Author: fmd-jade PM
People get older, they grow up, grow more mature. Or so you'd think. A look at what life could hold in store. Abby huffed down the phone. "We girls are not that complicated, Gibbs. All we want is some love and affection! Give her a hug already!"Rated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort/Romance - Tony D. & Ziva D. - Chapters: 12 - Words: 29,123 - Reviews: 95 - Favs: 38 - Follows: 98 - Updated: 10-05-10 - Published: 05-17-09 - id: 5067445
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Hope some of you are still reading and hope you are happy with this update. I know that last chapter was kind of a rush, but I had to get to this point somehow. Because the scene you're about to encounter? Had that in my head for a year now! Let me know if you like it!
Gibbs barely made it past his front door before he almost stumbled over a large duffel bag deposited right behind it. Frowning he shoved it aside with his foot before walking further into the living room.
His 'guest' lay sprawled over the sofa and he could hear her music blaring through her white earplugs even from several feet away. He walked up behind the couch and snatched one out of her ear, before coming round to face her.
"What the-" She fell silent as she laid her eyes on Gibbs. "Oh, so somebody does live here still!"
He raised his eyebrows. "Shoes off the couch please." He waited until she obliged. "What are you doing here?"
"Gee, thanks Dad. It's always nice to know I'm welcome at home."
"Lexie!" He raised his voice. "Cut the crap. What are you doing here considering you don't have summer holidays for another 2 months?"
Lexie crossed her arms. "Maybe I was homesick."
Gibbs chuckled. "Yeah right. That would be a first in the… what was it? Five years you're going to boarding school now?"
"Yeah right…" He muttered, before leaving her on the couch and going into the kitchen. She was on his heels instantly.
"And where the hell is Mum? I can't reach her on her cell nor in her office!"
Gibbs abruptly turned around from filling a kettle with water at the sink. "What?"
"I've been sitting here for hours, waiting for one of you to come home! I-"
"Lexie" Gibbs didn't even bother hiding the confusion and growing anger in his voice, "didn't she tell you?"
"What exactly, Gibbs?" The teen was growing impatient.
"Lexie… your mother doesn't live here anymore."
Lexie let herself fall into one of the chairs. "What? You can't be serious! She'd tell me something like this!"
Gibbs shrugged. "If you say so…"
She shot him an icy stare. "So what? You're separated?"
"Since… since when? I, I mean all her stuff is still here." She gestured around the kitchen.
Gibbs poised himself onto the back of the chair opposite Lexie. "She moved out a few weeks ago. The divorce was finalized this week."
"Huh." Lexie huffed. "That was fast, Mum."
"Guess you can speed things up when you're a lawyer…" Gibbs mentioned. He looked around the kitchen, as if noticing the small feminine touches here and there for the first time. "She said she would leave for some work thing and would pick up her stuff when she was back. Your stuff as well." He hastily added.
Lexie blew out a deep breath, her eyes fixed on the table. "Wow."
Gibbs rubbed one of his hands over his face, before remembering something. "So what are you doing here? What about this fancy school your Mum pays for?"
Only then did Lexie look at him, her jaw set and Gibbs could have sworn he saw tears brimming in her eyes. "Excuse me? I just found out that I don't have a home anymore and all you care about is getting rid of me as soon-"
"That's not true!" Gibbs tone was intimidating. Seeing Lexie wince he knew he had gone too far and sat down. "That's not true, Lexie. As long as you give me a reason you can stay here as long as you want."
Although is voice was gentler now, his eyes were no less sharp, seeking for answers. Lexie evaded his gaze, trailing a stain on the table with her finger instead.
"I… I kinda got suspended." She finally admitted in a low voice.
Gibbs took a deep, calming breath. "Why?"
Lexie just shrugged. "Dunno. Can I go to my room, now? My stuff is still there, right?"
"No." Having only half-risen from her chair she sat down again at Gibbs' threatening glare. "What did you do?"
"None of your damn business."
But Gibbs didn't even seem to listen. "Alcohol?" Lexie just huffed. "Drugs?"
The teen gave him an outraged glare.
"Excuse me? Who do you think you are? You have no right to ask me that!" She got up and strutted out of the kitchen.
"What is it then?" Gibbs called after her, standing as well.
The teenaged girl came striding back into the room, raising her finger at Gibbs. "I'm not one of your suspects so stop interrogating me!" She screamed at Gibbs. "And you're not my father! I don't have to tell you anything!"
Gibbs followed her into the hallway and to Lexie's room. "Alexandra!" But Lexie just slammed the door to her room in his face with a final "Leave me the hell alone!"
Gibbs pinched the bridge of his nose and thought about breaking the door down for a moment, before almost slapping himself for such a stupid idea. He stood in front of the closed door for another moment before he went and got the duffle bag. By the time he had dropped it next to Lexie's door he heard loud music blaring from it and opted to leave her be for the moment.
Down in the basement he took a pondering look at the ready and waiting planks before deciding that maybe it wasn't time for those just yet. Instead he fished his cell phone out of his pants and closed his eyes in resignation before dialling.
"Gibbs!" She sounded almost excited to hear from him.
"Oh no." Not so excited anymore.
"What?" He was confused now.
"What happened?" Abby suddenly sounded weary but composed.
"Nothing happened, Abs."
"Then why are you calling?"
"I'm not allowed to call?" he was not in the mood to deal with this, but it sounded as if he had no choice.
"Well sure you are, but you know the drill. I. Call. You. That's the way it always was and always will be. Except of course when you do your mental power thing and just appear beside me, whenever… Okay, back on topic." He chuckled, wondering if she maybe heard his eye-roll through the phone. "So let me rephrase that. Any reason you're calling?"
Gibbs took a deep breath. Maybe this hadn't been such a good idea after all. But what else could he do at the moment? Not much. "Lexie is here."
"Lexie as in your ex-stepdaughter Lexie?"
"Yup." He already sounded testy.
"The one whose mother-"
"Yes, Abby." He was tense and Abby seemed to get the hint.
"Well, what's she doing there?"
"Apparently she got suspended from school and her mother didn't tell her we're separated."
"What did she get suspended for? Is she pregnant?"
Gibbs chuckled; glad he was not the only one thinking like that. "She wouldn't say."
"Didn't you ask?"
Gibb stalled his answer long enough for Abby to know there was the problem.
"We didn't really exchange pleasantries, Abs."
"Yeah." Abby said non-comfortingly.
"Now what's that supposed to mean? I tried talking to her; she screamed my ears off, what the hell was I supposed to do?"
"And what did you do?" At least she tried to say it less accusingly.
"There may have been some yelling involved on my part."
"Gibbs…I love you and I hate to be the one to break this to you" Gibbs rolled his eyes. Did she always have to be so dramatic? "But maybe… maybe your parenting skills are a bit rusty."
"She's 15. She's probably totally devastated 'cause she got suspended from school and then she comes home and has to find out that her mother got a divorce, didn't even tell her about it, ran of to God knows where and left Lexie without a home. I know that it wasn't always easy in the two years that you've been married to Rebecca, but I think Lexie really really liked you. I bet she's bawling her eyes out at the moment!"
Gibbs' head dropped. "I somehow find that hard to believe."
Abby snorted unceremoniously through the phone. "Gibbs. You called me for a reason, right?"
"I guess there was one." He acknowledged.
"Then you should trust me." He could hear Abby sigh on the other end of the line. "Gibbs. We girls are not that complicated. Whether we are 5 or 15 or 36. We all want the same thing."
Now it was his turn to sigh. All with the drama again! He was totally not in the mood.
"All we want is a little love and affection."
Gibbs huffed. "Abby. How am I supposed to-"
"Just go and give that girl a hug already!"
Tony poked his head into the diner, quickly taking a look around before spotting his target at a window table to his left.
"McGoo!" He walked over to McGee. "When you called and said 'Let's meet' I didn't have milkshakes in mind. To be honest with you, I actually thought about a place with a liquor licence."
Tim gestured towards the person sitting between himself and the window, munching on her fries happily.
His face softened immediately and he sat down on the other side of the table. "Hi Maddie-pie. What have you got there?" He winked at her as he snatched one of her fries and dipped it into her milkshake.
The little girl beamed at him. "You like?"
Tony scrunched his nose. "I don't know. I think I prefer strawberry to chocolate."
"Uuuh, that's gross, Uncle Tony."
"Wanna know what's really gross?" He leaned forward conspiratorially. "The one time that your Dad had his ankle sprained and he-"
"Alright, that's enough." McGee interrupted.
Maddie turned to him immediately, her eyes wide and lower lip stuck out in a pout. "But Daddy, I wanna hear!"
"And I want you to finish your fries. So I think being your Dad, I win." He said smilingly.
"Wow." Tony appraised his friend. "That was like a finalist for the cutest pout in the world award and yet… Timothy McGee kept his cool."
McGee just rolled his eyes and watched his daughter eat her fries.
Maddie happily made up for any lack in conversation between the two adults, chatting away about her world. Tony glanced at McGee every now and then, trying to read his mood, but his Probie's poker face had gotten better every year.
".. and a puppy would be so great, Daddy. I would walk it all the time and it's like a vacuum cleaner only with fur. And when it grows and it's too big for the tub we can just bath it in Uncle Ducky's pool. Or with a hose, like we always do in the summer! Can we go and get a puppy, Dad?"
"How about…" Tony fished around for some money in his pants and gave it to Maddie. "… you go to that nice lady over there at the counter and ask her for some ice cream?"
Her eyes lit up like on Christmas morning. "Can I?"
Tim shot Tony a look before lifting Maddie out of the booth. "Sure. We'll be right here waiting for you, princess."
Both men looked after her for a moment and watched as she examined the ice cream on display.
"Okay Timmy. I heard the sad sigh, I see your shoulders are slumped and I'm aware that you have some whiny-ass problem that you want to talk to me about, because you probably think it'd be cathartic to get it the hell off your chest. But believe me, it won't be. What you've got to do now for me is the healthy thing. Keep all of your feelings bottled up inside where they belong."
McGee nodded curtly, meeting Tony's gaze head on for the first time this evening. "Okay. I'm taking a job with the OSP."
"I'm going to L.A. and work with the OSP. Abby doesn't know yet and you're not telling anyone, not even Ziva. I-"
Tony hold up a hand to stop him. "Can I say something?"
"No you can't. I'm going to find you a replacement for me, one who knows the job and the technical stuff. I'm going to work him or her in as best as I can. I'm leaving next Friday."
He saw the surprise replayed on his friends face. Then came the hurt, easily tangible like he knew it would. And at last, the anger.
Tony shook his head in disbelief, trying to set his face in the resolute mask he had taken to wearing whenever his clown façade was too hard too bring up. Had he missed a sign along the way? He knew that it hadn't been all sunshine and roses since he had become team leader. Heck it had been more difficult than when Gibbs had his Mexican hiatus and that had been years prior. But, thinking about the gradual deterioration of their personal relationship, Tony really couldn't blame him. He had tried to find a middle ground between the smart-ass he used to be and the evil bastard that Gibbs was, but his friendship with Tim had dearly suffered. He did the best job he could, but now he feared that wasn't good enough. No, not Tim's fault at all, he deserved better.
"What… but… damn it!" Tony closed his eyes for a moment, collecting his thoughts. "I thought you loved this job! When you started, you-"
"When I started? Tony, that was ten years ago. Yes, I love the job. But unlike you, I don't feel like I'm meant to do this for the rest of my life, you know. And L.A. has so much opportunities to offer for me."
"What do you mean, unlike me?"
McGee sighed. Way to put his foot in his mouth. "It's just that… let's face it, Tony. You've been trained as Gibbs replacement. Vance would have given you a team years ago."
The older agent nodded mutely. He knew as much. He had turned them all down.
"Tim, you love this job." Tony tried one more time.
"People change, Tony."
"They don't have to." Tim had to give it to him, he was persistent.
"Yes, they do. People change and move on, they move away… and they grow up. Everything changes eventually."
Tony wasn't desperate – not yet – but just as he wanted to plead his case one more time, McGee's cell phone rang.
It took the younger agent just one look at the display to call Maddie, who had been trying every ice cream flavour they had as far as Tony could tell, back to their table.
The little girl instantly reached for it, but McGee held it above his head. "Remember what we said! No telling!"
Maddie nodded energetically and Tim handed her the cell before she jumped unto his seat like he knew she would any second.
Oh God. Maddie. His goddaughter. The little girl who had made such a big difference in his life. He still remembered the first time he had been alone with the then newborn and he had been terrified. Correction: He had been on a connecting flight beyond terrified. And out of all his nervousness he had started talking to the five day old baby, well, ranting really. And after looking at him funny she had just smiled at him waving her chubby little arms around. He'd always imagined her thinking something like 'Don't worry you big ole' goof, you won't mess up'
He loved this girl. And now he was supposed to see her when exactly? Christmas?
Tony suddenly frowned. "How do you plan to do that, actually? I mean shipping your whole family to L.A. in a week? What about your house?"
"It's not gonna be my whole family, Tony. Just me."
"WHAT?" Tony really wished they had met at a bar. He definitely needed a drink.
"Abby and Maddie will stay here and I will fly over here every chance I have. Or have them fly over to L.A."
Tony whistled appreciatively. "Don't know if I should comment on the apparent success of your newest book, McGemcity, or start planning your funeral for once you tell Abby about your plan."
McGee was saved from an answer when Maddie suddenly thrust the phone against her father's cheek with a meek "She wants to talk to you". He shot her a confused gaze, took the phone and looked back at Tony. But Tony wouldn't meet his eyes, looking straight down at the table, his jaw tense and a strained expression on his face.
"You let her watch Harry Potter!"
Tony bet even the cook in the kitchen heard that. From the corner of his eyes he saw McGee covering the mouthpiece and heard him whispering "traitor" at the sheepish looking girl across from him.
After a few more grunts and mono-syllabic responses McGee hung up and turned to Maddie.
"I thought we had a deal, young lady."
"M'sorry…" She smiled at him sheepishly. "Just slipped out."
McGee sighed. "It's okay. Why don't you go, wash your hands, honey."
When Maddie had happily trailed of, McGee let out a deep sigh. "Abby is boarding her flight right now, she'll be here in a few hours. I just hope she is so busy with Ducky's birthday tomorrow, that she won't notice anything, yet."
"When are you going to tell her?"
"Definitely after the party."
"Tell Mummy what?" A small voice peaked up next to them suddenly.
"That you are up waaaay past your bedtime, young lady!" Tony grinned at her, trying his hardest to sound cheerful, before scooping her into his lap and tickling her.
"Wow, that smells great!" Tony commented when he walked in from the hallway. He discarded his suit jacket and let himself fall down on the sofa next to Ziva. His smile already falling again.
"Hi." She put her book down and pressed a kiss against his lips. But when she leaned back, Tony would have none of it. He put his hand behind her head pulled her towards himself, deepening the kiss. After a few more seconds, he let go and deposited his feet in their coffee table.
Ziva smiled at him, caressing his cheek with her unoccupied hand. "I take it you and Tim had a good time?"
Tony just huffed. "Not sure about that yet."
She narrowed her eyes at him, immediately taking on the residual hurt and anger in his eyes. "What did he want to talk about?"
"Can't say, sweetcheeks. I'm sworn to secrecy." He just shrugged.
Ziva suddenly straddled him, her knees on either side of Tony. She wrapped her hands around his tie a few times, leaning in closer to him. A devious smile played on her lips while she put her other hand against his neck. "You know I could always make you tell me."
Tony wrapped his arms around her back and waist, drawing her body nearer. "Oh God, please do!" he pressed his lips to her neck, nipping lightly at her skin.
Ziva raked her free hand through his hair and leaned her head back to give Tony better access. Tony's hands meanwhile moved down to her butt, pulling her against him forcefully. A moan escaped Ziva's throat when a loud crash suddenly rang out followed by a rather bewildered. "Oh oh."
Tony leant his forehead against her collarbone, taking a deep breath. "Oh crap. You set this up, didn't you."
She chuckled, and patted his cheek. "I would never… okay, I would, but…" she raked her hands through his hair again, massaging his scalp. "I didn't. And seeing that he's particularly stubborn and unreasonable this evening, I'd say it's your own fault."
Tony's face scrunched up in confusion. "My fault?"
But before Ziva could show him her reasoning, they heard Ben swearing loudly. "Oh crap!"
"Hrmph. Total coincidence. " Tony leant back on the couch, moving his legs up as well and pulled Ziva down with him. She wriggled around a bit, before lying comfortably on top of him and rested her head under his chin. They heard another bang from their son's room, this time definitely sounding like all his action figures and model cars had joined the rest of his stuff on the floor.
"You know you could always go and check it out. Make sure we don't have to renovate his room after this."
Tony didn't even open his eyes. "I'm good." He took another deep breath, his hands drawing little patterns up and down Ziva's spine. "You know, it really does smell good. What exactly am I smelling here?"
Ziva chuckled and looked at him, her chin resting on his chest. "Probably the cake I made for Ducky's birthday tomorrow."
"Is it the good one with cherries and chocolate?"
"Yes it is." Ziva had a smile in her voice.
"That's my favourite."
"I know, Tony."
"Do you have to go visit your family?"
Ziva sighed. This was so typical of Tony. She pressed her lips against his chin and stroked his chest. "It's just three days, Tony. Three days. And I told you that Aunt Nettie is sick."
"And you love dear old Nettie more than you love me?"
She swatted his chest. Hard. "Tony!"
He quickly captured her wrists before she could inflict more harm. "Kidding! I'm kidding, Zee!"
"You better…" She grumbled, before lying down on his chest again.
They dosed comfortably for a few minutes in each other's arms, their breaths deepening with each second.
Ziva was awake and alert in an instant whereas Tony barely opened his eyes.
"What's all this?" Ziva gestured towards the pile of toys her son had dropped in the middle of the living room, in front of the TV.
"I wanna take to Tel Aviv!" Ben grinned and jumped over to his father's still sleepy form, attempting climb upon him.
Ziva just sighed and closed her eyes.
An hour later Tony looked around his son's room. Everything was were it was supposed to be and three toys were lying on the dresser, waiting to be packed the next day. Of course Ben's most precious stuffed Tigger had to come together with two cars from the correspondent Disney movie.
"Okay, buddy. Ready to go to sleep?"
"Hmhm." Ben murmured affirmatively.
"Okay." Tony bent down and pressed a kiss to his forehead, stroking his hair. "Goodnight buddy."
Tony was already at the door, his hand hovering over the light switch. "Yeah?"
"Can I have Tigger for sleep?"
He dutifully brought Ben the stuffed animal, walking towards the door once again.
"Yes?" Tony hoped he didn't sound as irritated as he felt.
"Can I bring you to Tel Aviv?"
He chuckled, but moved over to Ben once more, kneeling down next to the bed. "No, I'm afraid you can't. I have to stay here."
"Batu'ach?" Are you sure?
"Yes. Ben... is this about the monster from last week?" He asked, vividly remembering a night earlier this week with Ben ending in their bed more than once.
"Uhuh." Ben shook his head. "Mama said to kick his ass."
Gibbs scratched his head almost nervously, before softly knocking on Lexie's door. The music had stopped antagonising his ear drums thirty minutes earlier and only know did he dare try talking to her again.
He didn't get an answer. "Lexie?" He gently called.
He contemplated with himself, hoping not to make things worse when he finally decided to open the door. The sight before him made him pause in the doorway heaving a big sigh. Abby had been right.
Lexie sat on the edge of her bed, holding a pillow in her lap and looked like she had been bawling her eyes out for the last two hours. Which she apparently had. Gibbs was so overcome with guilt and empathy, Lexie suddenly looked like a little girl to him. A little girl having lost her home.
Before he could find any words to console her, Lexie got up from the bed and tentatively walked towards him, until she was just an arm length away.
"Gibbs?" She asked almost meekly. Tears were still running down her cheeks, her makeup long ago forgotten. "Can I hug you?"
He gathered the girl into his arms wordlessly.