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Taking Comfort in Pack

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Ziva asked for the afternoon of Lieutenant Roy Sander’s funeral off. It was short notice, but she knew Gibbs understood.

Arriving alone was… uncomfortable. She could already see groups collecting in the patterns of the people in the church. IAEA coworkers closer to the front of the church, friends from outside work over to one side, and fellow officers or more distant coworkers more toward the back. That was surely the sister in the front, and as much as Ziva longed to meet the woman, she held back. There was no clear group into which she fit, so she sat in the back row and observed.

She did not expect anyone to approach her here. No one knew her except Roy’s closest coworkers, and they might understandably wish to have nothing to do with her. Excluding the one which was not present, being under arrest for Roy’s murder. So she expected to be alone. Until the feeling of another too close caught her attention and she looked over her shoulder to find…

Gibbs. Flanked by Tony and Tim. And behind them were Palmer and Abby. They slipped past her into the row, settling in without a word.

In fact, much of the afternoon passed without a word on any of their parts. She was hustled away from her car after the service and into the van they’d all come in, Abby putting on some slow, sad music as Palmer drove them all to the cemetery.

Where they stood silently as Roy was lowered into the ground. Ziva was not familiar with the whole of the ritual. It seemed odd to her to only offer a flower instead of a shovel full of dirt. But she joined the line, passing the coffin, passing the grave, passing Roy’s sister.

And found she had no words. It was Gibbs who stepped up and spoke to the sad woman, words of comfort and sorrow, expressions of regret as to his team’s failure.

Ziva’s failure. If she had just told Roy he was getting worse… if she had pushed him harder about what he was exposing himself to…

Tony flung his arm over her shoulders as they walked from the grave. Ziva considered tossing him to the ground. Considered elbowing him hard enough to crack a rib. Considered just ducking away. But in the end she chose none of them, letting the touch offer small comfort and the irritation distract her from her guilt.

When they got back in the van, Abby’s music was much more energetic, very much at odds with the somber atmosphere of the earlier ride. Considering the incongruity was understandable, but that should not have prevented Ziva from noticing sooner that they were not returning to the church, or even NCIS.

“Where are we going?” Ziva started searching for landmarks. “I must get my car.”

“Had it driven back to headquarters,” Gibbs said. “You can pick it up tomorrow.”

“And what am I supposed to do tonight?”

“After party’s at Gibbs’s,” Tony crowed.

“After party?” Ziva asked, utterly confused even as Gibbs leaned back and caught Tony across the back of the head.

“Yes, boss. Thank you, boss. This is not an after party, it is a wake.”

“Should we not return to work?” Ziva countered.

“Nope,” Gibbs said. And somehow that simple word was enough.

~o0o~

The “wake” consisted of food, drink, and music at Gibbs’s house. Ducky met them all there with apologies for missing the funeral. He had needed to finish a report for Special Agent Balboa. Tony insisted repeatedly that a decent surround sound system, heck, a TV would be nice and they could watch movies because movies were perfect for wakes. Ducky countered with stories of various dramatic funerals from his wide ranging past.

Ziva did not understand. Anything. And confessed as much to Abby about an hour in. “You did not even meet Roy.” She did not intend the words to sound like an accusation, but could not deny they did come out that way.

“I would have liked to,” Abby said sadly. “But I didn’t need to meet him, because I met you, and I’m here for you. We all are.”

“Why?” Ziva cried in frustration. “There was no reason for you to attend.”

Abby looked at Ziva the way she did when Ziva had slipped up awkwardly on another English idiom. Like she was trying to dissect Ziva’s brain. “You, Ziva. You were our reason. Because you’re pack, and team, and family. You’re hurting, so we’re here for you.”

Ziva felt as though she and Abby had been speaking different languages and the conversation had only just begun to make sense. She did not understand the concept of pack as the others did. In truth, she still found the whole shifter thing somewhat discomforting. But… But…

She would worry about that, about her place in America tomorrow. Tonight she would let Abby enfold her in a hug and let Tony tell bad stories and let Gibbs host and know they were offering comfort as best they knew how. She let Ducky drive her home at the end of the evening and agreed to let Tim pick her up in the morning.

And wished she could have introduced Roy to her pack.