Disclaimer: Not mine.

Because they are one big, sometimes happy dysfunctional family. And they watch out for each other.

Takes place around Rule 51.

He comes to her that night. Ziva senses his desperation, but years of training keep her from asking questions. He alternates from wildly passionate to slow and tender and for one heart stopping moment, he almost professes something that might have been his love but her finger over his lips stops the words from leaving his mouth.

He leaves her a mere two hours later. A hand pressed to her cheek, his forehead drops to rest against hers before he kisses her in a way that sends fear shooting down her spine. It is a kiss that feels so very much like a farewell.

Tony is not the only guest to appear at Ziva's apartment that night. Abby shows up less than a half hour after Tony's departure. If she notices that Ziva is wearing an oversized man's button down shirt and nothing else, she does not say anything. Nor does she comment on the large pair of masculine sneakers resting next to Ziva's.

"Ziva, have you ever had to betray someone you loved even though technically, it was the right thing to do?"

Does shooting your own brother in the head count?

And while Ziva knows that she is out of her element in the comfort department, she clearly remembers Abby sweetly touching her cheek as the team stepped off of the elevator upon their return from Somalia. She owes Abby what little she is capable of giving.

Abby tries not to look surprised as Ziva tentatively takes her hand and leads her inside. She does not ask questions, but sets up a makeshift camp of blankets and pillows on the living room floor simulating what she imagines - she's never actually been to one - a slumber party might look like.

Abby watches her with a mixture of confusion and awe until understanding takes root and she has to swallow past the lump of emotion forming thickly in her throat. Ziva leaves to change into more appropriate sleeping attire and when she returns, Abby has settled herself into Ziva's pallet on the floor.

Ziva smiles because for once she has made the right move where Abby is concerned. She crawls beneath the blankets as Abby finds The Breakfast Club playing on late night television.

"McGee, can you set up an email account so that I can send an email that can not be traced?" Tony asked, his voice echoing through McGee's iPhone.

"There is nothing that is completely untraceable, Tony. I can reroute the path so that -"

"McGee! I don't have time. Please. Set me up an untraceable email account. Or a way to send a text message. I have approximately twenty minutes. Call me back with the details."

She waits.

Long after the rest of the crowd has cleared out, she still waits.

They had wanted to celebrate with her. Her friends. Friends that had become her family.

They had cheered, hugged and congratulated as was expected. She had smiled, laughed and shown her appreciation as was expected.

She is an American now.

She tries to feel something, anything really, but all she feels is a numbness that has actually manifested physically so that she has to move her arms and legs to make sure that they still work.

She should be happy. If there is one thing Ziva knows for sure it is that happiness is fleeting and it is best to not become too attached to that particular emotion.

Her coworkers had protested, particularly Abby, about leaving her at the end of the ceremony. With a calm that she did not feel, she reassured them that she just needed a moment to absorb everything. Forcing a smile she hugged each member of her new family - only a handshake for Director Vance, of course - and sent them on their way.

A buzz from her cell phone interrupts her reverie. She yanks the phone from her purse to reveal a text message from a number that she does not recognize.

A smart woman once told me that sometimes you get orders. You might not like them, but you follow them. Welcome home, Ninja.

And with that, she feels the first stirrings of relief. She is truly safe. Safe from Mossad, her father and Israel. She is home. A rogue tear escapes and slips down her cheek and she laughs to herself. She gathers her purse and makes her way to the door.

Once outside, she finds Ducky leaning against her car.

"You didn't really think I would leave you here all alone, did you, my dear?"

Abby, McGee and Jimmy carpool back to the Navy Yard.

Subtlety has never been Jimmy Palmer's forte.

"So, I heard you two shared a room in Mexico," Palmer calls out from the back seat, his attention focused more on the game he is playing on his phone.

McGee attempts to shoot Palmer a warning look from his rear view mirror, which goes totally unnoticed.

Abby turns on the snark.

"No one made a big deal about Tony and Ziva sharing a room in Paris," she huffs.

Without missing a beat or looking up from his game, Palmer innocently replies, "But they have been sleeping together forever."

McGee swerves and Abby whips around to stare at Jimmy as though he has grown a third arm.

"Well, haven't they? I mean - I just thought - they seem…" he stammers, "I don't know, maybe I am wrong, I just thought…"

Abby and McGee look at each other.

"You know, the couch thing really wasn't that believable, anyway," McGee says as if that explains everything.

Abby tries to feel shocked, but can't quite summon up the energy. Besides, she just remembered that Tony's shoes were at Ziva's apartment and that Ziva may have been wearing his shirt.

Timothy McGee has never really seen himself as playing the superhero role. Really, macho bravado was much more Tony's department.

But Tony wasn't here.

Somehow, McGee found himself standing at the top of the stairs looking down into the Basement of Doom, contemplating whether or not he could survive on his waning book royalties after Gibbs fired him.

"Are you going to stand up there all night?" a voice called from the depths of the scary lair.

Tim clears his throat, lifts his chin and steels his resolve. Making his way down the stairs, a splinter the size of a toothpick lodges itself into McGee's flesh as he drags his hand along the banister. A knight in shining armor does not show weakness or pain, so he attempts to ignore the tree branch sticking out of his palm.

McGee knows when he has entered hostile territory.

"Is there something I can do for you, Agent McGee?" Gibbs asks in a tone that implies that McGee may not be an agent for much longer.

McGee clears his throat, suddenly seeing Gibbs for who he actually is. A man. Just a man.

"You should have been at her ceremony, Boss."

Gibbs fixes a hard stare in the young agent's direction. For the first time since joining Team Gibbs, Timothy McGee does not flinch under his scrutiny and returns the glare.

"She will never tell you that you hurt her. She will never tell you how important it was for you to be there." McGee turns and heads back up the stairs but pauses midway. "And I shouldn't have to tell you that."

Gibbs can't help but feel respect for the young agent.

But he feels annoyed, too.

Because McGee is right.

Two days have passed since Ziva's ceremony and there has been no word from Tony nor Gibbs.

Abby sends an official meeting request via email to Palmer and McGee to discuss The Situation.

Palmer is eagerly waiting in Abby's lab like a Labrador puppy when McGee finally arrives. McGee hates to admit it, but Palmer reminds him a little of himself when he first became a field agent.

"Abby, I am really busy, what 'situation' do you feel needs to be discussed?" McGee asks, fatigue showing plainly on his face.

"We are going to throw Ziva a surprise party, Tim."

McGee groans.

"Surprising a trained assassin at night seems like a supremely unwise thing to do, Abby."

"Don't worry, McGee. We will keep it just us. Now pinky swear that you won't say anything to her."

Palmer nearly trips himself in his haste to link pinkies with Abby.

The first thing McGee does is tell Ziva.

"Hey, Ziva. Just a thought. You might want to make sure that your apartment is in order tonight around dinner time."

Ziva narrows her eyes.


"I'm sworn to secrecy."

The look she gives him could slice him in two.

"Yes," he says in self preservation.

The apartment is immaculate and Ziva is freshly showered when they arrive.

Abby immediately twists McGee's ear.

"You told her, didn't you?"

Ziva distracts Abby by giving her a hug and whispering her thanks into her ear.

With that, McGee is forgiven and the group unloads beer, wine and snacks into Ziva's kitchen.

They are no longer entirely sober and working on a fourth round of poker when a key slides into the lock of the front door.

They all freeze as Tony lets himself into Ziva's apartment. The silence becomes deafening as Tony looks at the group seated at the kitchen table, poker chips scattered around. Notably, Ziva has the most chips and Tony wonders briefly if she can add swindler to her list of talents.

Abby is the first to break the silence. Jumping up suddenly, her chair tumbles over backward as she launches herself at Tony.

"Tony! I was so worried! I-" she pulls away and eyes him suspiciously. "Wait. Why do you have a key to Ziva's apartment?"

Tony does not answer and Ziva stares at the cards in her hand.

"Palmer was right!"

Palmer and McGee quickly turn their attention to their own cards as well.

Ziva finally looks up at Tony, a gentle smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.

"Welcome home, Tony," she says softly.

Tony only pauses for a second before marching over to Ziva and pulling her up from her chair to plant a proper kiss on her lips.

"I guess the secret is out, huh?" Tony whispers against her mouth before moving to occupy the empty seat.

She squeezes his hand as they all sit down to resume their game.

Abby smiles sweetly at them both.

"I guess now I have the mother of all blackmail opportunities. I will be expecting a Caf!Pow from the both of you in the morning."