Disclaimer: I don't own 'em, because if I did there would be a lot more inappropriate stuff happening with our beloved agents.. I hope you enjoy~
All Things Beautiful
He watched her from the shadows as she began her second lap around the reflecting pool. Dressed in all dark colors, she was difficult to spot as dusk became night. Her pace never wavered as she ran past the front of the monument. The weather was chilly and clear. Winter was beginning to settle on the District forcing Tony to shove his hands in his pockets to keep them warm.
Ziva rounded the corner of the reflecting pooling for the second time and changed direction heading toward the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Sliding further into the shadows, Tony did not lose sight of her as she ran up the steps finally coming to a stop at the top and looking out over the pool. Her breath made little visible puffs as she panted, her arms stretching up above her head and then to the side. Bending forward at the waist she stretched the backs of her legs.
As her breathing slowed , she stood still and cocked her head to the side as if considering something. Tony could just make out the hint of a smile on her profile as she turned her head and once more stretched her arms, although this time she moved like a dancer. Slipping into a deep arabesque and then twisting quickly into a series of pirouettes, Ziva moved with the grace of a practiced ballerina. She reminded him of a child finding pleasure in the simplicity of doing something just because she had the ability to do so. Coming to a stop still facing away from him, she called out, "Your ninja skills are improving, Tony."
Stepping out of the shadows Tony made his way toward Ziva. Glancing at him over her shoulder, she graced him with soft eyes and a genuine smile. His heart tripped for a moment as he slowly made his way to her side.
"It is beautiful tonight, Tony."
"Yes, Ziva, it is beautiful."
She glanced at him, then quickly looked back out over the pool. They stood in companionable silence for a moment until Tony said, "You changed your route."
"Yes, I did. I needed a change." Her voice rang with a note of finality. He considered letting it go. He considered making a joke and pretending that he had tracked her down for some work related issue. He considered letting her keep her polite distance from him.
"Is it really so significant, Tony? Why does it matter? I needed a change." Her smile was no longer soft, but forced.
He considered her question for a moment. The simple change in and of itself was not so significant. What was significant was the fact that everything was now different for Ziva. Every movement, every action, every plan. All different. She was different. Hell, he was different now. The events of the previous evening bore further evidence that Ziva was not as "fine" as she pretended to be.
"Everything has changed, Ziva," He put his hands on her shoulders, forcing her to face him while he pretended not to notice her almost imperceptible flinch at his touch. He continued, "It's different than before. We are not the same people that we were before we ended up in Somalia. It's going to take some time before we can just jump back into be-" his voice trailed off.
He wanted to tell her that he had noticed the change in her. Not only a softer version of her previous self, but a more vulnerable one as well. He wanted to tell her that he no longer saw her a an assassin but has a woman. It didn't matter what he wanted because by sharing his observations, he would hurt her. She would believe that he saw her as something less, something inferior. In reality, he loved her more.
Dropping out from beneath his grip on her shoulders to sit on the top step of the monument, Ziva wrapped her arms around her knees and stared at the glow of the Washington Monument off in the distance. She knew to what he was referring and chose not to acknowledge his reference, but rather attempted to make him understand part of the larger picture.
"I had been here for several years and never even bothered to see any of the Smithsonian museums. I drove or ran past all of the monuments off in the distance, but I never bothered to stop and really see any of them. Then one day I went to the Jefferson Memorial. It was dark, like tonight, but there were clouds in the sky so that the lights of the city reflected off of the sky and caused the entire monument to glow. I went up the steps and read the inscription," she paused for a moment and swallowed.
"We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Tony sank down to sit beside her on the steps and felt the cold seep through the seat of his jeans and snake through the rest of his body. A quick glance at Ziva told him that she was not nearly as affected by the cold which seemed odd considering that she had spent a considerable percentage of her lifetime in the desert.
"I do not know why I suddenly felt the urge to play tourist. Maybe it was the experience of being held in a prison camp and somehow not losing my life. Maybe it was the sheer ugliness of that experience that brought about a strong desire to replace that ugliness with something beautiful. Everything beautiful."
The bigger picture was beginning to emerge.
"I read the engraved words of the Declaration of Independence. All men are given the right of the pursuit of happiness. Tony, I've never been given the chance to pursue happiness. My life was mapped out while I was still a child. I have been given a second chance to do things differently. I can be something different."
Tony reached to take her hand, slowly has to not startle her.
"Why did you come here, Tony?"
"You know why, Ziva. Last night-"
She held up her free hand and shook her head, "I thought that I was ready, Tony."
End of conversation. As if it were that simple. As if her disturbing behavior last night was merely the mild fall out of a bad day at the office.
She took a deep breath. He could feel the sadness pulse off of her body. His strong ninja chick was not the same as she was prior. Another lifetime, another world. There was a chink in her armor. He considered for a moment forcing his way through that crack. Forcing her to tell him everything. Everything that had happened to her in Somalia because one thing was becoming alarmingly clear: something had been broken inside of her.
He could not risk the possible consequences of hurting her, so he allowed the façade to remain. He allowed her to keep her mask. For the time being.
"What other beautiful things, Ziva? What else replaces the ugliness?
She looked at him. Studied him. A ghost of a smile played at the corners of her mouth. She jumped to her feet.
"Do you have plans tomorrow night, Tony?"
Reaching down to grasped his hand and tugged him to his feet.
"St. Matthews. Eight O'clock. Be there."
She gifted him with a genuine smile this time and bounced in place to warm up her cooling muscles.
"Do not be late," She warned as she bounded down the steps to finish her run.
Tony stared after Ziva. Time. It would take time for things to feel normal again. And maybe normal was not ever going to be in the cards for them. But he could hope for a little happiness, not only for her but also for himself.
Slowly climbing down the steps he shook his head. Despite everything that happened in Somalia, she was still the strongest person he knew. Maybe she was even stronger than her former self because every day more of her humanity shone through.
A/N: I promise to explain what happened "last night". Reviews welcome and most appreciated!!