Coffee & Music
Written for the NFA The Name's Palmer. Jimmy Palmer. Challenge
Disclaimer: All names and trademarks recognised as "NCIS" do not belong to me; I've just borrowed the characters for my own purposes.
Parings: Pre-Ziva/Palmer if you really want to see it that way
Characters: Palmer, Ziva
Genres: Gen, Friendship, Slight-Angst
Warnings: Set after the season six finale 'Aliyah', so spoilers for that, and tiny spoilers for 'Dagger'
Word Count: c.1,800 words
Summary: "You are a good friend, Jimmy." Post-Aliyah. Written for the NFA The Name's Palmer. Jimmy Palmer. Challenge.
It was raining as Jimmy stepped from the dry building to the world outside NCIS headquarters. He scanned the scene in front of him, getting dripped on as he ventured out further. In each hand he clutched a paper coffee cup, and tucked underneath his jacket was a plastic sheet covering a sheaf of papers.
He glanced to the left, and then to the right. He didn't see her. Jimmy had gone up to the bullpen with every intention of talking to his friend-but-not-quite, but he hadn't been able to find her. Jimmy had asked Tony and McGee who had shrugged and commented that she was probably outside, like she always was if she wasn't working.
So he'd come downstairs, coffees in hand, and braved the elements to see if he could find her. He looked right, and then left again, and finally spotted her in the distance, sitting on a bench under a poplar tree.
Jimmy grinned ever so slightly to himself and took off, trying to protect the flimsy coffee cups as best he could. He stepped in a puddle, groaning as the bottom of his trousers soaked up the water, but continued towards the tree. Before he got to close, he called out, "Ziva."
She jumped slightly at the sound of his voice, and Jimmy noted how he'd never seen her do that before . . . and how totally wrong it was. Since when did Ziva jump at the sound of someone calling her name? Jimmy clenched his fingers tightly as he slipped and slid over to her. By the time he got there, his knuckles were white.
"Hey, Ziva," he said softly, keeping a decent distance between him and Ziva. He made a large half-circle so he didn't accidently sneak up on her.
She looked up from the spot on the ground she'd been staring at, and replied with a soft smile, "Shalom, Palmer."
Jimmy kept his face passive as he moved towards her. He could see the dark circles around her eyes and the lack of colour in her cheeks; the rain burying itself in her hair and dripping down the side of her face didn't help. He forced himself to breathe normally, and he unclenched his fingers before he sat down next to her.
Awkwardly, he held out the now slight soggy paper coffee cup. "I got you some, uh, coffee," he murmured. "Sorry 'bout the cup. I think it got wet."
Ziva offered him a little smirk. "Yes; maybe just a bit."
Despite its sogginess, Ziva took the cup from Jimmy, her fingers lingering against his wrist just a little longer than would normally be deemed appropriate. But this wasn't normally; he didn't know what this was.
"Toda," she thanked and brought the soggy cup to her lips. As she tilted her head back a little, Jimmy could see the faint outline of a bruise on her neck, and one on her cheek.
He was surprised at how angry it made him feel.
He sipped from his own soggy cup and the pair sat in silence for a few moments. Ziva stared off into the distance and Jimmy couldn't help himself, sneaking looks at Ziva every few seconds. Again he noticed a faded bruise on her temple, and a healed cut along the edge of her scalp.
The doctor in him was angry that she'd gone so long without medical attention, but the friend in him was absolutely livid that she'd been put in that position in the first place. He didn't know the full story behind her disappearance or her reappearance, and that was fine with him, but he had noticed the changed dynamics between her and the team.
And deep down, for some unknown reason, he blamed Agent DiNozzo.
After another moment of silence, she shook her head as if to clear it, and turned back to Jimmy. "Thank you for the coffee," she said again, quiet.
Jimmy shrugged. "No problem. I thought you might like some of the real stuff, rather than the stuff they call coffee in there." He paused, blushed and then said, "Plus, you brought me coffee after –" He stumbled over the name. "–after you know, Michelle . . ."
He didn't need to elaborate; Ziva knew exactly what he was talking about.
"Well, thank you," Ziva said for the third time. "I have not had someone bring me coffee in a while."
"Like I said, no big deal." Jimmy blushed again and fell silent. Well, this was awkward.
Finally, Jimmy blurted out the first thing that came to his mind and winced at the stupidity of it. "How are you?"
Ziva chuckled quietly. "Perhaps you should be asking how I am not."
"Sorry," Jimmy stammered, flushing. "I didn't mean . . . I'm sorry . . . I . . ."
Ziva shook her head and rested the palm of her hand on his knee. "It's okay, Palmer. At least you do not have an ulterior motive. When everyone in there asks me, they are looking for signs if they should send me off to a shriek."
"Shriek?" Jimmy was confused for a moment. Then it dawned on him. "Oh, you mean shrink?"
"Yes, that," Ziva nodded. "Is that not what I said?"
Jimmy knew better than to reply to that comment, so he contented himself with sipping from his coffee cup.
"I am okay," she said suddenly, answering his original question, though the reply sounded a little forced. "But you are a good friend for asking."
Jimmy nodded, not sure how he should respond. But then he found himself telling Ziva, "If you ever need to talk, I'm here." Then he added hastily, "Not that you have to talk to me or anything. Just if you . . ." He trailed off, getting flustered.
She laughed and patted his knee. He realised it was the first time he'd heard her laugh, a laugh that wasn't forced, since she'd returned to them. "I appreciate the offer."
"Good. Good," he nodded. "I am serious, though. If you want to talk . . ."
"I know," Ziva replied quietly, removing her hand and tracing the rim of the coffee cup with it. She sighed, and looked sad, but said nothing.
"Are you happy here?" Jimmy blurted out before he could stop himself. It had been something he'd been wondering every time he saw her pale and drawn face. "In the States, I mean."
"More than I thought," Ziva replied quietly after a prolonged silence. She hesitated. "There are many things I associate with Israel that I would rather not remember, but here, it is not so easy, either."
"I guess I can understand that. I mean after everything that has happened," Jimmy mused. "Especially with Agent DiNo . . ."
Ziva's eyes blazed dangerously. "My relationship with Tony is none of your business," she snapped.
"Whoa, sorry," Jimmy apologised as he raised his hands to show he meant nothing by the statement. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply . . ."
Ziva shook her head. "No, I am the one that should be sorry. I should not have snapped at you." She sighed and looked away.
They fell into silence, with Ziva gazing off into the distance again and Jimmy fiddling with his coffee cup. It was still raining, and he was soaked through. He wondered what was going on in Ziva's mind. She never said, not to anyone.
Finally, after Jimmy couldn't bear the silence anymore, he said, as though he'd forgotten something, "Oh, I've just remembered . . ." He fished the plastic cover from his jacket. The pieces of paper were dry inside, though rain droplets were splattering on the plastic and running off the edges.
Ziva turned back to him and looked slightly curious. "What is it?" She took the paper from Jimmy's outstretched hand.
"Oh, uh, um . . ." Jimmy rubbed the back of his neck. Now his idea didn't seem as bright as it had yesterday.
Now Ziva just looked amused. "Out with it, Palmer."
"It's some sheet music. Mozart," he blurted out, feeling foolish. "I thought that maybe, I mean, I know you like . . . I thought you might like to play." He resisted the urge to bury his face in his hands. Did he have to sound so clumsy?
Sounding more bitter than she intended, Ziva snapped, "My apartment was destroyed, Palmer. Do you not think my piano went with it?"
"No, no. I mean, yes. I figured that," Palmer stuttered. "I mean . . . it's just . . . you can play me-mine. My piano."
Ziva smirked as Jimmy blushed, "That came out wrong, didn't it?"
Ziva took Jimmy's hand in hers and squeezed it lightly. "It is very sweet of you, Jimmy."
Jimmy blushed again, but this time not because he was embarrassed. He shrugged. "It was just an idea I had, while I was listening to some music last night. My grandmother always said everything could be solved with a good piece of music."
"Well, I do not know about everything, but perhaps," Ziva smiled gently, still gripping Jimmy's hand. "And maybe I will take you up on it one day."
"I'm always open." Jimmy stumbled over the words. "My house, that is."
Ziva laughed. "I got that." She glanced down at her empty coffee cup. "Back to work, I guess."
Ziva nodded. "Yes. It is time I went back. Gibbs will have puppies if I do not return and finish the search."
"I think you mean kittens," Jimmy corrected.
"That too." Ziva stood and deposited her soggy coffee cup in a nearby trashcan. She held out her hand for Jimmy's and chucked that in the bin too.
"You are a good friend, Jimmy," she said, as she passed. She stopped in front of him, bent down and kissed his cheek.
Jimmy turned a bright shade of red and Ziva looked at him with acute fondness. "You're a good friend too," Jimmy managed to get out.
Ziva smirked and started towards the building. She called back, clutching the sheet music, "I will see you inside, yes? Perhaps, later on, I will play for you."
As Jimmy watched Ziva walk away, the rain stopped, and the sun emerged from the clouds.