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SPOILERS: For 5.15 In The Zone
It's been unusually silent around the office this morning without Tony around. The unusual peace and lack of Tony's general presence has filtered down even into Abby's lab. The thudding bass of her music still resonates, but somehow her lab seems a little bit emptier, the space of time stretching a little bit longer without Tony's occasional harassing, teasing, flirting phone calls, and visits.
It means that when Timmy comes down to her lab to ask her a question she's even happier than she thought she would be to see him. Abby hears the elevator coming down and carefully puts down the sample that she's been working on. She wraps him in a hug before he can step off of the elevator and shuts her eyes before she squeezes him extra tight as she thinks about Tony in Baghdad.
"Abby Abbs," McGee prompts her gently, as his hands drift down to gently hold her waist.
Abby gives him one last squeeze before she lets go and steps back. Her gaze flicks to the person in the elevator behind him and her breath hitches. She takes in the crisp, long sleeved white shirt and the carefully parted, straight dark hair and thinks, Kate.
For a second she forgets everything: Tony in Baghdad, the samples that she has running through various machines, the laundry that she's been forgetting to do for a week now, and the fact that Kate is so very dead. She smiles brilliantly, so widely that she thinks her face is going to split, before she has a chance to think.
Her face falls in an instant and her automatic rush forward to wrap her friend in a crushing embrace is checked in mid-motion. The confusion and hurt on Ziva's face would be heart wrenching if Abby could see them or could even process them for what they are. Instead, she only feels the way that her heart drops into her stomach. Suddenly, she's nauseous and she has no idea what to say or do.
For a moment, they remain frozen where they are. Then McGee smiles uncertainly, glancing quickly between her and Ziva as if he expects them, or something, to explode at any moment.
"What do you have for us, Abby?" he asks her in as normal of a voice as he can manage.
Abby swallows sharply, trying to force her mind back to the present and away from thoughts of Kate. As she moves back towards her computer, she keeps catching glimpses of Ziva out of the corner of her eye. Each one brings with it that first painful second of familiarity that cuts into the newly reawakened ache in her heart. Her hands clench at her sides and she forces them open.
All she has to do is get through this moment. She keeps reminding herself of that as she slowly begins to lay out what she's been working on to McGee and Ziva. It helps when she turns so that she's mostly facing McGee and does her best to ignore Ziva, except for when she's speaking directly to her.
By the time that Tony calls, she's almost completely calm and just the sound of his voice is enough to do the rest. Actually being able to see him is even better. The knot in her stomach relaxes just a little bit more. She's still a little bit rattled when Ziva slips up next to her. It's enough to make her accidentally blurt out the nickname Neat Nut Nikki - that she's heard several other agents using for Jardine and it only gets worse as she tries to dig herself out of the verbal hole that she's found herself in.
Abby's beyond grateful when they finally leave, with Ziva shooting her one last lingering look before she gets on the elevator. It's definitely a situation that calls for Bert. Abby buries her face in the hippo's fur and barely manages a thin smile as she squeezes him tightly. It takes several minutes before she's ready to go back to work. Her breathing becomes calm and steady and unshed tears are no longer burning her eyes.
She gives Bert a quick pat as she puts him aside and turns her attention back to what she's doing. Tony needs answers.
Tiredly Abby pulls the door of her car shut behind her. It slams shut with a satisfying heaviness. She turns to her other side to drop her purse in the passenger seat. The sight of someone else sitting there makes her jump.
"God, Ziva," she hisses as she clutches one hand to her heart. "You scared me!"
Ziva shrugs, but it's obvious that her heart isn't in the gesture. Instead, she's intently focused on Abby's face, studying every line and nuance of expression.
"Abby," she starts speaking slowly, obviously choosing her words carefully. "What did I do to upset you?"
And just like that it all comes rushing back to Abby. Everything that she's been trying not to think about all day floods every nook and cranny of her system. It hits her just as hard, but this time she's a little bit better prepared for it. Unconsciously, she wraps her arms around her waist and sinks back against her door.
She swipes at her eyes in annoyance as she feels tears start to slip down her face. In moments she'll look like nothing more than a water-logged clown.
"Abby!" Ziva sounds more alarmed than anything else and her hand hovers, quite uncertainly, before landing gently on Abby's thigh in a comforting gesture.
Abby allows the tears to fall for a moment until she can get them under control and wipe them all away. She sniffles and then tries to swallow down the lump in her throat. Abby considers herself to be very much an emotional person and normally doesn't care if people witness it, but with Ziva staring at her slouched form against the car, it's almost too much to take.
"Kate," she blurts out the name of her late lover and sees Ziva immediately stiffen. Ziva moves her hand off of Abby's leg immediately and then hesitates, uncertain of what to do with it now that it's been brought to her attention.
Ziva considers what Abby said for a moment and then shakes her head. "I am sorry about Caitlin. I am very sorry, Abby. You know that, but I do not understand why you were upset today."
Abby shakes her head in annoyance, not with Ziva really, but that she can't explain this as easily as she wants to. She wants to tell Ziva everything, but the words are sticking in her throat. She lets her eyes fall away from Ziva's and roam over her body. What she sees is very similar to what she saw earlier, but there are differences now.
Ziva still wears that same crisp white shirt, but her hair is different now. It's falls messily around her face as she tilts her head and there's a slight hint of curls that a long day has worked out of whatever Ziva's used to straighten it. What's not different is the worried expression that she watches Abby with. She's Ziva again; not the woman who occasionally haunts Abby's dreams on bad days and even more rarely the very good ones.
"Your hair," Abby blurts out, reaching over to catch a lock of it. She watches it slide through her fingers and glances back up at Ziva. "How you had it earlier; how you were dressed. I saw you out of the corner of my eye and you looked like her." She winces and looks down. "For just a second, I forgot."
"Abby..." This time Ziva's voice is low with understanding and sympathy. "I am sorry." She knows all too well about ghosts and hope. She reaches a hand out to Abby and she's grateful when Abby takes it immediately. "I will try not to do that again." It hurts more than she would think, now that she knows why Abby was so upset.
Abby squeezes her fingers tightly. "Not your fault," she says, regaining some of her usual self.
She tugs on Ziva's hand and uses it to help her scoot across the seat until she's halfway into Ziva's lap. Abby wraps her arms around the former Mossad assassin and rests her head on her shoulder. It's been a very long few days with half of the team on a different continent with many time zones in between them and she's exhausted from her tears. It feels wonderful to rest here.
Slowly, Ziva puts her arms around Abby's waist, holding her close as she revels in her warmth and savors the scent that's uniquely Abby. This is so much more than Ziva was hoping for when she let herself into Abby's car. Today was two steps back. Despite it all, this feels like three steps forward.
They sit in silence until it shifts from comfortable to edged with tension. It's been growing between them for a long time now, but somehow it's never been the right moment. Abby's loss was too fresh and then Ziva's crush on Tony was too obvious. Now both are fading, if occasionally still apparent.
Abby sits up a little, raising her head from Ziva's shoulder. This close she can see the differences between Kate and Ziva with even more clarity. Really they're almost nothing alike. She watches her hand as it strays to Ziva's face, tracing the contours of her jaw, up along the line of her nose. Ziva's eyes drift shut as Abby's hand slides across her brow and back into the coarser strands of her hair.
She tilts her head into Abby's touch and Abby shivers as her breath tickles over her wrist. It's too much for her to resist. Abby leans down slowly, with one last glance at Ziva's still closed eyes and kisses her. She lingers slowly and tentatively until Ziva responds.
It's everything she has hoped it would be and so much more than she could have imagined.
A sharp rap on the window makes her jerk back and she hits her head painfully on the hard roof of her car. Ziva breathes out heavily in annoyance. She hasn't relinquished her hold on Abby and she meets her gaze steadily, a smile begins to creep across her lips despite the interruption.
Ziva grins broadly when she rolls down the window. She isn't surprised to see Gibbs on the other side and she doesn't even try to stop smiling.
"Hey." Gibbs' voice is sharp and commanding, but there's no denying the smile playing over his lips. "Stop steaming up the windows and go home." His grin broadens. "I need both my agent and my lab tech at their best in the morning."
Both women laugh and Abby shifts off of Ziva and back onto her own seat, with only a hint of pout.
"You're ruining my fun, Gibbs," Abby complains half-heartedly.
Ziva squeezes her fingers out of Gibbs' sight. "The night is not over," Ziva reminds her in a low voice that makes Abby shiver. Ziva's right. It's only just begun.
Gibbs just shakes his head and walks away as Abby starts her car. Some days he's not sure what he's going to do with those two. Either separately or now, apparently together. Not that he minds, as long as they're happy which they seem to be. It's all that he can hope for them. It's all that anyone can hope for.
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