|A Village Life
Author: Mechabeira PM
"You don't quit family." He kissed her cheek. "Goodnight." A sequel to "Foundling." AU (T/Z)Rated: Fiction T - English - Family/Romance - Leroy Jethro Gibbs - Chapters: 22 - Words: 120,483 - Reviews: 437 - Favs: 65 - Follows: 141 - Updated: 04-22-13 - Published: 05-24-12 - id: 8148425
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
And we're into a new arc, folks, because the end of the last one was just the tip of the iceberg. Thanks for all your kindness and love and reviews and general badassery. Thanks. Be careful out there.
I dreamed you first, but not so real.
And every day since I found you, such moments we steal.
Like little fiends, we rub our hands,
hold our hearts between us.
-The Weepies, "Simple Life."
The crickets took up their symphony-Wagner by amateurs, it seemed, based on the missed notes and screeching bows. Gibbs scratched the last of the burned-on grease from the grill and Tony stuck his head out the screen door.
"Boss," he called, the larger half of a chocolate pastry wadded in his cheek. "C'm'ere. You gotta see this."
He threw the brush down and stepped into the kitchen, where Ziva was swaying in the glow of the under-counter lights, lazily scooping leftovers into plastic storage containers. She smiled at him and pointed her spoon to the living room.
Tony fairly danced in delight. He held a finger to his full mouth and pointed at Sara, who'd fallen asleep in transit. She was doubled at the hinges, arms sprawled, half on the sofa and still standing on the floor. Her head was beneath a pillow and the end of an ice cream cone was melting in her sticky hand.
"That has got to be the funniest thing I've ever seen," he whispered, still chewing. "I gotta take a picture of this."
"Get outta here, DiNozzo," Gibbs growled good-naturedly, but waited for him to snap a photo with his phone before reaching down to retrieve his baby.
She stirred when he picked her up. "Daddy?"
"Bedtime," he said quietly.
She lifted her head as the carried her up the stairs. "Had a busy day," she muttered, brushing tangles from her face. "Having a lot of treats."
He chuckled lowly. "You sure did, sweet pea. Did you have fun playing with everyone?" She'd been fawned over by party guests all day; they'd fed her entertained her, and gave her gifts. He and Abby took a thousand photos each.
"Yeah," she sighed.
He pushed open the door to her bedroom and had to step around a maze of new toys; it seemed that every guest had broken open their piggy banks to buy Gotcha gifts for Sara. She'd been given more animals than he could count, a dollhouse, a bicycle, a red wagon, and that was just what fit in her room. There was more in the living room and dining room, some of them still wrapped in colorful paper.
He laid Sara on the bed while he rooted in the mess for clean pyjamas. She desperately needed a bath, but he'd never get her into the tub and out again without a tantrum; she was simply too tired. He reached blindly in to the bedtime drawer and tugged out a matched set.
"Elephants," she approved, thumb in her mouth. "Where is my farm, Daddy?"
"There." He pointed to the shelf.
"No," she whined. "My new one."
Jackson had run into heavy traffic and had missed the ceremony. Rather than fight more traffic to the courthouse, he'd gone ahead home, heated the grill, and laid out a brand new set of toys he'd made for Sara. It was a zoo, with colorful matching animals and a keeper in khaki, but Sara would only call it a farm despite the number of times she'd been coached otherwise.
"It's downstairs. Ziva will keep it safe for you."
Sara was half-asleep again; putty in his hands. Pliable, yes. Also droopy and difficult to manage. He undressed and redressed her hastily and drew the covers up to her chin.
"Sleep tight, baby girl. Daddy loves you."
"Love you too," she whispered.
Ziva's containers were full and Jackson was ferrying them two at a time into the freezer. "Got enough in here for a platoon, Leroy. There's no way you and that baby will eat all this stuffed cabbage."
"The team will work on it. Tony will eat anything that isn't nailed down."
Jackson nodded. "Growing boy. He's mighty cozy with Ziva."
"Ask him about that, Dad, not me."
"I would, but he's got too many stars in his eyes to be able to look at me. How's she break that chicken wing, anyway?"
"Guy jumped her over by the school. We got 'em though."
"Poor kid." He dumped a cold cup of coffee down the drain, washed the mug, and put it upside-down in the dishrack. "She doin' ok? Looks a little peaky around the eyes."
Gibbs helped himself to a bowl of leftover mashed potatoes. "If she's not, she will be."
Jackson unbuttoned his cuffs. "You still got that cot in the basement, Leroy?"
"Dad, you don't have to sleep down there. I'll have Tony take Ziva home."
He waved a dismissive hand. "Son, I slept on harder things this week alone. Had to spend the night in the store Tuesday and Wednesday."
Gibbs shook his head and licked his fork. "Shouldn't be doing that, Dad."
"That's what I get for not installing an alarm system. Goodnight, Leroy. You should get to bed. That baby will be getting you up early."
He trudged upstairs dutifully. Ziva met him in the hallway, blinking and swaying.
"What's up, Ziver?" He asked gently. "Tired?"
"I think I have to sleep here tonight, Gibbs," she whispered.
"That's fine. Pretty sure DiNozzo is asleep on the couch. Your toothbrush is still in the medicine cabinet."
She nodded, eyes wandering.
"What?" He fairly demanded.
She shook her head, rueful. "Nothing. I just wonder what would have happened if things had been…different."
"With Sara? Wouldn't happen."
"With me," she corrected quietly, eyes burning. "What if my father had not raised me? Did you know that he thought, briefly, about giving me to my mother's sister? He did not want daughters and she was barren. But then Tali stole his heart and I was part of the package. My mother insisted."
"I don't like your father," he replied honestly. "But if he hadn't raised you then you never would've ended up here. Our lives—my life—would've been the worse for it." He tugged her into a tight hug and propped his chin on the top of her head. "You're just as much mine as Sara is, Ziver."
She wove her good arm under his and squeezed tightly; his breath hitched and hers quickened. "I called my therapist this afternoon," she said softly. "I will have a phone session with her at ten tomorrow."
"Abby and McGee are coming at eight to help with clean-up. I'll keep them busy so no one bothers you."
"It is fine. I do not think it will be a long meeting." She still hadn't let go of him. Her fingers gripped the back of his shirt tightly, dug hard into the fabric.
"I'll have them mow and rake anyway. It's good for 'em."
She pulled back. "Perhaps I should go to sleep. I am quite tired, Gibbs, and it has been a very exciting day."
He guided her into the guest room with one arm still wrapped around her shoulder. "I'll tuck you in."
Even in the low light he could see her face go red. "That is unnecessary," she complained, but pulled Tony's Buckeyes sweatshirt over her head. She wore a t-shirt underneath.
"Humor me," he requested.
She slid under the blankets and he tucked the duvet around her, shifting a pillow beneath her broken arm and brushing her hair out of her face. She sighed and closed her eyes.
"Hey," he whispered. "Listen to me, Ziver."
She looked at him sideways.
"No matter what," he said lowly, "you are going to be ok. You got a lot of people pulling for you, not just me and DiNozzo. There's a whole team that wants you to be healthy."
"I quit," she said, shrugging.
"You don't quit family, Ziver." He kissed her cheek. "Goodnight."
. . . .
Gibbs didn't think Abby was capable of sneaking, but she did so through his front door at seven forty-five the next morning, wearing a construction hat and carrying a roll of heavy-duty black trashbags.
"Morning," she chirped. "Reporting for duty."
He and Jackson at the dining room table with coffee and the newspaper. DiNozzo had the morning news on at low volume.
"Girls are still asleep," he cautioned.
She smiled and sat between them. "We partied hard yesterday. All that cake."
"Yeah, don't be surprised if Sara has a bellyache. I pried her fifth ice cream cone out of her hand at ten last night."
"Tony sent me a picture—asleep standing up! How funny was that?"
"Pretty cute," he conceded.
Tim sat a tray of coffees and his car keys on the table. "I got it, too. She's adorable. Did you make an appointment with the endocrinologist? I wonder what kind of growth issues she has. She could be diabetic or have an underproducing thyroid gland, or she could be lacking in human growth hormone…it could be anything, really. Maybe she has a food allergy or just a really bad case of Failure to Thrive."
Gibbs shrugged half at Tim and half at Jackson's blank expression. "We'll figure it out. The pediatrician didn't think she was in immediate danger. Appointment's in two weeks. Fastest they could get her in."
Tim nodded. "Specialists have tight schedules if the demand is high. Did she say to do anything in the mean time?"
"Switch her antibiotics. Killed the fever in a hurry."
He nodded. "She seems fine, despite the small stature. Might be her pituitary gland."
"Might be you cleaning up the backyard," Gibbs warned, ending the conversation. "Thanks for the coffee."
Tony stumbled in, brushing a hand over his head. "Godwin's case made the news. The defense attorney isn't even playing a bluff, Boss. He knows that ship is sinking."
Gibbs nodded, sipping. Morales and Nachshon stopped by during the party. They'd whispered in his ear that Godwin was headed for the maximum sentence then presented Sara with a red wagon loaded with gifts. Wagon rides around the yard were so much more exciting than the toys, and plenty of willing dray horses set down their drinks to pulled her up and down the sidewalk, onto the driveway, and even around the block. It probably accounted for the new tan lines he found on her shoulders. She, like Ziva, darkened easily.
Speak of the devil, he mused silently. Quiet footfall sounded on the stairs. Tony met her at the bottom and gave her a sneaky kiss.
"Well good morning, sweet chee—oh. Come, love. Sit down."
Gibbs and McGee stayed at the table, opting to let Tony get Ziva settled before bombarding her. Jackson raised his eyebrows and scratched a stubbly cheek. Tony was murmuring to her gently and they heard the recliner lean back.
"McGee, did you get her a tea?" He called.
Tim jumped out of his seat. "Yeah, here." He rushed into the living room, only to stop in his tracks. "Wow. Ziva, you ok?"
"I think so," she warbled. "I may have gotten Sara's beetle."
Gibbs waited for Tony to correct her and grew worried when he didn't. He made his way in and found both men standing over the recliner, where a very pale Ziva was curled on her left side. Her eyes were large, dark, and puffy. He laid the back of his hand on her fever-red cheek.
"You throw up?"
"Yes," she said hesitantly.
"How many times?"
"Three, so far. I feel…tossy."
"You're really hot. Dizzy?"
She closed her eyes. "Yes."
Tony stroked her hair. "We'll get you something to bring the fever down and maybe a few crackers to settle your stomach. Is tea ok, or should I get some ginger ale?"
"I will try tea. Thank you, Tim." She took the cup with a shaky hand, sipping experimentally. All three men watched with bated breath, but nothing happened and she sipped again. "I think I am ok," she said weakly.
"No heroics," Gibbs warned her, laying a blanket across her legs.
Tim backed away. "I'll head out back with Abby. I'm sure she's looking for me by now." He escaped out the open back door, grabbing his coffee on the way out then doubling back for the abandoned Caf-Pow on the kitchen table.
Jackson excused himself. "Hardware store's been open for an hour. I want to get that fence fixed before sundown, Leroy." He gave Tony a gentle elbow. "Take care of her, Sonny. She's a good girl."
"I'm on the case," he smirked, but there was respect in his eyes.
"Sara is not awake?" Ziva asked, still cradling her tea.
"Nope. She didn't get to bed until after ten. I'll get her up soon so she naps this afternoon. You still talking to the doc at ten?"
"Yes," she said quickly.
"If you're up to it," Tony amended for her and ran a fingertip around the shell of her ear. "I knew this was going to happen. You were way too quiet yesterday."
"I was a little under the rain."
"Weather," Gibbs said automatically. "How's your arm?"
"Heavy," she admitted. "My hand is a bit swollen. That part of the cast feels tight."
Tony took her arm and pushed the padding away from her fingertips. "Yeah, we'll get you some ibuprofen to take that down, too. How about another sip of tea?"
She sipped and swallowed delicately. "May I have the medication now, please?"
"Yeah." Tony leaped up the stairs and they heard the pantry slam open, then Sara cried out, awakened.
"Daddy?" She called. "I'm all waked up now."
He gave Ziva's chin one last tweak and barreled up the stairs in Tony's fashion. "Hey, baby girl," he cooed, pushing the door open. "You slept for a long time."
"I was tired after the party. It was a busy day."
"Yeah. C'mon. Pee first and then breakfast. You've got to be starving."
Downstairs, she gasped at the sight of Ziva's pink cheeks and shaking hands. "Zeeba, you are being sick! Are you ok?"
"I am fine, shaifeleh. I think I got what you had. You should not worry, though, it will pass in a day or two."
"No," she said simply, thinking. "You will need anta…antee…um, bubblegum medicine. Then you will feel better. Daddy, can I have cheese like yesterday?"
"If you have eggs, too. And juice. When are you gonna fatten up, kiddo?"
Her hands went to the front of her brace. "Maybe you should take this off. It should helping, I think."
Gibbs shook his head and kissed her. "Nice try. No. Now let's get some food in you."
. . . .
The guest room door wasn't fully closed, so Abby pushed it open delicately and allowed her eyes to adjust to the gloom. The shades were drawn; it was stuffy in the small room. Ziva was a lump under the covers, hiccupping and sniffling softly. The portable handset beeped off the hook.
"Ziva? Um, can I get you anything?"
She went unheeded.
"They sent me up to check on you. It's been a long time since you've had any medication so…"
Nothing. Only sniffling and hiccups.
Steeling herself, Abby sat on the bed closest to Ziva's folded legs and laid her hand on what seemed to be a shoulder. The fever-heat penetrated even the bedclothes.
"I think you need something more than ibuprofen," she said quietly. "You're really warm. Or maybe you're just hot from crying so hard. Can you tell me what's wrong?"
Ziva swallowed and calmed herself just enough to speak. "Dr. Loeb wants to put me on medication."
Abby knew playing dumb would yield the most information. "For what?"
"She says I am depressed."
"I don't think she's wrong," she sighed compassionately. "Well, think of it like being sick. Would you take a prescribed antibiotic to fight an infection?"
Silence, then "Yes," softly.
"Well, your brain has a cold and you need to take something. All those chemicals are mixed around. You might not have enough of them, or their out of whack. If you take medication, then they'll even out eventually. Once they're even the doctor can wean you off." She took a breath. "I took them for a little while after Michael."
The sniffling stopped abruptly. "You did?"
"Yeah," Abby sighed. "I had really bad nightmares after that, and I got headaches and I had a bad temper. The chemicals in my brain were crazy. So my doctor prescribed an SSRI to help."
"And it worked?"
"Well not by itself. I had to go to therapy, too."
Ziva shifted. "I go to therapy."
"You have to go every week. It's like an exercise program; you have to keep it up or it won't work."
"Oh. Dr. Loeb has called in a prescription for Escit…something."
"Escitalopram? It has few side effects. That's what I took. Worked like a charm."
"She said she would like me to start it tonight."
Abby nodded. "Should I send Tony to the pharmacy for you? He's almost done trimming."
Ziva rubbed her forehead. "I do not want to tell him. He will be disappointed in me."
Abby laid down and cuddled close, wrapping one long arm around her middle. "No way, Ziva. He'll be proud of you for listening to the doctor. You can't suffer forever; something's gotta give."
"I am sure he and Gibbs are tired of babysitting me."
"The only person in the family who needs a babysitter is Sara. You might need some coaching, but not babysitting."
She frowned. "Coaching?"
"You're maybe…not so great at taking care of yourself. I mean, those are things that you learn from the people around you. We can yell at you all we want, but unless we model the behavior you just won't do it."
Ziva felt too ill to be offended. "So we will have pill-hopping parties?"
"Pill-popping. And no. I don't take it anymore. But how about we just check in with each other once in a while? Maybe go out for dinner, just us?"
Ziva had never really had a girlfriend. There were other women in her IDF squadron, but none of them had ever forged much beyond casual friendship. She nodded, not trusting herself to speak.
"Good. I think I heard Tony downstairs. He'll probably want to see you. Should I tell him to come in?"
She hesitated, worrying her lower lip with her teeth. "Maybe you could speak with him first?"
Abby tightened her grip on Ziva. "Sure. I love a good mission. You want anything?"
"No, thank you. I think I shall stay here. I am tired."
"Well you cried for almost an hour. That'll wear anyone out." She kissed her cheek before standing and adjusting her Antsy Pants t-shirt. "Sleep tight, ok?"
"Ok," she replied softly, and closed her eyes.
Tony had his head in the refrigerator. "There's no creamed cheese in here. How can I eat celery without creamed cheese?"
"There's peanut butter in the pantry," she deadpanned. "Sara can show you how to make Ants on a Log."
He grinned. "Nope, she hates raisins. What's up? She ok?"
She shifted a little. "Maybe we should have a team meeting."
His heart fell. "Abby, if something is wrong you need to tell me right now."
"Nothing is wrong-wrong but we need to bring it in. I'll get Gibbs and Timmy."
Gibbs put Sara in the living room with her new animals and joined the crew at the dining room table. Sandwiches were passed around.
"So?" He asked. "Why the SitRep?"
Abby swallowed. "Ziva's therapist is putting her on an antidepressant starting this afternoon and she was really, really upset. I think she thinks she weak, or she thinks that we'll think she's weak, but we need to come up with a plan to get her to stick to a regimen of meds and therapy."
Gibbs chewed thoughtfully. Tony dropped his sandwich and ran a hand through his sweaty hair. "I'll see how she's doing. How upset we talking, Abbs?"
"Um…in-bed upset. Sara-after-a-nightmare upset. Hiccups-and-snot upset."
"And you left her crying like that?"
She rolled her eyes. "No, Tony. I spent fifteen minutes talking her into taking meds, and another ten telling her we loved her. She doesn't have the best idea of what it means to have a family, does she?"
Gibbs calmed her with a hand on her back. "Not really, Abbs. Be gentle."
Sara toddled in, dragging a hand along the wall. "C'n'I have a sammich, too?"
Tony propped her in her own chair. "Sure, bug. You want turkey or beef?"
Gibbs decided for her. "Turkey, and pick the tomatoes off."
She pouted. "But I want them."
"Nope, they'll give you a bellyache."
"Fine," she grumbled.
Tim opened his tablet. "Did Ziva say what the doctor is putting her on?"
"An SSRI. Probably Escitalopram. It's pretty widely prescribed."
Tony stuffed half a sandwich in his mouth. "What time will her scrip be ready at the pharmacy?"
Abby blanched. "I think you should ask her. She's probably asleep right now, but maybe ask her when she wakes up."
"She's sick, Tony," Sara chimed. "She throwed up. I heard her go blah."
"Thanks, little bug. Can you draw her a picture to cheer her up? I saw someone got you a big box of art supplies."
She froze, eyes wide, and then dropped her gaze to her lap. "Um, no. I don't thinking that is a good idea."
Gibbs saw her change in mood and chose to ignore it until they were alone. "You're going down for a nap after lunch anyway, sweet pea. Finish your juice and we'll pick out a story."
"Ok," she said softly.
Tony put his plate in the sink. "I'll go up with you. I should probably check on Zi."
"You should," Gibbs agreed. "McGee, will you let us know what she'll be taking and what side effects to look out for? We'll come up with a plan."
"On it, Boss. I'll call the pharmacist I know and get back to you."
"Let's go, sweet pea."
She held her arms up, casting a shy look at Tony. "Giving Zeeba kisses, ok?"
He followed Gibbs up the stairs. "Sure thing, bug. Any special messages to deliver?"
She thought for a minute. "Take the pink medicine and don't cry. Throwing up in the bowl, not the floor. And you should pet her hair so she goes to sleep."
He laughed. "I'll do that. Goodnight, buglet."
Gibbs closed the bedroom door and tucked Sara beneath the blankets. "Why didn't you want to draw, sweet pea?"
She looked out the window. "I don't liking it, Daddy."
"'Cause it's…you can't seeing it."
"Can't see what?" He pulled the farmer book off the shelf. "Are we reading this?"
She nodded, curls tangling. "Yeah. You can't seeing what I draw. It's bad."
"I'm sure it's not, sweet pea. In October of the year, he counts the potatoes dug from the brown field…"
"It is bad," she interrupted. "Because it's all inside and then it's out and it's so bad."
Gibbs put the book down. "I don't understand what you mean but I'm very sorry you are so upset about it. Can you tell me again?"
She wiped at her face, frustrated. "I don't know. It's bad when you draw because it's bad things."
A tiny lightbulb flickered on in his brain. "Have you drawn the bad things that happened to you in the past?"
"Fosserkid," she grunted. "Stupid." Her thumb traced an arc around her mouth. "Daddy?" She asked softly, starting into space. "Can you holding me?"
He threw the book down, not caring where it landed, and scooped her into his arms. She curled up and anchored her thumb in her mouth. "I'm always happy to hold you, baby girl. I love you."
She baby-sighed against his collar. "I love you too, Daddy."