"Why won't you talk to me, Gibbs?" Ziva asked, holding her large belly tightly.
"Because, Ziva," the silver-haired man snapped, standing up from his seat so quickly that it tipped over. He threw his wood tools onto the table. "You broke the rules, you lied and you tried to cover your own ass!
"I wonder why," she replied, tears forming in her chocolate eyes as she looked down at Gibbs and his dusty basement from the staircase.
"That's not how it works on my team. You know that. You slept with DiNozzo!"
"What happened with Tony was an accident, but it was not a mistake. I am carrying his child - there is nothing I can do about it, and there is nothing I want to do about it. If you cannot deal with that, then perhaps I am wasting my time."
She left without another word, as fast as an eight and a half months pregnant woman could move, and walked through the rain to her car, where she let the tears fall from her eyes. She could say they were raindrops. No one would know.
That plan failed when she felt something.
Her water broke.
Her heart racing she dialled Tony, and he picked up straight away. She spoke as fast as she could.
"Tony, I'm going into labour," she winced as she felt a sharp pain. "I'm going to drive to the hospital. Call Abby, call McGee, call Gi…" She stopped herself. "Call everyone. I will - ouch! - I will meet you there."
"Ziva, I don't think you should - "
"I will be fine, Tony. We took the classes and I can call paramedics if I really need them. It is the fastest way for me to get there."
Tony didn't want to, but he agreed. Then, only wearing sweat pants and his Ohio State T-shirt, grabbed his sneakers and raced out the door, nearly running over an elderly couple. He called Abby first and told her to get the others and meet them at the hospital - he had to get to Ziva as quickly as he could.
Ziva pushed through the contractions on the drive to the hospital, which was a good half hour, and Tony burst through the doors of the lobby just as she was being taken to a room by a team of nurses.
"Ziva!" he shouted, not caring what attention he drew to himself, bounding through the room.
It was an hour before the doctors said she was ready. She put on a brave face, but Tony knew her well enough to tell that she was terrified. He wished he could take the pain away from her, but all he could do was hold her hand, and reassure her.
"You can do it, Ziva," he said. "I know you can."
She screamed as the doctors told her to push. A tear rolled down her cheek.
"I think one more push should do it," the doctor said with a positive smile on his face.
"You hear that? Just one more, Ziva, then it's over. We get to meet our baby girl."
"I can't do it, Tony," she groaned.
"Yes, you can. You can."
The sound of her screams filled the room again, but then, they heard something else:
A baby's cry.
Tony saw his baby girl carried over to them in a little white blanket, her cries dying down when she was put in her mother's arms.
"Was it all worth it?" Tony asked, not taking his eyes off the perfect being in his partner's eyes.
Ziva sniffed, more tears in her eyes. Tears of joy. "Absolutely."
"I love you," he told her. It was the first time he'd said it. They'd agreed, for the baby, that they wouldn't risk destroying what was left of their relationship. But now, none of that mattered. Right now, there was nothing he wanted to say more.
"I love you too, Tony," she whispered.
He lifted a hand to her curls and kissed her softly. They looked down at their baby. "And I love you," Tony said. "Tali."
"Tali's perfect. She's perfect."
They heard a soft knock on the door, and saw McGee and Abby walk in hand in hand. Abby cried too, and held her little niece with perfect care. McGee held her too, and couldn't take the grin off his face.
Once Tali had been passed around the room a bittersweet feeling filled the space when they realised who was missing.
No one said a word, for fear of ruining the day. This should have been the happiest day of their lives, but without Gibbs…it just wasn't.
Which is why every eye widened when he appeared in the doorway.
Tony sent him an almost intimidating stare at first. He knew how much it hurt Ziva that he'd stopped talking to her. They finally had a perfect moment - it didn't need to be ruined.
"What are you doing here?" she asked him.
He walked around the bed, to the opposite side that Tony was on, looking down at the baby girl in her arms. "I was outta line, and I apologize. I'm proud of you. Of you both." He looked to Tony, and the younger man's glare faded. For Gibbs, that was a lot of words. "I came here to fix this, and I want to be in Tali's life."
"How did you know we named her Tali?" Tony asked, stunned.
Ziva looked up at Gibbs, the man who had been like a father to her all these years. "I want you to be in Tali's life too, Gibbs."
Gibbs stroked Ziva's hair and she leant into his touch. Tony kneeled beside the bed, a hand on his love's shoulder.
"Boss, I know you play by your own rules, and I know you wanna be in her life, we want it too, but we're gonna do this our way. Part of that way…means that Rule Number Twelve has been compromised…again."
Abby gasped and McGee smiled. Gibbs' expression didn't change.
"It's your life, Tony, and now you've got a daughter of your own you gotta live by your own rules. Everyone needs a code they can live by."
The grin on Ziva's face widened, and she looked around the small white room with content. McGee and Abby, two of her best friends in the entire world, were there. Tony, the man she loved, was there. Gibbs, her father, was there. And in her arms, lay the most amazing, gorgeous, incredible gift she could have ever been given. Little Tali David-DiNozzo.
That's how she came to realise that perhaps the name 'Tali' was more fitting than she thought. Without her sister, she never would have volunteered to work at NCIS, she would have never become part of this tight circle she now called her family. Tali had always had compassion, and now thanks to her, Ziva had it too.
It was that day she learned that there are some perfect things. Outside that room, people were dying, sick, there were killers and bad, bad people on the loose, but in that moment, the new mother's loving arms were enough to keep Tali safe from all of that, because love was the strongest force Ziva knew. Tougher than a bullet, stronger than a fighter, more powerful than any disease. Invincible.