Wow! Thanks to everyone who left comments on Chapter One! You guys rock!
I was trying to keep someone from being hurt... and I ended up making sure she was hurt.
– Jake to Evelyn, Chinatown.
They're about thirty minutes into Chinatown when Tony begins shifting uncomfortably in his seat, resisting the urge to head-slap himself. Of all the movies he had to pick from, he may have picked the worst possible one. He wants to crack some joke or make a sarcastic comment to lighten the mood, but for once his wit fails him. Even in the darkness of the theater, he can't help but notice Ziva stiffen in the seat beside him, as the drama unfolds onscreen.
When they come out of the theater, Tony's caught off-guard by the night – so solid and black and heavy. He had forgotten how much earlier it gets dark now, since the clocks were moved back an hour for the fall. It's gotten chilly too, and Ziva pulls her coat tightly around her as they go down the theater steps.
"Well, what did you think?" Tony finally asks her.
Her silence worries him. Ziva is choosing her words too carefully. "Well... it was not what I expected," she finally says. "It was very sad."
He waits for her to go on, but she doesn't, and he feels disappointed. One of the greatest classics of American film, and all she can say is that it's sad?
"Ziva, it wasn't – well, okay, the ending was sad, but..."
"Tragic," Ziva puts in.
"...but you can't just focus on the ending. What about the rest of it? There were some funny moments in it, and it was so smart. All those twists and turns in the story, it was like a case we would solve. Hey, that makes me Jake." He grins at her and says in his best Jack Nicholson voice, "I said I want the truth!"
Ziva laughs a little at that, but she doesn't smile, and Tony can tell that her laughter is fake, forced. "I hope not," she says, shaking her head. She drops her voice and goes on, "Jake was a good investigator, but... he and Evelyn were supposed to be partners. And all they did was hurt each other."
Tony bites the inside of his cheek, considering Ziva's words. They're walking across the theater parking lot to his car in the chilly night air, through the spotlights of the street lamps and the patches of darkness in between. And he gets the feeling that Ziva isn't really talking about Jake and Evelyn.
"It was all Evelyn's fault," she goes on quickly. "She should have told Jake everything, right from the beginning, but she kept too much from him. She did not tell him the truth until it was too late, and that is why she ended up the way she did."
Tony looks hard at her, but they're between streetlights, and it's too dark to make out the expression on her face. He's not sure why, but it bothers him that Ziva isn't more sympathetic to Evelyn. He remembers what she said when he found her still alive – barely – in Somalia and realized what she had been through. "It is justified." The sudden chill in his bones has nothing to do with the cold night air.
"Well, it was Jake's fault as much as hers," he answers softly. He shrugs as he says it, trying to keep the conversation light. "Evelyn was trying to protect him, that's why she didn't tell him everything. And when she finally did, he didn't even believe her."
"Only at first he didn't," Ziva puts in, in Jake's defense.
"It doesn't matter," Tony shakes his head. "It was all his fault. Evelyn tried to warn him about what a sicko her father was, remember? But he didn't listen to her." As he says it, it occurs to him that it Jake isn't to blame so much as Evelyn's father. He had manipulated Jake and Evelyn's feelings for each other to his own ends, and never even got his come-uppance at the end of the movie. What a scumbag, Tony thinks bitterly.
Ziva has to nod in agreement at his words. She tries to block it out, but Evelyn's line to Jake about her father replays over and over in her mind. "My father is a very dangerous man. You don't know how dangerous. You don't know how crazy." The idea that her own father had used her as a... Suddenly, Ziva can't push away the clammy feeling creeping over her skin, and she shudders, just slightly. She thinks Tony doesn't notice until, just as slightly, he draws closer to her.
"Still, Evelyn should have trusted him," Ziva insists, her voice thick.
"No, Jake should've listened to her," and Tony's surprised to feel his stomach growing hot with anger. He remembers the first time he saw Chinatown, back when he was working as a cop. He had thought Jake was such a brilliant detective then. And now, his opinion of him has sunk so low, he's sure that if Gibbs ever met Jake, he wouldn't even bother wasting a head-slap on him. "He should have had her back."
They reach Tony's car, but neither one of them gets in. They just stand there on either side of it, all the unspoken words hanging in the chilly air between them, like the patches of darkness between the streetlights. Tony can't stop thinking about how it ended for Evelyn and Jake – her dead, murdered, and him living the rest of his life with the guilt of knowing that he had failed her, that he hadn't protected her from her father. He can't stop thinking about how it almost ended that way for Ziva and him, and the thought terrifies him. He doesn't know when anything has ever scared him so much. His skin starts to grow clammy...
Tony looks across the hood of his car to Ziva. Is she thinking the same thing? No, he can tell from her face that her thoughts are different, worse. She's gone to a much darker place. No, he can't let her go back there. And he can't possibly let their evening end like this. He mentally head-slaps himself. What was he thinking, showing her Chinatown?
"You know, Ziva, it's still pretty early," he says quickly. Ziva looks at him, her face full of sweet relief. She's so grateful that he's broken the silence and called her back from where her thoughts were taking her. He pretends not to notice as he jerks his head towards the clock outside the bank across the street. "Look, it's not even nine-thirty. We could always head back in, make this a double feature."
He turns around, back towards the theater, and reads the list of movie showings on the sign outside the building, desperately searching for a comedy, something that will alleviate the heavy silences, the clammy feeling on his skin. Thankfully, he finds just what he's looking for. "Hey, there's a showing of Paper Moon that starts in ten minutes," he says, pointing. "You ever seen Paper Moon?"
Ziva shakes her head. "No, I do not know that one. What is it?"
"Well," Tony winces, as if in terrible pain. "I can't believe I'm actually using this word to describe a movie I like, but Paper Moon is... cute." It's the perfect antidote to seeing Chinatown, he adds to himself.
Ziva chuckles. "That sounds perfect."
So they turn around and walk back across the dark, cold parking lot, back into the warmth and light of the theater. They buy more popcorn – Ziva's full, but Tony insists – and watch another movie about two partners, Moses and Addie, who who grow closer for everything they go through, whose story ends happily.
The second time Tony and Ziva come out of the theater, they're both smiling, and Tony is explaining how the two of them are just like Moses and Addie.
"Because Moses was a suave guy, and Addie was a lot more dangerous than she looked, and together they made the perfect team. See?"
Ziva laughs – a real laugh this time, Tony can tell. "Yes, Tony," she agrees, "that is us in a nuthouse."
Tony sighs and rolls his eyes in mock exasperation. "It's nutshell, Ziva," he corrects, smiling at her. "But you're right, that's us in a nutshell. We make the perfect team."
This time, as they cross the parking lot, Ziva can't suppress the smile on her face as she watches Tony walk with so much spring in his step, all the way back to the car. Almost in unison, the same thought occurs to both of them: There might just be hope for us yet.
Hey, readers, I bet you were all expecting this to be some six-chapter story with lots of smut, right? But all you got was two chapters of angst! *evil laugh* But seriously, thanks for reading.
And as you might have guessed, Chinatown and Paper Moon are two of my favorite classic movies.