GENRE: Friendship/Het/Angst
CHARACTERS: Ziva, Abby, Tony, McGee, Gibbs
SUMMARY: They never believed she'd fall for it. She can't believe she did.
RATING: T for strong language
DISCLAIMER: Canon characters belong to DPB, CBS & Co. No copyright infringement is intended.

A/N: Written for Session 5, Round 4 of the ncis_lfws competition on LiveJournal.

When Abby Sciuto entered the women's bathroom on the third floor of NCIS Headquarters, the last thing she expected to find was a former Mossad assassin, broken and bereft, curled up in a ball in the far corner.

"Ziva! What's wrong?"

Abby sat down cross-legged in front of her friend, and simply waited. The years had taught her that, with Ziva, one didn't invade personal space unless invited in. And Ziva David virtually never invited anyone in. An agonizing, penetrating silence hung in the air.

Eventually, Ziva raised her head, and red-ringed eyes stared uncomprehendingly into Abby's own green pools. Without a word, she held up her Blackberry. A beggar's-gloved hand gently took it from her, and the Goth read the words on the screen. More silence. Then, a sharp intake of breath.

"Tim McGee, I'll kill you, I swear!" Abby seethed. Ignoring her own lesson, she grasped both of Ziva's hands in her own and locked eyes with her once more. "This isn't real, Ziva. I promise you. Call him, you'll see." Handing the device back to her friend, she quickly rose to her feet. "I'm going to fix this, right now." And with pigtails swinging, Abby Sciuto stormed out of the bathroom, platform shoes announcing each step of her trajectory to the bullpen.

"Yeah…uh huh…mmmhmmm…ok, thanks." Still scribbling on his message pad as he hung up the phone, McGee became aware of an ebony and ivory presence in front of his desk. Glancing up, he found himself confronted with one very angry Goth, hands on hips, lips pursed, ready to do battle. Seemingly oblivious, he peered around her to provide Gibbs with an update. "Boss, I just got off the phone with Leeson's employer, Anderson Trucking. They haven't seen him since Thursday, but apparently..."

Refusing to be ignored, Abby was matching Tim's movements, blocking his view of the desk across from his. Gibbs stood up and tossed his empty coffee cup in the garbage.

"Abs?" the boss muttered, eyebrows raised, frustration apparent.

She ignored him, cocked her head to one side, and launched her first volley of fire at McGee. "What the hell were you thinking?"

"Huh?" Instinctively, Tim pulled back in his chair, attempting to increase the space between them.

She pointed behind her at Ziva's empty desk. "It's not funny, McGee."

A snicker from Tony was met with a seething glare from Abby.

"Someone wanna tell me what's going on here?" Gibbs slid out from behind his desk. Tony looked up from his computer monitor sheepishly, but did not respond. "Anyone?" Gibbs threw his arms in the air, aiming his steel-blue gaze first at Tony, then Tim, and finally settling his sights on Abby.

The forensic scientist lifted her chin resolutely, and began her exposition. "Gibbs. McGee created a fake e-mail and sent it to Ziva's account...she thought Ray was breaking up with her. I found her in the bathroom just now...she's been crying." She spun around to face Tim once more. "It was cruel."

"It wasn't my idea, Abs!" McGee protested, casting a disparaging sideways glance at Tony, who, in turn, slunk down in his chair.

"DiNozzo?" Gibbs was now directly in front of Tony's desk, looking extremely displeased.

"April Fool's!" Tony laughed nervously, a weak smile on his face. The realization hit him that the joke had crossed a line, and an unsettling knot began to form in his stomach as Abby continued to stare him down. Tim frowned. Gibbs slapped the back of his head.

Suitably chastened, Tony stood up. "I'll go talk to her."

Ziva stood at the sink, splashed cool water on her face, and dried it with a paper towel. She examined herself in the mirror, seeking to eliminate any sign of her moment of weakness, and steeling herself to face her tormentors. Like molten lava ready to spew from the mouth of a volcano, a bewildering mixture of fury and humiliation bubbled just below the surface. How to bring forth the one without the other?

A few reassuring words from Ray had confirmed Abby's declaration that the e-mail message was a fake. And although she didn't know anyone other than McGee (except Abby, who obviously had not been involved) with the technical skills to pull it off, her instincts told her this had all the markings of a DiNozzo prank.

Speak of the devil...

She caught his reflection in the mirror as he turned and locked the door behind him, copying her M.O.

"I would not do that, if I were you," she seethed. "You may not get out of here alive." She spun around to face him and gripped the counter behind her, dark eyes shooting daggers.

"Ziva, I'm sorry. It was just a stupid April Fool's joke. We…we never...ok, I never...thought you'd fall for it." He inched forward, reaching his hand out to her contritely. She ignored it, and simply stared at him, stone-faced. There was no guile or insincerity in him now. For some inexplicable reason, this angered her further. His words had struck a nerve. She should not have fallen for it. The fact that she had, suggested that she still had doubts about Ray's feelings for her. Just as she'd begun to think she was ready to trust again.

It also suggested she was losing her edge.

The prank infuriated her, and every fibre of her being wanted to lash out at Tony for the nastiness of it. A natural reaction, certainly. But Ziva David, highly trained former Mossad operative, should have seen through the ruse. It was, after all, the 1st of April. And she was sufficiently Americanized to grasp the implications of the date. She'd been on her guard all morning. Checking the tightness of the bolts in her chair before she sat down. Opening drawers slowly and with suspicion, lest some spring-loaded object jump out to startle her. It had never occurred to her that Tony would come up with something so… clever.

Something she herself might have done.

Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment as the hypocrisy of her reaction struck her. This game they continually played had taken a vicious turn, of late. It ought to stop; it wasn't fun anymore. But if she were first to lay down arms, would he follow suit? She seriously doubted it.

Unable to tolerate the vacuum of silence between them, Tony spoke up once more. "This thing with Ray…it's getting serious, isn't it?"

It was merely a question; not an accusation. He avoided her gaze, which took her aback. She drew herself up to her full height. "Not that it is any business of yours, but…yes."

"I'm sorry," he repeated. "Don't blame McGuilty," he added hastily, "…he tried to talk me out of it, but I convinced him you'd just laugh it off. He never would've helped me if he'd believed you'd actually think it was real." Finally, their eyes met. "I never meant to hurt you, Ziva."

She smiled inwardly, spying the opening provided by Tony's suddenly vulnerable disposition; the desire for a cease-fire abruptly forgotten. Breezing past him, she unlocked the bathroom door, and strutted back out towards the bullpen.

"Just remember one thing, Tony. Payback is a bitch."