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 Lisaof9



Ziva entered the embassy and quickly checked in with the guards. She was wearing a black designer suit. The jacket covered a black covert body armor vest and beneath that, a white dress shirt. Her hair was in her traditional French braid. The look made a statement. Ziva had a job to do and nothing would get in her way. The bruises on her face were beginning to fade and the cuts were healing as well. Still, they gave her a dangerous look, putting a dark edge just under the surface of her exotic beauty, like the razor sharp fangs of a purring leopard. A guard led Ziva to a small room, and as she entered, she saw a group of men going over a set of blueprints for a hotel.

Anna Sadeh was at one end of the table. She met Ziva several paces from the table. "Officer David, you look lovely," she said low enough so only Ziva could hear her. There was a twinkle in her green eyes.

"It is not Vera Wang, but I can conceal my weapon and tackle anyone who does not belong," Ziva said with a genuine smile.

"Did Miss Sciuto get to work alright?" Anna said under her breath.

"Yes," Ziva replied. She had to fight the urge to smile at the mention of Abby's name.

Anna gave a brief nod and turned to the men at the table. "Gentlemen, this is Officer David with NCIS. She will be assisting with security for the luncheon."

A tall man in his late forties turned and came toward Ziva. "Why would I allow an American Naval officer to join my security team?" he asked.

"Ambassador Lavi, she is not an American." Anna moved smoothly to the man's side and took his arm. "Officer David is on loan to NCIS from our own Mossad."

His eyes widened and his gaze appraised Ziva with a bit more scrutiny. "Mossad?" He stepped closer and looked her up and down. "Acceptable."

Ziva smirked. "Acceptable or not, Ambassador, I am on your detail."

"Of course," he said, realizing he had probably insulted a woman quite capable of slitting his throat with a butter knife. "I am sure you would like to see the building layout?"

"Of course," Ziva said. "I am surprised to see the protectee working on the protection details."

"I like to know what is going on," he said honestly. "There is quite some concern because the building doesn't have an awning. With terrorists striking at the park, we believe they may try another bold move."

Ziva moved to the table and her eyes darted across the plans. She nodded at one end of the blueprint of an upscale hotel in downtown DC. "We should bring you in through the parking structure on the fourteenth floor." She tapped the spot on the building plans. "This service elevator goes directly to the kitchen. We can lock out access with the master service elevator key and post guards on each floor to prevent tampering and to cover the elevator doors."

All the heads at the table turned toward her and then they all looked at the plans.

The Ambassador cleared his throat and let out a tiny chuckle. "And that, gentlemen, is what having a Mossad officer in the room can do."

The men around the table nodded. A muscular man at the far end of the table met Ziva's eyes. "I am Namir Har-El, the Ambassador's security chief."

Ziva nodded. "I am sure you were considering this route," she said politely, knowing he hadn't.

"It was one of several possible solutions," Har-El said. He shrugged noncommittally and his eyes briefly met Ziva's to acknowledge the fact that she had tried to avoid embarrassing him. "The Americans have requested that you stay with the Ambassador, at his side as it were."

"Is that acceptable?" Ziva asked. She was being diplomatic, since she was going to do just that no matter what his response was.

"Of course," Har-El said. He knew the situation. He had no real choice, but he appreciated her letting him save face. "Now, I believe your NCIS is going to be at the event as well. Let me go over the areas we need to address."

Ziva nodded and moved forward. The others dropped back as the two security experts went through the plans looking for any possible threats.

Abby stared at her computer screen and bit her lip. She had no results pending. That was a bad thing. She had been out of her lab because it was a crime scene. Everything in the lab been logged and cleaned, which took quite a while. Abby had assumed there would be work piled up waiting for her, but no. By some cosmic joke, the NCIS crime lab had nothing pending. That meant Abby had nothing to do other than to think about the beautiful NCIS officer who was currently assigned to the Israeli embassy. Abby sighed and turned to stare at two phones. She had her cell phone sitting on the counter next to the lab phone, so that either could be easily accessed in one quick grab.

"Why haven't you called?" Abby asked the phones on her desk. Logically, she knew Ziva was busy. Logically, she knew Ziva couldn't just excuse herself from the diplomats and call her girlfriend. Logically, Abby Sciuto knew these things. Emotionally? Not so much.

"It's almost four o'clock," Abby said to the phones. "Normal people go home at five. That gives you one hour to call and ask about my day like a good girlfriend." She stood and paced, taking the time to go over and turn off her loud music. "A good girlfriend would call to see if I'm having a bad day." Even the pounding beat couldn't distract her today. "Ring!" she ordered the cell phone. That was the phone she expected Ziva to call.

"You okay, Abby?" DiNozzo asked as he came into the room.

"Do I look okay?" Abby asked as she spun and faced him. Her pigtails were gone, leaving her hair hanging down looking a bit too… normal.

"You missing McGee?" DiNozzo asked. "I brought a little something to distract you." He smiled and dangled an evidence bag in front of her.

"Yeah, McGee," Abby said. She didn't want DiNozzo to figure out about her relationship with Ziva, knowing he'd make a huge issue out of it. Gibbs had made it clear; keep it out of the job.

"Well, at least McGee gets to work on something exciting," DiNozzo said. "I'm stuck investigating a freakin' petty theft."

"Why are they sending out a senior agent on a petty theft?" Abby asked as she grabbed the evidence bag.

"Well, it's a grand theft," DiNozzo admitted. "By a chief petty officer. Our guy has been rerouting ammunition to his own storage unit, and lots of it."

"So you mean it's a chief petty theft." Abby cracked a small smile.

"Yep," DiNozzo said with a sigh. "Gibbs wants to make sure the petty officer isn't selling it to some terrorist organization, but I don't think he is."

"And why is that?" Abby put the evidence bag on the lab table. She studied the military issue ammunition. "What we have here are 55grain, M193 standard issue bullets." Abby pulled on a pair of latex gloves and opened the bag and scanned the contents, then frowned. The bag was full of copper tipped ammunition, but there were a few green tipped ones mixed in as well. "That does not belong in there."

"Whatcha got?" DiNozzo asked, more out of boredom than genuine interest. He was convinced the chief petty officer was a run of the mill thief and not a terrorist.

"Green tips," Abby said as she lifted out one of the bullets. "These are 62grain, M855 bullets, and while they are all full metal jacket boat tails, these green puppies are longer and heavier. When you fire them from an M16, they aren't nearly as stabile as the M193."

"Fascinating." DiNozzo yawned.

"You should be a bit more concerned. How do you know the chief petty officer isn't supplying terrorists?" Abby asked.

"Craig's list," DiNozzo said in a lazy drawl. "He's been selling the stuff on Craig's list, at a flat rate for about eight months." He pointed at the ammunition. "I don't think terrorists would be broadcasting."

"That doesn't mean terrorists didn't buy them from him online," Abby said triumphantly. "Even if the petty officer didn't know it."

DiNozzo scowled, a concerned look covering his features. "Didn't think of that," he admitted. He sighed. "Oh, crap." He sighed again. "Now I have to get McGeek to do his computer mojo. I just know he's gonna get all uppity. It's bad enough that he gets to be Ziva's backup on the embassy gig."

"You could ask me," Abby suggested.

"Sweet," DiNozzo said. "But don't you have other stuff?" He looked around the empty lab, glad to see that every trace of blood from Mawher's head was gone.

"Today has been painfully slow," Abby said. "Now, run get me a Caf-Pow. And a candy bar. No nougat!" She smiled brightly. "I have work to do."

"Yes, ma'am," DiNozzo said as he hurried out of the room.

As soon as the door closed, Abby's cell phone rang.

"Finally!" Abby squealed and pounced on the phone. She saw Ziva's photo on the caller ID screen and answered. "You better not have been blown up."

Ziva laughed, rich and deep. "No, mon Chaton, it has been a boring day."

"Good." Abby twirled her hair with one finger. "I like boring. Boring is safe, and I like my Ziva safe."

"I miss you," Ziva said with a forlorn sigh.

"Then get your cute little butt over here," Abby suggested.

"My kitten, I cannot." There was disappointment and sadness in Ziva's voice.

"What's wrong?" Abby asked as a bolt of fear shot through her body like an electric shock.

"Ugh." Ziva groaned. "I am at the embassy. We just returned from the Four Seasons. And apparently, the Ritz Carlton is next."

"It must be horrible visiting those pits." Abby's voice was laced with sarcasm. "So, should I keep dinner warm for you, or are you going to be too full of five star yumminess?"

"It is going to be a long night," Ziva said regretfully. "Maybe you should head to your place?"

"Oh," Abby's disappointment was obvious. "Yeah, sure. It'll be good to be in my own space. Sure. Yeah. And clothes. I need clothes." She began to babble.

"Chaton," Ziva whispered warmly. "I want you to go home and wait for me."

"You'll come over?" Abby asked. The news and the use of the pet name reassured Abby. Her remaining tension from the misunderstanding the day before evaporated.

"It will be late when I finish here. I will let myself in and join you as soon as I can." Ziva leaned her shoulder against a wall in a hallway at the embassy.

"You don't have a key, yet," Abby said. She leaned one hip against the table, unknowingly mirroring her lover's stance. She bit her lip.

Ziva laughed. "Abigail, do you really think I need a key?"

"Oh." Abby chuckled. "I guess not." She sighed, not wanting to hang up, but sensing that Ziva needed to get back to work. "I miss you."

"I miss you too," Ziva said. She smiled like a teenager talking to her first crush. "It is nice to be missed."

"Hurry home to me," Abby said. She was grinning as well.

"I have to go," Ziva said when she saw McGee coming toward her. "Je t'aime, Chaton."

"I love you, too," Abby hung up and sighed, then flipped her music on to its highest volume. She turned to the ammunition and decided to run every test possible. She was suddenly in no hurry to go home.

Abby was almost asleep when she heard the latch on her front door click. She sat up in her coffin bed and looked toward the door. "Ziva?" she called out, suddenly hoping that it was indeed her lover breaking in and not some criminal.

"Abby?" Ziva called back in a whisper. She opened the door and crept into the room. "What are you doing up?" she whispered gently. "It is after two a.m. and you should be asleep."

Abby flicked on a light. "I was worried," she admitted.

Ziva's eyes widened, despite the glaring light.

Abby was sitting up in an actual coffin wearing a long sleeved sleeping gown that looked like it should belong to one of Abby's nun friends. A cap that looked like it was stolen from Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother completed the outfit. It covered her head with only her pigtails protruding.

"What?" Abby looked around and then down at her outfit. "Oh." She blushed. "Yes, well, I wanted to be comfy and since you weren't here…"

"You look adorable," Ziva promised her lover. She glanced around the room and then sat on a chair against the wall and removed her shoes. "A little overdressed, but adorable."

Abby smiled wickedly and wiggled her gown up and off her body, tossing it onto the floor. The cap followed. "Better?" she asked.

"Much." Ziva's eyes raked up and down exposed skin with undisguised hunger. She stood and dropped her clothes to the floor in a pile and went to the side of the coffin and then paused, not exactly sure how to get into the coffin, and quite frankly, a little uncertain if she wanted to. She was afraid it might trigger memories best left buried.

"Climb on in," Abby said as she held open the blankets.

Ziva's hesitation disappeared when she took in the sight of Abby's body under the blankets.

After they were settled in next to each other and the lights were off, their hands roamed with familiar intent. Ziva's injuries weren't completed healed yet, and now she had muscle spasms as well. Abby paused her exploring to massage the stiff muscles.

"Tough day?" Abby asked when she felt knots at the back of Ziva's neck.

"Stressful," Ziva admitted, pausing with her lips at the base of Abby's throat. She sighed and then yawned as Abby's fingers loosened the knots.

"You need sleep," Abby said quietly. She intercepted Ziva's roaming hand as it was about to reach her breast.

"I have missed you," Ziva said. She inhaled Abby's scent and kissed the skin under her ear.

"Me too," Abby agreed. "But you have to be back at the embassy in a few hours." She moaned when Ziva's hand managed to wrap around her breast. "God, that feels good."

"Then why are you trying to stop me?" Ziva asked coyly.

"Because I want you alert tomorrow so nothing happens to you," Abby said seriously.

Ziva sighed and rested her cheek on Abby's chest. She let out a frustrated growl. "You are right," she said in grumpy tone.

Abby laughed and ran her hand down her lover's body, pleased that the wounds on her back had healed enough so that Ziva didn't flinch. She kissed Ziva's forehead in the darkness. "Get some sleep, darlin'. We'll have plenty of nights to make love."

Ziva nodded and snuggled closer. She straightened her legs and frowned when her calves hit the side of the coffin. The confined space did nothing to help Ziva relax.

"You okay?" Abby asked.

"Bad memories," Ziva mumbled. She scooted closer to Abby. The feel of the coffin against her back was unsettling. She focused on the feel Abby's skin and tried to ignore the way the coffin pressed against her from every side.

"Thinking of that crate you and Tony got stuck in?" Abby asked in a whisper.

"No," Ziva said with wry chuckle. "We had plenty of room." She edged closer but only relaxed when Abby's hand moved up and down her spine comfortingly.

"You gonna be able to sleep okay?" Abby asked.

"Of course," Ziva said a bit too quickly.

Abby was silent. She continued her caresses even as she felt Ziva relaxing under her fingers. She knew her lover was exhausted. Ziva was still recovering from the explosion, and the day traveling with the Ambassador had been tiring. Ziva would have been on full alert throughout the day. Often the mental exertion was more tiring than physical challenges, especially for a woman of action like Ziva.

A few minutes later, Abby felt Ziva's body grow heavier against her. She tilted her face and saw that Ziva was asleep, but there was still a coiled tension in her body. Abby assumed it was sleeping in a new place. She watched over her a few minutes and then allowed herself to relax.

Abby wasn't sure what time it was when she awoke, but she knew something was very wrong.

Ziva was shoving her away in the confines of the coffin. Ziva's body was as rigid as steel.

"Je ne peux pas respirer, Jenny," Ziva mumbled. She tossed to one side and slammed her hands against the side of the coffin. "Obtenez-moi hors d'ici!"

"Ziva?" Abby whispered. She sat up and reached for her lover. She had no idea what Ziva was saying, but she was pretty sure it was in French.

"Hâte, Jenny!" Ziva gasped. "Je ne peux pas respirer." She slammed against the side of the coffin and then sat up abruptly, obviously still sleep. "Hâte. Aidez-moi." Ziva clutched her chest and breathed rapidly. "Jenny, Ne me laissez pas comme ceci."

"Ziva?" Abby said in a bit of a panic. She touched her lover's arm and jerked back when Ziva gripped her wrist with incredible force.

"Je ne peux pas respirer," Ziva gasped. Her eyes were open and it took a moment for her to focus. Her breathing slowed and she leaned closer until recognition dawned. "Abby?" she asked hollowly.

"I'm right here." She guided Ziva toward her and she held her lover as her breathing returned to normal. "You're shaking," Abby whispered, concern coloring her tone.

Ziva nodded. "Bad memories."

"Which you are going to tell me about," Abby said forcefully. "Right now."

Ziva's body sagged against Abby's. "It is the coffin," she whispered.

A million theories went through Abby's mind, none of them correct. Mostly, she figured the idea of a coffin creeped out Ziva, as it did many people. "It's kinda' odd the first time you're into one," Abby admitted. Perhaps it reminded Ziva of Jenny. After all, that was whose name she had called out.

"It is not the first time," Ziva said darkly.

Abby stiffened. She doubted Ziva ever chose to sleep in a coffin before.

"I was on a case in Poland," Ziva whispered. She snuggled closer to Abby, needing the warmth and comfort of her lover's body. "Drugs were being smuggled into the country in caskets."

Abby didn't like cold tone in Ziva's voice.

"Jenny was following the drug runners and I went to the cemetery where the drugs were unloaded." Ziva shivered. "Can you turn on the light?" she asked.

"Sure," Abby said. She reached for the lamp, bringing Ziva with her because the younger agent refused to let go.

The light came on and Abby was now even more concerned. Ziva was pale and obviously shaken. Abby dipped her head so she could look into Ziva's eyes. She smiled reassuringly. "You need some water?"

Ziva shook her head and rested her cheek on Abby's shoulder. After a few moments of silence, she continued. "When I got there, it went badly."

Abby knew in Ziva's former line of work, when something 'went badly,' people often died. She squeezed Ziva closer.

"They had a hostage, and I was distracted." Ziva sighed, obviously still disgusted with the failure of the mission. "I was struck from behind and when I awoke, I was in a coffin, being lowered into the ground."

Abby swallowed hard, not liking where she knew the story must be going.

"I heard a backhoe, and then dirt covering me, and then nothing." Ziva paused, remembering how utterly helpless she had felt. That moment had reinforced her resolve to never be taken alive during a fight again.

"How did you…" Abby asked after a few moments of silence.

"Hours later," Ziva said quietly. "The darkness was like a presence, pressing down on me. It was hot and the walls felt like they were closing in, like the soil was crushing the casket. I heard gunfire and I knew it was Jenny." She paused, remembering the trust she had shared with Jenny. "I knew she would come. But, the air in the casket was hot and thick and I knew my oxygen was low. I wasn't sure she'd get to me in time."

"How did she?" Abby asked.

Ziva laughed. "She saw the fresh grave and used the backhoe."

"The Director could drive a backhoe?" Abby asked with a giggle.

"She was a woman with many skills," Ziva said fondly. "I heard the bucket scrape the coffin and…" Ziva sighed in disgust. "I panicked. I was certain I would run out of air before she opened the casket. I had been there so long and was prepared to suffocate and go to sleep. As soon as I knew she was coming for me, I fought. I did not want to die with rescue so close at hand."

"But you made it," Abby said forcefully.

Ziva nodded and smiled. "Jenny was covered in dirt and mud. I had never seen her hair so completely… a mess, and I had never seen her more beautiful." Her expression was both sad and a bit wistful at the same time. She reached up and rubbed her Magen David. "She was an incredible woman," Ziva whispered, her voice reverent.

Abby felt a twinge of jealousy shoot through her chest. It was stupid. So what if Ziva thought Jenny was beautiful and incredible? Abby agreed on both counts. It was just… she didn't know how close the two had been. "So, did you guys…"

Ziva turned and gave Abby her attention. "Did we what?"

Abby blushed.

"With Jenny," Ziva said and then began to giggle. It felt good to chase away her fear with humor. "No," she said. She picked up Abby's hand. "I loved her deeply, Abby. She was my best friend. I could trust her at my side in any battle."

"I'm being crazy," Abby admitted.

"If you ever have questions, Chaton, you need only ask." Ziva lifted Abby's hand and kissed her knuckles.

Abby smiled and looked down at the blanket. "What happened after the backhoe?"

"Jenny pulled me from the ground and calmed me." She looked into Abby's eyes. "She never told a soul."

"That's so like her," Abby said with a tone of awe. Her eyes shot open wide. "Why didn't you tell me?" She looked down at her coffin. "Ziva, you should have told me. I never would have had you sleep here."

"I thought it would be okay," Ziva said honestly. "It is not like you closed the lid on us."

"Come on," Abby said forcefully. She climbed out of the coffin. "We're having a campout."

"A camp out?" Ziva said slowly. "With a tent?"

"With blankets on the floor and the two of us nowhere near a coffin." Abby yanked Ziva to her feet. "And tomorrow, I'm ordering a sofa bed so we have somewhere to sleep when you stay over."

Ziva didn't argue. In fact, she was more relieved than she cared to admit. "So, since we are awake…" Ziva let her eyes drift to the clock. "And I have to get out of bed in two hours anyway…" She bit her lip and then ran one finger over her chin playfully.

"You were thinking you could just seduce me?" Abby laughed as she gathered a stack of blankets and two pillows and carried them over to make a comfortable little nest in front of her couch.

"Something like that," Ziva said as she rested both hands on Abby's hips. "But what I would really like is to just hold you," she admitted. The dark memories were still casting shadows over her spirits.

Abby turned, never letting Ziva's hands break contact. "I like the way you think," she said with a loving smile. She leaned down and gently kissed Ziva. "Come on, darlin'." She guided Ziva down to the blankets on the floor, intent on chasing away the chill of the nightmare.

"Now this is the way to start the day," Ziva said as she sprawled across the blankets and watched Abby crawl toward her. "I could get used to this."

"Good," Abby said as she lowered her body onto Ziva's. She sighed as her skin met Ziva's. She dipped her face and kissed the woman who had completely stolen her heart. She wanted to start everyday wrapped around Ziva. That was a scary thought, one she wasn't yet ready to speak out loud, no matter how happy the idea made her.

"Tell me about little Abby Sciuto," Ziva whispered once they were snuggled around each other.

"What do you want to know?" Abby traced lazy circles across Ziva's belly.

"Tell me about my curious kitten when she was young. Tell me anything," Ziva said in the darkness. "I need to hear your voice."

"Curious kitten? Hmm." Abby wiggled, repositioning her face until she found the perfect resting spot next to Ziva's neck. "Every summer in New Orleans, I would study a new animal," Abby whispered. "When I was seven, I tracked a raccoon pack every night for three weeks. I wrote down every place they visited, mostly garbage cans, and named each one. There were five of them, by the way."

Ziva chuckled, picturing young Abby with a tiny notebook observing the creatures. "Named the raccoons or the garbage cans?" she asked playfully.

"The raccoons," Abby said as she poked Ziva in the ribs.

"Just trying to clarify," Ziva whispered in the darkness. "What were their names?" she asked with a smile.

"Bubba, Madame Raccoon Defarge, Dr. Spreckles, Titania, and Diana," Abby rattled off the names easily.

Ziva chuckled and pulled Abby a bit closer. "I recognize the Dr. Seuss, Dickens, and Shakespeare. You were a well-read seven-year-old." That fact didn't surprise Ziva. "I do not know this Bubba. Was Diana named after the Goddess?"

"Bubba is an old school southern name." Abby paused, a bit embarrassed. "Diana, as in Diana Prince. Well, she's better known as Wonder Woman."

"Wonder Woman?" Ziva asked with a giggle.

"Let's just say Lynda Carter fighting evil in skimpy outfits inspired me," Abby said as buried her face against Ziva's neck.

"We will have to discuss this further when I am feeling better," Ziva said huskily. "I was partial to the cape," she admitted.

"I take it you got Wonder Woman reruns in Israel?" Abby giggled at the thought of young Ziva watching old TV shows.

"My father was not happy when he found me watching a scantily clad female superhero explaining the virtues of American ideals." Ziva laughed as she remembered her father's expression. The veins on his neck had bulged to the size of small ropes. "What other animals did you track?" she asked.

"The summer I was nine, I tracked my first gator," Abby said with a smile.

"Gator?" Ziva asked.

"American Alligator, Alligator mississippiensis, I named mine Templeton," Abby explained. "I was going through my Charlotte's Web phase."

"You tracked a vicious beast when you were nine?" Ziva asked in a shocked tone.

"Templeton was not vicious," Abby said reasonably. "You just had to remember his unique dinner choices, namely, anything smaller or slower than him." She nipped Ziva's shoulder. "And remember to stay away from the end of the gator with the teeth."

"Tell me more," Ziva asked. She kissed the top of Abby's head and felt her body relaxing as she continued listening. This was what she had been searching her entire life for without even knowing it.

Ziva wished she could go to sleep with Abby every night, that she could have the quiet strength of Abby's embrace waiting for her at the end of each day, but she didn't want to scare off her lover. Instead, she simply welcomed Abby's kisses and was thankful for the moment she shared with her beautiful lover. Ziva knew in her line of work, every day could be her last, so she intended to make the most of her time with Abby.

Across town, others were awake and plotting to make the most of the next day. The blueprints for the main banquet room of the Mandarin Oriental Washington were spread out on a table in a dimly lit motel room. Two men leaned over the table and went over the plan. An Israeli uniform hung on the back of the bathroom door, waiting to be worn for the event. The taller man pointed to a doorway that led to a covered entry where the dignitaries entered and exited their vehicles. "This is where we would normally bring the Ambassador out," Major Alon said quietly.

"And the Mossad?" the shorter man asked.

"She will of course prefer a less conventional choice." He smiled like the Cheshire cat. "Somewhere with fewer high rise windows that have clear vantage points of the loading zone"

"But you will convince her differently?" the shorter man asked.

"Why?" Alon asked. "When it will be so much easier if we follow her plan?" He pointed to the entrance Ziva had chosen for the Ambassador's arrival. "I will be with the Ambassador here," he said. "You will fire on the decoy vehicle when the door opens here." He pointed to the normal entryway. "Then I will act."

The second man smiled. He liked the idea of Major Alon taking the biggest risk. "And the Mossad?"

"Eli David's daughter will be the first to die," Alon said with a shrug.



McGee tugged his jacket into place. He was wearing his new Kevlar vest; his old one was shredded and covered in bomber goo. He wore the new vest over his dress shirt and the bulky material made his suit jacket ride up. "How do you get your jacket to look so nice?" he asked Ziva.

"You think I look nice?" Ziva's eye sparkled playfully. She ran her hand down the front of her black jacket. It fell perfectly, accenting her curves without disrupting the line of her suit. Only a subtle bit of extra bulk made the Kevlar visible.

"Well, yeah," McGee said. He leaned against the top of his car and took a long look at Ziva and smiled. "Your Kevlar vest barely shows, but I don't think that's it." He rubbed his chin, pretending to consider her.

She allowed the scrutiny and even did a twirl for him to get a better look. When she stopped, facing him, she raised one eyebrow. "This is not my new NCIS vest," she explained with a smirk. "You should get one for undercover work. The cut is designed to hide the vest and to allow more freedom of movement."

"The vest looks good, but I think it's love." McGee watched as Ziva blushed, confirming his suspicions. "Definitely looks good on you."

"I, ah…" Ziva's words stuck in her throat.

"I'm happy for you," McGee said as went to her side. "And for Abby." He rested a hand on Ziva's shoulder.

Ziva looked down at the pavement. She could feel her blush darkening. "Thank you," she said quietly. She would not deny what she felt for Abby. "How did you know?"

"I didn't until just now," McGee said.

Ziva lifted her head. Her eyes widened in shock.

"Well, not for sure," he amended. "I've noticed that you both seem… well, happier." He shrugged. "Plus, you kinda' get this goofy grin when you look at her."

"I do not!" Ziva said emphatically, terrified that she might.

"Well, no." McGee chuckled. "Ouch!" He took a step back as she hit his arm. "Kidding," he said quickly. "Although, I thought Abby was gonna murder Anna Sadeh in the office."

Ziva closed her eyes briefly and shook her head. "You have no idea," she muttered.

McGee laughed, knowing how possessive Abby could be when she considered something hers. He saw the security officer, Har-El, coming toward them. "Heads up," he said quietly, so only she could hear.

"Shalom," Har-El said as he came up to the two agents.

"Shalom," Ziva said politely.

"Good morning," McGee said as he glanced around the parking lot.

"Everything is in order," Har-El said. "The Ambassador will be down shortly." He pointed toward the far end of the parking structure. Two limousines were approaching.

"Good," Ziva said. She stepped forward when the vehicles stopped and walked around them. They were identical except for the license plate numbers. She knelt and removed a mirror from her pocket along with a small penlight. She tucked both under the first car and angled the light and mirror so she could see the car's undercarriage.

McGee joined her and watched, noting how easily she scanned the vehicle. He knew from experience that using the tiny mirror and penlight to see the various parts of the vehicle was much more difficult than it looked. He followed Ziva to the second car and watched her repeat the process. He decided he should practice the skill. It would take him much longer to check one car than it took Ziva to clear both vehicles.

Har-El handed Ziva and McGee each an earpiece and wrist microphone. "The Ambassador is on his way down."

Ziva and McGee both removed their jackets and quickly put the earpiece and wrist microphones in place. They were pulling their jackets back on when the elevator opened.

"Ambassador," Ziva said with a nod.

The Ambassador nodded politely. "I trust all is ready?"

"Of course," Har-El said as he led the Ambassador and Major Alon to the second car.

"A moment," Ziva said quickly. She stepped up to the Ambassador and took him by the elbow. She led him to the first car.

"What are you doing?" Major Alon demanded.

"I am altering the plan," Ziva said calmly. "The Ambassador and I will be in the first car. Mr. Har-El will accompany you in the second."

Alon's eyes darkened, but he held his tongue.

The Ambassador gave Ziva a curious glance.

"Your safety depends on your movements being unpredictable," Ziva reminded him. "Everyone will expect you to have a decoy car take the lead."

"Very good," the Ambassador said as he climbed into the first vehicle.

Ziva pulled McGee to her. "Go directly to the hotel and wait at the main entrance. Keep your phone on."

"Got it, Boss… err, Ziva." McGee blushed until his ears were bright red.

The limousine pulled into the circular drive in front of the Mandarin Oriental Washington. Ziva's eyes scanned the area from inside the dark, bulletproof glass of the back seat. She noticed several Israeli officers standing with a US Army officer and two Naval officers. Her eyes darted over them and then to another group of uniformed men. Her eyes stopped on a short, plump Israeli officer near the entrance to the parking structure.

Ziva hit the speed dial on her phone as she used the other hand to open the window to the driver halfway down. "Do not stop," she ordered. "Drive on through the circle and go back out to 12th Street."

The driver nodded and gunned the vehicle past the unloading zone.

"McGee, there is a short Israeli officer near the West entrance of the parking structure," she said as soon as McGee answered his cell phone. "Detain him."

"Got it," McGee said and then hung up his phone and tucked it into his pocket. He drew his weapon and approached the officer in question. He looked at the security officer Har-El had assigned him. The young officer was named Rozen, and McGee had instantly liked the eager young man. "Officer Rozen, we need to get that guy," he told the younger man. "Alive."

The short officer saw them coming and his eyes darted toward the parking structure.

McGee aimed his gun at the man's chest. "NCIS, I need you to put your hands up."

Officer Rozen repeated the order in Hebrew.

The suspect started to reach into his jacket.

"Don't," McGee barked. "Hands up and kneel facing me."

The suspect did as he was told. The hatred in his eyes made it perfectly clear he would have preferred to reach into his jacket.

McGee cuffed the suspect's wrists and held them as he searched him. "Wow," McGee said as he removed three handguns. "This guy packs like Ziva," he told the Israeli security officer.

Rozen smiled as he unloaded the weapons and tucked them into his pockets.

"Hold him," McGee said quietly. He dialed his phone. "Got him."

"And?" Ziva asked.

"The guy has more guns than you," McGee said.

"Is he alive?" Ziva smirked at his comment.

"Of course," McGee said, a bit insulted. "But he hasn't said a word."

"Have security do a complete sweep," Ziva said. She held a hand over the phone receiver and leaned toward the driver. "Take Independence Avenue and turn into the parking structure at the Department of Agriculture."

The driver nodded. As he made the turn, the Ambassador cleared his throat.

Ziva nodded to him in acknowledgement, but spoke into the phone. "Call me when you have finished the sweep. I will be bringing the Ambassador into the basement level parking area."

"And you'll be hanging out at the Department of Agriculture until then?" McGee asked in a confused tone.

"Since 911, all government buildings in DC have increased security. I will be sitting with the Ambassador and at least four armed Marines. Call when the area is secure." She hung up and turned to the Ambassador. "Sir?"

The Ambassador's eyes widened. "You are quite thorough," he complimented.

"I intend to keep you alive," she said bluntly.

"And the reason you switched vehicles and sent the Major in the other car?" he asked.

"I cannot protect you both," she said smoothly. In truth, being around Gibbs had honed Ziva's 'gut' even more than her years as a spy had. Her gut told her that Alon was hiding something. That didn't necessarily mean he was a threat. Most people in his line of business were hiding things.

"I see," the Ambassador said quietly. He smiled darkly. "I do not like him either," he admitted. "He is a political man. A political man who wears a uniform worries me."

"Every person who wears a uniform is political," Ziva pointed out. "Especially the uniform he wears."

The Ambassador nodded and leaned back into the seat and closed his eyes. The conversation was over.

Ziva waited twenty-five minutes until McGee had cleared the parking structure. She then waited while the Ambassador had lunch with two hundred other diplomats. She stood in the ballroom watching the Ambassador make his way through the crowd. She truly hated diplomatic details. She trailed along with the Ambassador a few feet behind him, while her eyes darted around the room looking for any suspicious movement.

She had wanted to shoot two diplomats within the first twenty minutes, the Ambassador to Liechtenstein and the Ambassador to Paraguay. Each mistakenly thought it was a good idea to grab Ziva's rather shapely ass. Each was now sporting a bruise around their wrist. Each found the furthest place in the room to hide after she had whispered, "Grabbing a Mossad officer is a good way to end up dead." The threat had been even more frightening because she had delivered it in each man's native tongue.

Four hours later, the Ambassador was safely at his home. Ziva made her way to her car, climbed inside, and collapsed in the seat. She took out her cell phone and dialed the number she had wanted to call all morning.

"Are you blown up?" Abby asked instead of saying hello.

"No, mon Chaton," Ziva said as a smile lit her eyes. "And McGee is not blown up either." She glanced toward the building looking for her partner. Not seeing him, she continued. "What would you say if I told you to meet me at the Savoy Suites on Wisconsin Avenue in ten minutes?" she asked, her voice husky.

"I'd say it would take me at least fifteen minutes drive time." Abby sat in front of her computer and started logging out. "Should I log out and meet you?"

Ziva sighed. "How I wish we could," she said. "I still have to debrief Gibbs."

Abby could hear the exhaustion in her lover's voice. "So you'll be here at NCIS?" she asked hopefully. She wanted to wrap the smaller woman in her arms.

"Briefly." Ziva rested her head against the back of the seat and closed her eyes. "So, if I were to book us a room, in the very near future…"

Abby smiled. "Unless I was working on something huge for Gibbs, I would clock out for 'lunch' and be there in sixteen minutes."

Ziva smiled as she held the phone to her ear. She used the other hand to rub her temple. "I would be waiting for you," Ziva said wistfully. "Sitting naked in the private hot tub, with German chocolates and chilled Caf-Pow."

"Oh," Abby closed her eyes and pictured the scene. "You know the way to my heart." She logged back onto her computer and began opening a page for the Savoy Suites. The hotel was a fifteen-minute drive from the NCIS office, just as Abby had estimated.

Ziva let her mind wander. She had been so focused at the Ambassador's event that her brain was exhausted. "I should come down to your lab today and drag you off to a supply closet and make love to you. I would, if I did not respect Gibbs so much."

"Yeah," Abby agreed. She would never disrespect Gibbs. He had asked them to keep their relationship away from work, and while she couldn't stop herself from drooling over Ziva at every turn, she wouldn't actually make love to her in the building. "Damn Gibbs," she said fondly.

"You deserve better anyway," Ziva said quietly. "Never just a swifty in a closet."

"A quickie, darlin', and you're right. I like it when you take your time." Abby opened the hotel webpage and looked through the room choices.

Ziva sighed, imagining Abby's skin. She heard the passenger door open and moved on instinct. The phone fell from her hand and she had her gun drawn. "Move and you die!" she yelled as she used the other hand to open her own door and she slid her body to the ground.

Abby felt her heart rate instantly double. She heard Ziva's shouted warning and then the muffled sound of the phone obviously bouncing across the floor and then disconnecting. Abby knew that couldn't mean anything good.

"Ack!" McGee felt his heart spasm in his chest as he leapt away from the car door with both hands up. "It's me," he said quickly. He took a few gasps of air. "Geeze, Ziva. You took ten years off my life."

Ziva let out a slow breath. "I almost took them all," she said in a growl. She holstered her weapon and leaned into the car to find her phone. She grabbed it and saw that the call had been disconnected. "You may die yet," she told McGee as she held up the phone.

"Gibbs?" he asked with a gulp.

"Worse," Ziva said as she hit redial, hoping and praying that Abby wasn't sending Gibbs and a dozen officers to the scene.

"Ziva!" Abby yelled into the cell phone. She turned her face to the phone receiver from her desk. "It's Ziva," she told Gibbs on the other line.

"I am fine," Ziva swore to her lover. "False alarm."

"She's fine," Abby told Gibbs.

"What the hell happened?" Gibbs yelled into the phone.

Abby spoke to Ziva. "Gibbs wants to know what happened, and so do I."

"McGee jumped into the car without knocking," Ziva said as she glared at her partner.

McGee squirmed. "I shouldn't have to knock to get into our NCIS car," he said. He folded his arms over his chest and bit his lip.

Abby spoke to Gibbs. "McGee surprised Ziva when he jumped in the car."

Gibbs let out a disgusted sigh. "Remind McGee that surprising a Mossad trained assassin is a good way to retire permanently." He hung up his phone, but there was a bit of a smirk on his weathered features.

Abby hung up and focused on Ziva. "Don't scare me like that," she said. Her tone was sharp, but the concern was evident as well.

"It was not me," Ziva insisted. She waved a hand at McGee.

"I didn't do anything," McGee complained pitifully.

Abby took over. "Give Timmy the phone," she said quickly.

Ziva smiled, relieved that Abby's wrath was aimed at McGee and not her.

McGee took the phone. "Gibbs?" he asked hopefully.

"What the hell where you thinking, McGee?" Abby yelled. "Trained Mossad assassin? Armed and alone in her car? Surprising her?" She let out a growl. "You're a smart guy, McGee. Do the math."

"Yeah, I know," he said sheepishly. "But I've never actually been able to surprise her before," he added as his brows crinkled. He smiled brightly, pinning Ziva in his gaze. "She was distracted," he said with a snicker.

"Yeah, well, that's…" Abby scowled. Ziva being distracted put her in danger. Abby didn't like the idea of Ziva being distracted, especially if Abby was the one doing the distracting.

"You distracted her," McGee said in a teasing tone. "You two were having phone sex, weren't you?"

"Give Ziva the phone," Abby ordered. She was blushing even though she was in her lab alone. "And we were not having phone sex," she quickly added. Though, that probably would have been the case if they'd had a few more minutes.

McGee handed Ziva the phone. "She wants to finish having phone sex," he said with a smug smirk.

"We had not started having phone sex yet," Ziva said dismissively. She smiled when McGee's ears turned bright red. "Mon Chaton, I am sorry that I worried you."

McGee's eyebrows rose in unison when he heard the term of endearment. He wouldn't have expected Ziva to be so… loving, and… cute, especially not in front of him.

"So you were planning phone sex?" Abby asked with a giggle.

"I am planning to see you as soon as I can," she said as quietly as possible. "McGee and I have to check in with Gibbs, then I will come to the lab." She smiled, a bit embarrassed by how much she was admitting in front of McGee.

McGee tried to offer some privacy, but he was sitting only a few feet away, so he looked out the window pretending to find the outside of the Ambassador's residence extremely interesting.

"Can't wait," Abby said as she shifted her weight from one foot to the other and twirled her hair with a finger. "So, then what?"

Ziva let out a sound that started as a sigh but ended as a growl. "Then I have to come back here and take the Ambassador to a party at the Mandarin Oriental. I am supposed to call when I am finished talking to Gibbs and confirm the time."

"You'll be careful at the party?" Abby asked, her tone suddenly serious.

"Of course," Ziva said. Her voice was incredibly gentle and eyes cast downward shyly.

Abby sighed into the phone, feeling intoxicated by the emotions filling her. "When you use that tone I expect you to call me Chaton or kitten," she said in a husky whisper.

"I almost did," Ziva admitted. "But when I let that slip a moment ago, McGee almost swallowed his tongue. I did not feel like fishing it out of his throat." She lifted her gaze and smiled. McGee looked like he'd been caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar. She cleared her throat. "I must go. The sooner I say goodbye, the sooner I can say hello in person."

"Drive carefully," Abby ordered.

"I am sure that McGee will be a side seat driver if I am in too much of a hurry," Ziva said tolerantly.

"Back seat," Abby corrected with a chuckle.

"I know this expression," Ziva said mischievously. "But I do not wish to be in the backseat with him. I will save that position for you."

McGee put his face in both hands. "Can you just shoot me? Please? Cuz you two lovebirds are torturing me."

"Goodbye, Chaton," Ziva said quietly.

"Come see me soon, mon amore," Abby replied. She hung up and sighed as she looked down at the phone in her hand.

"Mon amore?" DiNozzo said from the doorway. He hurried into the room like a bloodhound with a fresh scent. "I should have been listening earlier. Who is this guy? Have you run a background check?"

"Tony," Abby said as held her hand to her chest, startled. "You scared me."

"Yeah, well, your taste in men scares me," DiNozzo said as he came to the table. "So, come on. Give me the guy's name and social security number and I'll look into him."

"No," Abby said firmly.

"Abbs, you know I love ya' like a leather clad, inked up little sister." DiNozzo held out his hand. "Come on."

"Not necessary," Abby insisted. She felt her cheeks begin to warm.

"You're blushing," DiNozzo said with huge grin.

"Leave her alone, Tony," Gibbs said as he swept into the room. He handed Abby a fresh Caf-Pow and looked at DiNozzo expectantly. "Don't you have something for her?"

"Oh, yeah." DiNozzo reached into his pocket and pulled out an evidence bag full of bullet cartridges. "Happy lab technician's day," he said with a smile.

"No such day," Abby said as she grabbed the bag, but she smiled sweetly.

"Abby has a new man," DiNozzo said in a warning tone. "She won't let me do a background check on him."

"Nobody likes a tattle tail, Tony," Abby said dangerously.

Gibbs was calm. "I have already thoroughly vetted Abby's suitor." He took a sip of his coffee.

"Wha… what?" DiNozzo spun and glared at Gibbs. "And you didn't tell m…" He swallowed with a gulp. "What I mean is…"

Gibbs paused with his cup to his lips, looking at DiNozzo expectantly.

"I'm shutting up," DiNozzo said grumpily. He decided a change of subject would be a great idea. "So, any word on the guy McGee grabbed?"

"You mean the guy the Israelis snatched up and refused to share?" Gibbs narrowed his eyes and raised his voice angrily. "The one we did not get to interview even though Ziva IDed him and McGee collared him? That guy?" The veins on the sides of Gibbs' neck bulged as his blood pressure surged.

"Uh, yeah, that one." DiNozzo suddenly wanted to be talking about Abby's mystery man again.

Gibbs glared, not happy that the Israelis were keeping him out of the loop.

"I'll just be shutting up, Boss," DiNozzo said quietly.

Ziva stopped by a bit later, but for Abby, it was almost worse than not seeing her at all. Ziva only had time to hurry into Abby's lab, give her quick kiss and then head back upstairs to give Gibbs an update before returning to the embassy.

Abby lost herself in work. She moved through her computer files, double-checking, triple-checking, and then, just for the heck of it, quadruple-checking her results on the stolen ammunition case. The chief petty officer had been selling the stolen goods on Craig's list and, apparently, the people who bought the items were just as boring as the thief. She had cross-referenced the listings and discovered that the chief petty officer was also selling surplus socks and underwear.

"Who buys underwear on Craig's list?" she asked the computer.

The door opened and DiNozzo entered. He was obviously as bored as Abby. All the leads on the bombing had gone cold. "Got anything?" He came closer and leaned against the counter.

"Wanna buy some underwear on Craig's list?" Abby asked with forced cheer.

"Not even if they belonged to Angelina Jolie and she was gonna deliver them in person." DiNozzo scrunched his face and looked at the screen. "Who buys underwear on Craig's list?" he said, repeating Abby's earlier comment.

"I know!" Abby spun and faced him. "But our theft petty officer has been making about two grand a week… selling underwear… on Craig's list."

"That's just wrong," DiNozzo said. His brow furrowed and he tilted his head to one side.

"And he was making twice that on the pilfered ammo," Abby added.

"Two, four…" DiNozzo's eyes widened. "That's six freakin' grand a week."

"Twenty-four freakin' grand a month," Abby pointed out.

"This guy's dead meat," DiNozzo promised. He put both hands on his hips. "Do you have any idea what I could do with twenty-four grand every month?"

"Make twenty-four high class call girls very wealthy?" Abby asked wickedly.

"Funny. Very funny." He scowled. "Have you gone over all bomber guy's stuff yet?"

"Don't remind me." Abby glared at him. "The entire evidence locker is filled to the gills with boxes. Homeland Security is having a technician inventory it right now. It looks like we're having a Black Friday sale on electronics. "

"Well, if I had twenty-four grand, I'd have my call girls help you. But I don't, so I won't." DiNozzo spun and headed for the door.

"I was kidding," Abby yelled. "Tony, come on. I'll never get through it all this week." He was gone by the time she finished the sentence. "Big baby," she told the closed door.

For the second time in as many days, Ziva returned in the early morning hours. This time, Abby was waiting at Ziva's apartment and, as she had the previous night, Abby had insisted that Ziva sleep. Which didn't sit well with Ziva.

"Abby, I need you more than I need sleep," Ziva said reasonably. She was naked, in bed next to Abby, and doing her best to convince her lover that rest was not a priority.

Abby intercepted Ziva's wandering hands. "It's almost three in the morning, darlin'. I'm not sending you off to face terrorists without enough sleep."

"But…" Ziva's lip stuck out. "But…"

"There's no pouting in spy-land," Abby said firmly.

Ziva sighed, but didn't stop pouting. "And apparently, there is no sex in spy-land either."

Abby laughed and then gave Ziva a short kiss. "There'll be plenty of sex. Later. After you've healed and you're no longer running on a few hours of sleep every night."

Ziva let out a breath in huff of air. "Fine." She looked over toward Abby. "What about a quickie?"

Abby laughed and rolled toward Ziva. "What happened to, 'never a swifty?' Hmm?"

"That was before you went on this sexual hunger strike," Ziva said. Her brown eyes sparkled playfully, making it clear she was mostly joking. "Maybe a tiny little appetizer?"

Abby snorted a laugh and pulled Ziva closer and kissed her. "You're lucky I'm such a push over." She ran her hands over Ziva's bare skin and closed her eyes, then inhaled wantonly. She was craving Ziva's body, but still had lingering doubts because she didn't want to put her lover in jeopardy.

Ziva smiled, knowing the battle was won. She ran a hand over Abby's belly and felt her tremble at the touch. "Mon Chaton, I will make you purr."

Abby rolled on top of Ziva and took a plundering kiss. When she lifted her head, she was panting, overcome with desire. "Less talk. More action. We're on a deadline, woman."

Ziva laughed and pivoted so they switched positions. She looked down at Abby and caressed her face. "I love you," she whispered tenderly and then she kissed Abby. It was not the fevered, lustful, rushed kiss Abby had expected. It was soft, loving, and slow, as if they had all the time in the world, and, Abby realized, it was exactly what she needed. It was exactly what they both needed.



Abby stared at the wall of boxes as if she could intimidate them into submission. She was standing in front of the chain link gate of the evidence lock up in the huge underground garage beneath the NCIS lab. There was a large area where cars were processed, and an area off to one side with a long table for processing items that were smaller than a car, but generally too big to hall upstairs to Abby's lab.

"I need a system," she told the mountain of boxes. She glanced down at the four-page inventory of the items. "I need ten more people," she said, then tapped her foot grumpily. "And a really good system."

DiNozzo seemed to appear out of nowhere. "Well, my call girls are all busy," he said.

"Are you still mad about that?" Abby turned and her eyes lit up. "Aww, I love you, Tony," she said as she hurried forward and grabbed the fresh Caf-Pow he was extending.

"You love the Caf-Pow." He waved his hand in the air in a flourish and bowed. "Now, tell me, oh collared one, of this mythical system of which you speak."

She smiled and touched her studded collar. "I don't have that figured out just yet." She waved a hand at him. "But I will. Alphabetical, numerical by serial number, by size of box… haven't decided yet."

DiNozzo looked at the evidence lock up. The boxes were packed tightly, filling every inch of space in front of the door. "How 'bout, closest to the door and work your way back?" he suggested.

"Always a crowd favorite," Abby said before taking another sip of her Caf-Pow. She picked up the invoice and her eyes scanned the list of items as she took gulps of Caf-Pow. The third line on the second page made her mouth open, drooling Caf-Pow onto the cement floor. "Holy crap."

"What?" DiNozzo scooted closer. "Did you find that missing crate from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark?"

She shot him a dirty look. "There are three computers in there." She slammed her Caf-Pow onto the long metal table. "Hello? Computers?" she said as if he was mentally challenged. "Computers, those wonderful inventions that hide gigabytes of terrorist plots?"

DiNozzo shook his head. "No," he said dismissively. "Those computers haven't even been taken out of the boxes yet. Factory seals are still place. All that stuff is brand new. I don't even know why you have to process it."

She walked over and slapped the back of his head. Hard. "Clues, DiNozzo," she said, sounding extremely Gibbs-like. "Clues I should find, and you should buy."

"I don't need to buy a clue," he complained like a third grader forced to eat his peas. He rubbed the back of his head. "That really hurt," he said in a wounded tone as he dropped his hand to his side. "Ouch!" he said as another, harder slap hit the back of his head. "Boss?" He spun.

"We process everything," Gibbs said. He also had a Caf-Pow.

"Yay! A spare." Abby grabbed the beverage and put it on the counter next to the first.

Gibbs stared at the stuffed evidence lock up. "Abbs, see if you can find those computers. Process them first." He glanced at DiNozzo. "Tony can supply the muscle."

"Hey," DiNozzo said before he could stop the word from tumbling out of his mouth.

"Got a problem with that?" Gibbs' eyes narrowed.

"No," DiNozzo said quickly. "What I meant was… hey, what a great idea."

"That's what I thought." Gibbs turned and went to the elevator.

"New system," Abby said as she turned her focus on the task. "Glove up so you don't contaminate my evidence and start moving boxes." She pointed to the area between the long metal table and the evidence lock up. "Spread plastic sheeting on the floor first and then we start stacking."

DiNozzo crossed his arms over his chest and stuck out his lower lip.

"There's no pouting in forensics," Abby said as she headed to the locker where she kept the gear. She smiled briefly, remembering where a similar comment led the night before.

Ziva wanted to pout. She was standing a few feet behind the Ambassador as he spoke with a roomful of diplomats. They were inside the Israeli embassy and, while that should have been the safest place for him, Ziva didn't let her guard down. This was the third speaking engagement of the day, and it wasn't even noon yet.

The Ambassador finished his speech and polite applause filtered through the room. Ziva moved a bit closer and took his arm when he turned to leave. "The car is waiting," she said as she weaved through the dense crowd. "We are on the move," she said into her wrist microphone. He had another engagement across town in less than an hour.

They reached an intersecting corridor near his private offices. One direction led to the main entrance of the embassy, and the other to his residence.

The Ambassador stopped. "Enough," he said, shaking his head.

Ziva's eyebrow rose, wondering why he was stopping. Her eyes scanned for any sign of danger, but she only saw his staff exchanging knowing glances. "Are you ill?" Ziva asked.

"No," the Ambassador said. "But I grow weary of this diplomatic nonsense." He nodded toward the door that led to his private residence. "We are finished," he decreed. He turned to Anna Sadeh. "Clear my schedule."

Anna nodded politely and flipped open a large, leather bound date-book. "The afternoon or the entire day?" she asked.

"The day," he waved a hand in the air.

"But sir," Alon said as he hurried toward the Ambassador. "You have a meeting with the UN Secretary General."

Ziva edged closer, putting her body in Alon's path.

Alon took a step back when he noticed Ziva's hand resting on the butt of her gun. "You can't cancel on the Secretary General," he said.

The Ambassador smiled, but not kindly. "When did you take over Miss Sadeh's position?" he asked.

Alon swallowed and moved back a few steps. "I apologize," he said contritely. "Of course, your schedule is yours to change however you like."

"I am so glad that I have your permission, Major," the Ambassador said. His eyes were cold.

Ziva wasn't sure what was going on, but she knew all of her carefully choreographed security plans had just been upended.

Anna scooted to Ziva's side. "The schedule is flexible," she told her. "Often the Ambassador tires of diplomatic events.

Ziva nodded politely, but wondered why the Ambassador took his position if he didn't want to attend diplomatic events. He was, after all, a diplomat.

"Officer David, we are finished for the day," the Ambassador said as he pointed to the door to his residence. "I will not leave my home until tomorrow morning."

"I shall accompany you." Ziva moved to join him.

"Unnecessary, but thank you anyway." He placed his hand on the door.

"Sir, my assignment is to keep you alive." Ziva's expression darkened. "That assignment does not stop at this door."

"Ah, but it does," he said with a smile. "Go. Enjoy your day and I will see you in the morning."

Ziva started to argue, but thought better of it. The previous days, she had been at his side until the early morning hours. She had only retired for the day when he entered his home. He had a security staff that remained in the residence at all times, and he didn't want her accompanying him there.

"Until tomorrow," Ziva said. She forced a smile, when what she really wanted to do was go into the residence and personally inspect the security measures. Instead, she removed her cell phone and dialed. "We are finished for the day," she said.

"Really?" McGee asked. He was in front of the Embassy waiting for the entourage to move across town.

"The Ambassador no longer requires our services today," Ziva said, practically spitting the words. "I will meet you at the car." She hung up.

Alon and the rest of the staff filtered out of the hall into the office doors along the corridor.

Only Anna remained next to Ziva. "Don't take it personally," she said as she rested a hand on Ziva's arm. "A special guest arrived this morning."

Ziva twisted slightly, causing Anna to remove her hand. "Mistress?" Ziva asked.

Anna bent forward, hiding her huge smile. "Miss David, you are very good at your job."

"That is the point," Ziva said as she turned. "I will see you in the morning." With her assignment finished for the day, she wanted nothing more than to return to NCIS and visit the lab.

She exited the embassy and saw McGee near the gate.

"What happened?" McGee asked. He was standing next to the driver's side door, leaning his elbows on the roof.

"The Ambassador is… entertaining," Ziva said as she opened the door and sat in the passenger seat.

"Well, doesn't he want you with him?" McGee climbed in and started the car.

"Not that kind of entertaining," Ziva said as she buckled her seatbelt.

McGee crinkled his brow, then his eyes widened. "Oh," he said when he understood.

"Yes, oh." Ziva wanted to find Abby and do some entertaining of her own. Unfortunately, she would have to settle for a hug and perhaps a few kisses.

For a moment, they enjoyed a brief silence, each caught up in their own thoughts.

McGee glanced over at Ziva and noticed that her eyes were becoming more expressive. Then he realized that her eyes were showing happiness. She hadn't become more expressive; she had become happy.

Ziva stared out the car window at the buildings as they rode, finding the best windows where a sniper could hide or the place where a bomb would have the most effect on the bustling crowds. It was something she did unconsciously, born of a lifetime spent on streets all too often covered in blood. Even as she calculated possible threats, she had a slight smile, a smile that belonged to Abby. She wondered what the beautiful technician was doing and if, perhaps, Abby was thinking about their budding relationship.

McGee made his way onto the Dwight D Eisenhower freeway. "You know, Tony's gonna be thrilled," McGee said.

"Why?" Ziva asked, distracted by her thoughts of her lover.

"Abby's got him moving boxes, lots of boxes." McGee chuckled. "We had three evidence techs from Homeland Security to pack them all up when we left the scene."

"Which scene?" She turned toward him.

"Bomber guy, Ghazi Nasser," McGee said. "All those stolen electronics have to be checked for forensic evidence." He turned toward her. "I don't envy Abby. There were enough boxes to stock a Costco."

"What kind of electronics?" Ziva had meant to ask about the scene when she first heard about the electronics, but thought Gibbs would let her know if there was any danger. She tilted her head to one side. The hairs on the back of her neck were standing at attention. Her subconscious wasn't just talking to her, it was screaming.

"Stereos, TVs, DVD players," he said. "Oh, and a few computers. That's why Abby has Tony slaving away in the evidence bay. She wants those first."

"Are you certain the boxes have never been opened?" Ziva leaned forward.

"Yeah," McGee said. "They're factory sealed."

"Perhaps." Ziva picked up her phone and dialed. There was no answer so she dialed another number. She frowned when Abby's cell phone went to voice mail. She dialed again.

"What's up, David?" Gibbs answered gruffly.

"I cannot reach Abby on her cell phone or in the lab." Ziva glanced over at McGee, and covered the phone. "Hurry," she whispered.

"She's in the evidence bay," Gibbs said. He was tempted to tell her he wasn't her girlfriend's secretary, but something in her tone made him stand and look around the bullpen.

"Gibbs, find her and make certain she does not open any of the packages until I inspect them," Ziva said in a rush.

"Weren't they sealed from the factory?" He was walking toward the elevator.

"If I prepared a package, you would swear it was factory sealed," Ziva said darkly.

"I'm on it." Gibbs hung up and glared at the elevator. It was moving too slowly so he headed for the stairs. He read between Ziva's words. The only reason she would seal a 'package' was if it contained a very nasty surprise.

Tony let out a sigh and fell to his knees. "Oh sweet Mary mother of God," he said with a gasp.

Abby leaned around a stack of boxes to look at him.

Tony pressed a gloved hand to a box containing a computer. "Jesus, Joseph, Mary, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, George and Ringo!"

"I think your biblical shouts of joy detoured into the musical realm," Abby said as she laughed at her friend's antics. "My computers," Abby exclaimed as she rushed forward. "You found them."

"In the last freakin' row," DiNozzo fell back onto his butt. "Finally."

"Help me carry these to my table," Abby said as she took the top box.

"But…" He climbed to his feet and followed her to the table empty-handed. He pointed to a huge stack of boxes. "I moved, like, all of those."

"You're the muscle, remember?" Abby said with a sweet smile. She put on a pair of orange glasses and then took a magnifying glass with an attached blue light and began searching the sides of the box. She quickly realized there was no trace evidence so she took a box knife and slit the tape, and then carefully removed the laptop computer. She noticed DiNozzo standing in place rubbing his back. "Shoo!" she told him.

"You're worse than Gibbs," he said as he turned and disappeared behind the boxes.

"Now for some power." Abby plugged the charger into the back of the computer and then plugged that into a heavy-duty surge protector on top of the table. "Hmpt," she grumbled when nothing happened. She peeked over the back of the table and realized she hadn't plugged in the surge protector. "Mystery solved," she said happily.

She went around the table, bent down, crawled over and stretched behind a huge metal tool chest. The outlet was just out of her reach. She heard her phone ring but decided it could wait for a few minutes. "Come on," she said to the outlet. She had to turn her shoulders and squeeze behind the tool chest to reach her goal. "Gotcha," she said as she plugged it in. She felt the tool chest slam against her as she heard a deafening explosion.

DiNozzo was thrown to the floor and dozens of boxes tumbled on top of him. He covered his head and tried to curl into a ball. Alarms blared in the expansive space of the garage.

Once the shower of boxes stopped, DiNozzo pushed his way through them and stood. Smoke hovered in the air, making him cough, but he could see that nothing was actively burning. Smoldering debris, from what had been the table and some of the boxes, was now scattered across the cement floor. Two of the overhead hanging lights were shattered and dangled in pieces, sparks spitting sporadically. A few of the boxes were smoldering and had ripped open.

"Abby!" DiNozzo shoved more of the boxes aside, wincing as his arm protested. He glanced down at a gash above his elbow but didn't stop. "Abbs?" he yelled again.

There was another sound, as Gibbs slammed the door almost off its hinges and raced into the room. "Tony!" he yelled and raced toward the agent.

DiNozzo waved Gibbs off. "I'm fine. Find Abby." He pointed to the place the table had been.

"Abby?" Gibbs yelled. He started lifting boxes out of his way.

DiNozzo grabbed a box and started to hurl it aside, but Gibbs gripped his arm.

"Easy," he snapped. "There could be explosives in every one of these boxes." He turned around and continued digging. "Abby?"

DiNozzo careful placed the box out his way.

They moved enough boxes so they could see the front of the tool chest. Gibbs grabbed DiNozzo's arm again. "Wait," he said and tilted his head to one side like a German Shepard hearing his master's call. The alarm was blaring, but he could hear something else as well.

Muffled coughs were coming from behind the huge toolbox.

"Abby!" Gibbs and DiNozzo said in unison. They shifted their focus to a large metal tool chest overturned against the wall. There was a sea of boxes piled against it.

"Abby?" Gibbs yelled as he leaned over some of the boxes to get closer to the sound.

"Gibbs?" Abby yelled. "You gotta find Tony," she screamed over the deafening alarm.

"I'm right here," DiNozzo yelled as he continued moving boxes.

"Stupid, stupid, stupid," Abby said. "What were you thinking? You weren't thinking!"

"DiNozzo, kill that alarm," Gibbs yelled. He continued digging as DiNozzo went to the wall where the large red box was ringing.

When DiNozzo reached the alarm, the sound was painful in his ears. He scanned the area but didn't see anything he could use to reach the box ten feet up the wall. "Boss!" he screamed. "I can't reach it."

Gibbs paused and looked over to DiNozzo, who was covering both ears with his hands. Gibbs pulled his gun and shot the alarm three times in rapid succession leaving a tight grouping near the top where the electrical lines entered the box. The garage walls were made of eight inches of brick and cement, so there was no threat of the bullets going through.

DiNozzo dropped to the floor and covered his head.

The alarm changed to a clanging rattle, so Gibbs shot it twice more. When the echoes from the shots stopped, the room was silent.

"I coulda done that," DiNozzo said as he opened his eyes and stood, poking one finger into his ear. He went over and started digging again.

"How could you be so stupid?" Abby said behind the toolbox. She coughed and pushed up onto her knees in the protective space the tool chest had created when it tipped over against the wall. She coughed again as she heard boxes being hastily moved. "Gibbs," she said when she saw his face appear at one end of her metal bunker. "Tony. Thank God you're okay," she added when his face peeked under Gibbs' arm.

"You okay?" Gibbs asked.

She sat hunched over in the confined space and crossed her arms over her chest. "Uh, no," she said grouchily. "I'm sick and tired of people being blown up, Gibbs." She shifted her weight and crawled toward him. "Especially when it's me!"

He smiled, relieved that she was stomping mad, and not blown up.

McGee turned the corner into the Washington Navy Yard and saw several armed Marines milling around at main guardhouse. There was a small traffic jam at the lowered gate. No cars were being admitted.

Ziva's eyes surveyed the scene and her focus shifted to the NCIS building three hundred yards in the distance. "No," she said in shell-shocked tone when she saw three EOD trucks, a military fire engine, and an ambulance in front of the NCIS building. She jumped out of the car and ran toward the commotion, her mind calling up images of a suicide bombing from years earlier. That bombing killed Ziva's younger sister Tali, and it still haunted her worst nightmares.

"Oh, man." McGee saw it an instant later. He abandoned the car and followed her.

"NCIS!" Ziva yelled as she sprinted toward the gate. The sound of her boots hitting the pavement echoed in her ears. She focused on the building in the distance, but her mind was on an open-air market in Hadera.

She ran across the Navy Yard, but she also saw the ruble-filled streets of Hadera. She raced past the parked NCIS cars, but her mind's eye flashed darker images and sounds. Her mind offered pools of blood still wet, but coated with dust, heard frightened people crying, and then saw a mother rocking her silent, vacant eyed son who would never cry again, and finally, she saw Tali's brand new white sneaker sitting in the center of the street undamaged. Five meters further she saw the image that still plagued her. Ziva saw her sweet, compassionate Tali, her face was pale and streaked with dark blood, but worst of all, Tali's beautiful, vibrant brown eyes were open, but empty and coated with gritty dust. Ziva was yanked out of the memory and back to the Navy Yard by the shouts of a scared young soldier.

"Ma'am?" a young Marine yelled at Ziva. "Halt!" He was not one of the regular guards and his hands shook so hard the end of his rifle vibrated.

Daniel, the regular guard saw Ziva and took action. "She's okay. Let her through," he yelled.

The new guard hadn't had time to even lower his gun before Ziva shot past him. McGee ran behind her, holding up his badge and pausing as the regular guard waved him through.

Ziva covered the remaining hundred yards to the NCIS building at a dead sprint. She left McGee behind as if he was running in three feet of tar. As she got closer to her goal, she pushed the old images away, but not before one more scene slammed into her like a fist. Seeing Tali's crumbled body had been devastating, but the memories of the Israeli medic draping a pristine yellow tarp over Tali was the image that never quite went away.

Ziva pushed down the memory and she could see the fire personnel and a group of men she recognized from the EOD all milling around in front of evidence bay entrance. She got to the building and met with another unfamiliar face. She held her badge toward him and, if he hadn't stepped out her way, she would have held her gun toward him next. She continued, shoving through the crowd and into the short underground entrance to the bay.

When she finally staggered into the evidence bay, she saw six men she knew from the EOD team. She moved toward the most senior EOD technician, but then she saw Gibbs kneeling at the furthest side of the chaotic scene. She didn't see Abby and fear stole her breath more than the long sprint had.

"Crime scene, ma'am," an unfamiliar MP said as he held up his hands as if to stop her.

"NCIS. Move," Ziva barked as she tossed her badge to him and pivoted past him.

He caught the badge, his hands shaking as if he'd just faced down a charging lion.

Gibbs turned toward the sound and cringed. "Son of bitch," he said as he realized he hadn't called her back.

"Abby?" she demanded as she stumbled to a stop in front of him.

"Everyone's fine," Gibbs said. "I didn't have a chance to call you," he said when she gave him a withering glare.

"Where?" She scanned the room seeing only destruction. Her trained eye immediately recognized where the blast originated, and her photographic memory told her there had once been a lab table at the epicenter, a lab table where Abby was sure to have been standing. "Is she alive? Do not lie to me, Gibbs."

"She's fine," Gibbs insisted. He rested a hand on her shoulder. Heat and moisture rose from her body like a racehorse after the Kentucky Derby. "She's with Ducky."

Ziva's eyes widened.

"He's checking her over." Gibbs saw the fear in her eyes. "Let's go see her," he said when he realized nothing else was going to calm her. "The building's been evacuated. Ducky set up a command center in the back parking lot."

They took the stairs. Ziva ignored her own aching wounds aggravated by the sprint across the Yard. She rushed for the stairwell door as soon as they reached the next level, but then found herself moving a bit slower as they headed toward the metal door that led outside. She wondered if Gibbs had been lying, trying to break some horrible news to her gently. She didn't think she could handle opening the door and finding Abby's broken body under a yellow tarp in the parking lot. She didn't need that image joining her nightmares of Tali.

"I wouldn't lie to you," Gibbs whispered and then wrapped a protective arm around her and opened the door to the back parking lot.

The crime scene van was several hundred feet away and Ducky was standing off to one side having a casual chat with Abby. He was holding her arm and studying a scrape on her elbow. Abby smiled when she saw Ziva, but then frowned when Ziva visibly sagged.

"Told ya' she's fine." Gibbs eased her forward.

The touch broke Ziva out of her spell. She rushed to Abby and pulled her into a hug. She closed her eyes to chase away the scenes she had been painting in her mind. "Chaton," she whispered.

"I'm fine," Abby said as she leaned into the embrace a bit awkwardly because of Ziva's Kevlar vest. She gave Gibbs a curious look and he immediately looked away. "You didn't call her?" Abby yelled.

Ziva pulled back and looked at Abby. Her fear now transformed into anger, a much more familiar emotion. "Why didn't you call me?" Ziva demanded.

Abby shook her side to side. "No," she told her lover, seeing the tide of emotion shift behind Ziva's brown eyes. "I couldn't call." She motioned to the chaos around them. "We're in lock down. The phone lines were severed in the explosion and no, I couldn't use my cell." She pointed to an evidence bag filled with plastic pieces that had been Abby's phone.

That calmed Ziva's beast. "I will deal with you later," she told Gibbs as if he was a buck private and she was a very displeased three star general. "Let me look at you," Ziva said as she ran her hands over Abby's face and then gently through her hair for any sign of injury. Bits of Styrofoam still clung to her hair from the damaged boxes.

"I'm fine," Abby insisted as Ziva's hands moved over her.

"You were blown up!" Ziva yelled.

Abby smiled, despite the gravity of the situation. "Remember when I told you that?"

"This is not funny." Ziva moved her examination to Abby's limbs, squeezing each one to check for disfigurement.

"It's a little funny," Abby said with a smirk.

That earned Abby a dirty look.

"I'm okay. I promise." Abby sighed and held still to allow Ziva to continue her inspection.

Experience, from far too many bombings, allowed Ziva to scan Abby quickly and efficiently. She clinically noted that Abby's clothes had no burns or rips, and there were no pinpoint holes from flying shrapnel. She scowled when she found a scratch on the back of Abby's arm, but instantly realized it was an abrasion from scraping against something, and not from flying debris. She nodded, satisfied for the moment.

"Okay?" Abby asked. She took Ziva's chin and guided her lover's face toward her.

Ziva nodded again and then let out a shaky breath. She wrapped her arms around Abby and clung to her, not wanting to ever let her move. The relief of holding Abby was short lived.

DiNozzo came wandering up to the group. "Oh, hey, hugs for the survivors. Cool." He went to Ziva and Abby and hugged them both at the same time, rubbing their heads in a gentle noogie motion.

Ziva backed up, releasing Abby and escaping DiNozzo in one deft maneuver.

"Tony was blown up too," Abby said brightly, as if discussing a trip to Disneyland.

"You were in the blast?" Ziva asked, clearly concerned. Tony often irritated her, but she did care about him. He was a little worse for the wear. His hair was uncharacteristically messy and he too was covered in bits of Styrofoam.

He inhaled and flexed his entire body. "Yeah," DiNozzo said dismissively. "Couple'a stitches, no big deal." He twisted his arm, showing off a stark white bandage just above his elbow.

"Tony helped dig me out," Abby told Ziva. "I was pinned behind that giant toolbox and he and Gibbs had to move like an entire Radio Shack to find me."

Ziva paused, thinking how easily her world could have been destroyed by Abby's loss. She went to DiNozzo and gave a brief, but sincere hug.

DiNozzo didn't quite know what to do with his arms. "Ah, thanks, Zee. It wasn't that bad." He awkwardly patted her on the back as she pulled away.

McGee burst through the doors of the building, panting. He rushed over to his teammates "You're all okay?" He bent over, exhausted.

"What took you so long?" DiNozzo asked. "Did you find a Star Trek convention along the way, Elf-lord?"

"They wouldn't let me in the bay," McGee said, completely ignoring Tony's taunts. "I had to run around to the front of the building and come through from there." He flapped his arm toward the building. "Then they told me you were all back here."

"They allowed me to pass," Ziva said, finally beginning to feel the tension subside.

"Big surprise." McGee looked up at her. "See, you've never actually gotten to watch yourself in full Ziva the Terminator mode, holding up your badge and making grown Marines wet their fatigues." He dug into a pocket and pulled out Ziva's badge and tossed it to her. "The poor kid thought you were gonna hurl that into his skull like a Chinese throwing star," McGee explained.

"He was between me and where I needed to be," Ziva said rationally. Her eyes found Abby, the one she had needed most. Ziva smirked. "And I did actually consider throwing it at his forehead."

Abby smiled proudly.

The rest of the day was spent dealing with the fact that they had unwittingly filled their evidence bay with dozens of disguised IEDs, improvised explosive devices. Ziva's gut had alerted her to that possibility, just a few minutes too late.

The EOD team continued the lock down. That meant no work for Ducky or Abby until they could make other arrangements. The investigative team members were busy tracking the electronics, now a priority. Ziva was the exception.

She worked with the EOD. Her experience with terrorist bombs disguised to look harmless was put to good use. They dissected several of the bombs, but only after x-raying them with a small portable device. The IEDs were designed to look like normal consumer items. They were wired to explode as soon as they were plugged in, providing the ignition for the Semtex packed devices. It was an uncomplicated design, elegant in it's lethal simplicity. The victim carried it home and provided the trigger.

By the time the sun was setting, Gibbs, DiNozzo, and McGee had several good leads and had most of the IED plan figured out. All of the electronics were from the same shipping company. They found a suspect who worked at the docks, and he was in custody. The terrorists had stolen the items and added the explosives, intending to return them before they were shipped. If they had gotten the items into place, they would have been sent to dozens of different locations. Bombs would have killed civilians all across the country, causing total panic. People would have been afraid to go shopping, exactly what the American economy didn't need.

They had prevented a nation-wide crisis, yet Gibbs was not satisfied. Like most terrorist cells, the man from the port knew only his own mission. Gibbs had a living suspect, and he was talking. The problem was, he didn't know anything about the attempt on the Ambassador or the bombing at the park.



Abby woke up knowing something was wrong. She was in Ziva's bed, alone. She immediately reached for the phone by the bed and dialed.

"David," Ziva said with a yawn.

"Have you slept?" Abby asked, knowing the answer.

"No, Abigail," Ziva said contritely. She moved away from the small group of technicians examining photos of the IEDs. "I meant to call."

"You did call," Abby said calmly. "Last night. You said, and I quote, 'I will be home very late.' This is not late," Abby said, her tone gentle, with no hint of anger. "Darlin,' it's almost five a.m. It's now past late and all the way back around to early."

"I know," Ziva said. She was dead on her feet. "Believe me, I would rather be in bed with you."

"You sound exhausted." Abby sat up and swung her feet over the side of the bed.

"Yes," Ziva agreed. "I am." She sighed and rubbed the back of her necked. "But, I will be finished here soon."

"Are you taking today off?" Abby asked.

"No," Ziva had a questioning tone. "I will only have time to shower and change before I leave for the embassy."

Abby was silent. She actually pulled the phone away from her ear and looked at it to confirm that it was real and she was not having a nightmare. She lifted the receiver back to her ear.

"Abby?" Ziva asked.

"Yeah," Abby said quietly. Her first instinct had been to blow her top and demand that Ziva come home to rest. She wanted to tell Ziva there was no way in hell she was going to work without any sleep. But she didn't.

"Chaton?" Ziva was becoming concerned.

"I trust you," Abby said quietly. "I don't like the idea of you working after being awake twenty four hours, but I trust you." It was one of the hardest things she'd ever had to say.

"Thank you," Ziva said. She yawned again and covered her mouth with the back of her hand. "I am not sure when I will see you next," she admitted. "I promise it will be as soon as humanly possible."

"Okay, Spy Queen." At the moment, Abby didn't like being a grown up. She didn't much like her girlfriend being a dedicated agent either. "Please be careful. I love you."

"I will," Ziva said. "I love you too." She hung up and stared down at the phone, knowing what Abby had just given her. Abby was scared, Abby wanted Ziva to go home to sleep, Abby wanted to dictate that Ziva would sleep, but more than anything else, Abby wanted Ziva to be true to herself. She sighed, amazed by the incredible woman she had somehow managed to find. She took a deep breath and was about to call the embassy for the day's itinerary when her phone rang. "David," she said into the receiver with a yawn she couldn't stop.

"Is my evidence bay empty yet?" Gibbs asked.

"No," Ziva said. "Homeland Security and the explosive ordinance team are removing the boxes one at a time. Each one must be placed into a TCV. The containment vessels will only hold a few of the boxes, so they must drive them to the demolition site in small batches."

Gibbs let out a grumbling sigh. "That's gonna take forever."

"Yes." Ziva agreed, but understood the thinking behind the action. "As you say, better safe than sorry."

"On that note, you're not going to the embassy today." Gibbs knew her well enough to know she was planning to go to her next assignment without any sleep.

Ziva assumed DiNozzo would step in for her. "Tony does not have the…"

"I'll be covering the Ambassador," he interrupted. "Go home, get eight hours of sleep, not a minute less. And yes, that's an order."

Ziva paused only a moment before her reply. "Yes, sir."

Abby climbed out of the shower. After talking to Ziva, there was no way she could get back to sleep. She wanted to call Ziva a dozen times in the half hour since they spoke. She wanted to beg her not to go work tired, but Abby was trying to be mature. And she hated it. She hastily dried off, noticing quite a few bruises that had shown up while she slept. She reached for the doorknob and let out a blood-curdling scream when the door swung open before she touched it.

Ziva leapt back, her knife instantly in one hand and her gun in the other, both weapons pointing down the hallway as if she expected an attacker behind her.

"Don't ever do that again," Abby said. She wrapped her arms tightly around the towel covering her.

"Sorry." Ziva smiled as she tucked her weapons back into place. "I know how to make it up to you," she said.

"How?" Abby moved forward and rested her arms on Ziva's shoulders.

"I am going to take a shower and then sleep for eight glorious hours," Ziva said with an exhausted sigh. "Gibbs' orders."

"That's my Gibbs." Abby hugged her and let out a relieved sigh. "Thank you, Jesus, Joseph, Mary, Luke, Mathew, John, Paul, George and Ringo," she whispered with a giggle.

"An interesting prayer," Ziva said with a yawn.

"Tony taught it to me." Abby squeezed closer.

"Why am I not surprised?" Ziva chuckled mildly.

Abby pulled back. "Shower and then bed." Abby pointed toward the shower. "Now."

"On one condition," Ziva said. She nodded to the shower. "Join me."

"You are going to sleep," Abby said firmly. She crossed her arms over her chest, and gave Ziva her most stubborn glare.

"And I will," Ziva said gently. "I need to see for myself that you are unharmed." She cleared her throat. "Please."

Abby dropped her towel. "And then to bed." She kissed Ziva on the cheek and climbed into the shower stall.

"Then to bed." Ziva's entire body relaxed.

After a brief shower and a not so brief physical exam, where Ziva made a note of each bruise that had formed overnight, Ziva went to bed. Abby actually tucked her in.

"Sweet dreams," Abby said as she kissed Ziva's forehead.

Ziva nodded. "Love you," Ziva mumbled. Her eyes fluttered closed and it wasn't long before she dozed off. Abby wanted to sit vigil, but she was needed at work. She snuck out, amazed Ziva didn't wake when she opened the bedroom door, and headed back to work. She couldn't actually enter the NCIS building, but she could work the evidence.

Gibbs had ignored the lockdown and gathered the most important pieces of evidence. He also arranged for Abby to take the evidence to the US Naval Investigative Services building in Quantico, Virginia. Abby didn't mind the hour-long drive. She did mind working in a strange lab. Still, if it gave them the missing terrorists, it would be worth it.

Ziva slept, as ordered, but returned to work with the EOD in the late afternoon. When she finally managed to make it home again, Abby was sleeping. They shared a hurried breakfast of bagels the next morning at six a.m., but both would have preferred more time together.

The explosives weren't cleared until seven a.m.; the team was back to work in their office by three minutes after seven. Gibbs was on a rampage. He spent an hour upstairs in the command center with Director Vance. They worked as a tag team, taking turns yelling at people around the globe.

"Hey, Boss," DiNozzo said when Gibbs returned to his desk. "What's the news?"

Gibbs sat at his desk. "Ghazi Nasser had a degree in Mining Engineering," he said meaningfully.

"Okay," DiNozzo said. He waited, hoping Gibbs was going to tell him why that was news.

"Mining Engineers blow things up," Gibbs said pointedly.

"So Nasser put the explosives in the stuff in his house?" DiNozzo asked. "We kinda guessed that, right?"

"And probably the ones at the park as well." Gibbs was looking through his desk.

"How does that help us?" DiNozzo asked.

"Someone at the embassy got him a student visa, and there was no mention of his degree." Gibbs scowled at his desk. "Homeland Security monitors people with certain jobs or degrees."

"And Mining Engineering is one of those?" DiNozzo asked.

"Yep," Gibbs said

"So Nasser snuck in without getting onto our watch list?" DiNozzo frowned.

"Yep," Gibbs said. He found what he was looking for and stood.

"Not good," DiNozzo said.

"Nope," Gibbs said and then headed for the upstairs.

Abby was going over the pieces of the explosive device, the explosive device that blew her up. "You're a nasty one," Abby told the sample. She was examining it under the video microscope. "You look like the trigger from the park explosion, but you're not, are you?" She adjusted the image. "There you are," she said when she saw a slightly different shade on the piece of plastic.

"There who is?" McGee asked.

"Don't do that," Abby said as she almost jumped onto the counter with the video screen. "I was blown up. That makes a person a little jumpy."

"I can see that," McGee said. "Maybe you shouldn't have this." He was holding a Caf-Pow.

"You know, you guys need to find a new bribe." Abby put both hands on her hips. "Am I that predictable? Don't you ever just think, gee what I can bring Abby… who was just blown up?" She pointed at him. "What might put a smile on her little blown up face?"

"Your face wasn't blown up," McGee pointed out.

Abby glared, silencing him. "You should be asking, what can I bring the brilliant woman who has everything?"

"Well, I know what to bring you." McGee placed the Caf-Pow on the table, and saw two other Caf-Pows on the counter across the room.

"Really? And just what should you bring me?" Abby asked.

"That's easy." He smiled. "Ziva. But she's busy, so… Caf-Pow."

"Why aren't you with Ziva at the embassy?" Abby asked suspiciously. "Did you abandon her?"

"Hey." McGee was obviously offended.

"Okay, so that was ridiculous," Abby admitted. "But this sample is making me crazy."

"Well, the Caf-Pow isn't helping. I guess I need my secret weapon." McGee went to the door of Abby's lab and swung it open.

Ziva walked into the room. "I have not been blown up," she promised.

"Tell me you're off the embassy detail." Abby ran to her lover and hugged her.

"No," Ziva said quietly. "We have to return a later."

"I feel like I haven't seen you in days," Abby said as she pulled Ziva even closer. "Oh, you feel so good." She wasn't planning on letting go anytime soon. They had slept together the night before, but only slept.

"You know, I should probably leave," McGee said as he went to the door. Neither Abby nor Ziva even acknowledged him. "Yeah. Bye," he said as he left the room. Once he was alone in the hall, he glanced back toward the lab. The two women had eyes only for each other. He smiled and went to the elevator.

Abby let out a slow exhale, like a sleepy kitten resting contentedly in the sun. She had her Ziva and nothing else mattered.

"Have you had lunch?" Ziva eased Abby away from her. Her sable eyes had a dangerous sparkle.

"No," Abby said, drawing the word out as a huge grin spread across her face.

"No emergencies?" Ziva asked and then bit her lip and took a moment to polish her fingernails against the palm of her other hand trying to look casual.

"No, just this pesky triggering device, but it's not giving up any info." Abby's eyes filled with mischief. "Why?" she asked excitedly. She bounced up and down on her toes.

"Hmpt." Ziva reached into her pocket and removed an electronic door key and held it out to Abby. "Oddly enough, I do not have to report to the Ambassador's residence for two and a half hours." She pressed the key into Abby's hand.

Abby's eyes widened and stared down at the key.

Ziva leaned forward and used her thumb to rub Abby's lower lip. "I will be… having lunch in twenty minutes." She paused and then lifted Abby's chin with two fingers. "Savoy Suites, room 704."

Abby's jaw dropped.

"Interested?" Ziva asked with a smirk.

Abby nodded. "704."

"Let yourself in," Ziva whispered. She leaned forward and left a quick kiss on Abby's lips and then spun and left the room. "Hurry," she said over her shoulder as the door closed.

It took Abby a moment for her brain to reengage. "Oh, man." She grabbed the phone and dialed. "Gibbs, Abby. I'm going to lunch." She grabbed her things from the desk. "Yes, me, leaving for lunch, and before you ask, I know I haven't actually taken a lunch off the premises for over a year, but I digress. I'm taking lunch." She smiled wickedly. "A long lunch. Two hours. So, unless some huge emergency comes up, I'll see you in two hours." Abby hung up before he could get a word in edgewise. She logged off her computer, exited her lab, locked the doors, and then sprinted for the elevator.

Seventeen minutes later, Abby was exiting the elevator on the seventh floor of the Savoy Suites. She went to room 704 and tapped before opening the door. She wasn't about to ruin their lunch by surprising Ziva and getting shot. "Ziva?" Abby asked tentatively.

"Come in," Ziva said in the distance. "Lock the door and put the chair under the door handle.

"Okay, my little Spy Queen." Abby chuckled and she did as Ziva instructed. "All secure. Now what?" She turned and didn't see Ziva in the small sitting room. She did see a door to a separate bedroom and smiled. "Nice," she whispered in approval.

"Take off your clothes and join me," Ziva said from the other room.

Abby stripped and tossed her clothes onto the couch. "I am liking this bossy girlfriend," Abby said as she came through the door. "Wow," she said as soon as she saw Ziva in the bedroom.

"Come, mon Chaton." Ziva was sitting in a small hot tub next to a window that overlooked the city. She was naked, leaning back against the side of the tub with the water reaching a few inches above her breasts. Several covered lunch trays sat on the tiled surface on one side of the hot tub. "Hurry, before your lunch gets cold." Ziva held out her hand.

Abby quickly went past the large bed to the side of the hot tub and stepped down into the water. "Oh, that's nice," she said as the steaming water met her skin.

Ziva stood and guided Abby so she was facing forward, with Ziva behind her. "Sit with me," she said as she pulled Abby downward until Abby was in front of Ziva between her legs.

"This is even better," Abby said as she leaned back using Ziva as a backrest. She looked to her right and noticed a Caf-Pow. "Okay, I am impressed." She turned and gave Ziva a slow, sensual kiss. "Very impressed," she added and then took a sip of her drink.

"I have an old friend who works here. He owed me a favor." Ziva reached her hands around Abby, hugging her tightly. "I got a 'hinky' feeling at the embassy," she whispered.

"Well, remind me to book us a room here the next time I get a hinky vibe," Abby replied. She looked over at the covered trays and bit her lip, suddenly curious as to what Ziva had ordered for them.

"This hinky feeling," Ziva continued. "I, well, I felt that something was about to go very wrong," she said as she rested her chin on Abby's shoulder. "It made me… I just wanted… needed you to know how much you mean to me."

Abby stiffened and then slowly twisted in Ziva's arms until she was on her knees on the bottom of the tub instead of sitting on the seat. "I don't like that kind of hinky vibe," she said, suddenly focused completely on her lover.

"Everything is fine," Ziva promised. She draped her arms around Abby's neck and pressed their foreheads together. "But it reminded me to never waste time."

Abby smiled, forcing herself to relax. "Okay, I'll take your word for it." She glanced down, enjoying the view. "So, what are we having for lunch?" She licked her lips and lowered a hand to trace Ziva's breast.

"If you keep that up, lunch will be very cold when we get to it," Ziva said. She arched her back to give Abby better access.

"Hmm," Abby said thoughtfully. "If we eat lunch first, then we can take our time with dessert." She lifted her gaze so she could look into Ziva's brown eyes. Her pupils were almost completely dilated with arousal. "Have you eaten today?"

"Just the bagel this morning," Ziva answered. Her eyes were locked on Abby's lips.

"Not acceptable," Abby said sternly. She spun back around and leaned into Ziva's embrace on the seat. "What's for lunch?"

"Ugh!" Ziva let out a sound of mock protest.

"You need to be fully nourished," Abby insisted. She twisted her head and waggled her eyebrows. "I intend to wear you out."

One side of Ziva's mouth curled up. "Well, in that case, I agree." She reached around Abby and lifted the cover off of a tray revealing two plates of wild mushroom tortellini and cream sauce. "You will like this," she promised. She took the fork, stabbed a tortellini, and fed her lover.

"That is sinfully good," Abby said around the pasta. She reached out and grabbed a tortellini with her fingers and passed it back to Ziva.

"Wow," Ziva said as soon as she tasted the food. She held Abby's wrist long enough to lick the sauce from her fingers.

"I gotta' tell you, this is the best lunch I've ever had," Abby said as she picked up the plate and leaned against Ziva's chest. She took turns feeding Ziva bites of pasta over her shoulder and then taking some for herself. "This is certainly the best seating arrangement."

"I agree," Ziva said. She was enjoying the heat of the water draining away her stress and the completely different heat caused by the feel of Abby's body pressing against her.

"What's in this one?" Abby lifted the last tray lid and gasped when she saw tiramisu and a chocolate fondant with raspberries. She turned Ziva. "Okay, so you totally know that you're gonna let lucky, right?"

"I already have." Ziva leaned forward, twisting Abby a bit, and they shared a slow, loving kiss. "Save some of that chocolate for later." Ziva wiggled her eyebrows and grabbed a raspberry and popped it into her mouth.

Abby cleared her throat, suddenly overcome with emotion. "You say such beautiful things," Abby whispered. "Do they teach you that in spy school?" She was smiling, but a part of her wasn't joking.

Ziva shook her head. "What they taught me is meaningless… deceit, lies, false words." She leaned forward and pressed her lips to Abby's. When she pulled back, her eyes shined with unshed tears. "You have taught me to love, Abby. Do not ever doubt how much I feel for you."

"You're gonna' make me cry," Abby said, her voice cracking. She twisted around so she was again on her knees facing her lover.

Ziva shook her head and smiled. "Not if I can help it." She leaned forward and pulled Abby closer. The water splashed up when their bodies collided. They kissed with abandon, hands roaming skin made slick by the water. Skin, made sensitive by the heat of the water, tingled as fingers explored. The desserts were forgotten as Abby and Ziva's passion for each other consumed them. Later they moved to the bed, but only after their enjoyment of the water threatened to end up with one or both of them drowning. There were no emergency calls and, for once, the universe conspired in the lovers' favor. They took advantage of every minute.

Two and a half hours later, Ziva walked alongside the Ambassador as they approached the limousine. They were on the embassy grounds, but her eyes darted in each direction looking for any sign of danger. The Ambassador went around the limo, against all protocol, and studied a beautiful rosebush covered with white blooms just beginning to open.

Ziva rushed to his side and placed herself so she could shield him from any shots that might come from the street in the distance. "You should get into the vehicle. This area is too exposed," she said as she eyes scanned the grounds.

The Ambassador was not impressed. He pointed to the tender blossoms beginning to open. "This rose is from my family's farm in the Northern Negev of Israel," he said proudly to Ziva. "It is called Jonina, after my mother."

"Little dove," Ziva said politely, translating the meaning of his mother's name. "It is quite beautiful. Now, in the car," she ordered. She rested a hand on the Ambassador's back, edging him along. His habit of ignoring her security measures was aggravating. She met Har-El's eyes. He was at the door of the limousine with Major Alon waiting for the Ambassador. Three Israeli embassy guards stood next to them, all at attention.

Ziva nodded to Har-El as the security chief opened the back door of the limousine. Movement caught Ziva's attention. She turned and saw a short Marine in dress blues at the main entrance of the embassy thirty feet away. His build was familiar and Ziva reacted on instinct.

"Gun," she yelled when she saw the short Marine pulling his service weapon. Everything seemed to happen at once, people moved, bodyguards rushed to cover the ambassador, and weapons were drawn. Ziva used her left hand to grab the Ambassador by the scruff of the neck and bent him low while she used her body as a shield. She rushed him toward the car with her left hand and her right hand drew her weapon. She took aim and fired two shots, so close together they could be mistaken for one, just as the Marine's gun muzzle flashed once. She was knocked to the side as the security men hurried to cover the Ambassador. Har-El hurled the Ambassador into the limousine and covered him with his own body. The other men stumbled into an awkward pile like a rugby scrum as they tried to cover the Ambassador's retreat.

McGee reacted as soon as he saw Ziva's body tense, even before she yelled. His eyes followed her line of sight and he was sprinting toward the suspect. When the Marine imposter's gun came up, McGee drew his weapon, but the suspect fired before McGee could get off a shot. He stopped abruptly when he saw the shooter drop to the ground. There were two round spot of blood overlapping each other between the man's eyes, attesting to Ziva's deadly marksmanship. McGee moved closer, and aimed his weapon at the downed man. He kicked the Marine imposter's gun away from his motionless hand. The blood drained from the wounds and, even as McGee checked the downed man's pulse, he knew the suspect was dead. Ziva's shots had found their mark.

"Clear," McGee yelled. He turned toward the car and saw that security chief Har-El was pulling the Ambassador out of the opposite side of the limousine. The security detail was untangling from the human pile they had formed to shield the Ambassador. Ziva stumbled out from under two well-muscled guards and rested her right hand on top of the car, taking in gulps of air. She was apparently winded from the scramble to get the Ambassador to safety. Her left hand held her gun limply at her side. McGee looked up at two Israeli officers who he'd spoken to earlier. "Secure the scene," he told them and then jogged over to Ziva. "Nice shooting," McGee said as he looked to the embassy where Har-El had moved the Ambassador inside the building.

Ziva was bent over, and her back shook as if she were laughing and then her gun clattered to the ground.

McGee tilted his head to one side. "Ziva?" He had never seen her drop her weapon, ever.

She coughed weakly, pressing her right hand to the side of her body. She stood, then staggered, falling forward against McGee. She let out a gurgling cough, sending a spray of blood onto his chest. She gripped his jacket with both hands as her legs gave out and she slid to the ground.

"I need some help over here!" McGee yelled. "Officer down," he screamed. He positioned Ziva on her back and roughly yanked her jacket open. "Ziva, where are you hit?" He ripped open her Kevlar vest, pulling the Velcro straps loose at the four points of connection and tossing the chest plate aside. "Oh, God," he said when he saw the entire right side of her white dress shirt soaked with blood. He ripped the shirt open sending the buttons flying. "Get an ambulance!" he yelled as the Israeli guards rushed toward him.

Ziva's eyes were half closed and she tried to speak, but only managed to start coughing uncontrollably. Each rattled exhale sent a burst of bloody droplets into the air.

"Shh," McGee said as he cradled her with one arm and pressed his other hand to the river of blood pouring from her side. Even through his jacket and vest, he could feel the wet sensation of cooling blood gathering on his skin. "Ziva?"

She shook her head and looked toward the embassy and fought to speak but couldn't get a breath without struggling. Each time she managed to get any air into her lungs, she would cough sending another bloody spray onto his chest. She was pale and the skin around her lips was beginning to shift from white to blue. Her eyes darted toward the embassy.

"He's safe," McGee said. "Just try to relax."

She shook her head weakly. Each desperate breath was punctuated by a sickening sucking sound from her side. She slapped one hand awkwardly behind her.

McGee glanced and saw her knife abandoned on the pavement next to the Limo door. "It's okay, I'll get it." It was just like her to pull every weapon possible when the attack had begun.

Ziva gripped McGee with both hands and pulled him toward her face. She fought to take a breath and then her eyes rolled back into her head as she went limp. Both of her hands flopped onto the pavement.

McGee spun as two EMTs from inside the embassy rushed to Ziva's side. He stood to get out of the way and dialed his phone. His hands were slick with Ziva's blood and his fingers shook. He watched the medics work. Ziva's skin was ashen, turning whiter with each second. Her breathing was reduced to labored wheezing followed by coughs and sputters. The medics put an oxygen mask onto her and the next cough covered the inside of the mask with a splatters of blood. Despite the oxygen, her face still had a blue tint.

McGee took another step back and picked up Ziva's knife and tucked it into his jacket, then reached for her gun. He cringed as he picked it up. It had landed in a pool of Ziva's blood and was sticky in his hand. As soon as the caller answered, McGee shakily spoke. "Boss, it went bad. The Ambassador's safe, but it's really bad."

Part 21

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