Ziva cleared her throat and raised her hand to knock on the door. She wasn't sure why exactly she knocked - after all, this was Gibbs' house, where the door is always open. Metaphorically, of course.
Nevertheless, her knock was answered, and Abby was soon visible over the threshold. Her ebony hair was tied into little bunches secured with red ribbons, and from her earlobes hung tiny turkey-leg earrings.
How very 'Abby', Ziva thought inwardly.
Abby tilted her head almost suspiciously at her co-worker and bit her lip. She hadn't realised her eyes were still red, and no doubt the others would notice too.
"Are you OK?" Abby asked. "I mean, Tony said you'd be late, but is something wro - "
"No," Ziva answered. Her focus slipped for a second, past Abby's shoulder and into the dining room, where her team were sitting around the table eagerly awaiting their meal. The sight of them brought a warm feeling to her, despite the fact that the night was freezing. "Nothing is wrong."
She clasped her hands in front of her and swallowed. She wasn't lying, either. Nothing was wrong. If working at NCIS had taught her anything, it was that there was never anything wrong with mourning the lost, just as long as you don't dwell.
Abby squinted, unsure whether to believe Ziva are not. In the end, she just stepped aside, and Ziva gave a grateful half-smile.
"Hey, it's Ziva!" McGee exclaimed cheerily when she entered the room. He raised his glass of wine, which was almost empty, then downed the remainder of it.
"I think the wine's getting to the Probie," Tony explained. "He's on his third glass and we haven't gotten past the bread rolls yet."
"Sorry about that," Ziva said, going to sit down beside Abby.
"Ooh! Gibbs is sitting there - he's just in the kitchen. Sorry, Ziva," Abby said. "There's a spare next to Tony."
The Senior Field Agent twitched an eyebrow. 'Spare' was probably exaggerating. Due to the fact that Leroy Jethro Gibbs was very good at putting people up but hardly a host, the six of them (Gibbs, Ducky, Tony, McGee, Abby and Ziva - Jimmy was spending Thanksgiving with Breena and her delightful father) were crowded around a pretty small table. "Charming," some people might call it. Ziva was one of those people.
A turkey, three salads and a few bottles of wine later, the team began to clear up the dishes.
"Would you like me to help wash up, Jethro?" Ducky kindly offered.
Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "I drink bourbon out of jars, Duck. You think I'm in a hurry to get these dishes clean?"
Ducky couldn't answer before they were interrupted by the sound of Abby clinking her spoon against her glass. "I think it's time we say what we're thankful for, since we were a little too hungry to do it before eating. McGee, why don't you go first?"
Never the lover of giving speeches, McGee shot Abby a somewhat dirty look, but gulped and took his turned anyway, trying to hide the pink flushing to his cheeks.
"I'm thankful to have a stable job, and to be with - OW!" Abby had promptly elbowed him in the ribs for not being sentimental enough. "To have such great people in my life."
"Better," Abby said, matter-of-factly. She turned her head to the other side of her. "Ducky?"
"Well, I suppose I'm thankful for the mercy of whatever mystical being up there decided I wasn't finished yet," the Scotsman said, ever positive.
Tony cleared his throat. "I guess I'm next. Uh…I'm thankful for uh…" There was clearly some kind of inner conflict going on here. Ziva watched him carefully, wondering what he would say. "Movies. And short-shorts. Spring Break…" He inhaled so as to list more but accidentally caught Ziva's eye. Something about her looked disappointed, and he wouldn't have that. "I'm thankful for having people to love," she finished all of a sudden. "And lots of other stuff too, but mostly…" He looked at her. "Mostly the love thing."
He held her gaze for so long that she didn't realise it was her turn. She tried not to look embarrassed when Abby called her out on it, either.
"Um, I am thankful for having found a home in all of you. You all mean the world to me and I do not know where I would be without you." Ziva blinked hard and scratched under her eye. Surely, that itch was not a tear. Surely.
"I'm thankful for a home to go to every day," Abby began without hesitation or reservation. "I'm thankful for friends and for caffeine and for a meal like this and that you're all here to share it with me. I think if it weren't for certain events that we'd be squishing more people in her but you're all still here, and every day I thank myself for that." They all knew she wasn't just talking about Jimmy, then. But on a day for giving thanks, they knew all too well that it was best not to think about the empty chairs.
They all turned to Gibbs. The boss, the leader, the one they all looked up to. In the silence, he stood and held up his glass. "I'm thankful for having somethin' to wake up to every morning. And I'm thankful to have people who care."
"A man of few words," Tony replied with a nod and raised his glass.
"To Team Gibbs!" Abby proclaimed.
"To Team Gibbs!" they all chanted and drank.
The hours ticked by and, as it turns out, when Tony had said "by the fire", he had been right. The fireplace was roaring and the team were sharing war stories.
"Now this is a campfire, Tony," McGee said pointedly, and Tony rolled his eyes. He hated being reminded of what an ass he'd been when he was team leader, despite having tried his very hardest to lead them well, which he believed he'd done.
Ducky was in the middle of a rather lengthy tale, perched on the edge of Gibbs' sofa. Tony and Ziva were at the other end, sitting undeniably close for no particular reason. McGee and Abby were much the same on the floor. Gibbs sat in his arm chair.
Tony's watched beeped and he looked down. "Look at that - midnight," he whispered to Ziva. "Happy birthday, Tali."
She moved closer to him and leaned her head on his shoulder for that. Because sometimes, despite the very occasional piggish attributes, he was the sweetest person she'd ever known.