notes: It's been a while. I know. I'm still around, though, and these two are still in my head. I suspect they will never leave.
This very vivid image of what I want Tony's last scene on NCIS to be couldn't be brushed away, so it had to get out. No, I still haven't watched any episodes since the end of season ten, and I never will. (Personally, I suspect over the years I will dismiss everything that happened after "Good Cop Bad Cop" as non-canon, too.) The snippet still works, and it wanted to be told. Blame Tony.
word count: 1,800
comments & feedback: Very much appreciated.
Twitching legs, restless feet. It's a twelve-hour flight, and because you can't hitch a ride on the Navy planes anymore, it's a messy and noisy and disturbingly unnerving thing. The whole flight is as jittery as your legs. It's a plane full of Israelis, after all, and they have less than zero patience.
You want nothing more than to be left alone with your thoughts, even though it's not the healthiest company to have. A nap would be good, too, but you were never good at that, and so your eyes move under their lids like your restless feet tap their beat. Instead of sleep, anxiety is the thing that shares the seat with you. You always end up saying the wrong things when you have too much time to think on your hands, and twelve hours is a long time when you're left alone with the many ways this can go wrong in your head. By now, you have reached the point where you just want to turn back and run away and play it safe like you did your whole life. But there's no chance to run now because you're stuck on this plane, and at the end of the flight that doesn't want to end, there's the Promised Land.
Besides, she knows you're coming.
You're not alone in your restlessness. Half of the passengers are on their feet and roaming about, and they help themselves to sodas and chat noisily in the aisle. Most of them swap seats during the flight, randomly, some to talk to people they didn't know before, some because they spotted a distant cousin. Israelis have an even worse attention span than you. They're not made to sit still for long periods of time, they want things to happen and progress and move on, and so, while you sit still and watch her people, you understand for the first time how tied down and restricted she must have felt these eight years she sat at her desk. You can't help but wonder why she didn't run away sooner.
The observer in you doesn't want to nap either. Your eyes flit over the chatting people, and you try the old mind game of assigning life stories to them, but it's hard this time because you only played with Americans so far. Every time you think you have someone pinned down, there's a wave of their hand or a rude, noisy laugh that throws you off and spoils the result. You will need to observe a lot before you can fit in.
The woman beside you swapped seats with the businessman you started the flight with. She's somewhere in her fifties, white streaks in her dark hair, and her face is strong, with a very defined jaw and nose. She watches you watch the crowd, and when you meet her eyes by accident, you are tempted to apologize because it feels like it's a too-private thing. But that, that's the thing Israelis never do. They're born nosy and curious. It's what keeps their whole culture thriving and from standing still. You don't apologize for a good trait.
She asks something in rapid-fire words, and you duck your head and apologize after all, for not understanding Hebrew yet. She repeats the question in English, and the words that usually come so easy for you are stuck in your throat now. It's a simple question, really. And yet, you're not ready to answer it yet - you're not even sure you're ready to be on this flight, for God's sake.
So you reply, fumbling with words, saying it's for private reasons, and that's about the wrongest answer you could have given. Her eyes light up with the gleam you've seen in your partner's eyes every time she smelled a fresh puzzle to crack. To Israelis, the word 'no' is a dare, you learned that one early on, and you see it demonstrated again when the woman leans closer and starts chatting away at you.
And that's when it hits you that you're gonna live in a land full of Zivas, even though you only want one.
She's there. Her face is tight, brows drawn together in a frown while she bites her lip and her narrowed eyes scan the crowd that pours out of the gate. You watched her for, what, a minute now. Seems like an eternity. Fingers twitch, grab your carry-on bag tighter as you wait in the shadows, just so you can keep watching her, keep putting this off. Funny how that last step seems so much... bigger than the whole flight itself.
You see the shift in her face the moment she's giving up, the nervous frown trading places with the belief that you won't show after all. You're searching for relief, for confirmation that she doesn't want you here, because that's just the way you are, but all you see is anger and the futile attempt to throttle her emotions. You can still see it clearly when she's in pain, even three years later and from a hundred yards away. Maybe that's because you feel it, too.
Restless feet finally move you forward, out of the shadows. Her head shifts towards the motion, and her eyes lock with yours, and there. There's that tiny piece of your soul that's been missing.
She doesn't say a word, just watches you as you come to her, eyes still narrowed, frowning. She looks like her hand is itching to draw a gun, to keep you at the old, familiar distance, but it's too late for that now. She's here, after all. She let you come.
You walk on, and you can't seem to stop until you're right in her face and invading her personal space. Her jaw tightens but she doesn't step back because retreat would mean admitting defeat. Or is that why you're stuck where you are? Not sure. Things are pretty blurry these days.
Your palms are sweaty, and it's not from the heat weighing down on you. Your fingers grab the strap of your bag tighter, then unclench as you force them to, but soon enough, grab tight again, until it turns into a nervous rhythm. It's like your twitchy feet that tapped an unheard beat on the plane, like your chest feels tight and then relaxes again, like each heartbeat that adds more tension. She just a hand's width away from you and God, you can feel the heat coming from her body. It's not the dry, oppressive summer heat around you, it's her, and when she raises her chin and meets your eyes, still with that harsh, guarded expression to keep you firmly on your side of the ocean, you drop the bag and reach for her and you ignore the way she jumps in surprise because you need to feel her. Drown in her heat, feel her breathe against your chest, her hair in your face, that's what you need. You need to feel that she's really there. That you're alive, after all.
She's stiff in your arms, and you can't blame her. It's too much, too little. Too unfamiliar, and too much of what you needed. She's all the summers you didn't enjoy since you were a kid, she's the warmth and the tickle of the sun on your skin. She's... home.
Her hand slides up your arm, and you cling to her because she's about to push you away now, you know it. Your arms wind tight around her torso, and you can't help it, you have to bury your face in her neck and in her hair that smells like sandalwood. You feel her rapid pulse against your lips, and it jumps and skips a beat when you press her tight to your chest, and you would have missed that if you weren't holding her like that.
Her body struggles. Wants to melt into yours, but still stay tense and keep away from you at the same time. Two reflexes, at war with each other. The piece she took from your soul, it's fighting now to reunite, and she knows it because it's not how things are in her world. What's done is done, what's over is over. She's never been one for mending, and that's where her struggle comes from. She has no idea yet that it wouldn't be mending, it would be healing.
'Don't send me home', you pray furiously when she keeps struggling, with your face pressed into her neck and your eyes closed tight so you won't lose it. 'Don't, because I won't go, not this time. I can't. I need you, I can't breathe without you, and I don't care if you married and had six kids while I was away, I will sleep beside your bed until you let me in, and whoever he is, I will fight him because he's not the one who needs you to stay alive.'
And then, suddenly, something changes in her stance, and you reel from the sensation of her giving up and giving in and clinging to you in the same desperate way you hold her. It's like a switch flipped in her heart, like she felt what you were thinking, like she understood and knew and now... now... Now you feel the pressure of raw tears against your eyelids, and all of a sudden you need to cling to her even harder just to stay on your feet. You never felt so weak before in your life.
"Oh God, did I say any of that out loud?"
You try to make a joke out of it, like you always do, and she draws back, slowly, until she can look at your face. She's the one crying now, and that rips your heart into tiny pieces because it's the one thing you could never bear in all those years. She doesn't need any more pain in her life, goddammit. Why did you decide to come here and rip open the old wounds?
But then she suddenly smiles at you, smiles through the tears, yours and hers, and she raises her hand and lays her palm against your cheek, soothing, connecting, reaffirming. And that's when you realize it's not pain at all you see in her eyes. It's the same thing reverberating in your own bones. The same thing that brought you here.
She rises to her toes and presses her lips to your mouth, briefly, hardly more than a peck. But in truth it's the breath of life she gives you, and your heart jerks in your chest and stumbles clumsily back to a beat it had long forgotten.
"I have missed you so much," she whispers against your lips.
And there it is, rising in your throat and choking you: the almost unbearable feeling of being home.