A/N: Strange little story. Mostly told in exposition. Big fiction no no. Still, I like it enough to share. I wish my life wasn't so busy right now.
Catherine Tavier leaned her face against the cold, thick glass of the window and fingered one of her red curls. It was late and most of the passengers had found some sort of sleep in the first class cabin. She deserved that rest as well. The last two nights had been largely sleepless, but her mind raced with the wonders she'd experienced.
It had been two months since Gibbs and his young agent, McGee, had brought her and her women to D.C. It was a bold move; there had been no guarantees when they landed and yet, the women were still there on U.S. soil, protected as political asylees. It was a miracle, one of many that appeared.
Gibbs gathered her up in her dusty clothes the next morning and ambushed SecNav at her office. Catherine stumbled over words as she shared the stories of her Afghani women. SecNav's face barely registered a reaction but things happened fast after that. Someone installed her in a downtown hotel, and people started appearing at her door. She was put in front of audiences of women all over the beltway.
Up until then, she'd operated on a shoestring budget from a neglected non-profit. But now money poured in. Women wrote checks in the thousands right in front of her. Others vied for seats on her board. One day, two lawyers started talking at a afternoon tea she was speaking at and her non-profit became a foundation by breakfast the next morning.
Gibbs disappeared back into his work. She longed for a conversation where the two of them could talk freely of Mike and the work they had done, but he didn't return her calls, mostly invites to events where she was speaking. She'd lost control of her life.
Immigration lawyers got involved, and took the cases of the women they'd brought to the U.S. She was so very grateful but there were days when she could barely remember the names of all of the women in front of her in their expensive suits, their hair and faces sculpted to perfection. They were all so excited to be a part of this project, this adventure. They hung on her stories and imagined how they could take such risks if not their many responsibilities.
One day a lawyer asked her when she was going back and she froze. It had been nice to sleep in comfort, to live in safety. Everything was clean and the food was plentiful. She fumbled with her answer and a look of concern grew on the lawyer's face. It wasn't concern for her. Catherine wasn't a friend to these women. She was an idea. She was the woman they all wanted to believe they could be if they only had the time. Catherine knew in that moment that her foundation would die if she didn't go back to Afghanistan and be the hero once again.
She announced a date, and while there were murmurs about her safety, the excited voices were louder. The work would continue on her back, her life. The over-privileged women of D.C. needed her almost as badly as the abused women back in Afghanistan.
Parties were planned and honors concocted for her. She tried to see the women who'd come to the U.S. with her, but they belonged to their asylum lawyers now and were being introduced to an American life. She continued to call Gibbs, but he returned none of her calls until she left a message merely saying she was leaving in a week.
He arranged to meet her at a small French bistro in Georgetown two nights before her flight. It was a simple bistro, and she appreciated the reprieve from the ostentatious settings she'd been thrust into nightly. Gibbs told her they made a pot au feu that reminded him of the French countryside. He spoke French with the waiter and it made her smile. He was right about the pot au feu, and she ate the simple stew with snatches of crusty bread.
He told her stories about Mike, and she laughed until she cried. She tried to thank him for his help but he shook his head and told her about how long he'd resisted, the lives that could've been saved. They both knew it didn't matter. There were always lost opportunities for people like them, but the need was so great that penance was always available.
She looked into his blue eyes and saw her own: two lonely, world weary people whose lives belonged to their work. Work that was crucial. Work that made a difference. The world demanded much of them; at times forgetting that they had a right to their own dreams.
He didn't try to convince her to stay. She was annoyed by that a bit. He should know that she had a right to a life that belonged only to her, but he said nothing. Perhaps, he'd accepted it in a way that she couldn't yet understand. It didn't matter though. He was here and for the first time since she'd stepped on U.S. soil, she wasn't alone.
She leaned over with a throaty whisper and invited him to be her guest for the night. He froze for a moment, and she worried she'd embarrassed him. Then he smiled and signaled for the check.
It was a long, slow night. He was kind and gentle in a way she seldom experienced, and she didn't know how much she'd needed that until the tears rolled down her cheeks. Their actual lovemaking was brief. Mostly, he held her and let her talk about how living and dying seemed to exist in tandem for her at all times. He talked about his family alive and dead, and how his devotion to both kept him on his feet.
She didn't remember sleeping, but then she was awake, and he was dressing. She let the sheet trail off her nude form as she watched him. "Will you come back tonight? It's my last one."
"No," he said as he leaned over and kissed her. "You have too much to do."
A flight attendant offered her a navy blue blanket and she draped it over her shoulders. She was angry at Gibbs at first, and considered it a rejection, but then she understood it as she trudged through that last day filled with meetings. She needed her final night to be for herself. Her foundation was becoming healthy. She could go back and buy a real building with steel doors and possibly, guards. There were so many plans to make.
They dropped her at the hotel early, and she embraced the freedom of her last night. She rolled in the clean sheets and marveled at how she could spread out in all directions and still not drape over the bed. She took showers, three to be exact, and then bathes, lolling about in the steamy water like a sultan. She tried television several times, but the noise seemed brash and ridiculous. She ordered lobster at midnight and then ignored it when it came. It really only took her minutes to pack. There was little one needed to live the spare life of an Afghani women.
The final leg of the flight landed in Kabul 30 hours later. She reluctantly pulled out her head scarf and wrapped it loosely over her hair. It would follow her like a skin always unless she was indoors. She stepped off the plane and into the otherness among the crowd of Afghanis.
"What did you miss most? The dust choking the air or the acrid smell of burning oil?"
Her head turned sharply at the voice speaking perfect French. She found a woman with deep chocolate eyes and wild mane of hair that resisted the scarf on her head. "Are you French?"
"No," she replied in perfect English.
"You're not Afghani. That's for sure."
"Wait until you hear my Pashto," she said with a smile like a Madonna.
"Who are you?"
"A mutual friend asked me to come. He thought we would have many things in common."
"I don't understand." Catherine said.
"I am here to find my way home. Gibbs thinks that it is through you that I can get there."
Catherine bit her lip. "Are you strong?"
"At times, I am like an oak. At others, like a lion."
Catherine choked on her emotion. "Thank God! I was scared…it's not easy being the hero all the time."
The dark haired woman patted her cheek. "You're not alone, Catherine. We will fight for these women together."
Catherine hugged her tightly. "What is your name?"
"You can call me Ziva," she said.