A/N: Been on my laptop for probably, oh, six months maybe? I've been tweaking/rewriting/fighting a bitter bloody battle with the tense. And, alas, the finished product! Lev means 'heart' in Hebrew (please correct me if I'm wrong). I must go finish a history assignment before the new episode (it's going to be awesome -I know it!). Much love and keep the peace, Kit.
DISCLAIMER: Run and that homeboy.
WARNING: References and allusions to certain subjects (nothing explicit).
Her first time is in the weapon-hold of ship, amidst the Indian Ocean, the waves a rocking cadence to the events that unfold behind a metal shipping crate full of M-16s. Years later and she will not recall his name while his face will remain a brilliant fog with no features in the shadowed hull of her memory. He speaks in Hebrew, but a foreign accent mars the words and she knows he is not a native speaker of the language on his tongue. Years later and she'll remember that his eyes were brown. Big and brown and more naïve than hers as they rake over her slender frame appreciatively, drinking in her body and nothing more. And there is stumbling and fumbling and discarded fatigues, sneezing because the dust is rampant in the musty dimness.
He is a stranger really, his knowledge of the ship itself more extensive than hers, a relative newcomer, boarding the vessel with her male teammates, just shy of nineteen. And she knows her looks can be to her advantage, but the entire encounter, which lasts less than half an hour, leaves her feeling . . . . . empty.
And that is another thing about his eyes. They are practically empty the following day when she passed him in the mess hall, leering lips and empty eyes.
She learns at an early age to use her feminine charms as a tool, her body as an asset vital to her cause. Because sitting across a table demanding answers from a frightened and defiant man who reeks of wickedness is a lot less effective than flirting her way into his hotel room, manipulating answers from a drunken Neanderthal. She grows calluses for this behavior, soon finding that emotional detachment is key to her survival, mental and physical. Because if she doesn't feel, it will not hurt.
It will not hurt her when she pulls the gun concealed beneath the pillow, left under the bed, placed in the night table drawer. As she pulls the gun and pulls the trigger and doesn't feel a thing. And the sheets will be saturated in crimson stains and she will slip out, silent as a shadow. Silent as the bullet now lodged in her target. Silent as the target himself.
And there will be no calling card, no trace of her existence, of her presence the night before. No fingerprints, no DNA. She is a deadly vapor, elusive as death.
She meets him on a mission regarding illegal arms trade out of Spain. The team consists of her, Ari, Hadar, and this newcomer, Rivkin. She is supposed to be the control officer, tasked with monitoring the surveillance, coordinating every aspect of the operation. She is not supposed to be the distraction, she is not supposed to be partnered with Rivkin, a total stranger.
But he has a silver tongue and a charming smile, a way about him that lulls her into security so that when they must go undercover as two partners interested in a prospective business deal, she is relatively at ease with it. And yes, wires get crossed and information skewed and they wind up exactly where they were not supposed to be, staring at the business end of a gun, and why the hell does this seem to be the story of her life?
Fortunately, backup arrives and the threat is neutralized and, with knowledge of the location of the group's base, the head of the corporation is removed from the equation.
And she returns to Tel Aviv and her father's silent approval.
And she isn't surprised when she is partnered with Rivkin again just as she isn't surprised when she finds him sitting beside her father at dinner one evening. And later, when no one bothers to see if their guest has left, she can't seem to summon not existent surprise.
Years later in a parallel universe where things make both more and less sense, she meets another man, another insignificant foreigner, an American with bright green eyes and an easy smile. And she knows much more about Anthony DiNozzo than he can even imagine knowing about her.
She accuses him of phone sex in an attempt to warm the sullen atmosphere borne of grief and darkness and her words do coax a response from him. She carries on the conversation, this unknown first of many, maintaining her aloofness and keeping her distance, teasing and prodding this clearly exhausted man. And he would wish her luck, but all the luck in the world cannot save her now.
She thanks him and he follows her, this unknown first of many, and later they stand under a hotel awning, watching the rain, eating pizza and drinking a peace offering in the form of coffee.
And he's different to the point of unsettling and her trust in men as of late is rapidly waning to the point where virtually nothing is left, but she allows her guard to come down a bit anyway because, well, he's different.
So when she needs a change, she'll know just where to go.
She knows she's met him before, she feels like she knows him from somewhere, and when she finally places his face in the files amongst her memory, their initial meeting had not been nearly as momentous as she thought it had been. Because passing each other in the early light of day as they led their separate lives, as they jog along the same route like hamsters on a wheel, cannot really be considered a meeting.
He's sick and dying and there is nothing on this Earth that will save him and she is acutely aware of this, but befriends him anyway because her heart is foolish and stubborn and it should have quit believing in happy endings years ago.
She's assigned protection detail, trusted with the task of keeping Lieutenant Sanders safe at what amounts to be the end of his life. He's funny and sweet and works too hard and she understands completely what he's saying. They've both traveled and denied themselves happiness too long. When she talks, she's actually heard and he's gentle and nonjudgmental and she's grateful.
They catch his killer, but they're way too late. He dies holding her hand as his body shuts down and she's the only there when he slips away. She meets his parents and his sister with the husky and they thank her through their tears as she just nods mechanically.
She doesn't attend his funeral because there are murders to solve and bad guys to catch.
And all she's left with this time around is a hat that's so neon orange it's practically (ironically) radioactive and the daunting task of finding a new jogging route.
Another mission goes south and she survives, out of luck or spite she'll never know. She departs with a bullet graze and blood stains belonging to a man that nearly became her almost. Of all the horrors she's committed, of all the death that has stared her down, her own mortality has never seemed so imminent.
She will never condone her behavior and, frankly, in the light day, she is utterly ashamed, but at the time when she feels so weak and so dead, any outlet seems appropriate. So she does something out of her most recent character and goes home with a stranger whose name and countenance are really the only concrete facts about him she knows. And she uses him as much as he uses her, losing herself in his sheets for a night.
And the only drive they have is physical, neither are emotionally available and her mentality had checked out with her common sense hours earlier. There are no strings, no ties, no obligations. She owes him nothing and he owes her nothing, which is paradoxical because this certainly seems like the clandestine encounter that some would expect compensation for.
She nearly shoots him because he startles her in the wee hours of the morning and her first response is to draw her gun. And it's funny, she muses pensively as she rolls over and feigns sleep afterward, how quickly she reverts to her previous lifestyle. Lure a stranger into bed and take something from him, information, sensation, life and pull a gun.
And by funny, it isn't in the slightest.
She hates herself for it, for her weakness and her humanity, for her need to feel alive.
Forever and a blink of an eye and she finds herself staring at a man who she hasn't seen, hasn't really cared to see, in years. A man with a silver tongue and charming smile, whose dark eyes are so very skilled at veiling the lies that slip from his eager lips. He greets her and teases her and covers her back. They speak the same language and are lapsed from the same religion and perhaps their morals were the same at one time, but now she isn't quite sure.
She stands on a dim stage in an anonymous bar, wary eyes sweeping a shadowed audience of nameless faces. And it's hot in this dress, under the spotlight that glares down at her like the desert sun outside. It's hot and yet she keeps her hold firm on the microphone, maintains her posture, sings her song perfectly, plays her part perfectly as her partner's gaze lingers on her before grazing the rest of the spectators.
She's nearly killed for her efforts.
Oddly enough, she won't be able to recall the shrapnel that fell around her, or the smell of burning wood and charring flesh. Her thoughts leading up to the explosion will disintegrate along with the innocuous suitcase that held the device. And of all the things to remember later, it'll be the ringing in her ears and the faint scar above her left eyebrow, forever imprinted in her mind.
It'll be the ringing in her ears and the faint scar and the fact that it isn't Michael Rivkin's face she sees before the lights flicker out.
Her father sends him and his love and she believes them both. And she knows what he's done, what he's committed, who he's killed. She knows deep deep down in the very dungeon of her heart that everything's a lie, a nightmare, and so very untrue. But she stays with him anyway and defends him anyway because she never really knew what love was about.
And it was never about her.
And when he dies, ironically, it is all about her.
And at the time, she doesn't know if he loved her because she wasn't permitted to find out –which was suitable, in an odd, twisted way.
And rather she loved him or not, she supposes she'll never know.
A dusty cell in an hourglass where the heat swelters under the sun and the sand freezes in its absence. A hard, unforgiving floor and bruises and cuts and broken bones that scream in protest with her every exhale. Her insides hurt and her outsides hurt and she's never hurt so much in her life.
The men are meticulous and beyond willing to share because they are confined to this camp as much as she is and they're bored and she's uncooperative and a woman as well. And they can do whatever they like, she thinks, because she deserves this. But it doesn't numb the pain, wash her soiled skin, sooth her raw throat.
She thinks, too much perhaps, when she's conscious, pondering over every miniscule detail of her life, searching blindly for a loophole that will grant her a get-out-of-jail-free card from Hell. And during her musing, the thoughts of a dying woman, she remembers them.
The sailor with his empty eyes and the lifeless staring of her targets.
The careful mask that was Michael's gaze during life and the fading light during death.
She wonders if she'll see Roy, if she'll see Ari.
Eyes of countless strangers watch her in her mind, counting her breaths, her heartbeats. And she entertains, briefly, the notion that she's hallucinating after all.
And then there's the black gaze of her father, the clear gaze that was Gibbs' trademark stare. McGee's soft hazel eyes and Abby's pale greens, bright and vibrant.
Tony's emerald eyes and-
There is no going back, but she should never have been taken alive in the first place.
Alas is her penance for her sins.
She wakes suddenly as he stirs slightly beneath her, her head rising and falling with his sigh. She knows he wants her to move, so she does, rolling onto her back, returning her cheek to the coolness of her pillow instead of the warmth of his skin. She keeps her eyes closed, feeling the mattress sink as he shifts beside her, as he settles over her, his knees on either side of her shins, his arms braced on either side of her shoulders.
Her eyelids flutter open and her breath catches at the sight of him.
He's left the lamp on in the hallway and warm golden light is sneaking into the bedroom, the faint glow illuminating the darkness enough that she can see his face and the expression coloring his features.
His green eyes are a darker shade of emerald and it isn't entirely due to the cover of night. He regards her silently, intensely, gaze lingering on her face and never straying despite the fact that the sheets have shifted and her skin is exposed. Cautioning her with his eyes, he leans down, slowly, never resting his full weight against her and his lips are soft as they brush against hers, no urgency, no demand. A slow, sensuous kiss that he does not deepen and she does not press. He breaks the spell and her eyes open once more, peering up at him as he still regards her with that look.
And then she realizes what exactly that look is.
He's looking at her like she is the single, most amazing thing in the world. It's a respect she's never known and an adoration she's certain she can't deserve. It's utter and irrevocable reverence.
He whispers her name and it sounds like a prayer on his lips, a soft cadence stirring the air for her ears and his only. It's not an act or a ruse or a guise, it's not expected or announced or widely known. It's them and only them, the little bubble of happiness they've erected around themselves. Careful fingers brush a stray tendril of hair off her face and the deference is palpable.
She smiles at him and this must be love. A sensation both tangible and elusive, built with depth and every level of perception. A feeling and an act that isn't hurried or forced or painful. Something so inherently right that it is unprecedented in her entire life, a nearly overwhelming rightness of the solace that is him . . . .
He eases off of her, rolling onto his shoulder, eyes flickering across her face, memorizing her. He reaches out, closing the space between them, placing his palm against her face. And he rubs his thumb over her cheekbone, traces her features with his fingers, whispers, "Hey."
"Hello," she murmurs. And this is surely is love.