Chapter 5

All of John’s attentions, such as going to the game with her, cooking for her and even going outside of his own comfort zone and call his brother to ask if he could use the cabin – who has cabins in the woods on private land these days anyway? – were meant out of friendship, at least that’s the message she received from him, but it was also frustrating as it seemed as if it was coming from another place than friendship and he was drawing her into his world one minute, and pushing her away the next.

“Do you need anything else?” Ziva asked as she looked at the fully stocked table, wincing at the expensive bottle of wine John had chosen to obviously cook with. Hadn’t it been for John paying for the groceries, she would have had a hard time denying him it. You’d better be a fantastic wine, she told the bottle in thought.

“Nope, sit down, eat!” John slowly sat down and put his crutches on the floor.

She took the glass of wine he had waiting at her usual seat and sipped it slowly. Nodding her approval she helped spoon out their meal and cut the bread before sitting down to her own supper. Ziva ate quietly for a few minutes, savoring each bite. “This is good,” she said with a mouthful. “Really good!”

“Thanks,” he replied as he took another bite of his pasta. “That almost sounds as if you didn’t have faith in me cooking.” he chuckled.

“No – nothing like that,” she said with a grin. “More like unsure of it.”

“Because I’m a guy?” John teased. “Well, guess what? I can fix my own clothes like a pro and even briefly took up knitting when I was in Afghanistan to kill the boredom when I had made too many flight hours,” he continued. “How briefly, you ask? Two rows before it drove me crazy.”

“No, not because you are a guy. Tony cooks very well and McGee is surprisingly skilled at minor repairs such as sewing. He just won’t admit to it,” she replied. “I think it is very – admirable that you are so – domesticated.”

John chuckled and shook his head. “Can’t live off take outs.”

“Perhaps. The last time I really did any cooking was years ago. I used to host team dinners but they just sort of stopped happening.”

“Why?” John asked her as he took a sip of his wine. “You of all people keep telling me that it’s important to have friends and family around you.”

Ziva shrugged a shoulder as she stared at her plate. “I do not know. It just stopped happening. Of course after Director Shepard died, a lot of things changed for the team. Vance broke us up and it was just one of those things that just never picked up again. I do things with Abby now and then, when we aren’t involved heavily in a case. Just not often.”

“That’s a shame, the way you’re talking about them all the time makes me think you really like them.” John took another bite of his pasta and had a mouth full of salmon instead of pasta. He chuckled as he managed to get it down without too much of an effort.

“I do,” she insisted. “It just has been difficult to get back into that zone since coming back. It is like something changed. I trust them, I do. I know I am safe around them but I feel as if some connection was lost. It is difficult to explain.”

“No, I understand,” John said, slowly nodding. “I had a great team in Afghanistan the first time around, we had worked together for years, and it all kinda fell apart when we returned. They all moved on, starting to work for the FBI or other government agencies and I signed up for a second tour, so my ‘friends’, such as Teyla, Ronon, Rodney and Lorne, are just far away acquaintances now and we exchange emails and such but that’s it.” He then shrugged. “Of course, the fact that everyone but me thinks that I screwed up in the sandbox doesn’t help much either.”

“Is that what you truly believe?” she asked. “Have you tried to reconnect with them at all or have you been waiting for them to come to you?”

“Well, there was an email from Lorne a couple of days ago, asking if I was alright as he had watched me as I had to go to the mall to get new shaving cream,” John shrugged. “An email, instead of getting out of his car and… never mind.” He made sure he had enough pasta on his fork and in his mouth so he wouldn’t have to talk for at least a minute. The deterioration of his friendships was obviously his own fault, he thought as he chewed on his pasta.

“I kinda started to push them away a couple of months before the bank, even further than where we had drifted. I do that, you know, push people away. Especially when I have the feeling that I’m unable to keep up, or when it seems like the world’s out to get me.” He regretted those words immediately. He had never really told anyone about why he did certain things, but for some reason it felt good. John took another sip of his wine. “I’m not really a people person anyway, not anymore.” He then drowned his glass and re-filled it. “I’m not even sure why I’m telling you this.”

“Because we are two people of the same pod?” Ziva suggested. “Your friends need to learn to push back, to learn to fight against your self sabotage. Abby does that. No matter how much I wished to be alone, she insisted on coming over for her girls’ nights. It is what I have been doing with you as well…” she admitted slowly with clear reluctance.

“Oh, I’ve noticed,’ John nodded. “And I don’t like it but I like entertaining you,” he shrugged. “Besides, it helps you, too.”

“You do not like my attempts to be friends with you?” she questioned, setting her fork down. “Because despite your clear reluctance to accept any support or offers of kindness there was something that I could never put my finger on, even in that basement, that drew my attention to you. Forgive me for trying to be anything for you.”

Upset, Ziva stood, pushing her plate back on the table and walked out. Closing the door to her room once she reached it, she let out a shaking breath, wishing she could take back the last few minutes. She knew she was a fool to try to connect, as her NCIS psychologist suggest strongly, to someone. The mistake in that was that she tried with someone equally, if not more, broken than she was.

“I didn’t mean it…” he started and blinked at the sound of Ziva’s door closing. “Like that…” he added as he sighed and decided to clean up the mess he made in the kitchen and the dishes. “Way to go, John.” He told himself out loud as he picked up his crutches and went to get the wheelchair first, if only to make it easier for himself to clean everything up without getting covered in it.

John didn’t quite knew what to do, but Ziva’s closed door said enough. He had made the mistake a few times in the past with other women – especially Nancy – to try to get access to the room to apologize and had learned the hard way that it was better to let them come out on their own. Especially as Ziva kept weapons in her bedroom. They obviously had some kind of misunderstanding.

After he had managed to rinse the plates and empty the pans of its remains without getting too much water dumped over himself and put it all in the dishwasher, he decided to take his chances anyway with trying to talk to Ziva, because she was unlike any other woman he had met. John parked his chair in front of her bedroom door and knocked on it. “Ziva, I didn’t mean it like that.”

She was quiet for a long moment as she laid on her bed, staring at the ceiling. She considered not responding but for what she learned of the man and his past, it would make her no different from those he previously pushed away. Ziva opened her door slowly, leaning on the jam but did not look at him. Her eyes were fixated on a spot on the floor when she asked, “How did you mean it then?”

“Like… today. Going out with you and having fun… until the beer shower and the ketchup on the handles of the crutches. Like… tomorrow and the day after and the day after that… If it wasn’t for me wanting to indulge you in your trips and accompany you, I wouldn’t have gotten out myself, but I like doing things for you. Like the cooking. Or even folding the laundry.” He sighed. “No, that didn’t sound right either. It sounded a lot better in my head. Point is, you are my friend and I want to be yours.”

“John, as much as I appreciate that, I wish to see you be able to indulge in your own interests as well. I do not just wish for you to go out to appease me. I would like to see you to want to go and do something. I would go with you, take you wherever you would like – even if it is something that I may not be wholly interested in myself.”

“I like hiking, skiing… mountain climbing and flying…” he pointed to the wheelchair. “Currently impossible.” He then shrugged. “I could take up knitting again but you’ll end up with a scarf with holes in them.”

She slowly smiled. “I have more than enough scarves of my own that I do not wear but thank you. If you wish to take a trip to one of the hobby shops, I am sure we could find something for you to entertain yourself with when you are by yourself.”

“Nah, I’m good.” he shook his head, already seeing himself making Christmas cards or whatever and that scared the shit out of him. “Are we?”

Ziva looked up at him and parted her lips as if to say something before changing her mind. Smiling softly, she nodded. “We are.”

He smiled in return. “Good, oh, I’ve already loaded up the dishwasher so you don’t have to worry about that.” he said as he backed up slowly. “And I’m sorry for telling you stuff about me today.”

“Don’t be. I am sure that I said more than you would have liked to hear about me already so consider it retribution,” she replied. “Do you still wish to go away this weekend or not?”

“Of course,” John answered. “Do you? I mean, we bought all that stuff, would be a shame to let it go to waste, besides, I’ve been an ass, you deserve a nice weekend away.”

“I would love to get away as well. We should probably begin packing now before it gets too late. You mentioned you wanted an early start on the road, yes?”

“I do, but you can sleep in if you want, we did a lot today.” He replied, and knew he was going to be sore in the morning. “I’ll most likely be very slow tomorrow.”

She narrowed her eyes as she crossed her arms over her chest. “Aren’t you slow every day?” she teased.

“Watch it, I can still perform a mean tackle.” He stuck out his tongue to her.

“I doubt that considering I can actually run,” she grinned.

“Yeah… there’s that, but what if I caught you off guard?”

Ziva looked at him thoughtfully. “Why would you wish to catch me off guard?”

He shrugged. “Probably not, because you’re jumpy and it’d made you feel bad and whatnot.” John opened the door to Ziva’s guest room. “Make sure you pack a few warm things, the cabin has plenty of blankets but it’s fun to sit outside with a campfire.”

“Good to know,” she smiled as she watched him roll into his room. “Will there be space enough for you to use your wheelchair so that you don’t over do yourself?”

“Yeah, my father’s parents used to use the cabin too and granddad was in a wheelchair so everything… well most areas are adjusted.”

“Just checking,” Ziva said before going back in her room to get her things together, but left the door open in case he might want to find her to talk or something. She doubted that he would but she also didn’t want to try shutting him out in that manner as well.

“And if not, I could just crawl.” John laughed as he emptied his duffel-bag on the bed and checked the clothes that were in them. He left the jeans aside and stuffed his some of his shirts, underwear, shorts and his jogging pants in it and he was done. Apart from his toothbrush and his razor.

“I do not find that funny!” she called back as she stared into her closet, trying to decide what to bring.

“Why not? Afraid that I might tackle you unexpectedly?” He grinned as he rolled towards the door and looked out of the room. What the hell am I doing? he thought.

“No. I am not afraid of you. Just what you might do,” she said as she grabbed two sweater sets and made her way to the door to look over at him. “Your mind is very evil when it wishes to be. If you actually were to spend time with the guys on my team, then I would truly be afraid.”

“Well, truthfully, I can’t do much at the moment, so…” he shrugged. “Besides, you haven’t seen me drunk yet, nor will you ever see me drunk, but I’m way worse when I’m drunk than when I’m hyper, which I am now.”

Ziva raised an eyebrow as she eyed him. “I imagine you being a very – friendly – drunk,” she smiled. “Nothing wrong with that.”

“When I’m drunk the emergency break in my head shuts down and I end up over sharing things, which is bad.” He shook his head. “And I so shouldn’t have told you that.”

Her smile grew into a grin as she thought about how she could use that information to her advantage so that she might learn more of him and perhaps persuade him to trust her more. “Then it is settled. We will make a stop at the liquor store on the way to the cabin. I think some Jose Cuervo and DVDs are in order. There is the drinking game that the team played when watching old television shows. It is rather fun.”

“Uh… crap… uhm… what are you like when you’re drunk?”

“Do you truly wish to know?” she questioned as she folded her clothes into her bag.

“It’s only fair.”

“I have been told that I get – happy,” she said with as straight of a face as she could make.

“Nothing wrong with that, you have a beautiful smile.” He immediately reversed his chair into his room and hit himself on the head with his hand. Idiot, you’re supposed to keep her away from you, he told himself. This is not right, wrong behavior, you used too much alcohol in that sauce of yours and it didn’t all evaporate and you’re currently a lightweight, remember? “Coffee?” He asked as he rolled into the kitchen to make a pot. This had to stop, now.

Ziva looked up at him blushing slightly before he disappeared. When he came back out and asked if she wanted coffee, she simply shrugged. “No thank you but I will have some tea,” she replied.

John switched on the water kettle and started to make coffee. For some reason, he no longer could keep his thoughts to himself, especially not today and he had to find that self control again.

She thought about what had just happened before she dropped her packing and quietly made her way back into the kitchen. Ziva could see how he appeared conflicted with himself as he stared at the coffee pot that slowly started to brew the dark drink. Pulling herself up onto the island stool, she folded her hands on top and looked at him. “I think there may be some things that we should discuss,” she said softly. Best deal with that elephant in the room instead of ignoring it as they had been for the previous month and more of living together.

Oh, there she goes, you see John? You went too far and she wants you out now that you can sort of make your own way around an apartment. She’s going to make it her choice instead of yours. “I’m sorry about the way I have been behaving today and I promise to look for a place when we’re back from the cabin.” John said as he pulled the coffee and tea mugs closer to him so he could fill them up once the coffee was done.

Ziva’s mouth fell open in shock as she shook her head clear. “What are you talking about? Do you think that I was going to ask you to leave?” she questioned.

“Well yeah, I decided to listen to that stupid shrink and experiment with my self control today and see what happens. I probably should have warned you first. I haven’t been reeling myself in as I usually do and you probably find that weird or scary and realize that I’m unstable to be around with and regret that you offered your room to me for at least the duration of me not having a house or until I’m able to walk again,” he responded. “That’s okay, it’s my own fault.”

“No John. I wasn’t going to ask you to leave at all,” she said. “I honestly do not know how to deal with everything if you were to leave. I wanted to talk about something else. About us…”

John blinked and looked at her. “Oh…Uhm… okay?” He didn’t know what to respond to that.

She took a deep breath as she looked down at her hands. “Those small comments, like when you referred to my smile,” she started slowly. “Do they come from anywhere else other than a friend?”

He poured the hot water into her mug and tossed in a tea bag before managing to put the tea in front of her and then turned back to his mug to fill it up with coffee. John took the time to think. “I can’t say ‘no’ to that and I wish I could…” Especially after hearing her boyfriend horror stories when they were in the basement together.

She nodded slowly. “Okay…For that honesty, you should know that much suggestions for spending time out – was from other interests as well. I had mentioned a draw to you, hadn’t I?”

John turned his wheelchair around so he was facing her, then firmly grasping his coffee mug. “I had the same but I was just trying to get you out so you’d be safe, and you refused…” he paused for a moment and then took a sip of the too hot coffee. “I’ve been trying to ignore it. Mostly because it’s… weird. We spent 4 months locked up together, we should be trying to get better without each other, but I like this with you. But also, remember all those stories you told me about Malachai, Michael and your other ex-boyfriends? I recognized so much about myself in them that…”

John sighed and stared deeply into his coffee mug, hoping that he could fall into it and drown. He had never been able to speak his mind about things the right way and Nancy had always lost patience with him when he tried. Ziva appeared to be actually listening. “I just don’t want to end up hurting you,” he muttered.

“John? How much of your relationship problems involve your own sabotage?” she asked. “I like this too, no matter how odd it may seem. But perhaps – we could try to get over our own fears together. I am willing to try if you are.”

“I don’t want to hurt you, Ziva, and I probably will-” he caught the look she was giving him. “Okay, you’re a big girl, you can take care of yourself,” he nodded. “Let’s try.”

She gave him a pleased smile before letting out the breath she’d been holding. “Great. So – the next question I have… What do we donow?” she grinned.

“Finish our coffee and tea and go to our rooms to sleep?” John suggested. “We have an entire week to talk about things.”

“Or more. Remember they have been trying to get me to take more time off,” she pointed out.

“Ah, yes. Well, we’ll see.” He smiled as he took a sip of his coffee.

Ziva picked up her tea and nodded. “Alright well I’m going to take this into my room while I finish packing before turning in. We will get up bright and early so that we can get on the road. Breakfast on the way there?”

“Yes!” John said. “I’ve been craving a Turkey sub from Subway for weeks now and we’re passing one on the way!”

“I doubt they will be open so early,” she laughed. “But if they are, we will stop.”

He woke up the next morning feeling sore all over. His arms, his good leg and his back were killing him. John had to admit, he had slept well despite the conversation he and Ziva had had the night before, and he just hoped things wouldn’t become awkward between them.

Groaning, he managed to get out of bed somehow, with the cast around his leg weighing a ton all of a sudden and made his way over to the shower. He needed a hot shower, coffee and maybe some Tylenol.

He was fortunate enough that he could pretty much cover his cast in bin-liners and taping them together with duct tape, and with a little bit of aerobics, he could sit down on the plastic chair in the shower and keep his plastered leg out of the water. It had been a while since he had a proper shower, he often just used a washing cloth and washed himself but he really needed to heat up his body to function properly.

When the alarm went off, Ziva could not help but to groan. It was early. Far earlier than she would have liked to awaken on her day off but when she remembered that she would be spending the weekend away with John, she smiled.

After she dragged herself out of bed and dressed, she started a pot of coffee for them as she began sorting through the last minute things that they would be bringing. While John was in his shower, she began to bring the bags that were set out down to the car and making a list of other things they would need to still purchase.

With two large carafes full of fresh hot coffee for the road, she made his cup for him and set it on the counter after she heard the shower water turn off. Ziva sat and waited in the comfortable silence, wondering how things would progress for them.

John felt refreshed when he was done with his shower, even though drying himself off was still a bit tricky as he really didn’t want to end up with a wet ass in his wheelchair. He got into a pair of jogging pants and t-shirt issued by the Air Force, he just couldn’t help that they were extremely comfortable – although it still didn’t fit properly – and put his socks on.

Ten minutes later he emerged victoriously from Ziva’s guest room and rolled into the kitchen. “Good morning,” he smiled.

Ziva looked up from her mug and newspaper with an equally bright smile. “Morning. Sleep well?” she asked as her eyes flickered over him.

“Like a log,” he replied as he saw his mug of coffee. “You?” he immediately took a sip of it, the shower had woken him up, but coffee was the best way to start the day.

“Very well. Almost as if some weight was lifted,” she replied. “I have most of the stuff in the car already, including some food stuff. We just need to get your chair, crutches, and bag in and we’re set from here. The market would be a good idea as well when we get there.”

John nodded. “There’s a Walmart and a Farmer’s Market close to the exit road to the cabin in Virginia, I think we should do the rest of the shopping there, the Farmer’s Market has some of the best steaks of Virginia for a decent price.” he grinned and took another sip of his coffee. “And chicken, of course.”

Ziva chuckled as she started cleaning up. “Sounds like a plan. Can I go in your room for the crutches and bag?” she asked when she was finished.

“You don’t need to ask, it’s your room,” he rolled his eyes at her as he sipped his coffee. “Where did you hide the Tylenol?”

Ziva shook her head. “Its your room,” she replied. “Why do I feel as if we’ve had this conversation already?” she asked as she went into her bedroom to get the medication from her end table.

“Because we probably have, I dunno. Do you need help with something?”

“Nope,” she replied tossing him the bottle as she passed on the way to his room to get his things. “Just need to get your things loaded and we’ll be ready to head out.”

“Thanks,” John said, putting his mug down and opened the bottle. He started with one, he could always take another if it didn’t work the way he wanted it to.

When she was finished collecting the things he had left out, she smiled at seeing that he had already put the new linen on his bed they bought the day before. It didn’t take long for her to load the last items before coming back for John. “Ready?”

He quickly finished his coffee and put the bottle of Tylenol in his pocket. “Yep,” he smiled as he rinsed the mug and set it in the sink. “Let’s go!”

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