Title: Twenty Questions
Characters: Ziva David, Abby Sciuto, L.J. Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo, Timothy McGee
Category: Drama, Action, Romance
Word Count: 3,703
Spoilers: Seasons 4 & 5, generally sometime before Judgement Day I & II.
Summary: Abby thinks Ziva is in love with Tony because of the way she's been acting toward him.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Note: This fic is for help_haiti. Thank you.
Beta: Many thanks to ariestess for looking this over for me. :)
"You're in love with Tony."
Ziva arched an eyebrow at Abby and turned her attention back to the records she was sifting through. "Do not be ridiculous." She said it casually, easily, but not too breezily.
Abby's eyes narrowed. If she hadn't been so convinced, if the evidence - and evidence was what she knew best - wasn't so insurmountable, then she would have believed Ziva because her denial was stated so perfectly that she almost believed her. It was casual and unworried, not how someone who was anxious about hiding something would react. On the other hand, it wasn't too casual either; a statement that said something was ridiculous while meaning the exact opposite, that whatever was being denied was a virtual certainty. Abby had to give her props for delivery, but then she would have expected nothing less from Ziva David, Secret Agent Extraordinaire. Because if she wasn't capable of pulling off a believable dismissal, then no one was. Lying, and doing it well enough that she would never be suspected, was just one of Ziva's many skills.
Oh, yeah, Abby was so not buying that.
"I'm not the one being ridiculous," Abby pointed out. "In fact, I'm acting just as sane as usual." She caught the amused twinkle in Ziva's eyes and cut her off before she could speak. "Don't say it. I'm perfectly sane, David."
"Trying to convince yourself there, Abs?" Tony asked as he breezed past them on the way to his desk.
Ziva's head snapped up, her eyes finding Abby's in an instant and the glare that she directed at Abby was harsh enough that Abby actually blinked, startled at its intensity. Even before Ziva had become a part of NCIS, even when they had been fighting, Abby had never seen Ziva look at her that way. It didn't frighten her because whatever she knew about Ziva's past and what she was capable of, she was also equally certain that Ziva would never physically harm her. She trusted her completely; it didn't make the look in her eyes any less potent.
"Some of us don't need convincing, Tony," Abby called over her shoulder, never taking her eyes off Ziva's, deflecting Tony's attention away from their conversation just as Ziva had so pointedly requested or commanded. However she preferred to look at it.
Ziva rose from behind her desk as Gibbs swept past them, only a moment or two behind Tony, but effectively cutting off whatever comment he would have made back to Abby.
"Busted," Abby sing-songed under her breath as Ziva brushed past her.
"You do not know what you are talking about," Ziva hissed back, keeping her voice equally quiet.
"Care to share?" Gibbs' gruff prompt cut them both off as he demanded their attention.
"Petty Officer Fontaine was lying," Ziva supplied as if she hadn't been distracted in the least, and maybe she hadn't been. Some people were just good at multi-tasking, but then Abby was, too.
"Yeah," Gibbs responded and they can all hear the "Duh!" that went unsaid only because this was Gibbs and Abby didn't think she had ever him say "Duh". It was just so un-Gibbs.
"While McGee was preoccupied-"
"Tony made me crawl through three dumpsters looking for evidence!"
"And if you hadn't, we would never have known if we had missed something, Probie-san."
"-I discovered that the Petty Officer is receiving large amounts of money each month - in cash - that he cannot account for. It is certainly above his pay grade."
With a snort, Abby hopped uncrossed her legs and hopped down off the edge of Ziva's desk. This case was just getting started. They were just starting to dig their teeth into the meat of it and begin to get some idea of what was going on. Pretty soon, they would have some solid evidence and then it would be her turn to dazzle them all with her expertise. And dazzle them she would, because that was what she did.
Just as soon as she was done with that, then she would get back to Ziva because this wasn't over yet. Far from it. Because despite the denial, and maybe because of it, she didn't believe a word that Ziva said. Everything she did, the way she acted around Tony, all screamed that she was in love with him and that didn't make sense at all.
Abby was used to women falling for Tony at the drop of a hat, maybe not falling in love, but definitely falling in lust. Ziva had been the exception to what had nearly been a rule. She had appreciated his looks, but not swooned for them; laughed and then just as good as she had gotten in the face of his flirting. She didn't just flirt back, but challenged him and his assumptions, surprised him instead of playing along. She was unpredictable and while she never backed down from him, she had also never given any indication that she was interested in doing anything more than playing the game between them just to see who would win.
Then one day that had all changed. It had happened right in front of Abby, Ziva changing from an independent, capable Mossad Officer to a woman who had to know where Tony was at all times, what he was doing, and who he was with almost to the point of obsession. Everyone had noticed it; Abby wasn't the only one.
It was just that Abby had been the only one who had confronted Ziva directly, because this was puzzling: a puzzle where she didn't know what the picture looked like and some of the pieces were missing. She couldn't resist. Solving things, putting the pieces back together and figuring out what had happened, was what she did, and she was good at it.
That was why she would get to the bottom of this: because something wasn't right and she was going to find out what it was.
"Abby is curious."
Tony rolled his eyes. "And who's fault is that, David?" Some undercover agents made things too difficult, Tony had figured that out quickly. The easiest way to not arouse suspicions was simply to act like himself, not like he had something to hide. Where people screwed it up was when they over analyzed their actions. Did I speak too quickly? Was my voice high pitched that time? Did I deny that a little too quickly? It was all crap. The only thing that was going to happen then was that the agent was going to make a mistake because they were so busy worrying about whether they were playing their part convincingly that they forgot to just play.
Well, Tony wasn't going to make that mistake. He wasn't going to screw this up; Jenny was counting on him after all. He was just going to keep on playing his part until Ziva stopped pushing him and accepted that this was the way it was, that she was just imagining things.
"You do not want Abby to be curious," Ziva continued as if he hadn't spoken.
"Actually I think curiosity is one of Abby's better personality traits. It's part of what makes her so...Abby."
"I agree, and she is very good at it, is she not?" Ziva asked, rhetorically. She stopped walking, waiting until Tony stopped as well and turned back to look at her with a heavy sigh. "I do not know what is going on, Tony, but I do know that something is not right with you. You are lying to me and to everyone. Abby will discover what it is eventually, given enough time. If you do not wish that to happen, then tell me and I will ensure that she does not pursue it any further."
Emotions warred on Tony's face. He hesitated and then took a step toward her and another, until there was barely any space separating them. "Okay, I'll tell you."
Ziva stilled. Whatever Tony was involved in, she would help him. They were partners, and despite the way that he often irritated her to no end, he deserved her loyalty, had it already in fact, and she would back him up any way she could. Gibbs would expect no less of her and she would expect no less of herself.
Tony leaned closer, until she could feel his breath tickling her ear. "It's personal."
The phrase was so short and clipped that it took a moment for it to register and when it did, Ziva jerked back angrily.
"Personal: as in none of your business, David." Tony continued. "And none of Abby's either. You can tell her I said that." He spun on his heel and quickly closed the remaining distance to the doorway at the end of the hall. He pounded on the door with his fist, three sharp bangs. "NCIS! Open up!"
Ziva followed him, covering the distance with swift long strides and taking her place just beside him. "This is not over, Tony," she warned him just as the door swung open.
Tony ignored her. "Petty Officer Fontaine?"
A nod from a slightly confused man, who stood in front of them in sweats, looking scruffy and unshaven.
"Good. Just the man we were looking for. You're under arrest."
It was silent except for the hum of the elevator. Finally Ziva couldn't stand it any longer. Her father would have been disappointed in her for cracking so easily and under such an obvious interrogation tactic. Ziva was not proud of it, but Abby standing next to her in silence was just eerie and wrong.
"I am not in love with Tony."
Abby shrugged. "I'm not the one who brought it up again. I was just standing here."
Ziva folded her arms over her chest and allowed her disbelief to show. "In silence. You are many things, Abby, but still and silent are rarely one of them."
"I'm tired," Abby protested, but a small smile played over her lips, ruining her straight face. "You guys have kept me running around like crazy all day processing evidence."
"It is not my fault that Petty Officer Fontaine was such an inept criminal that he began to look like a criminal mastermind."
Abby paused, tilted her head. "I'm pretty sure that doesn't make any sense at all."
"And yet it did, yes? Because surely no one could be that stupid."
"Apparently he was," Abby shrugged.
"You still do not believe me," Ziva stated flatly.
"Sorry," Abby said, sounding not apologetic in the least. "No."
"There is someone that I am interested in, but it is not Tony."
Abby shook her head. "Doesn't make sense," she countered. "You're constantly flirting with him."
"I flirt with anyone. It is just that Tony flirts with me more often than anyone else."
"You act like a jealous girlfriend, demanding to know where he's been and who he was with if he's five minutes late."
Ziva sighed. "Despite his casual attitude, Tony is always punctual. You cannot work for Gibbs and expect to continue doing so if you make a habit of showing up late."
"What about the jealous girlfriend part?"
Ziva's eyes narrowed and Abby could see her thinking furiously. The moment that she made her decision was obvious; she stepped forward and pulled the emergency stop button on the elevator again.
Abby laughed softly. "You know the Director gets really grumpy when anyone besides Gibbs does that. Well, she gets pretty grumpy when Gibbs does it, too, but she can't exactly say anything about it to him."
"I will worry about the Director later," Ziva said, dismissing her concern. "If you wish to have this conversation, we will finish it now."
"Ooh, so you are going to admit that you love Tony?"
"Then why..." Abby sounded confused.
"Tony is my partner." She said it as if that explained everything. Abby still didn't get it.
"You're going to have to give me a little bit more than that."
"Do you know what I did in my previous line of work?"
Abby thought for a moment. "Scary spy stuff?" She offered.
Ziva snorted. "Close enough. I was also a profiler. I learned many things about people and how they act; the patterns that all people generally follow."
"So what does this have to do with Tony?"
"I have been working with Tony nearly every day for the past year and a half, yes? When we go into the field he is the one who I trust will be at my back when a situation develops. When someone shoots at me, I do not have to look. I know he will be there. I trust him and I know him very well. I know when he will go left, and I will cover right, without discussing it. I know his favorite sandwich and the look in his eye that means I should not eat whatever he has brought me. I know all of that about him.
But he has changed recently."
"He has a new girlfriend."
"He has said that he has a new girlfriend," Ziva corrected her. "Beyond the fact that Tony is not, nor has ever been the one girlfriend type, there has been no recent major change in his life that might change and explain his behavior."
"It's called growing up, Ziva. We all do it eventually."
"We do it because we must," Ziva countered. "Whether to achieve something that we want, or because we are forced to. Tony did not stop enjoying his life the way it was and he was not forced to change. Therefore it must be for another reason."
Ziva shrugged. "I do not know; that is what I have been attempting to find out."
"So nothing could convince you that it's just a new girlfriend?"
"I would believe it, if we had seen her. He has been going out with her for how long now? A few months. And we have never seen her. If Tony were really involved with a beautiful woman that he were serious about, he would have insisted on showing her off, at the very least rutting it in McGee's face."
"Rubbing," Abby corrected her absentmindedly. "And you're right. That is a little weird. Maybe she's just shy?"
"Shy, and dating Tony? I do not think that likely."
Abby winced. "Maybe you have a point there."
"So you agree with me that it is not a new girlfriend?"
This time Abby looked pained. "It could be."
"But it is not likely," Ziva finished. Abby couldn't deny it. "Then if it is not a new girlfriend, I wish to know why he is lying to me - to us all and telling us that it is, because his behavior is significantly changed. Last week he did not even hit on the gorgeous, rich witness that he spent many hours with in questioning. Not once. That is not him." She looked down. "I have seen changes like this before; the last time I ignored it, because I trusted that person implicitly. By the time I began to question his actions, it was far, far too late and I was forced to take actions that could not be changed. It was too late. I will not be so careless again." Her jaw was tight and she couldn't meet Abby's eyes as she finished her speech. "Even if it is just Tony."
Abby's lip trembled. She could read between the lines well enough to understand what Ziva was saying and for the first time her heart went out to her and she believed her. "I'm sorry," she said and she meant it. She hit the button to start the elevator moving again. "Not about...that...but about not believing you about Tony." She hesitated. "He's not disloyal. Tony wouldn't. Ever. But I understand. Something is hinky, and if you need any help finding out what it is..."
Ziva nodded, staring straight ahead. "Thank you." They stood in silence for a moment until the door slid open. Only then did she look over at Abby. "There is someone that I am interested in, however."
Startled, her comment left Abby frozen to the spot as Ziva exited the elevator. The doors were already closing back when she called after her. "Wait! Ziva! Who is it?"
There was the distinctive sound of boots clipping on concrete, the rhythm fast, jogging a little to catch up. Ziva didn't turn her head. An arm slipped through hers, wrapping around her bicep. She glanced over and smiled at Abby.
"So who is it? McGee?"
"No, it was Petty Officer Fontaine. Our suspicion was incorrect. You know that we discovered evidence that he was working on his own and he confessed to Gibbs. Why would you suspect McGee?"
Abby slapped the back of her hand against Ziva's stomach. "You know what I meant! You said you were interested in someone."
Abby waited but nothing else was forthcoming. "That's it?" She demanded. "You can't just say yes! You have to tell me who it is."
Ziva had to admit her slight pout was adorable. She pretended to consider it. "I think...that you should work it out for yourself."
"You'll tell me if I get it right?"
This time Ziva truly did consider it. Abby was smart, brilliant, actually, and there was a very good chance that she could figure it out eventually. Maybe. If she dared to hope...but confirming it would mean exposing herself, and showing any vulnerability was not something she did easily. It meant exposing where the knife could slip in most swiftly. Finally, she nodded.
"Okay." Abby's lips pursed in thought. "So it's not Timmy or Tony." She didn't wait for confirmation, but continued on, her nose wrinkling. "Gibbs? That's a little hinky. Not that he isn't handsome, in that stone fox kind of way, but I don't think that's how you see him."
"Not Gibbs," Ziva confirmed. "Although perhaps if things had been different..."
"Right," Abby nodded slowly. "Is it someone I can guess? I mean, not someone that you've just met that I don't know."
"You know them," Ziva admitted. It took a little bit more effort this time to keep her voice steady.
"Ducky?" Abby shook her head, dismissing her own question. "No, he has that thing with the city medical examiner." Her eyes narrowed. "It's not unrequited, is it?"
"I do not know."
Abby nodded as if she understood completely. If only, she did. "So you haven't said anything to him?"
This was the moment. The rules of the game had not been specified and Ziva was more than accustomed to playing the loopholes, but she had to decide now what she wanted to do, if she was truly prepared to take a chance.
"Her?" Both of Abby's eyebrows shot up, but a second later her head bobbed up and down. "Cool."
They stopped in front of Ziva's car, and Ziva wished, fleetingly, that they could circle the parking garage once more. The conversation had come so far, she didn't want it to end now.
"So have you figured it out or do you wish to guess again tomorrow?"
"Let me see," Abby said, holding up her hand. "It's someone I know. A woman, and you think I can figure it out from what I know."
"Okay," Abby drawled. "How about..." Her lips covered Ziva's, her hand slipping up Ziva's neck and sliding into her hair. It was tender and unexpected and stole Ziva's breath away completely.
When Abby finally drew away, she bounced slightly on her heels. "So..." She sounded nervous. Ziva's eyes had fallen shut at some point and she had yet to re-open them.
"Yes." Ziva said quietly, opening her eyes as she spoke.
"Is that all you have to say?" The question was equally quiet.
"I may have been jealous of Tony," Abby blurted. "Even though, you know, there was no reason, because, you know, we had never..."
Ziva wrapped her hands around Abby's and squeezed them lightly to silence her nervous rambling. "I know." A hint of a smile tugged on her lips. "You are very fortunate I am not in love with Tony at all."
"I think you're the fortunate one here, David."
"I am," Ziva agreed.
Abby bit the corner of her lip. "So..."
"You repeat yourself often when you are nervous, yes?"
"And you like to tease me!"
"You like it when I tease you."
"Yes. But you like that as well."
"Are you trying to get me to kiss you again to shut you up?"
"Will it work?"
"I think you should take me out first."
"I would like that very much," Ziva said. The simple honesty in her voice tugged at Abby's heart.
"Me, too," she admitted. Silence reigned for a moment as she glanced down, still conscious of their joined hands and the way Ziva's fingers were playing smoothly over her skin. It was distracting. She tilted her head. "I should probably go."
Ziva nodded, but didn't release her.
Abby leaned down quickly before she could give into temptation and kissed her again, on the cheek, but just brushing the corner of her lips. "Gotta go," she whispered and this time Ziva did let her go, watching Abby as she backed away, her eyes never leaving Ziva's until she almost stumbled into a concrete support post.
Ziva's smile was huge as she slipped into her car. It faded slightly as she considered the events of the day. They had caught their man and solved their case. She and Abby had begun something, which was more than she had even dared to hope at the beginning of the day, a nebulous wish she had held close to her heart and nothing more. It was a very good day, but she would not forget that there was Tony - still a mystery that needed solving, answers she needed before she could be completely at ease.
It did not mean that she could not enjoy this feeling, this wonderful sense of being purely happy for just one night. She deserved that, but she would not forget.