So I'm experimenting with a new style, hence the use of much parentheses. I'm not sure I punctuated everything correctly, because I was really confused, even after I looked it up on Google. But whatever. This is what it is. And what it is is SAD. I never disliked Jeanne, so this is not a hater fic. Read and review anyway, pleeeease?
Disclaimer - NCIS belongs to CBS and such, the title and lyrics below belong to the lovely Adele. All I have is . . . lots of lovely readers who are going to review . . . riiiiiiiiiiight?
Someone Like You
I heard that you settled down
That you found a girl and you're married now.
I heard that your dreams came true.
Guess she gave you things I didn't give to you.
The remains of a life that was once her own are handed to her in a brown leather briefcase which she rapidly and violently relocates to the darkest, gloomiest depths of her closet. She vows not to return until the contents of such an unassuming container have crumbled and yellowed and faded to a fine dust.
(A small portion of her takes satisfaction in the fitting irony of the situation.)
She yanks out her own luggage and begins to blindly pack her possessions, colors swimming before her as obstinate tears collect, but do not spill. She is not so weak (yet).
It is only when she happens upon her (Tony's) favorite sweater that the scent of cologne, which seems to have impregnated just about every scrap of fabric that she owns, hits her. She realizes that he has invaded just about every aspect of her life. (He is her life.) And this poses a problem.
(The soft, well-worn pink fabric of the sweater dots with something that is not a raindrop.)
She ponders burning her possessions, but soon waves this away as overly-romanticized. She is a doctor (albeit a broken-hearted one) and she is better than this.
And so she runs to the nearest convenience store and stocks up on black plastic trash bags. (She only wishes she could bundle away the jagged shards of her heart as easily.)
The apartment feels empty without pictures on the wall and DVDs scattered across the coffee table. (She wonders which he will miss more - her, or the Special Edition-Limited Release copy of Ocean's Twelve with Exclusive Bonus Features and Never Before Seen Footage.)
The apartment is as empty as the day she moved in. (More so, because now there is something to miss, something to mourn.) The intensity of the emptiness burns her eyes (or maybe it's the repressed tears) so she closes them and turns away.
She hefts the three massive garbage bags over her shoulder and stumbles out of the apartment. The sound of the door closing behind her hurts, but not as much as she is expecting. (All her doors are closing, one by one. What's one more, really?)
She puts everything (clothing, books, movies, memories) in the Goodwill box down the street, because she thinks that somebody somewhere ought to get something good out of this mess. (It can't possibly be to her benefit, and she can only hope it's not to Tony's.)
And then she drives to the airport with nothing but a broken heart, a plane ticket, and an ever-lessening will to survive.
As the plane surges forward along the runway and the sky rushes down to meet them, she wonders if this is what moving on feels like.
She tells herself she hopes so. (But she doesn't. Not really.) And then she closes her eyes.
She calls it public service, a way of shedding a little hope, a little friendliness, in a world that holds nothing but hard edges and broken glass. (She knows this to be the truth.)
She tells herself that healing the broken, finding the lost, is for the benefit of others, but really it's not, because the broken bones she sets, the twisted minds she heals, are just reassurance.
(She's trying to tell herself that nothing is beyond the reach of healing. She doesn't say that, of course, but it's implied.)
She calls it atonement, a little bit of suffering for the sake of others, whose wake-up call came too late. (Hers came in the form of an Italian Prince Charming who wasn't.)
She tells herself that the hours of labor, the ache in her joints, the sweat on her brow, are for the sake of others.
(This sinner whose soul she has set about saving goes without a name, although she knows who he is. She doesn't give him an identity, but it's implied.)
(She never once calls it a distraction, but in truth, that is entirely what it is, because idle hands are the tools of the devil, and idle minds are prey to the could-have-beens. She slaves for hours and she saves many, but in the end she is dissatisfied. She doesn't say so, of course, but it's implied.)
She picks up a smattering of the plethora of native dialects, learns to never climb into bed without checking for uninvited guests (of the venomous variety), and discovers that there is more to doctoring than practice and procedure.
(She still feels lost.)
She has accomplished much, but there are still cracks in her heart, a cross of another's on her shoulders, and laughter in her ears.
(Sometimes she wakes up laughing at a joke he'd told her. She laughs until she cries, and then she cries until she vomits. She goes back to bed.)
And so she sets out turning herself into something that cannot be conquered, a kind of super soldier of the female doctor variety, a new breed of Hulk who prefers pink to radioactive green.
She scorns the advances of men. She teases them, leads them on, captures their hearts, and then casts them aside. (The love professions feel good on her ears, but the stunned silence that follows her airy proclamation that she has 'grown bored' is better.)
She takes a freeze-dried pride in the thought that she is no longer vulnerable. She breaks the hearts now. Not him.
She takes to mountain climbing, because the exercise keeps her body and her mind busy, and because the protest of her muscles feels like penance.
The air on the peaks she reaches, the summits she climbs, is thin and frothy like champagne. She takes deep gulps, intoxicated by something that, while not joy, is certainly a departure from the norm. (She thinks it might be independence, so she drinks to her health, to her success, until it hits her - she's done this, not for herself, but for him. It's the worst hangover she's ever experienced.)
Like a child, her attention span is short, and soon Africa is as devoid of opportunity as Old Mother Hubbard's proverbial cupboard.
She has run out of mountains (both literal and figurative) to climb, and the loss of challenge, the lack of strain in her muscles, makes her itch.
(It's not so much an itch as a sort of tension in the back of her neck, but the message is loud and clear all the same.)
She leaves browned and hardened (both mentally and physically) and in essence, unchanged.
She spends a glorious year in Paris, where she (temporarily) loses herself in fine wines and twinkling lights. She scales the steps of the Eiffel tower every Saturday morning, and she meets a man named Jacques who has eyes like a sunrise.
For a while she thinks she is happy (although that feeling in the back of her neck, akin to the sense of vertigo she gets when looking down from a great height, never goes away) until she sits in a teeny moon-lit cafe and watches Jacques laugh the way she used to watch . . . him.
And she realizes that when he laughs, Jacques looks exactly like . . . him.
(And she loses her footing and plunges down, falling and falling and never quite reaching the ground)
She only makes it to the first landing of the tower the next day before the feeling kicks in. She leans over the rail and is sick.
She fancies herself in love once or twice after that, but it never gets very far. (She finds herself more infatuated with the feeling of being loved than the lover himself. Her new fear of heights is debilitating, in that she finds herself afraid of falling. In more ways than one.)
One man has green eyes that crinkle around the edges when he smiles. (She looks into them as he drops to one knee and has to strain to stop the hysteric shrieks of something that is not mirth from bubbling over.)
Another has a laugh that catches her attention from across an art gallery, echoing through the white solemn scarcity, almost sacrilegious. She has only to close her eyes tight and listen, and she could be . . .
(She is madly in love with him for a week and a half and just as suddenly she is not.)
And then there is Leonard, who has brown eyes and a crooked, forceful face that is not handsome. He is so far from Tony that she briefly considers him perfect. (And then she realizes that there is a force about him, a vitality that compensates for his lack of beauty, that is wild and free and reminds her of the way Tony used to throw back his head and laugh.)
She stops looking after that.
(In the stories, Prince Charming never expects the princess to set out on a quest to rescue him.)
She wonders if they have lying, cheating, murdering scumbags in fairytales. (And if so, why they always depicted them as wart-covered crones who ride around on broomsticks, when the real danger lies in handsome charmers in Mustangs.)
It is years and years before she goes home. (America persists in defending its title as her homeland, despite fine wine, good food, and handsome men.)
She left a broken-hearted mess, a lost little girl, but she returns a strong, independent woman. (She still feels lost, but she holds her head up high and pretends otherwise.)
She calls a cab and returns to what was once the center of so many hopes and dreams and wishes. (With all that whimsical nonsense cleared out, the apartment is as hollow and cold and bare as a seashell.)
She looks around and her eyes smart, but this time she does not cry. (Instead she sinks down on the couch and fixes her gaze on a blank white wall. She falls asleep with her eyes open.)
She wonders if this is what moving on feels like.
(If so, it doesn't feel like much of anything at all.)
It takes two glasses of wine, seven years of therapy (some in the luminescence of the mountains, some in the twinkling glow of Paris, some in the cheap, unflattering lighting of the office downtown), and a thunderstorm to get her to open the closet door.
As a child, she feared the monsters hidden just beyond the sphere of protection that her night-light provided. Now there is nothing (everything) to fear, a bundle of her father's possessions in a battered leather attaché case, and yet she cannot seem to shake the tangible terror taking host in her gut like an ugly parasite.
Thunder crashes as she pours herself a third glass of red wine. Her hands begin to shake (out of fear, or drunkenness, she does not know) as she takes the briefcase into her lap and opens it.
First there are papers (typed business transactions that record the progress of destruction, of violence, as it snakes its way from heart to heart through the ink of her father's signature).
Next she is confronted with photos.
She was so much younger then. The curve of her face was softer (as was the look in her eyes). She practically glows, her head thrown back as she laughs, as she gazes adoringly into the face of the man she loved (loves).
Her chest contracts, not with fear, but with anger and something like wistful reminiscence. There are dozens and dozens of photos, slick and shiny with painful memories caught in crystal clear high-resolution.
(Her lip begins to quiver as well, so she bites it viciously and keeps sifting.)
Each photo (each memory) is another thorn in her crown, but one in particular catches her eye.
In an effort to convey intimacy, or perhaps in attempt at an artsy candid shot, the photographer snapped a shot of her hand and his, intertwined.
Her hand is small in his, white and a bit scaly from constant disinfecting. Her nails are painted a soft (innocent) pink, and her veins are faintly blue beneath translucent skin.
His hands are larger, enveloping her own, capturing each finger and holding it hostage (the same way he stole her affections). She wonders how she could have been so ignorant, never once questioning the calluses of his fingers, the occasional smudge of darkness on his fingertips.
He possesses her, sure and self-confident and righteous in his 'for-the-better-good' mission.
(And she accepted the hand unquestioningly.)
She has taken to running the winding trails of the nearby park. DC has no mountains that can long capture her attention.
(Nothing can keep her mind occupied for long.)
She finds something akin to peace in the flashes of sunlight that flit through over-hanging branches, like ghosts of a happiness that was once hers.
As the leaves turn red, however, her mind begins to cloud. She picks up the pace, runs faster, harder, knowing that soon she will have to relocate. Again. (She regrets it a little. She will miss the quiet hiss of leaves in the wind.)
One day she pushes too hard. (The idea that she has reached her limit only motivates her to run faster, and so when her bad ankle gives out, she is angry at herself for her weakness, not for her lapse of judgment.)
She hobbles to the nearest bench, secreted behind a rather hideous statue of some long-dead politician, as her ankle throbs and a pulse ticks in her lower jaw like a drum roll.
(The scene that follows certainly deserves one.)
A woman races around a bend in the path, a streak of dark eyes and coiled spring. This dark woman reminds her of a wild cat (a panther, maybe) with predator eyes that suddenly look hunted as a voice calls out her name.
(She almost dies right there, almost vomits, almost screams. She wants to laugh and cry and yell, but most of all she wants to run.)
The second figure rounds a bend, and he is so utterly familiar that it hurts. (She hates that he looks exactly the same, now that everything has changed. He probably even bought a new copy of that stupid DVD he left at her house.)
The woman with the scary eyes, who she now remembers faintly (her attention had always been on him, never really on his co-workers), whirls angrily and the look in her eyes is pained.
(She wonders if he inspires this kind of anguish in everyone woman he speaks to.)
"What do you want, Tony?" the woman, Ziva, hisses.
(The name makes her heart pound like thunder. The lightning strikes with deadly precision in the bright white smile he flashes.)
"What? Can't a guy go for a run with his partner without having his motives questioned?" he demands, still smiling, but with a bit of strain. She hates that she can still read his face so easily (and wonders how she could have been so off the mark back then).
Ziva puts her hands on her hips and looks at Tony until the smile cracks like a piece of brittle sugar candy. He sighs and steps toward her. Ziva steps back.
She draws back into the shadows, cursing her stupid, stupid weak ankles that she inherited from her stupid, stupid father (who really got her into this stupid, stupid mess in the first place). She prays that he will not look her way (though a part of her wonders what would happen if he did catch sight of her).
"Okay, okay," Tony sighs, with eyes only for the woman who stands a wary three paces away from him, "I was worried about you. Okay?"
Ziva's eyes harden a little and her brow furrows. "Why would you be worried-"
Tony takes a step forward. This time, his partner does not step back, though she eyes him guardedly. "Oh, I don't know. Maybe because you've barely said a word outside the office all week, and you haven't been answering your phone or your door."
(She hates that she is jealous, but she does wonder just how often Tony stopped by this woman's place.)
"I am perfectly fine."
Ziva takes two steps back. "Yes, really." Now her voice is edgy.
Tony raises an eyebrow. "Then you don't mind if I run the rest of the trail with you? I've been meaning to start exercising a bit more, and-"
"I would prefer to run alone, if you don't mind," she says brusquely, turning to go. "I have a lot on my mind, and-"
"Care to share?"
Tony grins (her breath gets lost somewhere in her chest)."Now, you didn't go to an American school, so I'm gonna clue you in on a little secret. When the teacher says, 'care to share with the class, Miss David?' what they actually mean is, 'get up here this instant and read us your report or I'll call your parents.' This is the same case."
Ziva glares. "You are going to call my parents?"
He stares her down with eyes that are just as green as she remembers them. (There are not even any bags, no signs of the discomfort that is so prominent in her own features.)
"Worse. I'll call Gibbs."
The woman raises a dark eyebrow. "And what do you think Gibbs will do, exactly?"
He shrugs and offers this dark-haired predator of a woman the lopsided grin that can still make her knees weak. (She is suddenly and inexplicably envious.) "Probably lock you in the basement with a couple of bottles of bourbon and some stinky Chinese food."
Ziva is not amused, as is evident in the set of her features. (She can't help but notice how beautiful the woman is, and it bothers her. She used to be beautiful. She doesn't look in the mirror anymore.) "Tony, I am fine. I just need to get something out of my system-"
He loses his goofy grin. "I get that. If you need to talk, just-"
"I do not need to talk," Ziva interrupts snappishly. "I just need to run for a while and then I will be fine."
He considers this for a moment, and she takes the opportunity to soak in every detail of the only face in her memory that has never dimmed. (She has even begun to forget the precise arrangement of her father's features, and yet she cannot forget this man's.)
His face is a little more weathered, a little more lined, but that is only to be expected. She wonders if he loses any sleep at night (not just over this beautiful woman who is his partner, but over her.).
"Okay. But I'm coming with you."
The fight departs Ziva's body in the form of a long sigh. "Alright. But if you talk I will gut you with my knife and feed you to the pigeons."
He smirks. "How very Alfred Hitchcock of you." At her blank expression, he takes on a look of astonished horror. "You've never seen The Birds? Are you kidding me?"
"Tony, I will not warn you again-" she begins, and he sighs.
"Right. Sorry. Okay."
The two slowly begin to walk away. (The sight of his back, the sight of him walking away from her, leaving her behind, still burns like acid.)
She hears Ziva take a deep breath and quietly say, "Thank you."
He loops an arm around the dark woman's shoulders playfully, but the squeeze he gives her seems sincere enough. (She still remembers the warm weight of his arm around her.) "What're partners for, sweetcheeks?"
She wonders vaguely what 'partners' actually means, but mostly she fixates on his eyes, which have a look in them that she has almost seen before.
(It reminds her of the way he used to look at her, only this is stronger, because this is real.)
And she realizes with something akin to desperation that he has moved on.
(She wonders if she will ever be able to do the same.)
She gets up and she runs, and if her ankle protests, she does not feel it. (She doesn't feel anything right now except a sort of numbness that somehow is infinitely more painful than any injury she has ever sustained.)
(She wonders if this is closure, and if so, why people want it so desperately.)
She tears into her shell of an apartment and sinks onto the floor just before her ankle can give way. The briefcase is under the bed (because isn't that where monsters belong?) and she yanks it out, dumping its contents onto the floor as sobs begin to tear through her body.
(She thinks all of a sudden that she was the bait for a bigger fish, and Tony was the shiny, smooth hook that ensnared her. The fish was reeled in and the hook was retracted. He survived because underneath that silver shine was a core of steel. But she was only the bait, and she has been left torn and mangled, with a hole in her that can't be filled.)
She sobs and she sobs until there is not an ounce of moisture left in her body. As the self-pity fades, she finds she is left an empty shell, filled only with anger.
She seizes the first picture she finds and starts ripping, tearing the thick photo paper viciously, shredding the face of the man she loved (loves) just as effectively as he turned her life to a pile of ragged fragments.
The pile grows in front of her, a heap of brokenness (broken hearts, broken dreams, shattered minds). Her breath comes in short, vindictive pants and her eyes burn, they are so dry.
The evening fades to night (the darkness permeates her soul) but still she tears and shreds and rips at her memories, forcibly removing them from her mind.
Her hands are streaked with paper cuts, but they don't hurt nearly as much as the rest of her. Her nails break into jagged, uneven shards (like her heart).
She holds the last photograph up to the dim light of her alarm clock (she doesn't know what time it is) and a shudder runs down her spine.
The hands are intertwined, the fingers grip each other, and she never once questioned a thing.
She gathers her fingers at the top of the sheet (she decides she will tear the photo right down the center, breaking the hands apart), grits her teeth, and-
She cannot do it.
And she stares down at the hands, at hers, at his, and her lip begins to quiver. And then her hands start to shake until she can no longer keep a grip on the slick texture of the photograph.
(It falls unheeded to the floor as she sinks down onto the bed and begins to cry again.)
She wakes up to a dim room, a sprained ankle, and a heap of shattered memories. (She cannot remember what she dreamed about.)
The snapshot that was her undoing lies at the foot of the bed, innocent and unassuming and heart-breaking. She picks it up and studies the photo once more.
(She thinks about the way that she loved him - with her whole soul, every ounce of her being - and she thinks about the way he looked at the dark-haired hunted predator.)
She thinks about the fact that Tony has moved on.
(She presses her lips to the smooth paper for an instant and lets her eyes close and her mind remember. And then she folds the photo neatly, creasing the fold with business-like precision. She puts it and the leather bag back in the closet. She closes the door.)
Suddenly she is unable to stay still. Every fiber in her body is itching to move, to shed the pounds of tears and heartbreak in the steady drumming of her feet on the ground. (There is something reassuring in the rhythmic thumping. It never changes.)
Her ankle protests at first, but soon she loses it (herself) in the feeling of running, of being alive (sometimes she feels otherwise). She runs and she runs and she never once looks back because, for the first time in the long time, there is a horizon before her.
(And as Jeanne watches, the sun begins to rise.)
So I don't really know what to make of it, what with the experimental style I wrote it in, but I'm posting it to prove I haven't moved to a taco stand in Canada with no internet access. ;-) What do you think?