DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No copyright infringement is intended.
SEQUEL: To Into the Setting Sun, Rising From the Ashes, Outside In and Falling into Place.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Playing by the Rules
Abby's only slightly surprised when Ziva gets out of the hearse, walks around to her side of the car and takes her hand as they walk towards the NCIS building. They get on the deserted elevator and step towards the back. Ziva hits the buttons for the appropriate floors, and then Abby quickly pulls Ziva towards her by the lapel of her suit jacket.
She drinks in one last dizzying kiss and steps back, banging into the elevator's safety rail, just as the bell dings, announcing a new floor and more passengers coming on board. Ziva's eyes look wild and slightly glazed, as she slips into place beside Abby.
The elevator is now filled with enough people that there's no one to notice or comment when their hands brush against one another, or when Ziva squeezes Abby's fingers just a bit too hard and wins a whimper from Abby in revenge for the kiss that had left Ziva breathless and wanting more.
Abby responds with a flirty, mischievous look that Ziva finds incredibly tempting. She's plotting her next move when Gibbs and Tony step onto the elevator. Ziva stops cold. In the weeks since she's begun to realize the directions that her feelings for Abby were going, she hasn't once stopped to think about the consequences of having an affair with Gibbs' favorite. She really has no idea what his response to them, or more specifically her will be.
Abby's fingers brush Ziva's again, and Ziva looks up at the other woman. Abby flashes her a fleeting, reassuring smile, as she steps forward and throws her arms around Gibbs. Her fingers cover the silver-haired man's eyes from behind.
Gibbs slowly raises the cup of coffee in his hand and takes another sip. From her angle, Ziva can see the smile slip across his face in genuine amusement.
"Morning, Abs," he drawls slowly as he lowers the coffee cup.
Abby drops her hands, and steps up beside him, using her hip to nudge Tony slightly to the side.
"How did you know that was me," she demands with a pout.
Gibbs grin grows smug as he leans down towards Abby, and whispers in her ear, "You're the only one who knows that they could get away with it."
Ziva sees the way that Abby smiles in delight at his comment. She studies the exchange without a hint of jealousy. She was a profiler long before she was an investigator but she's never quite been able to define this relationship between the two of them. It's not the relationship of a father and daughter. They flirt far too much for that. But then, there's a comfort between them that can't be defined by mere friendship, and Abby trusts Gibbs in ways that Ziva's not even sure she understands.
Still, she knows, almost instinctively, that there is nothing in their relationship to hamper her own affair with Abby, at least not with the threat of Gibbs as a potential suitor. No, Gibbs looms larger than that. His is an opinion that Abby respects and a judgment that she trusts without a doubt.
Ziva looks up sharply, pulling herself out of her thoughts, as her name cracks through the air.
"You going to join us for work this morning," Gibbs asks sarcastically.
Behind him Tony shoots her a triumphant look. She's the first one to land on Gibbs bad side that day, sparing Tony the honor. She resists the temptation to glare back at Tony, and get a smack from Gibbs.
Instead she quickly steps off of the elevator. "Coming, Gibbs," she responds before he can reprimand her again. She barely has time to glance back at Abby again before the elevator doors shut again.
Abby gives her a tiny wave before she's out of sight and that's enough to bring a smile to Ziva's face as she trails Tony and Gibbs into the office.
Ziva takes a deep breath as she slings her bag over the back of her chair. Somehow she'll have to find a way to push Abby from her thoughts for the next eight hours. Gibbs will not be happy if she floats through her day in a distracted haze.
She's finishing up some paperwork from their last case, while Tony pings her every few minutes with instant messages that are variously flirty and harassing. She ignores them mostly, and contents herself with compiling a mental list of all of the ways that she could kill Tony slowly and painfully.
Most days she doesn't mind the way that he acts, she actually finds it amusing for the most part, but today her mind is simply preoccupied with other things.
That's when the call comes in.
A dead navy lieutenant has been found on the doorstep of a middle aged woman in the suburbs.
Gibbs sends she and Tony ahead to calm the woman down. He's been called into the Director's office for a word with her before he and Tim can roll out. Ziva can see him itching to ignore Jenny's request and she's more surprised that he gives in to anything that keeps him from an investigation, but perhaps keeping Jenny off guard is why he does it.
Privately Ziva's just resigned to the fact that, contrary to all of the evidence that's been presented up to now, she will be the one that gets to comfort the surely hysterical woman. Despite how horribly she always does, Ziva continues to be the one to comfort hysterical or grieving women. She almost thinks it's some part of Gibbs obscure training program, it occurs with such frequency.
She and Tony handle the scene with the competence and efficiency that Gibbs would expect from them when they arrive. Tony immediately begins snapping pictures, while Ziva goes around to the back of the house to speak with the woman where the officers who arrived on the scene first are trying to keep her from trampling through the evidence on the front steps.
Somehow she manages to get through the conversation with only a few hitches until Ducky arrives to examine the body and then takes it off of their hands.
Gibbs rolls up just as Ducky's leaving and Tony fills him in on what they know so far. Ziva lets him, and stands back without a comment. Her time with Gibbs has honed already well trained instincts, and something here doesn't feel right. She observes from a distance, allowing the details of the scene to wash over her.
She slowly walks over to Gibbs, and plants herself next to him. Ziva looks passed Tony, back to the house, where the women is standing inside, watching them through thin curtains.
"Gibbs," she cuts into whatever Tony's saying without apology. "She's lying."
Gibbs slowly turns from Tony. "And why do you say that, Officer David?" He folds his arms across his chest as he pins her with a look that doesn't so much intimidate her as make her determined to prove her point.
"She didn't meet my eyes when she told me what she was doing last night."
"Hysterical women tend to have priorities other than making eye contact with investigators," Tony dismisses her claim, with a practiced air. "Boss, I think she's innocent. Nothing McGee can find ties him to her and why would she kill him on her own doorstep. Makes no sense."
"Do you enjoy dating women who should be in criminal facilities," Ziva purrs as Tony finishes. "That can be the only explanation for why you think this woman is innocent."
Tony opens his mouth to shoot back a response when Gibbs gives him a look that has him snapping his mouth shut again.
"Do you have any evidence, Ziva?"
"She contradicted her own alibi. She told the officers that she noticed the body when she went out to get her morning paper, however, she told me that she didn't get home until early this morning. We know from what Ducky has told us, that our lieutenant has been there since 2 am. There's no way that she could have entered her house from the back without noticing the body."
It's Ziva's turn to fold her arms over her chest and turn to give Tony a superior look. Tony shoots his tongue out at her, and Ziva has to stifle a laugh.
Gibbs vindicates her with a quick order. "Tony, McGee, go grab our woman and take her back to the office. Ziva and I will meet you there."
Gibbs walks away as the rest of the team moves to fill out his orders. Ziva follows him a bit more slowly. She almost misses the keys to the car when he throws them to her. She slips into the driver's seat without a word and starts the car.
Gibbs shuts the door on his side and looks over at her, as she squeals the tires backing out of the driveway.
"Good job," he comments simply.
Ziva nods her thanks, as she weaves them through traffic. She doesn't take her eyes off of the road to glance over, but she knows that Gibbs is the only one to never looked panicked at her driving.
"You seemed distracted this morning."
She knows that Gibbs isn't one to make small talk or to pry into the private lives of his agents, but his words make her shoulders tense.
"It won't happen again."
"It'd better not," he says more gruffly, in his regular tone of voice, and Ziva almost thinks that maybe they are done with this conversation.
"There's fifty-one," Gibbs says into the silence.
Ziva risks a look over at him, as she floors it through a red light.
"Fifty-one, what?" She questions him, suddenly lost in the conversation.
"Fifty-one rules," he expounds.
She has a feeling that she already knows which of Gibbs rules that she's broken, but she asks anyway.
Gibbs looks straight ahead. "Number fifty-one: Don't mess with Abby."
Ziva grimaces. "What about McGee?" She thinks about mentioning Kate, for an instant, but her better judgment steps in at the last moment, to remind her that bringing up the fallen agent's name at this moment would definitely be a poor choice.
"I mentioned that rule to McGee too."
"Ah." Ziva's not sure what to make of that. She's heard nothing about Gibbs being a factor in Abby and McGee's breakup and the thought of breaking one of Gibbs rules isn't one that she cherishes. It's too complicated.
"Of course," Gibbs continues as if he doesn't know that Ziva's confused and puzzling over his words. "There's another rule. Number twenty-one: Be sure." He looks over at her to reinforce his words. "Before you commit yourself to something that you can't back away from, be sure."
Ziva nods her understanding.
Gibbs gets out ahead of her at the NCIS parking lot and she lets out the breath that she's been holding. She's never been quite so glad to be back at NCIS.
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