Chapter 3

Two weeks later, Ziva was finally allowed to go back to work regularly. As much as she wished to stay home to care for John herself, she knew that it would not help in trying to find out who it was that kidnapped them and why. They were two strangers and despite their willingness to cooperate and their ranks – the fragmented memories that came to her indicated that the masked men had fixated on them from the beginning.

Unlike Ziva, Sheppard wasn’t fixated on finding the guys responsible for kidnapping him and Ziva. One one hand, he would have loved to see them brought to justice, only for hurting Ziva, but there wasn’t much that he could do. He had been in contact with his CO at Cheyenne Mountain and Landry was glad that John was okay, that as soon as he was all better that he’d have a ‘great gig’ for him.

John wasn’t sure if he wanted that. In all fairness, he had grown tired of the Air Force and their narrow minds. He didn’t deserve all the grief he had received over defying orders in order to save a couple of Americans who got shot down in the sandbox.

Now that he wasn’t dead, he was thinking about a career change. He could do without a job for a while, living off his father’s inheritance, but he – at this point – was done being a pilot.

Ziva had been nothing but kind to him; letting him stay in her guest room, cooking him dinner, taking care of him and making sure that he was okay. He, in return, watched silly comedies with her on TV after dinner, helped her out with the laundry if he could, and even emptied the dishwasher, putting all the stuff on the counters as he didn’t know where everything was supposed to go and if he’d leave his wheelchair, Ziva had said she’d break his other leg so he wouldn’t be able to stand up at all.

He heard her screaming at night, more often than he was willing to admit and he didn’t know what to do about it. He knew that she was having nightmares and probably about their ordeal, but he could hardly go to her in the middle of the night and talk to her about them. It wasn’t his place to do so, and by the time she was awake, he felt too much of a coward to ask her about them.

In the mornings, Ziva felt extremely tired and worn out, as if she hadn’t slept at all. Usually by the time she made it to the office, she was able to appear normal but that was only because she had maybe three cups of coffee in her already, at least. She was relieved that it was Saturday and she had off so that she could sleep in a little longer but her body simply would not let her. Hearing the sounds of something knocking around, she sat up in her bed, grabbing her sig from under her pillow, she went out from her room to find out what the commotion was. Lowering her weapon, she sighed. “Ohh – I almost shot you!” she said, looking at John who appeared to be trying to make a pot of coffee that morning.

“And you just ruined the surprise of me trying to make you breakfast in bed,” John replied as he looked at her innocently.

She simply stared at him confused before shaking her head clear. “Seriously?” she asked, unsure. Tony had been teasing her since she returned – much to their usual behaviour – about her attraction to the man although he expressed concern over her attachment to the man that might be only from their time together. Something a kin to Stockholm Syndrome even if he wasn’t her captor but her fellow captive.

“Well, not exactly ‘in bed’…” John shrugged and pointed to the table that he had set. So far there was bread and some hard boiled eggs on there. “I would have knocked on your door, softly, and tell you that breakfast was ready.”

Standing there like an idiot, holding her gun in her hand, it took her a moment before she got her bearings. “Oh. Thank you John. Um, let me put this away,” she smiled weakly as she held up the gun. Returning to her room, she locked the weapon in her safe and went to her bathroom to splash her face with some cold water in hopes that it might help.

Ziva made her way back out to the kitchen with a smile but clearly still out of it. “Sorry. I didn’t sleep very well,” she said quietly. “Do you want me to help you with anything?”

“Plates please,” John sighed as he brought the empty mugs over to the table. “And I know you haven’t been sleeping well. That’s why I wanted to let you sleep some more today.”

“Am I that bad?” she asked as she reached up to get the plates from her cabinet as well as glasses for coffee and juice. “I’m so sorry if I’ve disturbed your own rest.”

“You’re not that bad,” John shook his head. “And you’re not disturbing anything, I can do with little sleep.” He added and then looked at her. “You know you can talk to me, right?”

She nodded quietly as she considered it. “I can’t. Not yet at least. I don’t know. I don’t know if you really want to know what my nightmares are of on some nights…”

“I can think of a few things,” he then smiled warmly. “It’s okay, if you want to talk about it, you will, I’m just saying, I’m a good listener.” Truth be told, he had some recurring nightmares about their ordeal as well. He just hid it better, like he always had.

Ziva didn’t say anything as she continued to set the table for them. “How is your therapy going? Have you heard anything from the Air Force about after you’re – better?” she asked, trying to change the subject slightly.

“Well, my CO definitely thinks that I’ve been suspended long enough,” John said as he got the cutlery out of the drawers. “He also made sure that the Air Force made a hefty donation to NCIS for everything.”

“So – you’re going to be going back to Colorado?” she questioned curiously and with concern. The thought made her feel sick and she fought against the realization that she simply did not want him to leave yet, or simply that far.

“Probably not,” he replied as he placed the forks and knives on the table. “We disagree on a lot of things and I’m tired of dancing to their tune.”

She had been holding the plates still as she stood at the table. Wanting to let out a sigh of relief, she tried to hide it as much as she could. “Oh, well, that’s good, right?” she asked, avoiding looking at him right away.

“Maybe, I dunno. Flying is what I wanted to do ever since I was a kid, so I’m still thinking about it. It’s hard to change careers when you’re older.” John replied and took the plates out of her hands. He had noticed the subtle changes on her face as he answered her questions and he knew he had to keep this up; trying to shut her out. Don’t say too much and don’t let her get her hopes up. Sure, Ziva was a great woman, funny even, but he was an ass and she could find someone better. “Maybe I should let the general tell me what this ‘great gig’ is and then decide.”

“I see,” she said softly. “You haven’t contacted your family since all this, have you? Or your friends? They are welcome to visit while you are here you know.”

“It’s complicated,” John said as he managed to bring the coffee pot to the table. “I’ll call them next week or some other time.” He then shrugged with a smile on his face. “Besides, my brother should have heard what happened by now, thanks to our Dr. Beckett, and he hasn’t called me either.”

“What about becoming an agent? Providing that they clear you on the psych exams and a few courses at FLETC, I think you would make a fine agent,” she suggested.

“No offence, but you don’t have planes and helicopters,” he pointed out, and despite that, he wouldn’t even consider it. He had a problem with authority, he certainly didn’t want to become it.

“The Navy does,” she replied. “I happen to know that there have been a number of cases that involved the team requiring time on them. We do have to get out to ships somehow during investigations after all. We’ve investigated Navy pilots all the time so I believe that your experience would be a great asset.”

“I’ll think about it, I think I’ll just see what the General has to say first.” John responded. “Let’s have breakfast now.” He poured the coffee in the mugs and took a slice of bread and an egg. “Will you allow me to cook for you tonight?” Sure, his leg was still in a cast, but he could probably stand up long enough to take a peek in the pans on the stove, as his concussion was gone now and his balance had returned. “If not, I’d like …” cursing himself, he was enabling her, he was and he shouldn’t. “… to take you out to dinner.” He then quickly added; “Because I should do something back, you didn’t have to offer me to stay here, and you did.”

She looked up in surprise from putting sugar in her cup and nearly dropped the sugar bowl. “What? Um, if you want. You really don’t have to do anything for me,” she replied. “But I would like that.”

“Me cooking for you or take you out to dinner?”

“Both?” Ziva smiled up at him, blinking her eyes innocently.

He rolled his eyes at her and started to peel the shell off the egg to plaster it all over his bread. “When you’ve decided, let me know,” he chuckled.

Making her way over to his side, she leaned against the table and let out a breath. “How about – you surprise me with whatever you wish. I won’t complain and am sure that I will enjoy it in either regard.”

“Yeah see? That’s not working.” John shook his head. “I’ll end up taking you to Wendy’s or a Steakhouse.”

“And they each have very delicious chicken salads,” she smiled.

“Oh you’re impossible.” He chuckled as he took a bite out of his egg sandwich. “Alright, how about I make a great pasta dish tonight? I won’t add any beef or minced meat. Salmon is okay, right?”

“Sounds great,” Ziva replied. She looked at him for a long moment before moving away and back to her seat and work on her own breakfast. “Do you have any plans for today?” she asked curiously.

“Folding laundry?” John shrugged.

“I was thinking of going shopping. Interested in coming with me? If just to get out for something other than appointments?”

“Sure, I’ll need to get groceries anyway.” He nodded and took a sip of his coffee. “And I’d like to get some jeans. I’m a little sick of the tracking pants…” he tugged on his pants and sighed. “Never mind, until I’m out of this cast…”

“What about shorts? At least for around the apartment?” she suggested. “I would think they’d be more comfortable to lounge in.”

“Shorts?” He chuckled. “Sure, why not.”

Ziva smiled as she went back to eating her breakfast. When she was done, she stood to start cleaning up. “You can leave everything. If you need help getting ready, let me know. It doesn’t take me long to get ready so whenever you are…”

“If you hear something crashing then come and find me,” John nodded and after stuffing his sandwich in his mouth, he went to Ziva’s guest room where his clothes lived. In all fairness, he didn’t like to go out that much because people were idiots to people in a wheelchair, even if only temporary. He had went out when Ziva was working to get the groceries she wanted him to buy and people’s bags kept hitting him in the head in the supermarket or they’d kick against the chair or fake trip over him. It wasn’t very thoughtful.

On top of that, he was incredibly skinny but had started to put a little weight back on. It was frustrating that there was still a long way to go until he was back to his regular self; and even then, he wondered if he’d be ever good enough for the Air Force again. His first goal was to lose the cast and make sure he would be able to walk again and then go to a gym.

Ziva quickly washed everything – as there wasn’t much other than the plates, cups and pot from the eggs. After she showered and changed, she waited for John. She hoped that he would open up more to her and was pleased that he offered dinner with her – as payment of sorts for her hospitality, but it was a small step that she was willing to accept.

Grabbing her bag, she tossed a couple bottles of water for them in it before going to check on him. Knocking on his door, she waited for a moment before speaking. “Are you alright?” she called.

She had seen him in his shorts before, heck in the beginning he needed a lot of help doing things (so why didn’t she come in?) and he was doing alright until he had lost his balance and was currently leaning against a wall with a clean set of pants in his hands, catching his breath. Standing up and trying to get dressed hadn’t been one of the brightest ideas.

He was fortunate that the room wasn’t that big, so when he figured out that it took only two or three hops for him to be able to let himself fall on to the bed, roll over and put his pants on, he did just that. “Yep, fine,” was his answer as he groaned when the vibration of falling onto the bed and the speed of it hurt. Note to self, he thought, Play it safe before you break yourself, listen to the therapist for once. “Out in a minute!”

“Okay,” she replied with concern in her voice. “I’ll be in the living room waiting,” Ziva added before leaving the door.

Five minutes later, he had his pants on, a clean shirt and managed to get his socks on as well. He shoved his good foot into the slipper that had come with them from the hospital and sighed. He wanted to be able to walk freely, in the clothes he wanted to wear, the shoes he wanted and not feel as if he was living someone else’s life. Maybe he was.

He rolled his wheelchair out of the door and towards the living room. “Done.”

Ziva smiled over at him, her eyes looking him over. “Do you wish me to bring your crutches? That way you can get a little work out in at the same time? I promise not to tell your physical therapist,” she commented with a slight grin.

He smiled widely. “I’d do anything for those crutches!”

“Anything?” she repeated, raising an eyebrow.

“Apart from calling any family or friends,” John pointed out.

“Damn,” she pouted with exaggeration. “Well – how about some new linens? Something a bit more masculine for your room? I doubt you really enjoy pinks and florals.”

“If you want me to get them for you, sure, it’s your house, your guest room.” He nodded. “To me, it’s a bed.”

“And as long as you are here, it’s your room,” she sighed. “Why must you be so difficult? You are nearly as bad as my partner at work!”

“I’m not being difficult,” he sighed. “This is your house. Ahh… it’s bad enough that I’m here intruding on your life, buying linens to make the room more manly doesn’t really sit right with me. What will happen to the linen when I leave?”

Ziva shrugged as she got his crutches for him. “Storage. Or you can take them with you I suppose.” She didn’t have the courage to say that she didn’t want him to leave at all, even if they were only to be roommates and friends. She knew very well it was ridiculous to allow herself to feel as such an attachment to him but it was stronger than she could fight.

“If it makes you happy, we’ll get the linens.” John happily took his crutches and got out of the chair. “Freedom!” he grinned.

She laughed as she tried to work around him and held the door open. “We will have to take advantage of the day as much as we can then. Is there anywhere you would like to go? Sightseeing or something?”

“Nah, shopping and groceries. Stick with the original plan, I don’t think I can be on these things for longer than an hour or two, maybe three if we take breaks.”

“I don’t know. I’m sure that there are places that offer wheelchairs for those who need it. Between work and – everything else, I sort of need to just get out and do something. What about a baseball game? There were some of the guys at the office that mentioned one of the professional minor league teams that are in Virginia. Would you go to a game with me?”

“If you want to do something fun, then we should do something that you’d like,” John said as he hopped to the elevator. “I didn’t think you’d like baseball.” I know I don’t, he added in thought.

She shrugged. “It was something my father showed me,” she replied. “I enjoy baseball very much. I just don’t get to go to games or watch it on television often.”

He smiled at her as the doors of the elevator opened. “Then let’s go and watch a game.”


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