That's it, folks! Last one!
I just want to make a note here that some friends and a few reviewers have been asking me to write more of Ben; I know I rarely write about or even address Ben in my family fics, but I do have a couple of one-shot plot ideas for him, which I will be getting to once I finish my newest multi-chapter fic (or die from overwork as a result of it, whichever comes first. And yes, I think I might just have been advertising my multi-chapter). The reason Ben doesn't usually feature in my family fics is because of the topics addressed. It would be strange, after all, for Ben to appear in a fic where Lila's specifically confused about her religious identity. Even weirder if he had a starring role in a fic where she attempted to deal with the reality of sexual harassment. Or maybe I just relate better to Lila. Uh ... either way, I am going to attempt to write more of Ben, so if you're his fan (almost-rhyme unintended), please stay tuned! I will not be updating this story anymore, but any one-shots of Ben will say "Part of the How Far We've Come series" in the summaries in the Archives :P
Enjoy! And thank you so much to everyone who's kept with, supported, and reviewed this fic!
"Go! Go catch Daddy!" Ziva shouted, laughing as her kids took off in the direction of a half-screaming Tony.
Six-year-old Lila and four-year-old Ben raced along the beach, kicking up sand and attracting a good bit of attention, and Tony alternated between slowing down so that the children could catch up and speeding off with a cheeky grin on his face. Ziva stood beneath the large umbrella they had brought with them, not quite sitting back and relaxing, but very much enjoying hearing her children's youthful laughter fill the air. It was mingled with the laughter of the many other children on the beach and formed, in Ziva's opinion, the most melodious sound on Earth. Nothing could quite compare with the sound of carefree laughter.
The children soon caught Tony and brought him back, each holding one of his hands; he grinned and flopped down onto the sand exhaustedly and told her, "Y'know, I think they're gonna be athletes someday or something."
She smiled and sat down beside him. "Yes, but you do know what they were planning to do to you once they caught you?"
His twinkling gaze turned bewildered. "What?"
"Bury you in sand."
"What?" Tony barely had time to flail himself into a sitting position before his children appeared with their buckets of sand and dumped the sand unceremoniously onto his legs.
"Don't move, Dad!" Lila cried in dismay as some of the sand slid off. Ben immediately tried shifting it back onto Tony. "You said you'd let us do anything we wanted, and this is what we wanna do!"
"Well, why not bury Mom?" Tony asked weakly even as he lay back down, and Lila flashed a grin in the direction of her mother.
"Mom said she's gonna build a sandcastle with us."
Ziva chuckled as Tony groaned and resigned himself to his fate. The children got to work, carefully patting the sand around their father and making sure that only his head peeked out. If truth be told, she thought Tony was rather amused by the children's dedication in their pursuit; amusement flitted across his face a few times, and once his body vibrated so hard that some of the sand came sliding off and eliciting an annoyed squeal from Lila.
When they were done, Ben dusted off his hands and looked enquiringly up at Ziva; she nodded, and the children had scampered off with their buckets before it registered in Tony's mind that they were going to leave him like this while they built the sandcastle.
"You can't be serious," he said to her, his face a study in horror. She laughed and moved the umbrella closer so that her husband would be protected from the sun.
"It won't be that bad. We will be done soon, and we will not be that far away. Don't worry, Tony," she teased, resisting the urge to stick her tongue out at him, "we will not forget about you."
"Well, what do I do in the meantime?"
"Take a nap?" she suggested. "I will watch the things; do not worry about their being stolen."
She ruffled Tony's hair affectionately. "I will give you an extra sandwich at lunch as reward."
He chuckled. "You know Ben and Lila would totally complain about that."
"I will just tell them that you are bigger and require more energy." She bent down to kiss his forehead and then stood up, preparing to join her children. "Relax, Tony. That is what a day at the beach is meant for, yes?"
"I have sand in my shorts," he grumbled as she gathered the basket with their things in it.
He was asleep by the time Ziva and the children returned to him—quite soundly, too, by the looks of it.
Lila looked up with huge brown eyes at her mother and asked for her water bottle; she then uncapped it and started dripping water onto Tony's forehead, and Ziva had to suppress her laughter because she remembered a time when she had once done that.
Tony came to life with great shock, thrashing awake and sending a shower of sand over the rest of the family. His protest were drowned out by their laughter, so he settled for extricating himself carefully and brushing off some sand.
He sat down next to Lila and mock-glared at her while Ben crawled into his lap; Ziva unpacked the disinfectant wipes and handed them out.
Lila opened her mouth to protest.
"Wipe," Ziva said firmly, doing the same with her own hands. "Or your hands will be dirty and you cannot eat your sandwiches."
Jutting a lip out, Lila complied. Ziva took away some of the sting by handing her daughter a sandwich first, and as she watched her children's (and husband's) faces light up at the sight of food after a long morning of playing in the sand, she knew that it was going to be a perfect day.