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

Close Protection Officer
By Lisa Countryman

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

Abby sat at her desk and stared at the computer monitor. Data was streaming across the screen, the alert alarm was beeping insistently, but Abby continued to stare. Her eyes were glossed over and she couldn't wipe the smutty grin off her face.

"Hey, Abbs," DiNozzo said as he came into the room. "Whoa, serious computer beeping going on there."

"Hey, Tony." Abby turned and waved at him as she continued to twirl with the chair in a slow lazy circle.

"Beeping," DiNozzo said, pointing at the computer.

"Oh, yeah," Abby said and then sighed as she poked a few keys silencing the alarm. "Got a hit on some prints on those bullets." She glanced at them. "A boring guy in Virginia. No record. Prints are on file because he's a teacher. American History. Bor-ing."

"Okay, something is up," he said.

"Ya' think, DiNozzo?" Abby said in an inaccurate, but humorous, impersonation of Gibbs. She giggled and looked away.

"Ah, yeah, I do." He stared at her a moment longer, then his eyes widened. "You took a long lunch today," he said as he grabbed the chair and spun her to face him. "Did you get drunk at lunch?" he accused. "Gibbs is gonna kill you." He was smiling broadly.

Abby swatted him. "Of course not." Her jaw dropped as she swatted him three more times in rapid succession. "I would never come to work after drinking."

"Hmm." DiNozzo leaned down and studied her. He noticed the extra energy, the flushed appearance, and the… hickey near the tattoo on her neck. "Oh. My. God."

"What?" Abby smiled despite her best attempt to keep her expression normal.

"You had a naughty rendezvous," he accused. "With the new crazy boyfriend."

"I swear to you, I did not have any kind of rendezvous with a crazy boyfriend." Abby crossed her heart and then held three fingers up. "Scout's honor."

"You were never a girl scout," DiNozzo pointed out. "Maybe a naughty school girl, with those skirts you wear. Grrr." He made a tiny growling noise and waggled his eyebrows. He raised one finger in the air. "Now, Probie, he was a boring boy scout." He frowned. "And yet he gets the exciting assignment at the cool fancy parties," he said dejectedly.

"They may not be as fun as you think," Abby said with a smile. "Ziva said two ambassadors grabbed her butt." Abby laughed low and deep.

"I know," DiNozzo exclaimed with glee. "I would've loved to see that," he said wistfully. "Man, who would be dumb enough to grab Ziva's ass? I'm amazed they lived through it." He smiled broadly. "Bet she went all ninja Mossad on them." He gave Abby a dangerous scowl. "I can kill you twenty ways with this toothpick before your body hits the floor," he said imitating Ziva's accent.

Abby smiled, thinking about grabbing that particular part of Ziva's body earlier. She almost sighed at the memory, but quickly cleared her throat and kept her expression normal. "I'm sure McGee and Ziva are bored to death."

"Yeah, well, I should be the one bored to death," DiNozzo complained.

The lab door burst open and Gibbs jogged into the room. "DiNozzo, get the car." He grabbed Abby by the arm and then turned to DiNozzo. "Now!"

"What's wrong?" Abby asked.

DiNozzo was torn between heading to get the car and hearing what had Gibbs so upset. He backed slowly toward the door.

"McGee called." Gibbs eased Abby into her chair. "There was an attempt on the Ambassador." He squeezed Abby's arms gently. "Ziva was hit."

DiNozzo bolted into the hall and sprinted to get the car.

Abby quickly stood, actually pushing Gibbs a few feet. "How bad is it?" she asked.

"Not good," Gibbs said with a sigh.

Abby's eyes widened and her face went pale.

"She's alive," Gibbs quickly said. He guided her back to the chair. "They're taking her to Howard University Hospital trauma center."

"Trauma?" Abby paled even more, but she sighed, gathering her reserves. "We need to go to the hospital. Now." She swallowed and let out another sigh, willing her head to stop spinning.

"You steady now?" Gibbs asked gently.

Abby nodded and stood. Gibbs wrapped an arm around her and hurried toward the stairwell. Abby pulled away and managed to take the flight of stairs at a dead run. She jumped over the last two steps and sprinted to the door leading outside to the parking lot. Gibbs came through the door as tires squealed. DiNozzo pulled up in a silver sedan.

Abby jumped into the backseat and Gibbs opened the driver's side door. DiNozzo slid over quickly, but still almost ended up with Gibbs on his lap as the older agent jumped in and slammed the car into gear. Abby and DiNozzo both grabbed for their seatbelts as they were tossed back.

"Boss?" DiNozzo asked.

"Get McGee on the phone," Gibbs said. The car sent sparks across the pavement as they went over a speed bump at forty miles an hour. He flipped a switch and the red lights and siren came to life. "I need an update." When McGee first called, he had only told Gibbs that the Ambassador was safe and Ziva was shot and then hung up to follow Ziva to the hospital.

DiNozzo dialed, his fingers shaking as the car zoomed past the guardhouse and onto the road. He waited nervously, afraid it would go directly to voice mail. "Probie?" he said when McGee answered.

"Tony," McGee said quietly. He was leaning against the window inside a Marine patrol car on the way to the hospital. The officer driving had been at the embassy and was now speeding across town. "God, Tony," McGee's voice broke.

"How is she?" DiNozzo asked. He had only heard that tone in McGee's voice two other times: after Kate and after Jenny.

Abby was gripping the seat behind DiNozzo, both to keep her balance as Gibbs shot through the city and to keep from screaming like a lunatic crazed with worry.

"Tim?" DiNozzo said quietly.

"There was a guy dressed as a Marine," McGee whispered. "She recognized his build from the missing uniform. He fired at the Ambassador. It was over before I could even get a shot off."

"Tim, how is she?" DiNozzo asked gently.

McGee looked down at his lap, trying to gather his racing thoughts. His gaze stopped on his jacket. Ziva had suggested a lightweight undercover vest and McGee had picked one up that morning. He put it under his dress shirt and was thrilled with the new look, but the jacket had come open during the turmoil at the embassy. The dress shirt was now stained and splattered with copious amounts of blood, Ziva's blood. He leaned over and vomited out the window of the patrol car.

DiNozzo pressed the phone to his forehead and sighed.

"Well?" Gibbs demanded.

"Give him a minute," DiNozzo said gently. "He's losing his lunch right now."

Abby slumped back against the seat. She was about to lose her lunch as well. The lunch she had eaten in the hot tub, with Ziva's naked body wrapped around her, making her feel more loved than she had in her entire life. She opened the window and let the air rush in as the car barreled through traffic lights.

McGee coughed and wiped his mouth and cleared his throat. "She got the Ambassador into the car," he said, then coughed and spit out the window. "I thought she was fine, but… a guy dressed as a Marine took a shot."

"Tim, I need you to tell me how she is," DiNozzo said a bit more forcefully.

"Tony, they were tubing her when they put her in the bus," McGee said. He had felt completely helpless watching the EMTs load Ziva into the ambulance. She was pale and as still as a corpse, her chest only rising when the EMT squeezed the ventilation bag. As the doors closed, he had seen a paramedic stabbing a large needle into her chest.

DiNozzo closed his eyes. "But she was alive," he said quietly. "That's good."

"We're at the hospital," McGee said. "I'll call back when I know more." He hung up, thanked the Marine for the ride, and then jumped from the car and ran toward the emergency entrance.

DiNozzo hung up the phone. "He just got to the hospital." He looked at Gibbs. "He's gonna see what he can find out and call back."

"Call him back, now," Gibbs ordered. "I need to know what the hell happened. We've got an agent down, an assassination attempt, and I don't even know if we have a suspect in the wind."

"Tony, what happened?" Abby asked from the backseat. She was nanoseconds from panic and needed information.

DiNozzo dialed. "It was someone in the missing Marine uniform," he said as he raised the phone to his ear. "Ziva got the Ambassador into the car, but she was hit," he explained as he waited for McGee to answer.

Abby knew most of that already.

"Tim said they were tubing Zee when they put her in the bus," DiNozzo said quietly.

Abby didn't need to know that. She took deep breaths and focused on not puking.

"McGee," DiNozzo said as soon as the other agent answered. "We need a status report. Do we need a BOLO on any suspects?"

"No," McGee said. "He's dead."

"Dead?" DiNozzo asked. "You're sure?"

Dead, the word washed over Abby like a tsunami, crushing, pounding, and threatening to drown her. "Gibbs?" she whispered as she squeezed her hands into tight fists.

Gibbs shot DiNozzo a look that demanded details.

"The suspect is dead, Boss," DiNozzo said.

"Ziva got 'em," McGee said. "The guy impersonating the Marine. He was the shooter and he is dead. Really, really dead. She put two between his eyes."

"The Zivanator got him." Tony cracked a tiny smile. "Two rounds right between the eyes. I gotta have her teach me how to do that." He was putting on brave front. He sent out a prayer that Ziva would be around to teach him anything.

Gibbs gave a curt nod and swung the car around a corner. He could see the hospital several blocks away. The tall brick building looked ominous, as if nothing but bad news awaited them.

"We're almost there, Tim," DiNozzo said. "Call if there's any change." He hung up and grabbed his seat belt as Gibbs maneuvered around several cars by swinging into the oncoming lanes.

Gibbs stomped the gas and covered the remaining blocks at speeds any Nascar driver would envy. The tires squealed as the car slid through the turn into the emergency entrance. They abandoned the car near the ambulance bay and rushed into the ER. They saw McGee toward the back of the busy emergency room and hurried to him.

"McGee?" Gibbs barked. He needed answers.

McGee turned and Gibbs actually took a step backwards.

"You okay?" Gibbs asked quickly, taking in the sight of the blood covering his shirt. He grabbed McGee and squeezed his upper body looking for any injury.

"What?" McGee asked. He looked down at his own blood caked hands and then at his shirt. "Oh, yeah. It's not mine." He tapped his chest and the thud of his finger hitting the Kevlar vest underneath proved his point.

Abby walked directly in front of Gibbs and stared at McGee's chest. Her trained eyes read the blood spatters like an official description of a crime scene. "Expiratory Blood spatters," her voice was hollow as she pointed at McGee's chest. It looked like fine red mist had been sprayed onto the white fabric. Some bigger spots were scattered across the area in overlapping spatter patterns as well. "That blood's diluted," Abby said clinically. "Saliva or sputum." She looked into McGee's eyes. "She was coughing up blood. Coughing a lot, hard."

McGee nodded.

Abby's eyes fixed on the large stain covering one side his belly. "Her blood soaked into your shirt," she said. She lifted her gaze and looked into his eyes. "You were holding her." Abby's voice cracked.

He nodded again and took a step back.

Gibbs ran his hand through his hair. "What the hell happened?" he asked in a hushed whisper. He grabbed McGee and pulled him into an empty hallway.

"She was getting the Ambassador into his car, coming out of the embassy, so it was supposed to be secure." McGee looked at Abby. His eyes were full of pain. He mouthed, 'I'm sorry.'

"Obviously it wasn't secure," Gibbs said as a way to make McGee continue.

McGee shook his head. "No. No it wasn't." He looked toward the curtain.

"Is she in there?" Abby asked. She had assumed Ziva was off in surgery and that McGee was hanging around waiting for news.

"Yeah," McGee said absentmindedly.

Abby bolted for the curtain.

"Abby, wait," Gibbs yelled, running after her. He didn't intend to stop her, but he didn't want her to be alone.

As soon as Abby pulled the curtain aside, she stumbled, her legs suddenly weak. She felt Gibbs' arm around her waist holding her up. Ziva was on the table, her shirt and bra either pulled or cut off, exposing her upper body. She had a tube down her throat that was attached to a ventilation bag and that bag had an oxygen tube attached to the wall

The doctor moved closer to Ziva and pressed his fingers to her neck. "Her veins are distended. The cath placed in the field isn't letting enough air out. I'm prepping the second intercostal space," he told the nurse as he squirted a betadine solution onto Ziva's right side where a needle with a valve attached was already taped. He yanked it out. "Get me a 14G cath." He held out his hand and took a catheter threaded in a large needle. He felt for Ziva's rib and then pressed the thick needle above the rib and through the chest wall. A hissing sound escaped as soon as the needle broke through into the thoracic cavity. He pulled the needle out, leaving the large catheter in place, which he promptly taped down.

"Let's get a chest tube in," the doctor said. He leaned over her with a scalpel poised at her rib. Abby watched as the scalpel made a short incision and then a nurse was there with a length of tubing that was shoved roughly into the cut.

Abby gasped and stepped forward.

"Easy," Gibbs whispered. "It'll help her breathe."

Blood gushed through the tubing and into a clear rectangular device that quickly filled halfway. A nurse was still forcing air into Ziva's body with the ventilation bag.

With the pressure relieved, Ziva coughed against the tube in her throat.

That brought Abby's attention to Ziva's face. It was covered by the clear, or what had been clear, tubing attached to a large ventilation bag. The tube was coated with red overlapping spots, obviously from many repeated bloody coughs.

Ziva was pale, especially her chest, which looked almost as white as the sheets on the bed.

The doctor adjusted the chest tube and then lifted the pressure bandage on Ziva's side. Blood poured onto the table and the wound started making a horrible sucking sound with every breath. He pressed his gloved hand onto the injury. "Get me an occlusive dressing, now." His tone was sharp.

Abby gasped.

The doctor finally noticed Gibbs and Abby. "You can't be in here," he said without moving his hand from Ziva's side.

Gibbs flashed his badge. "Special Agent Gibbs, NCIS. That's my agent." He pointed at Ziva with his badge while holding Abby against him with the other arm. He was all that was keeping her on her feet.

The doctor nodded, but seemed unmoved. "I'm Doctor Howard. I'm sorry, but if you're not family, I can't tell you anything." He took a bandage from the nurse and pressed it over the wound. The dressing was designed to be water and airtight. As soon as the dressing sealed, the sucking sound stopped. He moved his hands to Ziva's neck and nodded, pleased with what he saw. "Neck veins are returning to normal." He sighed and looked at the monitors. "I want that rate down."

"BP's still in the basement," the nurse said as she started an IV.

"Get some fluids in her and see if that helps. Where's the crit?" he asked.

"The lab's backed up," the nurse said. "But they're putting a rush on it."

The doctor nodded and backed up a bit, then realized Abby and Gibbs hadn't moved. "Officer, you need to leave."

Gibbs gave Abby a squeeze and moved her forward a bit. "This is Abby Sciuto, Officer David's domestic partner."

If Abby hadn't already been about to faint, that statement would have made her whip her head around in shock. As it was, she was far too upset to react.

The nurse next to Ziva adjusted the tubing in her throat. "Her O2 stats are coming up," the nurse said quickly. "She's still cyanotic, but the saturation's up to 91 percent on two liters of O2. The damn BP's not coming up. She's hypertensive, 70 over 50."

Dr. Howard looked at Abby skeptically, and then glanced over his shoulder at the nurse. "What's her rate?" he asked.

"Coming down," the nurse said as she glanced at the monitor with numbers dropping more each second. "But still tachy at 140."

"Her domestic partner?" the doctor asked Abby. "Is there a new Naval policy I should know about?"

"Abby's a civilian," Gibbs said angrily. He realized that a Naval officer claiming domestic partnership rights wouldn't be logical. "Officer David is an Israeli national."

Dr. Howard looked at Abby more closely. He'd seen enough spouses to recognize the shell-shocked expression she was wearing. He stepped forward and looked at Abby reassuringly. "Why don't we move you to the family waiting area?" he said quietly. "It looks worse than it is."

"Well, it looks pretty damn bad," Gibbs said gruffly.

"How is she? Shouldn't you stay with her? Why are you leaving her?" Abby's voice got louder with each question.

"Abbs, take a breath… and hold it," Gibbs said gently.

"How is she?" Her eyes locked on the doctor's and her desperation was obvious. "You can talk in front of him," she said as she pointed to Gibbs. "You have my permission."

"She has a punctured lung," the doctor said. He was leading them away from Ziva's bed. Abby was pale and he didn't want to deal with a fainting spouse in the middle of a trauma. "It caused a tension pneumothorax. That's when air leaks into the chest putting pressure on her lung. When that happens, the lung can't inflate."

Abby gasped. She knew exactly what the diagnosis meant.

The doctor saw Abby's body stiffen, so he quickly explained. "As soon as we removed the air in her chest with the catheter and got the blood out with a chest tube, her breathing improved." He glanced back, checking the monitor before looking back at Abby. "We're concerned because she was hypoxic in the field."

"Not enough oxygen," Abby said as she nodded her head. She wrapped her arms around her chest tightly.

"Yeah," the Doctor said. "The EMTs relieved the pneumothorax in the field, but we just had to do that again. We're worried about her low blood pressure and high heart rate. It's probably from the tension pneumothorax. When the air escapes the damaged lung, the lung gets displaced and can put pressure on the veins taking blood to the heart. That interrupts the BP and pulse. She seems to be stabilizing."

"Her venous return is compromised," Abby said nervously. She understood the mechanics of venous return, that by restricting blood returning to the heart, the blood pressure would drop, forcing the heart to pump faster to try to self-correct. "So she's fixed now?" she asked hopefully.

"She's got hole in her lung." The doctor guided Abby further away from the curtain. "Air is leaking from her lung every time she breathes. We're also worried the knife may have nicked the liver, or that the lung won't stop bleeding," he explained. "In either case, we'll have to go in and repair the wound.

"The liver bleeds a lot," Abby said hollowly. She had heard Ducky talk about the dangers of an injury to the liver on several occasions.

"Yes," the doctor agreed. "Which is why we're running a crit, a hematocrit, to find out if she's still bleeding internally."

Abby nodded. "I know what a crit is," she said quietly. She knew that it measured the percentage of packed red blood cells in a sample of blood. A lowered crit could signal severe or prolonged bleeding.

Gibbs' eyes narrowed. "I thought she was shot," he said as he took a step closer.

"That was our initial thought when we got the call," the doctor said with a nod. "As soon as we saw the injury, we knew it was a stab wound."

"How is that possible?" Abby asked.

"I don't know," the doctor said with a shrug. "All I know is, that's a knife wound. We x-rayed and did an ultrasound making sure she wasn't shot too. There's no trace of any bullet and the wound pattern is consistent with a double sided blade."

"Stay with her," Gibbs told Abby. He spun and headed toward the waiting area.

McGee and DiNozzo were pacing. "Boss?" they said in unison when they saw him.

"There's another suspect," Gibbs said angrily. "We need to get back to the scene and figure out what the hell happened."

"Did Ziva tell you that?" McGee asked hopefully. He didn't want another suspect, but if Ziva was talking, that was great news.

"No," Gibbs said gruffly. "She was stabbed." He pinned McGee in his gaze. "Any idea how that happened?"

McGee shook his head. "It happened so fast," he said, a bit shocked by the news. "She saw the guy dressed as the Marine and yelled that there was a gun." He took a breath to steady himself. "Then she had the Ambassador in one hand, shoving him into the limo and her other hand had her gun and she… you know, did a Ziva, shot the gunman from across the courtyard." He smiled briefly at Gibbs. "About a twenty yard shot and she dropped him with two overlapping rounds to the forehead."

"And someone dropped her with a knife," Gibbs said. "Did you see anyone near her?"

"There was a dog pile of people covering the Ambassador," McGee said. "Half of them were on top of Ziva too." His eyes shot open. "Boss, I screwed up."

Gibbs narrowed his eyes, which meant 'explain.'

McGee started to reach into his pocket, but stopped. He dug in another pocket for a latex glove.

"Today, McGee," Gibbs said gruffly.

"I thought it was Ziva's," McGee said as he pulled the knife carefully from his pocket and held it out. It was covered in blood. "She pointed at it. I thought she wanted me to get it for her." He dropped his gaze feeling terrible for not understanding the situation.

DiNozzo interrupted. "So someone stabbed her while she was covering the Ambassador?"

"Obviously," Gibbs said. "We need to find out who. The last thing we need is them taking out the Ambassador."

"The last time I saw him, he had about four guys dragging him into the embassy." McGee took out his phone. "I'll let them know about Ziva, so they won't leave the Ambassador alone." He walked a few feet away to make the call, still holding the knife with the glove.

"DiNozzo, send the knife back to the lab and see if they can pull any useful prints." Gibbs nodded toward McGee.

DiNozzo hesitated. "I'll get the MP that brought McGee over take it, if that's okay?"

Gibbs nodded his approval.

"We should get back to the embassy," DiNozzo said as he looked toward the curtain. He hadn't seen Abby since she went back to where Ziva was. He hoped Abby was staying with Ziva. He didn't like the idea of her being alone. "Is she okay, boss?"

"She's improving," Gibbs said. "But there's still a lot they don't know."

McGee finished his call and returned. "The security team is holding everyone. Har-El is searching for anyone with blood on the hands or clothes." He had put the knife in an evidence bag, which he kept in a jacket pocket wherever he went.

"Let's get over there, Probie," DiNozzo said, feeling a bit better knowing that Ziva was improving.

"I'll do the questioning," Gibbs said darkly. "When we get this guy, he is ours."

McGee raised both eyebrows. He didn't think the Israelis would agree.

"He took down my officer," Gibbs said as if reading McGee's thoughts. "I don't care who I have to shoot, he's coming back to NCIS with us."

DiNozzo and McGee started behind Gibbs as he stormed out of the ER.

Gibbs stopped and pinned McGee in place. "Stay on Ziva's six. I don't want this guy trying to finish the job."

"Sure thing, Boss." McGee nodded. He handed DiNozzo the knife and then spun in the opposite direction. He crossed the ER determined to keep her safe.

DiNozzo waited, still shocked by the events, still worrying about Ziva. He looked back toward the curtains and he saw McGee duck behind one.

"Well?" Gibbs barked at DiNozzo. "You coming or are you just gonna stand there all day?"

"Coming, Boss," DiNozzo said as he rushed toward the door


McGee went to the back of the ER and moved around Ziva's curtain. He stopped when he saw Abby at the bedside. The bed was empty.

"They took her to surgery," Abby said blankly. She was standing by the abandoned bed staring at the bloodstains, discarded gauze, needle covers, and debris as if she could divine the future from them like tea leaves. "Her blood pressure dropped," she whispered. Both her hands were held in tight fists. "Her bandage started leaking." Tears ran down her cheeks. "There was a lot of blood, Timmy."

McGee wrapped an arm around her. He stood silently with her while she collected herself. "We should go to the waiting room," he said after a minute or two.

Abby sniffled and nodded her head. She didn't say anything else as McGee led her down the hall to the family waiting room.

They sat on a couch together, never breaking contact. Abby leaned against him and stared vacantly across the room without saying a word. She looked down at her fists and then opened her clinched right hand. Ziva's Star of David was coiled neatly in her palm. The medical staff had given it to her, as Ziva's next of kin.

McGee's eyebrows raised, but he said nothing. He watched as Abby opened the clasp and put the necklace on beneath her black leather collar.

Abby sniffed, trying to stop her nose from running. She sighed as she ran her fingers over the Star of David, wishing it were around Ziva's neck and she was playing with the gold necklace as she often did after making love to Ziva.

McGee knew Abby's silence showed more emotion than another person's hysterical screaming. Abby was not a silent person by nature. He tugged her closer, his concern growing.

Abby sniffled again. She tucked the necklace out of sight beneath her shirt. Tears continued to run down her cheeks. She pivoted and stretched out on the couch, resting her cheek on McGee's leg. She stayed there, not saying a word until the doctor came to find them 90 minutes later.

"She came through the procedure well," he said as he watched Abby uncurl from the couch in one fluid motion.

"When can I see her?" Abby's voice was rough from crying and her prolonged silence.

"I'll take you to the recovery room," he said. When McGee stood he focused on him. "Family members only."

McGee moved into the doctor's space. "She's a federal agent injured in the line of duty." McGee's tone held none of his usual warmth. "The people who did this could try to finish the job. I'm here to make sure that doesn't happen."

The doctor nodded. "You can wait in the hall by the door. Once we move her to a room, you can go in with her."

McGee nodded.

Two hours later, they moved Ziva to a private room, with Abby at her side the entire time. McGee waited in the hallway until the staff had Ziva settled in place.

The nurse paused as she left. "You can go in now," she said quietly.

"Thanks," McGee said as he did just that. He froze as soon as he opened the door, staring at the two women in front of him; one was pale and looking far too fragile as she slept, and the other was leaning toward the bed with fierce determination etched on her features.

"This is so not okay," Abby told Ziva. "When I made you promise not to get blown up or shot, I kinda assumed that you knew not to get stabbed either." She tucked a blanket over Ziva's upper body. Abby stared at her unconscious lover for a long moment, and then smoothed Ziva's hair away from her face. She cleared her throat, trying not to cry. "This injured agent thing is getting really old," she whispered, rubbing her thumb across Ziva's cheek to wipe off a smear of dried blood. Abby took a shaking breath and sat in a chair next to the bed and gripped Ziva's hand. "You need to wake up, right now." She sobbed and wiped tears from her eyes. "Please wake up," Abby begged quietly, resting her forehead on Ziva's hand as tears ran down her cheeks.

McGee moved into the room and put both hands on Abby's shoulders.

Abby turned her face only enough to see her friend. "She won't wake up, Timmy," she whispered.

McGee nodded and then knelt next to Abby, putting one hand on the small of her back and the other on her leg. "She's strong, Abby."

Abby lifted her head and nodded, but tears continued down her face.

"It's the anesthetic," McGee whispered. He leaned closer and rested his cheek on Abby's shoulder. "She'll wake up when the drugs wear off."

"Promise?" Abby asked in a tiny voice.

He nodded against her shoulder.

They sat for several minutes without moving. Finally, McGee shifted to keep his legs from falling asleep from crouching awkwardly on the floor. He stood and Abby immediately spun to see why he was no longer offering the physical comfort.

Crossing the room, he pulled a second chair over, and pushed it snugly against Abby's chair and sat. He knew Abby. Abby needed the comfort of a friend's skin. He reached over and draped his arm around her back.

Abby tilted her head and offered him a tiny smile before leaning toward the bed and resting her forearms against her upper thighs.

McGee moved his hand to the small of Abby's back. His fingers moved idly across the skin that was exposed by Abby's shirt riding up. He had loved Abby when they dated, but that love had shifted into a deep, loving friendship. His fingers continued moving, unconsciously tracing the textured skin over her tattoos. He knew Abby was like an atom, always in motion. When she had to sit still for any reason, movement across her skin calmed her. He did what he could, knowing that the only thing that would offer any true comfort was up to Ziva. She had to wake up. That worried him. He had seen Ziva's face at the scene. He had watched as her lips turned blue. Her lung had collapsed and he knew her oxygen levels had been severely compromised. He shifted his body and leaned forward and hoped that the hypoxia hadn't affected Ziva's organs.

"She's gonna be fine," Abby said quietly.

McGee tilted his head and bent down so he could meet Abby's eyes.

"I felt you get all tense," Abby said. "You were doing that worst case scenario thing."

He smiled, knowing he couldn't keep anything from Abby's perceptive scrutiny. He leaned over and kissed Abby's cheek. "Sometimes you're too smart for my own good."

That made Abby chuckle. "Bet your ass," she said quietly.

Doctor Howard came into the room and went directly to the head of the bed.

Abby and McGee sat up expectantly.

He scanned the various monitors and then lifted one of Ziva's eyelids and checked her pupil with a penlight. "She's doing well," he said without turning. He checked the other eye and then spun to face Abby. "I'll have another blood panel taken, but so far her hematocrit has stabilized."

Abby nodded, pleased with the news.

"Her oxygen levels came back up as soon as we relieved the pneumothorax," the doctor continued. "She's at 98 percent, but I'd like to keep her intubated until we're certain the thoracoscopic repair is stable."

"What do you mean?" Abby asked. "If you repaired the damage, why isn't she waking up?" She reached over and gripped McGee's hand.

"We're keeping her unconscious," Dr. Howard said gently.

"What?" Abby's eyes narrowed. "Why wasn't I told?" Sweet Abby was gone. He was now facing protective, outraged Abby. "I thought she was just anesthetized and we were waiting for it to wear off!"

"I thought you knew," Dr. Howard said quickly.

"Did you tell me?" Abby asked harshly. "No," she answered for him. "So if there's anything else I should know, you better tell me right now before I have him shoot you." She nodded at McGee.

Dr. Howard's eyes widened.

"She's kidding," McGee said hurriedly. When Abby squeezed his hand in a crushing grip, he winced. "Mostly," he added.

"We have her mildly sedated," Dr. Howard said quickly. "She's intubated, but breathing on her own. We're adding oxygen, but there's no mechanical aid. That's good," he pointed out. "Ventilators weaken the body." He cleared his throat and flipped open Ziva's chart, which he'd set on the bedside table before he began his exam. "She's stable. We repaired the damage to her lung with a thoracoscope to avoid a more invasive procedure. We left in the chest tube and a catheter with a one-way valve so any air or blood that leaks into the chest can escape."

"How long are you going to keep her sedated?" Abby asked, her tone slightly less menacing.

"There was a four centimeter gash on the inferior lateral portion of the lung," he explained.

"Lateral inferior? So, toward the outside of her body at the bottom of the lung," Abby said more to herself than to the Doctor. "That's why air was leaking into the thoracic cavity," Abby said. "But you repaired that?" So why can't you wake her up?"

Ducky walked into the room. "Because they don't want to make matters worse," he interrupted.

"Ducky?" Abby stood and rushed to the coroner and hugged him. "Where have you been?" she whispered in a wounded tone.

"I'm sorry," Ducky said sincerely. "I had to process the shooter at the embassy." He patted Abby's back. "I got here as quickly as I could." He eased Abby away and smiled. "I left Mister Palmer in charge of collecting the rest of the trace evidence so I could get over here and see to Ziva."

"So why exactly are they keeping her unconscious?" Abby demanded.

Ducky glanced to Dr. Howard and raised an eyebrow.

Dr. Howard nodded for Ducky to continue. He knew Dr. Mallard, having spoken with him on a few occasions.

Ducky led Abby back to the chair and gently guided her to sit. "The human lung is a remarkable organ." He patted Abby's shoulder and moved to the bed to check Ziva's vitals. "In a few weeks, Ziva will be taking her morning run, baring catastrophic complications of course," he added as he leaned over Ziva and lifted the blanket to check her chest tube.

Dr. Howard handed Ducky the chart. "We're monitoring the blood expelled through the chest tube," he said. "If she starts bleeding again we'll use another thoracoscopy."

"Have no fears, Abigail. The lung is actively knitting the tissue together as we speak," Ducky said as he flipped through the chart. "The chest tube will allow any minor leaks to drain and the catheter will help avoid another tension pneumothorax."

"When air puts pressure on the lung and it can't inflate?" McGee confirmed.

Ducky nodded. He raised a finger to silence McGee. "That pressure can build up and displace the other organs."

"We know this, Ducky," Abby said impatiently. "When will she wake up?"

"She needs to remain intubated until we are certain the bleeding has stopped." Ducky pointed at the oxygen supply. "If the bleeding starts again or the lung leaks air, her oxygen levels will drop immediately. We need to avoid oxygen deprivation." He glanced at McGee. "That is what caused Ziva's rapid loss of consciousness at the scene. It wasn't blood loss; it was lack of oxygen. Her injured lung would have collapsed almost immediately, and any air she did draw in leaked into the thoracic cavity and pushed the injured lung against her left lung and her heart."

"So she's all smooshed?" Abby asked as she reached over and grabbed Ziva's hand. "Her heart?"

"Not smooshed, just scooted over temporarily." Ducky rested a hand on Abby's shoulder. "It was extremely fast, I assure you. The pressure on the superior vena cava would have dropped her blood pressure like a stone and she would have quickly lost consciousness."

"Not helping, Ducky," McGee said as he watched Abby's face pale.

Ducky winced. "My apologies," he said and then cleared his throat. "The point is, the lung injury made her pass out. It wasn't a loss of blood." He squeezed Abby's arm. "She shouldn't need any further surgery and a full recovery can be expected." He turned and lifted Ziva's gown and examined the wound site.

Abby let out a sigh of relief. She glared at Dr. Howard. "You couldn't have told me that?"

Dr. Howard opened and closed his mouth, not knowing what to say.

Ducky rescued him. "Which leads to Ziva's sedation. You know Ziva. She would fight the tube in her throat. She needs the airway support in place and she needs rest."

Abby nodded grouchily.

"Have no fear, in a few hours we should be able to take her off the sedation and allow her to gently awaken to your lovely, smiling countenance." Ducky ran his hand over Abby's head and tugged on her pigtail. "That is the best medicine any of us can offer."

Abby smiled and rolled her eyes.

Ducky looked around the room, his eyes stopping on the door. "This private room should be a safe."

"That's why we put her at the end of this hall," Dr. Howard explained

"Of course," Ducky agreed. "That leaves only one direction for Mr. McGee to guard."

McGee nodded, wondering if he should be in the hallway, but also knowing Abby still needed him. He turned and addressed Ducky. "How could she get stabbed? She was wearing a Kevlar vest." The question had been bothering him. The vests were designed to stop bullets, stop knives, and to cushion blunt trauma.

"The vest saved her life," Ducky replied.

Abby gave him a curious look.

Ducky moved closer to Ziva and pointed to her side where the injury was covered. "I would guess the assailant had training in covert operations. Normally, a knife would be inserted further back and at a steeper angle so it would bisect the lung and penetrate the pulmonary artery. Death is almost instantaneous."

Abby squeezed Ziva's hand.

Ducky turned and focused on McGee, who looked confused. "I'd wager there is a slice in her vest where the blade first struck. The assailant probably slid the knife forward until it reached the opening at the side of the vest in the gap between the front and back armor plates. The tiny change in placement made all the difference."

Doctor Howard's face paled. He cleared his throat. "I'll leave you folks alone," he said. As he exited the room, he almost bumped into a man in a green uniform wearing a cast on his right hand. "Only two visitors at a time," he told the man. He considered Dr. Mallard more staff than visitor, so he didn't count him.

The man nodded and went toward the waiting area. He looked around and then ducked down a deserted hallway. He had hoped to find Officer David alone, or at least without a guard. He sighed, determined to wait as long as necessary.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

Har-El stood inside the NCIS interrogation room staring at his former prisoner. "An NCIS officer captured you, and they can have you," he told him.

The man at the table was wearing a pair of plain grey sweats. He had been arrested in an Israeli uniform during the first attempt on the Ambassador. The Israelis had made him change out of the uniform almost immediately. He hadn't given his name, or said anything at all. He seemed completely unfazed.

"Remain silent, or do not," Har-El said as he leaned both hands on the table. "It makes no difference now. The Americans have deemed you a terrorist." He stood and watched as the prisoner stiffened. "You are a ghost now," he whispered. "You no longer exist. Enjoy the Patriot Act," Har-El said as he walked out of the room.

Gibbs and DiNozzo watched from the observation room. Gibbs was almost completely still. Only his arm moved to lift his coffee cup to his lips.

"You know, for a fascist, illegal act, that thing comes in handy as a threat," DiNozzo said as he paced.

Gibbs sipped his coffee.

"Not like we actually snatch people off the street and erase them." DiNozzo watched the suspect squirm in his seat. "It's just a really good bluff." He turned to Gibbs and paused. "Right?"

Gibbs took another sip of coffee, but one eyebrow raised and then lowered.

"The whole men in black thing, that's just in the movies, right?" DiNozzo asked.

Har-El stepped into the observation room. "He is, how you say? Your problem now."

Gibbs nodded and slowly turned. "You find the guy with the knife?"

Har-El's face darkened, both in anger and as he blushed in embarrassment. "Not yet." He stalked closer to the window and glared at the man on the other side of the window. "He wouldn't give up his co-conspirators," he said quietly. "We have been questioning him since Agent McGee apprehended him, and then more forcefully today, after the second attempt."

Gibbs nodded and moved alongside Har-El. "Withstood quite a bit of 'questioning,' too."

DiNozzo's eyebrows knitted together like a confused border collie.

"You document those injuries?" Gibbs asked mildly. "Patriot Act won't cover my ass if anyone sees his bruises."

DiNozzo did a double take. He didn't see any bruises on the suspect. He stared a bit longer and noticed that the suspect was sitting abnormally stiff, as if he didn't want to jostle any part of his body. "They tortured him?" he asked as he spun toward Gibbs.

Gibbs let out a humorless chuckle. "No." He sipped his coffee and then stared into Har-El's eyes. "Beat him," he said quietly. "Beat the crap out him, but not torture."

"Huh?" DiNozzo asked.

"My men were a bit enthusiastic in their disapproval of his involvement with the attempt on the Ambassador." Har-El sighed. "We are not trained in the same techniques as some of our countrymen. He wouldn't even give his name. His fingerprints are not in our database."

"Huh?" DiNozzo asked again.

Gibbs rolled his eyes at DiNozzo. "He means they beat him because he pissed them off, DiNozzo. If they had a professional torture him, we'd have his embassy accomplices by now."

"Wish Ziva was here," DiNozzo muttered. "She'd get him to talk in like two seconds." He looked across the room at his water bottle. "Do you know you can drown in one tablespoon of water?" he asked in a whispered impression of Ziva.

"He'll talk," Gibbs said. He put his coffee down, grabbed a file from the table and moved toward the door.

"You want the water bottle, Boss?" DiNozzo asked as grabbed the half-empty bottle.

Gibbs paused long enough to glare at DiNozzo.

"I'll take that as a no." DiNozzo opened the bottle and took a long drink.

Gibbs opened the door to the interrogation room, and walked calmly to the table and sat in the chair facing the suspect. He opened the file in his hands. "Isam Kazmi," Gibbs read.

In the observation room, Har-el's eyes widened in surprise. "How did he find that? We ran his fingerprints and found nothing."

"Our databases are rather extensive," DiNozzo said. In truth, he had no idea how Gibbs had gotten the man's name, just that it somehow involved a call to Ziva's father. Gibbs had been reluctant to make that particular call because he didn't trust Eli David. DiNozzo frowned. Technically, the Mossad database was the one that was extensive.

Gibbs stared at the file. "So, the question is Mr. Kazmi, are you going to be a martyr and fall off the face of the earth, or are you going to confirm who your contact in the embassy is?"

Kazmi lifted his head and studied Gibbs. "You know nothing," he said arrogantly.

Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "I know that you were trained in southern Gaza. I know that your brother, Jalal al Din Kazmi, died wearing a Marine uniform this morning."

Kazmi's eyes flashed. He shifted his weight, wanting to speak, but he held his tongue.

Gibbs leaned back in his chair and smiled. "I know he was a coward. He cried like a little girl when Officer David 'questioned' him," he lied.

Kazmi leaned forward and gripped the edge of the table.

"I know after he gave you up, after he wet himself like a child, he begged Officer David to stop his suffering." Gibbs smiled cruelly. "I know she was merciful and did as he asked."

"Mossad bastard!" Kazmi jumped to his feet, sending his chair scooting across the floor. "You Americans preach of justice but you have your Patriot Act. You say your hands are clean while you have your Mossad dogs do your killing for you. That bitch should have been the first to die."

Gibbs stayed seated. He now knew whoever was on the inside had planned on being close enough to Ziva to take her out first when the assassination attempt took place, and that Ziva's death had been part of the plan all along. Kazmi also knew about Ziva's Mossad training.

"Well, your inside friend hung your brother out to dry," Gibbs said in a mocking tone. "Your brother expected Officer David to be taken out of the equation." He laughed. "Guess what?" He leaned closer. "Your friend inside got scared. Afraid to make a move on David." He continued laughing. "Good thing, too. Your friend wouldn't have survived that little stunt."

"I knew he was coward." Kazmi said in disgust. He paced the room angrily.

Gibbs stayed seated. Now he knew the insider was a man.

"Israeli pig," Kazmi muttered as he shook his head in disgust.

Gibbs' gut told him that was most important thing his suspect had said so far. "And yet, your inside man gets to cut the deal. Your brother is dead, killed by a Mossad operative, a woman who completely humiliated him by ruining your plan, and you get to take a plane ride to Gitmo for the rest of your life." He chuckled. "God bless America."

"I will not deal, as you say," Kazmi snarled. "Your Israeli pig sold out his people and then sold out us, but I have honor."

"So'd your brother until David made him soil his pants." He stood and closed the file. "It's better this way. Our country prefers to keep on good terms with the Israeli military," he added, taking a risk.

"If the military can be bought, what good does that do you?" Kazmi taunted.

"Gets me the guys I'm after." Gibbs smiled and left the room.

In the observation room DiNozzo was disgusted. "Even when she's in a freakin' hospital bed, Ziva still intimidates suspects. Gibbs makes up stuff about her and these tough guys confess. What the hell?"

"She is an intimidating woman," Har-El said as if his point were obvious.

Gibbs came into the room and stared at Har-El. "Any of your guys have a beef with the Ambassador?"

"Ambition makes every ally a competitor," Har-El said. "Though most would draw the line at helping terrorists."

"What do you know about Major Alon?" Gibbs asked.

Har-El took a moment as he considered the question. "I do not like him, or trust him, but I have no evidence to suggest that he is the mole."

"My gut says he's our inside man," Gibbs said. "Let's go pick him up."

"He left the embassy hours ago," Har-El said nervously. "His hand was broken during the assassination attempt. I couldn't stop him. He is a Major. He outranks me."

"You let him go?" Gibbs wanted to the slap the back of Har-El's head.

"He went to the hospital," Har-El said.

"Where he won't be anymore," DiNozzo said grouchily.

"DiNozzo…" Gibbs began.

DiNozzo interrupted, "I'm on it, Boss." He rattled off his plan. "Get a BOLO out and have all the airports, bus stations, ferries, taxies, bicycles, pony rides and any other transportation venues locked down," DiNozzo said quickly. He rushed from the room before Gibbs could even reply.


McGee sat in a chair next to the door inside Ziva's hospital room. He glanced at the door, wondering for the hundredth time if he should move into the hallway. Abby was fussing over Ziva, whispering words of love and devotion to her, and generally fawning over the unconscious woman. It seemed far too personal, and he felt like an intruder witnessing Abby's actions. He knew it would soon get even worse. Dr. Howard had taken Ziva off of the sedative an hour earlier. She would be waking up soon, which meant he would have to witness Ziva showering Abby with affection as well. He really wanted to be sitting in the hallway.

Abby was reading to Ziva, which wouldn't seem to be an overly affectionate action, except that she was stretched out on the bed next to Ziva with the magazine on Ziva's chest. She had one hand tucked under Ziva's hair, idly playing with the soft skin at the nape of Ziva's neck, occasionally detouring to feel the lump on the back of her head from the explosion. It had receded quite a bit.

"Well, anyone could have seen this coming," Abby told Ziva. "Deaths caused by methadone have increased." Abby focused on the magazine, The Forensic Examiner, and read directly from an article. "Inadvertent overdose is becoming increasingly common, likely in part because the drug's acute pain-relieving effect lasts only 4 to 6 hours, yet it has a very long and variable plasma half-life of 24 to 36 (in some studies 15 to 55) hours, is stored in body tissues, and toxic accumulation occurs with too-frequent consumption." Abby paused and looked at Ziva's face. "You know, you can wake up now. I'm really starting to freak out."

McGee cleared his throat. "Abbs, maybe reading about accidental overdoses isn't exactly a calming activity."

Abby bit her lip and considered his comment. "Probably not." She flung the magazine at the trashcan a few feet away. It hit the lip of the trashcan and fell to the floor.

Ziva shifted her weight.

"Ziva?" Abby sat up and moved off of the bed. "Ziva, come on, darlin'. Open those beautiful brown eyes."

McGee rushed to the bedside. He pushed the call button and then rested a hand on Abby's back. "Is she coming around?" he asked quietly.

Abby nodded as she watched Ziva's eyes flutter. She became concerned when she realized that Ziva was fighting the tube in her throat. "Easy," she said as she cradled Ziva's cheek in her hand. "Ziva, you're safe. It's me, Abby."

Ziva's eyes opened widely and darted from side to side. She tried to sit up, but Abby gently held her on the bed.

"You're in the hospital," Abby said as she leaned down so her eyes met her lover's. "Darlin', you need to hold still."

Ziva stopped resisting, falling back against the bed. Her eyes were locked with Abby's. She lifted her right hand, wincing as the action sent a painful jolt down her entire side.

"Try to relax," Abby said gently. "The doctor will take the tube out as soon as he gets in here," she added.

Ziva closed her eyes and shook her head. She opened her eyes and lifted her hand a bit and began to fingerspell.

"Okay, I get it," Abby said as soon as she saw what Ziva was doing. "S… E… C…O…N…D…"

"Second suspect," McGee said quickly. He was standing next to Abby.

Ziva's eyes darted to him and she nodded.

"We know," McGee said. "We're looking into it."

Ziva's eyes shifted back to her hand. She carefully began to fingerspell.

"B…R…O…K…E," Abby translated. "Broke what?"

Ziva closed her eyes and sighed in frustration, then moved her fingers again.

Abby continued translating for McGee. "H…A…N…D."

McGee lunged forward. "You broke his hand when he stabbed you?"

Ziva nodded her head emphatically.

"I'll call Gibbs," McGee said. "We'll get a BOLO out for anyone with an injured hand. Did you see who stabbed you?"

Ziva shook her head.

"I'll get this info on the wire." McGee stepped into the hallway to make his calls.

Ziva let out another sigh. It sounded odd through the tubing. She lifted her left hand and tried to grab it.

"No," Abby said quickly. She wrapped her fingers gently around Ziva's wrist. "Darlin,' you need to hold on for a few more minutes." She moved toward the head of the bed and leaned down so she was looking directly into Ziva's eyes. "Look at me. Just take slow breaths and stay with me." She saw Ziva relax slightly. "Good," Abby said with a smile.

The door opened and Dr. Howard and a nurse came into the room. The nurse saw that Ziva was awake and immediately went to the table and began gathering a few supplies.

Dr. Howard came to the side of the bed next to Abby. "You're awake," he said with a smile. "Ms. David, I'm Dr. Howard." He went to the side of the room to a small sink and washed his hands. "What do you say we take that tube out, hmm?"

Ziva nodded, but her eyes never left Abby's. Abby was her anchor. Abby's eyes were keeping her breathing steady, keeping her from yanking the tube out of her throat because it felt like it was choking her, like it was strangling her instead of saving her.

Abby moved out of the doctor's way, but she stayed close enough so she could keep her eyes locked with Ziva's. Abby clinched her teeth as she watched the doctor remove the tube. She hoped it wasn't as painful as it looked. She scooted closer as soon as Dr. Howard stepped away from the bed.

Ziva coughed, squeezing her eyes shut as pain pulsed through her side.

Dr. Howard took a plastic cup from the nurse. "Try some water. Just a sip," he suggested. He handed Abby the cup of water with a bent straw in it.

Abby guided it to Ziva's hands, steadying it.

After a few tiny sips, Ziva pushed the cup away. "Abby?" she asked. Her voice was barely more than a croak. She was focusing on the window and the dark sky outside.

"Right here." Abby squeezed Ziva's hand.

Ziva relaxed into the bed took a few slow breaths. "Mon Chaton," she whispered and gave Abby's hand a weak squeeze.

"That's right, darlin'." Abby's smile was radiant. She bent so she could kiss Ziva's hand without moving it from the bed.

The doctor stepped forward. "Let me check you, and then I'll leave you with Miss Sciuto." He smiled at Abby. "She only left your side when we took you to surgery."

Ziva's eyes widened.

"It went well," Dr. Howard said before Ziva could ask. "You came through great and I expect a full recovery." He leaned over and checked her pupils using his penlight. "I'll answer any questions you have, but right now I think you should take it easy and rest if you can." He checked her drain and pressed his fingers around the bandage over her wound. "Looks good. I'll check you later when I make rounds."

"Thank you," Ziva said, her voice hoarse.

"My pleasure," he said sincerely. "You're quite the hero. It's all over CNN." He turned and left, not noticing Ziva's horrified expression. The last thing she wanted was to be in the news.

The nurse checked the IV bag and then the back of Ziva's hand. "Just use the call button if you need anything."

Ziva nodded and the nurse turned and left.

"Please don't ever do that again," McGee asked as he came to the bedside. He was pale. He had actually retched a dry heave when seeing the doctor remove the intubation tubing. It brought back the images of Ziva's lifeless body in the ambulance.

Ziva seemed confused.

"Get stabbed," McGee clarified.

"Or shot, or blown up," Abby added. "Or hit by a car, stepped on by an elephant, fall off a roof, or fall down even a tiny set of stairs."

"How would I get stepped on by an elephant?" Ziva asked. Her brows scrunched together as she tried to imagine that scenario. She fought to keep her eyes open, but it felt like a losing battle, so she let them flutter closed.

"I don't know," Abby said. "I'm just covering all the bases." She frowned. "As a matter of fact, stay away from any animal bigger than a gerbil." She ran her fingers through Ziva's hair, needing the contact.

That made Ziva smile. She brought her left hand up and rubbed her own chest, a nervous habit when she needed to feel her necklace. It was her touchstone when times were at their worst. Her eyes opened when she realized her Magen David was gone.

"It's right here," Abby said, knowing exactly what her lover was thinking. "Your Star of David."

Ziva curiously shifted her eyes to Abby.

Abby lifted the star from under her blouse. "I was keepin' it safe for you," she said.

Ziva stared into Abby's eyes. "Magen David," Ziva whispered. "It means Shield of David, in Hebrew."

"Magen David," Abby said, focusing on pronouncing it correctly.

Ziva smiled and closed her eyes. "Perfect," she whispered. She opened her eyes with extreme effort. "A gift, from my mother. I was twelve."

"For your Bat Mitzvah?" Abby asked. "Boys get the Bar Mitzvah at thirteen and girls get the Bat at twelve." She tilted her head to one side.

Ziva nodded and smiled fondly. The scope of Abby's knowledge amazed her.

"I know it's important to you," Abby said. "I can put it on you." She started to take the necklace off.

"Leave it, Chaton," Ziva said hoarsely. "It will save my place, next to your heart."

"No one else is gonna take that spot, but I'll wear it. I like having a part of you with me." Abby smiled and picked up Ziva's hand. "You should sleep," Abby said as Ziva's eyes fluttered closed.

Ziva shook her head. She forced her eyes open and glanced out the window at the darkened sky again. "How long?" she asked McGee.

"It's just after six p.m.," McGee said. "How exactly did you break the guy's hand?"

Ziva had to take another few breaths before she could speak. "I took the shots just as I felt the blade," she said. She cleared her throat.

Abby grabbed the glass of water and held the straw to Ziva's lips and waited as she took a few sips before placing the glass back on the table.

"Then what?" McGee asked. He knew that Ziva would have completely focused on her shots. The idea that she could injure an attacker at the same time amazed him.

"Tim, she needs to rest," Abby said sharply. She focused on Ziva. "You can tell us later. Sleep." Her tone was loving and laced with concern.

Ziva shook her head and turned toward McGee. She knew he needed the information as quickly as possible. "I switched the gun to my left hand. After the shot." Her sentences became choppy as her energy faded. "Shoved his hand away, so the knife… came out of my side." She was breathing heavily from the exertion of the short explanation.

Abby's eyes widened. She took a gulp of Ziva's water to calm her nerves.

Ziva started to speak, but then stopped, gathering what little strength she had. Her voice was weak, and each word drained her near empty reserves. "Pressured his wrist. Dropped the knife." She spoke as if being stabbed was an everyday part of her job. "The others, on top of me, protecting the Ambassador. Too many bodies. Could not see his face." She managed to smile weakly. "Broke his wrist."

"I can't believe you could hold anything with that injury," Abby said as she rested her hand on Ziva's chest. "How could you break his hand?"

"Heard the crunch," Ziva added proudly. "Quite satisfying."

McGee swallowed with a gulp.

"Tried to see him," Ziva whispered huskily and shook her head. Her voice was beginning to give out.

"Not to worry," McGee said with a huge smile. "When I called to tell Gibbs about the injury, he figured it out right away."

"Figured what out?" Ziva demanded weakly. She struggled to sit up, but Abby wasn't having that.

"Stay," Abby ordered.

McGee looked to Abby before he spoke. Once the protective woman nodded, he continued. "I was gonna' tell you," McGee said. "Major Alon left the embassy." McGee paused. "Seems he had to go to the hospital because he broke his wrist while protecting the Ambassador."

"Coward," Ziva said hoarsely. "I should… Gibbs." She tried to sit up again but Abby still had other ideas.

"Whoa, you're not going anywhere," Abby said quickly. She pressed her hand gently against Ziva's shoulder.

"Help Gibbs." Ziva's voice was gravelly and she winced. Just speaking made her throat feel like she had swallowed shards of broken glass. She took a deep breath, but regretted it immediately. It felt like her side was on fire.

"Gibbs is on his trail," Abby said. She guided Ziva back onto the pillow. "You are going to stay here until you're completely healed." She raised one eyebrow and gave Ziva a determined glare. "End of story."

Ziva started to protest, but then thought better of it. She knew Abby wasn't going to back down. She also knew she wouldn't get more than a few steps before collapsing. She nodded her agreement because her throat was becoming too sore to continue speaking. She let her eyes drift shut.

"That's more like it," Abby said with a triumphant grin. She turned toward McGee and puffed her chest out proudly.

"Guess we know who wears the pants in this relationship." McGee snickered.

Before Abby could respond, Ziva spoke, but her eyes remained closed. "Better with no pants."

"Uh…" McGee was torn between explaining the expression and picturing the two women without pants.

"Isn't that a better image?" Abby asked with an evil grin. "The two of us pantsless, naked skin pressed against naked skin, taking turns being in charge?"

McGee knew when a battle was lost. His blush extended from his ears down past the collar of his shirt. "I'll be waiting the hall." He dragged a chair along with him and let the door slam closed before situating the chair in position to guard the room. "Did not need that image," he muttered. He shook his head, trying to shake the erotic scene dancing through his mind.

Ziva opened her eyes and looked longingly at the door.

"Nuh uh," Abby said firmly. "You're not leaving this bed, even if I have to sit on you and tie you to the bed with a sheet."

Ziva was too exhausted to argue. She locked eyes with Abby and saw that her lover wasn't going to give an inch, so she relaxed and let out a sigh. "Fine," she whispered. "Told you. No bondage. Bad kitten." She closed her eyes to the sound of Abby's laughter and let her body surrender to sleep.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

McGee twisted from side to side in his chair. He was sitting guard, as he had been for seven hours. He had only moved back inside the room an hour earlier. It was late, and his entire body was stiff. He bent his head to one side and almost groaned when his neck gave a satisfying pop. A few feet away, Abby snorted and rubbed her face with one hand, but she didn't wake up. He smiled fondly at his former lover.

Abby was draped across a small chair that converted into a makeshift bed. The hospital had them for family members. The seat of the chair pulled out a few feet allowing the family members to stretch out. Well, most family members. At just over five feet ten inches, Abby's long frame overwhelmed the chair. She was on her side hugging a pillow, with one leg bent and pulled up like she was curling into a ball. The other leg was stretched out and hung more than eighteen inches off the edge of the small reclining chair.

McGee's cell vibrated in his pocket. He'd set it to the silent mode just after Abby had dozed off. He fumbled with the phone and stood, moving as far from Abby as possible within the confines of the small room. "McGee," he whispered.

"Why are you whispering, Probie?" DiNozzo asked as he stepped out of the hospital elevator on the second floor.

"Abby and Ziva are sleeping." McGee looked over and saw Abby beginning to stir.

"I wish I was sleeping," DiNozzo said.

McGee opened the door and stepped into the brightly lit hallway. "Next time you get stabbed, you can sleep all you like." He eased the door closed. "What's up?" he asked.

"A big fat nothin', that's what's up." DiNozzo yawned. "We've interviewed everyone at the embassy, including the damn janitor, and nobody knows where Major sneaky-pants is."

"Have you checked his apartment?" McGee yawned and rubbed the back of his neck.

DiNozzo let out a frustrated exhale as he made a left turn, then realized he'd turned the wrong way. "Gee, why didn't Gibbs or I think of that?" Sarcasm practically dripped from the words. He found the correct hall and continued.

"Sorry," McGee said contritely. "So, what's next?"

"Gibbs is back at the office. He's been teleconferencing with bigwigs on just about every continent for the last hour." DiNozzo scrunched his brow. "Except Australia. Maybe he should call them." He smiled and then spoke in a fake Australian accent. "Maybe a dingo ate my bad guy."

"Funny," McGee said drolly, clearly unimpressed by the attempt at humor.

"Yeah, well, you try coming up witty repartee after four hours of interviewing," DiNozzo said.

"Where are you headed now?" McGee asked, ignoring the complaint.

"The hospital. I'm on your floor." DiNozzo continued down a long hallway. "Who designs these floor plans, King Minos?"

"Nice reference," McGee complimented. "Except Daedalus designed the labyrinth for Minos. The King didn't actually create the mazes."

"You really can't help yourself, can you, McGeek?" There were several more twists and turns before he'd reach Ziva's room. "The nerd is just hardwired into your brain." He saw the last turn and let out a sigh. "How's Ziva doing?" His voice lost any trace of levity.

"Better, I think," McGee said. He glanced at the door, then scanned the hallway and nodded when he saw DiNozzo round the corner just past the nursing station. They'd chosen Ziva's room because it was at the end of the hall and had the least amount of traffic. McGee turned off his phone and walked over to his coworker. "She was really weak when she woke up earlier."

DiNozzo frowned. "The Zivanator, weak? She'll kill you if she hears you say that."

"She could barely keep her eyes open." McGee's concern was evident on his boyish features.

"She's tough." DiNozzo rested a hand on McGee's shoulder, a rare show of the genuine feelings he held for him. "She'll bounce back in no time."

McGee nodded and looked into DiNozzo's eyes. "I really thought she was gonna… that she… when she collapsed… Tony, I thought she was gonna die right there in my arms."

"She didn't," DiNozzo said firmly. He gave McGee's shoulder a gentle shake before removing his hand. "And you and I are gonna watch her back until she's up and terrifying suspects again." He stared at the door, wanting to check on Ziva and see that she was safe with his own eyes. "She's sleeping?"

"Yeah. Abby too." McGee turned toward the door, not wanting to wake either woman.

"Abbs been here the whole time?" DiNozzo asked.

"Yep. Never left her side. Palmer came by earlier and brought some of Abby's things from her desk in the lab. You know, magazines, a change of clothes she keeps in one of the drawers. Stuff like that." McGee wondered if DiNozzo was finally clueing in on the true nature of Abby's affections. "Palmer brought me a fresh shirt too," he added. It had been a relief to change out of his bloodstained clothes.

"Guess she and Abbs got pretty chummy while Zee was protecting her." DiNozzo looked at the door again. "I'm just gonna take a peek. See if Ziva's drooling all over the pillow or something. It'd be a great blackmail photo." He held up his cell phone. The photos he took with it tended to get sent to half of NCIS."

McGee nodded, not fooled for a moment. He knew DiNozzo was worried.

DiNozzo opened the door and the two stepped inside. The lights were off in the room, but there was enough illumination from the parking lot lights outside filtering through the window to clearly see Ziva on the bed.

DiNozzo crept closer and studied Ziva. She was breathing in short, labored, irregular breaths. The blankets were down around her waist and he could see that she was wearing a hospital gown. Even in the dim lighting, she looked pale and small, fragile like a broken porcelain doll. His eyes were drawn to the medical paraphernalia attached to her. There was an IV taped in place on the back of her hand and a bit of tubing coming out from underneath her hospital gown to a small, oval container sitting on the bed next to her. He turned to McGee and nodded toward the container.

McGee leaned close and whispered into DiNozzo's ear. "That's for drainage."

DiNozzo scowled, clearly disgusted. "Eww."

Abby let out a sigh.

DiNozzo shifted his view and smiled at the way Abby's foot was dangling in midair. He laughed quietly.

Abby heard the sound. She sat up and immediately checked on Ziva, scanning her for any sign of distress. Only then did she notice the two agents a few feet away. She smiled but didn't immediately speak. She went to Tony and gave him a brief hug, then pulled him into the hall. "Did you catch the bastard?" Her voice was gravelly from sleep.

"Ah, no," DiNozzo said. "But we will."

"You better," Abby said firmly. She looked over her shoulder at the door. She didn't like leaving Ziva alone.

McGee held back a smile at Abby's desire to return to Ziva, because it was blatantly obvious, the two were lovers. "Why don't you go back to Ziva," McGee suggested.

"I'll sit with Ziva," DiNozzo offered, clearly not quite catching on to reality. "You probably want to go home and sleep in an adult sized bed, or coffin, or whatever."

Anger and a bit of possessiveness flashed across Abby's features.

McGee moved forward. "Maybe you could cover for me on guard duty for a while?" he asked before Abby could rip DiNozzo's head off. "I need to go down to the basement to the cafeteria. I could really use a coffee."

"Uh, okay," DiNozzo said. He looked at the other agent and shrugged. "Sure. Get your coffee. I just thought since Abby's been cooped up here too, she could go home. Since, you know, she's not on protection detail."

"I'm not leaving, Tony," Abby said firmly. "And if anyone tries to hurt Ziva, you bet your ass I'm on protection detail." She reached down and pulled the folding knife out of her boot and flipped it open exactly as Ziva had taught her. She twisted it over, with the blunt side of the blade tucked along her forearm, pulled her arm back in a defensive position, and faced DiNozzo with her most lethal glare.

"Gaa!" DiNozzo took a step back. "Okay, you've spent way too much time with Ziva."

"Or just the right amount," McGee said as he wrapped an arm around Abby before she pounced on DiNozzo. "You can never have enough self-defense training." He cleared his throat and eyed the knife. "You should make sure Ziva doesn't wake up alone. She'll be worried."

"Oh geeze." Abby closed the folding knife and hurried back into the darkened room.

"Okay, seriously. What. The. Hell?" DiNozzo pointed at the door.

McGee sighed, hoping DiNozzo had finally figured out the situation.

"We're gonna' have to de-Ziva Abbs when this is over," DiNozzo said. "I don't think we want our little Goth joining Mossad."

"I'm going for coffee." McGee walked away, leaving a bewildered DiNozzo standing at door.


'I really hate Mossad,' Gibbs thought as stared at the monitor on the wall. He was in the NCIS Director's control room, MTAC. On the large screen on the wall was his least favorite Mossad member, Eli David, Director of Mossad, in other words, Ziva's father.

Director Leon Vance was talking to the elder David at the moment. "Just how long have you suspected Alon might be a double agent?" Vance kept his tone polite, but his body was strung as tightly as a piano wire.

"Not so much suspected," David said dismissively. "He has been a person of interest."

Gibbs could no longer remain silent. "Ya' think you could have shared that interest with us?" He stalked forward toward the screen. "Especially since my agents were working in the embassy with the bastard."

Eli David started to give a careful manufactured lie. "It was a matter…"

"I don't care what your reason was," Gibbs yelled. "Your secrets put my agent in the hospital. You remember her? Her name's Ziva David."

Vance stood quietly as he watched Eli David's face darken with anger.

"I am very well aware that my daughter was injured when she allowed Alon to escape," David said bitterly.

"Wrong answer," Gibbs practically snarled. "She was injured while successfully stopping an assassination attempt on your Ambassador."

David took deep breath before speaking. "Perhaps being with NCIS has softened her. When she was with Mossad, she would have saved the Ambassador and killed Alon by shooting him instead of just breaking his hand."

Vance stepped forward, next to Gibbs. "If she had fired blindly behind her to kill Alon, she may have just as easily hit the Ambassador or a member of his staff."

David's expression made it abundantly clear that he wouldn't have minded that particular outcome. "Yes, but the traitor would be dead as well, instead of roaming the streets outwitting your agents."

"Maybe if you'd given us your intel, we'd have him by now," Vance said before Gibbs could reply. "Maybe we'd have caught him before anyone got hurt."

"We have no real intel. Nothing concrete," David obfuscated. "A man in Alon's position is certainly kept under scrutiny, but not actually under surveillance," he lied.

"Well, why don't you send it to us and see what we can come up with," Vance said. "Unless of course, you'd rather allow a traitor to escape."

David gave Vance a practiced, and completely insincere, smile. "Of course. I'll send you what little we have."

"Thank you," Vance said. He gave David an equally insincere smile and cut off the transmission.

"I really dislike that man," Gibbs said matter of factly.

"I never would have guessed," Vance said. His computer terminal beeped so he walked over and opened the file. "You know, for not having anything on this guy, David sure was able to send a detailed dossier rather quickly."

Gibbs stood next to Vance as they both scanned the file. His eyes narrowed when he reached a comment near the middle of the page. "Son of bitch," he said angrily. He found another detail a moment later. "Why was this guy allowed in the Israeli military?"

Vance shook his head. "They probably thought they could use his connections at some point. Make him a mole."

"His grandfather was Palestinian?" Gibbs said. He reached over to the computer keyboard and scanned further down the screen. "And his cousin on the Palestinian side was in a wing of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood." Gibbs turned to Vance. "He got his mole alright."

"He was just working for the other side," Vance said quietly.

"Guess David didn't learn his lesson with Ari." Gibbs waved toward the computer. "Can you send that file to my phone?"

Vance smiled. "Yes, but can you open it without deleting it or sending it to everyone on your contact list?" Gibbs was known for his lack of computer skills and his new Blackberry had been replaced frequently due to his habit of throwing the phone when it failed to do what he wanted.

"I'll figure it out," Gibbs said as he left the room. "What the hell is a contact list?" he said under his breath as he started down the stairs.


DiNozzo stood outside Ziva's room and glanced down the hallway in each direction. To his left, a few feet away, was a dead end with faded walls and, on the right, was a nursing station where several long corridors met. DiNozzo liked nurses. He sighed. He figured Alon was well on his way out of the country. Ziva was not a threat to him and, now that the assassination attempt had been stopped, it would be foolish to waste time coming after a member of NCIS. He pulled out his phone and dialed. "Hey, McGeek, how much coffee are you drinking? It's been twenty minutes."

"I haven't eaten all day," McGee said around a mouthful of a stale vending machine sandwich.

DiNozzo's eyes roamed to the station down the hall and zeroed in on an attractive blonde nurse who was leaning against the counter talking to another nurse. "Well hurry up. I've got important stuff to do," DiNozzo said.

McGee swallowed and took a sip of coffee, then spoke. "Is she a blonde or a brunette?"

"Just hurry up," DiNozzo said.

"On my way." McGee gathered his sandwich and coffee and started toward the elevator, balancing his phone with his shoulder to his ear. "She's probably married," he added.

"She is not," DiNozzo said. "I've got radar for wedding rings."

McGee took another bite of his stale ham sandwich. "Probably gay," he mumbled with his mouth full.

"I think I know a lesbian when I see one," DiNozzo said condescendingly.

"Most lesbians don't look like the ones in your porn collection," McGee pointed out, then immediately thought of Abby and Ziva, an exception to his own generalization.

"Ha ha." DiNozzo saw the nurse preparing to leave the counter. "Just get back here." He hung up and quickly trotted toward the nursing station. "Hey there," he said as he reached the blonde nurse and gave her his most charming smile.

She turned toward him. "Can I help you?"

"Well, if you can't, nobody can." He reached into his pocket and pulled out his badge as he read her nametag. "Hi, Debbie. I'm Anthony DiNozzo." He flashed his badge and flashed her another smile. "Agent Anthony DiNozzo." He nodded over his shoulder. "I'm here with my colleague, Officer David."

The nurse behind the desk smiled brightly. She was pretty, but in an average sort of way, not the type to turn Tony's head. "Oh, she's the one that nice Agent McGee is with," she told Debbie.

"Is he the cute one you told me about, Lynn?" Debbie asked.

"Great guy, but don't waste your time." DiNozzo patted Debbie's shoulder. "He's gay," he whispered. "Really gay, owns every Broadway show soundtrack ever released, gay."

"Did you need something?" Debbie asked pointedly.

A third nurse approached them. She wasn't quite as attractive as Debbie, but slightly more attractive than McGee's fan Lynn. "Did you have a question?" She smiled warmly at DiNozzo.

"He's with that cute Agent McGee," Lynn said helpfully.

"Yeah, well, I had a question about Ziva's condition," he told the new nurse. He glanced at her ID badge. "Courtney, maybe you could help?"

"Sure, what do you need?" she asked.

"I was wondering about that drain thingy," DiNozzo began. "Could you explain how that works?"

Debbie and Lynn exchanged knowing glances and went back to work. Lynn began adding the night's notes to charts while Debbie went to check her patients' vitals.

Debbie went to the first room on her left to check on a young man recovering from knee surgery. She smiled at a janitor as he passed her in the hall. She didn't recognize him, but she usually worked the day shift so she wasn't concerned.


McGee was trying to finish his ham sandwich. The elevator stopped at the ground floor and he was surprised to Gibbs enter. "Boss?" He swallowed quickly and almost choked.

"Tony with Ziva?" Gibbs asked.

McGee nodded and took a gulp of coffee.

"We need to increase security around Ziva," Gibbs said. He punched the button for the second floor and held out his Blackberry to McGee. "Open this thing."

"Okay." McGee's hands were full. He tried to move his sandwich to the hand with coffee but couldn't quite manage.

"Alon has family ties to one of the conservative Muslim groups in Egypt and to Palestine." Gibbs was still holding out his Blackberry when the elevator door opened. He stepped out and waited as McGee exited. "It's all in here." He waved the Blackberry in front of McGee.

"Just a sec," McGee said. He tried to hold his coffee cup between his teeth. "Little help?" he asked.

Gibbs grabbed McGee's sandwich and tossed it into a garbage can next to the elevator doors, then did the same with his coffee. "Vance sent the file to this thing." He held out the phone. "Well?"

"Sure," McGee said. He took the device from Gibbs and quickly opened the mailbox and then the file. "Okay, this is not good."

"Ya' think?" Gibbs asked.

"Where'd we get this?" He stopped and scanned the file, then opened an attachment whistled when he saw the contents.

"Eli David," Gibbs said. "I think it's safe to say he has some history with Alon."

"So, maybe Alon would rather get revenge than get away?" McGee asked.

"That's what I'm afraid of," Gibbs said. "Let's go." He hurried down the long hallway so quickly that McGee had to jog to catch up.


Abby was awake and leaning with her elbows on her knees when the door opened. She looked up expecting Tony or McGee and was surprised when a janitor backed into the mostly darkened room. When he turned, the first thing Abby noticed was the cast on his right hand. The second thing she noticed was he was Major Alon, and he was staring at her with more than a little malice in his eyes.

"You creep!" Abby said as she reached for her boot. She then simultaneously hit the call button and stood to her full height. "Nobody messes with my Ziva." She hurried around the bed and put herself between Ziva's bed and the intruder.

"Stupid girl." Alon gripped a knife in his left hand and rushed toward Abby, thinking he would stab the girl or snap her neck.

"Help!" Abby yelled at the top of her lungs. "Help! Tony, Tim!" She took the initiative and grabbed a water pitcher from the table next to her and hurled it at his head. It provided a split second window as he lifted his left hand to deflect it. Abby rushed toward him and kicked his cast-covered right hand, which was dangling at his side. The extra weight of her knee-high black leather lace up boots added to the impact.

Alon shrieked as he instinctively dropped the knife and cradled his broken hand. His eyes narrowed and he surged forward and grabbed for Abby's wrist as she tried to punch him. It was an awkward move because he had to use his left hand, but he was skilled enough to reach her. He did, and he screamed again, howling in pain as soon as he wrapped his hand around her wrist. He yanked his hand away from the knife blade that Abby had concealed along her forearm.

"How do you like that?" Abby asked.

He bent over as blood spurted from his palm. "You bitch!" He wanted to go for his gun, but now both hands were injured.

Abby kicked him in the knee, just as Ziva had taught her. She was not expecting the sickening crunch the joint made as it dislocated, but she continued undaunted. The next kick was to his crotch as he was splayed on the floor on his good knee while trying to balance without using the other.

Ziva opened her eyes to the commotion. Even in the near darkness, she could see Abby fighting, hand-to-hand combat, life and death fighting, with a large man. She sat up and staggered to her feet despite the flash of pain when the drain and IV pulled loose.

Alon rested his right hand on ground, using the cast to gain some sense of balance as he dug in his jacket with his bloodied left hand.

Abby stomped on the cast, then kicked the wounded hand again as he tried to yank it away. "That's for stabbing my girlfriend, you bastard!" She spun and ran back toward the bed as he screamed again. "Ziva?" Abby said. She was not expecting to see her lover out of bed. "Sit," she ordered and shoved Ziva onto the bed and out of the way as she lunged to the bedside table.


DiNozzo was writing down Courtney's phone number when Gibbs and McGee came around the corner. "Boss!" He backed away from the nurse as if she just had just come out of a leper ward. "Just checking Ziva's condition."

Gibbs walked past him without slowing. "Get phone numbers on your own time."

McGee raised both eyebrows at his friend. The question, 'what the hell were you thinking?' left unspoken.

The three men heard Abby's screams. Gibbs, though older by almost two decades, had the fastest reflexes. He had his gun drawn and was at a full sprint before the other two could move.

McGee and DiNozzo were running by the second time Abby screamed.


Ziva found herself sitting on the bed unsteadily as Abby rushed past her to the table and then spun back toward the intruder in a split second.

Alon fell backward so he was sitting on the ground. His bloody hand was almost on the grip of his gun when he felt more than saw the tall woman return. He looked up in time to see a taser targeting him.

"Don't even think it!" Abby yelled as she fired the weapon. It had been a gift from Ziva, long ago, back when Mikel Mawher had stalked her the first time. She once used it then to escape an assassin, and now she was using it to stop another.

Alon screamed as his body shook violently on the floor.

Ziva reached over and turned on a light and began laughing as soon as the scene came into full view. It hurt to laugh, but she was so proud of her lover she didn't stop.

The door burst open and Gibbs swung into the room, gun poised to kill. His eyes darted around the room in an instant, accessing each bit of information. Alon, a threat, but down and out of commission. Abby, safe and enjoying shocking the daylights out of Alon. Ziva, safe, not much worse for the wear, sitting on the bed, apparently quite amused.

Gibbs rushed forward and kicked the knife away from Alon and then moved to Abby's side. He wrapped his hand around hers on the taser while training his gun on Alon. "I've got him, Abbs."

McGee and DiNozzo came through the door together in time to see Abby's reply.

"In a minute," she said as she gripped the taser trigger tighter in the hopes of increasing the voltage. "He blew Ziva up, he blew me up, he blew Tony up, and he stabbed Ziva." She punctuated each sentence by squeezing the trigger and waving the taser in his direction trying to coax more volts out by sheer force of will.

Gibbs smiled and pulled the taster away from her. Alon was on his side groaning. Gibbs shoved the dazed man onto his back, patted him down, and found his gun.

"Knife and gun?" DiNozzo asked. "That's kinda ambitious for a guy with only one good hand," he said as he collected the weapons.

Gibbs scowled up at DiNozzo. "Probably planned to use the knife so he could kill Ziva without making any noise… as soon as her guard got sloppy and left her alone."

DiNozzo didn't bother denying the implication. He knew he'd screwed up.

Abby was at Ziva's side fusing over her. "You pulled the drain out. And your IV! What were you thinking?"

"That you were in danger," Ziva said. She was breathing in short, shallow gasps. She relented and stopped fighting Abby's roaming hands and let the taller woman move her back on the bed in a reclining position.

"He was after you," Abby pointed out.

"And you protected me." Ziva studied her lover with a new sense of wonder.

"Of course I did." Abby smiled. "I'm your close protection officer."

Ziva laughed, bending forward when the action sent pain shooting across her chest. "I guess you are."

McGee and DiNozzo half carried, half dragged a very disoriented Alon from the room. His right leg was already swollen at the dislocated knee, and the limb wouldn't hold any of his weight.

Gibbs moved closer. "You okay?" he asked.

"I'm fine," Abby said. "Except my adrenaline makes me feel like I just chugged twenty Caf-Pows."

"Wasn't talkin' to you, Abbs." He leaned over and kissed her cheek. "Any fool can see you're better than okay." He turned to Ziva, eyeing the dislodged drain and then the small trickle of blood where the IV had been. "I was talkin' to your girlfriend."

Ziva's color hadn't returned, she was pale and her eyes were sunken, from both her injuries and from the pain of yanking her drain and IV loose. That didn't stop her from giving Gibbs a blinding smile. She nodded. "Abby's girlfriend is fine." She glanced at Abby, her smile never fading and then back to Gibbs. "Thank you for asking."

"You can thank me by getting back in that bed and having a doctor to stick that drain back where it belongs." His tone would have sounded harsh to an outsider, but both Abby and Ziva knew that was his way of showing concern.

"Let's get you under the covers," Abby said. She guided Ziva, pulling the blankets down and then tucking them back over her.

As soon as Ziva settled into place on the bed, she let out a long sigh. She was more exhausted than she would ever admit.

Debbie the nurse came into the room followed by a doctor. The doctor spoke first. "Your agent said Officer David pulled something loose." He eyed Ziva and then noticed a huge pool of blood on the tile floor. "Let me check your wounds." He rushed forward.

"Blood's not hers," Gibbs said with a smirk.

The doctor turned and gave him a curious glance.

"The man you saw being carried away?" Gibbs said. "He tried to hurt Officer David." He nodded to Ziva. "That didn't sit too well with her close protection officer." He pointed at Abby and then to the smeared blood covering much of the floor. He turned to face the doctor. "You should keep that in mind while you're putting Ziva back together."

The doctor's eyes widened and he gulped.

"He's kidding," Abby said without turning. She was busy fussing with Ziva's pillow. As the doctor came up beside her and reached for Ziva's gown, Abby added. "Mostly kidding." Her eyes met his. "Nobody hurts my Ziva."

Ziva smiled, her eyes full of mischief. "She is not above tasering a doctor."

He turned to face Abby.

"It's true. I'm really not." Abby shrugged and moved out of his way.

The doctor replaced Ziva's drain as carefully as if he were doing brain surgery on the Pope. When he was finished, he reinserted the IV and left as quickly as he could. He didn't even bother to acknowledge Agent Gibbs standing guard as he passed him on his way out of the room.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

Ziva was bent over with both hands on her left knee to keep her balance. She was wearing her normal jogging attire, a sweatshirt, sneakers, and black sweats. As usual, there was added bulk from the gun on her ankle and the weapons in the pack around her waist. There was one added accessory, a black leather collar with steel studs and silver Magen David. Most Goth adornments had a French or gothic cross, or maybe an Aunk. Abby had Ziva's custom made with the symbol of her faith.

Ziva was breathing fast and hard, but it felt good to finally be back to her normal routine, well, almost back to normal.

"Okay, you're done for the day," Abby gasped as she staggered up to Ziva. They were in the park, and the air was crisp and heavy with moisture from the early morning fog that had yet to lift. Abby bent over and leaned onto Ziva's back as she sucked in gasp after gasp to catch her breath.

"One more mile," Ziva insisted, but she didn't move from her bent over stance or slow her breathing. She seemed unfazed by the added weight of Abby sprawling across her back. She stared down at the snow-covered grass and pressed a hand to her side and she tried to calm her breathing. Every breath sent a sharp pain along her ribs.

"You say that every day." Abby stood long enough to flop onto the nearby bench and groan. She and Ziva stopped at the bench each morning. "We're up to two laps. That's three miles, darlin', "Abby pointed out. "And you're running me into the ground," she added, knowing that would have the desired effect.

Ziva straightened up and then joined Abby on the bench. She tossed her arm over Abby's shoulder. "Chaton, I do not expect you to jog with me. You are not a runner." She tugged one of Abby's braids. "You are more of a stroller."

"I think I resent that." Abby snuggled against Ziva. "How is it, that even after a collapsed lung and three weeks rest, you've been able to outrun me everyday the last two weeks?"

Ziva kissed Abby's cheek. "That is not true." She took her lover's hand patted it. "The first week, I couldn't even walk a mile." She squeezed Abby's hand playfully. "I seem to recall you walking me into the ground."

Abby's expression became serious. She turned and looked into Ziva's eyes. "You're recovering faster than expected." It was true. After a three week forced recovery period, Ziva's body had bounced back quickly. Only then could she resume some of her old exercise routine. She and Abby had come to the park each morning over the last two weeks, but Ziva's body wasn't snapping back the way she would have liked.

"I should be stronger," Ziva insisted.

"You were stabbed five weeks ago." Abby gave Ziva a determined scowl. "You went from walking half a mile to running three miles, in only two weeks of exercising." She held up her hand. "And the three weeks before that do not count because you weren't allowed to jog."

"I know." Ziva sighed. "But I do not see why I could not at least walk my normal route for the first three weeks." She was going out of her mind with boredom. Abby had stayed with her for most of the four days she had been hospitalized. Once Ziva was sent home, Abby returned to work. Ziva had not. Ziva did not enjoy time off if it didn't involve Abby and soft bed. "I just want to be at my best for tomorrow," Ziva said quietly.

Abby cleared her throat. "Tomorrow, you won't need to run," she said firmly. "Tomorrow you are returning to limited duty. Limited, as in the most physical thing you get to do is lift a single piece of paper." She raised one finger and waved it in front of Ziva. "One, not two, not three. One."

"I don't think so," Ziva scoffed. "Gibbs will see that I can push my own weight and let me take a few cases."

"Pull your own weight, and no, he won't." Abby was just as determined and just as stubborn as Ziva. "You're completely winded from this three mile jog, and I know you're running way slower than you would be if you really were able to pull your weight."

Ziva gave a resigned sigh. "What makes you say that?"

"Because I can almost keep up with you." Abby smiled.

Ziva allowed a tiny smirk. "Well, that is true," she said with just the right amount of smugness to be cute but not annoying. She kissed Abby's cheek. "Are you going to continue running with me?" she asked hopefully. "I mean, now that you have adapted to the early hours…" Her lips curled into an adorably crooked smile.

"The shoes help," Abby said with a laugh. She looked down at her black sneakers and blushed. Ziva had given them to her as a surprise gift. "I cannot believe you found skeleton running shoes." They were Adidas TS Commander Skeletal sneakers, and they were made exclusively for NBA players. That is, unless your name was Ziva David and people all around the globe owed you favors, then you could get a pair in your lover's shoe size. They were perfect for Abby.

"Technically, they are basketball shoes." Ziva lifted Abby's feet onto her lap. She studied the black leather sneakers and then traced the white feet bone design decorating the shoes. "I thought you would like them."

"Like 'em?" Abby shook her head. "They have all the tarsals, metatarsals and phalanges. The soles are see-through with cool black bones inside. I love them."

"I am glad." Ziva dipped her head, suddenly shy.

Abby sighed, stretching her legs across Ziva. "Getting up at the crack of dawn to run through the snow never appealed to me before," Abby admitted. "But I enjoy it. Who knew?" she added, though in truth, it was spending time with Ziva she enjoyed most.

"And who knew I would enjoy your Goth nightlife?" Ziva said with a smile.

"Our Goth nightlife," Abby said. She sat up and then tugged the leather collar around Ziva's throat. Ziva wore it during their runs simply because it made Abby smile.

"Our," Ziva corrected. She leaned forward and kissed Abby. Their lips were chilled from the crisp air but warmed as the kiss continued. Ziva had been pleasantly surprised by how much she enjoyed going with Abby to her various clubs and dancing to the deafening music. The first few visits, she watched Abby dance, but after a few weeks, Abby actually allowed Ziva to dance. It was the first exercise Abby approved. Ziva always thought that dressing in the black clothes and leather accessories would make her stand out, something Ziva hated. Instead, wearing the dark outfits and mixing in with the Goth crowd allowed Ziva to disappear in the swell of the dancers and lose herself in the pounding beat. Plus, seeing Abby's eyes sparkle as they danced was enough to put a happy spring in Ziva's step.

Abby sighed when their kiss broke. She was still holding Ziva's collar by one finger. "You make an adorable Goth," she whispered. "Though, with your reflexes and skills, you'd make a better Dominatrix. I think you should wear the collar at work."

"This collar is for you." Ziva shook her head. "My skills are for gathering information," she said. "I do not think they would be as sexy as you think." She was joking, but darkness washed over her expression.

"I was kidding," Abby said seriously. She wrapped her arm around Ziva and pulled her closer.

"I know." Ziva leaned up and kissed Abby's ear.

"Oh, how I love watching you dance." Abby ran her tongue over Ziva's lip and nipped her. "I really enjoy feeling you dance against me."

Ziva chuckled, the melodious sound bubbling up as she took Abby's hand. "I enjoy your company even when you stop to play with every squirrel on the trail and give them a five course meal."

"I do not play with them." Abby rolled her eyes. "And I don't feed them that much."

"Oh, really?" Ziva pointed to a large oak tree a few yards away. "And just who are those little rodent vagrants?"

Abby turned her head and smiled when she saw three squirrels scampering around in the melting snow at the base of tree. The furry creatures were looking to her expectantly. If the squirrels had tiny pens and the ability to use them, they'd be holding rodent-sized signs that read, 'will beg for peanuts.'

"Oh! It's my little team!" Abby dug into her pocket for the bag of peanuts she carried. "There's Little Gibbs and Little Tony." She scowled. "I see Little Tim, but where's Little Ziva?" She threw a handful of the nuts and the squirrels stampeded over to get them. A large female leapt from the tree and joined them, pushing the younger and smaller males out of the way. "There's Little Ziva," Abby said with a smile.

Ziva scowled. "I do not like having a rodent named after me." She crossed her arms over her chest. Her namesake squawked at the others and chased Little Tony a few feet away. "Though, she is rather exceptional," Ziva admitted. " For a rodent."

"She has to be exceptional," Abby said with a smile. "Otherwise I never would have named her after you."

Ziva felt her cheeks warming with a blush. She glanced at her lover. Abby was tattooed, she wore clothing and jewelry designed to command attention, and she was optimistic and perky. In other words, she was the exact opposite of Ziva herself. Ziva snuggled against Abby's side, and taller woman instantly wrapped her arm around Ziva. Opposites or not, they worked.

Ziva smiled as she suddenly understood. She and Abby had a natural, easy rhythm. The two women, seemingly so different, came together and somehow they were each more than they were alone. They were like great jazz, mingling styles and instruments that seemed insane on paper, but somehow, when the music was played, the differences blended to create something incredible and unique. Ziva and Abby just fit.

"What are you thinking?" Abby asked. "You have this confused look. Is it about my little team?"

"No," Ziva whispered emotionally.

Abby leaned closer and looked into Ziva's eyes, made curious by the tone.

Ziva smiled and ran a finger over the spider web tattoo on Abby's neck. "Do you like jazz?" she asked.

Abby raised both eyebrows. "Darlin', I'm from New Orleans. If you don't live, love, and breathe jazz, they tie you up and float you down the river on the bottom of a boat."

"I enjoy this jazz music style very much." Ziva placed her head on Abby's shoulder. Ziva had eclectic tastes in music. She made a point of trying all American music. "We are jazz," Ziva whispered.

Abby was clearly confused.

"We should not match," Ziva explained. "Like American jazz, the way it mixes styles that should not work, yet they do."

Abby scrunched her brows and then a slow smile spread over her face. "Maybe that's why opposites attract. Things that should end in dissonance and chaos somehow come out perfect." She hugged Ziva and sent a thank you out to whoever sent Ziva her way. At the exact same moment, Ziva was doing the same.


After two weeks of working at her desk, Ziva needed to be back in the field. The other members of the team agreed. Ziva was practically climbing the walls. She hated being cooped up in the bullpen and tried any excuse she could think of to go with the team on cases. She was driving the entire team to the brink of madness with her constant insistence that she should to go on every call.

"Let's go," Gibbs said as he hung up the phone and stood. "We've got a dead Lieutenant on the other side of the Navy Yard next to the USS Barry."

McGee and Tony jumped to their feet and hurried to Gibbs' side.

Gibbs turned and looked up as Ducky joined him.

"Once more unto the breach, Jethro?" Ducky asked.

Gibbs gave a curt nod. "DiNozzo, McGee, get the car."

"Sure thing, Boss," DiNozzo said. "I'm driving," he said as he elbowed his way around McGee.

"It's my turn," McGee insisted.

DiNozzo spoke in a high-pitched singsong voice. "It's my turn," he said, mocking McGee. "This isn't a girl scout troupe, Probie. There are no turnsies."

It really wasn't worth fighting over the drive, given that they were only going half a mile across the Navy Yard to the USS Barry, a museum ship. It was moored on the Anacostia River, the southern boundary of the Navy Yard.

McGee shoved DiNozzo against the wall and made it to the elevator first. He smiled triumphantly.

"Nice try, Elf-lord," DiNozzo said. He glanced at the elevator and then sprinted for the stairs.

"Hey!" McGee said as the elevator doors slid shut.

Ziva watched like a lonely puppy looking out the window of pet store at a group of children playing in the street.

"David?" Gibbs asked gruffly.

Ziva sighed. She finally knew better than to ask to join them. "Got it," she said. "I shall cover the phones."

"Did I tell you to cover the phones?" Gibbs asked.

Ziva gave him a question glance.

"Get your gear," Gibbs said impatiently.

Ziva smiled brightly as she opened a drawer, grabbed her gun, chambered a round, and then holstered the weapon as she stood. Her backpack was in her hand and she was on her feet and at his side in a few long strides. She started toward the elevator, but his hand on her arm stopped her in place.

"Not just yet," Gibbs said cryptically.

Ziva waited, afraid he was going to tell her she couldn't go after all.

The door to the stairwell opened and Abby came stumbling out with a camera in one hand. "Did I miss it?" She scanned the room and smiled when she saw Ziva. "Yay," she said as she quickly joined the others and pushed the three into a snug group. "Gotta have a record of this," she said.

Ziva smiled shyly as Ducky wrapped his arm around her.

Abby backed away and took aim. "Ziva's first day back in the field," Abby said seriously. "Everybody say, 'felony arrest.'"

"Felony arrest," Ziva and Ducky said with tolerant smiles.

Gibbs rolled his eyes as Abby took the picture. "Can we go now?" he asked.

"Almost," Abby promised. She hurried to Gibb's side. "No injured agents." She pointed at him like she was scolding child. "Dinner is a 6:30. Don't be too late. If anyone gets blown up or shot, no steak for you."

Gibbs raised both eyebrows.

Abby was undaunted. She turned to Ziva took her by both arms. "Don't get shot, blown up, stabbed, run over, trampled, poisoned, or maimed in any fashion."

"Yes, ma'am," Ziva answered. She was blushing from the roots of her hair down to where her cleavage peeked out of her shirt.

Gibbs nodded and cleared his throat to hurry her along.

"Okay, okay," Abby said, clearly stalling because she was worried about her lover. She took Ziva's hand and her expression became stony. "Please be careful," Abby said seriously. She leaned over and kissed Ziva's cheek.

Ziva nodded as her blush deepened.

"Is this a new pre-investigative ceremony?" Ducky asked with a wry grin. "Shall I expect a kiss when I leave for a crime scene?"

Ziva glared at Ducky with playful menace. "Talk to Palmer if you want a kiss," Ziva said. She picked up Abby's hand and kissed her knuckles. "Abigail is all mine." She spun and headed for the elevator and pushed the button. She glanced at Gibbs. "Coming?"

Gibbs rolled his eyes. "Let's go." He looked away and, when he was certain that no one could see him, he smiled briefly. He had asked them to keep their relationship away from work, and they were trying, but it was like trying to keep two powerful magnets from pulling together. When they were in the same room, their chemistry wouldn't be denied. He supposed he should just be glad they weren't making out on top of every desk in the building.


Ninety minutes later, Abby was standing in the bullpen terrified. The entire building was abuzz with the news that Gibbs' team had been in a running gun battle along the docks half a mile away. Abby paced side to side, never letting the elevator doors out of her line of sight. She saw the light above the door turn from white to red and held her breath.

Gibbs came out first. He was soaked, dripping water from head to toe. He reeked of rancid water mixed with diesel fuel and sea gull droppings. He was scowling. It was his 'angry, but nothing is horribly wrong,' Gibbs face. McGee and DiNozzo followed next. They were drenched as well, and each glared at the other, silently placing blame.

Abby rushed forward. "Gibbs, what happened?"

Gibbs glared at her. "We're fine," he said gruffly. "And no, we don't want to talk about it." He shot a glare at DiNozzo and McGee, making certain they remained silent.

Ziva came out of the elevator last, completely dry, but her clothes were disheveled and her normally perfect hair was out of sorts. There was one greasy smudge on her left cheek.

Abby ran to Ziva and smacked her arm over and over. "Ziva!"

Ziva was taken aback. She stared in shock and then wisely retreated to escape her irate lover's blows. "Why are you hitting me?" She backed away until she felt her back against the wall. She changed tactics and skillfully deflected Abby's swatting hands again and again, which only angered the forensic technician even more.

"Why… didn't… you… call… me?" Abby said, punctuating each word with a swat.

"Ladies, ladies," DiNozzo said as he stopped in front of Abby. "No fighting." He eyed Abby. "I know you and Ziva are buddies now, but you can't just go smackin' her."

Ziva and Abby both stared at him, wondering if he was ever going to figure out they were much more than buddies.

DiNozzo swiped a hand across his face to remove the drips rolling between his eyes as he formulated a plan.

Abby crinkled her brow and then she studied her lover. "Why are you the only one who isn't wet?"

Ziva was still a bit angry about the slaphappy reception she had received. "Because you ordered me to not get maimed in any fashion," Ziva said with a slightly biting tone. "I assumed that meant I should avoid leaping off the dock next to a battleship during a gun battle." She raised her eyebrows even as Abby's face paled. "They appear somewhat maimed, yes?" Ziva said grouchily as she pointed at the rest of the team. "They certainly smell maimed." She crinkled her nose.

"You can't smell maimed," Abby said, then inhaled and reconsidered when a waft of rancid water hit her nostrils. Abby's eyes darted around the room. Gibbs and McGee were standing at the edge of the bullpen, watching her and Ziva. There were matching puddles at their feet. "Hmpt," Abby grumbled, the wind coming out of her angry sails.

DiNozzo wrapped one wet arm around Abby and the other around Ziva. "Okay, you two need the DiNozzo patented make up technique." He had a lecherous grin as he waggled his eyebrows. "As the senior agent…" He quickly looked at Gibbs. "Ah, the second most senior agent, I order you two to shake hands."

Abby and Ziva locked eyes. They both remembered a time once before when DiNozzo had tried this particular technique. It had ended with him ordering the two women to share a "tongue kiss." At the time, long before they had even admitted their feelings, they had both chosen to punch him instead. Matching smirks now appeared on their faces.

Abby held out her hand and shook Ziva's extended hand.

Just as he had before, DiNozzo smiled triumphantly. "There, now don't we feel better?" He pushed the two women toward each other, just as he had in the past. "Now, hug it out," he said in a condescending tone.

They did, their embrace lasting longer than it had the last time he tried the same trick.

"Now," DiNozzo said, drawing the word out and backing up slightly, because the last time he had given the next suggestion he'd ended up with matching bruises on his arms. "Big tongue kiss. Then we'll all be friends again." He smirked, loving to irritate Ziva.

Ziva and Abby paused and then both looked to Gibbs.

Gibbs seemed quite interested in DiNozzo's technique. "He is second in charge," Gibbs said with a shrug. He decided it was about time Tony figured things out.

DiNozzo's head swiveled to Gibbs and then back to Abby and Ziva so fast water flew from his hair.

"As you wish," Ziva said and then smiled politely. She put her hands behind her back and pushed up on her toes toward Abby. She closed her eyes and puckered her lips primly.

This was more than DiNozzo could have wished for. He wiggled with glee.

"Ah, no," Abby said flatly. She had no interest in a prim little peck on the lips. "That's not how I kiss." Abby cleared her throat and waited until Ziva opened her eyes. She forcefully pushed Ziva against the wall again.

DiNozzo's jaw dropped.

Abby smiled and pressed the length of her body against Ziva like a cat in heat.

DiNozzo was frozen in place, still as a statue. He figured Abby and Ziva were teasing him but wouldn't actually kiss. Still, two hot chicks rubbing against each other were like an early Christmas.

Ziva stared at Abby's lips, then her eyes went to DiNozzo. "I think she is a tease."

Abby took Ziva's jaw and held it possessively so Ziva's attention was on her alone. "Look at me, not him." She dipped her head and kissed Ziva with all of the passion her previous worrying had inspired.

"Whu…" DiNozzo's eyes shot open and he looked like he might soon have a stroke. He looked quickly to Gibbs, who sighed as if bored, then to McGee who was checking his watch. "What the?" he said when the kiss hadn't stopped after a few seconds.

"You told 'em to kiss." Gibbs spun and headed toward his desk where he kept a change of clothes.

Ziva tangled her arms around Abby forcefully, never breaking the heated kiss.

"Abby! Ziva!" DiNozzo said. "What the hell?"

Ziva lifted one leg and used it to pull Abby closer. Abby, never one to ignore an opportunity, reached down and lifted Ziva off the floor. Ziva ended up pressed to the wall with her legs wrap around Abby's waist.

"Abby?" DiNozzo rushed forward and gave Abby a poke. "Abby, put her down." He poked her harder. "Ziva, get your lips off Abby," he said, shock now hitting him full force. This was obviously not a joke. Abby, his Abby, was kissing Ziva. "That's Abby… our little Abby," he said as he tried to look away, but was too stunned.

The kiss finally broke. Ziva relaxed and her legs fell limply to the ground, but Abby held her upright. Abby stared down at Ziva and smirked. Ziva responded by raising up and nipping her lover's lip.

"What. The. Hell?" DiNozzo turned to McGee.

McGee shrugged. "Remember Dr. Allison?"

"Huh?" DiNozzo looked at McGee as if he had just sprouted two new heads, two new heads that were kissing and looked just like Abby and Ziva.

"Guess Dr. Allison was a pretty good profiler after all." McGee turned and went to get his spare clothes. He didn't mention that he was meeting the venerable woman and her JAG officer daughter for dinner.

Abby took Ziva's hand and tugged her toward the stairs. "We'll be in my lab," she said brightly.

"On a break," Ziva added, her voice husky and practically oozing sensuality.

Gibbs cleared his throat.

Ziva and Abby sighed together and released their joined hands. "Keep it out of the workplace," they said in perfect unison as they turned and faced Gibbs.

DiNozzo was crushed that he was the last of the team to find out the juicy bit of intel. He pointed from Ziva to Abby, then back to Ziva. "Just how long has this… this… this whatever this is, been going on?"

Gibbs shook his head and walked over to Abby and Ziva. He was holding his clean clothes in one hand, and he raised an eyebrow as he met DiNozzo's gaze. "Your observation skills are bit rusty," he said.

"Well, I…" DiNozzo didn't have an answer.

"Look at Ziva's chest," Gibbs said pointedly.

DiNozzo's eyes almost bulged out of their sockets at the order. He looked like a golden retriever that had just been offered a tasty treat after chewing a hole in the drapery. He turned, checked Ziva's expression, which was bemused, then shifted his gaze lower. He shrugged as he enjoyed the way her top clung to her firm breasts, accenting the bit of cleavage that was showing. Plus, thanks to the kiss, Ziva's nipples were standing at attention. "Very nice. I'd give them a 9.5."

"A little higher," Gibbs said sharply.

DiNozzo tilted his head to one side, getting a better look. He nodded as he realized he hadn't given extra marks for the nipples straining against the shirt. "Yeah, maybe a 9.8?" he amended.

Gibbs walked over and slapped the back of DiNozzo's head. "Look a little higher."

DiNozzo frowned at Gibbs and then turned to stare at Ziva. Her cleavage drew him in again, but he forced his gaze a few inches higher. 'Okay,' he thought to himself, 'she has nice skin.'

"The Star of David," Gibbs said as if DiNozzo was three years old.

"It's gone," DiNozzo said astutely. His head whipped up and he looked Ziva in the eyes. "You never take that off. Where is it?"

"Where it always is," Ziva said with a smile. "Next to my heart.

"Aww," Abby said as she smiled and gave Ziva an adoring look.

Ziva reached over toward Abby. Abby was wearing a black studded collar choker, but a thin gold chain was visible disappearing below her shirt. Ziva lifted the chain and revealed her Magen David.

"Oh," DiNozzo said. The location of Ziva's treasured necklace spoke volumes. "How come you told everyone but me?" His tone made it clear that he was genuinely wounded.

"We figured it out on our own," McGee said.

"Both you and Gibbs?" DiNozzo asked.

"And Ducky," Gibbs volunteered.

"And Palmer," Abby added.

"And that bagel man on the corner," Ziva reminded her lover.

"Oh," Abby said excitedly, "don't forget the Director's secretary."

"And the Director," Abby, Ziva, and McGee said at one time.

"You guys suck," DiNozzo spun and walked away. "Both of you. You suck."

Ziva jogged to catch up with DiNozzo. She grabbed his shoulder, pulling him to an abrupt stop.

DiNozzo wasn't in the mood to chat. "You suck, Zee-vah," he said, intentionally mispronouncing her name in a way sure to irritate her.

"Only when she asks very nicely," she whispered into his ear, her hot breath warming his cheek.

DiNozzo squeezed his eyes shut. "Did not need to know that," he whispered.

Ziva's answer was a throaty laugh as she went back to Abby's side. "I'll pick up chocolate cupcakes for dessert tonight."

"I can't wait." Abby sighed. "Back to work."

Ziva nodded. "As you wish, Chaton," she said. Her eyes tracked Abby as she went to the elevator, pushed the button and entered. She smiled warmly when Abby turned and their eyes met.

Abby waved as the doors slid shut.

DiNozzo rushed to Ziva's side. "How long has this been going on?" He was angry, with equal parts protective big brother and insulted coworker. "You should have told me. I have a right to know."

Ziva turned slowly. She raised one eyebrow. "Pardon me?" she asked dangerously. "Exactly what right do you have to know about my personal relationships?" She narrowed her eyes. Anyone with any instinct for self-preservation would have stepped back.

DiNozzo stepped closer. "Every right," he said indignantly. "You're dating Abby. My Abby." He tossed his hands into the air.

Fire flashed behind Ziva's eyes. "Your Abby?" she asked with a tone usually reserved for terrorists.

That did make DiNozzo take a step back. "Well, my Abby as in our Abby. Uh, the team's Abby," he stammered. He ran both hands through his wet hair and flicked the water to the floor. "She's like our mascot-kid-sister-Goth-genius-Abby. You can't do that to her." He pointed at the wall, the scene of the kissing crime. "How long?" he asked again.

"It has been a while," Ziva admitted.

Tony scowled, now more hurt than angry. "I need to go change."

Ziva nodded curtly and watched him go. She went to her desk and began writing her report about the day's events. She didn't look up when Gibbs returned freshly showered and in dry clothes, nor when McGee did the same.

Later, Gibbs came over to her desk and stood, silent until she felt his presence and looked up. "Good job out there today," he said quietly. He was holding a Caf-Pow. "You kept your head and didn't take any crazy chances."

"Thank you," Ziva said slowly, not quite knowing if it was a compliment or not. There was a certain hint in his words that she usually did take crazy chances.

Gibbs read what she was thinking by the expression flashing across her features. "That's a good thing," he said. "Just listen to your girlfriend and come home safely every night."

Ziva nodded. "I will try," she said, not really knowing what else to say.

"She was scared," Gibbs told her. He allowed his affection for Ziva to show in his pale blue eyes. He even smiled. "Next time, call her."

"I will," Ziva said sincerely.

He held out the Caf-Pow. "Better than black roses," he said as he placed it on top of the report she was looking over. "Don't let that get warm," he added as he went to his own desk.

"Thank you," Ziva said shyly. She took the beverage and hurried to see her lover.

Abby was thrilled to see the Caf-Pow and even more excited to see Ziva. She took a long drink from the Caf-Pow and placed it on the counter, then spun and pulled Ziva into a fierce hug.

"I promise to call next time," Ziva said sincerely.

"I'd rather there not be a next time," Abby replied. "But a call is good." She rocked from side to side playfully, enjoying the way Ziva simply relaxed and let Abby guide her.

The door to the lab whipped opened and DiNozzo stumbled into the room. He pointed at Ziva, shaking his arm up and down, too angry to speak. He had changed from his wet clothes, but his hair was matted to his head and he still looked worse for the wear. Again, he pointed at Ziva, then to Abby, then back to Ziva. His eyes were wild and accusing. "Oh. My. God. You were the naughty rendezvous," DiNozzo yelled.

Ziva and Abby both erupted into laughter, but neither moved to break their embrace.

Abby grabbed the hair at the nape of Ziva's neck and tilted the shorter woman's head back forcefully. She leaned over and nuzzled Ziva's exposed throat as her eyes locked with Tony's. "You have no idea how naughty it really was," Abby said and then ran her tongue along Ziva's throat and then bit the tender skin beneath her jaw.

DiNozzo's mouth fell open like a trout tossed onto a boat deck. For once, he was truly speechless.

Ziva whimpered and her eyes fluttered closed.

Abby gave Ziva's hair a sharp yank. "Did I say you could make a sound?" she demanded in her best dominatrix voice. She bit the inside of her cheek so she wouldn't burst into giggles.

Ziva shook her head. She squeezed her eyes tightly shut and bit her lip to stop from laughing.

"Ack!" DiNozzo ran for the door. "You turned Abby into a Mossad sex kitten," he yelled as he sprinted for the stairs, not wanting to wait for the elevator.

Ziva laughed huskily. She lifted her head and opened her eyes. "You have a cruel streak, Chaton," she whispered.

"Did I say you could talk?" Abby held Ziva's hair tightly and leaned down until her lips barely touched Ziva's.

Before they could actually kiss, they both broke into a fit of giggles. They continued gently hugging until the laughter subsided.

Abby gave Ziva a chaste kiss. "Tomorrow, you're wearing your collar to work, and I'm wearing a leash as my belt."

"His head is going to explode," Ziva said rationally, but her eyes sparkled with mischief.

"I'm just getting started," Abby said. She stepped back and pulled Ziva over to the computer and opened a file called 'Operation Overload.'

Ziva raised her eyes, a silent request for more information.

Abby rested both hands her hips. The action caused her short black and white skirt to slide down, reveling more of her stomach. "He made me think your hand was blown off," Abby said with a look so serious Ziva couldn't take it seriously.

Ziva began to chuckle. The sexy sound came bubbling to the surface as she moved behind Abby and hugged her.

"That can't be forgiven," Abby insisted. She smiled wickedly and turned to face Ziva. "Just wait 'til I let it slip that we were in bed naked when Anna Grabbyhands, the future Mrs. Anybody-But-DiNozzo, called to ask you for a date." She spun back around to access the computer, being careful to not break Ziva's embrace.

Ziva let out a bark of laughter. "I will tell him she wanted to ask you out as well."

Abby nodded triumphantly. "Phase two, code named Operation Shatner, involves sneaking tiny amounts of Nair into his shampoo and taking in his pants a few inches." She folded her arms over Ziva's, enjoying the feel of the shorter woman pressed to her back. "Let him think he's going bald and getting fat for awhile before we begin phase three."

"He does not stand a chance," Ziva whispered as she pulled Abby closer.

"Nope," Abby agreed. She twisted back around and took Ziva's face in her hands and then guided her into a kiss. When it broke, Abby's eyes were full of mischief. "How do you feel about letting Tony catch us in the bullpen?"

"Why would he care if we were in the…" Ziva tilted her head gave wicked, smutty grin. "We promised Gibbs…"

Abby sighed in defeat. "I know, but that was just my first choice." She ran her hand along Ziva's cheek and then rubbed her thumb over Ziva's bottom lip. "You know how Tony is totally in love with his car?"

Ziva nodded, distracted by Abby's thumb.

"Ever since I saw him with that hand in a bloody evidence bag, when I hear the elevator, that's all I can think about." Abby's eyes were drawn to Ziva's mouth. Ziva was using the tip of her tongue to wet her lips, and she was touching Abby's thumb with each pass. "I… ah, want him to think of us every time he goes to that car."

Ziva nipped Abby's thumb. "Other than providing him with an erotic memory, what purpose would that serve?"

Abby wrapped her other hand behind Ziva's neck. "That's what makes this plan so diabolical," she said with a smile. "It's no secret Tony is attracted to you."

Ziva shifted and looked into Abby's eyes.

"Come on," Abby said. "Anyone with eyes is attracted to you. Plus Tony can be a total man-whore."

"Okay," Ziva said in a confused tone. "How does your plan achieve the revenge you seek?"

Abby laughed. It was a smoky, sensual sound, and it made Ziva want to leave for a long lunch at the Savoy Suites.

Abby leaned down to Ziva's ear. "Tony thinks of me like a sister," she whispered huskily, knowing exactly what her tone was doing to Ziva.

"Um hmm," Ziva replied. She tilted her head so her faced pressed against Abby's. Her skin tingled where they touched.

"So, every time he goes to his beloved car, he is going to picture me, his little sister Abby in a naughty school girl outfit, bent over the hood of that car, and you, hot sexy Ziva, wearing those butch cargo pants, pressed against me from behind with your hand up my extremely short skirt."

Ziva groaned. "Are you trying to torture him, or me?" She spun Abby and bent her over the surface of the desk. She pressed her body onto Abby's back and her hand slid down her lover's leg and then teased her inner thigh. "That imaging is now driving me crazy. We promised Gibbs to keep this out of NCIS."

Abby swallowed with a gulp. She inhaled with a gasp as Ziva's hand moved further under the hem of her skirt. She was getting worked up and knew she should make Ziva move. The problem was, she really wanted Ziva to move, or rather, she really wanted Ziva to move her hand… a few inches higher. She drew in a breath through her clenched teeth and reached over to grab the edge of the counter. "Oh my God. That feels so good." Her skin felt like it was about to ignite.

"Yes, it does feel good, Chaton," Ziva agreed. Her hand was dangerously close to the edge of Abby's underwear. She stretched, using her free hand to lift Abby's shirt higher. She rubbed her cheek across the small of Abby's back. "You are a bad influence," she whispered and then gently bit Abby's hip.

Abby hissed and arched her back, and Ziva bit her again.

"I know you like this," Ziva whispered as she slid her hand between Abby's legs.

"Ziva…" Abby said in a hoarse whisper.

Ziva laughed huskily and used her foot to spread Abby's legs like she was a suspect in a very naughty crime. "I think I am enjoying making you a little crazy," she said as she pressed her thigh between Abby's legs. Ziva's hand was teasing Abby. She wouldn't actually ravage Abby while at NCIS. She promised Gibbs she wouldn't. "I will make you wait until tonight to finish our little game," Ziva teased.

Abby groaned and gripped the edge of the desk and rested her forehead on the cool surface. "Not fair," she whispered.

The door opened and DiNozzo backed into the room using his shoulders to push the door because he was carrying a Caf-pow in one hand a Ziva's favorite coffee in the other, a peace offering. "Hey Zee, I'm trying to be okay with you dating…" He spun and promptly dropped both beverages "…my Abby." He squeezed his eyes close and spun. "Damn it, David. That's my little Abby you're defiling on the desk!"

Both women jumped apart and blushed. It was one thing to stage a scene to torment Tony. It was quite another to have him walk in during an actual intimate moment.

"Have you never heard of knocking?" Ziva said as she felt her blush darken.

"It's the lab. There shouldn't be any X-rated activity going on," DiNozzo said without turning around. "Besides, no one knocks."

"Well, he does have a point," Abby agreed.

"Yeah," DiNozzo said indignantly. He turned his head for a brief instant, making certain they were engaged in strictly G-rated activities. He sighed and turned to face them. "Okay, you have corrupted her," he said as he pointed at Ziva.

"Hey," Abby said. "I'm perfectly capable of corrupting her." She stomped her foot, highly insulted.

Ziva nodded to Tony as if in surrender. "We promise you will not walk in on anything more than a PG-13 activity in the NCIS building ever again," she said as she shot Abby a smutty smile and winked.

"Okay then," DiNozzo said as he puffed his chest out. "That's more like it. Though I think you should keep it G-rated." He turned and headed for the door, side-stepping to miss the commingled coffee and Caf-pow. "I'm not cleaning that up," he said as opened the door and left.

"So, about Tony's car?" Ziva asked as she took Abby's hand. "How difficult will it be to time things so that Tony finds us and not Gibbs?"

"Not a problem," Abby said as she ran her hand through Ziva's hair. "I have a plan all worked out. I have a color coded flow chart and everything."

Ziva leaned forward and rested her face on Abby's chest. "Of course you do," she said before breaking into a fit of very non-spylike giggles.

The End

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