Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 1720
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo, Ducky Mallard, Abby Sciuto, Ziva David, Timothy McGee
Category(ies): Angst/Drama, Character Study
Pairing(s): - No Pairing -
Summary: Everyone has their own rituals for managing the aftermath of a difficult case.
Ziva did a quick visual sweep up and down her street. Street thugs didn't worry her, particularly since they were almost unknown in this part of Silver Spring. But she knew that there was always someone watching. She was used to it.
As she slid the deadbolt home, she felt the tension in her belly let go, just a little. She closed her eyes for a moment, but didn't like what she saw there. Ziva dropped her bag and went straight into the bathroom.
This was her favourite room in the narrow townhouse. It was the one thing she'd really miss if she went back to Israel. When she went back to Israel. The room was windowless and white, all white, down to the fixtures and hardware. Tony had called it the Howard Hughes Room, but Ziva liked its crisp, cool, soft lines. There were no edges, just rounded curves.
She left her clothes where they dropped, unbraided her hair and ran water in the tub. It was large and deep and took awhile to fill. She had time to slip into the white shower stall and hose off the detritus of the day, watching the white water swirl down the white enamel drain.
The bath was ready, white wisps of jasmine-scented steam enveloped her. She took the scent deep into her lungs. That too was cleansing. Sliding into the tub, Ziva lay back, her hair feathering around her. Here she could float. Here, she could sink down into the blissfully blistering clean water. Here she will wash away the tension and clear her mind. Here in this bloodless white room.
Tony balanced one grocery bag with his knee against the door while he dug his keys out. Inside, he closed the door with his foot and carried the bulging bags into his kitchen. Long cut pasta, peppers, sausage, two cans of tomatoes (one diced and one ground to add texture to the sauce), garlic, onion, basil, fresh bread, and a crusty hunk of parmigiano-reggiano.
He filled his pasta pot with cold water and set it on the burner. A little olive oil warmed in the cast iron skillet while he crushed his garlic, chopped his onion, and sliced his sweet peppers. When he could smell the oil, he dropped the garlic and onion in, giving it a quick stir with an old wooden spoon before adding the peppers. He sliced the sausage, humming a little and trying to ignore the little heave in his gut as the knife bit into the meat. It was over in a flash and the thick round slices sizzled comfortingly in the pan.
Tony salted the boiling water and slid the pasta in, swirling it around to make sure each strand was covered. Tomatoes and a little fresh basil covered the sausage and peppers in the pan. He turned the heat down and let them simmer. Seven minutes until the pasta would be perfect. He uncapped the bottle of good scotch that stood on the counter and took a deep swallow. His stomach rebelled for only a minute before the warmth began to spread.
At the table now, spaghetti steaming up under its mantle of sauce, he grated cheese and buttered a chunk of bread. Eyes closed long enough to offer up a thought for the departed and then he digs in, bread mopping up the red sauce while the pasta twirls on his fork.
A quick peek in the mirror of her compact, a dab of powder and a lick of lipstick. Abby was ready to go. At the door, she exchanged a folded bill for a UV stamp on her wrist. Once inside, Abby didn't bother looking for friends or getting a drink, but headed straight for the dancefloor.
She moved slowly at first, letting the beat have its way with her. She could feel it through her boots, inside her thighs, her hips beginning to sway as the lights pierced the air around her. Eventually, the music got to her heart and Abby was lost. Blanketed in sound. Caressed by heat. Carried out of herself on a wave of moving humanity.
She didn't know how long she'd been gone. A prickle of sweat down the back of her neck and a pleasant ache in her feet told her she could feel again. She pushed through to the bar and waved for a frosty can of Red Bull. She downed it in one gulp then scanned the crowd. A moment later and she was one of many. Laughing. Half-dancing. Casual embraces and whispered confidences. Familiar, practiced hands rubbing her shoulders and neck. Later there would be spicy food and maybe the chance for something more than a neck rub.
Senses alive, Abby breathes in the sharp night air. She's not afraid of the dark.
McGee nodded to the girl in the elevator and pushed the button for the basement. She glanced at the basket of laundry he was carrying and offered a sympathetic smile. Tim managed a brief grimace that might pass for a smile. In baggy shorts and a plain white t-shirt, he made his way into the laundry room. It was empty, just like he knew it would be. It was a small building and Tim had a nodding acquaintance with all of his neighbours. They weren't the kind of people who did laundry at two in the morning.
At the long table, Tim separated the dark colours from the light ones. Shirts and underwear in one pile, socks and pants in the other. He left his sheets in the basket because he liked to wash them separately.
The left-hand washer was the one he preferred. The one on the right made an ugly knocking noise on the spin cycle and it squealed painfully when the spinning stopped. Three quarters for each wash, four for each dryer load. He lined the coins up on the table. Hot water and unscented liquid detergent. He let the tub fill about half way, until the detergent was diluted a little, then dropped each item in, watching it saturate and sink before adding the next piece of clothing.
Tim slid to the floor in front of the washer, feeling the cool metal through the back of his t-shirt. He sat, head back against the machine, listening to the whooshing, sloshing, gurgling sounds with their growling undertones of Maytag durability.
He knows there's something primitive and womblike about the noise, but it doesn't really matter. The rhythmic thumping is drowning out the imagined screams.
Gibbs opened his back door and a gray streak shot between his feet and inside. That no-good cat knew how to time it exactly right; she'd head for the door as soon as she heard Gibbs's car pulling into the driveway. The first time she did it, he hadn't even noticed, she moved so fast. When he saw her in the kitchen half an hour later, he had his gun halfway out before he realized what had invaded his house.
There wasn't much in the fridge; there never was. Gloria had been over with some leftovers a couple of nights ago. Roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, just the way she used to make it when she and Al invited him over for dinner, way back when Abby was a baby, before Al went off on that mission and never came back. Before Shannon and Kelly. Before Kate.
Too hungry to wait for the microwave, Gibbs uncovered the plate and carried it out to the back porch. For every bite, he fed a little to the cat. She rubbed against him, utterly trusting. Like she knew Gibbs would protect her. Because that's what Gibbs did.
He'd looked after Gloria and Abby -- the best he could between deployments -- until the Polish Prince came along and Gloria fell in love. Gibbs thought he was a walking goatrope, but the Prince treated her and Abby like royalty, so Gibbs hadn't complained. He smiled and let the cat lick gravy from his finger.
Sometimes, he didn't do so well with the protection duty, though. He'd looked after his wife and daughter until that drug lord came along. He'd looked after Kate until Ari Haswari came along. There was always someone. Someone with cause. Someone with a gun. Someone with a biological agent. And, today, someone with a hunting knife.
Gibbs petted the cat slowly, her purrs rumbling against his skin.
He tears another hunk from the roast for the cat, then carries the plate inside. Downstairs. A chipped white mug, well-used tools, and a small grey cat cleaning her paws on his workbench.
It was quiet except for a soft, steady dripping. Mallard walked slowly between the rows of foliage. He paused occasionally to pinch some soil between his fingers, or check the underside of a leaf for signs of mold or infestation. Rich dark smells of peat and soil mixed with a trace of savoury from the spiky-leafed herbs in the back corner of the greenhouse.
With an experienced twist, he pinched a cherry tomato from its vine, popping it into his mouth whole. A little green and bitter yet. They'd need a few more days of sunshine before they were ready for harvest.
He loved it here in his 12 by 16 rainforest, the windows fogged up, keeping the world in its place. He felt alive here, like he was part of this small ecosystem. And, he was part of it – each breath he took produced nourishing carbon dioxide. The plants took it in and created oxygen with it.
In the back corner now, with his favourite plants. He rubbed a leaf to release its fragrance, lifting his fingers to his lips.
From one pocket, a small silver flask that had belonged to his father. From another pocket, a collapsible silver cup inscribed, "To D., with love...until next time. – E."
A drop of Macallans in the cup and then he opened the wooden humidor on the table next to the ancient kitchen chair.
Ducky measures a quantity of leaf, fills the small pipe, and begins to relax as he takes his first deep pull. These were the leaves he'd dried from last year's harvest. This is his first taste in a long time. But there are days…and there are days.