at her weapon and realized that, yes, there was part of a fish in the trigger guard. She ejected the clip and then the round in the chamber, and put them all onto the floor on the opposite side from Abby. She wouldn't risk using a weapon that could misfire. She looked down at her ankle, realizing that her backup gun was probably in the same condition. "May I borrow your backup until I get home?" She looked at Gibbs expectantly.

"Don't get fish in it," he said. He reached down and pulled his backup gun from an ankle holster and handed it to Ziva, grip first. "Or bomber goo." He leaned against the wall and pulled his baseball cap down over his eyes and rested.

Abby smiled at the exchange. She gave Ziva an adoring look, wishing she could kiss her.

"And for God's sakes," Gibbs said. "Wait 'til I'm gone before you make out."

"Gibbs," Abby squealed.

"Come on, Abbs, I've got eyes," he said without actually opening his eyes. "Just keep it away from the job."

It was as close to a blessing as they were going to get, and Abby took it as that. She sat up and hugged him. "She makes me happy," she whispered in his ear.

"Which is why I haven't deported her," Gibbs said, still resting against the wall of the van. He opened his eyes and his gaze met Ziva's. "Which I will do, if you hurt her."

Ziva smiled and tucked his gun into her waist holster and stretched out on the gurney.

"Better not be a dead fish in that holster, David." Gibbs closed his eyes as the van started and then began moving.

 

CHAPTER TEN

Gibbs sat at Ziva's dining room table cleaning her guns. Ziva was sleeping on the sofa and he didn't want to disturb her. She was like him, comforted by the smell of gun cleaning oil and the sound of a weapon being broken down and then reassembled.

He knew Ziva would probably tear the guns down again to verify that they were in order, but at least he'd removed the mud and fish parts, plus part of a frog, and what he could only assume was part of the bomber that had been lodged in the ammo magazine. That worried him. If the weapon had that much debris, Ziva must have been in the water or just climbing onto the shore, when the bomb went off. By all rights, she should have been killed. He looked toward Ziva, thinking how thankful he was that she was safe, and then he snapped the gun slide back into place.

Abby was in the kitchen cooking. That made Gibbs smile. He turned so he could watch as she moved around the small space putting together dinner. She looked happy in Ziva's home. He thought back to Shannon, his first wife, and felt the familiar pain of the loss that shaped his life.

"Cell phone battery!" Ziva sat up from a sound sleep, suddenly alert. She spun, her eyes finding Abby immediately.

"I took it out back at NCIS," Gibbs said. He got to his feet and brought Ziva's primary gun, the Sig Sauer P228, with him and sat in a leather chair across from the sofa.

"Good," Ziva said, still looking to the kitchen to convince herself Abby was safe.

"Cleaned this." He placed her gun on the coffee table wrapped in a cleaning cloth.

"Thank you." She immediately reached for the weapon, opened it, and checked it with practiced ease, wiping the exterior with the cloth before setting it back down.

He handed her a full ammo clip, which she took and loaded into the weapon. She chambered a round and put the gun next to her on the couch.

"You should be sleeping," Abby said. She came over and felt Ziva's forehead, making sure she wasn't getting a fever.

Ziva's eyes fluttered at the contact and she leaned toward Abby. She caught herself when she felt Gibbs' eyes on her, and she pulled away and cleared her throat. "Any news?"

"Yep. Best kind." Gibbs glanced toward the kitchen. "We're having steak for dinner."

"The fingerprints got a hit," Abby added. She sat next to Ziva, so close their legs were touching from knee to hip.

"Really?" Ziva turned to Abby and smiled proudly.

Gibbs leaned forward. "His name was Ghazi Nasser. He wasn't on a Homeland Security watch list."

"How did he get into the US?" Ziva asked. "Have you sent agents to his home?"

"Student visa," Gibbs said. "And yes, McGee and DiNozzo checked his home."

"And?" Ziva yawned and leaned back against the sofa, only to instantly regret it. She winced as soon as her back touched the fabric.

Abby jumped to her feet. "Let me get you a pillow for your back." She headed for the bedroom.

Ziva was on her feet and at Abby's side in three long steps. "Wait." She pulled her lover to a stop and looked down the hall.

"I cleared the entire place," Gibbs said, knowing what Ziva was thinking. Ziva's medication had fully kicked in on the ride home. He and Abby had practically carried a very groggy Ziva into the apartment. Not an easy task given the number of deadbolts they had to open on the front door.

Ziva turned and nodded to him, but she went with Abby anyway. "I feel better if she is within my sight."

"I understand," Gibbs said. Anytime he was on protection detail he didn't let the protectee go anywhere alone.

Once in the bedroom, Abby took Ziva's face in her hands and kissed her deeply. "I've been wanting to do that all day," Abby whispered.

"Me too," Ziva admitted. She looked down at her hospital clothes and scowled. "I should change."

"I think showering would be a good idea too," Abby suggested. "But don't get the stitches wet."

"Are you saying I smell?" Ziva asked as she went to her dresser for a change of clothes.

"Bomber goo and fish parts," Abby said. "Do the math."

"I see," Ziva said. "Wait here, please." She went into the master bathroom and put her clothes on the sink counter and then came back. She tugged Abby with her and then delivered Abby to Gibbs.

"Apparently, I need a shower," Ziva informed him. She glanced at Abby, unable to stop the smile that blossomed. Being around her lover made it difficult to not smile. "I leave Miss Sciuto in your care." She turned and went down the hall.

Gibbs kept his eyes briefly on Ziva as she walked away, and then turned to study Abby as she watched Ziva. They both seemed genuinely happy despite the stressful situation.

Abby caught him staring at her. "Don't you dare deport her," she said. She went to the kitchen. "Or no steak for you, Jethro."

Gibbs came into the kitchen while Abby worked. When she reached for a knife and started to cut some red potatoes he cleared his throat. "Need me to sharpen the knife for you?" he asked.

Abby knew he was probably bored. When Gibbs was bored, he needed to fix things. Since he didn't have a boat to work on, his second choice was anything weapon related.

"Gibbs, think about that question." She handed him the knife with extreme care. "This knife belongs to Ziva the Spy Queen, and knives are like her special spy thing."

"Well, yeah," he admitted. "Wow," he said as he studied the razor sharp edge. "Ducky could use this for a scalpel."

"They're all like that," Abby said with snicker. "The first day we hung out here, Ziva showed me which knives to grab if Mikel broke in and I needed a weapon." She rolled her eyes. "Like I'd have a chance to do anything before she took care of him."

Gibbs was still turning the chef's knife over in his hand. It was perfectly balanced. He would bet a week's salary Ziva could hit a target with the chef's knife at twenty paces. "I'm guessing this one was on the list?" he asked.

"Oh, yeah, definitely," Abby said. She took the knife and went back to the potatoes. "Oh. She gave me one of her knifes. It's a cute little folding pocket knife."

Gibbs raised both eyebrows. "Cute?"

Abby nodded and stepped away from the cutting board and dug the cute knife out of her boot. "Ziva says to keep it close, but it makes my boot too tight." She handed it to him.

"Cute?" Gibbs asked again dubiously. He turned over the black folding knife. It was about four and a half inches long. He flipped it open and whistled. "That's a close quarters combat knife. It was designed by Colonel Rex Applegate."

"Is he like the Louis Vuitton of knives?" Abby asked.

"Retired US Army expert in just about every type of combat you can think of," Gibbs said. He felt the weight of the knife. "This is a three quarter sized combat folder. A lot of Seals carry this knife." He folded the blade into the handle. "You know how to use it?"

"Ziva gave me a few lessons," she said with a huge grin.

"I'll bet she did." He didn't want to let his mind wander to other possible lessons the two women had shared, so he handed it back to her.

"She told me not to use it unless it was life or death." Abby opened the knife and held it in a combat hold that concealed the weapon from view. "No poking. Just stealthy slashing."

He nodded. Abby's technique was excellent. Her closed fingers concealed the handle, and the blade ran toward her elbow, with her arm positioned to hide it.

Abby swung her fist at an imaginary attacker.

"Easy there," Gibbs said, but couldn't hide his proud smile. "I'm too old for knife fights."

Abby stopped her mock battle and realized Gibbs needed something to do. "Ziva has a box of knives in that closet waiting to be fiddled with." She pointed with the combat knife. "I don't think she'd mind if you played with them."

"Played with them?" Gibbs asked.

"Make 'em all sharp and pointy and clean," she clarified.

He paused only briefly, weighing his boredom versus the possibility that a trained assassin might not like someone touching her personal knives. "I did loan her my gun," he reminded Abby, then went and retrieved the box.

"You look like a kid in a candy store," Abby commented. "A very lethal candy store."

He stared down at the knives, three of them, carefully placed on a cleaning cloth inside a metal box. Each one was probably more deadly in Ziva's hand than a gun was when used by almost anyone else. As intrigued as he was, he wasn't about to touch them. He moved the box to the coffee table and sat, staring at the box with longing.

Abby looked down the hall. Ziva was taking far too long. Ziva generally showered and dressed in less than five minutes. The only exception had been when Abby had showered with Ziva. That shower had emptied the hot water heater. She sighed and turned to Gibbs. "I need to check on Ziva."

He nodded. He was getting worried as well.

Abby found Ziva in the shower. She could see her through the opaque glass, her head bent forward with the steaming water pounding down on her torn back.

"You shouldn't get those stitches wet," Abby said in a panic. She opened the shower door and gasped. The cuts on Ziva's back were all weeping red streaks of blood that ran down past her waist. "Out," Abby ordered as she reached down and turned off the water.

"I need to make sure the wounds are clean," Ziva pointed out. "Besides, these are not the first stitches I have had." She straightened up and stood naked with both hands on her slender hips. She was not prepared to see Abby burst into tears. "Abby?" She stepped out of the shower, dripping water and blood onto the floor.

Abby shook her head and turned her back to Ziva. She covered her face with both hands and her body shook as she sobbed while trying not to let any sound escape.

"Abby?" Ziva asked again, her voice hesitant. She was starting to get scared and concerned.

Abby heard the fear in Ziva's tone and immediately spun to face her lover. "I hate seeing you hurt," she explained. "I'm trying to be all tough since you're like the ultimate spy, but I can't stand it." She pointed to the drops of diluted blood on the white tile. "That's your blood. It's evidence that you almost died."

"No." Ziva took Abby's hand. "It is evidence that I lived and that whatever wounds I have will heal." She nodded toward a towel. "Perhaps, you could hand me a towel and I will get dressed. You can leave so you do not have to see."

"I want to help," Abby said. "I need to," she corrected.

"Alright," Ziva said, taking Abby at her word. She let Abby dry her back and then bandage the worst of the cuts. Getting dressed was more difficult than she had anticipated, and she was glad to have the assistance. By the time they made their way to the kitchen, Ziva was feeling much better.

"Everything okay?" Gibbs asked.

"Yes," Ziva said quickly. "Abby tended to my wounds." She saw the knives on the table and immediately deduced that Abby had offered them to Gibbs to relieve his boredom. She also knew why he hadn't touched them. "Please, feel free." She pointed to the knives.

He smiled and picked up one that had held his attention. It was a short, well balanced throwing knife. "As I started to tell you earlier, DiNozzo and McGee worked the bomber's home for evidence," Gibbs said.

Ziva sat and picked up one of the other knives. She spun it with her fingers, then switched hands and repeated the motion. Each movement was graceful and smooth and could have passed for a choreographed dance between flesh and steel, but a trained eye could make out familiar blade positions used for various forms of attack or defense. The skill spoke of countless hours of practice. Her relaxed posture suggested the familiar movement was something she used to calm her nerves, like a more lethal version of rubbing a rosary.

"Did they find anything?" Ziva asked after a few moments.

"Yep," Gibbs said. "Nasser and his buddies have been raising capital by selling stolen electronics, high end stuff. Two bedrooms of the apartment were stacked to the ceiling with unopened boxes. Looks like they've been taking them from shipping containers."

"We should follow up on that," Ziva said. She tilted her head to one side, considering the implications of terrorists with connections at the port. "And the uniforms?"

"They recovered all but one of our missing Marine uniforms, but there's no sign of the Israeli Lieutenant's last uniform," Gibbs said. "They may have thrown them away."

"Or not," Ziva said.

"Or not," Gibbs agreed. He and Ziva both knew the missing uniforms could represent a very real danger.

Ziva sat silently, going over the case in her head. "Perhaps, the unused uniforms were the wrong size." She held her hand out as if gauging someone's height. "The lengths of the trousers were different for each man."

"You think they took the extra uniforms so they'd get a pair that fit perfectly?" Gibbs asked. It would explain why so many Marine uniforms were stolen. "Then why only one set from Stavi?"

Ziva's eyes darkened. "They knew Stavi's size." She considered that for a brief moment. "If they had someone at the embassy, they could have seen Stavi's personnel file."

Gibbs nodded, not liking the implications of that.


McGee had started one day with gunfire and was going to do everything possible to avoid repeating that particular thrill. He was on his cell phone, trying to explain that fact to DiNozzo. "I am not acting as bait, Tony. Forget it," McGee said after spitting his toothpaste into his sink.

"Are you brushing your teeth, Probie?" DiNozzo asked.

"That's generally what I do before leaving for work." McGee scrubbed his brush over his tongue and then spit again.

"Well, stop it. That's gross," DiNozzo whined. "I do not need to hear you spit."

"Get over it." McGee rinsed and then spit, holding the phone next to his mouth to enhance the sound. "Tell me again why I'm leaving for work before dawn?"

"Just get down here and get in your car," DiNozzo said. "We have to catch Mawher."

"Down here?" McGee went to the window and looked down to the street and saw DiNozzo's car at the end of the block. "I'm not gonna be your bait. No way. Gibbs frowns on us being bait."

DiNozzo imitated McGee, sounding like a second grader mocking a sibling. "Gibbs frowns on us being bait," he said in a falsetto tone. "Suck up."

"Is that your Muppet impersonation?" McGee asked. "Needs work. I'm still not playing bait. Why can't you be the bait?"

"Because I was not dumb enough to let Mawher track me home," DiNozzo said. "I am a stealthy agent. I could be the next James Bond. No one gets the jump on me unless I want them to."

"Uh huh," McGee said as he straightened his tie. "Of course, it couldn't be that Mawher already knew where I live from the last time he stalked Abby?"

"Please." DiNozzo rolled his eyes. "You screwed up. Yeah, you did the Matrix bullet dodge, but you never should have let him get the drop on you."

Before McGee could respond, he heard a gunshot in stereo, picking up the sound outside and hearing it over the phone connection. He also heard DiNozzo scream like a little girl seeing a spider. "DiNozzo!" He ran downstairs and then outside to the street and saw Tony's car with the window shattered. Mawher was nowhere to be seen. "Tony?" he yelled.

"What took you so long?" DiNozzo said as he crawled out from between the seats of his car.

"What's the matter, don't like being bait?" McGee scanned the area for any danger.

"Shut up, Probie." DiNozzo brushed glass out of his hair.

"Shut up, Probie," McGee repeated in his most mocking falsetto Muppet voice.


The first thing Abby noticed was that there was a very naked Ziva sleeping on top of her. She didn't mind, not in the slightest. The cuts from the explosion made it painful for Ziva to sleep on her back. Ziva was currently nestled comfortably using Abby's left breast as a pillow. No, Abby didn't mind being Ziva's personal mattress, not one bit. What she minded, was that she had not been able to make love to Ziva the night before. Not with Gibbs sleeping on the sofa. No, he made that perfectly clear.

When Abby told Gibbs it was time to put Ziva in bed to get some rest, Gibbs had pinned Abby in his gaze and said, 'Good idea, Abby. She needs her rest. She's had a rough day and shouldn't exert herself in any way.'

Abby let out a frustrated grumble as she refocused on the naked woman in her arms.

Ziva's grip around Abby's waist tightened and Ziva lifted her head. "Are you alright?"

"Fine. Just frustrated," Abby whined. She gently explored Ziva's back, feeling for any areas that might be warm to the touch indicating infection. She bit her lip, concentrating as she looked up at Ziva's face. She reached out and ran the tip of her finger over the bruised cut above Ziva's eyebrow, then traced another on her lip. "You sure you're okay?"

"Sore," Ziva said. She leaned down and kissed Abby. "And frustrated."

"Yeah, daddy Gibbs needs to go home." Abby moved her hand lower and caressed Ziva's behind. "I definitely need my daily dose of Ziva."

"As you wish," Ziva whispered. She slowly kissed Abby, taking time to explore her mouth and tease her with playful nips and bites.

There was a tap on the door. "Ziva?" Gibbs whispered from the hallway.

Ziva lifted her head and her eyes widened like a puppy caught with his owner's favorite slipper in his mouth.

"There is no way he heard us," Abby whispered. "Not through that." She pointed to the metal door.

Ziva scooted to one side and rolled off the bed, smoothly pulling a gun from between the mattresses as she stood. She grabbed a dangerously short red silk robe off the back of the door and put it on. "Is everything secure?" Ziva asked.

"Yeah. I need to talk to you," Gibbs said quietly through the door. "DiNozzo just called."

"What's wrong?" Abby asked as she stood and quickly pulled a shirt over her head.

"I will find out," Ziva said. "Get into the closet and bolt the door."

"You have got to be kidding me," Abby said. Her indignant tone lost much its impact, given that she was naked from the waist down. "It's Gibbs."

"Abby," Ziva said sharply. "Please."

"Fine," Abby reluctantly agreed. She sighed and hopped on one foot as she pulled on a pair of Ziva's sweats. She went into the walk-in closet and flipped on the light, then dutifully closed and bolted the door. It was similar to the bolt on the bedroom door, and while it was an added measure of safety, Abby felt silly using it when Gibbs was the one at the damn door.

Seeing that Abby was secure, Ziva unbolted the bedroom door and opened it, her gun in her right hand.

"Someone took a shot at DiNozzo," Gibbs said, holding up his cell phone. "He's fine." He saw her gun and realized his mistake. "Sorry," he said with a sigh. "I am not under duress," he promised and came into the room.

"Well, this is Tony," Ziva said. "Are we sure it was Mawher?"

On the phone, DiNozzo was listening. "I heard that."

"DiNozzo is touched by your concern," Gibbs said. He was actively trying to not look at the short robe Ziva was barely wearing. "We know it was Mawher because he took a shot at DiNozzo outside McGee's apartment and Tony saw him."

"Hey, Boss, if this day continues like yesterday, that means you'll be getting blown up," DiNozzo said.

Gibbs spoke into his Blackberry. "Work the scene for any evidence and then you and McGee get to the office and go back over every lead we have. And figure out where the hell Mawher's hiding, damn it." He hung up. "Where's Abby?" he asked, noticing the bed was empty.

"In there," Ziva said. She moved to the closet door and knocked. "You can come out, Abby."

"And who are you?" Abby asked sweetly from inside the closet. She thought it was ridiculous to hide in the closet with Gibbs at the door, so she was going to make Ziva suffer a little as well.

Ziva blushed and whispered through the door.

"I'm sorry, I can't hear you," Abby called out in a singsong voice.

"Ziva the Spy Queen," Ziva said pointedly.

After a moment Abby emerged.

"The closet, Abbs?" Gibbs raised one eyebrow.

"It's a panic room," Abby explained. "Ziva is a little overprotective."

"Well, she is the Spy Queen," Gibbs pointed out. He turned to leave and paused, eyeing the door mechanism. "I'm surprised she doesn't have a drawbridge."

Ziva took Abby's hand. "Mawher shot at DiNozzo, but Tony is fine."

"And we're sure it was Mikel?" Abby asked.

Ziva nodded. "I need to get to the office and go back through the list of his known associates."

"Uh, no, you don't. You're not ready for full duty," Abby said.

Gibbs cleared his throat. "That's my call, Abby." He studied Ziva. She was standing in a slightly stiffened pose, but looked much better than she had the night before. "You're on leave for the next three days." Ducky had told him Ziva should rest for at least 72 hours.

"I am fit for duty," Ziva said angrily

"And I'm supposed to believe that? Gibbs asked.

"Would you like me to drop and give you twenty-five pushups?" Ziva asked. She put both hands on her hips, which made her short robe ride up another inch.

"Hmm." Gibbs seemed to consider the suggestion. He shook his head when he saw Abby glare at him. "No, you'd use your Mossad ninja skills to work through the pain."

Abby let out a breath she'd been holding.

"Fine," Ziva said with a determined look. She folded her arms over her chest. "I will take three days off…"

Gibbs cut her off. "And no, you will not take the time off and then conveniently decide to spend your sick-time sitting in Abby's lab."

Ziva rushed forward. "If you think that I am going to let her out of my sight…"

Gibbs held up a hand to silence her. "I made several calls last night." He turned to Abby. "You're off duty too." He moved his hand toward Abby to stop her from speaking. "You haven't taken a sick day or vacation day in two years. I've got your lab covered, so take the time off and say thank you."

"You can't let some stranger take over my lab." Abby was well and truly pissed. "My equipment is temperamental. Only I know how to baby it."

Gibbs pointed at Ziva. "Stay," he ordered. He took Abby by the arm, pulled her into the hallway, and continued toward the living room. "Abbs," he whispered. "There is a highly trained Mossad assassin in there. She is not going to let anything stop her from protecting you."

"Duh," Abby whispered harshly.

"She was damn near blown up, Abby," he said flatly. "She had chunks of shrapnel blown into her body," he said in an emotional whisper. "The concussive force blew half her Kevlar vest fifty feet," he added. "The bomb techs still haven't collected all of the debris."

"I know that," Abby whispered just as emotionally.

"The other half of that vest was filled with nails and bits of terrorist," he whispered. "It could just have easily been bits of her."

"I know," Abby said angrily. Her eyes shined with tears she was holding back.

"She won't stay home if you go to work," he explained gently.

"Wuh, well…" Abby took a deep breath and closed her eyes. "I'm an idiot." She opened her eyes and her shoulders slumped.

"No, just stubborn," he said even more gently. "Yesterday was bad, Abby. But it could have been a lot worse." He wouldn't make the admission to any other member of his team. "She needs to rest."

"Okay," Abby said. "Fine, I'll take three days off." She bit her lip as she thought about the idea. "Sure, fine." She sighed as if making a huge sacrifice, but a salacious grin erupted. "I'll lock myself up for three days… with my incredibly hot girlfriend. I can do that."

Gibbs did not need to see his sweet little Abby with that wanton look on her face. "Ziva needs rest," he said pointedly. "Rest."

"Um hmm," Abby agreed. She intended to make sure Ziva never left the bed.

"I don't wanna know." Gibbs spun and headed toward the door. "Lock this thing behind me."

Abby bolted the front door securely and returned to the bedroom to find Ziva pacing like a nervous tiger. "We're taking three days off," Abby stated. Her clothes were off in record time and she moved in front of Ziva and grabbed the silk robe ties. "Back to bed." The robe hit the floor.

Ziva smiled and allowed Abby to lead her to the bed.


"Who is this guy, freakin' Houdini?" DiNozzo slammed his phone down. "We so should have set a team up outside your place last night," he told McGee. "But no, little Timmy is afraid to be bait."

"I didn't honestly think the guy would show up two days in a row," McGee said. "It doesn't make any sense."

"He's a crazy stalker, Probie." DiNozzo stood and paced. "He's crazy. That's his thing." He pointed to his temple and moved his finger in circle, the universal sign for crazy.

"Well, there is that." McGee looked back at his notes. "We could check his old housing complex and see if he tries to set up in an empty apartment."

"Tried that," DiNozzo said. He wadded up a piece of paper and tossed it at McGee's head.

McGee ducked out of the way. "No activity on any of his credit cards." He read through a list on his desk, ducking when another wad of paper flew past his head.

"So, how does a crazy stalker live without money?" DiNozzo sat on the corner of McGee's desk and sighed. He looked at McGee. "Mommy's credit cards?"

"Nothing," McGee said. He shoved DiNozzo off the desk.

DiNozzo began pacing again, then sighed and sat at his own desk. "This crazy guy is driving me crazy."

"Short trip," McGee muttered, then flinched when a wad of paper hit him between the eyes.

"Seriously," DiNozzo said. "We track terrorists. How does this crazy little rodent evade us?"

"At least we get to do something," McGee said. "Can you imagine how crazy this is making Ziva?" He smiled. "Ziva, taking time off. She's probably climbing the walls."

"Yeah," DiNozzo agreed. He giggled, not unlike a little girl. "I figure the pillow fight factor has worn off. Man, a bored Ziva and a bored Abby locked up while we work the case."

"They're gonna kill each other," McGee and DiNozzo said in unison.


"You… are… killing… me," Abby said in between gasps.

Ziva crawled out from under the blankets, her eyes wild. "I am not finished with you yet." She kissed Abby with utter abandon, letting her weight pin the taller woman to the bed.

Abby broke the kiss. "If your back wasn't sore, I'd flip you over and show you who's boss."

"I know who is the boss," Ziva said. She nipped Abby's bottom lip and then ducked her head so her mouth could cover Abby's breast.

"Killing me!" Abby laughed and thoroughly enjoyed every bit of Ziva's attention.


'We'll just have to kill her,' Mikel Mawher thought as he sat in front of the computer screen. He was using a wireless hot spot so he could hack without leading investigators back to the apartment he shared with a friend named Kenneth Shaffer. They had met in an anger management support group years earlier. Both men had decided they didn't need anger management. They needed better stalking skills.

Mawher smiled when he accessed the records he wanted. "Got her," he whispered.

"Are you sure?" his roommate asked from across the small table.

"Kenny, by tomorrow afternoon, that bitch is dead," Mikel said happily.

"Wicked," Kenneth said and then took a sip of his soy latte.

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Abby decided she could definitely get used to taking time off. She yawned, snuggled closer to her lover, and looked at the clock. It was almost seven a.m. and Abby knew that on a normal day, Ziva would already be back from a run in the park. Since Ziva had taken on the task of keeping Abby safe, the agent hadn't gone jogging once. Of course, being blown up was a good excuse to skip a morning run.

Abby yawned again, surprised that her tiny movements hadn't awakened Ziva. Apparently, Ziva was getting used to Abby's normal morning rhythms. She smiled and took a moment to study Ziva's face, peaceful and carefree in slumber. Ziva was resting with her head in the crook of Abby's arm. She looked much younger asleep, as if the horrors she'd witnessed couldn't touch her in her dreamscape. 'Maybe she sleeps so contently because she's in my arms.' Abby thought happily. Her chest shook as she tried not to laugh at her own expense. 'You've got it bad,' she thought to herself.

"What is so funny, mon Chaton?" Ziva asked without opening her eyes.

"Nothing," Abby said. She ran her fingers under Ziva's hair, caressing the soft skin at the nape of her neck.

"Mmm," Ziva lifted her head and studied Abby's expression. "Not nothing," she said playfully. She gave Abby a quick kiss. "Whatever brings you such a smile must be something." She gently touched Abby's cheek. "I hope you think of it often."

"Me too," Abby whispered huskily. She sighed, completely satisfied in Ziva's embrace.

Ziva settled in place with her face on Abby's chest, listening to the slow pounding of her lover's heart. She didn't need to know all of Abby's secrets. So long as Abby was happy, Ziva was content.


DiNozzo was sleeping with his head on his desk. His stapler was under his cheek, leaving a long, red indented mark. He snorted and shoved it away.

McGee was awake and leaning over DiNozzo with a tube of superglue in one hand and a sheet of paper in the other.

"Not the face," Gibbs said as he sat at his own desk and took a gulp of hot coffee.

McGee scowled and diverted his attack to the left, eyeing DiNozzo's hand resting across a phonebook. He opened the cap and prepared to drop the glue over DiNozzo's fingers. It was payback for the many times DiNozzo had glued McGee's various body parts to different pieces of office equipment.

"Don't even think it, Probie," DiNozzo said. He sat up and let out a disgusted puff of air. "Pathetic." He looked at the tube of glue. "You should have struck while I was asleep, before Gibbs came in with his coffee and woke me up." He shook his head and looked at McGee with pity. "Ziva needs to tutor you on striking when you have the chance. You have to take advantage of every opportunity, Probie."

The thought of Ziva taking advantage of opportunities was the last thing Gibbs wanted to think about. He scowled at his coffee.

"What's up, Boss?" McGee asked.

"That's my question," Gibbs said, deflecting the inquiry. "Why isn't Mikel Mawher sitting in a jail cell?"

"Well, we do have a lead," DiNozzo said.

"And?" Gibbs demanded.

"Uh…" McGee rushed to his own desk and grabbed his notes. "Mikel Mawher attended a men's support group a year before he went to jail."

"Where?" Gibbs asked, feeling like they might finally be getting a break in the case.

"Uh…about fifteen minutes from here. Northeast Library on 7th Street." McGee checked his notes. "It's a voluntary group run by a local Ph. D., Doctor Harriet Allison."

"Anger management," DiNozzo said. "Figured we'd search for the crazy with other crazies."

"Do you have anything that will actually help us catch this guy?" Gibbs asked impatiently. "I'm getting tired of Abby's stalker wandering the streets taking potshots at my team."

"Well, uh, we were waiting to go interview Dr. Allison when the library opens," McGee said. "Apparently she volunteers there twice a week."

"She doesn't have a house, McGee?" Gibbs asked.

"Uh, well, yes…" McGee stammered. "Off University Boulevard, near the University of Maryland. About twenty-five minutes away this time of day."

"We'll go interview her at home, Boss," DiNozzo said quickly.

"Yes, we will," Gibbs agreed. "Get the car, DiNozzo."


Gibbs knocked on the door of an older cottage and waited as DiNozzo and McGee fidgeted behind him. He could hear movement inside and when the door opened he was surprised to see a spry woman in her sixties.

"Dr. Harriet Allison?" Gibbs asked.

"Yes," she said as she took in the sight of the three men at her doorstep. Her eyes darted quickly over DiNozzo and McGee, then locked on Gibbs. "What can I do for you, officer?"

Gibbs smiled. "I'm Special Agent Gibbs, NCIS. These are my associates, Agents DiNozzo and McGee. Do you mind if we come in and ask a few questions?"

"Be my guests." She seemed intrigued. She led them into the kitchen and motioned toward the table. "Agent Gibbs, I'd guess you take your coffee black." She began making a fresh pot of coffee. "Like any good Navy man."

"Marine," Gibbs said as he sat. "But you've got an eye for military."

"I should," she said as she turned. "I raised two sons and a daughter that ended up career Navy. Just like their father, rest his soul." She turned and frowned at McGee and DiNozzo. "I'm guessing you boys take cream and sugar?"

"Yes, ma'am," McGee said with a happy smile. He sat and took out his notebook.

She studied DiNozzo and McGee a brief moment. "I'd be surprised if you two ever served active duty."

"Actually, I've served on a carrier." DiNozzo sat.

Dr. Allison turned her full attention on DiNozzo, gave him skeptical look, and then smiled. "Agent Afloat?"

"Well, yeah," DiNozzo admitted.

Gibbs' lip curved up on one side and his eyes crinkled at the edges. He liked the elderly woman. "Dr. Allison, we need to ask you a few questions about a man who attended your anger management group." He was expecting her to resist revealing confidential information, but thought he might be able to get her to bend the rules for a military man.

"Anger management?" She turned and went to the last chair at the small table and sat. "I have many Naval officers in that group." She sighed. "War causes far too many injuries that the eye can't see. Who are you investigating?"

McGee's eyes widened. He had expected the doctor to bring up confidentially.

Dr. Allison tipped her head down to hide a smile at McGee's expense. She cleared her throat and looked directly at him. "There is a need for as much confidentially as possible with this group," she said to McGee, and then she met Gibbs' eyes. "But I make it clear that given the volatile nature of the subject, my first responsibility is to protect people from getting hurt. Every member of my group signs a full disclosure release."

"Wow," McGee said. He'd never heard of any therapy or support group with such a rule.

"We're not looking for a Naval officer," Gibbs said. "What can you tell us about Mikel Mawher?"

She frowned, and then exhaled slowly. "When you first meet him, he seems quite nice, gentle even."

Gibbs raised both eyebrows.

"Don't let the Goth clothing fool you," she told Gibbs. "You'd be surprised how many wonderful, gentle souls hide behind black hair dye and wild clothing."

"Actually, not that surprised," DiNozzo said.

"You said 'at first.' What about later?" Gibbs asked.

"He's a psychotic weasel," Dr. Allison said bluntly. She stood and went to the cabinet and pulled down three coffee mugs and put them next to her own on the counter. "I'm guessing you want information that would help locate him? You really should check the prison system. That would be my first guess."

"Doctor, you ever consider doing some freelance profiling?" Gibbs asked when she handed him a cup of black coffee.

She leaned closer and patted Gibbs' cheek. "You couldn't afford my rates, handsome." She straightened up. "Let me get my files. Help yourself to the cookies in that jar." She pointed to a cookie jar shaped like a goat. The goat was wearing a blue jersey emblazoned with a large yellow letter N and he was holding an anchor in his cloven hooves.

Gibbs stood and lifted the head off the goat jar and grabbed a cookie. "Bill the goat," he commented. "Good Navy mom."

DiNozzo looked confused.

McGee explained. "Bill the goat is the Navy mascot."

"Hence the N and the anchor," DiNozzo said with a shiver. "Animals wearing clothes freak me out. It's creepy."

She came back into the room carrying a thick file and wearing a pair of small oval glasses. She sat and flipped through the notes, then paused and looked directly at McGee. She laughed and then studied Gibbs and DiNozzo before looking back at McGee. "I didn't recognize you without my glasses. Your characterizations are spot on, Mr. Gemcity," she said, referencing the pen name McGee used when writing crime novels.

McGee blushed.

"Not written about us, my ass," DiNozzo mumbled. He had been accusing McGee of using the NCIS team members as book characters for months.

Dr. Allison got a playful glimmer in her eye that reminded Gibbs of Abby.

"You know, before my hair turned grey, it was a stunning auburn with red highlights." She looked and Gibbs and winked. The book character based on Gibbs also had a thing for redheads.

"I'm sure it was lovely," Gibbs said, hiding a smile by taking a sip of the strong coffee.

"Damn right, it was," she said. "When my husband would come home to port, he swore he could see it from the channel at the end of the bay." She focused on her files. "Here's the little weasel," she said excitedly.

"What kind of doctor are you?" DiNozzo asked. He liked her, he really did, but as a doctor she didn't show much loyalty to the weasel.

"Psychologist," she said. "I have a private practice with clients who pay a disgusting amount of money for me to exercise my busybody muscles. I volunteer my time with the anger management group as my own penance." She tapped her notes. "Mawher attended six meetings in total. Part of a plea bargain to avoid jail time." She flipped to another page. "Never seemed too interested in dealing with anger as much as finding a way to blame others for it."

"Did he have any friends in the group?" Gibbs asked.

"Oh, yes, Kenneth Shaffer," she said. "Two peas in pod, those two." She flipped another page. "That would be my best bet if I were looking for him."

McGee wrote the name on his pad.

"What made him stand out?" Gibbs asked.

"The two of them left the group when I suggested that sharing tips on surveillance was not a proper use of group time," she said. "You can call Sergeant Williams with the Maryland Police Department for his rap sheet." She handed Gibbs a business card for a Maryland PD officer named Sergeant Susan Williams. "I testified for Shaffer's girlfriend, Cassidy Murray, to help her get a restraining order."

"Thank you," Gibbs said.

"Keep it," she said. "I have a photocopy in my files. You should probably interview her," she suggested. "Cassidy Murray works at the Georgetown University Hospital. She's an ER doctor. I'll get her contact information. She changed her name after Shaffer stalked her. The original records are for Cassidy Carter." She grabbed her Blackberry and quickly found the entry. She reached over and scribbled the number on McGee's notepad.

"Thanks," McGee said. He was already trying to figure out how to incorporate the woman into his next novel.

"Be careful," she said as she met Gibbs' eyes meaningfully. "Shaffer is dangerous." She sighed and then cleared her throat. "Wouldn't be a tragedy if he resisted arrest."

"She's like an older version of lady you, Boss," DiNozzo said.

Doctor Allison turned to McGee. "I enjoyed your book immensely, but I honestly didn't buy the romantic undertones between Tommy and the Israeli officer, Lisa. She may flirt with him, but she is out of his league."

"Hey!" DiNozzo said.

"We're just discussing fiction," she said as she patted DiNozzo's arm before turning back to McGee. "Try pairing her with the feisty lab tech, Amy, if you want real fireworks."

Gibbs choked on his coffee, barely avoiding spitting onto the table.

"Fireworks when Ziva shoots him," DiNozzo said. He laughed and stood next to Gibbs and looked back to her. "Sorry, Doc. Swing and a miss."

She ignored DiNozzo, reaching over and patting McGee's hand. "I'd include a subplot with Lisa's insecurities about Amy getting hurt because of Lisa's mercenary past."

"And she was doing so well," DiNozzo said, shaking a finger at her. "No profiling freelance work for you."

Dr. Allison stood and smiled at DiNozzo. "Your boyish charms won't work on me."

Gibbs slapped the back of DiNozzo's head. "She raised three sailors, DiNozzo. You are in so far over your head even a nuclear sub can't save you." He carried his cup to the sink and rinsed it and then glared at the other two until they quickly did the same. "Thank you again for all your help ma'am."

"You're welcome." She ran her eyes quickly over Gibbs in silent appraisal. "My daughter is a JAG officer out of Hawaii," she said casually. "Red hair just like mine used to be."

"I'll keep that in mind if I go to the islands," Gibbs said politely.

"You do that. Her late husband was a strapping Army Ranger. She likes the tough guys," she said as she walked them to the door. "Looking forward to your next book, Mr. Gemcity." She chuckled and looked at DiNozzo. "Try to stay out of trouble."

When they got into the car DiNozzo was not happy. "What the hell, Boss? She fawns all over Probie, tries to seriously pimp her daughter out to you, and me? I get told 'Lisa' is out of my league and to stay out of trouble. Again, What… the… hell?"

"That woman is one hell of a profiler," Gibbs said as he started the car. "McGee, call the Maryland PD and talk to Sergeant Williams. Ask her about Shaffer. Let's see what the ex-girlfriend knows. We're going to Georgetown."


Ziva was on the bed, stretched out on her belly. She was gloriously naked, as was Abby, who was kneeling over Ziva giving her a massage. "Should we get up?" Ziva asked. She was beginning to feel guilty about lounging in bed so long.

"Ah, no," Abby said as if her lover was slightly dense. She kneaded Ziva's shoulders, carefully avoiding the many small injuries. She moved her hands further down, to the middle of Ziva's back. Her touch caused Ziva to flinch. "What is it?"

"That is tender," Ziva admitted.

Abby leaned to one side to allow the light from a lamp across the room to shine on the area. "Ouch," she said as she poked the area.

"Yes, ouch!" Ziva flinched again, not exactly thrilled that her lover was prodding the painful spot.

"There's bruising." Abby's voice was full of concern. Now that she was looking closely, the entire area seemed to be showing signs of bruises that were coming to the surface. "A lot of bruising, and it wasn't there last night." She rested her palm on the area and felt heat rising from her lover's skin. "You are going to the hospital," she ordered.

"Abby, I am fine." Ziva turned and looked over her shoulder. "An explosion sends out a concussive wave," she explained. "It takes a while for the deep bruising to show up."

"Deep bruising?" Abby leapt off of Ziva's back. "What if your insides are all smooshed? Ziva, we seriously need to go the hospital."

"My insides are not…smooshed." She carefully sat up, groaning as she did so.

"Smooshed," Abby accused. "I'm calling Gibbs."

Ziva lifted one corner of her mouth as she raked her eyes up and down Abby's body. "Calling Gibbs is the last thing you are going to do."

"No sex," Abby said with a stomp of her foot. "Not until I'm convinced you're not all smooshed." She pulled on a shirt and then yanked on one of her plaid skirts. "I'm calling Ducky," she said as she unbolted the bedroom door.

"Wait," Ziva said, her tone sharp with a hint of near panic.

Abby sighed, but froze in place until Ziva was at her side. "See, this is me, humoring you." She turned to her lover and kissed her. "I humor you by letting you check the place to make sure it's safe, when we know it is because you checked before I went to get a Caf-Pow, twice,but, I adore you, so I am humoring you." She smiled brightly and waggled her eyebrows.

"Fine, you may call Ducky," Ziva said. She kissed Abby's cheek and then went into the hall carrying her gun. After a moment she was back. "All clear."

"Good thing," Abby said. She slapped Ziva's naked butt and moved passed her. "You're a bit underdressed for hand to hand."

"Actually, you are the one who is overdressed," Ziva said.

Abby shook her head. "Not until Ducky swears you're okay." Abby walked down the hall exaggerating the swing of her hips.

Ziva tilted her head and bent down sideways, getting a good view up Abby's skirt. She wolf whistled

"Perv," Abby said as she looked over her shoulder with a huge smile on her face. She spun back around and added a bit more swing to her hips.

Abby quickly used Ziva's cell phone to call Ducky. He reassured her that Ziva's bruises were to be expected. She took the opportunity to ask about new cases and about the technician using her lab. As soon as she hung up the cell phone, it rang. She saw that it was Gibbs, so she answered it.

"Hey, Gibbs," Abby said as she walked into the small kitchen to mix a fresh Caf-Pow. "Oh God, tell me no one's been shot or blown up."

"We're all fine," Gibbs assured her. "I called to talk to Ziva.

"Hold on." She covered the phone. "Ziva, Gibbs is on the phone for you," she called down the hall. She spoke into the phone. "Ducky says you have some guy who's fresh out of college in my lab."

"First of all, he graduated with his Masters in Forensics," Gibbs said. "Secondly, why are you calling Ducky when you're not supposed to be working?"

"Yeah, well, I woke up this morning and found Ziva's back covered in bruises and I kinda' panicked." Abby paced in the kitchen.

Gibbs gentled his voice. "That's normal with a force like that bomb, Abbs."

"Yeah, well you coulda' told me last night and saved me a freakin' heart attack today," Abby said grouchily. She saw Ziva and her face lit up. "Hey, Gibbs has some secret intel." Her voice was full of love. She kissed Ziva's cheek as she handed her the phone, then went to her Caf-Pow preparation area. It was set up like a mini lab, complete with beakers.

"David," Ziva said. She was smiling as she rested her fingers on her cheek where Abby's kiss still lingered.

Gibbs was struck by the change he'd heard in Abby's voice. He knew without seeing her that a beautiful smile covered her face when she had spoken to Ziva. He hoped Ziva knew how deep Abby's feelings already were. "We got a lead on Mawher," he told Ziva.

"Great," Ziva said. "Give me the address. After I drop Abby off at NCIS, I will join you."

"Not what I had planned," Gibbs said quietly. "We've got a lead, a guy Mawher knows from an anger management group. The doctor who ran the group thinks they're both dangerous and that Mawher is most likely with this guy, Kenneth Shaffer."

Ziva gripped the phone. "Are they working together?" If Mawher had a partner, that increased Abby's danger exponentially.

"No proof of that," Gibbs said. "But my gut says yes." He knew the implications as well as Ziva did. "At the very least, there's a good chance Shaffer is in contact with Mawher."

"Good luck," Ziva said quietly. "Can you send me a picture of Shaffer?"

"That's why I called," Gibbs said. "McGee is getting a driver's license photo as we speak. He's gonna send it to your phone. I just wanted to make sure you got it ASAP so you have a name and a face to look out for."

"I appreciate that." Ziva glanced to the kitchen, and despite the ominous news, she smiled. Abby was holding up vials of Caf-Pow mix like a mad scientist. It was adorable.

"Stay safe," Gibbs said.

"You too," Ziva replied just as the line went dead. She went to the kitchen and kissed the back of Abby's neck. "Enjoying your Caf-Pow, Dr. Frankenstein?"

"More like Dr. Jekyll," Abby said. When Ziva gave her a confused look, she explained. "Frankenstein was the dead body guy. Like Ducky if he was a complete whack job who sewed bodies together. Dr. Jekyll mixed potions." She held up a vial of Caf-Pow syrup. "Only, I'm a good Dr. Jekyll. Wait, Dr. Jekyll was good. It was Hyde who was bad…" She frowned and then hugged Ziva. "Sorry, my analogy just derailed."

"As long as you are enjoying your experiments," Ziva said. "I am happy."

"Let me finish my Caf-Pow and we'll see about making you very happy." Abby snuggled closer and began kissing Ziva's throat. She dipped her finger into the Caf-Pow syrup and wiped it over the point where Ziva's throat met her shoulder, then began sucking the spot with enthusiasm. "Now this is the way to have Caf-Pow," she said when she lifted her head. She put more syrup on Ziva's chest and licked it from her skin.

Ziva's phone beeped and she had to force herself to answer it. "I need to take this. Sorry." She was shaking slightly as she tried to contain her arousal, but she quickly opened the new file and called up a photo of Kenneth Shaffer.

Abby went back to her Caf-Pow.

Ziva sighed, her arousal cooling. "Abby?"

"Yes?" Abby drew the word out as she filled her glass with the perfect concoction, and then drank half of it in three gulps.

"You need to look at this," Ziva said. She held out her phone. "This is Kenneth Shaffer. He may be working with Mawher."

"Are you telling me that my stalker now has a personal assistant?" Abby slammed her glass down. "Because that is just wrong."

Ziva smiled at her lover's indignation and her pouting expression. "More like a crazy partner," she said.

"Oh, joy, as if one nutcase wasn't enough." Abby let her breath out in a huff. "From now on, when I meet anyone, and I mean anyone, as my girlfriend, it's your sacred duty to do a complete Spy Queen background check on them."

"Girlfriend?" Ziva's smile could only be called sappy.

"Well, yeah," Abby said. "Is that okay?"

Ziva lunged forward and kissed Abby, pushing her back until she bumped the counter, yet never breaking the kiss.

When Abby finally came up for air, she pulled Ziva into a hug, both women with matching goofy grins. "I guess you approve?"

Ziva nodded.

"So, are you in for the background checks?" Abby joked.

Ziva laughed dangerously and pulled back far enough to make eye contact. "What makes you think I was not already planning to do just that?"

"Cool," Abby said, basking in the knowledge that Ziva was her personal investigator. "Hey," she said, just remembering a bit of information. "There's some new guy in my lab right now."

"I will have a complete background dossier prepared before you go back to work. I will even include pictures of his kindergarten teacher and the doctor who delivered him, if you desire," Ziva promised. "Now, about you making me very happy?" Ziva asked wickedly.

"I always keep my word." Abby turned and headed toward the bedroom, her hips swinging suggestively.

Ziva grabbed a beaker of Caf-Pow syrup and followed her lover down the hall.

 

CHAPTER TWELVE

Dr. Cassidy Murray smiled as she came up to the nurse's station and leaned against the desk. "Hey, Sara, curtain two is gonna need a surgical consult." She ran her hand through her shoulder length blonde hair. "I think they'll admit him," she said.

"Appendix?" asked Sara.

"Yeah and it's going south fast, so see if you can put a rush on this," the young doctor said. "Who's next?"

"Slow day," Sara said. "There's a young guy in curtain four. He's an RA at the Georgetown dorm and he thinks he has meningitis." She rolled her eyes. "I think he may be suffering from DCS. No fever. Normal BP, heart rate like a train watch, and about to hyperventilate."

"Discovery Channel Syndrome?" Dr. Murray laughed, and it lit up her brown eyes. "Let me guess, they reran that piece on Meningitis in college campus housing?"

Sara gasped and grabbed her chest. "You must be psychic!"

"Yeah," Dr. Murray agreed.

"Excuse me, I'm Agent Gibbs, NCSI, and I'm looking for Dr. Cassidy Murray," Gibbs said as he held up his badge. Sergeant Williams had suggested that he immediately identify himself.

Dr. Murray spun, a bit startled. She looked at his badge, then to his face. "I'm Dr. Cassidy Murray. How can I help you, Agent Gibbs?" she asked. Her eyes darted to where DiNozzo and McGee stood behind Gibbs.

"Do you have a moment to answer a few questions?" Gibbs asked. "It's important."

DiNozzo rushed forward, bumping McGee aside in his hast. "Agent Anthony DiNozzo," he said with his most charming smile. "Everyone calls me Tony."

She looked a bit taken back. "There's a lounge right down the hall," she told Gibbs, not giving DiNozzo anything to work with.

"Thank you," McGee said quietly. "We appreciate you taking time away from your patients."

Dr. Murray turned as she walked and looked at McGee. He was a few paces behind DiNozzo and Gibbs as the group went into a small employee lounge. "And you are?"

"Oh, sorry," McGee smiled bashfully. "Agent McGee," he said as he closed the door to the room and then extended his hand. It was a throwback to his upbringing, something about the beautiful doctor made him fall back to his boyhood manners.

She took his hand and smiled. "Nice to meet you," she said sincerely. "What does NCIS want with me?" She turned to Gibbs nervously. He was obviously the man in charge.

DiNozzo shot McGee a glare.

McGee shrugged.

"We're working a stalking case," Gibbs said.

"I take it the victim is in the Navy? Did I treat her?" she asked. She sat on the small couch and curled her legs up under her. She suddenly paled. "Is Kenneth Shaffer involved?"

Gibbs pulled a chair away from the small table and brought it closer to the young doctor and sat. "We don't know if he's involved," Gibbs explained. "The victim works with us, at NCIS. Her stalker is a friend of Kenneth Shaffer."

"Then I suggest you keep her under lock and key," Dr. Murray said. She wrapped her arms over her chest as if she was fighting off a chill. "I had to change my name and quit my job to get away from Kenneth Shaffer." The vibrant doctor's personality seemed to shrink and she leaned back into the overstuffed couch as if she could hide in the cushions.

DiNozzo started to speak, but McGee cut him off. "Are you okay?" He moved forward, wincing when DiNozzo hit him with a displeased glare. "Do you need a jacket or something? You look a little shocky."

That seemed to do just the trick. The doctor sighed and nodded. "My jacket is hanging by the door, the blue one."

McGee quickly retrieved it.

"Thanks," she said as she pulled it on. The brief distraction seemed to focus her. "I apologize. It's a bit of a shock talking about him again. Now, how can I help your friend?"

DiNozzo shot a glare at McGee, but McGee simply shrugged.

"Did you ever hear Shaffer mention a man named Mikel Mawher?" Gibbs asked.

Dr. Murray thought for a moment. "Not that I recall."

"Do you know where we can find Kenneth Shaffer?" Gibbs asked.

"No," she said sharply. "Hell, no." She stood and paced. "The last time I saw him, he had a very big gun, which he used to put three holes in my front door." She met Gibbs eyes. "And yes, you bet I moved. I lost a bundle on that townhouse and I don't care." She pulled her jacket and shirtsleeve up on her left arm. "This was one of his other shots," she said, pointing at a bullet scar just under her elbow.

"Any idea where he might go?" Gibbs asked.

"He likes college," she said. "Loves the campus life. He was working as a lab assistant when I met him in my last year of med school."

"Were you with him long?" Gibbs asked.

"Two months," she said bitterly. "And I've been running from him for almost a decade."

There was a tap at the door and Sara peeked her head into the room. "Doc, Discovery Channel guy thinks his meningitis may be spreading," she said with a snicker. "He says it might be an aneurism, too."

"I'll be there soon," Dr. Murray said with a thin smile.

Gibbs could read the two women's sarcastic appraisal, so he didn't think he was putting anyone in jeopardy. "Just a few more questions," he said.

Dr. Murray turned to Gibbs. "I want to give you all the help I can," she said honestly. "Let me go convince this kid his head isn't about to explode, and then I'll be right back, okay?"

Gibbs nodded.

"If you've got a picture of your guy, I could see if I recognize him," she said as she left the room.

"Pull a picture up on that fancy phone of yours," Gibbs told McGee.

"And stop with the flirting." DiNozzo slapped the back of McGee's head. "Oh, let me fetch your jacket, Dr. Hottie," he added in a high-pitched tone.

"The woman was going into shock," Gibbs said gruffly. "The jacket took her mind off the stalker who's been hunting her for a decade so she could answer our questions."

"Yeah," McGee said lamely. He was only trying to be polite. He took out his iPhone, pulled up the picture, and put it on the table.

"Excuse me, guys. Snack time." Sara came into the room and went to her locker and grabbed her wallet. She eyed DiNozzo, who had his stomach sucked in and his chest puff out.

"Ma'am." DiNozzo flashed his 1000 watts smile.

The nurse shook her head at DiNozzo and than glanced down at McGee's iPhone. "I've been thinking about getting one of those," she said excitedly.

DiNozzo glared at McGee. Lately, all the women seem to flock to the geek.

"Take a look." McGee smiled and slid it toward her.

Sara saw the image and frowned. "That's the guy in curtain four," she said slowly.

"Show me to curtain four," Gibbs said as he pulled his gun from his holster. "Now."


"Do not even think of moving," Ziva said dangerously.

"You don't scare me, Spy Queen," Abby said as she moved a few inches to the left.

"Abby," Ziva said indignantly. "I was finally comfortable," she whined in a very non-Spy Queen manner.

That got Abby's attention. "Geeze, I'm sorry," she said as she tried to move back to her original position. She was sitting on the sofa, with Ziva resting on the floor between her legs, using the sofa as a backrest.

"Ouch." Ziva winced when Abby's leg bumped the stitches on her shoulder.

"I pack you in fluffy pillows and your back hurts," Abby said. "But park you on the hard floor and lean you against the sofa and suddenly you're comfy?"

Ziva looked over her shoulder at Abby. "The pillows mould to my body."

"Lucky pillows," Abby interrupted.

Ziva smiled tolerantly at her lover. "The hard surface does not. I can position my injuries so they are not touching anywhere painful. The fluffy pillows end up touching the injuries no matter what I do."

"Oh," Abby said. "Well, then get your back back over here." She patted her legs. "You'll have to run the remote," she pointed at the remote on the coffee table, which she had been reaching for when the conversation began. "Then we can start the movie."

Ziva leaned back against Abby and rested her elbows on Abby's knees. "I have another suggestion," she said shyly. She twisted around a bit. "I know you wanted to catch up on your forensics reading…"

"How did you know?" Abby's expression showed her shock.

"Spy Queen, remember?" Ziva reached under the sofa and pulled out a stack of papers. She handed them to Abby.

"You printed the latest article on overlapping fingerprints?" Abby asked with obvious glee. She leaned forward and kissed the top of Ziva's head and then leaned back and began scanning the article. "Wait, what about you?"

"Ah," Ziva said as she reached under the sofa again, this time retrieving a magazine. "I have my own catching up."

Abby snagged the magazine and read the cover. "Le Monde Diplomatique. Sounds sexy." She leered at her lover. "What is it? French porn?"

Ziva laughed and grabbed the magazine back. "A Paris-based political magazine," Ziva said.

"Ick," Abby said. "Who reads political magazines?" She noticed that the cover had Ziva's name and PO Box number. "And who the hell subscribes to them?"

"It was a gift," Ziva explained as she began thumbing through the pages. She paused and sighed sadly before looking back at Abby. "From Jenny."

Abby ran her hand through Ziva's hair. "That does sound like something she would read." She saw the pain in Ziva's eyes. "You miss her." It was a statement, not a question. "I see you look up the stairs sometimes and you have this sad expression."

Ziva nodded. Jenny had been her best friend and her only real confidante in the US. "I am sure it is the same expression you sometimes still get when you look at my desk," Ziva said quietly.

"Yeah," Abby agreed, her fingers were still combing through Ziva's hair. "I don't know if I'll ever stop missing Kate," she whispered.

"You will not," Ziva said as she squeezed Abby's leg. "But the pain will fade until you think mostly of the good times and smile."


Gibbs followed the nurse out of the break room, but he didn't need her help finding curtain four.

A woman screamed from down the hall. Gibbs, McGee and DiNozzo headed toward the sound with guns drawn. Mikel Mawher was holding Dr. Murray around the throat and dragging her toward the waiting room.

"Give it up, Mawher," Gibbs said. His gun was aimed between Mawher's eyes, but he couldn't take the shot because Mawher was swinging the doctor in front of him.

McGee and DiNozzo were both trying to get an angle on a shot as well.

"They make us do this," Mawher said, pressing the barrel of his gun to the doctor's temple. "They say they don't want us, but they do." He shoved the barrel closer, making Dr. Murray wince in pain. "She loves Kenny, she just won't admit it."

"Why don't you let the doctor go and we can discuss it?" Gibbs suggested.

"You mean, so you can shoot me," Mawher said. His eyes darted from side to side as he continued dragging the doctor down the hallway.

"Works for me," DiNozzo whispered to McGee.

A door to the stairwell opened and Gibbs tensed, thinking that whoever was coming through the door was going to put Mawher over the edge and gunshots were soon to follow.

Kenneth Shaffer stepped into the hall and moved beside Mawher and took the doctor from him. Mawher ducked out the door and was sprinting down the stairs before the door had even closed, but the doctor resisted, so Shaffer missed the chance to escape.

"I told you I'd find you," Shaffer told the doctor as he used her as a shield.

"Mr. Shaffer, why don't you try to calm down?" Gibbs said as he edged closer.

"Who the hell are you?" Shaffer demanded. He was backing down the hall because he couldn't open the door while holding both the gun and the doctor.

"The guy who's trying to save your life," Gibbs said. He moved another step closer.

"We need to go after Mawher," DiNozzo said.

"One crisis at a time," Gibbs said under his breath. He knew if McGee and DiNozzo made any sudden movements, Shaffer would panic.

Shaffer had his fingers around the doctor's throat, holding her against his chest, which blocked any shot. "Tell me you missed me." He shook her by the throat and slammed the barrel of the gun under her chin.

She coughed, unable to say anything.

Gibbs took another step closer. "She can't talk with you choking her," Gibbs said calmly. "Why don't you loosen your grip while we talk?"

"She doesn't talk," Shaffer said as he shook her again, but his grip loosened enough for her to take a coughing breath. "She ignores me. She sends me restraining orders." His eyes were darting nervously. "That's her version of a love letter." He pressed the gun to her temple and kissed the back of her head, making her shudder in disgust.

"Well, maybe I can talk to her for you," Gibbs suggested. He locked his eyes with Dr. Murray's. "Cassidy, maybe you just haven't given him a fair chance." Gibbs held his gun at shoulder height, waiting to strike. "You should just relax and stop struggling. Don't even move at all. Enjoy being with him."

Dr. Murray went completely still. She had been trying to struggle, but she read Gibbs' intent.

"That's better," Gibbs told Shaffer. "See? She just needs me to explain what you want."

Shaffer licked his lips and looked at Dr. Murray. He lowered his gun away from her head and leaned forward, with his face beside hers so he could put a kiss where the barrel had been.

The sound of the shot seemed even louder as it echoed down the long, tiled hall. Dr. Murray was frozen, still as a statue, as Shaffer's body slumped at her feet. As soon as he hit the floor, she started shaking with fear, but stood in place even as Gibbs rushed forward.

"Easy," Gibbs said as he grabbed her wrist and pulled her toward him and then guided her on past him. "He's not gonna hurt you again." He kicked the gun away from Shaffer's limp hand.

Dr. Murray hurried down the hall and leaned against the wall. She looked at McGee and began crying silently, tears running down her cheeks.

McGee stepped between Dr. Murray and Shaffer's dead body. His gun was still drawn, but he handed her a handkerchief from his pocket with his free hand.

"Thanks," she said. She leaned around him, needing to see Shaffer. The man who had haunted her for so long looked harmless and small sprawled on the floor. There was a round bullet hole between his eyes and a line of blood ran across his forehead into a growing pool of blood on the white tile. His eyes were vacant. She knew he would never bother her again.

"McGee, secure the scene," Gibbs barked his order. "DiNozzo, you're with me." He ran toward the stairwell.

"One crazy down, one to go," DiNozzo said as he followed Gibbs.


They searched the hospital and then Kenneth Shaffer's apartment. They found no clues at the hospital, but they recovered Mikel Mawher's computer at the apartment.

Three hours later, Gibbs pulled up to the gate at the Navy Yard. He nodded at the guard who waved him through. Gibbs sighed and gripped the steering wheel hard enough to make the plastic creak.

"Frustrated, Boss?" DiNozzo asked.

"What gave you that idea, DiNozzo?" Gibbs' jaw clenched tightly. "Could it be that we managed to find a guy we were chasing for a few hours, yet we can't seem to get Abby's stalker, who we've been chasing for almost a week?" he said, raising his voice.

"Uh, yeah, that would be my guess." DiNozzo tried to shrink into the front seat of the car.

"At least we gave Dr. Murray some closure," McGee said from the back seat.

"Dr. Murray?" DiNozzo twisted around so he was facing the backseat. "Don't you mean Cassidy?" He gave McGee a lethal glare. "Cassidy. That is the name she scribbled in her messy doctor's handwriting when she gave you her phone number, right?"

McGee put his hand over his pocket, thinking DiNozzo must have stolen the business card in his jacket.

"Aha," DiNozzo said. "I knew it." He spun and slammed his back against the seat, folding his arms over his chest. "I'm in some Bizarro World. That's the only explanation." He stared out the window as Gibbs moved into the parking structure. "Old ladies usually love me," he whined. "Only in Bizarro World would that lady Ph.D. treat me like the ugly stepchild." He turned and glared at McGee. "And only in Bizarro World would you get the hot doctor's phone number while I was busy digging through dumpsters looking for Mawher."

"You've always been the hunky frat boy." McGee smiled and relaxed against the backseat. "The problem is that you're getting a bit long in the tooth."

DiNozzo gasped and spun. "I am not!"

"I'm the geek," McGee said happily. "We improve with age. Look at Steve Jobs." He paused for a dramatic beat. "Then look at Steve McQueen. Which one is still turning heads?"

"Steve McQueen is dead," DiNozzo pointed out. "Long dead, as a matter of fact."

"So's your love life," McGee said with a chipper grin.

DiNozzo narrowed his eyes.

"I wouldn't squint," McGee said helpfully. "Causes crow's feet."

"Shut up," DiNozzo said. "Besides, that's one geek who made it. The only one."

"Bill Gates…" McGee smiled. "…versus Bill Shatner."

"Shut up," DiNozzo said as he started to pout. "I am not Bill Shatner." He ran his hand over his belly, checking for any weight gain, then ran a hand through his hair to check for thinning.

Gibbs turned off the car and climbed out of the vehicle. He had a wicked smirk, glad to see McGee getting the best of DiNozzo for a change. He wiped the smirk away as his two agents got out of the car. "Shouldn't you two be focused on our case?"

"Yeah," DiNozzo said to McGee.

"Sure thing, Boss." McGee hurried his pace and the three men headed to the elevator.

The elevator door closed and the sound of the car trunk opening broke the silence of the dimly lit parking structure. Mikel Mawher climbed out of the trunk and made his way to the stairwell entrance. Abby would now have to pay for the death of his friend. Kenny Shaffer had understood him. They were kindred spirits. It would serve Abby right if he killed her best friends before killing her.

Part 13

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