Chapter 1: Say Yes
Wedding planning is harder than Tony and Ziva anticipated, especially with advice coming from everyone on the MCRT team.
Welcome to the third instalment of The Ties That Bind series. For any newcomers, I suggest heading to my profile and reading the first two stories No Strings Attached and Tangled before you get into this one.
First of all, thank you for your patience, it took a lot longer to bring each of the elements in this chapter together than I predicted, and I find writing conclusions difficult (essays, stories, blog posts, you name it I suck at endings.)
Secondly, we're quite AU by now, with only some parts of canon woven in. Chronologically we're in the S9/10 summer hiatus, however we are very far from the canon storyline of the time. Check the end notes for a proper rundown on how far I've messed with it all. Also, I'm Australian, I do my best to adjust my language and slang, but will slip up. Always ask if I use a word that doesn't make sense, but I will continue to use Australian/UK English for my spelling.
One more reminder - I love reviews, I love chatting to you about your interpretations and feedback - please don't hesitate to get in touch if you have something to say. I don't bite and I always try to respond.
For AlexiaSheElf and Ace_luce who both asked for more :)
As always - enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Wanting to get married, and actually planning a wedding, as both Tony and Ziva discovered, were two different scenarios entirely. They could both agree that they wanted something more personal than a perfunctory courthouse affair, but beyond that had no real picture of what that looked like. However, with two other weddings scheduled amongst Team Gibbs; Abby and Tim's New Year's Eve event at Mallard Manor, and the Florida destination wedding Jimmy and Breena were planning in October; they had no shortage of recommendations when it came to planning their own nuptials. Abby and Jimmy were particularly invested, printing out web pages from reception venues, or collecting brochures from nearby caterers. Ziva slowly built a pile on the dining table, both of them glancing through occasionally, dividing them into two categories, 'definitely not' and 'I don't hate it'. McGee provided a thumb drive full of suggested first dance music - Tony immediately relegated it to the first pile without a listen. Abby, not to be outdone, left a second drive, full of wedding dress ideas on Ziva's desk, which were given more consideration, and Jimmy printed a list of fun wedding reception game ideas, which promptly joined McGee's offering.
"So we know what we don't want." Tony pushed the latest additions to the 'I hate it pile' to the back of the table. "No nightclubs, no churches, no previous crime scenes and no... pinatas? Sometimes I think there is something seriously wrong with Palmer. I still can't believe you let him buy your car." The first denial was Ziva's, the second Tony's, the third mutual, while the fourth came from the flyer Tony quickly discarded.
"He looks after it better than I ever did." Ziva flicked through a florist's catalogue. Not that she had been a bad car owner save for the wild driving, but Jimmy treated the Mini with a care that was almost reverent. "I assume Abby circled the black roses for her, not for us." She pointed with a laugh.
"You never know with Abs." He chuckled. "She's probably got some gothic spectacular planned out and ready to go if we only ask. It could work, you always look stunning in black."
"Flirt." Ziva scoffed. "Do you have a preference for flowers?"
"Not pink roses." He shrugged, clearly trying not to get too in depth.
"Wendy?" He nodded reluctantly. "How big was that going to be?" Ziva asked gently. She knew enough to know that what had happened in Baltimore some years earlier had messed him up for a long time, and how that experience had made her own return so difficult for him to believe, the actual almost-wedding was more of a mystery.
"Oh, the whole nine yards, rental tux, church, crazy expensive reception venue, rehearsal dinner, about a million roses, something like a hundred guests." He shook his head. "Can we not do any of that again? I want this to be ours."
"So do I." Ziva agreed. "You may veto anything that is too similar."
"Do I need a code word for that?" Tony grinned. "Or at least to tell you the reason?"
"No questions asked, Tony." She answered as she skim-read a website printout and added it to the 'I don't hate it' pile. "Saying no will suffice."
"Where's your sense of fun?" Tony rolled his eyes playfully, and reached for another glossy book. "A pirate-themed wedding on the Potomac. You'd make a hot pirate wench, Zi."
"McGee would be seasick, and you are not as good looking as Johnny Depp." Ziva shot back with a playful smirk. "You are the one who wanted a reason."
"You deserve to be keelhauled for that Tia Dalma." Tony assumed a wounded expression and set the book aside, choosing a new one. "White-water rafting? Who wants to get married in a life vest?"
"No." Ziva took it from his hand, tossed it onto the discard pile. "Wasn't Tia Dalma more like a witch than a pirate?"
"Let me guess you were too busy ogling Johnny to pay attention to the plot? She was a soothsayer, and the spirit of Calypso in human form. Fickle and deadly, just like you." He leaned over and kissed her, making sure there was no real sting in his words, Ziva kissed him back too with a whisper that she liked him better anyway. "Okay, we don't need a code word, 'no' works just fine. Let's try and find something we both say yes to." He lifted another flyer. "Skydiving arrival at the altar?"
"No!" They declared simultaneously.
It seemed the more they knew what they didn't want, the more ideas their friends had to offer:
"Oh what if you find a castle? I mean you two are like the ultimate fairytale. The warrior princess and the..." Abby paused to snicker, "James Bond wannabe."
"Hey!" Tony complained. "Watch yourself Ms Sciuto."
"No castle." Ziva said firmly. "And we are not here to talk about weddings, we are meeting with our midwife and creating a birth plan, stay on topic."
"Tony, what about writing a poem for Ziva?" McGee suggested over lunch in the breakroom. "Instead of vows?"
"I'll give you a poem, McBard. There once was a man from Nantucket... ugh!" Gibbs appeared precisely on time to apply a swift hand to the back of his skull.
"A horse drawn carriage?" Tony echoed, looking at the paper Abby slapped in front of him.
"Yup." Abby nodded enthusiastically. "Ziva loves horses."
"Yeah, but horses don't exactly like me." He shuddered, remembering.
"Gotta stop letting 'em know you're afraid DiNozzo. Grab your gear."
"All I'm saying is if you use the air-conditioning and add a humidifier in your study to mimic the climate of spring, you could grow your own California poppies for Ziva's bouquet in time for the wedding. They have one of the shortest germination periods." Tim explained. "I could set the whole thing up with a thermostat and a timer so you wouldn't have to do anything."
"And have the neighbours thinking I'm growing something else? Pass." Tony bent down to place a yellow numbered card beside another blood spatter. "Get that McSnapshot."
"If you get married outdoors, instead of confetti we could throw rice." Abby suggested, relieving Ziva of the tub of evidence she'd just delivered. "Way more environmentally friendly."
"Isn't throwing rice supposed to bring fertility?" Ziva questioned. "I do not think that is something we need much help with, do we ahava?" She glanced down with a smile.
"You do have that bit covered pretty well." Abby conceded with a grin.
"Hey Ziva, Breena found this amazing lady on Etsy who makes custom wedding lingerie and garter belts..."
"Absolutely not, and if you think about my underwear again, you will not live to see my wedding, much less your own." Catching the look in her eyes, Jimmy beat a hasty retreat, leaving Ducky and Ziva to discuss the latest victim.
"Omigosh Zivvie I just had the best idea..." Abby sped into the squadroom. "If you wait till October the leaves will change and..."
"Whatever it is, no." Tony met her halfway, seized her elbow and hurried them both in the opposite direction as Ziva cursed at her computer in Hebrew. "Mood swing" he mouthed.
"I heard that, Tony!"
"How, how did she hear that?" He winced. "We need chocolate and tech support, stat! Where's McGee?"
"I'll get the chocolate, McGee's in the men's room." Abby fled for her lab and stash of desk treats.
"What about a photo montage during the reception?" Abby thrust the knife into the dummy experimentally and cocked her head evaluating the shape of the wound. "Nope."
"We're thinking more about dinner and dancing than a big presentation." Ziva took her turn with a new weapon and studied it critically. "The puncture is still wrong - try the kitchen scissors."
"Okay, just your baby photos on display then?" Abby swung, driving the point of the scissors in deeply. "I could totally use a program to combine the two and work out what Baby Tiva might look like."
"That is much closer." Ziva replied thoughtfully.
"You like that idea?" Abby turned to look at her friend in surprise.
"No, the shape of the wound, those blades are designed to come apart, yes? Try just one and aim downwards." Ziva moved to stand behind Abby, popping the shears into their separate parts and adjusting her arm for a different strike angle. "The baby photos are not happening."
"You need to think outside the box when it comes to wedding cakes." Jimmy insisted eagerly. "Choose something unexpected like carrot cake and cream cheese frosting." Ziva turned visibly green at the thought, something about the texture of cream cheese, which she usually loved, was utterly nauseating. "That's a no then."
"Yeah I'd say that's a no Gremlin." Tony wandered over to Gibbs' area, searching for the box of crackers he expected to find. "Breathe, Ziva. I'm looking."
"Food aversion DiNozzo, apples work better." Gibbs ordered as he strode through, tossing said fruit at her in passing. "Get the hell outta my desk."
"How did you...?" He glanced over at Ziva, her face returning to its usual shade and shrugged gratefully. Trust Gibbs to have noticed what Ziva reached for based on what triggered her now far less frequent nausea, and to have predicted this totally unexpected bout, she had eaten cream cheese for breakfast literally that morning. "Thanks, Boss."
"Keep your eyes peeled, McRomantic." They'd been staking out the small convenience store for hours, and Tim had been full of suggestions.
"Yeah I am. But what if, when you get to the kiss at the end..."
"You leave kissing Ziva to me. Perp at your 4 o'clock, let's roll."
"I just find it hard to believe that you don't have any ideas, Ziva. I mean, don't most women..."
"Choose your next words very carefully, McGee." She warned.
"C'mon Ziva, you're literally pregnant." He pointed out. "Kind of hard to not think of you as female right now."
"That may be true, but I am still not 'most women.'" She added air quotes and heavy sarcasm.
"Right, sorry." He turned back towards the large glass wall that separated them from Interrogation. "You know I just want you guys to have an amazing wedding - right?"
"Yes, Tim. Thank you."
"You know something you do want!" Abby exclaimed. She'd cornered Ziva outside the lab for a wedding update. In the 10 minutes that Abby had been talking, Ziva had vetoed wearing a veil, Pachelbel's Canon in D, and both a dove and/or butterfly release.
"Not really, Abby." Ziva shook her head.
"But I've been designing and redesigning my wedding dress since I was like 16!" Abby persisted. "Surely you must have had some ideas?"
"At 16 I was learning how to dress to conceal the weapons I carried." Ziva explained. "A wedding was the furthest thing from my future at that point."
"Right, sorry." She apologised. "But you're going to have to make some choices soon. You've only chosen like the most popular time of year to have a wedding. So many venues are already going to be booked out! Did you know they can book two or even three years in advance? Then there's florists and caterers and a band, and dress making can take months."
"We will not be getting married in months, Abby. Just a few weeks." Ziva reminded her. "I still want to be able to see my feet."
"Exactly! This is why you have to get something done." She pushed a stack of brochures into Ziva's hands. "Tim and I were over in Sterling on the weekend, and I picked these up for you. Just try and find a venue. Once you know that, everything else will fall into place."
"I will look them over with Tony tonight." Ziva promised. "I need to go, I was supposed to be in autopsy, collecting something for Gibbs."
"Okay, call me the second you make any kind of decision!" Abby called after her.
In Autopsy, Jimmy had much the same idea, greeting her enthusiastically and offering her a book of fabric swatches for dresses.
"Thanks Jimmy." Ziva tucked the loose brochures from Abby inside to keep it all bundled together.
"There's cards for a couple of really great wedding planners in there too." He added "I know that you and Tony probably want to do a lot of it yourself, but having someone professional to organise it all really helps things fall into place."
"Ziva, here are the records Jethro asked for." Ducky joined them a moment later, handing over a manilla folder, catching sight of the bundle in her hands. "Ahh I see Mr Palmer has beaten me to the punch, I wanted to lend you a book, I know how much you value carefully chosen words. Perhaps some of the ones in this will provide inspiration for your ceremony." So saying, he placed an elegant leather bound book of poetry on top of the pile she already held.
"Thank you, Ducky." Ziva repeated. "Although, we have not even begun to plan anything."
"The best place to start is at the beginning." He offered sagely. "Once you have begun, the rest will follow naturally, or, as Mr Palmer suggested, fall into place."
"So far the only things we know are what we do not want." Ziva laughed.
"Sometimes the process of elimination is the first step." The ME replied with a gentle smile. "Go, before Jethro comes looking. I can tell Abby has already waylaid you."
Thankful she could use the elevator again regardless of who she shared it with, Ziva made her way back upstairs, delivering the folder to Gibbs' desk. Tony and McGee were out interviewing witnesses and it had been the two of them all morning, maintaining an easy silence, both with their own work to do.
"Took your time." He grumbled as she handed over the documents.
"Abby, Palmer and Ducky all felt I needed wedding planning advice." Ziva explained with a sigh. "I cannot go anywhere in this building without being given another pamphlet. Sometimes I wonder who is more invested in the wedding."
"Can't blame 'em, been a long time coming." Gibbs shrugged. "So's that report come to think of it."
"Yes, Gibbs." She took the hint and returned to her desk.
With the first round of offerings declined, Abby, McGee and Palmer felt it was time to up their game:
"Croquembouche!" Jimmy announced, dropping some kind of home and kitchen magazine on Tony's desk. "It's spectacular, it already comes in portions and no..." he dropped his voice, even though Ziva was elsewhere, "cream cheese."
"Gotta be a corpse for you to talk to Palmer?" Gibbs hinted.
"Sorry Agent Gibbs. But Breena and I found this last night, and if we hadn't already paid the deposit for our wedding cake..."
"He means leave, Gremlin. And take the magazine. Custard's just as offensive as cream cheese right now." Tony thrust the shiny pages back into his hand.
"Ziva, I was reading about this amazing retreat in the Appalachians with accommodation and a day spa I was reading about online. It turns out they let you book the whole venue for a weekend and they have a function room and incredible on-site catering."
"Why are you reading about day spas online McMasseuse?" Tony interrupted, hanging up his desk phone.
"You know Tony, sometimes women want more than classic movie marathons for dates." Tim informed him with a smug grin. "You'd be surprised how much they enjoy actual romance." He shot a wink at Ziva who smirked in return.
"I'm plenty romantic, McGeek. Tell him Ziva." Tony protested.
"Tony, last night we tried to pick a paint colour for the nursery and then you compared me to a planet. A little romance would not go astray." Ziva reminded him, and McGee tried and failed to stifle a laugh. It had been intended to be a compliment, something about the beauty of creating life, but had gotten away from him and ended up sounding like he was just poking fun at her steadily increasing roundness. "It sounds lovely Tim, and maybe Abby and I will take a weekend sometime, but I cannot imagine Gibbs at a day spa!"
"They can be very relaxing with the right company, Ziva. The rest of you, gear up!"
"Oh good you're both here. I have another idea for you." Jimmy stood between Tony and Ziva's desks, beaming. "No more food suggestions I promise." He added, seeing their dubious faces.
"Yes?" Ziva leaned her chin on her fist. The distraction from a long list of leads was welcome, even if the suggestion itself was less so.
"I found this amazing restaurant in Baltimore. They do murder mystery events, and they'll work a wedding into the script, so you could get married as part of the evening."
"We've got our own murder mystery right here, Palmer." Tony gestured at the plasma.
"Oh right, maybe not such a good choice." He acknowledged sheepishly. "Well if you don't like that, they do bank robberies and there's this other place that does a train holdup..."
"Thank you, but no." Ziva cut in. "We spend enough time with crime without making it a central part of our wedding."
"Well, if you're sure..." Jimmy began doubtfully.
"We're sure!" They answered in unison.
"Okay, I know you nixed the rice idea, but what about bubbles?" Abby met Ziva in the lab doorway with a tiny bubble wand. "You give all of your guests bottles of bubble mix, you can even get them personalised, and everyone can blow bubbles when you and Tony walk back down the aisle."
"Are we planning a wedding or a child's birthday party?" Ziva questioned dubiously.
"Try it!" Abby held the wand in front of Ziva's mouth. With an eye roll, she obliged, blowing a series of tiny rainbow hued bubbles.
"It is cute." Ziva admitted. "But cute is not exactly the vibe I want at my wedding, Abby."
"So I guess balloons are out too?" Abby asked with a grin.
"A champagne tower could be fun, you know where they build a pyramid of glasses and pour it into the top one till it overflows?"
"Mr Palmer, you know that Ziva cannot imbibe at present." Ducky reminded his assistant impatiently. "And do try to stay on task, those drawers will not restock themselves."
"Thank you Ducky." Ziva sighed. "Now, let me see that tattoo - you thought it was in Arabic?"
"Now that you can't go anywhere, you have to hear me out on this." Abby declared as Ziva lay back on the hospital bed, while Eleanor prepared her belly for the major anatomy scan. "You're getting married in the fall - what about a barn wedding with hayrides?"
"Again with the horses, Abs?" Tony questioned from his position on the other side of Ziva. "You already know how I feel about that."
"It's like Gibbs said, you've just gotta stop letting them know you're scared of them." Abby reminded him.
"I am not..." Tony began hotly, ready to defend his reputation.
"Yes you are Tony, but quiet." Ziva interrupted, sharing an eye roll with the doctor. "Look at that." Eleanor turned the screen towards the trio and any further bickering fell silent.
"That is way cooler than a hayride." Abby murmured.
"Karaoke! You've got a great voice, Ziva!" Abby announced. "I know it's not exactly traditional, but it's fun!"
"No!" Four voices spoke at once, McGee and Gibbs chiming in as well
"Guess we'll save that for the hen's night." Abby shrugged.
"Still no!" Ziva called after her as she headed back downstairs.
"So, have you two actually done any wedding planning yet?" McGee asked across the bullpen. "Please tell me there's something. Abby's driving me crazy over it. you should have heard her in the car this morning. She's starting to think you don't actually want to get married, watch out for an Ab-tervention Ziva."
"Not a thing, McBest Man." Tony replied, smirking. "Haven't even set a date." The same evening he'd re-proposed to Ziva, as McGee had crouched, scene camera in hand he'd thrown out a casual "so you going to return the favour?" thus installing him as best man. Ziva had asked Abby equally simply, leaving a Caf-Pow! with a Post-It stating "Maid of Honour?" on it in the Lab while she and McGee had taken lunch together. Abby had made the stairs in record time that day, and had almost knocked Ziva clean off her feet with the running hug of acceptance.
"We are considering a few local venues, but haven't had a chance to visit them in person." Ziva put in. The 'I don't hate it' pile had been moderately useful. Even as she glanced across at Tim, her fingers kept moving on the keys, her muscle memory now taking over. "It will mostly depend on availability. Abby has warned me how popular September weddings are."
"But there are so many decisions to make! You need to have at least a date set to send out Save The Date cards." Tim pointed out; his and Abby's had gone out just a couple of days earlier. "There's this amazing website with heaps of suggestions, look." He beckoned them both over to his workspace.
"Floral arrangements?" Tony questioned as Tim scrolled.
"Table centrepieces?" Ziva read aloud.
"Artistic napkin folding?" They announced together, sharing an amused and slightly terrified glance.
"Yeah, the easiest way is to pick a theme for the wedding." McGee explained. "You know, Abby and I are using winter and Christmas to inspire us, and Jimmy and Breena have chosen this big kitschy effect."
"I thought the theme was getting married?" Ziva queried, as she laid a hand on her belly, responding to the tiny thumps from within. "You are awake now, hmm?" She added in a low whisper.
"Right?" Tony agreed, reaching toward her hopefully; although she was officially halfway along hitting 20 weeks that morning, their midwife had assured him it could be as long as another six weeks before he'd be able to notice anything himself.
"Once you have a theme, everything else falls into place. Choosing colours and flowers and everything becomes easier. Abby and I are having a table centrepiece made from pine cones, mistletoe, poinsettia and holly - all winter plants." McGee continued earnestly.
"Sounds prickly." Tony laughed. "Like a porcu-swine." He grinned sideways at Ziva.
"Don't tease him, Tony." Her face was straight, but the amusement was audible in her tone. "It sounds beautiful, Tim, and very romantic."
"Exactly, a wedding is a celebration. It needs to be..." He trailed off as his desk phone rang. "Hiya, Abs? On the way. She wants help with that laptop we took from the apartment. Keep looking though guys, see if you have any ideas." He hung up the phone and threaded his way between them enroute to the lab.
"This is... a lot." Ziva slid into McGee's recently vacated chair to scroll further. "Floral arches... cummerbunds... the shoe game? What is that?"
"Yikes." Tony pointed to an enormous bridal party wearing dresses that could only qualify as Pepto-Bismol pink. "I mean I want to marry you..."
"But not like this." Ziva finished firmly. "There's so much to weddings that is just... too much."
"Yup," Tony agreed. "Weird uncles who make inappropriate toasts."
"Rubber chicken, enhanced by cheap wine." Ziva sighed.
"Cheesy music, bad dancing, rental tuxedos." He continued in response.
"The bouquet, the garter, the cake, the..." She enlarged a photo of an elaborate multi-tiered wedding cake with a grimace. It looked more like a frilly doll dress than something edible.
"The fittings?" Tony mentioned with a groan. "McGee's got me booked for those already."
"The fittings!" Ziva agreed. "The fittings... I'm not even to the actual ceremony yet."
"Hmm..." Tony leaned over her shoulder to open a photo of a couple standing before a celebrant. "The vows..."
"The ring." She said thoughtfully, reaching for his left hand as he braced himself on the desk, his own ring finger as yet unadorned.
"The kiss." Taking advantage of the empty bullpen he pressed his lips to the top of his head.
"The ketubah." Ziva added, feeling the way Tony tensed for the expected Gibbs slap. "He is still in Vance's office, I think."
"I don't even know what one of those is." Tony shrugged. "But I also don't even know what I'd do if I had to deal with most of that."
"Elope?" Ziva suggested with a laugh, leaning her head back into his chest.
"The hell you will, Ziva, and quit playing grab-ass." Gibbs dropped a stack of papers on her desk. "French translation, the woman who usually does it is out sick. Vance sent it down, wants it ASAP."
"Oui bien sur, tout de suite." She smirked, crossing back to her chair. Yes of course, right away.
"DiNozzo! Get back to work." Gibbs called a moment later. Tony had kept scrolling the website, now studying a bewildering array of place card designs.
"Sorry boss, just some of these ideas for weddings are... never mind, getting back to work." Tony shook himself out of his daze, returning to his own seat. "Maybe we should just do the courthouse thing after all, Zi."
"Maybe." Ziva replied, eyes already on the papers.
"No one's saying you have to do any of it." Gibbs murmured almost to himself after a few minutes of silent work.
"Que veux-tu dire?" Ziva asked, still focused on the French pages in front of her. "Sorry Gibbs, what do you mean?" She translated.
"Think about what really counts to you two. All that stuff..." He jerked his head towards McGee's computer, "It's just trimming."
"That might be some of the most useful advice anyone's had to offer, thanks Boss." Tony said. "You know, traditionally, the bride's father is supposed to be the one who foots the bill..."
"Pushing your luck DiNozzo." His boss growled. "Shut up and work."
"What's a ketubah?" Tony asked later in the evening. Ziva was curled into 'her' corner of the couch, a cup of tea in one hand, and a book about pregnancy and birth balanced on her lap, and generally oblivious to the world. They'd started out watching a movie together, but she'd quickly lost interest, returning to her reading.
"Hmm?" She questioned vaguely, turning the page.
"Sometimes I miss the crazy chick who used to read GSM at her desk." Tony laughed. "Earth to Ziva... what's got you so fascinated that you decided to ignore Bogie and Bergman?"
"First, we read GSM together in bed. Second, I wanted to finish the paragraph on breastfeeding." Ziva replied with a sip of tea. "Finally, I have seen Casablanca more times than I have been alive in years by now."
"Oh yeah, I hadn't thought about that." He admitted. "Guess she'll need to eat."
"Well, I did not end up with these purely for your amusement." She tugged the strap of her pyjama top with a suggestive smirk, turning her eyes back to the last few sentences.
"Shame," He eyed her appreciatively. "I rather like them."
"I noticed." She remarked dryly, tucking a bookmark into the pages and setting the book aside. "What did you want?"
"You said something about a ketubah, what's that?" Tony repeated. "Not really up with Jewish wedding traditions."
"A ketubah is a marriage contract of sorts." Ziva explained. "Traditionally it outlined the expectations of the marriage, particularly the husband's role in providing for his wife. There could also be financial aspects, if anything had been paid to the bride's family, or how much is owed if he files for divorce."
"Not paying Gibbs a cent for you, he already owns my soul." Tony laughed. "But the rest of it sounds kind of like a prenup... this a roundabout way of asking for one?"
"No, no there is no need for that." She shook her head, and wrinkled her nose with distaste at the idea. "The concept has been adapted to suit modern couples. It has become more like a promise to each other, a reminder of the foundation they built their marriage upon."
"That doesn't sound so bad." He said thoughtfully. "Could we write it ourselves?"
"Yes. We could have it say exactly what we want." She nodded. "I would like to have one with you."
"How kosher are we talking, Zi? Like, little hats and a rabbi?" Tony questioned motioning to the top of his head. "You're the one with the traditions and faith, DiNozzo weddings are all about the party afterwards, rubber chicken and all."
"No kippah, no rabbi." She replied. "Whatever we choose to do, it should be something we both understand and both want to be doing."
"So no save the date cards and fancy napkins?" Ziva shook her head emphatically in response. "Hey, is that the pomegranate one?" He motioned to her cup with a sheepish grin.
"I will not tell McGee how much you like it." Ziva rolled her eyes and handed over the remaining drink with a laugh. "There are a handful of elements I would like to use from my heritage, the ketubah being one of them. But not a full Jewish ceremony, and definitely no fancy napkins. What's important to you?"
"You." He said simply. "We could get married in our pyjamas in the basement, Zi. As long as I end up getting to call you my wife, I don't mind."
"I have never wanted a big wedding either." Ziva admitted. "Just for it to mean something to us... but maybe I would wear something a little nicer than my pyjamas!"
"Guess that's what the Bossman was on about, find what counts." He mused softly, leaning forward to deposit the now empty teacup on the table, before tucking an arm around her. "Kinda wish they'd all back off though. It's getting to be a lot. Did you know McGee actually suggested I write you a poem instead of vows?"
"I will spare you some of Abby's more fanciful ideas." Ziva laughed. "It is because they are our family, they're excited for us, and we are not exactly being very productive about getting married."
"It's only been two weeks, Zi." Tony said placatingly. "We have loads of time."
"Only about eight weeks until my feet disappear." She reminded him, "If you want to dance with me, I feel as though still seeing my feet is a requirement. We do need to decide something eventually."
"We already did, we're having a ketubah." He pointed out with a grin. "I'm totally on board with that."
"Then that is the first thing." Ziva responded with a smile, cuddling in a little closer. "Perhaps now, as everyone keeps insisting things will fall into place."
"The only place I want to fall into right now is bed." Tony yawned. "What the heck is in that tea?"
"It is good to help you relax, but it is not that powerful Tony. You being tired has more to do with the way you decided I should skip my run this morning... Not that I am complaining." She added with a satisfied sigh. "But if you feel like that, we had better go upstairs so you can braid my hair before you pass out on me."
"You know, I'm sorry I didn't do your hair the first night you got back." He dragged himself upright, and offered his hand as Ziva unfurled her legs. "I missed it as much as anything else." Two years and some since the first time he'd done her hair for sleeping (and coincidentally the same amount of time since they'd had their first major fight) hadn't lessened the importance of their pre-bed ritual to either of them.
"But you did the second night. That's when I knew you truly believed I was home." Ziva gathered her phone and book, leading the way up the stairs as Tony shut down the TV and lights.
"Yeah, you're home. Still not enough words for how good that feels." He followed her up, and they went through their bathroom routine in contented silence.
"Ahuvi..." Ziva said thoughtfully, sitting between his splayed legs as he worked on her hair a few minutes later. "I think that what counts, most of all, is that we are in our home, together. Why else have we both refused anything outside of DC?" There'd always been a reason, however flimsy; too gaudy, too small, too big, not big enough, too tacky, reminded Tony of a horror movie, even something as small as noticing a typo, but somehow every venue that was not within DC itself had made its way to the 'I hate it' pile.
"You're channelling Dorothy Gale now, Zi?" Tony questioned, tying off the braid, and drawing her back against his chest so he could wrap his arms around her. "There's no place like home, there's no place like home..."
"The baby is kicking exactly where your left hand is." She whispered, cutting him off. "But yes; DC is our home, the team is our family - everything they have suggested is bigger than the little world we have created. I think the whole reason we have not made any decisions is because we are thinking too far from the places and the people we love the most."
"Zi, everything we do is big. Big surprises, big cases, big announcements, there's always some kind of drama when we move to the next stage of our relationship." He said with a laugh, rubbing his thumb over the spot she mentioned. "Even our fights are big. Are you saying we go small this time?"
"That is exactly what I am saying Tony." She tipped her head back to make what counted for eye contact in the awkward position. "Small and intimate. Somewhere nearby with just the people who were there when you proposed, and your father of course. Keep it about the people who are most important to us."
"Home and family... that sounds an awful lot like a theme to me. You're a wise woman, Ziva David." He kissed her head. "Or should I say Ziva Maybe-DiNozzo. Have you made up your mind for sure?"
"Not yet." He felt the way she shrugged against his chest. "I like the idea that all three of us will share a name, but I do not feel right letting go of David entirely."
"Hmmm..." Tony hummed thoughtfully against her hair. "David DiNozzo, DiNozzo David... What if both of us have both names?"
"I thought you wanted to stay DiNozzo?" She questioned. "And I do not want a hyphen."
"Yeah, we did say that when we were talking about surnames. But I think I have a better plan." He nudged her off his chest gently. "So you know how Grandpa DiNozzo Trumanned my Dad?"
"Trumanned?" Ziva echoed, moving to her own pillow and settling on her side to face him. Her growing belly meant extra pressure on her hips when she lay on her side, but having her top leg bent and raised slightly at the knee relieved it; it was an accommodation Tony was happy to make, and he rolled too, automatically canting his own leg forward to provide the necessary support.
"You know, Harry S Truman, our 33rd President? He didn't have a middle name, just the letter S. Surely you know this Little Miss Citizenship Test. It's the same with Dad, Anthony D DiNozzo." Tony waited till her face showed understanding. "Then it repeated again when Dad decided he should make me Junior. And you don't even have a letter, you're just Ziva David."
"I know what my birth certificate says Tony." Her voice grew a little impatient.
"Okay, so we have a middle name that isn't really a middle name, and no middle name at all." He gestured between them respectively. "Then there's the bit where you call me neshama, and it kind of means a part of each other is that right?"
"In the most simple explanation, yes. You are part of me, and I am part of you." She tucked her arm up under her head. "What are you getting at? I thought you were tired?"
"That was before you inspired me, I do my best work at night, you know." Tony reminded her with a smirk. "So, why don't you take DiNozzo, and then we both add David as our middle name? No hyphens."
"You would do that?" Ziva asked slowly, sounding like she didn't quite believe him. "Even with all that David represents?"
"It represents you, Zi. Yeah, I would. And then I'll spend the rest of my life saying "It's LeviOsa, not LevioSA", because no one says David right the first time." He assumed his best British accent and grinned, pleased with the attempt, before growing serious. "You'd have my name, and I have yours, and then we really will have part of each other all the time."
"Neshama is more metaphorical than physical, you know Tony." She reminded him. "An emotional or spiritual connection? It means soul after all."
"Yeah, but I like the idea anyway." He gave a little shrug. "If you're okay with it, I'd like for us to do that."
"As you like to say about everything, that is huge." She said softly. "Are you sure?"
"You're changing your entire name, I'm just adding some extra letters." He shrugged lightly. "Look, I love that you're thinking about becoming Mrs DiNozzo, but I don't want either of us to forget where you came from. It works all the way around; middle names don't show up anywhere but passports and licences, so David isn't going to be the first thing anyone associates with you anymore, but it's still there to remind us, and the only people who do get it know you are so much more than a name. You get to keep your link to Tali and Rivka this way too, because I know that's what you've been stuck on about making your mind up for real."
"And you say I am the mind reader." She told him with an amused glance. "You are right, as much as I do not want to carry Eli's name anymore, it is also Tali's, and my mother's, and to change my name completely felt like I was letting go of them too."
"This way you don't have to, but you get to add the distance you want. Not to mention, the extra letters I'd be adding are A-V-I-D. Avid. It means a strong interest or enthusiasm about something. That something would be you. It's the perfect answer, Zi." He finished, proud of not only the solution he'd provided, but his wordplay.
"Okay. I like it." She agreed simply. "When we are married, we will both have David as a middle name. That is the third thing we've agreed on now."
"And all in one night too! We're on a roll." Tony said proudly. "Abby's going to explode when we tell her."
"Or cry with relief." Ziva added with a small laugh. "Can we sleep now?"
"Yeah, go build your pillow fort." Tony smirked. It was hardly a fort, just a pillow under her belly and one between her knees, but he found it amusing anyway, and she tolerated his humour about this far more kindly than any nausea-related topics. "Hey, Ziva?" He murmured into the dark a few minutes later.
"Yes Tony?" Now suitably nestled on her other side and comfortable, Ziva's voice was thick with fast approaching sleep.
He curled himself warmly around her back, threw an arm over her waist and found her hand to twine their fingers. "I can't wait to finish planning this wedding with you."
"Mmm-hmm." Ziva agreed sleepily. "It is much easier now that we have started saying yes."
"Let's keep saying yes then." He murmured against her neck.
"Yes." She agreed again, drifting into sleep.
It turned out saying yes was a lot easier after that. They set a date and chose a venue the very next morning.
A/N: Yes, I stole their talk from 9x24, but I did change the line about kids. Tony was awkward with (read: monstrously uncool and somewhat awkward) but not terrified of kids at first, the whole child-phobia thing was retconned, so I'm sticking with what I saw first.
Pomegranate has a high level of magnesium which is good for promoting healthy sleep and relaxation. No it's not an immediate sedative, but of course Tony would blame the tea rather than any physical fault that would make him sleepy. (Yes, Tony and McGee both like Ziva's pomegranate tea and are scared of the other one ribbing them if they found out.)
Dorothy Gale, comes from the Wizard of Oz, while the LeviOsa/LevioSA quote is from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
Once again I scoured the corners of the internet to determine if Tony's middle name is ever revealed and came up blank. I feel like if he had one, he would have a) absolutely hated it, b) tried to keep it secret and c) had Gibbs or Senior totally bust his cover. So I've gone with the Truman explanation (however, Truman himself did not become president till Senior was 5 years old)
Changes to canon for anyone who needs a refresher:
Seasons 1-6 and the character's backstories, including the engagement with Wendy, Jeanne Benoit, Gibbs' many marriages, and S1McAbby.
Kate, Jenny and Mike Franks are all dead per canon
Michael Rivkin arc/Somalia captivity rescue
Jimmy & Breena are together (but I tweaked their timeline so that all 3 weddings are being planned simultaneously)
Ducky's mother passed away in S7.
Orli & Eli's affair being the reason Eli & Rivka David separated and Ziva's animosity towards her
Orli becoming Mossad Director on Eli's death
Not canon/AU/altered timeline:
Tiva & McAbby being together at all
The date and manner of Eli's death, approximately 12 months earlier than canon
Ziva still gets pregnant in Israel after Eli's death - but everything that follows is AU. She also inherits a large (undisclosed) amount of money from Eli's estate.
Ducky did not sell Mallard Manor immediately after Victoria's passing.
CI-Ray never existed. Even before they turned him into the bad guy, I just wasn't on board with his character.
Jimmy and Breena's wedding is taking place in October instead of May, purely for the joy of having three weddings being planned simultaneously.
Harper Dearing, the explosion at NCIS and subsequently Ducky's heart attack have not taken place.
Rule 12 has gone up in flames.
Jackie Vance lives
Delilah does not exist (I am actually a huge McLilah fan, but I hadn't seen her in the show when I began writing this series, so now we have to roll with what I set up.)
More open acknowledgement of Team Gibbs as family between the members. It is mostly the same relationships per canon, Gibbs as the father, the team as siblings with a (rough) birth order of Tony, Abby, Tim, and Ziva, but it is played on and spoken about more obviously in this verse. Ducky and Jimmy have their own special father/son type connection, and a subsequent uncle/weird but loveable cousin role to the central unit.
Hopefully I can finish writing the wedding up sooner rather than later and you can all enjoy your romantic Tiva-goodness!
Much love, M xx
Chapter 2: Shenanigans
So happy to see some subscribers and bookmarks happening already! I'm really glad you're continuing to follow the story. Thanks for your support.
Ace_luce, great to have you back as a reader again.
As always - enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Hey Ziva, bet you can't throw McGee anymore." Tony called across the gym. In between midwife appointments, wedding planning, and meetings with contractors after they decided to finish the basement in a kind of second living room/spare bedroom arrangement, work life for Tony and Ziva continued much as normal.
Ziva's combat training was now limited to solo punching bag work and critiquing McGee's form. Given his naturally gentle demeanour and the fact he'd been more or less afraid to spar with her even before she got pregnant, Gibbs had conceded there was no harm in letting her provide him with a few pointers to improve his stance and defensive technique, with very strict rules of play. They'd spent the last while throwing punches standing more than an arms' length apart so he never actually hit her, Ziva only coming close enough for contact after his arm was at extension, when she stepped forward to show where he'd hit or more often the expected defence from an opponent.
Meanwhile, Gibbs and Tony had been getting in some version of boxing practice, mostly Tony goofing off and getting his butt handed to him whenever he got too cocky. Gibbs however was content enough to let this arrangement stand, for one Tony could already hold his own well enough if things came to blows on the field, secondly McGee would learn better without Tony's commentary and Tony had already deliberately unnerved McGee on the way down to the gym with a reminder not to hurt Ziva or the baby. If kicking his senior field agent's backside was enough to keep him distracted, it was a sacrifice Gibbs was willing to make.
"I could still throw you Tony, and you are 40 pounds heavier than he is." She called back, catching McGee's wrist and raising her right knee to his midsection, stopping short before actually landing the blow. If he couldn't strike, neither could she. "You are still leaving yourself too open. Keep your elbow in." She let him go, demonstrating the stance again.
"Hey! More like fifteen... 20 tops." Tony argued, watching her move. "You're shifting your left foot every time you lift that knee. Your balance is off."
"Ziver?" Gibbs put in. "You better not be taking any risks over there."
"My balance is fine." She replied with confidence. The bulk of her weight had shifted as she'd grown, but she was adjusting rapidly, the opportunity to play fight with McGee at such a safe pace helped her learn her new limits too. "Go again McGee, block it. Yes, better!" His defensive position had improved, and her knee connected lightly with his elbow.
"You call it the second you're not sure." The warning was directed at McGee as much as Ziva. She stepped back again, nodded at him to repeat the action.
"Never more than a step away, Boss." McGee promised. "You know I'd catch you right?" He added in an undertone when she was back in his space again.
"Of course you would. But I will not fall." She stepped clear, gave him the ok, and repeated the action one more time. This time he pushed back with his elbow when she tried to knee him, not hard enough to throw her off, but enough to demonstrate the defensive action that should follow. "Yes, exactly. Good." Ziva nodded with satisfaction. With Gibbs' words still fresh in his mind, McGee extended his other arm to spot Ziva as she dropped her foot back to the mat.
"Nice work McGee." Gibbs acknowledged, watching the final run through. "Different when the person attacking you is actually trying to land it though."
"His technique is improving." Ziva turned to face the others. "When he is not afraid of the person he is fighting with, he will do fine." She shoved him playfully as he passed in search of his water, and he shot her a friendly glare.
"I'm not afraid..." The others all scoffed simultaneously. "Okay, maybe I am. Thanks for the tips anyway, Ziva."
"Anytime." She headed over to one of the punching bags to aim a few harder blows just for the sake of expending the energy, and tried the same knee manoeuvre she'd used on McGee at higher speed. It wasn't about preparing to fight anymore, but staying active and in control of her body against the rapid changes pregnancy brought on. Gibbs crossed quickly to keep an eye on her, under the guise of steadying the bag while she laid into it. Her foot did shift as Tony had said, but not unsteady, just trying to become aware of her new centre of gravity as instinctively as she had in the past. "Gibbs, I'm fine." He responded with a look that plainly said he was not going anywhere.
"You still look wobbly." Tony tossed at her with a cocky grin, slumping himself onto a bench against the wall. "No way could you drop me now."
"Come over here and say that." Ziva challenged. "The winner will choose our first dance song." A little over two weeks away, it was just the small details that needed to be finalised. Their first dance being one of them; they'd agreed to go old school, Tony angling for My One and Only Love, Ziva voting for Can't Help Falling In Love after it had been playing on the radio at their favourite diner, and Tony had insisted on dancing with her right there, purely to amuse himself and their favourite server, even with the other patrons watching.
"Oh that's my kind of deal. Coltrane here we come." Tony jumped to his feet, and approached the mat.
"Not on my watch DiNozzo." Gibbs cut in. "I don't want your bruised ego sulking around the office all afternoon after she lays you out. Ziva, stand down and go get ready for that talk Vance wants you at." They both groaned, Tony at the suggestion Ziva would beat him, Ziva at the reminder that she had to speak to a bunch of high school students.
"Because a pregnant agent on desk duty is such a good incentive to join NCIS." She grumbled. Vance had scheduled NCIS to speak at a number of career days with local high schools, and assigned Ziva as the representative. "I hate public speaking."
"It shows it's possible to create a work and family balance, and that skills can be transferred. McGee offered. "A lot of federal agencies have a bad reputation when it comes to that, and rightly so. You're kind of paving the way here."
"Hmm." she sounded entirely unconvinced, and threw a couple more punches to relieve her feelings.
"Speaking of balance," Tony started again, coming up behind her and making a show of steadying her hips. "You're still off centre, preggo."
"Flatten him, Ziver." Gibbs met Ziva's eyes with a nod. She did just that, seizing Tony's arms from her waist, pushing herself back till he was off balance, and using his own weight to create the momentum to slam him not too hard but precisely hard enough into the mat.
"There is nothing wrong with my balance, and do not call me preggo." Ziva stood over him with a proud smile. "I told you I could still throw you."
"No fair, you caught me off guard." Tony groaned, but grinned in spite of himself, it was worth it to see her smile the way she was. "Think my ears are ringing from that."
"That's Gibbs' phone." McGee hurried over before Ziva could offer her own hand to help him up. "Nice work Ziva, looks like you're dancing to Elvis." He pulled Tony to his feet.
"Ninja attacks don't count." He complained, shaking himself out. "Gibbs negated the bet anyway."
"I reinstated it. Ziva wins. Learn when to stop teasing DiNozzo." Gibbs said as he ended the call. "Let's go. Body found wearing a gunnery sergeant uniform downtown. Metro PD took the call."
"Marine?" Tony questioned. Ziva kissed his cheek, murmured a not very apologetic apology and made for the women's showers, ducking to avoid Gibbs' hand for breaking the no kissing on duty rule.
"No ID on the body. That's what we're going to find out, get changed and get the truck. I said change, not shower!" Gibbs called as the men headed towards the bathrooms. "Truck in five minutes, Ducky's already on the way."
"God, I miss having a Probie." Tony groaned several hours later as they returned to NCIS. Naturally, the body had been in a dumpster and a losing rock paper scissors round had seen him in there with Palmer when it came time to extract them. "Oh no... no no no..." He started digging through his desk drawers frantically.
"What is it?" McGee asked, removing the SD card from the scene camera to load the photos.
"I ran out of deodorant last week. There's gotta be a spare here somewhere!" He dug harder.
"Don't you have a go-bag in your car? I'll stall Gibbs if he shows up while you get it." McGee offered.
"Not in Ziva's, we picked up her new ride on the way in this morning. Caught a cab to the dealership - the trunk is still empty." Tony explained, continuing to shuffle items. "That's yours." He hurled a fancy looking pen at his partner.
"I've been looking for that for months!" Tim stooped to pick it up from the floor. "I was going to say you could use my deodorant, but apparently I'll never see it again."
"You have some?" The tone of his voice changed from annoyed to wheedling. "Come on McGee, I'll give it straight back, promise..."
"What have you lost Tony? Oh! Never mind. I know." Ziva had just exited the lift, bags of food in hand. They'd warned her when they were on their way back and given the hour, she'd gone on a preemptive dinner run. Her nose wrinkled when she got close enough to smell him, the sweat from the earlier gym session combined with the dumpster was not a good combination. She dropped the food on her chair and went through her own desk, seeking a nausea tablet, which she swallowed dry. "Here - not that it will help much." She tossed a stick of deodorant at him, followed by a pack of wet wipes.
"Thank you!" Tony sighed with relief, getting to work. "Didn't fancy smelling like Teen Spirit anyway, McCobain."
"I remember a time when you'd have eviscerated him for using your deodorant, Ziva. And when you would have whined all day about smelling like sandalwood, Tony." McGee commented, watching the transfer with a chuckle, and ignoring Tony's barb. Even when they were working professionally, little glimmers of domesticity still shone through in their smaller interactions. "Did you develop an immunity or something?"
"We have shared far worse things than that by now, Tim." Ziva answered nonchalantly. "You'd be surprised what you can tolerate when you are carrying around someone else's genetic material."
"Gross." McGee gagged. "Not before we eat, Ziva."
"Hungry?" She turned back to the food, handed him a serve with a smirk.
"Not with that mental image." Gibbs remarked, arriving promptly as always, but still took the next bag Ziva held out, and traded her for a can of ginger ale. "Or that one, put a damn shirt on DiNozzo."
"Thanks, Gibbs." Ziva took the can and sipped it gratefully. She'd been well for long enough that they'd stopped counting incident free days, and the acupressure bands that Abby had gifted her now lived in her bedside drawer, but the odour that followed Tony into the room had that unpleasantly familiar nausea stirring again.
"Ditto." He responded simply, opening the bag and inspecting the food with a smirk. "Feeling kosher tonight were you?"
"What's on the menu Zi?" Tony swiped the deodorant stick under his arms and threw the wipes in the trash, pulling a new shirt from the cabinet.
"Falafel wraps." Ziva dropped his meal on the desk. "As long as I am the one on the food runs, you are subject to my cravings." She informed them serenely, opening her own food with a look of satisfaction.
"Anything for the stowaway." Tony shrugged, getting stuck in. "The ones you make at home are better, though. Oh, how was career day?" He mumbled around his mouthful.
"So-so." Her tone was noncommittal. "A couple of them asked decent questions about becoming a federal agent, but I suspect they were thinking of the FBI rather than NCIS. More of them were interested in whether or not I have killed a person."
"If you're going to talk, make it about the case." Gibbs interrupted. "What have you got for me?"
"I took a statement from the woman who placed the 911 call already, and she is down with Abby providing a sketch of the man she saw getting into the car that drove away from the scene. I have got a BOLO out on the partial plate she gave me, and when the sketch is ready, I will update that - or if Abby can match the tire impressions you took." Ziva supplied what she had been up to with the information the guys had rung in from the crime scene. Fingerprints had provided no hit, but seeing as the body was in uniform, NCIS had taken jurisdiction until they knew otherwise. "I have spoken to the store that had a camera in that alley, the security footage is on its way. I told them to send it to you, McGee."
"Thanks Ziva." McGee took over "Wasn't a lot in the alley, Boss. We know the victim wasn't killed there - hopefully Abby and Ducky can find something that leads us back to where it happened, not to mention an ID, or at least who the uniform belongs to. He's too young to have made Gunnery Sergeant himself yet. I'm checking traffic cameras based on the time of the call to try and track where the car came from beforehand, or at least get a full plate for the BOLO."
"No hits on missing persons." Tony picked up. "But other than the whole being dead part, the victim looked a bit too clean and well fed to have been missing for long. Maybe no one knows he's gone yet."
"Well, they're about to find out." Gibbs answered his phone. "Yeah, Ducky? On the way. Keep at it." He indicated the computers and scene photos McGee had sent to the plasma on his way out.
"Carrying around my genetic material?" Tony said with a laugh the second their boss was out of earshot. "That's what you call the miracle of life I so generously gave you?"
"What would you prefer I said?" Ziva questioned. "That because you..."
"No!" McGee cut in emphatically. "I'd really rather you didn't say anything else about it. That's too many details as it is!" There was a minute or two of collective laughter
"Okay..." Ziva breathed, sobering. "We should get something done so we have a chance of going home this evening. McGee, send me the footage from the northern traffic cameras, where they exited the alley. I will go over those and try to track it after they dumped the body." She offered in atonement for the humour they'd gained at his expense.
"And what do I get for letting you flatten me in the gym earlier?" Tony asked hopefully, as McGee sent the files to Ziva's computer.
"First of all there was no letting, Tony. You were entirely at my mercy. Secondly, you get to take me home." Ziva finished her dinner, wiped her hands clean and started to load the videos.
"Take you home, or take you home?" He asked, the meaning behind the emphasis all too clear.
"Both if you're lucky." She shot back with a flirty smile.
"What did I say about no more details?" McGee groaned, as they settled down to work.
The case rolled on, the body identified not as a Marine, but a Marine dependent, wearing his father's uniform in an attempt to buy alcohol for his friends without needing ID. Ziva presented at three more schools, her opinion of public speaking unchanged, and the team were treated to two further chickpea-based meals before Tony decided he would do the lunch run, returning with burgers and falafel much to everyone else's relief. A receipt in the uniform pocket allowed them to trace the victim back to a nearby liquor store and eventually CCTV footage of a parking lot fight, the uniform and an earlier successful purchase giving the kid an inflated sense of bravado, ending with an unlucky punch and an unluckier fall on the edge of the footpath, corroborating Ducky's diagnosed caused of death as a massive intracerebral haemorrhage. Gibbs appeared at Casa De Tiva unannounced twice to 'supervise' the contractors Tony and Ziva had hired to work on the basement (still traumatised after kitchen remodelling, he had firmly suggested they outsource this renovation, but that apparently didn't stop him from wanting to know it had been done properly) Abby and Ziva went dress shopping, while Tony pursued McGee in an attempt to discover what had been planned for his bucks' night. Eventually, the other participants in the fight were apprehended, having panicked and dumped the body where it had been found by the woman who'd made the 911 call.
Somehow with much wheedling with the secondary teams, (mostly agreeing to several consecutive weekends on call) Team Gibbs were able to wrangle the last two weekends in September off duty, first for a bachelor party - Ziva was still reluctant to have a hen's - and the second for the wedding itself. A new case saw the week before the pre-wedding celebrations rush past, and before long it was the Friday afternoon, the team gathered in the bullpen, wrapping up for the night.
"Gibbs, tell Ziva she has to let me take her out!" Abby complained, she was seated at Tim's desk, he behind Ziva's finally taking care of that file cleanup he'd threatened to perform some weeks earlier. McGee and Ziva had already finished their paperwork for the night, having started a good natured competition about who could type faster (the answer was still McGee, but only just), and had subsequently finished their reports well before Tony. Now the team gathered, waiting for him to finish before leaving as a group for dinner, the main celebrations due to take place the following day.
"Don't bring Gibbs into this!" Ziva protested, leaning on the edge of her desk. "I do not want a hen's night. I am not in any shape to be dancing until dawn." Now definitely pregnant to look at, she felt more self conscious about her appearance, especially wearing anything that would be suitable for Abby's usual night out.
"Nothing wrong with your shape, bella." Tony added, with a glance upward from his keyboard, before resuming his laborious typing.
"I do not know what the guys have planned, Tony." She warned him with a smile. "You may always give me compliments, but don't expect it to batter me up enough to tell you what is happening."
"Butter." He smirked. "But it's the proverbial last night of freedom, Zi. Go dance on top of a bar or something. Get your Coyote Ugly on."
"I have never once..." She began, Tony raised a questioning eyebrow and she sighed, "Fine, once. But it was to keep cover. I hardly think it would have the same effect now."
"No bartop dancing, I promise Zivvie. And seeing as Baby Tiva means I can't see how many rounds of tequila it takes before you'll let me do a body shot off you..." Abby trailed off as McGee made a noise that suggested he had choked on his own tongue. "You right there, Timmy?" She queried innocently.
"Federal office, Abs." Gibbs reminded her in a low growl.
"Anyway, the point is, I have something planned that is more Ima-to-be friendly. We'll be home by midnight. An all-included day spa package, with lunch, massages, mani-pedis and then, once we're feeling amazing, we're going line dancing!"
"Line dancing?" Ziva echoed incredulously. "As in, country music?"
"Yup." She nodded, "It's upbeat, it's fun, and it's totally baby-bump safe. There's way less stretching than ballet, and it's heaps lower impact than clubbing. It's fine to dress down, you can wear those stretchy jeans you like, comfy boots and a full plaid shirt and you won't look out of place. Plus the classes are ladies only but they're taught by these absolutely gorgeous guys."
"I said no strippers weeks ago, Abby." She reminded her friend dubiously.
"Oh they're clothed." Abby giggled. "But there's enough eye candy to fill a calendar all the same." She opened a link on her phone, crossed to Ziva, showing her the venue she had in mind.
"Well..." She murmured doubtfully, glancing between the phone and Abby's eager face. "Everyone loves a cowboy." She conceded with a sigh.
"That's the spirit, Ziva!" Abby cheered. "You'll love it, I promise." She demonstrated a surprisingly well-practised grapevine step and bumped her hip against Ziva's with another giggle.
"I'm out before I have to fire one of you for inappropriate conduct." Gibbs stood, evidently at his tether with the minimal work taking place, although they were all technically off the clock. "DiNozzo hurry up and get out of here."
"See ya, Boss." Tony lifted a hand in farewell. "Five more minutes ladies." He added, apparently including McGee in that collective.
"Not gonna bail you out if you get arrested." Gibbs warned, before turning to Abby and Ziva. "You girls, call when you get home safe tomorrow night - clear?"
"Worry pimple." Ziva murmured as Gibbs dropped a kiss to her temple.
"Worrywart" Abby corrected, presenting her cheek for the same treatment.
"Brat." Gibbs retorted with audible affection, taking his leave. The women met each other's eyes with an amused, curious glance wondering who it applied to. "Both of you!" He called in clarification from the elevator.
"Come on Tony - type faster." Abby urged. "I'm starving already."
"Hey McGee..." Tony's began cajolingly.
"Nope. Not after you called me a lady - almost done with Ziva's hard drive and I'm clocking off." McGee shook his head. "Please, for my sanity Ziva, delete things occasionally."
"You never know when things will come in useful, McGee." She responded, leaning backwards to raid her desk drawer for a snack to tide Abby over.
"Zi... you're almost as fast..." Tony appealed to Ziva now as opened a pack of peanut butter cups, giving one to Abby. "You'd have it done in like two minutes I swear."
"After the way you made fun of McGee and I for having that competition in the first place? You are on your own this time Tony." She shuffled sideways to allow Abby to prop beside her while they ate.
"So much for matrimonial loyalty." He grumbled, turning back to his screen with a sigh. "Can't believe you'd side with McGeek over your future husband."
"You have eight more days before you can make that claim Tony. Tonight, I believe the applicable saying is 'bros before hos'." Ziva's rebuttal was met with a unanimous shriek of laughter. "Did I get that one wrong?"
"Oh the words were right... but the context..." Tony was actually holding his sides. "I hope you never get any better with American slang my Ninja. I live for these moments."
"But McGee is like my brother, doesn't it mean you should stand by your family first?" Ziva questioned.
"Not exactly, Zivvie." In between further cackles, Abby did her best to untangle the situation while Tony rushed through the last of his report.
A few minutes later, with another slang term added correctly to Ziva's mental lexicon, McGee gave a sigh of relief, pushing the chair back from the desk. "Finished! Thanks for standing up for me... Sis." The hesitation was a second too long and the whole effect was awkward rather than playful. Their eyes met with an uncomfortable grimace. "And I am never going to call you that again." He finished.
"No, please don't." Ziva nodded definitively.
"Wow. Awkward much?" Abby murmured and tucked her hand into his elbow as he joined them on the other side of the desk. "You'd never guess you two are actually fond of each other. In a more unspoken mutual sentiment kind of way." She added with a grin.
"Done!" Ziva and Tim agreed firmly.
"Speaking of done, so am I, no thanks to any of you!" Tony hurriedly tossed a few items in a drawer, creating a vague semblance of organisation on his desk and snatched up his jacket. "Let the celebrations begin!"
Despite her initial reservations, Ziva had to admit that Abby knew how to plan a night out. With Jimmy part of the bachelor party, Breena had joined them making a trio. Knowing Ziva's insecurities about having strangers at her back, Abby had chosen a familiar day spa, with workers Ziva had met before and trusted and the three had spent the early afternoon being thoroughly pampered; Abby talked Ziva into choosing a brilliant turquoise nail polish, while sticking with a classic black herself and Breena opting for a pretty shell pink. The body scrub was by far the highlight in Ziva's eyes buying a jar of the product to take home, and the massage had had all three of them practically asleep on the tables. There'd been a detour to the dress shop, to pick up their outfits for the wedding when Abby's phone had rung partway through a truly sumptuous lunch with the news they were ready to collect, and back to Abby's to get ready for line dancing. Given her enforced teetotal state, Ziva had agreed to drive instead of relying on a taxi, and followed Abby's directions to the bar she'd chosen. She'd always loved to dance, and even though the style was very different from ballet, Abby's enthusiasm and wholehearted participation was infectious, and the upbeat music quickly got her smiling, not to mention Breena's bubbly energy and surprising talent, and before long, Ziva was dancing right along with them, laughing when she tripped on her own feet, and learning the words to new songs, mentally filing the song titles away for kitchen dance sessions. By the time they dragged themselves out of the bar, red-faced from exertion and laughter, Abby and Breena were both definitely unsteady on their feet, Ziva had insisted they didn't need to abstain on her account, and they were all thoroughly exhausted and happy.
"I'll get a cab from here, it's fine!" Breena said as they stumbled across the parking lot, pulling out her phone and fumbling with the lockscreen. "You girls have been the best company tonight!"
"Nope. You're coming home with us, Bree!" Abby argued, leaning against the car. "We're having a sleepover at Casa De Tiva. Tiva is Tony plus Ziva you know... Tony and Ziva sitting in a tree..." She began singing, loudly enough to draw the attention of the bouncer.
"You'd be welcome, or I will drive you home." Ziva offered, silencing Abby with a hand over her mouth. "Whatever you'd prefer... Abby!" Ziva whipped her hand away as Abby licked her palm, and she dried her hand on her jeans with a disgusted expression.
"Luca never learned not to do that either." Abby giggled with a satisfied grin. "Zivvie will totally have some jammies for you to borrow. Right?"
"Of course. The men are staying out all night, you can definitely join us." She hauled Abby off the side of her car, opened the door and pushed her into the seat amidst another round of singing and an attempt to feel the baby kick. "She still does not kick that hard, Abby." Ziva peeled Abby's hands off her waistline, and Abby subsided into her seat with a pout.
"I can't make my lock screen work." Breena complained, still fiddling with her phone, apparently oblivious to the recent antics. "Can I use yours, Ziva?"
"Get in." Ziva gave her a gentle shove. "You can stay the night." She leaned in, checked both seatbelts and shut the door.
"Zivvie, can we stop at Beltway Burgers on the way?" Abby asked as Ziva slid behind the wheel. "Hey, Breena, let's sing until she says yes! Tony and Ziva sitting in a tree..."
"K-I-S-S-I-N-G!" Breena joined in. Ziva groaned and started the engine, finding a song that had been playing in the bar on her phone and turning it up louder than the chanting from the backseat.
It was three much more subdued and weary women that stumbled in the front door a little while later, the adrenaline had worn off on the ride home, and the greasy meal sat heavily in their stomachs. Abby was still clutching a packet of fries, Ziva had capitulated to the Beltway request, finding herself hungry anyway.
"First rule of Casa De Tiva is shoes off!" Abby announced, leaning on the side table and trying to toe off her boots, spilling her fries in the process. Ziva wandered ahead, turning on a few lights and making an obligatory 'home safe' call to Gibbs. Breena plonked herself on the bottom of the stairs to remove her boots.
"Just show me where I'm sleeping please." Breena requested with a yawn. "I had a call out at 2am yesterday, and I haven't been to bed yet. It's been so much fun, but I'm exhausted now." Abby, finally barefoot, staggered off towards the kitchen and they heard the kitchen tap start up.
"Do you mind paint fumes? There is a brand new fold out in the basement, but the painting was only finished yesterday." Ziva offered.
"Paint fumes are a step up from formaldehyde." Breena shrugged it off. "Sorry, no job talk, I know we promised."
"Sometimes job talk is hard to avoid." Ziva nodded with understanding. "Door to the basement is in the kitchen, I'll bring you some pyjamas and linen in a minute." She pointed Breena in Abby's wake and headed up the stairs.
"I want to stay up and party all night, Zivvie, but I think I have to crash. I'm not gonna be able to talk tomorrow otherwise" Abby croaked once Breena was settled downstairs; she'd absolutely sung her heart out on the ride home and her voice showed the strain. She'd spent the time while Ziva organised Breena's accommodation gargling salt water over the kitchen sink, trying to soothe her throat with little effect. "Sorry I know this is your night. If you want to stay up longer, I will."
"Oh no, I am ready when you are, achoti." Ziva agreed readily. "I have had fun though, thank you."
"Always." Abby turned, offered Ziva a wobbly 'forehead kiss' as Tony had dubbed their trademark affectionate gesture. "Am I on the couch?"
"No, you can share with me. But you may not have my body pillow." Ziva had recently upgraded to a pregnancy-specific pillow that Tony had dubbed Hadrian's Wall, being bigger than her initial two pillow 'fort'. "Come on." Abby stumbled away from the kitchen counter, and with a laugh, Ziva tucked her arm firmly around her friend's waist and guided her up to bed.
Ziva woke suddenly hearing a thud and whispering coming from downstairs, a bleary glance at her phone told her she'd been asleep for a couple of hours. There was more whispering and the unmistakable sound of a body hitting the floor, followed by hysterical but muffled laughter. She shrugged off the arm Abby had flung over her back and sat up quickly.
"So much for Danny Ocean!" Ziva relaxed when she recognised the voice as McGee's. There were more hurried shushing noises, and she decided it was time to investigate, padding quietly downstairs. Tony, Tim and Jimmy were gathered in the entryway, in clearly much worse states than either Breena or Abby had been.
"Fell over these..." Tony was dragging himself upright, one of Abby's boots in his hand. "Hey... fries. Who brings fries to a casino?" He dropped the boot with a thud, inspecting the cardboard sleeve Abby had discarded earlier.
"Whoa Tony... you picked an awesome place to break into." Jimmy was turning slowly on the spot, admiring the entryway, despite the number of times he'd already visited, looking at the room as though he'd never been there before.
"I already told you, we're not breaking in anywhere." McGee insisted, waving the set of keys he'd obviously used on the front door at the pair, fumbling with the alarm panel on the wall. "Hey, Tony, what's the code again?"
"You were on recon, Timbo, you should know that. Charm and stealth were my areas." Tony answered, stumbling this time over Breena's shoes. "Pink boots, do we even have the right house? Ziva wouldn't be caught dead in these."
"Hey, they're cute!" Jimmy stopped turning to admire the shoes with a nostalgic chuckle. "Breena has a pair that's an awful lot like that, this one time she wore them..." Ziva cleared her throat emphatically before he could continue with what was obviously going to be a story she didn't want to hear.
"We've been made!" Tony declared, seeing her at the bottom of the stairs. "Split up!"
"Freeze!" She barked before they could move. "What the hell is this?" She demanded, not quite believing her eyes. "The alarm was never set, McGee." She took the last two steps and pushed his hand away from the unit. The three of them wore tuxedos in various states of undress, Tony's bow tie hung open around his collar, McGee's was stuffed in his top pocket and Jimmy's was missing entirely, someone's jacket was pooled on the floor, and another was tossed haphazardly on the entryway table, while Tony's hung over his arm.
"It's the new Rat Pack!" Jimmy responded cheerfully, resuming his slow 360 rotation.
"I thought you were staying somewhere?" She questioned. "Something about a beach?"
"Ocean. As in Eleven." McGee slumped against the wall, pushing a photo crooked with his shoulder. "It was a casino theme." He seemed more tired than inebriated, although he was still definitely the second as well.
"We went on an adventure!" Jimmy exclaimed. "We walked all of Constitution Avenue and took photos in front of the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. But then we lost our keycard to get back into the hotel suite so we came here." His voice became despondent on the last sentence.
"Don't worry Zi, it was all fake money. But I won." Tony waved a fistful of coloured paper at her. "You know, Ocean's Eleven, Frank Sinatra..."
"Don't you dare start singing again Tony." McGee warned.
"Singing? I'm up for that!" Jimmy chimed in enthusiastically. "Oh, we need a fourth... Ziva, can you sing bass?"
"Oh my god." Ziva pinched the bridge of her nose and turned towards the front door, hearing more footsteps on the porch. "Who did you bring back with you?"
"Dunno." Tony shrugged.
"It's Leroy!" Jimmy had managed to get back towards the door to open it. "Can you sing? You can be our fourth, we were just about to do a barbershop quartet."
"Abba? Why are you here?" Ziva questioned - he was clearly fresh out of bed himself, his trench coat thrown over a ratty sweatshirt and pants.
"Making sure they got in okay." Gibbs muttered. "Heard them walk past about 5 minutes ago - someone left this in my letterbox." He displayed a few notes of the fake currency Tony had waved earlier, the hotel keycard and Jimmy's missing bowtie.
"Thank you." Ziva sighed. "Sorry."
"You weren't the one singing Hail To The Chief outside my house at zero-two-hundred." He rolled his eyes. "Need help getting them to bed?"
"Please. Take Curly to the basement, Breena's on the foldout." Ziva instructed gratefully, with a nod in Jimmy's direction. "I can manage Larry and Moe."
"Let's go, Palmer." Gibbs took the young medical assistant firmly by the arm and dragged him out.
"Night guys! Thanks for being my friends." Jimmy called over his shoulder. "Say Leroy, that grip you've got on my arm is really something..." His voice faded as Gibbs hauled him through the kitchen.
"You two..." She turned to face the others.
"Oh boy, I know that look." Tony murmured. "I think our goose is fried, McGee."
"Couch, now." She ordered sternly, pulling McGee off the wall, turning him to face the lounge, and sending him in the right direction with a shove between his shoulder blades. From downstairs there was a thud and the sounds of Gibbs' voice, obviously unimpressed. A second thud followed as McGee's knee connected firmly with the coffee table.
"Zi... babe... sorry, Ninja..." She took Tony by the arm with a grimace, both at the smell of whiskey and in sympathy for McGee's pained groan as he flopped onto the couch. "At least let me come to bed."
"Abby is already in your spot and I am not dragging your drunken weight up the stairs. How much did you drink?" Ziva walked him firmly towards the lounge. "If you hadn't had this brilliant idea about having an adventure you wouldn't be in this situation."
"Yeah, it kinda got away from us." He eased himself onto the cushions with more grace than McGee had displayed. "Got some good photos though." He added, feeling briefly in his pocket for his phone, but gave up a second later, his head dropping to his shoulder. .
"I'll say it did." Gibbs reemerged. "Palmer's down there with a bucket and an ice pack. Decided he was going to jump the last two steps, turned his ankle and the pain made him hurl."
Ziva groaned something in Hebrew, rubbing her forehead wearily. "How bad is it?"
"Everything's in the bucket, and the ankle is only a sprain. He'll be unhappy tomorrow though." Gibbs elaborated. "Breena's reading him the riot act now. You ok?"
"I am not thrilled." Ziva commented, with a glance at McGee, face down on the chaise section, and a gentle nudge was all it took for Tony to wilt into a similar position. "I did not expect the shlosha stooges to come barging in at 2am treating this like a casino break in."
"Idiots." Gibbs muttered, he'd assessed the situation quickly, and had gone into the storage chest under the TV, it was the same one Ziva had smacked her shin on several years ago in Tony's bedroom originally filled with DVDs, but was now serving a more domestic purpose, and found some throw blankets. "They were supposed to stay the night. Ducky and I left around 9."
"At least they made it here on foot and not in a police car." She shook her head, a smile curling her lips and lowered her voice. "It is more funny than annoying, if I am honest, and I will feel better when I get to make them all suffer in the morning. I am thinking Arabic pop and vacuuming in about 4 hours."
"Harsh." He commented with a smirk. "You've learned well."
"If my bridal shower is going to be crashed by... this..." She gestured expressively. "I am going to have fun with it." Gibbs gave a dry chuckle in response, and they busied themselves settling the guys in for the night, pulling off shoes, lifting legs onto the couch and tossing blankets over barely-conscious bodies. "Do you want me to drive you home?" Ziva enquired when they were finished.
"Nah. Take that gut of yours back to bed." He dropped a kiss on her hair as he passed. Ziva gave a self conscious laugh, realising her tank top had ridden halfway up over her belly while wrestling Tony's legs onto the cushions and pulled the hemline down again. "Night, kiddo."
"Goodnight, Abba." She waited, making sure she heard the lock snap shut as he saw himself out, before setting up two large glasses of water on the coffee table, and placing a bucket on the floor near each man's head given what had happened to Jimmy.
"Zi, you're a goddess. I am so lucky to be marrying you." Tony slurred suddenly, catching her hand as she pulled the blanket up further.
"Goodnight Tony." She bent and pressed a kiss to his cheek, pried her hand free. "I love you even if you're an idiot." She turned to McGee, tucking him in a little better too.
"Sorry, Ziva." He groaned. "Love you, Sis."
"Sleep." Ziva instructed with a smirk "And do not call me that."
"Sorry." McGee repeated, mumbling into the cushion. "Still love you though."
"I love you too, Tim." She reassured him with a laugh and tousled his hair for good measure. "Goodnight."
"Aww... it only takes drunken shenanigans to get you two to actually open up. What did I miss?" Abby stood blinking in the doorway. "Got up for the bathroom, realised you were gone." She added by way of explanation.
"You missed a lot Abby." Ziva joined her friend in the doorway. "I will tell you in the morning, very loudly."
"Oh I'm going to want every detail." Abby understood the plan with a giggle, and still laughing linked arms with Ziva before turning back to bed for the second time that night.
If anyone missed the reference, Tony's bachelor party was themed around the original Ocean's Eleven, with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin etc.
Shlosha is Hebrew for three if Google has served me well, so Ziva called the guys the Three Stooges, Larry, Moe and Curly.
With any luck, they'll actually get married in the next chapter!
Much love, M xx
Chapter 3: Unofficial
The wedding preparation continues.
Thanks again for the ongoing support! It's so good to see those hits/subscribes/kudos piling up. I'm glad so many people are still as invested in this series as I am.
As always - enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Ziva was every bit as ruthless as she'd promised on Sunday morning when it came waking her unexpected party crashers, although it was slightly later than she'd intimated to Gibbs, waiting for Abby and Breena to surface, weary but unharmed first. Teacups in hand, they staged an enthusiastic dance party on the kitchen tiles, doing their best to remember the steps they had learned the previous night, and laughing when the male contingent of the party were jolted into consciousness and gathered on the couch, holding their heads regretfully, feeling somewhat worried about their fates. Too tired to really keep dancing, they moved to tidying up. Abby folded and replaced the spare blankets, letting the lid of the wooden chest fall with a thud each time she let go, Ziva busied herself with the dishes with distinct lack of her usual grace, while Breena ran the vacuum, cleaning up the dirt the guys had tracked in from their midnight 'adventure', watching with amusement as they flinched at every loud noise or peal of laughter as the women worked fluidly around each other, maintaining a steady stream of chatter as they did so.
With the house restored, another glance at the sorry row on the couch told them it was time to take pity; Ziva handed out jasmine tea with lime and aspirin, Breena went downstairs and cleaned out Jimmy's bucket, and Abby took the keycard Gibbs had delivered and borrowed Ziva's car to conduct a speed of light sweep of the hotel suite for forgotten belongings before checkout time. When Abby returned, bearing massive bottles of sport rehydration drinks, Caf-Pow!, and an ankle brace for Jimmy, they sequestered themselves in the kitchen, making a breakfast designed to cure even the worst of hangovers. With the carefully concocted balance of fats, sugars and electrolytes, and no "DiNozzo Defibrillators" in sight, the guys recovered somewhat, and by the time the group parted in the early afternoon, they could be qualified as human again although still worse for wear; Jimmy limping, Tim sheepish and apologetic, and Tony nursing a headache. As she'd suggested the night before however, Ziva was more amused than annoyed, and although she sent Tony back to bed to sleep it off, she joined him for a sleepy cuddle, letting him know he was forgiven.
Everyone was back to normal by Monday morning (barring Jimmy's ankle), but there were still plenty of regrets when Gibbs greeted each one of his late-night visitors with a stinging head slap and a stern word. The week rolled on; on Tuesday Abby hacked their computers and using a code that not even McGee could get to the bottom of, set everyone's screensaver to a countdown timer until the wedding. Ziva spoke at one final highschool on Wednesday, while the rest of the team attended a body found in a car parked down by the docks. Thursday brought two whole building evacuations; the first for the mandatory fire drill which went off smoothly, the second not half an hour after normal work had been resumed when someone managed to set the microwave in the break room on fire. This was followed promptly by a lead to the whereabouts of the person responsible for the case they'd started the day before, Tony and Gibbs heading out to apprehend them, while Ziva and McGee stayed back, coordinating warrants and paperwork. The suspect ran, leading Tony on a long and circuitous foot pursuit through several narrow, dimly lit back alleys, before Gibbs cut them off with the sedan; returning to the yard somewhere around dinner time, tired and sweaty but triumphant.
"Please tell me you were craving pizza tonight." Tony threw himself into his chair with a sigh of relief. "I need grease after all that running."
"No. But McGee was." Ziva pointed to the elevator as the man in question arrived holding a couple of fragrant boxes, and a plastic bag printed with the name of a nearby convenience store.
"Whoa, I've been trying to convince Ziva we should have pizza for a solid week, McGourmet, how'd you manage it?" Tony stood again to take the top one gratefully, flipped open the lid and chose a slice. "I can feel my arteries clogging already. Bliss."
"Bribery." McGee shrugged with a grin, setting the second box down on his desk. "Sometimes you've got to offer something in return to get what you want."
Tony gave an incredulous scoff. "No way would our Agent David ever be susceptible to a bribe, especially anything you could offer her. You're talking about a trained spy..."
"A pregnant spy who has a weakness for peanut butter." McGee finished, handing Ziva the bag. "Every Reese's product they had in stock, should keep you going for a couple of days."
"Thank you!" She peered into the bag. "That is too much, I will pay you back."
"Nope. Consider it a future investment." He shook his head. "Remember this next time we can't decide what to order. I figure that's good for getting your vote on at least the next three office dinners."
"Deal." Ziva agreed with a laugh, pulling out one of the bright orange packets, and setting the bag on the floor.
"She's pregnant and getting married in two days, McGoo. Not rocket science to work out that she probably wanted chocolate." Tony laughed, and took another bite. "If I had any idea you were so easy Zi..." He angled a mock disappointed shake of his head in her direction. Ziva threw a second package of candy at him as retaliation, bouncing it squarely off his forehead.
"I still have one more trick up my sleeve." A bottle of antacids appeared from McGee's inner coat pocket with a flourish. "Picked these up too." He tossed the bottle at Ziva, before reaching for his own slice.
"My hero! For that, four meals." Ziva caught the bottle. "You are truly my knight in shining armour right now."
"There's always Pepto Bismol in my drawer." Tony gestured with his pizza. "Don't give McGee a bigger head than he's already got."
"Pepto Bismol is not recommended during pregnancy, Agent DiNozzo." It was Vance finishing the sentence this time, joining them in the bullpen, Gibbs impassive and silent in his wake. "I came down to let you know, the whole team is off tomorrow, including Ms Sciuto, providing you get those reports done this evening."
"To what do we owe this generosity?" Tony questioned, surprised. They had organised an early finish for the following day, but had not taken any extra time off surrounding the wedding, most of their leave having been used during the summer, and preferring to keep what was left for family leave after the baby arrived.
"Mrs Vance was very clear what would happen if anything happened to her chance to dress up and leave the kids with a sitter on Saturday. I know the odds with this team, you'll pick up a case and end up on the next flight to Guatemala if you're in here." He gave a low chuckle "And I've had the starring role in a wedding myself before, there's always some last minute details to take care of. Right, Gibbs?" Only Vance was brave enough to show open amusement at the look on Gibbs' face.
"Thank you, Director." Ziva answered for them all, and chocolate fix achieved, she stood, heading for McGee's pizza box and reached for a slice.
"Consider it your wedding present then." Tony and Ziva had declined actual gifts. "As long as those reports are finished, I will see you all Saturday afternoon." Vance helped himself to a slice from Tony's desk and headed for the elevator.
"Thought you liked olives Ziva?" McGee questioned watching as she studied it with a frown and began picking off the olive slices.
"These are not olives." She informed him, dropping the offending topping onto a paper napkin. "Not real olives anyway."
"Arguing that olives on a pizza are anything like the kind she grew up eating is a battle you won't win. Don't go there." Tony cut in before the younger agent could make further enquiries. He'd been subject to a lecture almost as long and impassioned as McGee's speech on jetpacks when it came to the difference between freshly cured olives eaten a few yards away from where they had been grown, and the "cremated slices of rubber" that came on a pizza, and after having experienced it himself in Israel, he had to admit she was right. "So tomorrow, six extra hours to fill... what's the plan, Zi?"
"Much the same as before, only with more time to do it. There is some decorating to be finished, and Abby and I have a hair appointment at four, and your father is due to land at noon. However, if you are willing to drive to the airport instead, I will not argue." Ziva had been nominated as Senior's chauffeur being the least likely to be out on the field when he landed. "But we can have breakfast out at the diner seeing as we no longer need to be in early." She added with a smile; breakfast with Joyce at the diner near Tony's old apartment was their favourite (well, maybe second-favourite) lazy-morning activity.
"Yeah, I can do that. Should probably take him out for dinner now that we know we're free too." Tony suggested. Senior had been thrilled with both the wedding and baby news, declaring that it was about time both happened. He'd heard about Ziva's proposal and the accident that had killed Eli, but little from the intervening months; Tony had not been in contact with him during Ziva's absence, giving only the barest of dot points after the fact, mostly that Ziva had stayed back to continue finalising the estate and had come home when she'd learned she was pregnant, and he had assumed the baby had simply spurred them into action about actually tying the knot faster. As far as not discussing anything too personal with his father went, Tony was happy to keep it that way. "I'll find us a table then." He finished when Ziva nodded her acceptance of the plan.
"Table for two, DiNozzo. Ziver, you and Abs are with me for the night." Gibbs cut in.
"I thought you would be picking us up at the house in the afternoon?" Ziva's eyes flashed across to his desk, curious but hopeful. Tony knew Ziva had wanted to get ready at Gibbs' house with Abby, as she would have in Be'er Sheva with Tali by her side if things had been very different, but hadn't asked for this, worried about hitting Gibbs too close to Kelly's memory.
"Where else are you going to spend the night before your wedding... kid?" The last word was barely audible even inside the bullpen, but the message was clear, he'd known too.
"You realise that would mean we would be at your house on Saturday morning Gibbs? Are you ready for Abby in bridesmaid mode?" Ziva questioned lightly, although Tony could see how pleased she was at the invitation.
"I'll take my chances." Gibbs gave a sigh that was not quite defeated enough to be convincing. "And if you want anything other than potatoes with your steak, you bring it."
"Thank you. I will try to keep Abby's wedding explosion limited to the one room." There was the briefest glance of understanding between them, before Gibbs turned his eyes back to his files.
"Hey McGee, you in for the Adams House Grill if Abby is already spoken for? Beer and Magnum PI marathon at Casa De Tiva afterwards." Tony asked. "Figure it can't hurt to have a buffer between me and Dad, and if Gibbs is going to get all Spencer Tracy Father Of The Bride on us and claim Ziva for the night, it seems like a pretty good Best Man kind of job. My treat." He added when McGee's face revealed his feelings about being asked to play referee between the DiNozzo men.
"Sure, if you're paying. You guys mind if I head over earlier to wire up the speakers too?" McGee asked, wiping his hands on a paper serviette and settling behind his desk. "No sense in leaving it until after work hours if I don't have to be here."
"You know how to use your key." Tony agreed. Between wanting to keep their celebration focused on home, family and love, a lack of available bookings at actual venues and Tony's line about getting married in the basement in their pyjamas, plans were underway to turn the room into a temporary wedding reception space. The ceremony would take place in the Navy Yard itself, outside under the trees. After deciding they preferred an outdoor venue but realising most were ruled out by their clause not to get married at a crime scene, they figured the place that had housed almost every dead body they'd ever investigated was actually the safest way to make sure they didn't find a new one. When asked, Vance had given his approval surprisingly easily; too easily as it turned out; he had provided Ziva with the schedule of career day presentations the following morning, a clear you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours message.
"I am sure Abby will drag you over before you were thinking of coming anyway, Tim." Ziva laughed, de-oliving a second slice of pizza.
"You're not off the hook till I approve those reports." Gibbs warned without looking up. The three agents took the hint, finished eating and started typing.
On Friday night, armed with garment bags, and about a million other things he couldn't identify, Ziva and Abby dutifully appeared at Gibbs' house. Dinner was the usual quiet, fireside affair, the steak and potatoes supplemented by Ziva's salad and Abby's dessert, and afterwards they settled down to watch a western while Abby painted Ziva's toenails a metallic silvery-green. Just as the movie finished, but before they got ready for bed properly, there was a knock at the front door.
"Think you've got company, Ziver." Gibbs nodded his head towards the direction of the sound.
"Tony wouldn't knock." Ziva said, surprised. "He knows the door is always open."
"He would tonight." Abby put in, now busy with her own toes and a bottle of black polish. Gibbs rose and held out his hand, drawing Ziva to standing, waiting while she shuffled her now-dry toes back into her shoes.
"Yeah, she's coming!" Gibbs called as Tony knocked again, he walked her to the entry, dropped his own coat over her shoulders and nudged her towards the door. "Get out there."
"Hi, this is a surprise." Ziva stepped out onto the porch, closing the door behind her. "Are you okay?"
"I'm always awesome, just came to braid your hair." Tony bent to produce a hairbrush from the backpack he had dropped by the front door. "McGee and I were about to call it a day, but I realised something was missing."
"Oh, Tony." She studied him for a moment, the hopeful, proud smile that he wore when he knew he'd nailed a small gesture that made her feel treasured, and smiled too. "That is very sweet of you to remember."
"As if I'd forgotten, tonight of all nights. Sit down." He gestured to the lone chair on the porch and moved behind her as she did so, releasing her low ponytail.
"How was dinner?" Ziva asked, tipping her head back and closing her eyes.
"Good... well, getting there. He's trying, you know? Sometimes too hard. But at least there's one thing we see eye-to-eye on now. I'm marrying the most beautiful woman in the world tomorrow." He pulled the neckline of the oversized coat back a bit to give himself room to move her hair.
"Flirt." Ziva gave a laugh.
"Always, and you love it." He responded with confidence. Well practised by now, he finished the plait quickly. "Want to go for a walk? I'm not quite ready to say goodnight."
"Absolutely." She slipped her hand into his, and they lapped the block twice, fingers twined, not needing to talk, but just enjoying the company and simplicity of a moment alone in the quiet fall evening.
"So," Tony paused reluctantly when they reached Gibbs' house again, walking slowly back up to the porch "McGee's probably waiting up for me before he passes out, I should go. But, first, I've got a present for you."
"We said no presents." Ziva chided gently.
"What are you gonna do, break up with me for spoiling you?" He chuckled. "So, you made your point pretty clear about garter belts a while ago. But... I got you something else to wear instead. My present can be getting to take it off you tomorrow night."
"This doesn't sound like the kind of present you should be giving me on our boss's front porch." She cautioned. Tony gave her a knowing smile, the 'wait a minute' finger and bent to the backpack again, hefting it to the chair before producing a long, thin wooden box.
"Happy night before our wedding, Zi." He presented the box with a flourish. Ziva accepted it with a whispered thanks, turning towards the house to see better in the porch light, tracing her fingers over the carved lid, noting the date for the following day had been hidden in the intricate pattern. "Here... I know you've moved on from the past, but I know how much you still like a good knife." Tony moved around a little too, and took the box back, lifting the lid.
"Oh, you shouldn't have..." Ziva breathed as she reached in, unwrapping the pale blue silk inside and lifting out a small, pearl-handled boot knife. Even in the dim light the fine crafting and lethality of the weapon was evident. Ziva took a step backwards, testing the balance and weight of the blade, spinning it on her fingertips, and flipping it a couple of times. "Perfectly balanced." This came on the tail end of an appreciative sigh. "It is absolutely beautiful, thank you." She offered sincerely after a few more moments, still running her thumb delicately along one of the finely honed edges.
"You're welcome, Zi." Tony gave a 'no big deal' kind of shrug, but his eyes spoke of how pleased he was with her reaction. Ziva drew the handle experimentally across her cheek.
"Cold... real mother of pearl." She murmured, lowering the knife to study it again. "This is incredible Tony."
"Oh, you can tell Abs the handle is vintage and recycled." Tony added at this revelation. "I know what she's like about cruelty-free products. The blade was made new for you though. Not a drop of blood on it."
"Thank you, neshama." Ziva glanced up again, smiled at him. "You have thought of everything."
"I also thought one of your usual thigh straps might be kind of weird under whatever you're wearing tomorrow..." Tony took hold of the segue and ran with it. He set the box on the porch railing, and rummaged in the backpack once more. "So, I had this made specially." A small package in the same blue silk. He traded her for the knife, carefully boxing it again as Ziva pushed the fabric back to reveal a white leather sheath, obviously custom made for the blade she had just received.
"You should have told me you were planning this." The silk wrapping fluttered unheeded to the porch, as she unwound the straps designed to tie around her thigh, and wove the soft leather around her fingers, inspecting the stitching and noticing, with a smile, her initials embroidered on the backside of the sheath itself. "Wow... This is beyond description, Tony. Thank you."
"I know it's not your usual style, but it seemed kind of bridal." He shrugged. "You like it?"
"I love it. I love you." She tucked the sheath into one hand, reaching for him with the other. "You really want me to be armed at our wedding?"
"Yeah, I fell in love with a badass Ninja chick. Wouldn't feel like I'd married all of you if you weren't, and like I said, I get to take it off." He gave a grin, his mind obviously fast forwarding to that moment, but distracted a heartbeat later by his phone chiming. "That'll be McGee, I really gotta get back now."
"I am ready for bed anyway. But this has been really special, thank you." Ziva sighed. "Are you ready for tomorrow?"
"A million percent." He gave a firm nod, his face growing thoughtful. "You know, I've never just walked you to your door before. Made out with you against it a couple of times... but you always let me in afterwards. This is new."
"I do not think Mrs Mendez ever forgave us for the time she caught us." Ziva laughed, remembering. "But no, that's never happened."
"It feels kind of like a first date, only something tells me we passed that point a while ago." He brought a hand down to caress her belly with a laugh. "C'mon peanut - one kick?"
"I think the walk rocked her to sleep, she has been quiet for a while now." Ziva said softly. "But the more you want it, the less she will oblige."
"Sounds like someone else I know." Tony teased, and kissed her before murmuring against her lips, "Okay... all I can smell is sawdust and coffee. Feels like I'm kissing Gibbs"
"Well, there goes the first date sentiment." Ziva pulled back with a groan. "That may be a new record for the least romantic thing you have ever said to me."
"I promise you that I will always find a new low." He quipped with a grin, kissed her again but retreated with a grimace, lowering his face to the collar. "Yeah, it's the coat. It's too weird."
"Tomorrow you will kiss me in my wedding dress instead, I am sure that will make up for it." Ziva took his face in her hands and kissed him quickly, a hint of what would come the following day. "I am going back inside before you come good on that promise and I change my mind."
"Well, seeing as it's the last time I get to call you this; goodnight, Ms David." He leaned forward and pressed his lips to her forehead, keeping his eyes open. "I can't wait to marry you."
"Neither can I." She kissed him one more time, collected the box from the railing and stepped back towards the door. "Laila tov, neshama sheli."
"See ya, Ninja." He swung his bag back over his shoulder, and Ziva watched as he took the path to the gate in two long, bounced strides, before turning and letting herself back into the house.
"Took your time." Gibbs commented dryly, walking back through from the kitchen as Ziva paused to shrug off his coat and hang it up again. "Thought I was gonna have to turn the hose on you two. Here, it's that weird herbal crap you like, Abs raided your purse." He proffered a mug of tea.
"Thank you, and no. Your coat worked just fine." Ziva admitted with a laugh, accepting her mug. "Apparently Tony does not think the smell of sawdust is sexy." She fell into step beside him, moving back through to the lounge.
"Wasn't even trying with that." Gibbs shrugged, and passed Abby her drink. "Just thought it was cold out."
"Awww... look at you." Abby gushed, glancing upwards. "You're so in love you're practically glowing! Isn't she Gibbs?" Ziva stowed the gift in her bag, not ready to share it with anyone else just yet, and settled back down beside Abby on the worn couch, sipping her drink carefully.
"You'd hope so at this point." Gibbs murmured, flicking off the TV. "I'm gonna be in the basement."
"Abby, if you get the mattress, I will get the linen." Ziva suggested. "I want to get some sleep while my little stowaway is quiet too." At some point in the previous year, Gibbs had found himself the owner of not one, but two air mattresses and the assorted bedding to house Team Gibbs on the living room floor after a rough case. It wasn't a frequent occurrence, but the moral support of a late night chat and the comfort of a slow sleepy morning surrounded by chosen family, was important to every member of the team when things had been particularly bad, and little by little, his hallway closet had become home to the necessary items to make it a more comfortable situation for everyone involved.
"I don't know how you can be so completely calm tonight, Zivvie. I swear, come December 30 I'm not going to be sleeping a wink!" Abby tidied up the remains of the nail polish, leading the way to the closet. "Hey, it's not here - Gibbs, where's the air mattress gone?"
"Yeah I moved it upstairs." Gibbs called from the kitchen, as Ziva reached around Abby for the blankets and pillows. "First room on the right."
"Typical. Doesn't change anything for like 15 years, then he moves the one thing I'm looking for." Abby grumbled playfully, heading up the stairs. "Oh whoa... Gibbs! You sneak! Zivvie, get up here!"
"What, Abby?" Ziva set the bedding back on the shelf and followed Abby up, to a room to which she had never previously seen. Like Gibbs, the team were more or less limited to the ground floor and basement; they'd go up to use the bathroom, but come straight back down, leaving the other doors closed. She paused beside Abby in front of the open doorway, the room was clean and sparse, but obviously ready for them, with a freshly made up bed with a proper mattress, and a full-length mirror standing in the corner. "Oh, I see."
"Figured you girls needed somewhere better than a bathroom to get ready tomorrow." Gibbs offered quietly from behind them.
Ziva glanced over her shoulder at him. "You did not need to go to any trouble over this, the bathroom would have been fine, and the air mattress too."
"You deserve better'n that, kid. And you got your back to think about." He'd obviously noticed her stance had changed recently, her hands moving to the small of her back whenever she'd been standing for long periods. "'Bout time it was a guest room again, anyway." He added with a shrug.
"You planned this!" Abby declared. "I know how much stuff you had in here, there is no way you did all this since you asked us yesterday. You act like it was a last minute decision and you're so put out by having us get ready here tomorrow morning, but I see right through your act, Mister. You're just as big a pile of mush about this wedding as I am!"
"Night, Abs." Gibbs kissed her temple, neither confirming nor denying her accusation.
"Hmm..." Abby gave him a hard stare, but let it go and turned to enter the room, flinging herself into the middle of the bed. "New mattress! Yes! Dunno where you're sleeping, Zivvie."
"Thank you." Ziva turned to face him, rolling her eyes at Abby's antics. "This was very thoughtful of you." She reached for his hand, gave his fingers a gentle squeeze, letting that say the rest. Opening even one of the rooms that had been part of the life he had made with Shannon and Kelly was a big deal.
"Yeah, I know." He squeezed back, tugged her close enough to kiss her brow. "Night, Ziver."
"Well, this has not come a moment too soon. I cannot see my feet." Ziva looked down. Her toes, which Abby had so meticulously painted the previous night, had vanished beneath folds of white chiffon. The morning had passed quietly, the biggest preparations beginning after Ziva returned from Casa De Tiva, insisting on using her own shower once Tony and Tim had vacated. Abby had expanded her base of operations to include Gibbs' dining table, claiming the light was better for doing makeup. In response, he had retreated to the basement, waiting until they were back in the guest room getting dressed before attempting any getting ready of his own.
"It's just the skirt. You could still see them in your jammies last night." Abby pointed out, running the zip up the back of the dress and hooking the clasp at the top "And your feet don't matter - look at the rest of you!" She took Ziva by the shoulders, now that she was in the dress and turned her towards the mirror. "Those little lacy sleeves are so cute, but elegant all at once, and I would kill for cleavage like that, well not kill, I am strictly non-violent, but all those baby hormones and a plunge neckline? Tony's going to flip with how good they... I mean you look."
"Do you think Tony will like it?" She'd chosen a lace bodice, almost daring in its design with a low neck and semi-sheer effect, but balanced by the simplicity of the skirt that floated downwards, clinging gently but not too tightly around her belly before gathering at her ankles in the smallest of brush trains.
"Are you kidding? He's not going to be able to take his eyes off you!" Abby promised, bending to fluff the skirt at its hem for the full effect. "And I guarantee Timmy will blush when he sees you."
"I do not think he will notice me, achoti." Ziva murmured with a smile, pulling Abby to stand alongside her. "You look beautiful, Tim will love your dress." Ziva had simply given Abby her credit card and an otherwise free rein, saying that the dress was a gift and she trusted Abby's shopping process. Abby had argued hard on both points, but Ziva was immovable, and Abby finally ended up (while spending less than Ziva was prepared to shell out for, and more than Abby was really happy receiving) with a dress in emerald green with a black lace overlay; a mix of goth, vintage elegance, and something uniquely Abby.
"He does, he's already seen it." Abby admitted. "Well, I had to show someone, but I swear he didn't even get a glimpse at yours. Okay, final touches, we have... 8 minutes and 37 seconds before we're supposed to be downstairs to go. Earrings next."
Gibbs was calling for them from the foot of the stairs in five. But between Ziva's remarkably cool demeanour, and Abby's zealous over-preparation which had allowed time for photos and a 'big reveal', they were already ready to go, and were in the middle of taking selfies when his voice carried up saying he'd already brought the car around.
"Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs! Wait till you see her! She looks amazing!" Abby clattered down the stairs first. "Whoa, you're looking sharp too! All sauve and freshly shaved."
"Steady on." He caught her at the bottom, gravity and momentum threatening to pitch her head first onto the floor. "It's a five-Gibbs kind of good is it?"
"I ran out of breath, would have been ten." Abby replied with a grin. "So what do you think of my dress?" Balance regained, she executed a pirouette in front of him.
"You're always gorgeous, Abs." He said warmly. "Is Ziva ready?"
"You tell me." Both heads swivelled towards her on the stairs. Abby, even though she'd been in the same room not a minute earlier, responded as though this was the first time she'd seen her giving a wide gasp and a step backwards to appreciate the view at a distance.
Gibbs was quiet for a moment, studying her as she stood two or three steps from the bottom. "Lemme have a better look." He stepped forward to take her hand, as she finished her descent, encouraged her to turn slowly, stopping her when she'd completed a full rotation, a quiet pride crossing his face. "Yeah... you'll do just fine." He murmured, his voice ever so slightly thicker than usual.
"Quit with the understatement Gibbs." Abby stopped taking photos to swat his arm. "She's stunning."
"Yeah, that too." He conceded, took another look at her, pointed at her leg. "Since when does a leg sheath count as a garter belt? Knife, right thigh."
"How?" Ziva gave a laugh of acknowledgement, checked the fall of her skirt to make sure it wasn't clinging in the wrong place. "There are no tells."
"I always know." He responded with his usual inscrutable smirk, before confessing. "Who do you think made the box it came in?"
"Quit with the weird knife guessing game already." Abby had moved to the front door, collecting their bags and her parasol. "Let's go get you married, Ziva!"
Once at the yard, Abby quickly took charge of the remaining preparations, while Ziva opted to wait in the car for a moment's peace. The rest of the group had gathered, and were mostly busy with the setup; Jimmy was still favouring one foot a little as he and Breena arranged a group of white chairs on the grass. Ducky, newly ordained as a legal wedding celebrant, was sitting sedately at a small table, going over some notes. McGee was fiddling with a speaker, while Tony and Senior stood a little way off, chatting. The Vances, and Jackson Gibbs who had driven straight in from Stillwater that afternoon, but would stay with Gibbs that evening, were in a group of their own, which Gibbs himself joined.
"Abby! Wow, great dress! Got a problem, there are more chairs than people." Jimmy approached her first. "I can set them all up, but a bunch of empty chairs is going to look kind of depressing in the photos."
"Jimmy! Didn't you read my planning email?" Abby rolled her eyes at his guilty expression. "There's 6 chairs for photos; one each for Kate, Director Shepard, Mike Franks, and Tony's mom, and two for Ziva's family one of her with her siblings when they were little, and a photo of her parents on holiday in Haifa in 1981... she chose them because they were from a time before everything went south. it was all in the email Jimmy! Ducky has them, come on!"
A few minutes later, the area was ready to Abby's satisfaction. Under the dappled shade, A row of chairs sat in a semicircle, parted in the middle, in the semblance of an aisle. Off to the side, the other six chairs stood, each adorned simply with a photo and a tiny battery operated candle. At the front a large area rug borrowed from Mallard Manor defined the official ceremony space, with the small wrought iron table and two chairs, similarly obtained, sitting slightly off centre, with the speaker Tim had been checking concealed under the central column leg. Senior was busy charming Breena, while the Vances Jimmy and Ducky had gathered by the table, talking in low tones, and Abby and Tim squabbled lightly over the camera placement.
"Wait a minute... where's Tony?" Tim stepped back, ultimately letting Abby have her way with the final adjustment of the tripod. "He was talking to Senior when you got here, but he's over there with Bree now."
"How do you lose the groom?" Abby questioned impatiently. "We can't have a wedding without him!"
"I didn't lose anyone Abs, he's an adult!" Tim turned towards Senior. "Did you see where Tony went?" He called.
"He told me he had to go check something. You know how Junior is, gets an idea in his head and off he goes." Senior replied. "He said he saw Ziva dashing off to the main building about five minutes ago..."
"What?!" Abby spun around, squinted at the bright yellow car, where Ziva was supposed to have been waiting, although the two Gibbs men stood a short distance away, the car itself was empty. "Where did she go... where did he go?" Abby exclaimed, drawing everyone's attention, as she hurried over.
"Abby, good to see you!" Jackson met her with a hug. "Where's the fire?"
"Oh you give the best hugs Jackson," She did at least slow down for a moment to enjoy the older man's greeting. "There's no fire, only we don't know where Tony or Ziva have gone."
"You lost them?" Gibbs questioned.
"Not lost exactly..." Abby hesitated. "More like, took our eyes off them for a minute."
"So when Tony disappears, I've lost him, but when it's Ziva..." McGee started.
"Well I would have gone back and been sitting in the car with Ziva if you had been setting the camera up right..." Abby bit back.
"Hey, timeout!" Gibbs cut in. "What do we know?"
"Tony was talking to Senior, and Ziva was supposed to be waiting in the car till it was time for you to walk her up. Next thing, they've both vanished." Abby supplied frantically. "What if they changed their minds, or they're fighting or..."
"Breathe, Abs. They'll be holed up together somewhere." Gibbs said, before adding with an eye roll, "Prob'ly making out if I know DiNozzo's reaction when he sees Ziva looking like that."
"Senior said Tony took off towards the building to check something, apparently Ziva was headed up that way in a hurry." Tim filled in. "He must have been following Ziva."
"But what was Ziva doing? She said she was all set to wait until we'd finished setting up. She brought one of her pregnancy books, and was just going to enjoy the quiet while it lasted." Abby's words tumbled over themselves. "Oh! She probably wanted to do a last minute makeup check, and no offence, Gibbs, but your rearview mirror is kind of useless for that... But what would Tony want to check? He's not supposed to see her in her dress until the wedding starts for real... that's like so much bad luck..."
"I'll round 'em up." Gibbs gave a weary sigh. "Abs, show Dad to his seat. Back in five."
"Hey, where are you off to?" Tony leaned on the wall opposite the door to the ladies' bathroom as Ziva exited the room
"Tony!" She paused, startled. "I went to the bathroom." She gestured at the sign behind her head, puzzled.
"Oh yeah, bathroom..." He looked at the sign as though reading it for the first time. "Uhh, why?"
"Seriously?" Ziva snorted. "Because I am 24 weeks pregnant and your daughter is using certain parts of my anatomy as a water bed. Is everything okay, Tony?" Her confused expression changed to one of concern.
"Oh, right." Tony had the grace to look embarrassed. "I uhh... Saw your little disappearing act. Kinda thought you'd changed your mind."
"If I had changed my mind, would I really end up in a third floor bathroom with no window?" She questioned in return. "We both know I am more capable of disappearing than that."
"Yeah I guess not." He gave a sheepish smile. "Still... saw you get a look at everything and then take off. Didn't fill me with hope."
Ziva shook her head, cupped his cheek. "Oh Tony. No. That is not what that was. I was coming straight back down after this." Her tone was gentle. "I am not changing my mind. I only came up here because the ground floor facility is never properly clean."
"Walk with me, my runaway bride." Tony invited, taking her hand. They made their way out of the dimly lit hallway, traced the familiar path back to the bullpen, pausing in the same spot they'd met seven and some years earlier. "Holy hell, Ziva, you're gorgeous." Tony sucked in his breath, as the better lighting from the window allowed him to take in the full picture, dress, hair, makeup, for the first time.
"You clean up nicely too, neshama. Very handsome." Ziva's cheeks warmed at the compliment, too genuine to be delivered with his usual eloquence. "The green tie suits your eyes." She reached forward and straightened it slightly.
"Seriously, I don't think you've ever looked so good." He turned her under his arm slowly in much the same way Gibbs had, and took in the ornate silver comb sweeping her hair over her right shoulder and the strings of tiny pearls Abby had carefully woven through the loose curls, and cast another sweeping glance over the dress. "That's your wedding dress, Zi. Holy crap, you're really doing this? You're actually going to marry me?"
"Of course, Tony." Ziva insisted. "I had no intention of doing anything else today. Did you really think I was going to change my mind on you at the last minute?"
"Not really... well maybe a little. It's not that I doubted you. But, just for a second when I saw you running up here... I got ahead of myself. Let what happened last time back in. I needed to make sure you were still in." He shook his head. "Guess I made kind of an idiot of myself. But it still doesn't feel real sometimes, you, the baby, the wedding. How'd a goofball like me end up with all of this?"
"I do not know if it was the drunken sex, or the jealous fit you threw when I danced with Gibbs, or that you got me pregnant, but for some reason I fell in love with you." Ziva replied with a laugh, before growing serious. "There is nowhere else in this world that I would rather be right now. Except perhaps outside actually getting married. But I promise you Tony, you are stuck with me."
"Stuck with you, huh?" Tony questioned with a smirk. "I can live with that." He shrugged off his fading anxiety with a cool nonchalance.
"Very stuck." She nodded, took both of his hands, closed the gap between them and pressed her lips against his gently. "I want to marry you, Tony DiNozzo."
"I want to marry you, Ziva David." He answered with a second kiss.
Ziva stepped back a little, keeping their hands joined, but to a distance where she could make eye contact. "I promise, if I ever feel like running again, the only direction I will run is towards you."
"In that case, I promise that I will spend every day giving you something that is worth running to." Green eyes locked with brown, and his thumb stroked the back of her hand lightly, emphasising his message.
"I will always have your back." Ziva replied, continuing the theme
"I will never see you without thinking how lucky I am."
"I will never give you cause to doubt my love."
"I will always correct your English."
"I will say yes to pizza a little more often."
"I will never forget that you can kill me eighteen different ways with a paperclip."
"I will never kill you with a paperclip, nor any other piece of stationery." They both shared a grin at that one.
"I will never stop picturing you naked."
"I will try to use more pop culture references, just to make you smile."
"I will never treat going to bed with you like a sure thing, and always do my best to seduce you properly instead."
"I will fall a little more in love with you every day. And a little more in lust as well."
"I promise it will never be just my knee."
"I like the sound of that." She broke the back and forth repartee with a sultry whisper.
"You do, do you?" He smirked, pleased.
"I do." She confirmed quietly. "Do you?"
"I do, too." Tony gave a grin, and looked down at their joined hands, the way they faced each other in front of the window as they should have been before Ducky at that very moment. "Did we just get unofficially married?"
"I think we did." Ziva nodded with a smile. "Are you ready to go do it for real now?"
"Yes, but first, if we just got unofficially married..." He smiled, tipping her chin upwards. "We need an unofficially married kiss."
"That seems reasonable." Ziva met him halfway, but leaned back a second later when Tony's fingers went to slide into her hair. "Hands off. Abby spent ninety minutes on this and I am not sitting through that again!" She pushed the cascading curls back over her shoulder and slipped her arms around his neck, seeking his lips.
A moment later a piercing whistle caught their attention, they turned to see Gibbs in the elevator, propping the doors with his shoulder and wearing an impatient facial expression. "Hey! You two getting married or what?"
Tony gave a laugh, and let her go reluctantly. "Ziva David, will you marry me for real? Right now?"
"Absolutely." She agreed with a smile, they joined hands and walked to the elevator to join Gibbs.
"Sorted it?" Gibbs questioned softly as the doors slid closed.
"Nothing to sort." Tony shook his head, punched the button for ground. "Just overthinking. Needed Ziva to ground me."
"I just had to visit the ladies'." Ziva shrugged innocently. "Tony followed me."
"Well, you're late for your own wedding, and nearly gave Abby a heart attack" Gibbs rolled his eyes. "Oh, and DiNozzo..." He added a few moments later as they retraced their steps back to where the rest of the wedding awaited them.
"Yeah, Boss?" Tony paused, looked at the older man.
"That lipstick ain't your colour." He answered with a smirk. Ziva laughed and swiped her thumb across the peachy gloss at the corner of his mouth. "Both of you walk in front where I can see you."
Hands still linked, Tony and Ziva made their way up to their friends to get married, officially this time.
FYI - I imagine the women dancing to Carrie Underwood’s Last Name and Before He Cheats during the kitchen scene.
Pepto Bismol is not recommended during pregnancy because it can increase the risk of bleeding (that’s something I just learned)
For those who are curious what Ziva’s dress looks like in my head, you’ll find it here.
https://www.dressafford.com/bohemian-short-sleeve-a-line-chiffon-lace-v-neck-wedding-dress-with-v-back-and-sweep-train-p715914.html I picture the skirt being a little less full though. Hairstyle, think ‘Temptation’ but a little sleeker and a little more bridal.
Abby’s dress idea https://www.voodoovixen.co.uk/penny.html again, a little more Abs, but that’s the gist.
Yes, a proper ceremony scene is coming as soon as I finish tweaking it, it’s a Tiva wedding, it has to be perfect.
Much love, M xx
Chapter 4: Union
A very Tiva wedding at long last!
So I had Tiva plan this whole event in about four weeks. The reality is, I've been planning this for probably four months!
Ace_luce, thank you as always for your loyalty, your comments, and your patience.
As always - enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It was more like ten minutes before Gibbs returned with Ziva and Tony, by which point Abby was bordering on nervous wreck, convinced something had gone wrong. Nevertheless, a few minutes and several hugs later, peace and decorum was restored; Breena, in charge of the flowers with her funeral industry connections had handed out the men's boutonnieres and Ziva and Abby's bouquets, Tim had moved the video camera one more time, the guests were seated, everyone else was in their starting positions and only 15 minutes later than planned, Ziva - lipstick and hair both touched up - was walking down the aisle on Gibbs' arm to the tune of Puccini's O Mio Babbino Caro, chosen as one she remembered Tali singing in their childhood.
As they reached the top of the aisle, Tony, rocking between his toes and heels as he waited, moved a few steps forward to meet them, and Gibbs shook his hand with a serious mouth, but warm eyes. "Best work from here, Tony." He added softly.
"Always." Tony nodded. Gibbs turned to face Ziva, lifting her hand from his arm, and leaned closer, murmuring something no one could hear, but everyone saw the way her fingers tightened around his, and brushed a kiss to her forehead before laying her hand into Tony's waiting one. He paused half a beat, waited until the couple had turned, distracted by Ziva handing her bouquet to Abby, and slapped Tony - very lightly - on the back of the head.
"Thanks, Boss." Tony groused, not at all offended by the scattered laughter from the watching group as Gibbs took his seat beside Jackson. Ziva laughed too and reached to smooth the back of his hair. "Take it away, Ducky." He added when silence had fallen again.
Ducky cleared his throat, waited for the music to fade, and opened the black leather folder he held. "Welcome everyone, to the long awaited wedding of our beloved friends Tony and Ziva." He paused, glanced left and right, to Abby and Tim, looked across the group, the Vances, Jackson, and Gibbs on one side, Senior, Breena and Jimmy on the other. He turned slightly and inclined his head in deference towards the row of photo chairs, lingering precisely long enough for the gesture to be quietly respectful without adding sorrow, before straightening, faced the front and continued.
"In the words of Oscar Wilde: You don't love someone for their looks, or their clothes, or for their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear. Indeed, most of us would attest that Tony and Ziva have shared that song from the first moment that they met. It is a tune to which we have had the honour of observing them dance, but rarely the opportunity to hear ourselves. As with all of the greatest journeys of love, there have been highs and lows, trials and misunderstandings, moments when even the simplest of challenges seemed too great a mountain to scale. But whatever they faced, however wide the distance between them, that same unheard song has guided Tony and Ziva to each other, and indeed, back home to share this moment with their family. Today, they have invited us to listen to some of the unique melody that they sing between them, and to witness the moment they become husband and wife.
"Tony and Ziva have chosen to begin their ceremony with a tradition that honours Ziva's heritage. In the Jewish faith, a wedding contract, known as a ketubah is signed to not only consecrate the marriage, but to outline the responsibilities the couple bear. Traditionally, it is signed by the family before the wedding itself. However, they have chosen to create their own document and sign it themselves to define and accept the foundation upon which they have built their relationship, and to acknowledge that upholding and nurturing their union lies with them. Tony and Ziva, if you would please take a seat."
"This is it." Tony steadied Ziva's chair behind the small table as she sat, before taking his place beside her. "You're still in?"
"Always, neshama." She murmured in return. "You?"
"Just try and stop me." He whispered back with a wink. Ducky leaned over and placed the open folder between them, the ketubah sitting on top. They had decided on handwriting the piece themselves as a way to feel like it was truly theirs. Neither of them being particularly skilled with a paintbrush, they had outsourced the paper design, a cream background with the same flora they had chosen for the wedding bouquet - olive leaves and white roses - hand painted in watercolour in the corners, with flecks of gold leaf highlights. The only drawback to the plan was the paper was a one-of-a-kind work, meaning they only had one chance to write on it. Subsequently, a long and painstaking evening had been spent, Ziva slowly printing their words in Hebrew with a threat to cuff Tony to the stair railing if he disturbed her, and he in turn adding a translation in English with a care he had not given his handwriting in years. But despite the laborious proceedings in crafting it, the finished result was immensely pleasing to them, both aesthetically and emotionally.
"I was privy to many of the discussions that occurred in crafting this ketubah." Ducky continued as he stood behind them, a hand on each of their shoulders. "There were long talks, the occasional debate, and more movie quotes than any man should have to endure. But ultimately, Ziva and Tony felt that the basic premise on which their relationship is founded can be summarised in just three simple points. The first is a rule with which I believe we are all familiar, 'Never screw over your partner.'" He paused as a ripple of laughter passed across the watching group. "This rule has served them well both professionally and personally, and is a reminder of their faithfulness, respect and trust for one another. The second has two translations; Hebrew and English. As Ziva would say; 'aht lo leh-vahd', or in Tony's words, 'Always got your six'." Another pause for laughter, the quiet seriousness of Ziva's chosen words, beside the flippant, yet equally sincere quip from Tony, amusing the listeners.
"This promise is more than one of physical companionship, it also encompasses the emotional, moral and spiritual support they provide each other. It is a promise that from this point on, they are never alone. Finally, the third is another one that will be familiar to us all. 'There's no place like home.' As well as being the only movie that Tony and Ziva both owned a copy of, the quote is a reminder, not only of the brick and mortar house that they share, but of belonging and of safety. That no matter what else the world may throw at them, they will always have a place to call home in each other's arms." Beside him, Abby choked back an emotional sob, and the older man smiled gently in her direction before drawing a pen from his breast pocket. "Ziva, you first. For those of us keeping count, although they are not yet legally wed, this is the first time that Ziva will sign as Ziva David DiNozzo." There was a surprised murmur among the guests, up until this moment only Ducky, and Tony and Ziva themselves had known of the name change plan.
"Two Special Agent DiNozzos?" Vance leaned across Jackson to murmur to Gibbs. "The Agency is not ready for that." Gibbs gave a snort and shook his head.
"Thank you, Ducky." Ziva tipped her head back to smile at him and accepted the pen, signing where Ducky indicated with a flourish that suggested it may have been the first legal use of her name, but definitely not the first time she had written it at all.
"And now you, Tony. Although Tony's signature will not change visibly, the meaning is now different. He has chosen to take David as his middle name both to honour Ziva and to finally give us all an answer as to what his middle initial represents." As with Ziva's decision, this was the first anyone had heard of it, but the pair shared a quiet look of relief and pride at the low hum of approval from both Senior and Gibbs.
"Grazie cara mia." Tony caught Ziva's hand that offered him the pen, and brushed a kiss to her knuckles before he added his name in his angular script. Ducky beamed, pocketing the pen once more. There was a small pause as they moved, Abby coming forward to arrange Ziva's train as they took their places back at the front.
Ducky now addressed the couple before him, rather than the guests. "Tony and Ziva, please turn to face each other, and take one another's hands. Before you accept your wedding vows, I will read to you a passage called Union by Robert Fulghum. Let his words remind you, not only of what you have to come, but to take a moment to understand and appreciate the person you stand opposite, and what it is that has brought you here today.
You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes, to this moment of yes, indeed, you have been making commitments in an informal way. All of those conversations that were held in a car, or over a meal, or during long walks – all those conversations that began with, "When we're married", and continued with "I will" and "you will" and "we will" – all those late-night talks that included "someday" and "somehow" and "maybe" – and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more are the real process of a wedding.
The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, "You know all those things that we've promised, and hoped, and dreamed – well, I meant it all, every word."
Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another – acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, even teacher, for you have learned much from one another these past few years. Shortly you shall say a few words that will take you across a threshold of life, and things between you will never quite be the same.
For after today you shall say to the world –
This is my husband. This is my wife."
"Wife, I like the sound of that." Tony murmured. "Hurry up and make it official already."
Ducky gave a pleased chuckle. "I'm glad to hear you say that my lad, that's exactly what I intend to do. Ziva and Tony, do you take each other as husband and wife? To be wedded both in the eyes of the law, and by the definition of marriage which you have chosen yourselves. Do you promise to love one another completely, faithfully, and unashamedly, and to value that love above all else? Will you stand by one another for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall live?"
"I do." The answer was given simultaneously, a relieved smile breaking over both of their faces.
"Abby and Tim, please pass the wedding rings forward." Simple white-gold bands and hugs were exchanged with their respective wedding party members, before Ducky continued. "Tony, place the ring on Ziva's finger and repeat after me'I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine.'"
"Ani le-dodi ve-dodi li." The thin band slipped easily over Ziva's knuckle, and her eyes widened with surprise as Tony gave the Hebrew translation.
"You did not tell me you would learn it in Hebrew!" She exclaimed softly, "Toda, neshama."
"Prego, cuore mio." He smiled, proud before adding "It was easier than the proposal."
"Ziva, please put the ring on Tony's finger, and repeat the vow in... whichever language you prefer." Ducky gave a laugh.
"Soy de mi amado y mi amado es mía." Ziva offered in Spanish with a cheeky smile. "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine." She echoed more seriously, settling the band, slightly wider than her own on Tony's finger.
"Hey, McGee, grab a photo of this." Tony turned, and raised his hand. "For the office betting pool, I know they're gonna want proof I went through with it."
"Oh my god, Tony." Ziva sighed, as McGee followed the instruction with his phone, evidently having been pre-warned about this moment. The resulting image; Tony beaming with a mix of horror and pride, pointing to his new jewellery, Ziva a pace behind, face-palming, conveniently with her left hand, her own wedding ring glinting in the late afternoon sun, would eventually become the one displayed in the entry of their home.
"If I may redirect, before we get to the festivities." Ducky cleared his throat firmly although he looked just as amused, "Mr Palmer will join us for a reading of The Art of Marriage by Wilferd A. Peterson." Jimmy rose and walked to the front, looking somewhat misty-eyed, Ducky in turn, taking a seat with the rest of the onlookers.
"Thank you for asking me." He smiled widely. "I've chosen a poem that offers some advice on building a great marriage. Although you two are the first to actually tie the knot out of our little ragtag group of couples, Bree and I have been engaged the longest, so I think, as the more experienced man, that there's still something you can learn from me, Tony."
"Watch it, Gremlin." Tony growled without malice, amidst laughter, Ziva's included.
"But, I think you'll like it, it was the reading used at Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward's wedding." Jimmy continued with a look of pride at his cleverness.
"Cool Hand Luke... yeah, you're off this hook this time." Tony agreed. Jimmy pulled a sheet of paper from his pocket, cleared his throat, and began reading.
"The little things are the big things.
It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say "I love you" at least once a day.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is at no time taking the other for granted;
the courtship should not end with the honeymoon,
it should continue through all the years.
It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
It is standing together facing the world.
It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family.
It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice,
but in the spirit of joy.
It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating
gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is not expecting the husband to wear a halo or the wife to have wings of an angel.
It is not looking for perfection in each other.
It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding and a sense of humour.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.
It is finding room for the things of the spirit.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.
It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal, dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal.
It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner."
Despite the initial silliness, the meaning of the poem and how well it suited their relationship was not lost on either Tony or Ziva, who had regained their composure, and resumed their original positions, facing each other, holding hands, and watching each other with a gaze so intense it seemed that the world had ceased to exist outside their own personal bubble. Ziva's eyes shone at the edges, and although Tony's were still dry, there was a love and admiration etched plainly on his face for all to read. They were so focused on each other at that moment, that when Jimmy finished reading and took his seat again, it took Ducky two or three tries to catch their attention, a firm cough and a hand on each of their elbows finally breaking the spell, and only just saving everyone from one of Gibbs' shrill whistles. Slowly they returned their attention to the ME turned celebrant for the day.
"Thank you, Mr Palmer for that beautiful reading. I think that no one present would argue with the sentiment that our very much enamoured couple here, are truly the definition of the 'the right partner', both in work and in love. However, Tony and Ziva, it is my very great honour, and even greater pleasure..." He paused, and nodded to Tim who set a new song playing. "...To inform you both that you are not only partners, but officially husband and wife. Congratulations on your marriage. You may now kiss the bride."
To everyone's surprise the first kiss Tony and Ziva shared as a married couple was not particularly long. After nothing more than a fleeting brush of lips, they both pressed their foreheads together and laughed long and hard. A second attempt ended similarly as they laughed at themselves and their unnaturally quiet, serious demeanours, with a touch of relief that it was finally official, with pure unadulterated joy and love, and at the sheer absurdity of Ducky solemnly giving them permission to kiss as though it was the very first time, despite the fact that Ziva, even in the flowing skirt, was visibly pregnant.
"Okay, let's try that again." Tony murmured. This kiss lasted about half a second, before he felt Ziva's lips quivering again and he lost it a second later. Her head came down on his shoulder, her own shaking with mirth and with nothing better to do, he wrapped his arms around her and laughed into the top of her hair as well.
"The hell is it with these two? The one time they're allowed to kiss on base." Vance muttered out of the corner of his mouth..
"Shh Leon. They're happy." Jackie gave him a gentle backhand and a reproving look.
"Friends and family," Ducky began again, deciding it was a lost cause. "Let me be the first to introduce you to the evidently overjoyed Mr and Mrs Anthony and Ziva DiNozzo!" The couple cracked up again at this announcement, amidst a scattered, slightly baffled applause.
"Hey Zi..." Tony exhaled hard, trying to sober himself. "You're my wife."
"You're my husband, Tony." Ziva let go of him to hold her stomach, the extra weight bouncing when she laughed, her eyes widened and she pulled his hand down. "Do you feel that?"
"Whoa, was that...?" His other hand joined hers on the top of the bump.
"That's the baby kicking." Ziva nodded. "She is celebrating too." Tony's face split into an even wider grin, if that was possible.
"That's the best wedding present ever. I love you, Mrs DiNozzo." He declared proudly.
"I love you, too." This time, when Tony swept his arm under Ziva's knees and hoisted her bridal-style across his chest and bent his head to hers, both the kiss, and the applause from their audience lasted much, much longer.
Well I hope that was sappy, and beautiful and funny and touching enough for you all!
The reading Ducky gave is called Union, by Robert Fulghum, originally published in his book From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our Lives.
Jimmy's reading was a poem The Art Of Marriage by Wilferd A. Peterson. The poem was also recited at the wedding of Paul Newman, who starred in Cool Hand Luke, a movie Tony has declared "the greatest prison chain gang movie ever made" in 3x09.
I like to imagine the song playing during the kiss was Israel Kamakawiwoʻole's version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow.
Much love, M xx
Chapter 5: Something Blue
A wedding reception, lots of dancing, fun and fluff.
Thanks for your patience! It's been a very busy few weeks in real life! Bridesmaid duties included a fortnight-long holiday back to my hometown. Unfortunately, I haven't had as much time to write as I want, and on top of that I've been fighting off a cold which, now that my bridal party role is completed, has hit full force! I've also been in a "here's a million good ideas you'll never finish" writing phase as well, I think I have 4 more WIPs on the go right now which may or may not ever see the light of day here.
Anyway, thanks to everyone who commented and kudos on the previous chapter. Your loyalty and love mean so much to me!
So given that I just spent my evening dancing my heart out at a wedding reception, I wanted to share the joy. This is just a bit of fluffy filler while I work on something more substantial to move the plot forward.
As always - enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The wedding ceremony was concluded with a general gathering and plenty of hugs and congratulations, not to mention Tony and Abby desperately trying to get another nudge from the baby, who did not oblige. Senior welcomed Ziva warmly to the family with a smacking kiss on each cheek and declared her 'truly ravishing'. Jimmy denied crying, even with red-rimmed eyes, but Tim had caught photographic evidence; the office pool was paying 3 to 1 on those particular odds and he'd had $20 riding on it. Gibbs crying was paying at 45 to 1, although no one had been brave enough to take that bet, while Abby was only paying out if she didn't cry, whether glistening eyes, but no falling tears counted would remain to be seen on Monday. After a half hour or so of noise and chatter, Breena had informed them that the caterer they'd hired - it turned out she also catered wakes, although they hadn't gone through Breena to find her - had messaged saying the food was ready back at the house, and they'd worked as a team to pack down the ceremony space quickly and make a move.
Gibbs had surprised Tony by throwing him the keys to the Challenger and telling him that he would drive back with Jackson to give the newlyweds a few minutes to themselves. However, the gesture was tempered by a stern warning to drive safely and not to use the car for anything other than driving. In response, Ziva had laughingly pointed out she was a long way from fitting in the backseat of a car anymore and received a swat on the head and a muttered "brat" for her cheek.
"Did I mention you look absolutely stunning today Mrs DiNozzo?" Tony glanced sideways as he drove; he'd interpreted Gibbs' instructions loosely, and although he was still driving safely, he had taken the scenic route back to Casa De Tiva, stretching out the rare opportunity to drive Gibbs' favourite car, and the time alone with Ziva.
Ziva nodded with a smile, "Several times," she affirmed. "But you may tell me as often as you wish."
"Seriously that dress... wow." He continued, reaching with his right hand to play with the lacy sleeve for a second. "Hey, did you do that whole, something old, something new... is that a Hebrew thing?"
"Yes I did, not it is not Hebrew or even Jewish. It's an English child's poem... a nursery rhyme." He could hear the thought, and then pride in her voice as she landed on the correct term before elaborating, "So, my dress is new obviously, as is the knife."
Tony tried to steal a glance at her thigh, too covered by the filmy skirt to be successful. "You're really wearing it?" The pleasure that his gift had been so well received was evident in his voice.
"Of course. You may find it later," Ziva responded with a wink and pointed to the silver twists dangling from her earlobes. "Jenny bought these for me when we were in Cairo, which feels like a lifetime ago. That is old enough. The comb is borrowed from Abby, and the ring I am wearing on my right hand is borrowed from Breena. We have organised a whole trade around that - my earrings, Abby's comb, and Breena's ring; we will each wear them at our weddings." Ziva raised her hand into his peripheral vision and displayed a small silver signet ring on her thumb. "That was one of Abby's better ideas when it came to making suggestions for today."
He gave a relieved laugh, glad to have avoided anything equine-related. "I wondered where that came from. What about something blue?" He gave her another once-over not taking his eyes off the road for too long. "You're a vision in white as far as I can see."
"Ahh, that one you can also wait to find out about later," She gave a quiet, mysterious little laugh, the kind that held promises that made Tony think about skipping the reception entirely. "Abba was very clear about what happened in this car."
"You're killing me here Dav... DiNozzo." Tony groaned, finding a space along the street to park the car. With the longer drive they'd taken, everyone else had arrived first, and the spots immediately outside their house were full, and the drive was occupied by Jackson's battered pickup.
"You love it, ahuvi." Ziva reminded him and waited for Tony to come around and open the door for her, he held out his hand, helping her to straighten up. "Did you see that?" She murmured in an undertone tilting her head toward the house they were parked alongside, as the curtains in the window fell back into place abruptly.
Tony chuckled and bent to gather Ziva's skirt off the sidewalk. "You mean our very own Mrs Kravitz? How could I miss it? I wonder if she'll stop giving you the evil eye now that I've made an honest woman of you." The neighbour three doors down had never favoured either of them with more than the briefest of glances, preferring a quiet observation through a gap in the curtains. However, since Ziva's waistline had started expanding with no wedding ring in sight, she'd evolved to include a disapproving head shake if they happened to make eye contact. During morning runs, Ziva's talks with other neighbours revealed she was militantly religious and horrified that they were 'living in sin right under her nose.' With this known, Tony naturally made it a point to try and kiss Ziva every time they passed her house and did so again after he locked the car, knowing full well they were still being watched.
"Oh, you know her name?" Ziva broke the kiss and fell into step beside him, Tony still holding her train clear of her ankles. "The most I have ever gotten from her sounded something like a sneeze."
"No, Mrs Kravitz is... never mind, another one to add to the list of things to watch when you're on maternity leave." They walked up the front path, and paused on the porch, already hearing noise and chatter inside. "Welcome home, Mrs DiNozzo."
"He says as though he was the one who paid for 80% of this house." Ziva gave a teasing laugh. With Eli's inheritance in Ziva's possession, the house was now officially theirs financially as well as legally, and other than some light-hearted humour, the fact that Ziva had technically been the one to pay for it was irrelevant, as far as they were concerned, it was theirs.
"Starting to understand why Gibbs calls you a brat." Tony rolled his eyes and opened the door with a sweeping gesture. "Come on, let's go party."
Casa De Tiva was filled with joy and noise that evening. They gathered first for a meal upstairs, the dining table at full extension was designed for eight, so accommodating twelve was rather cosy but no one was complaining as they found seats. Dishes left by the caterers were passed around amidst chatter and laughter, wine glasses were filled, the highlights from earlier in the day were rehashed, and Abby scolded Tony for disappearing right before the ceremony.
"That was seriously uncool! Where did you get to anyway?" She concluded. Beside him, deep in conversation with Ducky, Ziva gave the subtlest of headshakes. The vows in the bullpen were for them alone, and if Gibbs had overheard any of it, he wasn't letting on.
"Oh, everywhere and nowhere," Tony answered airily, Ziva nudged his arm and he pushed his plate towards her as she picked the cherry tomatoes out of her salad. "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, Abs." Ziva dropped the rejected ingredient onto his plate and held out her hand expectantly. Tony collected his cubes of halloumi and passed them over. "Turned up in the end, didn't I?"
Abby watched the silent trade, conducted without either of them breaking eye contact with the person they were talking to, and considered for a second. "I guess so, but I promise if you ever disappear five minutes before you're supposed to get married again, no one's gonna find your body."
Ziva laughed shortly, turning away from Ducky for a moment, "If he ever needs to get married again, Abby, you will not be able to find the body either!" She turned back to face Ducky again with calm nonchalance, "Sorry, go on?"
Tim laughed and checked his watch. "Two hours married and there's been a death threat already. That's gotta be some kind of record." He leaned back as Abby passed the bread basket past him to Jackie.
Vance grinned down the table. "Gibbs - I believe you're the authority on wives making attempts on your life?" Jackie flicked her hand sideways, swatting his chest with a barely concealed smile. Gibbs chose not to dignify the barb with a response, reaching instead for some kind of creamy potato dish.
Tony glanced sideways at Ziva, who met his eyes with affection. "Nah, this one's for keeps Abs," He shrugged coolly. "Pretty well crazy about her." He caught Ziva's hand and kissed her fingers.
"As am I, neshama." Ziva leaned across, pressed a kiss to his cheek and helped herself to the piece of cheese he'd missed on his plate, dropping the tomatoes from her second helping of salad as she did so.
"Ever think of ordering the food the way you like it?" Gibbs queried.
Ziva shook her head, gesturing to Jimmy who had just had a mouthful of both the cheese and the tomato, as well as the other ingredients, and looked blissed out at the flavour combination. "No. And that is why; the dish is better as a whole."
Jimmy gave an emphatic nod. "Sr'llygoob!" He enthused, still chewing.
"Besides," Tony lay his fork down to provide air quotes as he spoke, "'Things that burst' were not on Ziva's banned food list two weeks ago when we confirmed with the caterer."
"Things that burst, Ziva?" Tim repeated curiously, putting his hand over his wineglass before Abby topped it up again. "I know we've totally bonded over your peanut butter addiction right now, but you've lost me on this."
"Just keep me supplied with Reese's cups and you will be fine, McGee." There was a widespread communal laugh as he calmly reached into Abby's handbag which was hanging on the back of her chair, pulled out the aforementioned candy and tossed it across the table.
Tony shrugged and explained, "It's a textural thing. Cream cheese and custard are safe again, but grapes, cherry tomatoes, those things in bubble tea, and sunny side up are all out." He reached for the wine across the table. "Weird if you ask me." He added with a saddened shake of his head and a teasing grin at his wife.
"Oh really?" Ziva took the bait quickly. "And I am eating the halloumi from your plate because...?"
"Because I know how much you like it, and I'm just that generous?" Ziva scoffed and raised her eyebrows and Tony rolled his eyes. "Fine... If it squeaks when I chew, it makes me think there's something alive there." Laughter rippled around the table at this admission, Ducky chiming in with the technical explanation for the squeaking sensation, followed by a tale from a time in Europe with a cheesemaker.
The celebrations went on merrily, eventually moving downstairs to the basement where a dessert buffet and small bar area had been set up. Abby and Ziva had been busy with their decorating, long swathes of filmy fabric had been hung outward from the centre of the ceiling and enhanced with hundreds of string lights, and strands of small metallic stars dangled downwards, creating an effect somewhere between a tent and being out under the night sky. Ziva, who Abby had forbidden from climbing ladders, dragged what was now the dessert table around whenever she needed to be taller and simply stood on that instead. The same wooden chairs from the reception were gathered near the bar space, which would stay even after the party had disbanded. The foldout sofa Breena had used had been dragged off into a far corner, with a new slipcover and throw cushions in the same cream and pale green shades that had been used for the flowers and the ketubah. The centre of the room remained empty for dancing, and Tim had relocated the surround sound speakers from the living room for the night. Tony had supervised this action the previous day, but his warnings to be careful were quelled when reminded that Tim had not only recommended the purchase but set them up in the first place.
Senior quickly declared himself in charge of the bar and serving drinks, while Abby took control of Ziva's phone and subsequently, the music for the night. They opened with Can't Help Falling In Love, the only truly 'official' part of the reception, but even that wasn't very official, Tony and Ziva simply taking the floor when they felt ready after a few minutes of chatter and picking over the dessert table. They sang, softly enough that it wasn't a presentation of any kind, just to each other, but the odd snippet of Ziva's effortless harmony that could be heard over the refrain, or the way they alternated singing lines, gave their watchers an insight to the deep connection between the pair and added a literal meaning to Ducky's opening lines from the ceremony; this was clearly not the first time Tony and Ziva had sung together, but this was the one time they'd actually hear it.
After that, the music took a more lighthearted turn, although Abby was in charge of the phone, Ziva and Tony had constructed the playlist themselves (with a few suggestions from their friends) and their guests were spared the Sterile Puppets or anything else that might normally have had airtime in her lab. None of it was very formal, songs just played steadily in the background, and people got up to dance when they felt like it, chatting and eating in between. Abby added her own spin to the playlist a few times. She, Jimmy and Breena treated everyone to a loud rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, followed by a song from Ziva's hen's night and coaxing Ziva and Bree to demonstrate the steps they had learned one more time. Linedancing in a wedding dress was no easy feat, even once Abby had helped her find the loop at the end of the train and tie it around her wrist, and Ziva declared herself beaten after one song, preferring tunes that required a simpler ballroom hold.
For the most part, it was the younger three couples dancing, while the older half of the party mostly remained sequestered near the bar. The smaller room and guestlist meant any dancing was more obvious, although no one watched too closely. At one point, Jackie requested the song from her wedding to Leon and pulled him up to the floor, while Jackson pronounced himself too old, and was happy enough chatting and watching, and Gibbs just raised an eyebrow when asked if he would dance at any point.
The casual nature of the party meant there were no strictly organised dances. However, Senior and Ducky had both asked Ziva to dance at a random moment, Senior choosing I Get A Kick Out Of You, leading her with a dashing charm worthy of Sinatra. Ducky, meanwhile had chosen the opening strains of Dream A Little Dream Of Me, and he carried out the dance with his usual quiet elegance, relating a story of a time he had seen a Doris Day movie in his youth. Seeing this, Abby claimed her own dance with both men and decided it was her mission to get Gibbs to dance with Ziva at least once.
"Abby, it is fine. Gibbs does not want to." Ziva settled on the couch, a glass of water in one hand, a plate of dessert in the other. They were taking a breather, Tony chatting with Senior over by the bar, Tim, Jimmy and Breena in a group by the stairs. "We already know how he feels about weddings, dancing is probably a step too far." Beside her, Abby swiped her finger on the screen, scrolling song titles, trying to find the 'perfect' tune for Gibbs and Ziva to dance to.
"It has to be exactly the right song, something that makes him want to dance... or remember a time when he did... I got it!" Abby's face showed sudden understanding, she jumped up without another word and dashed across the room to cut in on the conversation between Tim and Jimmy, Tony taking the chance to claim the vacant space beside Ziva for a quick kiss.
"How're you holding up Ninja?" He slid an arm around her waist and helped himself to a bite of the brownie she held between her fingers. "The stowaway behaving herself?"
"She is being perfectly agreeable, I think she likes all the dancing, and I am fine," Ziva pulled her food out of his reach. "But if you continue eating my dessert, I will not be the one with 'something blue' later on." Her tone lowered significantly, eyes flickering ever so slightly south in case there was any doubt about her meaning.
Tony winced, as did Ducky who had come close enough to hear the last sentence, performing a rapid about-face and leaving the pair alone. "So marriage hasn't softened you at all my lovely wife... uh-oh, that's Abby's planning something smile." He changed subjects quickly and his head swivelled towards the green-clad bridesmaid as she turned to study Gibbs with a 'checkmate' facial expression.
"She has been determined to find a song that will make Gibbs ask me to dance," Ziva explained, with a slight eye-roll. "I have told her not to bother, but you know Abby."
"Well, whatever it is, she thinks she's got it," Tony said. The music faded, replaced by the introduction to something softer, slower, and immediately familiar. "That's the one..."
Ziva nodded with a reminiscent smile, "We danced to when we were undercover on that meth case at the charity ball, yes. That was why she went to talk to Tim!" Apparently, the groomsman was not the only one who remembered the song, Vance gave a sudden laugh, and Gibbs visibly sighed with resignation before standing and coming across to where they sat.
"Gonna pitch a fit if I ask your wife to dance, DiNozzo?" He questioned, holding out his hand in invitation. "They're playing our song, Aurelia." He added dryly to Ziva when Tony denied any knowledge of said fit. Ziva laughed and set her plate and glass aside, accepting his hand up.
"I did not think you would remember." Ziva followed Gibbs back to the floor and settled into a dance hold that was more relaxed than it had been the last time, without the odd pretence of an undercover role as a married couple, although the affection was far more genuine.
Gibbs smirked, "Couldn't forget that tantrum that husband of yours was throwing."
"He was very nearly not my anything that night!" Ziva said with a laugh; recalling the hours of tension and aggravation that had culminated with them agreeing to try dating officially. She dropped her voice to let the music cover their conversation, "Are you okay with this? I warned Abby that you may not want to dance."
"Abs went to the trouble of finding out this song." He gave a noncommittal shrug, obviously compartmentalising the memories and the present moment, Ziva took the hint and pressed no further. "But pretty sure you were smaller back then." He added with a downward nod.
"I think you can thank McGee for telling her the title," Ziva nodded her head towards the conspiring pair, Tim with the most innocent expression he could manage behind a pleased smile, and Abby was doing a terrible job of pretending not to take a photo. "Although, I seem to remember you saying much more flattering things to me at the time?"
He gave her a knowing look. "Fishing for compliments huh?"
"Not at all," Ziva shook her head lightly, "But surely there is a rule about only saying complimentary things about a bride's appearance?"
Gibbs laughed softly, and turned her under his arm, dropping his mouth to her ear when she faced him again. "Never seen you look happier kiddo, that's worth more than any wedding dress or fancy hair." The words were better than any praise he could have offered about her looks, and Ziva's hand tightened in his gratefully.
"Thank you for the dance," Ziva murmured as the song faded.
"Next best thing," Gibbs reminded her quietly, code for another three words that were spoken far less often, especially in company, but no less important or deeply meant.
Ziva nodded understanding, "Next best thing," she agreed, as Gibbs kissed her forehead.
"See! I told you a dance was a good choice - you're almost smiling, Gibbs!" Abby cheered, joining them on the floor. She wrapped her arm around Ziva's waist as the beat picked up again, encouraging her to start swaying with the rhythm.
"Don't think I don't know why you tried so hard Abs," Gibbs shook his head. "How much d'you win?"
Abby didn't even bother to look surprised that he'd called her out, "Twenty," She admitted with a grin. "Palmer was sure you wouldn't."
"You can buy your own Caf-Pow! for the next week then." He said firmly, retreating to his spot near the bar. "You bet on me, you pay the price."
"Worth it," Abby shrugged, turning to face Ziva and catching both her hands. "Come on Lady DiNozzo, my turn!"
The night wore on, the relaxed, fun vibe not fading, even as people grew weary, the Vances the first to make their departure.
"Thank you for coming Mrs Vance," Ziva leaned forward to brush a kiss on each cheek.
"Jackie, please, and thank you for asking me," She corrected, returning the gesture. "After everything Leon has told me about you two, I had to see it with my own eyes. And don't listen to his complaints about spamming him with baby pictures when she arrives either, I want to see them all!" Ziva agreed with a laugh and formally farewelled the Director, as Jackie turned to say goodbye to Tony, the couple heading up the stairs a few moments later.
Music still played in the background; Abby had relinquished possession of the phone to Jimmy, who had put on Can You Feel The Love Tonight to dance with Breena, while Ducky methodically packed down the scant remains of the dessert table. Both the Gibbs men and Senior were still near the bar - whiskey glasses in hand, sharing a story that involved much dry laughter, although the rumble of their voices was drowned out by Elton John.
Ziva, Tony, Abby, and Tim all sat in a tired, happy row on the couch at the far side of the room, watching Jimmy and Breena rotate on a spot the size of a nickel, totally oblivious to the world. "Do we look like that Zi?" Tony murmured against Ziva's ear.
"Yes!" Abby and Tim agreed in unison, Abby continuing, "Except you two make it way more obvious when you're undressing each other with your eyes..." Ziva reached for Abby's hand and guided her to the tiny flutters that had just become apparent by way of distraction. "Baby Tiva! Tim, you should feel this it's so awesome!"
"I'm good, thanks, Abs," Tim declined quickly. "Seriously, it's fine," He insisted when Abby pressed both the issue, and whatever lump of baby she was feeling and received a more solid thump from within, and a disapproving noise from Ziva.
"Oops, sorry Zivvie." Abby withdrew her hand and stopped leaning across Tony, turning instead to Tim. "You haven't danced with Ziva yet either... oh my god, he's gone all shy with how good you look, Zivvie, I told you he'd blush!"
Ziva shook her head with a smile, deflecting on Tim's behalf, "Abby, why are you so worried that I dance with everyone tonight? My feet are starting to hurt!"
"It's your wedding day, Zivvie - you need to have an awesome memory with everyone in this room," Abby explained.
"I did not dance with Director Vance or Jimmy?" She questioned, not following the logic.
"Yeah, but that's Vance - that's kind of weird." Abby shrugged off the contradiction. "You and Jimmy totally rocked out to The Middle as well - that counts." Sometime after her dance with Gibbs, Ziva had taken a break upstairs, feeling overwhelmed and a little hormonal. Abby had found her in the kitchen carefully dabbing her eyes with the corner of the teatowel and had decided she needed cheering up. After a few secretive words, Abby and Jimmy promptly staged a mutiny, changed the song and dragged Ziva back to the floor, promising the chorus was specifically for her, and two or three minutes had been spent bellowing the lyrics for her benefit. Ziva eventually succumbed to the catchy tune and sang the last couple of choruses with them. Although it had made Ziva smile again, Senior had been instructed not to pour any more drinks for the instigators, and Tony had taken over the music for a while.
"Hey," Tony cut in. "Does that mean you have to dance with me too Abs? Zi's not the only one who got married after all, pretty sure I was there too. Do I get an awesome moment with everyone in the room?"
She nodded eagerly. "You bet it does, are you thinking what I'm thinking, Robin Hood?"
Tony gave his best charming smile in response, "But of course, Lady Marian.Prince of Thieves it is."
"Robin Hood?" Ziva enquired, with a curious look at her husband. "Why do I feel there is a story to this?"
"There's not." Tony said, "I just know what she's thinking. A movie soundtrack is the only choice."
"Yep!" Abby agreed "Something so corny and over the top, you just have to ham it up. Right, my liege?"
"You know it, m'lady... hey, Palmer, hand over the phone!" Tony rose to put an end to the Disney soundtrack marathon Jimmy seemed to have planned, A Whole New World had just started playing.
"You're going to love this!" Abby announced, grabbing Tim and Ziva's wrists to pull them to standing. "I know you both know the song, I've made you watch the movie enough times. Trust me, the best way to do this is to just be so full on and into it, you're laughing too hard to feel embarrassed."
"Abby, come on, you know I don't dance that much, Tim protested as Abby dragged them both toward the middle of the floor.
Abby stopped pulling long enough to put Ziva's hand in his as Tony claimed the phone back. "Nope. You're dancing. It's Ziva's wedding you can't say no to her."
"I never asked!" Ziva put in. A piano introduction tinkled in the background, and Abby shoved Tim a step closer to Ziva before turning to Tony. "And this is a love song!" Abby couldn't or pretended not to hear the last protest, already adding actions to the opening lyrics as she danced.
Tim sighed, "It's fine, Ziva if you want to go sit down again, honestly..."
Ziva heaved a sigh too, "I do not mind, really. And it is easier than arguing with Abby," She lay a hand on his shoulder. "Just do not dip me like that!" She nodded her head towards the others; giving literal meaning to the phrase 'dance like no one's watching.' Jimmy and Breena, meanwhile, had not given up their close on-the-spot embrace.
"When you find me there, you'll search no more!" Abby sang behind them.
"Where do I..." His right hand hovered uncertainly.
Ziva laughed softly and caught his hand, "My waist McGee, or where it used to be anyway." She dropped the limb to her side and laid her hand back on his shoulder. "Unless I am actually having the baby, and you will not be there for that, you do not need to treat me any differently."
Tim gave a bashful shrug, "Sorry, awkward prom dates and slow dancing with Abs is about the extent of my knowledge of partner dancing. You do look really great tonight though."
"Thankyou, Tim." Ziva increased the pressure of her hands in response to guide him. "Just side to side, we do not have to do... whatever that is." He followed her lead, still somewhat awkwardly.
"You can't tell me it's not worth dying for!" Tony and Abby in unison this time as they performed another extravagant dip, every step greatly exaggerated, far bigger than necessary, and punctuated by laughter, mostly from Abby as she clutched the arm of Tony's suit jacket, trying not to fall backwards.
"Loosen up, Zi!" Tony called during the instrumental, "McGee, quit being so serious!" Abby gave another shriek as he spun them both.
"They're as bad as each other," Tim murmured. "Had no idea either of them got like this."
"Neither did I. At least you still have a chance to change your mind about getting married!" Ziva shot back, and the resulting laugh had them both relaxing into the song, moving more fluidly.
"Sing along!" Abby encouraged. "Take me as I am, take my life."
Ziva met McGee's eyes with a shrug and a what do we have to lose kind of smile, "I would give it all, I would sacrifice..."
"You can't tell me it's not worth fighting for," He joined reluctantly.
"You know it's true... everything I do, I do it for you!" Now four voices were singing, and before long, Ziva and Tim were just as into it, although less dramatic in their dancing than Abby and Tony. With almost 6 minutes to dance, Ziva even managed to teach McGee a neat double-handed turn. They laughed their way through the rest of the song, eventually letting go of their stiffness and enjoying themselves thoroughly.
"I told you!" Abby beamed triumphantly, as they made their way back to the bar for refreshments, still laughing at themselves. "If you don't go over the top you can't see what's on the other side. I expect an encore at our wedding!" Jimmy and Breena, still unaware of the carry-on, kept dancing to whatever started next. By now, the app was choosing random tunes to continue playing.
"I will be much rounder by then, I may not want to dance," Ziva warned with a laugh, settling back against Tony, who wrapped his arm around her belly. "And I am not sure if I want an encore from you, Tim. I love you dearly, but you cannot hold a tune."
"Never said I could sing. But the dancing was less awkward than I thought, like Tony said, it was kinda fun." Tim finished with a shrug.
"None of you can sing from what I heard," Gibbs cut in, "Calling it a night - keys, DiNozzo." Tony obediently fished them out of his pocket and handed them over. This announcement seemed to draw everyone's attention to the time, Ducky informing them that all the leftovers had been safely refrigerated and that he would drive Senior back to the Adams house, once they'd taken the extra leaves out of the dining table and broken it down again, while the McSciutos along with Jimmy and Breena who had finally emerged from their romantic dance bubble packed away the extra chairs into a corner, and stacked the dishwasher before calling for their own rides.
Before long, it was just Tony and Ziva alone in their basement again, the music barely obvious in the background, the volume had been dropped several notches to allow goodbyes to be spoken properly. They weren't dancing, just swaying along quietly, and humming the words when they knew them, enjoying the peace of having their house to themselves for the first time as husband and wife.
"So, Mrs DiNozzo. How do you like the sound of that?" Tony asked, winding one of her loose curls around his fingers as her head rested on his shoulder.
Ziva responded with a contented hum, "How do you like the sound of Anthony David DiNozzo?" She answered his question with one of her own.
He gave a cool, nonchalant shrug, that was belied by the shine in his eyes at the sound of his new, full name, "I think I can live with it. This might take longer to get used to though," He quipped with a smile, tapping his left ring finger on her hand as he held it, before guiding her into a graceful twirl. "Still feels kind of weird if I'm honest. Not bad, just different."
"Trust me, it will grow on you," Ziva promised, with almost ten months to get used to wearing her engagement ring, the addition of a second band had been less of a sensory change for her. "In a few weeks, it will feel wrong when you are not wearing it."
"That almost sounds ominous." He laughed and added a crack about Stockholm Syndrome, earning himself a playful swat. "Have you read the inscription I got in yours yet?" They had both arranged for engravings to be made on the inside of each others' rings and agreed that it would be a secret until after they were officially married.
"No, have you?" She released him to step back and work the ring off her finger.
"Nah, wanted to wait till we were alone." Tony mirrored her action, before realising the ambient lighting, while romantic and party appropriate, was too dim for reading a small engraving, and quickly moved for the main overhead light switch. "Hebrew, and after you sent Abby with me to make sure I didn't get yours to look like Lord of the Rings! Wait... that's aleph, I got that one. I think the next one is resh maybe?" Tony turned the ring slowly in his hand, and Ziva let him puzzle it out for a few more moments, trying to remember the few characters he had picked up.
"Ani le-dodi ve-dodi li." Ziva said, tracing each character on his palm when he declared himself beaten. Tony couldn't read Hebrew well and learned words and phrases by ear, but in a way that neither of them truly understood, he could feel the shapes and remember the sounds that went with each one when she drew them on his hand as she spoke. "That is why I was so pleased you learned it in Hebrew. This way you may carry my promise with you wherever you go."
"And you say I think of everything." He let her slide the ring back on and kissed her. "Did you read yours?" Her own rings were still tucked into the palm of the hand she had not been using to help him read the characters, and Ziva took her turn tilting the thin white gold ring.
"This was inevitable." The simple words brought a smile to her face, not only the reminder of long ago talks but also the difference in the inscriptions they'd chosen. Tony's wholehearted belief that they were always meant to be was balanced by her acknowledgment of the intentional promise they had made to belong to the other; somehow, even without knowing what their own ring would say, they'd reflected themselves honestly and complemented the other in a few simple words. "Nothing is inevitable Tony."
"We are inevitable Zi. Whatever went down, wherever we've been, this..." He took her hand, spun her again, and then gestured between them. "This was always going to happen. Even if Jenny had never created the liaison role and you'd gone back to Tel-Aviv, we would have found each other again in some other way."
Ziva smiled, as he returned the rings to their rightful position on her left hand with a gallant kiss on her knuckles. "Well, I will wear those words with great pride. I am still not so sure about fate as you are, but this feels right enough that it could be."
"Of course it was fate." Tony said confidently, "And even if it wasn't, I woulda helped it along. You made an impression that day Officer David, I would have wanted to look for you if our paths didn't cross again."
Ziva smirked, obviously considering whether to call him out that his intentions on looking her up after their first meeting had been a lot less committed than where they stood now, but thought the better of it. "I prefer Mrs DiNozzo." She murmured instead, leaning up for a lingering kiss.
"So do I." Tony agreed when talking was an option again, and stepped back to take another sweeping look at his wife, shaking his head lightly in disbelief. "You look incredible Ziva. You know those scenes in movies where they do the whole life flashing before their eyes montage? Yeah, this is one of them. I'm never going to forget the way you look right now."
Ziva's cheeks warmed at the sincere compliment and obvious admiration in his gaze. "For that one," She whispered, moving closer to punctuate her thoughts with a kiss, "You may treat going to bed with me like a sure thing tonight."
"I like the sound of that," he grinned against her lips. With that offer in play, they weren't long in heading upstairs, and when he discovered exactly what Ziva's 'something blue' was, Tony found another image to add to his montage.
The 'Mrs Kravitz' Tony mentioned was the nosy across-the-road neighbour from Bewitched who was always trying to get her husband Abner to see what magical mayhem was taking place at Samantha's house.
Commercially available halloumi is usually pasteurised and therefore safe in pregnancy.
Head back to No Strings Attached, Chapter 9 for the time Ziva and Gibbs were undercover.
The lyrics Jimmy and Abby insist are for Ziva are "It just takes some time, Little girl, you're in the middle of the ride, Everything, everything'll be just fine, Everything, everything'll be alright," from The Middle by Jimmy Eat World. It feels like the kind of message they'd latch onto for Ziva after the events from the previous story, especially when they're already pretty hyped up and excited.
"If you don't go over the top you can't see what's on the other side." Although many forms of this quote exist, I know it from the late and great Jim Steinman, best known as the songwriter for Meat Loaf, and also feels like a very Abby way of looking at the world.
For the record, I don't read Hebrew either, (although I'm giving it a go on DuoLingo), but in my inexpert opinion, resh and nun look similar enough to the untrained eye to potentially get them mixed up. Nun is the second character in the sentence Ziva had engraved on Tony's ring.
In the Season 9 episode "Life Before His Eyes", it's shown that Tony still meets Ziva, although she is not a member of NCIS, so yes, even in vastly different circumstances, they would still have found each other.
The songs I hear playing over the end scene as Tony and Ziva are alone again and reading the inscriptions are Dobie Gray's Drift Away, followed by The Way You Look Tonight by Frank Sinatra.
Much love, M xx
Chapter 6: Crime Of Passion
Newly married, Ziva's back on the field for one last case which hits a little close to home.
Back again, I think life might be settling down enough for me to have some decent writing mojo again. (And, when we get to the whole baby and McAbby's wedding part, I have three or probably four chapters damn near ready to go, but we're not quite there yet.)
Thanks to everyone who keeps stopping by. I love seeing how many of you are checking in!
As always - enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
As with almost every new stage of their relationship, Tony and Ziva (now officially Mr and Mrs DiNozzo) had no time to wonder about changing dynamics and were thrown headlong into a case the next day they had work. The Monday following the wedding started at 0500 with a phone call.
"Honeymoon's over. Body at The Lazy Dog Motel. Past Richmond, on the I95, outside a place called Stony Creek." he barely waited for the line to connect before he started speaking.
"It's Ziva, Gibbs. Hold on. I will wake Tony," she had already been awake, about to head out for a run, but had answered the call on Tony's phone when she saw Gibbs' name come up. "Have McGee send me the details and I will start a background as soon as I have them," there was a little sigh at the end of her sentence at the thought of another long day spent researching.
There was a momentary pause on the other end of the line. "You still throwing up when you smell things?"
"No?" her response was more of a question than an answer.
"Demanding pit stops every quarter hour?"
"Gibbs?" Ziva pulled the phone away to glance at the screen as though that would provide some clarification for this oddly detailed series of questions.
"It's a two-and-a-half-hour drive, Ziver. Can you do that?"
"Well, yes. But I am not on the field?"
"You are today. Got a whole motel room to process. Need more hands. You up for that?"
Ziva paused, surprised at the offer. Except for her brief stint with the De Luca weapons trade, and that had been while defying orders, she had not even been present at a crime scene since before she'd left for Israel to bury Eli. "Yes, I can manage evidence. I would be safe... we would be safe?" her hand unconsciously moved down to her stomach.
"Troopers have already cleared the scene. No combat, just grunt work. Pick you up in ten. Guys can bring the truck," the call ended before she had a chance for more words.
There was a movement behind her from the bed, "Case?"
"What else?" she tossed the phone back on the comforter and turned back to the wardrobe to shed her running gear.
"But you're getting dressed?" Tony was vertical now, as was his hair. "You don't do crime scenes."
"Gibbs wants me out there," Ziva shrugged, yanking on a pair of stretchy jeans; ten minutes would be more like five with Gibbs. "He's on the way. He said this one's safe and wants an extra set of hands. You and McGee are to bring the truck. I guess getting to ride in the sedan is his equivalent of special treatment considering our little stowaway," she added a grateful pat to the rounded expanse of skin.
"What're we looking at?" Tony came up to press himself against her back, still warm and sleepy. "Mmm... morning, wife," he pulled back enough to hook her bra for her and kiss the nape of her neck simultaneously.
Ziva hummed approval of the new term and reached behind to pat his cheek. "Body, motel room, lots to process, long drive, that's all I know for now," she said. She shimmied the long black maternity tank down over her belly, pushing Tony's hand away as he searched for a baby kick. "Go and shower, my little porcu-swine. I will start coffee on my way out," she tugged her sweater down, the knitted fabric stretching to fit, then turned, ran an affectionate hand through his bed hair and kissed him quickly.
"Knew there was a reason I married you!" Tony called over the sound of the shower. "What were you up so early for anyway?"
"A run, as always, although it is not happening now," Ziva answered. She used the vanity mirror to glance behind her, watching Tony stick his face directly under the water as she deftly braided her hair up and out of the way.
"Is it really a run anymore, Zi?" the spray muffled Tony's voice. "More like a gentle kind of jog... maybe a brisk waddle... Ahh! Sorry!" Ziva turned the hot tap on in the sink to full blast, causing the shower to run cold, only relenting and turning it off once he apologised.
"If you use the word waddle again, it will be the cold tap next time!" she promised and headed down to the kitchen. A quick perusal of the fridge revealed two brownie squares still left from Saturday night and a tub of overnight oats she'd been soaking. Ziva hesitated briefly, glancing between the dessert and the healthier breakfast option until a well-timed kick from the baby cemented the decision that the brownies and a banana counted as a balanced meal. She was halfway through the routine of preparing their drinks one-handed and eating with the other when her phone rang.
"Yes, Gibbs?" she scribbled the name of the motel and location he'd given her earlier on the dry-erase board on the fridge for Tony when he was properly awake.
"You or your husband making the coffee today?" once again, he skipped the greeting. Ziva (or the baby) had come to terms with the smell again, although she found a new kind of torture in wanting to drink it but being unable, even the smallest sip tasted like she was chewing on tin foil.
"I am," she didn't bother smothering the giggle. Gibbs's feelings about Tony making coffee were blatantly clear. "I will make some for you too, Abba... seeing as you asked me so nicely," she added, tucking the phone under her ear and measuring out the coffee grounds as she talked.
"Brat," he snorted. "You're on duty the minute you get in my car," With a laugh, Ziva put the phone back into her pocket and reached for another travel mug and the second piece of brownie.
"Agent... Mrs... uhh..." Jimmy lowered the window as Ducky drew the Medical Examiner's van to a halt. Ziva had been sent back to the road to flag them down when they'd arrived. The signage was small and faded and the MCRT truck had overshot the entrance. As a result, the first five minutes on scene had been spent refereeing a spirited debate between Tony and McGee about who had screwed up. "Hi! Didn't expect to see you!" he finished cheerfully, albeit somewhat clumsily.
"Agent David, Mrs DiNozzo, Ziva is fine as always." she laughed. She and Gibbs had decided that verbally at least, Agent David would stick for the sake of simplicity. "I am here because Gibbs has decided that processing the evidence from a motel room is a three-person job. Good morning Ducky."
"Three and a half!" Jimmy added with a grin.
Ducky shook his head, not entirely hiding a smile that Ziva shared too. "Quite, Mr Palmer. Ziva, I take it you've been sent up to guide the way?" he waited for her confirming nod. "To which direction are we headed?"
"Take a left at the office building, then follow the road down the hill. He is in the white Dodge, outside room eighteen," she turned and pointed, stepping back to give them the right of way.
"Mr Palmer will ride in the back," Ducky said with a significant nod in the man's direction.
"I will? Oh!" Jimmy took the hint and made preparations to retreat to the rear space, handing several items to Ducky. "Hop in, Ziva."
"I am fine to walk, thank you, Ducky," Ziva declined gracefully. "There is no need to unseat Jimmy on my behalf."
"Ahh, but you will get the first pick of the pastries we stopped for if you ride with us," he raised a large white paper bag. "I happened to overhear your voice while Gibbs was calling me, I had a feeling there would be a need for an extra danish this morning."
"Why does everyone keep bribing me with food?" Ziva questioned with a smirk, climbing into the recently vacated passenger seat. "As a doctor, you must realise there are other facets to being pregnant besides eating!"
"Because, my dear," Ducky paused and settled the goodies in her lap so he could drive again, "you always accept."
"What do we know so far?" Gibbs wasted no time, getting what information he could from the state police and dismissing them summarily, before scattering his team to different jobs. The garbage truck driver had made the 911 call when he'd come to empty the dumpsters and instead found the body slumped in the car. The police, in turn, had referred to NCIS when they identified the vehicle as belonging to a Marine. With the scene to themselves, Ziva had turned her lockpick to the motel room assigned to the parking space occupied by the corpse. Ducky and Palmer were inspecting the body, and Tony was going through the trunk. At the same time, McGee was busy confirming the victim's identity and bringing up a record.
"The office is still empty," McGee began, stalling while the fingerprint scanner did its job. "It's almost nine now, so someone should be here soon so I can find out if the security cameras picked anything up." A sign on the door informed them that the office was only staffed for a few working hours for check-in and check-out. Calling the after-hours 'emergency' line had transferred to an answering machine they could hear through the door.
Gibbs' face was unimpressed, "I asked what we did know, Duck?"
"Single gunshot wound to the abdomen yesterday evening, sometime between 10pm and midnight," Ducky reported dutifully. "He would have sat here for some minutes afterwards before he succumbed to the blood loss. The entry angle, however, is unusual for his position in the car. I would have expected it through the right side of his body rather than his left. Help me lean him forward Mr Palmer... ahh yes, through and through. I daresay our lovely Abigail can tell us more."
"I'll call in the tow," McGee said quickly. The details he was waiting for finally appeared on his screen,. "Car registration from the State Police matches the fingerprint ID, Staff Sergeant Samuel Lawrence, stationed at Quantico. Nothing outstanding on his record in either direction, good or bad. Married to civilian Emma Wilson, she teaches at the middle school on the base."
"Ziver!" Gibbs raised his voice enough to carry inside the room.
"No signs of a fight, the door was locked and the lights were switched off," Ziva called back, her voice increasing in volume as she approached the open door again. "The room is fairly tidy overall."
"Too clean?" Tony asked, head still in the trunk.
"No, his bags are still here, and the bed and bathroom are used; nothing has been thoroughly cleaned. There are no signs of a cover-up. However, our victim had company and apparently, he was very fond of them," she announced, emerging with an evidence bag held at arms' length. "There were three of these in the bathroom trash. Yes, that is exactly what you think it is," she added in answer to Gibbs' questioning glance.
"Whatcha find Zi?" the open lid on the trunk meant Tony had no line of sight to Ziva but could hear her voice "And his spare tyre is in worse shape than the ones on the car," he added, continuing to rifle through the contents.
"Maybe you need to resit high school sex-ed, Tony. No wonder Ziva's pregnant if you don't know what those are," McGee laughed. He was closer, in the front of the car, extracting the victim's phone from his pocket and could see Ziva's unsavoury offering. Ziva shot him a repoving but slightly amused smile and tossed him the evidence bag to add to the collection to take back to base. "Ugh, thanks," he caught it with a grimace.
"What? Hey!" Tony stuck his head around the side of the vehicle enough to see and realised McGee was making a joke at his expense. "That's enough from you, McChastity! At least..."
Gibbs cut in impatiently, "Enough from all of you! Any idea who he was with?"
In response, Ziva displayed a second evidence bag: "Hair on the pillows, long, brunette, a little lighter than mine. They used the shower too, and I can still smell the shampoo, it would suggest a woman."
"This kind of brown?" McGee showed her the lock screen on the phone he'd just picked up; the photo showing the victim and a brunette woman on their wedding day. "Before you ask Boss, we'll need to override the security code back at base to find out what else is on here."
"Yes, about that colour" she nodded, holding the hair strands beside the photo for comparison. "So his wife was here?"
Tony chuckled. "Well, you know what I say about these things. It's always the wh-hi-I'm going to go up to the office to see if anyone's shown up yet," Tony changed words mid-sentence. No one was fooled by the cover, least of all Ziva, who smirked as he suddenly seemed to realise his ever-faithful 'it's always the wife' might not be so funny in front of his wife. Ducky hid a cough in his elbow, but McGee and Palmer were not so discreet, both grinning openly.
"You do that, DiNozzo," Gibbs shook his head. Tony beat a hasty retreat up the hill towards the office again. Gibbs turned to Ziva, "Keep scouring that room, David. Don't miss anything. I only wanna make this drive once."
"Yes, Gibbs," she turned towards the van. "The shower was used recently, there is still water in the recess. I suspect the shooter may have used it after the killing. I am going to test for traces of blood. Oh, McGee - you will need to check under the furniture for me, particularly the bed."
He paused, camera in hand as Ducky and Palmer began to carefully remove the body from the car, "Sure, I can, but why?"
"What was that about high school, McGee?" Gibbs muttered. He crouched down, inspecting the foot well now that it was empty. "Weapon, get that," he shone his flashlight under the seat.
McGee obeyed, calling to Ziva for a weapons evidence box and snapping a couple of photos, "What do you mean, Boss?"
Ziva returned. "The reason you need to help me finish processing the room..." the puzzled expression didn't leave McGee's face as he placed the gun in the box she provided. "There is only room for one person under a bed. Currently, I am two," she finished with a significant glance downward.
"Oh! Of course, you won't fit because you're so... I mean, I'll do that now." It was McGee's turn to change the subject on realising he was potentially about to say something that might not go over well. He picked up the tub of evidence bags and made a beeline for the motel room.
"There's nothing under the bed, is there?" Gibbs murmured, taking the evidence box from Ziva's hands.
"No," she admitted softly. "I checked it first. There were the wrappers for the condoms I found in the trash and a used tissue. Nothing more."
"Yeah, didn't think you were that big yet," the expected head slap landed as swiftly as ever, though more gently than it would have been a few months earlier. "Brought you out here to help, not bait the guys, even if they bite better than fish. Get back to work."
"I was only baiting McGee, Tony walked into that one himself..." Gibbs lifted his hand again in a mock threat. "I will go and check the shower for blood now," suitably chastised but hiding a smile, Ziva made her way back into the room in McGee's wake.
Ducky approached, leaving Palmer to finish securing the gurney and its occupant in the back of the Medical Examiner's van. "That's everything we need from here. We will take our Staff Sergeant back home and see what else he has to tell us," he said. McGee appeared in the doorway, dropping another collection of evidence bags into the tub that sat by the door, calling something back over his shoulder to Ziva as he did. "It's good to have all three back together again, however briefly isn't it?" Ducky questioned knowingly, turning towards the sound.
"Thanks, Duck," Gibbs replied curtly, neither confirming nor denying the analysis.
Ducky cleared his throat softly. "Anyhow, it's Monday, so per my arrangement with Mr Palmer, I have the first choice of radio station. With any luck, we'll be able to pick up VMP for most of the drive back. I seem to recall they were planning to play a selection of clarinet concertos this morning," he nodded farewell, watching as Gibbs' head swivelled disapprovingly back towards the room when Ziva's voice sounded with a disgusted "oh no, another one!" followed by McGee's laughter. "And do take that scowl off your face, Jethro. You're not fooling anyone; you've missed having them together on the field as much as I have!"
Back at NCIS later in the afternoon, Ziva was in the middle of pulling together a background on Samuel and McGee on the standard paper-trail hunt. They'd taken the truck back together, Gibbs and Tony detouring to Quantico in an attempt to locate the victim's wife either at work or at home. They'd eventually talked to a staff member at the motel who had confirmed there'd been a second person in the car with Samuel when he'd checked in on Friday morning. However, the mystery passenger had stayed in the vehicle and could offer no better identification than her hair colour looked "about the same" as the photo on the phone. They also discovered the CCTV cameras were purely ornamental, the receptionist laconically commenting that they provided a "sense" of security rather than actual security. With this minimal information, they had little to go off, still waiting on ballistics and DNA from downstairs.
"Looks like they found Emma," McGee nodded towards the elevator as it dinged. The same woman from the photo was escorted by Gibbs and Tony, wearing a visitors' badge, and being greeted by one of the support and grief counsellors who worked in the building. Emma was obviously upset and had been crying, and the counsellor's face was gentle and sympathetic. "You two have something in common," he moved his hand in a rounded curve in front of his stomach.
"She's pregnant?" Ziva stood up to see over the partition. Emma seemed dressed for a day at work in a clean, semi-professional outfit and a lanyard with a bunch of keys around her neck. Tim was right; she was pregnant and from the look of it, considerably further along than Ziva. "She was not the one in the motel room," she announced firmly.
"How'd you know that?" Tim asked, "Did DNA come back or something?"
"No," Ziva watched as Gibbs, the counsellor and Emma headed towards the conference room. Tony turned back towards their desks instead. "But she was not the person in the motel room."
"The hair you found certainly looks like hers," Tim said, "and plenty of couples take one last holiday before the baby comes. I can think of better places than a seedy motel to do it, but..."
Ziva shook her head, interrupting, "the last holiday, maybe. But not with Emma," she repeated. "She was not the one our victim was sleeping with this weekend."
Tony reached over the partition to swipe at her braid, a semblance of office-appropriate affection, but in reality, tugging the elastic loose from the bottom. "Yeah, that's what she said too. You got proof?"
"Not proof exactly, but some of the evidence I found suggests that it was not her," Ziva replied. She sat down again, paused, obviously feeling something had changed and pulled the end of her hair over her shoulder. "Hey! Give that back."
"Give what back?" Tony asked innocently. He tossed his field jacket off behind his desk, trading it for his blazer. "You saying she didn't do it, Zi?"
"No, I am saying the victim did not do it with Emma," Ziva placed her emphasis to flip the meaning of the phrase. "She may have shot him for being there with someone else... I would," she added with a matter-of-fact shrug.
"No motel weekends with the mistress. Got it," Tony nodded with a grin. "So the house is okay if you're out with Abby then?"
Ziva sent him a withering look but did not dignify the question with an answer. "I believe that Staff Sergeant Lawrence was having an affair with someone else," she redirected.
"You've lost me sorry, Ziva," McGee said. "How can you know that?" Tony had nothing to offer, instead watching with apparent approval as Ziva unravelled the rest of her braid and let her hair fall loose again.
"There were used condoms in the room, yes? Why would they have needed them if she was already pregnant?" Ziva waited for them to make the connection by themselves but it was clear they were not going to and she heaved an impatient sigh. "Oh for god's sake! Emma was not in the motel room because a pregnant woman could not get pregnant again. Having safe sex is no longer a concern!"
"Oh yeah..." the realisation dawned slowly on Tony's face, and he gestured between himself and Ziva. "Because... ow! Thanks, Boss. Dunno how I missed that - good catch Zi," Gibbs' hand on the back of Tony's head cut short anything more detailed about his new understanding of the situation. McGee groaned quietly and busied himself with something on his screen rather than pondering the implications.
"Well, we know now," Gibbs turned to Ziva. "So, another person in the motel room. You sure about this?"
"I cannot be completely certain. There may be another reason, an STI for example, but I cannot see anything that would apply in the victim's records. However, I do not have access to Emma's as a civilian," Ziva admitted. "But given what we do know, I do not believe Emma was the one in the motel room. It could, however, add motive if she knew about the affair."
"And you're going to find out if she had any clue," Gibbs said. "Conference room, go bond with her and get her talking."
Ziva did not look impressed with the idea, "I do not know how to 'bond' with pregnant women, Gibbs!"
Tony laughed. "She's not lying, Boss. We went out for lunch yesterday, and our server asked when the baby's due. Zi asked her why she wanted to know."
"Well, it is not like it was any of her business," Ziva added. "Besides, 'oh my God that's such a cute baby belly' is not the way to start a conversation with me!" she finished indignantly. McGee gave a snort of smothered laughter and earned himself a dirty look.
"Then, we go into the grocery store, and this old lady tried to touch her," Tony continued with a smirk. "If I hadn't got in between them before she made contact, it would have been clean-up on aisle three."
"Oh, stop exaggerating, Tony!" Ziva exclaimed. "I was only going to block her hand, I am not public property, and neither is our child."
He sent an amused but loving look across the bullpen, "Crazy 'bout you Zi, and you're gonna be one hell of an Ima. But as far as pregnant chitchat with strangers goes, you're about as warm and fuzzy as the iceberg that put an end to Jack and Rose's mid-Atlantic tryst," he grinned at his wife. Ziva simply rolled her eyes and turned back to her work, not rising to the bait.
"Enough with the flirting," Gibbs did seem to find the idea of Ziva nearly taking out an elderly woman amusing but was not deterred by the revelation. "You've been undercover before. Make it up as you go along. McGee..." he turned to the younger man.
"Confirm the mystery lover. I'm on it. Trying to find a paper trail, places he used his cards this weekend, to see if any security cameras picked up someone else with him," McGee responded quickly. "While they're processing, I'm going down to Abs to work on unlocking that phone, emails, texts, anything that might point to her."
"Work on it faster. If there was someone else there, we need to know already. DiNozzo?"
"Finishing Ziva's background because she'll be bonding with Emma. Looking for anyone who might have had an issue with our victim, Zi send it over."
"Thanks for the support," Ziva said sarcastically. "I will talk to her but do not expect me to become her new best friend just because we are both having a baby. We have not yet excluded her as a suspect."
"Quit growling, Mama Bear," Gibbs ordered, returning to his desk. "Start with 'that's so cute' and move onto 'when's the baby due?'"
"So, how's the first case as a married woman?" Abby questioned, back to the door of her lab. The music was low enough that she could hear the elevator heralding the arrival of company.
"Not married. Not a woman."
"Gibbs! I was expecting Ziva, she's usually the one who comes down for reports these days seeing as she's not allowed near suspects or guns," Abby jumped and turned in midair, surprised by the dry voice behind her, her face lighting up. "Plus I haven't felt the baby since the wedding, which was over a day and a half ago. I'm due another Baby Tiva kick!"
"You can still feel a kick if you don't get on with what you've found," Gibbs said significantly.
"You'd never, Gibbs!" Abby exclaimed, but the look on his face clearly told her not to try her luck. With a grin she changed gears, getting down to business. "So, the murder weapon is a Beretta PX4 Storm with standard issue nine millimetre bullets and was registered to Staff Sergeant Lawrence. Purchased legally through a weapons shop in Alexandria two years ago. Nothing hinky there. Prints on the rounds and magazine say he was the one to load it and the kill shot was the only one fired. But almost all of the rest of the gun was clean, nothing on the trigger, guard or butt," she paused to display a small specimen jar. "There was a thread caught in the trigger, whoever did the shooting probably used their clothes to wipe it down."
Gibbs nodded, "Does it tell us anything?"
"It's plain white cotton Gibbs - could have come from your shirt," she gestured to his neckline, indicating the trademark white crew neck that was visible under his polo. "I'll try to narrow it down, but that's going to be a while. But, there was one partial print on the very top of the barrel. It also matches the victim, and here's where it gets hinky."
Abby spun to face her computer and brought up a diagram of the weapon on the screen. "I'm so glad you asked! It was a partial thumbprint from the victim's left hand." she tapped a few keys, and the thumbprint she'd mentioned appeared on the gun barrel. "So we know he's had his hand on top of the barrel, but when you compare the partial to the one on his file..." she said and brought up a complete print in a few keystrokes. Abby used the mouse to drag it down and rotate it until it fitted over the partial image. What had been the top of the thumbprint now faced towards the back of the gun.
"He had his hand on the gun when it was pointed at him," Gibbs finished.
Abby nodded enthusiastically, "Exactamundo oh great one! Ducky found skin scrapings underneath his fingernails too, DNA should be back any minute, but with the rest of the evidence that could easily be from what happened inside the motel room. But..." more rapid keystrokes and a new model, this time of the car's interior, the victim slumped back in his seat as they'd found him that morning. "Like Ducky said the entry angle and the trajectory are interesting. If he'd been shot by someone in the driver's seat, the bullet wound should have been more to his right, and more likely lodged in the door. But this, it's almost like... Ziva!" Abby's technical explanation was cut off as she realised her friend had arrived for real this time.
"I have left Emma with the counsellor. She is understandably shaken," Ziva began, with an expression that suggested she felt somewhat the same way. "She did not know about the affair."
"You find anything out?" Gibbs turned to face her.
"Emma believed her husband was away on a training exercise she expected him back early this morning, around the time we were at the scene," Ziva shook her head. "When he did not show up and did not answer his phone, she assumed he was still driving through a bad reception area and went to work as usual. When I suggested that we had found evidence of company in the room she became quite agitated."
"What else'd she say?" Gibbs questioned.
"Gibbs, the woman is going to have a baby in four weeks and lost the father of her child this morning. Then she learned he was cheating on her. She was not exactly talkative. Yes, Abby, she is kicking," Ziva said, reaching for Abby's hand while she continued talking. "When I asked if anyone could prove that she was at home, she volunteered her cell phone. She was chatting with her sister during the time of the shooting. McGee is tracing the location to be sure. The fact that she was coherent enough to provide an alibi was, frankly, impressive," she finished over Abby's excited cooing.
"Okay, get back upstairs and see if that alibi checks out," Gibbs nodded, turning back to the screen, "Unless you have some more secret bun-in-the-oven knowledge you'd like to share first?"
"Yes," Ziva gestured to the screen, still showing the bullet's trajectory through the victim's body and into the car seat. "The shooter was sitting in his lap. It is a somewhat crude but effective method of getting close enough to your victim to pull a weapon without being seen, even in public. You would be surprised what you can get away with when you are kissing someone," she added coolly, in response to the questioning look on Gibbs' face.
"You've killed a guy while you were making out with them? You are one sick chick Lady DiNozzo," Abby reluctantly peeled her hands away from Ziva's belly before turning back to her computer as an alert noise sounded. "Seriously, I don't know if that's kinky or scary, Zivvie."
"Who said it was a man?" Ziva's face twitched into a cryptic smile momentarily, before growing serious again. "I doubt the shooter was Emma. Fitting backwards, in the front seat, on another person's lap in her condition... it would not be comfortable. Again, I cannot prove anything, but I can imagine."
Gibbs opened his mouth closed it again and shook his head. "Don't wanna know what you're imagining, Ziver. If you say it wasn't Emma, work out who it was."
It was Tony who cracked the case in the end. Ziva's instincts about Emma as a mother-to-be proved true; her alibi checked out, and the whole team earned an impassioned five-minute lecture from Abby about differences in hair dye chemicals when her hair sample did not match the ones in the motel room. However, this new information didn't bring them closer to finding the actual shooter, and somewhat complicated by the fact that many of the prints and DNA swabs that were taken from the car matched Emma's, in the same way Ziva's DNA would be found in Tony's car or Abby's in McGee's. Although they were allowed home for the evening, the team was expected to hit the ground running the following day.
By the time they'd been chasing dead-end leads and watching security footage from stores where the victim had used his credit card for most of the morning, they were all feeling somewhat tired and defeated, and Gibbs was losing patience.
"Whoever she was did not travel in the victim's car on Friday morning," Ziva declared, closing another video file. She stretched her arms up over her head with a yawn and a groan. "He may have picked her up on the way, but it was not while he was buying the beer. There is just the stop at the gas station that I am still trying to reach."
"And he wasn't using this phone to contact her, or his laptop," McGee added. "Are you okay Ziva?" She'd leaned forward to rub the small of her back.
"She's out of shape," Tony spoke before Ziva could. It had been almost ten months since Ziva had last been at a crime scene. Although she'd kept up her jogging and general fitness routine, and had enjoyed the change of pace initially, spending most of the previous day on her feet had taken its toll. She wouldn't admit as much, but Tony knew her back and legs were killing her, and she'd gotten back up after they'd gone to bed and spent an hour soaking in the bath. "She's softer than most Probies now. I actually had to wake her this morning. I can't tell you the last time I was the first one out of bed on a workday," he grinned, clearly enjoying the switched-up roles.
"And this morning, someone who shot a Marine got to wake up and go about their day," Gibbs growled, returning from a coffee run. "Whatcha got?" There was an awkward pause as they all busied themselves back at their keyboards, no one really wanting to be the first to say they'd found nothing useful. A sharp, insistent demand from Gibbs broke the silence.
"We're finding a whole lotta nothing," Tony admitted first. "Abs phoned, the DNA of the guest in the motel room hits to a cold case from three years ago, another shooting, vic's own gun again. Again, not a professional clean-up job, but done just well enough there were no leads. They're sending over the notes and the evidence now."
"I am still chasing the gas station the victim used his credit card at for security footage, Gibbs," Ziva supplied, the phone tucked under her ear.
"Setting up an alert if the number associated with the motel booking becomes active again, so we can trace the phone if it's used," McGee said, typing away. "It's a pre-paid number from a convenience store, so there's no name connected to it."
Gibbs stood, gathering both his coffee and his impatience. "Well, she didn't just fly out of the motel - find something!" They watched him head up the stairs to MTAC in silence.
"This is ridiculous!" Ziva was the first to speak, although Tony had begun to hum the theme tune for the Wicked Witch of the West. "There is every sign that this was a completely amateur shooting, how can we have no sign of her?"
"You heard the Bossman, Zi..." Tony dropped his voice, mimicking Gibbs. "She didn't just fly out of the... Yo! McGoogle!" he snapped his fingers suddenly and pointed in his partner's direction. "I need the name and number of every cab company that services Stony Creek. Well, Ziva does. Sorry babe, more calls for you."
Ziva hung up the phone with a scowl. "I will do anything you ask if it involves staying seated today, providing they give me the answers I want," she conceded. "And do not call me 'babe!'"
"Sorry," Tony grinned, although he looked anything but. "How many you got, McGee?"
"A bunch. There's at least ten out of Richmond and one that operates out of Stony Creek itself," he answered. "What's the plan?
"We know she arrived in the victim's car, but she didn't leave in it, and as Gibbs pointed out, she didn't fly, but if they were trying to keep this on the down low, she wouldn't have phoned a friend, so a cab is the next most likely option. Zi, I need you to..."
"Call until I find out which of the companies had a pickup at the motel early Sunday morning. I will text you the details as soon as I have them," Ziva said, catching on quickly. The energy in the group switched from despondent to focused as Tim quickly sent the details to Ziva's email. "Go now. I will text you the details as soon as I know which company you need to contact. It is a two-hour drive to Richmond, and I have almost twenty companies to call, do not wait around here."
Tony grabbed his jacket and sidearm. "Come on, McGee, we got a road trip to make. See ya round, wife."
By the time Gibbs returned from MTAC, complete with a heating pad for Ziva's back and a knowing smirk, the guys were en-route to the shooter's house.
Tony and Ziva ate a late dinner in the main bathroom that evening. Tony sat on a chair he'd carried up, with a pizza box balanced on his lap, while Ziva stretched her aching legs out in water Tony had declared worse than lava when it came to the temperature.
"I am done with fieldwork," Ziva said firmly, reaching for another piece.
Tony brushed her hand away. "Don't drip on the pizza," he paused to pick the olives off before handing her the slice. "Thought you were going stir-crazy at your desk? You know... restless? All work and no play makes Ziva a dull girl?" He added catching the pause in her body language
"Investigating a murder is not 'play' Tony," she said reprovingly. "Especially one like that."
"Yeah, a bit close to home, hey? Crimes of passion sound sexy in theory but..." he shrugged. Ziva had found the appropriate taxi service on her eighth try, and with some clever wording had coaxed the name and phone number used for the booking from the person she had spoken to. McGee had told her over the phone how to run a trace on his computer, and they'd found the woman in question at her home not long after, in possession not only of the phone associated with the room booking but also the room key and her blood-spattered clothes soaking in her laundry sink. It was clear the Staff Sergeant had a 'type', as the woman, Holly as they learned her name to be, looked enough like Emma to have been her sister.
In interrogation, she had confessed freely, if coldly enough to the shooting. They'd been dating for around six months, but on the night of the murder, she'd seen the same phone McGee had unearthed at the crime scene with Emma and Samuel on the lock screen and they learned he had been using the second pre-paid phone to keep the affair a secret. They'd gone out to dinner, and she had plied him with more wine than usual, then with the guise of seducing him in the car as Ziva had described, simply shot him. The shot had not been immediately fatal, but she'd left him in the car to bleed out, showered in their motel room, packed her things and called a taxi. Holly had finished her chilling confession with a nonchalant "I don't take kindly to men who cheat" and seemed utterly unmoved by the knowledge that his widow was about to have a baby. Despite the amateur nature of the shooting and attempt to cover her tracks, her personality was far more unsettling. Her DNA and prints were immediately linked to the cold case Tony had mentioned, hiding in plain sight with an otherwise spotless social presence.
Ziva made a noise of agreement around a bite of food and finished chewing before she spoke. "And no, I do not like spending all day at my desk, but she," Ziva tilted the pizza in the direction of her belly, "has made it very clear that maintaining that level of physical activity is out of bounds from now on. I would not put it past Gibbs to have been waiting for a situation like this to prove the point. He knows that desk work is grating on me, no matter how agreeable I appear to be."
"You had to slow down eventually, Mamacita," Tony said with a smile. "But after that, no more jokes about mistresses, deal?"
"Deal," she agreed. It had been too easy for them both to picture her in the same position as Emma, a month away from having a baby and suddenly finding herself alone.
Tony rinsed his greasy fingers in the water with a wince. "How do you deal with it so hot?"
"You compared me to an iceberg yesterday, did you not?" she said, dropping the crust into the box on his lap, and bent her knees up to slide herself fully under the water. She emerged again a moment later, dripping hair plastered to her forehead. "Perhaps it is the only thing that melts me," she finished with a satisfied sigh, tipping her head back against the edge of the tub.
Tony laughed and set the box aside, reaching for the shampoo bottle instead. The next few minutes were spent in silence, Tony lathering up Ziva's hair, her eyes starting to drift closed under his touch. "Hey Zi..." he murmured when he was done.
"Yes, neshama?" Ziva opened one and tipped her head up to look at him.
"What you said about shooting a guy who was unfaithful... not that I ever, ever would. But you wouldn't actually shoot me, right?" he asked quietly.
"Hmm..." Ziva seemed to consider the prospect. She slipped back beneath the water to rinse the bubbles from her hair, Tony taking her hand when she surfaced and steadying her as she stepped out of the tub. "I know you would not do such a thing, Tony. But I would not shoot you if you did."
"Phew, like I said, not that I ever would. At all, I meant that. But it's good to know anyway," he gave an exaggerated sigh of relief, handing her a towel.
Ziva paused, tucking the towel around herself and turned to him with a little smile. "I would let Gibbs do it."
Ha, so yep, I had to call out the fact that most of Ziva's pregnancy interactions have been food-centric. I didn't even realise I was doing it at first.
Would Ziva really have been allowed on the field that pregnant? Probably not, although I couldn't actually find a clear cut-off date either, but we also know Gibbs often bends the rules for his own purposes anyway.
Okay, do you know how much thinking I had to do with the victim to make sure it was like he was sitting in the passenger seat? I'm Australian, and we drive on the left, so our steering wheels are on the right. I was constantly adjusting my train of thought for a left-hand drive vehicle. Whoa, my brain is exhausted now!
Tony makes two movie references in this one - the first is obviously Titanic when he compares Ziva to an iceberg. The second is a play on a line from The Shining "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"
I'm trying to shorten the upload time between chapters, I promise. Thanks for sticking around!
Much love, M xx