By L. M. Boulevardes

Prologue: Staying Bones

Mollia non rigidus caespes tegat ossa nec illi,

terra, gravis fueris: non fuit illa tibi

Would that the hard turf not weigh on her soft bones;

O Earth, do not be heavy on her: she was not heavy on you.

- From Martial 5.34, translated from the Latin by L. M. Boulevardes

I was sorry.

That had to count for something, did it not? I was sorry for the pain I had caused, sorry for the look in Tony's eyes when he held my bony hand with careless tenderness, repulsed by my bones and afraid of breaking me.

I was sorry. I had not meant to let it get this out of control, for it to become something so bad. I kept telling myself that I would do it – but then I would not. It got put off, and besides that my stomach was upset all the time and it just kind of happened without my notice. And now I was here, fighting to live even though I was worn to my bones and wanted to sleep.

"You're going to be okay, Ziva," Tony said, I think more for himself than for me. I nodded and glanced at the array of IVs, the calories dripping into my arm and floating into my bloodstream. I did not struggle, did not rip it out as once I might have when all I wanted to do was scream and to be noticed. When nights were so very long and full of nightmares and sobbing and my ears sometimes bled and I wore my perfume very strong because I could always smell blood and ashes. That was different, then. I was angry; I was younger. Now I was just tired and sad.

"I want to go home," I said quietly, watching him absentmindedly rub circles on my hand. I couldn't feel it very well. Unsurprisingly. I was numb all over, cocooned. Except now there were little broken bits where grasping hands reached through to grab me, pull at me. I had stop resisting now, too broken to attempt flight. Let them carry me across the lake; I no longer cared.

"Soon, Zee. I'll take you out for lunch tomorrow, how does that sound? I know a good Israeli place in Bethesda. Good falafel," he rambled, grasping at the air for words to stuff the silence with, maybe push out the grey elephant in the process. I nodded. So tired. "But you've got to eat everything I put in front of you, okay? Otherwise you have to pay. I'll pay for everything you eat though, I promise. The hospital was really a dumb idea. I mean, how are you supposed to gain weight on this crap? I'll bring you something good, something worth eating. Make you want to eat." There was an electricity in his eyes, a desperation. I believed him. Of course I believed him.

"It is okay, Tony. I do want to eat," I replied, wishing I could get the words to make him understand. I wished he could speak as many languages as I did so I could pull out one, two right ones of each language and squash them together to make them fit to the thoughts in my head. "I did not mean to . . ." English was failing me again, stupid cold hard blocky, clunky words.


"Don't worry about it. I don't care," he said, waving a hand lackadaisically. "I just want to work on getting you healthy again. We'll do this." And then, after a pause, "Together."

I wanted to believe him. I wanted so much for it to be true, for it to right. I wanted to go to lunch with him and laugh with him and do what made him happy so I could feel the warmth that flooded me when I saw that bursting smile. I wanted now to reach up and kiss his lips, even though mine were dry and cracked and probably thoroughly unpleasant. I would do anything for Tony.

Assuming, of course, that I lived through the night.