DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No copyright infringement is intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: For Judgement Day I and II.
Running Out of Days
Leon Vance's words echoed in her ears as Ziva pivoted and walked out of the room. He would never be her Director; he had seen to that and she wouldn't acknowledge him as such. In her heart, that position would always belong to Jenny Shepard, even if, in reality it no longer did.
The young Mossad officer who had risen quickly through the ranks until she was assigned to be the control officer of an equally talented young agent in a vitally important and top secret mission knew how to fix this. It would be simple enough. She would walk back into Vance's office, and with a few flirtatious words, a glimpse of skin and a determination to sell Gibbs out, it could all be fixed within minutes. Her place with NCIS would be assured again until the next time that the wind was not blowing in her favor. The NCIS special agent that had grown under Leroy Jethro Gibbs was horrified at the idea. Her loyalty to Jenny hadn't died with the Director. It lived on.
Ziva ignored Tony, McGee and even Gibbs as she walked back to her desk. They descended as quietly as they had gone up. She took her gun and her badge from her purse and slipped it into her desk drawer. More things that she would no longer need. A quick glance at her desk and perusal through her drawers revealed nothing that Ziva particularly wanted to take with her. She had learned long ago to separate her work life from her personal life and as such there were no personal mementos or anything that she couldn't replace at her desk.
Taking her jacket from where it was still slung over the back of her chair, Ziva took one last glance around the NCIS bullpen. A quick look up towards MTAC showed her Leon Vance. He smirked and tipped his head when he saw her watching him. She looked away with no particular hurry, but she didn't want her last memory of this place to be of him. Ziva wondered idly how long he would give her to get out of the country. She was certain that the paperwork to revoke her visa was going through even as she lingered here.
The Israeli Embassy would be her first stop when she left, she concluded. It was almost certain that her father would have a few words for her. At the moment she was too tired and drained by recent events to care.
She looked up from the papers on top of her desk that she'd been staring at distractedly. McGee was smiling down at her sadly. She can't help but smile back at this man. Admittedly, Ziva hadn't thought much of Timothy McGee when she'd begun working at NCIS, but she'd learned quickly not to underestimate his skills and his heart. The kindness that he'd always shown her was something that she'd valued, whether she admitted it or not.
Ziva can't find it in her heart to deny him this good bye now, even if she would have preferred not to do this under the far too watchful eye of Leon Vance. Her smile was genuine as she kissed first one of his cheeks and then the other. He blushed brightly at the attention, and if this were any other day, Tony would be teasing him mercilessly by now. It wasn't any other day, however, and Tony was silent as Ziva wrapped her arms around Timothy for a long hug that lingered until they were both ready to part.
She patted his cheeks warmly, with a hint of her familiar smirk and then picked up the small purse that she had brought to the funeral with her in favor of her usual messenger bag. It was time to leave. She wouldn't continue this farce any longer than necessary.
Ziva walked away, catching Tony's slight nod to her out of the corner of her eye. She returned it without hesitation. Of all of them, this reassignment would hurt Tony as much as it was hurting her. They had been partners and friends. This had made them comrades in their mutual loathing of Leon Vance. Even if their blatant loyalty to Gibbs in front of Vance was what led to this outcome, neither of them would regret that and both would savor their small victory over him.
Hearing Gibbs familiar footfalls behind her, Ziva didn't even attempt to hide a smile. She had been expecting one last private conversation with him. She never had any doubt that Leroy Jethro Gibbs wouldn't let her down.
They didn't speak as the elevator lurched into motion, but waited until Gibbs had switched on the emergency override and yanked the elevator to a halt between floors.
Ziva leaned back against the elevator wall and let her eyes drift shut. Unbidden a sudden image of Abby standing beside her in this elevator carrying a huge box of evidence suddenly sprung into her mind. She smiled tiredly and opened her eyes to find Gibbs staring at her.
"You going to be okay?"
She nodded. "Of course." Ziva didn't bother to think about her answer. The only important thing was that she muster up enough conviction to make this believable. She just wasn't sure whether it was for him or herself that it must be believable.
In truth, Ziva was fairly certain that her father wouldn't be upset with her return home. It was what he had been wanting since she had left. He would find her some suitable job somewhere and she would perform her duties to the best of her abilities. The only problem would be the way that she slowly died a little bit more each day as she was forced to pretend to be someone that she no longer was.
"I know you can take care of yourself, Ziva," he spoke slowly, "But you have my word that I'll fix this."
Ziva could hear the determination in his voice and, even knowing the odds of what he was promising actually happening, she couldn't help but believe him. Gibbs had always kept his promises. She and Tony hadn't been lying when they told Vance that their loyalties lay with Gibbs. Now he would just have to prove that their faith in him was valid.
"Be careful, Gibbs," she said slowly. "She would not want you to get yourself killed over this."
He grimaced, and she saw the pain that he had been keeping so carefully in check for the past few days in his eyes. He looked more anguished then that he had when she had come to visit him in his hospital room and she had forced him to remember everything that the amnesia had thankfully allowed him to forget.
They let the conversation die there as Gibbs restarted the elevator. There wasn't really anything more that they either of them needed to say or hear. They had their understanding and nothing that they said there would change that. They had never needed words to understand one another completely and simply.
He got out at Autopsy after giving her a swift hug and a kiss on the cheek that he usually reserved only for Abby. She wondered if he was going to go share the bad news with Ducky. It would not be the first painful separation for NCIS' Chief Medical Examiner and sadly she doubted it would be his last. Still Ducky would go on; it was his way. Ziva smiled thinking of the new team members that would be subjected to his long slightly rambling stories provoked by the mere mention of anything.
Her smile faded as she considered her next decision. She should leave now to head for her apartment and collect the few belongings that she wanted before she reported to the Israeli Embassy. On the other hand, there was one more person that she needed to see. Ziva smirked. Several years of working with Gibbs had left her even less inclined to do as her superiors thought she should than ever before.
After a momentary hesitation, she impulsively chose the latter destination and hit the button on the elevator that would take her down to the forensic lab. It might be selfish of her, but she wanted to say goodbye to Abby in person.
The elevator doors slid open and Ziva stepped out slowly. She walked forward until she could lean against the narrow doorway to the main part of Abby's lab. For a long moment she simply watched as Abby moved back and forth between her equipment, taking samples and processing them efficiently but with more solemnity than she usually worked. Jenny's death affected them all.
The thought made Ziva straighten abruptly. If Jenny's death had made one thing clear it was that time was not limitless. Jenny's time had run out without warning. Ziva, at least, had the advantage of knowing that her time was running out and that her deadline would be soon. If she was willing to seize the opportunity, she could still act now before she lost her chance.
"Abby." Simply saying her name seemed too loud in the unusual silence of Abby's lab.
Abby jerked, startled out of the almost trance-like state of concentration that she had fallen into as she worked. She blinked and her chin wobbled as she struggled to keep her emotions from her face. Without a word, she stepped across the space that separated them and wrapped her arms tightly around Ziva.
Ziva's breath caught in her throat. Abby had hugged her like this so many times before, and equally many times she had resisted, keeping her body stiff as a board even if she gingerly wrapped her arms around Abby in return. She bit her lip as she realized that this would be the last time she would receive a hug like this from Abby. She missed it already. Instead of resisting as she often did, Ziva relaxed completely, tucking her face into the crook of Abby's neck and breathing in just enough to catch the unique scent of her. She wrapped her arms gently around Abby's waist and held her close without hesitation.
"What did Vance want?" Abby's tone was harsh and combative, even slightly muffled as it was by Ziva's shoulder.
Neither woman let go at the question. If anything Abby clung more tightly.
Ziva hesitated for a moment, considering telling Abby the truth. She settled for telling Abby the truth, but a truth that had the advantage of avoiding the question.
"Leon Vance is a bastard, unworthy of the office of Director." The calmness with which Ziva state her opinion made her words even more shocking when their meaning sank in for Abby.
Abby laughed, the hiccup of sound turning into a sniffle that she quickly covered by sinking her face further into Ziva's hair.
They breathed in the silence together for a long moment, neither particularly inclined to move or care if someone came in and saw them. Today was a day where neither of them cared what anyone thought of them.
"Abby," Ziva hesitated, suddenly at a loss for what she wanted to say. There were so many moments with Abby when she'd bitten her tongue, held back from what she truly wanted to say by years of training and a nagging sense of doubt that Abby shared any of the feelings that she had for the older forensic scientist. Now when she finally had a chance, when she wouldn't have another chance, she couldn't decide where to begin.
Slowly Abby loosened her grip on Ziva. Her face still hidden, Ziva winced at the anticipated loss of contact. To her surprise Abby didn't let her go completely, only stepping back far enough to look at Ziva. She let her hands drift down from Ziva's shoulders and held her arms just above the elbow.
"I know you're not okay." Abby's blunt words surprised her, even if they shouldn't have.
"That is true," Ziva said with a wry twist of her lips that on any other day might have been a smile. She thought of Jenny and felt very tired. She thought of sharing with Abby what Vance had told them and felt paralyzed by exhaustion.
"If I asked you to come with me, right now..." She let the words trail off knowing that there was no way that Abby would abandon her work, her job, for no good reason and on this particular day with everything hanging in the balance, there was no way that she should be asking Abby to take a risk she wasn't even aware of. And yet, she'd asked.
Abby blinked, the surprise plain to see on her face. Ziva started to wave a hand and dismiss the offer as nothing. She didn't have the chance.
"Where are we going?"
Abby's unqualified acceptance startled her for an instant. "My apartment?"
"That sounds great," Abby said, nodding slightly. Her hands dropped until she could thread her fingers through Ziva's and then she squeezed lightly. Hesitantly, she looked up at Ziva from under her lashes, hoping that she hadn't upset Ziva too badly with her further invasion of Ziva's personal space.
Her silent question was answered as Ziva squeezed back reassuringly.
"Let me just get my bag," Abby said quietly, loathe to break the moment, but eager to leave her lab behind.
Ziva's apartment was dark and stuffy with heat when she opened the door. She'd turned the air conditioning off when she and Tony had left to accompany Jenny as her security detail. Even after they had returned to D.C. with Jenny's body, she hadn't had time to come home.
"I'm sorry," she murmured over her shoulder to Abby as she moved around the apartment opening windows and trying to make it more comfortable. "It should be cooler soon."
"It's okay," Abby said reassuringly. "Do you mind?" she asked, as she began to pull off her outer shirt, revealing the tiny undershirt that she had on underneath it. It outlined her cleavage and drew Ziva's attention immediately.
"No," Ziva said slowly, "Make yourself at home." She smiled over at Abby tiredly. "That is the expression, yes?"
Abby nodded. "Right." She fiddled with the hem of her shirt for a moment. This wasn't the first or even the second time that she'd been to Ziva's apartment. It wasn't as familiar to her as her own places, but she'd been here enough over the years that the urge to explore had faded. Still her curiosity hadn't.
Ziva was acting strangely, even for her. Abby swallowed roughly against the lump in her throat. The events of the day and the past week were certainly enough to explain that, but even as their friendship had grown Ziva had always seemed to hold something back. Today was different in many ways, it seemed.
As Ziva moved past her again, Abby held her hand out, letting her fingers brush lightly against Ziva's wrist to catch her attention. She had learned, years before, not to trigger Mossad trained instincts that were set into motion with a firmer hold. Ziva stopped immediately, and looked over at her.
Abby shrugged, suddenly at a loss for words, now that she had captured Ziva's full attention. "Is Vance giving you and Tony any time off?" Her question was hollow and trivial, spoken more for the purpose of starting a conversation than a burning desire to know.
Ziva blinked and some emotion that Abby couldn't quite place flickered across her face. She glanced over at the clock on the wall, and then back at Abby. "Yes, he has. Although now I'm not sure what I will be doing."
"Is that why you wanted me to come over?"
"Among other reasons, yes." Ziva surprised Abby by reaching out for her hand. "Abby, there is something that I haven't told you."
Abby tensed at the words. She was sure that there were many things that Ziva hadn't told her. Their jobs were dangerous and she didn't want to speculate about the many classified things that Ziva knew. The seriousness in Ziva's voice, however, told her that whatever was about to be said was both very important to the other woman and something that she was uncertain how Abby would respond to.
"Okay," Abby said slowly, prompting her to continue.
"When I first came to NCIS, you did not like me."
Abby snorted. "You don't have to tell me that. I already knew that," she teased Ziva gently.
Ziva gave a small smile at her words before she continued. "I think you've come to consider me a friend since then."
"Absolutely, yeah." Abby confirmed it with a sharp nod of her head that made her pigtails bounce.
"I would like to be more than your friend," Ziva said bluntly. "I think you are one of the most unique, talented, and beautiful people that I've ever known." She bit her lip and then stepped closer to Abby, until she could feel the heat radiating out from her body. "And I would like to kiss you," Ziva added even more softly.
If Abby'd had any expectations, this would not have been one of them. She bit her lip, and tilted her head, as if looking at Ziva from a slightly different angle would explain things. It didn't; so she sank into a seat on the couch, and stared up at her.
"So you're saying that you like me?" Abby asked, after a moment. Her thoughts were racing and jumping from one thing to another, never settling on one particular thing before going on to something else.
Ziva took a chance and sat slowly down beside her. "Yes. Is that such a horrible thought?" She couldn't help but add the question. She had hoped, but if this was not what Abby wanted... Well, she would be gone soon enough, would she not? There would be no awkward moments at work if Abby turned her down now.
"No," Abby answered quickly, "No, not at all. I'm just kind of surprised." She looked at Ziva with an intensity that Ziva hadn't seen from her before. "You can, you know."
"No," Abby answered quickly, "No, not at all. I'm just kind of surprised." She looked at Ziva with an intensity that Ziva hadn't seen from her before. "You can, you know."
"What?" Ziva was suddenly confused and feeling as if she'd missed a piece of their conversation.
"You said you wanted to kiss me," Abby elaborated. She tugged at the tip of her ponytail, and shrugged. "If you still want to, you can."
"Oh." With those illuminating words, all of Ziva's questions had been answered. After years of not knowing, she no longer had to guess if Abby thought of her that way, if there was a chance that her feelings for the forensic scientist might be returned. She knew.
For the first time since Ziva had left Vance's office, she truly felt something besides the numbness that had blanketed her since they had attended Jenny's funeral. It felt like hope. When she left, on the darkest nights that would surely come, she would hold on to this moment and remember it.
Ziva leaned in slowly, cupping Abby's face with one hand and brushing her thumb over the delicate line of Abby's cheekbone. Under her calloused fingers, Abby's skin felt impossibly smooth and warm. She was so entranced with the feel of it under her fingers, that she almost was conscious of leaning in to gently meet Abby's lips with her own.
There was no hesitation, as Abby's lips tasted and clung to her own, deepening the kiss without hesitation. Ziva slid her hands to Abby's waist, her fingers clenching around the thin material of the undershirt that she was wearing, and then splaying out across her back to slip up underneath it to touch the bare skin that it hid. She waited for Abby to flinch, pull away, tell her that she was moving too quickly. Instead Abby moaned and moved into the contact, as eager as Ziva for this moment to continue.
Ziva broke the kiss with a gasp. "Wait."
Abby pulled back, startled and blinking in confusion. Ziva's hands continued to caress her, moving gently across the muscles of her back. The sensation sent a shiver through her and it was making it difficult to concentrate on Ziva's objections.
"What's wrong?" Abby managed to ask.
Ziva let out a low chuckle that exuded a knowing confidence. Abby bit her lip at the sound and swallowed. For nearly three years that sound had driven her crazy. Now she was finally in a position to do something about it and Ziva wanted to wait?
"We shouldn't do this here."
Abby was almost ready to explode with frustration.
"I have a very good bed just in there," Ziva added with a smirk.
Involuntarily Abby let out a groan.
"Don't ever do that to me again, David."
Ziva sobered immediately, as she stood and offered her hand to Abby to help her up from the couch. "Don't worry. It won't happen again."
The apartment was still dark except for the thin thread of orange light that seeped in from the streetlight outside. The soft glow threw colorful highlights on Abby's dark hair as Ziva lay, propped up on her elbow and watched the other woman sleep.
Abby murmured something unintelligible and then fell silent. Her lips still moved and Ziva smiled at the sight of it. Abby was still so energetic and uniquely herself, even in sleep. Ziva reached out slowly and stroked her fingers lightly down Abby's side tracing the curves of her body.
Ziva's jaw clenched, grinding her teeth together painfully. She wanted so badly, to lean down and wake Abby again with a deep kiss that would leave her breathless and hungry for another. What Ziva wanted most was more time to savor this night. She didn't want it to end so soon. She had wasted so much time and to get everything that she had wanted only now, after they had lost so much, and when she couldn't keep it was almost more than she could bear.
The thought of waking Abby was both wonderful and painful, and with the pressure of time hanging over her shoulder Ziva forced herself to roll away from Abby and stand. As quietly as she could, Ziva dressed.
The part of her mind that had been train for this since she had entered her teens was already thinking ahead. She knew where the one bag that she would be taking with her was already packed and ready to go. There were decisions to be made about the route to the airport and so many things after that. What would her father say? Would she be given another assignment immediately or be allowed to settle in? Which would be worse?
The rest of her yearned to crawl back into bed with Abby.
For another fleeting moment she considered waking Abby and telling her everything. She let out the breath that she'd been holding and decisively moved back towards the bed. Bending over the goth scientist, Ziva gently brushed the dark hair back that obscured her face. With a touch so light that it could barely be felt, Ziva brushed her cheek with a kiss.
"Ani Ohevet otach, Abby."
And with that she turned away. A tear slipped down her cheek as she reached the door. She brushed it away with the heel of her palm as she slipped through the door and locked it behind her.
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