Title: Taking Chances
Characters: Ziva David, Abby Sciuto, L.J. Gibbs, Jenny Sheppard, Tony DiNozzo, Timothy McGee, Eli David
Category: Drama, Action, Romance
Prompt: #1 Beginnings
Word Count: (Total) 15,148
Spoilers: Very mild ones for 3.17 "Ravenous" but it veers off from the episode very quickly.
Summary: Ziva invites Abby over for dinner. Romance and complications ensue.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Note: Heh. What to say? This author's note might get to be longer than the entire fic. :p First up, a big thanks to ncruuk. Her comments not only pointed out some stylistic choices I hadn't thought about before, but also kept me laughing through the whole thing. I actually enjoyed the whole editing process. I don't think that's every happened to me before.
Second of all, if you think you've read this fic before, you would be right. I started this fic in March of '06 and wrote the first three parts before I got stuck and stopped writing it. I always meant to come back to it, but it just never quite worked out. When I realized it was the last fic I had to complete to finish fanfic100 I decided it was really time to buckle down. Plus I rather like the symmetry of this being the first fic I started for fanfic100 and the last I finished.
...And I'm done. I still can't believe it! Woo!
Standing in front of her apartment door, Ziva felt strangely empty. She knew intellectually that it was adrenaline draining away, leaving her with only the emotional exhaustion of the day's events, but it didn't change what she was feeling. Slowly, she unlocked the door and entered, being very sure to lock it behind her. She wasn't usually careless about personal safety and security, but today had reminded her of the need to be constantly aware.
Her coffee table was tipped over on its side; the plant that usually set on top of it, spilling out of its pot and dirt thrown across her carpet. She remembered abruptly the twinge in her leg early that morning when she had been half-dragging Abby out of her apartment. She rubbed the spot just beneath her knee gently and felt the answering bruise.
She looked around wearily to see if anymore damage had been done. Fortunately she and Abby had left before their assailants had arrived so her apartment wasn't destroyed. No bullets left pockmarks in the walls, no shattered glass covered her floor. There was only this one small mess, and yet, she didn't feel like dealing with it that evening. She had already cleaned up enough messes that day. The rest - the messes that were not so easily fixable - would simply have to wait for another day.
Ziva shed her jacket and tossed it on the couch. It was a far cry from her usual fastidious need for order. She dropped her bag next and headed for the kitchen. A quick glance around the room showed nothing more out of order. It was, in fact, exactly as she had left it the night before. Dirty pots with food still inside sat on the counter or the stove, while the plates, and utensils from their meal was still in the sink. Her messes were adding up more quickly than she'd anticipated.
Leaving the kitchen behind, Ziva drifted into the bedroom. Like the kitchen, it too showed signs of the previous night's activities. She nudged her discarded robe out of her way with the tip of her boot as she stepped inside the room. The covers on her bed were in disarray, the comforter falling off the left side of the bed and the sheets knotted up in a tangle at the foot. Ziva thought she could still catch a faint hint of Abby's perfume. She found herself standing in front of her dresser without making any decision to walk over there.
She reached out with faintly trembling fingers to pick up the photograph of Ari that rested there. It was the last picture that she had of him before he had gone off to medical school. In it, they were both happy and smiling, his arm draped across her shoulder. There was no sign of what things lay in store for them many years later. She swiped her thumb across the glass, clearing away a smudge on the glass and then sat the picture back down - face first, this time.
A sharp knock startled her and she turned sharply away from the picture, fading back against the wall to present a smaller target even as her hand went to the pistol still holstered at her side.
"Go home." Gibbs' voice was gentle yet firm. Abby couldn't actually hear it, being halfway across the bullpen standing on the balcony just outside MTAC, but she knew Gibbs' moods better than almost anyone at NCIS and she could read his body language almost as easily as she had read his lips.
His hand on Ziva's shoulder was meant to be reassuring. It also doubled as encouragement for her to heed his words. Abby wasn't as good at reading Ziva's body language. She had known her for a far shorter period of time and most of the time she was still an enigma to her. Even with all that, however, Abby could still read the stubborn set of Ziva's shoulders. She couldn't catch the rest of the conversation, the difficulty of lip reading being the necessity of seeing the lips of the people who were speaking, but there was plenty more to see as Gibbs and Ziva continued their debate.
It didn't surprise her at all when Gibbs finally won, picking up Ziva's bag off the floor as she stood and handing it to her as he gently deposited her into the elevator. Used to Gibbs seemingly psychic behavior, Abby wasn't surprised either when he looked directly up at her. She waited patiently as he made his way across the bullpen and then up the stairs toward her. He joined her in leaning casually against the railing and watching the agents going by down below them.
"Everything okay, Abs?"
She shrugged and her gaze flicked to the elevators before she glanced back over at him. "How is she?"
"Tired. Hurting. Told her to go home and get some rest."
"You think she'll actually do it?"
It was Gibbs turn to give a brief shrug. "Been through a lot today. Sometimes it helps to do something that will keep your mind off that - go for a run, solve a case."
Abby wrapped her arms around her body a little bit more tightly, reminding herself that she was still upset with Ziva, that she still didn't understand what was going on with her.
"She has a picture of Ari." It was part accusation and part justification for why she hadn't been the one urging Ziva to go home and following her to make sure she was okay.
"He was her brother," Gibbs said, as if the information didn't surprise him.
Abby wondered if he'd been in Ziva's apartment, or if it was another thing that Gibbs just seemed to know. "Why doesn't that make you mad?"
"Because as much as she loved him, she did the right thing when it mattered. She won't start taking the easy way out now."
"What do you mean?" Abby asked, her brow furrowed.
Gibbs smiled, leaning over to kiss her cheek. "Talk to her," was all he said before he turned and headed back down to the main floor.
Her gun was still in her hand when Ziva undid the lock and swung the door open. Fortunately it had stayed down at her side as Abby was the one standing outside. For a long moment Ziva simply stared at her in surprise. The only person she would have expected to see less than Abby would have been her father, and she was far happier to have been surprised by Abby.
"What are you doing here?" Ziva asked, with what she hoped was suitable calm.
"Do you usually answer the door with a gun in your hand?" Abby countered. "Gibbs said everything was fine now."
Ziva looked down at her hand, as if she had forgotten she was still holding it. "No, I do not." She tucked the gun into the back of her waist and stepped back from the doorway. "Would you like to come in?"
"I - yeah. Do you mind?"
Ziva gave her a slight smile. "I would not have asked, if I did."
Once Abby was inside the awkwardness and tension between them seemed to have grown, if that were possible.
"I would offer you a seat, but..." Ziva gestured wearily at the mess around her couch. "I have not had a chance to clean up yet."
"I could help." Abby offered into the silence that followed. "If you want."
"Not necessary," Ziva said, dismissing her offer with a wave of her hand. "I will get it later. Tomorrow, perhaps."
"It's the least I could do after this morning. You saved my life, Ziva," Abby said softly, as she took a step closer to Ziva.
"If it were not for me, you would not have been in danger." Ziva countered ruefully, dismissing her thanks.
Abby let out a soft huff. "I'm trying to say thank you here, David. You're not making it easy."
"You are welcome," Ziva answered with a slight grin, the first Abby had seen since she had arrived.
"I...think I owe you an apology too," Abby added, shifting from side to side in her high heeled boots uncomfortably. "Gibbs trusts you. He believes in you, and I trust that." She shrugged. "But I still don't understand how you can have a picture of him in your room - where you see it every day. He killed my best friend," she added plaintively.
"It is not there for the reason you think." Ziva said quietly. She paced away from Abby to the window that looked out over the street. She stood to the side of it, careful not to present a darkened silhouette to anyone who might be watching. Her eyes scanned the street out of habit but her attention kept coming back to the faint reflection of Abby that was visible in the glass.
"Ari was my half-brother. I loved him." She glanced back over her shoulder at Abby. "I will not apologize for that." It was said firmly, and a little bit defiantly.
Abby shook her in a quick denial. "I wouldn't - that's not...." She fell silent again, unable to find the words that she wanted.
"Our father," Ziva continued, looking back out at the street, "Was a very difficult man. Ari and I were very different and he was much older than I. We took care of one another, helped one another and we trusted one another without question because there was no one else who had grown up as we had or shared the things we shared. When my father heard accusations that Ari had gone rogue, I was sent to disprove them because no one knew him better than I."
I did not believe Gibbs that Ari had actually gone rogue. I thought his judgment was clouded by a petty desire for revenge, that Caitlin had been killed by someone else and that Ari was actually acting within the bounds of his cover. Gibbs set himself up as bait, in his own home, to prove beyond a doubt that Ari had betrayed us. What I saw was Gibbs standing unarmed and nonthreatening with Ari holding a rifle on him, about to shoot him." Ziva paused in her recounting then, wrapping her arms more tightly around her waist and leaning her head against the window frame. Her eyes where distant and slightly glazed as she lost herself in the memory of that night.
"I had no choice. Gibbs was right; Ari had betrayed me - Mossad - everything. So, I shot Ari." The emptiness in her voice drew Abby closer, but not too close, knowing that Ziva didn't want her touch or her sympathy at that moment. Ziva raised her head to look over at Abby. "I killed him, not Gibbs."
"Oh God, Z..." Abby bit her lip as realization and regret flooded over her as she remembered her accusations over the past day. "I'm so sorry. I didn't know. I would never have-"
Ziva raised her index finger to cover Abby's lips, gently but firmly. "I keep a picture of him, so that I will not forget. Not because I approve of his actions, but because I do not want to be blinded to what is truly happening ever again. I should have seen - before he killed Caitlin - what Ari had become. Because I did not, I had to kill him. It is a mistake I never wish to repeat."
Abby held the cup of hot tea out to Ziva and waited until the Mossad Officer was holding it solidly before she let go. Ziva's fingers were like ice as they brushed against Abby's. Ziva was sitting on the far end of the couch and, relieved of the hot liquid, Abby knelt down in front of her. She touched Ziva's knee tentatively.
"I'm sorry I didn't let you explain today. I should have trusted you, or I don't know.... Something. I'm sorry." The words spilled out of Abby in a torrent.
"You had no reason to," Ziva countered, her voice so quiet Abby could hardly hear her.
Abby shook her head. "I should have listened. You tried to tell me, but I didn't give you a chance. It's just...Kate. You replaced her." She couldn't quite keep all of her old resentment out of her voice. "And I was angry about that for a long time, but then I got to know you and I liked you. Really liked you." Her eyes flicked up to Ziva's hoping that she understood what she was trying to say. "Then I wake up with you and there he is - on your dresser. I thought I'd made a mistake, that you weren't the person I thought you were, you know?" Her face fell. "I should have trusted you or let you explain at least. I'm sorry," she repeated.
"I do not blame you," Ziva spoke, after a moment of silence. "I understand what it feels like to betrayed, remember? And you did not know the truth. It was not your fault. I should have taken down his picture. I would have but what happened between us was not planned."
Abby sat back. "Do you think we could try this again sometime? A date, I mean. I cook you dinner. We talk and get to know each other a little better, and I promise not to freak out on you the next morning. If you want, because I do like you, a lot, even if I did act like a real bitch today."
Ziva laid her hand over Abby's where it still rested on her knee, and then picked it up, turning it over to examine her long thin fingers and the tattoos that adorned them.
"I do not think I want to stay here tonight." Ziva said, in an apparent non-sequitor. "There is too much that I do not wish to think about or deal with tonight."
"You could stay with me," Abby offered gallantly. "I mean, I have a spare room. I wasn't-"
Ziva laughed softly. "I knew what you meant," she said, gracefully letting Abby off the hook. "But you were part of my plan for forgetting about everything. I wished to be distracted and you can be very distracting. I was considering going to a hotel for tonight, but if you are still offering..."
"I am," Abby jumped in quickly. "I am," she repeated again in a more sedate tone.
"Good," Ziva said with a small smile. "And perhaps you could make me breakfast, instead of dinner?"
Abby stood, and tugged on their joined hands, bringing Ziva up with her.
"Has anyone ever told you you're very good at planning, Officer David?"
"I'm glad you approve," Ziva said as her hands came to rest on Abby's hips, pulling her closer until their bodies met.
One of Abby's hands found its way into her hair, sliding through curly strands until it cupped the base of her head. She nuzzled her cheek and laid a kiss on the sensitive skin just behind her ear. One kiss turned into another turned into a line of kisses down her neck. Ziva's hands were sliding up under her shirt and Abby was remembering how wonderful this had been the previous evening.
"Abigail," Ziva's whisper was pleading.
"Yeah?" Abby queried between kisses.
"If we do not stop, we will not go, and I do not want to this again here before I have a chance to clean this place up."
Abby groaned and dropped her head to Ziva's shoulder. She turned her head to place one final kiss on the slope of her shoulder bared by the crew neck t-shirt. "My place or a hotel?"
"Your place?" Ziva sounded shy, prompting Abby to pull away so that she could look at her.
"I am not sure about sleeping in a coffin."
Abby shook her head, a giggle escaping before she could contain it. "You don't have to sleep in the coffin. I do have a bed, Z."
"Will you share it with me?" Ziva asked.
"If you want me too."
"I would like that very much."
"Then let's go. Do you need to get anything before we go?"
"A few things," Ziva said, sounding regretful as they were forced to focus on more practical details. "I will only be a moment."
"Okay," Abby said, as she reluctantly let go of Ziva. "I'll be waiting."
She watched Ziva until she disappeared into her bedroom and then glanced around the living room. It looked completely different from the night before. Gone was the neatness and order, replaced by knocked over furniture and disarray. She certainly couldn't blame Ziva for wanting to leave it all for another day. It had been a very long day. She could hardly believe the day before had been her birthday. It seemed like that had happened weeks ago.
"I am ready."
Abby jumped at Ziva's quiet words, not having heard Ziva come up behind her on the soft carpet. "You scared me," she said, her hand covering her heart.
"I did not mean to." Ziva hesitated, studying Abby for a moment. "Are you certain? I can go to a hotel for tonight. It is not a problem, if you need time or space?"
"No," Abby objected quickly, reaching out to take Ziva's hand once again. She needed that tangible connection between them. "No, I don't need space. I want to spend time with you, and I want to wake up with you in the morning. But I want to do it right this time. Like we didn't get to this morning."
Nothing was certain, but one thing Abby knew was that she didn't want it to end with Ziva this way, before they had even had a chance to discover what they might become. Abby Sciuto did not do regrets, and if there was one thing Ziva had proven to her it was that this was a chance definitely worth taking.
"Okay," Ziva agreed, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. "Then let us go."