Summary: After Mike's death, our team comforts each other and grieves through humor. Tagged to episode 8x23 "Swang Song," the team's group-hug in the elevator. That scene was so sweet, I decided there just had to be more to it.

Pairings: There are hints of Tiva and McAbby here, but I tried to make them subtle because I know lots of fans (including me!) don't ship either one, and I wanted the non-shippers to enjoy this fic too. Hope you do, guys.

Nota Bene: I set the character tags to Abby and McGee because I feel the story is slightly more centric to the two of them. But really, FF should have a character tag for the whole team! This was almost the Abby chapter in my story "Coping and Comfort," but I think it works better on its own.


Hiding Place

That's the time you must keep on trying
Smile - what's the use of crying?

None of them wants to be the first to move away and end the embrace. But Tony realizes that the elevator is still moving, quietly sliding past floor after floor, and if one of them doesn't stop it, then all too soon, the doors will ding and slide open. That will end the moment for them. And his team isn't ready for that. Too much has happened, and after the way Ziva fell apart...

It's one of his duties, as Senior Field Agent, to take care of things like this for the rest of them. So Tony lifts his arm from around McGee's shoulders, leans to the side as much as Ziva's grip on him will allow, and pulls the emergency brake. The elevator slides to a stop as he shifts back into the group, his teammates' arms tightening again around his waist and shoulders.

They need this, and they need it to last just a little longer. It feels safe here, like a hiding place, like they're somehow shielded from every danger in the big world outside the elevator. Even though Cobb is still on the loose. Even though Levin and Mike are dead. Even though one of them could be next. Even though there's nothing safe about what they do. Right now, it's enough to just be together, supporting, leaning on each other. They can hide out here until they're ready to face everything else. They left Gibbs in autopsy, to grieve for Mike in private. He needs that, too; he'd never let himself get emotional in front of his kids.

Abby is the first to break the silence. "He was Gibbs's Gibbs," she says simply, with a quiver in her voice. She sniffs loudly, lifts one arm from McGee's waist, and wipes her nose on the back of her hand, like a little girl. McGee just pulls her closer when she puts her arm back around him. Right now, he couldn't care less if she got snot on his jacket.

Ziva raises her tear-stained eyes from the spot on the floor she's been staring at. Gibbs's Gibbs? She's not sure if it's like the idioms she doesn't understand because English isn't her first language, or if it's Abby's peculiar way of putting things. But Tony notices her puzzled look and explains quietly, "He was the boss's boss."

"Right," Abby says, nodding. Her quiver in her voice lessens as she goes on, "Mike was like - he was Gibbs before Gibbs was Gibbs. I mean, he was to Gibbs what Gibbs is to all of us. Oh, my God..." She gasps a little as a new and ugly thought occurs to her. "...you guys, Gibbs must feel like... we would... if - if - "

But she doesn't have to finish for her team to understand. It's something none of them have ever let themselves imagine. Even with all the near-misses their boss has had. Even though they all know, deep down, that they might one day have to face it. It's still too awful to contemplate how lost they would feel without their fearless leader, how completely it would change their world.

"Gibbs is still right here, Abs," Tony says, his voice as calm and steady as he can make it. His shoulders feel the full, heavy weight of being Senior Field Agent now, but he has to hold them together. He can't touch Abby - his arms are still around McGee and Ziva - but he looks at her in what he hopes is a reassuring way, and squeezes McGee and Ziva's shoulders, to make sure they hear this too. "He isn't about to go anywhere. Okay?"

Abby swallows and nods at him, but she still looks so stricken. "I'm really glad," she gets out in a small voice, "he didn't die back in that ship explosion." And without warning, she suddenly crosses the circle created by their little group, and flings her arms around Tony. "And Tony?" she cries, her voice loud in the small space. McGee and Ziva release his arms so he can hug her back. "I'm really glad you didn't die when you had the plague!"

Tony smiles, and it feels strange on his face, like he shouldn't be smiling under these circumstances. Mike is dead, for crying out loud. He wants to thank Abby, but before he can reply, she lets go of him and turns to hug Ziva.

"And Ziva! I'm so, so glad you didn't die when you were in Somalia." Ziva can't help but stiffen - they all know how much she tries to avoid talking about Somalia, ever - but she doesn't pull away from Abby's hug like she used to. She hugs her back, tightly, because right now she needs this as much as Abby does.

"It was so - just - awful when we all thought you were dead," Abby adds quietly, her lips at Ziva's ear, but the guys can hear her clearly. "Tony, like, completely shut down. Did you know that?"

Ziva glances at Tony over Abby's shoulder, her eyes shining with tears and emotion, because no, she never knew that. Tony swallows as he meets her gaze. It isn't that he didn't want her to know. It's just that...

But as Ziva opens her mouth to speak, Abby releases her and turns to McGee. "And McGee! I'm glad you didn't... um..." She falls silent and stops herself before she can hug him, settling for putting her hands on his shoulders. "I mean, you... well, I'm glad... you never..." But she falters again, her brow furrowed. For the life of her, she can't remember when McGee has ever had a really close call. But surely he must have, at some point.

The silence drags on, and McGee leans forward, waiting for her to finish, but Abby just blinks at him in confusion. "Um," she says slowly. McGee could swear he sees Tony and Ziva smirk at each other out of the corner of his eye, but he doesn't mind. The expression on Abby's face is so much better than it was a few minutes ago. Now she looks puzzled, but not sad, not devastated, not like her whole world is falling down around her.

Just as he's about to ask, "Well?" Abby smiles and declares, "I'm glad you lost all that weight!"

Ziva is the first to laugh, a low chuckle in her throat. Then her eyes widen and her hand flies to her mouth, a wave of guilt hitting her for laughing when Mike's body isn't even cold. But she can't stop. And it doesn't help that beside her, Tony is cracking up openly at the indignant glare on McGee's face.

"Wait a minute, that's all I get?" He sounds so outraged that it sets Tony and Ziva laughing harder. Abby smiles at him sheepishly. "Everyone else gets surviving a near-death experience, and I get losing weight?"

Now it's McGee's turn for hug, and as Abby wraps her arms around him, it's gentler - more meaningful, somehow - than the hugs she gave Tony and Ziva. "I just want you to know I'm proud of you," she says sweetly, and his anger melts away.

His arms tighten around her waist as he sways her back and forth slightly. "And I'm glad you weren't killed by that creep who was obsessed with my stupid books, Abby," he answers, and for a moment, it's like they're the only two in the elevator.

"Yeah," says Tony with a chuckle, softly enough to not break the spell. "You're glad because Gibbs would've eaten you for breakfast if your books had gotten Abby killed." Abby giggles a little and pulls back from McGee, but they keep their arms around each other. All four of them are smiling now.

"Well, actually, I would've killed you first, McGoo," Tony clarifies. Ziva smirks, recognizing his because I'm Senior Field Agent and I said so voice. She never thought she'd be so happy to hear it. "But then Gibbs would've brought you back from the dead and killed you again."

"Wait a minute!" Ziva pulls back from Tony to look him in the face. Her dark eyes narrow jealously, like she's being left out of the fun. Tony feels a tension in his chest relax. There's no trace now of the devastated woman who crumpled at the sight of Mike's body.

"Why do I not get to kill McGee in this scenario?" He smirks at the challenge in her voice. Of course his former Mossad assassin would want in on killing McGee. "I should get to kill him too, if you and Gibbs do."

"Okay, okay, you can kill McGee too. Hey, how about you and I kill him together? And then Gibbs brings him back from the dead and kills him again. But he gets final kill."

"Oh yeah, of course," Abby agrees. Her pigtails bob back and forth as she nods. "Gibbs would definitely get final kill in that situation."

"Well, that's great," says McGee, but his sarcastic tone and annoyed expression don't fool any of them. "I'm glad you've all agreed about how you would kill me." Abby grins and hugs him again, as Tony reaches over and flips up the emergency brake. Now his team is ready to face the world again. And he realizes, as the elevator descends quietly down to the ground floor, that this elevator isn't really a hiding place. Their hiding place is any place where all four of them are together. That's where they feel safest.

When the doors slide open with that familiar ding, the situation is still the same, of course. Mike is still dead and Cobb is still on the loose. Nothing has changed. But as they step off the elevator together, they feel stronger, more ready to face it. They don't know it, but the same thought occurs to each one of them: We're all still here. We're still together. We're safe.

That's the time you must keep on trying
Smile - what's the use of crying?
You'll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

FIN


Author's Note: This fic is my first attempt at writing something funny, and I really hope it worked and made you smile. If it did, please leave a little review - that will make me smile! Thanks for reading! ;)