“Ah why are you getting up?” John groaned as he nearly fell off the couch. He had fallen asleep with his head in Elsa’s lap and she was one fine pillow.
“Because, you and I need to talk,” she said and poked him to make him sit up. “Up.”
He opened his eyes and smiled when he saw Elsa standing in front of him, dressed in white clothes that reminded him of the Lanteans he had encountered on the Aurora. “You look good.”
“And you, should open your eyes,” she poked him again and smiled widely.
She kept poking him. “Open your eyes, I like her.”
“Like who? Stop poking me!”
John woke up feeling confused. What had that dream been about? It was Wednesday now, and the case wasn’t particularly interesting, the sailor was a dead body on a boat, and John had taken the day off, just because he could.
Ziva went about her business as usual at work and would look over across the bullpen at John’s desk. Tony could see that she was anxious about something but with Gibbs hovering nearby he couldn’t ask what about.
“Stop staring at me Tony,” she commented as she typed up an email.
“Your partner called in to get the day off, that is odd, don’t you think, Ziva?”
She looked at him and shook her head. “I do not think so. John could be ill. As well as Torren and Teyla. He does have a family to think of where we do not.”
“It’s not even his own kid,” Tony huffed. “I find it all very weird.”
“So what? They been through enough that he considers him blood. What is it to you?” she questioned as she slammed on her stapler in annoyance.
“Ziva, he’s just trying to get a rise out of you.” Gibbs didn’t look up from the file he was reading. “If you’re bored, DiNozzo, you could go to see Abby and ask for progress on the evidence.”
She narrowed her eyes at Tony from across the way. “Gibbs? May I leave early on Friday? I have plans for the weekend and could use the extra time to get my things together.”
“How early?” Gibbs asked and looked up.
“A few hours. Maybe like 2pm? I’ll work through lunch,” she answered simply.
“Fine by me,” Gibbs shrugged, turning back to his paperwork.
“Where are you going?” Tony asked.
“Out of state,” she said as she started a new email to see how John was doing and to let him know she would be able to leave earlier than planned.
He hadn’t really bothered to get dressed on his day off and had gotten in a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt when he wandered into the living room. He sleepily scratched his head as he noticed Carson sitting on the couch, talking to Teyla. “How come I didn’t hear you come in?”
“Because you were sleeping like the dead lad,” Carson grinned. “How have you been?”
“Fine, you?” John sat down on the couch only for Torren to start using him as a jungle jim.
“Good. I had been having an interesting conversation with Teyla. Dr. Mallard also has some intriguing observations about you as well,” he said with that odd smile.
“You know, I would appreciate it if people stopped talking about me behind my back. I’m fine. I haven’t had a nightmare or flashback or whatever for weeks.” John groaned as Torren placed his knee in his crotch. “Okay buddy, I’ve had enough…” he said gently and lifted Torren off his lap.
The doctor shook his head. “You can’t blame us for being concerned about you. However I am pleased to hear that things have indeed been looking up for you. A Miss David?”
“I’m not awake enough for this,” John muttered, got up and headed towards the kitchen.
Carson chuckled and allowed John to get his morning dose of coffee. He turned back to Teyla to quietly get more information that he could before their friend returned.
He flipped open his phone and texted Ziva. Don’t you just hate it when people talk about you behind your back? He poured himself a coffee and made himself a turkey sandwich. He then sent her; Please call me and beg me to come to work today
Sorry John, but I just finished telling Tony that you would have valid reasons for being out. I will ask Gibbs. Standby.
I had a valid reason, I was tired. Now I’m being bugged by a doctor.
John sighed as he walked back into the living room. “Alright, I’m waking up…”
I believe you. Don’t forget I am your partner now…Gibbs said he will call you in an hour. Sorry.
“Sorry,” John said as he checked his phone. Shaking his head, he put the phone back into his pocket and took a sip of his coffee. “That was my partner updating me about the case.”
Teyla looked confused then suspicious. “I thought the investigation was going well which was the reason that you were free to take off to rest today,” she commented.
John shrugged. “Things can change.”
“I see. In any case, please tell me more about this young lady. I hear she is quite fond of you…” Carson said earning a wince from Teyla for having said too much.
“She is?” He asked sheepishly. “She’s my partner and my friend, which is weird considering we’ve only been here for less than two months.” He took a bite off his sandwich.
“It doesn’t take much,” Carson said with an apologizing look.
Teyla smiled and nodded. “Without betraying her confidence, I do know she wants to learn more of you. I also know that she is planning on going away this weekend…the same time that you are planning your vacation?”
“Why is it weird for men having a friendship with a woman? I mean, the team even thought I was dating Teyla…” he shook his head. “I’m taking Ziva to Virginia for the weekend, I know you don’t like horses, and she does.”
The two looked at each other with a smile. “I think this is a good thing,” Carson commented. “I think if you like this girl, you should consider to pursue her. I can see already that her influence has done well by you.”
“No offense, Carson, but I don’t feel like pursuing anyone at this time,” he said with his jaw set. “Maybe in the future, but for now, no, and you’ll be proud of my restraint of not pursuing Ziva as once I show you her picture you’ll think I’m perverted.”
“That she resembles Miss Elsa? I know about that already. I have read about the team when Dr. Mallard called me. Have you considered that maybe Elsa sent her to you for a reason?”
“Carson, despite the fact that I’ve seen many things, I still don’t believe there’s such a thing as ghosts or fate or whatever,” John said and really wished that Gibbs wouldn’t wait an hour to call him. “No offense, Teyla.”
“Then please explain what you believe is the reason for the lack of nightmares since you and she began working as partners and having lunch together?” she asked in turn.
“I’m keeping myself busy, I don’t have time to think myself silly.”
“Excuses,” Carson scolded. “You just don’t want to see what is right in front of you!”
John bit back a nasty remark and glared at Carson. “Why is it so important to you for me to find someone to settle down with?” He then looked at Teyla. “And if you’re sick and tired of staying with me, you know that you could leave any time you want to.” He got up and took his coffee. “You two should shack up.” he said as he walked towards his bedroom to get dressed.
“We just want you to be happy!” Teyla called after him and sighed. “She could make you happy,” she said to herself.
Torren’s eyes grew big and started to cry, or actually, wail like a siren. “I don’t wanna leave!”
“Torren, come here. Please leave John alone,” Teyla said trying to comfort him. “If we must leave, we will.”
“NO!” Torren pounded his little fists against Teyla. “I don’t wanna leave!”
“I know you don’t son but maybe you and your mom should stay in a hotel for a couple days to let Uncle John calm down,” Carson said.
John exited his bedroom, fully clothed, jeans and a decent shirt this time and a bag filled with clothes in his hand. “Don’t bother, I’ll be back on Monday.” He looked at Torren and smiled. “Look after your mom for me,” he told the kid and then looked at Teyla and Carson. “Have fun talking about me.” He grabbed his ball cap, his glasses and his keys before he headed out to his car.
John sent Ziva a text message before he started the car. Staying at a hotel.
I’m taking lunch now, meet me at my apartment. She texted right after and sent her address.
He sighed, he was too angry to talk and he wasn’t sure if he should go to her apartment, but found himself driving there anyway.
When Ziva got there, she found him sitting on the steps of the building. “Come inside,” she said, unlocking the doors and leading him in. Once inside, she did not say anything but went to make a light meal for them of salad and tea.
John didn’t dare to look around in the apartment, he kept standing at the door. “This is a very bad idea…”
“Shut up, sit down, and eat,” Ziva said as she put his plate on the island counter.
He slowly made his way in, cautiously to the kitchen. Sitting down, he took a stab at the salad. “Thanks…”
She nodded and returned to eating her own lunch but watched him carefully.
Eventually he had drunk the tea, but hadn’t touched his salad. “I know that I need to have someone to look after me,” he said softly, “I forget things, or zone out or whatever. I got angry with Teyla and my doctor today for trying to interfere with my personal life, pushing me into a corner.”
Ziva only nodded before pushing his plate closer to him. “You should eat,” she replied.
“I just has breakfast, I’m not really hungry…”
“Okay then. You can go get your bags from your car then and put them in the guest room,” she ordered.
“No,” he shook his head. “I’ll be staying at a hotel until we leave for the weekend, it’s fine.”
“Absolutely not. You are my partner and teammate. We take care of one another and have each other’s backs. You will stay with me. We do not have to tell anyone,” she said taking the plates to clean.
“As much as I appreciate the thought… I left my house to be alone for a while.” he chuckled.
“You can be alone here. I don’t do much other than read so you won’t know I am around. Besides, I need to return to the office so you will be alone for awhile,” she smiled. “You are welcome here.”
John realized he wouldn’t win a sparring match with Ziva without walking out on her too, and that was the last thing he wanted. “You win,” he said. “Thanks.”
She smiled more brightly then. “You’re welcome. Now get your bags and I’ll show you around before I leave.”
He nodded and went out to the car to get his bag, with a little voice in the back of his head saying that this would be a very bad idea still and he tried to ignore it. He locked the car and took a step back onto the road before jumping right back because of a car blowing its horn coming from the corner of his eye. He hadn’t seen it coming. Taking a deep breath, he turned around and made sure he could cross the road to Ziva’s apartment.
She waited by the door for him and watched. Making a decision then, she knew what else she would show him. “Come on,” she said leading him to the guest room and other things he might need. The restroom, linen closest, movies and her knife collection that she hid around for defense reasons.
Her apartment looked nice, it was just as small (or big, depending on what you were used to) as his old apartment back in Colorado. He blinked at the amount of knives that Ziva had, sure he had suspected that she had a few, laying around somewhere, but this much? If he didn’t know any better, she was as paranoid as he was. “Wow.”
“You see, you are not alone,” she said softly. “We all have our fears.”
He nodded and nearly jumped ten feet in the air when his phone rang. It was Carson. He let it ring for a while and then hung up. “You are an amazing woman, Ziva, you shouldn’t live your life in fear.”
“Perhaps you should take your own advice,” she said, indicating his reaction to the phone. “You are a capable man. There is plenty to defend yourself here. I will get take out for supper on my way back. Okay?”
“Okay,” he nodded.
“See you later then,” Ziva said before grabbing her coat and purse before leaving.
He wasn’t scared, he was stressed, but scared, no. John was pissed off, because even though he could use a good kick in the ass sometimes, this time he felt that Carson and Teyla had gone too far.
He could understand that they wanted to see him happy, but he was doing his best right now, and didn’t really think that diving into another relationship would make him feel better. He had to admit, there were some feelings for Ziva but he didn’t want to act upon them right now.
For now, she was safe as a good friend. Despite that weird dream he had that morning. He liked walking around in her apartment, there were pictures of Ziva and the team, and with someone that probably was her father. Feeling like a pervert, he retreated to the guest room and sat down on the bed to think.
When Ziva returned later that evening, Gibbs having changed his mind about calling John in, she had a large bag with assorted containers of chinese food. “John?” she called out as she began unpacking the bag in the kitchen.
He must have fallen asleep as he didn’t hear Ziva return home from work, and woke up when she called for him. For a second there, he thought that Elsa was calling him, and that was one of the other reasons why he didn’t want to ‘pursue’ Ziva just yet.
Sometimes, he confused Ziva for Elsa in his head, and that was wrong. “Hey…” he said sleepily as he walked into the kitchen. “Sorry, I fell asleep…”
“I know. Gibbs would not tell me why he didn’t call you back, but I suspect he believes that you indeed needed rest. I didn’t know what you preferred so I got a variety. Everything but pork – not kosher,” she said opening containers with vegetables and lo mein noodles.
He chuckled. “I’m a trash can, remember?” he said. “Thanks, again.”
“Enjoy,” she laughed and passed a set of chop sticks over. “Plates or straight out the containers?”
Shrugging he grabbed a vegetable from the container with his chop sticks. “For some reason it tastes better when eating it straight from the container.”
Nodding in agreement she took the chicken lo mein and two bottles of wine before heading to the living room. “Television,” Ziva said as she tried to catch a noodle hanging over the top of the container. “I like watching tv during dinner. Of course I usually eat alone.” She turned the news on and settled on the floor to use the coffee table.
He took the other containers with him towards the living room where Ziva was and nearly tripped over something that had the same color as the floor. He managed to stop the containers from flying as he sat down. “What was that?” he looked from the direction he had come and could hit himself. “I tripped over a floor mat?” he chuckled.
She looked up, “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, don’t worry.” He said as he put the containers down on the table. “I always have to get used to new area’s, I just wasn’t paying enough attention. It’s the missing depth vision thing that sucks. I for one am glad that so far, the cases at NCIS didn’t require me running after someone because one, I’m not sure if I can still run and two, I would probably trip and make an ass out of myself.”
“Don’t you have glasses or something to help that?” she asked as she passed him one of the bottles of wine.
“There’s nothing wrong with my lens, if it hadn’t been for the blood cloth or whatever when I got injured I would have been able to see fine, but the retina is shot and there isn’t anything they can do about it. Glasses other than sunglasses for when I’m outside to make the light transition easier, won’t help.” He explained, “Sometimes I can see things easily, the other moment I can’t, it all depends on where things are.”
“I see. It has to be frustrating,” she commented. “So, plans for tonight? Movie? Or do you just want to go rest? It’ll be a long day tomorrow.”
“I’m fine now, movie sounds good,” he smiled. “Unless we’ll be running somewhere outside, tomorrow will be just fine.”
“You never know with Gibbs. We closed the case today so tomorrow will be reports and following up on cold cases,” she said as she studied a piece of chicken. “Any particular movie? Tony left a bunch here the last time I hosted a team dinner.”
“Surprise me, I haven’t watched a lot of movies,” he shrugged.
“Okay,” Ziva said carefully as she thought. She looked at him for a moment and nodded. Getting up, she looked over the shelf and pulled a disc out and put it on. Settling back down next to him on the floor, they ate quietly as the opening credits to Top Gun started.
“Top Gun? Really?” John snorted, “Do we have to watch that?” He was trying to forget the fact that he used to be a pilot and she had put on a pilot movie, didn’t he tell her?
“Do you not want to?” she asked worried that she upset him. She truly thought that he would have enjoyed it. “I will change it right away,” she said getting up to stop the film, unsure of what else to put on now.
“It’s a good movie,” John said, “And if you want to watch it, it’s fine, it’s your home after all.” He continued. “I’m just not sure if I should watch it.”
She shook her head and pulled out a random disc. “No, if it bothers you then we will not watch it. John, we are partners and you should trust that I have your back, on the job and off.”
Ziva sat back down and sighed. “I don’t know what this is as it was a blank case.
Well, if ‘Homeward Bound’ wasn’t a safe movie to watch, then what would be? “Aww, and here I thought Tony liked black and white or mafia movies.”
She chuckled. “He is a man of many contradictions,” she said. “I watched this when I was younger but translated to Hebrew. Does not have the same effect.”
“Lots of things get lost in translation,” John nodded. “We used to work with equipment that had manuals in a really obscure language,” he started, “One day we thought we had found a manual, but in the end it was their book of pranks,” he chuckled.
“Sounds like a fun time. I bet I would have gotten frustrated myself with these people after finding that out,” she laughed.
“Yeah, it’s a shame we never really got the chance to tell them they didn’t have a sense of humor.” John smiled and quietly drank his wine.
Ziva smiled at him and nodded. “I imagine so, still it sounds like the assignment was one to die for.”
“And people did,” John replied sadly. “And I shouldn’t be mourning them now, we all knew what we signed up for, but for a body count this high?” he shook his head. “It still makes me angry.”
“It should. No matter what people tell you,” she said speaking from experience. “Keeping in that anger will only destroy you…”
“So far it hasn’t,” John said and took another sip of his wine. “From the day I woke up I was told I needed to behave myself because I’m a terrible patient, also, if I got angry there was this massive pain in my head so I kept calm,” he started to rant. “Then I find out that Teyla’s been living in my apartment with Torren, and it’s fine, I mean, they need a home too, and at least they had something somewhat familiar. I also needed her help because I was in a wheelchair and on suicide watch because they thought I was going to hurt myself one way or the other.” He sighed and shook his head. “It’s what I do when I want to deal with things as most people on the base dying or being told that the woman you’ve grown to love got shot execution style right in front of you but your brain doesn’t want you to remember; I retreat and don’t let anyone know what I’m up to, they’re all worried that I will off myself. What they don’t get is that I come back up eventually.” He pointed to his shoulder. “I’ve got this tracker inside of me so they can find me whenever they see fit, it’s standard issue, they just like to use it on me, which is probably why Carson stopped calling after I hung up the first time.” He rubbed his eyes. “I think I’m just really fed up with trying to control myself for the sake of the kid.”
She listened carefully but there were things that she could or couldn’t relate to. “When they brought be back from – Somalia, people believed that I would turn on a murderous rampage because of my training. Gibbs knew that I wouldn’t but I knew our working relationship had changed because of the circumstances around my brother’s death,” she shared softly.
Ziva took a deep breath and shook her head. “There was something he said, that the Mossad assassin in me died in that desert, and he was right. But still, I am expected to be emotionless and nonreactive to death. My life is full of it from a very young age. I just simply wish to live.”
After a few quiet moments and a large swig from the wine bottle, she asked quietly, “Tell me about her.” Ziva had not missed the looks, the way Teyla spoke to her or the careful phrasings. She wished to know more, to understand and help John to mourn and grieve.
“You’re a person, you have every right to feel the way you feel, despite your training,” he said. “People who don’t understand that, are idiots.” He sighed and prodded the remainder of his Chinese food with his chop sticks. “Elsa was amongst one of the last new groups of personnel to arrive on base, and at first, she made it a sport to be the mean but fair doctor. To be honest, if Carson – my current doctor too – wasn’t around, I preferred her over the sadist working at the infirmary,” he smiled. “Before she came to work with us, I would never go to the infirmary if I had sprained my ankle or with other minor injuries, but she had her way of forcing me to come down anyway. My best guess is that she had bribed one of the scientists with something so she could monitor the communication between officers over the radio.”
Ziva smiled. “Sounds like she and I would have gotten along,” she said. “Were you seeing her long?”
“Well, for about six months, I guess,” he nodded. “We were a tight knit group, and we were friends once I managed to pry her out of her marriage to the infirmary. You have to realize, we were so isolated from the rest of the world that we couldn’t ‘date’ or ‘hang out’ the normal way. Once we started to stay the night in each other’s quarters, we were the talk of the town, Teyla and Carson in particular loved seeing me with someone as I had been miserable ever since I had divorced my wife, joined the expedition a year or two later and was the butt of most jokes for six long years as I never really shown any interest in my co-workers… until she came along.” He looked at Ziva and managed to smile. “The first time I saw you, I was shocked. You look so much like her, and even now, I’m at odds with myself because I’ve only known you for about two months… but there’s something between us that makes me so comfortable… and it’s not because you look like her, it’s because you are you… it’s… I don’t know, I can’t explain.” He frowned at his empty wine bottle. “And alcohol apparently, makes me talk.”
She smiled and nodded. “That is not a bad thing. I am happy know why you and Teyla looked at me the way you do now. Yes, it is odd knowing that I look like your late girlfriend, but I understand where you come from more. I won’t tell anyone,” she promised.
Looking down at her hands she shrugged, feeling the need to share more of herself the way he had. “My father sent me on a mission to Somalia. It was originally assigned to my – another Mossad officer that I had been involved with. I had not known it until we returned to Israel with his body that I learned that he was with me only because my father ordered him to pursue me.
“Tony killed Michael and I did not know what to think, who to believe. Especially what my father said. I followed through to Somalia with the intention of not returning.”
“I’m glad you have this great team that despite what Tony did, brought you back,” John softly admitted. Between that and her killing her own brother, he didn’t know how he would have handled that.
“So you see, you and I are not all that much different. There are those of us that you can relate to more than you know. Gibbs will one day share his story with you, or he may not. I know for a fact that it did not make his file,” Ziva went on. “You would have had to be here for that one. I know I was concerned for him because he did not make it to my citizenship ceremony, but I know he would have come if he could.”
By then she had shifted on the floor to face him as she spoke. Holding her bottle of wine in one hand and the other playing with the hem of her shirt nervously, she kept her eyes down.
“Remember how I said that me staying here would be a bad idea?” he asked as he gently took the bottle of wine out of her hands before she spilled it on the floor. “I still think it was…” he gently lifted her chin to make her look at him. “Because right now, I want to kiss you,” he whispered.
Ziva looked up at him and nodded slowly. “I have a secret to tell you,” she said just as softly “I’ve wanted to kiss you since I took you to lunch that day…”
“No pressure then,” he smirked and gently planted a chaste kiss on her lips.
Even as John pulled away, Ziva leaned in for a more appropriate kiss. Instinctively, she reached up to rest her hand along his neck as she pressed her lips to his softly and lingering.
She knew very well that they were treading a dangerous line here but deep inside she felt that they were two broken and scarred individuals that may just be what each other needed.