Bienvenue to my new series. This is going to be a drabbly puddle of Tiva loveliness. Each chapter is going to be a fluffy exploration of a particular word. All words are donated by the wonderful, charming, utterly divine AutumnGray, who gave me the most beautiful list of words to work with (when before all I had was hoover and flagpole, courtesy of my delightful non-NCIS friends). We start with ethereal, which is lovely enough in of itself :)

Thanks: AutumnGray, of course, without whom this, quite simply, would not exist.

Disclaimer: The words, courtesy of the aforementioned AG. The characters, courtesy of the not aforementioned writers of NCIS. The combination of the two could be considered mine, but its just as much yours.

And here we go. Enjoy!

(And also, if you have time to review I would really, really appreciate it).

Ethereal

The first time he saw her, she was not golden and transient, but grey and brown and dusty. A solid presence in his face, teasing him, mocking him, provoking him with eyebrows and tongues and smirks and slouches. Sometimes he thinks back to that day, the backpack and headscarf and cargo pants and curly hair and thinks just how little has changed. Eyebrows and tongues and smirks and slouches.

Back then when he touched her, she tensed and accused him with savage eyes and humour, round and smooth and heavy on her tongue. Page fifty-seven. Because that was definitely not your knee. Perhaps if it was warmer. Are you saying you would like to handcuff me, Tony? And no, he wasn't saying that, but of course now he was, and she knew it. A dirty little laugh was all it took in those days for his attention to drift to her waist, hips, legs, the dip of her chest, the swell of her bottom lip. These days, a kiss on one cheek and a palm on the other makes him look directly in her eyes, and what he sees there breaks his heart.

For she is not there. Not wholly, not completely. A wisp, a whisper, a flickering ghost of her former self. Fluttering in the gale of his challenging gaze. Green and wary and suddenly so old. Yet she leans in and kisses him still, and for one foolish, desperate moment he thinks he will feel her pressed against his lips. All of her and all of him.

He felt the bones shine through her skin and saw the blood drip from her bones and craved the pulsing of her blood and wanted her to wake.

She was not pulsing, but she was awake, and that stung more than fire and ice and knives and fists. Insubstantial is not a word he can reconcile with those dark curls and darker eyes and bruised lips, but he sees it glaring, smirking victorious in her skin as she kisses him and as he does not kiss her.

He knows the word ether and he knows the word real and he knows just how he aches for her. He always could connect the dots but he doesn't want to, not when the answer rips away the question. The words skid and collide at the front of his mouth, crash back down his throat and choke him. I love you. I'm worried about you. You need more help than you're getting. You need more help than you're letting. On. I want to help you. I love you, I said it already. I love you, remember? I love you.

The words never come out right. There is a sickening lack in her eyes and that haunted, dreamy film that he is too afraid to penetrate. It might be hiding something, or it might be hiding nothing, and the thought of that is so much worse than anything he's known.

She used to be solid and moving, pulsing and breathing and laughing and dancing and flowing and writhing. In his arms, in his arms. She used to be hot and soft and beating.

Now she is ethereal, and so she kisses him on the cheek, only on the cheek and he does not flinch and he does not flicker and he does not see the hurt in her eyes and even if he does he just does not care because she left a fragment of herself behind in that dusty, bloody chamber and he wants it back, and he wants it back.

I believe I mentioned the words 'loveliness' and 'fluffy' at the beginning of this chapter. I heartily apologise. I'm kinda still wrapped up in TOC and Reunion, but the next one should be lighter. Hope you enjoy, even if it's difficult.