The house was still when Ziva pushed the door open, the only sign of life the light creeping out of the basement. She hesitated for moment before gently shutting the door, she hadn’t planned on coming here.
Gibbs didn’t look up when she stepped onto the landing, but she knew he’d heard her, she was still wearing the heeled boots she’d had on for the funeral. Still wearing all of the same clothes actually, she hadn’t gone home, didn’t want to be alone in the deafening silence. She’d been walking aimlessly around the city for hours, not sure where she was going until she’d found herself on Gibbs’ front porch. She watched Gibbs as she descended stairs, he was still wearing the same outfit too, minus the suit jacket that was folded over the banister, methodically sanding the frame of the boat. A sanding block and two mason jars of bourbon sat on the sawhorse beside him, whether they were intended for her or if Gibbs had just assumed that one of them would end up here Ziva didn’t know, and she didn’t really care.
She laid her coat over his, reached for the fuller jar and took a large swallow before picking up the sanding block. Gibbs didn’t have to tell her to sand with the grain, she’d been down here before, this wasn’t the first heartache they’d shared and it probably wouldn’t be the last. Ziva knew she was standing where Ari had, and she was surprised how dull that pain felt, so far away in light of this new grief. Neither of them spoke for a long while, the only sound the rasp of the sanding blocks and the gentle clink of the jars against the wooden sawhorse.
It was Ziva who eventually broke the silence. “Did you love her?” She asked quietly.
Gibbs said nothing for so long Ziva would have thought he hadn’t heard her if it weren’t for the falter in his steady rhythm with the planer.
“Yeah,” he said gruffly. “I -- yeah. Still did,” They fell into silence again, comfortable except for the weight hanging over them.
“You were in love with her,” he said. It wasn’t a question, though they’d never talked about it before.
Ziva sighed, of course he knew. “I was. We were together for a while, but it did not last.”
“Cairo?” he asked.
“Yes,” Ziva nodded. “And later Moscow. Things ended for good in Istanbul. She never said, but I got the feeling we were getting too far west, too close to where you had been. I knew from the beginning she would never love me, not the way I wanted her to. She could not, not when she was still in love with you.”
Gibbs drained the rest of his bourbon and topped off both of their jars before he spoke.
“She Dear John’d me in London, you know. Left her coat on the plane and sent me back for it. When I couldn’t find her in the airport I found the letter in her coat pocket. She had a five-point plan and I didn’t fit.”
“Was it a plan to move up the ranks or to kill La Grenouille?” Ziva asked, already knowing the answer.
“Yeah,” was Gibbs’ only response.
“I guess she got there in the end,” Ziva said. “Ticked all of those boxes.”
“I hope it made her happy,” He said, “At least for a little while.”
“Do you think she regretted it? Not living for anything else?”
“Yeah, I do. I think she wanted to make something for herself after he was gone but she didn’t have the time.”
“I --” Ziva faltered, her hands stilling. “I am sorry Gibbs. I should have been there, I should not have let her go without a protection detail. If I had been there, I could have saved her. I could have...” her voice trailed off
“She was dying, Ziva,” Gibbs said quietly “Ducky said she didn’t have long, and the time she did have would have been painful and debilitating.”
“Maybe Tony was right,” she mused, more to herself than to Gibbs.
“Right about what?”
“The inevitability of certain events. Yesterday, he said it was inevitable that the two of you would end up together. Alone in Paris, putting your lives in each other’s hands. I told him that nothing was inevitable, but maybe this was. Perhaps she was always meant to die at this age.”
“Hm,” Gibbs grunted. “Was it inevitable that the two of you got together?”
“No,” Ziva sighed, “I do not think we were ever meant to be. If anything it was inevitable that we would end. But, I am glad that we had those few months together anyway. Being with her was so…” Ziva trailed off.
“Yeah,” Gibbs replied gruffly. “I know what you mean.”
It should have been strange, Ziva knew, talking so easily to her ex’s ex about the woman they had both been in love with, were both still a little bit in love with. But was there really anyone else she could talk to about Jenny, anyone who would even understand? The rest of the team had only known her superficially, had no context for her outside of Director Shepard. Even Ducky, who’d known Jenny just as long as Gibbs, had kept a mostly professional distance between them. But Gibbs, he’d known the other side of Jenny too, softer, more open, always reaching out to touch them, even in her sleep.
Kelly and Tali, Kate and Ari, now Jenny; it was almost poetic really, Ziva conceded, being in love with the same woman as Gibbs. She’d killed her brother for this man, trusted him more than anyone, Jenny included, loved him in the way she wished she could love her own father. And she knew he loved her, that he almost saw her as the adult daughter he never had, that calling her “Ziver” was his way of telling her this.
Ziva’s mother was dead, so were her sister and her brother, and she blamed herself for all three even though only one of them was really her fault. Her father used her and she knew that, sending her around the world to do the things he wouldn’t stoop to. But Gibbs, he was her almost-father, the one who loved her without strings attached, who trusted her judgement and believed that she was more than her ability to kill a man. And Jenny was the only other person who’d truly come close to that.
So, no, it didn’t really feel like she was talking to the person she could never be for Jenny, the reason why their relationship was over before it even started. Gibbs was so much more than that to Ziva, and right now he was exactly what she needed. And judging by the way Gibbs had stopped throwing back bourbon since they’d started talking about Jenny, she was what he needed right now too.
The clock was ticking on this relationship too though, a fact they were both keenly aware of. Ziva was flying to Israel in eight hours, being returned to her role as her father’s chess piece. Tomorrow they would move on, box all of the pain up and tuck it away. But for now they would stay, and they would sand the boat, and they would talk about Jenny.