Disclaimer: Cry havoc and unleash the ducks of war. The dogs are off this week.
Spoilers: Ignition and Outlaws and In-Laws. And Corporal Punishment, I guess. Anything up to this point in season 7 is fair game.
Summary: Ziva bumps into an acquaintance who really bumps into her friendly neighborhood stalker.
Feeling as if she were being watched for more than her spandex running pants, Ziva picked up her pace. Her uneasiness had not subsided by the time she turned away from the river, making her way toward the National Mall. The early foot traffic was sparser than usual on this cold morning. She took a series of sharp turns on the pretext of avoiding icy spots on the sidewalks, giving herself a chance to observe without tipping her hand. The bald man in the black pants and sweatshirt was definitely tailing her and had been for the past few miles. He would make a terrible ninja, if that were in fact what he was aiming for.
She made a loop around the Reflecting Pool to buy time to make a decision. She could go directly to the Navy Yard, but that would let the man know that she knew he was there. The fact that he'd kept up with her but hadn't tried to attack her during one of the more deserted legs of her run told her that he was more likely a professional than a random assailant. He probably already knew where she lived, so she wouldn't be leading him anywhere if she simply went home as she would normally do at this point in her run.
As she rounded a corner of the pool, she noticed that the man had gotten appreciably closer. Flight could be superfluous. Just as she was readying herself for an attack from the rear, she saw movement from the corner of her eye. She spun just in time to see someone collide with the man in black, shoving him onto the frozen surface of the pool. The now shouting pair slid across the surface for a few feet before the ice cracked, plunging them into…she cocked her head to the side as she realized plunging was probably too strong a term. Her tension subsided as she recognized the man who had tackled the man in black. Crossing her arms over her chest, she watched the two men tussle awkwardly in the shallow water, hindered by the ice around them. It was over in a matter of seconds, with her rescuer giving the man in black a firm shove beneath the water, coupled with the warning, "You stay the hell away from her!"
Deciding things had gone far enough, she called, "Damon, what are you doing?"
He turned with a wave and smiled at her. "Oh, hey. How's it going?" He began to work his way back toward the side of the pool, breaking through the crust of ice with each step. She reached out to help steady him as he approached. "Thanks."
"What was that all about?"
"Him?" He glanced over his shoulder at the man in black, who was still struggling to get out of the water. "Hired thug."
"Ziva, I'd love to explain it all to you, but it's really, really cold out here."
She took off the fleece headband covering her ears and passed it to him, not commenting on the fact that she was giving him what amounted to a band-aid for a gaping wound. "My apartment is not far and running will warm you up."
They didn't speak at all as they made their rapid way to her building, but she could see him shivering visibly. When they finally arrived, his fingers were shaking too much for him to even unbutton his jacket. She dragged him into the bathroom and turned on the hot water before going to work on his clothing. It wasn't even dripping, due to the fact that it had frozen. His coat and wool cap retained the shape of his body when she dropped them on the floor. His sweater, at least, flopped a little. The skin she touched as she peeled off his t-shirt was far too cold. At least the bathroom was starting to steam up from the hot water running in the shower. "When you have warmed up, you are going to explain to me, in detail, why you felt the urge to go swimming outdoors in the middle of winter."
He didn't reply, complying silently as she gently sat him on the toilet to pull off his shoes and socks. He did wake from his cold stupor when she stood him up and undid the top two buttons of his jeans. "I got it. Thanks."
"Okay. Take as long as you need. I will make coffee." She smiled in what she hoped was a comforting manner, but he just pulled the two side of waistband closer together. She shrugged as she pulled the door closed, knowing that the water had been very cold. When she opened the bathroom door again a few minutes later, she kept a hand over her eyes, mainly for show. "I am leaving a towel and some dry clothes for you on the counter."
He seemed to offer mumbled thanks, but she didn't ask him to repeat anything. Still in her running clothes, she kicked off her sneakers in the front closet before hanging up her windbreaker, then headed to the kitchen to start making breakfast. She had just scrambled some eggs when she heard the water turn off. Damon walked into the kitchen a minute or two later in an undershirt, loose jogging pants and socks. "I thought you just said coffee."
She jammed bread into the toaster. "Didn't I leave a sweatshirt in the bathroom for you?"
"Yeah, but I'm fine." He wrapped both hands around the coffee pot rather than picking it up to pour himself a cup.
"You are covered in duck pimples."
He shied away from her touch. "I'm really all right. And I, uh, think you meant goose bumps."
Her hand made firm contact with his forearm. "You still feel cold."
"I'm starting to get warmer."
"I will go get you that sweatshirt."
"Ziva, you really don't have to…"
"Keep an eye on the eggs."
When she returned, he eyed the sweatshirt suspiciously. "You know I was born in Michigan, right?"
"So you can't really expect me to wear that."
"What is it with you people? They are just college sports! Did you even go to college?"
"No, but I have my pride. If anyone back home saw me in scarlet and grey… Whose clothes are these, anyway?"
"What difference does it make?"
"You may be in more trouble than I thought if you're hanging out with Buckeyes."
"Speaking of which…" She saw his face fall, so she finished, "we will talk about it after breakfast."
"I tried to call you as soon as I found out what was going on, but…well, I just found out this morning and I remembered you telling me you run, so I had to find you before…"
"I can handle myself."
"I know. Believe me, I know. But I don't just walk away from my responsibilities."
His fingers felt warmer when she brushed them while handing him a plate with eggs and toast. "Your responsibilities? How am I included?"
"I…" He ran a hand through damp hair he'd thankfully had cut since the last time she had seen him. "I was a part of this, and you and Gibbs, you got me out. That was the second time you took one for me and I owe you. Both of you. I'm only sorry I didn't find out what was happening until after Allie got involved."
"You know about Colonel Bell, right? He was released. And you've met his legal goon Allie Hart?"
She coughed on a bite of scrambled eggs, choking out a repeated, "Allie?"
"My contact in the company said she'd been on you guys during your last case."
"True. She just did not strike me as the type to allow herself to be called…"
"Look, it was just a couple weeks and it wasn't that great because she's really not the nicest person…hell, she's nothing like the kind of woman I usually…not that I'm dating a ton of women, but…" he trailed off, his face flushing. Well, at least he was definitely warmer.
"Would you like some more coffee?"
"Sure." He held out his cup and she replaced the two sips he'd taken. The time to arrange his thoughts seemed to do him good. "Look, I don't know much, just that Bell is pissed. He wants revenge. I'm already blackballed from every security company with a government contract and now he's after Gibbs and your team. I'm actually not that surprised he sent someone after you first."
"Because I am a woman and he assumes I am the weakest link."
"No. Because he knows it will freak the rest of your team out if its toughest member goes down. I won't let that happen."
"The man who was following me could not have…"
"I know, but that doesn't mean I wanted him to have that chance."
She smiled. "Thank you." They finished breakfast in silence and she noticed for the second time that day that lack of conversation wasn't uncomfortable. She swallowed her last sip of coffee. "If you would not mind loading the dishwasher, I need to take a shower before work. I take it you will be accompanying me?"
"Uh, no, I, uh…I'm warm enough in this sweatshirt to…not that I wouldn't…"
She saved him before he could dig himself too deep, "To work, Damon, not the shower."
"I knew that. I just…I'm not really dressed to go out anywhere."
"It is not going to be a problem. Have some more coffee."
Half an hour later, they walked into the bullpen. Tony was the only member of the team present. "Hey, Werth. And here I thought you didn't have any redeeming qualities."
Damon, who had just unbuttoned the still-damp coat he had insisted on wearing, asked, "Excuse me?"
"I have that same Ohio State football hoodie. I think mine's in the laundry."
Ziva pulled Damon away from Tony as she saw Gibbs step out of the elevator. "I believe we need to focus on Col. Bell right now."
"Tell me again whose clothes I'm wearing."
She ignored the demand. "Gibbs, Damon has some information about that lawyer you did not like…"