Disclaimer: There isn't even a teenage version of NCIS. ... In some ways, I'm glad for that XD
Spoilers: None, although some moments in the fic parallel the moments on the show.
Setting: Modern day-ish. I tried to reconcile the personalities the characters were now, as adults, with the way their canon childhoods turned out, so hopefully, it's in character, albeit as teenagers. Abby is blonde here, by the way. She was a blonde teenager on the show (so was Pauley, if anyone's wondering).
I wrote Teen AU, guys o.o I don't even know what possessed me. But I hope you still like it :( this is a one-shot. I will hopefully never write Teen AU again, and will return to adult-ish angst soon :D soon-ish. I'm currently writing an angsty family fic!
"Thank you, have a nice day!"
Ziva smiled and handed the customer a paper bag of books. Her eyes narrowed as the customer turned away and she felt a familiar presence over her shoulder—undoubtedly leering down her top, as usual. "Tony," she snapped, "go away before I break your legs."
Tony didn't move. "Y'know, that's actually a saying."
She spun around to meet his eyes. "I do not care what it actually means. Now, move."
The high school senior leant against the counter and pouted at her. "How can you work in a bookshop and not care what it means?"
She smirked. "I am more concerned with the three other languages I'm currently learning."
"How many languages do you speak anyway?"
"That's classified information."
"You're always saying that." He waggled his eyebrows. "I do like a little mystery."
Ziva rolled her eyes and pushed past him. "You're wasting my time. Did Gibbs not tell you to go and arrange the books on the shelves?"
He paused. "I was bored, so I put all the Mystery books in the Sci-Fi section, all the Sci-Fi books in the Historical Fiction section, and all the Historical Fiction books in the Romance section.
She gaped at him. "Gibbs is going to kill you."
"What?" He feigned innocence. "You have to admit putting the Twilight series in the section for kindergarteners was pretty clever."
"Tony!" she exclaimed, caught between amusement and utter horror. "They have sex in the last book."
"They do?" he groaned. "Aww, now I gotta go retrieve them from the kindergartner's section."
"You better hurry up."
"It's not like they can read it anyway."
"Well, do you want the children to be pointing and going, 'Mommy, what does this word mean?'"
He blanched. "Gibbs is not gonna like it if that happens."
"Alright, alright, I'm going."
She chuckled and left him to his own defences as he pushed off the counter and wandered across the bookshop.
She was mid-way through her novel when he showed up and peered over her shoulder again.
"Is that French? Par-lay voo Fonzie?"
She closed her paperback and whapped him on the back of his head with it. "It's 'français.' Do not disrespect the language."
"Like Gibbs doesn't do that enough," he muttered as he rubbed the back of his head. "I'm bored."
She shook her head. "I do not understand how you can work in a bookshop when you do not even like books."
If she hadn't been such an observant person, she wouldn't have seen how he tensed minutely. "I need the money," he answered casually. "Anyway, I just came over to tell you that McGeek is wandering around the Statistics shelves again; you better rescue him before he gets swallowed up by the numbers."
"That does not make sense. And he needs those books for his early college classes."
Tony's smile dropped. "Yeah. Don't remind me."
She blinked with surprise. "Tony?"
"Why do you think I need the money?"
His face gave an odd twitch as he cleared his throat and walked away.
A customer and a two-and-a-half-minute-long (she timed in her head) chat with McGee later, she found Tony hidden in a corner of the Self-Help section, looking like he desperately needed one of the books to give him the right answers. She bent to the floor and sat down next to him.
"You are going to college," she stated, and he nodded slowly.
"Been saving up for it. Been trying to save up for it … it keeps disappearing."
His chin gave the tiniest of trembles. "Dad leads an expensive life…"
"Oh, Tony. I'm sorry."
"Don't be. 'S got nothing to do with you."
"If it's any comfort … I am not here because I like books, either."
"But you like books."
"Yes. Which is I chose to work at this shop. But … I am merely trying to escape home."
"It is not happy."
She shrugged and reached out tentatively to touch his upturned palm, fingertip to fingertip, and he wrapped his warm hand around hers. Her heart skipped an unwilling beat. "I am going to … miss you … when you go to college."
The corners of his lips quirked up. "Like I could ever forget you."
"You just like staring down my top."
"It's because I'm eighteen that I probably can't legally respond to the minor the way I want to."
She snorted. "Trust you to be lewd in a roundabout manner." She squeezed his hand. "Well, whatever it is … promise me that you will call."
"I will call."
He didn't respond, but instead studied her, making her face grow hot with embarrassment. "Why are you suddenly so gloomy?"
"I'm not gloomy. I will just … miss you."
His eyes twinkled. "Do you have a crush on me?"
He was quiet for a moment. "If I asked you out to dinner, would you say 'yes'?"
"Dinner?" That made her smile. "That would be too grown up, Tony."
"… Well, it'd probably be at the nearest mom-and-pop pizza place. And I wouldn't be able to afford wine and candles. But I'd let you pick all the toppings."
"Pepperoni. And I will pay."
"No, you won't."
She shook her head. "You need to save your money. I do not."
"No, Tony. I have two years yet before I graduate. And when I do…" She swallowed. "Just promise me you will call after you've left."
He rubbed his thumb against her skin. "I will."
And this time, there was enough conviction in his voice that she believed him.
The squeals distracted them from their movie discussion, and they looked up from the front counter to the door, where a ball of energy was running excitedly towards them, her short blonde hair flying behind her with just as much enthusiasm.
Tony grinned. "Hey, Abby. Volunteering go well!"
"Totally well!" Abby bounced on her heels. "Today, one of the children told me that I was their favourite 'grown up.' That was so cool."
"Well, I wouldn't be surprised if you were the favourite of all of them."
"Aww." Abby beamed. "Well, I don't know. Some of the staff is pretty cool. But what that kid said, ladies and gentleman, is proof of why it's worth being forced into pants and a t-shirt without skulls just so you can volunteer."
Ziva chortled. "Well, I am sorry, Abby. I do not think my father would accept unpaid work as a reason for not being home. And Tony needs the money."
"Life sucks," Abby remarked, her smile drooping somewhat.
"It's not too bad, Abs. We're happy here," Tony replied.
"Yeah?" Abby challenged, her eyes glinting wickedly as she surveyed the shop. "Is that why I see you've rearranged all the genres again?"
"How can you even tell from the front desk?" he asked with disbelief.
"I can't." Abby giggled. "But you're predictable. You should really try something new. Gibbs already knows you're doing that."
He frowned. "Then why does he let me?"
"I think he's compiling headslaps. Either that, or he knows you need an outlet."
Tony stiffened, and Ziva swung her hand out the tiniest bit behind the counter so that she could link her fingers with his. "I need an outlet?"
Abby's soft eyes turned to his. "You need an outlet," she repeated. "You're not losing him business, and you always put the books back where they belong eventually, and you need an outlet for all that pain you're carrying inside you."
He spluttered. "I don't carry pain inside me. What are you talking about?"
Abby shrugged. "Talk to Gibbs. But Tony, you know we're all here for you, right?"
He spluttered some more, his eyes darting around. His mouth opened and shut a few times as he tried to figure out what to say but, looking at a loss for words, he finally snarled and jerked his hand away from Ziva. "Let go of me. I'm not your charity case or your boyfriend. And you, Abby—you stay outta my business."
"Tony!" Abby yelled as he walked away, but he never turned back. "I'm sorry, Ziva," she said in a small voice, and the Israeli immigrant turned away from watching him and tried to smile reassuringly.
"Do not worry, Abby. He will be fine soon."
"Ziva…" Abby looked alarmed. "Are you going to cry?"
"What?" Ziva lifted a hand to brush under her lashes and noted that her fingers came away slightly wet—not that she'd ever tell Abby. "No, no, I'm fine."
"It is fine. I am not crying. Abby, I need to get back to work now. Go to find McGee, okay?" She gave the older girl another weak smile, and Abby nodded uncertainly.
"Just these three books, McGee?" Ziva teased as she rung up the selection McGee had brought to the counter, and he blushed.
"I wanna do the best I can."
"I know." She pushed the books towards him. "I am proud of you."
He blinked. "Thanks," he uttered, sounding surprised.
"You're welcome. Now, Gibbs and Abby are expecting you for dinner. Do not make them wait."
McGee cringed. "This is not gonna go well, is it?"
"Gibbs has met you before," she replied noncommittally. "Besides, better you than Tony."
"That's low," a husky voice drawled from around the corner, and she felt her fists clench involuntarily. McGee took the hint and left immediately; she slammed a hardcover onto the front counter as loudly as she could for no reason at all.
"Our shifts are ending soon," she snapped. "So unless you have something you would like to ask me, please go clock out and leave."
There was a short silence, and then Tony appeared from in between two bookshelves. "You keep telling me to leave," he whispered, coming to a stop in front of her.
"Do you even want to be here?" She turned to him. "In the bookshop, around me? Or am I just something else to amuse yourself with?"
His lips twitched. "I have GSM to amuse myself with."
She growled and pulled the magazine in question out of one of the counter drawers, slapping it against his broad chest as hard as she could. "The Israeli version. Help yourself."
He caught hold of her hand and held it to his chest, throwing the magazine onto the counter without even looking at it. "Ziva, I'm sorry."
She shook her head, the fight going out of her. "No, you're not. You only say that to get me to forgive you."
"I know you don't forgive me." An odd squeak left his throat. "I don't forgive me. But I'm genuinely sorry."
"Why don't you forgive yourself?"
"Huh?" he asked, sounding genuinely perplexed by the question.
"Why don't you forgive yourself?" she repeated.
"Because I did something wrong," he explained slowly, as if to an idiot, and she flicked his chest angrily.
"Damn you, DiNozzo."
"I know," he answered softly, serious again. "I'm sorry."
"Stop saying that."
"I don't know what else to say."
"Then ask me!" she yelled, pushing him back. "Ask me if I would like to go out with you, or don't! But don't keep me in this state of-… of—"
"Fine!" he yelled back. "Go out with me!"
"Is that an order?" she questioned incredulously.
"No, but I don't see why else you would like to go out with a chump like me!"
She froze, and the bookshop fell into absolute silence as he stared at her, his breathing ragged, his eyes hard and angry. "I don't think of you as a chump," she finally told him, struggling to keep her voice even and back at normal volume.
"Well, I don't see why you don't," he answered harshly, jabbing at the magazine with great irritation. "Everyone else does."
"Who? Abby? She thinks of you as the elder brother she never had. McGee? He was just asking about you earlier when he did not see you. And Gibbs? Do you think he'd have kept a chump in employment for so long, especially after all the tricks you've pulled?"
Tony shuddered. "I don't know," he whispered. "I don't know anything, Ziva."
"Yes, you do. You just cannot keep using this I-am-a-chump reason as an excuse." His eyes flashed, ready to defend his position, so she hurriedly continued, "And I know you do not consciously use it. But you do, all the same. And I don't … want to … date a chump. Yet, I cannot do anything about it unless you choose to believe yourself that you're a good person."
He sniffled and dropped his shoulders. "Okay."
"Okay." She stepped forward and cautiously took up his hands, rubbing his skin with her thumbs, much like he had done earlier. "I do not think we should get dinner together tonight," she started, and his face fell infinitesimally. "But, Tony, you can walk me to my car."
He gave her a tired, miniscule smile. "I do that every evening you work here."
"I know." She tried to give him a warmer smile. "But this time, I want you to."
A tiny, somewhat tearful laugh escaped his lips. "That's different, right?"
"It is." She nodded. "Come on, help me lock up before it gets past clock-out time."
They managed to leave the Kelly Gibbs Bookshop at seven in the evening, and he started to walk her over to her car with his hands stuffed into his coat pockets and hers full of books which she'd taken with her from home.
"Here, let me carry those," he offered, holding out his hands, and she was about to tell him that, as always, she wasn't helpless, when she saw the uncertain flicker in his eyes. It was in his blood, really—the need to at least attempt to be chivalrous—and she knew he'd always hoped she'd say 'yes,' even if she had never allowed him to carry her books before. But things were different now.
She handed him the books. "Thank you."
"I appreciate it."
He made a noise that sounded like a muted chuckle. "You do?"
"Yes, I do." She did not elaborate, and he didn't ask. Maybe they already knew how much her admission meant to him.
It wasn't long before they reached her car and she turned to retrieve her books from him, tossing them onto the passenger side seat. Then she turned back to him. "Thank you, Tony. For walking me to my car."
"My pleasure." They both paused … and then burst out into subdued laughter.
"This is weird," she commented.
"What is; the situation or the fact that you just used the word 'weird' instead of 'strange' or any other similar adjective?" he teased, and she swung out to punch his arm. He laughed. "That's better."
Tony caught her hand again, and there it was again … the strange flicker, almost as if he were wondering whether it'd be too much to kiss the back of her hand before she left. She absolved him of the duty of having to choose by going up on her tip-toes and pressing a light kiss to his jaw, just to the side of his mouth; she thought she heard his breath hitch.
She smiled. "Goodnight, Tony."
Tony grinned; a carefree, genuine, slightly shy grin. "'Night, Zi."