A/N: Nobody tell me how long ago Jetlag originally aired and how ridiculously late I am posting/ *cough*cough* writing this. Anyway, here it is. And there was only one reference to Casablanca, yes, but I just had to go there. Much love, keep the peace, Kit!
DISCLAIMER: I do not own NCIS nor do I own Casablanca -I just use the characters and quotes respectively.
I wish I didn't love you so much.
It's his first thought when she returns to the assemblage of couches he stands amidst and announces that they are sharing a room. The long plane ride was spent in comfortable companionship, as was the taxi ride from the airport to the hotel. He had allowed her to check them in because his French, frankly, is terrible and hers, of course, flawless. He could hear the arguing that rose in pitch, volume, and speed, and judging by the expression on the concierge's face, he found himself thankful he could only see the back of Ziva's head . . . . And now she has returned to where he guards their meager luggage and delivers the verdict. If only he didn't love her so much, then this would be so much simpler. And it isn't that he doesn't trust himself to behave –he just doesn't trust himself to not say something stupid. He doesn't trust himself to not spook this slowly returning thing that they've got.
Because he loves her. And it would be so much simpler if that wasn't so.
His second thought is that it is going to be a long and potentially awkward night.
Of all the gin joints in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.
It is his idea. A brilliant concoction of thought that he is impressed with and quite proud of. He has never been to Paris, but Ziva, he suspects, has been here many times before and therefore, logically, must know a nice place to eat. And she does and here they are.
It is a quiet little restaurant, La Lune En Argent, tucked away off a quaint, sleepy street, the tantalizing aromas of rich food and mature wine. The décor is intimate and they're dining, ironically, over candlelight, and he cannot help but notice the cliché: Dinner over candlelight in Paris with a beautiful woman.
The table is spread with beef bourguignon and escargot (which she only ordered because it would gross him out) and some type of vegetable quiche that is delicious. Two glasses of red wine are held gingerly by both partners and Ziva promises him crepes.
"You know, Zee-vah, this is nice," he says over the rim of his wine glass. Her mahogany eyes are soft in the ambient lighting and her smile genuine. She's stunning, he notices, sitting across from him unawares in the pale blue blouse she wore on the flight and his suit jacket draped casually over her shoulders. She'd pulled her hair up back at the hotel, an elegant twist at the nape of her neck and she seems to glow.
"You sound surprised," she replies coyly and he grins.
"But you know what would be nicer?" he hints.
She screws her face up in mock thought before feigning a guess: "Crepes?"
"I was thinking a little sightseeing? And crepes, of course."
"Of course," she says, rolling her eyes. "Where do you want to go?"
"Um . . . . Everywhere?"
"Tony . . . ."
"I've never been to France!" he defends, eyes hopeful.
And after a few moments, she cannot help but smile and relent, "I will show you the highlights."
Nobody ever loved me that much.
After several blocks and a good amount of seeing the sights, they walk closer together, arms touching, hands brushing. And eventually, his hand finds its way to the small of her back and stays there and she doesn't mind. On the contrary, she leans in more, bracing her weight against his shoulder just a little bit.
To an outsider watching the pair make their way slowly across the Pont d'lena, drawing closer to the bright silhouette glowing on the other side of the Seine, they might entertain the notion that the two are wildly in love. However, the partners would vehemently deny any such thing; they are merely coworkers, two people who watch the other's six during active duty. Certainly neither is willing to sacrifice anything for the other, surely they can live without their counterpart . . . .
Tony halts mid-step, Ziva rebounding back beside him, tossing a questioning glare up at his face, before softening her eyes at the expression she finds there on his features. It's a look of sheer and momentous awe, the kind that makes her question how old this man actually is because the childlike wonder is rather deceiving. "It's . . . . Wow."
She snorts, "It's wow. Very eloquent, Tony."
"Hey, what do you want me to say?. . . . I gotta get a picture of this!" and now he's fumbling with his camera and she's backing out of the way because she does not want any photo ops with forced smiles and stiff poses. "Here," he says, brandishing the digital device in her face, pressing a button and conjuring up the surreal image before them. "What do you think?"
She smirks, feigning a critical analysis, trying to recall that name he'd used in reference to himself earlier . . . .
"I think I could give Annie Leibovitz a run for her money."
We got it back last night.
Throughout dinner she had entertained the thought of their sleeping arrangements. Neither would sacrifice themselves to the couch, not due to unwillingness, but the implicit truth that they would argue until dawn, insisting that the counterpart sleep in the bed. His stance would be that she's the lady, he's the gentleman, and it is rude to deny his chivalry, etcetera. Her defense, ironically on his behalf, would be that his back is bothering him; she's smaller and therefore would fit fine on the couch . . . . It's late when they schlep back up to their suite and the debate is not even permitted to cross the threshold.
They move around each other, individually carrying out their nighttime routines, Ziva taking her shower, Tony brushing his teeth, neither acknowledging the fact that only a single pane of opaque glass is guarding her decency. He leaves the bathroom as the water shuts off so she can have privacy.
He can hear her laughter through the door and he assumes she's seen his artwork sketched idly in the fog of the bathroom mirror. It's a primitive picture, a rough outline of the familiar image that embodies an even more familiar monument. And while she thinks that he is no Monet, she can distinguish the general definition of the tower. He's written "chef d'oeuvre" underneath his "masterpiece."
"C'est tres magnifique," she compliments from the doorway, toothbrush in hand and smirk on her lips. He's lounging on his assumed side of the king sized bed, lying on his side, propped up on an elbow, devoutly reading a book. When she speaks and he looks up, he cannot even suppress the grin stretching across his face. "Merci."
Ten minutes later and he's on his back, still reading after having managed to maneuver his book to a comfortable and easily viewable position. Ziva sits an arms' length away, leaning up against feather fluffed pillows. She abandoned her study on American history a half hour ago, opting to complete a crossword she found in a local newspaper.
Last summer had practically ruined everything between them and around them and she thought for the longest time the bloodstains would never go away. However, someone once told her that if you love something and let it go, if it comes back, it was meant to be. And perhaps it's the jetlag, or perhaps it is merely idle musing, but she cannot help but think that their lost dynamic has finally come returned.
Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time.
Paris. It's where it had to have happened, years and years ago, long before they'd ever even considered who they wanted their future selves to be. For two partners, a retired marine with bad eyesight and a spitfire of a redhead with enough ambition to someday run a federal agency, this is where it happened. Paris. They had no choice. As he once so expressively phrased, "It was inevitable." It was inevitable and it ended terribly with enough regrets to drown out all triumphs. There was no happily ever after for them.
But they, Tony and Ziva, they are different. They've proved themselves, their loyalty, their faith in the other over and over and over. He braved deserts and crossed oceans for her. They are not like their predecessors. They are nothing like them.
But history repeats itself tonight.
And there will be a happy ending this time around.
Here's looking at you, kid.
He would rather pause and just take it all in. Absorb the sounds of life marching on in the steady tempo of French, to imprint upon his mind the view of this magnificent city that blurs by on the Vespa. The crystal blue of an early morning sky and the regal stance of Paris' finest landmark, a monument that seems to serve as an entrance to much more than its intended design. The Eiffel Tower, he muses, is substantial beyond what its engineer had envisioned, the looming structure symbolizing the beginnings of numerous love stories and realized dreams . . . . He clears his head with a quick shake, parking the little motor scooter at the sidewalk's edge after finally finding their agreed upon rendezvous point.
There's an odd lurch in his chest as his eyes settle on the small bistro table furnishing the sidewalk of the café's shadow. Because Ziva is sitting facing the road and she's grinning, her cell phone pressed to her ear, carrying on her end of a transatlantic conversation with McGee. He slips into his seat just as she disconnects her call, greeting him with, "Finally."
He isn't kidding when he tells her one day in this town just isn't enough. And it truly isn't. They've left so much unseen and unsaid and it echoes in his mind tauntingly even though they've come so far in less than twenty-four hours . . . .
She looks beautiful, really she does, perching across the tiny space not but three feet away from him. And she's so alive and content that he has a sudden urge to snap another picture of her, but, alas, she'd break his arm.
So he settles for an innocent acknowledgement of, "Beautiful morning."
But he isn't looking anywhere but her when he says this.
We'll always have Paris.
It's a lie. What she tells Nora. What he tells McGee.
And neither feels remotely guilty about it.
And it's very hard to detect, because the shift is subtle, almost imperceptible. It's like it happened overnight.
He shows her the picture he took, his absolute "chef d'oeuvre." And he doesn't know if he expects her to ignore him or shoot him –or insist that the photos be destroyed immediately. However, the smile that breaks across her face is radiant and genuine and meant for him. And she laughs, teasing him, "I think it'll look better in black and white." And he just wants to tell her she's beautiful.
And, yeah, they'll always have Paris.
They'll have Paris and so much more.