A/N This is a short piece of fluff that accidently has a couple of serious moments. I hope everyone enjoys it.
Tony slid his roller through the paint in the tray. He straightened and rolled a swath across the sheetrock wall. He stepped back and eyed the result. He cocked his head to the side and took another backwards step.
"Boss?" Tony continued to stare at the wall.
"Hmmm?" was the distracted reply from the top of a near-by ladder.
"Are you sure this is the right color?" Tony squinted at the tint. It didn't change.
"Yeah, why?" Gibbs asked from where he was painting the crown molding.
"It looks like…" Tony paused unsure if he was about to offend the older agent.
"I know." Jethro leaned out from the wall and looked at Tony's efforts. "At first I thought burned oatmeal. Now, I'm thinking watered-down baby crap."
"Did you pick this out?" Tony looked up at where Jethro was standing on the ladder.
Jethro just narrowed those blue eyes and gave Tony The Stare.
"Then why, Boss?" Tony looked back at the wall and shook his head. "Out of all the thousands of possible choices, why let her pick this one."
Tony was shocked when the sound of his boss's laugh echoed through the empty bedroom. Jethro climbed down the ladder and joined the younger man in front of the wall. He clapped a hand on Tony's shoulder.
"DiNozzo, you got a lot to learn about women if you think I let Liz do anything. You got to learn to pick your battles. You have to decide when to hold on to the high-ground and when it's safer to retreat. There are some things, like keeping my basement, I'm willing to fight for. Things like this," he waved the other hand at the wall, "aren't important. Sometimes it's just easier to say, 'Yes, Dear,' and go along with their plans."
"I don't know what's scarier, Boss," Tony looked to his mentor, "the fact that you just compared marriage to a strategic military campaign or the fact that I understand."
"You got yourself a strong willed, confident woman, DiNozzo." Jethro raised an eyebrow. "You think you're gonna win every battle?"
"Lord no, Boss." Tony snorted. "Most days I just hope to make it off the battlefield in one piece."
Jethro laughed at that then he gave Tony a searching look. "You plan to marry her, Tony?"
The younger man felt the heat creep up his neck and across his face. He looked down at the sneaker he was suddenly scuffing across the hardwood floor.
"I, um, well, I…" Tony realized he sounded a lot like McGee.
The hand left his shoulder. "It's a simple question, DiNozzo."
Tony looked back up and met Jethro's eyes. "I know, Boss. But, the answer isn't that simple. I want to marry her. I'm just not sure I know how to be married. It's not like I had a real great role model growing up. She's my best friend. I don't want to screw that up."
"Then don't," was Jethro's succinct reply.
"This from the person who has three ex-wives." Tony cringed at the narrowed eyes. "Sorry, Boss."
"I screwed up because I married the wrong people for the wrong reasons," Jethro admitted. "Do you love her?"
Tony looked him squarely in the eyes and admitted, "More than I thought possible."
"Then you'll know when the time's right." Jethro moved back to the ladder as he heard the sound of his front door opening. "Right now, Liz better find you putting that on the walls."
Both men were hard at work when the women giggled their way up the stairs and down the hall. Liz entered the bedroom first. She stopped to survey the wall as Ziva moved past her and sat down a shopping bag.
"Oh dear," Liz studied the paint Tony had spread on the wall. "That color is dreadful. Ziva what do you think?"
Ziva moved next to Liz. Her gaze was pulled to the sight of how Tony's jeans pulled tight across his butt as he bent to put more paint on the roller. Liz nudged an elbow into her ribs.
"The paint, Ziva," Liz said with a smile.
Ziva hoped she wasn't blushing as she turned her attention to the fresh paint. "It is, well, it is…"
Liz smiled. "Go ahead. I want your opinion."
"It is hideous." Tony and Jethro snorted as Ziva turned, wide-eyed, to Liz. "I am sorry. That did not come out right."
"No. You're right. It is hideous." Liz shook her head. "Tony, dear, you can stop. I think we're back to square one with the paint."
Tony dropped the roller into the tray. "Thank God."
Liz put her hands on her hips. "You didn't like it either?"
Tony had the decency to look sheepish as she shook his head. Liz turned to where her fiancé was standing on a ladder, meticulously painting trim. He had yet to make eye contact.
"Jethro?" Liz still had her hands on her hips as she looked up at him.
"Yeah?" He continued to paint.
"Just how badly to you hate this color?" Liz narrowed her eyes.
"On a scale of one to ten?" Jethro finally looked down to where Liz stood. "A fifteen."
Liz threw her hands in the air in exasperation. "And, you didn't think it was important to tell me that before we bought it?"
Tony picked up the paint tray. "I think I'll just go clean this out."
Ziva moved quickly around Liz. "I will go help him."
The younger couple beat a hasty exit. They headed downstairs and out the back door. Tony put the tray on the grass and turned to Ziva.
"Well, that was awkward," he quipped.
"She was right. He should have told her he hated that color." Ziva uncoiled the water hose.
"He thought she liked it. He didn't want to hurt her feelings." Tony defended Gibbs in a display of male solidarity.
"It will be his bedroom, too. She wants his input." Ziva turned the water on and aimed the nozzle at the tray.
Tony quickly moved out of the way. "Maybe it wasn't that important to him."
"It is important to her. She is trying to make this a home for the two of them. He must learn to share with her." Ziva hosed out the paint tray.
"So, it would be okay for me to tell you I hate that old-people wall paper in your master bath?" Tony shut off the water.
"You are not moving in with me." Ziva dumped the water out of the tray and moved it to a bench to dry.
"I haven't slept at my apartments in weeks. Most of my stuff is at your house. I'm not even sure why I still have an apartment." Tony sat down on one of the benches.
"Tony…" Ziva didn't know what to say.
"I know, Zi. You aren't ready to let me in all the way. That's okay. I can be patient." Tony smiled at her. "I still hate that wall paper. Just thought I would share that."
Ziva sat in his lap and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Then perhaps we should go shopping for new wallpaper."
They were kissing when the back door opened.
"Hey! We're going to Home Depot and then out to dinner. You two want to tag along?" Jethro called from the door.
Ziva unwound herself from Tony and the couple stood. "We would love to." Ziva responded as they passed through the door.
Tony stopped just inside of the doorway and leaned closer to Jethro. "So, Boss, can you teach me how to hang wallpaper?"