DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No copyright infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This was kind of an experiment for me. It shifts back and forth between the present and memories, plus the memories are not linear throughout the story. Special thanks go to Jaina for being a sounding board and also beta-ing. Mistakes are still mine.
SPOILERS: There are definite spoilers for several eps between 3x01 and through most of season six. They are random.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To cirroco[at]gmail.com

Officer Down
By Cirroco DeSade



It was a beautiful spring day in downtown DC and the four of them had taken advantage of the lack of pressing cases to have lunch together. Now as they walked back the three blocks it would take to get to the parking spot Tony was able to find, Abby listened in amusement to her three musketeers debating. Mostly it was Tony loudly trying to override Tim with his vast knowledge of film trivia, but she noticed that Ziva enjoyed jumping in and confusing matters whenever Tim looked overwhelmed.

"I think Timothy is correct, DiNozzo," Ziva said with a smirk. "I do not remember this character either."

"Ha!" He exclaimed triumphantly and turned around to point at Ziva. "Shows what you know. But you can be forgiven, Zeee-vah, since you grew up overseas. McGeek here has no excuse for being ignorant."

The taller man put his arm over McGee's shoulder in companionable humor and started ranting again. Ziva turned and smiled at Abby, sharing a secret look with her. She was actually happy with the jostling of the normal lunchtime foot traffic, as it gave her convenient excuses to touch Abby. A hand at her back when they had to get closer together to let somebody barrel by them or a brush of the back of her hand across the taller woman's were little things, but they felt daring indeed. Since they usually behaved themselves so discreetly and had not let the guys in on their little secret, it was bold, but the arrival of spring seemed to be hitting them all.

"Do you think he even notices you're not listening to him?" Abby asked with a grin.

"He usually does not," Ziva replied, smiling.

They were nearly at the end of the block when Ziva felt as if she was being watched. Years of service in Mossad and then NCIS had convinced her to always listen to her gut, so she straightened and looked around discreetly. It took her a moment, but she found the source of her discomfort. Ahead, at the red light, there was a car in the far left lane waiting for the light. It was one of DC's many one-way streets, the team heading opposite the flow of traffic, so it meant that other than the row of parked cars nearest the sidewalk this lane was closest to the team.

She looked closer at the occupants of the car, trying to decide who they were and why the men in the car were looking so intently at Ziva and Tony. Another few moments had passed before she realized where she had seen the man in the driver's seat before now.

"McGee," she said clearly, commandingly. Her two male teammates turned back to look at her because of her sudden shift in attitude. "Get Abby inside this building now. Away from the windows."

"What?" he asked even as he walked back towards Abby, instinctively following her tone if nothing else.

"Ziva?" Abby asked at the same time in alarm.

"Please, Ahuvati, go," she soothed imploringly. "Hurry," she barked at McGee, gratified when he grabbed Abby by the arm and started dragging her away.

"Ziva? Want to explain?" Tony said seriously.

"Keep walking, but more slowly," she murmured. "Do you see the red car at the red light?"

"Yeah, and?" Tony said. He noticed her unobtrusively unsnapping her holster so he did the same.

"I recognize the driver as one of Ari's Hamas contacts," she said softly. "He should not be here."

The light changed and the red car's tires screeched as it lurched into motion heading towards them.

"Everybody get down!" Ziva shouted at the people around her even as she pulled her gun and started jogging closer to the edge of the sidewalk. The only cover available was a newspaper stand chained to a lamppost and the car she had already run past. People ran away from them screaming, or dove away in the other direction.

"Federal Agents!" Tony barked holding up his badge at the oncoming car. When he saw a person in the back lean out with a semi-automatic assault weapon he dove down behind the car and blind fired over its hood at where he had last seen the car. Hearing Ziva's gun he glanced over and saw her kneeling down, taking her calm precise shots. He then turned back to concentrate on his own shooting. He heard glass exploding and thinking Ziva might have gotten the driver, peeked up just in time to see a shotgun being pointed out a large fresh hole in the windshield. The loud retort of the shotgun rang out and he heard at least one man nearby scream. He emptied his clip in the direction of the noise.

Ziva took a moment and really focused on the man in the rear, even as they came even with her. The driver was not accelerating towards them, so she knew it would be a typical drive by shooting. If she could keep their focus on her and Tony, they might get by without civilian casualties. She pulled off four quick shots in the direction of the shooter's head and one hit its mark. She almost smiled before she heard his gun going off in a non-stop rip of bullets as his dying moments kept his finger on its trigger. A barrage of bullets danced over the sidewalk beside her and before she could jump away, she felt something tear into her leg and her side.

Time seemed to slow as she watched the driver pull out a handgun and smile at her. He shouted at her in Arabic, "Murdering Jew!" She felt a fiery explosion in her chest and she fell back. As she fell, something else connected with her head and the world started to spin.

Tony was busy giving chase to the car, hoping to see its plates. He had pulled out his cell phone at the end of the block and called the police asking for a BOLO on the red car. He gave what he had seen on the plates and told them to send ambulances and squad cars to the area. He wondered why his jackrabbit of a partner had not outrun him by now and decided she was probably trying to get to their car so she could engage in a high-speed chase. The thought made him laugh, especially since he had the keys.

When he turned back, he saw McGee and Abby on the ground near where the terrorists had tried to pin them down. He jogged back hoping that Tim would not make a probie mistake and disturb the crime scene too much. A few steps into his jog, he saw there was a body on the ground between them and that Abby was crying and screaming. A man stood nearby yelling into his cell phone.

"Tell them we have an Officer down," Tim was shouting at him even as he pushed his hands down on Ziva's chest. The woman was breathing, but it was punctuated with wet coughs.

Abby was holding onto a shirt somebody had given her and pushing it into Ziva's stomach wounds. "Ziva," she cried, "No, no, no, Ziva, you can't do this to me, baby. You will wake up! You hear me. You will be okay! Oh God, Zee!" She saw Tony running up. "Tony! Do something!"

He heard the sirens approaching even as he fell down beside them. He winced at the blood running down from her temple, but really worried at the amount coming out of the chest wound Tim was trying to block. It was far enough over on the right that Tony would bet it missed the heart, but it was still way too bloody.

He stripped off his own shirt, wadded it up and put it on Tim's hands. "Put this on it and push harder. Sit on her if you have to." He looked around and saw a teenage gawker nearby. "You, kid! I need your shirt." Before he realized it, not only the kid but also another two men nearby had loaned their clothes to the effort. He took the first one and wrapped it as hard as he could around her head over the wound.

"You're not allowed to die," he growled down at his partner. "Do you hear me David!? You are not allowed to die. It's like rule fifty or something, and we wouldn't want to make Gibbs mad, now would we?" He looked at the distraught Goth who was still babbling. "And you're upsetting Abby. So you have to be okay so you can apologize."

Amazingly, Ziva coughed again, more blood coming out of her mouth. The words, "Sorry," and "Ahuvati," were barely audible before her head just lolled back entirely into Tony's hands.

At that moment, the paramedics pushed their way into the mess and started asking questions. They did not force them off Ziva until they knew what they were up against and another bus had parked nearby. They asked the next crew for help in quickly transferring the downed officer into the first unit and she was inside in minutes.

Abby had hopped in behind them and the driver was trying to pull her back out so he could close his bus and go. However, Tony grabbed his arm and showed his badge.

"She's our officer," he said with a snap of command. "Let Abby go with her. And by the way, Ziva's O positive."

The driver nodded and slammed the doors shut. "We'll go to George Washington with her."

As she looked out into the crowd of happy faces facing the stage, she was disappointed. It was not as if she truly expected her father to show up, but she had allowed herself to hope. It was as Ari had told her. Their father did not care to acknowledge his children unless they were the best at everything. She was not graduating first in her class, not even second, but instead third.

Of course, the two ahead of her had never had to study krav maga and abir. By the time Ziva was sixteen, she already knew more krav maga than a typical IDF conscript at the end of boot camp knew and had graduated to studying abir. The other two also did not have a father pressuring them to learn their fourth and fifth languages. Indeed, Itshak was a Haredi Jew, already exempted from conscription because he was to enter a yeshiva gedola. Ashira was just sheltered. Her mother never allowed her to go anywhere or do anything but study.

Ziva thought that third was very good considering the circumstances. She sighed as she accepted her certificate and walked off the stage. As she came around to the rear of the stage where the students were to exit, she saw her half-brother Ari standing along the wall near the crowd. She barely recognized him but he made sure she knew it was him when she passed. Using a hand signal, he indicated he would wait for her.

When the ceremony finished, she went out and casually looked around for him. He walked over to her and kissed each of her cheeks.

"I am proud of you, little sister," he said smiling.

"Thank you," she said, feeling a little better that somebody had seen it. "If only I could make father proud."

"That may never happen, Ziva," he said sadly. "But that is not because of you. He simply expects too much. We are all to be his perfect little soldiers. The best. Anything else is not enough."

She sighed. It was not that she had not already realized that. Her mother and father had fought about it many times when Ziva was a child. Then her mother had died, leaving her with him as her sole parent. That did not make it hurt any less on occasions like this.

"I will be leaving Israel soon," Ari told her.

"Why?" she said, genuinely upset. They did not get to see each other often, but she looked forward to each of their secret rendezvous. He was the only person who truly understood how she had grown up and what she did daily to try to be the ideal their father wanted.

"He is sending me to medical school," Ari said on a laugh. "Would you believe it?"

"I only believe it because you tell me it is so," Ziva said. She smiled. "You, I trust. I'll never understand him."

"I will send you postcards to our drop box," he said. "I will miss you little one."

"Not so little anymore," she objected with a smile.

"Yes, I know," he laughed. "IDF, beware! Ziva David is on her way!"

Suddenly a white light flashed, a brilliant explosion sounded and Ziva was standing elsewhere, a gun in her hand, looking down at a much older Ari. This was not the same man who had come to her in secret, always encouraging her. This was not the older brother who had promised he would always love her. He had lied to her. He had killed just to hurt people. He wanted to hurt a good man just because he reminded Ari of Eli David. That his reign of terror would damage US-Israeli relations was a bonus to him.

The American walked up to her, speaking gently. "His father is a Deputy Director in Mossad?" he asked

"Yes," Ziva answered her voice cracking.

"Not David?" Gibbs said, obviously hoping not to hear the ugly reality.

"Yes," she said a tear escaping. "He's my half-brother."

She sat down on a stool near Ari's body and began singing a traditional song of passing. Gibbs squeezed her shoulder and walked out, leaving her to deal with her emotions alone.

Another bright white light flared in front of her eyes.

"We've got a rhythm!" she heard nearby. Trying to turn to the voice, she found she was immobilized. It was blindingly bright. She could not take it. Ari was dead. She had killed him. She was so tired. She closed her eyes.



Tim was never concerned with Tony's opinion of his abilities or so called "geekiness". He actually had come to enjoy bantering with the other man over the years. He was like an annoying older brother. Tony was currently rambling on endlessly about a character in one of the Star Wars movies.

McGee was jarred out of his musings by Ziva calling out his name. Occasionally she could whip a command tone into her voice that rivaled Gibbs. When he turned and looked at her, he noticed how serious she suddenly looked. "Get Abby inside this building, now," she commanded while pointing to the door nearest them. Then she added. "Away from the windows."

"What," he asked, baffled by the sudden order. He heard Abby saying Ziva's name even as he spoke it. He stepped closer to Abby, instinctually ready to follow a command, knowing Ziva did not demand things like this without reason and that she was extremely protective of Abby.

"Please, Ahuvati," Ziva said in a softer tone to the older woman. "Hurry," she said crisply when she looked back at McGee.

Tim grabbed Abby by the elbow and pulled her into the building they were just about to pass. Once they got deep into the lobby, Abby started to pull back on him.

"Jeez, McGee," the Goth complained. "I can walk; you don't have to drag me."

"Well, you weren't willing at first," he said reasonably. "I'm just trying to do as Ziva asked."

"Yeah," she said. "What's up with that?"

"I don't know, but I trust her instincts," he replied.

At that moment, the sounds of gunfire and screaming erupted outside the building. He saw Abby about to run for the door, so he reached out and grabbed her around the middle with both arms.

"Whoa!" he yelled, "She sent us in here so you'd be safe. From what, I don't know, but for God's sake, let's wait until the shooting is done!"

"McGee," Abby whined. "Let go. I want to see what's happening. They're out there, McGee!"

"I know," he soothed. "They'll come for us, soon, I'm sure."

A few minutes later, no more gunfire could be heard and Tim was sure he had seen Tony run by, heading the opposite way from which they came. He finally let go of Abby, who was still struggling with all her might to get away. She hit the ground running for the front door.

Running after her, he hoped it was okay that she was heading out. If things were still bad and Abby got hurt, Ziva would kill him. Then Gibbs would somehow resurrect him and kill him again.

"Ziva!" Abby cried.

"Oh God," McGee muttered and ran as fast as he could, barely keeping up with Abby.

To say Ziva was injured was beyond understatement. He had even seen the Israeli shot before, but never so seriously. She only seemed partially awake, as if she was coming in and out of it.

"Ziva," Abby said as she flopped down on the ground beside her. "Oh, baby, what did you do? McGee," she screamed at him. "Do something."

McGee thought of all his training: stabilize, call for assistance, and secure the crime scene.

"You," he said, pointing at a nearby man, "Call 911. Tell them we have an officer down." Even as he was telling the man what to do, he pushed his hands down hard over the hole in Ziva's chest. She groaned and coughed. The coppery smell of blood was nearly overwhelming. Blood came up out of her mouth as she coughed. "Sorry Ziva. Hang in there."

"Ab," Ziva said, and then was interrupted by another wet cough. Tim watched her eyes roll up and shut, her head rolling to the side.

He watched as another man stripped out of his dress shirt and wadded it up handing it to Abby. The same man came around and took his belt off, tying it around Ziva's leg. The man seemed at a loss for what else to do, so he just stepped back from the two women and joined a woman who appeared to be his girlfriend or wife and held her.

That was when he heard DiNozzo pounding back towards them.

"Ziva," Abby cried, "No, no, no, Ziva, you can't do this to me, baby. You will wake up! You hear me. You will be okay! Oh God, Zee! Tony! Do something!"

Tim was glad to see Tony. The other man was always good under pressure. He had taken off his shirt and told Tim to use it before he started ordering other people around them to give up their shirts.

Tony started barking orders at Ziva, which seemed ludicrous to McGee, but maybe it made him feel better. It actually made Tim feel a little better, especially when Ziva responded for a moment.

Soon, there were paramedics around them and police cars speeding to a stop not far away. Tony conveyed what had happened to the EMTs and before they knew it, Ziva was on a stretcher and in the bus. Tim watched in horror as the driver tried to pull Abby out, but Tony said something while flashing his badge and the driver let it go.

"Where are they heading?" Tim asked Tony.

"George Washington," Tony replied gruffly. He was flexing his right hand and wincing. "Concentrate McGee. We have a scene to secure. Ziva will be all right. She eats bullets for breakfast. Contact Gibbs and get him down here."

Tim wanted to argue with Tony's cavalier attitude for a minute, genuinely getting angry with him. Then he realized that it was simply DiNozzo's way of handling things and respecting Ziva. The two of them did have an odd relationship. Therefore, he pulled out his cell phone, dialed Gibbs, and gave him a broad sketch of what he knew.

By the time Gibbs arrived, the metro police were arguing with Tony about whose scene this was and asking him to hand over his handgun. McGee had gone about getting names from injured witnesses before they were taken away in the remaining ambulances, before doing the same for those who were uninjured.

He watched in amazement as Gibbs' car came to a screeching stop right behind the nearest patrol car. Both Gibbs and Leon Vance exited the car, but Gibbs was across the scene and in front of DiNozzo before Vance had even finished taking in the scene.

"DiNozzo," he barked, "report!"

"Boss," Tony said, relieved to see his leader. "We were heading back from lunch when Ziva got all spooky on us. She sent Abby and McGee into the building and told me what she saw. There was a red Dodge Neon at the light, with three men inside and she told me she recognized one of them as one of Ari's Hamas contacts."

"Go on," Gibbs prompted even as he took Tony's hand in his own and examined it.

"I guess they were after her or something," Tony concluded. "Ow!" he hissed as Gibbs pulled the cloth he had wrapped around his right hand away. "Anyway, they gunned it when the light changed and the next thing I know it's raining bullets everywhere. She dove for cover behind the paper machine over there and I went for that car," Tony pointed with his left hand to the appropriate places while Gibbs looked at his other hand and the wounds he had gotten in the shootout.

"McGee, get me an EMT," he said. He looked back at Tony. "Okay, what else?"

"There was a shooter in the back with an assault weapon of some sort, maybe a 10mil machine gun from the looks of it. And the front passenger managed to get a nice big shotgun out in play some time too," Tony said. "Ziva was doing her usual precision thing and I was doing my best to stay under cover and get some rounds off also. I guess she didn't follow her cover for some reason when the car pulled further in."

"That paper stand isn't much cover, DiNozzo," Leon Vance complained as he walked up.

"We improvised," Tony glared. "You go ahead and tell Ziva to do better next time a terrorist tries to kill her." He looked back at Gibbs. "When they started to pull away, I gave pursuit on foot long enough to get as much of their tags as possible and called in a BOLO with Metro. It wasn't until I was halfway back that I realized she was injured."

"You did what she would have wanted, Tony," Gibbs said. "But next time, keep a better eye on your partner."

"Yes, Boss," he said seriously.

"Now, give me your service piece and get your hand looked at," Gibbs ordered gruffly.

The muscles in Tony's jaws jumped as he clinched his teeth, but he pulled out his weapon and handed it over to Gibbs, who bagged it and handed it back to Leon Vance.

"What about you McGee?" Gibbs asked. "You get off any shots? And where is Ziva's gun?"

"Uh, no," Tim hesitated, feeling bad about it. He handed Gibbs Ziva's weapon as he had retrieved it and watched Gibbs bag that one too. "I had my hands full keeping Abby indoors."

Gibbs just nodded. "I assume she's with Ziva?" he asked.

"Yes," McGee answered, impressed.

"Well," Gibbs sighed. "Leon, I guess we need another team out here. I want to run this one, but I don't have enough agents."

"Already on the way," Vance ordered. "Now I see a Metro PD big shot pulling up over there. Let me intervene before you lose your scene to the locals."

"Thanks," Gibbs said and returned his focus on the bullet casings and blood on the sidewalk.

"Uh, Boss," McGee hesitated.

"Yeah?" Gibbs said without looking.

"Did you know that Abby and Ziva," Tim hesitated. He was not absolutely sure, but after today he was willing to bet on it.

"Yeah," Gibbs answered. "Ziva actually came to me several months back and asked me if she could "court" Abs, like it was the 50s and I was Abby's father or something. I told her as long as Abby agreed, she was careful, didn't bring it to work, and didn't hurt Abby I was okay with it." He shrugged. "They seemed happy from what I could see."

"Well," McGee said slowly, not having expected quite that much information out of their usually reticent leader. "I only ask because Abby's currently alone at George Washington where they took Ziva." He paused. "You know she doesn't do alone and freaking out too well, so…" he trailed off.

"You're right," he said and flipped open his phone. He waited while it rang and then spoke gruffly. "Ducky, I need you to go down to George Washington Hospital. Ziva was shot and Abs is there alone, waiting. Yeah. Yeah. I don't know. Thanks Duck."

He snapped his phone shut. "Okay, McGee," Gibbs said. "Let's get these bastards."

As Ziva walked Abby back up the tiny stairs to the Goth's third floor apartment, she wondered if she really should be allowed this much happiness. As somebody who had wrought so much pain and destruction throughout her life, it seemed amazing to her that somehow the universe had seen fit to allow her these moments with Abby.

"I really loved that scene where the zombie ripped that other zombie's arm off and tried to beat her with it," Abby babbled happily. "And then she was just like," the taller woman made like pointing a gun, "Boom!"

Ziva laughed at the other woman's antics. "It is most fortunate that zombies are so easily dispatched."

"I would so totally want to be with you if the world was taken over by zombies," Abby said with a smile. "You'd totally kick zombie butt, I'm sure."

The Israeli could not help the beaming smile that had taken over her face. The older woman was never what she expected and usually exactly what she needed. She was everything bright and cheery, even in her dark Gothic way. They may be having conversations about zombies, Abby might even have a coffin in her apartment, but the other woman was so positive and giving that she even had space in her heart for a trained assassin.

She hated to see the night end, but here they were, already back at Abby's apartment.

"I had a wonderful time, Abigail," Ziva said, kissing the knuckles of the hand she held.

"Me too, Zee," Abby replied and put her arms around Ziva's neck.

Ziva placed her hands at Abby's waist, her thumbs playing along the smooth skin left exposed by the short top the Goth had worn. Inhaling deeply, she knew the scent Abby was wearing would be embedded in her memory, driving her crazy deep into the night.

"I was hoping that this Friday, if we do not have a case," Ziva said and paused. She made the mistake of looking at Abby's lips; they were full, inviting and even as she watched, the scientist licked her bottom lip nervously. She wanted to lick that same exact spot, now.

She was trying for patience in this dance with Abby, trying to "woo" her. However, she had never been known for her patience and moments like this got the best of her. Leaning up she captured that lip between her own and licked all along its edge. When Abby opened her mouth, moaning at the light touch, Ziva took control of her mouth, exploring its depths as if she had never been here before, even though they had ended each date with a passionate kiss.

Pulling the taller woman closer to her, she wrapped one arm around her back and brought the other arm up, touching the base of Abby's neck lightly with her fingertips. She pulled back slightly from the kiss, but when Abby whimpered, she moved back in and deepened it further. The Goth responded by digging the fingers of one hand into Ziva's hair and sucking on Ziva's tongue.

This lasted for long moments before Ziva growled. Pulling her hands away from the tempting body in front of her, she cupped Abby's face and drew back from the kiss. "We must stop," Ziva said, feeling her blood pounding through her body. She ran her thumbs along Abby's cheekbones and then one along her kiss-swollen lips. The Goth darted forward and drew the thumb into her mouth, sucking on it and running her tongue over it seductively. Ziva could not restrain muttering in Hebrew her feelings about what Abby was doing to her.

Abby finally let go of the digit and grinned at Ziva. "What was that Officer David?" she asked playfully.

"I said," Ziva purred, "You are a divine temptation."

"Hmmm," Abby responded. "I think I like that." She smiled wickedly. "When are you going to show me some of your Jane Bond moves?"

"Jane Bond moves?" Ziva replied, amused now.

"Well," the taller woman said reasonably, "you're not a man, hence Jane."

"And the moves?" Ziva asked. Her hands had drifted back down to playing with Abby's sides and stomach. She had noticed the other woman seemed to like that and honestly that baby smooth skin under her calloused fingers was addictive.

"Yeah," Abby inhaled at the light touches. "Aren't all you super-spies supposed to have these classic seduction moves, guaranteed to get any girl in bed?" She smiled.

Ziva chuckled deep in her chest. How she adored this woman!

"Soon," Ziva replied.

"Why not tonight?" Abby said impishly.

Ziva leaned up and placed a gentle kiss on the Goth's lips but drew back before she could get distracted again.

"I was trying to ask earlier and got distracted," she smiled. "If we have no case Friday, would you let me take you down to this place I know for the weekend? It is on the water, has a lovely restaurant, a place where we can sit and look at the stars if we wish."

Abby smiled broadly. "Why Ziva David," she said. "I do believe there's a romantic streak in you."

Ziva blushed. "Ah," she laughed lightly. "Well, don't tell Tony. I would never hear the end of it."

"And what is my silence worth to you?" Abby said playfully.

"What is it you wish?" Ziva replied.

"Another one of those kisses and you've got a deal," Abby replied already leaning forward.

Ziva leaned back slightly, smiling. "On the weekend or Tony?"

"Both," Abby said before she surged forward and kissed her.

It took Ziva five more minutes to convince herself to leave and another three past that to convince Abby to let her go.



Donald Mallard had made excellent time on his journey downtown to get to the hospital where Jethro had sent him. He had managed to convince the nurse at the emergency desk to give him enough information to know that Ziva was currently still in surgery and that Abby was most likely in a family waiting room that they kept for those waiting on these types of surgeries. He had followed all the correct lines around the halls of the hospital until he found the main waiting area and from there it was a matter of figuring out which one of the small rooms near that one which held Abby. After peering in two windows, he found her.

"Abigail," he said as he entered the room and shut the door behind him. She was pacing back and forth quickly, her arms wrapped around her stomach. She had obviously been crying since her mascara was smeared and streaky.

"Ducky," she cried and launched herself at him. He was not as good as Gibbs was, but he was close.

He held her lightly for a moment, patting her on the back. "There, there, dear," he said soothingly. "Come, let's sit." He guided her over to a small couch on the far wall.

"I said I wasn't going to freak out anymore when you guys got injured," she said and sniffled. "But she had to go and," Abby said then choked it back. "And there was so much blood." She looked down at her hands. One of the nurses had bullied her into washing them, but she still had blood in the margins of her nails.

"Ziva is strong and healthy," Ducky replied. "That will help her."

"They said they'd send somebody out with an update as soon as they could," she looked up at him.

"I will wait with you," he patted her shoulder. They lapsed into silence and he hoped the update was good and it came soon.

"You know, she calls me Abigail too," she said after a while. "But only when we're alone."

"No, I did not realize that," he said conversationally, as if it were any other moment in any other day. "How long have you been involved?"

"A little over five months," she said, smiling weakly.

"I guess I am losing my touch in my advancing years," he said. "I had not even noticed."

She shrugged. "We wanted it that way," she answered. "It's better for the team."

The door to the room opened and a young man in scrubs came in and introduced himself as a surgical resident. He described what the surgeons had done thus far and what still needed to be done.

"We still have a long way to go," he said, "but we've already jumped some major hurdles."

"How much longer will she be in there?" Abby asked plaintively.

"I can't really say, ma'am," the young man answered, twisting his cap in his hands. "The cardiothoracic specialist stabilized the damage to her chest but needed more time to explore before moving on and closing up. She was able to do it without opening her chest. And our chief is taking care of the stomach wounds. She's in good hands ma'am."

"You said your neurosurgeon repaired damage," Ducky asked gently, trying not to upset Abby, but wanting to know. "Was there penetration?"

"Actually, not really," he answered. "She had a depressed skull fracture and a subdural hematoma from the fracture. But it looked like whatever hit her just grazed off her skull. The bleeding you saw at the sight was mostly the scalp wound."

"Did he have to perform a craniotomy?" Ducky prompted.

"Um, she did, but it pulled the depression back as well as drained the hematoma," he answered. "The bleeding stopped after the bone was pulled back and the pressure relieved. She's optimistic that there shouldn't be any lasting damage."

Donald nodded knowingly, relieved. "Thank you," he answered.

"I'll come back as soon as I have anything else to report," the young doctor spoke, obviously relieved to go back.

The NCIS medical examiner led his friend back to the seats and sat her back down.

"There," he said softly. "That was good news, really."

"But, he didn't really tell us what was happening in her guts, Ducky," Abby lamented. "They have their chief in there in her guts."

"That's excellent as far as I am concerned," he said, patting her hands. "It means they are taking very good care of her."

"They better," Abby said. "I can't lose her."

It was the middle of summer and incredibly hot under all the gear they had to wear. She had tied her hair back before putting on her helmet, but now she wished she had taken her friend's advice and worn a bandana around her head as well, as sweat was running down her forehead from the line of her scalp. It was irritating to say the least.

Her squad was patrolling Gaza today as a routine exercise. They walked down the streets in six troop units, fully armed and in full armor. This area was a consistent mix of Arabic Israelis and Palestinians, so there were not many friendly looks coming from the shops and homes they were passing. Ziva did not enjoy this part of their week, but knew it was a necessary exercise to keep the peace in the area.

A child, a little girl, came running up to them holding out a flower, even as her worried mother chased after her, scolding her for getting loose. Ziva squatted down to take the flower from the little girl's outstretched hand and smiled, not wanting the girl's experience with the defense forces to be a negative one.

"Thank you," she said gently to the girl in Arabic. "And what is your name?"

Before the girl could answer, the sound of gunfire erupted and Ziva watched in horror as two of her team went down. She picked up the little girl, grabbed the mother's arm, and ran into the doorway of a nearby shop. She handed the crying child to her mother and yelled at the woman to get them into the shop and find cover.

Coming back into the street cautiously, she found the two men pinned down where they lay, one of them obviously dead while the other was trying to drag himself to the side. She looked around and saw two of her other teammates returning fire from a secure position, while the third cowered behind a barricade. She cursed at him and ran out to their injured teammate. He was much bigger than she was but she reached down under his arms and hauled him up enough to drag him back behind cover.

"Jerad!" she shouted at the man who was currently hiding. "Come here, I will cover you." He looked at her in terror. "Do it or I shoot you myself!"

He decided she was not bluffing, so he ran over to where they were while she provided a blanket of fire.

"Tend to him and radio in our problem," she ordered. Technically, none of them ranked the others, but few ever debated with her in the field. He nodded, so she left him to go scout the situation further. She took a turn behind the shop and climbed an old set of stairs leading to the roof of the deli next door.

When she got up there, she had a clear sight of the three gunmen who had pinned them down. Unfortunately, they were almost out of the range of the Micro Uzis that they carried. She had a side arm that she knew she could hit more reliably with at this range, but she would never get three shots off before they could turn and find her. However, if she simply sprayed them down with the Uzi and hoped they were hit, she may hit some of the people in the homes nearby.

Deciding to go with honor first, she pulled her side arm and took careful aim at the nearest gunman. She was able to bring him down with a headshot and even disable a second shooter before the third realized there was somebody shooting at them from another location and turned to her. She dove down to the dubious cover of the small ledge along the top of the roof and watched as a bullet trail danced across the top of the roof behind her. She waited until she heard his gunfire stop, hoping her teammates could somehow take advantage of his distraction and take him out. When all shooting had ceased, she peeked over the edge and saw that he was down with the other two; she got up and retraced her steps back to her team.

When she made it over, she stepped over to her fallen teammate and shook her head. A lucky shot to the neck had struck him and he had bled out. As she stood, she saw the small flower on the ground nearby, covered in his blood. Even as she watched, his blood was trailing off the sidewalk and dripping into the gutter. Something about it made her so sad and angry that she had to take deep breaths in order to stay calm.

She turned back to the shop and noticed the mother leaving hugging her crying daughter. The mother had thanks in her eyes for Ziva; however, the little girl looked at her unit with fear now.



Timothy McGee found Abby and Ducky easily. He had come armed with a large Caf-Pow! for Abby. She jumped up as soon as the door opened but looked disappointed when she realized it was him.

"Hey," he said quietly. He held out the drink. "I come bearing gifts."

"Thanks, Timmy," Abby said dully, but did not try to retrieve it from him. He brought it over and sat it on the table in front of where she had been sitting.

"Ducky," Tim said then hesitated, looking at Abby. The older man stood and the two of them moved to the far end of the room. "Gibbs needs you to go here," he said and handed the older man a slip of paper with an address on it. "The car the terrorists used was found abandoned on a side street off Connecticut Avenue. One of the shooters is dead in the back seat. Jimmy is already on his way with the van."

"Very well," Ducky said then looked at Abby and back at McGee.

"Oh," McGee said. "I'm not needed as badly as you and he doesn't want Abby to be alone. So, I'm staying. Plus Gibbs wants to know when she gets out."

"Ah, Good," the older man replied, relieved that they would not be leaving Abby alone again. He walked over to her. "Abigail," he said gently. "Duty calls, but I will be back as soon as I can."

"Thanks, Ducky," she replied without any energy, still staring at the door, willing the resident to come back with an update.

The doctor left and Tim went over and sat down beside Abby. "Have they said anything yet?" he asked.

"Just that the head doc fixed her head and their ortho fixed her leg," Abby mumbled. "They still have their chief and their heart doc in there working on her."

Tim looked at his watch, surprised at the amount of time that had passed. It was just past four thirty; a little over three hours after it had all began.

She had managed to get into Syria undetected and had followed the trail of the arms dealer deep into the country into the city of An Nabk. He had taken up residence at a local hotel, but he went out nightly to visit with the leaders of local terrorist group. She had managed to bug him and was getting good recordings of his activities. With that, Mossad would be able to decide whether to pursue this group also.

Stationed across the hall in a rented room, she was able to keep track of his comings and goings. Her orders had not come down yet. Her father had not decided if they should let him live and continue to gather information on him or to strike now and eliminate the threat. She was not really expecting him to return any time soon, so it surprised her when he came down the hall, accompanied by one of the local leaders, who was hauling somebody in a firefighter's carry.

She picked up the headset that would let her listen in on what was going on in the room.

"She looks British," the local said. "Or maybe American."

"How would you know?" her target said with a laugh.

"I want to know what she knows about us," the man said angrily. "You were sloppy if she followed you this far."

"We do not even know she was watching us," the older man said casually. "I still think she simply stumbled into something she did not understand."

"Armed as she was?" the other man asked incredulously.

"So she had weapons? It means nothing," he replied.

"Foreign women do not carry weapons in Syria unless they are spies," the younger man said as if it should be obvious.

"Look," the other man replied, "I will find out if she knows anything. If she does, I will find out whom she works for and if she transmitted anything. If she doesn't…"

Ziva could not see them, but the implication was plain. Whoever this woman was, she was as good as dead.

"Very well," the younger man answered.

Deciding she could not stand by and let a woman be tortured and then killed by this monster, Ziva armed herself. She put suppressors on both of her pistols and grabbed her lock pick tools. She made her way to his room and carefully picked the lock, turning the doorknob very gently. The younger man was just inside the room with his back to her. She could not see where her main target was beyond the younger man's bulk. Very carefully, she aimed at the younger man's head, pulling the trigger only when she was absolutely confident of the shot.

As he fell, the other man turned to see what had happened. She put three bullets in his chest with her other gun. He went down like a tree and hit the floor hard. She crept into the room the rest of the way and shut the door behind her. Walking up to the woman bound to the chair in the middle of the room, she pulled the gag from her mouth.

She had beautiful red hair and was very fair which was probably why the younger man had guessed British. She might have guessed that too three years ago, but had since learned that appearances meant nothing. A few years in Mossad changed anybody's perspective.

"Answer me honestly, and you will live," Ziva said in English. "What is your name?"

The other woman hesitated. "Jenny," she finally replied.

"That is not your entire name," Ziva said, smirking. The audacity of the other woman was amazing. Here she was, tied to a chair, surrounded by death and still rebelling. "I have just killed your captors. Why should I not kill you?"

"Because I was here to gather information on them and then kill the man whose room we are in," Jenny answered.

"Who do you work for?" Ziva asked, intrigued.

"Who do you work for?" Jenny replied, smiling.

Ziva chuckled, a low throaty sound torn from her in delight. "I am Mossad," Ziva answered.

"Then we are allies," Jenny replied. "Thank God." She wiggled. "Now can you get me out of this? Habin's men expect him to report back in twenty minutes. He has a driver downstairs."

"I said I am Mossad, not stupid," the young woman responded. "I need a little more than your assurance that we are allies."

"Call your handler," Jenny said with a shrug. "Ask them to look for the records of Jenny Sheppard, with the Americans. I have contacts in Mossad, but I don't know how high your contacts go, so…"

"Name somebody," Ziva replied in Hebrew, intrigued.

"I've spent time with Ehban Etsel and have been introduced to Eli David while in Tel Aviv," Jenny replied in Hebrew. It was not flawless, but very good.

"Your R is too hard," Ziva replied. "It must be the American thing." She pulled out a phone and dialed her father. When he answered, she asked him if he had ever heard of Jenny and then to describe her. She told him the rest of what had happened after his description and listened as he gave her instructions. After a few minutes, she pocketed her phone and pulled out her knife. Slicing through the ropes around the other woman's hands, she stepped back.

Jenny reached up and took the blindfold off her eyes. "Do you think you could get the ones around my ankles as well?" she asked. "They managed to find all of my weapons before bringing me here, including my knife."

Ziva raised an eyebrow. She was not sure how much she could trust the American, but her father had told her to give her the benefit of the doubt, but not to hesitate to put her down if she felt it necessary. He had thought having Jenny owe them a favor would be fabulous if she was who she said she was. Therefore, she knelt, grabbing the woman's right foot and cut through the ropes.

"Thank you," Jenny replied. She stood and crossed the room, digging into the older man's jacket, pulling out a gun and storing it at her back. "I assume since you came here so quickly that you have a place nearby?"

"Yes," Ziva answered. "But I don't plan on staying any longer than it takes to get my stuff." She pointed at the men. "Their friends will be searching this place soon."

"I agree," the older woman said. "Can you give me a ride? We could go to my hotel if you like."

"Are you always this needy?" Ziva asked as they left the room. She wiped down the doorknob on the way out.

"Well, there is the old saying about if you save somebody's life, you're responsible for them," Jenny joked.

"Ah," Ziva replied. "Where I come from, if you save somebody's life, they usually say thank you."

"Thank you, Mossad," she replied. She laughed at Ziva's raised eyebrow. "Well, you never said your name."

"Ziva," the younger woman responded as she finished packing her belongings into a small backpack.

"Well, Ziva," Jenny replied, "I owe you. Now let's get the hell out of here, please?"

"Jenny," Ziva said into the phone. "Shalom."

"Ziva David," the other woman purred into the phone. "Please tell me you're in town for a visit."

Ziva chuckled knowingly. "Oh, I wish I could say I had time for a," she paused and then carefully enunciated her next word, "visit. Yes, I am in town, but I was hoping that you might be able to do me a favor."

"What do you need?" Jenny said, her tone becoming more businesslike.

"I have an operative operating deep undercover, here in DC," Ziva explained. "Somehow, one of your NCIS agents has decided that my operative is responsible for the murder of another NCIS agent and is trying to capture him. I need help convincing this man to let this go. My operative is not responsible."

"And you think I can help you how?" Jenny asked, cautiously.

"I happen to have heard who the next NCIS director will be," Ziva said, smiling at the phone. "Congratulations, Jenny."

Jenny laughed. "It never fails to amaze me," she said. "The intelligence community is the worst set of gossiping hens around." She paused. "I fully expect you'll be running your own show one day and I might have to make a similar call to you. Besides, I owe you."

"Oh, I don't know," Ziva said slyly, "I thought you did really well trying to repay that debt that night in Turkey."

"That was pleasure, not payment," Jenny replied. "Come see me at the office tomorrow. I'll get you in touch with Gibbs and try to help you work things out."

"Thank you, Jenny," Ziva answered.

"Of course, Ziva," she answered. "Shalom."

Ziva shut the door harder than she had intended to, following the redheaded women into the hotel suite in a slightly agitated state. She took off her jacket and threw it down on a nearby chair with sharp motions.

"Why is it that every time I am near you, I have to kill people to keep you alive?" she demanded angrily.

"I can't help it that you go for the kill shot instead of a disabling one," Jenny said slyly.

Ziva cursed long and creatively in her native tongue about witnesses and the other woman's understanding of their situation.

"I understood that, you know," the older woman said with a grin as she poured two drinks and then handed one over to Ziva. Jenny looked amused when Ziva slammed the drink back and then instantly set the glass down.

"I knew you would. Don't change the subject," Ziva said. "You are too impatient. If we had come back later, you would not have gotten in that situation and I would not have had to take any action at all."

"Or, they might have already left and taken the data with them," Jenny replied.

"That is highly unlikely," Ziva said, exasperated with the other woman. She turned and paced the small area. "You would think that in your years of field work you would have developed better instincts about when you have company."

"I knew you had my back," Jenny replied as she got in front of Ziva. She was smiling, looking amused.

"I will not always be there, Jenny," Ziva said.

Jenny put a hand on Ziva's face. "Such a shame," she said flirtatiously.

Ziva smirked, not at all surprised by Jenny's behavior. This was the third time she had been around the woman and each time she had made it clear she would be interested in other pursuits during moments of downtime. Ziva simply had not given her any signals as to whether she was interested or not. When she had entered the IDF, she had never considered sleeping with a woman. Since her life in Mossad, it was not only acceptable, but also expected in certain situations.

It was not that the redhead was unattractive. Indeed, she was very attractive and knew how to turn on her appeal when it suited her. It was simply that Ziva preferred to maintain a distance from the woman, despite her father assigning her to work with the American twice now. Something about how she operated just screamed danger. Ziva knew that her opinion was probably colored from the night they met. However, this time she did not back away when the older woman leaned in and kissed her. She met her head on, and before she knew it, they were vying for dominance in the kiss. Jenny was also busy trying to unbutton the younger woman's shirt.

"This does not change my opinion, you know," Ziva said when they broke away for air. "You are good at gathering data, but lousy in the field. It will get you killed one day."

"Hmm," Jenny just hummed then bit at Ziva's neck. "And if I said this might be my last foray into the field?"

"I would not worry about you anymore," Ziva hissed as the older woman bit harder.

"Why, Officer David," the redhead joked, "I didn't know you cared."

Ziva cursed creatively again as Jenny's hands began an intense torture on her body. "For some reason, my father thinks you will be an important person one day." She shivered at the American's deep laugh and allowed her to push them over to the bed.

"I will be," Jenny responded. She pushed the other woman onto the bed. "Now, let's see if I can be important to you, right now."

Tony and Ziva had finally managed to track down the Director, finding her car at an abandoned Diner in the middle of the desert. It had taken her all this time to convince Tony that something was wrong, that Jenny was in trouble. Even as they approached and saw a SUV standing open and empty nearby, he was still holding onto the hope that she was on a personal adventure. However as they got nearer to the Diner, they saw where bullet holes riddled the door and windows. Both of them drew their weapons and crept silently to the door. From the entrance, they could see a man's body on the floor.

It only took moments to find that there were no survivors in the Diner. Whatever had happened had been quick and ugly, leaving bodies scattered all around the place. However, when Ziva came around towards the back, what she found devastated her. Lying in a puddle of her own blood, Jenny was obviously dead. It broke Ziva's heart to see her like this.

"Tony," she called out to her partner.

As he came over, she stared at the body in dismay. She knew that his checking for a pulse was useless. She had seen enough death to know that Jenny was gone. At that moment, Jenny's phone began ringing and Tony picked it up. It was Gibbs.

She was not sure how they would explain this. She had told Jenny years ago she was not cut out for fieldwork. She knew that they should never have left her alone.



The young resident had come and asked Abby and Tim to follow him upstairs. He led them to a waiting room outside of the hospital's ICU and told them that Ziva's doctor would be with them shortly. He would not give them any other updates except to say she was out of surgery and would be up here in the ICU. Abby began pacing which really only served to make McGee nervous watching her. Finally, an older man arrived and introduced himself.

"You're friend is a fighter," he said. "Does she have any family?"

"We're her family," Abby said firmly.

Tim looked at Abby and added. "Her father is in Israel. I think our director was going to contact him when we had an update."

"Well," the doctor replied, "I shouldn't be telling you any of this, but I know how you law enforcement types are," he said and smiled. "You'd be bugging my staff endlessly if I didn't let you know what was going on. And since you say you will be talking to her father, it gives me a little leeway."

Abby bounced up and down. "Please," she begged. "Tell me she's okay."

"She is holding her own," he replied. The older man took Abby by the elbow and gently led her over to a seat. "Forgive me, but I've been standing for four and half hours. Let's sit so I can go over everything with you." He sat down directly in front of Abby, somehow sensing that she was really the one who needed the information the worst. "She's in a coma right now and we are keeping her that way for at least a day or two to give her body some time to recover. We'll be keeping her up here in the ICU to be able to keep a closer eye on her."

"We don't expect any lasting damage to her leg or because of the stomach wound," he said. "The stomach wound went straight through, which was probably a good thing. It often gets bad when bullets bounce around inside people's torsos. The damage a bullet can do…" he began.

"The amount of tissue damage is determined by the amount of kinetic energy lost by the projectile in the body," Abby said numbly, babbling a little. "Bullet weight and velocity determine the kinetic energy possessed by a projectile. Laceration and crushing are generated by the projectile displacing the tissues in its track and are recognized as the primary wounding mechanism produced by handguns. The degree and amount of laceration and crushing are dependent upon missile velocity, shape, angle of impact, yaw, and tumbling…"

"Abby!" Tim interrupted. He noticed the doctor was looking baffled and alarmed. "She's our forensic scientist and she's a little upset."

"I'm not a little upset, McGee," she shouted at him. "I'm very upset. My girlfriend could be dying and I still don't know!"

"She's not dying," the doctor quickly rushed to assure her. He cleared his throat. "Her chest wound was serious and she lost a lot of blood, but our thoracic surgeon was able to repair the damage to her lung and the small tear she had on her right subclavian vein. That was where she lost most of her blood." He patted Abby's hands. "The neurosurgeon is optimistic and will re-evaluate her late tonight."

"So, she'll live?" Abby asked, tears starting to run down her face.

"Yes, dear, I expect she will just fine, given time," he said and was shocked when the woman jumped across and hugged him.

"Abby," Tim said while trying to pull her off the man. "Abby. Come on, let go."

"Oh, sorry," she mumbled. She straightened the doctor's white coat nervously.

"It's all right dear," he said, a little flustered.

"When can I see her?" she asked.

"I'll have a nurse come get you when they have her settled," he answered. "Now, be aware, she is hooked up to a lot of machinery and there will be a lot of bruising." When she nodded, he continued. "I'll be back to check on her later tonight. If you are around, I'll update you."

"Thanks, Doctor," McGee said. He watched Abby start to pace even as the doctor left. Sighing, he pulled out his phone to call Gibbs.

Ziva came around the corner to Abby's lab and grinned as she watched the older woman dancing around while she did her work. They were currently working a case where a marine had been found dead under a bridge in an area well known to be a gang's turf. It had initially looked like a gang style hit, but Gibbs instincts told them they would find more. Ducky had found evidence of an injection site and Abby's toxicology screen had indicated he was under the influence of a strong narcotic. The team had been interviewing some of the marine's buddies and had found a vial in one of their bunks. Ziva had volunteered to bring it down, having an ulterior motive for seeing Abby.

She came further into the lab and leaned on the counter behind the Goth, waiting for Abby to turn around and notice her. It took a little over a minute before the taller woman turned and when she did she squeaked.

"Jeesh," she exclaimed. "How often do I have to tell you that's not nice?" she said and smacked Ziva on the shoulder. However, she was smiling, so Ziva didn't think she was honestly mad.

"You really should be more aware," Ziva smirked.

"Most people aren't so stealthy, Ziva," Abby replied. "You have something for me?"

Ziva held out the evidence bag and explained its origin. She watched as the scientist walked over to a drawer and removed a syringe, which she used to extract some of the clear liquid and pipe it into a tube she would put in one of her instruments. Ziva followed and stood nearby. Leaning over she studied Abby's face. After a while Abby seemed to become conscious of the scrutiny.

"What?" she asked.

"I was wondering," Ziva said. "Are these any good?" She held out two concert tickets for Abby's inspection.

"Wow!" Abby cried. "That concert has been sold out for months. I was going to try to get tickets, but we got a case the day they went on sale and by the time I could buy, they were already sold out." She looked up at Ziva curiously. "I didn't know you liked Android Lust."

"I don't know if I do," Ziva answered. "But you do, don't you?"

"Well, yeah," Abby said grinning. "She has a really crazy sound and their electronics rock."

"So," Ziva purred. "You would like to go?"

The taller woman's face was alive with joy. "Of course I'd go! This rocks," she cried and hugged Ziva.

"I will pick you up at five, Friday and we will have dinner first," Ziva said with a smile. She winked and started to leave.

"Ziva, wait," Abby called out before she could leave. The Mossad officer turned back and looked at her inquisitively. "Did you just ask me out on a date?"

Ziva felt a little nervous, but hid it well. She looked at Abby flirtatiously. "What do you think?"

"It sounded like it," Abby said, her eyes big.

"It sounded like you said yes," Ziva replied and smirked. "Have you changed your mind?"

"No," Abby said quickly. "I just," she paused and made some signs with her hands. "You never," she tried again. "Are you sure?" She said and made a gesture at her body and then pulled on her collar as if to indicate that it should be a problem.

Ziva strolled back over slowly, smiling up at the woman. She reached up and ran the fingertips of one hand along the edge of the collar. She then put one finger into one of the rings and tugged it gently. Ziva thought Abby definitely looked shocked now.

"I am absolutely," she said slowly, "positive. I never have a problem knowing what I want, Abigail." She winked again and then turned to leave. She was not surprised that Abby did not stop her again. However, she would not be surprised if Abby changed her mind between now and Friday. At least she had let it be known how she felt.



"Ma'am," the nurse said, gently placing her hand on Abby's shoulder.

"What? Is she okay?" Abby asked as she startled awake. She had dozed off holding Ziva's hand, her head lying next to Ziva's arm on the bed.

The nurse made shushing sounds. "She's fine, but visiting hours are over and I can't let you stay here in the room," she hesitated. "I would if I thought I could get away with it, but if the night supervisor came in here, she'd kick you out of the hospital altogether."

Abby blinked away tears. She really didn't want to leave her girlfriend's side. "Okay," she finally responded. "Can I have another minute, just to say goodnight?"

The other woman smiled and nodded, leaving them alone.

"I don't know if you can hear me in there, Zee," Abby said softly next to Ziva's ear. "But I'm going to believe you can. You just rest and get better. I'll be here when they wake you, so I can look at your beautiful brown eyes and fuss at you for worrying me."

She reached up and pushed a lock of curly brown hair away from where it had fallen back down over the smaller woman's face. Abby thought she looked so small hooked up to all the tubes and wires. She never seemed small at work or at home. Ziva always carried herself as if she were bigger than everybody else around, except maybe Gibbs. Yet here, covered in bandages, shadowed by the harsh hospital lighting and unearthly still, Ziva seemed young and fragile to Abby. She leaned in and kissed her forehead ever so gently.

"I love you, Ziva," Abby spoke into her ear. "I'll be back when they let me."

Standing, she retrieved the bag of personal items the nurse had brought in earlier. She fingered the gold chain that Ziva always wore where it currently rested below her collar. They wouldn't allow Abby to put it back on Ziva, so she wore it, feeling a little closer to her because of it. She clutched the bag of Ziva's stuff close to her chest and walked out of the room, nodding at the nurse as she went.

When she got out into the hallway she dialed Gibbs on her cell phone.

"Tell me we have some evidence I can process," she said as soon as he answered.

"Abs," he said gently. "You don't have to," he started.

"Gibbs, don't make me get mad," she growled. "I want whoever did this to hang. And I am the best you have." She paused and wiped her cheeks. "They won't let me back in her room for another ten hours. I need to do something. I don't want to leave her alone, but I can't just sit here and stare at the walls, Gibbs."

She heard him sigh.

"I'll send Tony to stay in the waiting room," he said. "He's currently drooling on his desk anyway. You can drive his car back here and I'll show you what we've got."

"Thanks, Gibbs," she said.

"Anything for you, you know that Abs," he said and hung up.

Ziva had felt stressed out for days, upset that Gibbs was in the hospital and she felt powerless to help him. She felt like if she could somehow help solve this case, if she and Tony could just lean on the Captain harder, they might get somewhere. She was currently down in Abby's lab to bring her the photos she had taken.

"Whoa," Abby said when she looked at them, "This is definitely going on my wall."

"I should be a professional photographer," Ziva replied smugly.

"The Director hasn't called," Abby said almost hysterically, shocking Ziva with the subject change.

"About?" Ziva tried to follow.

"About?" Abby replied incredulously. "Gibbs?"

"Oh!" Ziva said catching up.

"She didn't call you, did she?" Abby said to Ziva accusingly.

"No," Ziva replied confused again.

"'Cause, you know, the way you're acting, you might have just, I don't know, forgotten to tell us!" Abby accused. It hurt Ziva that Abby thought this about her, but she hid the feeling. Abby sometimes reverted back to treating Ziva like an outsider when somebody on the team was hurt.

"Ziva," McGee prompted, "Do you notice anything different in here?"

The two of them would drive her insane, she was sure. She tried to figure out what McGee was speaking of and then noticed it.

"No music," she replied.

"That's it!" he replied. "No music. You know, you usually play music in here."

"What if those were Gibbs' guts smooshed all over that room?" Abby said getting hysterical again.

"Oh, for God's sake, Abby," Ziva replied getting upset. "They're not."

"I said what if they were?" Abby got in her face.

Ziva tried to defuse the situation with a joke. "The color would be more coffee brown than red," she replied.

Abby promptly slapped her hard. In shock, Ziva slapped her back. Abby responded by slapping her again and Ziva did the same. It made her angry that this woman could hurt her so badly, after so much time. She was just as worried, just less inclined to show it with ridiculous displays. Turning on her heel, she left the room sure McGee would take care of Abby.

Ziva couldn't believe Abby was freaking out like she was at this moment. Nothing she was saying was getting through to her. Everybody on the team had taken some hits, yes, but they had convinced the poor man finally. They had him in custody and were trying to figure out why he was behaving this way.

"Are you defending him?" Abby asked incredulously. "He attacked for no reason. The guy's a killing machine."

"He's a marine," Ziva said in disagreement, "who was willing to give up everything for his country. We have a responsibility to him."

"Oh, spare me the samurai code of honor," Abby said.

"Noble respect for your combatant," Ziva said. "It's admirable"

"But he tried to kill Tony," Abby said "And he tried to kill McGee. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God..."

"And me, too," Ziva added. "Believe me, we are fine. Calm down."

"Ziva," Abby said annoyed, "can't you just let me get it out for a second? I mean, I'm not like you. I'm not some totally emotionless perfect warrior. God!" She said and stomped off.

Ziva sat there stunned, feeling more pain from Abby's words than anything Worth had done to her.

"I understand now," Abby said later that day, to Ziva, but in front of the guys. "No true warrior should be felled by invisible forces. It's dishonorable." She looked at Ziva. "And that other thing I said-- I know that's not really true."

Ziva felt something release in her, as if there had been a tight band around her chest and it was suddenly gone. How did this woman affect her so much? Then she was promptly drawn back into a conversation by Tony and McGee.

They had just buried Jenny, and when the team entered the bullpen, they were somber. Before they even had a chance to settle, the new director, Leon Vance, called the four of them up to his office. He had certainly taken over Jenny's space quickly, Ziva noticed.

"Officer David," he said as he looked at her. "The liaison position with NCIS is being terminated. You're going home."

She stood there stunned by the pronouncement as he listed his reassignments for the whole team. She had not expected any of this. It made little sense to disband the whole team, but she supposed they were to be punished for letting a NCIS Director die on their watch. As they left the room, she took each step deliberately, holding in her anger and the sense of betrayal.

He had not just said the position was done, but that she was going "home." However, this felt more like home than anywhere she had ever been and her choice had been taken away from her. She had no doubt, he meant for her to be sent out of country now. Nothing would make her father happier than to have her back in his domain.

The problem was it was as she had told Gibbs two years ago. She was no longer just a killer, she was an investigator now.



Abby was always glad to see Gibbs. He was like a big brother who always got it right. She crossed the bullpen rapidly as soon as the elevator opened. He stood from his desk and opened his arms just in time for her to barrel into him for a hug. He held her as she cried on his shoulder and stroked her head, making soothing noises.

After a few minutes she stood back up and stepped away from him. He reached forward and touched the Star of David at her neck, recognizing it immediately. Gibbs never missed a detail, Abby knew.

"You sure you want to be here?" he said, the look in his eyes making her want to cry again.

"Yes, Gibbs," she answered. "She'd want me to help catch them."

He nodded, knowing she was probably right. "I have the car in the evidence garage. I borrowed some crime techs from the FBI and they took our pictures, the fingerprints and extracted the bullets. They're bagged and waiting for you in your lab. So are the bullets from the scene. All the weapons and trace evidence they found are waiting and if you need anybody to get anything else for you, you can tell me."

"You knew I'd be working it?" she said in wonder.

"Yeah," he said and shrugged. "I didn't think you could stand by and do nothing, any more than I can," he added. "I knew from experience that they would kick you out pretty early tonight. I didn't figure you would want to sit in a waiting room when there's evidence to examine."

She leaned forward and hugged him again.

"But," he said. "I expect you to take care of yourself, too."

She nodded rapidly against his shoulder.

"She'll be okay, Abs," he said and kissed the top of her head. "She's too stubborn not to be." Abby laughed softly. "Come on. I'll show you what we have." He took her hand and looped it through his arm and led her to the elevator.

"You have been recommended for advancement into Duvdevan, Corporal David," the Lieutenant told her as he read through what was obviously her file. He looked up at her, clearly expecting some response but getting none. "It is rare that we have a female candidate rise this quickly and excel as you have."

"Thank you, sir," she answered crisply.

"Do you understand what a transfer to Duvdevan would mean?" he asked, leaning back in his chair to study the young woman.

"Yes, I do, sir," she replied.

Again, her answers had given him no insight into her. She had never had reason to interact with the Lieutenant before now and expected that after the transfer she may never see him again.

"This is an elite unit," he said. "However, I don't want you going into this thinking you are some kind of star and this is a reward. This is also a deadly assignment. If you do not pay careful attention to your training, you will die. And in some situations, you will not be acknowledged if captured." He paused for a full minute. "Are you sure you really want that?"

"Yes, sir," she answered.

"You are prepared for the paratrooper training? The aviation classes, the undercover work?" He pressed her.

"I am, sir," she responded.

He sighed. "Very well," he replied. Standing, he handed her the orders that had been sitting on his desk. "Make us proud, soldier." He saluted her. "Dismissed."

Saluting him, she turned and left his office. She was only slightly nervous to know what was ahead. Mostly she wondered if this would make her father proud.

"Gibbs, can you come down," she queried into her phone. When he said he'd be down in a minute, she hung up and she turned her music back up. She brought up the pictures she wanted to show him on the screens and took a long draw on the Caf-Pow! that he had brought down to her earlier. Just then a song came on that reminded Abby of Ziva and she couldn't stop the tears that wanted to fall. That's how Gibbs found her, embarrassingly enough.

"Hey, Abs," he said and drew her into a one armed hug, "if this is too much, just say the word."

"No," she insisted. "It's not that. It's the Android Lust."

"What?" he asked her, confused.

"This song," she waved her hand in the general direction of her speakers. "It came on after I called you. It's the first song we ever danced to. Our first date she took me to their concert and when this song came on, we danced together in the cramped space. She had never heard Android Lust before and she bought tickets just 'cause she knew I'd…"

He made shushing noises and hugged her again. "I get it," he said softly.

After a minute she pushed away and wiped her tears away with the ends of the sleeves of her lab coat. "Okay," she said, clearing her throat. "On the left, we have the bullet from the dead terrorist. You'll notice it matches the one on the right, which is from Ziva's gun. So, we know she managed to get him even as he was shooting her up. On this screen, you'll see that the bullets from her leg and several around the scene match his Uzi. That includes the one found in the wall at the scene which I think was the one that penetrated her torso." She inhaled deeply trying to remain objective. She used her mouse and changed the views.

"The bullet from her chest doesn't match the Uzi, and is instead a 9mm, most likely fired from a standard 9mm semi-automatic handgun," she told him. "There was also buckshot scattered all over the scene. That's what they recovered in Tony's hand too, but since he said he saw a shotgun, that's not surprising." She pointed to the right screen again.

"Tony at least nicked the driver," she said with some satisfaction. "One of Tony's bullets was recovered from the driver's seat and was coated with blood. The passenger side was clean. I'm still running the prints against Interpol's database, but they are extremely slow and usually out of date. They didn't match anything domestic."

"Director David has promised to help if we forward the prints to Mossad, Abs," Gibbs told her. "They'll be more likely to help us get a match quicker if Ziva's right and they are Hamas. If we can pin down some identities, maybe we can track their movements." He pulled out a piece of paper. "He wanted you to contact this man when you got the prints in the system. He will start a search on their end."

"Okay," she said, walking over to her computer to start the process of packaging the data.

"Abs," Gibbs said gently. "He said he's going to try to come as soon as he can."

"The lab tech?" she asked incredulously. Gibbs shook his head.

"Director David," he replied. He put a hand on her shoulder. "I just wanted you to be prepared. He may try to take her home."

"This is her home!" she shouted angrily. "She doesn't want to go back there. She wasn't happy the last time, she told me. She…"

"Abby," he grabbed her arms and stopped where she had begun signing angrily. "I know. Hopefully, she'll be awake to tell him that. And if not, I'll do what I can."

They had made a HALO jump into Iraq, following the trail of a Hamas leader to an Al-Qaeda training camp. It was difficult to get to this man inside of Israel not to mention that if they were to try to kill him there, everybody would instantly blame the Israelis; tensions would escalate even higher and there would be reprisals. However, if they could eliminate him while he was with Al-Qaeda, the other group would be blamed.

The team had split up into four, two-person teams, each at a different vantage point. She and her teammate were on a hill overlooking the main camp, a sniper rifle in the ready waiting for the signal from the others. Her partner was taking continuous reads of the weather and she was adjusting her rifle as necessary.

When the signal came, he took one last reading and they proceeded to count down. The hit would take place in ten seconds. She looked at the man who had ordered hundreds of Israeli's deaths during his time in Hamas through her scope and smiled. It was like extracting a cancer. It was right. She squeezed the trigger and heard the suppressed retort of the rifle. Not long after that she saw his head blow apart like a melon. The other units hit their targets as well and soon the terrorist training camp was in chaos.

She and her partner crawled away, backing down the ridge until they could stand and run away. She threw the rifle over her back and started running. It was heavy, but they only had ten kilometers to get to the rendezvous point. Then they would begin the long journey back home.

She wondered how this had all gone so badly so quickly. She hoped that Gibbs would hurry up.

"You're a cop, aren't you?" he asked.

"Why did you kill those women, Andy?" she asked, stalling.

"For their husbands," he answered. "Save them the humiliation of finding out that their wives were screwing around on them while they were serving their country."

"Is that what happened to you?" she asked

"You don't need to know what happened to me," he answered. He was leading her deep into an empty warehouse and she still couldn't see anything to use to her tactical advantage. "Walk." He demanded. "Get in there."

She heard the hammer being pulled back on his pistol and knew she was out of options. Spinning around she went to strike out at his arm with her left arm, but not before he fired. She felt the bullet connect with the side of her head, grazing by, and it slowed her reactions. She managed to disarm him, but she was dizzy. After a brief tussle which normally she would have won, they both went down. The dizziness combined with her high heels had thrown her off balance.

Ziva managed to briefly disable him and toss him off, lunging across the small distance for his gun. He grabbed her ankle before she could get there and dragged her back a bit before she swiftly kicked her leg away from his grasp and made it the rest of the way to the gun. She brought it up just in time to shoot before he could stab her. Emptying the rest of the rounds in his chest, he went down directly on top of her. She watched the life drain out of his eyes from inches away. She had just gotten him off of her and was trying to stand when Gibbs arrived.

The whole experience had shaken her to the core. That he was a serial killer and deserved to be punished was not in question. However, she had given up being the executioner several years ago and perhaps it had slowed her reflexes. Lacking her killing instinct had nearly cost her life. What was she becoming and how long would she survive this way?

"I am so happy to see you, daughter," Eli David said to her as she entered his office. He stood and came around his desk, hugging her and kissing both of her cheeks.

"It is good to see you, Papa," she replied. She was not thrilled to be back, but she knew better than to tell him that.

"Come, sit," he directed, pointing to a chair in front of his desk. "Tell me; are you ready to resume your duties at Mossad?"

"I fail to see that I have a choice," she answered evasively, if somewhat bitterly. "Leon Vance has made it clear he does not need me in America."

"There are other positions in America where you could serve Israel," he spoke gently. "I did not realize you had desired to stay there."

She did not reply, knowing that the positions he could offer her were not those she would like to take any longer. She could not see being a spy in a country she had come to love.

"Or you could always retire if you no longer feel you belong in Mossad," he said after a long stretch of silence. "I know you have accumulated a good deal of money over the years. You could settle down, build a family."

She snorted. "I am not interested in finding a good Jewish man and making grandchildren for you, Papa," she said. "I do not expect to find love here."

He stared at her for a long while before standing and crossing the room to pour two drinks. Handing her one he sat back down and looked at her. "So, you found love there," he began, "and resent being taken away from it."

She sipped the scotch he had given her very slowly. She really did not want to have this conversation, but saw no way to avoid it. "I found something with potential," she finally answered. "But now, I will never know."

"So, you did not act on this potential?" he asked.

"No," she answered.

"Is it this Anthony DiNozzo fellow?" he asked.

"Absolutely not," she laughed. "Tony is a good man and a good partner, but he is hardly good romantic material for me." She smiled. "Tony can make me laugh, but he does not fascinate and bewitch me like…" she trailed off surprised that she nearly said her name. Taking another drink, she continued. "I suppose it is good I did not act on my feelings."

"You know," he said, "the Americans aren't really done with you." He handed her a folder that she opened and scanned over quickly. "Leon called me and asked if I would allow you to continue investigating a problem."

"I thought," she said, confused.

"He wants everybody in NCIS to think he disbanded your team as punishment," he answered. "He is trying to flush out a mole. The officer you are looking at has stolen information that could hurt both America and Israel. I suspect the Americans would never have let us know if it had not been for the ties you have forged over the years. Yes, Leon and I know each other, but it was his faith in your abilities that sent you back to me." He finished his drink and walked back around the desk. Sitting on the front edge of his desk, he looked down at her. "I am not putting you back in active service yet. You are to follow this soldier, find him, find out who he contacts and stop the information from being sold. I suspect it will take a while."

"Yes, sir," she said numbly. Everything had been another lie, another ruse.

"And you are not to let any of your friends back at NCIS know what you are doing," he said more firmly. "They will be told when it is time."

She looked up at him, feeling too many things at once to define any one emotion. Finally deciding it would be better to return to her newly rented flat and think things over, she stood. "I understand," she told him.

He strode forward and kissed one of her cheeks again, affectionately. "I am truly happy to see you, Ziva," he said and smiled. "Shalom."

"Shalom, Papa," she answered and left his office.



Abby returned to the hospital with a little less than an hour to wait for visiting hours. Gibbs had made her go home and sleep several hours before, but she barely got a couple hours rest. She mostly tossed and turned, and even when she did sleep, she woke up within a half hour wondering where Ziva was before remembering. She finally got out of bed, showered and dressed, deciding that sitting in the waiting room was better than worrying at home.

When she opened the door to the waiting room, she saw Tony asleep in one of the chairs, his head laying awkwardly, using his suit jacket as a pillow and his mouth hanging open. He was snoring lightly and drooling. She smiled slightly, thinking Tony was a comic even when he was asleep. She took out her phone and snapped a picture of him for future blackmail purposes. Walking over, she sat down beside him, which woke him up.

"Hunn? What? I'm up," he said as he sat up.

She smirked and shook her head. "Hey Tony," she said. "You find out anything?"

"Yeah," he said while rolling his neck. "Her nurse is hot."

"Tony!" she looked at him in shock and hit his arm. "This is serious."

"Okay," he said and rubbed his arm. "No joking with you. And that hurt, by the way." He yawned and then looked at her. "Seriously, I met the neurosurgeon a few hours after you left. She was looking for you. Seems you made quite an impression on the staff and they're willing to break all kinds of rules for you." He raised an eyebrow. "How do you do that by the way? Everywhere you go everyone is willing to break the rules for you. I mean…"

"Tony," she interrupted. She made a face at him to go on.

"Oh, yeah, sorry," he said and scratched his jaw where stubble had come up over night. "She said that Ziva's eyes reacted how they were supposed to and she passed all her other tests that they can do when she's asleep or in a coma or whatever. The doctor was feeling optimistic about that injury and has assigned a resident of hers to come in regularly and continue to keep an eye on her."

Abby nodded, relieved at that. "Anything else?" she asked.

"Not really," he answered. "I managed to talk to a couple of the nurses. You know, introduce myself, let them know that she would have somebody around at all times, but not to let anybody in to see her who wasn't NCIS or related to her. I made it clear she only had one relative who could even possibly show and he wasn't likely."

"Gibbs said he is probably coming," Abby said miserably, "That he might try to take her back."

Tony put his arm around her and pulled her into him, holding her. "We'll watch out for her, Abs," he said.

They sat that way for a while, lost in their own thoughts before a woman entered the room. She was obviously a doctor of some sort, based on not only her dress, but also her bearing. She looked down at her notes and then back up at the two of them.

"Are you Abby?" she asked

"Yes," Abby said and surged to her feet.

"I understand from the nurses that you're her girlfriend?" she asked. When Abby nodded rapidly, the woman continued. Meanwhile, Tony did a double take at Abby before turning to the doctor again, having missed her name in his shock.

"You know DC doesn't acknowledge same sex unions in any way, so I'm not supposed to be talking to you. But, since I don't particularly agree with that…" She smirked. "I am your girlfriend's cardiothoracic surgeon and will continue to look in on her for a while. You'll be happy to know I was able to repair the bullet wound without cracking open her chest, so she will have a minimum of scarring. This will also go a long way to her feeling better quicker. Of course, considering she's a law enforcement type and I could see quite a few other older scars, I have a feeling she'll be up and trying to go back to work long before I clear her."

"I'll tie her down to the bed if I have to," Abby assured.

The blonde doctor laughed. "As long as you don't rip my stitches," she said and winked. "Seriously, I expect a full recovery, if she gives herself time to heal properly. Since the neurosurgeon wants to keep her in the coma until at least tomorrow, I'll keep her on the respirator until right before they wean her off the medicine keeping her there. We'll evaluate from there. I will have my resident come by and introduce himself to you. He's going to come by regularly and listen to her lungs to make sure no fluids are building up. That's our biggest risk right now on my end of things. She was quite lucky."

"Thank you, Doctor," Abby said and hugged the woman who stood there stiffly in shock.

"Well, I must be going," the doctor said, blushing. "I have things…"

"See?" Tony said with a smile as the other woman escaped. "She's too tough to be brought down for long."

Abby just nodded and looked at her watch; another twenty minutes until visiting hours. She knew she would go a little crazy if she had to sit still that long.

"I'm going to find some Caf-Pow!" she announced, grabbing her purse and heading out of the room.

"Could you bring me back a coffee?" Tony asked as she left. "With sugar," he muttered to the empty room.

"You're kidding," Abby exclaimed and then laughed. "A nightclub singer? You?"

"Why is that so funny?" Ziva asked even as she smiled. She loved it when Abby laughed like that.

"Because," the older woman replied, still grinning. "Here I was thinking you were doing something super dangerous and that's why you were nearly blown up, and instead you were singing."

"Well," Ziva replied and laughed a little herself. "Apparently it was dangerous."

"That does explain the cocktail dress though," Abby said thoughtfully. "I always wondered about that."

"It was a shame it got all bloody," Ziva said. "I looked good in it. It is so hard to find a nice dress that you know you look good in."

"Oh my God!" Abby laughed. "Super spy upset over a dress."

Ziva poked her tongue out at her girlfriend. She was not surprised when Abby leaned over quickly and tried to catch it in a kiss. They occupied quite a few minutes like that, comfortable on Abby's overstuffed couch before breaking away for air. It was a relaxing Saturday afternoon and they had already spent most of the day out together.

"So sing for me," Abby demanded.

"What?" Ziva said distracted by where Abby's hands were roaming.

"You heard me, David," she grinned. "Sing for me."

"I do not have a band," Ziva hedged. Abby just raised an eyebrow, obviously unimpressed. "Very well."

Ziva started singing the song she had been singing when the bomb had exploded. It was one of a few she had in her repertoire, but she thought it especially fitting at the moment. When she started the chorus about 'temptation', she straddled Abby's lap and ran her fingertips along the edge of the taller woman's choker. She grinned when Abby's eyes glazed a little.

Leaning in a little, she sang the French portion directly into Abby's ear. Between the refrain and the French chorus, she nibbled on the inviting earlobe. When Abby's hands dug into her sides, she smiled. It did not take her long to finish the song and she had to admit she was glad Abby asked. It was a much better memory for the song. She leaned forward and kissed Abby right at the end of the song, even as she still let the note hang in the back of her throat.

When they separated, Abby swallowed visibly. She blinked a few times in shock and then grinned.

"I've just decided that I really," she stressed the last word, "like it when you speak French."

"Oui?" Ziva replied. She leaned in and whispered some very raunchy come-ons into Abby's ear.

"I understood some of that," Abby smirked. "I am from Louisiana after all."

"Well," Ziva said questioningly.

"Oh yeah," she answered, "definitely. Let's go to the bed and I'll show you."

Ziva stood and happily followed the Goth. For fun, she muttered some more French flirtations, and was delighted when Abby laughed.

It was late on the evening that Ziva and Michael had returned from Morocco and they were in her father's office for a debriefing. The Deputy Director was not normally involved in debriefing field agents, but this was a special case, no less so because of Ziva's presence she was sure. She was surprised when her father's secretary broke through and indicated he had a call from NCIS looking for Ziva. She looked at her father in question, wondering if he would allow the call. He told his secretary to patch it through, and when it rang, he put it on speakerphone.

"Ziva?" Gibbs voice came through asking for her.

She felt a small moment of fear and apprehension, followed by joy for hearing from him. Now she just had to tread carefully.

"Gibbs," she answered simply.

"You okay?" he asked, and she could hear the obvious concern in his voice. She could joke and tell him about her horrible headache, but decided it would not be appropriate in front of her father. Besides, Gibbs usually appreciated brevity also.

"You heard," she said.

"Yeah," he answered, "raw feed out of ZNN. You might want to call them."

"Thanks for the tip," she replied and smirked.

"What can you tell me?" he asked.

"Not much," she said, looking at her father. "I was undercover; trying to win the trust of a man showing an unhealthy interest in a Chechnyan terrorist group."

"Brian Roberts?" he asked.

"Perhaps you should tell me what you know," she responded and stared into her father's eyes.

"Old Navy friend of Roberts was found murdered this morning," he replied. "Steve Vargo. Worked strategic planning; top secret clearance." He paused. "Who was the target?"

Looking to her father for permission, she waited until he nodded before answering. It was an unusual position that Vance had put her into, and she did not like it.

"Roberts was meeting a Chechnyan terrorist by the name of Milaana Shishani," she answered. "By sheer luck, she escaped the blast. But Mossad does not believe she was the target. Roberts was."

"Why?" he asked.

"We can only speculate," she said evasively.

"But from what you've told me," he said, "it appears that someone wanted them both dead." He paused. "Cleaning house?"

"Possibly," she replied.

"Who tipped you off about Roberts?" he asked.

Again, her father nodded. "Director Vance," she replied. After a very long pause she asked, "Gibbs?"

"We miss you, Ziva," he said kindly. She picked up the handset, not wanting to have this part of the conversation in front of the men in the room.

"I miss you, too," she replied unhappily but trying not to show it. "All of you." She went for a joke saying, "Even Tony."

"Gotta' go," he said.

"Take care, Gibbs," she said, wishing she were there.

"Yeah," he replied. "You take care, too."

After the call disconnected, her father looked thoughtful and Michael looked openly curious. Finally her father spoke.

"Ziva," he said. "Go home; rest." She started to leave before he stopped her. "A kiss for your father."

Walking back over, she leaned down and kissed his cheek.

"Good night, Papa," she told him, unsurprised to find Michael had waited for her at the door.

Ziva was bringing a piece of evidence down to Abby's lab; really, she was using any excuse she could to see her. She was amused to find the Goth talking to evidence, as usual. She walked up to her very quietly.

"Talk to me, baby," Abby said, "talk to me."

"Fingerprint sheet," Ziva purred right next to her, a knowing smile erupting on her face when the taller woman jumped slightly.

"I was," Abby fumbled, somewhat flustered, "I was talking to the knife." Looking into Ziva's eyes, she blushed. "You want to talk knives?"

"Always," the Israeli said, smirking. She loved to fluster the older woman. It was easier since they had started dating, especially since Abby was impatient to move things along physically.

"What we have here is a Slice Co chef knife," Abby said. She found her rhythm. "It's a standard part of the 12-piece introductory counter block kitchen set." She pointed to the screen with its enlargement. "Its laser-beveled titanium steel rust-resistant blade and the tang extend the full length of the engineered thermo-resin handle, which will not crack, chip, fade, or absorb any material." She paused. "It will, however, retain a print on a bloody smear. Or in this case, many prints."

"Summer job?" Ziva inquired. There was so much to discover about her Abigail.

"Yeah," Abby replied, "telemarketing; sophomore year." She looked at the smaller woman and blushed again. "It helps if you believe in the products. These are actually really good knives."

Ziva leaned a little closer into her space, enjoying the affect she was having on Abby.

"The handle has been handled by many hands," Abby continued, her voice showing she noticed Ziva's presence, "So it's going to take some hunting and pecking to isolate Ducky's attacker."

"What about the hijab?" Ziva asked, looking into Abby's eyes.

"I pulled some hair from it," Abby replied and turned to the table behind them. "The fabric is quite old, handmade." She looked up at the other woman. "So it fell off when you were chasing her?"

"Mm," Ziva hummed in disagreement, "unlikely. It is designed to always stay on as a sign of modesty. She would not just lose it by accident. She was trying to disappear in plain sight."

Just then, Ziva felt and heard her phone ringing in her pants pocket. She fumbled around trying to get it out, and realized that perhaps her subtle flirtations were affecting her as much as they were Abby. "Yeah," she answered, flustered and trying not to show it. She listened as McGee said the linguist had something. "On my way." She replied and then snapped the phone shut.

Looking at Abby with regret, she ran the tips of her fingers down the taller woman's forearm, ending by squeezing her hand. She smiled and nodded at her before leaving to return up to the bullpen.



Abby was back in Ziva's room finally and was busy telling Ziva about the evidence they had compiled. She sat really close to her, gently touching Ziva's long, calloused fingers on the hand that was not covered by medical gear. It had broken her heart when she first came in to see that the bruising from yesterday had only gotten worse overnight. She had no idea why, but it had hurt just as much to see her hooked up to the respirator today as it had yesterday.

"Hello," a nurse said as she walked in the room. "I'm Bobbi. I'll be Ms. David's nurse today. You must be Abby."

"Yes," Abby said, looking up at the older black woman. She seemed friendly and kind. She watched her walk over and proceeded to write her name on a dry-erase board.

"Ashley had told me it broke her heart to have to tell you to go last night," Bobbi said conversationally. "I can tell you, I'm glad you're back this early."

"Really?" Abby asked.

"Yes," she pointed to one of the monitors. "You see those waves on the third and forth lines down?"

Abby examined the screen and nodded.

"Those are some of her brain waves," the nurse explained. "They started calming down shortly after you got here. Many of our comatose patients respond a lot better when their spouses and loved ones are near. It's a good sign really. It means that on some level they know you're here and feel better because of it."

"Oh," Abby responded, surprised. "Wow."

She watched the woman switch out a bag of fluids on Ziva's IV, then look at various things around her bed before she finally started writing things in a chart nearby.

"So," the other woman said, "I just have to ask. Is Ms. David the officer that the news is crediting with saving all those lives yesterday?"

"What?" Abby said dumbfounded.

"They were talking about a drive by shooting out in Adams Morgan on last night's news," Bobbi said,

"And they said that two federal agents with the Naval Criminal Investigation Service managed to keep the shooting from being worse than it could have been. They're saying it was some kind of terrorist attack. They said one of the agents was badly injured and brought to George Washington. We just kind of figured it was her."

"Well," Abby hedged. "I'm not really supposed to talk about an ongoing case."

"Oh," the nurse smiled knowingly.

"But," the Goth said with a smile, "My Ziva has saved a lot of lives over the years. And put a lot of bad guys away." She looked at Ziva and felt the tears threatening again. "I just wished she knew how much of a hero she really is."

The nurse smiled and patted Abby's shoulder. "We'll take real good care of her here," the nurse said. "And when she wakes up, you can remind her just how you feel." She smiled. "And I'll tell her she's a hero too."

Abby nodded at the nurse and watched her walk away. "Hear that Zee?" she whispered. "You made the news as a hero."

When the elevator door opened, she could hear Abby's voice in the background and saw her throwing her arms up in the air. McGee and Gibbs stood near her in the bullpen.

"There she is!" Abby shouted. "Ziva!"

Before she could step off the elevator, she saw Michelle Lee.

"Welcome back," Lee said.

"It's good to be back," Ziva said with a smile.

She could sense that Lee was sad and distracted. She knew she was taking back her old spot that Lee had filled for these last four months and she would not blame Lee if she hated her. She watched Lee get into the elevator car before she turned back to the bullpen. Abby was still jumping up and down.

Unable to resist, she walked very quickly over to the vivacious Goth. When the scientist jumped towards her with a hug, for once, Ziva returned it with all the intensity she had held back before.

"You're back! You're back! Yay!" Abby was exclaiming in her ear.

"I missed you so very much," Ziva whispered in Hebrew against Abby's neck. She pulled back, only to be dazzled by the taller woman's smile. She felt somebody else beside her.

"Hey, Ziva!" McGee exclaimed happily. He had that innocent, genuine smile that she always adored about him.

"Hi, McGee," she said unable to contain her happiness. She hugged him too, but not with the same sense of abandon as she had felt with Abby.

She looked at Gibbs and he held up an arm so he walked over and let him hug her one-armed.

It was so good to be back. She was not accustomed to second chances, but she was happy to have this one.

Ziva did not know why her father had summoned her to his office. It had only been a couple of days since she had talked to Gibbs, but she had not heard anything back from NCIS to let them know whether or not there were more leads to follow regarding Roberts. She was still achy from the bombing and had been trying to work out the kinks by exercising, but it was slow going. Each year it seemed a little harder to recover from these sorts of things.

Why he had scheduled her to come to see him at the end of the day, she did not know. However, it did not bode well. Most times it meant he was about to send her off on another deep cover mission and she really was not sure if she was prepared for a mission that was strictly Mossad. When she entered, his outer office, his secretary indicated she should go straight in. Upon opening the door, she found him staring out the window, watching the sunset with a scotch in his hand.

"Papa?" she said softly.

He turned back and smiled at her lovingly. "Ziva," he said softly. "Have a seat." Getting up, he poured her a drink and sat down next to her. He sipped his own drink and sighed. "I have not always been the father you wanted, I am afraid."

"Father," she started.

"Do not lie to me," he interrupted her. "It would insult us both." He patted her arm affectionately. "I have always followed my convictions, usually before my heart." He snorted. "I saw in you so much potential. And you always delivered. Even when I thought you were mad, wanting to return to America, you proved me wrong. Our relationship with the Americans has improved. You still protect Israel in your own way."

"I am sorry I cannot continue that task," she said quietly. "I found I was good at it."

"Of course you are," he said stoutly. "You have learned more, become more than I ever expected, or ever thought possible."

Ziva could not believe what she was hearing. Her father rarely praised anybody. He had never indicated he was proud of her, only what he expected next.

"I can see so many things that you could have," he told her. "The Ambassador would love to have you run his security. There are people in Mossad who want you back, to run your own division. Your old contacts in the military even ask about you whenever I run into them. You could, as the Americans are fond of saying, write your own ticket."

"The Ambassador would have me?" she asked, thinking of how it could get her back to America and not have her spying. "And you would allow it?"

He pursed his lips and shrugged. "I do not think it is your best fit," he said to her. "You would become bored, quickly." He sipped his drink. "Trust me when I say, running the show is not very exciting."

She buried her feeling of disappointment. He was apparently not going to contemplate a return for her after all.

"And there is your old team," he commented. "They wish for your return."

She looked at him, unable to hide her surprise. "Director Vance?"

"Called me himself," he responded. "I did not answer for you. But I did not say no. I told him if you were to return, he must remember to use you wisely."

"Papa?" she asked hesitantly.

"I know you would not rather think of the more deadly skills you learned, that I encouraged in you," he continued. "But I made you learn these things for many reasons." He set his drink aside and stared at her. "I will admit to wanting a perfect operative, somebody to help me win Israel's wars. Yet, as I age, I realize I am also happy because I know you can protect yourself even as you try to find your own wars to wage, your own justice."

"You would let me return to NCIS?" she queried in disbelief.

He nodded and took her hand. "You will make me proud wherever you go. But, I somehow suspect that returning to them will be the only way you will be happy."

She squeezed his hand. She could not find the words to reply to him.

"Just, please think about one thing," he said. "If the chance is still there, this "potential" you spoke of before," he paused. "Take a chance. Try as hard to let the one you love know as you would any mission. I may never have encouraged you to fulfill this part of you. But perhaps that was because I expected you to just take it when you were ready."

She sat there shocked. Finally, she took a bracing drink. "And you will not interfere, no matter if it was a relationship of which you might approve?" she asked.

He inhaled sharply then sighed. "If you tell me you are happy, and continue to keep Israel in your heart," he paused, "Then no, I will not."

She stood and crossed the small space between them and hugged him. She could not remember doing this quite so emotionally since she was a child. He held her gently and they stayed like that for a moment. She kissed his cheek as she started to pull away.

"Thank you, Papa," she told him.

"Continue to make me proud," he told her gently.



It was late afternoon and Tony was on the phone with some contacts of his trying to follow a lead on the Neon. The Virginia DMV had a report of those tags being stolen two weeks before and he was trying to trace where they had been stolen. He heard the elevator ding and glanced up to see a tall man exit and look around. He had a visitor's pass clipped to his shirt, which was loosely buttoned to show a muscular chest covered in thick black hair. He was tall, dark and ruggedly handsome and he looked familiar to Tony, but DiNozzo couldn't place why.

The man turned and faced Tony, obviously examining him from behind his dark sunglasses. He grinned at Tony in a fashion that really griped the NCIS agent for some unknown reason. Striding forward he stopped in front of Tony's desk.

"Agent Anthony DiNozzo," he said with a thick accent that was reminiscent of Ziva's. "I am Officer Michael Rivkin, Mossad. It is good to meet you after hearing so much about you."

Tony stood and warily offered his hand. "I wish I could say the same, but I have no idea who you are," he answered. "Or why you're here, for that matter."

"Director David thought you might be able to use my services to help capture the jiffa who shot our Officer," he said with a friendly smile.

"Uh huh," Tony said, "Well, we do have some protocols over here that we follow and you can't just show up unannounced…"

"He was expected DiNozzo," Leon Vance said from behind Tony as he walked down the stairs behind Tony's desk. "Bring him up to speed. He is a seasoned Officer and has partnered with Ziva, so he has a personal interest in the matter. He will be a good liaison between our agencies while we don't have Ziva and in this case we might need a translator in the field."

The Director walked up to the young man and exchanged pleasantries with him in Hebrew.

"Does Gibbs know?" Tony asked with an uncomfortable smile.

"I just got off the phone with him," Vance answered. He turned around and returned to his office.

"Well, okay," Tony said, dragging out the last word. "So, you've worked with Ziva?"

The sun was rising, a sure sign that Ziva had slept in later than she normally would. However things had been different in those regards for the last few weeks. A warm feeling of contentment flowed through her as she snuggled closer to the body in front of her. She could not contain a smile as she opened her eyes and looked at her lover.

In the soft light of morning, she examined the contrast between her darker skin and Abby's pale beauty. There was just something so fascinating about the way her lover's pale skin shone in this light that made her seem ethereal. Slowly she trailed her fingertips up Abby's arm, watching goose bumps erupt in their wake. Ziva followed the line of her shoulder back around to her back and down her side ending at a shapely hip. She flattened her hand, smoothing over those curves, moving slowly onto the front of the taller woman's leg and held it there, steady.

Grinning as the Goth mumbled in her sleep, Ziva felt her heart swell with affection. She leaned up and kissed the edge of the spider web tattoo, which she could barely reach from this angle. She inhaled the sweet scent of her lingering perfume. Nuzzling the soft skin before her, she kissed her way to the back of her neck and then trailed down the middle of her back. Tracing the large cross on her back with butterfly kisses, she explored every inch of ink there. She used her hand where it lay on Abby's leg to spread her legs a little, then teased along the soft skin of her inner thigh, stroking from her knee to right below her womanhood and then back down. She smiled as Abby rolled further into her arms, more onto her back, giving Ziva better access. The smaller woman was not even sure if Abby was aware she had done it, as she did not appear to be awake.

The Israeli took advantage of the new position and began kissing ever so gently down the soft skin of Abby's chest to her nearest breast, moving all around a pebbling nipple. She smoothed her hand over to the other leg, treating it to the same gentle caresses she had been giving to Abby's right leg before she had moved. She slowly surrounded Abby's nipple with the wet warmth of her mouth, laving it very deliberately, trying to stoke the older woman's passions gradually. At the same time, she eased her fingertips up the inside of her legs, reaching the juncture she so desperately wanted to explore.

Ziva had to bite back a groan when she felt how wet the Goth was, how much she had responded to her touch even as she floated between sleep and wakefulness. The raven-haired woman was starting to whimper and had tangled her hand gently into Ziva's hair, holding her to her chest. Ziva parted her lips and entered her with one finger ever so slowly, closing her eyes in enjoyment as she felt Abby's hips tilt down so she could meet the palm of her hand. Cupping her like that for a few moments, she waited until Abby hummed and started moving against her before she pulled out at a leisurely pace.

She continued like this, slowly building up the tension for several long minutes before she added another finger. When she did, she stopped deep inside, feeling Abby shudder and move against her, silently asking for more. She let go of the nipple she had been playing with and moved over to the other, beginning to love it as intensely as she had the first. Abby rolled to her, trying to meet her half way, but the smaller woman pushed her back down, gently covering her with her upper body.

When she felt the strong muscles surrounding her fingers begin to tense and release in a tell tale pattern, she kissed her way up the Goths chest and neck. She pulled her closer with her left arm and whispered in Abby's ear.

"That's right," she purred. "You are so beautiful." She felt Abby bury her head further into her neck, so she stroked her a little more firmly. "Yes, my love. Let it go. Come for me, Ahuvati."

Within the span of a few heartbeats, Abby threw her head back into the pillow and cried out, even as she dug her fingers into Ziva's back for support.

Ziva slowed her movements, bringing her down gently and then held her. "I love you," she whispered.

Abby hummed, a smile creeping over her face. "You too," she replied. "Time s'it?"

"Late for me," Ziva replied, with a smile, "early for you."

"'Kay" Abby responded. "Kiss?"

Ziva was more than happy to grant that request. They spent several minutes doing just that before Ziva pulled away. "Breakfast?" Ziva asked. Abby opened her eyes and smiled brightly, nodding.

When Ziva stood and strode away from the bed, she enjoyed the appreciative looks that Abby gave her as she walked through the room naked. They had been dating for a couple of months and had only recently escalated their relationship into the physical realm. Thus far, they were perfectly suited for each other. She picked up the tiny t-shirt that Abby had given her the week before that said "Girl toy" across the front, plus a pair of clean underwear and entered the bathroom to clean up a little before dressing. When she came back out, Abby was staring at the door sleepily.

"I'll bring you your Caf-Pow! in a moment, love," Ziva assured her before coming over to kiss her.

Just as she was about to walked out of the bedroom Abby called to her.

"Zee?" she said. When Ziva looked back at her, Abby smiled. "I love you."

Ziva smiled, pleased. She winked at Abby. "Ani ohev otach," she replied.

"I don't know, sugar," Abby drawled and then laughed. She had been playing southern belle to Ziva's unexpected chivalry all night. She clearly enjoyed it too.

"What is there not to know?" Ziva smirked. "You either would like to dance with me or not."

"I guess it's 'cause I don't know how to dance to this kind of music," Abby responded, still smiling.

"Do you see what that woman is doing?" Ziva said and pointed discreetly. "Watch her feet for a moment."

Abby watched and then shook her head. "But I don't know when to," she started to say only to have Ziva place her hand on her arm. She looked at her seriously.

"Trust me," the Israeli intoned. She was happy when Abby nodded.

Standing, Ziva extended her hand to Abby and led her out onto the dance floor. She brought her in closely, and put one hand in the small of her back. With that, she began to lead Abby around the floor. The Goth was hesitant at first, but she began to follow Ziva's lead more confidently by the end of the first song. By the end of the third song, they were dancing together as if they had been doing it for years. Abby actually looked slightly disappointed when the smaller woman led her back off the floor a little later.

When they sat back down at their table, the smile Abby directed at Ziva made something in the Israeli's chest flutter. The Goth played with the tips of Ziva's fingers across the table. Ziva was convinced she would do whatever it took to see more of those smiles directed at her.

"That was fun," Abby beamed.



"Hey Abs," Gibbs said quietly as he entered Ziva's room.

The Goth bounced up and ran around the bed to hug him hard. When she finally pulled back and looked at him, his facial expression made her want to cry. He was just so kind and knowing.

"How are you holding up?" He asked.

"I'm fine," she said and shrugged.

"Any updates?" He nodded towards Ziva.

"They're happy with her progress," she answered. She went over everything all the doctors had told her and watched as he walked up to Ziva and touched her hair lightly with an affectionate gesture.

"I can't stay," he said, "but I had to check on both of you." He went back over and hugged Abby, kissing her gently on the top of her head. "Call me if you need me."

She was not safe. She did not have a safe house, a safe location where Mossad would not be able to find her. It was unnerving. She did not do what she was accused of and now too many agencies wanted her in custody. It was a matter of her past coming back to haunt her even in her innocence.

Therefore, when the cabbie asked her where she wanted to go, she went back to the real beginning of her new life in America; she gave him the address to Gibbs house. Now all she had to do was somehow find Gibbs and convince him to help her.

She knew McGee could find him, but McGee would get in trouble if she asked. Ducky might know where he went, but she did not feel comfortable enough to ask him. Then she realized the only person at NCIS whom she might be able to ask this of was the one she trusted the most.

Abby was there for her. She got her Gibbs number and much to Ziva's relief, she was worried about her. It restored a little of her sense of self that at least one person cared enough to worry about her.

Gibbs said he would come. Gibbs believed her too.

It would hit her much later that she never considered calling her father.

Gibbs got off the elevator and strode confidently through the bullpen, barely giving the Israeli man sitting at Ziva's desk a second's glance. He moved around to his desk and glanced at his emails before looking at the men on his team.

"McGee," he barked.

"I haven't got much, Boss," he answered. "The gun that was left behind was listed as stolen from a private collector in Manassas. Owner listed it stolen four months ago after a home invasion style robbery."

"DiNozzo," the older man said gruffly, pinning his look at the other agent.

"The Neon was stolen three weeks ago but the tags were only reported stolen last week," he answered. "Unfortunately the owner has no idea where or when they were taken."

"Homeland Security had not heard any traffic about Hamas being in town?" Gibbs asked.

"Not that they will share," Tony answered gruffly.

Gibbs just hummed. "Any hits on the prints?"

"We've cleared half the prints in the car as belonging to the car's real owner's family. That left only four sets that were unidentified."

"Four?" Gibbs inquired.

"Yes," Tony replied. "One of which definitely belongs to the scumbag Ziva brought down."

"Okay," Gibbs finally turned to the Mossad officer. "You have anything to contribute?"

"I am waiting for a call from my people," Rivkin answered.

"Well," Gibbs said, "call them and light a fire under their feet."

"I do not think," Michael started to respond only to be interrupted.

"I don't know how you do it there, but here you do it my way," Gibbs said, his voice hard. "The only reason I'm giving you any voice at all is because you have a connection to Ziva."

Rivkin stared at him for a moment and then nodded. He opened his cell phone and began speaking in a hard voice in Hebrew. When he hung back up, he looked at Gibbs.

"They have one name for you," he answered. "They are working on the rest. I had them email you the information."

Gibbs snapped at McGee. "McGee," he ordered. "Get it on the screens." They watched as McGee worked his magic and the information came up. It was not yet translated. "Michael?"

The Israeli man stood and came around to stand next to Gibbs. He began translating.

"Sayed Ali-Atah, known Hamas extremist," he said. "He was one of Ari Haswari's contacts. He is believed to be a mid-level leader. He is believed to have contacts in Al-Qaeda, Al-Jihad, Hizbuluh, and Tanzim Qa'idat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn."

"Gesundheit," Tony mumbled sarcastically. He subsided quickly at a pointed look from Gibbs.

"Do you have a list of known aliases?" Gibbs asked.

"Yes," Rivkin answered.

"Get it to Tony," he ordered. "Tony, pass it through Homeland Security and see if he's popped up anywhere. And get the known prints list to Michael so Mossad can quit working on those. If you have any more pops, call me immediately."

He turned to Michael, looking him up and down. "Hand over the piece you have on your right ankle," he told him.

"I don't," Michael started.

"Do it," Gibbs growled.

"You would leave me without a weapon?" Michael asked even as he handed over the gun. He watched as Gibbs locked it in his desk.

"You've got your knife. I assume you are as good with it as Ziva is with hers," Gibbs said, "Although, if you were her backup in Morocco, I really shouldn't assume that."

The young man flushed.

"McGee, you're with me," Gibbs said and walked away.

When the elevator doors closed, Michael turned to Tony. "Is he always this way?" he asked.

"No," Tony answered. "Sometimes he's worse. Just be glad he hasn't hit you yet."

Abby laughed aloud as they left the restaurant. She tucked her hand into the crook of Ziva's arm. Despite their height difference, it worked well for them.

"What is so amusing?" Ziva asked.

"I was just thinking that only you could find a gay bed & breakfast on a beach in Maryland," Abby said wryly.

"I thought it would be nice to be able to be affectionate without being concerned about those around us," Ziva answered seriously.

"Oh, it is," Abby answered, "Although I'm used to people always staring at me."

"That is because you are beautiful," Ziva replied, nodding.

Abby smirked and leaned down to kiss Ziva's cheek. "Flatterer," she commented, even though she enjoyed the compliment.

"No," Ziva answered. "I am speaking the truth as I see it."

They wandered to the edge of the large porch that extended off the restaurant attached to the bed and breakfast and stood there together watching the surf. Ziva was happy that, barring any emergency cases, they would have the entire weekend to themselves.

"Shall we?" Ziva asked, indicating the shoreline. Abby looked down at her platform boots and then at the sand. "Take them off," Ziva said. "I'll carry them."

"What about yours?" the Goth asked.

"They will be fine," Ziva answered, not really caring about her shoes at all. She liked how when Abby took off her shoes, that they were only a few inches separating them now. She would never begrudge Abby her crazy shoes, but she did enjoy being able to steal a kiss without stretching for it.

They walked along the shore of the bay, its sand nothing like Ziva was accustomed to. She told Abby about some of the beaches she had grown up with, the few vacations her father had taken her and her mother on before her mother had died.

"You would like the Mediterranean Sea," she told Abby.

Abby smiled. "Maybe you should show me one day," she responded.

"Perhaps I will," Ziva responded, "if you are a good little Goth."

"Little?" Abby said humorously.

When they started getting cool, they turned around and walked back, still holding hands and talking. Ziva realized she would have to remove her shoes before they walked back in the building. There was a place where they could rinse their feet outside the beach entrance and Abby laughed, as Ziva had to roll her nice pants up. Ziva poked her tongue out at her playfully, delighted when Abby giggled at her. She carried both pairs of shoes in one hand and they snuck back up to their room.

When they entered Abby smiled at her, watching as the Israeli set both pairs of boots next to the door gently. The taller woman put her arms around Ziva's neck when she turned back around, leaning in to kiss her quite thoroughly.

"You don't get to run away from me tonight," Abby said when they separated.

"Do I look like I want to?" Ziva asked with a smile.

Abby shook her head. Ziva began to lead Abby back to the bedroom, walking backwards with complete faith in her ability to get them there. The taller woman kept leaning down and stealing kisses which were very distracting, but they managed to make it there eventually. The lighting was already on low in the room, leaving them just enough light to see and explore each other happily.

Ziva pulled the tall woman's head down gently, kissing her more thoroughly, allowing herself to really get lost in the kisses for once. She would not be stopping tonight unless Abby asked her to and since Abby had made it clear weeks ago that she had wanted more, she doubted the Goth would stop her.

Trailing her lips across the taller woman's jaw, she moved down to the scientist's neck. The Goth was wearing a loose black choker with a cross instead of one of her usual tighter collars so Ziva was able to kiss around it and back to where the spider web tattoo began. She pulled the taller woman's body against her own even as she began to kiss and nibble all along the web. Noticing that Abby really seemed to enjoy when she used her teeth, she took a chance and bit a little harder at the juncture where her neck and shoulder met. Abby gasped and dug her fingernails into Ziva's back.

The scientist's hands began to roam more freely over Ziva's back, obviously frustrated at being unable to explore more. The Israeli pulled back and returned to kissing Abby even as she pushed her hands under the edge of the taller woman's short shirt and started exploring the soft skin beneath slowly. After a few minutes, she grabbed the shirt and began to tug it up, slowly drawing it over Abby's head only breaking the kiss for the moment she had to.

Abby had already begun working on the buttons of her shirt, but was having difficulties.

"You like your buttons?" she mumbled between kisses.

"Go ahead," Ziva smiled.

When Abby ripped the shirt the rest of the way apart, she tugged it off Ziva's shoulders and tossed it on the floor right before beginning her own exploration of the smaller woman's neck and shoulders. She hissed when Ziva ran her hands up her stomach and lightly ran her fingertips over her nipples where they were trapped in her bra.

Ziva felt it like liquid fire when Abby trailed her nails around from her back, across her stomach and slowly over her breasts. Wanting more contact, she reached around and unclasped Abby's bra then ran her hands up along the newly exposed skin to her shoulders and followed the straps off both arms. She reached over to the side of the short skirt Abby was wearing and unzipped it. Kissing her way down the taller woman's neck, she reached the baby fine skin of her chest as she let her hands slowly push the skirt down.

She continued to lay a trail of butterfly kisses along Abby's skin, pausing when she was level with a set of very nice breasts. She teased the Goth's breasts for a few moments, resisting when Abby actually put her hand on the back of her head and tried to hold her there.

"Patience," Ziva whispered.

"Are you trying to kill me?" Abby asked plaintively. She put her hands on Ziva's shoulders and watched her through hooded eyes.

"No," Ziva replied, "I am going to worship you like the goddess you are."

The smaller woman continued kissing down Abby's body, following the path her hands had taken as they removed the skirt. She helped Abby step out of the skirt kissing her way back up her body slowly. When she was standing, she leaned in and kissed her sweetly before stepping back again and taking off her own bra and pants. After that, she put her hands on Abby's hips and gently pushed her over to the bed.

"At yafa, Ahuvati," Ziva purred.

"English," Abby said, smiling.

"You're beautiful, my beloved," the Israeli repeated.

"The exotic goddess before me is calling me beautiful," Abby grinned.

Smiling, Ziva directed the older woman onto the bed, joining her in the middle and covering her with her body. She closed her eyes, momentarily overwhelmed by the feelings coursing through her. They were both naked except for their underwear and this was the most they had ever seen or felt of each other. The Goth reached up and pulled Ziva down into a searing kiss.

When they broke away for air, Ziva began descending Abby's body again, but this time with the intent of finding every spot that thrilled Abby. She took her time at the older woman's breasts, as the sounds Abby made while she worshipped them drove her wild. She let her hands roam freely over every inch that she could reach even as she moved back and forth between each breast. When the Goth was moaning her name nonstop the Israeli licked her way down to her tight little stomach, discovering that Abby enjoyed little love nips along her sides. She made her way down over a shapely hip licking down the side of her leg, and back to the inside of her thigh, dragging her tongue slowly up in the direction she wanted to go the most.

She could already smell the older woman's arousal and her moans and words of encouragement were serving as a sweet torture of their own. She kissed Abby through the thin layer of silk that covered her, felt the moisture that had soaked through and smiled. Ziva ran her tongue along the other woman's lips, barely brushing over the wet material before using her hands to remove the garment altogether.

Settling between her legs, Ziva slowly kissed along the edges of Abby's womanhood while threading her arms under the long legs beside her. Finally where she wanted to be, she used her tongue to separate the swollen lips in front of her and tasted her lover for the first time. Moaning at the taste and over the copious moisture present, she began a systematic assault on Abby's senses, determined to communicate her feelings through this touch. She took her time, exploring every inch of her, plunging her tongue in as far as it could go before bringing it out again and repeating the process. When the older woman's hips started bucking, she brought her mouth up to the sensitive bundle of nerves and sucked it in gently while bringing her hand around to enter her.

She stroked her gently first with one finger and then two while loving on her clit, flicking her tongue in circles around it then sucking it hard and stroking it. Abby started calling her name, moaning and breathing more heavily, thrusting her hips down to meet each stroke of Ziva's hand. The older woman's movements became quicker, so the Israeli met her pace, reaching deep inside, trying to find that special place.

The Goth began pulling on her hand, so Ziva left what she was doing with her mouth, never slowing her pace with her hand, sliding up Abby's body kissing her skin here and there along the way. She almost detoured at the breasts that had driven her wild earlier but Abby grabbed her hair in both hands and pulled her up the rest of the way to her mouth, kissing her passionately.

As they kissed and Ziva continued to pump her fingers in and out of the other woman, Abby wrapped one of her legs around Ziva and held onto her tightly with one arm. The Israeli thought she might die from the pleasure. Then Abby threw her head back and cried out her name. The younger woman continued to stroke harder and faster until Abby came again, inhaling at the sharp pleasure and pain of Abby digging her nails deeply into her back. After that, she slowed to a stop, remaining still inside of her, feeling the pulsations of her internal muscles as they continued to spasm.

Abby finally looked down at her and there were tears in her eyes, but she was smiling. She reached up and kissed Ziva gently.

"Wow," the Goth said.

"Wow, indeed," Ziva replied feeling her own goofy grin.

Then Abby got a mischievous look on her face and swiftly rolled them over.

"My turn," she said.

They were at one of Abby's favorite clubs and a local band was playing. There was a mosh pit out on the floor and as usual, Abby had drug Ziva straight out there with her. It had taken Ziva a while to get used to this kind of dancing, but she had to admit that if nothing else, it was good exercise. Not to mention Abby loved to gyrate and grind all over her when they were out there like this.

In between sets, they went to the bar to get a couple of drinks. Abby was holding onto her from behind while she ordered the drinks, leaning her head onto Ziva's.

"Know one of the reasons why I love coming out here and doing this with you?" she murmured into Ziva's ear.

"No. Why?" Ziva replied.

"Your danger bubble," Abby replied and Ziva could feel her nod.

"Danger bubble?" Ziva asked with a laugh, even as she turned with their drinks and handed one to the taller woman.

"Yeah," Abby agreed, sipping her drink. "Everywhere you go people seem to know not to mess with you. It's like subconscious or something. You have like this aura of deadliness, like a predator and people just don't want to tangle with you. They stay out of your personal space. It's your danger bubble. And somehow it extends to me when I'm with you. Nobody ever messes with us."

Ziva just chuckled, falling even harder for this woman and her unique outlook on life.



Timothy McGee finally arrived at the hospital late that evening, about thirty minutes before visiting hours were to end. He found Abby in Ziva's room talking to the comatose woman about the science of fingerprints. When she saw him, she smiled at him, but it was not one her usual thousand watt smiles.

"McGee," she said happily.

He came in and sat in the other chair in the room, bringing it closer to Abby's first.

"How's she doing?"

"The same," she answered, "which they say is good. No fevers, no fluid buildups in her lungs, no swelling in her head. The head doc is happy with the readings," she pointed to one of the machines. "The cardio lady is happy with her blood pressure and lungs," she paused and looked thoughtful. "I think she's a bit scared of me though."

"Did you bear hug her?" McGee asked knowingly.

Abby just blushed. She finished telling him about all the different doctors' visits and then asked him about progress on the case. He told her what little they had gathered, which was basically two of the four identities, to include the dead man. He also related exactly how everybody was getting along with Officer Rivkin.

"Her one time partner? He's here?" she queried in surprise.

"Yes," he answered. "Seems nice enough. But he and Tony are throwing enough machismo around the room every time Gibbs is gone that it's quite distracting."

"I've seen pictures of him," she said nodding. "He's handsome in that tall and dark kind of way. I wonder if that's intimidating Tony."

"He seems more irritated that intimidated, but who knows with DiNozzo," he said wryly. "Gibbs has him on probation kind of like he did when Ziva arrived. Took his gun and knocked him down a few pegs."

He continued telling her about how they were trying to get information out of other agencies, and how the politics were starting to creep in since it was such a sensational news item at the moment.

"Gibbs asked me to stay tonight," McGee commented later after they had both fallen silent.

"You don't have to," she said, but though it was sweet anyway.

"I want to, Abby," he said. "She's my friend too." He touched her hand. "Gibbs also wants me to send you home when visiting hours are up."

"He can't do that," she said after her jaw dropped and a significant pause.

"He's Gibbs," McGee shrugged. "Said I had to call him if you didn't. Told me it was my job if I let you stay. And he said you needed rest."

Abby's frown quickly turned into a pout.

"I couldn't sleep without her there last night," she grumped.

"Did she move in with you?" Tim asked, shocked. "I mean, are you living together?"

"Not really," she said, and then added, "sort of." She saw him staring at her. "We've just been bouncing back and forth between the two apartments, but mostly staying at mine. It's been a few months since I slept without her, before last night anyway."

He frowned, trying to think of what to say. He finally shrugged. "All I know is that Gibbs is usually right about these types of things," he said. "He tries not to pay close attention to or meddle in our lives most of the time. So when he finally does interfere you know he really feels strongly."

"I know," she said.

Her squad had just finished basic training and was beginning live missions out in the general population. Overall, she was comfortable with her team's make up. Four of the members, including her, were genuinely interested in staying in the Defense Forces as careers or at least long term. Two others were basic conscripts, only planning to stay as long as required. Those two were not always the strongest but they were competent.

Their third day in the field, they were patrolling the perimeter of a bus station as a general deterrent. It was a beautiful early spring day and two of the men were commenting on how they would rather be patrolling the beach or even the mountains.

One of her teammates leaned over to her and discreetly pointed to two men approaching from the south.

"I do not know why," he said, "but I find them suspicious."

"You're just being paranoid," another of the men said.

"We are supposed to be paranoid, so that the rest of Israel does not have to be," Ziva admonished. She watched as the two men began to separate, one walking towards a bus that had just arrived, while the other was heading for the terminal. "You three go question him before he gets on the bus," she directed. "We will speak to the other."

"David," one of them said, "he'll be on the bus by the time we get there."

"So?" she asked. "Follow him on and ask to see his identification."

The man rolled his eyes at her and grabbed his friends to go do as she had ordered. They had learned in camp that she had good instincts and more training than any of them, so they would follow her orders even if they did not truly have to.

Ziva turned and started after the second man, trusting her two partners to follow her. The man seemed to feel he was being followed or perhaps he was just being wary, because he looked back. It was obvious that he spotted the trio and he began to walk more quickly. Ziva picked up the pace, beginning to lope into a jog.

"Halt," she yelled in both Hebrew and Arabic.

At that moment, there was a tremendous explosion behind them. The concussion wave nearly knocked Ziva off of her feet but she was able to catch her balance. The man they were tailing looked back and had a pleased expression on his face. He began to recite a litany of curses against the Israeli state even as he started running towards the doors of the terminal.

Ziva saw he was only another 30 meters from the terminal itself and that they would never stop him in time. She pulled her sidearm and started shooting at him. They did not have time to consider that they were shooting into a crowd.

"Aim for his head," she told her teammates, "Carefully!"

One of them, she did not know which, managed to hit him even as something else exploded behind them. The sounds of sirens and panicking people filled the air. She started shouting at people to get away from his body, not knowing if his bomb was on a timer although it was more likely it was a trigger. She ran up to him and saw that he had dropped the trigger as he fell.

Rolling him over, she had to swallow the bile that rose after she saw what was left of his face. Since the bullet had entered the back of his head, it had left his head explosively through the front, leaving little but a nose and mouth. Ignoring that, she reached down and used her knife to slice his robes off in order to get a better look at his bomb. She followed the wires and discovered how it was put together before she began removing the leads in order to disarm it.

"David," one of her teammates gasped. "What are you doing? Trying to kill us?"

"I know what I am doing," she replied, "And I will feel better when this is nothing but an ugly belt."

"You went to bomb training?" he asked.

"Of a sort," she replied, not about to admit whom her father was and what kinds of things he had taught her as a teen. When she was done, she stood. "Harrah, stay with his body. We will go see where the others are."

When they got to what was left of the bus, they had their first experience with the general mayhem created by a terrorist attack. There were people in various states of injury either trying to take themselves away from the burning wreckage or begging for help. She picked her way carefully into the wreckage, trying to find her teammates. Ziva saw what were obviously charred bodies in the rear of the bus over where the fuel tank would have been; the stench of everything that was burning assaulted her. She finally found one of her teammates lying face down in between some seats, and when she rolled him over, she could see his chest had been filled with shrapnel from the explosion.

When an older woman near her started crying out, she left her teammate and went to her. Helping her out of the wreckage, she managed to get her to a nearby area when they were setting up triage. She set her down and looked around. It was utter chaos. Turning around she went back, determined to retrieve as many people as she could.

Many days later, her commander would commend her and what was left of her team for their recovery efforts. She was even given a medal for bringing down the second terrorist, since it had been her bullet after all, and disarming the bomb. Her commander also sent her to further explosives training since she had shown the aptitude.

However, for weeks after that she did not sleep for more than a few hours at a time. Worse, she attended the funerals of two of her teammates shortly after the attack and the third she had sent with them remained in the hospital for months, losing an arm and a leg. It took her many months and the words of a very kind Rabbi before she would let go of the guilt that she survived and those she had sent to the bus were not as lucky.

"McGee," Abby said as she shook the man's shoulder. He was sleeping in what had to be the most uncomfortable position possible, lying over the arm of his chair sideways, his head on the next chair.

He woke up slowly, blinking at her and then groaned as he tried to move his head.

"Wow," he said, blinking sleepily, "I didn't intend to fall asleep. Obviously."

"Did anybody come by last night?" she asked, impatient to get into the room, but knowing there was still another fifteen minutes to go.

"I didn't get to see any doctors," he answered, "but I talked to a couple of the nurses. They said there wasn't any change, which was a good thing. Just basic steady improvement. She's healing, albeit slowly and we'd never see it."

"Anything else?" she asked.

"Yeah," he grinned. "I got a date with one of them."

"McGee!" She exclaimed. "I expect that kind of thing from Tony, but you?" She smacked his arm. "Jeesh!"

"Ow," he complained, "and I can't help it if we hit it off."

Abby rolled her eyes. She took a sip of her giant Caf-Pow! and sat down next to him.

"So," he said slowly, knowing she would need a distraction "will you tell me about how you two started dating?"

Abby smiled softly and related the story of how Ziva asked her out.

"I am not sure about this," Ziva said reluctantly, holding her rental shoes delicately and with some distaste. She followed her girlfriend over to their assigned lane.

"I am," Abby replied happily. "You'll be a natural, I'm sure."

Abby set her bowling bag down and pulled out her shoes. They were black, patent leather bowling shoes, matching her catholic schoolgirl outfit quite well.

"How does one play?" Ziva asked as she put on the neon pink and green shoes the young man had handed her. She wondered if she went back and threatened him with bodily harm if he might give her something a little less ridiculous looking. Glancing around, she noticed that most of the people here had on the most bizarre shoes, so maybe it was part of the sport.

"You see the ten pins down there?" Abby pointed. "You take your ball and try to knock them all down. You have two chances and whatever you knock over in those two tries is your score for that frame. Unless of course you get a spare or a strike; then you're next frame's first roll is added to the last frame." Abby beamed. "Now, if you get three strikes in a row, you've got a turkey. And that's good; really good."

Ziva looked at Abby and blinked slowly. She thought Abby was still speaking English, but she was not entirely sure.

"Come on," Abby said. "I want you to get a couple of games in before the Sisters show up."

Abby led Ziva over to a rack of balls and helped her choose one, which to Ziva's consternation was a bright and hideous orange. The Goth showed the Israeli how to hold the ball and where the foul line was before demonstrating by rolling her first frame, getting a strike.

"Now you try," Abby said.

Ziva raised her eyebrow as she walked out onto the floor. Abby made it look easy: just walk forward, pull your arm back and roll the ball to the pins. There had to be a trick to it. She grabbed the ugly orange ball and tried to do what Abby had done, only to watch it roll into the groove along the left edge about halfway down the lane.

"Is the floor tilted?" she asked Abby as she walked back.

"Nope," Abby smiled softly. "It's just your first try. A gutter ball now and then isn't the end of the world. Especially on your first try. Just try to remember to keep your hand straight and under the ball, like this."

Abby got up, standing closely behind Ziva, directing the movement of her hand and arm a couple of times so the smaller woman would have the feel of it. Ziva was still dubious, but she was not about to let a simple game beat her. She tried again and this time her ball made it all the way to the end, but only hit one pin before falling off.

"Ya ben shel zona," Ziva cursed quietly.

"What was that?" Abby asked, amused.

"This is harder than it looks," Ziva answered. She sat down on the hard plastic chair and crossed her arms over her chest.

"I somehow doubt that's what you said," the tall woman said and kissed her cheek.

After a few frames, Ziva had improved to hitting the middle pins most of the time. However, she was unable to pick up any spares, still unable to grasp how to aim. She began to watch some of the other bowlers and noticed that most were throwing the ball a lot harder, but for some their balls also curved from outside in.

"How do I do that," she asked Abby and pointed at the nearest man who was doing well with the technique.

"It's physics. He spins the ball as he releases and it will curve from the middle to the outside to the middle again. But you have to put a lot more force behind that kind of roll, that's why I don't use it," Abby said. "I like my simple straight rolls."

"I think I shall try it," Ziva said.

She walked back up to the line and watched him one more time before grabbing her ball. She stepped over to the side as he had and strode more rapidly to the line, releasing with a spin. The ball made it all the way down, hitting most of the pins on the right, but hitting with such explosive force that it took out most of the pins on the left too, leaving only two in the front standing. She nodded, liking that better.

"Wow," Abby said as she returned. "I've never seen anybody do that well with that technique on their first try." She clapped happily. "Pick up the spare Zee."

Ziva adjusted her stance and tried to repeat what she did the last time. This time, the last two pins were hit with a satisfying force. She turned back to see Abby jumping up and down cheering. She smiled.

"I think I am beginning to see some of the appeal," the Israeli said as she approached the taller woman.

By the time the nuns arrived for their weekly game with Abby, Ziva had improved drastically. The man next to her had noticed her watching him and had given her a few pointers, including telling her to find a slightly heavier ball if she could handle the weight. She was over her trepidation for the game and now was tense because she wanted the women that Abby adored to like her.

"Okay, Ziva," Abby said as the nuns gathered around. "This is Sister Mary Agatha, Sister Mary Katherine and Sister Mary Anna. Sisters, this is my girlfriend Ziva David." She beamed at all of the women around her, watching as Ziva shook their hands.

"How nice to finally meet you, dear," Sister Mary Katherine said to Ziva. "Abigail says such lovely things about you. I understand you are from the Holy Land?"

Ziva nodded, clearing her throat, surprised to find she was nervous. "Yes, Sister," she answered.

"Are you Jewish, dear?" Sister Mary Agatha asked while she put on her bowling shoes.

"I am," Ziva answered.

"Tell us about yourself," Sister Mary Anna prompted.

"I," Ziva said and froze. How did you tell a group of nuns that you were a trained assassin now working as an investigator in a foreign land? Seeing her freeze, the eldest nun laughed.

"How about telling us what it's like where you grew up and we'll go from there," she prompted.

Ziva smiled. She could do that. She started talking about her homeland while the nuns warmed up for a few frames. She watched them with interest, amazed at how good they were. By the time they were ready to play, she had relaxed somewhat and found talking about herself easier. She just had to treat them like anybody else and keep most of her life classified and things were okay from there.

"So," Sister Mary Agatha said at one point. "I understand you were in the military back home. Did you ever have to do anything dangerous?"

Abby nearly sprayed one of the nuns with the soda she was drinking in surprise. Ziva smiled at her.

"I serve my country to the best of my ability, whether there is danger or not," Ziva hedged. "I have seen things I rather would have not, but I would do it all again if it meant protecting my fellow countrymen from those who would harm them."

"Well said," Sister Mary Katherine responded. She smiled. "It's your turn, dear."

Ziva was happy to walk away at that moment. She hoped the nun would let the rest drop. Maybe she could distract her with a story about an exotic land; maybe Morocco or Spain. Then she decided Italy had to be appealing to nuns. She could describe her last trip to Italy; the parts which were not dangerous or classified at least.

As she walked back from rolling her second frame, she saw the twinkle in Abby's eyes. Seeing the Goth happy like that, she could not begrudge her for even a moment of discomfort being grilled by nuns.

Abby had told her to put on her nicest dress, to be ready by six and that she wanted to take her somewhere classy. It was unusual for the Goth, to say the least, to be not only so commanding but so mainstream. Yet, the fact that Abby always kept her guessing was a big part of her appeal to Ziva. She was just putting on the finishing touches to her makeup and checking her hair when her doorbell rang.

Ziva raised an eyebrow curiously, knowing it should be Abby, but Abby had a key and had been letting herself in for months. She grabbed her tiny purse where she had tucked her ID, wallet and a lightweight snub-nosed .44 magnum and headed for the door. When she opened it she saw Abby, dressed very elegantly in a chic black dress whose skirt went all the way to the floor and fit her like a glove. Ziva noticed she was wearing strappy sandals and had even gone with a lighter than normal toenail polish, crimson red instead of black. When her eyes made it back to Abby's, she saw the mischievous sparkle in them that she always loved to see.

"Good evening, Madame," Abby said formally, "I am honored to be able to take you out this evening."

Then Abby pulled a bouquet of red roses from behind her back and held them out in between them.

"They say that red is the color denoting passionate love," the Goth commented.

Ziva smiled appreciatively, melting a little bit inside. She knew that Abby preferred to do everything her own way, to buck the norm. Apparently she was trying to give a little of the norm back to her tonight for some reason.

"They are beautiful," Ziva replied as she took them. "And you, you are beautiful beyond words, Ahuvati."

"I can only appear like this until midnight," Abby said with a laugh. "Then it all turns into pumpkins and rags. So enjoy it while you can Prince Charming."

Ziva did not understand the reference, but she smiled, turning back into her apartment. She found a vase in her kitchen and once they were ready, put the roses in the table in the center of the living room. She took a moment to kiss her lover thoroughly, before picking up her purse again.

"I look forward to whatever adventure you have prepared for us tonight," she commented.

Abby offered her arm, in a clear role reversal from their usual manner and led Ziva out, locking the door behind them. When they got down to the street, Abby hailed a cab instead of taking Ziva to her hearse. She gave the cabbie an address Ziva was unfamiliar with and then settled back in the seat so that they were sitting very closely.

"You know what today is?" the scientist asked.

"I am not sure," Ziva said after a few moments contemplation.

"It's the four month anniversary of our first date," the Goth replied with a smile. "A third of a year."

"The best four months of my life, I believe," Ziva said seriously.

Abby beamed and leaned in to steal a quick kiss. When they parted Abby glanced at the driver and frowned.

"Hey, buddy," she said flatly, "you have two NCIS people back here, one of which is highly trained in the deadlier arts and most likely carrying her weapon. So I'd put your eyeballs back in your head and on the road before I ask my girlfriend to pluck them out. Capiche?"

The driver immediately looked away.

Ziva leaned up to Abby to whisper, "My hero." She kissed Abby lightly on her cheek, careful not to leave any lipstick.

Abby smiled happily again, scrunching her nose quickly in that cute way she did whenever she was especially amused. Ziva had no idea what Abby planned for their night, but even if it got no better than this, it was perfect. That Abby loved her enough to do these things was everything Ziva could have ever wanted.



"We are pursuing many leads," Leon Vance said in response to another reporter's question. It was a variation on the same theme since the press conference began.

Abby watched the TV in fascination as their Director talked about the case without saying much at all. She listened to the boneheaded questions and rolled her eyes.

"We have the full cooperation of both federal and local authorities," he replied to a reporter from ZNN. "Homeland Security is glad to let us remain in control of the investigation. We have a bit more incentive to bring these men to justice as we have an officer who remains in critical condition from injuries received while trying to stop their cowardly attack. My team is highly motivated."

"Why have you not released her name?" another reporter shouted in the background.

"That should be obvious," Vance answered, "We are respecting the privacy of our officer and her loved ones."

"The politics of protecting one's people can be difficult at times," a deep voice inside the doorway made Abby jump, startled. "Leon is handling it well."

Abby's eyes got big as she recognized Eli David standing just inside the doorway. She jumped up, standing, wondering how she should greet him. She felt altogether unprepared for this.

"You must be the one," Eli said.

Abby just blinked. The one what?

"I am Eli David, Ziva's father," he introduced himself. "Somehow, I think you know this. You are Abigail Sciuto, well-respected Forensic Scientist of NCIS. Correct?"

"Yes sir," she responded, feeling a little of her southern roots pop to the forefront.

"May I sit with you?" Eli asked, indicating the chair that McGee had drug next to Abby's yesterday.

Abby nodded nervously and waited until he walked around the bed and sat next to her before reseating herself.

"I do hate the long plane ride, getting here," he said. "But I needed to be here, so here I am."

"She'll be happy to see you," Abby said, not entirely sure if it was true.

Eli smiled. "Perhaps," he answered. "I did not bother to ask the nurses, as I knew you would know. How is she?"

Abby took a deep breath before launching into a detailed explanation of everything that she had heard from the doctors. She tried not to speak rapidly, but found it better to stick to scientific details, as she was exceedingly nervous around this man.

He nodded thoughtfully when she finished. "Thank you," he replied. He stared at his daughter for a few minutes, even leaning forward to hold her hand in his. After a while, he sighed and sat back in the chair.

"Please, tell me about yourself, Ms Sciuto," he asked her charmingly. "I wish to know about the woman who has captured my Ziva's attention."

"Uh," Abby said shocked. She swallowed nervously. Ziva did not tell her that her dad knew anything. "What would you like to know?"

Eli David leaned forward and touched the necklace that he knew was his daughter's where it lay upon Abby's neck. He looked into Abby's green eyes. "Everything you are willing to tell me," he answered. "We have time."

Ziva woke at 4am, as had been her habit for years, snuggling closer to the body in her arms for a few moments. She loved waking up next to Abby and wished that she could spend the morning making love with her, but knew she could not. It was a workday, so she needed to get out of bed and start her routine. Kissing the shoulder in front of her, she rolled away gently so as not to disturb the other woman and climbed out their bed. Striding across the room, she changed into a workout outfit and carried her shoes with her to the living room.

She gathered her fanny pack, which held her snub-nose, and stuffed her IDs in it while heading out the front door. Locking up behind her, she stashed her keys in the pack and sealed it up well, situating it comfortably. She liked her apartment's proximity to a long jogging trail that ran along the water. It gave her an opportunity to exercise whenever she wanted and still be able to return home quickly to get ready for work.

At first, it had been exceedingly difficult to leave Abby in order to go on her runs. After time, she discovered that Abby was much easier to bear in the morning with a fresh Caf-Pow! and some food in her stomach. Since there were so many quaint little delis and restaurants in her neighborhood, she had yet to run out of breakfast surprises for Abby.

This morning she set out to get five kilometers in before returning to grab some thing for her love. It was a lovely winter day, clear and sunny, if a bit cold. She passed many of the regular early morning joggers, giving nods to those who acknowledged her regularly. Once she was through her planned five kilometers, she slowed down to a slow jog, thinking of what to get Abby. She settled for some chocolate muffins from a bakery just down the street, getting a large croissant for herself.

When she returned to her apartment, she ventured into the kitchen and retrieved a can of Caf-Pow!, pouring it into a large glass of ice and bringing it and the muffin into the bedroom. She set them on the table beside where her lover still slept. Leaning over, she kissed her forehead and whispered loving phrases in her native tongue, telling the older woman how much she adored her, even if she did not understand or probably even hear her.

Abby stirred and turned to the voice, reaching up and pulling Ziva down into a soft, closed mouth kiss. When they separated, she mumbled. "Time s'it?"

"A little after five a.m.," Ziva answered, smiling at Abby's morning incoherence.

Abby peeked through one eye at Ziva and groaned. "You're sweaty. Been running?"

"Yes," Ziva answered. "I brought you a treat."

Abby turned to see the items waiting for her. "My hero," she smiled. "Love you."

Ziva smiled fully, loving this cute side of the Goth. "I will be in the office," she told her, kissing her quickly one last time before heading to the second bedroom that functioned as an office and workout room.

The Israeli spent at least 30 minutes per day on weight training and crunches, keeping herself in top shape. She found it easier to get the exercise in before work so that she would not have to worry about it later if a case came up. In the middle of her crunches, she saw Abby shuffle into the room, holding the plate with her muffin and carrying her drink. The scientist sat down at the desk and turned to watch her girlfriend.

Ziva smirked at her. "Enjoying your breakfast?"

Abby nodded. "Liking the view too," she said with a grin. "Although, I like it better when you do it without your shirt."

Ziva paused at the top of her crunch and quirked an eyebrow at Abby. She grabbed the edge of her sweaty t-shirt and pulled it over her head, tossing it onto the floor away from her. Going back to her crunches, she continued her count from where she left off, needing to do 34 more. When she was done, she stood and smiled at the Goth.

"Better?" she asked.

"Much," Abby replied smiling. She stood and approached the shorter woman. Running a finger down Ziva's sweaty stomach, she said, "Yep. You need a shower now. Want some company?"

"Always," Ziva replied and took her girlfriends hand, leading her back to the bedroom.

By the time they were done and dressed for the day, Ziva had to grab her bag with the croissant in it to eat it in the car. Their play had extended quite a bit longer than it should have, but she was sure she could still get to work on time; with a little judicious driving and some shortcuts that is.

Ziva's mark had somehow known she was coming and had taken her by surprise. When she had broken into his room, in order to retrieve the documents that he was carrying, he was still there; he was hiding in the dark waiting for her. She had sensed that something was not right, but before she could even get her gun from its holster, he knocked it out of her hand. He followed that with a nasty left hook to her temple and she was stunned for a moment.

The next thing she knew, the bear of a man had her in a chokehold. She grabbed his arms, trying to pull them away from her throat and then trying to flip him off her, but he responded by picking her up. She could not breathe and was beginning to feel lightheaded from it. She knew it was more than air; he was cutting off the flow of blood to her brain.

Reaching around carefully, she pulled a knife from a holster at her side and flicked it open. Going by instinct, she jerked it back to where she hoped his ribs were. Immediately after that, he dropped her and she twisted with the fall, making sure she did not lose the knife. Coughing, she tried to concentrate and pushed further in; twisting the knife and she jerked it back out.

He screamed in pain and outrage and lunged at her. She sliced through the air and connected with his chest. When he lifted his hands to cover the deep slice, she drove the knife into leg and carved as deeply as she could, immediately becoming covered in his blood as it pumped out in great spurts from the femoral vein she had just sliced open. He weakly clawed at her again, which she dodged by jumping back. Even as he tried to follow, he staggered, cursing her in his rough Turkish and then he fell to the floor.

Within moments, he was dead. Standing there trying to catch her breath, she cursed. That was too close.

Abby paced nervously in the ICU's waiting room; she was mentally trying to will the nurse inside to come and tell them they could return to the room. She and Ziva's father had been asked to leave while the cardiologist and neurologist attempted to remove the younger woman from the ventilator that had been regulating her breathing for the last couple of days. The neurosurgeon was not sure if Ziva would breathe on her own yet but the doctors agreed it would be best if she were off the ventilator before they began removing the barbiturates that were keeping Ziva comatose. Since they wanted to start weaning her off this evening, they wanted to remove the life support now if possible.

Eli David watched the scientist pace. She had been pleasant and polite, if a bit intimidated at first as they had gotten to know each other. She was an enigma he had decided. He knew from his background check of her that she was considered one of the top forensic scientists in the US. The fact that she continually turned down jobs at other agencies to stay at NCIS said a lot about the agency. Meeting her in person had been enlightening. The pictures that he had seen almost portrayed a crazy looking woman.

While in Israel, Eli did not see what his daughter saw in the woman in front of him. Her punk-like trappings, tattoos and crazy hairstyles certainly did not lend to traditional beauty. He had fully expected a beautiful woman when he had initially discovered Ziva was dating a woman. This woman was pretty in a sense, and could be prettier, but she was not nearly the beauty he had expected. However, he had told Ziva he would not interfere, so he did not.

Talking to her, he had discovered she was quick witted and caring. He had watched as she instinctively touched Ziva on a regular basis, how she beamed when talking about Ziva and unconsciously touched the Magen David that hung around her neck. She was not Jewish, but respected Ziva's belief, that was obvious from little things she said and did. Most importantly, she was genuinely distraught over Ziva's injuries and wanted nothing more than to see Ziva okay. She had stopped her life to stay by his daughter's side even when she was deep in a coma and unaware.

The tall woman had led a challenging life, growing up in a family with several deaf people, including both of her parents. She had put herself through school on scholarships and by picking up work in between semesters. She had risen through the ranks in her profession quickly with no real regard for competition, only caring about the science of "putting away the bad guys" as she put it. She was incredibly loyal to Jethro Gibbs, something that she and Ziva definitely had in common.

Now that he was here, he began to see how his daughter could become enamored with her. If she were a man, he would be encouraging them to marry. He knew he could not expect Ziva to want to marry a good Jewish man after all he had asked of her in her life. However, it did not calm the disquiet he felt that she had fallen for someone not only outside the faith but who was also a woman. He would worry for her soul, he knew, even if he was happy for her heart.

"Abigail," he spoke softly. The woman stopped pacing and looked at him quizzically. "Please, come, sit. You are making me nervous." He laughed. He noticed Abby blushed and hesitated.

"I'm not real good at sitting still when I'm worried," she said as she sat down next to him facing the door.

"Ziva will be okay," he said and patted her hand. "She has always been a fighter, even when she was small."

Abby was about to ask him to tell her about what Ziva was like as a kid when the two doctors came into the room.

"Mr. David," the neurologist said, she glanced at Abby apologetically then returned her gaze to the older man. "Your daughter is progressing well. We're going to transfer her to a regular room later tonight barring any complications. I'm happy with her responses to stimuli. I've ordered a CAT scan just to be safe and will update you after I get those results if there are any problems."

"Please," he said kindly, putting a hand on Abby's shoulder. "Treat Ms. Sciuto as family in or out of my presence. She will be here with Ziva long after I must return to Israel and she is the one my daughter is closest to."

Abby blinked rapidly in surprise, then put her hand on his and squeezed it. She smiled at the doctors and noticed the cardiologist was looking at the man especially curiously.

"I," the doctor said then hesitated, "very well. We will probably need to get you to sign something to let all the doctors and nurses understand your wishes. Our privacy laws here can be very sticky and the term family is unfortunately often interpreted very strictly."

"Laws are laws," he said, "but family is here." He placed his hand over his heart.

The cardiologist cleared her throat. "She is breathing on her own just fine and I believe she will continue to do so. We'll have respiratory therapists coming in regularly to give her treatments to help her lungs recover more quickly from the abuse they've gone through," she said. "But I think she'll benefit from being in a regular room where you two can remain with her as often as you would like."

"When will she wake up?" Abby asked, trying not to sound too impatient.

"I've directed that they start weaning her off the barbiturates this evening," the neurologist answered. "They should be out of her system by early morning, so it can really be any time after that. Be aware though, she will likely only stay awake for a few minutes at a time at first."

"Okay," Abby answered.

The doctors discussed a few more details, including the fact that they were sending her to a private room, and then left the two of them alone. Abby could not wait to get back to Ziva, so she turned back to her girlfriend's father and grabbed him by the hand.

"Come on," She said and tugged his hand.

He looked down at their joined hands even as she began pulling him towards the ICU. The last time he remembered a younger woman dragging him by the hand was when Ziva was ten years old and wanting to go to a ride at a festival. Abby's look of innocent happiness reminded him a little of that day.

Yes, he could see some of what Ziva saw in Abigail Sciuto.

"Ziva," Abby said as she walked up next to her girlfriend, who was watching Gibbs interrogate Quinn.

"Abby," Ziva replied and smiled. "I thought you went home."

"Did Gibbs tell him that his daughter was here and she wants to meet him?" Abby asked.

"No," Ziva responded.

"He has to," Abby intoned, "It means everything to her."

"Abby," Ziva cajoled, already seeing where this was going and it would not go well for her soft hearted lover, "this is not a lost puppy for you to rescue. You cannot make this better. This is a murder investigation."

"I think Gibbs should tell him," Abby said.

"And I think," Ziva said, "you should stay out of this."

It was not the first time they had disagreed, and Ziva was sure it would not be the last. It wasn't even shocking to Ziva that later Abby would tell Quinn's daughter that he was in custody. She felt compassion for the man's obvious pain and fear about seeing his daughter. She could easily imagine what it would be like to see some of the things he had seen and lose touch with reality.

The truth was she had pushed herself so hard into the life of Mossad as much to escape as to serve. Everything she had seen during her IDF days had shown her how ugly the fight was and how random life would be if she ever tried to live normally like any other Israeli. So Mossad had been the easy choice. She had been groomed in that direction for years. It was a relief of sorts to let go and simply follow orders. Kill who needed to be killed, steal what needed to be stolen and find a way to do everything she did better than everyone around her. She could continually look for another challenge.

What would it have been like to have a father who loved her so much that he thought the best thing for her would be for her to think he was dead? That she could not imagine.

When Abby pushed so hard and her button and glove print proved to be the evidence they needed, Quinn was vindicated. They found the real killer. And Abby convinced Gibbs to take care of Quinn meeting his daughter. While Gibbs took the man to meet his daughter, Tony called everybody to the MTAC intending on the team watching "It's a Wonderful Life" together.

While the team was talking about the case and random other things Abby handed Ziva a beaker filled with cotton balls and stems with dyed cotton balls attached to them.

"Oh, Abby," the Israeli crooned, loving the gesture.

"Hmm," Ducky said, "a cotton-ball bouquet. See what I got? Cufflinks made out of…"

"Spent 9mm slugs," Abby finished for him.

Ziva smiled at her girlfriend. She had known that Abby was upset about not knowing what to get people. It appeared she had solved her dilemma as creatively as usual.

When they returned home later that night Ziva placed her bouquet on a table at one end of the living room and smiled. She stepped over to the tree that she had bought for Abby and pulled out the gift she had hidden in its branches a few days before. Walking over to the taller woman, she handed the tiny wrapped box to her.

"Baby," Abby said as she looked at the neatly wrapped gift. "You didn't have to. I know you don't celebrate Christmas."

"But you do," Ziva replied and smiled. "And you are not Jewish, but you helped me celebrate Hanukah."

Abby grinned and leaned over to peck Ziva on the lips quickly. She ripped open the paper wrapped around the small box and opened it up. Inside there was a black leather wristband like the kind she liked to wear with burnished black loops and chains. When she picked it up, she noticed the inside of the leather had a phrase written in Hebrew script burned into it. Below that script was a phrase in ordinary script, but obviously still Hebrew.

"Is that?" Abby asked, thinking it looked like something she knew Ziva said a lot.

"Ani ohev otach," Ziva said as she pointed to the words. "It is not exactly traditional jewelry, but I thought you might enjoy this more, yes?"

Abby beamed at her and threw her arms around her in a bear hug. Ziva had gotten a lot better at catching Abby's hugs over the last few months and honestly loved them now. The taller woman eventually pulled back and kissed Ziva passionately.

She eventually stepped back and started leading Ziva towards the bedroom.

"Come on," Abby grinned. "Let's unwrap each other."

"Merry Christmas to me," Ziva quipped happily.

Ziva always loved when her father drove them somewhere. He would speed through the streets darting in and out of traffic as if the hounds of hell were chasing them. Neither her aunt nor her nanny ever drove that way. She noticed they were heading away from town, so she reevaluated her idea that he was taking her to temple. It was the third day of Hanukah, and since her mother had died two years ago he did try to make time to go with her to temple during the holiday at least once or twice. However, it appeared as if he had different plans tonight.

"Where are we going, Papa?" she asked in her high little nine year old girl voice.

"I am taking you to meet somebody," he answered and he stroked her hair before putting his hand back on the wheel.

She didn't ask any other questions, knowing her got very cross with her when she asked too much. After another twenty minutes of driving, he finally stopped in a neighborhood she had never been in before parking his car along the edge of the street under a light. He came around and opened her door, taking her by the hand and leading her into an older building.

She looked around curiously, noticing that many families lived in the building. He led them up a flight of stairs and down a long hallway before stopping to knock on a door. A woman answered, looking at him with a blank expression on her face, and then looking down at Ziva critically. Ziva stood straighter and remained quiet, knowing her father expected her to be polite and strong. Finally, she spoke in what Ziva thought was Arabic. The young girl had barely begun her new language lessons, so she didn't understand any of what was said to her father.

Then her father was leading her into the woman's home. Her father and the woman were still speaking rapidly in Arabic, so the girl just stood as still as possible, but could not help looking around the small living area. It was decorated beautifully, but nothing like her home. She noticed a teenager had come to the door from the back rooms and was waiting politely for the two adults to notice him. He smiled at her and Ziva smiled back waving a little. He was tall, handsome and his smile was gentle. She thought she would like him.

"Ari," her father said when he noticed the boy. He gestured. "Come."

When the youth approached, Eli David knelt next to his daughter and looked her in the eyes. "Ziva, I want you to meet your brother Ari."

"I have a brother?" she asked in surprise, her eyes darting back and forth between her father and the smiling teen.

"I am happy to finally be able to meet you little sister," Ari said, kneeling down also. He put his hand out to her and she took it.

The woman said something and Ziva could tell just from the tone of her voice that she was not happy. Ari frowned for a moment and then sighed. Her father stood back up and walked over to her, taking her by the elbow and dragging her away from the children even as he spoke back firmly in Arabic.

"Come, little sister," Ari said, regaining her attention. "I will show you my room." He held his hand out and she put her hand in his trustingly.

When he brought her in, she was shocked by how much smaller it was than hers. And he had almost no toys, but lots of books. The toys he did have were carved from wood and lined up along a shelf above his bed.

"If you are my brother," she asked, "why has Papa never brought me here before? It would be nice to have a brother to play with."

"He cannot acknowledge me publicly since he did not marry my mother," Ari said with a level tone.

"That's not right," Ziva said sadly. "He could marry her now! Mama died. Your mother could be both our mothers."

Ari smiled sadly at her. He touched her face gently and then tugged at a loose curl of hair. "I would like to be able to see you more often, and it would be nice to be a family with you, but they will never marry, little Ziva."

"Why?" she asked guilelessly.

"He is a Jew and mother is Muslim," he answered as if it said it all.

Ziva knew that her nanny did not like Muslims, but she had never said why. Nobody had ever tried to explain to Ziva why the Jews and Muslims lived separately. "So?" she finally asked.

"So, most Jews hate Muslims, and most Muslims hate Jews," he said and shrugged. "It is the way of things."

"But you are my brother," she said. "It is not fair. I did not know I had a brother."

"I know," he said with a sad smile. "Do not worry. We will see each other again. I'll make sure of it."

"Okay," she said happily.

He stood and walked to his dresser and pulled out a small wrapped package. He returned and handed it to her. "Father promised me he would introduce us soon," he told her. "I wanted to give you this for your Hanukah."

She unwrapped the package to find a hand carved S'veevon and a small bag of chocolate coins. She fingered the gimmel facing her and looked up at him.

"I realize you are probably getting too old for it," he said seriously, "but I carved it years ago when I learned I had a little sister. I always wanted to give it to you myself."

"Are you Jewish too?" she asked hoping. She didn't want her brother to hate her because she was Jewish.

"No, little one," he answered. "I am not. But you are, so I learned about traditional Hanukah gifts." The sad smile flashed over his face again. "Besides, my father is a Jew too."

"You are Muslim?" she asked and he nodded. "Will you hate me?"

"No," he said and hugged her. "I would never hate you, Ziva. You will always be my little sister and I will always love you, no matter how our parents act."

She hugged him back thinking it was nice. "I will always love you, too, Ari," she said into his shoulder.

When he released her she looked down at the S'veevon. "Do you know how to play?" she asked. "I would share the coins with you."

He smiled at her and she smiled back, thinking it was nice to have a brother.



Abby awoke abruptly, the feeling of a hand on her shoulder pulling her out of her dreams. She looked up to see a young woman with curly black hair standing next to her. She was probably a nurse, Abby deduced from her scrubs and the stethoscope hanging around her neck. The forensic scientist sat up, the move wringing a painful sensation from her left arm, neck and back. She guessed that's what she got for falling asleep in that position in a lousy hospital chair.

"I'm sorry, ma'am," the nurse spoke gently. "But you looked horribly uncomfortable." She pointed to a recliner on the other side of the bed that held a pillow and blanket. "I had my tech bring that in for you. It's much more comfortable for sleeping if you're planning on staying the night."

"Thanks," Abby said sleepily, looking at the nurse's badge, she read the name, "Missie."

The young woman smiled. "No problem," she answered. She went to look at some of the equipment, monitoring Ziva's vitals and noting them in her chart.

"Excuse me," the Goth said. "Do you know where Ziva's father went?"

"Oh, yes," the nurse responded, looking embarrassed, "I was supposed to tell you that he would be back in the morning. He said something about long flights and needing a real bed. He told me you were the one who belonged here. It must be nice to have such positive support from your girlfriend's family. He seems like a nice man."

"Uh, yeah," Abby responded, blinking rapidly. She moved around to the recliner and scooted it closer to the bed so that she could touch Ziva.

"I'll try not to wake you tonight," the nurse told the scientist. "I'll be back in a few hours to check her again. I think she has a resident that is supposed to check in on her also, but they rarely keep regular schedules."

"It's okay," Abby responded, "I appreciate the more comfortable chair."

"You go ahead and go back to sleep," the nurse said. She turned out all the lights except for the one that always stayed on above the bed.

Abby curled her hand around Ziva's arm and put her head down on the pillow. Closing her eyes, she fell right back to sleep.

Ziva pressed the button that would call the elevator, knowing that was where Abby was currently hiding. When the doors opened, she noticed that Abby was wide eyed and had a whistle in her mouth. As soon as the Goth recognized that the next passenger was Ziva, she took the whistle out of her mouth. Ziva felt a stab of compassion for the older woman. She could not imagine what it would be like to feel defenseless against a foe like Abby must feel.

It had taken time, but the Goth had wormed her way into Ziva's heart and she now considered her a friend. She still did not entirely understand the woman, but she liked her and respected her. Abby treated her better the last few months, and they had even gone out to dinner once or twice for a "girl's night out."

"I have a gift for you," Ziva said. She sat down on the elevator's floor next to the scientist.

Ziva held out a taser she had went and purchased for Abby. She did not like the idea of Abby being defenseless, but knew she could not be around her all the time as they tried to catch Abby's stalker. She also knew Abby would never use a gun. She was much to kind hearted to actively shoot somebody. Besides that, even though she shot weapons on a regular basis in her lab, Ziva doubted she knew how to truly shoot. Therefore, a taser was a perfect weapon for Abby and it had cost Ziva very little considering how much peace of mind it would give her.

"What?" Abby said with a beaming smile. Ziva knew the Goth loved gifts with a child-like joy.

"It is a taser," Ziva answered. She handed that strange looking weapon over to Abby. She had even splurged and gotten a holster for it.

Abby opened the holster and pulled the taser out, looking at it with interest.

"There is a laser sight here," Ziva said while pointing, "Although it is hardly necessary. And a flashlight feature also. You pull the trigger guard back with your thumb, here," the Israeli pointed. "The rest I am sure you know."

Abby grinned and hugged Ziva hard. "I'll give it back to you when this is done," she assured the smaller woman.

"No," Ziva said. "It is something I want you to keep. Even when we put this creep away, you can still use the protection. DC can be a dangerous city, so I would feel better knowing you had some defense."

"Aw, Ziva," Abby cried, "That is so sweet!"

Ziva blushed and shrugged. Abby abruptly hugged her again. Ziva did not know what to do with her. Part of her enjoyed having the older woman in her arms and part of her was scared out of her mind by Abby. In the end, she patted her awkwardly on the back until Abby pulled away.

"I better get back before Gibbs notices I am gone," Ziva said. "I do not need a head slap."

She stood and pressed the button for the floor that held the bullpen and the doors opened. She was just stepping out when she heard Abby say to her, "Thanks again, Ziva!"

She turned back and gave Abby one of her charmed smiles. There was certainly nobody in the world like Abigail Sciuto.

In the bullpen, Tony was asleep with his head propped in his hand, Timothy was asleep face down on his desk and even Michael was reclining in Ziva's chair catching a nap. Unfortunately, for all of them, Gibbs returned from his trip to meet Trent and found them this way. He took a book from the edge of Tony's desk and slammed it back down on the desk, making a noise as quick and almost as loud as a gunshot.

"Look alive people," he barked. "I've got new intel." He tossed a sheet of paper on both McGee and DiNozzo's desks. "McGee, get me everything you can from public records on this address. Then pull any phone listings and calls. Tony, I want surveillance setup from across the street. I want a layout of the building, all entries and exits. Once you have that, work with Michael on these guys' methods. Make sure our team will be safe going in and there won't be any collateral damage."

"Yes, Boss," Tim answered.

"Boss," Tony grunted at the same time.

Michael just looked at the other two men in amusement. Ziva was right; Gibbs could terrorize the group with a minimum of words. He was extremely interesting.

"You're not off the hook," Gibbs glared at Michael. He tossed a twenty on Ziva's desk. "Since you can't do anything useful right now, go get everybody coffee."

Michael looked at the other two men for a clue on where to go, but they were too engrossed in what they were doing. No longer amused, he stood and left the bullpen.

Ziva was almost nervous. She had decided to get Abby a gift, ostensibly for allowing her to sleep at her place while her apartment was fumigated, but the real reason was she just wanted to get Abby a gift and make her smile. She could not believe her stroke of luck when Abby had volunteered to let her stay over at her place. She had enjoyed herself far more than she should have as a friend. Of course, Abby seemed to have no idea that Ziva wanted more than friendship.

She had stopped by a bakery that sold the most delicious items and since she knew Abby loved chocolate, ordered the item with the most chocolate available. She had asked them to wrap it in a nice box and she even got a pretty red ribbon for it.

Watching Abby was a guilty pleasure, enjoying her child-like love of gifts, even as she delicately undid the ribbons and opened the box. The taller woman gasped.

"Looks scrumptious," Abby said excitedly, a smile lighting up her face

"They call it "Chocoholic's choice." Claim it is the ultimate cupcake," Ziva told the Goth.

"Awhhhh," Abby hummed happily.

Tim and Tony walked up, flanking Abby to see what she had. McGee actually bent down to sniff the item.

"Oh, that smells great," he intoned.

Tony tried to reach out and snag a little frosting only to get his hand slapped hard by the scientist.

"Don't," she yelled at him, "you dare." Grabbing her box with the cupcake, she came around to Ziva's side of her desk.

"Isn't this the week you're going gluten free?" Tony asked Abby, watching her like a hawk.

Ziva started to stand, as Abby got closer.

"Thank you, Ziva," Abby said, a grin lighting up her face. "You shouldn't have." She reached down and gave Ziva a very friendly hug, not letting go entirely after it was done.

"I owe you for letting me sleep at your place," Ziva answered.

Abby and Ziva both smiled, knowing the men were staring at them in wonder. Abby laid her head upon Ziva's, standing there with her, cheek to cheek. She kept her arm around Ziva's shoulder, and Ziva put her arms around Abby's waist.

"Slumber party," Tony said lasciviously, "You two spent the night together?"

The women remained silent, knowing it would drive Tony nuts. Abby smiled at Ziva one last time and left for her lab.

"What's going on here McGee?" Tony said hoarsely.

"Don't know, don't care, DiNosey," Tim said and walked away.

"You are such a control geek," Ziva told Tony.

"Freak," he corrected her.

"Yes, that too," she answered.

Later, while they were investigating the death of a Navy Lieutenant, Tony decided to grill Ziva a little more on the subject.

"Stay at Abby's last night, huh?" he asked, trying to be nonchalant.

She smirked at him. At that moment, she decided that when she ever did get the courage to ask Abby out, she would ask that they keep it quiet for a very long time. She wanted to enjoy at least a bit of romance before getting daily harassment from DiNozzo.

"You guys, uh, sleep in the same room?" he asked.

"It is a one bedroom apartment," Ziva said, non-committal, shrugging. She was amused when his eyes glazed over for a moment. Yes, they would definitely need to be discreet. However, now, this was amusing.

"One bedroom, one bed, one coffin," Tony said with a leer.

"You want the truth?" she asked.

"Yeah," he tried a Jack Nicholson impression, "I think I can handle the truth."

"My building was being fumigated," she said, "And Abby was kind enough to let me stay over. On the couch." She paused. "In my pajamas."

"Come on," he said, "work with me." Gibbs started shouting orders at Tony, but he kept talking to Ziva, "Couldn't you lie just a little bit?"



Abby still had a hard time understanding how Ziva could look so small and delicate here in the hospital bed. The nurse encouraged her to take a walk, go get something to eat and drink while she took care of Ziva that morning. When the Goth returned, it hit her all over again how amazing Ziva was with her ability to project such strength and vivacity in such a compact form. That and she wanted nothing more than for Ziva to open her eyes and assure her that her beautiful personality was still there.

The Forensic scientist was not stupid; she knew what the Neurosurgeon and Ducky had not told her. She was a scientist after all. She knew that even the smallest injury to the brain could cause lasting damage. It was almost the luck of the draw with head injuries; what might hurt one person could be completely inconsequential to another.

She brought a large Caf-Pow! back with her from the cafeteria and turning the recliner so it faced the bed a little better. Leaning over, she kissed Ziva on the cheek and whispered good morning to her.

Ziva's father showed up a couple of hours later and greeted Abby. He was congenial and went back to asking her about her life. He also was quite happy to relate some stories of Ziva's childhood to Abby once asked.

At one point, Abby became aware of Ziva's hand moving under her own, so she looked down, first at the hand and then up at Ziva's face. She held her breath as she saw the smaller woman's eyes start to blink open and look at her.

"Ab," Ziva croaked, a dry mouth stopping her from truly speaking. She cleared her throat and tried again. "Ahuvati?"

"Oh God, Zee," Abby said and had to work not to let the tears threatening to fall go. "I'm so glad to see those beautiful brown eyes." She smiled tremulously. "How are you feeling?"

"Thirsty," Ziva said

"Let me get a nurse," Abby said and pressed the call button. When somebody spoke over an intercom, she told her Ziva was awake and thirsty. About that time, Eli stood and moved closer to the bed.

"Good morning, little one," he spoke softly in Hebrew.

"Papa?" Ziva turned her head slowly and looked at him, bewildered.

"He came all the way over for you, Zee," Abby said proudly.

A nurse came in the room and insinuated herself between Eli and the bed, and greeted Ziva. She set down a pitcher of ice and a cup, and then changed the angle of the bed so that Ziva was sitting up.

"How are you feeling Ms. David?" she asked perkily.

"Tired, sore, very thirsty," Ziva answered

"Well, the tired and sore will work themselves out," she answered in a reassuring tone, "and I brought you some ice chips for your thirst. You'll have to take it easy and go slow. I'll let your girlfriend give them to you if you want." Abby nodded. "And if you feel like sleeping, sleep. Don't fight it." The nurse ordered sternly.

"She will," Abby said seriously.

Ziva turned her head, giving Abby an amused but adoring look.

"I would not argue with her, Ziva," Eli David intoned semi-seriously.

"I try not to, Papa," she answered.

"She makes you happy?" Eli asked his daughter.

"Happier than I have ever been," Ziva answered tiredly.

Abby tried not to let her curiosity get the best of her, smiling wryly at Ziva when the Israeli looked at her with adoration. She simply gave her more ice chips when she looked ready.

"Then I am happy for you," he answered.

Ziva nodded to him, unwilling to say any more. She was shocked, to say the least, that her father did not have more issues with Abby. However, she would not tempt fate by asking.

"Abby," she said slowly, "you must tell Gibbs I was the target. The driver called me a murdering Jew as he shot at me."

Abby gasped. "Oh my God, Ziva," she cried. Ziva squeezed her hand to reassure her and Abby remembered to calm down. "Okay, I'll tell him."

Eli frowned. "I will speak to Michael now," he said and pulled out his phone, leaving the room to make his call.

"Michael is here?" Ziva asked tiredly.

Abby nodded.

"Is Tony okay?" Ziva asked.

"Yes, babe, Tony's fine," she answered. She leaned closer and whispered to Ziva, "But Tim says it has fun watching Tony and Michael trying to out-macho each other."

Ziva smiled weakly. "I am sleepy," she said. "Love you, Ahuvati."

Abby leaned down and kissed her cheek. "You too, baby."

There was a knock at her front door. After the last couple of days, Ziva was not in the mood for any more surprises. She grabbed her gun and warily made her way to the door. Looking out the peephole, she was amazed to see Abby standing outside her door with a bouquet of black flowers. Opening the door, she stared at the Goth in wonder.

"Abby," she said in question.

"Ziva," Abby said and then engulfed the smaller woman in one of her grand hugs. "I had to come check on you."

"I am okay," Ziva replied when Abby backed up, bemused.

"Yeah?" Abby asked, "Then why do I feel pain every time I look at your nose?"

Ziva led the tall woman into her apartment, offering her a seat on the couch while she took the chair next to it. "Really, it is okay. I have had much worse," the Israeli said.

"Still," Abby said. She thrust her handful of black flowers at the other woman. "I thought some pretty flowers might cheer you up." She grinned in that way that was purely Abby.

Ziva could not help but respond. There was just something so charming about the forensic scientist in all her bizarre trappings. This was really the first time she could remember being the center of Abby's attention after an injury. She took the flowers and made a show of inhaling them, although her nose really did hurt. She left the room to find a vase and returned once the flowers and vase were ready to be placed on her coffee table.

"I knew you didn't do it," Abby said.

Ziva smiled, a bittersweet feeling overcoming her. Yes, Abby and Gibbs believed her when nobody else did.

"And I knew Gibbs would come for you," Abby continued. "He loves you. Well, like he loves me and like he loves Tony and Timmy. That kind of love. Not that passionate love, love."

Ziva's smile became more a grin of genuine amusement now. This woman was so wonderful and exactly the company she needed right now. Tony would try to make light of everything and Tim would simply be intimidated by her. However, Abby was perfect.

"Anyway," Abby continued rambling, "I knew you'd never just blow people up randomly. It just didn't make sense."

Ziva frowned and sighed. "You know, I did do things similar to that once," Ziva said. "Never in America, but I was ordered to do things that you would not approve of in the past."

"But not anymore," Abby said. "Tim said you said you're not just a killer anymore. And, well, I choose to believe that you would only be a killer if it meant saving somebody now. You're a good woman, Ziva. You're my friend."

Ziva felt the air leave her in a rush. Nobody had ever just believed in her like that. She was surprised to find out just how much that meant to her.

"Thank you, Abigail," Ziva said, a bit choked up.

"Hey," Abby said slowly, "you used the entire name."

"It is a lovely name," the Israeli replied, "and I wanted you to know how much your faith means to me."

"Oh," the Goth replied. "Okay. Besides, it kind of sounds neat the way you say it." She added pointing. "But don't abuse it."

"Of course not," Ziva replied. She waited a moment. "Have you had dinner? I was about to fix something and I would be honored if you would join me. I owe you for giving me Gibbs number."

"You can cook?" Abby asked in surprise.

"Of course," Ziva answered, insulted. "Why would I not be able to cook?"

"I don't know," Abby grinned, "I just thought you deadly spy types would never have the time."

"Ah," Ziva said, deciding it did not make any sense to argue, "I shall just have to show you that you thought incorrectly."

"I bet I could beat you around," Abby said exuberantly.

"You have wheels," Ziva replied with a laugh, "you think that this is a fair competition?"

Abby just smiled broadly as she pumped her legs back and forth, racing faster on her inline skates. Ziva laughed behind her and Abby turned back, waving at her. Occasionally she would go out with Ziva on the weekend when she would take her morning run, but she was insistent that she got to use her skates. Usually Ziva would take her down to the reflecting pool or they would go to one of the parks around one of the memorials.

Turning on her speed, she raced as fast as she dared, determined to get up to the bakery where they had planned on stopping before her girlfriend and order their breakfast. She came around the bend, waited for the light to cross the street and entered the bakery gently, trying not to attract attention to her skates. Before she could get to the counter two arms came around her middle.

"I win," Ziva purred in her ear.

"What?" Abby yelped and would have lost her balance if it had not been for Ziva's hold on her.

"You can't skate through the woods," Ziva answered. "But I could run through them."

"No fair!" Abby fake pouted.

"I will buy you a cupcake to make up for it," Ziva said with a smile and a wink.

"Okay," Abby replied with a beaming smile.

The team had cleared the ground floor of residents and Tim was currently dressed as a pizza delivery guy. He was acting as if he did not know the right address for the pizza he was carrying and knocking on the doors on the second floor around the apartment they were raiding. In all actuality, he was showing his badge discreetly and telling the residents to leave immediately and quietly. Gibbs was determined that there would be no collateral damage on this raid. The residents were told to meet a team down the street; they wanted to make sure nobody found a way to alert the terrorists, especially by doing something silly like calling the press.

When they were sure the building was cleared, Tim knocked on the suspects doors and put on his misdirected pizza guy act one last time, finally convincing the men inside they could have the pizza because there was no way he could take it back now. Once that was done, he met Gibbs and the rest of the team down stairs.

"There were two men in the living room," McGee reported, "I couldn't see any guns, but I couldn't act like I was looking too hard. The guy who answered the door was very suspicious. I didn't see our injured driver. Al-Fayed was the one who answered the door and the other man looked a lot like the picture Michael gave us of Jalil."

"Good job," Gibbs said gruffly. "Okay, heads up, people." Gibbs called out to everybody around him. "We're going in with the assumption that there are three or more men inside and that they are most likely heavily armed. Look alive, follow the plan. I want these guys alive."

They had a special team, NCIS's version of a SWAT team that consisted of former Naval SEALS and law enforcement, accompanying them. After busting in the door one team member threw in a flash-bang grenade; immediately afterwards two others rushed the room. The first man was subdued before he even could stop blinking. The second managed to grab his gun, but the man covering him subdued him with a strike across his temple with the butt of his gun.

Gibbs and Tony trailed in behind the others, while the tactical team started clearing the other rooms. They found the driver in rough shape in one of the bedrooms. He had managed to grab a gun and was attempting to hold the team off with threats, when one of the men simply shot the gun. From his recumbent state, he could not do much more and he was quickly subdued, even as the team dressed his injured hand.

"Okay people," Gibbs barked, "Get this scum out of here; get the bomb dogs in here."

From there, they secured the scene, making sure that it was safe for the personnel and then they excused the special ops members in order to work the crime scene for evidence.

"DiNozzo, McGee," Gibbs said, "work the scene. Get the techs up here. Don't miss anything."

"Where will you be boss," Tony asked, only to regret asking as Gibbs pinned him with a glare.

"Making sure our guests get to our interrogation room in one piece," he answered.

"Leave me a piece of Ali-Atah?" Tony requested seriously.

"We'll see," Gibbs answered. "Rivkin, you're with me," Gibbs barked at the Israeli and left the apartment.

Ziva had barely been back in America for a week before Gibbs was taking her with him to Cartagena, Columbia to help with Tony's investigation of a sailor who died on the ship to which Tony was currently assigned. She was initially more than happy to help Tony, because she wanted him back on the team as much as everybody, however that opinion was tempered somewhat when she discovered pictures of herself in her bikini plastered on Tony's bulletin board on the ship.

The other thing that was bothersome about the trip was that she had not really gotten to spend any real time with Abby since her return. She had made a promise to herself to try to figure out how to woo the raven-haired beauty. She had even asked Gibbs on the flight down to Columbia for his permission, although she did not believe she needed it. Of course, if Gibbs were opposed it would have made the whole thing almost impossible. Abby loved Gibbs like a father, or maybe brother; if Gibbs told Abby that Ziva was not dating material, Abby would most likely never agree to date her.

After their return, Ziva had barely unpacked her bags and was thinking about going shopping for food, when she listened to her messages. The landlord had left her a message that her apartment building was going to be fumigated the following evening. It gave her a bit of an idea. Pulling out her phone, she called Abby, allegedly to ask her if she knew any nice, inexpensive hotels near the base. Of course, she realized that Abby would probably offer her a place to stay and that was exactly what she wanted. That was exactly what happened; the Goth was insistent that friends would not let friends stay in hotels.

She doubted she would approach Abby about her feelings this early on, but it did give her an in that she had been looking for. The night she stayed with Abby, she put her intelligence gathering skills to good use. She skillfully questioned Abby on her life, her likes and her dislikes. She snooped around Abby's collection of CDs to find out more about Abby's taste in music. She laughed aloud at Abby's DVD selection, even questioning the Goth about her Adams family collection.

This led to an Adams family marathon, with the two women sitting shoulder to shoulder on the Goth's couch, munching popcorn. Abby was especially enthusiastic about Morticia Adams and Cousin It. It was an education. Abby knew all sorts of crazy facts; such as Wednesday's headless doll was named Marie Antoinette or the fact that Thing was the hand of the actor who played Lurch.

After Abby finally went to bed, leaving Ziva to sleep on the couch, the Israeli had a few ideas about how she might approach Abby. Now all she had to do was see if any of them could pan out.



Ziva opened her eyes to a room bathed in late afternoon light. It was obvious the sun was setting judging from the hues that bled into the room. She bit back a groan when she tried to sit up and look around better, realizing that she was injured. It took her a moment to remember what had happened and that she was still in a hospital.

She closed her eyes and took a mental inventory of her aches and pains. Then she tried to piece that together with what she could remember of the shooting. Reaching up, she touched her head, feeling the bandages that were still there.

"Are you in pain?" Ziva's father asked gently, speaking in their native tongue. "Shall I summon a nurse?" He helped her by adjusting the bed so that she was in a sitting position.

"No," Ziva answered hoarsely. "Just trying to determine what injuries I have. I do not want a nurse. They will want to give me pain medicine, which will make me sleep more. Something tells me I have been asleep too long."

"I understand," he answered. He handed her a small glass of water. Watching her take small sips, he took the cup back when she was done.

"Where is Abby?" she asked after looking around for the Goth.

"I encouraged her to go home," he answered. "She needed to eat, shower and change. She has barely left your side for days, unless ordered to do so. She did not want to go at first, but I told her you would expect her to take care of herself. That worked nicely."

"Papa," Ziva complained good-naturedly, "you've known her for how many days and yet you are already capable of manipulating her?"

"In her case," he answered, "it was a positive thing, wouldn't you agree?"

"Yes," she answered him, chagrinned. "Tell me, how badly was I injured?"

"Apparently they had some trouble keeping you alive," he answered. "Your friend's efforts on site did a lot to save you." He leaned forward and took her hand. "I will have these men killed for what they have done to you."

The pain in her chest now had nothing to do with her injury.

"Allow the courts to take care of them, please," Ziva said pleadingly. "Tell me the rest."

He told her about her injuries, letting her know she would be in for a long recovery. She digested the information in silence. It could have been much worse, she supposed.

"Your team captured the filth that did this to you, today," he told her, breaking into her thoughts.

"Good," she replied with a smile. "Gibbs always gets his man."

"I have been told this recently," Eli David said with a grin.

"Abby?" Ziva smirked.

The Deputy Director nodded. After a moment, his smile abated. "As soon as she returns, I plan on going to your headquarters," he said. "I would like to watch the famous Gibbs questioning. Plus it will be good to see Leon again."

"You do not have to stay, Papa," she said. She was touched that was actually staying with her instead of leaving right away. He was showing more concern for her than she remembered seeing in years, if not ever.

"Nonsense," he replied. "I will not leave you alone here." He smiled broadly at her, almost conspiratorially. "Besides, I doubt your Abby will stay gone much longer."

"She has such a gentle heart," Ziva said. "I do not deserve her."

"I could argue with that," he responded sternly. "You know, your mother was like that: A gentle soul who somehow found something to love in me." He paused, looking away, gathering his thoughts. When he looked back, the pain in his eyes was obvious. "I did everything I could to protect her, to make sure my world never bled over into our lives. When she died, I nearly lost myself in my desire to kill every Palestinian who ever thought about their bloody Jihad. Your aunt came to me one day and told me I had become no better than the men I was chasing and that your mother would not recognize me if she were still alive."

Ziva stayed quiet, not expecting any of this. Her father never spoke of her mother's death to her. He would only speak of her memory: the person she had been and how she had loved her.

"It is why I asked your aunt to start coming around more often," he continued. "She would not hesitate to tell me how my wife would have felt. It helped me gain some perspective. Some days I fear I still wander a darker path than my love would have allowed me to tread, but I know I do what I do for the love of Israel and not out of revenge any longer."

She reached out and squeezed his hand.

"Protect your scientist," he said. "If your love is like ours was," he said and left the rest unspoken.

"I will," she responded after a few moments of silence.

"And bring her to our homeland soon," he said seriously. "She should see the motherland through her own eyes." He took in her surprised expression and laughed. "I am not saying that everyone in Israel would accept her with open arms, but as long as she makes my daughter smile like I saw you smile at her then I will."

"Papa," Ziva said, shaken.

"Hey! You're awake," Abby said as she walked into the room, a beaming smile on her face. She carried a vase of red roses. Setting them on the bedside table, she winked at Ziva. "They didn't have any in black downstairs."

"I shall have to make do with red, I suppose," Ziva said and smirked.

Eli David did not understand the joke, but knew his daughter did and that she seemed very pleased. He stood and gathered his suit jacket from the back of his chair, putting it on with deliberate movements.

"Ms. Sciuto," he said formally, "I leave my daughter in your very capable hands for the night."

Abby tilted her head and grinned. "I will take good care of her," she replied. She moved across the room and hugged him quickly.

Ziva was amused to see her father's bewildered expression, his hesitant return of her lover's hug. He looked at her with a peculiar expression. When Abby released him, he moved over and kissed Ziva on the forehead.

"Sleep well, daughter. I love you, little one," he said

"I love you too, Papa," she replied.

"Jeesh," Abby complained jokingly. "I'm going to have to learn Hebrew, aren't I?"

"Of course you are," Eli answered seriously. "It will make your visit to Israel much nicer." He smiled when Abby looked at him in shock. "Shalom, Abigail. Shalom, Ziva," he said then left the room.

"Did he just say I'm going to Israel?" Abby asked Ziva in a hushed tone.

Ziva smiled. "Yes, he did," she replied. "He likes you. Now, please come kiss me, Ahuvati," she asked.

Abby beamed and did exactly as she was asked.

In a bed and breakfast on the bay, the sunrise bled through the curtains, shining down onto the bed where they lay entwined. After their first explorations of each other's bodies the night before it was as if they were addicted to each other. They spent hours touching and talking, making love and finally cuddling. Ziva had fallen asleep with her head on Abby's shoulder, but somewhere in the night, the Goth had turned and now the Israeli spooned her from behind, her arms wrapped around the taller woman's stomach.

Ziva had woken up some time ago, but she did not want to move. She did not want to let this feeling go, afraid that if she moved, it would somehow all fade away from her. When Abby shifted slightly, obviously waking, the Israeli kissed her shoulder softly, enjoying the soft skin under her lips. She grinned when Abby hummed happily. The Goth turned within her arms and faced her, a soft smile on her face.

"Good mornin', darlin'" Abby said sleepily.

"Good morning, Ahuvati," Ziva replied, charmed.

"Been awake long?" the scientist asked.

"Long enough to know," Ziva replied seriously.

"To know what?" Abby asked.

"That I'm not ever giving you up," Ziva replied.

Abby blinked, surprised by the sentiment, not expecting such a declaration from the usually reticent woman. However, her surprise was soon overcome by her happiness.

"Promise?" Abby asked coyly.

"I promise," Ziva replied, then leaned in and kissed Abby with all of the feeling that had been burning through her as she had held the other woman.

"Rise and shine, sleepy head," Tony boomed as he burst into the hospital room the next day, Tim trailing behind him shaking his head in disgust.

"I did not know they allowed animals into hospitals now," Ziva said evenly. She was sitting up now, having been awake all morning.

Abby and Tim had kept her in the loop as to the investigation and she was feeling a little less dazed by the pain medicine. The doctors still insisted she needed it, but she had convinced them to lower the dosage. Her doctors were actually pleased with her progress, although the cardiologist threatened to keep her here for weeks in she did not follow her orders to the letter. Ziva believed her.

"Now is that any way to speak to your partner?" Tony cajoled.

"I must amuse myself somehow," she replied. She looked at McGee. "Timothy, I am happy to see you. Thank you for taking care of Abby as I asked."

Tim blushed. "I, uh," he started, "of course."

"She told me she was some handfuls," Ziva said. She raised her eyebrow in confusion when Abby snickered and Tim blushed harder.

"Don't swallow your tongue there, probie," Tony said smacking him on the back.

The men bickered back and forth briefly, and it made Ziva smile. It felt like family. She wondered where Gibbs was and if he would stop by eventually. Tony and Tim stayed for a couple of hours before leaving together, telling her they had to get back to the bullpen before Gibbs got angry. He had allowed their visit on the condition that they returned and finished their paperwork by noon.

It did not really surprise her that Tony turned serious for a moment before they left, telling her he was glad she was getting better, that she had really worried him. Then as fast as he had gotten serious, his façade of reckless humor returned, and he joked about ducking better the next time.

Ducky and Jimmy both dropped by in the afternoon. The medical examiner brought a lovely flower arrangement. She was pleased to see the two men, even more so when Ducky insisted that Jimmy take Abby down to the cafeteria for real food.

"I cannot convince her she can leave me in order to care for herself," she complained good-naturedly.

"Do understand dear that she very nearly lost you," he said. "You frightened her almost out of her wits."

She hung her head. "I did not mean to," she said sadly.

"I know," he answered. "I would normally not interfere, however, I would not be a very good friend for either of you if I did not speak to you both as I just have, especially since Jethro is not here to do so."

"You are a fine friend, Ducky," Ziva responded.

He settled in and started to tell her a story of his days in the RAMC, his voice and cadence relaxing her. The next thing he knew, her eyes were closed and she was sleeping. He smiled. It seemed he had not lost his touch.

It was the first time they had gone out with the team since becoming a couple. They had agreed that it was too early to share their changed status, as they really wanted to enjoy it more before being subjected to things like Tony's jokes and Tim's well wishes. Unfortunately, it was also not so long after they had escalated their relationship physically. It made it that much harder to act "naturally."

Ziva was hard pressed not to react when Abby pressed her leg up against her under the table. She noticed Gibbs raised an eyebrow at her, a small smirk lifting one corner of his mouth before it faded and he went back to listening to Ducky's story.

Later, after Gibbs and Ducky had left and when Tony had gotten a little more liquid courage in him, he decided to bring up what had already become an old subject: Ziva's visit to Israel several weeks ago.

"So, Zeee-vah," he drawled, "you never told us who it was you needed to visit so desperately back in Tel-Aviv."

"Tony," McGee complained, "that's so old. She doesn't have to share if she doesn't want to."

"But friends don't keep things like that back from each other," Tony explained. "Isn't that right Abs?"

"Oh, I know why she went back," she dismissed breezily.

"Oh?" he said excitedly, "Do tell."

"Nope," she giggled, "I think it's funny that you're busting a gut trying to figure it out."

"Tony, I tell you, you are barking at the wrong house," Ziva said.

"Up the wrong tree," Abby said.

"What?" Ziva said.

"Dogs chase cats up trees," the Goth said.

"Yes?" the Israeli said, indicating she should continue.

Tim launched into a longer explanation but Tony cut him off.

"You're not getting off that easily, David," he griped. "Just answer one question: Are you seeing somebody? Somebody in Tel-Aviv, maybe?"

Ziva paused, formulating how to answer.

"If I told you I was not," she said, "you would not believe me. If I said that I was, you would say you knew it. If I said it was none of your business, you would simply ask me again next week, as you have for the last couple of months. Tell me, Tony, why should I answer your question? What is in it for me?"

Everybody turned and looked at him. "I promise I won't ask again if you answer truthfully," he said.

"You will not ask any more questions about my love life if I answer your question?" she asked.

"Scouts honor," he said.

"Should I trust him?" she asked Tim and Abby.

Tim just shrugged. Abby grinned and settled her chin on top of her crossed fingers, clearly expecting something interesting.

"Okay, Tony," Ziva said. "I am not seeing anybody in Tel-Aviv. I had to return to finish some business there that had nothing to do with romance, or even Mossad. You may not believe it, but I do have other things in my life."

"Such as?" he asked.

"I believe I have answered enough of your questions," she said. "How is your love life by the way, Tony? I do not recall overhearing any interesting phone calls lately from your side of the aisle. Is this why you are obsessed with my love life? Jealous, maybe?"

Tony grumbled something and promptly announced he needed another beer, leaving for the bar.

"Nice tactic," Tim complimented.

Abby just smiled at Ziva, and the look in her eyes made Ziva feel as if she would melt.

"Toda," Ziva said and sipped her drink.

"Well," Abby announced suddenly, "I hate to be a party pooper, but I want to head home and I rode in with Ziva." She faced Ziva in all innocence. "Mind cutting your night short and taking me home?"

"Of course not," Ziva answered.

The two women stood, saying good night to Tim and left the bar, waving to Tony on their way out. When they hit the street, Abby laced her arm through Ziva's.

"I thought you were going to tell him for a minute there," Abby said conversationally.

"Not until I had your permission," Ziva answered. "When it is the right time, we will tell them."

"When will it be the right time?" Abby asked.

"We will know," Ziva answered and held the car door open for her tall girlfriend.



Ziva had becoming accustomed to waking in the hospital bed. She had even convinced Abby to go home and get a good night's rest in their bed. It made her feel slightly lonely to wake up alone, but she knew her lover was wearing herself out. She turned her head when there was a knock at the door and Michael walked in.

"Shalom, Ziva," he said with a smile. "You look better than I expected. But, then again, your American partner does claim you eat bullets for breakfast. Strange diet."

"Shalom, Michael," she smiled in return. "Thank you for coming to watch his back."

"He is as odd as you said," he commented. He noticed she squinted a little at the comment. "But he seems like a good man and he was dedicated to getting your attackers. I like that in him."

"I will make sure to tell him that he has your approval," she intoned dryly.

He laughed his rich deep laugh. It was a good laugh, one that many women had fallen for but she had never truly been interested in.

"Your father is finishing speaking with the Ambassador," he told her, "He wants the Americans to extradite the prisoners after they are done with them. If I am available, perhaps I will return to escort them back. Maybe by then you will be able to show me around town… and perhaps better introduce me to the woman who has apparently stolen the impenetrable heart of Ziva David?"

She rolled her eyes. "Perhaps," she said, noncommittally.

"The Americans consider you a real hero now," he said. "They have barely managed to keep your name out of the press. The people who survived around you are pressuring the American Navy to release your identity."

"Director Vance is good at deflecting," she answered, but she was a little concerned.

"I do not think he will win this battle," he replied. "Your days undercover may be numbered, my friend."

"I will cross that bridge if I come to it I suppose," she answered.

At that moment, both Eli David and Abby came in the room. He was escorting her and she happily held onto his arm and talked a mile a minute. Ziva smiled at the sight of them. She could tell by the tightening of his jaw that he still was not entirely comfortable with Abby in his space, however he was making the effort not to let it show.

"Oh!" Abby said, "You must be Michael! Hi, I'm Abby Sciuto."

She stuck out her hand and he took it in his own and kissed her knuckles.

"It is an honor to meet you," he said gracefully.

She laughed and blushed a little. "Is everybody in Israel as charming as you three?"

"Of course not, my dear," Eli answered. "You simply bring out the best in us."

Ziva could not believe how Michael and her father were acting. Maybe she needed to talk to the doctors about less pain medicine again, because she was possibly hallucinating.

"Michael," the older man said, "could you please excuse us? I will meet you downstairs and then we can go."

"Of course," Rivkin answered. Facing Ziva he said, "Please take care, my friend. I will see you soon, I hope." He turned to Abby, "It was a pleasure. I hope to meet you again."

After he left the room, Eli smiled sadly.

"I am afraid I must return home, daughter," he said wryly, "Duty calls. I will have those prisoners in Israel after the Americans are through with them. It is better that way. If they stay here, it will only bring more like them to attack this country and if they found you, you too."

"I know, Papa," she answered sadly.

"I do not know if Leon can keep you out of the press, little one," he said. "You may never be an effective Mossad agent again if that happens."

Both Ziva and Abby were silent, each thinking nearly the same thing: that maybe that was not such a bad thing.

"However, your position here amongst the Americans is virtually guaranteed now," he said. He paused. "I cannot say that is a bad thing. I would prefer you home and safe, but," he looked at both of them, "perhaps, you already are these things."

He turned to Abby. "It was a pleasure meeting you Ms. Abigail Sciuto," he said formally. He walked closer to her and took her shoulders in his hands. He leaned in and kissed each cheek. "Be well, and do not let my daughter get away with anything you do not think she should. She is like her father: strong, but stubborn. Shalom, dear Abby."

Walking back to the bed, he leaned over and hugged his daughter gently. Speaking in Hebrew, he told her, "I am proud of you, little one. Do not back down now that you have what you want. It is your life now. Take care of her and let her take care of you. I love you, daughter." He kissed each of her cheeks and then her forehead. "Shalom."

"I love you too, Papa," she answered, her voice cracking with emotion. "Shalom."

He smiled at them both and then silently strode out of the room.

Ziva had relaxed back into Abby's arms, allowing the taller woman to not only hold her, but also to basically wrap herself around her completely. They had spent their Saturday night first out on the town at a couple of Abby's favorite clubs and then making love deep into the night. Now they were lying back, sharing stories about their childhoods. It was rare that anybody could get Ziva to talk about her youth, but Abby was an exception to all her rules.

Therefore, when Abby asked about her mother, Ziva tried her best to talk about what she knew.

"She died when I was young," Ziva answered. "I remember she was a very pretty woman and that she loved us very much."

She began relating stories about things her mother and her had done when she was a child. Abby squeezed her gently. For the first time in a long time, Ziva felt safe talking about these things.

"I bet you were a cute child," the Goth said.

"I cannot say," she said, shrugging.

"You ever think of having a child?" Abby asked.

"To be honest, after I joined Mossad, I figured it would be impossible," Ziva answered in a level tone. It had become an almost impossible dream, if she were honest with herself. So many things would have to happen for it to be even an option.

"Then you did think of it," Abby said.

"Maybe," Ziva answered. "I have occasionally wondered if I would ever find a way to retire completely and start a family one day. Things never seemed to work out that way."

"You're not truly a Mossad operative now, are you?" Abby asked.

"They can call me back any time they want, Ahuvati," Ziva said unhappily. "And if I retire, I will not be able to be a part of your team any longer. I may even be sent home right away if I did not find another job quickly. I am not a citizen after all." She felt Abby go still behind her, turning she saw the look of horror on Abby's face. "My life has not belonged to me in a very long time, love."

"I see that now," Abby replied sadly. She kissed Ziva gently and then hugged her tightly.

The two sat there in silence for a long time.

"What about you?" Ziva asked curiously. "Have you ever thought of having any little Sciutos?"

"Yeah," Abby replied, "one day. I always wanted the perfect partner for a co-parent though."

"I can just imagine a little black haired girl child in pigtails running around," Ziva said with amusement.

"She wouldn't have black hair," Abby replied, "I dye my hair, you know."

"Ah," Ziva replied, mentally filing that information away. "Regardless, she would be adorable because she was yours." She laughed. "We could get her a little doll and remove its head." Abby laughed. "But, I insist, not pet black widows."

"You have a deal," Abby giggled. Abby's laugh trailed off. "You ever think about," Abby hesitated.

"Do I ever think about what, Ahuvati?" Ziva prompted after a full minute had passed.

"Finding a way to stay," Abby said quietly, "I mean, for good."

Ziva turned and looked into Abby's eyes. Ziva wondering if she was asking what she thought she was asking.

"Yes, I have," Ziva answered. "I had wondered, before I left. But now," Ziva paused; "Now I know for sure."

Abby smiled and kissed her.

Yes, Ziva thought. There had to be a way that she could stay. She just had to find it.

"Is she sure she wants to do this?" Tony asked Abby as they stood just inside the glass doors. They watched as outside reporters jostled each other, trying to setup their cameras and microphones for the best position. Leon Vance stood nearby, prepared to go out before Ziva did.

A few weeks had passed since the shooting and Ziva was being allowed finally to go home. She would not be allowed to go back to work until the doctors cleared her, which involved a great deal more physical therapy than she had undertaken at the hospital. However, Ziva was just grateful to be escaping finally the confines of her hospital room. Indeed, she had started driving her nurses crazy because she never wanted to stay in her room, already puttering around the halls at a decent clip with her cane.

"Yep," Abby said with a smug smile.

Tony looked at the Goth curiously; he had not expected that reaction.

"But won't her being on TV kind of ruin her life as a Mossad operative?" he asked quietly. "She won't be able to go undercover very well if people know her face."

"Probably," Abby replied.

"Has she told her father she's doing this?" he queried, still confused.

"They talked about it, and had a conference call with Director Vance," she answered.

"So, she really doesn't care?" he said, still confused.

"Oh, she cares," Abby responded, a secretive smile on her face, "Just not how you're thinking."

Abby turned when she heard her lover's voice. She grinned when she realized that Ziva was arguing with the nurse.

"I am not going out there in front of all those cameras in a wheelchair," Ziva all but spat.

"It's hospital policy ma'am," the worried nurse replied. "I have to take you out the doors in the chair."

"Then you will stop immediately outside the door and let me use the cane," Ziva announced. "Or I will simply jump out of this chair right now and outrun you." She then muttered scathingly in her native tongue.

"Now, Ziva," Tony said ironically, "I somehow think that wasn't a very nice thing you just said."

"Do not start with me, DiNozzo," Ziva grumped irritably. "I am tired of being treated like an invalid. You Americans are crazy with all your child gloves treatment."

"Huh?" he said, boggled.

"Kid gloves," Abby translated.

"Oh," Tony said.

"That is what I said," Ziva said, exasperated.

"I'll stop outside the door for you ma'am," the nurse said and looked at Abby pleadingly for help. All the nurses knew that Abby had Ziva wrapped around her finger and could tame the Israeli when necessary.

"Zee," Abby said sweetly, "Be nice to Rose. It's not her fault. She's just doing her job. Besides, you're almost out of here."

Ziva sighed. "I am sorry, Rose," she said. She nodded at Vance who walked out ahead of them, to start the press conference.

"It's alright, Ms. David," the nurse replied.

"Now, darlin'" Abby said and leaned down to Ziva's level, "Unless you want to look really goofy, you need to relax a little and smile."

"Give me one reason to smile," Ziva pouted.

Abby edged closer and whispered something into Ziva's ear, which not only made the smaller woman smile, but also made her blush.

"Whoa," Tony drawled, "who is corrupting who in this relationship?"

"Wouldn't you like to know?" Ziva asked, in better spirits.

Before Tony could respond, Leon was looking back at them and Ziva told the nurse to go. Abby and Tony followed close behind, but stood just outside the door.

"May I introduce, NCIS team member, Israeli Intelligence Officer Ziva David," Leon Vance said before standing aside so Ziva could step up to the microphones. Everybody had agreed it would be best if nobody used the word Mossad.

As Ziva stopped and looked at the reporters, she smiled as the questions poured in non-stop. She waited a moment and then leaned towards the microphones.

"I hope you will understand, I want to make this brief and go home," she smiled. "As nicely as the nurses and doctors here at George Washington have treated me, I am ready to leave."

There was a smattering of laughter.

"I am not accustomed to this," she said and waved at the throng around them. "As an intelligence officer, I have had the honor of working alongside many honorable men and women throughout the world. For some time now, I have had the privilege of working in cooperation with NCIS as a liaison officer between our peoples." She looked at Gibbs briefly who nodded, who was standing near the car that would be her escape. "I have learned a great deal, and I hope that I have brought some knowledge with me as well. My only regret about the attack that day is that innocent bystanders were injured before we were able to stop their attack. However, I firmly believe that our team's actions prevented these men from committing more heinous acts upon your people. Finally, I just want to say, I have come to love America as I do my homeland. You are a beautiful people. Thank you."

Backing up, she looked at Leon, silently telling him her part was done. He smiled and took back over seamlessly. She heard him say something kind about her and continue to placate the reporters, even as she walked away. Her leg was achy by the time she got to the car where Gibbs held the back door open for her.

"Never thought I'd see you in front of a bunch of cameras," he said wryly.

She looked back at Abby then returned her gaze to him.

"It was time for a change," she replied.

The corner of his mouth lifted in that partial smile he got when he was truly pleased with somebody. He made a motion with the car indicating she should get in. Abby had already walked around by that point and was sitting beside her. Tony and Tim were waiting for the Director, so Gibbs got into the front, started the car and pulled away from the crowd.

Abby slid her hand across the backseat, palm open and face up. Ziva looked down and placed her hand into Abby's empty one, linking their fingers and squeezing. She looked back up at Abby's smiling face, her green eyes twinkling and thought some changes were so much better than others were. It was odd how she almost felt grateful to the gunmen who started all this. Who knew that being shot would give her the opportunity to cement her ties to this land, to retire without retiring?

"What are you thinking?" Abby asked.

"I was thinking that despite everything that has happened, my fondest wishes have come true," she answered. She lifted their joined hands and kissed Abby's knuckles. "That I am so very grateful to be able to be here with you, Ahuvati."

The End

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