Takes place after Truth or Consequences, but spoilers are minimal.

Written for the Last Fiction Writer Standing Challenge Round II on LiveJournal. And YAY, I made it to Round III.

Prompt: Character Study: Using only thoughts and inner dialogue, as well as the 1st person perspective, write a story from inside your favorite character's head as they watch something happen. There is no dialogue allowed between characters, just inner thoughts and dialogue only (such as the character arguing with themselves). Word count may not exceed 1200.

A huge heartfelt thanks to LittleSammy for the beta and encouragement.


Over The Rainbow by Mooncombo

It's a good action sequence, really. All the elements are here. There's the dark, musty hallway with high windows and dust glittering in the beams of sunlight. Of course, the bad guys are dead and bleeding all over the dirt floor and the good guys are limping to safety. There's the escape into the harsh sun beating down onto scalding sand. There could always be more bullets, more smoke, more giant red orange balls of exploding fire. And, hey, if there's one thing I've learned from the movies, it's that bigger is always better. And the bigger the movie star, the bigger the draw. Matthew McConaughey's already done the African desert rescue scene, but Ziva's always looked better in cargo pants than Penelope Cruz.

Ziva's alive.

Christ.

Any good movie always has a surprise plot twist. That thing that you never saw coming. So it turns out I'm alive and Ziva's alive and I haven't figured out if either one of us is happy about that. That's the thing with movies. You never see what happens after the action, after the plot twist and after the ride into a glowing sunset. You know, the part long after McConaughey kissed Cruz.

She's laid out on a stretcher staring at the canvas ceiling of a medic tent and I'm running off at the mouth unable to shut the hell up. At least Gibbs and McGee had the decency to leave me to make an ass of myself in private. Not entirely in private, no, but the nameless medics poking and prodding at Ziva aren't paying any attention to me. Although, neither is Ziva, for that matter.

By now the credits are rolling, and the theater is littered with the debris of spilled popcorn and candy wrappers. The audience assumes that there's kisses and sunsets, so really, the leading lady isn't supposed to look this…damaged. Isn't there always supposed to be a happy ending?

But, there's also the chance for a tricky ending, too. And that is the thing I'm dreading. That moment when I will wake up safe in my bed in Kansas with Toto and there's no yellow brick road. It's all just a dream and she's still dead. And, God, I don't want to wake up if that's what's waiting for me. And how does that stupid song go? Something about bluebirds and rainbows.

Has she even blinked?

The truth serum is wearing off by now and all I feel is a gnawing, aching panic that none of this is actually real. I want to touch her, hold her, assure myself that she's alive and real and breathing. Her continued staring is creeping me out, though, and I can't quite figure out if she even knows or cares that I am here in the tent with her. So I do what I do best. I keep talking, because really, I can't stand the movie that's playing out right at this very moment.

I've got the perfect scene for her, though. One where she's wearing a gauzy summer dress and a big floppy hat. I ask her if she can see the scene because she looks so damn beautiful standing there on the sandy shore up to her calves in crystal clear water. She's reaching for her hat before the wind steals it from her head and her laugh tumbles across the waves. And right at this moment, I think that I would do almost anything just to hear that laugh.

She's still staring at the ceiling, stoic as ever, while they pull her shirt away from her body. At some point along the way, it seems she had lost her bra and the fact that she doesn't seem to care or even notice that she's now laying there naked from the waist up, scares me more than anything else that's happened so far. I'm babbling by now, surely, but I can't stop myself because I need to think about something other than the ugly marks on her body. And so does she.

They poke and prod and push at her, taking inventory of every cut, scrape and bruise. She continues her staring contest with the canvas, but her breathing is getting more and more rapid as they touch her while I ramble on describing every scene I can think of where she looks stunning and radiant and so very much alive.

Alive.

That's the word that finally gains a reaction. Just a sharp intake of breath that sounds so close to a sob that I panic for a second. That's the moment when she finally does look at me with eyes so empty that it sucks the air right out of my lungs.

That sick, sick feeling is threatening to come up and strangle me again, only this time it's all settling in that this is real and she's not dead. I just don't know if she's realized it, yet.

She's cleared for flight by a young medic that hands over her shirt and jacket. If he thinks the situation is odd, he doesn't let it show. She pulls the ratty, nasty piece of fabric back over her head and stands on wobbly legs. She just waits there; unmoving and unsure of what to do next. So I help her with her jacket and wrap my arm around her waist. We both know she's not capable of walking on her own just yet.

The sun is beginning to set as we limp our way out of the tent and I can see the choppers off in the distance. I tell her that all she has to do is click her heels together and if I have to sing about blue birds and rainbows to make her believe it, then that's what I'll have to do. Gibbs pretends that he can't hear anything I'm saying, which is just as well. I tell Ziva that she looks better in ruby slippers than he does, anyway. And there's no place like home, after all.

The sun is on the horizon by now and the sky is glowing crimson and orange as we climb in the jeep and head west to the airfield. Ziva slumps against me, unconscious and sliding down until she settles with her head in my lap. The skin of her face, now mostly free of dirt and grime, glows pink and soft in the light of the setting sun.

Huh.

I guess we're riding off into the sunset, after all.


A/N: Feedback is much appreciated. Thanks for reading!