"I am coming!" Ziva cried angrily as she wrapped herself in a robe and stormed through her apartment leaving a trail of wet footprints behind her. With one hand she tried to dry some of the water from her very wet hair.
"What do you want?" she growled as she threw open the door. She didn't check the peep hole first. She didn't even look up at her 'guest'. Only one person she knew would not get the hint after five minutes of knocking. At 8am. On a Sunday.
"Um, hi," he smiled sheepishly. "I guess you meant it when you said you were busy."
"I was in the shower, Tony. Unlike some people I do have some sense of hygiene and…" She trailed off. She could see legs. Hairy man legs at her door.
"You never wear shorts!" she looked up at her partner, freeing her wild curls from the now sodden towel.
"I do today!" he grinned at her as she moved aside to let him in the door.
Tony thrust a bag into her arms as he brushed past and walked over to the couch.
"Take your time, we've got all day," said as he picked up the TV remote.
"All day to what exactly?" she asked as her curiosity got the better of her and she peeked inside the bag. Clothes? He was bringing her clothes? Ok that was just a little weird…
"Tony, I am confused," she admitted, walking over to the couch. "Why are you talking about spending your only day off in over two weeks doing…doing what exactly… with me?"
Tony muted the TV and smiled up at his partner. "You'll see. Trust me!" And with that he unmuted the TV. Ziva took this as her cue to go to her room and get ready for… whatever.
Ziva brushed her teeth, and run her fingers through her damp hair, she opened the curtains in her room and looked out the window.
"What a beautiful day," she thought, regretting her decision not to run that morning. The crispness had gone from the air and it was not quite warm but it was making an effort.
Ziva sighed and turned back to her bed, picking up the mysterious bag. She tipped its contents out onto the sheets and suddenly she realized everything. She slipped into the new clothes with a smile and dug her strappy brown sandals out of the closet. It also explained Abby's assault on everyone's calendars. The big green circles had appeared one morning two months ago.
When Ziva returned to the lounge room, the TV was off and Tony was gone. In his place on the couch was a note that said "Downstairs." Ziva smiled again as she locked the front door behind her.
The drive was pleasant, the wind soon dried her hair and felt fresh against her skin. Tony grinned, glad he had decided to put the top down on his Mustang. The entire trip, a beguiling smell followed them but she could not place it. Ziva tried to guess where they were going but Tony refused to give her any hints. The word blindfold was mentioned but was soon dropped at the threat of paperclips…
Before she knew it, they were pulling into a familiar driveway. With familiar cars already there; a handcrafted masterpiece, a who-knows-how crafted art piece and a stylish but practical coupe.
"We're here!" Tony announced unnecessarily. Ziva rolled her eyes, but his enthusiasm was endearing.
"All this secrecy to come to Gibbs' house?" she asked. "You could have just invited me!" she scolded.
"Ah, but then you would not be properly dressed," he reminded her as he reached over the seat and pulled up a basket. So that was where the smell was coming from. "After you," he indicated up the path that ran down the side of Gibbs' house to the back yard.
The whole team was there. Gibbs and Ducky stood at the BBQ, sizzling sausages spattering away on the hot plate. Tim and Jimmy were engaged in some hot discussion about who knew what, but it seemed Jimmy had the upper hand.
"Ziva my dear!" Ducky exclaimed when he saw her. "Welcome! You are just in time, the food is ready!"
Gibbs greeted them with a nod. Tim and Jimmy had not yet noticed their presence.
"Hey!" Gibbs interrupted them. "Grub's up!"
Tony guided Ziva to the blankets that the group had laid out on the grass as Abby came out the back door. She was carrying a large bowl of salad with a condiment tray precariously balanced on top.
"You're here!" she quickly deposited her load on the blanket and hugged her friend. "Wow, Ziva you look so pretty! Your dress is great. I mean it's not my style but on you…"
"Thank you, Abby," Ziva saved her friend. "I can not take the credit though, I did not choose it."
This comment brought a knowing smirk to Abby's smile. "Well it's great," she said as she sat on the ground folding her long legs under her. "Let's eat!"
Tony opened the basket and produced fresh rolls which he distributed as the others sat down. Ziva inhaled the fresh, sweet smell of bread that she had unknowingly enjoyed during the car trip.
Gibbs passed around a plate of sausages, pointing at a small pile on the left. "These ones are Ziva's," he told everyone. "The others are all sorts of flavours."
"Hee, a lucky dip." Tony grinned.
Ziva regarded Abby's condiment tray eagerly. Tomato sauce, salad dressing, butter, mayonnaise. She sighed. Even her highly trained features let slip a hint of her disappointment.
"Don't be childish!" she scolded herself. "It is just one thing, do not let it ruin the perfect day."
"Hey," Tony whispered from beside her as he reached into the basket. "I didn't forget your Ninja Mustard." He handed her the bottle and her face broke out into a smile.
The team ate, in silence at first as they dug in. As tummies filled, conversation grew and soon two hours had slipped by with much laughter. Jimmy and McGee returned to their debate, which turned out to be disputing the medical possibilities of McGee's latest literary victim. Gibbs was cleaning the grill plate when Ziva rose from the blanket and moved to join him.
Standing on tip toe, she whispered in Gibbs' ear something that made the hardened team leader's face soften in a way that Tony had never seen before. He could not hear the words spoken but Gibbs nodded and murmured something in reply and then bent to kiss Ziva softly on the top of the head. What had she said to him?
Tony was brought out of his pondering by a muffled sniff beside him.
"Abby?" he asked as she blew her nose on a scarlet red handkerchief.
"Tony, look." She pointed towards the back of the yard where Ziva had walked, sandals discarded on the grass. "She was asking him if it was ok, Tony," Abby explained.
"I would hazard to say that is the first time anyone has swung on those swings for a good many years," Ducky mused, almost to himself. "I am surprised Jethro didn't take them down." Even Jimmy and McGee had grown quiet as they watched their friend's unlikely actions.
Abby blew her nose again. "Kelly," she whispered. "It is easy to forget sometimes you know. That Gibbs had a family."
The atmosphere had shifted with that simple act of sitting on a swing. It was no longer cheerful but neither was it somber. Tony stood and walked across the yard to where Ziva was sitting on the swing, playing with the grass between her toes. He sat in the empty swing beside her.
She leaned in slightly. "Tony, I should not have…"
"No," he cut her off. "No, it's fine. Look at him," he indicated their boss with nod in his direction. Gibbs had returned to scrubbing the grill, the hint of a smile on his worn features.
"This was all you, wasn't it?" she changed the subject, indicating towards the picnic and her dress. It had to have been him, nobody else knew. They had not been wired that day. "It is exactly what we imagined."
"I just wanted it to be special for you," he admitted as he absentmindedly rubbed the green fabric between his fingers.
"Wanted what to be special?" she asked, taking his hand from her dress and holding between both of hers.
Tony smiled and leaned over so his lips were millimeters from her ear. "Happy first day of Spring, American Ziva," he whispered.
Gibbs surveyed his backyard as he considered the people before him. It had been years since anyone had eaten out here and now here they all were, having a picnic like it was something they did every weekend.
An elderly ME who had a story for every occasion, and his assistant who was quickly learning the same skill. A junior field agent who moonlighted as a murderer, albeit between the pages of a book. A senior field agent who talked too much and loved too much and would never take anything for granted again. And a probationary agent who was the only person in his life brave enough to pull him out of his past.
They were an odd collection of souls, some broken, some searching, and some had always known where they were. Together they were something that worked. There was no word to describe what they had but if someone forced him, Gibbs decided, he might just say that they were family.