Title: From Stockholm, With Love
Spoilers: Aliyah, Truth or Consequences
Summary: She's alive… but she's damaged. I don't know what's happened while she's been out there, but it's taken its toll on her, and now she seems barely connected to her own consciousness…
Author's Note: The final scene was just so heartbreakingly Zabby-ish that I had to write this. I'd been meaning to return to Zabby recently, and the season seven opener gave me the perfect opportunity. ^_^ I've chosen to disregard the canon of 7x02, so that I can put my own spin on things. Obvious disclaimer – this is femmeslash-y. Don't like it? Don't bother to read.
Staring blankly at my computer screen, I smother a wide yawn with one hand and reach for the Caf-Pow! on the desk. I spent all night awake again, alternately worrying and mourning. Gibbs, Tony and McGee left on Operation: Avenge Ziva five daysago, and I've been trying to lay our absent team member to rest in my mind since a couple of days before that.
Ziva's dead, I know that. I've been trying to reach her ever since she didn't come back with the rest of the team, by phone, email, GPS tracking, tapping into satellite feeds… I've even spent hours in meditation, trying to clear my mind enough to reach her telepathically.
Tony was joking when he mentioned it, but I can always feel certain people at the back of my mind, like thin threads woven into my subconscious. Of Gibbs' team, only he and Ziva register on my psychic radar, not strongly enough for actual communication, but just to feel their presence. Distance doesn't seem to factor in: I've been able to faintly feel Gibbs the whole time he's been gone, and been thankful for it.
Ziva, though… I lost my sense of her a couple of months back, and ever since I've prepared myself for the worst. When Gibbs confirmed it, I just took it with a whispered 'oh', and shut down to autopilot for the rest of the day, denying myself tears.
When I got home that night, I cried until my throat was raw and my head pounded, and started to force myself to accept the truth. I'll never see her again, never hug her – just when she'd seemed to be adjusting to it – and never again conspire with her to tease Tony and McGee with hints that we're more than friends.
Which we weren't. In the back of my mind I'd always hoped, but although she's admitted to me in private that she's been with women romantically before, she's always been so fixated on Tony that I never pushed our relationship in that direction.
And now I'll never get the chance.
My phone rings, and my heart skips an anxious beat when the caller ID tells me it's Gibbs' cell. "Gibbs? Are you back? Where are you? Are Tony and McGee okay? Did you get the guy?"
"Calm down, Abbs," the tolerant voice on the other end of the connection instructs. "We're all fine. We'll be back at the Navy Yard in five minutes or so."
He hasn't answered the vital question, though. "You did get him, right?"
"We got him," Gibbs confirms with grim satisfaction. "Back soon, Abbs."
Before I can say anything else, he ends the call, and I sigh with relief that at least all three of them did what they had to and came back safely. I think Ziva would appreciate the sentiment… but thinking of her is just gonna hurt right now, and I have my team to welcome home.
After a quick call to Ducky, I go up to the squad room to wait. Gotta put on my happy face, give them big hugs of welcome, make sure I don't make it onto anyone's list of things to worry about…
Ducky arrives a minute or two after I do, and though we smile and chat as normal, there's an undercurrent of tension to the conversation. I don't think either of us will relax until we've seen for our own eyes that everyone got through it unscathed.
The elevator arrives, and Ducky and I turn, our conversation forgotten. No one emerges at first, but then Gibbs walks into view, and oh my god, he's wounded-
I've only taken a couple of steps forward when a second figure enters the office, and my entire body goes numb with shock.
She's exhausted and bruised; her lips are chapped, and her hair tousled and greasy. Her eyes are unfocused, as if nothing around her seems real to her. But it's her, it's really her!
I'm so stunned that I barely register Gibbs squeezing my hand on his way past me. Someone's started applauding, and now everyone else is joining in, but I can't make myself smile or co-ordinate my hands to do the same.
I reach her, and she turns her haunted gaze upon me, seeming not to recognise me for a second. Then the corners of her lips turn up in an almost imperceptible smile, and I carefully reach out and stroke my hand down her cheek, confirming that she's real.
Her flesh is warm and soft under my fingers, and a knot of doubt unravels itself within my chest. Alive. She's alive… but she's damaged. I don't know what's happened while she's been out there, but it's taken its toll on her, and now she seems barely connected to her own consciousness.
What the hell was Gibbs thinking, bringing her here? She needs hot chocolate and hugs and a bubble bath and a bed…
Carefully, I put my arms around her, trying to offer comfort without hurting her. It's so different from the last time I welcomed her home… I'd yelled happily and bounced up and down and squeezed the air from her lungs, then. Now I'm scared to hold her too tightly in case I break her – I never thought Ziva could look fragile, but she seems so brittle right now.
She tenses for a split-second, but then relaxes, resting her head against mine and her chin on my shoulder. Usually she pulls away after a couple of seconds, but she's content to let me hold her today, and that scares me a little. I don't wanna let go of her, so I don't, even after the applause around us has subsided and the office bustle has resumed. Everyone seems to know to leave Ziva alone for now – I don't think they've ever seen her like this, either.
"Abigail… May I?"
Ducky's voice is amused, and I reluctantly release Ziva, smiling a little. "Stay at my place tonight."
She nods unspoken gratitude, then turns her attention elsewhere. "Hello, Ducky."
They hug briefly, and then Ducky begins checking her injuries, despite her protest that she was examined in the field. I hover around them for a couple of seconds before turning my attention to Tony and Tim.
"Ouch! Timmy, are you okay?" Now that I've processed – well, halfway processed – Ziva's presence, other concerns work their way into my brain again.
He smiles, then winces as the movement twinges one of his bruises. "Got beat up a little in the line of duty."
I hug him with less restraint than I used with Ziva, then turn to Tony, who looks almost as roughed up as McGee. His eyes are on Ziva, and I step into his line of sight, leaning over his desk to embrace him. "Tony…"
"Hey, Abbs. Would've brought some sodium pentothal home for ya, but it all went into my vein."
God… sodium pentothal? I spin to face Gibbs, scowling. "Why have you brought them here? They need sleep, and showers, and… and chicken soup!"
Behind me, Tony sighs. "I personally would just take a massage from Catherine Zeta Jones…"
Gibbs meets my gaze steadily. "Need to debrief the Director. All of us."
I guess that makes sense. I give him his welcome-home hug, squeezing tightly. "Why didn't you tell me about Ziva on the phone?"
"You couldn't have processed it all in five minutes." The words are simple, but his reasons are complex. I get the feeling he wanted Ziva to see my reaction and know that she truly is wanted here. Or maybe that's just my brain trying to rationalise Gibbs' mysterious ways.
"Go debrief Director Vance, so I can get Ziva home and take care of her." Gibbs seems unsurprised that I want her to come with me, and merely nods, glancing up at the balcony again. Vance is watching us, and I give him a small wave before heading back to Ziva's side.
Ducky has just finished examining Ziva's eye, and I ask, "How's the patient?"
"I am fine, Abby," Ziva replies quietly. "Thank you."
She's far from fine, and we all know it. Nevertheless, Ducky tells me, "She'll heal within a few weeks, my dear."
I open my mouth, but Gibbs cuts me off. "Ziva."
We turn to watch him beckoning, McGee and Tony at his side. Vance has disappeared into his office. "I'll be here," I tell Ziva, stepping aside to let her through.
She nods at me, then joins the team on their weary trudge upstairs to Vance's office. I wait until they've disappeared inside, and then glance at Ducky. "She has post-traumatic stress, doesn't she?"
Ducky sighs, laying a hand on my shoulder. "Possibly even Stockholm Syndrome. Only time will tell, I'm afraid."
"Poor Ziva," I whisper, still struggling to process the fact that she's not dead. Why can't I feel her any more, with my sixth sense or whatever it is? How far from herself is she right now, and can I bring her back? Can anyone?
Ducky gets a call to a crime scene, and leaves me to my thoughts with a final shoulder-squeeze. I smile after him distractedly, then make for my lab, shutting down the non-essentials and getting ready to go home. Once that's done, I return to the squad room and sit at Ziva's desk, wondering where all her stuff went when it was packed up. Maybe it's in the storage closet by interrogation. I should check.
I can't make myself leave the room again – the debriefing could be done at any minute, and I don't want Ziva to have to wait around for me. That's my logic, anyway. In reality, it's almost an hour until the team re-emerge, and by that time I have Ziva's evening all planned out.
"Done?" I ask Gibbs, signing rather than waiting until he's within earshot.
He nods, and I jump up, gathering my stuff. Ziva gives me a weary smile and nod when I ask her if she's ready to go, and I wait while she meets the eyes of each of the guys in turn, thanking them once more for the rescue. Once that's done, we make for the elevator.
Ziva is silent on the way to my car, and I don't push her. She's probably wondering what I've done with the real Abby – I'm hardly ever this quiet, usually. But right now, I don't even know what I should say, what topics I should avoid…
We're halfway to my apartment by the time she speaks. "Thank you for this, Abby. I appreciate it."
"I'm just glad you're safe," I tell her, swallowing down the lump in my throat. "We really thought you were dead…"
She gives a soft, humourless laugh. "So I heard."
"Do you wanna talk about it?" I know the answer before I ask the question, but I'll be on edge all night if I don't offer.
Ziva gazes out of the passenger window, avoiding my eyes. "Not right now."
Nodding, I return my attention to the familiar route home, and silence falls once more.
This is a work in progress... there will be more! As if I didn't already have about six stories to finish... *grin*