Chapter One - Return
Be'er Sheva, Israel. May 3rd 2012 2215 hours.
"Why are you trying to fight with me?"
"I'm not fighting with you, I'm fighting for you, Ziva."
"You are not the one living this, Tony."
It wasn't until the next morning that he understood why the way she had given herself to him that night felt so much like she was saying goodbye.
Gibbs's house, Washington DC. July 20th 2012 2230 hours.
Ziva took a deep breath, and opened the door. She made her way slowly through the familiar layout and paused at the top of the basement steps. "Hello, Gibbs."
"Ziva." If he was surprised, he didn't show it.
"I have come home, Gibbs." She descended the stairs slowly.
"Twelve weeks." He reminded her.
"I know." She dropped her head. "I cannot imagine..."
"No, you can't." His voice was hard. "You went dark, Ziva!"
"It was not an easy decision." She blinked back tears, and looked up to meet his eyes. " I have just travelled for almost 18 hours. My bags are enroute to Toronto of all places. May I stay here?"
"We thought we'd lost you." His body language remained aloof, still taking in the fact that she was actually standing in his basement.
"But you did not." She stepped closer, placing a hand on his arm. "I know there is a lot to explain, and that you deserve answers. But if we must do this now, can we start with tea?"
"Still a pack of your herbal stuff in the kitchen, I'll be up in a minute." Taking the hint, Ziva went back upstairs, finding the tea she left at Gibbs' for when coffee or bourbon were not an option. She hung her jacket on the back of a chair and set the kettle to boil. As she stretched up on her toes to reach the upper cabinets, she realised she was being watched. Her fingers closed around the mug, and dropped back down with a little sigh. She added her teabag and poured the water, not looking up. In her peripheral vision, she could see Gibbs staring hard at her midsection.
"Ah hell, Ziva." He gestured to her waistline, where her top had ridden up. "Looks like some luggage made it back just fine."
"It is that obvious?" She tugged her top down self consciously, not lifting her eyes from her drink. One hand fluttered down instinctively to rest on her lower abdomen, emphasising the fullness he had glimpsed, and confirming his accusation.
"It's my job to notice things, Ziva." He reminded her, although his tone was gentler now. "And you didn't head straight for the bottle of Jack." He added.
"I wanted to tell Tony first." She whispered, swirling the teabag in the water. "I did not think you would be able to see it so quickly yet."
"He won't hear it from me... But he won't have any trouble working it out. Not just the belly that's changed." Ziva's cheeks warmed as the meaning of his words sank in. The tank top she'd flown in for comfort had a scoop neckline, making no secret that the gentle curve below her navel wasn't the only part of her body that had grown. Again, it was more of a gentle fullness than a distinctive size increase, but it would be obvious to someone who had trained with her as often as Gibbs had. She crossed her arms over her chest, winced at the pressure and reached for her jacket, sliding it back on. "When Tony finds out you've been hiding this, it's gonna cut him up worse than the fact you left." He reached for the coffee pot, working around her.
"I have not been hiding the news, Gibbs. I have known for less than a day. I booked a flight the moment I found out." Ziva explained.
"Looks like you've been baking a bit too long to only find out yesterday." He commented, pouring his coffee.
"I did not suspect at first." Ziva admitted, her hand creeping below the table protectively. "I would guess, based on when Tony came to Israel, that I am about 4 months along.."
"Hmm..." Gibbs lifted his drink to his mouth, the black liquid sloshing in the mug. The smell hit her in a wave, and she jumped to her feet, turning pale.
"Excuse me... I..." She clapped a hand over her mouth and spun for the door. Gibbs jumped too, taking her shoulders, steering her to the sink and pulling back her hair. He turned on the tap letting the cold water rinse the sink as she threw up, and she felt his hand running circles on her back. "Sorry..." She began, lifting her head for a moment before heaving again. Gibbs continued stroking her back, muttering something vaguely soothing until she stilled.
"Good now?" He asked when she paused again. She nodded, changed her mind, and retched a couple more times, before breathing deeply and leaning forward to rinse her mouth under the running water.
"Yes. I have trouble with the smell of coffee." Ziva leaned her forearms on the sink, while she caught her breath. Gibbs silently transferred his drink to a travel mug, screwing the lid on tight to trap the scent. "And exhaust... and perfume... I should have understood sooner. Whoever named it morning sickness lied." She added in a wry laugh with a glance at her watch - a little after 11pm.
"Well you know now. What's the plan?" Gibbs went to the cupboards, searching out a box of Saltines which he dropped on the table when she returned to her chair. "Eat those."
"I have come home. From there, I suppose it is Tony's decision." She opened the crackers, nibbling on a corner, sighing as the salt soothed her stomach. "I want to raise the baby with him. I hope that is what he wants too."
"He's hurting." Gibbs did not need to add 'we all are', she could hear it anyway. "It's going to take a lot to come back from this."
"I know." She exhaled heavily. "How is he?"
"How do you think?" Gibbs shrugged. "He's not in a good way. Been on leave since he got back. Vance is losing patience."
"Leave?" She queried, surprised.
"Not voluntary. He's in no state to work. Tried for a day or two, had to send him home. Spends most of his day moping around the house." Gibbs was blunt again, and Ziva winced at his tone. "Look, I'm not gonna sugar coat it. You messed up bad, Ziva. Broke his heart and his trust into the bargain."
"I know, Gibbs." Ziva sighed. "I know... I should talk to him." Tears welled up again and she tried to blink them away, to compose herself, not really succeeding. She returned to her teacup, sipped and grimaced, after the way the first mouthful had rebounded on her a few minutes earlier, the whole cup was now tainted as far as her tastebuds were concerned.
"I'll drive you over when we're done here." Gibbs offered. "But I need to know, are you home for good this time? Not just his trust you've done damage to with your disappearing act."
"Yes, I am. There were places I needed to visit, to remember and let go. But that is done, and I am home." Her voice wobbled, a single tear escaping despite her efforts to hold it back.
"You left us before Ziva... what's different this time?" His gaze narrowed, words deliberately provocative. Ziva stood abruptly, yanking the hemline of her shirt upwards, and placing both hands on the bump that wasn't quite a bump yet.
"This! This is different, Gibbs. There is a child, Tony's child... my child. She is here now. I have to make my choices for her. She needs a home that is safe, and a family who loves her unconditionally. Where else in the world can I offer her that besides here? She needs her father, Gibbs... as I need mine." Ziva felt the last remnants of her control slipping and tears spilling over.
"Please, Gibbs." Her breath hitched, her fingers splayed wide on her stomach. "At the very least, trust that I will be a good mother."
"Okay." It seemed an age before he spoke. He came around the table, gently pulled her shirt back down, and wrapped his arms around her. "It's good to have you back, kid." Whatever self restraint Ziva had left crumbled completely and she found herself sobbing onto his shoulder, the whirlwind that had been the last few hours finally catching up with her.