If You'd Like To Go
Summary: They're all a little bit in the dark.
Notes: Writing Ziva is really ridiculously difficult, and I'm sorry if this story sucks as much as I've got a feeling it does.
Also many thanks to Shordy for the beta on the first half, and for all the encouragement when I was on the verge of deleting the entire thing.
There was an annual NCIS Winter Holiday Gathering on December 8'th. Jen had informed Gibbs, who had informed the rest of his team, that attendance was very strongly encouraged. Tony and Ziva had tried, on separate occasions to seduce the director – Abby and Gibbs had threatened her. They were all still required to go.
Tony, Abby and Ziva arrived together in clear defiance of conventional heterosexual monogamy. What no one else knew -- or needed to know, according to Tony - was the reasoning behind this set up. Said reasoning being that for once in his life, Tony had been ditched by his beach-blond barby doll for another man. A professional football player, in fact, who, in the words of said barby, had "the most honest green eyes ever" and was also "fantastic in bed". There could have been more, Tony acknowledged later, but he had been too busy attempting to resuscitate what was left of his dignity to notice. Ziva admitted privately to herself that she was much happier sharing Tony's attentions with Abby than she would have been watching him parade around another in a long line up of nameless, faceless girls.
They were only a little late thanks to Ziva's driving, and barely received disapproving glances from Gibbs and the director, who, if anyone asked, were not there together. Ziva had made clear her intentions of staying only as long as courtesy dictated before going home. Tony had the same idea, though the last place he planned to go was home. Abby had no problem with staying to the very end of the night and going out afterward. Most of the gathered employees came over to greet them at one point or another, complementing Abby's dress and Tony's hair and smiling politely at Ziva with a nervous sort of respect that she had learned came with accidentally killing a suspect.
"Christmas," Abby said between clenched teeth, smile still perfectly in place, "is the most blatantly disgusting display of commercialism and greed ever to be encouraged by the American culture."
"Tony took a long gulp from his glass of punch. Ziva wondered if it was spiked. "Abby? Please. For the love of my sanity, can you cut out the cynicism and just enjoy the…" he floundered.
"Free food?" Ziva suggested. Tony nodded, smiling at her. She smiled back, winking. Abby glared.
"Did we all bring our Secret Santa gifts?" Tony asked a moment later. Ziva followed his gaze, spotting Ducky with a worryingly large package wrapped in shiny red paper making his way to the large Christmas tree in the corner.
"Now, now, Tony," Ziva smirked. "It's merely the festive seasonal gift exchange. God forbid a government agency be accused of being un-PC."
Tony frowned. "You don't celebrate Christmas."
"How very astute of you!" Abby mocked under her breath. Tony ignored her.
"Shouldn't you be all over the PC-ness?"
"I find it more offensive that those in power believe any non-Christians are so easily offended and must be catered to like children. I have no problem wishing someone a merry Christmas if that is what they celebrate."
Abby frowned. "Yeah, but it's about the separation of religion from the day-to-day life of the general public. As our culture gets more and more diverse, we've got to change to become more inclusive. Adaptation is normal cultural growth."
"What about freedom of religion?" Ziva argued. "Are these new steps – supposedly forward – not suppressing Christianity?"
"If you two are quite done quoting textbooks at each other?" Tony cleared his throat. "Look who just arrived together."
Ziva's eyes shifted casually in the direction of the door and landed immediately on Jimmy Palmer and Michelle Lee. Abby laughed. "You didn't know that?"
"Should I have?" Tony sounded a little defensive.
Abby snorted. "They're only as obvious as a herd of buffalo. I mean, seriously. It's been the pink elephant down in autopsy for six months."
Ziva blinked in confusion. "I don't see what—"
"Never mind," Tony cut her off. "It's a dumb saying, anyway. Normal people don't use it."
This resulted in a quiet shoving match between Abby and Tony, both trying to make it discreet in order to keep up their professional fronts and failing rather spectacularly. Ziva scanned the room for McGee, hoping to quietly slip away from the other two before Gibbs and or Jenny descended on them. She couldn't see him anywhere, and when she turned back to her companions, Jenny was already standing before them, glowering. Tony smiled boyishly, eyes dropping in apparent shame. Abby had taken a half step back, projecting an air of a tiny puppy about to be kicked. Ziva knew without a doubt that it was all completely false, though they were both admittedly excellent actors. Or at least, she amended, had a lot of practice.
"I know this concept may be difficult for you to comprehend, but this is supposed to be a professional atmosphere."
"Until someone spikes the punch," Tony commented under his breath. Abby let out a quick bark of laughter.
"They already have, honey. Didn't you see McGee slip out just when we got here? He looked like he was gonna throw up. I'm thinking he was pretty thirsty when he arrived."
Tony frowned, suddenly mistrustful of the plastic cup in his hand. "Hmmm."
Jenny sighed, clearly already seeing the rest of the evening play out in her mind. Ziva smiled encouragingly at her and lifted her hand in a tiny wave. "Hi."
Jenny merely inclined her head in acknowledgement. "Just try to keep it above the maturity level of a twelve-year-old? Please?"
Tony and Abby exchanged glances. "PG13 or higher, you mean?" Tony said.
"Ziva, control them," Jenny flung her hands up helplessly, turned, and walked away.
"My God, Abs, I don't think she has faith in us!" Tony sniffed dramatically and pretended to wipe away a tear.
Ziva rolled her eyes. "This is exactly what—"
"My heart, it is shattering!" Abby spoke over Ziva's protest. "I may never regain the confidence and trust in the world I need to go on with my life."
"Never fear, fair maiden!" Tony swept her up in his arms. "I shall protect you!"
Abby clutched him. "But—the darkness! The darkness in my soul shall never be filled!"
Someone touched Ziva's shoulder lightly. "I don't know them," she said promptly.
"Hi," Jimmy said. She turned to face him, smiling.
"Hi. Enjoying the party?"
"Uh, yes. I, well, that is—Michelle and I—"
"Congratulations," Ziva nodded. "Though I believe this has been going on a little longer than you would lead people to think, yes?"
His face became tomato red. "Well… I guess you could say that…"
"I think it's wonderful," she reassured him. He smiled shyly.
"Ah, Ziva. Mr. Palmer. Wonderful of you both to show up."
They both looked up to find Ducky standing over them, smiling warmly. "Hello, Doctor," Jimmy grinned.
"Hi," Ziva replied.
"I do believe that the gift-opening has begun over by the tree. Would you two care to join me in making our way over to get a look at what unfortunate souls have received the rather… undesirable gifts?"
They trailed after him, Agent Lee catching up in the middle of the room, linking arms with Jimmy. Ziva glanced away, awkward. Tony and Abby, somehow having already arrived at the tree and chosen wrapped packages were arguing over the best way to unwrap them. "Do you enjoy picking up tiny fragments of paper?" Abby was asking, carefully separating the paper on her gift from the tape holding it shut.
"Do you enjoy being OCD about something that's supposed to be fun?" Tony had already opened his gift, and was staring at it in something approaching horror. He cleared his throat. "Okay, who thought it'd be funny to give the… inappropriately shaped paperweight?"
Abby glanced up, then down at his present, then started to crack up. "Shit. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, Tony. That was supposed to go to the Director."
"And you intended on her picking that particular gift… how?"
"There was a label thingy!"
"And you expected people to adhere to label thingies?"
He sighed. "Oh Abby, Abby, Abby. You're so trusting." Ziva was fairly sure she didn't really want to see the paperweight in question. Abby herself, when she opened her gift, had received a pair of concerningly lumpy hand knitted socks in a garish shade of yellow. Tony was gleeful. Ziva picked a small, red and green box and was politely grateful for the undoubtedly over-priced chocolates inside.
"We've been here twenty minutes," Tony announced after Ziva had finished her brief conversation with the older man from accounting who had been the provider of the chocolates. "Can we leave?"
"No," Gibbs snapped from directly behind him. Neither Tony nor Abby seemed at all startled by his sudden arrival. Ziva wasn't, but only because she'd been facing the direction he'd come from. Abby grinned, wrapping one arm around Tony and one around Ziva. In her boots, Abby was as tall as Tony, and Ziva felt, for lack of a better term, short. It was unnerving. Gibbs frowned at them, taking a sip of his punch. Tony coughed slightly.
"Uh, boss, you do know—"
"Yup," Gibbs replied flatly. Tony only nodded, mollified. The silence extended beyond the point where it could be classified as anything but awkward. Finally, Abby spun, not an easy feat whilst still keeping her grip on Tony and Ziva, who were forced to stumble around with her, and walked purposefully towards the other side of the room.
"He thinks we're sleeping together," Tony said conversationally. Abby giggled.
"He's a smart man." Tony swatted her playfully, and stole her drink. Quietly, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible, Ziva began to slip away towards the door. She and Abby had, over the course of many late night phone calls, gone through all the varied and extensive reasons that it would be a bad idea to enter into a relationship with each other, and now, to see her casual attitude with Tony and to hear her as good as confirm that the two of them were involved… Ziva crushed the box of chocolates, mangling the coloured cardboard between her hands. No one noticed her departure.
The heater in her car was broken. By the time she got home her hands felt like small blocks of ice and her breath floated in front of her in little puffs of steam as she made her way from her car to the door of her apartment building.
Inside, she found herself unable to sit still, moving restlessly around her apartment, tidying up, opening a bottle of wine, contemplating cooking dinner but discarding the idea as pointless – the idea of food not sitting well. Her cell rang sooner than she had expected, maybe twenty minutes after she arrived home. The call was coming from Tony, but she knew it could be either of them.
"Let us up," he said as soon as she answered.
"We're outside and it's not exactly what I'd call warm. Buzz us in."
"Why aren't you at the party?"
"You left. We followed you – I'm going to kill you with this paperweight."
She blinked. "Tony?"
"Sorry, not you. Abby's with me and perfecting her dramatic Goth act."
Ziva blew out a breath and buzzed them into the building. "I—"But Tony had already hung up.
She'd finished her first glass of wine and started on a second by the time they tapped at her door. Abby flew in, snowflakes and the heavy sent of cigarette smoke clinging to her jacket, eyes wide and gleaming. She caught Ziva off guard, wrapping her arms around the shorter woman and crushing her against her in a fierce, simple hug that lasted mere seconds, but carried an intensity that surprised the Israeli. Tony was standing near the door, eyes fixed on the ground, his entire stance screaming frustration. Abby took a few steps back, not looking at Tony. "Hi," said Ziva, blinking.
"Ok, so… I'm a bit of a horrible person and Tony had to be the one to point it out to me – Tony, let's stress that part because it's really weird – and I'm really sorry and I didn't even really notice you'd left and then I didn't have a fucking clue why you left and I really, really hate it when Tony's right, and I really hate hurting my friends, and therefore I'm feeling pretty shitty right now…"
Ziva held up a hand, forestalling any more words from Abby. The Goth snapped her mouth shut, twisting her hands together in front of her. Ziva turned to Tony. "What is she talking about?"
Tony glanced at her, then away. "Well, you left the party (a term which I use loosely) right after Abby and I hinted that we're sleeping together. I asked Abby why that might upset you, and she wound up explaining the whole list of reasons you two came up with not to have sex – um, very hot mental images, by the way. And I figured it was pretty clear why you left after that, so I asked Abs what her real reason for not getting involved with you was."
Abby started talking over him and he fell silent. "Which is, well, the fact that Tony and I are both major commitment-phobes. We're together, romantically and sexually, yeah. But we also see other people."
Ziva nodded. "Tony and Jeanne being the exception?"
Tony winced. Abby frowned, moving a bit closer to him. "That was… complicated. I admit it, I was crazy confused when he dropped everything and went hardcore exclusive, but…"
"It was a mission, first and foremost," Tony cut her off, his voice devoid of emotion. "Anything that might have posed a risk to my ability to build a relationship with her had to be eliminated."
"But then, our little Tony fell in love," Abby grinned slightly, poking Tony in the ribs. He shifted away from her, gaze darkening. Abby slumped, and wandered awkwardly over to the counter. "Can I have some of this?" she asked Ziva, holding up the half empty bottle of wine. Ziva nodded distractedly, eyes fixed on Tony.
"I don't see why you are telling me all of this," she admitted.
Tony blew out a breath. "The reason Abby didn't want to get involved with you. The one she didn't tell you, was that she has the stupid idea that you're in love with me," Tony muttered. Ziva felt all the blood drain away from her face.
Abby met her eyes, a sad little smile playing at the corner of her mouth. "It's obvious for anyone who isn't completely oblivious," she told her gently.
Ziva closed her eyes and prayed briefly for the strength to get through the next, doubtlessly humiliating few minutes of her life. She heard Abby approaching, and felt a hand rest on her shoulder. The husky voice murmured in her ear "Hey, hey. It's cool."
"I know, I know, the thought of me does require a trip into fantasy land," Tony teased half-heartedly. Abby tensed, her hand tightening on Ziva's shoulder.
"Shut up, Tony."
Ziva opened her eyes and breathed in, holding it for a moment before releasing it in a sigh. "If I denied it, would it do any good?"
"No," Abby replied immediately. Tony looked a little stunned.
Abby cleared her throat. "Why yes, Tony, I was right."
"I—"Ziva began, but Abby cut her off.
"Before you go all emo, he feels the same way."
"Emo?" Ziva asked.
At the same time Tony snapped "For Christ Sake, Abs, let us finish our sentences." This seemed to dispel a little of the tension, and they all laughed nervously.
Ziva's world was slowly transforming into some sort of surreal dream from which she would no doubt wake up frustrated and saddened. "So now that Tony and you have bared your hearts to each other, I'll be off," Abby said airily, taking a few quick steps toward the exit. Tony stepped in her path, holding up a hand to stop her.
"Whoa, whoa. First of all, by bared my heart you mean had my feelings revealed without my consent, right? And secondly, I think Ziva and I should get a turn to talk without interruptions before you vanish in a puff of smoke."
Abby frowned. "Am I going to need more wine?"
"Abs," Tony said seriously, brushing her cheek with his fingertips. "Being with Jeanne showed me something that I'd never experienced before. And don't mock my cliché, I can hear you doing that in your head. Anyway, I finally got a taste of commitment with someone who I truly love."
"Oh God, the break up speech," Abby groaned, drawing away from Tony. "I get it okay? Why do you think I set you two up in the first place?"
"We really need to work on your conception of phrases. Setting people up implies a plan of action, which you couldn't have had considering I practically had to drag you over here and explain what was wrong in very small words. And if you'd let me finish my horribly sappy speech, you'd realize that I'm not breaking up with you."
Ziva felt her heart sink. "I'm sorry, Tony, I've put you in a very uncomfortable position. I can see if Jenny will assign me to a different team on Monday." She turned to enter the kitchen with the intent of putting her glass in the sink.
"Oh! My God!" Tony erupted, throwing his hands in the air. "Okay? You guys? I care a lot about you both. Apparently you both care a lot about me. You two were also ready to sleep together if it weren't for Abby's self-sacrificing tendencies. Commitment, as I've discovered, can be not so bad when you're with someone you love. Therefore – shut up, Abs –"(Abby closed her mouth) "I think the three of us should just be in a relationship with each other, and see how that works. Ziva, I'm sure you're not used to being with more than one person, and Abby, I know you think you can't do commitment, but all I'm suggesting is that we try. Okay?"
Abby cocked an eyebrow. Ziva set her glass on the counter. Neither woman said a word. Tony shifted, glancing from one to the other. "I'm done," he said finally, squirming under their combined gaze.
"Okay," Abby said simply.
"Rule number twelve?" Ziva asked, her mind racing to catch up.
Abby laughed. "That's just Gibbs' projecting onto us from his thingy with Madam Director. Besides, he would never get mad at me, I'm his favourite."
"A fact in which you take great pride in reminding us. All the time," Tony retorted. Abby nodded.
Ziva moved over to her couch, perching on the edge. Abby bounced over, all prior anguish gone as if it had never existed. She sprawled next to Ziva, tugging the other woman's hand from her lap and interlocking their fingers. "What do you think, Z?"
Ziva took a long minute to answer, mulling over the new idea in her head. Finally, she nodded. "I think I would like to try," she said slowly. Abby twisted on the couch to pounce on her, wrapping her in the second hug of the evening, though this one was more enthusiastic than desperate. Tony moved over to where they were, Abby squishing Ziva into the cushions. Ziva glanced up at him over Abby's dark head. His eyes still appeared haunted, his smile genuine but small.
"I'm sorry I brought up Jeanne," she told him. He nodded, taking a seat beside them.
"I've got to get past it," he told her. "And I think it'll be easier now. I learned a lot from the relationship, and now, well, it's time to move on with my life."
Abby flopped over, her head landing in his lap, green eyes staring up at him. "You've been reading McGee's book too much. The corny speeches are just flowing tonight."
He tapped her nose. "Is there something you'd rather I use my mouth for?"
Abby grinned. "Later, honey. Right now, you could just kiss Ziva. It's kind of mandatory about now."
Tony smiled, and turned to Ziva. "So, Zee-va? What do you think? Ready to experience the DiNozzo talents?"
Ziva snorted. "I suppose I must, it being mandatory, yes?"
When they kissed the whole world did not fall away, nor were there fireworks to mark the occasion. But with Tony's lips pressed against her own, and Abby spread in their laps, one of their hands in each of hers, Ziva felt truly content for the first time in a very long time.
There's a club if you'd like to go
You could meet somebody who really loves you
So you go, and you stand on your own
And you leave on your own
And you go home, and you cry
And you want to die
How Soon Is Now