Yuanfen (Chinese):

a relationship by fate or destiny. this is a complex concept. It draws on principles of predetermination in chinese culture, which dictate relationships, encounters and affinities, mostly among lovers and friends.

from what i gather, yuanfen in common usemeans "binding force": what connects two people together in a relationship.

it's interesting, though. i've never thought to distinguish the difference of love between the fated and the destined. "fate" isn't the same thing as "destiny." even if lovers are fated to find each other they may not end up together. the proverb, "have fate without destiny," describes people who meet, but who don't eventually end up together.

anyway i often search for new words to use for titles, and when i came across this my mind immediately went to tony and ziva, and the circumstances now that she's leaving.

- jae

Disclaimer: I'm displeased with Cote leaving. If I owned these characters, I'd make sure I'd have locked her in.

The air is thick and the sun is beating down unforgiving upon them; it's got her curls wild and her bronzed with a tan he knows that won't fade anytime soon.

Because she will remain here.

She closes her eyes and tilts her face up toward the warmth, and a heart wrenching smile curves slightly at her lips.

"We'll meet again, Tony."

He doesn't know how she can stomach saying that with a smile, because he's holding onto his breakfast that turns in his stomach with dear life, trying not to panic. He's grateful that this desert air evaporates the tears that do manage to escape briefly, fading before they can leave a trail on his face.


He blinks rapidly, and an erratic thought crosses his mind that this must be how she trained herself not to cry.

This land absorbs tears greedily; sucks them in, leaving eyes dry.

If only the land could absorb the pain that causes them.

"When it's warm," her eyes flutter open to look at him, and his throat tightens when her mouth quivers slightly, her control finally slipping. "Just like this."

He doesn't quite believe her, but there's a secret gleam in her eye, and if that's the only shred of hope he'll get from her, he will gladly take it.

He'll take anything she gives him.

The autumn that follows her departure from the team, and in effect his life, unfolds around him in a blur that reflects the rapidly changing season. He feels a constant ache at each mention of her favored seasonal latte that everybody has decided to adopt, and each flash of a royal blue peacoat through the streets of D.C cause him to cast a double-take; no matter that she's God knows where, doing God knows what, how ever many miles away from here.

She had said not to look for her.
And he knows too well that his efforts would be futile;

If she wants to disappear, he knows she won't be found.

So the color blue is quickly eradicated from his wardrobe, and he adopts a severe allergy to the scent of pumpkin spice. He trades warm evenings on her couch in front of a movie and a six pack for long hours at his desk, avoiding the direction his gaze naturally gravitates toward. He's moved his monitor to block where he could always see her face in his peripheral vision, and he's even taken to using binder clips instead of paperclips, because they don't carry the memory of a young, wild haired femme fatale in hip hugging cargo pants and a dangerous, seductive smile.

And he thinks that the end of autumn can't come soon enough, until he realizes what the end of the season holds; memories of this time last year are recalled and a faded melody echoes louder each day in the ever subdued bullpen. Puccini haunts him during hours of paperwork, and the empty chair at Ducky's table that Thanksgiving gives off a chill that foretells the intensity of the long winter to come.

If autumn was hard, winter is brutal, and he doesn't know where to turn for the company he so desperately craves.

So he retreats further from everyone.

There's a blanket she left, oh so long ago, between his private screenings solely for her of Breakfast at Tiffany's and the classic Golden Eye, that she brought along as company and he takes to curling up with it the night the first snowfall sweeps over the Capitol.

He swears the scent of her apricot moisturizer still lingers in the fabric, and he still occasionally catches whiffs of it. It happens in the hours that the ache for her threatens to overwhelm him. He knows anyone else would think him crazy.

But he likes to believe it's the part of her that lingers, calming him and soothing him away from the dark edge of his mind in the way she always knew how to do.

Her successor is found near the New Year, and it's the very occasion that he uses to justify to the team the morning they find him at his old partner's desk.

New year, new desk.

They accept the change silently.

But he catches their gazes throughout the rest of the day, their eyes reflect their understanding and a pain that he knows only reflect back what they see when they look into his.

It's April when he finally manipulates the desk chair to cooperate; he knows karma is to blame because it was he who had switched his office chair with her's when it had gotten stuck, and he remembers the look on her face when she realized he had swapped their chairs.

She would laugh at him now if she could see he had wound up with the chair once again in the end.

He worried that with time he would forget her.

But it's all it takes to realize just how deeply she'd crawled into every thought, every facet, of his life; his existence.

She's like a skin he can't shed.

He doesn't know if this is punishment of the cruelest kind, or an unbelievable mercy.

Spring cleaning applies to both home and the bullpen; though the two aren't mutually exclusive in the last several months. He spends more time in the office then he does in his cold apartment, and it's what drives him to take on the chaos that is his desk.

It takes him until May.

He hadn't cleared the drawers before adding his own things atop the supplies that linger from it's previous owner; and so it takes twice as long as it normally would to clean out the useless contents.

It's in the bottom drawer he uncovers the desk's secrets.

There are these things:

The copy of the picture concreting the memory of his homly days, with a scribbled note on the back in what he dubs ninjaskrit; a distant brother of sanskrit.

Do not get excited. I made a copy.

A rolled up, miniature, Israeli flag.

It's then he realizes his American flag's been missing for quite some time.

A clink of metal on metal as he sifts through the drawer, and his hand meets a key.

It's a key he knows. And one he's seen a thousand times before.

What feels like a thousand lifetimes ago.

"I don't understand why you don't just take the rest off. Why do you need so many keys?"

Ziva groans impatiently as she waits for him to liberate her house key from her keychain, and he mumbles a quick apology as she adjusts her grip on the groceries she carries.

He manages to find the one, and hastily jams it into her lock, feeling the familiar tumble of her deadbolt release. She shoves by him playfully as he opens the door wide for her, following in her wake as she travels the familiar path to her kitchen.

"I have four keys; that is hardly a gross amount to have." She chides, turning to face him once she set down the ingredients for their planned dinner of the evening, and he comes to stand before her, dangling the keys in front of his face as he closely examines them.

"All anyone should need are two, maybe three." He argues, and picks out a beat up key that contrasts dramatically with the rest. "I mean what could this one be for, do you even remember?"

Ziva's turned back to the groceries, pulling them out of their bags and dividing them up in her own strange order along the counter, and her reply comes distracted after a beat of silence, without a backward glance.

"I keep it on there as to not lose it."

Tony frowns at her back as he jingles the keys in her direction, but she's scrutinizing the vegetables he was in charge of selecting.

"What's it to?"

Ziva sets aside the vegetables and rolls up her sleeves, evidently satisfied with the produce, and finally turning around to regard him with a neutral expression. Curls have escaped the headband she'd donned that morning, and he steps forward to brush them away from her face.

Leaning into his touch, her expression melts in the way he's learned that she's revealing something from her past long buried.

He palms her cheek, and he feels her smile against him as she begins softly.

"It is to our old cottage in Haifa. I have not been there since Tali-" she stops, and he gives her an understanding nod, encouraging her to continue. She drops her eyes briefly, her lips pulling in a self-aware smile.
"It is still there, I thought perhaps one day..." Ziva returns her gaze to him again, and her eyes are teasing. "My father can no longer have a say whether I bring you there or not."

Tony grins as thoughts of a bikini clad sunkissed agent and powdery, white sand dance through his head.

Ziva sees the direction of his mind in his eyes, and gives him a seductive smile he can't help but lean down to kiss.

"I'll hold you to that." He murmurs against her mouth, and she laughs against him breathlessly.

His hands shake and he has to grasp the key tightly; he's already fumbled and dropped it twice.

When he gets home from work he goes straight to his bed, collapsing against the pillow-top with a resonating thud. The key turns over and over in his hands, and his mind races in time with his rapid heartbeat.

"When it's warm." Her voice echoes in his head.

There are these things:

A key.

Her promise.

A part of her past she shared.

He knows the significance of the pieces of herself she shares, just as she knows how much it means to him that she gives those buried parts of her self to him.

She knew he would remember. Just like she knew he would take over her desk. And just as she knew he wouldn't discover the very key to finding her until Summer was around the corner.

The sound of the aircrafts and the heat that radiates from the tarmac affect him as much as he knew they would. He feels like a recovering PTSD victim; there's too much that stirs the memory of their last encounter.

He's only half sure that he's got this figured out. The other half is telling him he's finally lost it.

In the end, he realizes that either decision could potentially kill him. Seeing her again could be as painful as not finding her at all.

In the end, he goes with his gut.

The first thing he sees is a miniature, American flag, waving in the breeze of the small yard that drifts from the roaring ocean hiding behind the small cottage.

It's stuck right in a garden pot, faded and surrounded by familiar flowers, which he notes, are some he'd find wild back home.

His heart is hammering as he walks around the cottage, towards the back where grass fades and sand begins. The ocean grows louder and he hopes it's enough to cover the loud thumping of his heartbeat.

As he turns the corner, he squints into the sun and suddenly she's there.

She's barefoot and baring the kind of tan no one should have the right to have. Her hair's a little longer; the curls a little more wild.

She would be wearing blue.

His feet carry him in a trance, and he doesn't think he's ever seen her look so unguarded; so carefree, for she doesn't even sense his presence until she abandons her search for an elusive shell the shore carries away, and she gazes up in his direction.

The shock lasts for the barest of moments, before the rare, wide smile he's seen only a handful of times before erupts across her face, and he doesn't think there's anything quite so stunning as the picture she makes right now.

He's before her in no time at all, and her eyes rake over him hungrily, knowingly.

"You came." He laughs aloud at the sound of her voice, uncontrollable happiness bubbling out of him, and he notes that her accent is thicker than when they last spoke.

"Have we met before?" He replies slyly, flashing her a grin; even after all this time, he can't control regressing back to the charm he used to channel so often in her company.

Her smile is two parts affectionate, two parts elated, and minutes pass as they soak each other in, afraid that if they blink, the other would disappear.

It's her who moves first; her touch comes like an electric shock, and warmth spreads throughout his body from the hand she places against his jaw. His hands find her hips, anchoring there with familiarity that hasn't faded, and the smell of apricots surround him as she leans up to brush against his lips.

"Hello, Tony." She breathes, and a shiver runs through him as his hands tighten their grip on her.

"Ziva," her name escapes him like a prayer. He touches his forehead to hers, overwhelmed by her and this moment and the last year and everything that his brought him to her once more.

She rests patiently against him; smoothing a hand over his torso, gripping his shoulder, trailing a path to the back of his neck. Goosebumps follow the path she makes, and his breath hitches at her delicate touch. She gives him several moments to prepare, before slowly, softly, bringing his jaw to meet her lips.

The kiss sets everything on fire.

And that's how Summer begins.