DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No copyright infringement is intended.
SEQUEL: To Into the Setting Sun and Rising From the Ashes.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Outside In
By Jaina


The lab is quiet now. The whirring of machines, and the loud rhythms of Abby's customary music are both absent. The clicking sound of fingers against a keyboard is loud in the silence of the room as Abby finishes up the day's paperwork.

Ziva waits to be noticed, casually leaning against the door to Abby's small office. There's a small smile playing over her lips as she waits and watches. Finally her shoulder begins to fall asleep, and she shifts her weight gently away from the door.

Abby looks up. "Hey!"

Her eyes narrow, as she sees Ziva's smirk. "How long have you been standing there?"

Ziva's lips twist a bit more. "Long enough to see that you're working entirely too hard."

Abby rolls her eyes and went back to typing. "Performing miracles for Gibbs isn't all science and no paperwork," she moans.

Ziva laughs at the comment, knowing it holds more than a little truth. "But you make it look so easy."

Abby's bright grin is definitely worth it. It only lasts for a minute though, before Abby glances down at her watch. When she looks back up at Ziva, she looks slightly horrified and more than a little embarrassed.

"We were going out to dinner."

Ziva nods. "I was taking you out to the new restaurant that has the chef that you adore."

"I'm sorry," Abby says hurridley, "I just got so busy trying to finish this up so I don't have to come in early tomorrow."

Ziva waves away her apology. "We can go another night."

Abby jumps up from her seat. "No," she says sharply, "I mean," she amends, "I'm really ready to get out of here."

"It's been a long week," Ziva admits, already thinking about a place that doesn't have these four walls, and the problems inside of them.

She hardly notices Abby going through her bag, and quickly dumping several things onto the desk. Ziva does take notice when Abby half turns away and slips the t-shirt that she's wearing over her head. Ziva gets a long glimpse of the cross tattoo that trails down Abby's back as Abby reaches for the new, cleaner top that she has on the desk.

Ziva hears a clatter of footsteps coming up behind her, and turns to finds herself face to face with Jenny. Without thinking, she steps out a little further, blocking Abby from her view and giving her a moment longer to put herself together.

"Director Sheppard," Ziva greets her formally, and with the carefully blank expression that she'd learned to adopt years ago.

"Agent David." Jenny shows her surprise far more easily, and Ziva doesn't miss the disapproval that quickly transforms her face as she looks from Ziva to Abby. "I was just coming down to speak to Abby about the report that she filed."

Her words are unimportant, but her tone is a clear dismissal of Ziva. This isn't the first time that they've talked since Jenny changed the parameters of their relationship. They've worked together and consulted on projects, but this is the first time that Ziva has felt anger flare within her at the sight of the older woman.

She nods curtly, and looks to Abby. The dark haired woman is half-changed now, the dark skirt that she'd been wearing is partially covered by the dress that she'd pulled on over it. Ziva sees dismay in the other woman's eyes and a little bit of confusion, and so she tries to nod reassuringly. It's not Abby that she's upset with, after all.

"I'll wait right outside," she promises Abby, and exits the room with the heels of her boots clicking sharply against the floor. Ziva brushes past Jenny without a glance.

It's nearly two hours later before Jenny finally leaves Abby's small office, and as Jenny walks past her, Ziva is well aware that the length of time they had spent going over the report is due entirely to her presence outside the door.

Abby looks very relieved when she finally comes spilling out of the office. "I thought she'd never leave!"

"Mmmm," Ziva mutters non-committally. She's spent a lot of time with Abby since Abby had found her sitting on her hearse, but she still hasn't told the other woman about her former relationship with the director.

It's not that she thinks that Abby would object, but she thinks that Abby would probably disapprove, and she's not ready to face that yet. Or the possibility that she could lose the time that she's been spending with the other woman if Abby is angry with her.

"Do you still want dinner," she asks Abby instead.

Abby grins. "Yeah, I'm starving actually, but how 'bout we get Chinese and take it back to my place?"

Ziva relaxes immediately at the thought. "Sounds good," she says trying not to reveal how relieved she is not to have to deal with a noisy restaurant crowded with people. She reaches a hand out and catches Abby's dress, now completely sans the skirt she'd been wearing earlier, "Still you should wear this. It looks very good on you."

Abby laughs and half curtsies. "Thanks. I try."

Ziva can't keep herself from wondering who Abby's trying for. Still she's glad at least that her comment managed to distract Abby from anymore thoughts about Jenny. She thinks she managed to succeed in that until they finally get back to Abby's apartment.

Abby's curled up on the couch, still in her dress, with her feet tucked up underneath her. She's slowly picking at the shrimp in her lo mein as she watches Ziva devour her beef and broccoli.

"So you and the Director," she starts slowly.

Ziva looks up from her food, and meets Abby's eyes steadily. She's already decided that she won't lie to Abby, but she really is sure that she doesn't want to be having this conversation.

"She didn't sound too happy with you tonight," Abby states. When Ziva doesn't comment, she continues. "If I didn't know better, I'd say she looked jealous. I mean...when she saw you in my office."

Ziva can't watch Abby fumble around the subject any longer. "I believe you Americans would have called it friends with benefits, yes."

She sticks her chopsticks into the carton and reaches over to set the food on the coffee table. "It was her decision to change our friendship." Ziva looks over to meet Abby's eyes as she sits back.

"Oh." Abby looks sad for a moment, and Ziva's not sure that she can handle any sympathy or pity from her. "Sounds kinda stupid of her to me."

Her simple words lift a thousand pounds off of Ziva's shoulders and she relaxes back against the couch. They share a grin and return to eating in comfortable silence.

The End

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