Title: Putting the Pieces Together
Characters: Ziva David, Abby Sciuto
Category: Romance, Drama
Prompt: #41 Shapes
Word Count: 2,141
Spoilers: 3.05 Switch through 3.09 Frame Up
Summary: In an effort to better her relationship with Abby, Ziva offers to help her reconstruct the detonated suitcase. Their relationship grows from there.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Note: Many thanks to ariestess for volunteering to beta this for me. I appreciate it very much.
Abby sets the file box full of evidence down on the table in front of Ziva, like a knight throwing down a gauntlet.
"Corner pieces first, yes?" Ziva prompts, in an attempt at humor. She's not quite certain what to make of Abby, but she thinks that she likes this strange unpredictable woman despite her hostility.
Abby doesn't appear to be amused, not that Ziva truly expected her to be. It would be too easy. The profiler in her is already starting to catalog the things she knows about Abby in the back of her mind.
Tall - and likes to wear taller boots.
Career Barbie is not her favorite look.
Do not separate from caffeine
Does not like to be mocked
Has a temper
Can be bribed but not cheaply
All interesting information, if Abby is a target or person of interest, but she is not, and there lies Ziva's dilemma.
"Are you gonna help or just stare?"
Ziva looks up sharply and to her chagrin, Abby already has the bags containing the blown up fragments of the briefcase laid out on the table.
"Not that I need your help," Abby continues sharply, "But you did offer, and if you're not gonna help..." Her tone is pointed and gets under Ziva's skin effortlessly.
She feels her cheeks start to flush and bites back on the short comment that rises to her lips. Lies fall off her lips with ease, but bluntness is her stock and trade. She'll strive to hold her temper for the moment.
Instead Ziva reaches for the nearest bag of evidence and begins to carefully spread the pieces in it out on the table.
They work in silence for an hour. Ziva manages to find two mangled twisted pieces that might have possibly gone together in a previous unexploded life. She might have made light of it to Abby, but this isn't her first time trying to put something back together that's been blown up.
She sees Abby glance over to check out her progress, but Abby doesn't comment on what she's done.
It's almost midnight and Abby still hasn't shown any sign of giving up. She's sucked down one Caf-Pow already and retrieved another from the refrigerator in her lab. To Ziva, she's offered nothing, hasn't spoken a word, and offers no clue about when she'll leave.
Ziva decides, as she stifles a yawn, that she will not leave before Abby. It's a challenge and she won't back down.
The alarm on her phone goes off at 5 AM. Abby's head - which had been supported by her fist, as she looked for matches - is now pillowed on her arm. She snores softly.
Every bone in Ziva's body aches, but she has spent sleepless nights in far more uncomfortable places. She smirks tiredly as she heads for the elevator.
When Abby wakes, there is an obscenely large chocolate chip muffin - still warm - and a fresh Caf-Pow - ice cold - sitting beside her. Embarrassment rushes through her followed instantly by anger. She throws the muffin in the garbage, and then grimaces and considers how gross it would be to pull it out of the cellophane packaging and eat it anyway. It smells delicious.
"I would understand, you know, if you wished to work alone tonight."
Ziva's blunt statement is out of the blue and completely unexpected. Empathy isn't something that Abby tends to associate with Ziva.
"No." Abby blurts out quickly. "No, I think I'd rather have someone down here with me. Just not someone who's - you know, Chip."
"I can see how you would not wish to have a murderer who framed one of your friends working with you."
Abby laughs. Her tone is light, but Ziva can see the exhaustion in every line of her body, hear the edge of brittleness in her laughter.
She bends back over the pieces in front of them and loses herself in the tedium of sorting through them. The shapes are becoming familiar to her.
She doesn't complain when Ziva walks her to her car that night.
"How's it coming?"
Gibbs casually rests a hand on Abby's shoulder as he peers over it to look at the pieces they still have spread out on the table.
"We have one side almost fully reconstructed."
"We? You been distracting McGee during office hours again, Abbs?"
Abby jerks around to face him.
"Gibbs!" She slaps his shoulder, and then breathes out slowly. Calmer, she adds, "Ziva's been helping me." She glances back up at him. "On our own time."
It's a project that they work on whenever they have a chance. A few hours once a week. Sometimes less and sometimes more.
It's a slow day. Gibbs leaves; Ziva comes down to find her.
"Hand me that one."
Ziva smiles as she passes Abby the piece that she's requested. She finds the way that Abby gets so into her work endearing.
Ziva's there for less than an hour though before she slips her jacket back on and stands to leave.
Abby looks up sharply as Ziva rolls the chair she's been using back over to her usual place in Abby's office.
"Where are you going?"
Ziva is never the first one to quit.
The look that Ziva gives her is through heavy lidded eyes. "I have a date."
"Oh." Abby looks as if someone had just slapped her.
"Your help won't be necessary with this anymore, Officer David," Abby snaps as Ziva heads for the table where they're still trying to patch it back together. "It's a waste of NCIS resources."
"I am not an NCIS resource; I am a Mossad Agent on loan," Ziva points out reasonably.
Abby looks momentarily flustered. Her eyes are flashing and she's almost stomping her foot.
"It's not necessary."
"It will go much faster with my help. Did someone complain that I was neglecting my other duties or say that I was not allowed to help you?"
"I did." Abby's anger is clear, the reasons behind it are not so certain.
Ziva had thought they were beyond this months ago. She tries to think what she could have done to anger Abby, but there is nothing that comes to mind. This is out of the blue.
"Did I do something?" she finally asks Abby slowly, uncertainly. This is not her usual confident approach to dealing with a problem, but so often with Abby it feels as if she's standing on quicksand.
"No." Abby's denial is vehement but not elaborated upon.
"Then what is the problem?" Ziva folds her arms over her chest and glares. Surprise is rapidly turning into anger.
"You don't know?" It's a rhetorical question, so Ziva doesn't bother to fumble for an answer. "Gibbs is teaching you to be a detective right? Then detect, Officer David!"
Ziva turns on her heel and stalks towards the elevator without another word.
Abby's words are still echoing through her mind the next morning. She's in before Tony, and sprawling back in her chair. Her legs are crossed at the ankles and propped up on the desk. She's idly tapping her lips with the tip of the pen she's twirling through her fingers.
There are a few simple explanations for Abby's reaction and she is not obtuse like Tony or McGee can be when it comes to Abby.
The two simplest explanations are this: Abby is angry that she left early, or Abby is angry that she left on a date.
Ziva has to admit that the second possibility intrigues her. It's certainly more attractive and believable than the first.
An idea begins to build in Ziva's mind and she smirks before she drops her feet and sits up sharply. Yes, she will most definitely have to go through with this.
It takes her a few days to gather the things that she needs.
When she's ready, the first order of the day is to check with security and make certain that Abby isn't in the building yet. Then she begins to lay out her plan, slowly and meticulously. Ziva's not worried. One of the many things that she's learned about Abby is that she excels at putting together the pieces.
When Abby finds the dress in a box wrapped in black lace sitting on her desk, Ziva and Tony are down in her lab waiting for the results of a blood test. Ziva carefully hides her smile even as she revels in the way that Abby's eyes light up. She tells no one else what's in the box, but Ziva notices that she seems to be floating on a cloud for the next hour.
Ziva's fortunate that Abby has stepped out for a moment to go speak with Ducky. The note that she leaves in Abby's lab a half-hour before it's time for them to go home for the day says simply, Meet me. She does nothing to disguise the angular slant of her writing or the forceful end to her letters.
An hour later, Ziva's waiting for Abby still. She's pacing around restlessly, rubbing her hands against her thighs nervously. She snaps at anyone who walks by or dares to even look at her out of the corner of their eyes.
The elevator dings and Ziva knows with some sixth sense that this is the moment. The doors slide open and Abby is standing there, her head cocked to the side looking out expectantly. Ziva is pleased to see that she's taken the hint and is wearing the dress. She smiles.
"I do not wish to work on our puzzle tonight." Ziva gets the words out quickly and clearly. She hopes she doesn't seem as nervous as she truly is.
Abby's face falls abruptly. "Oh, okay." She folds her arms across her chest, in an unconscious gesture meant to distance them and shield herself. "You probably have another date, right?"
Ziva smiles mysteriously and copies her gesture. However, hers is a gesture of easy confidence. Or at least that's what she is hoping to portray. Her heart is beating impossibly fast in her chest.
"That is true." She hesitates for a moment. "We should go now, or we'll be late."
Abby looks confused for a moment and then blinks at Ziva.
"Are you asking me out?"
"No." Ziva's answer is out of her mouth almost before Abby has finished asking the question. "No. I'm taking you out."
"There's a difference?" Abby asks, intrigued now.
"Yes. If I asked, you may feel it necessary to say no. If I do not ask, you cannot say no."
Abby scowls slightly, not a major scowl, but one warning of impending doom.
"I don't like to be kidnapped. Gibbs tends to shoot the people who do that."
Ziva ignores the scowl and slips her arm through Abby's and begins to walk.
"Ah, but I have Gibbs' approval."
"Gibbs said that you could kidnap me?" The scowl is gone now, replaced by louder indignation.
"He did say to figure out why you were angry with me."
"That is so not the same as-"
"Abby." Ziva stops abruptly, and drops her arm, turning so that they are face to face. She stops Abby's lips with a firmly planted finger. This is not going as well as she's hoped. At the same time though, she can feel the faint tinge of hope growing within her. This is the moment where a string of pieces have begun to fit together. There's a momentary stall that can go one of two ways: onwards and upwards, or hopefully only no worse than before.
"Do you truly wish to not go out with me?"
It was an answer, a definite one, and yet Ziva is still not certain which way it will go and what Abby means by it. Her confusion must show, since it prompts Abby to clarify.
"I mean, I'll go out with you."
Her words are a confirmation of everything that Ziva's been guessing about. It's a relief and a sudden rush of nerves at the same time. She smiles, giving into the relief for the moment.
"Good." She offers her hand to Abby again, this time holding it out and offering it, waiting for it to be taken before she goes on. Abby's fingers slide through her own perfectly. "Shall we go?"
Ziva knows that later they will talk, and Abby will ask her a hundred questions about what she feels and what she thinks, but for now they will let things just be and see what happens.
The puzzle isn't complete, but its shape is beginning to emerge. It's a start.