A/N: I know that a ton of other authors have done something similar using numbers, but I just had to give it a shot. I'm still working on catching up in school, so updates will continue to be few for a couple of more days. Hope everyone is well, and to those of you who reviewed, In Sickness and In Health, you rock! Peace and love, Kit.
DISCLAIMER: I own not a thing.
50 million other scenarios could have changed this moment, fifty thousand other people that could have walked through those metal doors, fifty hundred bullets that could have stolen them at any time, fifty instances that so very nearly surpassed almost, fifty heartbeats that led them to here. Together.
49 words of Hebrew that he has memorized, capable of understanding what she says when she is long past the point of exhaustion, when she has reached her maximum level of anger is now lividly irate, when she is laying next to him panting and murmuring soft blissful nothings. When her emotions have reached such a height that she reverts back to her native tongue.
48 scars he counted marring her skin, crisscrossing across a golden canvas, faintly pink, eliciting both pain in his heart and memories in her mind. He traced each and ever one of them, as if a feather light brush of his lips will erase anything.
47 blinks of an eye and he still couldn't fathom that she was actually there, safe and bruised and thin, sitting slumped in a carrier chair, the noise of jet engines roaring underneath the aircraft, carrying them farther and farther away from a swirling sand trap and closer and closer to a land of golden opportunity.
46 minutes. The standing record of the amount of time in which he has gone without talking to her during their waking hours. Sometimes he wonders if it is normal, his questioning of his mental health. His rationally irrational fear that she is a figment of his imagination even though he can still taste her skin on his lips.
45 seconds and two bullets and her world ceased turning as time slowed to unfathomable pace that resembled a permafrost. A permafrost that thawed three minutes later when it was apparent that one bullet had missed entirely and its counterpart was simply lodged in the thick folds of his Kevlar vest.
44 miles run over the course of a single week and he wonders how she does it. And then he wonders why he hadn't adopted morning runs before now. She just wonders why he wants to follow her.
43 minute nap in the basement confines of Abby's lab, the pair collapsed on the futon, utterly exhausted at two in the morning, the paperwork pile not yet dented. In all honesty, Gibbs knew he should have let them be, but the sooner the paperwork was done, the sooner they could return to whoever's apartment and go to bed.
42 nights in a row that he has camped out in her apartment simply because she insists on remaining at her residence and he insists on remaining with her. She does not seem to mind.
41 hours spent in a homeland that was not his, with a flag absent of red fluttering in the wind. The Israeli sun hot on his neck and heart silently pleading for everything to be okay, for her to forgive him. Somehow. Someday.
40 the number of seconds it took for the cargo plane to take off after the iron door slammed shut and one passenger was missing. Apparently there were only three roundtrip tickets and it takes roughly forty seconds to comprehend the fact that he may never see her again.
39 candles extinguished on the white expanse of homemade cake, smoke curling in grey tendrils toward the ceiling. She never thought she'd get to see this and he didn't either. She didn't think she'd actually live this long, he just thought she'd miss it. (Though she promises to never miss his birthday.)
38 stitches in her shoulder when she takes a bullet meant for him.
37 second elevator ride that was enough contact to last them fourteen more hours, merely standing side by side for a little more than half a minute to relieve some of the stress of a gruesome double murder. Thirty seven seconds and two brushed hands and they were good until the case was closed.
36 minute piano lesson that began in all seriousness and then dissolved into random keys and chords, her fingers demonstrating a conjured melody while he concentrated his fingers to chase hers down the ivory keys, cat and mouse. Laughter eventually drowned out music before the laughter was stifled by other endeavors.
35 inches of snow that effectively blockaded them into her apartment
34 is the street number in which a miracle took place on. 1947 original classic starring Edmund Gwenn as the man in red. "Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to." Yes, he decides, he indeed has faith in love. And for whatever reason, she has faith in him.
33 years he went without even knowing her, which, granted, was so much simpler, yet the complexity of now is much more stimulating. And worth it. Definitely worth it. And he wonders what he'd do without her.
32 times she has threatened him in the last twenty-four hours, potential weapons ranging from virtually everything on her desk, his desk, and the surrounding vicinity in general. Punishments varying from castration to slow and painful suffering.
31 times he has provoked such threats from her in the last twenty-four hours. His transgressions ranging from persistent movie references to several precision launched paper airplanes. He is spared from any permanent maiming.
30 hours since anyone has had any sleep
29 minutes. The time it takes for a normal one hour car ride to Bethesda. But he had taken a bullet and she had driven. Breaking nearly every traffic law possible and narrowly striking four pedestrians. But she got him to the hospital. Way before the ambulance had even gotten halfway to the scene of his shooting.
28 minutes that he watched her this morning, curled against his side, perfectly fitting in his bed in this moment. Her face was serene and her breathing quiet, only periodically disrupted by a choking snore. She mumbled something, his name included in the mix of words and, he suspected, varying languages. But she smiled, snuggling closer to him, and he conjectured that whatever she was dreaming, it was good.
27 amendments to the Constitution, his and, hopefully, hers. Twenty-seven amendments and eight long months of relentless studying. Twenty-seven amendments and he finds himself nodding off twenty-seven times at his desk because she is in a room somewhere taking the test that will ultimately deem her fate -however, he has already pondered other options of her earning her citizenship. He stayed up into the wee hours of the morning studying with her and several more hours after she fell asleep worrying for her, praying that she passes.
26 hours overseas, golden stars twinkling overhead, foreign language melodic and weaving in crisp evening air. The City of Lights, and a good night's sleep, and Paris. Which they will always have.
25 minutes that they've been stuck in the elevator that apparently decided to lodge itself in the shaft, mechanisms most likely worn from ceaseless use of the power switch. But it's twenty-five minutes of precious time to just talk because the week has been busy and conversation fleeting.
24 times he's whispered "I love you" since they've been home. Softly spoken promises in the dark as he holds her, stroking her hair, caressing her cheek. Chaste kisses placed at her temple, migrating down the planes of her face, her nose, her neck, before finding her lips.
23 witnesses that had absolutely no idea what happened, the stories clashing and doing the polar opposite of assimilating together. He's frustrated and Gibbs is pissed, but she comes to his rescue after a near physical altercation with an very inebriated man, a single quirk of her lips, warm smile spreading across her features. He is a much better mood with witness number twenty-four.
22 years she went without even knowing him, when her life was more obscure and her future less than translucent, before she ever realized the importance of what could be. A life. Offered to her. With him.
21 car horns completing the blaring orchestra that follows in their wake as she cuts another curve to sharply, utterly disregarding the stop light. And the fact that it was red. And that three lanes of traffic were crossing the road running perpendicular to their own stretch of asphalt.
20 weeks lost at sea, pacing the length of an iron prison, confined to the cramped hull of a ship, missing and worrying and wishing for anything. And no, memorizing a photograph, both worn and creased, alleviating the hollowness in his chest.
19 weeks of field work in northern Africa, far from home, though home was a pond away. Men she no longer trusted for a cause she never knew and a war that really had nothing to do with her to begin with. A bomb and an old partner that spoke her tongue and a father that was never so. Then a phone call and she is summoned home.
18 ways she can kill him with a single paperclip - a threat that never ceases to work.
17 weeks lost in hell, drowning in an hourglass, consciousness fleeting and lapsing, death omnipresent yet evasive despite its welcome.
16 movies that have been viewed over the course of two days. A lazy Saturday and drowsy Sunday, a well-deserved weekend off duty. They've only ventured out of the bedroom for food and the occasional DVD retrieval from the pile on the living room floor. She is content to just lay under the covers, fingers entwined with his, as they watch Casablanca. He is content to just lay next to her, his fingers exploring her palms, as he watches her.
15 hours he spent tied to a wooden chair, lips chapped and body bruised, vision blurring in and out of focus as a potent concoction of chemicals pulsed through his veins. Fifteen hours reduced to fifteen heartbeats as he was finally capable of accepting the fact that it was her under the burlap, that she was alive and breathing before his very eyes in all her dusty glory.
14 seconds until thirty thousands pounds of steel screeched to a resounding stop, only twenty feet away from the single most important person in his world. And for the record, it took an additional twenty seconds to control his pulse and rein in his frantic heartbeat. And a full three hours later that night to check her over, very carefully, in making sure she was unhurt.
13 minutes of unrelenting staring, a conversation without words or signs, unspoken but universally understood between the pair. One uncomfortable McGee fleeing to the haven of Abby's lab.
12 was the rule that prevented five long years of pent up emotion and sexual tension, two hundred and sixty weeks of near death experiences and narrow escapes, sixty months of learning the other better than oneself. But was is the essential word. Past tense verses now tense.
11 hours trapped in a steel shipping container, cold and unable to call for help. Several million dollars in phony money with no value whatsoever and pungent ink, a couple thousand Bollywood DVDs that had no subtitles apparently, thirty seconds of her pressed against him, protecting him from her wayward bullet, two friction burned knees that she staunchly refused to explain, and one makeshift phone call that resulted in their eventual locating. But eleven hours trapped in a steel shipping container and eleven hours of conversation about nothing that surmounted to everything.
10 times he's read her mind, accused her eyes of not shutting up, as if he had access to her direct thoughts. Perhaps ESP, perhaps five years of attuning to his partner. He picks up on her thought frequencies, finishes her sentences as she completes his. Rhythmic. And unsettling yet just right.
9 thousand four hundred and sixty-three kilometers from Washington D.C. to Tel Aviv. Nine thousand four hundred and sixty-three kilometers separating him from her, and empty desk and resounding echo of nisiya tova keeping him company in her absence.
8 half the time in seconds it takes for him to comprehend a butchered idiom or mangled common colloquialism. He is certain that he has a dictionary strictly for her in his head. And the lost expression on unaccustomed faces are unceasing in their humor.
7 punches that he took undercover, a valiant sacrifice, anything to keep her safe. At the time, he had no idea why. But he went with his gut, and his gut told him to protect her. So he did. Until his heart eventually took over in the direction giving. Which, in essence, resulted in a similar situation several times over.
6. Hers on which he will always be.
5 years of partnership and trust and threats and innuendos and bodies and movie references
4 long months of pizza and movies, a summer of broken air conditioners and memories. And him and her and them. Partners under hot scorching sun, friends beneath bright watchful moon, dark fabric of night.
3 words the changed everything, that sparked an entire lifetime of events. That resulted in a resonating head slap dealt with frightening accuracy, in which he swears he received a concussion. She kissed it and made it better and he decides that it was indeed worth it.
2 words that very nearly killed him because she herself had been killed. Drowning not in water but in sand and one burlap sack later that revealed the living dead. And his frozen heart thawed.
1. One woman that changed his life forever, that forced him to become his very best, that taught him that he is capable of loyalty and love and a monogamous relationship. One person he could not live without, even though he tried so very hard to. One insignificant outsider that remained on his six and survived every trial with him. One Israeli assassin, NCIS special agent, ninja extraordinaire. One Ziva David. . . . One man that changed her life forever, that proved to her that she is worth something, that she is worth dying for. That she is capable of love and being loved. One person that told her the truth and never really lied to her, never really tried to deceive her malignantly. One simple American and very special agent. One Anthony DiNozzo.
One love that shadowed all hatred.