A short elevator ride later, they were on their way toward the exit, only to be greeted by an administrator and Sam Hanna.
“Hey guys. Ready to get out of dodge?” Sam teased.
“Hell yes… There’s only so much green jello a man can take,” Steve grinned.
“Well on behalf of everyone here, I hope we won’t be seeing you again anytime soon, Commander,” the administrator smiled
Ziva only smiled and shook her head as she rubbed her hand over Steve’s shoulder. “It will be nice to sleep in our own bed now,” she commented.
“I’m sure. As per Director Vance’s request, we’ve forwarded all relevant medical files to Doctor Donald Mallard, but we don’t foresee any complications, so long as you follow our instructions,” the Administrator smiled. “So long Commander, Agent David, Agent Hanna.”
The trio chorused their thanks and goodbyes before going out to the car where Callen was holding the passenger door open for Steve. Ziva set the chair by him so that he could help him get into the car while she took their bags to the trunk than Sam opened.
“So what are your plans now? You’re going to be out what? Six, eight weeks to start?” Callen asked, remembering somberly the months he was out.
“I figured I’d catch up on my reading. Maybe try to make sense of an unsolved case I’ve been working on,” Steve replied as he settled into a passenger seat, eyeing Ziva listening in through the rearview mirror. “When I’m not busy taking things easy of course.
She chuckled pleased at his willingness to be taken care of for awhile. “Yes. I forgot to mention Abby’s pleasure of your staying for the extended time. I would not doubt if she is already leaving presents for you in the apartment and planning your visits to the lab to keep her company.”
“So long as I don’t take up all her time. I don’t wanna get in anyone’s way,” he replied as Sam took the drivers seat and the four of them left the hospital.
“Hetty sends her apologies for not coming to say goodbye personally, but she’s prepping Deeks and Kensi for an undercover assignment,” Sam explained. “She and Callen are going to pose as husband and wife while keeping tabs on a naval officer who’s suspected of smuggling cocaine and heroin into the country. Deek’s will be playing the part of Kensi’s stoner brother.”
“He would play the part well I believe,” Ziva retorted. “Although I will admit he is a skilled and capable investigator.” A part of her felt a sense of deja vu at the comment, recalling saying nearly the identical words to McGee about Tony.
“Seconded. You guys make one hell of a team,” Steve added. “If you’re ever in Hawaii…”
“The steak’s on you,” Sam grinned. “I’m just sorry we didn’t catch Hesse.”
Ziva didn’t comment with any words other than to sigh as she looked over at Steve. “Let’s change the subject of conversation please?”
“Sure,” Sam said, flashing her an apologetic smile through the rearview mirror. “I hope you guys are hungry.”
“Starved,” Steve replied. “Private hospital or not… Hospital food is hospital food.
“Yes. Thank goodness that you guys were able to bring in take out when you could. The food was absolutely – just yuck,” she commented with a shudder. “This place we are going – it won’t be too much that we might miss our flight?”
“Yeah… About that…” Callen said with an impish grin. “Hetty figured that Steve would be feeling a little fragile still and that a commercial flight would be uncomfortable for him. So she called in a couple of favors with a friend who owns a couple of private airlines. They’ll have a G6 prepped and ready to depart LAX as soon as you’re ready.”
Ziva raised an eyebrow as she eyed each of them. “Are you some royalty or something that you somehow managed to hide from me all these years?” She asked Steve, feeling slightly put out.
“If I am, I’ve never been told,” Steve grinned. “She’s a nice lady and all but Hetty doesn’t need to give me any special treatment.”
“Hetty figured you’d say that. So she asked me to give you this,” Callen explained, leaning forward to hand Steve a folded piece of paper.
The Commander opened it and a smile formed on her lips. “Thank her for us.”
Ziva looked at him confused. “What did she say?”
“I don’t know for sure, but it seems that I once saved the life of a friend of hers. It’s just a name and the codename of the rescue operation… Along with her thanks…” he explained as he passed her the note.
She reached forward to take the note and smiled. Before she could respong her phone chirped with a text message making her groan. “It is Tony. He wishes you well and … I’m not saying anything more…”
“If I know Tony, it’s probably good that you don’t,” Steve grinned. “I bet he’s missing his partner.”
“I am sure he is but this has to do more about you and I than missing me,” she snorted as she passed him her cell phone that contained a rather vulgar joke about them joining the mile high club having his approval.
“DiNozzo and Deeks were separated at birth,” Steve shook his head. “And as for his suggestion…”
“Funny,” she muttered as she pulled the phone back but a smile still ghosted her lips as she let the thought cross her mind. “We will see…”
For the rest of the car ride to the restaurant and while eating, they traded stories of funny incidents that happened during investigations to their teammates and both Ziva and Steve found that they both felt more relaxed than they had been for a long time. There was just an energy in the air that neither one could quite put their finger on, but acknowledged it to each other with a simple look.
Ziva found herself gazing at him a lot more than she had previously, just reveling in the smiles and laughter that filled Steve’s face. A quick glance at the time and Callen had broken her of the spell she had unknowingly slipped into but was nonetheless grateful because she still was not quite ready to allow her thoughts to be vocalized and was animate in their continuing onto the airport.
As the private plane’s engines fired up and the airstrip crew loaded their luggage onto the plane, the four friends and colleagues prepared to part ways.
“You take care of yourself,” Sam said as he carefully hugged his former CO. “Don’t make me come to Hawaii to kick your ass into touch.”
“No need for that Sammy… Ziva will keep me in line,” Steve smiled. “But the invitation to visit still stands.”
“Next leave. I’ll bring the family,” Sam promised before looking to Ziva. “What can I say. Z. It’s been fun… We should do this again sometime?”
Ziva chuckled as she shook her head and hugged the man. “Dinner, lunch, yes. But not with this level of excitement,” she replied. “Take care of yourself.”
“You too. Call me if you need me,” he said as he stepped back.
“And tell Gibbs that we’re on for October, and that I’ll bring the bourbon,” Callen added as he shook their hands.
“I will. We will call when we land,” she smiled before returning to Steve’s side to help him up the steps.
“So, are you glad to be going back to DC?” Steve asked, giving their friends a final wave.
Ziva let out a breath as she felt it was a loaded question. “I do. It will be nice to have some privacy and to get back to some sense of normal. Are you?”
“Well I’m not looking forward to the weather… And the days that you’ll be at work will be ilong/i. But I am looking forward to spending time with you,” he replied honestly as they reached the top of the steps and boarded the plane.”
As he leaned against the stair rail, she stepped up to him and pressed herself tightly to his body as she reached up to hook her hands over his shoulders. “I know but for the time I won’t be at work I can make it worth your while,” Ziva finished with a purr.
“Promises, promises,” he whispered hoarsely. “But uh… I’m injured… So you’ll have to be gentle with me.”
She chuckled as she pressed her lips to his. “Alright. Let’s get inside and settled. You look like you’re ready to fall over on me.”
“Sounds good,” he said as he took a deep breath of fresh air and went inside the jet.
Once the couple was settled in their seats and the plane in the air, Ziva unbuckled herself and slid closer to Steve and curled up against him. “We will be fine. Right?” She questioned softly.
“Fine… We’ll be much better than fine, Ziva. I almost lost you. As hard as that is to hear… It’s all I’ve been thinking about since I woke up in the hospital. Not Hesse… Not my father’s last case… Just losing you again,” he replied squeezing her hand gently before digging into his pocket.
“And that hurt worse than any bullet… So when Danny flew home, I asked him to overnight something very important to me.”
She looked up at him confused. “I certainly do not wish to lose you either but we need to let each other in and help each other. No matter the difficulty of the situation. We cannot keep secrets.”
“No more secrets, no more pushing each other away,” he said as he took her hand. “If I’m sure of one thing, it’s this… I want you to marry me, Ziva.”
Sliding a simple, yet elegant looking diamond engagement ring onto her finger, he looked into her eyes. “This was left to me when my mother died. My Dad said that she always intended on giving it to me when I found the person I wanted to marry. It was always a terrible reminder of what I’d lost… My mother… My relationship with my sister… My dad… That was until you came back into my life. So I know it sounds crazy, we haven’t been together long and we live across the country from one another… But I love you and this feels so right. So please… Please take your time to think about this if you’re not sure…”
Ziva was wide eyed as she stared up at him, hearing his words and watched as he slid the ring onto her hand. Her mouth fell open, unable to formulate any words. Shifting her gaze to her hand she studied the ring before looking up at him, panic and fear flooding her body. She had never before truly considered herself the type to marry, what with her life as it had been in the Mossad and the horrid line of exes that hurt her over and over.
“Steve, wow…” she whispered, looking at him, then the ring and back. “I – I – …”
To be continued…