A/N: Well, this was written for the Last Fiction Writer Standing challenge over on LJ, in which the prompt was to pick a picture from the seven we were given (I chose one of dead roses). Unfortunately, I was eliminated this round -which is disappointing, but I think I had a good run. This little piece is set sometime in early season seven, just a little introspective peek into Ziva's headspace. I've got some other stuff in the works, so keep an eye out. Much much love and keep the peace, Kit!



She dies on a Tuesday when the air is chilly chilly and the wind pelts raindrops against windshields and rooftops. Later, after the UPS guy finds her and calls the police, who in turn call NCIS, which dispatches Gibbs and his team and Ducky, who prognosticates –accurately, of course- the lieutenant's time of death, Ziva will try to remember what she herself was doing at eight forty on that Tuesday night.

It takes her a minute to find the elusive thread to that memory because she'd been busy busy busy that weekend with a case that demanded long stretches of wakefulness and endless nights and go go go. So her night off earlier in the week, compared to the constant movement that is her norm, is classified insignificant and shoved to the back of her mind.

She'd had fresh vegetables and couscous for dinner, she remembers, because she'd been living off take-out and vending machine for the past three days and real food had tasted unusually good. She had decided to forgo her evening run, partially due to the inclement weather and partially due to her just feeling lazy. And so she indulged in a long bath with water up to her chin and candles on the counter and rose oil bath salts swirling in the tub. She'd stayed in until the water was tepid and her skin was wrinkling and then, if she recalls correctly (which she does, of course), she got out and toweled off and, donning freshly laundered pajamas, caught up on some television shows she'd TiVoed throughout the past week. She watched two missed Glee episodes and Say Yes To The Dress and read some of the paperback McGee had lent her, Water for Elephants, which she'd never had time to genuinely start. And somewhere within that timeline of trivial living, Naval lieutenant Rose Brentwood had been killed.

"Hey, McCurry," Tony says and Ziva is pulled back into the present tempo of crime scene processing. McGee steps around the body to get a better view of where Tony's indicating. They've don't verbalize what it is that's caught DiNozzo's attention and she doesn't make an effort to see; she'll have the opportunity to get a look of the evidence manifest several times later on. Ducky does not pause in his soliloquy about the discipline of the art of Japanese paper folding –a subject prompted by the victim's tattoo on her left ankle, a small image of an origami crane inked into smooth milk white skin. It's a peace symbol, Ziva thinks suddenly, and finds it incredibly disappointing in its irony.

The body of Rose Brentwood is pretty; the kind of pretty that a passing stranger may pause and acknowledge mentally and then hastily forgets. Blonde hair is cropped short against her head, presently disheveled like the rest of her, but most likely tastefully styled at one point (like Tuesday afternoon). Full decomposition has yet to set in, though the putrid odor is beginning to descend.

Ziva glances about the room, meticulously decorated in blues and neutrals, personal objects scattered throughout teeming with sentimental memories that she'll never know. Pictures alight the walls, carefully aligned, images of Rose Brentwood and people that obviously meant something to her. In one shot, a young lieutenant with slightly longer hair poses with two women who must be her sisters. There's a photograph of a laughing little girl and one of a smiling man with his armed draped around Brentwood's waist, mountains rising behind them. Stilled moments snatched from time to be preserved behind glass. There aren't many photos in Ziva's apartment and the ones that do grace the place are from a limited time frame –everything prior to the previous year exists only in memory. Had she and the lieutenant's places been swapped, Brentwood would be wondering what the Ziva's photos meant: the few prints of places she's been; the surrounding D.C. area; a shot of Abby and Tony at Thanksgiving; one of her and Tony in Abby's lab around Christmastime, with mistletoe lingering above their heads and his lips lingering against her cheek. A nearly complete shot of the team (surrogate family) at her naturalization ceremony –nothing that surmounts to anything to an outsider looking in.

Her eyes wander around the room and fall upon the perished roses on the dining room table, red petals shriveled in upon themselves and adopting the deathly color of dried blood. And it's the dead flowers that makes something inside Ziva'a chest sting.

Because it brings about the fact that out of everyone they've talked to, everyone they've interviewed, all the lieutenant's coworkers and friends and neighbors, no one had bothered to pick up a phone and call the lieutenant in the three days. They'd gone on and on and on with their lives and not known that Rose Brentwood was lying dead on her living room floor, unfound and seemingly forgotten.

"Dead flowers," Tony says suddenly and he's staring right at her. "You know what that means."

"Someone's been here with her," McGee answers, the flash going off on his camera as he snaps off a picture.

"A lover," Ducky suggests and Tony nods, accepting this possible hypothesis, adding, "Which means that we're looking for another victim-"

"Because someone cared," McGee finishes.

Because someone gave her flowers, red red roses in. Because someone gave her flowers and therefore someone had to have cared, cared enough to look for her, cared enough to check on her, call her, make sure she was safe, okay, not dead.

Because someone had to have loved her and will miss, mourn, and cry for her. Someone will place fresh roses on soft loamy soil before a new granite grave marker; roses that aren't dead and dried and forgotten on a dining room table.

She dies on a Tuesday and is found on a Friday and the world kept spinning between the spaces that weren't/aren't/won't be filled up by the ticking of the secondhand on a clock.