I am alive. And I am truly sorry for not updating this fic sooner, as leaving you all hanging is a terrible thing to do. Over the last few months, apart from having to deal with the sheer hell of exams and coursework, my computer has been acting up, and over the last few weeks, I've had to depend upon my parents laptops to be able to have access to the internet, and have had no access to my own files *sobs*.
Thankfully, my computer has been repaired, I got it back yesterday, and I was finally able to access all my files, stories, and most importantly, catch up on new episodes.
Also, a very warm thankyou to all of you who enjoy this story, enough to wonder when the next chapter is going to be put up. This, however, is the last chapter for this story, but I am working on another 'Jet-Lag' fic, so I hope you enjoy that when it finally gets posted up!
Thanks, and enjoy!
They stood like that for a while – he was surprised to find that she did not pull away. If anything, she leaned into his embrace. She brought her hand up to his cheek, her thumb mere centimetres away from his mouth.
'Your lip is bleeding.'
'You did punch me in the face.'
'Let me go and get a towel and some ice,' she started off towards her kitchen, but he grabbed her arm.
'Whoa, whoa, whoa. There's glass everywhere, remember?'
She swatted his arm away nonchalantly. 'I am aware of that, Tony. But I think I can manage.'
And off she went, avoiding the glass with some sort of super-ninja manoeuvre which left him shaking his head in amazement.
Talking really was the cure, huh?
He squinted out the window, wondering if the power cut would last much longer. The dark sky was illuminated momentarily by lightning, and he saw the branches of the trees swaying with the force of the violent gale they were enveloped in. Suddenly he was tapped on the shoulder, and he almost jumped out of his skin, heart beating extremely fast. Ziva sniggered at his reaction.
'Give me a heart attack, Sweet-cheeks, that's fine.'
'Do not be such a child. Who else could it have been, if not me?'
He was all grumbles and groans as she proceeded to clean his lip, not wanting to admit the fact that he was basking in her attention. Her dark eyes were fixed on him, and he did not miss how her pupils dilated when a rumble of thunder was heard in the distance.
'I was afraid of storms too, when I was a kid.'
Her brow furrowed, and she placed a slender finger on his lips. 'Stop talking,' she ordered. 'You've made it bleed again.' She handed him a make-shift ice pack. 'I am not afraid of storms-'
'It's ok, Zee-vah,' he smirked. 'Everyone has deep, dark fears.'
'I am not afraid!' she moved away and dropped down onto her sofa. 'I just do not like them. They make me feel sad,' she gave him a pointed look, which faltered slightly. 'When I was a child, I was very scared of them. To me, they were like un-controllable, un-preventable bombs. They could never be stopped, not even by humans. It would be more appropriate to say that I do not like them.'
'There's no need to be ashamed, Zee-vah. When I was a kid, I was afraid of trees.'
Her look changed form dejected to mischievous in less than a second. No doubt, Tony thought, she found it funny.
Well, good. That spark in her eyes…
His throat closed up, as if an invisible hand had clamped down on it.
I thought it would never come back.
Realising that she was now talking again, he quickly snapped out of his thoughts.
'Well, seeing as you are here, you may as well help me arrange all the furniture,' she smirked as she saw him grimace. 'No?'
'In the dark?' The whine in his voice was evident.
'Oh come on, Tony! I thought you were a man!' Quick as a flash, she hauled a previously unseen box at him, and watched with amusement as he failed to grab it before its contents spilled all over the floor.
The carpeted floor was now covered with thin glossy booklets and hundreds of white sheets. Tony couldn't control the grin that spread across his face when he realised what he had dropped had been several flimsy books containing piano music.
'Heeeyyy!' he swept some up in his arms before Ziva could pounce on them and hide them away. 'Now these are interesting.'
'Give them to me or I will castrate you.'
'Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Yann Tiersen –oooh, Einaudi! I didn't know you had such a fine ear, my young friend!'
Defeated for now, she shrugged. 'You already knew I had a piano, why would I not have music to play on it?'
But her partner hadn't heard her, for he had crouched down and had begun to sift through the mass of paper, making approving noises every now and then. Slightly amused, she sat down tentatively on the edge of the sofa and watched him. It wasn't a something she had imagined – watching his green eyes light up with recognition as he read the titles of the pieces, handsome face serious with concentration and long nose almost against the sheets.
A wave of something suddenly took hold of her – she couldn't really describe it, only identifying that it was a warm kind of feeling that made her throat constrict and her palms tingle. She felt her face go warm, and cursed herself for blushing for no apparent reason. Thankfully, the man in front of her was too absorbed in his new-found treasure to have noticed anything.
He whisked around quickly, as though he had been aware of her thoughts, and she gave him a baleful look.
'Oh, you're just annoyed that I found out about all these!'
She sighed. 'As I have said, Tony, it is no secret that I can play the piano-' stopping mid-sentence, she slunk forwards, one step at a time, with a playful glint in her eyes that made her partner become extremely wary all of a sudden.
'Am I right in thinking that you played it too, when you were younger?'
Tony's wary expression didn't waver. 'Yeeeeahh…so?'
'Can you still play?'
'No way,' he paused. 'Not really.'
In one swift motion, Ziva was in front of him, whisking the sheets from his hands.
'Not really?' Her breath fanned his face lightly, and he bit his tongue, watching as the corner of her mouth lifted into that lopsided smile that he found irresistible. He licked his lips.
'I may have played a little in college. But you forget these things, with age.'
'Well, now is a perfect time to rediscover those dusty skills.' Before he could back away he felt the cool touch of her hand encircle his wrist.
'I think you'll find you mean rusty. And no, as you've already stated, we're in the middle of arranging the furniture. In the dark.'
'I will play if you do.'
'Well I won't.'
'Well, you can clear this mess up.' Ziva huffed. Now that the music had unintentionally been un-packed, she had the urge to play it. It had been a long time since she had last done so.
Perhaps even before Michael.
She turned to look at Tony. To her surprise, he was sorting through the music daintily, organising sheets into various piles.
She smothered a laugh, quickly eliminating the tender look on her face as he glanced up. 'Maybe in the morning I shall check to see if pigs are flying outside my window.'
'Congratulations on the correct idiom. To what do I owe the pleasure of it being used?'
'Clearly I underestimated your organisational skills.' She indicated towards the piles on the coffee table.
'Well, if it's one thing my mother taught me, it was to never get your music sheets into a muddle. He replied, nostalgia tingeing his voice and flooding his mind. For a second he was six years old again, little legs swinging as he sat next to his mother on the piano stool and watched her play her beloved instrument.
'You never mention her much,' Ziva says gently.
He ignored her, clearing his throat quietly, and resuming his task, working though the sheets at a fast pace and quickly forgetting his surroundings. It wasn't until he heard a faint tinkle that he was drawn out of his reverie, and noticed his partner now sitting at the piano stool, long curls of hair winding themselves down her back, delicate fingers dancing on the ivory and ebony keys.
And then the music swept through him, its wave-like melody ebbing and flowing until all he could concentrate on was the next notes he could almost sense coming. He sat there awkwardly, eyes boring a hole into Ziva's back, and suddenly he was overcome with the urge to see her face and the look of concentration that he knew would be etched on it. The remaining sheet fell from his hand, making a quiet rustling sound as it floated to the floor. For one heart-stopping moment, he thought that she might hear and stop playing, but she was oblivious, and for that he was glad, for he is sure that he would have ceased to live if the music had stopped.
Silently, he began to make his way forwards, only stopping when he was parallel to Ziva. It was inevitable that she could see him – or perhaps not, as her eyes had glazed over, and her lips would twitch into a smile every now and then, indicating that she was in a completely different world. And she continued to play, the notes reaching a crescendo as she swayed ever so slightly, hair falling and masking her face.
Tony blinked, convinced his heart was breaking because the scene before him was just so breathtakingly beautiful.
But then the notes started to sound slow, and weary, and the magical creature that Ziva had become began to diminish and curl up inside her again as she neared the end of the piece. As the room and her surroundings began to come into focus, she became aware of her partner, now perched on the edge of her stool. His head was turned towards her, nose almost pressed against her temple, and as she let her hands gently fall from the piano, he entwined his fingers with hers, smiling against her cheek and whispering one word in her ear.
It was hard for her to figure out how to react to this – already her skin was flushed and she felt that familiar tightness in her throat that indicated she was embarrassed. So she settled on the safest answer.
She smiled. It was three o'clock in the morning, the storm had passed, and truthfully, there wasn't anything she'd rather do more.
So, was it enjoyable? Please review, and tell me how you thought it was.
That, I'm afraid, is the last chapter of Absence Makes the Heart Grow Stronger! Thankyou all so very much for reading and reviewing, I have received very encouraging comments and advice, and I'm extremely sorry if I have not replied to your reviews with a thankyou message, it was due to my computer troubles. I'm currently working on another Tiva fic, hopefully it should be finished soon!