Disclaimer: not mine
fandom: NCIS
characters: Ziva, Abby
rating: PG, language, mentioned violence
set: insert for 'recoil', set the morning after (timeline on the ep's a bit hazy in my brain, and I think this is where it fits best)
notes: I knew the episode would make me write fic, I just didn't know what. ps, I do not care if the title isn't a real word.
summary: Ziva is still taking it one moment at a time.

by ALC Punk!

He hadn't even smelled like blood. Not until afterwards, when burnt ozone and oil, dirt and that stupid aftershave he always wore and she said she liked the smell of were filling her nostrils could she smell the blood. Thick and cloying, coating her skin as it soaked through her shirt. Blood. His blood, of course. Not the woman dead on his floor (a woman who could have been her, but she would have had a bullet in the back of her skull, not a slash across her abdomen).

Ziva lays in the dark, thinking that her fear in the memories is pathetic. She has risked her life more times than she can count, been in danger since two minutes after she was born (whether from her father, her trainers, or simply her geographic location, she could never decide which was worse). What was it about this singular moment out of all of the others that makes it special?

There is nothing, except the taste of blood and asphalt, the snap-rush of adrenaline pouring through her like acid as everything slows once again.

Light glinted off the knife in his hand (not really, though--the matte finish made it a dark weight in his had).

That's not a knife, this is a knife -- the quote she'd absorbed while delving into American culture had grated across her mind.

Safety off--


The shots still echo through her skull, loud. Louder than they had any right to be, in the midst of that empty building (and maybe that was why).

Footsteps out in the lab bring her back, voices ground her to the present. The floor is cold at her back (grit under her hands when she pressed her palms down to sit up I'm all right, I'm all right, I'm fine...), but she doesn't move. Gibbs told her to go home the night before (I don't want to see you here, tomorrow). Home is... Home is empty, home is full of too many sounds that aren't sounds.

I am not afraid of the dark. Abby's lab probably has a cot somewhere, but she hadn't bothered looking. The floor wasn't any worse than any other place she'd slept (did she sleep?). And while she's cold, it could be worse.

Long after the voices have gone, she can hear Abby working, the sound of her skates different. schiiirrr They're not the quick squeak-click of her combat boots, with the attendant normal jangle of her chains or zippers. (there is no normal anymore)

The taste of blood at the back of her throat, the feel of his weight pressing down against her--

Cold eyes, as cold as his body in Ducky's morgue (good placement of the bullets, Ziva.)

Her fingers are cramped and she flattens them against the floor, feeling the slight sticky-grit of the dirt that not even daily mopping can rid the tile of.

The glass door between lab and office slides open, and Abby's quiet for an instant, her skates moving schirrr as she reaches for the light, then stops, "Ziva?"

"Don't--" Ziva swallows against the crack in her voice, "Don't turn on the lights."

She doesn't ask how Abby knows she's there--maybe her feet are visible, or the other woman is psychic.


Abby peers over the side of the desk at her, eyes a difficult thing to see, but face worried, "You ok? You want me to get you a blanket?"

"I am fine." I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine... The echoes taunt her with their unreality.

"Uh-huh. I can see that." Abby isn't exactly mocking her.

There's still an under-current, though, and Ziva considers her options. "I will go, if--"

No, it's cool." The chair creaks as Abby drops into it, "D'you mind if I work in here for a bit?" her voice lowers, "my ankles are killing me. But I love the skates." She rolls back and forth, the wheels schirr-schirr-schirring.

"It is fine." Ziva lapses back into silence, wondering if the floor is warmer because she's laid out upon it.

"There's this report," Abby says, talking cheerfully of gunshot residue and blood stains while her fingers speed across the keyboard, turning her babble into facts which can be cataloged and used in a court of law.

It's hard to remember the taste of blood with such relentless cheer nearby. But it isn't easy to forget. And there are other reminders, other things that float behind her eyes.

She'd looked at the photos of victim number five, stared at the dead woman's eyes for so long she could read a thousand expressions or none at all. Dark holes that burned into nothing, pitiless and arrogant. Angry.

Confident that he would win.

open it

"I should have stopped him."

Abby pauses, then says, "She'd been dead for hours, Ziva, there was no way you could have. Unless you have a time machine we don't know about--which, if you do, could I borrow it? There's this guy whose number I didn't get five years ago, and--"

Waiting for Abby to go on, Ziva realizes she stopped on her own, as though expecting something.

"You know," Abby notes, peering over the desk at her, lips quirked and eyebrows cocked, "That was your cue to tell me to shut up."

"I knew she'd gone home with him." The guilt burns, just a little more than it should.

The statement gives Abby pause, but she shrugs, "You're not a telepath. You didn't know he was going to turn out to be Jack the ripper's re-incarnation. Which, doesn't exactly follow as he wasn't dissecting the corpses, just cutting off their fingers. Of course, they're not really sure why the Ripper did that, but--"

"Abby." Exasperated affection fills Ziva, when she interrupts.

"You remembered," Abby says approvingly, pointing a finger at her before straightening in her chair.

This doesn't help, Ziva tells herself. She can still feel that moment of clarity, finger slippery on the trigger --if I don't get this right, I will be dead--

I lived. He did not. Like Ari. Like others she had known, over the years. Friends and lovers, innocent strangers blown to bits in the street while she walked away, or dying bleeding in her arms (Jen, her breath too shallow, and the heat making her fever worse), or once in a while, surviving.

What had made this so different?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. She sits up, only then realizing that Abby has been talking again, bubbling away about something that she can't remember.

The cold of the floor has seeped into her bones and the shift into warmer air makes her shiver a little, "I should, ah--"

"Go home, Ziva. Get some sleep."

Abby's suggestion is well-meant, but for an instant Ziva wants to tell her what she can do with in graphic terms. "Sleep," she says instead, the slight smile not reaching her eyes.

"Or you could suck some blood," Abby suggests, tone perky. "I've heard vampirism is an awesome cure for insomnia."

The non sequitors don't make Ziva blink in confusion at her anymore. She wonders if being used to Abby's brain is a sign of weakness or a sign of something good. Perhaps it's a little of both, this knowing someone else. "I do not have insomnia."

"Oh, right. You look like you haven't slept in days because it's in style," Abby retorts.

You wouldn't understand, Ziva wants to tell her. But that isn't exactly true, and this isn't a fight she needs. Restless, her hands wanting something-- (--clenched around the gun and she was shaking as she fired, the recoil driving her shoulders into the floor--) --to distract them from the phantom ache of pulling the trigger. She shoves off the floor, standing and not swaying with the fatigue that assaults her. "I should, ah, go."

"At least get some coffee, and not that crap they make in the office. Go to Gibbs' normal place." Abby suggests, fingers starting to move on her keyboard again.

Like she's already moved on from the conversation, forgotten about five dead women and one dead man.

Ziva moves to the sliding door, but stops. "Abby," she turns, and a hundred things cross her mind to say (I don't want to be alone, thank you, please ask me to stay, I killed a man and I can still taste his blood in my mouth, I'm not scared), but she asks, instead, "Do those really make you faster?"

"Yeah," Abby says, her lips moving into a grin.

"Maybe I will get a pair of my own." It can't be that hard to learn to skate. And being faster is better than being past the point of no return again. She heads back out into the lab, heading for the elevator. She has reports to go through and notes to sort, things that will keep her busy until this is finished (if it ever is).

"Ziva! Ziva, Ziva--" Abby's voice catches her at the elevator, followed by Abby herself, schirring along on her skates, "You should get red. Red skates. They'll be rad."

"Not black?"

Abby shakes her head, beaming with some joke, or maybe just her own cheerfulness.

Red blood, soaking into her white shirt, Ziva fights her face into something approaching pleasant interested, "Red. I will. Keep that in mind." The elevator dings and Abby lets her go.

When the door slides closed, Ziva backs into the wall and slides down, crouching and dropping her head forward.

The ding when it reaches her floor is louder than a gunshot.