Over The Course Of Time
Disclaimer: I own no one. Suing hurts my feelings.
Summary: They were the kind of moments that, while having no massive import, would make the clearest memories.
A/N: This was written—pretty much whenever I needed a break from reading Wuthering Heights, and also over a period of two days, though I would have preferred to finish it in one night. Shordy really was gonna beta, but had no time. It's the thought that counts.
"I think I'm in love with you."
Ziva choked on her coffee, coughed violently into her hand, slammed the paper cup down on the desk and spun in her chair. "Excuse me?"
Abby was perched on the edge of Gibbs' desk, dark red lips pursed as if in deep thought, one pigtail wrapped around her finger as she twisted it idly. She nodded, making the free section of hair swing with a childlike motion. "Mmhm. I've been trying to figure this all out for, like, three months. I can't believe it took me this long."
Ziva leaned forward. "Trying to figure out…?"
"Why I don't hate you anymore."
"So, because you don't hate me anymore you're automatically in love with me?" Ziva frowned, trying to follow the other woman's logic.
Abby nodded again. "Yeah! Exactly!"
"You don't hate Tony," Ziva objected. "And as far as I know, you're not in love with him."
Abby shook her head, laughing. "Awwe, no. Although, we'd have very pretty babies if either of us actually wanted them."
"So explain to me why you think you're in love with me and yet not with all the other people you don't hate."
Abby bounced up, grabbing Ziva's hand and tugging at her, encouraging her to get up. "The boys are coming back and I don't want them to witness this."
Ziva didn't move. "Witness what?"
Abby shrugged. "Well, I'm either about to get rejected, which would just be embarrassing, or I'm…well, not, in which case we have to come up with a brilliant and witty way to tell them that will no doubt leave Tony and McGee with their jaws on the ground and perhaps even make Gibbs speechless for a few seconds. C'mon, c'mon. Get up."
Ziva sighed, and rose to her feet, following Abby to the elevator and ignoring the curious glances from the returning Gibbs, Tony and McGee. That's what they got for leaving her alone at the office to do paperwork while they were out questioning witnesses.
She really should have been more surprised when Abby's hand came down on the emergency stop button only seconds after they had entered the elevator. The taller woman turned to face her, hands folded behind her back and eyes gleaming with determination. "So. I'm fairly sure I've got more than friendly feelings for you. I'd like to act on those feelings, but if you're totally not cool with that I completely understand. I mean, I'd be incredibly disappointed, but I'm really good about respecting people's wishes, I mean, as long as their wishes coincide with what's good for them which a lot of times they don't, but that's totally the only time I'd ever interfere. So, um, will you maybe go out on a date or something with me? I promise we don't have to go bowling. I'll be the good girlfriend and take you out for dinner and possibly even buy you roses, though I worn you, anything pink has the same effect on me as kryptonite has on Superman, so they're not going to be pink. That is, if you even want to go out with me, and like I said, that's totally up to you. No pressure, I swear to God—"
Ziva had to kiss her just to shut her up.
"Oh," Abby said afterwards. "Okay."
When Abby came into work on February fourteenth it was in a fowl mood. Her new skirt was stained with mud, she had a speeding ticket which had caused her to be half an hour late to work and she hadn't had her first cup of coffee yet. She didn't stop by the squad room to visit with the present teams as she usually did each morning, just headed straight to her lab and collapsed into her chair with a mental decision that she wasn't leaving the lab again that day until it became absolutely necessary. She shrugged out of her drenched jacket and went to hang it up in her office. The first surprise was sitting on her desk, precariously balanced on top of a psychology journal, a stack of unfinished reports and a few comic books she'd borrowed off of McGee and neglected to return. It was a simple, non-descript white box, about the size of a slice of bread. That is, if said slice of bread were about three inches thick and made out of cardboard. Abby studied it carefully. The last unmarked package she'd got had been a death threat from an old college boyfriend who had somehow managed to find her home address and blamed her for his bad luck with women over the last ten years. And of course, she reminded herself, when Tony had opened an unknown envelope he'd wound up with the plague. She really did not want something like that to happen to her. With a frustrated sigh, she grabbed the box and lifted it. Or at least tried to. Instead, only the lid came away in her hands, and she found herself staring down at a neatly packaged copy of Final Fantasy Xi. The Final Fantasy games were her secret indulgence, but she'd stopped herself from buying any more after she'd spent an entire weekend playing, only taking breaks to go to the bathroom and grab bottles of water or cups of coffee from her kitchen. A smile played at her lips as she carefully placed the lid back on the box and tucked it away in her desk drawers before McGee could pop out of the woodwork and see it.
It wasn't until around eleven, almost two hours later, when she discovered the next gift hidden on top of the tiny refrigerator. A long, narrow box, wrapped in shiny silver paper. She tore into it with less trepidation than the first, sending tiny shreds of paper flying to scatter on the floor around her. The box was, again, very non-descript, and she pouted at the lack of clues to its contents. Lifting the lid, she peered down and grinned at what she saw. It was a collar, black (of course) leather, inlaied with glittering silver designs. She reached to the back of her neck with one hand, unclasping the velvet choker she was currently wearing, and with the other lifted the new adornment from its box. When it was settled around her neck she tossed the box in the trash and spent a moment admiring the softness of the leather and the intricacy of the designs.
At noon, an influx of evidence flooded her lab, and it seemed that every single team that dropped it off wanted their particular batch put on a rush. She had a brutal cramp in the left side of her neck from bending over a microscope for two hours, and her good mood had vanished in a puff of smoke, returning her to the exact same state she had started the day in. She exited the ballistics lab with her head in a file, muttering to herself. She didn't look up until she came into contact with another person, almost sending them both to the floor.
"AAHH!" She stumbled backwards, losing her place in what she'd been reading. Ziva laughed at her stunned expression.
Abby glared at her. "Don't sneak up on me like that!"
Ziva continued to smirk. "I didn't. I was calling you, but you didn't hear me."
Abby sighed. "Sorry. It's been wicked busy down here today."
"And for once you can't blame us."
"It's strange and unusual."
"Did you like your gifts?" Ziva asked.
Abby frowned a moment, and then her face broke out into a smile. "I did! You shouldn't have."
Ziva shrugged. "Tony informed me that the fourteenth of February was a day of great significance to lovers in your country."
Abby nodded. "That doesn't mean you had to go out and buy me stuff. I know you love me, I don't need presents to reinforce it."
"You didn't like them—"
Abby held up a hand. "I loved them! I'm just saying they weren't necessary."
Ziva nodded. "I'm sorry." The phone rang before Abby could say anything else.
Abby punched the speaker button and set aside the folder. "Abby Sciuto."
"Abs?" Tony's voice floated through the speaker.
"Hey! I haven't seen you all day!"
"I know. Blame Gibbs. Anyway, McGee would like you to know that he managed to pull some strings, and he's secured you a pair of tickets for tonight."
"And he can't tell me this himself because?"
Tony's voice held a hint of laughter when it came through the phone. "He's a bit tied up at the moment." A sound that was suspiciously like that of a person trying to speak through duct tape came faintly through the phone. "Anyway," Tony continued as if nothing had happened, "He says you owe him—"
Abby cut him off. "Whatever. Tell him thanks. And maybe untie him before Gibbs gets back."
Tony cackled. "That's the best part, Abs. Gibbs is right here."
Abby blinked. "Is it, by chance, a really slow day for you guys?"
Tony snorted. "You have no idea."
"Right then! Tell him thanks, like I said. Now I? Have work to do."
Once she had hung up, Ziva raised an eyebrow in silent inquiry. Abby grinned. "So maybe I have a flair for the unnecessary."
"Okay, so maybe Tony was right about the movie," Abby admitted as they exited the cool, dark theater into the scorching sunlight. Ziva snorted.
"What did he say?"
Abby looped her arm through hers. "That it was a piece of shit."
Ziva nodded. "For once, I'd have to agree completely with him."
Abby pouted. "It looked good in previews."
"That's kind of the point, yes? People would hardly go to a movie if it looked horrible."
"Yeah, but you can usually tell even if they try to make it look good."
"Movies are the one thing you should always trust Tony on," Ziva said firmly.
"Yeah, yeah." Abby leapt lightly over a shallow puddle in a dip in the sidewalk left over from the previous night's rain storm. "I have a sudden craving for ice-cream."
Ziva laughed. "I'm really not sure if I should be letting you have anymore sugar today."
Abby pouted. "You know you want some, too. It's too hot out not to get ice-cream. It's like, a rule."
Having both grown up in fairly hot environments, they were reveling in the summer heat. The sunlight gleamed off of Abby's hair, and Ziva thought, not for the first time, how much the vibrant colours of the summer made her look more like a china doll than a living human. She had forgotten her parasol at her apartment, and Ziva knew that if she didn't get her inside and away from the sun Abby would be as red as a tomato in no time at all. Abby pulled on her hand, headed for a tiny ice-cream parlor hidden between a dry-cleaners and a vacuum repair shop. She mentally shrugged and followed her inside. It was crowded, everyone from young couples with screaming toddlers to bored looking teenagers to older couples squinting as they tried to read the list of different flavours.
"A friend of mine used to own this place," Abby explained as they waited in line. "It's so small people always miss it. I swear to God, it's the worst meeting place ever if the person you're meeting isn't familiar with the area. The ice-cream's to die for, though."
Ziva smiled affectionately as Abby continued to babble. The line was ridiculously long, and by the time they reached the counter Ziva was hoping that the ice-cream really was as good as Abby said it was.
It was a miracle that they found a table. Admittedly, it was a tiny two person table crushed in the very back corner of the store, but it was still an unoccupied table at which they could enjoy their treats without returning out into the blazing sun. While they both enjoyed the heat, neither of them wanted Abby's fair skin to burn.
Ziva watched Abby as Abby watched the other patrons in that way that Ziva knew meant she was trying to figure out what made them tick. Abby had admitted that people watching was one of her favourite hobbies. After a few minutes of comfortable silence, Ziva reached out, covering Abby's empty hand with her own. Abby's gaze immediately shot to her, curious green eyes meeting her own. Ziva smiled reassuringly at her. "So. Next week, my father will be in the country. Specifically in DC for business that is completely unrelated to NCIS and which he refuses to inform me of in any great detail. I intended to have dinner with him while he's here. We may not get along particularly well, but he put forth the invitation and it would be rude of me to not accept."
Abby tilted her head to the side. "Uh huh?"
"I was thinking that, since this…" she gestured between the two of them, "has been going on for almost eight months, and also taking into consideration the rarity of my visits with my father, that you should join us. I think he should meet you, and you him."
Abby blinked, and then smiled in astonishment. "Ziva, I'd love to. Thank you so much for thinking of that." Abby appeared to be deeply touched by Ziva's offer. Ziva smiled, absently stroking Abby's palm. A warm feeling of contentment washed over her as she thought of the only two people she considered family finally meeting and being together for the first time.
Abby burrowed herself closer into Ziva's warmth, resting her head on the other woman's shoulder. She was pretty sure she should have stopped drinking a few rounds ago. The bonfire crackled cheerfully in front of them, and the music from the stereo blended in with the chatter of other party-goers in various areas of the large back yard. Abby had dragged Ziva along with her to the pre-Halloween party in exchange for a promise that Ziva wouldn't actually have to dress up on Halloween itself. It had gotten dark, and a full moon hung in the sky like a ripe melon, casting the trees around them in a skeletal white glow. Smoke rose in weird, wavering patterns from the fire, gusting about in the chill autumn breeze. Abby felt Ziva's fingers stroking through her hair and practically purred at the contact. Ziva hadn't actually drunk anything alcoholic, and Abby was uninhibitedly grateful that her driving had calmed down over the last few months, for there was no way Abby herself was sober enough to even attempt to get them to either woman's apartment.
"Cold?" Ziva asked her. Abby peered up into her warm dark eyes.
Ziva drew her even closer, rubbing Abby's exposed arms. The wooden bench beneath them seemed to be permanently frozen, and the only warmth the fire was generating was quickly eaten up by the night air. "Do you want to go?"
Abby frowned and lifted her head but found that she wore no watch. "What time is it?"
"Seriously? Well damn. We're gonna be dead at work tomorrow."
Ziva laughed affectionately. "Tomorrow's Sunday, Abby. Unforeseen circumstances not withstanding, we won't have to go in at all."
Abby grinned happily. "Right! I knew that. So we could maybe spend all day in bed and just order take-out for dinner."
Ziva nodded. "Though I don't know why you'd want to. You don't get hangovers and will probably be awake by ten anyway."
Abby shrugged. "It's nice to relax on a Sunday."
"You know the meaning of the word relax?" Ziva teased. Abby pouted and shoved her playfully.
"I do too!"
"We should probably head out," Ziva said, observing one of the more adventurous individuals at the party waving a long stick, flaming at the tip aloft. Abby watched as a frown of concern formed on the Israeli's lips.
"It's fine. Nothing's gonna get burned down," she reassured her, giggling. She wasn't entirely sure what was so funny, but she couldn't be bothered to figure it out.
"Mmhm?" Ziva clearly did not believe her. Abby pushed herself upright and settled her hair behind her shoulders as it had been rumpled and in her face while she'd been curled up against Ziva. The world only spun a fractional amount and she began to contemplate that she might not be quite as intoxicated as she had previously assumed.
"I'm going to get some water before we leave," she informed Ziva, carefully rising to her feet. "I'll be right back."
The farther from the fire she wandered, the chiller the air and more haunting the shadows cast by the moon. The firelight danced in the manner of ghostly spirits playing in the grass and upon the fences. A large cooler leaned against one of said fences, its contents almost vanished and leaving only a few forlorn cans and bottle to float listlessly in the ocean of melted ice. She grabbed a bottle of water and finished almost half before even beginning the journey back to the ring of warmth and light at the fire. Away from the main gathering the night seemed contrastingly still and silent, and she took a moment to realign her thoughts with the real world, though what good this did or how successful the attempt could be was unknowable. She made her way back to where Ziva was sitting, looking, still, uncomfortable and out of place. Reaching out only a little unsteadily, she offered the other woman her hand. "Okay. Shall we go?"
"I think that would be a good idea," Ziva agreed. They called their goodbyes, and exited through the back gate, the crunch of leaves underfoot a harmony to the crackle of the fire as they left.
Standing on the opposite side of the car from Ziva, Abby called out softly. She couldn't see more than a shadow of the other woman in the darkness, but she knew she was there. "Hey, Ziva? Thanks for coming. And putting up with me."
"There's no need to thank me, Abby. I want to get to know your friends. They're a part of your life, as am I, and I'm willing to take anything that you offer in regards to yourself."
Abby smiled. "So will you wear a costume?"
"Get in the car," Ziva laughed at her.
Abby shrugged as she opened the door. "I had to try."
Ziva watched amusedly as Tony collapsed dramatically into the seat of his car. "I am never helping either of you ever ever again." He announced, wiping his brow. "You owe me big time for this. Big-time, you understand? Like, we're talking Gibbs' wrath for a week big time."
She laughed. "Sure, Tony. Whatever you say. It's understandable that you'd find all of the moving difficult. I know you're not in nearly as good physical shape as you were in college. I understand."
He winced and shook his head quickly. "Hey! I'll have you know that I'm in equally good shape as I was the day I graduated. And that's graduated with a phys-ed major, remember."
She tilted her head to the side and was about to say something when she noticed Tony smirking. "What now, Tony?"
"That thing. Where you tip your head like that. That's a sign you've been spending far too much time with Abby. It's like you're becoming her clone." He paused, and his grin grew even wider.
Ziva glared at him. "I don't know what you're thinking, and I don't think I want to."
"Just imagining you in some of Abby's more… creative outfits. I gotta say, Ziva, you may want to try some of them out."
"You'd like that, Tony?" she asked, smirking and peering at him from beneath her eyelashes. His eyes glazed over.
"Oh hell yeah…"
He didn't notice the handful of snow she'd picked up until it was shoved down his shirt collar. He swore as she swung his car door shut and waved a goodbye, giggling the entire time. He drove off as she ascended the steps of the tiny condo. Abby was inside, setting up her computer and humming along to a band which Ziva didn't have a hope in hell of recognizing.
"Tony gone?" Abby called when Ziva entered the living room.
"Yeah. And apparently we owe him."
Abby snorted. "There's a shocker. I'll buy him pizza or something. Or maybe you should. If it wasn't for the damned piano—"
Ziva held up a hand. "We're not talking about the piano in the same way we're not talking about the two computers and three game systems."
Abby deflated a bit. "Right, right. Speaking of which, my brother and his kids are dropping in Christmas Eve for a visit. Play nice, please. You and he totally ruined Thanksgiving." Ziva didn't even bother attempting to relate their moving conflicts with Abby's sibling's plans for the holidays.
She headed into the kitchen. "I can't make any promises. He's a religious bigot, and I won't let him drag my faith through the mud."
Abby groaned. "Like you were any better after he got you going?"
Ziva pulled a pot down from the cupboard above her head and began filling it with water. "I'll do my best to ignore him."
"Fine. What're you doing?"
"I thought we were ordering in?"
"I changed my mind. You're not going to eat all that junk food all the time any more, it can't be good for you."
"I haven't died yet," Abby called back cheerfully.
"Don't argue or I'll start in on your caffeine habit and your occasional bouts of violent cravings for cigarettes."
Abby was silent for a moment. "Fine, you win. I'll be good."
Ziva laughed. "There. Was that really so hard?"
Abby entered the kitchen, her black and red skirt swishing about her knees. Ziva had tried to convince her to wear something warmer, but had failed miserably. "What are you making?"
"Can it wait a minute? I wanna show you something."
Nodding, Ziva set aside the box of noodles and followed Abby to the entrance to the living room, where the Goth stopped, and grabbed her loosely around the waist. Before Ziva could ask her what she was doing, Abby had captured her lips in a sweet and lingering kiss. After a long moment they broke apart, and Ziva lifted an eyebrow curiously.
"What was that for?"
Abby grinned, and pointed above them. "Mistletoe."
Laughter bubbled up inside Ziva, and she hugged Abby tightly to her. No words were exchanged, but standing together in the house they would share, holding each other in their arms words seemed frivolous and useless. To exchange vows of love would only break the contented silence. They both knew.