Title: Come What May: An NCIS Christmas Carol
Characters: Ziva David, Abby Sciuto, L.J. Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo, Timothy McGee
Category: Drama, Action, Romance
Word Count: (Total) 10,018
Spoilers: The end of Season 6 and all of Season 7.
Summary: Apparently the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future aren't secular. They're willing to take on anyone's troubles and show them the error of their ways. That or Ziva David needs to start eating less pizza before falling asleep.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Note: What the hell am I doing posting Zabby NCIS fic the day after I finished posting Taking Chances? Um, well, honestly I kind of forgot about this one. It was written for dogged_by_muses advent calendar and I couldn't post it around until today. Enjoy! I'll post the second part tomorrow, because the whole fic is too long for an LJ post.
Apologies ahead of time for any glaring errors. I wasn't able to round up a beta for this one before the deadline; I did my best, but I am not my own best proofreader. Feel free to point out anything I missed in the comments and I'll edit.
It wasn't a sound or even a flicker of motion caught out of the corner of her eye that made Ziva look up, but the feeling that someone was watching her. Unfortunately, it was a familiar feeling, but not a pleasant one. Being the focus of that kind of attention in her line of work often meant that the shooting was about to begin and she was the target. This time, however, the situation was not nearly so dangerous.
Abby stood in front of Tony's desk, a red Santa's hat pulled down over her pigtails. It was far from the only flavor of the season decorating Abby's clothing. Little snowflakes - each one unique - dangled from the leather collar around Abby's neck and her knee socks were bright red and green, garish patterns broken up by a cartoon image of the Grinch.
Under her bright clothing, however, Abby looked nervous. If it was possible, her pale skin looked as if what little color it usually had, had been drained away. Her arms were folded across her chest, and she couldn't quite stand still.
When Ziva saw her she rose immediately and stepped out from behind her desk. "Abby? What is wrong?"
Abby reached for Ziva's hands as soon as she was within arms' length. "So I've been thinking about this - trying to figure out how to ask you - and I never came up with anything that sounded good, you know? So I'm just gonna ask you." Abby hesitated, biting her bottom lip, but despite what she'd said no words were immediately forthcoming.
"Abby," Ziva said softly when the moments of silence had drifted from one minute to two and then three. In a conversation waiting for someone to speak, it was almost an eternity of awkward silence. "It is okay. Just ask." She squeezed Abby's hand with her own, realizing for the first time that Abby's fingers were icy cold.
Abby shook her head and bounced nervously up and down on the tip of her toes. "It's not okay. You're going to say no," Abby blurted the words out so quickly it took Ziva a moment to decipher them.
"I cannot promise I will say yes, but..." Ziva tried not to think about how impossible to resist Abby could be at times and only her knowledge of the outrageous things Abby had asked for kept her from simply giving in without knowing what she was agreeing too. "I will promise you that I will say yes if I can."
Abby's fingers moved up her arm an dug into Ziva's wrist as she sucked in a quick breath. "Will you come home with me? For Christmas. To meet my family. I know before you couldn't because of your father - Mossad - because we couldn't be official. But, but, it's different now. You're a real NCIS agent. You're going to be an American citizen." Her grip tightened. "Please." It was the way she pleaded, the crack in her voice over the last word that had stood alone after the rest had spilled out of Abby that broke Ziva's heart.
"Abby..." She wanted to say yes so badly. Every part of her ached to say yes, to give Abby everything she had spent years wishing she could give her - a real relationship, a future, someone she could be with and acknowledge without having to hide anything for fear of putting Abby's life in danger. Something, however, held her back. The same thing that had kept her from approaching Abby since she had returned to NCIS and had prevented her from accepting her invitation to a girl's night out. Ziva shook her head as she made herself force the words out. "I cannot. I am sorry."
"Oh." The single word came out in a small puff of air that barely made a sound, more a vocalization than a word. The nervous energy that had filled Abby a moment before had drained away in an instant. "You're right. I shouldn't have-" She shook her head briefly, tossing her pigtails through the air. "I'm sorry. I'll, uh, let you get back to..." She gesture toward the papers on Ziva's desk as she began to back away.
"Abby," Ziva began, reaching out to her. She hated to hear that tone in Abby's voice; it was even worse when she had been the one to put it there.
Abby raised her hand to keep Ziva back away from her. "I just, I thought that maybe things could be different now, you know?" She sniffed and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. "I'll see you when I get back."
For a moment, Ziva considered going after her again, but there was nothing she could say that would change anything. Her hand clenched tightly into a fist as frustration welled within her. Everything was supposed to be different now, and yet nothing had changed. She was still disappointing Abby and letting her down. Now she didn't even have anyone to blame for it, only herself.
Abby nuzzled into the depths of Ziva's dark, curly hair, brushing her nose against the clean-scented skin of her neck. Coarse hairs tickled her face and she wrinkled her nose, snorting involuntarily at the sensation. She straightened, trying to escape the hairs she had just involuntarily inhaled and pulled a little away from Ziva, who let out an unrepentant laugh.
"It's not funny," Abby complained.
"It is funny to me." Ziva countered, slipping her hands under the thin age-worn fabric of Abby's t-shirt and pulling her closer.
"You have a twisted sense of humor, David," Abby said, her voice once again muffled by Ziva's hair. The warmth of Ziva's hands against her skin was distracting. She shifted closer to Ziva, wanting less space between them and not more, wishing that it was still the night before. She wanted plenty of time to explore the soft warmth of her curves and their lovely contrast with the firm tight muscles of her back and shoulders and arms, and everywhere really. Ziva's strength was more than just mental.
"You like my sense of humor."
"I like a lot of things about you."
Ziva leaned back enough to look up at her. "Do you? Sometimes I am not so certain. You did not like me very much in the beginning."
"Ziva," Abby said, cupping her cheek, surprised that she still thought Abby disliked her. "You wouldn't be here if I didn't like you at least a little."
"I was not sure," Ziva admitted. "I know that you find me attractive. I am a spy. I have been trained to know when someone is watching me, and you watch me when you think no one else is looking. But I am never certain what you are thinking."
Abby laughed. "Now that's funny. You - talking about not knowing what's going on in someone's head." She shook her head. "I don't get you, but I do like you," she repeated. "You're brave and strong." She shrugged. "You can be a little bit scary sometimes, but you're nice to Timmy. There's a not a lot of people who can see what kind of person he is. I think that makes you pretty special."
Ziva's hands slid down Abby's stomach, until her fingers caught the hem of her shirt. She fingered it idly. "You sound as if you have given this a lot of thought."
"I have," Abby admitted. "I've thought about you a lot. You're right; I didn't like you when you first came here. I didn't understand you at all. I still don't, but I definitely think you're worth getting to know."
"So you are proposing a cultural exchange?" Ziva queried, with an arch of her eyebrows.
"I think we've exchanged a lot more than culture."
Ziva laughed at the cheerfully leering note in Abby's voice. "So then, what would you like to know?"
Abby thought for a moment, tilting her head as she considered, and then pounced on the question. "What's your favorite color?"
Ziva let out a startled laugh at the question. "You can ask me anything and that – that – is what you choose to ask?"
Abby gave a quick definitive nod. "I want to know."
"Very well," Ziva said with a small smile. She brushed a piece of dark hair back behind Abby's ear and ran her thumb down the side of Abby's face. "It is green."
"Your favorite color is green?" Abby asked, surprised and a little wary that Ziva was still making fun of her question.
Ziva shrugged. "I have not considered which color would be my favorite before, but when you asked, I decided it was green."
"Okay," Abby said, deciding to accept the response at face value, "Why green, then?"
Ziva's smile grew broader and she looked very satisfied with the question. "Your eyes are green, yes?"
It took Abby a second to catch Ziva's casual implication. When she did, she still wasn't certain what to say. "Z…I- that's a very sweet thing to say."
"I meant it."
Abby leaned in to capture her lips in a languid, lingering kiss. "You're such a sweet talker, Ziva David," she murmured when she finally broke the kiss.
"I have been accused of many things," Ziva said with amusement, "But never that."
"Maybe I just bring out a different side of you."
"Perhaps," Ziva said softly, "You do." The amusement had drained out of her eyes and she looked suddenly serious.
Abby wondered what had brought on the sudden change in her emotions. She thought everything had been going well. She and Ziva had been seeing one another casually for a few months now. It wasn't something either of them had planned; it had simply happened one night when Ziva had gallantly offered to drive her home after she'd had one too many when the team had gone out for drinks after a difficult case.
She, of course, had declined, not being drunk enough to agree to go anywhere with Ziva driving. She had seen and heard enough of the horror stories to know better, and besides she didn't think Ziva would be happy if she puked all over the interior of her car, which would certainly have happened with the amount she had drunk and the way Ziva drove.
Still Abby had appreciated the offer and it was when she had dropped by Ziva's apartment to thank her on the way home from work the next day when it had happened. Ziva had invited her in. Abby had surprised them both by accepting. What she had discovered was a woman not at all like the assumptions she had made, and when Abby had kissed her – tentatively, because she wasn't at all sure what Ziva's response would be – Ziva had kissed her back. That, as they say, had been that.
"What are you thinking?" Abby asked quietly, her curiosity getting the better of her.
"I was thinking that I wished things could be different."
It wasn't what Abby had expected her to say, but, of course, that was Ziva, always surprising her. This seemed perilously close to introspection and Ziva usually preferred to simply do rather than sit around and contemplate her options.
"Different, how?" Abby asked into the silence that followed, curious to hear what she had to say, but hoping that she wouldn't break the mood that had prompted Ziva's disclosure.
"My assignment here with NCIS is temporary. You know that, yes?"
Abby knew that, had always known that. In the beginning it had been a comforting thought. Surely the position of Mossad Liason would not last long. It was a new position, and one that existed solely at the whim of the new Director. Clearly it wouldn't last long once Ziva had gotten a taste of what investigators did and was proven utterly unsuitable for the job. Ziva had eventually fit in, however, and over time, proven to be a valuable resource to the team, and Abby had forgotten that despite the length of time she had spent there, there were no guarantees on how much longer Ziva would remain with them.
"Are you-" Abby stopped and swallowed back the sudden lump in her throat. "Have you been recalled?"
Ziva shook her head. "No, nothing has been said, but I know that it will happen someday someday."
"Do you want to stay?" It slipped out before Abby could consider that she might not want to know the answer to that question.
"I wish to do my duty and serve my country to the best of my abilities, in whatever way they believe I can make the most difference. Sometimes I feel as if I am betraying my friends and comrades by being here while they continue to deal with the problems that we face at home."
A sense of dread hit Abby at her words, as something she had never considered became so obvious she felt like an idiot for not having seen it before. "So you regret being here?"
"No," Ziva said quickly. "I have learned much from Gibbs, Tony, McGee." She brushed her thumb over Abby's bottom lip. "And from you. But sometimes I do wonder if I could make more of a difference at home."
"What about-" The next question that sprang to her mind was rolling off her lips so quickly that Abby didn't have a chance to stop it before it was already spilling out of her mouth, only to cut it off before it could be finished. What about us, was suddenly a question that she wasn't sure she wanted to hear Ziva's answer to.
This had always been casual between them. Abby wasn't one for relationships. It was one of the many reasons that she and McGee had broken up, but now that the possibility of Ziva returning home had been made real again, she suddenly hated it. She hadn't realized all of the little ways she had planned a future for them before she had been reminded that it wouldn't be possible.
"What about what?" Ziva prompted her.
"Nothing," Abby shook her head and took a step back from Ziva, folding her arms over her chest as she did. She felt cold and the easy comfort that they had shared moments ago had faded to be replaced by uncertainty. "Nothing." She repeated, and then straightened. Ziva probably wouldn't understand why she was upset and she wasn't sure that she could explain it. "I should go," Abby said abruptly.
"Abby, I did not mean to upset you." Ziva dropped her hand, and let it slide down her arm until she could lace their fingers together. "I have heard nothing from my father to indicate that he wishes to bring me home soon, or that Jenny is contemplating the end of my time here. I could still be here for a long time."
"Or you could leave tomorrow." Abby stepped back again. "I get it. It's not a big deal. I always knew this was temporary for you."
Ziva sighed, and pressed her lips together into a tight, thin line. "I care about you very much, Abigail."
"But not enough to try to find a way to stay, right?"
"I am not going anywhere," Ziva countered.
"Yet, Ziva. Not yet."
"I do not know what you wish me to say."
Abby shook her head. "There's nothing you can say." This time when she stepped away from Ziva it seemed more final. "I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
"Will I?" Ziva asked, bluntly.
"Of course." Abby nodded, but not with her usual cheerful enthusiasm. "We have work, remember?"
So that was how it was to be, Ziva thought. She would see Abby at work, because neither one of them were sick or injured or could come up with a good enough excuse to avoid Gibbs' wrath if they did not show up. And there was no they could tell the truth, that they'd had an argument. If it were not impossible for their relationship to be widely known and talked about because of her father's very real disapproval, then there was also Gibbs' Rule #12 which made it equally impossible.
Ziva was not sure which she hated the most at the moment.
Awkward silence reigned as she watched Abby gather her things and then held the door open for her as she left. The ache of the absence of the lengthy, consuming parting kiss that Abby usually bestowed on her just before she opened the door was keenly felt by both of them.
"Not very pleasant, was it?"
"Tony?" Ziva glared over at her typically arrogant and infuriating partner, standing in the corner wearing his usual carefully tailored suit and looking as if he had been standing there the entire time. There were many things that were confusing to Ziva at the moment, but one thing that she was certain of was that Tony had not been present for her argument with Abby. It had, in fact, taken place years before in the privacy of Abby's apartment. She remembered it clearly. They had barely spoken, except for what their jobs had required for weeks. "What are you doing here, Tony? How are either of us here?"
He waved a finger at her in the irritating tisking motion that her partner knew made her itch to break said index finger. Ziva was convinced he did it to test her patience; she was equally convinced that one day he would succeed in reaching its limit. The only thing that held Ziva back from making that day today, was the amount of paperwork she and Gibbs would have to fill out if she injured her own partner. It would be substantial.
"Ah, but there's where you're wrong, David." He drawled her last name out, exactly as he always did. Sometimes she wondered if he could say it any other way. "I'm not your dashing partner, Anthony DiNozzo." He gave a brief bow with accompanying flourishes. "You may call me the Ghost of Christmas Past."
Ziva's eyes narrowed. "Tony. Stop playing. This is not amusing, and besides I am Jewish. Why would the Host of Christmas Past visit me?"
"Ghost," he corrected, "And what does it matter that you're Jewish? You're just as capable of screwing up your life and making mistakes as anyone else. I," he said, tugging at the lapels of his suit jacket and preening not-subtly-at-all, "Am here to show you the error of your ways. This," he gestured at his body, "Was just the most convenient form." He shrugged. "Besides I like a suit with a nice cut, and Anthony has good taste."
"I do not believe you."
"Oh, I assure that Anthony has excellent taste in designers."
Ziva raised her hand sharply, stopping him before he could go any further. "I did not mean that," she said through gritted teeth. "I do not believe you are a ghost. You look like Tony. You act like Tony," she stated, irritation filling her voice. "And you know that I do not," she hesitated, as she searched for an appropriate word, "like ghosts. I will not fall for one of your silly pranks. I do not know how you did this, but leave me alone, DiNozzo!"
"I assure you this is not a trick. How else would I show you this?" Tony snapped his fingers and the room and everything changed around them with instant, dizzying speed. "Believe me yet?" The man who looked like Tony asked. "You don't, but you will. Remember this?"
Ziva chose not to look around. She had known instantly where they were and she remembered what had happened here. It was more cruel than Tony at his worst to make her re-live something like this. "Why did you bring me here? What are you doing this for? Do you get some kind of sick amusement out of this?"
"Good question. I'm bringing you here to show you how you got to where you are today. If you don't understand the past, you're doomed to repeat your mistakes."
Ziva opened her mouth to protest and snapped it shut again just as quickly when she saw what was happening around her. Involuntarily she took a step closer.
"You can't do anything to stop it or change it."
Ziva shook her head. The thought hadn't crossed her mind, but she couldn't help but be drawn back to the moment. It was like being back in Gibbs' basement and hearing Ari say that words that would seal his fate, unable to change any of it, to do anything to stop him from speaking. All she could do then was listen to his words and carry out the action that they necessitated. This carried the same feeling of finality and inevitability. Ziva hated it.
"You, you're breaking up with me?" Abby's voice broke and her chin trembled.
Ziva would have given almost anything to erase that look from her face if she could have. She hated seeing Abby like that, as if she were about to cry. She had never wanted to be the one that caused Abby pain, but it seemed as if that was all she could do these days.
Pulling a pair of jeans out of a drawer, Ziva put them into the mostly empty duffel bag on the bed. She didn't want to be doing this; it wasn't her choice, however. Her father had made that clear, if not in so many words, when he had sent Michael to Washington D.C. "for her" as Michael had so tactfully put it.
It was true that they had dated for a short time when she had been forced back to Israel as penance for the part that she and Tony had played in Jenny's death, but on her part, at least, it was never serious. Rather it was an attempt to distract herself from being separated from Abigail for the first time in years, just as she had always dreaded. It did not hurt, of course, that dating Michael had pleased her father who had despaired of her ever becoming the proper daughter that he had simultaneously longed for and striven to create something completely different from – a weapon that he could wield in whatever way he saw fit.
"I do not have a choice, Abigail." Ziva said, her voice full of resignation as she continued to clean out the scant few drawers that she had in Abby's apartment.
"Just because your father sent him here, it doesn't mean you have to sleep with him, Ziva! That's barbaric. Just tell him no. Tell your father that he's not your type anymore. You don't even have to tell him about me. Hell, tell him you're involved with Tony. Just don't do this!"
"Abby," Ziva said firmly, catching her wrists and giving them a light squeeze to calm her. "I have to do this."
"It's wrong." Abby countered, furiously. "You should tell Gibbs. He could make him stop."
"No." Ziva replied instantly. "Do not tell Gibbs or anyone about this. Abigail, you do not understand." She put her head in her hands. "I should never have gotten your involved in this." Ziva declared in a frustrated whisper. "I am sorry. I did not mean to mess this up so badly. I did not want to hurt you. I should never have allowed us to develop a relationship. It, I had an idea of how it would inevitably end and I should not have let it begin, but you cannot tell anyone. You have no idea of the danger you could be in if you do. I will not be able to protect you. My father is not a nice man."
"Let it-" Abby bit off what she was about to say as she echoed Ziva's words in disbelief. The flush of anger abruptly left her, color draining away from her cheeks as she paled. "Tell Gibbs." Abby repeated. "He can make this stop, Ziva."
"Not even Gibbs can control everything, Abigail," she said with resignation. "I know you are angry but you must promise not to tell him or anyone. It is for your own safety."
"For my safety?" Abby demanded. "Or for your cover? So that Daddy doesn't realize his little girl isn't so perfect."
Ziva let out a low, bitter chuckle. "If only that were the reason. Promise me, Abby." She stopped packing and cupped Abby's cheek with one hand, the other dropping to her waist to pull Abby close to her. "Please," she whispered the word, dropping her head to Abby's shoulder. "I have no right to ask, but please do this for me, if you ever believed that I loved you. If you ever loved me."
Abby sniffled, the sound loud in the quiet room. "Not fair, Z. It's not fair to ask me that."
"Fair or not, I do not care. I need you to be safe." Her hand slipped back into the silky darkness of Abby's hair, clenching around a handful of the thick strands.
Abby's arms came up around her and held onto her tightly. "This will make you safer too, right? Tell me the truth. Don't lie to me, Ziva."
"Yes," Ziva admitted quietly. "I will be safer, but Abby, if it were only that…"
Abby put two fingers over Ziva's lips. "I know." She closed her eyes tightly. "I hate this," she ground the words out through gritted teeth.
Her arms tightened painfully around Ziva but Ziva didn't complain or let go. If this would be the last time that she was held in Abby's arms she wanted to hang on to ever single moment of it.