John had never thought that he’d ever feel complete again, but now, after working for NCIS almost six months, and dating Ziva for nearly five of those months, he realized he was doing okay. He had even, per Director Vance’s request, done a few courses at Quantico to make him a better asset for Team Gibbs.
Ziva was spending a lot of time over at his house, if he wasn’t staying at her place and they were doing great. He had never thought that he’d feel this content and at ease with someone after losing Elsa, but he and Ziva really were a perfect fit for each other.
The two year anniversary of Atlantis’ demise was coming up. For the first time, he felt he had the strength to read over the reports, which he’d do as soon as he and Teyla would arrive at Cheyenne Mountain.
He also wanted to ask General Landry for permission to tell Ziva all about his life without having her to sign non-disclosure agreements. She was the one he wanted to tell. No secrets, no redactions, just the truth, and then see what happens. He knew for sure that Ziva wouldn’t leave him but still, if the General would say ‘yes’, then he’d be nervous as hell as to what her reaction would be.
Waiting for Landry to respond to John’s request for permission to tell Ziva about well, everything, was slowly driving him insane. Their relationship had changed so much, so fast that to him telling her about Atlantis and the Stargate program was the smallest gesture that he could ever do for her.
It wasn’t for nearly ten full days before he would find out whether sharing classified details such as that would be made known to him. He and Ziva had been out running interviews and following up leads on a smuggling case involving a petty officer when they received a phone call from Gibbs to give it up for the day and return to the office. Sitting at their respective desks, writing up their preliminary reports for their interviews, Gibbs’ phone rang. As he spoke briefly to whomever was on the other side of the line, he covered the mouthpiece and looked around.
“Sheppard,” he said simply looking over at the man. Tony and McGee, the curious cats they were, looked up as Ziva continued to mind her own and worked on her report while rolling her eyes.
“Come here,” Gibbs ordered and put his phone call on hold. Looking up at John he narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “Why is the President calling for you?”
Tony looked at them and laughed. “The President? Of what? The oompa loompa people?”
“No. Of the United States,” Gibbs answered for him as he did not remove his eyes from Sheppard, leading Tony to shut up quickly and Ziva to look up finally.
John carefully took the phone from his team leader and put it to his ear as Gibbs took the call off hold.
“Sheppard,” John said into the phone before nodding to himself. “Yes, sir – No, sir… I understand the risks. I trust – yes, sir. I will. Thank you Mister President.” Hanging up the phone he glanced at Ziva quickly before looking at Gibbs.
“I had submitted a request to General Landry and it was something that only the President, it seems, could approve. I cannot tell you what it was about other than it has absolutely nothing to do with you or NCIS, Agent Gibbs,” he said simply, though Ziva could hear the softer tone of his words and she worried what it was concerning.
John returned to his desk but did not sit. He seemed as if he was in debate with himself over something as the team watched him. He sat down but stood quickly and walked over to Ziva’s desk. “I need to talk to you,” he said nervously. “But you have to come to Colorado with me next week.”
“Excuse me?” she asked in surprise as she looked at him concerned.
“Don’t worry, I won’t ask you to do anything stupid, just come with me when I go to Colorado next week for our annual remembrance of our base… you know… the one that got blown up?”
Ziva wasn’t sure as she knew that Teyla was fairly tight-lipped about the base and her past as well. She looked over at Gibbs, her eyes expected unspoken permission to go. Clearly there was something significant about this to John and she felt the need to support him.
He turned to Gibbs and sighed. “Look… last year, I don’t even remember last year because I was trying to stop myself from freaking out when I saw the survivors. Ziva’s been one of the people in my life that made me feel better and I just want her to support me as my partner, if that’s okay with you.”
She did not miss the double meaning behind what he said. Looking up at him, she stood slowly. “I will go,” she said firmly, and leveled her gaze on Gibbs to challenge her.
“Fine, go,” Gibbs replied.
“You can’t be serious!” Tony exclaimed.
“Mind your business Tony,” Ziva snapped before nodding to Sheppard.
He let out a nervous breath and nodded back. “I’ll contact my CO about getting a plane ticket for you. We were supposed to leave this Friday,” he said. Not much time to prepare as it was now Wednesday morning.
“Oh sure, and leave us with your paper work.” Tony rolled his eyes.
John glared at DiNozzo and shook his head. “I wasn’t the one who lost my gun.”
Ziva rolled her eyes. “Gibbs? I am going to work on my reports then leave early. There is no active case right now and I rarely take personal time…”
Gibbs nodded and walked out of the bullpen. “I’m going to see Ducky.”
John sat down behind his desk and called Landry on his cellphone. “Sir? Yes, I’m okay, no, they’re keeping me out of trouble… I was just wondering if you could… No – I’m not canceling…”
“Come on, McPathfinder, we’re going to try and find my gun… again.” Tony got up and grabbed his gear.
“But Tony, I’m not – ”
“Yes you’re done, come on.”
Tony looked at Ziva carefully as he got his bag together. She only looked back in the same manner but she knew well enough that he was trying to see if her relationship with Sheppard was more than they let on at work.
Sighing, she turned back to her computer, grateful when Tim pushed her former partner out. Gibbs, she was sure, now had some idea that something may have been going on but had not said anything yet.
“I just… yeah, that’s a good joke General… yes… but… of course… but General? … Hank!” John exclaimed and then smirked, that got his attention. “I want to bring someone special for you to meet. Could you… Thank you sir, no I will keep her away from… Yes… Yes I am… Thank you, see you on Friday.” John breathed a sigh of relief when he hung up the phone.
“Keep me away from who?” Ziva asked as she was suddenly at John’s side.
“Not who. It’s a what,” John smiled up to her. “But don’t worry, it’s not something I want to see either.”
She nodded suspiciously. “When do you want to talk then? I can pack my bag when I get out later and stay by you tonight if you like.”
“Tonight’s good,” John nodded as he typed up an email to General Landry with four simple words; She is the one. And quickly sent it off before Ziva could look what he had done.
“Okay,” she smiled. “I will see you later then.” She turned and returned to her desk to finish her work.
Ducky looked up from the medical report he was reading and smiled. “Yes, Jethro dear?”
He strolled over to his friend and fell into the chair beside the desk and ran his hand over his face tiredly. “Something is going on between Sheppard and Ziva.”
“That’s quite possible, Jethro,” Ducky smiled. “I’ve noticed that a few times now, when they come down to Autopsy… he moves, she moves with him, and vice versa. She also knows to find things in John’s house, haven’t you noticed that with Teyla’s last dinner party?”
Gibbs thought it and huffed with irritation. “Romance between agents never works,” he sighed.
“That’s your observation – your rule, dear.” Ducky gently pat Gibbs on his knee. “But has either one of them made a terrible judgment error lately?” he cocked a brow. “They are acting professionally and detached, from what I can tell.”
“He just asked for her to go to Colorado with him,” he pointed out.
“And this is right after the President called to speak to him,” he said. “Then said that he needed to talk to her. There is more to him and I don’t like it.”
“Did you forget that John is a Colonel in the US Air Force and that before he came to us as a liaison he was in Black Ops, Jethro?” Ducky mused. “Who knows, John’s going to show Ziva a secret part of his job so that she can support him at the memorial. We both know that they have become very close and good partners, they work well together Jethro.”
Gibbs grumbled shaking his head. “I still don’t have to like it. What happens when their relationship fails? I can’t fire him or have any control in sending him to another team. I can’t afford to have that going on. As it is, Tony is barely accepting not having Ziva as a partner anymore.”
“Well, I believe that both Timothy and Anthony are still oblivious to the real depth of John and Ziva’s partnership. I suggest you keep it to yourself, wait – as you always do – and wait until they both announce that they’re more than work partners. Only then decide what you want to do.”
He sighed. “What do you think of them? Sheppard and Ziva?”
“If they are a couple, they’re a perfect match to each other,” Ducky nodded. “It’s hard to find someone like that, as you know, and they’re both professional. I don’t think that ifthey are in a relationship, that it’ll hurt their performance on the job.”
“Is that your professional opinion?”
“Yes dear,” Ducky smiled.
“Fine, I’ll leave them be… for now.”
“I don’t think you could stop them from seeing each other, Jethro. John would only quit his job and retire early.”
“Oh! I like that option.” Gibbs chuckled and got up. “Thanks Duck.”
“Always, you know that.”
“Are you still cooking tonight?”
“Dear God, Yes! I’ve had enough steak to last me a life time in the last few weeks.”
“So, where’s Teyla?”
“Upstairs… I think.” John smiled at Ziva as they sat on the couch sipping on their wine. “Or maybe she’s already gone to Colorado, but I think she’d tell me if she had.”
“What is so important that you wanted to talk to me? I received a phone call when I left work to pack from a Chuck mentioning about non-disclosure forms that I will be required to sign when I get to Colorado. I do not understand,” she said as she curled up next to him on the couch.
“Because… you’ll be visiting a top secret facility, and what I’m about to tell you can’t leave this house,” he said as he tried to hold his glass of wine still in his hand. “The request I put in with my CO, and the President’s phone call all had to do something with it. At first, the General was a bit apprehensive because of your Mossad background but I told him that he has nothing to be afraid of, and that what I’m about to tell you will stay between us.”
Ziva sat up and looked at him with worry. “You are not dying, are you? Because I could not handle that again…”
“I’m not dying,” John chuckled then stopped quickly. “What do you mean again?”
“Another time – just tell me. If you think that I would walk out because you killed someone or something, I won’t. I have killed many people myself…”
“Well same here, but that’s part of the job description, isn’t it?” John said. “The thing is, unlike some of my former co-workers, I never really had the chance to share my job with. I never said goodbye to anyone over the course of six years… and I wanted to tell you everything, which is why the President gave me clearance to do so, which is why you’ll have to sign a couple of forms when we get to Colorado.”
John took a sip of his wine and smiled at her. “I wasn’t working out of the country… my base wasn’t in some tiny foreign country…”
She looked at him waiting. “Okay?”
“It was in a whole different galaxy,” John knew that Ziva would probably laugh. It sounded ridiculous coming out of his mouth, even after so many years.
Ziva stared at him, her lips pulled back in a smile and even started to chuckle briefly. However the seriousness in his face caught her very quickly and blinked. “You are not joking,” she said. “Another galaxy?”
“Everything that NASA’s doing, is child’s play compared to what they’re doing at Cheyenne Mountain. They travel to other planets, meet cultures similar to our own, meet a whole new type of bad guy by something called the Stargate. It’s very old, and built by our very first ancestors.”
“Are you sure that you are alright? Maybe we should take you in for a CAT scan…”
John chuckled and looked around in his living room for proof. He knew that there was nothing left of Atlantis, or his belongings in the Pegasus Galaxy but Ronon had brought something back and had given it to Teyla a while ago. He found the rock he was looking for and placed it in Ziva’s hands. “As you can feel, this is no ordinary rock. It pulses. According to the people Ronon brought it back from, it has healing powers or it can cook a chicken. The linguist wasn’t entirely sure.”
He refilled their wine glasses and sighed. “Anyway, they had found a way to travel to the Lost City of Atlantis… yes, many of the history and myths on this planet, originated somewhere else first.”
Ziva did not know how to react. All she could find herself doing was gulp down her glass of wine before needing another quick refill. “Teyla?”
“We traveled to the Pegasus Galaxy, to Atlantis. It wasn’t just any place, as it turned out. It was also a space ship that the Ancients, or Ancestors, used to travel back and forth between our galaxy and their own, building stargates, leaving them on most habitable planets. On our first trip out of Atlantis, we were in desperate need for a safe haven and found Teyla’s people, the Athosians.”
He took another sip of the liquid courage before continuing, “Ronon joined us a year later. We’ve lost many good people in those years. We’ve saved a heck of a lot people from Wraith, sort of like space vampires, and we even spent a few months floating around in San Francisco bay because of paper work, and Atlantis had been pretty banged up in a fight against the Wraith in our own galaxy.”
She nodded, still speechless. “I honestly do not know what to say,” she admitted. “I am grateful that you chose me to share this with and I will attempt to remain open minded when we are at the services during the week.”
“I know it’s a lot to take in, I mean… Teyla’s become a good friend to you, to hear that she’s not from this planet might change your view on her, but she’s a very good person,” John said slowly. “The Stargate program has saved the asses of this planet a lot of times. I was glad to be a part of that in a small way.”
“My opinion of Teyla is not any different,” she said quickly. “If anything, I can understand her a little more because for all the traveling I have done, I never met people that is such like her. It is a lot…everything else…”
John nodded. “I hope that I’m not making you feel uneasy in any way by telling you this and asking you to come with me to the memorial service of those who died on Atlantis… considering people will stare at you.”
“Because I am your girlfriend?” she asked.
“Because you’re my girlfriend who looks like my dead girlfriend, yes,” John downed his glass of wine in one go and refilled both their glasses. “But I’ve told the important people, my friends, that you do and they are okay with it, the program’s scientists have proven many times over that there are such things as doppelgangers. For some funny reason, they are happy for me that we’ve found each other.”
“A doppelganger? So am I the good twin or the evil twin?” Ziva teased, kissing him on the neck.
“You don’t necessarily have to have a good or a bad twin… or whatever,” he chuckled. “But right now, I’d say you’re pretty evil.” He gently lifted her chin and kissed her. “Does this mean you don’t think I’m crazy and run away from me?”
“I have not decided,” she said. “But this should be an interesting trip.”
He nodded, understanding where she was coming from but he felt a bit hurt nonetheless. He had expected it, of course, but still it was hard to hear when the words came out of her mouth.
Ziva grabbed John by the chin and pulled him to face her. “Hey, don’t look like that. I am not leaving you or running away. And just because I might think you are a little nutty, does not mean that my feelings for you have changed.”
“That’s good to hear, because at this point, I really don’t know what I would do without you, besides pestering Teyla and Torren.”
“I know what we can do right now. Let us go to bed,” she said standing up. “Maybe we can leave earlier and do some sight seeing for a little.”
“Sure, we can do that.” John said and scooped her into his arms after he got up from the couch. “Although Colorado Springs is really boring.”
She laughed and shook her head. “So we can go skiing. I am sure there are plenty of cabins that we can rent.”
“You’d have to be my seeing eye ski dog,” he kissed her as he walked them to his bedroom.
“We will use the child slope,” Ziva shrugged.
John laughed as he somewhat threw her on the bed, making sure she’d land on it in one piece. “Deal.”
On top of that, he felt like a monkey in his dress uniform and all the medals, most he didn’t feel like he had deserved them. John was glad to see that Ziva was handling the stares pretty well, and Ronon wasn’t even around because SG-1 had gotten into some trouble off world and were trapped somewhere, or at least he was. Lucky bastard.
Landry had added something new to the memorial service this year; some footage from Atlantis that was stored on the SGC’s computer when they had last sent an update, and John couldn’t look at the screen. The familiar faces, the familiar voices, still hurt. A lot of lives lost, and it only made his feeling of guilt come back to him.
Teyla, who was sitting next to him, had kicked him in the shins repeatedly, but he ignored it, this hadn’t been the brightest idea of the good General.
Ziva watched on with full of interest and curiosity. Any time that she saw her look-a-like on the video, she squeezed John’s hand reassuringly. If he had been watching, which she doubted, she knew it would have been extremely difficult. Leaning over to him closer, she ran her hand over the back of his head much like a mother would do to comfort an upset child. “I am still here,” she smiled and whispered into his ear. “I am not leaving you without a fight even more than before.”
“I can’t believe he’s doing this,” John said softly. “Here I thought I would be ready to read the reports, instead he’s making it very hard for me again, to do it.”
“You can do it,” she replied, squeezing his hand. “If you want, I can be there with you. You do not have to do it alone.”
He sighed, then nodded and decided to take a peek at the screen. It showed him and Lorne being caught on camera while they were having fun during a day off; pestering Rodney before Elsa got caught in the mess between it all; a bucket of water got emptied in her face when Rodney finally decided to duck. John remembered that all too well, Elsa hadn’t been pleased.
“I can see that she was a lovely person,” Ziva said quietly as she watched him. “She does live on you know. Inside you…”
“I know,” John smiled softly and kissed Ziva’s hand. “She wouldn’t have wanted it any other way than for me to continue to live, and find love again. Found it sooner than I thought.”
Then Stackhouse stepped up in front of the screen. “I’d just like to thank Colonel Sheppard for keeping us safe for all those years, I wouldn’t have been here if it wasn’t for you, Colonel.”
“You saved my ass, Stacks.” John said, “I should be thanking you.”
The man nodded, “And you being here with us is all the thanks we need Sir.”
A round of murmuring and clapping from the survivors in the room clearly agreed with the Major’s opinion. General Landry stood back and smiled over at John almost as if he knew that this would have happened like this. “You see Colonel, you have a greater impact on every person you come in contact with. More than you realize. The IOA and the SGC recognize that which leads to my next announcement. Would you please join me up here Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard?”
“With all due respect, Sir, no.”
Ziva nudged him and gave him a look. “Go. Unless I will drag you up there myself,” she said under her breath so no one else but him heard.
John looked at Ziva, and knew that she’d do something worse than dragging. “On second thought…” he sighed as he got up. “She’d kill me.”
Chuckling she shook her head but stood with him. She looked to the General for silent permission to which he nodded and she held his hand as he started to head up to the podium.
“Thank you. On behalf of the President of the United States and representative of the United States Air Force and the IOA, I am proud to present to you with this. For many years you have served the people of our planet, and others without regard for your own safety but the lives of millions of others. While you have not been an active member of the Air Force for the previous two years, it is the opinions of many that you have more than earned and deserve this recognition. Upon this promotion to Colonel, you are also being awarded with the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Bronze Star, Medal of Honor and Presidential Unit Citation.”
Oh crap, he thought as General Landry pinned them all on him, he felt like a Christmas tree. He halfheartedly saluted the General and muttered “Thank you sir…”
Ziva clapped behind John with a proud smile on her face as she watched John turned to look back. She mouthed to him, You deserve them. Be happy.
John was glad when the whole circus was behind him, everyone was happy for him, of course, but he made a mental note of maybe not showing up next time. He hated surprises. While everyone was having a coffee in the mess hall and chatting away, he had found a quiet spot in the briefing room where Walter had provided him with the few reports that were available on what happened on Atlantis.
He was glad Ziva was with him, reading the reports as he read them. It was hard, but he had pushed himself to do it, because he still couldn’t remember enough to write up a report of his own, not that the General had asked him to, but he felt that in his own way, he needed to contribute something at least, and reading the reports, was one way to do it.
He had saved Ronon’s report for last. It was short, and to the point as always, but there was an envelope in it addressed to Sheppard. John blinked and opened the envelope.
If you’re finally reading this, then I’m really happy that you’ve decided to. It could be next year, or the year after that or maybe ten years after Atlantis, but during the siege I walked in on Elsa who was recording a video message for you and she asked me to keep it safe. It was as if she knew somehow that she wasn’t going to make it out.
Don’t watch this alone.
John looked at Ziva and then at the disc. He sighed and put it back into the envelope. “I can’t.”
“You need to. I don’t believe that you can fully move forward, even with me, if you do not,” she said softly as she placed her hands over his and the disc for him to give it to her to put on.
“Maybe in a month, not now…” he looked at her, and swallowed hard. “I hate this day, I can’t watch it now.”
She nodded slowly. “Okay but we will watch it together when you do,” she insisted. “You will need to watch it at some point however.”
“I will, just not now.” He rubbed his face and pinched the bridge of his nose. “How about some coffee?” He needed a distraction, coffee was good. His brains still needed to process the handful of reports he had just read and finding that disc in Ronon’s report only made it worse, although it was thoughtful of his friend to put it in his report and not give it to him by force.
“Sure,” Ziva said. “I’ll make us a cup then we can go back to the hotel.” She got up and made her way over to the coffee pot where the older man earlier prepared quietly, seemingly knowing that it might be needed. She liked the people she had met here and reminded her of the team back home in so many ways, the way they took care of one another.
“You know, Stackhouse used to have a partner, Markham. They seemed to be joined at the hip, always fooling around when they were off the clock, pranking each other and mostly harmless scientists,” John chuckled. “I could never tell them apart, when Markham got killed during the defense of Atlantis during a Wraith attack, Stacks was off for months.”
She set his mug in front of him and nodded. “It happens with partners. Both teammates and lovers,” she replied from her own experiences.
“Oh, I know.” John smiled at her. “I was happy to find him bond more with one of the scientists he and Markham used to prank. An eccentric Czech, who was just as smart as Rodney.”
“And you. Come on, I just had an idea for you and I to spend the rest of the week,” she said, pulling him up out of his seat.
“Where are we going?” He chuckled, nearly knocking over his full mug of coffee.
“You will find out later, but for tonight our hotel room. Come now.”
John was glad to leave the SGC, and drove them to their hotel. Ziva kept pulling him along with her and he didn’t quite mind, but it was kinda turning him on, somewhat.
She planned a long evening ahead for them, ordering room service complete with dinner, champagne, and exotic fruits. Encouraging him to shower while they waited, she hopped on her laptop that she brought with her at Gibbs’ insistence so that they did not fall behind on the cases while they were away, she ordered last minute plane tickets to spend the remaining week and into the weekend in sunny Hawaii in a private beach side bungalow where there would be little to no one to bother them. The environment would also be drastically different compared to where they were presently in Colorado and even that to their home in DC.
Still when John came out, she was finished and the computer shut down as she wanted to keep the changes as a surprise. Picking up her cell phone, she settled back on the bed and sent Teyla a cryptic text message about not being around for the week and not to worry, she smiled at her love – though she wasn’t quite ready to admit that out loud. He looked a bit more relaxed and with more color to his face.
John walked over to Ziva and fell on the bed next at her side. “Thank you, for being here with me, for plowing through this day with me.”
“You would have done the same for me,” she replied. “Dinner should be up soon. I ordered you a New York steak with fries.”
“Ohhh, what have I done to deserve steak?” he grinned as he grabbed a shirt out of his bag. He hadn’t bothered taking one with him in the shower, just his tracking pants for comfort.
Ziva only smiled at him. “I cannot do something special just for you?” she asked with a sultry smile.
John laid back onto the bed and kissed her. “You’re probably not going to tell me what you have planned, are you?”
“Hmm, nope,” she grinned and kissed him back slowly. It would have turned into a short but steamy make out session for the two, however the knock on the door interrupted them. She sighed but smiled as she let her head fall back to the bed. “What timing!”
“To be continued,” John chuckled as he got off the bed, still wearing his pants, but not his shirt. He didn’t care. He opened the door and the room service attendant rolled their foot cart in to their room.
“To be honest, it was good timing. I am famished,” she replied as she pushed herself out of bed. Grabbing her wallet, she pulled out some money before meeting John at the door to tip the attendant.
John started to put their dinner on their small table and removed the lids that were keeping the plates warm. The steak smelled great and he could only hope it would taste the same too.
As they sat to eat, Ziva deflected his curious questions about the plans she made. She had been firm on not giving him any details before he needed to know and she could tell that it was slowly beginning to get him. As she finished her salad, she stood to go take a shower for herself, giving him a kiss before leaving the room.
He eyed the laptop and considered to look for clues for their trip, but he knew, that if he’d do that, and she’d find out, she’d kill him for sure. He finished eating his potatoes – after having long finished the steak – and crawled into bed.
She returned some time later after finishing her shower. Feeling clean and freshly shaven, she joined John in bed and sighed as she cuddled up to him in anticipation of their impromptu vacation.