A/N: So we've finally come to the last chapter and I feel like I should warn you. Even now with all the progress they've made, it still can't be sunshine and rainbows for Tony and Ziva. And as much as I wish it could, this story doesn't end with happily ever after. Keep that in mind as we come to the second part of this chapter.
mishka (Ch 93) - I'm glad to hear it, it's always lovely to know that people are enjoying it. One of the best you've ever read? Wow. That is such a high compliment and an honour for me, thank you! I'm glad you're excited about future stuff, more about that at the end of this chapter.
Sarah (Ch 93) - You're welcome :) Aww...thanks. I thought it was good that Ziva could be that kind of support. She's been there not too long ago, she remembers how hard it is to be a new mom. Yeah, A&M are going to have it rough for a little while. Tony did not expect to be reading those letters out loud to Ziva, I'm actually surprised he didn't cry. There was a lot of history there. I'm glad Z confessed too but Tony's understanding was appreciated. Oh good, since they were written after the fact, I'm glad they still sounded in character. haha...glad you liked the line. Tony is good at using humour to deflect just about everything. Thanks for reading and reviewing Sarah!
"It's been a week!" Abby blurted on Saturday. "I can't take it anymore! Timmy, can't we just get out and do something?!"
McGee would've been perfectly content to stay at home and get whatever sleep their daughter would allow, but he could see that Abby was going stir crazy and nodded. "Let's see what Gibbs and Celeste are doing."
"Okay," his wife beamed. She'd do anything as long as it meant leaving the house. "You call, I'll get Haven ready."
Tim picked up the phone and dialed, bracing himself to explain the situation to his boss. But Celeste answered the phone instead and was delighted to hear from him. "Of course you can come over, we'd love to have you. And Jethro has been itching to spend some time with Haven." She covered the phone and McGee heard muffled voices.
"Quit scowling Jethro, you've been moping for days and I know it's because you need granddaughter time. Now shush, we're talking."
Celeste came back on the line with laughter in her voice. "He's growling at me Tim, but I know he's excited. Why don't you bring Haven's stroller and we can go for a walk?"
He sighed in relief. "That would be great, thanks Celeste. Abby is dying to get out. She's not used to being housebound. Half an hour okay?"
"Whenever you're ready," she replied.
"See you soon."
McGee made it into the nursery just as Abby was picking Haven up. The baby was wearing a white romper from Tony with words across the front that said, 'I'm Only Cute When I'm Sleeping'. Tim chuckled and reached for his daughter, kissing her soft head. "I disagree Lissa, I think you're always cute, even when you're screaming your head off for a reason we can't figure out."
Abby put her hands on her hips. "Why did we bother putting Haven as her first name if you're going to call her by the middle one all the time?"
He shrugged innocently. "Every kid needs a nickname. Plus, I never had a middle name. It's gotta be good for something besides yelling when she's in trouble."
Her features softened and she stood in front of him to rub Haven's tummy. "Okay, I guess that's a pretty good reason."
Tim grinned. "Ready to go?"
Abby's eyes lit up. "Absolutely. Get me out of here!"
They made the drive to Gibbs' house with no trouble and seconds after they walked in the door, Gibbs was kneeling down to undo the straps on Haven's carseat. Celeste stood behind him with her arms crossed. "Stay away from that baby Jethro," she commanded. "Abby doesn't need to just go from one house to another. We're taking a walk."
"Les," he protested, but she just shook her head and Gibbs gave her a look that might've been a pout if they didn't know better.
Celeste hugged Abby, pleased when the girl reciprocated. "How are you?"
"Exhausted," she relayed cheerfully, "but Haven's finally settled down as far as nursing is concerned, so that helps."
Gibbs pulled Abby into his arms. "Good to see you Abs. We miss you at work."
Abby's lips curved up and she glanced at Celeste. "That's good. And if the sleep deprivation doesn't kill me, I'll be back in seven weeks."
"Well, let's go, shall we?" Celeste asked, and Gibbs went with Tim to get the stroller out of their trunk. Celeste stared fondly at Haven. "She's such an angel."
Abby rolled her eyes. "Give her an hour. When she decides she's hungry the whole world is going to know about it." She picked up the carseat and walked out to the car with Celeste behind her. Once the baby was secured in her stroller, they started down the street, stopping at Celeste's house to get Lexie from the backyard to go with them. It was only a couple times around the block because Abby was still sore and uncomfortable, but that was more fresh air than she'd had in days and she was happy.
Back at the house Gibbs claimed Haven before anyone else could say a word and settled on the couch, looking down at her and talking softly. Lexie left her place by Celeste and slowly approached man and baby. Abby started forward to stop the animal but Celeste went with her dog and told her to sit. Gibbs leaned forward and Celeste crouched down, petting Lexie.
"Be very gentle girl, this little one is brand new." Lexie licked Chaya's hand and pushed her nose closer to sniff the baby. Then she laid her muzzle on Gibbs' knee and just watched.
Abby sat down beside Gibbs. "I think she likes you Haven."
Celeste smiled. "Lexie knows how to be careful. Which is surprising considered what she went through. But instead of making her violent or vicious, the abuse made her timid, careful, and eager to please. I hope someday she won't be afraid anymore."
Tim landed beside his wife and Abby slid her fingers through Lexie's silky coat. "You're a good girl. You watch over my baby, okay? I trust you."
Gibbs broke his focus on Haven long enough to meet McGee's eyes. "Been a week Tim, what do you think?"
"About being a dad?" his eyebrow rose and he rubbed his face. "Nothing has ever been so hard or so rewarding. When I hold her it's like...holding a miracle. I feel like I've got the whole world in my hands." Tim shrugged. "It's the best feeling I've ever known."
Gibbs nodded. "Don't ever forget."
McGee chuckled. "Of course, I've also never been so tired in my life."
Laughter spread around the group and then died away. After a moment of silence Abby piped up. "We need to do something."
Gibbs frowned. "Like what?"
Abby shook her pigtails. "I don't know, a barbeque maybe? Tomorrow with everyone? I'm deprived of people and the team's always looking for an excuse to get together. Can we have it here?"
Gibbs and Celeste exchanged glances and he nodded. "Okay."
She beamed. "Good. I'm going to make some phone calls."
Gibbs stared after her and then at Tim. "You sure she hasn't had any Caf-Pow?"
"Not since Ziva came over earlier in the week. I think she's just found something that makes her happier than caffeine."
He nodded slowly and stroked Celeste's hand. "Me too."
The following afternoon found the entire group, including significant others, a former team member and babies, gathered in Gibbs' backyard as mouthwatering aromas floated from the barbeque he was manning. The women, minus Dr. Jordan and Celeste, sat in a circle on the deck with Haven passed carefully from person to person while the moms shared and compared baby stories. Chaya lay on her tummy on a blanket in the middle and played with some toys, thoroughly amusing everyone with her jabber. Celeste was in the kitchen with Jimmy and Matt, who had volunteered to help with salad and vegetables, while Tim and Tony tossed a baseball around near the fence. The whole day was casual and relaxed and meant to be enjoyed.
When the food was ready, everyone carried paper plates around and sat wherever they could find a place, with some of the couples gravitating back together. Lexie wandered carefully through the people without begging, though she received several treats just by being present. Partway through the meal, the doorbell rang and Tony looked up, meeting Ziva's eyes.
"Uh, Boss...Ziva and I invited a friend of ours to come as well. I hope that's okay."
"Little late now DiNozzo," Gibbs growled, at the same time Celeste smiled.
The others laughed at the contradiction and Gibbs sighed, giving up and waving Tony towards the door. He sprang up with a grin and came back moments later escorting a white haired lady who carried a heaping plate of cookies. "I'd like you all to meet the woman who has kindly consented to being adopted as my nonna and has been a great help to Ziva and I over the past several months. Everyone, this is the lovely Grace McPherson."
"Hello," she nodded. "I hope you all have room for dessert."
McGee dropped a carrot into his mashed potatoes. "Grace?"
She seemed just as surprised. "Tim?"
Now Tony looked confused. "You know McGee?"
Grace looked around the group again, spotting Abby near Matt and Tami with Haven sleeping in her carseat at their feet and her eyes lit up. "Yes, I met them at the hospital when I was visiting Thomas last weekend. Who are they to you?"
Tony waved his hand to encompass them all. "This is our family. Chosen, not born into, mind you. Our boss Gibbs and his wife Celeste. Ducky and Jimmy who work in the basement, and their escorts Dr. Jordan and Breena. Matt, who was Assistant Probie while Ziva was off and his girlfriend Tami, who is Abby's assistant and temporarily in charge of the lab. And of course you already know Ziva and Chaya."
"It's a pleasure to meet you all. Thank you for including me."
Celeste stood to take the cookies from her. "Around here there's always room for one more. Can I get you a plate?"
Grace shook her head. "I'll help myself if you don't mind. First I need to catch up with these beautiful little girls."
Just as Tony suspected she would, Grace blended into their group with no problem and cemented herself in their hearts indefinitely with her offer of delicious chocolate chip cookies. She made her rounds and got to know a little bit about each person before getting something to eat herself. After a couple hours it was clear she had been welcomed with open arms.
When she finally returned to the porch, Tony crossed his arms. "Nonna, I didn't get my hug."
A smile spread across her face and Grace enveloped the man in her arms. "Thank you for inviting me."
He shrugged. "I knew they'd love you." Tony got her a chair and leaned against the railing. "How's Thomas?"
The joy faded from her eyes. "The doctors don't think he's leaving this time," she shared slowly. "I believe I am losing him."
Tony sighed and covered her hand with his. "Grace, I'm so sorry."
She mustered a brave smile. "As am I. But I am grateful that God has given me unexpected family, so I won't be alone when the time comes."
"Never," he assured her. "We'll be here Nonna."
She touched his cheek. "Thank you."
Once dessert was over, Abby approached Celeste with a full, content, sleeping Haven in her arms. "I think you missed your turn earlier."
Celeste gladly accepted the baby and kissed her forehead, looking into her blue eyes. "Do you remember me from yesterday sweetheart? I know you've seen a lot of people this afternoon, but I'm your-"
"Gramma," Abby cut in quickly, swallowing hard. "You're her gramma."
A tear slipped down Celeste's cheek as she stared at the new mother. "Are you sure?"
Abby nodded. "You've earned it."
Celeste wiped her face and kissed Haven's forehead. "Did you hear that little one? I'm your gramma. But when you get older, you can call me Nan." She met Abby's eyes. "Thank you," she whispered.
Gibbs stood and kissed his daughter's cheek. "Thank you Abby."
"Sometimes change is a good thing," she whispered.
Turning to Matt and Tami, who were sitting nearby playing crazy eights on a blanket on the grass, Abby went up to them next. "Trial's over," she announced. "I think you guys are...cousins." Matt's forehead wrinkled but Tami started smiling, knowing exactly where she was going with this. Abby held out one hand. "We have a dad and stepmom, a grandfather and now a nonna, brothers and sisters and a handful of cousins and of course, babies." She shrugged. "We have everyone we need."
At that Matt rose to hug her and whispered, "Thank you," moving aside so Tami could have a turn. A feeling of wholeness settled over the group. So this was what it felt like to be family.
The office was quiet Monday morning with McGee off and Gibbs gone for coffee. Ziva was catching up on last week's reports when a twinge gripped her abdomen. Frowning, she put a hand to the spot but it disappeared and she dismissed the feeling. A couple hours later occasional twinges had become full blown cramps and she'd already had to reassure Tony twice that she was fine, schooling her features into the impassive mask that hid both thoughts and pain.
Then Ziva felt something leak out of her and her eyes widened. Quickly she got to her feet and hurried to the women's bathroom. Thankfully some of the ladies on the floor kept feminine products under the sink and she took what she needed, promising to replace the items later. Claiming an empty stall, Ziva pulled down her pants, grateful they were dark coloured, and confirmed her suspicions. For the first time in over a year, she was getting her period.
It was while she was cleaning herself up that the thought hit her. If it wasn't for Somalia, she would now be able to become pregnant again. All the pain from the day Mandy told her that more children were not in her future flooded back and the feelings were overwhelming, but Ziva would not allow herself to give in to tears, not at work. After a long time she realized people might start looking for her and came out to wash her hands. But Ziva couldn't bring herself to face the others yet and locked the bathroom door, splashing water on her face and letting it drip off her chin.
For weeks, even months, she'd avoided thinking about the significant secret she was still keeping from her husband. But Ziva could no longer ignore the reality and everything inside her quaked at the thought of confessing to Tony. They were supposed to be done with secrets, but this one would be by far the most painful, with the longest lasting repercussions and furthest reaching consequences.
Finally she squared her shoulders and returned to the bullpen, prepared to put on a happy face, but Tony was grabbing his backpack and Gibbs was already on his way to the elevator, so there was no time for anything except what needed to be done. Thankful for a crime scene where she could be focused and busy without it seeming suspicious, Ziva threw herself into her work, covering double duty with McGee absent.
Gibbs kept Tony occupied with doing perimeter and witness interviews while he conferred with Ducky about cause of death. But it didn't escape the senior field agent's notice that his wife had been nearly silent since they left the building. And he didn't have a chance to talk to her because Gibbs took him back to NCIS and Ziva said she would wait for Ducky and Jimmy to finish and meet them there. She took longer getting back than he expected and barely said two words to him before going downstairs to nurse Chaya.
That time was even more precious to Ziva today than usual and she savoured every second of the connection with her baby, softly touching arms and legs and fingers as Chaya ate. "I am sorry tatelah," she whispered. "If it was my choice you would not be the only one." Ziva held the baby tighter. "But I will love you enough for the others that should have come after you."
Knowing Tony was already suspicious of her behaviour, Ziva came back to the squadroom and kissed him, glancing at him but not lingering long enough for him to read her eyes before returning to her desk. "What did I miss?"
Tony grinned. "I glued McGee's action figure to his desk."
She rolled her eyes. "Must you really be so juvenile?"
"You wouldn't want to take away all my fun, would you?" Ziva just looked at him and he shrugged. "It's in my nature. Let's hope Chaya doesn't pick that up." Tony shuffled some papers on his desk. "We might have to borrow someone from cyber crimes to do McGeek's computer stuff, but I did find something on the security tapes."
Discretely Ziva swallowed a couple pills and walked back across the room to lean over his shoulder and look at what he had. Tony turned his head to breathe in her shampoo and put his hand over hers while he pressed play. Ziva raised an eyebrow lazily and shook her head. Now was not the time for distractions. Tony sighed dramatically and got serious. They had a killer to catch.
Hours later, after they had a suspect in custody and were released for the night, Tony had come to a disturbing conclusion - something was wrong. Ziva had been acting off all day, becoming more closed the closer they got to being alone. Avoiding his eyes, shrugging away his touch, and most recently, brushing off every attempt he'd made to kiss her and start something they could continue later. Every time Tony noticed another thing that was out of the ordinary, his concern grew. Yes they were still very close to the one year anniversary of bringing her home, and because of that he'd been watching her closely for the last couple weeks. But somehow this felt different than just memories that might be haunting her.
It was quiet in their house, the only sound the happy squeals and giggles of their daughter as she sat in her chair on the livingroom floor and chewed on the leg of a stuffed giraffe. Now that he thought about it, Tony wasn't sure Ziva had said one word in English since they'd returned from work. But she'd been murmuring to Chaya in Hebrew whenever she was close. Even though Tony was making progress with the language CDs McGee had hooked him up with and could pick out several words and a few phrases here and there, it still wasn't enough for him to understand what she was talking about, if she was even talking about anything in particular.
Since Ziva was avoiding him in favour of doing dishes and reorganizing cupboards in the kitchen, Tony went and sat down with Chaya, kissing his daughter on the head. Chaya looked at him, thrilled to pieces to be the center of someone's attention, and leaned forward to chomp on one of his knuckles when he offered her a different toy.
"Hey, cut it out monster," he chuckled, "I know we already fed you. Don't be going all Gremlin on me now."
Chaya laughed as if she understood every word and started blowing spit bubbles. Tony mimicked the sound she was making and the little girl stared at him like she was trying to figure out how he did that. Tony's heart swelled with love for Chaya as he lifted her out of the seat to stand with his help. She was getting stronger all the time and her progress both amazed and scared the living daylights out of him.
"Look at you!" he exclaimed. "Baby girl you are getting so big!" Chaya held on tightly to his fingers, staring at her feet in great concentration. After a minute Tony held her up to eye level and blew raspberries on her cheek. Chaya's baby giggles were his favourite music. "I love you so much sweetheart," he told her softly, kissing the dark curls so like her mom's and breathing in the scent of his daughter. Tony swore it was what innocence smelled like. "Please don't grow up too fast, okay? I'm going to miss you being little."
He happened to glance towards the kitchen just then and saw Ziva leaning against the wall, watching them. Tony hadn't realized he had an audience and smiled, but Ziva's expression was one he couldn't read and the emotions in her eyes were a strange mixture of sadness, love and regret. He wanted to ask, but she quickly looked away and he forced his attention back to Chaya.
"Come on princess, time for your bath. Then Daddy will get you all ready for bed and you can have your bottle."
Twenty minutes later Tony was almost as wet as the wiggly baby he'd just gotten out of the tub. Chaya wailed in protest as the cold air hit her skin, but Tony expertly wrapped her in the soft pink towel with a bunny hood and cradled her close to his chest. She quieted and he smiled. "See, that wasn't so bad. Tony looked around with a frown on his face. "Alright little lady, where did Mommy hide the lotion?"
Ziva appeared in the doorway holding Chaya's bottle. "It is in her room on the changetable."
Tony threw her a grin. "I knew that." He handed over the baby and headed across the hall to pick out a sleeper and get her diaper stuff ready. They often did Chaya's bedtime routine together when they could and had it down pat by now.
Ziva cuddled with her baby girl while also getting her dried off, then joined her husband in the nursery and laid Chaya on the changetable, dusting her with baby powder and getting her diaper on in seconds while she whispered to the little girl in her native language.
"Aha!" Tony said triumphantly, having dug his favourite pjs for Chaya, purple with crowns and scepters and jewels all over it to match her royal nickname, from the neat piles in her dresser. Ziva moved out of the way and Tony slipped the outfit under his daughter, gently working her flailing arms and squirmy legs into the correct holes - though the process was complicated by Chaya's endeavours to use her toes as a soother.
"All ready," he announced at last, settling Chaya on his hip and reaching for her bottle. "Say goodnight to Mommy sweet girl."
Ziva leaned in to give the baby her customary goodnight kiss. She nuzzled Chaya's soft cheek and breathed in the precious scent of her child. Then she stepped back and Tony settled into the rocking chair Gibbs had made, sticking the nipple of the bottle in Chaya's wide open mouth. They had been taking turns with night feedings ever since Ziva cut down on her hours at Ops.
She watched them for a moment, then turned away, having too much on her mind to read to them tonight. "I will see you downstairs." It was the most they'd spoken all evening.
Tony's gaze followed her out and he was determined to get to the bottom of her mood as soon as Chaya was asleep. But he wasn't about to rush this peaceful time with his daughter. Tony smiled down at Chaya and started telling her the story of the three bears, embellishing here and there and ad-libbing when he couldn't remember exactly what was supposed to happen.
By the time Chaya's eyes started drooping, her bottle was almost empty and he laid her on her back in the crib. "Sleep sweet princess," he whispered, brushing his hand over her hair and pressing his lips to her forehead. Ziva had gotten confused about 'sweet dreams' early on, so now they used her version to say goodnight. Tony liked that they had something unique.
Closing the door with a sigh, he headed downstairs. Ziva was pacing back and forth between the front door and the kitchen, something she only did when she was too agitated to sit still. Coming up behind her, Tony put his hands on his wife's shoulders. Almost immediately she pulled away and he couldn't keep the hurt and confusion out of his voice. "What did I do Zi?"
She hugged her arms around herself as if she needed the protection and wouldn't meet his eyes. "You want another child. I can see it in the way you act with Chaya."
Tony drew his eyebrows together, trying to figure out why that was a problem. "Well yeah, someday maybe. But I'm not in any hurry, she's not even six months old yet." He studied her posture for several seconds. "Do you want more kids honey? I don't think you've ever talked about it."
Ziva turned to him, her eyes bright with tears, a deep loss tearing at her expression, and finally told him the truth. "I cannot have any more children," she said brokenly.
Tony didn't understand. "Sweetheart, I know the way Chaya was conceived made your first pregnancy hard, but it wouldn't be like that with us." He took a step closer. "There's no pressure, I'll wait until you're ready."
Ziva shoved her fingers into her hair. "Tony, you are not listening to me. I am not able to get pregnant again."
His brow furrowed. "Why?"
She closed her eyes. Somalia.
Ziva didn't even say the word out loud, but Tony read it on her lips and his shoulders sagged. "How long have you known?"
She looked away. "Since before we were married. Mandy told me in March, the appointment you couldn't come to."
"Oh Ziva, you've carried this burden by yourself all this time?" He sighed. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Tears clouded her vision as she finally met his eyes and her words were barely a whisper. "I did not want you to change your mind when you found out I could not give you your own children."
Her truth hit him hard and ripped open old wounds he thought had healed. Feeling angry and betrayed, Tony clenched his fists and his expression grew darker. "How could you keep that from me Ziva? How could you not tell me?! No more secrets, remember? You promised!" Tony stabbed his finger in the air at her.
"I-" she tried, but he wasn't done yet.
Tony started pacing back and forth across the room. "How are we supposed to work through anything if you can't trust me with the important stuff?" Then he stopped in his tracks and stared at her, trying to grasp the meaning of her words. "You actually thought I wouldn't marry you? That's I'd give up everything we had just because you couldn't get pregnant again?" Scraping fingers through his hair, Tony fought back the emotion in his throat. "Ziva, haven't I shown you anything yet? What more do I have to do to prove that I love you no matter what?"
The pain in his gaze was what broke her. "I am sorry!" She fell back on the arm of the chair and sighed. "It has killed me to keep that from you, but at first I could not share it, and then I tried to forget. I wanted so badly to give you a child, to have a baby that was yours and mine, and every dream inside me broke when Mandy gave me the news. With everything else I was asking you to deal with, one more thing seemed like too much." Ziva trailed off into a whisper. "I did not want to lose you."
He leaned back against the wall, getting a glimpse of her logic. "You're enough for me, you always were. I wish it was the same for you."
She swallowed. "There was nothing I wanted more than to have you in our lives Tony. But then Abby and Tim told us their news and I wondered - what would it be like to get pregnant by a man I loved? By a man who did not force himself on me? By a man who had chosen me?" Ziva shook her head slowly. "That was when it was too much for me, dreams torn away before they even began. I never talked to you about more children because I did not want to see that look in your eyes when you realized what had been taken from us, before we even knew there would be an us."
Tony sank to the floor and dropped his head onto his arms. A sob shook him, then another and Ziva could not watch very long before she knelt beside him, wrapping her arms around him tightly. "I am sorry," she whispered, "oh my love, I am so sorry." Her fingers ran gently through his hair over and over. "This is why I did not tell you. This is the hurt I did not want you to feel. I was trying to spare you." I was trying to spare both of us, even if my fears were unfounded.
Ziva's tears fell on his shirt and Tony's own sadness spilled down his cheeks. For long moments they sat holding each other, clinging to each other, grieving together for a loss that hurt, even if they couldn't touch it. Finally Tony lifted his head. "Why now Ziva? Why tell me today and not yesterday or a month from now?"
Her eyes lowered. "Because I got my period today, for the first time since Somalia, and I was reminded that now, if not for last summer, I would be able to conceive again." Tony swallowed, feeling like they never ran out of things from Africa that would follow them the rest of their lives. Ziva stroked his cheek gently. "After Mandy told me, I watched you over dinner and thought about the child we would never have. A little baby with your eyes and smile, maybe my hair and colouring. Then it hurt too much to imagine what was impossible and I never let myself thing those thoughts again."
Tony rubbed his eyes. "I thought of more kids with you. Brothers and sisters for Chaya, children born out of our love." He banged his head back against the wall. "I wonder if it will ever stop hurting."
She had no answer for that, and so they sat there a long time, sharing in the grief. Finally Tony looked over at her. "Zi, whether we can have another child together or if it's just you, me, and Chaya forever, nothing will ever change my love for you."
She nodded, leaning forward to rest her forehead on his shoulder. "I know that now. I am sorry. I should not have kept it from you."
Tony hugged her against him, shifting positions to be more comfortable because he didn't want to let go, and blew out a breath. "I forgive you sweetheart, I do. You can tell me anything Ziva, please know that. You can trust me. Don't make me tell you again."
Ziva tried to smile. "I know." Another apology died on her lips, because nothing could right the wrong she had done him for six months of keeping quiet.
"So," he kissed her slowly and pushed away from the wall, bringing them both to their feet, "you make the popcorn and I'll pick the movie?" They had to pick a piece of normal, something to start with, to cling to. They couldn't dwell in the sadness any longer, it was so heavy it felt like it was suffocating them.
Ziva appreciated what he was trying to do and latched onto the idea. She shook her head, a teasing glint pushing past the pain in her eyes as she wiped the wetness from her face with her sleeve. "It is my turn to pick."
He feigned uncertainty. "It's not going to be one of those girly movies, is it?"
Ziva shrugged. "Perhaps. But you do not seem to mind if we copy them, yes?"
Though Tony would happily watch a chick flick with Ziva, no strings attached - it was his ninja's guilty pleasure - she didn't know that and bribed him with the promise that she would kiss or touch him every time the characters kissed and touched, which was sometimes an awful lot. That compromise worked like a charm and he forced a grin to hide the ache in his heart. "Okay, you've got me there."
She gave him a knowing look. "I thought so."
Soon they were cuddled together on the couch, the bowl of popcorn firmly in Ziva's possession. She'd chosen The Prince and Me. It was a little cheesy and unrealistic, but the couple definitely didn't argue with making out like they were ten years younger. Tony was pretty sure they spent more time kissing than actually watching the movie because they sometimes got caught up in the moment, but that was alright with him. Tonight especially they needed that closeness and connection, a way to release the emotions building up inside, which came across in the quiet desperation felt through every touch.
He wasn't sure they could bring themselves to have sex this time, knowing that no matter how badly they might want it to, the act would not lead to them creating a life. And besides, Ziva might find it uncomfortable and Tony couldn't handle it, not after what they'd just shared. So instead he held her close and kissed her hair, holding on tight to the best thing in his world. Sometimes he still couldn't believe, on nights like this with Ziva in his arms and Chaya sleeping upstairs, that this was really his life. Even tonight's bombshell didn't change how thankful he was that they'd really gotten this chance to be them.
Despite Tony's reassuring words to his wife about their situation, he still ended up in Gibbs' basement an hour and a half after they'd gone to bed. He'd waited until his wife fell asleep and then slipped away. He was still struggling with Ziva's revelation, fighting the loss he felt for something he'd never even had, much less known he wanted until it was already gone. Tony stood leaning back against Gibbs' workbench, staring at the plane he was turning over and over in his hands.
"Ziva and I, we can't..." he swallowed, "we can't ever have our own kids Boss. I guess Somalia left her with too much damage." Tony closed his eyes and dropped the tool back on the wooden bench, still wishing he could again kill the men who'd hurt his wife so badly.
"You have a daughter," Gibbs pointed out, finally abandoning the stain he was slowly rubbing into the smooth wood. Mondays had been his nights with Abby, and while she was busy with Haven, he still kept them free in case he was needed.
Tony looked up, his eyes darkened with pain. "I know. And I love Chaya with everything that I am. But I guess I still...hoped someday to see both me and Ziva reflected in a child's face."
Gibbs sighed and rested his back against the boat. "She told me," he admitted quietly, "months ago."
The younger man's face fell. "You knew? Why..." he trailed off when Gibbs' eyes met his.
"Wasn't mine to tell."
Tony rubbed his hands over his face and up through his hair. "What am I supposed to do Boss?"
Gibbs laid a hand heavily on Tony's shoulder. "Love her DiNozzo, just love her." His tone was rock solid serious. "You waited seven months for Ziva to say yes, now you've got her and Chaya both. Remember that when it hurts."
Tony nodded and stood there in silence for several more minutes before leaving. Gibbs watched him go, pride swelling his heart. His agent had become such a good man. He was confident Tony would handle this the same way he'd handled Ziva's pregnancy and healing - with determination and unwavering love.
Ziva woke in the middle of the night, poised to respond to a cry that never came. Frowning because if Chaya didn't bring her out of a deep sleep, she wasn't sure what had, Ziva lay back down, rolling over to get closer to her husband. Her eyes flew open when only empty, cold sheets met her touch. She sat up again and looked around, but Tony wasn't in the bathroom or at the window.
A scrap of paper on his pillow caught her gaze and Ziva shivered as she reached for it. The message was simple, allaying her fears even though it didn't answer her question. I love you Zi, T. She clutched the note to her chest and rested her elbows on her knees.
I am tired of what Africa stole from us too ahava. I wish... she sighed and lay back down, curling up on her side though she knew she wouldn't sleep again until Tony came back to bed. I wish I could give you everything you deserve. I am sorry.
It wasn't very many minutes more before she heard the front door close and Tony walking quietly upstairs. Her ears trained to every movement, Ziva could tell that he'd stopped to check on Chaya first. It had been months since she'd started sleeping through the night, but it was habit now to simply look in on her before going or returning to bed.
He opened their door slowly, keeping the noise to a minimum, but his caution was unnecessary. "Where were you?" Ziva demanded, her tone infused with worry and concern.
Tony sat on the bed beside her. "I'm sorry Zi, I just needed some time to think."
"I did not mean to hurt you," she whispered. Ziva twisted her rings around. "I do not want you to regret this."
"Hey," he tipped her chin up, "don't talk like that. I meant it when I said life with you and Chaya is everything I didn't even know I wanted and needed. You're both my miracles Ziva, don't ever doubt that."
"But you wish she was really yours." Resignation coloured her voice.
Tony closed his eyes, a deep ache in his heart. "Chaya is my daughter Ziva. I can't even wish to take back Somalia anymore because then we wouldn't have her. But I do wish you hadn't been hurt like that." He could see it on her face, that Ziva couldn't believe him. Tony reached for her hand. "Zi, I won't deny that I've thought of having a child with you, a little life created out of our love, a little face that would look like both of us together." He wiped at a tear glistening on her cheek. She felt the loss as well, they had been her dreams too. "But I love you and I love Chaya. Yeah this news is going to hurt for awhile, but that doesn't mean I regret one second of our time together or that I don't want at least fifty-seven more years with you. Okay?"
His words, while heartfelt and true, didn't fix anything, but Ziva still sat forward to lean against him. "I am sorry Tony." It was all she could think to say.
"No," Tony was firm, "Rule #2. This isn't your fault Ziva, not even close. Stop blaming yourself."
It was an old argument and neither of them ever won. Whether she kissed him to shut him up or change the subject he had a hard time telling, but when Ziva took her time exploring his mouth and teasing his lips with hers, it ceased to matter. Tony had almost forgotten his own name by the time she was done with him.
"I love you," she whispered into his neck, holding on tight.
Tony hugged her close. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
It took them a long time to fall back to sleep and their hearts still hurt at the truth they had to bear, but just like everything else, they would face it together. Because nothing, not even Africa, had been able to keep them apart, and Tony and Ziva weren't going to start letting things get in the way now. They were partners, they'd promised. And promises, like their love, were forever.
A/N2: 1600 notebook pages, 16 notebooks, 7 months and 94 chapters later, we have finally come to the end of SMH. I know this may not necessarily be the happy ending after people were hoping for, but this is meant to be a mirror of real life and I think T&Z still have a long way to go.
Thank you so much for your support and loyalty and for the hundreds of reviews I cherish so much. I will admit that I'm glad to have this story over with, because it has taken over my life. But I will miss these characters and the love we got to watch them spend a year building. Since Three Years Family, the final installment of the Remnants of Somalia series (which just wraps everything up) is already complete, I'll post the first of two chapters on Monday. Then I have Snapshots - a series of one-shots that capture missing moments (currently numbering thirty-three) which I will start posting next Friday. Though I can make no promises, I am taking requests for things you would like to see included in Snapshots.
I'm also working on some new, short, T&Z stuff unrelated to this series. One is Glimpses - a look through the series from Seasons 3-6 of how Tiva could've happened in certain episodes. It might only be a handful of one-shots and I'll only update sporadically on that one. The second is Moments In Time - T&Z moments from Season 7 of how they could've worked towards a relationship. Last is my favourite, To Live Without Regrets - Season 9 starting after A Desperate Man and what would've happened if T&Z took Agent Burris' advice to cherish each other. But these are all just in the beginning stages, so don't look for them until the end of October.
At some point in the near future I'm hoping to put up an AU story involving Ziva called Never Again, though it's completely different than anything else I've ever done, so I'm a little nervous because I don't want everyone to hate it (or me) for the subject. Until then, I can't wait to hear what you think!
I couldn't do this without my readers and friends, so thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart. ~ Love Always, Aliyah