Title: Another Christmas Eve in Washington
Characters: Gibbs, Tony, Ziva, McGee, Abby
Summary: Gibbs's team is granted a rare few days off, leaving Ziva to contemplate what she will do alone in the city while everyone else is leaving town. But sometimes all it takes is a little light on a silent night.
Note: Shameless ignoring of one of Gibbs's rules in the spirit of Christmas. Title is shamelessly taken from the Maura Sullivan song. Written for NFA's Secret Santa 2012
"Man, how lucky were we to get Christmas off this year?" Tony exclaimed. "That almost makes it a real vacation this year."
"Considering how unlucky we've been the past few years it's about time," McGee added, not breaking his gaze from whatever technological enigma he was tackling, his fingers flying over the keys and filling the bullpen with the click-clack noise common of older PC keyboards.
Ziva saw Gibbs start to open his mouth to reprimand Tony's casual attitude before shaking his head and returning to his work, evidently deciding that his efforts were better spent elsewhere.
Tony reached out his arms, cracking his knuckles ever so slowly as he stretched his hands. "Just enough of a vacation to enjoy the slopes of Mont Tremblant," he relished. "Great skiing, roaring fires, sexy French Canadian ski bunnies. Going to—" he looked at Gibbs for a moment before continuing—"have some fun. A lot of fun"
"Well I for one am going to enjoy a little family time," McGee said with a grin, finishing up his task with an emphatic single keystroke. "Sarah's dating a great guy from Philadelphia. Figured I was due for a visit."
"I'm surprised at you McGruff," Tony teased. "Not playing the protective brother role."
McGee shrugged. "He knows I can hack his bank account, hide all his money, and get away with it if I need to. Didn't see the point in waving my gun in his face."
The predatory gleam on McGee's face at the prospect of ruining the guy's financial future momentarily startled Ziva, unused to seeing McGee display that kind of emotion. She shook off the thought, outwardly smiling at McGee and Tony's antics. Who was she to judge? She supposed there were more kinds of brothers in the world than she had time to consider.
A tinny ring interrupted the jolly yet pensive atmosphere. Tony fumbled around in the things on his desk until he withdrew his cell p hone, the strains of a bombastic carol bursting free with a merry, "fa la la la la la la la la." His eyes perked up when he looked at the screen but he merely touched the phone to silence it and placed it in his pocket.
"Who's that, Tony?" McGee asked, waggling his eyebrows.
"Nunya," Tony growled back.
"One of Abby's nuns?" Ziva asked. "Are you a bowler too, Tony? I have never seen someone's eyes perk up quite like that about bowling but I must admit that I do not yet know all the American eccentricities."
"No," Tony explained, fighting a blush, "None as in 'None of your business.'"
"Or none as in, 'None of you have been candy caned yet,'" called Abby as she walked into the bullpen. "Hmm, that sounds—nevermind."
Ziva took in the sight that was a fully merry Abigail Scuito. Her black boots were decorated with a pattern of holly leaves and berries. Ziva chuckled quietly at the brief look of reflective consternation on Abby's face before, with a quick shake of an antlered head, it disappeared into the flash of a twinkling red nose.
"Anyhow," Abby said, regaining her footing, "I have come bearing delicious minty gifts." She made a circuit of the bullpen, tucking a candy cane into Gibbs and McGee's suit jacket front pockets and onto the high neck of Ziva's turtleneck sweater. Tony simply stood there with his mouth open and an exaggerated leer on his face. Abby, not missing a beat (though offering a pointed glare at his absurdity) shoved the candy cane into Tony's mouth, evidently to his surprise judging by his subsequent coughing and spluttering. He withdrew it from his mouth, affecting a nonchalant air despite the fact that the team's attention was on him.
"Thank you, Abby," Ziva said, placing the candy cane in her pen holder to enjoy later. "And that headband is impressive. Nice rack."
Tony coughed and spluttered again, the candy cane which he had just finished unwrapping clattering onto the desk.
"Antlers, Ziva," McGee corrected, his own face tinged with red."
"It is a rack of antlers, no?" Ziva said. "Typically found on male deer. Surprising though it may be I do know something about deer."
"I don't doubt that you do," McGee assured her. "But saying it like that...it means something a little different."
"Well I'll take the compliment regardless," Abby interjected, ending the debate. A buzzing noise sounded, prompting Abby to withdraw a small egg timer from her pocket. "Well I'd love to stay and chat but my babies need me," she told them. "See you all when I get back from my retreat. Merry Christmas!" She strode off, her jingle bell necklace echoing in her footsteps.
"You are all going away then?" Ziva asked, an unusual note of dejection in her voice. A stretch of silence ensued until Vance's voice called from above, "Gibbs. MTAC. Now."
The bullpen stayed silent until the door to MTAC audibly closed, the click echoing around the emptying office. "Well," McGee said finally, his expression displaying an uneasy curiosity about the situation upstairs, "I guess so."
Ziva, her worked finished, pushed back from her desk and picked up a small duffel which had been laying by her feet. "Might as well head to the gym." She nodded to Tony and McGee as she headed out. "If I do not see you before you leave, enjoy your holiday." As she pushed the door to the stairs open (she found it more than a little odd when people took an elevator to the gym) she called back to Tony, her teasing voice ringing with false cheer, "Do not get soft over the break DiNozzo. Age is no excuse."
It must have been her imagination for she thought she heard Tony break into yet another coughing fit right as the door clicked shut, only this time McGee joined him. He should really get that checked out, especially if it was starting to infect McGee.
Ziva wandered around her apartment, caught up in a storm of cleaning and organizing, if only for a lack of anything else to do. Hanukkah had fallen much earlier than Christmas this year, though her schedule would not have been full of happy family gatherings either way. Her favorite local hangout was scheduled to close two hours early on this Christmas Eve and she had no desire to see the latest stupid humor movie at the theater down the street. She pulled her jacket off the coat hooks by the door, reaching for the sweater beneath it to toss into her laundry basket. In the midst of replacing the jacket on the book a piece of folded paper fluttered to the floor. Ziva stared at it, confused by its presence on her freshly cleaned tile, before picking it up and unfolding it.
Gibbs's familiar handwriting stood out on the lined paper. "7pm, St. John's H Street."
Ziva looked up at the clock to check the time. 4:30pm. Just enough time to get ready and head downtown. She shrugged as she made her way to the shower. She had attended more than her share of religious services over her career and she could at the very least enjoy spending an evening with good music and company.
Ziva entered the church, taking a program from the usher with a polite nod. She paced down the aisle of the unfamiliar building, her eyes scanning for Gibbs. She spotted him in a corner which jutted out from the main set of pews, in what looked like a side sanctuary, sitting at the end of the last row, his back to a rather colorful stained glass window. Ziva smiled. Good sight lines to the rest of the church, no one behind you, exactly where she would have sat if it had been up to her. Some called it paranoid, others called it habit.
Gibbs moved his coat aside to let Ziva sit down. "Glad you could make it," he said. He helped Ziva out of her coat, placing it by his own.
"Glad for the company," Ziva responded in kind. "I do hope I dressed appropriately."
Gibbs took in her outfit. "Looks fine too me," he assured her. "Don't think other people will be watching you much anyhow." He shrugged. "Their loss. It's a nice mandarin jacket," he said, lowering his voice to a whisper as the strains of organ music swelled.
"One of the perks of living near a Chinatown," Ziva whispered back, glancing at the program to see the title of the song, which seemed vaguely familiar. Once in Royal David's City...the title didn't ring a bell, but that was not an unusual situation. She hastily rose to her feet as she saw others doing. A procession of robed choir members and clergy passed, expertly displaying the tricky feat that is walking and singing harmony at the same time. Ziva smoothly followed Gibbs's lead, sitting or standing as he did until partway into the service when the time came for some sort of individual prayer and she watched as members of the congregation variously sat, knelt, or stood. She glanced at Gibbs out of the corner of her eye, noticing his closed eyes and singular focus on whatever was occupying his thoughts. Without knowing Gibbs's specific religious beliefs (they were likely as complex as the man himself) the scene made her shiver at its unique degree of intimacy. It struck her that she was not just invited here because Gibbs knew that she would be alone and possibly lonely, but that Gibbs was allowing her to witness a side of himself which very few people ever got to see, and certainly not anyone with whom he worked. For some reason he thought that she, out of everyone else in his life, deserved to be privy to it.
Lost in her musings Ziva didn't notice that Gibbs was looking her way until she turned slightly and caught his inquisitive gaze. She shrugged and fixed her attention towards the front where the choir had started singing an intricate piece where soaring soprano and tenor lines intertwined with the tumbling yet strong harmony of the altos and basses. She could have sworn she felt Gibbs's gaze linger for a moment, but she resolutely kept her eyes forward. Something about her realization unnerved her, not in an unwelcome way but rather as a change which held the promise of better changes yet to come.
The service ended with an enthusiastic rendition of Joy to the World, a song with which Ziva was familiar, though only because of Tony's off-color rendition which he had belted out in the car recently, much to McGee's annoyance.
Gibbs helped Ziva into her coat before reaching for his own. "It wouldn't be right to draw you out on a cold night without at least providing dinner," Gibbs said as they walked out onto the sidewalk. "Can't promise a feast but I do know my way around a kitchen."
"I think that I would like that," Ziva replied, following Gibbs to where he had semi-legally parked his car. "I do not doubt your cooking skills but I appreciate the company."
The ride back to Gibbs's place was marked by few other cars on the road and even fewer words inside the car aside from the occasional remark on the excellence of the music. While it may have felt awkward if it had been anyone else in the car, Ziva knew that Gibbs would not hold back anything he wanted to say out of fear or a misguided desire to not offend her "delicate feminine sensibilities" (as Tony had jokingly said once, and only once). Part of what Ziva felt made Gibbs such a good interrogator was his thorough understanding of how to present himself to others regardless of how he felt, leading Ziva to believe that, while the expression on his face was one of quotidian calmness, he was engaged in similar internal musings to her own.
Gibbs's house stood free of any obvious external decorations between two homes whose elaborate displays of lights and inflatable holiday figures would have made Liberace proud. Ziva arched her eyebrows in disbelief. Regardless of religious or home design preferences there were such things as taste and elegance.
Gibbs shook his head in amused agreement. "They're not bad neighbors," he explained. "They're usually pretty subdued and friendly but they try to one-up each other every year." He unlocked his front door and pushed it open, flipping the light switches as he entered. "The glow doesn't get into the basement so I don't see the point of complaining." He turned back to where Ziva was still standing in the doorway, her head tilted upwards. "Are you—"
"I believe there is some sort of tradition with this, yes?" she said, pointing up to a spot above the frame of the door where someone had affixed a sprig of mistletoe. "Mistlefoot?"
"Tobias," Gibbs stated in a near growl. "It's mistletoe," he told Ziva. "The tradition, to put it simply, is that a man and a woman who meet under hanging mistletoe are obliged to kiss."
"How do you know that it was Agent Fornell?" Ziva asked. "Unless of course you are talking about some other Tobias."
"Sounds like his kind of prank," Gibbs replied tersely. "It also explains a text he sent earlier today. 'Enjoy the decorations.'"
"Well," Ziva said, considering her words carefully, "Though I can't see how he would have expected that anyone would notice it, it seems to me that the best way to get back at him would be to not let it bother you. To...follow through with it you could say." Ziva waited, watching Gibbs visibly think the matter over, as she tried to clamp down on the hesitant feeling that she had gone too far. While she had been known to make mistakes a time or two, especially where her own desires were concerned, she was certain she had come to the right conclusion.
In the midst of her worrying Gibbs stepped forward onto the threshold, looking directly into her eyes for a moment, and lightly captured her lips with his.
There were no fireworks, no sudden explosion of passion as promised in cheesy romance novels, just an overwhelming sense of rightness and of belonging. It was not something that she could have predicted she'd feel even the day before, despite her admiration of Gibbs and objective understanding that, despite the age difference, Gibbs definitely had physical appeal.
Gibbs stepped back, looking intently at Ziva. "Well it's warmer inside," he said simply. He held out his hand and added, "Come on, I'll start a fire."
Ziva took his hand and allowed him to lead her inside. His statement, though it seemed to be an odd thing to say following a kiss, could not completely mask the slight grin that had threatened to overtake his normally stoic expression. What was going to happen in the future she didn't know, but all was right in the here and now and that was something worth celebrating. She smiled as she came in from the cold and noted aloud, "Remind me to thank Agent Fornell."