Title: all you said before
Author: letherebelight
Disclaimer: Not mine, never mine, and I promise to put them back when I'm done.
Summary: This year, more than ever, they have much to be thankful for. A Child's Play tag.

AN – I've spent the last two and a half months watching NCIS for the first time. I started season one in February, and reached Dead Reflection last night. I'm trying not to think about how many hours that is.

Who am I kidding? It was completely worth it.

Dinner is noisy and cheerful, one conversation overflowing into the next without pause. So often over the past year they've had reason to fear – reason to believe – that they would never be together like this again, and maybe that's why they're just a little bit louder, a little bit more exuberant, than they might once have been. To prove, if only to each other, that they're as real and present as they ever have been.

Then Abby raises her glass, drawing their gazes and their silence.

"I am thankful," she began solemnly, "for my lab and my job, and my family being safe."

She glares at them as she speaks, at Tim, at Tony, at Gibbs, at Ziva, because if there was one thing she would change about them it would be to make sure they were always safe, and that is the one thing they can never promise her. Just because she understands doesn't mean she has to like it.

"Well, I'm thankful for running water," chimes in Tim easily, tilting his glass back.

"That's wine, Probie," snorts Tony.

"And I'm very thankful for that too," the younger agent allows with a smile at their host. "But especially water. And electricity."

He and Abby chink glasses in mutual understanding.

"I'm just thankful you all came," Ducky muses, eyeing them all. "I don't know what Abigail and myself would have done with the all that turkey otherwise."

"Oh, Ducky, I'm hurt!" protests Abby. "I'd have come up with something."

"And that, my dear, is precisely why I am thankful. I remember one year in Edinburgh when my friends and I miscalculated the size of bird we would need for our student Christmas dinner…"

"I am thankful for many things," cuts in Tony before Ducky can pick up steam. "Including, but not confined to, this glorious meal, your excellent company, and the fact that it has now been over a year since I last suffered from headaches that may or may not have been associated with repeated slaps to the back of my head."

They laugh at his pompous tone, of course, but that's why he does it. It doesn't make it any less true; he is thankful, more thankful than he cares to dwell upon, to be sitting there with them.

It's not perfect, of course it's not, and he thinks for a moment of how much Kate would have enjoyed herself; she'd have bought the pie and fought him for the last slice, and then bullied him and McGee into the washing up while she and Abby made a fuss of Ducky. Jenny would have sat mostly in silence, that quiet smirk on her face as she watched the rest of them and occasionally exchanged barbs with Gibbs, pretending she wasn't as happy to be there as she so evidently would have been, except that wouldn't have mattered because they'd all have known it anyway.

But that never happened, never will, and tonight is for the living. God knows it could so easily have been otherwise after the year they've had.

The conversation drifts on, lulled slightly by full stomachs and the warm content of a happy evening. There is no expectation; they all know Gibbs well enough not to expect him to join their game – his presence says more than his words ever could - and Ziva is…Ziva, only less so in some ways and more so in others, and these days it's even harder to tell what she is thinking than it was before.

But after a few minutes sitting quietly, listening to her friends' familiar voices around her, she speaks.

"I am thankful…" she begins slowly, unusually quiet and hesitant, looking carefully from one to the other and meeting each of their gazes for a moment. They stare back at her, patient, waiting, while she tries unsuccessfully to find the words that fit the feeling behind what she wants to say.

"I am thankful," she finishes at last, nodding to herself. "Very much so."

"So are we," Abby assures her, because she likes things to be clear, but it isn't really necessary. The silence rings with the memories of a hundred moments passed, smiles and exasperated eye rolls, whole conversations held in a single glance, hugs and caffeine-stained kisses, the gentle chink of china on stainless steel, suppressed smirks and the smell of sawdust. A summer spent in pursuit of a cause most believed long-since lost, and a single sheet of A4 with a blue stamp across it.

Ziva smiles and steals a dollop of cream from McGee's plate.

Ten languages, maybe, but no. She does not have words for this.

My flatmates and I have never misjudged the size of our Christmas chicken, but last year we did manage to produce a strange sort of potato/lemon hybrid. The taste was…different, and probably not something I would recommend recreating. My tongue was twitching for a week.

Anyway. Reviews are love.