A/N: Yeah, it's true. This is the end of the story.
Chapter 6: A Father's Fight
Chapter 6: A Father's Fight
"Paternity suit?" Ziva demanded, pulling the papers from his hands. "What, has some trod said you fathered her child?"
"No," Tony said. "And I think you mean 'broad'. Or 'trollop'."
Ziva scanned the long lines of legal text until her eyes hit upon one paragraph.
OFFICER RAPHAEL MICHAEL BASHAN, citizen in the country of Israel, contesting validity of paternity in regard to minor TALIA TERESA DINOZZO, currently residing in the District of Columbia, date of birth July 9, 2011 to mother SPECIAL AGENT ZIVA CARIA DAVID and husband SPECIAL AGENT ANTHONY DANIEL DINOZZO.
"No," Ziva said, handing the papers back. "I am not playing his game. I have already declared my husband father in all aspects of the law. I will not consent to this."
"Here, let me take her inside," Tony said quietly, lifting Talia from her arms.
"This is not a request for voluntary acknowledgment, Agent David," the lawyer said quietly. "This is a court order. Officer Bashan has a valid reason to believe that he is the father of your child. We will need DNA samples from both the child and your husband to determine paternity."
"No," Ziva repeated. "My husband is the father of my daughter. There is no contesting that fact."
"Regardless, Agent David, I need the samples."
Tony spotted Rafi trying to duck into the bullpen unnoticed the next morning and made a beeline for the officer, slamming him back against the wall. "You just can't leave well enough alone, can you?" he hissed, disarming Rafi in seconds.
"The law says that I have a right to know if she is my child," Rafi hissed back.
"Damn it, Bashan, she is my daughter, not yours!" Tony snarled.
"But you do not know that!" Rafi said. "If Talia is mine, I will be – "
"Talia is not your child!" Tony snapped, slamming his knee into Rafi's groin. Rafi dropped to the ground, groaning in pain, and Tony walked away, still trembling with rage.
"Hey, Lee, c'mere a second," Tony called as he was passing Legal.
"Can I help you, Agent DiNozzo?" Michelle asked warily.
"I need to ask you something," he said quietly. "If a woman's child is determined to be not her husband's child, can the biological father gain custody, even partial?"
"Well, there always is the chance, although most judges won't rule it in the child's best interests to be removed from their current residence unless there's cause for concern. Depending on how hard both sides fight, there's a better chance of partial or joint custody. At very least, the biological father can claim visitation rights."
"What if the biological father lives in a different country? Most judges wouldn't rule custody for that, right?"
"It all depends on what the biological father is willing to do. Some will fork out the hundreds of dollars to fly their child in or to fly out to them. If the case is particularly nasty, they may assign costs to the mother and court order custody arrangements." She gave him a brief, sympathetic smile. "I'm sorry, Agent DiNozzo, you've got a long, dirty fight ahead of you. I can't tell you anything definitive about how it would turn out."
In frustration, Tony shoved the papers aside. "That damn bastard has us no matter what direction we turn," he groaned, putting his forehead into his hands. "He has no financial obligations. He can afford to fork out the money for a trial. We can't. We've got a mortgage and cars and kids. So we're stuck taking what he asks."
Ziva bit back the tears as she rocked Talia soothingly. She knew Rafi. He was so angry at her right now that he would demand full custody right from the start, and she couldn't let him do that. "It may not happen, Tony," she offered softly. "He still needs a positive result to pursue anything."
Tony looked up at her briefly, and his eyes went ice cold. "There's a 50-50 chance, Ziva, unless there's another affair you'd like to admit to."
Ziva bit the inside of her cheek. Talia started squalling again and she picked up the pace, rubbing her daughter's back. "We need a plan, Tony. Something to give him if it does turn out..."
"I'm not giving that goddamn bastard my kid, Ziva!" Tony exploded and Talia's cries escalated into screams.
"Tony, I am just saying that if we offer him something reasonable, he may less inclined to demand full custody. Would you rather give Talia to him for life, or a few weeks out of the year?" Ziva snapped, trying to calm Talia down again. "I do not relish the thought, either, Tony, but like you said, there is a 50-50 chance."
"God, this wouldn't be happening if you hadn't slept with him!"
"Do you think I do not know that, Tony?" Ziva demanded. "God, are you going to remind me of that every day?"
"I'm going to be reminded of it every day that I'm being told to prove that my daughter is mine!" Tony snarled. "And I'm going to be reminded of it every time that bastard comes to take her!" He threw down the files and stormed out.
"Tony!" Ziva yelled after him. "Tony, do not walk out like that!"
"I'll do whatever I damn want to, Ziva!"
Neither considered themselves particularly religious people, but did they both pray in those long three weeks. Ziva couldn't have dealt with Rafi's triumphant leers, and Tony wasn't sure he would ever learn to deal with knowing his littlest daughter wasn't his.
They were once again separated, and they both knew that the results of this test would decide whether or not it would become permanent.
Ziva was trying to prepare herself for the worst. Trying to prepare herself for the very real possibility of losing her husband, losing her children – Rafi would demand Talia. She was sure Tony would demand Shiloh, Noam and Ariel.
"Mama?" Noam asked plaintively the night before Shiloh's first day of kindergarten, climbing up onto the bed next to her as Ziva was laying Talia down for the night. "Mama, is Daddy coming home soon? I miss him."
"I do not know, Noam, sweetheart," Ziva said softly.
"Can I snuggle with you tonight, then, Mama?" he asked, nestling under the covers into her arms.
Tony knocked back a second glass of vodka. This tension was too much, and the sounds of Ziva's hurt voice as he laid out the plan still echoed in his mind.
"If those results come back positive for him, Ziva, it's over. It's over between us, and you and she can go live with him. I can't even live under the same roof if that happens."
"Tony, think about what you are saying… the children…"
"My kids stay with me."
Tony hung up without saying goodbye.
The phone rang early the next morning, interrupting what was turning out to be a very hectic household's breakfast.
Ziva dove for the cordless, picking it up just as Ariel dumped her cereal on the ground and Tali began wailing insistently. "DiNozzo-David household," she said breathlessly. She tried to listen to the monotone voice on the other end as she picked up Ariel's cereal bowl, refilled it with Cheerios and cleaned up the mess, then sat down in a nearby chair to feed Talia. "Shiloh, darling, can you get Talia's blanket for me, please?" she asked. "I am sorry, sir, repeat that last sentence?"
"Ah, you must be Miss DiNozzo," the teacher said with a bright smile as she knelt down to talk to Shiloh. I'm Mrs. Reynolds."
"Shiloh, what do you say?" Ziva chided gently, helping her take off her rain slicker. Noam was busy enjoying the squeaky sounds his rubber boots made when he jumped on the linoleum, giggling insanely. "Noam, stop that," she said sternly.
"Good morning, Mrs. Reynolds," Shiloh said softly, turning around to hug Ziva tightly. "Mama, Daddy'll come right when school is done, promise?"
"Promise," Ziva said with a smile, returning the hug before Shiloh gave both little sisters in the stroller a kiss and waved goodbye to Noam. "Have a good day, darling, okay?"
"Mama, we go in puddles!" Noam laughed excitedly, jumping into another puddle in the parking lot as Ziva loaded her little daughters into the van.
"Noam, into your seat, please," Ziva said. "No puddles today. Oh, look at you, you are all wet," she said tiredly, as she lifted him up into the van.
Noam grinned at her.
But barely minutes after lunch was done, everybody under the age of six was fast asleep in the house, including Goliath, and Ziva could finally sit down and think. She had four hours before they were off work, four hours before all hell would break loose, and she still wasn't sure that she was ready for it.
Sighing, she got up from the couch and went upstairs to check on the children, then dropped off into an uneasy, light sleep.
She woke up as somebody was yanking her up by her hair. Old Mossad instincts kicked in and she threw herself in Krav Maga mode, pulling her assailant's knife from his holster and placing it against his throat.
"God, Rafi!" she exclaimed irritably as she registered who was attacking her. "Do you have a death wish?" She pulled the knife away slightly, though she still had him pinned to the wall. "Get out. You got your results."
Rafi's eyes were ice-cold. "I want the tests rerun."
"There's no point, Rafi. No matter how many times those tests are run, they will never say what you want them to say." She drew the knife a little closer. "When I take the knife away, you're going to leave. You're going to leave quietly and without a fight. You will drop this stupid, pointless fight and you will never, never come near my house or my children again. Do I make myself clear?"
"And if I don't?"
"I was metsada in Mossad, Rafi. You take a wild guess what I'll do."
Rafi frowned. "You're bluffing, you were never metsada."
"After you died, I was. Right up until I was transferred to NCIS," Ziva replied, grip tightening on the hilt of the knife. "Rafi, just leave. Stop this. We were over years ago."
Tony and Shiloh arrived home roughly half an hour later to find the house in full activity again. Other than the faint tinge of red in Ziva's eyes, nothing was obvious to suggest that there had been conflict.
Ziva looked at the official sheets that night in the kitchen, as she listened to Tony getting the kids off to bed.
… we regret to say that we cannot conclusively exclude either subject. Therefore, with no hard evidence to the contrary, paternity will remain awarded to Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo and the case of Bashan vs. David will be dismissed...
"So?" Tony asked, entering the kitchen just as Ziva had disarmed the fire alarm and was burning the papers in the sink. "What's the results say?"
Ziva turned around and smiled as he looked at her hopefully. "She is yours, Tony."
And as he grinned and swung her around, kissing her in delight, Ziva returned the kiss with equal fervor, the papers crumbling into ashes in the sink.
Some secrets she would keep.