Disclaimer: If you're looking to congratulate someone on creating NCIS, don't look at me.
"Hush, little baby, don't make a sound," Abby Sciuto crooned as she turned off her computer. "Mama's gonna buy you a Virus Hound. And if that Virus Hound should crash, Mama's gonna hmm hmm-hmm someday-I'm-going-to-think-of-words."
The screen went black, and Abby picked up her tote bag, turned to tend to her other machines, and found herself, more or less unexpectedly, staring into the intense brown eyes of Ziva David.
"Do you always sing your computers to sleep, Abby?" Ziva inquired with a smile.
Abby jumped involuntarily, but quickly regained her composure. "Ziva!" she said. "Hi! Sorry, I didn't hear you come in."
An expression that was as close to abashed as Ziva ever came crossed the Israeli assassin's face. "Yes, I do not always announce my presence as I should," she admitted. "When I was with Mossad, it was considered bad form to make a battledore coming into a room."
Abby suspected that she meant a racket, not a battledore, but she didn't press the point; a different part of Ziva's last sentence had caught her attention. "'When you were with Mossad'?" she said. "Aren't you still with Mossad?"
Instead of answering, Ziva cast a brooding glance around the lab and let out a small sigh. "Abby," she said, "yesterday evening, you proposed that the two of us spend a 'girls' night out' together. If that offer is still good, I think I would like to take you up on it tonight."
To say that Abby was surprised would be putting it mildly. She wouldn't have expected Ziva even to remember that suggestion twenty-four hours later, much less to revive and accept it. Something, she thought, must really have happened in Somalia.
But her surprise lasted only a moment before it was swallowed up in excitement. This was, after all, the most sisterly gesture Ziva had ever made to her, and Abby, who was incorrigible in viewing NCIS as a sort of enormous, crime-fighting family, couldn't help but respond to it with enthusiasm.
"You mean it?" she said, her eyes sparkling.
Ziva nodded. "Yes, I think that an evening of maidenly revelry might be just what I need tonight," she said. "And, also, there is something that I would like to tell you, and I would rather tell you in a more... neutral location than the basement of NCIS headquarters."
Abby hadn't a notion what she meant, but she nodded eagerly nonetheless. "Okay, sure," she said. "Just let me finish up here, and I'll meet you in the parking lot. Where's your car?"
Ziva blinked. "Out in front of the building," she said. "But I assumed we would be taking your car. After all, you know where we are going..."
Abby shook her head. "I took the bus in today," she said. "My hearse broke down again on my way home last night. Besides," (she grinned) "after all the boys have told me about your driving, you didn't think I was going to pass up an opportunity to see it for myself, did you?"
Ziva smiled. "Daredevil Abby," she murmured. "Very well, then. You will have to tell me the address, though."
"Floreal's, 131 H Street, Fine Cajun Cuisine, Open Six Nights a Week, Karaoke on Thursdays," Abby recited immediately.
Ziva opened her mouth, but couldn't find anything to say for a moment or two. "All right, then," she managed at length. "I will be in the car."
"See you there," said Abby.
Ziva pirouetted herself about and headed out of the lab, and Abby set about shutting down the rest of her equipment. She was, however, unable to give them the personal attention that she usually did; she was too busy wondering about Ziva's "something I would like to tell you". What sort of surprise, she wondered, could the former liaison officer have up her sleeve?
The squeal of delight turned the heads of several Floreal's regulars, most of whom were unsurprised to learn whence it had emanated. Abby was a well-known character at Floreal's (she was referred to as "the bloodstain girl" by those of the employees who couldn't pronounce her last name), and its patrons had learned to take her as she came. A few of their gazes lingered on her long enough to notice the dark-complected woman sitting across from her, and to wonder what country she was from (Chile, was the bartender's guess), but most of them just shrugged and turned back to their turkey gumbo ("Special House Recipe – Only $4.95 a Bowl").
"You're joining NCIS?" Abby exclaimed. "For real?"
"That is the plan," said Ziva. "I sent my Mossad resignation to my father last evening, and this morning I gave my application to Gibbs to sign."
"Did he sign it?"
"Oh." Abby frowned. "Well, he's probably just drawing out the suspense, so that you appreciate it more when he does. You know how he is."
Ziva said nothing, but reflected to herself that she did not know how Gibbs was. Even when Gibbs was at his most approachable, she never had more than the faintest inkling of what was going on inside that silver-crowned head. Abby's casual assumption that everyone more or less understood how Gibbs thought was astonishing to her.
But what can you expect? she thought. She is a scientist; she starts from the assumption that the universe is comprehensible. Why, she even believes that God can become a man.
Abby's gleeful laugh drew her from her reverie. "Special Agent Ziva David," she said. "I like it." She raised her glass of Zinfandel. "To Special Agent Ziva David!"
As Ziva obligingly took a sip from her own glass, she noticed a small, translucent orb twinkling in Abby's left eye. "Abby," she exclaimed. "You're crying."
"Am I?" Abby raised a hand to her eye, and touched the moist spheroid. "Oh," she said. "Yeah, I guess I am." She shook her head. "Sorry, it's just..."
"Just what?" said Ziva, as Abby paused.
Abby shrugged. "I don't know," she said. "It's just that... I wish Kate could see this. I mean, I know technically she can, but... you know what I mean."
Ziva searched her memory for Kates for a moment before remembering that that had been the name of her predecessor on the Gibbs Team. "Oh, you mean Agent Todd?" she said. "The one that Ari..." She made a firing-gun motion with her right hand.
Abby nodded. "Yeah, that's her," she said.
Ziva stared thoughtfully at her companion. "Yes, you liked her, didn't you?" she said.
Abby smiled. "Oh, yeah."
Abby took a bite of jambalaya and considered. "I don't know, she was just... cool," she said. "I mean, she'd flown in Air Force One, she had that whole Secret-Service don't-mess-with-me thing going on – and yet she was still someone you might have known back home. Like a big sister. Did you ever have a big sister?"
Ziva shook her head. She considered mentioning that she had once been one, but her lips felt uncomfortable forming the words, and she didn't force them. She thought of her words to Gibbs, in his basement a week or so ago: "Ari is gone... Eli is as good as dead to me... and the closest thing I have to a father is accusing me."
"Neither did I," said Abby. "That was what was so great about having Kate around: she was something that I'd never had." She sighed. "And then she got killed, and all I had was you."
Ziva didn't respond.
Abby winced. "That came out really wrong," she said. "I didn't mean..."
Ziva waved her hand. "No, Abby, I understand," she said. You are all I have, as well, she thought. You, and McGee, and Tony. Three people I would never have picked on my own, and yet now the four of us are... the four of us. Two men and two women who share more than Ari and I ever did – and share them (forgive me, Father) under a sterner and yet a more tender eye than any I have ever known.
Dear God, please let my application go through.
She drained her glass and ran a hand through her hair. "Well," she said, "where shall we go after this?"
Abby frowned. "Don't you want to stay for dessert?" she said. "They have a Bananas Foster here that's to die for."
Ziva shrugged. "I have never had much of a sweet tongue," she said. "If you wish to order something, though, I will not object."
Abby hesitated, clearly torn between the allure of flamed rum and cinnamon and her desire not to inconvenience Ziva. Then her face brightened. "Hang on," she said. "How about if I get it in one of those take-home boxes, and eat it on the way to the arcade?"
Ziva arched an eyebrow. "You would not mind that?"
"Of course not," said Abby. "And even if I did mind, I wouldn't, you know, mind. I mean, that's what sisters do for each other, isn't it?"
Ziva smiled. "Yes, I suppose," she said. "All right, then. And I, in return, will attempt to drive more slowly than usual, so your dessert does not wind up all over the dashboard."
"Sounds good to me," said Abby, and signaled to their waitress. "Margaret, can I get a B.F. to go? Agent David and I have an appointment with an air-hockey table in Georgetown."