DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No copyright infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Many, many thanks to Ncruuk for beta'ing this for me.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: 3.17 Ravenous.
No music pounded or machines whirred; her lab was dark and silent. Usually Abby Sciuto liked dark and silent, but somehow in her lab, it just seemed wrong. Empty. She knew the rest of the building had to be empty by now: it was far into the night and well past NCIS office hours. She was alone now and, with her work done, she would have to find somewhere else to haunt.
She removed the dozens of black roses that she had been given earlier that day out of the cooled storage space that was most often used to refrigerate perishable evidence samples, and turned to get Gibbs' present. Thinking of his gift cheered her, but she still didn't feel like her usual ebullient self. For once, she was actually tired and did not want to be on her own, whether it be at home or amidst a crowd of frenetic strangers in a club.
Abby turned to grab her coat off the chair in her office and swallowed a shriek: Ziva stood leaning in the doorway with her arms crossed over her chest, her eyes glittering like chips of opal in the darkened room.
"I did not mean to startle you."
"I-You," Abby was stymied, her tongue tripping all over itself. "I mean, I thought that everyone was already gone," she explained, her hands waving boldly as she talked. "Did you need something?" she asked hopefully. If Ziva had evidence that needed processing it would give her a reason to stay and put off leaving a little longer. Maybe she would even have to run extensive tests, that would be time and thought consuming.
"No," Ziva shook her head, dashing Abby's brief hopes. She gestured at the flowers that Abby still held. "I wanted to make it up to you."
"Oh," Abby tried not to sound disappointed, but Ziva seemed to hear it in her tone.
"At least let me prepare you dinner. I know you haven't ingested anything but Caf-Pow since this morning. Gibbs has kept you even busier than us."
For an instant Abby considered and then brightened. She wouldn't be alone, but..."What did you mean by prepare me dinner?"
"I will cook." Ziva looked slightly affronted. "Was I not clear?"
Abby shrugged. "Sometimes when people say that they will prepare a meal, they don't always mean that they're going to cook it." It had been quite a while since she had eaten something besides take out: real cooked food would be a treat.
Ziva cocked an eyebrow at her. "Is that a yes?"
Abby flashed her a smile. "Yes."
"Good," Ziva straightened, pulling her jacket closed around her lithe frame. "I will meet you in the garage in five minutes. You can follow me to my apartment."
Abby nodded. "Okay." She watched as Ziva left and then walked back to her own car with a strange little smile. Ziva was not Kate and she still missed her friend dearly, but Ziva was definitely growing on her.
Ziva's apartment had not been what she expected the first time she had been in it. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she had expected it to be a barren, sterile place, hardly lived in, but that was far from the case. The walls and floors were decorated in rich warm colors; the furniture was tasteful, but comfortable. A few magazines spilled out across the coffee table and a pile of books stood beside the couch.
Ziva was already moving around inside the apartment, leaving Abby behind in the living room as she absorbed the details of her surroundings. She stuck her head back around the corner when she noticed that Abby was no longer behind her. "You can hang your coat in the closet. I will be out in just a moment."
Abby bobbed forward a little, feeling stuck in place. "Okay, thanks."
When Ziva slipped out of sight again, she hung her coat in the indicated closet and then turned to look around. She was staring at an intricate carving that rested on top of one of the short bookshelves in the room, causing Ziva to smile when saw her as she reentered the room, but make no comment. The former Mossad agent looked comfortable and relaxed and her service weapon was no longer at her side: it was the first time Abby could remember seeing her act so freely. She was definitely seeing a different side to Ziva, than the tough, take-no-prisoners woman who showed up to work everyday.
Abby watched, feeling somehow subdued but hyper alert as she followed Ziva into the kitchen and watched her cook. Ziva moved with calm confidence, supremely sure of what she was doing.
"You cook a lot?"
Ziva shrugged. "When I am in the mood, yes. Sometimes it is nice to eat food from home."
Abby nodded. "I never picked up the knack for cooking." She rolled her eyes, "My mother wasn't the best teacher and I never tried to learn. There was always too much to do."
Ziva nodded. "It was rare that I cooked at home. Now, it is something that I can indulge in more often."
Abby hesitated, hearing the implication behind the words. For a moment, she considered asking about the time that the other woman had spent working for Mossad, but she didn't ask. She had spent enough time around Special Agents to know that Ziva would not say anything and she was enjoying the moment too much to ruin it.
"And when were last home in time to cook properly?" Abby asked, with a teasing grin, attempting to move the conversation away from heavier topics.
"More recently than Tony's last sucessful date..." decided Ziva after some careful thought, enjoying Abby's laughter at their friend's expense.
Ziva seemed to relax more and more as the evening wore on and even pulled out a bottle of wine with dinner. At first Abby had been a bit skeptical about the food. It smelled delicious but was decidedly unfamiliar. It only took her a few bites however, to discern that the food was indeed as good as it had smelled.
She gestured towards the food with her fork and, through a mouthful of food, exclaimed, "This is really good."
Ziva grinned, speared a piece of vegetable and popped it into her mouth. "You are welcome."
They finished the meal in easy conversation. Abby's exhaustion from earlier in the day had seemed to disappear and Ziva was equally animated. They were in good spirits as they finally stood to clear the dishes off the table.
Ziva retrieved the wine glasses and the bottle from the table and by mutual consent the two women moved back into the living room. Abby slouched onto the couch, folding her legs underneath her, and held her hand out eagerly for her glass. Carefully Ziva refilled the two glasses and then leaned across the space to hand Abby her glass.
Abby took it from her and brought it to her lips, taking a judicious sip. Ziva's wine was good, but she didn't want to overindulge. She wasn't ready to be drunk quite yet. She could feel tension and excitement building within her. It was bubbling up inside of her and making her feel just a little bit wild. She went with the feeling and reached back across the distance between them before she could think better of it. Ziva was leaning over the couch to place the bottle of wine on the coffee table and Abby's hand caught the small, delicate gold star that hung around Ziva's neck. Ziva froze, carefully not moving. She had seen Abby's sudden movement out of the corner of her eye and she didn't want to jerk back and risk breaking her necklace. She tilted her head up to look at the other woman.
Abby flushed slightly. "It's beautiful."
Ziva forced her eyes shut against the flash of pain that came with the memory Abby had triggered. "My brother gave it to me as a graduation present. It meant very much to me," she whispered. She reopened her eyes to find Abby staring at her with curiosity. She shook her head to dispel the unpleasant thoughts and a piece of hair fell across her eyes. She started to reach a hand up to brush it back, but Abby slipped her hand up first, letting go of the necklace and gently guided the hair back behind her ear. Ziva watched her carefully, surprised that Abby's gesture hadn't bothered her.
Abby seemed to be suddenly nervous. Withdrawing her hand, she waved it through the air awkwardly, as if she wasn't sure what to do with it then. "Sorry, sometimes people say that I have boundary issues."
"I did not mind." Ziva admitted.
"Really?" Abby cocked her head, one pigtail swinging idly around it.
"Really," Ziva replied, suddenly enjoying the moment. She and Abby had gotten to this place very much by accident, but she was intrigued. Abby was different. She wasn't frightened of her as some people, especially other women, were. She had even hated her for a time. It was refreshing to have someone who was not constantly holding back from her.
"Yeah," Abby said eying her, "You don't seem like a girl who has to play within the rules."
It was a challenge. "You do not seem concerned with them either, Abigail."
Abby shot her an indignant glare. "You used the full name. No one uses the full name."
"As you said, I do not always follow the rules. Besides, it's a beautiful name."
Abby grinned. "Touché - but don't wear it out."
"I will not."
"I didn't think you would."
Ziva watched her carefully across the scant feet that separated them. Abby met her gaze without hesitation. She was enjoying the flirting, but she wanted more. It was time to up the ante.
"So...how long is it going to take you to kiss me?"
There was a moment of silence. Ziva laughed. "Never let it be said that I turned down such a generous invitation."
Ziva caught Abby's jaw and pressed her lips to Abby's cheek, just brushing her lips. Abby curved her mouth towards Ziva's. "You missed."
"Not yet," Ziva whispered, her other hand reaching out to slide under Abby's t-shirt and pull her closer. "I simply refuse to be predictable." She tilted her head and found Abby's lips this time. She kissed her with bruising intensity, lips, tongue and teeth, dancing furiously. Abby responded with equal intensity, and Ziva was left gasping for breath. This felt so right.
Abby threw one leg over her lap, and pushed back into the kiss harder. Both of her hands slid under Ziva's shirt, tugging it upwards. Ziva pulled back, raising her arms to allow the motion.
"We should have done this before," Abby laughed as she threw Ziva's shirt in the general direction of the coffee table.
"I could not agree more."
Ziva David studied the tattoos that covered her lover's bare back. She traced whirls and sharp lines alike with the tip of her index finger. Occasionally she would drop a feather light kiss on a particularly tempting bit of silky skin. Abby lay on her stomach, her head turned so that she could watch Ziva out of the corner of her eye.
Her golden tan against Abby's pale skin made an interesting contrast. Abby was entranced by the way that Ziva's wild hair fell down around her shoulders and curls tickled the bare skin of her arms and back. She shifted slightly, flipping over until she lay on her side, facing Ziva. Ziva looked briefly miffed, until Abby slid a hand behind her neck and pulled her into a leisurely kiss.
When the kiss ended, Ziva traced the line of Abby's body down to her thigh. Abby didn't bother to try to stifle an involuntary gasp as Ziva kissed a sensitive spot on her stomach.
"You should be a controlled substance," Ziva whispered.
Abby grinned. "I'll take that as a compliment."
"You should." Ziva shifted slightly, pushing herself up on her elbow. "Abigail-"
"Yeeessss," she drawled the word out when Ziva hesitated. She usually hated it when people used her full name. Abigail had been her parents' little girl, the innocent child. She was none of those things, but she loved it when Ziva used it: it was different and special, and she was already craving the sound of it from Ziva's mouth.
"I did not plan on doing this," she gestured between them, "When I offered to cook for you last night." A grin quirked over her lips. "Earlier this morning."
"I know." Abby tensed, drawing her knees closer to her chest. "I didn't either." She bit the metaphorical bullet. "Do you regret it?"
"No." Ziva's reply was sharp and quick as she reached a hand out to touch Abby's, gently flipping her hand over and twining her fingers through the other woman's. She leaned her head down to place a reverent kiss on those fingers. "No, I do not regret it. You fascinate me and I would like to get to know you better."
"Better than this?" Abby asked with a teasing laugh, trying to ease the tension of the moment as it suddenly grew too serious.
But Ziva wasn't joking when she replied. "Yes, better than this."
She gazed into Abby's eyes, letting her see that she meant exactly what she had said.
Abby hesitated; relationships had never treated her well. She had always felt confined by their boundaries and stifled and suffocated by the proprieties that she society claimed she owed her partner. She had a feeling though, that Ziva was different - that a relationship with Ziva would be different. She made her mind up swiftly, once she had considered it.
"I'd like that too," she answered with a grin, and raised her head to kiss Ziva.
Abby caught sight of something over Ziva's shoulder and froze. On the far wall of the small bedroom, standing on top of a dresser was a small picture. She pulled back to get a better look at it and then found herself scrambling away from Ziva.
She couldn't be in bed with a woman who had a photograph of Ari Hasswari on her dresser. It was wrong and horrible.
Ziva was rising slowly, startled and worried by her lover's sudden retreat. "Abigail?"
"Don't call me that," Abby snapped, as she paced frantically back in forth in front of the bed, searching for her shirt or skirt, anything that she could put on to get away.
"Tell me what is wrong," Ziva's voice was low and commanding, demanding that Abby pay attention to what she had said.
"Him," she spat the word, with a gesture towards the photo. "You can't expect me to sleep with you when you have a picture of him sitting on your dresser."
Ziva didn't need to look over her shoulder to see what picture Abby was referring to. She seemed to sag into herself. "Abigail, I did not mean for you to see that." She said bitterly. "I did not mean-"
"He killed my best friend! It doesn't matter what you didn't mean!"
"He was my brother!" The cry was torn from Ziva almost involuntarily. She couldn't believe that she'd said it. She had promised she would not. She bit her lip until she tasted blood and turned away. "And I was there when he was killed." I killed him. Ziva thought it, but didn't voice it. If she had promised to keep her relation to Ari a secret, then the knowledge that she had killed Ari herself was enough to put Abby in incredible danger. Only two other people knew the truth of it. Gibbs had been there to witness it and her father had heard it from her own lips. His reaction had been cold, icy anger; this was almost worse than that moment had been.
They were engulfed in silence, neither knowing what to say after that. Abby's rapid breathing sounded loud and harsh in the room's sudden hush. Ziva stood opposite her, trembling from her emotions and the unexpected rush of adrenaline. The sound of her cell phone ringing from the other room startled both of them. Ziva ignored it, keeping her eyes fixed on Abby.
"You should answer that."
Ziva knew that she should. The only people that had her cell phone number were the other members of her team. The call would be about work, especially at this hour, but she didn't want to deal with work. She wanted to erase the look of searing hatred and disgust from Abigail's eyes. "Do not go," she tried to make the words a command, but they came out as more of a plea than she had wanted. She held her hand out to Abby entreatingly.
Abby didn't take her hand and instead stepped away from her. Still she folded her arms over her chest stubbornly and didn't make any further move to walk away. "I'll be here."
Ziva let out a breath that she hadn't realized she was holding and slipped a silk robe off the back of her door as she walked into the living room. She flipped her phone open and answered it curtly as she belted the robe around herself.
"Officer David," Her father's cool voice sent shivers down Ziva's spine and she tugged the robe tighter around her. She found herself wishing that her service weapon was in her hand, rather than still in her bedroom.
"Director," she replied with equal distance.
"Now is that the proper way to greet your father, little Ziva," he spoke in Hebrew, with a hint of fatherly rebuke.
Ziva ignored the tone, knowing it to be false. Her father never called to simply inquire about her life. It had been years since they had spoken for anything but official reasons. She wasn't particularly eager to change that and at the moment she was too distracted to care why her father was calling.
"What do you want, Director?" She inquired bluntly in the same language.
"Is this the way that it will always be, Ziva?" She could suddenly hear the exhaustion in his voice. "I have lost-" He bit the sentence off. "I do not wish to lose you, as well."
Part of her, the part of her that had craved his approval since she was a child, melted at the words that he had spoken, but the larger part of her remained suspicious. People didn't change and her father was no exception to that rule. She frowned, drawing a sudden, worrisome conclusion.
"Why the sudden worry?" She asked pointedly. "I am safer here in America than I have been in years."
There was silence, and then. "You know why." His voice was strained, but the explanation didn't ring true to her.
"What is going on?" She demanded, anger flooding through her.
There was a dull click as the line went dead. Ziva resisted the urge to throw her cell phone across the room and headed back to her bedroom. They needed to leave immediately.
She snatched their scattered clothes up quickly as she moved toward the bedroom and dropped them in a pile on the bed.
"Get dressed," she said quickly to Abby. "We have to leave."
Abby must have overheard at least the tone of the conversation because she didn't hesitate, but she did start asking questions. "What's going on?"
Ziva shook her head, wishing fleetingly that she knew sign language. It would make explaining easier and have a much smaller chance of them being overhead. There was certainly a possibility that her apartment had been bugged. She was seldom home, leaving ample opportunity for anyone to let themselves in and do as they wished. "Not here."
Abby nodded, and remained silent as she pulled her t-shirt on.
Ziva held her pistol in her right hand as she cracked the door into the hallway of her apartment building. Her father's warning - if it had been a warning and not a slip of the tongue - had been vague, but she had not survived for so long as a Mossad agent without employing a certain level of healthy paranoia. She looked around carefully and then stepped into the hall. When she saw that it was clear, she held her hand out to gesture Abby forward.
Abby caught her hand in a loose grip, surprising Ziva with the gesture. Her training and common sense said that she should take her hand back, but she didn't let go of Abby's hand. She was actually more worried about Abby than herself at the moment. Holding her hand would give her a tangible connection to the other woman and immediate assurance of where she was. It would be one less thing for her to worry about. Abby squeezed her hand lightly and Ziva returned the gesture quickly before she started down the hallway.
They needed a car.
Cars, at least, were easy to find and with Ziva's skills, very easy to get into. If someone was watching her -targeting her- planting a bomb on her car would be one very easy and thorough way to get rid of her.
Keeping Abby behind her and both of them out of the bright glare of the streetlights, Ziva jogged towards the end of the street. A car with a battered pizza delivery sign on the roof sat parked at the end, idling with the keys in the ignition. It was an opportunity too good to pass up.
"Get in," she said, pushing Abby towards the passenger door as she slipped around to the driver's side.
"We're stealing a car?" Abby asked rhetorically as she pulled the door shut behind her. "We just had a fight and now we're stealing a car. You sure know how to show a girl a good time."
"I do not remember hearing you complain earlier," Ziva said as she pulled out, the car's tires squealing.
"That was before-" Abby hesitated and Ziva tensed as she waited for Abby to complete the thought. "Before you got all cryptic and started acting weird."
Ziva let out a breath that she hadn't realized she had been holding. Apparently Abby was putting this fight on hold for now. She glanced quickly into the rear view mirror and then back over at Abby. "My father - he called me."
"And that's...bad?" Abby guessed, feeling as if she were playing twenty questions to determine what was going on.
"Yes," Ziva said succinctly with a nod of her head as they turned on to a side street. "That is-" She glanced into the rearview mirror again and swore. "Get down," she pushed Abby down in the seat, towards the floorboard just as the back windshield exploded.
Ziva jerked the car in the opposite direction and the next two gunshots missed the car.
"What did you do to piss these guys off?" Abby demanded, shrilly.
Ziva took her hand off of the wheel and pulled out her service weapon. She stuck her arm out the window and aimed at the car following them. "I'm. Not. Sure." Ziva punctuated each word with gunfire.
"So what are we going to do?" Abby asked as she was thrown against the car door as Ziva took another sharp turn.
"We are not going to do anything," she said sharply. "Damn it," she blurted an instant later. "Hold on." The car slammed forward, jolted by an impact that Abby couldn't see. She yelped as her head hit the dashboard hard. Her head exploded with a throbbing pain and she barely heard Ziva murmur darkly, "Enough."
The Israeli woman twisted around in her seat as the dark sedan started to close the distance between them a second time. She paused for just an instant, no more than a breath, and then fired into the car's front windshield. Glass shattered and the car swung wildly out of control. Ziva whirled back around and accelerated rapidly away from the scene.
Ziva drove in silence for a few minutes before Abby climbed back up into her seat. She looked over at Ziva who still looked a bit wild. Abby could see the tension radiating off of the other woman. There was a nasty looking slash across the back of Ziva's hand, most likely from the glass from the shattered rear windshield.
"Let me see," Abby said. "Your hand, I mean. It needs to be looked at and I know basic first aid."
Ziva blinked and seemed to come out of her intense focus to look over at Abby. "It is okay."
"David! Hand over the hand!" Abby's expression was stubborn. She knew that Ziva wasn't okay, but she didn't think admit it, so more direct action was required.
Without looking, Ziva took her hand off of the wheel and held it out to Abby. "It is just a scratch."
It was a scratch that needed stitches, Abby realized almost immediately. It was long and deep, but she didn't think that was what Ziva wanted to hear at the moment. She said it anyway.
"You'll live. You should probably get a few stitches, but it's not that serious," she said, as she curled her fingers around Ziva's, careful not to touch or stretch the skin around the laceration. She felt Ziva shiver at the touch and squeezed her fingers.
"I am sorry," Ziva said, glancing over at Abby. "You should not be involved in this."
Abby shrugged. You shouldn't either.
"I need to talk to Gibbs," Ziva continued. "He needs to know about what happened."
"Yeah," Abby agreed, wondering how they would explain all of this.
"You know where Gibbs lives?"
"You do not?" Ziva countered.
"Well, yeah, but, how -"
Ziva looked over at her and their earlier argument came flashing back into Abby's mind.
"Oh," was all she said.
Once they reached the house, they approached the door and knocked. They waited for a moment, both impatient about standing on the doorstep.
"Maybe he didn't hear you knock?" Abby finally suggested.
Ziva eyed the door. "Perhaps." She pulled a slim metal tool out of her pocket and began to pick the lock.
"Are you sure-," Abby began.
Ziva jiggled the handle and the door swung open.
"That breaking in to Gibb's place is such a good idea?"
"No, but standing on his doorsteps out in the open is not the best plan either."
"You could have called," a sharp voice from behind them spoke.
Abby jumped and Ziva winced. "Gibbs, we can explain," Abby said as she turned around.
"It had better be good," he growled.
Abby shot a pointed look at Ziva. Ziva sighed. "I did not have my cell phone."
"Wait...you remembered your gun and your lock picking kit, but not your cell?"
Ziva flushed at Abby's comment. "I was distracted," she bit out in Abby's direction. "I was upset and in a hurry. We were getting dressed-"
"Getting dressed?" Gibbs demanded with a growl. "One of you had better explain what's going on before I kick you both out."
"Abigail and I had dinner," Ziva said, focusing her attention solely on Gibbs. "Afterward my father called."
Gibbs' focus on her sharpened. "What did he want?"
Ziva hesitated, "He wanted- he was worried about me. It was an unusual conversation. I hung up on him and we left the apartment."
Despite herself, Abby could feel herself being impressed with Ziva's selective editing of events. It was probably one of the benefits of being a former spy.
"A car pursued us; began shooting at us and tried to run us off of the road."
Gibbs' scowl was growing darker by the moment.
"I shot them," Ziva concluded, "And then we came here."
Gibbs looked ready to explode. "Either of you hurt?" He asked tersely.
"No," Ziva shook her head.
"She cut her hand," Abby volunteered. Ziva shot her a glare.
"It is just a scratch."
Gibbs jerked his head towards the stairs. "There's a first aid kit in the bathroom, Abbs."
Without a word, Abby moved past him towards the stairs. Gibbs' laid a hand on her shoulder briefly as she stepped past him and she gave him a flicker of a smile. Both waited until she was out of earshot before speaking.
"Do you know who it was?"
"I have a few ideas, but I am not certain. It may involve Ari. My father mentioned him when we spoke. I think he revealed more than he had intended."
"Where were you when you shot them?" Gibbs asked, backtracking as he pulled out his cell phone.
Ziva thought for one instant and then named off the intersection.
Gibbs nodded, flipping his phone open. He put it to his ear and waited a few moments as the connection went through. "DiNozzo, we've got two dead bodies on Elm and Fairfax. Take McGee and call Ducky. He doesn't know about it yet." He paused for a moment to listen. "And don't let the cops interfere. That's my scene, DiNozzo."
"Gotcha, Boss," Ziva could faintly hear Tony's reply.
Gibbs hung up and looked at Ziva piercingly. "Is there anything else that I need to know?" He demanded.
"No," Ziva shook her head. Paused. "Gibbs this is personal. The team should not be involved."
"I know," he said simply. "But nobody messes with my team."
Ziva hesitated again. "They saw me with Abby, Gibbs. It will not take them long to identify her and track her down, if they have not already."
He nodded. "She'll be processing evidence at the lab. If she leaves, I'll make sure that there's an agent with her. She won't be unprotected."
Ziva nodded. They were both silent again as Abby came back down the stairs with the first aid kit. She opened it and took out gauze, antiseptic and bandages. She looked up at Ziva and held out her own hand expectantly.
Ziva hesitated, and then gave in to Abby's stubborn stare. She held her hand up and allowed Abby to clean it out with the antiseptic. Instead of focusing on the pain in her hand, she watched Abby's face as the other woman cleaned and bandaged her hand. When Abby finished, Ziva gave her a brief smile.
"Thank you." Abby nodded, but didn't speak.
Ziva caught her wrist, aware that Gibbs was still watching them. "Are you still upset?" she asked quietly.
Abby shrugged. "Yeah...kinda." She glanced down at her wrist and Ziva let go as if her hand were on fire. Suddenly what Abby thought mattered very much.
"Can I -"
Gibbs coughed from behind them. Ziva glanced up and took a half-step back from Abby and let her walk past into the kitchen to throw away the trash from the bandages.
"What now?" she asked Gibbs, pulling her focus away from Abby and back to the matter at hand.
Gibbs shrugged. "We'll drop Abby off at the lab and then go see what Ducky's got for us."
Ziva started towards the door. Gibbs reached out and caught her shoulder, stopping her. He glared down at her. "Anything you need to tell me, David?"
Ziva met his gaze, but remained silent.
He searched her eyes, looking for...something. His gaze was stern. "Don't break her heart."
Before she could respond, he walked away, leaving her alone with her thoughts, feeling as if she wanted to put her fist through a near by wall.
Tony shot up out of his seat as Gibbs walked past his desk.
"What do you have for me, DiNozzo?"
"Ducky has the dead guy down in autopsy. We're still working on an ID. McGee's taking the car down to Abby's lab. I paged her; still haven't seen her actually." Tony looked puzzled. "I should probably call-"
"Don't call her, DiNozzo," Gibbs cut him off.
"Ooookay." Tony drawled out the word. Sometimes asking questions was not a good idea. This seemed to be one of those times. "Oh, Boss, the Director wanted to see you in her office." Tony grimaced. "She didn't seem too happy."
Gibbs took a last sip of his coffee and then dropped the cup into the trash before he walked back around his desk and headed toward the Director's office. "Well, I'm not very happy either, DiNozzo."
Tony sat back down and began the process of gathering the information Gibbs would want when he was done speaking with the Director. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ziva step off of the elevator and smirked.
"You're late," he taunted her. "Didn't make the scene and you didn't get here before Gibbs."
Ziva glared, but did not respond. She threw her bag down on her chair and sighed. Tony glanced up and then took another look. For a change, his partner was not her usual well put together self. Her clothes were disheveled and unmatched. Her hair was unkempt and there was a laceration on her hand.
"No, Tony," she said with mock-sweetness, "I did not make the scene. I was the scene." She grimaced and tossed something at him. He caught it out of reflex and glanced down to see her keys. "You will need those, yes? To look at my apartment." She leaned against her desk and closed her eyes.
"They must have bugged it somehow," she said quietly. "I got a phone call right before..."
Tony half-rose from his seat. He hadn't been expecting this. It was no wonder that Gibbs and the Director were pissed, if Ziva was the target. "Before what?" He prompted, quickly marshaling his thoughts. There was never a good time with Gibbs to give less than a hundred percent to the job, but there were always certain cases that were more important than others. Ari had become one of those cases the moment that he had taken Kate, Ducky and Gerald hostage down in the morgue. This was another.
Ziva eyes snapped up to his face. "Nothing," she said with a quick shake of her head. "It was nothing, Tony."
Tony stepped out from behind his desk and walked over to hers, putting his palms down on her desk and leaning over her. "See, that's where you're wrong. In cases like this, everything is important."
Ziva stood and leaned closer still, not looking the least bit intimidated by his pose. "Gibbs will determine what is and is not important, Tony. Not you."
He straightened and folded his arms over his chest in frustration. "Stop playing games, Ziva. Now isn't the time to go all clandestine Mossad Officer on me. I'm not going to let your stubborn secretiveness get in the way of me doing my job. I saw that intersection, Ziva! You got lucky. They almost had you."
"I am aware of that, Tony." Ziva almost yelled. "You do not need to remind me."
"Then why aren't you helping me out here?" He demanded.
Her jaw clenched and she looked down.
"What?" Tony pushed again. "What aren't you telling us, Ziva?"
"DiNozzo!" Gibbs' voice cracked across the bullpen like a whip.
Tony pivoted quickly. "Yes, Boss?"
"Stop interrogating your partner."
Gibbs simply shook his head at Tony. Then his gaze shifted to Ziva. "You're with me."
Without a word, Ziva slipped out from behind her to desk to follow him, brushing past Tony as she went.
Ziva wasn't surprised when Gibbs headed up the stairs toward the Director's office or when he opened the door and gestured for her to enter first. Cynthia's desk was still empty. It was still early and the usual office personnel weren't even in yet; neither of them hesitated at the door to the inner office. Jenny was waiting for them when they entered, standing in front of her desk, leaning back against the edge.
When they stopped in front of her, she carefully looked Ziva up and down taking in the bandage on her hand and the other bruises that she'd received.
"Agent Gibbs has filled me in on what happened this morning. On a personal note, I'm glad that neither you or Ms. Sciuto were more seriously injured. However, as the Director of this agency, it's my first priority to ensure that no one thinks that they can attack or harass my agents or other personnel in their own homes and come away from it unscathed." She turned her attention to Ziva. "Your actions this morning have given us a definite place to start with our investigation, but..." she qualified her statement. "I am aware that there's more going on than either of you are telling me and I want to know what it is."
The silence was heavy with tension. Ziva's eyes flicked briefly toward Gibbs. Their eyes locked and a moment of understanding past between them before Gibbs gave a minute nod and turned back to face Jenny.
"I didn't kill Ari Haswari."
One elegant eyebrow arched high on Jenny's forehead. "Are you telling me that Haswari is still alive and behind this operation?"
"No." Ziva spoke the single syllable blunty. "Ari is dead. I killed him."
Jenny's gaze flicked back and forth between Gibbs and Ziva as her mind jumped through the implications of her statement. It only took a moment to draw her conclusions.
"You falsified the reports." Her attention drifted back to Ziva. "Why? You had no reason to trust her."
"I had every reason," Gibbs snapped back just as quickly. "She realized he was a traitor and she stopped him to save my life. She could have pretended she didn't hear what he said. She could have let him kill me and then brought him back to Israel to be dealt with internally. She didn't. She made the decision to save my life at great personal cost. If it had been known, it would have put her in a very precarious position, especially since her father is a Mossad Deputy Director. He would have been forced to take action, and because she was his daughter it would have been excessive to prove that he wasn't biased. She would have been under suspicion for the rest of her career - if she'd even still had a career. There wasn't evidence that we could use, except for what he said down in my basement. It would have been my word and hers against a dead body and not a whole lot of evidence. She saved my life. I owed her."
Jenny resisted the urge to sigh. It made sense actually, knowing Gibbs. Something in that moment had made Gibbs claim Ziva as one of his own and his loyalty to those he claimed never faltered.
"So you think that someone found out what really happened that night and is coming after Ziva now because of it." Jenny clarified.
"It's possible," Gibbs conceded. "I modified the report to match what had really happened as best as possible, but if someone really examined the crime scene photos and began asking questions, I'm not sure how long it would hold up."
Jenny resisted the urge to pinch to the bridge of her nose between her fingers and rub her forehead. She could already feel her headache growing.
"There is one other possibility," Ziva spoke slowly. "My father called me. There was something...wrong with the conversation. He did not seem himself and it made me nervous." She straightened. "I told him. Only him. Not in a report, but as a daughter to a father."
Jenny froze. She had a feeling her headache was about to get much, much worse.
"And what did he say when you told him?"
Ziva swallowed. "He was very angry and he did not believe me that Ari was a traitor. He thought that I had been set up by Gibbs' team, but he did not make what he knew official. When you asked that I be sent here as liaison, he said that I could make up for my failure by coming here."
"He wanted you to report on what we were doing," Gibbs practically growled.
"And gather any information that could be found that you had gone rogue, and sought personal vengeance against Ari, yes," Ziva agreed. "He wanted to see you dead for manipulating me into killing one of his best assets."
"Have you, Officer David?" Jenny asked, her voice chilly with disapproval.
"No," Ziva said firmly, looking her in the eye as she did so. "Even if my father does not know the truth of Ari's actions, I do. His loyalty was no longer to Mossad when he died. He was a traitor, and he earned a traitor's death. I will not betray Gibbs."
"Does your father knows that?"
"I...am not certain," Ziva admitted slowly. "But he is aware that I have not reported anything to him about Gibbs."
"He knows," Gibbs said decisively.
"Then it seems we have quite a situation on our hands," Jenny concluded.
"You're going to wear a hole in the carpet," McGee pointed out calmly.
Ziva stopped abruptly and resisted the urge to speak to him sharply. It was not his fault that she was being confined to the building until further notice. It was Gibbs' plan to keep her safe. She had chosen not to remind him that Ari had managed to slip inside the Navy Yard and into the heart of NCIS itself to carry out his mission. If a Mossad assassin was coming after her now, there were very few places that she was truly safe and this was not one of them. It was in fact one of the two reasons that she did not want to be here. She did not want to be responsible for anymore collateral damage spilling out onto the people around her. Ziva was well aware that bullets did not always hit their intended targets and they were just as deadly when they hit someone they had not been aimed at. It had been terrifying enough with Abby with her this morning. This was worse. There was no way to protect everyone here. Someone else would get hurt - or perhaps killed - and that would be because of her, as well.
Almost as bad as that was the inactivity that Gibbs was forcing on her along with his protection. He would not even let her get out and begin to discover who was after her. She had her suspicions of course, and she had shared them with both Gibbs and Jenny earlier, but this was her problem and her life in danger and he wouldn't even let her fight back. It was infuriating. She was not some helpless person to be protected and held back for her own safety. She didn't want to have to wait.
"The carpet is the least of my worries," Ziva said, her frustration clear. She pivoted and marched back toward him. "Have you found anything in-"
"No," McGee jumped in quickly. "I haven't. For the third time. You need to give me a chance to work. I don't have much to go on yet. You should go see how Abby is coming with the evidence she's processing. She might have something new for Gibbs and Tony."
McGee's suggestion sparked something inside of Ziva immediately. Yes, there was the possibility that Abby might have discovered something, but she could always call Gibbs and Tony herself; she didn't need Ziva there to act as messenger. Ziva, however, needed to see her. She hadn't forgotten - even in the sudden turmoil into which the day had been thrown - about how upset Abby had become when she had seen Ari's picture in her apartment.
Ziva grimaced; she had been an idiot to leave that picture out, but honestly nothing about the previous evening had been planned. Inviting Abby back to apartment and cooking dinner for her had been a spur of the moment decision, and she had certainly not expected the evening to end with Abby in her bed.
Not that she regretted it. Abby had intrigued her from the moment that she had joined NCIS. She had met Abby in her court clothes, looking very little like her usual self, and she had even complimented her on them, much to Abby's dismay. They had immediately gotten off on the wrong foot, though slowly they had begun to respect one another. It was something that Ziva had been forced to work for to earn from Abby. In the beginning it had seemed futile, but even then she had liked that Abby was not intimidated by her, and even stood up to her, pushing back when there was something that she felt strongly about.
Now she wanted a chance to explain to Abby why she had that picture. She wanted to tell her that, in Abby's arms, she had gotten the first good, restful hours of sleep uninterrupted by nightmares that she'd had in months. Going down to her lab ask her about the evidence would be the perfect opportunity, and Ziva admitted to herself, probably the only one that she would get as long as Gibbs was refusing to let her out of the building.
For just a moment, everything in Ziva rebelled against being held against her will, even by Gibbs. She imagined simply walking out the gates. She could do it and it would not be hard. Eventually the people who were after her would find her. It would not be hard and she would make it even easier for them. Then they would die or she would. It was that simple. She actually took a step toward her desk, going for her backpack and gun, before her brain caught up with her body and she remembered why she was waiting here. It was the disappointed look that she knew would see on Gibbs' face. That alone held her back. That and the unfinished business waiting downstairs.
Ziva sighed. She was going no where and she knew it. She turned to McGee.
"I will be back."
"Mmm-hmm." He nodded, but didn't look up from his computer screen.
Ziva wondered if he had found something. She opened her mouth to ask and then snapped it shut again. No, he would not appreciate that and he would let her know if he did. He knew how anxious she was to resolve this. The only thing she could do for now was talk to Abby and she needed to stop putting it off, even if she didn't know precisely what she was going to say yet.
The door was locked. Ziva had tried it twice before knocking. No one had answered. Ziva would have been worried if she had not known how loudly Abby liked to listen to her music. She could hear and even feel the faint vibrations of the thudding base coming through the door.
She hesitated, uncertain what she wanted to do next. She could always call Abby and ask to be let in. The sudden absence of noise made her decision for her. Ziva knocked again.
"Abby, it is me, Ziva. Let me in."
There was a moment of silence and she couldn't see anyone moving inside. She thought Abby might not respond. Then the door was being pulled open.
"Did Gibbs send you? Because I haven't had a chance to finish looking over his evidence yet. He should know that." Her arms were folded across her chest, and she was rocking back and forth from heel to toe. She also wouldn't meet Ziva's eyes even as she tried to catch her gaze.
"No," Ziva said slowly. "Gibbs did not send me." She reached out cautiously and touched Abby's wrist. "I wished to speak to you."
Now Abby's gaze flicked up. "About work?"
"No," Ziva repeated. "About last night. And this morning."
A frown darkened Abby's usually cheery face. "I don't want to talk about it."
"Abigail," Ziva pleaded gently. "You must let me explain."
"What is there to explain?" Abby exploded. "You have a picture of that man on your dresser. Why? Why would you do that? I was really starting to think that you were okay, but..."
Ziva squeezed her wrist gently, trying to get her attention. "Just give me a chance to explain it to you."
But Abby shook her head. "There's nothing to explain. It was just a one night stand, Ziva. You don't owe me an explanation."
The gentle note in Ziva's voice when she said her name was too much for Abby to take. She couldn't stand it.
"Don't call me that," she bit out quickly, before shutting the door in front of her and locking it, leaving Ziva on the other side.
She leaned her forehead against the door and closed her eyes, trying to regain her composure as she felt tears welling up in her eyes. It had been a very long and very bad morning.
She had enjoyed the previous evening very much, enough so that she had stayed and spent the night when Ziva had asked. She had been looking forward to waking up with Ziva and maybe even getting to know the enigmatic Mossad Agent a little bit better. Abby was intrigued by enigmas. The love of discovery was what had led her to science and specifically forensic science. It applied in her personal life as well, and there was a lot about Ziva that she still didn't know or understand.
What she had gotten instead of the morning that she had been anticipating was a very rude surprise on awakening. Finding out that the woman she had spent the night with had a picture of the man who had killed her best friend sitting on her dresser was enough of an emotional blow. Having it followed up by running for their lives, a car chase, a gunfight and finally running to Gibbs was a lot to deal with.
She wasn't sure what Ziva had to say. Abby couldn't imagine anything that would make it alright for Ziva to have that picture of Ari Haswari and she hated that too, because she was starting to like Ziva a lot. She hated the feelings of betrayal that it had stirred up within her.
She clenched her fist and sniffled. With her other hand she swiped the tears away and rubbed her nose. She couldn't think, couldn't deal with all of this right now. If she did, well, she would probably fall apart, and she couldn't fall apart because Gibbs and his team needed her. After this, then maybe she and Ziva could talk.
With an uneasy heart, Abby went back to work.
"Officer David! Just the woman I was looking for," Jenny drawled as the elevator doors slid open.
"Director?" Ziva sounded puzzled. She was doing the best she could, really. She had gone down to speak to Abby in her lab, but before that she had been trying to think of any additional information that might be helpful to Gibbs or anything she might know about the men who were after her, but she had forgotten in the haste of the fight. Still it was painfully obvious to her that she was not at the forefront of this case, and she had no idea why Jenny would be looking for her otherwise.
Jenny stepped into the elevator, and hit the door close button. She waited until they had shut behind her before she began to speak.
"I just received a call from Director David."
"Oh?" That was...interesting, Ziva decided. She wasn't sure what it meant yet, but she knew that it had to mean something. Life was one giant chess match for her father. Every decision was a move, and every move a part of some greater, far reaching strategy. She had learned that long ago. "What did he wish to know?"
"He heard that his daughter had been attacked and he was very concerned." Jenny's jaw clenched. "He implied that if we could not keep you safe then perhaps you should go home where you could be better protected."
Ziva frowned. "That was very solicitous of him." Too solicitous, in truth. She had lain in a hospital for two weeks when she was eighteen with injuries sustained when her squad had tried to detain a suicide bomber. He had not visited or even called until the last day when she was about to get out. Oh, he had his sources, she was certain, but it was not the same at all.
"I thought so too," Jenny agreed. The tone of her voice said she also shared Ziva's skepticism. "So what do you think he really wants."
Ziva considered it. "To embarrass you. Or more specifically NCIS by making this into an incident."
"Do you really think he wants you to go back to Israel?"
"I am not certain," Ziva said with a shake of her head. "I believe he is angry, because I have not told him what he wishes to know. Perhaps he thinks bringing me home will be a punishment for me or perhaps he is truly concerned. I do not know enough of his motives yet."
"I was afraid you were going to say that."
Ziva raised a questioning eyebrow.
"For now," Jenny explained. "I have to take your father's statement at face value - that of a concerned Deputy Director and father. To that end, I assured him that we take our agents' security and safety very seriously and we will be dealing very harshly with whoever attacked you." She paused and took a deep breath. "He seemed somewhat satisfied with that response, but he also said that if we weren't able to find your attacker within twenty-four hours or there was another attack on you, he would be recalling you immediately."
Ziva tensed immediately. She loved her country and she was proud of it. She had served it with honor, dignity and courage since she was sixteen years old. She had never turned down an assignment, but this agency, this team was different and she was not ready to go home. Never mind that her father might be trying to kill her.
"Thank you for letting me know, Director."
The elevator doors opened and Jenny stepped out. Ziva followed her automatically, stopping when Jenny halted after a second later.
"Ziva." Jenny laid her hand on Ziva's arm in a comforting gesture. "Gibbs is doing everything he can to get these people into custody. Neither of us will let you go back. I guarantee you that."
Ziva shook her head. She was well aware of the realities of the situation. "You cannot promise that."
Jenny smiled full of confidence. "Maybe not," she said softly, "But would you bet against Gibbs?"
The question caught Ziva off guard. She considered it for a moment and then answered honestly, despite the uncertainty still swirling in her head. "No, I would not." She smiled briefly. "Thank you, Jenny."
Jenny surprised her by giving her a brief hug and smile. "Anytime, Ziva."
The gesture, once familiar, surprised Ziva. They had been good friends once, and perhaps there had been a subtle flirtation beneath it, but they had never truly had a chance to act on it. Once she had joined NCIS, she had seen more of Jenny again, but there had been a distance between them - the distance necessary between Officer and Director and Ziva hadn't tried to change that. Still the gesture was comforting and Ziva savored its brief reassurance. She was smiling when she pulled away.
It was only then that she realized that they had taken the elevator back down to the floor where Abby's lab was located and the scientist in question was staring at them with an unhappy expression.
"It is not what you think."
Abby had not locked the door to her lab this time. That or she had forgotten in her rush to return to her sanctuary. Ziva wasn't sure. Either way, it didn't really matter as it meant that she now had access to Abby's lab.
Abby whirled around to face her, a finger jabbing into Ziva's shoulder as she tried to keep from running into her. "Is that all you can say now?"
"No, of course not." Ziva snapped back just as quickly. "If you would simply let me explain, you would see that there are many more things that I can say."
"I bet," Abby agreed sarcastically. "I'm sure there are lots of stories that you could tell me."
"I do not wish to tell you stories. If I was simply going to lie to you, I would not be here," Ziva exclaimed in frustration. Truly the one time in her life that she was determined to be honest with someone, actually wanted to be honest with her, and Abby would not even hear her out. She wondered what perversely stubborn streak in her had drawn her to Abby from the first moment that she had complimented the NCIS forensic scientist only to get thoroughly shot down and routinely glared at.
"Jenny is my friend; nothing more, and hardly that right now. She is the Director of the agency that I am on loan to. Before we were partners, I saved her life; she valued mine. It is a decent basis for a friendship, but were it even a possibility, I am not interested in Jenny." She touched Abby's arm gently. "I am only interested in you. You have nothing to be jealous about."
Abby jerked her arm away. "I'm not jealous."
"Of course," Ziva agreed with a sigh. "Because you get this upset whenever you see the Director hug anyone. How foolish of me."
Abby took a step nearer to Ziva for the first time. "I'm not jealous, because I would have to be interested to be jealous."
"You seemed very interested last night," Ziva noted calmly.
"That was before-" Abby bit off her words mid-sentence, and turned away. She didn't want to be provoked into talking about that. She still remembered with crystal clarity what it had felt like to see that picture on Ziva's dresser. The horror of knowing that this woman she had actually believed she was developing feelings before placed some value on the life of the man who had killed Kate. It was unfathomable and she had no idea how she had so completely misjudged Ziva. Or for that matter, how Gibbs had.
"Ah, yes," Ziva agreed. "Ari."
Abby's hand clenched around the edge of the counter, and angry tears burned against her eyelids as she squeezed them tightly shut.
"He was my brother, Abigail. My half-brother. You know his original mission was to infiltrate a terrorist cell and to do that he had to prove his loyalty to them. That is why he held your friend Caitlin hostage and later kidnapped her."
"Well, he did a good job," Abby snapped. "He proved it so well he killed her."
"And that is why I was sent with him," Ziva said quietly. "Because there were indications that he was double-crossing Mossad. I was sent to stop him if it were true and I did."
"No, Gibbs had to do that," Abby corrected, her tone venomous. "You waited too long to stop him."
"You are correct that I waited too long. I misjudged him; he was my brother. I did not think he would betray what we had been fighting for our whole lives. I am sorry your friend died because of that mistake." It was on the tip of her tongue to tell Abby what had really happened, but it felt futile. Abby had made up her mind the moment she saw Ari's picture in her bedroom and there was nothing she could say now that would change that. Even telling her that she had been the one to stop Ari, instead of Gibbs wouldn't be enough. What would it change, after all? Kate would still be dead, and she wasn't sure Abby would believe her even if she did tell her.
"Is that all?" Abby asked when it was clear that Ziva was done. "I have to finish this before Gibbs needs answers."
"It seems it is," Ziva said coldly, turning to leave the room. If Abby wasn't willing to listen it wouldn't matter what she said.
"Got something, Boss!" McGee's voice rang out sharply across the bullpen, catching everyone's attention.
Gibbs was out of his chair and standing behind McGee almost before he had finished speaking. "What is it?"
"I was able to trace the weapons that they used. They were sold by a small time weapons dealer who has been known to have a connection to a much better established arms dealer."
"Who is the arms dealer, McGee?" Ziva asked, her voice low and barely carrying across the distance between them.
In answer, McGee flashed the name and accompanying biography and details of known associates up on the large screen.
Ziva frowned, her lips pursing together tightly, but didn't say a word until Gibbs had moved to stand beside her. She tilted her head to speak directly to him.
"You know that when operatives are on foreign soil, it is sometimes necessary to acquire guns and munitions through less than savory means."
Gibbs simply met her gaze, saying nothing as he waited for Ziva to continue.
"This is the same man that I contacted to buy weapons from when I came here with Ari."
Gibbs didn't seem surprised, but he did look suspicious. "Your father is smarter than that. Why would he use a resource that could be traced so easily back to Mossad."
"I do not think he expects me to be a part of this investigation," Ziva admitted. "And it was not an official resource. I was only aware of it through Ari. My farther knows of it because of reports that were not official. If I had not seen it, there would be no connection."
"You sure about this?"
Ziva nodded. Gibbs studied her expression, looking deep into her eyes, searching for what she might be thinking or feeling. There was nothing there, however, no hint of emotion and her expression remained blank. Whatever he saw, Gibbs didn't choose pursue it.
"Is there anyway, besides your word, that we can connect these two?" He asked, finally.
"We can bring them in and interrogate them. They may admit to past associations if we agree to not involve them in this current case. They will not want to be a part of an attack that threatened someone who worked for NCIS and is a member of Mossad."
"Okay," Gibbs agreed simply. He turned back to the rest of the team. "Find them and bring them in."
"Grab your gear!"
Ziva was in motion immediately, snatching her backpack out of its usual place, and slinging it over her shoulder as she fell into step beside him. She had learned better than to ask stupid questions about what they were doing or where they were going. Gibbs always had a reason for his decisions, even if they didn't seem apparent at the time. It was better to wait and be patient, instead of badgering him like Tony and earning a slap to the back of the head.
"No questions?" Gibbs asked, as he tossed her the keys.
"You will tell me when you're ready." A small smile quirked over Ziva's lips. "Although, perhaps directions would be helpful."
Gibbs didn't seem to share her amusement. "We're going to the Israeli Embassy. I need to speak to your father - in private."
Ziva's brow furrowed in surprise and confusion. "Did they talk already?" Her estimation of the arms dealers that they had brought in immediately dropped several notches. If they had spoken so freely about current and former clients, they were worthless assets and would soon find themselves dead when they were no longer in NCIS custody.
"Nope," Gibbs replied succinctly and Ziva only grew more puzzled. "But your father doesn't know that...yet."
Ziva's eyebrows shot up sharply. "You are going to try and bluff my father?"
"Do you have a problem with that, Officer David?" Gibbs asked bluntly, looking over at her steadily.
Slowly letting out a breath, Ziva shook her head. "No, I do not." She had made her decision the moment she killed Ari, to put herself in Gibbs' hands come what may, and to trust him to do what was right. It was far, far too late to change her mind now.
"Good. Because you're going to need to play your part."
"I can do that."
The absolute certainty of his statement left Ziva pushing back a well of emotion. The past twenty-four hours had been an emotional roller coaster completed with very little sleep. She knew, however, that she did not yet have the luxury of indulging in emotion. There was too much to be seen through first and if it was not she was unlikely have the chance to deal with them anyway. If she were to go back to Israel, everything about her time at NCIS would have to be forgotten, not least of which was Abby. In the field, emotion was a distraction that could get her killed and Abby was already occupying too much of her mind. She needed to push her emotions away and once more become the Officer her father had always trained her to be.
Ziva focused on navigating through the traffic of D.C. streets and pushed everything but the relevant case details firmly to the back of her mind.
"Can I help you?" The receptionist asked calmly, ignoring the intensity of Gibbs' gaze and the air of tension that seemed to surround them both.
"I need to speak to Officer Michael Bashan," he said succinctly.
The only indication that the receptionist considered this an unusual request was the flicker of her eyes as she glanced over Gibbs' shoulders at Ziva.
Ziva remained expressionless, giving away nothing under the woman's scrutiny. Finally she picked up the phone and made the necessary calls before turning her attention back to them.
"He will be with you as soon as he's available."
"Looks like it's time for the waiting game," Gibbs said with a wry smile, for her ears only.
Ziva nodded. "He does not know why you are here and he will not like that. He is trying to regain control of the situation or at least stall until he can discover your reasons."
"He can look all he wants, but it's not going to help him."
"True." Ziva agreed as she adopted a comfortable position and settled in to wait.
"Officer David, what can we do for you today? It is not one of your scheduled visits." Although his comments were ostensibly addressed to her, his gaze never left Gibbs.
"I'm sure you were informed that I was involved in an incident this morning involving two gunmen." And Abigail. She felt a fist of remembered fear clench around her heart and made an effort to push the thought away. Abby did not need to be brought into this anymore than she already had been, and if she kept thinking about the danger Abby had been in she would be useless to Gibbs now.
"I need to speak to Director David." Gibbs cut in from behind her before Bashan could respond.
"Your own Director has channels to speak to him, surely." Bashan said blandly.
"She does." Gibbs said agreeably.
"It is in his best interest to keep this conversation...unofficial." Ziva clarified, taking a moment to settle on the word she wanted. This was all a game, each sentence another move forward circling closer to their goal, but it was a game that had to be played regardless.
"Is it, Officer David?" Bashan turned his attention to her now, pinning her with the full force of his gaze, asking her silently what she was doing here. He may not be aware of the reasons, but he certainly recognized behind the scenes maneuvers when he saw them.
She held steady and impassive under his gaze. She had withstood both Gibbs and her father and next to them, he was nothing.
"Very well, I will contact him, if you're certain that is what you wish. Your father is a very busy man."
"And I am not eight years old and calling him to ask for a pony," Ziva replied sharply. "I would not make this request without good reason."
His eyes narrowed, but Bashan made no further comment as he picked up the phone and dialed. It was several minutes and a few conversations later before he finally handed the phone to Ziva. "Your father - on a secure line."
"Thank you," she said with as much sincerity as she could muster and then handed the phone to Gibbs.
He took it in one hand, but kept his attention focused on Bashan. "Get out."
Bashan straightened to his full height immediately, full of indignation. "You may be able to do whatever you wish within the confines of your own agency, Agent Gibbs, but you have no standing here."
"Ya think?" Gibbs held the phone toward him. "Ask him what he wants."
Reluctantly Bashan took the phone. There was a brief flurry of conversation and then, stiffly, he handed the phone back to Gibbs. It was clear the effort it was costing him to complete the gesture in a civil manner. Without another word he walked to the door and pulled it closed behind him without once looking back.
Gibbs waited until it was closed, before he put the phone back in the cradle and flicked the speaker phone on. "Director David," he said simply.
"Agent Gibbs. It is good to finally speak to you at last."
"Really?" Gibbs asked skeptically. "Because I don't think so."
"We do not have let this discussion sink down to unpleasantness."
"You consider sending men to attack your daughter pleasant?" Gibbs demanded. "We have very different definitions of the word."
"I have no idea what you are talking about, Agent Gibbs, or why you persist in this agenda against my family." Their was no hint of hesitation, distress, or surprise in the Deputy Director's words as he spoke.
"How about this? I have an arms dealer in my custody that admits supplying the men that attacked your daughter this morning with weapons. He also admits to supplying Mossad officers with weapons in the past when they've been working inside this country. That's enough of a connection for me, and I think my Director will be very interested to hear about it as too. How is your political currency holding up now that your son had to be put down like the dog he was after being revealed as a traitor?"
Ziva held her breath. She had seen Gibbs interrogate subjects many times and he had never yet failed to get a confession when it was necessary. Seeing him use these skills against her father, however, was something else entirely. Everything was at stake, and it would all depend on whether Gibbs could best her father.
"You set him up! You destroyed him because he embarrassed your team member, your team and your agency. You will not succeed a second time. You will pay for the death of my son."
Gibbs laughed bitterly. "The only thing I did was reveal a traitor. You set him up the day you had his mother killed. Everything he did is on your hands," he added, slamming his hand down on the desk in front of him in anger.
In its wake, silence lingered, broken only by the harsh rasping of her father's breathing.
"What are your terms to keep this silent?"
"I want your men - the ones that are still alive - out of the country. Now," Gibbs added immediately. "Leave Ziva alone. Let her do her job as the Mossad Liaison to NCIS and stop interfering with her life or trying to force her to return to Israel. She is one of my agents now and she will stay here as long as she wants. Understood?"
"Yes, I understand you, Agent Gibbs," her father spoke slowly. "I understand you very well, but know this: one day I will have my vengeance."
Gibbs said nothing.
"Ziva," he continued. "You disappoint me still. Do as you wish now, but one day you will regret your decision. You will ask me to return home. It is in your blood. I am your blood and you will not deny me forever."
Without waiting for him to continue, Ziva hit the button to disconnect the phone. The dial tone echoed loudly through the room.
Standing in front of her apartment door, Ziva felt strangely empty. She knew intellectually that it was adrenaline draining away, leaving her with only the emotional exhaustion of the day's events, but it didn't change what she was feeling. Slowly, she unlocked the door and entered, being very sure to lock it behind her. She wasn't usually careless about personal safety and security, but today had reminded her of the need to be constantly aware.
Her coffee table was tipped over on its side; the plant that usually set on top of it, spilling out of its pot and dirt thrown across her carpet. She remembered abruptly the twinge in her leg early that morning when she had been half-dragging Abby out of her apartment. She rubbed the spot just beneath her knee gently and felt the answering bruise.
She looked around wearily to see if anymore damage had been done. Fortunately she and Abby had left before their assailants had arrived so her apartment wasn't destroyed. No bullets left pockmarks in the walls, no shattered glass covered her floor. There was only this one small mess, and yet, she didn't feel like dealing with it that evening. She had already cleaned up enough messes that day. The rest - the messes that were not so easily fixable - would simply have to wait for another day.
Ziva shed her jacket and tossed it on the couch. It was a far cry from her usual fastidious need for order. She dropped her bag next and headed for the kitchen. A quick glance around the room showed nothing more out of order. It was, in fact, exactly as she had left it the night before. Dirty pots with food still inside sat on the counter or the stove, while the plates, and utensils from their meal was still in the sink. Her messes were adding up more quickly than she'd anticipated.
Leaving the kitchen behind, Ziva drifted into the bedroom. Like the kitchen, it too showed signs of the previous night's activities. She nudged her discarded robe out of her way with the tip of her boot as she stepped inside the room. The covers on her bed were in disarray, the comforter falling off the left side of the bed and the sheets knotted up in a tangle at the foot. Ziva thought she could still catch a faint hint of Abby's perfume. She found herself standing in front of her dresser without making any decision to walk over there.
She reached out with faintly trembling fingers to pick up the photograph of Ari that rested there. It was the last picture that she had of him before he had gone off to medical school. In it, they were both happy and smiling, his arm draped across her shoulder. There was no sign of what things lay in store for them many years later. She swiped her thumb across the glass, clearing away a smudge on the glass and then sat the picture back down - face first, this time.
A sharp knock startled her and she turned sharply away from the picture, fading back against the wall to present a smaller target even as her hand went to the pistol still holstered at her side.
"Go home." Gibbs' voice was gentle yet firm. Abby couldn't actually hear it, being halfway across the bullpen standing on the balcony just outside MTAC, but she knew Gibbs' moods better than almost anyone at NCIS and she could read his body language almost as easily as she had read his lips.
His hand on Ziva's shoulder was meant to be reassuring. It also doubled as encouragement for her to heed his words. Abby wasn't as good at reading Ziva's body language. She had known her for a far shorter period of time and most of the time she was still an enigma to her. Even with all that, however, Abby could still read the stubborn set of Ziva's shoulders. She couldn't catch the rest of the conversation, the difficulty of lip reading being the necessity of seeing the lips of the people who were speaking, but there was plenty more to see as Gibbs and Ziva continued their debate.
It didn't surprise her at all when Gibbs finally won, picking up Ziva's bag off the floor as she stood and handing it to her as he gently deposited her into the elevator. Used to Gibbs seemingly psychic behavior, Abby wasn't surprised either when he looked directly up at her. She waited patiently as he made his way across the bullpen and then up the stairs toward her. He joined her in leaning casually against the railing and watching the agents going by down below them.
"Everything okay, Abs?"
She shrugged and her gaze flicked to the elevators before she glanced back over at him. "How is she?"
"Tired. Hurting. Told her to go home and get some rest."
"You think she'll actually do it?"
It was Gibbs turn to give a brief shrug. "Been through a lot today. Sometimes it helps to do something that will keep your mind off that - go for a run, solve a case."
Abby wrapped her arms around her body a little bit more tightly, reminding herself that she was still upset with Ziva, that she still didn't understand what was going on with her.
"She has a picture of Ari." It was part accusation and part justification for why she hadn't been the one urging Ziva to go home and following her to make sure she was okay.
"He was her brother," Gibbs said, as if the information didn't surprise him.
Abby wondered if he'd been in Ziva's apartment, or if it was another thing that Gibbs just seemed to know. "Why doesn't that make you mad?"
"Because as much as she loved him, she did the right thing when it mattered. She won't start taking the easy way out now."
"What do you mean?" Abby asked, her brow furrowed.
Gibbs smiled, leaning over to kiss her cheek. "Talk to her," was all he said before he turned and headed back down to the main floor.
Her gun was still in her hand when Ziva undid the lock and swung the door open. Fortunately it had stayed down at her side as Abby was the one standing outside. For a long moment Ziva simply stared at her in surprise. The only person she would have expected to see less than Abby would have been her father, and she was far happier to have been surprised by Abby.
"What are you doing here?" Ziva asked, with what she hoped was suitable calm.
"Do you usually answer the door with a gun in your hand?" Abby countered. "Gibbs said everything was fine now."
Ziva looked down at her hand, as if she had forgotten she was still holding it. "No, I do not." She tucked the gun into the back of her waist and stepped back from the doorway. "Would you like to come in?"
"I - yeah. Do you mind?"
Ziva gave her a slight smile. "I would not have asked, if I did."
Once Abby was inside the awkwardness and tension between them seemed to have grown, if that were possible.
"I would offer you a seat, but..." Ziva gestured wearily at the mess around her couch. "I have not had a chance to clean up yet."
"I could help." Abby offered into the silence that followed. "If you want."
"Not necessary," Ziva said, dismissing her offer with a wave of her hand. "I will get it later. Tomorrow, perhaps."
"It's the least I could do after this morning. You saved my life, Ziva," Abby said softly, as she took a step closer to Ziva.
"If it were not for me, you would not have been in danger." Ziva countered ruefully, dismissing her thanks.
Abby let out a soft huff. "I'm trying to say thank you here, David. You're not making it easy."
"You are welcome," Ziva answered with a slight grin, the first Abby had seen since she had arrived.
"I...think I owe you an apology too," Abby added, shifting from side to side in her high heeled boots uncomfortably. "Gibbs trusts you. He believes in you, and I trust that." She shrugged. "But I still don't understand how you can have a picture of him in your room - where you see it every day. He killed my best friend," she added plaintively.
"It is not there for the reason you think." Ziva said quietly. She paced away from Abby to the window that looked out over the street. She stood to the side of it, careful not to present a darkened silhouette to anyone who might be watching. Her eyes scanned the street out of habit but her attention kept coming back to the faint reflection of Abby that was visible in the glass.
"Ari was my half-brother. I loved him." She glanced back over her shoulder at Abby. "I will not apologize for that." It was said firmly, and a little bit defiantly.
Abby shook her in a quick denial. "I wouldn't - that's not...." She fell silent again, unable to find the words that she wanted.
"Our father," Ziva continued, looking back out at the street, "Was a very difficult man. Ari and I were very different and he was much older than I. We took care of one another, helped one another and we trusted one another without question because there was no one else who had grown up as we had or shared the things we shared. When my father heard accusations that Ari had gone rogue, I was sent to disprove them because no one knew him better than I."
I did not believe Gibbs that Ari had actually gone rogue. I thought his judgment was clouded by a petty desire for revenge, that Caitlin had been killed by someone else and that Ari was actually acting within the bounds of his cover. Gibbs set himself up as bait, in his own home, to prove beyond a doubt that Ari had betrayed us. What I saw was Gibbs standing unarmed and nonthreatening with Ari holding a rifle on him, about to shoot him." Ziva paused in her recounting then, wrapping her arms more tightly around her waist and leaning her head against the window frame. Her eyes where distant and slightly glazed as she lost herself in the memory of that night.
"I had no choice. Gibbs was right; Ari had betrayed me - Mossad - everything. So, I shot Ari." The emptiness in her voice drew Abby closer, but not too close, knowing that Ziva didn't want her touch or her sympathy at that moment. Ziva raised her head to look over at Abby. "I killed him, not Gibbs."
"Oh God, Z..." Abby bit her lip as realization and regret flooded over her as she remembered her accusations over the past day. "I'm so sorry. I didn't know. I would never have-"
Ziva raised her index finger to cover Abby's lips, gently but firmly. "I keep a picture of him, so that I will not forget. Not because I approve of his actions, but because I do not want to be blinded to what is truly happening ever again. I should have seen - before he killed Caitlin - what Ari had become. Because I did not, I had to kill him. It is a mistake I never wish to repeat."
Abby held the cup of hot tea out to Ziva and waited until the Mossad Officer was holding it solidly before she let go. Ziva's fingers were like ice as they brushed against Abby's. Ziva was sitting on the far end of the couch and, relieved of the hot liquid, Abby knelt down in front of her. She touched Ziva's knee tentatively.
"I'm sorry I didn't let you explain today. I should have trusted you, or I don't know.... Something. I'm sorry." The words spilled out of Abby in a torrent.
"You had no reason to," Ziva countered, her voice so quiet Abby could hardly hear her.
Abby shook her head. "I should have listened. You tried to tell me, but I didn't give you a chance. It's just...Kate. You replaced her." She couldn't quite keep all of her old resentment out of her voice. "And I was angry about that for a long time, but then I got to know you and I liked you. Really liked you." Her eyes flicked up to Ziva's hoping that she understood what she was trying to say. "Then I wake up with you and there he is - on your dresser. I thought I'd made a mistake, that you weren't the person I thought you were, you know?" Her face fell. "I should have trusted you or let you explain at least. I'm sorry," she repeated.
"I do not blame you," Ziva spoke, after a moment of silence. "I understand what it feels like to betrayed, remember? And you did not know the truth. It was not your fault. I should have taken down his picture. I would have but what happened between us was not planned."
Abby sat back. "Do you think we could try this again sometime? A date, I mean. I cook you dinner. We talk and get to know each other a little better, and I promise not to freak out on you the next morning. If you want, because I do like you, a lot, even if I did act like a real bitch today."
Ziva laid her hand over Abby's where it still rested on her knee, and then picked it up, turning it over to examine her long thin fingers and the tattoos that adorned them.
"I do not think I want to stay here tonight." Ziva said, in an apparent non-sequitor. "There is too much that I do not wish to think about or deal with tonight."
"You could stay with me," Abby offered gallantly. "I mean, I have a spare room. I wasn't-"
Ziva laughed softly. "I knew what you meant," she said, gracefully letting Abby off the hook. "But you were part of my plan for forgetting about everything. I wished to be distracted and you can be very distracting. I was considering going to a hotel for tonight, but if you are still offering..."
"I am," Abby jumped in quickly. "I am," she repeated again in a more sedate tone.
"Good," Ziva said with a small smile. "And perhaps you could make me breakfast, instead of dinner?"
Abby stood, and tugged on their joined hands, bringing Ziva up with her.
"Has anyone ever told you you're very good at planning, Officer David?"
"I'm glad you approve," Ziva said as her hands came to rest on Abby's hips, pulling her closer until their bodies met.
One of Abby's hands found its way into her hair, sliding through curly strands until it cupped the base of her head. She nuzzled her cheek and laid a kiss on the sensitive skin just behind her ear. One kiss turned into another turned into a line of kisses down her neck. Ziva's hands were sliding up under her shirt and Abby was remembering how wonderful this had been the previous evening.
"Abigail," Ziva's whisper was pleading.
"Yeah?" Abby queried between kisses.
"If we do not stop, we will not go, and I do not want to this again here before I have a chance to clean this place up."
Abby groaned and dropped her head to Ziva's shoulder. She turned her head to place one final kiss on the slope of her shoulder bared by the crew neck t-shirt. "My place or a hotel?"
"Your place?" Ziva sounded shy, prompting Abby to pull away so that she could look at her.
"I am not sure about sleeping in a coffin."
Abby shook her head, a giggle escaping before she could contain it. "You don't have to sleep in the coffin. I do have a bed, Z."
"Will you share it with me?" Ziva asked.
"If you want me too."
"I would like that very much."
"Then let's go. Do you need to get anything before we go?"
"A few things," Ziva said, sounding regretful as they were forced to focus on more practical details. "I will only be a moment."
"Okay," Abby said, as she reluctantly let go of Ziva. "I'll be waiting."
She watched Ziva until she disappeared into her bedroom and then glanced around the living room. It looked completely different from the night before. Gone was the neatness and order, replaced by knocked over furniture and disarray. She certainly couldn't blame Ziva for wanting to leave it all for another day. It had been a very long day. She could hardly believe the day before had been her birthday. It seemed like that had happened weeks ago.
"I am ready."
Abby jumped at Ziva's quiet words, not having heard Ziva come up behind her on the soft carpet. "You scared me," she said, her hand covering her heart.
"I did not mean to." Ziva hesitated, studying Abby for a moment. "Are you certain? I can go to a hotel for tonight. It is not a problem, if you need time or space?"
"No," Abby objected quickly, reaching out to take Ziva's hand once again. She needed that tangible connection between them. "No, I don't need space. I want to spend time with you, and I want to wake up with you in the morning. But I want to do it right this time. Like we didn't get to this morning."
Nothing was certain, but one thing Abby knew was that she didn't want it to end with Ziva this way, before they had even had a chance to discover what they might become. Abby Sciuto did not do regrets, and if there was one thing Ziva had proven to her it was that this was a chance definitely worth taking.
"Okay," Ziva agreed, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. "Then let us go."
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