Chapter 6

It was a few hours later, and after stopping at a diner on the road to sit and eat that they arrived at the cabin. Ziva raised an eyebrow as she eyed the property as she turned onto the private road up to the house. “This isn’t some small cabin, is it?”

“Forgive me, I sort of lied…” John sighed as he took in the familiar sights. “My father, grandfather and his father were very successful business men and there is some money in the family… I could hardly say ‘let’s go to my family’s summer house, which is sort of like a mini castle in the woods!’… it’s really embarrassing, but much better than any hotel.”

She grinned at him and shrugged. “It is alright. I don’t go around advertising that my father is director of Mossad either. So what do you want to do first after we haul our things inside?”

“Well, we probably need to pull the sheets off the furniture unless Dave sent around a cleaning crew, find out how much wood we have to put in the fireplace, things like that…” John summed up. “Uhh, you see that tree over there? There’s a box on the trunk.” He fumbled his keys – keys of Ziva’s apartment and various trivial keys he sometimes used – out of his pocket and selected the right key. “Use this key to open it and get the key that’s inside the box.” He chuckled. “That’ll be our proper way in.”

“Okay,” she said as she pulled up alongside. The tree was a distance from the house yet so she left the car running while she jumped out to get the house key from the box. “Strange way of doing things,” she commented when she got back in.

“Yeah I don’t get it either,” John chuckled.

“Well, we are here,” she smiled. “Just you and I this weekend. No thinking about anything not on this land, yes?”

“About anything? So you’re not going to ask me difficult to answer questions then?” John grinned.

“What questions do you fear that I would ask?” she replied.

“I don’t know.” John shrugged. “We’ll see, at least you bought enough booze to get us both drunk.” He grinned and watched how she got out of the car and dragged his wheelchair from the back. She was grinning with a devious smile as she set the chair up for him and John knew he was in trouble.

She chuckled at him. “Nothing wrong with a little alcohol to loosen inhibitions.”

John shook his head laughing as he got into his chair and took a bag out of Ziva’s hands before putting it in his lap. He drove up the ramp to the side of the house and opened the door, realizing that he forgot about the alarm. He groaned as it started to go off as he had driven into the hall and quickly got out of his chair, hopped to the alarm panel and hoped he was punching in the right numbers and in time otherwise security would come around very quickly to see what was going on.

When the alarm stopped, John was relieved. He hopped back to his chair and sat down before taking a peek around the corner to see if his brother had sent the cleaners over. And of course he did. Somewhere between their phone call and their arrival, Dave had sent for people to remove all sheets, clean the place up and prepare it for guests.

He and Dave didn’t get along, but Dave was a sucker for detail and perfection in an almost OCD like manner.

Ziva looked around as she dropped the bags inside the main door. “This isn’t camping. This is a resort vacation!”

John chuckled as he heard Ziva talk behind him. “Well you can still camp out in the front yard if you like, there are tents here.”

“I’d be satisfied with the living room. At least then we wouldn’t have to worry about bugs,” she said making a face.

“There are beds, you know.” John pointed out. “A few of them are upstairs, there’s one bedroom here on the ground floor.”

“Where you will be,” she remarked before shaking her head. “No, I meant about sleeping outside. If we stayed indoors, there would not be any worry about bugs – unless you have bed bugs in this place?”

“Does this place look like its got bed bugs?” He grinned and got the bag with their provisions and rode it to the kitchen to put at least the perishables away.

“It is doubtful but not impossible,” she replied taking his things to the first floor bedroom. When she came back, she went back to the pile and pulled out her overnight bag. “I’m just going to go upstairs and change. These jeans are starting to stick to me and becoming incredibly uncomfortable.”

John watched Ziva go upstairs and sighed as he took a look around in the kitchen, then rolled to the living room. It was all so familiar and so long ago and actually a little depressing. While he had loved this place when his grandparents were still alive, when his mother was still around, he didn’t like it when his dad took him and Dave here. It was all about reading, getting smarter, book smarts, math tests and achievements. Which John never really understood as there was a world out there, waiting to be explored and he did.

Whenever his father and Dave would pull out their books and notebooks, John went into the forest that was next to the property and explored. John remembered that there was a rock formation that he had called ‘the land of Atlas’ after having discussed the lost city of Atlantis in school the week before he had discovered the rocks. There was an area with a big old tree that he called ‘Medusa’, mostly because the tree looked like a head with snakes on top.

He also tried to rescue animals back then. He’d find sick animals and he’d bring them to the ranger’s station where the ranger took all the time to teach John things. That had always been fun.

John looked at the pictures on the chimney mantel and realized that he hadn’t seen those pictures for at least a while now. There were pictures of his grandparents, his parents, and of him and Dave. Sometimes, John wished he could turn back time and would do a lot of things differently. Or maybe one day he would travel back in time and save his mother. Or beat up his dad.

Ziva came back down feeling much better in a pair of dry shorts and t-shirt. Not finding him in the kitchen that she passed, she continued on to the living room where she found him staring at the old photos. “Staying angry isn’t going to change anything,” she said softly as she came up behind him to look at the images.

“Oh, I’m not angry,” John replied and looked up to her. “Despite them not liking me, well dad and Dave, I don’t have anything to complain about. I never got hungry or I was never out of clothes and went to the best schools possible.”

“Then why do you look like you want to put your fist through a wall?” she asked as she lowered herself beside his chair.

“Because things could have gone differently,” he shrugged and then smiled at her. “But don’t everyone wish that certain things from their past could have gone differently?”

“Perhaps but then none of us would be where we are now. I might not be at NCIS. I might be dead by my father’s own orders. You might have been happily married somewhere with a big house, lovely wife, 2.5 kids and a dog.”

“That’s not right,” John shook his head and softly touched Ziva’s hair. “You’re too pretty to get killed.”

She let her eyes close at his touch. “Maybe but we do what we must,” she said. “Orders, are orders. We may not like them but we follow them.”

“Oh, so that’s what I did wrong in Afghanistan. I didn’t like an order so I didn’t listen!” he shook his head laughing. “There’s always a choice to ignore orders if you can save other people’s lives by defying them.”

“Maybe,” she sighed, turning away as she thought about Ari and Gibbs. No matter what she did, it was a lose, lose situation there.

“Enough talk about the past,” John said as he saw how Ziva was suddenly saddened about something. “Which bedroom did you choose upstairs?” he grinned.

“The first one on the left, across the landing that overlooks another sitting area with the fireplace,” she said turning back to him with a grateful smile.

“Excellent choice,” he nodded. “Also one of the best rooms if you like to sleep in, the sun’s not on the windows early in the morning.”

“Well, I figured that the large fluffy bed and black out curtains were for that use,” she laughed.

John smiled. “Believe me, it’s so great waking up here, hearing the birds chirp close by… it’s different from in the city… the birds there almost sound… depressed.”

“Like everyone else. Let’s do something. Anything,” Ziva said standing up. “Hell – if there are board games, I’m okay with that even!”

“There’s a whole closet full,” John chuckled as he started in the direction of it. “My grandparents loved Scrabble and Rummycub, so I know for a fact that’s in there. The other games? I don’t know really.”

“Then we have something to do while we simply relax and – talk,” she smiled as she looked at him, her eyes glancing over his face.

“Fine, how about you choose a game and I’ll get us something to drink?” John opened the closet and a bunch of games fell out of it. “Oh.”

She laughed as she watched the pieces of the games roll across the floor. “After I clean up and we figure out what goes with what.”

John put his wheelchair on the breaks and lowered himself down onto the floor for easy access. “Let’s do this,” he chuckled.

Ziva sat across from him as she started to pick up pieces that went with the games she was more familiar with. When they were eventually finished, she looked at the pile of boxes with pursed lips. “Any game in particular that you like?”

“You pick the game,” John said as he managed to get up and back into the chair. Never been this sore! he thought. “I’ll get us some snacks and drinks.”

She rolled her eyes and nodded. “If you insist,” she sighed dramatically trying to pull herself up to her feet after a moment. Grabbing the football themed Monopoly game, CLUE, and Battleship, she went to the back sitting room to set up on the coffee table, claiming her piece and waited.

He had taken a Tylenol with a glass of water before getting two beers and a bag of chips. John hoped she had picked out easy games because he wanted things to be easy right now. He grinned when he saw Ziva sitting on the couch, all ready to play. “Beer?”

“Sure,” she replied looking over at him with a smile. “You ready to get your ass kicked in Monopoly?”

“You mean you can actually win with Monopoly?” He grinned as he put the beer on the table and the bag of chips.

“Very much so,” she replied suggestively. “Are you nervous?”

“Yes, because I suck at Monopoly then,” he chuckled as he opened his beer and took a swig. “I’ll be the little car.”

She set him up with the token and placed her dog next to his. Passing over the play money she grinned deviously before laying out the house rules of the game as if they were playing high stakes poker. When she was done, she simply looked back at him, raising an eyebrow slightly at his reaction.

“Don’t tell me you’re like the Best National Monopoly player,” he said shocked.

“Maybe not the best, but I have had many nights on stake out where there was little else to do,” she replied, stretching her legs out under the table as she settled on the floor.

Ziva was kicking his ass at Monopoly, and before he knew it, she had more money than him and bought about three quarters of the streets. Maybe she was taking pity on him as she didn’t put hotels on them but she was good. Really good.

They had had so much fun playing the game that they had lost a little track of time and it was getting dark outside. “You know, I think we should get started on dinner,” he chuckled as he collected the empty beer bottles.

“Not before you concede that you are losing – again,” she said as she stood to help but wouldn’t let him touch the board. “And I will cook dinner. You sit. Don’t touch a thing otherwise I will tie you up!”

“I am losing, but I’m not a cheater!”

“I never said you were. Perhaps I just enjoy tying people up?” she smirked as she left the room to get their food made.

“Is that a secret hobby of yours?” John asked as he rolled into the kitchen with the empty beer bottles.

“Why? Is it something that you would be interested in?” Ziva asked back as she pulled the steaks out of the fridge.

“No thanks,” John said as he got another beer. “Ohh steaks!” He grinned, “Nice, juicy steaks! Want me to do the potatoes for you?”

She turned around and stared him down, narrowing her eyes. “What do you think?”

He threw his hands up in defeat. “Alright, I’ll just get some firewood from outside then,” John replied as he backed out of the kitchen.

Ziva shook her head and sighed as she started prepping the meat and vegetables. The man was oblivious at best at what she had just invited him to. Not that she was all that great with flirting when it came to her own interests and not related to a mission.

He put his bottle of beer on the table on the porch as he went to get some firewood for the fireplace. Luckily, the whole property was well lit, there were lights with motion sensors, and he was able to find the wood easily. If he had to believe the smell, his brother had taken care of it and had some delivered. Things would be a lot easier between John and Dave if Dave would stop giving off mixed signals.

Putting a few logs in his lap, he rolled back inside and decided to get a few more so that they wouldn’t have to go out anymore. Once back inside again, his phone rang. He blinked at the name. “Lorne, hey.” he frowned as he answered it.

Ziva was in the middle of sauteing the peppers and onions in Jack Daniels whiskey when he came rolling back in. Looking up, she had a confused and worried expression on her face at seeing him on the phone. Are you okay? she mouthed to him.

John looked at Ziva and nodded. “No, sorry, I guess we should have checked in with you… no, we’re okay…” he then chuckled. “Ziva, you managed to get rid of the FBI agents following us, and now they’re worried.”

“Well what part of seeing us packing up for a weekend away did they not understand?” she shrugged. “I will call Gibbs when we head back into town so that he can put them back on duty.”

“You hear that, Evan?” John asked his old friend. “Yeah, I know we’re in no shape to… we’ve got at least a dozen shot guns laying around here… we’ll be fine, I promise… yeah we’re at the ca- thanks.” He frowned at the phone as Evan had hung up on him and then looked at Ziva. “He is one worried trouper.”

“And you believe that your friends did not care for you? I would not doubt if someone shows up tomorrow now, just to see that you are well for themselves,” she pointed out.

“We’ll just keep the door locked.” John said jokingly as he brought the rest of the wood to the small pile he was building next to the fireplace.

She grinned as she returned to cooking. Creating a gravy from the left over JD she left it in a small saucepan to warm up after draining the vegetables from it. Tossing the steaks in the broiler, she waited by the stove for it to finish completely.

“Something smells good!” John called from the living room as he sat down on the floor to start the fire.

“It better be!” she called back. “You know how much I dislike steak!”

He chuckled as he finished putting the logs in and groaned as he had forgotten to bring the matches. “Ziva?”

“Yes?” she answered, drawing the word out with a slightly seductive edge to it.

“Would you please be so kind to hand me the matches? I forgot to put them in my pocket and now I can’t light the fire.” He looked up to the mantle. “They’re all the way up there.”

She made her way into the parlor and shook her head. “Now you don’t wish to get out of that chair?” she teased as she made her way over, reaching up but the mantle was a bit taller than most, causing her shirt to ride up her back when she extended her arms out to collect the match book.

“I do want to get out of the chair but …” he grinned as he saw her shirt ride up. “Great view.”

Ziva turned around and eyed him before smirking. “Uh huh,” she laughed as she tossed the matches into his lap. “I’ll bring the plates in here so you can get comfortable.”

“Almost done here, thanks.” John smiled up at her and shifted so he was sitting next to the fire pit to start lighting the paper and wood he had put in there. Not long after he managed to get it burning, Ziva brought in the plates. “Yum!” He said as he climbed back in his chair and then decided to make himself comfortable on the couch so he made his way over and flopped on the couch. “Ohh…” he sighed happily.

“I broiled the steak and sauteed the vegetables in whiskey. The left over juice was made into a sauce over the meat,” she said as she set the dish down in front of him. Making her way around she settled on the sofa beside him, closer than they normally sat before, after they both got out of the basement.

“Smells so good,” he picked up the plate and put it in his lap. “Broiled huh? Ah well, it’s still steak,” he joked as he dug in. “So good, you should cook more often!”

“I don’t know about that. If I cook more often, it would really be more of picking up the phone and ordering take out. When I do actually cook, it’s usually only for groups or events,” she shrugged as she ate her dinner slowly.

John shrugged. “I liked cooking yesterday, I’m not saying that take out is bad… well most of it is, and I understand that with your job and everything you don’t have time to cook, and cooking for one is always such a hassle, I know, but yeah, cook more often.” He nodded and put a large piece of steak in his mouth.

Ziva made a face at him but smiled. “I’ll think about it,” she said eventually, focusing more on her drunken veggies.

“Or, allow me to cook every day, I’ll even go down to the supermarket by myself, getting knocked in the head by heavy handbags until I get rid of this cast,” he said with a full mouth. “I can make more than pasta.”

“Hmm, something other than steak?” she teased. “Would you like the rest of mine?” she added, indicating the remaining half of her own steak. “I’m actually not all that hungry.”

“The cooking fumes will do that to ya.” John put his fork in Ziva’s steak and brought it over to his plate. “This is great stuff… and yes, I can cook something other than steak too.” He chuckled.

“I do not believe you,” she deadpanned stubbornly until he would look up at her where she smiled slightly.

“Well,” he smiled brightly, “You will never if you don’t let me cook, I mean, I make a pretty decent stew, the way the juices smell when I’m cooking that, oh, that’s a great great smell.”

Ziva looked at him for a long minute, biting on her lip in uncertainty. Judging their distance apart, she was close enough to just lean in and test the water more, but how receptive would he be – she did not know. Taking a breath, she stared him down. “John?”

John put his plate down on the coffee table and shifted a little so he could take a better look at her. “Ziva?”

Taking a breath, she leaned in quickly, without a word and softly pressed her lips to his. She wasn’t sure of how he’d react and just felt the need to get over this bridge that could very well become uncomfortable between them in their friendship.

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