The pitter patter of large, heavy raindrops hitting the roof sounded a comforting tattoo on the rooftop as he lay in bed, enshrouded by the shadows of deep night. Every so often, the room would brighten with lightning, revealing the features of the woman who warmed the sheets beside him. As the thunder followed, he studied her still and sleeping form.
She was sleeping, sprawled on her stomach as she hugged her pillow. He knew that she had her weapon beneath the pillow. He didn't mind—he had his own on the nightstand, well within arm's reach. Her had been straightened before she'd come to bed, but was now beginning to return to the natural curls he preferred. Gentle waves pooled around her bare shoulders, black as oil in the dim light, and just as soft as the skin it rested on.
In the brief flashes of light the storm provided, her naked form was gloriously tantalizing, hidden as it was by the white sheet that draped over her hips. He'd already feasted on her sweet flesh tonight; the last traces of sweat still glistening on both their bodies attested to that. He knew she'd been sated as well—she wouldn't be sleeping so contentedly otherwise.
Even so, worn out as he was, he couldn't keep his hand from drifting lightly over her skin. It was not a come-hither touch; it was a touch that seared details into the mind, one that memorized every line, curve, and aberration of his lover's body. By now, the details were familiar, and his actions familiar enough to her that when her eyes opened, her Berretta remained under her pillow.
Brown eyes smiled tiredly at him in the darkness, but then closed again as she savored the rough warmth of his fingers. She'd told him once that she preferred hands with calluses, that they always belonged to men who had lived life. Smooth hands, she'd said, belonged to those who were afraid to get their hands dirty, and in her experience, life was always dirty.
That was what made it fun.
His continued exploration of her body inevitably drifted to the scar—the only scar—that was still a mystery to him. It was small and circular, puckered skin still slightly pink. It was not her only scar, by any means. She had dozens. But it was the only one he hadn't had the guts to ask about. It wasn't that it was a bullet wound—she had two others, and he had his own fair share. It wasn't even that it was a twofer, a through and through.
It was the location.
It sat just below her right breast, smack between two of her ribs. Any torso shot was dangerous—the biggest target, the greatest probability of devastating damage. And this one… this one would have put her out of the field for a good while. And it was that surety that kept the words choked in his throat any time he even thought about asking how she had gotten it. He didn't mind hearing about the others, the ones that were superficial and more for bragging rights than anything else.
But this one scared him.
He didn't want to hear about how close she might have come to death, how hard she might have fought to stay alive. Because as much as he hated to admit it, she was no safer here at NCIS than she was in Mossad. The dangers may not be as obvious as those associated with international espionage, but they were still there.
They all went out into the field everyday facing the possibility that they might run into a desperate or sociopathic Marine with a commandeered M16. And she was now sedentary—she'd put down roots and with such stability came its own added dangers. People from her past could track her, find her. A crazed perp could follow her home, somehow get lucky and blitz her.
Well, he didn't put much stock in the last one, but it had made an appearance in his nightmares anyway, especially after the Hoffman case.
But tonight, in the safety of stormy shadows and the afterglow of passion, the question slipped from his lips before he fully realized he was asking.
"How'd this happen?"
His voice was soft and smooth, deep in the darkness of the bedroom. Her eyes opened once more, her gaze resting on him with greater intensity than she had a moment ago. She was now wide awake— there was no chance of him backing out now. His fingers traced the starburst scar below her shoulder blade, leaving no confusion as to what he was referring.
She shifted slightly, poufing the pillow under her cheek so she could see him more clearly. The movement gave him an unobstructed view of her features, her eyes piercing through the darkness. She regarded him for a moment before speaking.
"Cairo," she said finally. "Four years ago."
The mention of the city sparked a memory within him. "Jenny," he said bluntly. A statement, not a question, but she hummed in confirmation anyway. "She said you saved her life."
She shrugged. "We all saved someone's life that day. I simply got lucky."
"How is this getting lucky?" he asked, his fingers continuing to trace the outline of the scar.
His fingers paused on her skin. The cessation did not go unnoticed.
"I did not mean to upset you," came the rote continuance. Her voice was soft but unrepentant, reminding him that he had started the conversation.
"Nah," he told her. "I want to know."
"I was in the hospital for over a month, then home convalescence for another month. I was not in field again for almost six months." The bitterness in her voice told him exactly how much she had disliked that circumstance, and he couldn't help but grin. "The bullet took a chunk of my liver with it on its way out, that is why recovery took so long. Plus my diet had to be altered for several months, which was not sustainable when out on missions. But the doctors said it would be able to mostly grow back without a problem, and it must have, because I am perfectly fine now."
His lips pressed against the scar in a gentle caress, and she arched lightly into the contact, before smoothly raising herself up onto her elbows. He then looped an arm around her neck, and pressed another, firmer kiss to her temple.
"I'm glad," he murmured softly, breathing in the fragrance of flowers and spice, taking comfort in the familiarity of the scent.
No matter what may have almost happened in the past, she was there now. Right there with him, warm and breathing.
"You'll have to tell me the whole story sometime," he added finally.
She hummed in affirmation. "Yes," she agreed, sliding closer to him so that their bare legs were flush against each other beneath the sheet. He rolled onto his back, and her head rested on his chest while her arm draped over him in a single-armed embrace. "But not tonight."
"No," he murmured. His hand stroked her soft hair, lulling them both into a state of comfortable semi-consciousness. "Not tonight."
There would time enough for that.
Because she was alive.
She was there, pressing close enough against him that he could feel the double-thump of her heartbeat, and smelling sweetly of flowers and spice.