That Summer, he was usually the one who would lie awake for hours while she slept soundly next to him, sweat-glistening skin wrapped in cool cotton sheets. Unless broken by nightmares, her sleep, though limited in hours, was regular. He, on the other hand, would often lie awake until three or four, before giving up trying to coax dreams upon himself. Then, he would go and put a dvd on, and lay on the couch, the sound a quiet soothing murmur in the silence. She would often find him, finally passed out, when she got up to go for her run.
Two years seems to have changed a lot, because it is now she that remains awake in the darkness as he snores softly next to her. As he lays still, and finally, seemingly at rest, she traces a finger over the lines of his face. She has never been a sentimental person, but something about this summer, and the apparent vagrancy of fate has made her feel like taking the time to make a recollection is worth it, so she recites him to her eidetic memory.
Her eyelids are just beginning to droop, lashes beating slowly against her cheeks when the sound of a dull buzzing stirs her from almost-sleep. Pushing herself upright, it takes her a few moments to locate the sound. Tony's cell phone lies on the floor amidst his clothes, and as it rings, it lights up the room in a faint blue glow. Sliding from between the sheets, Ziva grabs his discarded shirt and the cell in one smooth movement, shucking the shirt over her shoulders and reading the neon display.
Though she is mostly naked, wrapped only in the unbuttoned shirt of her former partner, she flips open the phone and brings it to her ear.
" Shalom, Jethro."
Any other time, his silence – speechlessness – would have amused her. But today, as she wends her way out of the bedroom and out onto the balmy balcony, she desires only to hear his voice. To get back some semblance of normality.
After a beat, she gets her wish. " We gotta' tie a bell around your neck," he begins, a mocking reprimand, though she can hear the relief in his voice. " You forget Rule number three?"
" I have my knife."
There is a sound on the other end of the phone that she thinks is him stifling a laugh, but it only lasts for a second. " That's number nine. 'Never be unreachable'." He pauses again, a characteristic Gibbs tactic for buying time. " You know you've had Abby worried sick?"
She can't help but smile as she slinks into one of the wrought iron chairs, the pre-dawn air still warm and comforting against her bare legs. " I would like to say it won't happen again…" she trails off, staring over the sleeping city, unable to voice promises she knows she won't be able to keep.
Gibbs doesn't press her to finish, because he knows as well as she does that any assurances would be hollow. Instead, he switches tacks. " DiNozzo there?"
" He is sleeping."
" I don't suppose it's worth me asking how he found you?"
" We found one other, actually."
Four wives and countless relationships between have meant that Gibbs does not have to imagine how Ziva came to be answering Tony's phone in the middle of the night. In fact, as they speak, the new evidence trickles through memories of past events, and it is as though a new light is shining on them. The softness of Ziva's voice, the confidence, the comfort speaks volumes in the silence.
This isn't new.
At the realisation, he feels for a moment he should be angry, except he has recently become very familiar with the lingering ache of the affects of following Rule Twelve. In his mind, he takes a large swipe at the regulation, rendering it deceased. It seems fitting.
Finally, he speaks again. " Where are you?"
" Barcelona," is the clipped response, as though she expects a reprimand, but the tone soon softens when it fails to materialise. " The Reagan docked for leave as I arrived in the city on some…business. A well-time accident occurred."
She can hear the click-clacking of a keyboard in the background, and realises he is still at work. Easily, she can imagine him stretched at his desk, phone held to his ear and his free hand hunt-and-pecking at the scattered letters. " This was official business, Officer David? 'Cause I've spent the last few weeks fielding calls from a very pissed Director of Mossad who expected your butt in Israel three months ago."
Surprise is really her first reaction – both that it had been so long since her mission had begun, and that her father had cared about her absence enough to search so doggedly for her. " I was…forced to divert from my original mission," she admits, a little shame still lingering in the corner of her voice for the fact that she had somehow let herself be overwhelmed.
She knows he must recognise the tone enough to read between the lines, because his question is pointed but gentle. " You hurt much?"
" Nothing that will not heal."
" Good. What about DiNozzo?"
" No visible scars. And the invisible ones will fade with time." She thinks it should be strange to be talking about Tony in such a manner, but this is Gibbs. Gibbs, who she has never been afraid of even when wisdom would have told he she should be. Gibbs, who had loved and lost more times then anyone should have to.
" They always do." There is a long pause, and then with something that is half tease, half gruff, Gibbs clears his throat. " I take it you'll keep this out of the office?" There is no reason for either to clarify which 'this' he speaks of.
Stretching her legs out in front of her, she wiggles her toes in the balmy air. Tipping her head back, she almost laughs, " I would think 6000 miles would be far enough 'out of the office' even for you, Gibbs."
" 6000 miles?"
" Washington to Tel Aviv. Of course, Tony will be at sea, so his distance is somewhere between."
Gibbs' silence runs so long, that Ziva almost feels like checking that he is still on the phone. But her training wins out, and she remains silent also until he speaks. " Why exactly do you think I'm calling David?"
Cocking her head, curls tumble over Ziva's shoulders. " I assume it is not social."
" It's not. I'm calling to tell you to get your butts back to Washington. Break's over."
His eyes blink heavily as he hears the balcony door slide open with a swish, and slide shut again. In the middle-of-the-night quiet, he can make out the sound of Ziva's gentle footsteps as she pads across the room. He expects her to slide into the bed in the careful, controlled manner that she usually does when she thinks he is asleep, so he is surprised when he feels her hands run up his side to trace his ribs in an action that is half-tickle, half-poke.
" Tony!" Her voice is insistent, and he can hear the smile even though he cannot see it.
" Ziva…" he murmurs into the pillow, grasping her wrist and pulling her down so she lies half on top of him. " It's the middle of the night. Go to sleep. I only have one more day of Liberty."
Pressing a kiss to his cheek, she sighs into his ear in a way that makes him shiver, the smooth path of goose-bumps making the way up his spine. " Liberty's over Tony."
Opening his eyes so he can watch the way she arches her body against him, he drinks in the image for a long moment before shaking his head. " One more day Ziva, don't wish it away. I'm gonna' be spending the next who-knows-how-long on a boat in the middle of the ocean, miles away from you." Without warning, he flips them over so she is pinned under his body as he presses kisses along her collarbone and up her graceful neck.
Normally one to fight back when he does this, he is almost surprised when her only reaction is to wrap her arms around him and start to laugh.
" Something funny Officer David?"
" I am wondering how long it will take you to become bored of me."
Pulling back from her, he raises an eyebrow, clearly confused. " Bored of you? I know I have a short attention span, but I don't think I'll be able to get bored of you in a day. With all your crazy ninja secret agent stuff, I think it would take at least a couple months."
Smiling in a way that is both alluringly mysterious and slightly worrying, Ziva leans up and presses a long kiss against Tony's lips, in a way that means when she pulls back, his head swims just slightly. " I am glad to hear that." Propping herself up on her elbows, she finally admits, " Gibbs called."
" Oh yeah? What did the Boss-man say?"
Her words somehow are mixed with hot, open-mouthed kisses, so that they reverberate around his head instead of around the room. Only later, when they lie once again entangled in the sheets and in one another, does he finally register what she said. It's as though a crushing weight has been lifted from his body, as though his lungs are finally taking in enough air. His limbs feel light, and a warmth spreads across his skin. He finds he can't stop the smile creeping across his lips, even as he slips into dreams.
" He said we're going home."