Chapter 4

Having spent the morning doing a number of errands and much needed shopping, reserving the groceries for later in the evening when they would be going back to the apartment, it was a nice day. As the baseball game stretched into the seventh inning and the home team up by one run, Ziva and John sat out in the end of the seats where it wasn’t as crowded and they could easily see if anyone were to approach them with enough time to prepare themselves. Of course that was after they decided to move somewhere else when a spoiled kid behind their previous seats decided to spill his father’s beer over the back of Ziva’s shirt accidentally.

The kid’s father was apologetic and even went as far as buying her a new t-shirt at the souvenir stand for her to change into but the smell of the beer was not leaving her as they sat in the bright sun. “I wonder if the child would be missed if I were to choke him,” she murmured to John as she eyed the father having difficulty controlling the kid.

“I wouldn’t even think of drinking a beer with a kid around me.” John replied, “Don’t want the kid to take advantage of me like that brat is obviously doing to his father.”

Ziva really seemed to enjoy the game despite the beer. He knew enough about baseball to follow what was going on, he just liked seeing a big smile on her face whenever someone made a home run. She looked so pretty when she smiled, and he loved the way the sun was reflecting on her hair. Crap.

After the Tides won, she glanced at her watch and winced. “We should start heading back. The game ran longer than I thought it would,” she said. “Do you need a hand? I would like to swing by the office on the way home just to see if there is anything left for me.”

“I’ll be right behind you,” John said as he gathered his crutches from the floor, sticky with beer and what looked like blood but he was sure it was ketchup and got up.

She walked a few steps ahead but slow enough that she was never far nor hovering. “You know, all I can think about now is a nice long hot bath when we get back,” she smiled in a daze.

“Good, then I can fiddle around in the kitchen for dinner.” John chuckled. “But you know, I’ve heard some of my female co-workers say that beer is good for the hair, so maybe it’ll be even prettier once you rinse it out.” He then mentally kicked himself. Stop.

Ziva looked back at him, taking him in before smiling and walking again. “You are welcome to come up and see the office when we get to NCIS if you would like. Again simply for a change of scenery in case we are unable to get out again like this for awhile.”

“It’s Saturday, you shouldn’t think about work. I’m sure it can wait until Monday.” John said as he focused on the steps, he had felt the strain in his arms before the game and right now it felt as if his arms were made out of rubber.

“I just want to see if they got any information about the group that held us,” she replied. “Don’t you want to see those bastards dealt with?”

“Wouldn’t your colleagues share the information with you?” John retorted, understanding her frustration pretty well, he just didn’t share the emotion.

Ziva frowned and was silent for the rest of the walk until they reached her car. Once they were inside and buckled in, she looked at him before turning the engine on. “They would not tell me right away if they believe it would be in my best interest. Which is why I wanted to stop there when they do not anticipate my presence. It has been extremely irritating as it feels as if they are walking on shells around me,” she let out.

“I can understand their point of view, and also yours. They want to protect you, but you don’t need to be protected because you can do it yourself,” he answered after a moment of thought. “But are you truly ready to read the intel they have on these guys?”

“Are you ever going to let your friends know where you are? Or are you going to continue on trying to make yourself as invisible as you can get without being actually dead?” she asked in turn, a look of genuine concern and worry for the man. “You saved my life and I can never repay that. But you do not give yourself enough credit to how much you are valued by those around you.”

“I said I would, in a week or two,” John replied and shook his head. He was quiet for some time and reached for the ignition key to turn off the engine. “The reason why I was at the bank that day, was not only to make sure that my ex-wife got her money, but also to leave my will in my safety deposit box. That day, after all the crappy months, I decided to end it all. That’s why I volunteered as a hostage. I never expected to come out of it alive. I had stopped living long before all of this. But then there was you, stubborn you, basically forcing myself to live again even after all the crap we’ve gone through in the four months we were at their mercy. And I’m doing it, sort of. But I’m not ready to face my friends. Not while I’m… not myself.” He grabbed one of the water bottles in Ziva’s purse and drank from it. “Happy now?”

She looked at him and sighed. “I said nothing about you drinking,” she commented. “You remind me of when I left the Mossad to become a full time NCIS agent. It was not easy, especially when I realized that my father intended to send me on a suicidal mission. Luckily Gibbs and Vance managed to get me out of there in time. Just – there is more for you that you may not realize yet. I don’t know what the situation was between you and your wife, or the details in the falling out the Air Force was having with you then, but that did not mean the end.”

“Oh, there’s plenty more.” John nodded, taking another sip from the bottle. “But anyway, that was then, I was slightly disappointed when you and your team came for me, but I’m here. I’m not complaining, but that wasn’t the point. My question was if you’re truly ready to deal with the information your co-workers may have and to see their progress? Do you think it would help you in any way?”

“It would help me that I get the chance to kill them with paperclips many times over,” Ziva growled. “And then kick and castrate the bastards before handing them over to Gibbs. I think that if I didn’t just go to my GYN the week before for my birth control shot, I’d have other issues aside from everything else.”

He sighed. “I understand, I truly understand your frustrations and hell, even I want to shoot them for what they did to you, but do you really think you’re in the right shape to go off on your own? No, you’re not. We can go and have a look at the files, but you’ll have to promise me you won’t do anything without Gibbs,” he insisted. “I don’t want you to get hurt and I don’t want them to kill you just because you’re still off your game.”

“I wouldn’t go off on my own like this,” she said, shaking her head. “I would want the team there to have my back but I also would like to live as I had today. I just want to be happy and not afraid of every damn thing. I don’t want to go every night with nightmares knowing those – people – are out there free.”

“Your apartment building is new, has state of the art security and you have an alarm system in your house, you shouldn’t be afraid. They won’t get in that easily, especially during the night. On top of that, I’m still in your house and I sleep for maybe two or three hours, I spend the rest lying awake, so if I hear anything I can just start yelling and wake you up.” John grinned. “Besides, there are FBI agents tailing us, haven’t you noticed? They’re there to keep you safe, and to give you the time to get better, to stop being afraid all the time. At night, there’s an unmarked car in front and the back of your building.”

Ziva sat back in her seat with a growl. Glancing up into the rear view mirror she glared at the sedan parked a distance back. “I know and Gibbs refuses to have Fornell call them off. I just feel so – conflicted. I do not know anymore.”

“Alright, you still want to go to your office?” He asked as he put the cap back on the water bottle and looked at her.

“What do you want to do? And don’t give me nonsense. Just answer that. What do you want?” she asked, looking back at him seriously.

“Let them take care of this, if they’re withholding information on you then it’s probably because they think it’s for your own good. I know it’s hard to sit on your hands and do nothing, and if I had been more mobile I would have suggested we’d go out camping in Virginia but there’s nothing much I can do for you either.” John answered her truthfully. “If we want these guys to be caught and brought down, we should let other people handle it because you… we both, are too much emotionally involved in this and it could screw everything up.”

She smiled softly. “Camping does sound nice too.” Sighing, she looked out the window. “You’re right. I know you are right. Okay – so we don’t go back to the office. They have been trying to get me to take more time off so how about I call in for the week. I know it would be difficult for you but we can try to – improvise. Camp in the living room?”

He chuckled. “We could, but that’s not really taking you out somewhere, is it?” John thought for a second and sighed. “I could… I could call my brother and ask if we could use the family cabin lodge in Virginia, it’s even floored, there’s a good path outside and it’s out, on private land and there’s wildlife and everything.” John knew she’d probably say ‘yes’, if only if it would have him talk to his brother on the phone. The lodge was big enough for the both of them to have space and not see each other, about four or five bedrooms and the last time he was there was years ago. But he knew that his brother had kept it after their father had passed. “It’s a safe place.”

Ziva looked at him and debated it. “I do not want to if you truly do not wish to speak to your brother,” she said slowly. “However if you truly wish to go – then I will be willing.”

“Or we could go to a crowded resort or something,” John shrugged, knowing full well that she’d say ‘no’, because he didn’t like crowds at this point either and he believed that mentally, she was in a worse place than he was.

“No!” she exclaimed. Truth be told, she was feeling some anxiety about having to go to the market still.

“See? I knew you were going to say that,” he nodded as he fumbled his cellphone out of his pocket. “Because I would have refused anyway, too many variables.”

“The living room would be a safer option,” Ziva shared. “At least we know where there are weapons around.”

“Gun rack in the lodge for shooting wild dogs and coyotes,” John retorted, she had been talking about feeling cooped up, or ignored at work and he was offering her another safe haven even if it meant that he had to do something he wouldn’t like.

“Are you ready to speak to your brother like that?” she asked.

“The conversation will be short,” John nodded, knowing his brother and knowing the family doctor, Dr. Beckett, Dave would have known all about what medically happened to him before anyone else.

She eventually nodded her consent. “Okay. You can call on the way to the market that way while we are there, we can get the things we will need to bring before we go back to the apartment. I need a shower before we travel anywhere else.”

“I’m still cooking you the pasta tonight, and I think it’s better to leave in the morning.” John nodded as Ziva started the car again.

It didn’t take long to do what they need to before they got back. She barely dumped the bags on the kitchen counter before shouting out to John that she would put them away as soon as she was done showering. Never before had she appreciated the luxury of a good hot shower than she did that evening. Pulling on her favorite pair of shorts and a camisole top for comfort, she shuffled her way out of her room with a pleased smile on her face.

John was sitting on the counter next to the stove, keeping an eye on things cooking. It was a weird perspective but his good leg had started to give out on him due to the strain he had put on it during the day. His arms were sore too and he knew that he was going to be even more sore in the morning, but it was worth it. The sooner he was able to use the crutches to their full potential, the sooner he was going to back on his feet once the cast would come off.

He looked at Ziva when she entered the kitchen. “You look refreshed,” he noted with a smile.

“Very,” she almost purred. “It feels so wonderful to be clean, without any odor of stale beer all over. How goes dinner?”

“Almost done,” John answered as he stirred in the sauce. He had made the sauce with the white wine they had bought earlier and combined with the salmon, he knew that the taste of it was going to be amazing. He had already set the table and poured them a glass of that same white wine. He had quickly whipped up garlic butter which was on the table with some French bread. He’d rather have Italian bread but he didn’t feel like carving into that one as it would take some effort right now.

“Smells good,” she replied as she made her way over to look it over herself. “How did the conversation go?”

John shrugged. “As expected. Dr. Beckett told Dave what had happened so I didn’t have to tell him. He actually sounded annoyed when I called and only gladly told me that the key to the lodge was buried underneath dad’s favorite tree near it before he hung up on me.”

“Wow. He really is that much of an ass,” she said as she pulled off a piece of bread to munch on. “My father – despite our differences – at least called after he heard that I was free to see if I was okay.”

“Dave’s very much like my father and happily forgets about me because to him it looks like I bailed on the family business when I joined the Air Force after studying history at Stanford instead of law.”

“I’m sure there are other lodges elsewhere that we could rent. Of course it might take longer to make reservations and such,” she suggested.

“Nah, I gladly dealt with him so we could save money on renting stuff,” John nodded and slowly got off the counter, making sure that he was steady on his feet again before he checked on the pasta. “Uhh… could you drain the pasta for me?”

Ziva smiled as she made her way over to him after pulling out the colander. “Very well. Is there anything else that you need me to do?”

He turned off the gas and smiled. “Yep, bring those pans to the table please.”

She looked at him and shook her head. “Get your wheelchair and do it yourself,” she joked as she brought the pans over to the table. She didn’t mind doing this, knowing that John had no other way of bringing scalding hot pans over. Ziva had to admit, the sauce smelled great and she was quite famished; despite them both pigging out on hot dogs and chips during the game.

She and John both had received a diet from the doctor’s office to get them strengthened up again without them getting overweight. However, they had felt that they were absolutely allowed to treat themselves on some unauthorized junk food.

Ziva looked at John who was making his way over to the table, slightly unstable and the look on his face told her that he was slightly in pain. He had over-exerted himself today, and as much as she felt sorry for him, she also had wanted to teach him a lesson that he couldn’t rush his recovery. John in turn, had taught her the same lesson that day by rationalizing her team’s attitude and her work. They were a perfect fit for each other, why didn’t he see that?

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