Title: Wake Up Call (part 1)
Disclaimer: Written for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement intended.
Content Disclaimer: Violence, scenes of lovemaking between consenting adult women, poetic prose.
Author's Note: I claim insanity for attempting an NCIS story when there is someone infinitely more brilliant than I already writing wildly popular stories in this fandom, however, this story pleased her...so I also claim success. ;)
Thank You: To my darling, who inspires me every single day and whose smile lights every darkness. In one week, I'll be in your arms again, love. Not a moment too soon.
What a cloisterfuck, thought Ziva as she shoulder-rolled behind a luggage transport and came up firing. She didn't even have time to wonder how sex in a convent had made it into mainstream American slang. Two more suspects were down. Her eyes swept the seemingly deserted hangar for movement but she saw nothing.
Three targets in the wind, she thought, scowling. And I am separated from my partner. How can this get any worse?
As if in answer to her rhetorical question, something caught her attention to the left. She pivoted to confront whoever it was; it turned out to be her missing partner. The distraction allowed one of the rogue Marines to pop up from behind a cargo crate to her right. The report of his Beretta was loud in the cavernous bay.
Three shots and she heard them all. She threw herself backward and down on instinct alone. The first shot missed her by inches, leaving the acrid smell of hot lead heavy in the air. The second one caught her in the left deltoid muscle and pitched her forward. The third one grazed her left temple, dropping her to the pavement.
More shots rang out and Tony shouted, "Ziva! Stay down!"
She wasn't stupid, but she also wasn't helpless. Ziva rolled onto her belly and took aim beneath the luggage transport. She saw her shooter down and one of Tony's loafers kicking the Beretta away from his unmoving hand. Blood pooled thickly around the motionless Marine.
Two targets left, she thought, one hand reaching up to wipe her own blood from her field of vision. She kept low, following Tony's movements as best she could, watching him tiptoe through the hangar. She bellycrawled to a new location, taking cover beneath a forklift. She knew she was leaving a trail of red a mile wide but was glad to have a ton of steel between her and the two remaining suspects.
She picked up Tony's 20--his loafers were at least unique, if not practical--then scanned the area for other movement. She saw two pairs of combat boots coming up behind her partner's location, one pair shearing off and moving to flank him.
"Four o'clock!" she shouted, diving out from under the forklift. She rolled and came up firing. Two shots caught the flanking Marine at the base of his skull. Tony whirled to face the last target. Both men fired but Tony's trigger finger was faster. Tony's bullet hit the last Marine in the throat just as the man fired. The suspect collapsed backward and his bullet careened left, missing Tony by mere inches.
Tony looked toward Ziva, a relieved smile plastered on his face. His expression crumpled when he saw his partner drop to her knees. Blood matted her hair and stained her orange Henley dark on one side. He lunged forward and dropped to one knee in front of her, his cell already out.
"Gibbs," he shouted. "Ziva's down. We need EMTs at the hangar now!" He dropped his phone to the concrete without waiting for a response. "Easy, David," he said, reaching out to steady her. She looked up at him with glassy eyes.
"All targets are neutralized," she said dully. "My wounds are superficial, however, I may be going into shock."
"Ya think?" asked Tony sarcastically. He pulled off his tie and wadded it up against her shoulder, firmly pressing it into her wound. Ziva hissed in pain but did not push him away.
Tony focused on applying pressure to her bleeding shoulder. Ziva's ragged breathing was the only sound in the vast warehouse. Finally, the sound of sirens, distant but growing louder, broke the silence between them and Tony looked away. "Geeze, Ziva, I'm sorry. We got separated and--"
"It is not your fault, Tony," she said absently, staring into the middle distance with an unreadable emotion staining her eyes. She looked down at her hand, at the blood drying black on her palm and on the hilt of her Sig. Her blood. Blood from a head wound, no matter how superficial.
A buzzing discomfort started behind her eyes and soon spread to the rest of her body, sapping the strength of her limbs, making her feel as if she were suffocating. She tried to focus on her breathing, on the stinging throb of her shoulder, on anything...anything but a pair of cat green eyes and a smile as wide as the world.
Unbidden, the name came to her lips. "Abby...." she whispered and her pain receded.
"Abby?" repeated Tony, bewildered. "Abby's fine, Zee. She's back at the lab, safe as a bug in a rug." He grimaced a little. "A really tattooed and Gothy bug in a rug, with spikes and pigtails. But safe nonetheless."
"Take me to her, Tony." Ziva pinned her partner with a pair of cocoa-colored eyes. The blood on her forehead and temple made her look of determination stark, almost bleak. "Please. I need to see her."
The sirens stopped outside. Tony turned to wave the EMTs over to Ziva. "Medical attention first, David," he said, watching the medics hurrying toward them.
"After, then. Promise me, Tony. Promise me you will take me to Abby when they finish with me. No matter what."
Tony opened his mouth to say something smart-assed, but stopped abruptly when he saw tears well in Ziva's eyes.
“Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, sure, Zee. Whatever you want.”
She nodded and looked away, one hand coming up to swipe at tears so rare, Tony wondered if maybe Ziva's wounds weren't as superficial as she said they were.
Everything was fine, thought Abby, frozen. She looked around her lab, completely at a loss.
“Everything was just fine!” she whispered, tears welling in her eyes.
Gibbs had been standing in front of the plasma screen, watching stoically as she had explained the composition of the explosives sample they had retrieved from the last victim. He had been holding a cup of coffee and had taken exactly two sips of it during her rambling litany of chemical compounds. He had said little.
Until his phone had rung.
He'd answered it with his patented monotone identification. “Gibbs.”
Then all Hell had broken loose practically under their feet.
One second, he'd been listening to the caller, and the next, he he'd been running out the door, dialing a new number, shouting over his shoulder for Abby to find Ducky, to have him standing by.
“For what?” she'd cried, reacting purely to Gibbs' overt distress.
“Ziva's been hit! She's at the hangar—”
That was all Abby had heard, and it changed everything.
One minute, her world had been utterly normal. The next, it was as if someone had reached into her chest and ripped out her lungs.
To her credit, Abby waited five whole minutes before calling Gibbs, yelling at him as she paced the length of her lab over and over.
“How bad is it, Gibbs? Because you went running out of the lab, Gibbs, and you just don't do that. You don't run. Gibbs? Tell me she's okay, Jethro. Please? Please, tell me it's—”
“Abs! I don't know. All Tony said was that Ziva was hit. I'll call you when I know more.”
Abby could hear his tires squealing as he took a corner too sharply.
“No! Don't hang up on me!” She spun and paced back and forth between her samples fridge and her desk.
This can't be happening again, she thought, beyond panic now and well into hysteria. Not again. How many times can people get freakin' shot around here? Too many times! Too many!
Her breathing changed dramatically as grief flooded her system.
Kate. Jenny. Ziva.
Ziva, the hardest death of all. Ziva, the woman she was in love with. Ziva, the death that had nearly broken her.
But I got Z back!
Tears slipped over her long, kohl-black lashes and she swiped at them with the back of her hand. She wanted to yell, wanted to scream into the sky, into the Face of God Himself.
I just got Ziva back! You can't have her! Not yet!
She doubled over, her shallow, frantic breaths robbing her of the oxygen she needed to remain upright. Panic washed over her. She felt like she was drowning. She couldn't get enough air into her lungs.
“Abs!” Gibbs' tires squealed again as he braked hard to avoid an oncoming MP's jeep. “Abs, you need to calm down. You're hyperventilating. Abs. You're going to pass out. Abby!”
He cursed a blue streak under his breath, relaxing only slightly when he saw the hangar come into view. An ambulance was already on site, its lights cutting angry, red slices onto the corrugated steel of the hangar's walls.
“Abby, I'm here. I see DiNozzo. Hold on.”
Gibbs rolled his window down, trying hard to ignore the sound of Abby choking on shallow sips of air. He failed miserably.
“How bad?” barked Gibbs.
DiNozzo, shocked by the vehemence in his boss' voice, blurted his response. “Head shot, Boss,” said the younger agent abruptly.
Gibbs remembered too late he still had Abby on the line. He heard her burst into sobs, her grief a living, wailing thing. He closed his eyes and slowly disconnected the call, hoping Abby would forgive him someday. But he couldn't listen to her sob for another lost friend. Not again. Especially not this one.
“And shoulder,” added Tony belatedly. “Both superficial. The EMTs are patching her up. The shoulder graze was a little deeper than the head one....”
Gibbs' eyes shot open. “Ziva's alive?”
Tony looked taken aback. “Well, yeah, Boss. I'd be a hell of a lot more broken up if she wasn't, don't you think?”
Gibbs grabbed Tony by the collar and practically dragged him into the car via the window. He gave him a sharp slap to the back of his head and then pushed him roughly away.
“Dammit, Tony! I was on the phone with Abs. She heard that.” Gibbs jammed a speed dial button and pressed his phone to his ear. “Pick up, Abby. Pick up. Pick up.”
When she didn't answer, Gibbs shoved his phone at the shocked younger agent. “Text her, DiNozzo. Tell her Ziva's alive. Make it convincing or I will shoot you myself.”
Tony opened the phone and started typing as if his life depended on it—which it clearly did. He finally managed to press the tiny keys in the right combinations. He sent: DiNozzo's an idiot. Head shot was a graze. Ziva's fine. Repeat, Ziva's FINE. EMTs patching her up. I've already headslapped Tony once. Will do it again on your say so. G
Abby watched her phone bounce across the floor where she'd dropped it, vibrating violently as Gibbs tried to call her back. She couldn't answer. Her grief had driven her to her knees and she was trying to keep from folding up into a fetal position under her desk. It was a losing battle.
Then her phone beeped, the sound it made for incoming texts, and she looked at it. Gibbs never sent text messages. She wasn't sure he knew how. Her sobs lessened as confusion took over for the moment. She reached across the cold, tiled floor and picked up her phone. She read the text twice, her heart filling with hope that she dared not give free rein.
She called Gibbs back.
He answered on the half-ring. “Ziva's fine. It was a graze. They're stitching her up now.”
“You promise?” she asked, her voice very small. She pulled Bert the stuffed hippo off the rolling evidence cart where she'd stashed him earlier in the day and hugged him hard.
“Abs, she's cussing in three languages and I'm pretty sure she just threatened to kill one of the medics.”
Abby let out the breath she was holding. Three languages and death threats meant Ziva was irritated. Irritated was good. Cursing in three languages was better. That meant Ziva was breathing and breathing meant she was alive and alive was very good. Of course, death threats directed at the EMS personnel, while probably not welcome by the personnel in question, were the best. Hell, they were practically music to Abby's ears.
“Abs, you there?” asked Gibbs.
“Yeah,” she said softly. “I trust you, Gibbs.” She thought about the woman with bark brown eyes as deep as any forest, with fine, bronzed skin and long, curled ringlets that begged to be wrapped around Abby's fingers. She thought about the woman with whom she had fallen in love and her heart returned to life, beating again as if for the first time. She made a decision and wrote it in stone: no more hiding. When she saw Ziva again, she would tell her how she felt. Finally. Once and for all. Consequences be damned.
“Bring her back to me,” whispered the lab tech, only half aware that she'd spoken the words aloud.
“Will do,” said Gibbs, nodding with the conviction of one taking a solemn vow.
“And Gibbs?” Abby's eyes narrowed with menace. “Let me take care of Tony, okay?”
Gibbs relaxed, a smile creasing his eyes for the first time in what seemed like hours. “You got it, Abs,” he said, grinning. “He's all yours.”
Gibbs stole a sideways glance at the battered Israeli woman in his passenger seat. He'd volunteered to be her escort back to NCIS, partially because he wanted to keep an eye on his agent and partially because he figured he owed it to Abby to personally deliver the object of her desire. And he held no illusions on that score whatsoever: his Abby had fallen head over heels for the enigmatic Ziva David some time ago. He wondered if this latest near-death scare would be the leverage she needed to finally tell Ziva how she felt.
He also wondered how Ziva would take it if she did.
"I'd be more comfortable if you were in the hospital, David," he said gruffly, eying her bandaged shoulder in its sling and the gauze square taped to her temple. The base MPs had given her a drab tee-shirt to replace her ruined Henley. Gibbs was unapologetically happy about that. Presenting Ziva to Abby with that much blood staining her clothes...well, that was just a bad idea every way he looked at it. The tee-shirt was better...even if it was about six sizes too big for Ziva's slight, wiry frame.
"No hospitals," Ziva said, repeating a tired refrain Gibbs knew well. "I know what precautions I should take with these wounds. They are not remotely life-threatening. I will be fine." Her gaze dipped down and away from Gibb's intense eyes. “Besides, I need to speak to...someone.”
"Gotta see a man about a horse?" he asked lightly, expecting a frustrated diatribe from the woman on the rigors of nonsensical American sayings. What he got was vastly different.
"I...." Ziva turned and looked out the passenger window at the city rolling by. She swallowed the tears knotted around her throat like a garrotte, all those long, lonely, excruciating nights in Somalia rushing back to her in one sickening wave.
Torture? She'd been trained to withstand physical pain and psychological manipulation. That core of her self, her soul, had been impervious to fists and razor wire and pistol-whipping, to freezing water and near-drowning, to sleep deprivation, to sensory overload, to heat and cold, to humiliation, to terror and intimidation.
Only one thing had threatened that core of strength. Only one thing had the power to shred her soul to tatters....
The knowledge that she would never see Abigail Sciuto again, would never be able to show Abigail the shape and heft of the heart she had stolen from Ziva, would never be able to whisper the fierce grandeur of her love for the beautiful woman into a pearly, shell-like ear during the deep, golden hours of a tender night....
And yet, Ziva had survived and was rescued. Had survived only to discover something about herself that she never expected to find.
She was afraid. Afraid of showing her unguarded truth to Abigail only to be rejected. Afraid of tearing down walls that she knew she did not have the strength to rebuild. Afraid of being severed from the source of sunshine in her life.
She looked at Gibbs fleetingly, a wild something in her eyes.
"I need to speak to Abigail," she said, her voice roughened by unshed tears. "I must.... There's something...." Her thoughts came in fits and starts and this disorder frustrated Ziva David so intensely, she balled her good hand into a fist and pounded her thigh with it.
"Kusemek!" she swore, and Gibbs' eyes went wide. It was the harshest thing he'd ever heard Ziva say. Ever. He put a comforting hand on her knee, if only briefly.
"Whatever it is, David, she'll understand." He glanced at her with stormy blue eyes. "It's Abby," he said by way of explanation. Which made perfect sense...as odd as it sounded.
Ziva looked up at Gibbs with troubled, cinnamon-colored eyes.
"Will she?" she asked plaintively. "Will she understand?"
There was Gibbs' answer, painted so clearly in a pair of tear-rimed eyes that it nearly took his breath away. Ziva David was so deeply in love with Abby that she seemed in danger of strangling on the words she was trying so desperately to contain.
“She will,” he said. “She does,” he added, whispering as if to himself.
Ziva nodded but looked unconvinced. Gibbs wanted to laugh; it was so absurd. Two women in love with one another and neither one with the courage to tell? He shook his head.
Outside Abby's lab, Gibbs pulled Ziva aside.
“I'm not trying to tell you how to live your life, David,” he said, reaching out with uncharacteristic tenderness to tug at one of her ringlets, “but whatever happens, you owe it to yourself to tell her the truth. Okay?”
“Okay,” she replied, straightening as if going into battle. Except she'd just come from a battle. One that hadn't gone particularly well.
Gibbs' lips thinned into a determined line. He took point and entered Abby's domain, his eyes steely.
Abby turned at the sound of him entering, her arms crossed tightly over her chest, tears still drying on her cheeks. She looked...wilted. Haunted. Hanging by a thread. The sight cut Gibbs to the core.
“Where is she?” the Goth whispered, her voice thick with tears.
Gibbs stepped aside, revealing Ziva to Abby's eager yet worried gaze. The taller woman took one look at Ziva's bandages and gasped, her hand flying to her mouth. She rushed forward without thought, but stopped abruptly when she realized what she was doing. She locked green eyes with Ziva's darkening brown ones and leaned forward, curling her hands into white-knuckled fists at her sides.
Gibbs wondered if Abby had made the fists in anger or in a desperate attempt to keep herself from reaching out to take Ziva's face in her hands. He suspected a bit of both.
“You two need to talk,” he said. “When you're done, David, you're on med leave until Ducky clears you.” His eyes twinkled, unseen by either woman. “Make the most of it,” he added.
Ziva didn't even look at him. She nodded absently, but kept her eyes on Abby, drinking in the woman's unorthodox beauty as if for the first time. She licked lips made suddenly dry by longing and leaned forward herself, drawn like the rising tide toward Abigail, the moon.
“Talk,” repeated Gibbs pointedly. “I'm sure you two can figure out a way to get Ziva home when she's ready.”
Neither woman seemed to have heard him and he shook his head, smiling as he turned to leave.
Alone finally, Abby tried to jump-start herself out of her stupor.
“Are you okay?” she asked softly. Her worried gaze flitted from the gauze at Ziva's temple to the bandage and sling on her arm.
“I have had worse injuries,” replied Ziva matter-of-factly. “I will live.”
Tears unexpectedly flooded Abby's eyes at the words. “Good,” she said, her voice strangled by emotion. “I'm so glad to hear that.”
The women stood there, frozen and silent, both unsure what to do next. Tears slipped down Abby's cheeks unchecked and Ziva ached to wipe them away. She did not. She could not make her feet move, could not tear herself from the place where she was rooted.
Eventually, the electric intensity between them became too much for Ziva and she averted her eyes, a blush rising into her cheeks, a shy smile bowing her lips.
“Gibbs suggested we should...talk,” she said, glancing at Abby for the briefest of moments before returning her gaze to the floor.
Abby swallowed. “Yeah,” she said, nodding.
Silence stretched between them until both of them spoke at once.
“You first.” “You first.”
Abby rolled her eyes and Ziva chuckled. “You first, Abigail,” she said, humor lacing her voice.
The taller woman gasped lightly. “Oh,” she said breathlessly. At Ziva's hawk-like and questioning look, she explained, “You said my full name.”
“Yes,” said Ziva carefully, wondering if she should not have crossed that particular threshold at this juncture.
“I really liked it,” admitted Abby, a blush of her own rising into her cheeks. Ziva, emboldened, took a step closer.
“Then I shall make a point of calling you by your full name more often,” she promised, her voice a low and sexy purr. “Abigail.”
Abby's eyes fluttered shut. “Mmmmm....” she hummed, getting lost somewhere in her mind's eye. Somewhere very, very nice. The touch of Ziva's fingertips on her cheek brought her back to the present.
“Tell me,” breathed Ziva, her eyes liquid with longing and desire and fear all at once.
Abby's heart thrashed in her chest like a wild bird in a cage and she trembled from head to foot. Her own eyes became hooded, shimmering to the brim with so many emotions that they spilled out in the form of a brightness Ziva wished she could hold in her hands, it was so beautiful.
“I can show you,” she whispered, leaning forward....
“Ziva! God, are you okay? Tony told me what happened!” McGee's worried exclamation drove the women apart instantly.
Abby whirled toward her microscope to cover her sudden need to calm her breathing. She had only one thought: I almost kissed Ziva!
Ziva pivoted toward McGee, her eyes hard yet forgiving. How could she be upset with McGee? He was worried for her, concerned about her injuries, her well-being. He could not help that his timing was as refined as a crystal goblet made in Taiwan.
“I am fine, McGee,” she assured the earnest man staring at her with such concern. “I am certain Tony made it sound worse than it is.”
“He probably also lied about how badly he screwed up,” scowled the agent. “You two should never have split up in there.”
“That was not part of the plan. It was an accident.”
“An accident that almost got you killed!” exclaimed Abby, enraged, whipping around to join the conversation, however belatedly. “Was he playing James Bond again? Ziva, did Tony run off and leave you, trying to be a hero?”
Ziva shook her head sharply. “I do not think he had any such intent. We did not even know the Marines were there. We simply became separated. I do not remember how.”
“Hmpf,” grunted Abby, not convinced. McGee's dubious expression conveyed his own doubt as well.
“Maybe his mistake wasn't in getting separated,” he said grudgingly. “Maybe it was in how he distracted you when you guys met up again.”
Ziva said nothing. That told Abby everything she needed to know.
“Oh, my God!” she said. “That's it, isn't it? He startled you after you'd already been fired on, didn't he? You turned to face him, thinking he was a threat, and—and—”
“And the real threat made the most of the distraction,” finished McGee disgustedly.
“The marine was not successful,” said Ziva slowly, looking from Abby to McGee and back, both worried and flattered by their anger on her behalf. “And Tony is the one who neutralized the threat.”
“Only because you'd been shot!” Abby shouted, waving her hands angrily. Suddenly she stilled, an icy calm washing over her. “I'll kill him,” she said quietly and evenly. “They'll never find the body.” She turned to leave the lab, but Ziva rushed forward to grab her gently by the shoulder.
“Abigail, please....” she pleaded. When Abby turned toward her, Ziva let everything she was feeling flood her eyes.
Please do not do this. He is my partner and a good agent. He made a mistake. Killing him will only separate us. I cannot bear to be without you for one moment longer, let alone for a lifetime. Please....
Abby remained rigid and unmoved by the plea in Ziva's eyes for exactly five seconds. Then she sighed, the rage leaving her in one long exhalation. She reached up to cup Ziva's cheek in her palm.
“Okay,” she said simply.
Ziva smiled with relief and Abby smiled back, more shyly than before, a tint of pink rising in her cheeks again.
McGee blinked. “Oh,” he said, seeing the change in the two women and what it implied as clearly as if he was reading it from a book. “I was...interrupting. Before. Wasn't I?”
Neither woman acknowledged his question in any way, so intent were they on staring into each other's eyes.
“That would be a 'yes,'” he said. “I'll just...um...go.” He looked from Ziva to Abby and back again, his shock slowly fading into an indulgent grin. “Yeah. Going now.” He turned and fled the lab as quickly as he could.
“I believe you were going to tell me something very important before we were interrupted,” said Ziva softly.
“Unh-unh,” corrected Abby, drawing the smaller woman toward her. “I was gonna show you....”
She dipped her head and closed her eyes, her breath hitching with desire just as she—
“My dear Ziva!” exclaimed Ducky, sweeping into the forensics lab with his bag like an aging demi-god, his face a mask of dire concern. Abby and Ziva leaped apart like startled lemurs. “Jethro told me what happened. Let me take a look at you.”
Abby blinked as if punched between the eyes. Ziva crossed her good arm over her chest—to hide the obvious physical evidence of her too-often frustrated desire—and scowled. Again, the look had no real bite. Ducky was simply concerned for her well-being, as McGee had been. She could not truthfully say she had expected anything less.
“I am fine, Ducky,” she told the coroner. “My injuries are superficial and not worth your time.”
Ducky clucked remonstratively. “Let me be the judge of that, my dear. Gun shot wounds, no matter how superficial, are nothing to sneeze at.”
As completely weirded out as Abby was by twice being interrupted while trying to kiss Ziva David, she had to agree with Ducky on this point. “Let him look,” she said softly. When Ziva's eyes met her own, she added, “For me.”
Ziva saw the adoration and worry in Abigail's expressive eyes and she turned, nodding to the coroner.
“Very well,” she said. “You may look.”
Ducky put his bag on Abby's evidence cart and opened it.
“May I have a pair of gloves, Abigail?” he requested, surprised when the forensics analyst handed him a pair almost before he was finished with the question. She had taken up a position nearby and seemed to be ready to act as his assistant. She had already donned her own pair of gloves.
Ducky began with the graze to Ziva's temple, removing the small, soiled gauze square with infinite gentleness. He examined the still-oozing wound, probing the discolored skin around it carefully, noting the four stitches and the skill used to place them. He was mostly satisfied by the work of the EMTs—it was serviceable and neatly done—but stitches would scar her skin and the thought of Ziva's oft-battered body marred by yet another blemish made Ducky frown.
He retrieved an alcohol wipe from his bag, opened it, and cleaned the wound again before replacing the bandage with a fresh one.
As if reading the thoughts from his eyes, Ziva whispered, “I do not mind the mark.” She looked at Abby sadly. “I will wear it as a reminder to not waste time. I have wasted too much time already.”
Abby gave Ziva one of her patented, wide-as-the-world grins and nodded. “Me, too,” she mouthed over Ducky's shoulder.
The coroner gave Ziva a genuine smile. “Well, that's wonderful news, Ziva dear! Time is too precious to waste, for whatever reason.” He glanced at Abby over his shoulder, offering her an enigmatic and knowing smile. “Don't you agree, Abigail?”
Abby almost swallowed her tongue. “Um...well, yeah. I do, actually.”
“Glad to hear it,” he said. “Now let me take a look at this other injury, Ziva, and then this old man will get out of you ladies' way. Shan't take long.”
He helped her out of the sling and pulled the ruined sleeve of her borrowed tee-shirt away from the larger bandage on her deltoid muscle. He removed the packed gauze and examined the larger wound with exaggerated care.
“You're lucky this didn't shatter the humerus,” stated the coroner as he probed for the depth of the wound. “Another dozen millimeters and you would be in surgery right now.”
“And yet, I am not,” said Ziva pointedly, directing the comment to a very upset-looking Abby.
“No, you aren't,” agreed the hoary-headed doctor. “As I said, your luck holds.” He opened another alcohol wipe. “Did they have to do any subcutaneous sutures on this, my dear?”
Ziva nodded. “Four, dissolving, in the muscle structure.”
Ducky nodded. “As I suspected.” He cleaned the wound and efficiently replaced the bandage. “Is the sling really necessary?” he asked, tucking the cut sleeve of the oversized tee-shirt around the wound again.
Ziva shrugged with her good shoulder. “I did not think so. The EMTs felt differently.”
Ducky handed the ridiculous thing to Abby. “Dispose of that, Abigail dear, won't you? I trust Ziva's assessment of her needs over those of medical technicians I do not know.”
Abby grinned and took the slip of crisp, periwinkle cotton from Ducky's outstretched hand, pivoting quickly and disposing of it in one of the many trash receptacles in her lab.
“Done,” she said, her voice thoroughly laced with the pleasure of accomplishment. The sling had made Ziva's injuries seem more dire than they apparently were and Abby was all too glad to get rid of it.
“Good.” He disposed of the contaminated materials from his examination in a nearby bio-hazard receptacle and closed his bag. “I'm pleased to see your injuries are, indeed, superficial, Ziva. If you should have any trouble with them, please let me know immediately, won't you?”
“I will,” promised the Israeli, her eyes drifting to Abby's, already halfway lost in their depths now that they were about to be alone again.
“Excellent. Well then, ladies, allow me to retire to my office. I will shortly have quite a few guests in my autopsy bay—thanks to you, Ziva, my dear...and Mr. DiNozzo—and I should prepare. Have a lovely afternoon.”
Oh, we will, thought Abby as she reached for Ziva's good hand, entangling their fingers. She needed the comfort and reassurance of Ziva's presence more than she needed anything else at the moment and she didn't care who saw it.
Of course, had she known Tony was going to walk in at that moment....
“Good, you're still here,” said the dark-haired team lead to the ex-Mossad. “I need to talk to you.”
McGee rushed into the room behind Tony, looking positively white with dread. “Tony, I told you...this isn't such a good idea.”
"Yeah, yeah," said Tony dismissively. "I heard you the first three times, McGeek. The problem is, I'm not listening." He nodded at the other two people in the lab, barely acknowledging them, his focus almost solely on Ziva. "Abs. Ducky. So, is Ziva in the all clear, wound-wise?" he asked.
"That's not for me to say, Mr. DiNozzo," replied Ducky slowly, confused by the agent's tone.
Abby had already moved from "confused" to "hinky" on her interpretation of Tony's tone. She wasn't sure what exactly it was, but something was setting her teeth on edge. "Yeah," she added, her features darkening. "And it's not really any of your business." She tightened her hold on Ziva's hand and was relieved to feel the gesture reciprocated.
"I'm her partner!" said Tony, affecting a wounded air. "Of course it's my business!"
McGee rolled his eyes, but said nothing. Ziva took a single step forward, but did not let go of Abby's hand.
"I am fine, Tony," she assured him. She knew her partner well and his behavior had the feel of something new, something unwelcome. She kept her voice even and cold, hoping to discourage whatever it was. A knot of worry, of suspicion began to grow in her middle. "I appreciate your concern, but it is unnecessary."
Tony had the good sense to look contrite...or as contrite as he could manage when the emotion overlaid another one in his features: a sense of entitlement that had no logical origin.
"But it is necessary, Zee," he said, averting his eyes, the picture of boyish penitence. "It's my fault you got shot. If I hadn't--"
Feeling Abby's grip tighten even more, Ziva hastened to interrupt her partner. "As I said before, you could not have known the Marines were in the hangar. Neither of us did. Therefore, my injuries are accidental and not due to negligence on anyone's part."
Tony grinned, seemingly relieved. "See? I knew there was a reason I...." Whatever he was about to say faded away as he glanced at the other occupants of the lab, noticing them as if for the first time. "I need to talk to you privately, Ziva," he said finally, reaching out to tug on her good sleeve.
"Stop, Tony. Just stop," said McGee under his breath. Ducky heard and glanced at the probationary officer sharply before turning his gaze on Tony. Suddenly, he had a sinking feeling, the implications of which made him almost pity the younger man. Almost. He considered Tony with new understanding and decided to do his best to assist the poor man before he became intimately acquainted with the jealous wrath of one Abigail Sciuto. It would be a shame to lose such an experienced agent, no matter how oblivious he seemed to be.
"Mr. DiNozzo, perhaps you and I should have a word--"
"Not now, Ducky," hissed Tony, never taking his eyes from Ziva. "Kinda busy here." He tugged on Ziva's top again and motioned toward Abby's office. "It will only take a minute, Zee," he coaxed. "I just wanna say something to you that I should have said a long time ago."
McGee's features paled just as much as Abby's features darkened. The Goth, realizing instantly what Tony wanted to say, opened her mouth to snap at him, but Ziva interrupted once again. Her fears about Tony's unusual behavior realized--and in the worst possible way--Ziva was desperate to minimize the potential for imminent conflict, something that could only be achieved if she stopped Tony before he made an ass of himself. Or more of one.
"Whatever you have to say to me may be said here, in the presence of my friends...and my lover," she said, her gaze sliding shyly to Abby.
The fact that she and Abby hadn't even kissed yet was not lost on Ziva David. It was a problem she planned to remedy as soon as humanly possible. And as often. However, referring to Abby as her lover was the quickest and most efficient way to divert Tony from what she suspected was going to be a declaration of love. An ill-timed, ill-conceived, and ultimately false declaration of love at that. Ziva knew her partner very well. Whatever he thought he was feeling for her paled in comparison to what he'd had with Jeanne Benoit.
Tony reacted as if he'd been sucker-punched. He jerked his hand away from Ziva and looked from her to Abby to their joined hands and back again, shock and disbelief widening his eyes. "Your lover?" he repeated, his voice a half-octave higher than usual. "Wha--?"
Abby reacted very differently. Her gaze shifted from Tony to Ziva and her features softened considerably, a wide grin that could only be described as "goopy" dominating her face. She closed the distance between Ziva and herself and put her arm gently around the younger woman's waist. She nuzzled the ex-Mossad agent's temple, brushing her lips against the tender, uninjured skin there, delighting in the scents of sandalwood and bergamot which belonged to Ziva's shampoo.
"Yeah," she murmured dreamily, her heart hammering in her chest again. Heat suffused her entire body as she contemplated all the beautiful, sensual, and erotic implications of the word. "Lover...." Then her gaze snapped to Tony and she scowled at him menacingly. "Problem?" she asked pointedly.
“Trust me,” said McGee, stepping between Tony and the women. “He has no problem. None.”
“Mr. DiNozzo is a modern man,” agreed Ducky hurriedly, clamping one hand on the younger agent's shoulder with a little more force than was absolutely necessary. “He applauds diversity in all its forms.”
A fourth voice added his particular thoughts from the doorway. “Still here, David?”
“Ack!” Tony cried, turning to look at his boss. He wondered how something that had seemed so right just a few moments ago had managed to fall apart right in front of his eyes.
“I thought I sent you home on med leave,” added Gibbs, entering Abby's domain with a fresh cup of coffee. He took a sip and raised an eyebrow at Ziva.
The ex-Mossad had the sense to look abashed. “I was just negotiating transportation options with Abigail,” she said quietly. “If that is acceptable.”
Gibbs shrugged. “Works for me. I'm gonna be in meetings all day with SECNAV and the Sergeant Major of the Marines, both of whom would like to know what the hell was going on right under their noses.” He tipped his cup toward the coroner. “Ducky has five autopsies to perform...and I want them all completed before anything comes to you, Abs. The official word from on high is 'hurry.'” He frowned. “You know how much I hate to rush a case.”
“Illiterate Appalachian coal miners know how much you hate to rush a case, Gibbs,” said Abby, chuckling.
“So David gets to go home for the rest of the day and Abs gets to go with her?” whined Tony. “How is that fair?”
McGee shook his head, wondering whether Tony had an actual, identifiable DSMV-IV condition or if he was just that stupid.
Gibbs took a menacing step toward his senior agent but Ducky halted him with a raised hand.
“Allow me, Jethro,” he said pleasantly. Then he slapped the back of Tony's head. Hard.
“Hey!” Tony rubbed the spot, annoyed.
“Thanks, Ducky,” said Gibbs to the coroner. He turned to Tony. “And it's fair because she's the one who got shot, DiNozzo. She goes home, you write up the incident report. Period.”
“But they're going to—to—” Tony's indignation evaporated as Gibbs advanced on him, a cold fire in his eyes. There was a line that one did not cross with Leroy Jethro Gibbs and Tony was good at toeing that line without crossing it. Right now, though, he was very close to finding out what happened on the other side of it.
“To what?” he ground out, daring Tony to continue that thought.
Tony swallowed heavily. Saying that Gibbs treated Abby like a daughter was one thing. Seeing it in action was a completely different thing. Especially when Gibbs was about to go all Old Testament on his ass.
“Uh...nothing, Boss,” he said weakly. McGee felt like applauding. Backing off that train of thought was the first smart thing Tony had done all day.
Gibbs nodded sternly, then turned to look at the women. “You two have today and tomorrow off. Abs, I'll need you back on Thursday to start processing the rest of the evidence. David, check in with Ducky Thursday morning. If he clears you, you come back. If he doesn't, you go home until he does. Understood?”
The women looked at each other briefly before nodding, identical shy smiles on their lips.
When they made no move to leave, Gibbs raised both eyebrows at them. “Your feet glued to the floor?” he asked. “Go.”
They hurried to obey him, stopping only when Abby did, the Goth pulling away from Ziva long enough to wrap her arms around Gibbs' neck.
“Thanks for bringing her home to me,” she whispered, then she pressed a kiss to his cheek. In the next instant, she was back at Ziva's side, gently tugging the field agent out the door and down the hall toward the elevator.
Gibbs watched them go, a wistful smile making his storm blue eyes crinkle. Eventually, he turned back to the three men, two of whom were puffed up like proud brothers. Only Tony looked as if he'd been sucking lemons. Dipped in salt.
“I should go and see how our young Mr. Palmer is doing with our guests,” said Ducky. “I told him to begin evidence collection and body preparation. If I don't assist, it could take all night.” The dapper coroner took his leave, humming a jaunty tune as he went.
McGee took one look at Gibbs' stony features and beat a hasty retreat himself. “I...uh...I still have about three thousand emails to go through on these guys, so I'll just be...uh...yeah. Going now.” He ducked out while the ducking was good.
Tony stood his ground, eyes defiant and wary. “I guess I should start my incident report,” he said, a hint of a smirk coloring his tone.
Gibbs' hawk-like gaze kept him rooted to his place.
“Ziva may not blame you for what happened today, DiNozzo, but Abby sure as hell does,” he began, his voice tight with anger. “If Ziva's injuries were any more serious, if Abby needed me to pick up the pieces of her life again—”
“Again?” Tony looked up sharply. “How long has this—this been going on?”
“Does it matter?” Gibbs knew now that Abby and Ziva both had been harboring unshared feelings for at least a year, possibly longer. That they had only just discovered that bit of common ground was not something Tony needed to know.
Tony sagged where he stood and looked away. “I guess not,” he said, defeated. “It's just....”
The younger agent made a self-deprecating sound. “I thought I loved her,” he admitted. Hearing himself say the words for the first time, he was struck by his own hesitance.
“That's the difference between you and Abby, DiNozzo.”
Tony looked up, a question in his eyes.
“Abby doesn't think she loves Ziva; she knows she does. Right down to the bottom of the three-inch-soles on her boots.” His eyes darkened with old sadness. “I had to watch her deal with Ziva's death once and I may have to again. There are no guarantees around here. But—” Gibbs' gaze pinned Tony with laser-like fury and he jabbed a finger at him. “—if you're ever that sloppy again and Abby loses Ziva, you will deal with me. You understand?”
Tony nodded, completely cowed. “Yeah. Got it, Boss.”
Gibbs glared for a minute longer, then let it go, his hand dropping back to his side. He looked away contemplatively. “Go,” he said, his voice less hard. “You and McGee take off for the afternoon. Box it out. Get drunk. Do whatever you have to do to get her out of your system. But be back tomorrow morning ready to be a grown-up about it.”
Tony's shoulders relaxed considerably and he hazarded a lopsided grin. “Thanks, Boss.”
“Go before I change my mind.”
The younger agent nodded and fled, not wanting to test fate twice in one day.
Gibbs waited until Tony was gone before shaking his head.