Not Quite Home
The church was absolutely packed for Jackson Gibbs' funeral. Even Gibbs – Leroy Jethro, that is – was surprised at the outpouring of love and emotion that had surrounded him when he arrived that morning. Stillwater, Pennsylvania, wasn't known as a warm and fuzzy town. It was a place where straight talk was the only kind, and kids knew that they should stand up when grown-ups entered the room, and that "Yes ma'am" and "No sir" were the only acceptable responses. People didn't hug. They weren't effusive with praise. Which is why walking into that packed church full of support for his father had humbled Gibbs to his core.
After the funeral, most of the congregation headed over to the parish hall for the traditional fellowship buffet that followed ceremonies like this in small towns. Gibbs, though, stood for a minute, smiling to himself as he thought of how his father would have chuckled at all the dewy-eyed older women in the front row.
"Boss?" McGee said quietly. "You okay?"
"Yeah, Tim," Gibbs said with a rare smile. "I am." As he grabbed his coat from the pew and headed to the side exit where the rest of his team were waiting, the main church door opened. Gibbs turned to let the late-comers know that the reception was next door, but then he stopped. Before he had a chance to say anything, Tony walked up behind him, heading for the surprise visitor.
"Ziva …" Tony said, his face breaking into a brilliant smile. "Ziva …" He cut through one of the pews and walked towards her opening his arms for an embrace. He'd been hoping she would show up.
Ziva turned quickly to reference the man walking up behind her, then turned back to Tony and stopped him just before the hug.
"Tony," she said, smiling – maybe a little awkwardly, "I'd like you to meet someone."
Ziva grabbed the arm of the man behind her and pulled him playfully into place beside her.
"I'd like you all to meet Nachum." Ziva said. "My husband."
Tony opened his mouth to speak, although no sound came. The rest of the team let out an audible gasp. It was as if they'd been waiting for one thing and got something so different that they couldn't quite breathe. After several long seconds of nothing, Ducky broke the silence and moved forward with an outstretched hand.
"It is our pleasure to meet you, Nachum," Ducky said, gracefully. "Your name, I believe, means 'comfort'?" He smiled as the two men shook hands. "Our Ziva has needed that of late." He turned and hugged Ziva. "Mazeltov", he whispered.
"I have heard a lot about all of you," Nachum said with a slight smile. He moved a few steps forward to Tony. "You, of course, I know," Nachum said. "I have heard much about you, Mr. Gibbs."
Tony shook his head, and smiled as he looked down and lightly cleared his throat.
"No, my dear," Ziva said, a hint of shock and embarrassment evident. "This is Agent DiNozzo." She looked up and their eyes met. "Tony."
"Ah … of course …," Nachum said, his hand over his heart and a sheepish look on his face. "How stupid of me … I apologize."
Tony took the other man's hand and shook it warmly. "No worries," he said, the words coming out deceptively lightly. "It happens all the time."
Abby came to the rescue, taking a few steps towards Ziva. "I can't believe you came back!"
"How could I not?" Ziva said, with a smile for her friend. "I know what it is like to lose a father," she said. "I had to come back for Gibbs."
Tony half-smiled and took a deep breath. McGee took a step closer to him … in an almost protective way, it seemed.
"It's so good to see you," Abby said, trying to move past the awkwardness and pulling Ziva into a tight hug. And then, surprise. Abby stepped back quickly and looked down at Ziva's belly.
"You're pregnant!" she exclaimed. Abby wanted to be delighted, but she wasn't, quite. She was simultaneously happy and angry and surprised and confused. She didn't look at Tony.
"Yes," Nachum said, his smile going wide. "We found out a few months ago. It will be a boy."
"Mazeltov," Gibbs said, as he walked forward. "Congratulations." He hugged Ziva and shook Nachum's hand.
"Yes," Nachum said, looking at Ziva. "This is Gibbs. I can see now."
Nachum looked at Gibbs and said, proudly, "We plan to name him Asher."
"I voted for Leroy or Jethro," Ziva said with a smile. "I was overruled."
"Good!" Gibbs said. The assembled group laughed obediently and then shifted a bit in the silence.
"I was so sorry to hear about Jackson," Ziva said, her tone becoming quieter, laced with sadness.
"He had a lot of good years," Gibbs said. "He lived a good life." Ziva hugged him again.
"How long are you staying?" McGee asked, trying to keep the conversation moving. Everyone was very aware of Tony, standing there, trying to seem comfortable and nonchalant.
"Only today," Ziva answered. "Only now, really. We have a flight to catch soon." She looked at her husband. "We had hoped to make it in time for the service, but Nachum insisted on driving."
The assembled group all chuckled and nodded.
Then, suddenly, Tony. "You should have told us you were getting married," he said. His voice was indifferent, almost happy. Not quite. "We'd have sent something."
"It was a small ceremony," Ziva said, avoiding Tony's gaze to look back at her husband. "A quiet, perfect moment." Nachum kissed her hand.
"Just out of the blue, then?" Tony said, trying hard not to be harsh, but not completely succeeding. McGee took another step towards him, just in case.
"Tony …" Ziva said, looking at him with a plea in her eyes.
"What?" Tony countered, a false smile on his face. "It's just that a year ago, you disappeared and had to go it alone to find the answers. Now … married and pregnant. That's a big turn-around."
"Biggest 180 of my life," Ziva said, hoping he'd understand.
Tony let out one single syllable of a laugh. "Of course."
Ziva turned to the rest of the group. "Nachum and I have known each other since we were children," she began, once again taking her husband's hand. "I had heard he was killed in a bombing near our home several years ago. We met by accident at a friend's house, and it was like a miracle, coming back from the dead. We picked up exactly where we left off." She smiled at the memory. "It was as if no time had passed."
"Well, you know …" Tony began, taking a few steps back, "… none really has. I mean, nothing important happened in between … at all." He looked around to the rest of the team, who were watching him carefully.
"DiNozzo," Gibbs cautioned softly. The look he gave Tony conveyed that he understood, but also that Tony needed to back down.
Tony's expression softened and changed. The rest of the team relaxed a bit.
"Sorry, boss," Tony said. "Didn't mean to hijack …" he let out a breath. "To hijack your dad's memory there." There was a beat of silence, and then Tony looked up.
"I'm going to go check on the room," he said with a smile. "Make sure the ladies of Stillwater haven't turned the buffet table into some sort of covered dish competition for the single men who show up."
"I'll … uh … give you a hand," McGee said. "I don't think you can handle those women alone." He turned to look at Gibbs. "No one can." He meant every word.
Gibbs smiled and nodded.
Tony moved towards Nachum, his hand outstretched. "It was nice to meet you," he said with genuine warmth. "Ziva will make a wonderful mother. I'm very happy for you both." He stepped forward and kissed Ziva's forehead quickly.
And then, he turned away from the group without having met Ziva's eyes.
McGee moved up to walk beside him.
"I was worried about you for a second there," McGee said, looking over at his partner.
"Yeah," Tony said. "Me too." Then he put his arm around the younger man's shoulders as they prepared to enter the reception. "You ready for this?" Tony said with a grin.
"I've always got your six, Tony", McGee replied.
Gibbs and the rest of the team were walking towards the hall as the two men opened the door.
The last thing Ziva heard as she walked back to the car with Nachum was Tony's boisterous voice.
"Ladies!" she heard him say. "I'm all yours!"
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