Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters. I'm just borrowing them. I'll have them home before midnight.
On Saturday afternoon, Abby put the final touches she needed on her dining room. She'd moved out all but two chairs, removed all the books, clocks, plants and other personal touches. She'd taken down the two big posters on the far wall, and replaced them with a series of photos. They were the only personal touch she wanted in the room, and she wanted to make sure they were seen.
Next, she brought out a pot of coffee and a box of jelly donuts. It's not like she wanted to appear inhospitable.
The knock on her door came at exactly 3pm. Abby smiled approvingly. Just like a marine. She took a final look at the room, decided to draw the curtains to filter the light annoyingly, then went to the door.
"Hey, Gibbs!" she chirped. "Thanks for coming."
Gibbs stepped into her apartment. "You okay, Abs?" he asked. She hadn't said much over the phone that morning, except that it was really important that he come over for afternoon tea.
Gibbs took her word for it and looked around her living room. It was more cramped than normal, with dining chairs shoved in the corner and the skeleton of a coffin on the floor.
"Hey, the coffin's looking good." He crouched above it and ran expert fingers over the grain. "You using regular timber for this?"
Behind him, Abby rolled her eyes and threw her hands up. She didn't care about the freaking coffin. It only existed to sell a story. "Uh, yeah. I guess. It's what the hardware store gave me."
"Are you actually going to use it?" he asked. "Because if you are, you should probably sand it back a bit more and treat it."
"Okay, thanks for the tip," she replied. "Come have a seat."
She led him through to the dining room, which would be playing the part of an interrogation room this afternoon. She pulled out a chair facing the photos on the far wall for Gibbs, then sat down opposite him. Gibbs' face showed his puzzlement as he looked around the sparse, dark room, but he took a seat anyway.
"Been doing bit of redecorating?" he asked.
"Just trying out something new," she replied. She watched his eyes skim around the room before settling on the photos tacked to the wall behind her. Abby smiled. Interview begins at 3.02pm, she thought to herself.
"You want some coffee?" she offered, then poured him a cup without waiting for an answer. It was a totally unnecessary question. She slid the cup over and Gibbs picked it up. He took a long draw and gulped it down.
"It's good, isn't it?" she said.
Gibbs inhaled the delicious aroma as the caffeine entered his veins. "It's great."
"Ziva's favourite blend," she said casually. "Donut?"
Gibbs took one enthusiastically and bit in.
"These are Tony's favourite kind," she told him. "They go well together, don't they?"
Gibbs looked at her askance with a mouth full of donut. The purpose of this afternoon tea was becoming clearer. The empty room with dim lighting. The seating arrangements. Tony's donuts and Ziva's coffee. Photos of the team positioned directly behind Abby at eye level.
He swallowed the donut and cleared his throat. "What's on your mind, Abs?"
Abby rested her chin on her hand and looked off into the middle distance with a smile. She kept her voice light and casual. Nothing to get nervous or defensive about. "I've just been thinking about how lucky I am. I have a job I love, and I get to go to work every day with my favourite people. Not many people can say that."
"No, I don't suppose they can."
"Can you?" she asked him.
Gibbs was momentarily surprised that she asked, before realising this was part of whatever act she was putting on. But he was tiring of it. "Abby. What do you want to talk about?"
"Tony and Ziva," she said, getting to the point. "And Rule 12."
Gibbs leaned back in his chair and heaved a heavy sigh. After seeing them in the bar last night, and his phone call with Tony in the early hours of the morning, Gibbs had slept on it. When he woke, he had just about convinced himself that he might have it all wrong. Maybe he'd mistaken innocent exchanges between partners and friends as something else.
But now that Abby had not only brought him to her apartment to talk about it, but gone to the trouble of making her own interrogation room, Gibbs knew he'd been right the first time.
"Abby, the rule exists for a good reason," he said levelly.
Abby held up a finger to stop him. "Ah, but is it a rule, or merely a guide?"
"It's a rule," Gibbs confirmed. "Number 12, to be specific."
Abby smiled slowly and leaned forward. Gibbs got the feeling that he was saying everything she wanted him to say. Where the hell was she going with this?
"Really? So…that means you broke Rule 12 when you started seeing Lieutenant Colonel Mann? Then worked closely with her on a case under the direction of your ex-girlfriend, Director Shepard, on a case involving your ex-wife Stephanie."
Gibbs squinted at her. She was lucky he liked her as much as he did. "Not exactly the same thing, Abby. Hollis works for a different agency, Stephanie wasn't a co-worker at all, and Jenny wasn't my partner while she was Director."
"She was back when you were partners," Abby pointed out. "Kind of like Tony and Ziva."
Gibbs opened him mouth to argue, but Abby cut him off. "You were able to continue a professional relationship with her, and with Mann, right? Just like when me and McGee got together. We were in a relationship for the better part of a year, but we worked together every day. Can you think of any situation when that relationship had a negative impact on our work?"
"No," Gibbs answered honestly.
Abby started finding her investigative groove. "When Agent DiNozzo went undercover and accidentally developed feelings for his target, did he or did he not still perform his duties as an employee of the United States Government to the letter?"
"He did," Gibbs agreed, trying to listen to the words Abby was saying instead of reacting to the drama she was trying to create.
"Exactly. In fact, we're surrounded by examples of people breaking Rule 12 without ever experiencing detrimental effects on the professionalism and performance of the workers involved."
Gibbs leaned forward as he prepared to poke holes in her theory. "Jimmy Palmer and Agent Lee." Now that had gone to hell in a handbasket.
Abby didn't see it that way. "Yes! Another great example. They still did their jobs. Okay, they were screwing in the morgue every 20 minutes, but the quality and quantity of their work didn't suffer. Actually, I think Palmer's work improved."
"Agent Lee went rogue," Gibbs pointed out, incredulous.
"Yeah, but that didn't have anything to do with Palmer."
Gibbs sighed. It was clear that Abby wasn't going to let this go.
"So, here's what's going to happen," Abby said boldly, taking advantage of Gibbs' silence. "Sooner or later—and my God, it had better be sooner because it'll save everyone's sanity—Tony and Ziva are going to come clean with each other. Who know how it'll happen." She started daydreaming. "Maybe they'll give in to the tension while they're working alone together late at night. Or Tony'll turn up at her place with a stereo and pull a Lloyd Dobler. Or maybe they'll go undercover again as married assassins—that'd be hot."
When she saw Gibbs roll his eyes, Abby got back on track. "Anyway, once they come clean, they'll either say, Oh, we can't be together because of Gibbs' stupid rules, or they'll say, To hell with Gibbs' rules, take your clothes off now. And if it is indeed the latter, Gibbs, you're not going to get in the way. Because you would not wear hypocrisy well. It would clash with your dashing silver hair."
Gibbs remained silent. It was beginning to unnerve her, but she pressed on. "And you won't have any reason to get in the way. Because Tony and Ziva are both highly professional people who love their jobs and their co-workers, and they won't bring their personal feelings into the office more than they already do. Okay?"
Gibbs smirked at her no nonsense tone. "How much are your clients paying you to argue their case?"
"They're not. They don't know we're having this conversation."
"But you're obviously the champion of their cause."
Abby looked at him seriously. "It's a cause I believe in. Those two will rock it together, Gibbs."
Gibbs fingered his coffee as he thought it over. It would be easy to dismiss it as just Tony's hormones getting out of control, but it would also be offensive. Yes, Tony had a reputation as a womaniser. But he also had a reputation as an excellent agent. A reputation that he'd earned and deserved. As inappropriate and frustrating as he could be sometimes, Gibbs could always depend on Tony to give 100 per cent of himself to get the job done. But that was part of the problem here. If Tony started something with Ziva, Gibbs knew he'd give her 100 per cent of his effort.
But maybe Gibbs was being selfish. He was Tony's boss and friend, but that didn't give him the right to tell Tony where he should focus his attention. If he wanted to focus on his personal life for a while, Gibbs was not in the position to argue. As long as Tony kept doing his job, the decision was entirely his.
He looked up at Abby. She raised an expectant eyebrow. Gibbs knew he was inviting trouble, but what else could he say?
"Tell your clients, when the time comes, that I still believe in Rule 12."
"So they should…rock it…quietly," he said. "And without drawing attention to themselves. Especially my attention. Because I will take issue with anything I see."
Abby began to look hopeful. "So…don't ask, don't tell?"
Gibbs had to smirk. "Yeah."
Abby squealed and hugged him so fast he didn't even see her move. When she untangled herself, Gibbs had to make a final point.
"I mean it, Abs. Encourage them to be discreet."
Abby winked. "I'm an excellent encourager."
As soon as Gibbs left, McGee called.
"How'd it go?" he asked without inflection. He was still flat from the night before—probably would be until Monday—but Abby had gotten him interested.
"I've done all I can do, McGee," she said tiredly. "I've counselled Tony, I've planted seeds with Ziva, and I've got Gibbs' word that he'll keep out of it. Now it's up to them. And I swear, McGee. After all my work, Tony better not run away like a scared little girl. Or else he'll have me to deal with."
That night, Ziva opened her front door to find Tony in the hall, looking far better than he deserved to after the night they'd had. He was carrying a pizza box, a bottle of wine and a DVD, and smiled at her charmingly.
"Want to hang out?" he asked.
Ziva looked him up and down. Yes, she most certainly did. She opened the door wider in invitation, and Tony raised the pizza box over their heads as he squeezed past her into the apartment. They locked eyes as he passed, shared a knowing smile, then Tony headed for her kitchen. Ziva unashamedly watched his ass as he went. Well now, she thought, this was going to get interesting.
The end! Choose your own adventure from here, people. I hope you enjoyed it.