Uhm... so, yeah... hi?

I guess it just sounds stupid by now, but I'm really sorry it took me so long to update. I was planning on writing this after my finals, but then I screwed up a big test, and it didn't really get better after that.

I suppose I did lose some of you, but I guess I can't blame you. In any case, I just hope there is still someone out there reading this and metaphorically kicking my ass to go write the next chapter in significantly less time...

Achem. Anyways. Have chapter ten :)


"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Ziva sounded as doubtful as he felt. "It is really cheap for where it is, maybe it is just another ruin."

"Nah, I don't think so." Hoped so was more like it; but after all, Gibbs had recommended her, and that had to count for something, right? "Listen, let's just go take a look at it, and if it's not hat we're looking for, we can just get back home again." And start the next round of death traps and rat-infested basements.

"Fine. I trust Gibbs, and maybe we are lucky. I just do not want to buy something just because it is cheap and we are running out of time."

"We won't. We still have plenty of time."

"That depends on what you consider 'plenty'", Ziva replied. "It is almost June, and we still have to pack up and move, and I will not be able to carry boxes much longer."

Rolling his eyes, Tony took a turn. "You will not carry anything anywhere when we move."

"Do not patronise me, Tony!" Great, now he had made her angry. Again. "You know full well that I am still able to kick your ass with my hands tied behind my back."

"I do know that, don't worry. I just don't think you should carry any more than you already do."

He realised his mistake as he practically felt her glaring at him. "Are you implying I am fat?"

"I... no! Of course I'm not!" He entered the street Mrs. Lawson had mentioned. "Can we just stop talking now, I think I'm getting a headache."

Deciding he shouldn't ask just what she was muttering under her breath, he pulled up to the curb in front of what he thought might be the right house. It looked a little shabby, what with the paint peeling off and the untrimmed lawn, but a sign reading '237' was stuck into the ground, so it was definitely the right one. Besides, he wouldn't dare to just drive away again and risk Gibbs yelling at him.

Another car was parked right in front of them, and as he turned off the engine, the door on the driver's side opened. Tony noticed that the woman climbing out was wearing jeans and sneakers. The ponytail that kept her hair at bay didn't really look business-like, either.

"You think that's her? She totally doesn't look like a real estate lady."

Shrugging, Ziva unbuckled her seatbelt. "We should just find out, should we not?"

"Nope, definitely not real estate", Tony mumbled, not taking his eyes off the woman. "More like a mom. A hot mom. A MILF. Ow!"

Pregnant or not, apparently, Ziva was still very much capable of sneaking up on him. And he had to admit, the smack through the open window was well deserved.

"Don't worry, you'll be a hot mom, too", he pouted, rubbing the back of his head as he got out of the car. Ziva just poked him in the side.

"Focus, Tony!"

"Yes. Right. Focus. By which I mean not on her."

"A wise decision", Ziva commented smugly before she focused on the approaching woman. "Hello. You must be Mrs. Lawson."

"Yes." Smiling, the woman took the hand offered. "So you are the DiNozzos?"

It was almost comical to see the shock on Ziva's face. Almost. "Oh, no. No! We are not.. I am not..."

"We're not married", Tony cut in, barely able to hide his grin. "Hi, I'm Anthony DiNozzo, we spoke on the phone. This is Ziva David."

"Oh, I thought... never mind. Pleasure to meet you." Mrs. Lawson gestured towards the house. "Now, I'm terribly sorry, but I don't have a lot of time, I have to pick up my youngest from soccer practice in two hours. Shall we go inside?"

"Of course." Tony tried his best to keep his eyes from Mrs. Lawson's backside as they started towards the house; seemed like old habits really did die hard. "It's very nice you could make it at all on such short notice."

"Oh, it's all right." She winked at him over her shoulder as she unlocked the door. "I know Jethro, and when he calls you at ten pm to tell you it's urgent, it really is."

"Oh, he... he called you?" Suddenly feeling slightly watched, Tony resisted the urge to look over his shoulder. "That's cool. I suppose."

The door swung open, and Ziva nudged him forward. "Oh, come on, Tony, he is just trying to help us."

"I swear, if he jumped out of the bushes now, I wouldn't be surprised", he muttered as he followed Ziva and Mrs. Lawson inside. The latter fumbled for the light switch beside the door.

"I know it looks a little run-down, but trust me, the substance is still good, or I wouldn't show this house to a client."

As the lights flickered to life, Tony saw what she meant. The wallpaper looked like it had last been updated in the sixties, as did the linoleum floor. A single painting on the wall showed a moose in a forest munching on some wildflowers.

"Tasteful", Ziva commented. Mrs. Lawson chuckled.

"Sorry, I forgot that was there. The owner left it, I meant to throw it out. Anyway, I guess you'd like to know some details. Let's start with the kitchen."

-o-

She would have to send Gibbs a thank-you card. Or maybe ten. Ten of of those big, obnoxious, singing ones. And she would record the song herself. That really was the least she could do. After all, he had given them this perfect opportunity.

And it really was perfect. While Tony was asking tons of questions about the wiring, the plumbing, the roof and whatnot, she was already planning where to put the sofa. Well, maybe she wasn't this far ahead of things, but this house... she could definitely see herself living here. See them living here.

It really was strange. They had seen something along the lines of forty places, including some apartments in the city, but nothing had appealed to her quite like this. It didn't nearly have everything they had wanted, but somehow, that didn't really matter. The spacious kitchen and living area almost made up for the missing breakfast nook, and the office slash private movie theatre on the ground floor helped Tony over the fact that the house didn't have a fireplace. Two small but cosy bedrooms overlooked the unexpectedly large backyard, the third one the tiny front lawn. She was still wary about that particular number of bedrooms, but for Tony's sake, she tried not to think of what it signified. The third one could still end up a guest room, right?

As they finally finished their tour in the garden, Ziva could have sworn she saw Tony's eyes glaze over when they stepped out on the small terrace and he saw the brick-built barbecue. He all but drooled as he slowly walked over to check it out.

"So?" Mrs. Lawson stood beside Ziva, watching Tony with a barely concealed grin. "I take it you like the place?"

"It is very nice, yes." Her own smile faded, and she turned to face the other woman. "But you still have not told us the price."

"Ah. Yes." Mrs Lawson reached into her purse and retrieved a few printed pages. "I was afraid that, if I told you on the phone, you might not want to see the house at all. But after what Jethro told me, I thought you really should take a look at it, it might be just what you're looking for."

Ziva took the pages with a sinking feeling in her stomach. That didn't sound good, not at all. They wouldn't be able to afford this, and they would have to start looking all over again, and they probably wouldn't-

"Excuse me, are you sure this is the right sum?"

Blinking, she stared at the six figures on the bottom of the first page. That couldn't be right. Not in this neighbourhood, not for three bedrooms, and certainly not for Tony's barbecue grill.

"It is. The owner wants to sell a.s.a.p., and that really is as low as he will go." Mrs. Lawson looked the slightest bit uncomfortable now. "See, Jethro told me you've seen a lot of bad places, and I was afraid that the price might convince you this is just another dump, and you wouldn't even try." The corners of her mouth twitched upward. "I'm sorry, but I really thought you should at least give it a shot. I'm good at my job, and I know it when a house is the right choice for someone."

"But... you did not even know us, how could you possibly know what we are looking for?"

A smug grin crept on Mrs. Lawson's face. "When Jethro called me, he talked to me for almost an hour. He was very insistent on what you were looking for. And you should know just how insistent he can be." She winked. "And, like I said, I'm also incredibly good at my job."

"Uhm... is everything all right?" They both turned to Tony who had finished drooling over the barbecue. Frowning, he looked from Mrs. Lawson to Ziva. "You look, like, a bit green again."

"I... what?" Ziva shook her head. "I am okay. I was just, uhh, wondering... you should take a look at this."

She passed him the pages, holding her breath. If it were just up to her, she would have already said – screamed – yes, but did Tony feel the same way about this?

"...is this for real?" Tony looked up, waving the pages. "I mean, is this actually legit? There is no, I don't know, horrible secret about the house? Ghosts? Booby traps? A serial killer next door?"

"No, that's the actual price", Mrs Lawson confirmed, laughing. "I just said, the owner really wants to sell this thing as soon as humanly possible. I think he inherited it from his parents or something. He doesn't want, how did he put it, 'anything to do with this creepy dump'."

"But... it's not a dump, right?" Tony asked warily. The other woman shook her head.

"No, it's not, I promise. The owner even got an expert report, to help me find a buyer. It's pages four to six. It looks shabby, but apart from the floor in the foyer and maybe the office, what needs to be done is mostly cosmetic. Wallpapers and fresh paint, a handful of new shingles on the roof maybe."

Again, Tony looked at the figures at the bottom of the page. "That sounds like an incredible lot of luck."

"Well, maybe it is. The universe has its weird ways, right?" Checking her watch, Mrs. Lawson made a face. "Listen, you don't have to decide right now. Take the info with you, and you can discuss it at home. No pressure."

"Uh, yes, right." Tony glanced at Ziva, seeking her gaze. "We... will do that, right?"

"Right." Ziva resisted the urge to look away. "We will."

-o-

After they had said their good-byes and Mrs. Lawson had driven off to pick up her son, they sat in the car in silence. Tony was still checking and double-checking the info on the pages. The rustling of the paper was starting to annoy her, and finally, she had enough.

"Tony, look at me." He did as she said, still looking slightly baffled, and she sighed. "I am sure there is nothing new on those pages. It comes down to this. We have seen the house, and we have the price. The building is in good condition, and..." Suddenly feeling a little self-conscious, she looked away, fiddling with the zipper of her jacket. "I really like the house. It does not have all we wanted, but it really is... nice."

"It is", Tony agreed after a moment of silence. "You know... I'm actually considering..."

He trailed off, staying quiet for a few moments. When Ziva looked at him again, he was staring at her.

"What do you think?"

She waited a heartbeat, two, three. Bit her lip. Then she smiled. "I think we should find someone who knows how to fix a roof."