Is there a chance, just a chance that you need me?
Or are we better off thinking
That in this dance, the romance is a secret?
But I'm not quite sure I belive it...
Churches and Serial Killers—Emery
The sun shone brightly upon the lieutenant as he walked toward his car, guiding the young woman beside him by holding his hand to the small of her back. A small smile played temporarily across his face, giving the girl some hope, only to be taken away when he looked into the distance.
"I'm just saying," she said quietly. "I don't want her to find out. She'll hate you, she'll kill me...if she knew—"
"She already knows," said the man grimly. "I'm sure of it."
"That doesn't make me feel any better," said the woman.
"It's not supposed to," answered the man. "We have to be on our guard."
"I know," said the woman with a sigh. "I know."
He stopped just before reaching the car and touched a gentle hand to her cheek. "So we lay low for a few weeks. We wait for her to make her move, and then we can be together. Truly together."
She smiled a bit. "I like that idea."
He bent down and pressed his lips to hers; a brief, empty, but comforting reassurance she couldn't have gone any longer without.
"We'll be okay," she said quietly, mostly to herself, but he met her eyes anyway.
He reached for the door handle and, for an odd moment, the entire world was quiet.
And then the entire world collapsed around them.
"You've been here for ten minutes, Ziva," said Tony. "And you're already pacing back and forth like we've been working on some epic case that you can't solve."
"You've been here five minutes and have yet to do any actual work," she retorted smartly.
"You have a point there," he conceded with an easy shrug. "So what's got your panties in a bunch?"
"My panties are in a bunch?" she asked, eyes widening and her hands automatically flying to cover her rear.
"It's an expression, Ziv," explained Tony patiently, a smile playing across his face. "It's slang for what's wrong."
"Oh," said Ziva, cheeks reddening. "I knew that."
"I'm sure you did," said Tony quietly, and Ziva wondered briefly why he wasn't teasing her about it. "So what's wrong?"
Ziva continued pacing, unsure of what to say, until she finally looked up and pursed her lips. "To tell you the truth I am not entirely sure. I have this feeling and I cannot shake it."
"I've had that feeling," he said, wheeling out into her path in an effort to stop her pacing. "Like something terrible's going to happen."
"Exactly," agreed Ziva, who in turn sat down in her own chair, facing away from him. "What did you do about it?"
"Nothing," said Tony with a shrug, wheeling closer to her desk. "It just goes away after a while."
"You promise?" she asked quietly, turning back toward him again and locking eyes with him.
"I promise," he said. A moment passed without either of them moving, or thinking, or breathing, really, because neither of them could. Tony blinked once.
"Car bombing," announced Gibbs, coming down the stairs and noticing Tony and Ziva, who had both jumped at his words. Tony immediately wheeled backward, nearly colliding with his desk. Gibbs raised his eyebrows but didn't mention it. "Grab your gear."
"Yes, boss," answered Tony, and Ziva wordlessly threw her pack over her shoulder.
A silence Tony hadn't expected surrounded the team as Gibbs drove to the scene. After briefing his team on the situation ("Lieutenant Thomas Jacobs was seen to be opening the car door for his wife, Karen Jacobs, and the car burst into flames, immediately engulfing both him and his wife"), Gibbs didn't like talking and driving, and Ziva seemed a world away.
Which, sadly, was something Tony noticed all too often about her lately.
He himself spent most of the trip trying to say something to her, but every time he got close she would look at him and wonder, internally, why he had that particular look on his face.
It was something he didn't understand, either.
Upon arriving (finally, added Tony in his head), Gibbs handed out assignments—McGee, perimeter. David, photos. DiNozzo, witness statements. Business as usual.
"Can you give me a basic description of both people?" Tony requested for the third time; the witness was probably no older than seventeen, and had been walking out of the same supermarket Jacobs and his wife had been leaving moments before.
"Sure," said the girl quietly. "He was pretty tall—taller than her by at least six inches. And he was bald—voluntarily, I think. He seemed too young to be balding. He was wearing jeans and a—green t-shirt, I think." She paused to recollect, avoiding Tony's eyes, and continued. "She had really curly brown hair, and I remember she was wearing this sweater that I thought was really cute. And both people were white, by the way." She frowned. "That sounded a little rascist, but I'm not," she said.
"I know," answered Tony. "Your description matches up with the others. You said you had only been at the store for a few minutes, correct?"
The girl nodded. "We were out of salad dressing, and I just needed..." She looked away, a sadness filling her face. When she spoke again, her voice was much quieter. "I just needed some salad dressing."
Tony allowed her a moment to gather herself, a compassion he might not have offered before—he stopped himself at that thought. "Did you notice anyone around the car when you entered the supermarket?" She shook her head, and Tony sighed. "Thank you. You can go."
She nodded but hesitated to move, first looking at him long and hard. "Does this happen all the time?" she asked quietly. "People just...being killed. It doesn't happen all the time, does it?"
Tony thought involuntarily of Africa and the bruises covering Ziva's face, an image he'd been trying to push away since he first saw it.
"Sometimes people push through," he answered, and he wasn't quite sure his reply was what she was looking for.
"Anything out of the ordinary?" questioned Gibbs once the team had reassembled.
"Nothing," answered Tony. "All the witness descriptions match up, everyone saw the same tragedy."
Ziva looked up at him for his choice of words, and Tony glanced back with the ghost of a frown. Before she could make anything out of it, Gibbs prompted her for a response.
"Nothing," she answered. "I found his tags, charred nearly beyond recognition, twenty feet away from the scene."
"That was a hell of a blast," commented Tony under his breath, and his tone caused Ziva to look up at him again, a puzzling look in her eyes, while McGee reported to Gibbs.
"So," said older man, directing his word at the two of them and causing them to stop speaking. "We have nothing but the burned remains of two bodies."
None of them made a response, and Gibbs sighed in frustration.
For ten o'clock in the morning, headquarters was unusally quiet.
That was the first assessment Ziva made upon stepping off the elevator, and she seemed to be the only one to make it—McGee was following Gibbs and Tony had a faraway look in his eye.
"What do we know about Lieutenant Jacobs and his wife?" questioned the leader as soon as the three of them had sat at their respective desks.
"I'm pulling up the file now," answered McGee, and his fingers flew across the keyboard so rapidly Ziva wondered if Abby had finally hooked him on Caf-Pow. His file appeared on the screen—a handsome man, no older than thirty-five. Someone was speaking but she wasn't hearing him, instead making her own findings about him. He was loyal, dedicated—he had joined the Navy straight out of high school and had not left since then.
"He has a sister-in-law, Katie," observed Ziva out loud, interrupting whoever was talking. "His wife's twin."
"Go," answered Gibbs. "Take DiNozzo with you."
Ziva grabbed her gear again, Tony mirroring her at his own desk, and they fell into step as they walked out. The elevator, however, proved awkward—Ziva had nothing to say and Tony could not fill the silence.
"Feels a bit like Star Wars," he offered weakly, but she raised her eyebrow in confusion and he shrugged it off, leading the way off the elevator.
"So," he tried again as they approached her car, where he—for once—did not resist her driving. "Who's behind it?"
"What?" she questioned, opening her door.
"The bombing," answered Tony, as though this were the most obvious thing in the world (it was). "A Navy Lieutenant who has never done anything to betray his country—"
"We think," said Ziva.
"Who, to the knowledge of the government, has never done anything to betray his country, is car-bombed and burned beyond the point of recognition." Tony looked up. "Is that not a little odd to you?"
"Yes," she conceded. "But he may have been involved with the wrong sort of people."
"For some reason, I don't think so," he said quietly.
Ziva blinked. "I do not think so either," she agreed. She focused her eyes on the road again. "I just do not know why he would be attacked so suddenly, so...randomly."
"Are you saying it was an accident?" asked Tony.
"Maybe Lieutenant Jacobs was not the intended target," said Ziva.
"Ah, Mrs. Jacobs, it seems you were in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Ducky with a sigh, turning what had been a mandible over in his hands to examine the underside. "A bomb unintended for you blowing you straight to bits." He sighed and placed the mandible on the table again, picking up the femur and running a hand along it. "Bad day."
"I think it's about to get worse," said Gibbs, entering the room and crossing it quickly. "Karen had a twin sister, Katie."
"Yes," said Ducky, setting the femur down. "I believe I was informed of that."
"Tony and Ziva just called," said Gibbs, raising his eyebrows. "There was a car at Katie's house, no one answered the door."
"And she lives alone," guessed Ducky.
"They're on their way over to the Jacobs' house now," Gibbs said with a sigh.
"Do you have a guess as to what they'll find there?" asked Ducky.
"A guess," said Gibbs.
"Your guesses are usually correct," said the medical examiner with a sigh, now picking up the humerus.
Gibbs sighed also. "That's what I'm afraid of."
"So a woman and her husband are blown to bits," said Tony. "And the sister is mysteriously absent from her home. Coincidence? I think not."
"You do not have to narrate everything that happens," said Ziva, a bit irritably.
"I'm trying to piece together the bits of the case," he answered. "Either we have a murder-kidnapping and someone is seriously out for the family, or..." He stopped himself, staring ahead.
"Or?" prompted Ziva.
"There's a car at the Jacobs' house."
"So they owned two cars," she said with a shrug. "That is not so unusual in America."
"What's unusual is that there are lights on," he said. "Few people left their lights on when leaving before the economic crisis, but especially now..." He shakes his head, confused. "People are trying to save every penny they can."
"I see your point," she answered, now just as confused as him. She pulled into the driveway and stopped the car.
"Something fishy is going on here," said Tony.
"We are nowhere near a body of water," Ziva pointed out.
"It's an expression." He got out and shut the door, waiting for Ziva to catch up before beginning to walk up the driveway.
She knocked twice on the door while Tony pushed his shades on top of his head. He met her eyes and gave her an odd look, one she couldn't fathom in the space of time she was provided.
The door opened and Ziva tore her eyes away from him, looking instead at the woman who had answered the door.
"Can I help you?" asked the woman.
"NCIS," answered Tony. "Naval Criminal—"
"You must be looking for my husband," she said shortly. "He's out."
"I am sorry," said Ziva. "Your husband is—?"
"Lieutenant Thomas Jacobs," said the woman. "He went to the store."
A moment passed where neither Tony nor Ziva could manage words. "Mrs. Jacobs?" choked out Tony.
"Yes?" she answered impatiently, clearly missing the point.
Tony looked at Ziva. "Call the boss."
"Unless I miss my guess," said Ziva quietly into the receiver, "you already have a theory."
"Unless I miss my guess, you do, too," answered Gibbs. "Let's hear it."
"The woman with Lieuteant Jacobs was Katie," sighed Ziva. "Karen's sister."
"You're on it," said Gibbs. "Do the interview, anyway."
"Right," she said, and she hung up. She looked up at Tony. "He says do the interview."
"Do you think she knows?" asked Tony.
"I do not know," answered Ziva. "We will find out."
The two walked into the living room, where Karen was already sitting down. "Why are you here?"
"We are investigating a car bombing," said Ziva quickly.
"How was my husband involved in a car bombing?" asked Karen.
A moment of silence hung awkwardly over them until Ziva looked Tony in the eye. "He was one of the victims."
"And now he's...dead?" she questioned quietly.
"We are very sorry," said Ziva in a whisper.
Silence reigned again, as both the NCIS agents were expecting Karen to have a breakdown. Or a temper tantrum. Something.
"You said there was more than one victim," said the woman after a bit.
"Yes..." said Tony, looking at Ziva.
"It was Katie, wasn't it?" she guessed, meeting his eyes.
"That...is what we believe, at this time," he answered.
Karen nodded and looked away. She stood, pacing to the end of the room, and buried her head in her hands. After a few moments, she returned to the couch.
"He's been cheating on me," she said, answering the unasked question, "for nearly a year now. With her."
"And you knew?" questioned Ziva.
"I've known for a few months," answered Karen. "Thomas didn't guard his emails carefully enough. I think he was planning on telling me soon."
"You did not say anything to him?"
"He was happy," she said. "Happier than he had been ever during our marriage. Who was I to take that away from him?"
"How could she be so detached?" questioned Ziva in disbelief as they left. "It was like she did not even care that her husband was dead!"
"He was cheating on her," said Tony. "Maybe she was more upset than she let on to us."
"She was speaking about him in the past tense already," she argued. "As though he was dead before the bomb."
"Maybe he was dead to her," he suggested quietly.
She met his eye. "That does not excuse her behavior."
"His, either," he pointed out, and she couldn't argue with that.
Ziva liked counting.
It was a habit she had picked up—she didn't know when, really, just that she had picked it up and it was a part of her, like her name and her heritage and her job and Tony—
She pretended she hadn't thought that, because she was pretty certain that if Tony ever did find out about her habit, she would never hear the end of it.
Usually her counting came conciously, naturally—one, two, three lacerations on the victim's chest. One, two, three, four times she had caught Tony giving her an odd look over the top of his computer. One, two, three, four times she had tried her best to smile back and pretend she understood why he kept looking at her that way.
But then, there were times when she counted for no particular reason. Comfort, perhaps—American children were taught to count sheep if they could not sleep, right? Maybe old habits just died hard—the counting was just something she could not control, could not stop.
She liked this last idea a lot less.
Driving back to NCIS, the counting began, suddenly and for no particular reason.
She looked over at Tony, and he was speaking words she was not hearing. A strange impulse made her check that he was wearing his seatbelt—he was.
She realized she was gripping the wheel much tighter than necessary. She looked at Tony again, and he cocked his head, as though he were not seeing her but something beyond her. She relaxed her grip a bit.
She quickly looked left, forming a crick in her neck in the process—
And then everything she had ever known changed in a matter of seconds.
And then everything went black.
A/N: This is my first multi-chapter NCIS fic, and it should be known that the only reason this got done so quickly is because of the OVERWHELMING response to Forgotten. I got something like thirteen reviews in 24 hours! Totally amazing! You guys are my new favorites =) Looking at four parts for this fic, and this is the longest chapter I've ever written, lol. So enjoy.
A/N 2: Ah! I just realized that all my dividers poofed! Fixed now, sorry!