I do not own the NCIS characters.
This is a prequel to The Watchtowers of Rota, but all you need to know is that Tony and Ziva have left the DC NCIS office and are living together in Rota. (In this world, EJ doesn't exist.) They have been together for a few months, and their leaving and moving in together was not preceded by much discussion, thought, or even dating.
Everyone knows it's foolish to try to change someone, but people in love are rarely wise, and in this way Ziva David was no better than most of humanity.
The good news was that she found living with Tony less irritating than she'd expected. Of course that might have been due to the fact that living with him had benefits that working with him did not. So she let many small things slide. She did not appreciate that he considered his athletic jerseys art worthy of hanging on the living room wall, but she learned to ignore them. She did not appreciate that he insisted on taking his shirts halfway across town because only one laundry used the right amount of starch, but then she didn't wear them. She did not appreciate the time, money, effort, and stuff that he spent on his hair, but living with him gave her an opportunity to see his hair in its natural state. That resigned her, because his hair really did defy gravity. Even when fully groomed there was always a stray cowlick or two. (And why did Americans let cows lick their heads?)
That left his atrocious diet, and here Ziva could feel both virtuous and victorious. Lunch was mostly a lost cause, as it was hard to predict when and where it would be eaten, but sometimes she succeeded in steering him towards something mildly edible. When they ate in, she usually cooked, and most nights he was happy enough to eat what was in front of him. She learned to deal with the occasional whine. When they ate out she challenged him to try new things and was gracious enough not to tease too much when he liked them.
On the matter of breakfast, however, she won the war but lost a lot of territory in the resulting negotiations. She got rid of the danishes and the donuts, though she got valuable assistance from the difficulty of finding these things in Rota. For a few triumphant weeks she had him eating a good whole grain cereal every day. And then he handed her an article, downloaded from a reputable site, indicating that protein-rich breakfasts were actually healthy. (He had also shown her one that indicated that men who looked at women's breasts had healthier hearts and thus learned the limits of her interest in his health.)
So she was forced to compromise: they ate her cereal on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and he got his protein on the other days, but with the condition that he had to cook. Tony's culinary skills were limited. The mother of a fraternity brother had taken pity on him and taught him a few things. He made a surprisingly good red sauce, though sometimes he went a little too heavy on the wine and always went a little too heavy on the garlic. He owned a cast iron skillet ("You don't have to wash it!" he'd crowed) and could cook a good steak, though they disagreed on what "cooked" meant ("That's not a steak, that's shoe leather," he'd mourn).
And he could cook eggs. He refused to do sunny side up because he found them creepy ("They're looking at me," he insisted). He preferred them scrambled, but he could do a good omelet. He had a bad habit of tossing in whatever leftovers they'd brought home from the night before, which was sometimes brilliant, sometimes bearable, and sometimes a waste of perfectly good eggs.
When Ziva finally joined him at the table that morning, he was already mostly through his eggs and watching SportsCenter on his laptop. Hanukkah had ended the night before but the menorah was still out. She had been touched by his willingness to participate, though his willingness to participate in an event that involved eight days of gifts, potato pancakes, and gold-foil covered chocolate coins was perhaps not surprising. They had agreed that they would exchange joke gifts ("A backrub is not a gift," she'd said; "It's not a joke gift," he'd retorted) and just one real gift on the last night. He had found her a beautiful book on the history of Jews in Spain; he was wearing her gift, a yellow tie. She suspected it looked as fine on him as she'd hoped, but it was tossed over his shoulder. How did he get so much marmalade on a single piece of toast?
There were no questionable leftovers, so she was confronted with just a plain omelet, toast, and a peeled orange. These oranges were another small bone of contention. Rota had taught her just how used she'd grown to American supermarkets, with their vast fields of fresh produce jetted in from every corner of the planet. The shops in Rota were far smaller and the choices more limited. But these little oranges were always available. They were tart to the point of bitterness and to Ziva suitable only for zest. But lately Tony had conceived a fondness for these oranges, in spite of his love of all things sweet and manufactured. They were always rolling around on the counter, and he was always pushing them on her.
The sight of an orange on her plate aggravated her further, and she was already having an aggravating morning. For the last two weeks she had been tormented by nausea. Most days it struck mid-morning, and she would lose whatever breakfast, healthy or not, she'd eaten. But losing it at work meant she could go into the one-woman bathroom tucked in a distant corner of the office, and heave in private. This morning she wasn't sure she'd be so lucky.
This morning also marked the sixth time she had peed on a stick. The first positive result she had brushed off as an error. She had shopped at various pharmacies and bought different brands, but each stick, despite the confusing instructions, told her the same thing. And it was getting hard to dispose of them. Tony wasn't likely to empty the trash without a reminder, but it was never safe to assume that his nosiness wouldn't kick in.
"You know what I'd do if I had a billion dollars?" Tony asked.
"Buy a Ferrari?" she said.
"Well, of course that's the first thing I'd do," he said. "But next I'd buy the Washington Redskins. What's happened to that franchise is a sin." He looked up. "Your eggs are getting cold. I was starting to think you'd fallen in."
"It is impossible for a fully grown adult to fall into a toilet."
"Yet it's possible for an alligator to crawl out of one, apparently. It's just an expression."
"No need to behead me, Judith. See, I was listening." He looked at her a little more closely. "You okay?"
"I'm fine." She picked up her fork and put it back down. He had gone back to watching his laptop and getting one last dollop of marmalade on his toast. Now or never, she thought. And yet she hated to do it. She had no idea how he would react, but she feared he would take it badly and she thought she might actually cry if he did. No matter what happened, the happy spell of these few months would be broken. For all the little struggles over laundry, food, and oranges, they had been the sunniest days of her life. "I'm pregnant," she said.
He didn't look up from his laptop. She thought he hadn't heard her, and was prepared to repeat it, when he said, "I'll call the embassy."
And then he drank some coffee. She might as well have said she would pick up his shirts after work. "I do not think the embassy needs to be alerted just because I'm pregnant."
"I'm sure we can get married here, but we might have to do some sort of paperwork. There's a consulate in Barcelona. We could take a long weekend." He frowned. "You're not the sort who wants to plan a wedding, are you? Because someday the kid's going to be old enough to count. Being born seven months after the wedding's a little embarrassing, but being born a month after suggests a lack of priorities. Although," and here he got dreamy, "the idea of you in a garter with a holster attached is kind of hot."
"You're joking," she said.
"I'm not. The idea is totally hot."
"You are talking about marriage and I am not even sure I want to have this baby."
"Of course you're sure."
"How could you know that?"
"You wouldn't have told me otherwise. You knew how I'd react."
"I knew no such thing."
"I'm Catholic, Ziva."
"You have never been to church, and there is one just around the corner."
He shifted a little, uncomfortable. "Well, it's not Christmas yet. Anyway, you knew."
She suspected his Catholicism was just an excuse, and his using it encouraged her a little. "Are you ready for this, Tony?"
"I doubt it," he said cheerfully. "But I'm not going to get any more ready." He licked the knife and stuck it back in the marmalade jar.
"That is disgusting."
"I have no germs that I haven't already shared with you. Repeatedly." He smirked.
"You will have to be more careful around a baby. I would like my child to have decent table manners."
"I'd like my child to be a fullback. See to it, woman."
She looked at him, hard. She still struggled to see behind the shiny face he showed to the world and mostly even to her. Over his coffee cup he looked back, bland and innocent. He could not be taking this so lightly. She caught a flicker of something else behind his smooth façade. But it did not seem to be panic or even just resignation.
He put down his cup and smoothed down his new tie. "I like my present," he said.
"It would look even better with a green shirt."
"Are you actually suggesting I should expand my wardrobe?"
"I'm sure there's a white one you can do without." She finally took a bite of her eggs and swallowed with some difficulty. It could not be this simple. Could it? "Tony, this is a big deal. It is forever."
"Not in my family," he said wryly. "That's what boarding school is for." More seriously, he said, "Ziva. Before we left I sold my car."
On its face, this was a ridiculous proof of commitment. And yet Ziva knew that for Tony it was the truest one he could offer, so she took it without comment. It must have been the hormones, for her eyes felt wet, and she looked down to hide it. When she looked up, she said, "You are staring down my shirt."
"The view is spectacular. And from what I hear, it only gets better."
"You are incorrigible."
"Now you have reason to want me to live long enough to collect a pension. College is expensive."
"We could go to London," she said, thinking of Christmas-time Harrods.
"Wet. Cold. And we might run into one of my relatives. You're not ready for that. We could go to Rome."
"I doubt that the Pope wants to marry a pregnant Jewish woman to such a devout Catholic as you."
"Barcelona it is." He grimaced. "I guess I know what I'm getting you for Christmas. At least I know the right size."
"You can't possibly remember that."
"I remember all personal and physical information."
True enough. "I know what you are getting for a birthday present."
"Maybe. I am not sure how these things get counted."
"Maybe pregnancy will stop your snoring."
"It will not stop yours."
"You never know." He fiddled a bit with his laptop. "Eat your orange," he said.
She looked down at her plate, and her eyes narrowed. More internet research, no doubt. Did it matter that he had known, that he had had time to, as he would say, put on his game face? "When did you get so fond of oranges?" she asked.
"What's wrong with them?" he asked, innocent as an altar boy. "They're good for you. They're fresh. They're in season. You should be thrilled."
She decided it did not matter. What mattered was that he had wanted his game face on for her, and that, aside from the knife licking, he had played this game perfectly. And she had seen enough to know that, for all his coolness and preparation, he was trying to look out for her. He was not unhappy or cornered. And now she wasn't, either.
She obediently broke off a section of the orange, bit into it, and winced.
He smiled his most mischievous, you-can't-beat-me-Zee-vah-Da-veed smile. "Remember this moment the next time you serve me cauliflower."
Oh, well played. Ziva was enough of a warrior to know that sometimes you had to accept a small tactical defeat, such as removing cauliflower from the menu, in pursuit of the final goal. Sometimes you had to admit that you had just agreed to marry a man who hadn't actually asked, but you could appreciate the deftness of the maneuver. You could count as a clear victory that you had gotten Tony DiNozzo to buy food that was good, fresh, and in season. Sometimes you even decided that you liked bitter little oranges. You can't change someone, but you can be surprised.