Chapter 6
Peace

Thus I have become in his eyes
like one finding peace.
— Song of Solomon, The Bible.

That evening, as she's getting ready to head out for the day, Ziva decides to pick up a thank-you card for Abby on her way home. She tries to think of a good message to write on it as she straightens her desk and pulls on her coat. Something that is sincere but does not sound sleazy. No... not sleazy. Cheesy. Does not sound cheesy.

When she turns from her desk to start down the stairs, she stops short. Outside the bullpen windows, the sun is setting, casting a golden glow on the waters of the Anacostia, as the sky fades from amber to blue. The evening star, just visible on the horizon, winks at her in the twilight, like they share a secret. Ziva exhales slowly, and her breath is almost a prayer, an exultation of thanks. She looks out these windows almost every day, but she hasn't actually seen the view in years, not since she first joined NCIS. How is it possible that she had come to take this for granted?

Ziva doesn't know how long she stands there staring, leaning against the railing of the stairs, before she feels someone approach and lean against the railing beside her. He doesn't say a word, and she doesn't turn her eyes from the window, but she knows it's Tony. She recognizes the sound of his breath and the warmth of his body next to hers, as clearly as if she had looked him in the face. For a long moment, they both stand there in silence, neither wanting to break the spell, as the sun sinks lower and stars come out.

"So... enjoying the view?" Tony asks, finally, and they both smile.

Ziva looks at him, then back to the window, to the panorama of DC stretching out before them. "I had gotten so used to what a view we have from these windows, I almost stopped noticing it," she says. "I am trying not to do that anymore."

"You're trying not to not look out the windows anymore?" Tony asks quizzically. Ziva suspects he knows that she's not talking about the windows, but he's trying to keep the conversation light.

"I am trying not to take the things around me for granted anymore," she answers quietly. "I did that far too much – before." Her voice catches, just slightly, on the word before. She doesn't have to say before what. They both know.

"Well, you weren't the only one," says Tony. "I mean... I know what it's like to get so used to something being there, you think it'll always be there. And then one day, when suddenly it's not there, it's like the whole world is changed."

Now they both know he isn't talking about the windows. They fall silent again, as words from the past find their way to the front of Ziva's mind. The sultry and emotionally distant Mossad officer. Some totally emotionless perfect warrior. That part of you died out there. She's always been brave – fearless, even – and she's always prided herself on that. But this will require a different kind of bravery.

"When I was in Somalia..." She begins, then pauses, waiting for Tony to tense up or draw back from her. But his relaxed posture against the railing doesn't change, and Ziva can tell he's trying not to make her nervous. He knows that she needs to say this. "...even there, I found there was beauty around me. If you knew where to look for it."

Ziva almost tells him about the view she found outside her cell – so different from the view outside the bullpen windows, but somehow, just as beautiful, with the way even the desert air seemed to glow – on the night when the voice said God had not forsaken her. She had wanted to tell him in the hospital... but a new peace settles inside her as she realizes she doesn't need to. Tony has known all along that she was never forsaken in Somalia, because he was one of ones who had never forsaken her, never turned his back on her. Hadn't he traveled halfway across the world to find her and bring her home?

"You were never broken... were you?" Tony asks incredulously, his hushed voice bringing her back to the present. He's staring at her openly now, almost in awe.

They've almost been talking more with their silences than with their words, because they both know so well what the other really wants to say. But this time, Ziva doesn't understand what Tony means.

"They never broke you," he explains. "I mean, I was only in that nightmare for a few days. If you could be there for weeks, and not only survive it, but come back and say you saw beautiful things there... well, in my humble O, Ziva, they never broke you. They just made you stronger."

He raises his head, and she feels honored that he's looking at her with obvious admiration. The voice she heard in Somalia had told her she was not lost, not forsaken. But not broken? That had never occurred to her. But maybe Tony is right. Maybe that voice belonged to her, to the one part of her Saleem hadn't broken. And maybe if she was never broken, then what she and Tony had was never broken, either. But how is that possible?

Ziva's breath feels ragged, like she can't breathe, as the memories of everything that happened between them come rushing back at her. Tony lying on her floor, his arm broken, as Michael's blood soaked into the carpet. The pain on his face when she knocked him to the ground and pressed her gun into him in Tel Aviv. In some ways, they hurt even worse than the memories of what happened to her in Somalia. But no, they're not broken, not yet. Hadn't her mikvah proved that even the worst wounds could be healed? It had given her a feeling of renewal that she hadn't thought possible.

"What did you say to Abby?" Ziva asks suddenly.

"Hm? When?" Tony quickly looks away from her, back out the window. He's pretending not to know what she's talking about, and Ziva can sense that whatever he said to Abby, he's reluctant to repeat it to her.

"Earlier today," she reminds him. Tony hesitates, and it occurs to Ziva that maybe she doesn't want to know what he said to Abby. But she barrels on anyway. If she and Tony are ever going to heal – the way her mikvah had healed her – then they have to talk about this, at least. "When you were in her lab, what did you say?"

For a second, it's so quiet they could hear a pin drop. Ziva can't remember when there's ever been such silence in the bullpen. Then the only sound is Tony taking a deep breath as he turns away from the window and looks her in the eye.

"I said whatever you did last night, it seemed to bring you peace. That right?" Ziva nods, even though she doesn't need to. Tony knows it's right; he could tell from the moment she walked into the bullpen that morning, he knows her so well. "And I said that was all that mattered."

She raises one eyebrow at him. "And you're not still dying to know the details about what exactly Abby and I did?"

"Oh, I'll admit I'm still incredibly curious," Tony answers easily, "but I think I can resign myself to not knowing." He pauses, then leans his head in a little closer to hers and repeats, firmly, "If it brought you peace, that's all that matters. And I'm happy for you, Ziva. But I guess it's a safe bet you and Abs didn't watch a movie last night, did you?"

She smiles and nods. "A safe bet, yes."

"Good," Tony says, "because I think the only way to remedy that is for you to watch a movie with me tonight." He flashes his brightest grin, the one that Ziva never could resist. "Have you ever seen... let's see, how about It Happened One Night? It's been called the original romantic comedy, you know."

As they descend the stairs together, Ziva is not aware of the smile slowly spreading across her face. But by the time she and Tony have reached the bottom, she's beaming so hard it hurts. She knows now – knows as surely as she's ever known anything – that there's no such thing as a lost cause. Nothing can be so hurt so badly that it can't be healed. When they leave the Navy Yard, Tony gently takes her hands in his; there's such peace in his touch, and Ziva knows that she will never stop being amazed by all that is possible in this world.

FIN


Author's Note for Chapter 6: Wow, this chapter was harder to write than all the others put together! I think it was because Tony is more serious and thoughtful in it, and that's a side of him we don't often see on the show. I know it drags in some places, but there were a lot of things I felt Tony and Ziva needed to realize and talk about.

Author's Note for the Story: Well, so I come to the end of my first fanfiction ever. What a long, strange, wonderful trip it's been. One of the central themes of this story (the idea that we can find beauty anywhere, if we know how to look for it) is a philosophy I try to live by, so this hit very close to home for me in some ways. And I am blown away by all the positive reviews I've received for this story! As I've said before, halfway through writing this, my fanfiction profile was discovered by some from my real life whom I hadn't wanted to find it. I almost abandoned this story and deleted my entire account, but because of your feedback, I decided to keep going. I can never say thank you enough! :)