DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No copyright infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This started as a thought for a drabble and kind of grew out of control. Over 12,000 words later, I still think it doesn't have much more plot than a drabble, but there you go. I never was good at drabbles. Also, I have mixed a lot of cannon in, but totally changed two or three scenes to my own liking. A scene in Jaina's "Erasing the past" was kind of what I was thinking of when this popped into my head. No, I'm not blaming her. ;) But, I did get her permission before writing. Thanks, Jaina.
SPOILERS: There are definite spoilers for several episodes between 3x01 and 4x11
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To cirroco[at]gmail.com

Times change
By Cirroco DeSade


Abby was understandably concerned when Gibbs called her in the middle of the night and asked her to come to his house. He was being mysterious on the phone and asked her to take measures to be quiet and to park way up the driveway. He even told her to come in the back door without knocking. With all that had been going on, with spies in their midst and a killer on the loose it made her nervous, but she trusted Gibbs with her life. The one thing good about it all is it took her mind off her grief over Kate for a short while.

When she got there, he was sitting in his kitchen waiting for her. Her heart started racing as she took in his haggard expression. His face was showing stress, something she rarely saw in him. He had a five o'clock shadow and was holding what looked like a glass of whiskey in his hand.

"Abby, I've got to ask for a favor," he said without preamble.

"Anything, Gibbs, you know that," she answered immediately.

"It could get us fired or worse if it ever came out," he warned. "What I'm about to ask you to do is illegal and I'll understand if you just walk out the door right now. I'll figure something else out. But my best chances are if I have your help. You're the best forensic scientist I've ever known."

The tall woman just stood there and nodded. She had never known Gibbs to break the rules that badly, but she had faith in him. "I'm in Gibbs," she answered. "What have we got?"

"Follow me," he said and he moved towards the door that she knew led to his basement.

As she descended the steps, the first thing she noticed was Ari Haswari's handler, Ziva David, sitting on a stool and staring blankly off into space. She had a handgun hanging loosely by her side, almost as if she forgot she was holding it. She did not appear to be cognizant of their entry, instead focused on some unknown and singing softly in what Abby guessed was Hebrew.

This woman made Abby want to scream. She was supposed to control the Mossad Agent who had killed Kate and obviously, she was an utter failure at that. She might be a good spy; Abby did not know or care. All she could see was the woman linked to the man who had killed her best friend. It made her even angrier that somewhere inside of her, she recognized that David was hurting about something and there was just a tiny piece of her that wanted to comfort her. No, damn it, Abby affirmed to herself, she would not betray Kate like that.

Then Abby reached the bottom of the stairs and Gibbs put a hand on her shoulder to keep her from stepping any further. He turned her gently. That was when the Goth saw the dead body and recognized it as Ari Haswari. Gasping, she turned to Gibbs.

"She killed him?" Abby exclaimed. She caught David's flinch over Gibbs shoulder.

"It has to be me, Abs," Gibbs said gently. "We have to make this my kill. Can you do it?"

"Why would you defend either one of them?" Abby railed at him.

"Abby," Gibbs said softly and there was an almost fatherly tone in his voice. "I set it up so she would learn the truth from him, in his own words. He would have killed me if she had not shot him first. He was prepared to in fact."

"So," Abby said and crossed her arms. "It sounds like she did the right thing. Why cover it up?"

Gibbs looked at her and sighed. He signed to Abby, "They will not see it that way. They will kill her." Aloud he said, "Just trust me, please. This is the right thing to do."

Abby growled and glared at the Israeli then returned her gaze to Gibbs. "This is for you," she said. "Now how long ago did it occur?" She asked while reaching into her pockets for latex gloves.

He answered her questions as she got to work. She had to get Gibbs' gun from him. After that, it got complex, but she figured out a way to make it work. She would simply have to lose the real bullet when Ducky sent it down to her lab for ballistics, and replace it with one she would shoot from Gibbs gun herself. The rest was tricky but doable.

Within ten minutes, she was ready to leave so that she could drive around and show up after Gibbs had called in the rest of the team. Gibbs was speaking gently to the other woman. She had to fight the urge to say something nasty to the smaller woman. As far as she was concerned, Haswari had deserved a death a hundred times worse and did not deserve to be mourned.

The other woman seemed to feel her glare and looked up. The lost look in her eyes was almost enough to break through Abby's righteous anger, but not quite. Instead, she stomped up the stairs, leaving without saying another word.

Gibbs and Abby had pulled it off and had everyone fooled. The official reports showed Gibbs as the shooter. He had gone through a normal Internal Affairs investigation, but he did not seem the least bit phased. They quickly cleared Gibbs of any possible charges. They ruled that he acted in self-defense and closed the case.

The team also closed the case involving Kate's death and the one's before that with information that Ziva David provided. Once she found out Ari Haswari's true nature, she went out of her way to gather all the evidence needed from his hiding spots and handed it all over to Gibbs.

The team finally had a chance to mourn Kate and Abby was particularly happy to see Officer David leave their bullpen. It was a hollow feeling though, because she could not stand to see the Kate's empty desk. Therefore, she avoided the bullpen for a while and hoped it would be a long time before their new Director they had tried to fill Kate's place on the team.

The apartment was bare except for a few bags in the master bedroom and some toiletries in the attached bathroom. Every sound echoed loudly making the place seem cavernous. The white walls clashed with the deep colors of the hardwood floors contributing to the stark sense of emptiness.

Ziva David strode in her new apartment carrying a couple of bags of groceries and a new sleeping bag plus lanterns she had purchased at a local army surplus store. It would do until she decided what she truly wanted to do about furniture. She put the items down in their appropriate places and walked back out into the main room. Noticing that the sun was setting, she dug out one of the lanterns, set it in the middle of the room and lit it.

She ate a basic meal while sitting in the middle of the large empty room. She had drug her rucksack over so she could look at her copies of the papers she had sent into NCIS. Once she had investigated past Ari's assurances, she saw how blind she been. Now she saw how the two most important men in her life had been manipulating her for years.

She tried not to think about her father's words from their meeting in Israel. He had called Ziva into his office after Jenny had spoken to him. He was shocked that Ziva would even consider an assignment in America like this when she was rising so fast in Mossad.

"You have a promising career here, daughter," he admonished. "You might one day take my place at the rate you are going. Israel needs you."

She felt hurt by his statement, but managed to keep from showing it. It was not "I need you," but Israel.

"I would rather return and heal some of the damage that Ari has done to our reputation," Ziva spoke softly. "There are many fine agents here who will be able to fill my place."

"I will allow this," he said after a long stretch of silence. "Just understand you might not be able to pick up where you left off when you return. You will probably have to prove yourself all over again."

"I can live with that, papa," she replied.

He had dismissed her after that with no words of a father to a daughter of affection or love. It was purely business.

Ziva looked at the copy of Ari's picture from Gibbs report and felt a chill. It was all about using every asset he had to do his dirty work. Ari had been pushed so far, her father had pushed some buttons too hard and consequently her brother had snapped. She touched his picture and wondered if it would ever stop hurting.

She hurt when she thought about what he said their father had done to him, wondering if her father was capable of such atrocities if Ari's words were true. The supreme pain was in knowing she had killed him. She had put a bullet in his brain, put him down like a rabid dog. She had watched him bleed out on Gibbs basement floor, his eyes fixed and his face slack in surprise.

She would never again know the brother who had smiled at her when she graduated from high school. The only images that popped into her head now when she thought of him were memories of him in his last days and especially in his last moments, What haunted her whenever she tried to sleep was his dead body, his face staring up at her. Sometimes her looked at her and asked why. She always woke dripping with sweat, heart racing in horror and a sob choking her.

Her cell phone rang and she raised an eyebrow in surprise. Then she looked at the display and understood.

"David," she answered.

"Shalom, Ziva," Jenny's warm voice purred over the line. "I wanted to check on you, see if you had found a place to stay."

"Yes, I rented an apartment," she answered. "My things are on their way over from Tel Aviv already."

"Alright," Jenny replied. "I was going to offer you a room if you needed."

Ziva smiled. They had once had some interesting times together. She knew she could count on Jenny. "Thank you, but I will be comfortable here."

"Ziva," Jenny hesitated. "I still want you, but I just want to double check that you really want Kate's place on Gibb's team. Leroy can be difficult."

"Gibbs is an honorable man," Ziva answered. "I think there are some things he could teach me that my father did not. And I owe him Jenny."

"You're not conflicted about working with the man who killed your agent?" the other woman asked.

"He did what was right," Ziva hesitated. "He did what had to be done. As I said, he is an honorable man."

"Well, you know where to find me if you need to talk," Jenny replied.

"I appreciate it, Jenny," Ziva responded warmly. "Goodnight."

"Take care, Ziva," Jenny said before disconnecting.

Ziva sat in the middle of the room and tried to meditate. So many lies it was hard to remember where truth began in her reality, not to mention who knew what part of the score.

"No Gibbs! I will not work with her," Abby shouted. They were in her tiny little office. He had come down to give her the news himself.

"You have no choice, Abs," he said gently, but firmly. "Unless you want to quit, you will be working with her."

"So it's me or her?" she asked incredulously, her voice becoming a high-pitched squeal at the end. She was horrified to realize she had begun crying.

"I didn't say that, Abby, you did," he answered. "Look, I know you're still hurting over Kate, we all are, but she's not the one who killed her. You know that. You really don't know what she's been through to get to this point. You should give her a chance."

Abby stomped her foot, crossed her arms over her chest and turned away from Gibbs. She could not believe that Gibbs would let this happen. She really did not want to leave, but she was not sure if she could survive working with Ziva David.

"Make up your mind," Gibbs said. "If you can't find it in your heart to work with her, I'll help you get a job wherever you want to go."

She almost sobbed as she heard the door shut behind him.

Abby slammed the door to her apartment. Somehow, David had managed to win over Ducky and McGee. Ducky was understandable since she had saved his life. Abby gave her a couple of points for doing that, but she figured that the Mossad officer was so far into the negative that she would never break even with her. She still could not believe her conversation with McGee earlier that day.

"Why are you still so hostile to her," he asked as he hung back while the rest of the group walked out of Abby's lab.

"I don't trust her. And I don't like her. She's rude and abrupt and," Abby was frustrated with the conversation. "And she said I looked good in that stupid outfit!"

"She was being polite," McGee admonished. "She doesn't know you like we do. She never will if you don't give her a chance."

"Why does everybody keep telling me to give her a chance?" she exclaimed.

McGee simply looked at her pointedly then left. Abby had grabbed Bart and hugged him tight enough for it to make its rude noise, which for once did not make her laugh.

The woman made her insane. She was busy telling Gibbs that the bomb squad had blown their evidence into lots of tiny pieces and Ziva was interfering again.

"They blew up the metal box?" he asked.

"Do you have any idea what's beyond smithereens?" she answered with her own question.

"Not a clue," Gibbs said, obviously not wanting to spar with her verbally.

"Me, neither," she said nodding. "That's what we've got. There's not much I can do."

"Nope," he agreed. Then he added, "Except put it back together."

"Gibbs," she exclaimed, "it's in a gazillion pieces. That would take months."

"It's the only link we had to that delivery service, Abby," Ziva said in an annoyingly reasonable tone.

"Yeah?" she glared. "Well, you're not the one who has to put it back together, Officer David."

Abby stomped off getting on the elevator to head for her lab. She was surprised when Ziva followed her. "Are you going home?" she asked.

"Not yet," the smaller woman responded. "I thought I might be able to help you with... that."

"You have a degree in forensic science?" Abby asked pointedly.

"No," she hesitated. "But I'm very good at jigsaw puzzles."

"We'll see," she smirked, knowing Ziva would not last long at all once she saw how impossible this would be.

Abby set the box down on a nearby table. Ziva just observed patiently waiting for direction.

"Start by getting gloves, Officer David," Abby said, purposefully mispronouncing the agent's last name.

"Dah-veed," Ziva said softly, even as she walked to a box of gloves on the wall. She watched as Abby pulled out a large sheet, spreading it out along the lab's floor.

"I'll put it together here since we have so many pieces," Abby said. The other woman's silence was unnerving, so she could not help explaining, just to hear a voice. She was surprised when she turned and Ziva was standing right next to where she was kneeling. The Mossad officer was holding the box.

"Don't sneak up on me!" Abby shouted.

"I did not mean," Ziva started to explain.

"Just don't," Abby said and turned away. She pointed to the corner of the sheet. "Put it down over there."

Ziva did as ordered and did her best to follow meekly Abby's directions. The forensic scientist's attitude did not improve with time, and no matter how she tried, she could not get her to have a normal conversation. During one of her attempts, Abby finally seemed to reach into herself for more venom than normal.

"So," Ziva said, feeling as if she had said the word fifty times in the last hour. "Do you often find yourself putting things back together after the others blow them up?"

"It's not Gibbs fault," Abby snarled.

"I did not," Ziva tried to say, but was once again cut off.

"But I forget," Abby said sarcastically, not even looking at Ziva. "You're used to destroying things or killing people and calling it justice."

Ziva stood up abruptly and walked away a few paces. Abby did not seem to notice.

"I mean Haswari deserved to die, but I bet you don't even give him a second thought any more do you?" Abby asked.

The Israeli stood in shock. She did not realize that this American could hurt her more deeply than she had ever felt before. For a moment, her world stood still and she watched as Abby gathered her breath to say more.

"Enough," the younger woman said forcefully. She stripped off the gloves and tossed them in a trashcan. "I will leave now. I did not realize you hated me this much. However, I want to make something clear. I feel sorrow every day for what he forced me to do. I do not regret doing what I had to do, but I regret that he killed your Kate before I knew what he was doing. If I had known, maybe they would both be alive and he would have served a different type of justice."

She turned on her heel and started to leave. She stopped in the doorway and looked back. "Thank you for answering one of my questions about that night. I had wondered if Gibbs had told you who Ari really was while he made those signs to you. I know now he did not," she said. "Gibbs is indeed an honorable man."

Abby had leapt to her feet and stalked after the other woman. She stood next to her where she waited for the elevator. "What do you mean? Who was he?" Abby demanded.

Ziva just looked at Abby in disdain. "I see no reason to share that kind of information with somebody so busy making it clear I am the enemy," the smaller woman said. The elevator doors opened and the Mossad officer walked in and pounded on the appropriate button. Abby slammed her hands on the edges of the elevator doors to keep them from closing.

"You owe me, David," Abby snarled.

"Yes I do," Ziva said. "But I do not owe you that. Now if you would kindly move your hands."

Abby did as asked and stepped back as the doors closed in her face. Was she imagining the tears forming in Ziva's eyes? She stomped back into her lab and dug into her purse to retrieve her cell phone. She hit a speed dial number and tapped her foot while waiting for her party to answer.

"Abs?" Gibbs answered after a few rings.

"Who was he?" she blurted out.

"Who was who? I thought we figured out he was Kirby?" he asked genuinely thrown by the question.

"No," she said. "I mean, yes, he was Kirby. I want to know who Ari Haswari was. Ziva said you did not tell me."

"Whoa," Gibbs soothed. "Tell me what's happened."

She described their evening to him honestly. She told him about her baiting the other woman and Ziva's response. She went over the whole incident all the way up until she had called him.

"Abby, calm down," he finally said. "Haswari is dead; Ziva killed him. That's all you really need to know."

"But there's more," Abby stated but it was obviously a question too.

"Yes, but it isn't my place to share," he said. "You should ask her if you want to know so badly. Maybe you'd understand her better."

"But she won't tell me!" she shouted. "She said there was no reason to tell somebody who had made it clear she was the enemy."

"She's got a point there, Abs," Gibbs responded.

"Damn it, Gibbs," she said and stomped.

"I'm going to tell you one last time," he said firmly. "Figure out a way to get along with her. It seems like she's trying a heck of a lot harder than you are. I mean there was no reason for her to stay behind and help. Then you did your best to run her off. I've never known you to be cruel, but it almost sounds like you were trying for it tonight."

"Well," she mumbled chagrinned to realize he was right. "I just don't like her. I didn't like her being in my space."

"See my point?" he said tiredly. "Good night, Abs."

She pouted as she heard the phone click off, realizing he was through talking with her and expected her to fix it on her own.

Abby did her best to be more civil to the other woman but could not bring herself to be friendly yet. Even the Israeli's accent brought back painful reminders. Therefore, she just did her best to ignore Ziva existence for the most part. Then she was too busy trying to figure out how to adjust to the new "assistant" the Director had thrust upon her.

She begged Gibbs to fix it, but when he came back down he only shook his head. The one opportunity she got with the Director all she managed to get across was a criticism. She told the other woman that he was "excitable." Then they were both wrapped up in watching Gibbs interrogation.

She tried to run him off by making it clear he was not wanted, by constantly calling him "Chip" instead of Charles, knowing he hated it. Yet the little bug of a man persisted. She almost wished for her problems with David, because comparatively this was worse. He was always in her lab: her lab! It was hers, not the Director's or Gibbs and she did not like his constant meddling.

She rarely even had to interact with the Israeli lately. It was as if she did her best to avoid Abby, which was an unusual feeling for the Goth. She was used to her team going out of their way to see her, being happy to see her whenever she made it to the bullpen. Yet, David seemed indifferent about her presence whenever they were around each other. It was a noticeable difference.

"What did you do to Ziva, Abby?" Tony asked one day.

"What do you mean?" she answered evasively.

He raised an eyebrow. "You know what I mean. Both of you act as if the other doesn't exist. She had been trying really hard to be friendly to you a while back. So, I want to know what changed." He crossed his arms and tried his best stern expression.

"It's not any of your business, Tony," she said, pushing him out of her way so she could get to Major Mass Spec.

"I'll find out eventually," he wheedled.

"Look, I didn't want to be friends with her and I let her know it," she retorted. "Is it so bad that I just don't like her and don't want to be her friend?"

He looked at her for a full minute before answering, in a gentler tone than most would associate with him. "I think you're under the impression that if you get close to her you're somehow hurting Kate. I felt that way for a short while, until I got to know her. She's not who you obviously think she is."

"I don't need another friend," Abby said loudly.

"Okay," he said sarcastically, "who are you and what did you do with our Abby?"

"Just drop it, DiNozzo," Abby said tiredly.

"Whatever," he said. "But you know I'm right."

Then Chip walked in the door and made her afternoon all the more frustrating.

On one of the rare occasions that Ziva came alone into Abby's lab to bring evidence, the Israeli unknowingly managed to say something that actually earned her some points with the Goth. She had just handed Abby a box full of items to be catalogued and examined. She turned and watched Charles leaving the room in the middle of her explanation of where they found each item.

"He is strange," the smaller woman said in an undertone. "Something about him is not right."

"People think I am strange, Ziva," Abby pointed out blandly. Inside she was glad that somebody else saw it, but arguing with Ziva was a habit by now.

"You are not strange," Ziva replied with conviction. "You are unique. I know you do not like me, but I still trust you. You are brilliant and very good at what you do. He may be okay as an assistant, I would not know. But I do not trust him."

Abby did not get a chance to respond to this sudden set of revelations because at that moment, the man in question returned. Ziva returned to her enumerations as if she had never stopped. It was the first time Abby felt like they had shared a private and somewhat friendly moment; it was the first time she actually agreed with Ziva.

It surprised Abby how hard Ziva worked to clear Tony of the charges that he had murdered a woman. She would have thought that Ziva would see the evidence and believe it to be cut and dry. Instead, the other woman was as relentless in her belief as Abby was. She was obviously relieved when they found the evidence that cleared her partner.

Of course, that was about the time Abby finally figured out why Chip had given her and Ziva a hinky feeling. It was scary there for a few minutes, but she managed to subdue the weird little man long enough for Gibbs to come get him. At that moment, she finally told the Director how much she hated the idea of having an assistant and surprisingly the redhead relented.

When Ziva asked if she was okay, Abby actually held back the sniping remark she normally would have made and simply nodded. The Israeli did not seem to know what else to say and quietly excused herself while Tony and McGee surrounded Abby in friendly concern. She let herself be convinced to go out with them after they got everything cleared up. However, even as she was saying yes, she noticed Ziva watching the three of them longingly from inside the elevator. The doors closed, hiding her from view, but Abby knew what she saw on the other woman's face and it surprised her.

Ziva and Abby were not exactly friendly from that point on, but the Goth had allowed her attitude to thaw out some. She watched Ziva a little closer trying to see some of the good stuff that Tony and McGee tried to tell her was there, but it was difficult. The Israeli was simply too abrupt and rough around the edges for Abby to easily understand.

Yet, she was completely surprised when Tony called her upstairs to a crime scene and all appearances pointed to Ziva killing a suspect. She did not really believe that the other woman would kill an unarmed suspect. Somehow, she believed her when she said she did not do it. Therefore, Abby worked just as hard to help clear Ziva as she did Tony only weeks before.

When she got upstairs with the results of the analysis of the goop on Dempsey's shoe, she was surprised to find herself angry about Cassie's attitude towards Ziva. It took her completely off guard that she wanted to get in the other woman's face and defend Ziva. Yet, she focused on helping the others figure out where the Director was being held by Dempsey's brother. She could think about that later.

She was not surprised when Ducky's findings cleared Ziva. The entire team seemed to take a moment to reassure and congratulate Ziva before leaving and Abby took a chance later to tell the woman how she had felt.

"I never thought you did it, you know," Abby said when she joined the agent on the elevator. The button was already lit for the parking garage, so since that was where she was heading she simply leaned back on the elevator wall.

Ziva just looked at her from under raised brows. Abby had obviously surprised her. "Thank you," Ziva finally replied.

Abby simply nodded. At that point, the elevator doors opened and they exited together. When Abby got to her hearse, she peeked over the hood, watching Ziva head to her car.

"Hey Ziva," she got the woman's attention. "Have you eaten yet?"

The smaller woman froze where she was halfway across the parking lot, staring at Abby stunned. "I have not," Ziva finally answered. "Being accused of murder is not very appetizing."

The Goth laughed at Ziva's joke. "Guess not," she responded. "Want to come with me? I know a really good Italian place with killer pizza." She could see the other woman's confusion from where she stood. "Come on," Abby grinned. "Despite what McGee may have said, I don't bite. Much."

Ziva smiled and shook her head. She started back towards where the forensic scientist stood, hiking her rucksack up further into a more comfortable position. "I have never ridden in a," Ziva hesitated searching for the correct word, "hearse?"

"Well, there's a first time for everything they say," Abby said getting into the car and unlocking the door for the other woman.

"Is there a coffin in the back too?" Ziva asked.

"Of course not," Abby said immediately. "I keep that at home."

Ziva laughed, thinking she was joking. "You're joking, yes?"

Abby just smirked. "You'd have to come into my lair to know for sure, now wouldn't you?"

Ziva decided not to think about it anymore. She was already having one of the most bizarre days she had ever had. She did not want to look too deeply into what had changed for Abby to be treating her this way. She would take what little kindness the world would offer her right now.

Then the unthinkable happened: Gibbs was badly injured in a bombing. He stayed in a hospital in a coma while the entire team tried to hold it together and investigate. Tony took charge of the team, while Jenny stayed near Jethro and called regularly for updates. They were all tense, but Abby was practically frantic with worry. She was ready to accuse anybody of holding out on her.

"What aren't you telling me?" she asked McGee at one point when he was down in her lab.

"What do you mean?" he asked, a bit shocked.

"You have that three little pigs look," she accused.

"What?" he said baffled.

"The three little pigs," she said as if it should be obvious. "They were afraid to open the door because the big fat wolf was outside."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," he said reasonably.

"Whoa," Abby said while looking at a picture. "This is definitely going on my wall."

"I should be a professional photographer," Ziva said smugly.

"The Director hasn't called," Abby complained.

"About?" Ziva asked, unable to keep track of Abby's shifts.

"About?" Abby retorted incredulously. "Gibbs?"

"Oh!" the Israeli responded.

"She didn't call you, did she?" the Goth asked.

"No," the other woman said.

"'Cause you know the way you're acting, you might have just, I don't know, forgotten to tell us!" Abby accused.

"Ziva, do you notice anything different in here?" McGee interrupted.

Ziva tilted her head. "No music."

"That's it. No music," he said in agreement. Then he looked at Abby. "You know, you usually play music in here."

However, Abby was not ready to be distracted. "What if those were Gibbs' guts smooshed all over that room?"

"Oh, for God's sake, Abby. They're not," Ziva replied with exasperation.

"I said, what if they were!?" Abby said, not liking how cold Ziva was about all of this.

Ziva hoped to joke like Tony could and maybe drain some of the Goth's tension. "The color would be more coffee brown than red."

She certainly did not expect Abby to slap her. She slapped her back, letting the taller woman know she would not just sit back and take the abuse. She was shocked when the Goth promptly slapped her again, but she returned the favor. Tim just stood on the other side of the counter in stupid shock.

After that, Ziva left the lab, not wanting to take any more of Abby's abuse. It was so strange. They were getting along so well lately and now they were back to Abby accusing her of being unfeeling. She walked into the ladies room outside of the bullpen and washed her face. It was all getting to her and she was having a hard time controlling her emotions. She fought the tears that wanted to escape, but didn't completely succeed. She washed her face again, and then dried it. By the time she left the restroom, nobody would be able to tell.

Later, Tony was the one who made the women hug and make up. He dealt with it in typical DiNozzo fashion. He gathered them together in the bullpen and made them face each other.

"Hey," he shouted at the two of them. "If there's going to be any bitch-slapping on this team, I'll do it. Clear?" He looked at both of them. "Good. Now shake hands." They hesitated. "Shake," he said forcefully. The women reluctantly did as they were told. "There we go. That wasn't so tough, was it?" Both the women glared at him. "And how about a little hug. Big buddy hug. Come on," he wheedled. "There we go. Come on," he said with a smug smile as they actually hugged each other. Then, wondering how far he could take it he attempted more. "Now a deep tongue kiss."

They were in perfect accord when they both punched him.

Even after Gibbs woke, the team still felt splintered. Their leader didn't remember anything after Desert Storm. The doctors thought it was a psychological block, but nothing seemed to be jogging his memory. Without his knowledge of that night, they were still in the dark as to what happened in that room. They worked leads like they usually would, tracked down witnesses brought in people to question. The difference was they were a little more desperate than usual. Tony was willing to let Ziva use interrogation techniques that would not stand up in court, but certainly got them the information faster than if they did everything by the book.

The real breakthrough for Gibbs came when Ziva took matters into her own hands and went to the hospital. When he startled awake, asking her who she was, she briefed him quickly. She told him her name, and that she was a member of his team, a Mossad officer, and she had been there a year. When he asked if she always finished people sentences, she said "Only when I am in a hurry." She outlined what was happening, how a terrorist was planning an attack on the Navy and how she needed him to remember.

"I've been trying to since I woke up in this room!" He shouted at her.

"Well try harder!" she yelled back. "Good. That's a start."

"What is?" he exclaimed.

"The old Gibbs' stare," she answered. "You gave it to all of us; McGee, Tony, me."

"What are you talking about?" he barked at her.

She grabbed his hand and smacked herself behind the head with it. It seemed to work. He stared at her, some recognition now in his eyes.

"Ari," she cried, hoping he would remember that horrible time as vividly as she did. It was a desperate attempt. "Ari killed Kate." She waited watching his eyes tracking back and forth, seeing him remember. "And I," she continued, only to get choked up. "I killed Ari!" She didn't mean to, but could not help but sob.

"Your brother," he said gently.

"Yes," she confirmed and sobbed again, feeling weak and pathetic. She was supposed to be here to help this man, not the other way around.

"You killed your brother," he continued lightly even as he put his hand on the back of her head in comfort, "To save me." He pulled her to his chest and held her while she cried.

It did not take much longer before they were heading back to NCIS, Gibbs memory and attitude restored, Ziva's unorthodox and bizarre methods tipping the scale. Yet, the victory was short lived. Neither Jenny nor Gibbs could convince an Admiral to pull his men back from searching the vessel with the terrorist on it. The terrorist blew up the boat just as the search party pulled alongside. In the end, Gibbs was so disillusioned that he quit the team, deciding Mike Frank had the right idea.

The following night, Ziva sat in her apartment wondering what her role really was on the team without Gibbs around. He had been a big part of her desire to return to America. She had finally seen somebody worth emulating, somebody to learn from. She still thought she would enjoy the work, but was not sure it would be the same. She was jarred from her musings by a knock on the door.

She instinctually unsnapped her holster on her hip as she crossed to the front door. Peeking out the peephole, she was surprised to see Abby. She opened the door, giving the Goth a puzzled greeting. "Abby?"

"Hey," Abby said in something that only resembled her usual perky tone. "I was hoping I could come in for a little bit." Her eyes were big and innocent looking, imploring her silently.

"Of course," Ziva said, stepping aside. She hesitated as she watched the other woman examine her apartment. "How did you know where I live?"

"Please," Abby laughed. "I can get into Pentagon files. I think getting your address is easy in comparison."

Ziva was not sure she liked that, not that she minded the scientist knowing, but who else might find her as easily? She shook her head to dispel those thoughts for now. "Well, come in," she indicated, bringing Abby further into the main room. She motioned to some large pillows surrounding a low table. "Would you like to sit?"

Abby actually laughed. "I don't know what I expected, but this wasn't it," she said as she tried to get down on the low cushion without flashing Ziva in her short skirt. "This isn't an ideal arrangement if you're in a short skirt."

"Depends on which side of the table you are on," Ziva said enigmatically. Indicating her cup, she asked, "Would you like some tea?"

"No thanks," Abby smiled. "I prefer my caffeine cold."

"Beer or wine?" Ziva added, trying to be a good host. Only Jenny had visited her here and even then she had only come by a few times. She felt a bit out of practice as a host, not to mention off balance. The Goth always seemed to have that effect on her.

"I'll take a beer," Abby replied gratefully. When Ziva left she watched her progress to the kitchen, then she looked around the room. No pictures hung on the walls in this room. It was painted a deep color which seemed to fit the agent's aura. However, the stark nature seemed off to Abby, as if she knew something was missing. When the Israeli returned, holding out a foreign beer, Abby tried out a word she had heard Ziva say many times. "Toda."

Ziva inclined her head and then gracefully lowered herself back on to the pillow across from Abby. The Goth was impressed by the move. The smaller woman had not used her hands; she had simply crossed her legs and sank fluidly to the pillow.

"So," Abby said. "You've lived here a year and still don't have much furniture."

"Since coming here I have felt the need for space," the brunette replied, then added, "and order."

"I see," Abby said, "actually, I don't. I personally think a little chaos is good sometimes."

"Abigail," Ziva spoke softly, "not that I object to your presence, but did you have a reason for coming here?"

"To ask you how you did it," Abby said quietly, fiddling with the edge of her skirt.

For a moment Ziva considered acting as if she did not know what Abby meant, just to stall. Yet she decided it would be easier to get it out quicker. "I told him about Kate and Ari. I reminded him about the night I killed Ari. He remembered their deaths."

"That's all?" Abby said amazed.

"He held me while I cried," Ziva admitted to her great shame.

Abby was stunned silent. After a minute, she took a pull on her beer, gathering her thoughts. "Will you tell me who Ari was, Ziva?"

Ziva's eyes closed and her head tilted downwards. To Abby's astonishment, she could see Ziva's hands were shaking as she returned her teacup to the table. The brunette took a deep breath, and then another before looking back up at Abby. The stark look of pain in Ziva's eyes was like a punch in the gut to the Goth.

"He was my half-brother," Ziva answered. "My father's son, raised elsewhere. And I killed him, Abby. I killed him to keep him from killing Gibbs. Yet, I still have to live with the fact that I killed my brother."

The smaller woman stood as gracefully as she had sat and walked out of the room without another word. However, Abby had seen the tears forming in her eyes before she left. She was still reeling from the revelation and finally understanding what Gibbs meant; Gibbs, who would have died without Ziva's intervention but it had come at a great cost to the woman.

Beyond that, she was beginning to realize that Ziva was not without feeling; she just did not let people see when things got to her. She suspected very few had ever gotten to see Ziva in pain. Was the younger woman letting Abby in, or was she bullying her way in, she wondered. She sat there debating if she should follow Ziva, leave her alone, or maybe even leave altogether. The latter did not feel right, so she waited where she was.

Ziva returned after about ten minutes looking as calm as ever. She sat back down in front of Abby.

"I would ask that you keep this a secret," she said softly. "Nobody else at NCIS knows. Actually, very few people in the world know." Ziva shook her head sadly.

"Your secret is safe with me, Ziva" Abby said gravely. They lapsed into another uncomfortable silence before Abby took matters into her own hands. "Stand up."

"What?" Ziva asked in surprise.

"Just do it," Abby said in mock exasperation.

Ziva stood, puzzled. When Abby reached up with both hands, silently asking for help up, Ziva took her hands and smoothly lifted her. She smirked up at the Goth, who was now looking down at her again, having come around the table to stand next to her. Abby knocked her breath out when she gave her a bear hug. It only lasted a few moments, not even long enough for Ziva to completely regain her composure. Abby pulled back and smiled at her, one of those brilliant and cheery Abby smiles. Then she laced her arm through Ziva's.

"Take me on a tour of your digs," she said perkily.

Ziva chuckled, deep in her throat. Nobody else in her entire life had kept her so entirely off-guard and off-balance as well as the woman next to her. However, she was as enamored by Abby's charm as the rest of the team. Therefore, she did as asked and showed the Goth all of her space. She let Abby touch what she wanted and ask what she wanted. And somehow, the tall woman managed to get Ziva to share some of her life with her.

It was late into the evening before Abby finally indicated she needed to go. Ziva walked her to the door only to be engulfed in another tight hug. She was a bit surprised when the older woman kissed her cheek.

"Thank you, Ziva," Abby said. Ziva started to say something, but whatever it was Abby stopped by placing a finger on her lip. Abby winked at Ziva and turned, making her way out the door.

The Israeli watched the older woman's progress down the hall until she was out of sight. When she closed and locked the door, returning to her living room to clean up, she decided there just might be other things that made it worth staying in America. She may never learn the rest of Gibbs rules, but perhaps she could unravel some of the mystery that was Abigail Sciuto.

Four months passed where the team tried to adjust to Gibbs absence. Tony was now the team leader and a new agent, Michelle Lee, had joined the team as their probie. Otherwise, the team remained the same. Tony was learning quickly how to lead, so Ziva and McGee tried to back his efforts.

Ziva found she could not warm to the new team member as well as she had warmed to McGee and Tony, but she had tried. She had invited her out to lunch a couple of times only to be rebuffed by the other woman. However, her relationship with Abby was progressing quite well. Since that night at her apartment Abby regularly invited herself to Ziva's and gave invitations to Ziva to come by her place.

The first time Ziva had taken the Goth up on an invitation and had come by for dinner, she found that their living spaces were indeed polar opposites. Where she had lived her life in America with sparse decoration and open spaces, Abby filled every space with something. There were pictures everywhere, brightly colored walls, a twin hippo to the one she had in her lab and knick-knacks of every sort including voodoo dolls. Beanbag chairs bracketed a giant couch and in the bedroom, there was indeed a coffin. That little fact still baffled Ziva to no end.

They had fun hanging out together and Ziva found she always looked forward to more time with the scientist. Abby was a good conversationalist, they shared similar tastes in movies and Abby was one of the few people that could keep up with her in games like chess. Ziva surprised the Goth with her ability to cook, but Abby was always ready to try one of Ziva's dishes from her homeland. Abby returned the favor by cooking meals she grew up with like jambalaya and gumbo.

One Monday on her way into work, the Israeli happened to look over at a motorcycle that had stopped next to her at a stop light. When she truly examined the riders, she recognized several telltale signs of an impending Metsada attack, mainly by recognizing the driver as one she had went on hits with in the past. She instantly gave pursuit to the two-person team, conducting a short high-speed chase through Georgetown. She tried to prevent what would happen but in the end could only stand by stunned as the pair blew up the front of a coffee shop. She abandoned her now torn up Mini-Cooper and pulled her gun on an obvious third operative on the ground.

"Federal agent!" She shouted at him. "Halt! Hands up in the air. Now!" When he looked back at her she lowered her gun marginally, shocked by what she saw. "Eschel?"

Hearing sirens in the background, she did nothing as he walked away from the scene. She decided it would be better if she were not here either so she slipped away in another direction, only stopping long enough to grab her bag out of her disabled car. She made her way to the Israeli Embassy to try to find out exactly why Mossad was carrying out a mission like this without letting her know what was going on.

The news at the embassy was not good. The FBI suspected her because her car was there, she was a known Mossad agent and it was a Metsada style hit. The Director of Mossad claimed it was not a sanctioned hit and went further to cast doubt on her by saying that the operative she claimed to have seen had been dead for six months. The Ambassador wanted to keep her there and she ended up knocking out her guards and escaping. She had to find a good place to hide and figure out how to clear her name. The FBI, NCIS, and even her own government now wanted her.

Abby sat in her darkened lab stuffing her face with jellybeans and staring at a picture of Gibbs she had brought up on all her monitors. She was stressing out about what was going on with Ziva and the only person she thought could fix things was not here.

"Gibbs," she told the picture, "This is really, really bad." Popping more jellybeans in her mouth, her cheeks were bulging and her voice muffled. "Ziva has disappeared, and everyone's saying that she's just like her brother." She did not believe that; could not believe that. It made her want to cry. "I really, really need you to call me. Please."

At that moment, her phone rang. Her eyes become large with surprise and she grabbed her phone quickly.

"Gibbs?" she asked, amazed that it had worked.

"Abby," a soft voice came through, "it's Ziva."

"Ziva," Abby said excitedly, "are you all right?"

"No," was the immediate answer. "And don't say my name so loud."

"Sorry," Abby replied more quietly. "Where are you?"

"At a safe place at the moment," Ziva answered vaguely.

"The F.B.I. was here," Abby told her friend. "And Tony was freaking out. And the Director… "

"Abby," Ziva interrupted, "I need you to do a favor for me."

"You name it," Abby replied.

"First, you can't tell anyone I've spoken to you," Ziva said.

"Except Tony, right?" Abby questioned.

"No," Ziva said firmly. "Not even Tony. If I talk to him, he'll get in trouble with the F.B.I."

"What do you need?" Abby asked.

"A phone number," Ziva replied.

Ziva was able to convince Gibbs to return to DC to help her clear her name and solve the case. Eschel always seemed to be a step ahead of them, but it was not long before they caught a break. Because of a BOLO the team had out on Eschel, a cop in Woodbridge had seen a man fitting his description at a Freemont Inn and reported it back to the team. They had also traced his cell calls as being made in that area. When Gibbs called Ziva to give her the news that they were going to get him, she went ahead of the group, knowing Eschel would not stay still for long.

She was not entirely prepared for what she found when she got there. Eschel was already dead and she was jumped by a woman intent on killing her. Ziva was impressed with the woman's hand-to-hand skills, but knew she had the ability to kill her if she wanted. She also knew she could not use lethal force this time. It was important to get the woman to admit what had happened. She had gone in with a digital recorder engaged and let the other woman insult and batter her. She put up a good front at fighting back, but let herself be brought down to the floor where she acted as if she had been bested.

"I thought I told you to get up!" the other woman shouted, then pulled Ziva off the floor by her hair.

Ziva moaned and then mumbled, "Who are you?"

"VEVAK," the other woman said smugly.

"Iranian intelligence?" Ziva asked, clarifying.

"Yes," the agent said with an evil smile. "And you have our thanks. The Americans will never trust your country again."

Ziva began laughing, a response that really confused the woman in front of her. "It was easier than I thought," Ziva said. "Making you talk."

After that, she took her down then waited for her team to show up and arrest the Iranian.

Her name was cleared and Jenny even insisted she take a couple of days off to deal with some broken ribs and other injuries she had gotten in the fight with Amal. She had stuck around long enough to see Gibbs had left again. She had guessed he would not stay, but found she was still sad to see him go. Even though she normally hated enforced time off, it was welcome this time. She had a lot on her mind now, after having another Mossad agent go rogue and attempt to use her on the path to bring her father down.

Yet, she did not even get good and settled in before her doorbell rang. As she looked through the peephole, she saw a gigantic version of Abby's eye where she was looking back at Ziva from a very close distance on the other side of the peephole. She started to laugh at Abby's antics until she remembered how much that hurt.

As soon as she opened the door, Abby burst through and barreled into her with a crushing hug. Abby never remembered when Ziva got hurt, because Ziva always did her best not to let other people know. However, that did not stop the agony that accompanied the glorious hug. Ziva decided to ignore the pain. She had become addicted to Abby's hugs and touches over the last few months. Not only was Abby one of the few people not scared to touch her, she was also the only one Ziva really cared to have touch her.

"I knew you couldn't do what they said you did," Abby said, her face buried in Ziva's neck. "Stupid Feebies. They just don't listen." She finally pulled back and looked at Ziva. She took in the black eye and broken nose, wincing. "Oh my God, that looks so painful! Is it?"

"Well," Ziva hedged, surprised when Abby took her head in both her hands and tilted it this way and that.

"Never mind," Abby said cutting her off. "I know you. You wouldn't tell me if it hurt anyway. The fact that you didn't immediately say no, means yes." Abby nodded at her own logic. She leaned down and gave Ziva's forehead a very gentle kiss.

Ziva did not know whether to laugh at being treated like a child with a boo-boo or smile at Abby's gentle nature, so she chose the latter. Besides, it was nice to have somebody fussing over her for a change. Normally she would not allow it, but Abby was the exception to so many of her rules she wondered if she did not need a completely new rulebook just for the tall Goth.

"So what else?" Abby asked even as she picked up Ziva's arm and looked at it.

"What?" Ziva asked confused.

Abby started dragging the younger woman back to her kitchen. The scientist had managed to convince the Israeli to get a normal dining table a couple of months back and she thought they would both do better tonight sitting in regular chairs than on those pillows on the floor.

"What else got hurt," she clarified. "And don't leave anything out, because if I think you're holding out on me I'll just call Ducky."

Ziva rolled her eyes, but smiled. "A slight concussion, a broken nose and some bruised and broken ribs," she answered then shrugged. "Nothing big."

"What?" Abby exclaimed. She pulled on the shirt Ziva was wearing until she could see the bruising on Ziva's left side. "I could've hurt you when I hugged you!" Ziva looked down. "I did! Oh my God, you let me hurt you."

"It was not a big deal, Abigail," Ziva answered. "Besides," she looked back down and then up with what she hoped were effective puppy dog eyes, "I needed a hug after all the last few days."

"Well," Abby said hesitantly, "okay. But now I know to be more gentle and can do it without hurting you. You could've told me and I would've done that in the first place."

Ziva looked away shyly. "I do not ask for hugs, Abby," she said. "You know that."

"I guess I never noticed," the taller woman responded. "You can, you know."

"I do not know how," Ziva confessed.

"Oh," Abby said, thinking it was utterly adorable how this trained assassin became a big kid whenever they talked about these kinds of things. It just melted her heart and made her want to take care of Ziva, show her all the affection she had missed her entire life. "Well, with me, it's simple. You can even just lift your hands like this" she demonstrated by putting both hands and forearms up like open arms, "and I'll get it." She grinned. "Or if you want we can get a secret code word or something."

Ziva laughed. Abby's intelligence mixed with her innocent love of everything was a non-stop fascination for the Israeli. However at this moment, she was a little battered and because of that, maybe more vulnerable and open than she normally was. She stepped over in front of Abby and spread her arms, enjoying the surprised but pleased look on the other woman's face.

Abby took Ziva gently into her arms and held her affectionately. She could do a good hug without hurting Ziva, especially since she now knew where she was hurt. She was surprised when Ziva put her head on her shoulder and relaxed into her. With their height difference, it was a perfect fit that way and she turned and placed a gentle kiss on top of the curly brown hair. After a few minutes, she felt Ziva begin to pull away and she let go reluctantly. She had become quite comfortable. It was odd, she felt like holding Ziva was a lot like coming home. She had never had that thought before now.

As they stepped away from each other, they looked into each other's eyes, both wondering what the other was thinking. Abby broke the silence as usual.

"See?" She said. "That wasn't so bad, now was it?"

"Not bad at all," Ziva replied. "But don't expect me to try the method out on Tony or McGee. Or worse, Lee."

Abby laughed. "I think you'd have to threaten her to get a hug," she said. "Now, I am going to make you a big dinner and we are going to have a movie marathon." She had discovered Ziva's secret DVD stash three months ago and they were slowly going through them. There was a large LCD mounted in the spare bedroom, and even if they did have to sit on the floor on those blasted pillows, it was a fun experience.

"Dinner sounds good, but Abby, I'm very tired," Ziva replied. "I don't think I can take a movie night tonight."

"Well, I'm sure Ducky told you to stay with somebody the first night of your concussion," Abby said sternly even as she turned to the other woman's pantry to see what she had to work with. "So, it's that, or I sleep with you and wake you every hour." At the absolute silence behind her she turned back to see Ziva blushing, a doe in the headlights look of shock on her face. "God, you're as bad as McGee!"

She laughed which caused Ziva to blush even more and look down, picking at the placemat in front of her on the table. She really didn't want Abby to know what her first thought had been when she offered to "sleep with her." Quite frankly, it had taken her by surprise how much she had liked the idea and she wanted time to process those thoughts and emotions by herself.

Abby walked over to where the Israeli sat and put a hand on her shoulder to get her attention. "Ziva, I don't bite," she said with a grin. She leaned down and kissed the other woman's cheek. "Unless you want me to," she said impishly as she pulled away. She smiled as the Israeli blushed anew. "You are too cute." She walked away. "So, some sort of pasta maybe?"

Gibbs had returned a couple of months later and had been reinstated as their team leader. Tony was actually happy about that, not liking all the pressure of being in charge all the time. It was better for the whole team. They were a more cohesive unit this way. Lee had never really fit, refusing to bend in a lot of instances and not having as much of a sense of humor as you needed in order to work around Tony and Ziva.

They had gotten a case where a Navy Lieutenant had been found in an experimental vehicle in Fairfax Virginia. Since the car had an extraordinarily complex AI inside, Tim and Abby were working the electronics angle, while Gibbs, Ziva and Tony tracked down other potential witnesses. Ziva had just stopped by Ducky's lab and afterward decided to check on Abby and Tim. She really hoped they had more than what she and Tony had found.

When the elevator doors opened, the first thing she noticed was Abby pounding at the window and then windshield of the Humvee. The vehicle had a thick cloud of grayish white smoke inside and Abby was coughing, panicking. Ziva ran over to the side of the vehicle Abby was in but the older woman shouted at her.

"It won't open!" she pointed to the green switch on the other side. "The kill switch!" She started coughing again.

Ziva ran to the other side of the Hummer, and on the way there, hit the emergency alert button and grabbed a nearby fire extinguisher. A loud alarm started blaring even as Ziva prepared to break the glass.

"Cover your face!" she shouted at Abby and then hit the window precisely before hitting the green switch. She dropped the extinguisher in the driver's seat and ran around to Abby's side. The kill switch had allowed Abby to unlock her door finally but she was obviously weakened. Ziva yanked the door open, helped the Goth finish undoing the seatbelt and literally lifted her out of the car, pulling her into her arms.

"Permission to hug," Abby cried loudly in question, referring to the goofy sexual harassment classes they had been taking earlier in the day before the case came in.

"You know you never have to ask, Abby," Ziva said huskily into Abby's ear. It had scared her more than she understood seeing Abby in danger.

"What happened?" Tim exclaimed as he came up next to them.

"Get the chair," Ziva ordered. When he pulled it over, she lowered Abby down, but did not completely let go. She felt better if she continued to touch the Goth.

"I almost bought the farm, McGee," Abby exclaimed. "I saw that old lady telling me to run to the light."

"Ziva, my back was only turned for a few seconds," he said, pleading with her with his eyes to absolve him.

"A few more seconds, McGee, she'd be dead," she replied. She looked at Abby closely and spoke gently. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," she said softly. "Really light-headed."

Just then, Gibbs and Tony, plus a few MPs came rushing off the elevator, guns drawn.

"Ziva! McGee!" Gibbs barked. "Evidence cage called in an emergency."

"It was me, Gibbs," Ziva answered.

"Stand down," Gibbs ordered the MPs. One picked up a radio to report, while the other turned off the alarms.

"You attacked a car?" Tony asked with a grin at his partner.

"The car tried to kill Abby," Ziva growled in response.

Abby looked up at Ziva with appreciative eyes and held her hand out. Ziva gave her hand, not surprised when Abby used it to pull her back over where she could lean on her and did not let go of her hand. She knew the Goth was very tactile, especially when upset. Indeed, a minute later she managed to get Gibbs hand too, even as Gibbs had both women and Tim giving him a report. Ziva saw Tony smirking at them and narrowed her eyes in a glare at him. He affected a look of innocence so she went back to ignoring him and paying attention to the others.

That night, Ziva insisted on driving Abby home. She walked her up to her apartment, saying it was to make sure she got in okay and had everything she needed. Abby pulled her down on the couch next to her. Ziva restrained her surprise as Abby pulled the Israeli's arm up over her shoulders and leaned her head on the brunette's shoulder, burrowing in and getting comfortable.

"Please hold me, Ziva," Abby said softly.

"Of course, Abigail," Ziva said gently and relaxed into the embrace. She put her other arm around the Goth and felt Abby's arm go around her stomach. Abby held her tightly, as if afraid she would disappear any moment, so Ziva ventured a reassurance. "I'll stay here as long as you want me to."

"And if I ask you to stay the night?" Abby asked in a small voice.

"I will say yes," the brunette replied softly.

They sat there quietly together on the couch; the only noise that of the traffic outside. The sun was setting and the room was getting dark, but Abby didn't seem to want to move, and Ziva didn't really want to give up this position either. She had realized her feelings could easily change for her friend back when Abby had stayed the night with her while she had a concussion. She tried her best to focus on what they had and to not think about what they could have, because she had not gotten any indication from Abby that she felt anything other than a strong friendship.

As Ziva was thinking, she had started petting Abby's head comfortingly. However, over time her hand ran down and she began tracing the outlines of the spider-web tattoo on the Goth's neck. It was a completely unconscious act that she was not even aware she was doing. Yet, Abby was very aware of it.

"You know," Abby said, her voice husky. "I seem to nearly die just as much as you guys and I hardly ever leave the building." She felt Ziva inhale deeply.

"I have noticed this," Ziva answered. "It is quite upsetting to me."

"Is it?" Abby asked timidly. She was not sure where she was going with this entirely, only where she wanted to be. She brought her hand up from where it was holding onto Ziva's ribs and placed her fingertips right where skin was exposed over Ziva's breastbone from her shirt's low neckline.

"Of course it is," Ziva answered firmly. "I do not like seeing you get hurt. Nor, do I like to think of anything worse happening to you. It…"

"It what?" Abby asked.

"It disturbs me, frightens me" Ziva said, knowing those were not the right words. "I…"

Abby could tell Ziva was stuck on trying to express herself. She knew that the other woman often froze when it came time to explain her emotions. She had been able to get Ziva through more than one difficult discussion by persevering patiently and gently. Yet, this was not that kind of discussion that she wanted to have. This was quite a bit more. Looking up at her, she knew it was time to lay it out there.

"Zee," Abby said gently. She reached up and caressed the other woman's cheek. Sitting up straighter she leaned in slowly, giving Ziva time to back away if she wanted. When Ziva looked at her first in surprise, but then closed her eyes and leaned forward, Abby knew she had been right. She was not the only one who had noticed this tension between them.

Ziva felt the other woman's full lips on hers and her heart sped up. It was everything she wanted and did not think she could have. When she felt Abby's tongue slide along the edge of her lips she opened hers and moaned when the warm wet muscle was suddenly in her mouth. Their tongues dueled and danced inside each other's mouths, fully exploring each other with a gentle and restrained passion that she didn't expect from either of them. Abby's hand was soft where it still caressed her cheek and she had put both arms around the scientist to support her where she leaned against her.

It was inevitable that they would need to break for air and as they did Abby pulled back and looked at Ziva. The Israeli opened her eyes and looked at her in wonder.

"Please don't tell me that was a red light touch, 'cause I would just die," Abby joked, referring again to the harassment classes. It made Ziva laugh and smile, which was exactly what Abby wanted. She was quite pleased when Ziva leaned forward quickly and kissed her again so thoroughly and passionately that Abby felt a bit dizzy by the end.

"I did not know you felt this way," Ziva said. She hesitated but then forged on. "What does this mean?"

"It means I realized, after yet another stupid forensics accident trying to kill me," Abby said with a grin, "that I didn't want to go one more day without being able to say I kissed you. That I wanted to tell you I'm attracted to you and I enjoy our time together way more than somebody who is just a friend should."

"I…" Ziva just stared at Abby for a moment and then quickly kissed her lips before bringing her into a tight embrace. She kissed the other woman's neck. "Me too."

"So," Abby said into the embrace, smiling widely. "I'll ask you again so you can change your mind if you want. Will you stay the night with me, Ziva?"

Ziva leaned back enough that she could see Abby's eyes. A sexy smile crept over Ziva's face and something about it reminded Abby of a big cat who knew it had its prey cornered. She slowly twisted Abby around, moved out of her grasp and stood, then pulled her up with her. She turned and looked in the direction of Abby's bedroom then back at Abby.

"Yes," she said. And it was somehow an answer to Abby's question, plus a question all its own.

Even as she smiled and led Ziva into her room, she reflected that even if she was not talkative, Ziva's non-verbal skills were superb. So much was said with that smile; so much implied in her walk and touches.

Much later, she decided that she could live without emotive if things were always this way. Even as she thought that, Ziva pulled her closer and kissed the top of her head. Abby wound her longer legs through the Israeli's and snuggled in.

"Goodnight, Ahuvati," Ziva said softly.

"Goodnight," Abby mumbled, charmed by the sudden endearment, even if she did not know its meaning. "You'll translate one day?"

"Of course," Ziva smiled.

Before she drifted off to sleep, Ziva had reached over and laced her fingers with Abby's. The scientist looked at their joined hands and marveled at how things had changed.

It only took two days before Gibbs pulled Ziva to the side. Abby had come up to meet with the other woman on their way out. They were taking advantage of a case being solved early in the day for once to drive up to a good restaurant in Maryland. The Goth was all smiles as Ziva packed her things and she chatted up McGee while she waited. As Ziva headed around her desk and Abby caught up, Gibbs called out to the agent.

"Ziva," Gibbs said just loud enough. "A word."

Abby and Ziva looked at each other and Ziva retraced her steps. He walked with her over to the other side of the stairs out of earshot of the other two.

"I never apply any of the rules to Abby," Gibbs said quietly. "I only want her to be happy, and if that means you, good for you." He put a hand on her shoulder. "I had also hoped you would learn to open your heart to someone. There's nobody I know who would take better care of you if you let her." He paused. "So I hope whatever you two are doing, works. But two things."

She nodded at him, disbelieving they were even having this conversation.

"Don't ever bring it in to work with you," he warned holding one finger out. When he ticked off the second the look in his eyes became granite. "You hurt her and I'll kick your ass back to Israeli one step at a time."

Somehow, she did not doubt he was telling the truth. She smiled and nodded.

"Good," he said and smiled. "Have fun."

She walked away and joined up with Abby. The Goth had hit the elevator button as she saw Ziva coming, so they managed to get in pretty quickly. Even as the doors closed, Abby held out her hand for Ziva and the Mossad officer took it.

"What was that about?" Abby asked.

"Gibbs being protective of you," Ziva answered.

"Aw, that's so sweet of him," Abby said with a face splitting smile.

Ziva laughed. "It was not your ass he threatened to kick to Israel."

Abby smiled. As they approached Ziva's car Abby looked down at the other woman. "You know," she said, "I was thinking the other night about how things have changed between us since we met."

"It is a good thing though, yes?" Ziva asked, a smile on her face, but she felt a tiny bit insecure.

Abby beamed at her and pulled her to a stop. She leaned down and kissed her gently.

"The best," she replied.

The End

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