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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SEQUEL: To Ziva, Caged.
The air inside the lab was stifling. According to Miles, the air conditioning had given out three hours after Natalie set up her equipment and, since then, every fan in the area had been aimed towards the computers and microscopes, leaving the poor human inhabitants to swelter. It was an area Eva would normally have avoided like the plague - a pun which would surely have earned her an eyeroll from Nat - but the hunched figure, currently staring into the barrel of a microscope, was too powerful of an attraction.
Natalie's hair was tied back, the occasional strand soaked to her skin, and drawing Eva's eyes to the curve of her jaw. The pale skin, lightly dusted with freckles, was the perfect lure, calling out for her touch. With some difficulty, Eva tore her eyes away, but not before she noticed the way Nat's t-shirt clung to her body, outlining the gentle curves and swells beneath.
Eva gulped, the temperature inside the room suddenly unbearable, but she couldn't bring herself to leave.
"Hot enough in here for you?"
Natalie looked up, her gaze unfocused, until the source of the interruption became apparent and a slight smile traced her lips. "The AC's broken."
"So I heard."
Pulling the t-shirt away from her body, Natalie failed to notice the look of interest on her friend's face. "You're the first person who's come to visit in hours," she said. "Stephen has taken to phoning in his questions from outside the door."
Eva smiled. "I'd like to say it was just for the pleasure of your company but, the truth is, I'm hiding out."
"Maybe not hiding, exactly, but I'd rather be where certain people can't find me."
The idea of Eva hiding from anything was totally alien to Natalie and she couldn't imagine what had prompted her friend's retreat. Whatever it was, she was more than happy to provide a refuge, although she would have preferred to have been the cause of Eva's visit.
"Anyone in particular?"
Eva thought back to her conversation with the dark-haired NCIS agent. It had been strange, and slightly unnerving, but not something she could really explain. At least not without sounding paranoid. She shrugged. "One of the NCIS agents was getting a little..." As her voice trailed off, her shrug returned.
"Did he say something?"
"She." Eva corrected. "Nothing specific." She thought for a moment. "She said I was interesting."
Natalie waited to see if there was more to that sentence but, when it appeared to be complete, she couldn't help but smile. "You are interesting."
There was a moment of silence as Eva absorbed the compliment and wished it had been spoken in the same, suggestive, tone that Ziva had used. Not that she could ever imagine Natalie exuding the same kind of dangerous seductiveness that the agent had projected, but she would have more than happily settled for even the slightest glimpse of quiet desire in Natalie's eyes. Not that she believed it possible, at least directed at her, but the hope was always there.
"I don't think her definition of interesting is the same as yours."
"How do you mean?"
Eva had always avoided conversation with Natalie revolving around her sexuality, even obliquely, but she couldn't think of a way to answer the question without referencing the subject. It wasn't that she thought Natalie was unaware of her preferences; she might not have discussed it as such, and others might not have been discrete, but she worried that, in mentioning it, she might somehow reveal her attraction.
"She was flirting." Eva thought back to her conversation with Ziva. It had been too abrupt and hard edged for her to be entirely comfortable with the flirting assessment, but she had no other way to explain it. "I think."
Sounds from outside echoed mutely inside the room as Natalie tried to understand why she found the idea of this unknown NCIS agent flirting with her friend so distasteful. She had known for some time that she was attracted to Eva, but she also knew that she would never do anything about it. For her, friendship was hard to come by and she wouldn't risk losing one of her best just for the chance of something as transitory as love.
"What is she like?"
Eva's answer was automatic. "Pretty. Intense. Kind of scary."
"Is that what you look for?" Natalie asked. "In a woman?"
It was a dangerous question. "Not normally."
"But this time?"
"This time I'm hiding out in a sauna, with you." Eva thought of Ziva and what she imagined the other woman would be like as a lover. Admittedly she had little to go on, but what she'd seen so far left her intrigued in a way she didn't quite understand. "If things were different, maybe."
'You' Eva wanted to say but, with a traitorous smile, she instead murmured, "Just things."
It was no longer merely the heat that was oppressive. The atmosphere inside the room had become clogged with unasked questions and it left both women feeling exposed and curious, yet unable to continue. Natalie's look to her microscope coincided with Eva's gesture towards the door as both sought out their escape, all further revelations saved for another day.
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