A/N: It's been too long, but you've all been extra patient so I put (what I think is) a little something special in this chapter.
Let me know whatcha think :)

Chapter Twenty-Four

"You're mad." Ziva stated simply as she stood directly behind where Tim was sitting on the sofa.
He hadn't spoken a word to her since she'd returned from the shower and she couldn't take the silence any longer.

"I'm not mad." though his tone wasn't very convincing.

"Well then," She squeezed his shoulder slightly before walking around to join him on the couch. "What is wrong?"

"Nothing" He thought it should have been obvious that he didn't want to talk about it.

"This is about the gift I gave to Charlotte, is it not?" She couldn't figure anything else since they had been fine mere moments before that.

"It isn't about the stroller." Tim sighed as he turned his gaze to meet hers. "It's just…" For their sake he'd try. "I don't understand how you can accept things so easily. I can't do that, I need time to process it and decide how I feel about it first."

"My entire life has been made up of split second decisions." She shrugged as the weight of this upcoming conversation fell to her shoulders. "Sometimes there is not time for examining things further. Sometimes it has to be as simple as yes or no, right or wrong, with or without. Yet other times still it can be as basic and complicated as do or die. Life is a string of choices and we each are left to make our own."

"It hurts." Tim confessed as he let the meaning of her words truly sink in. "Being around them is actually painful some days. And I just get so angry that I literally want to yell and scream at him but then I feel guilty because he doesn't deserve that. She doesn't deserve it, yet I still feel that way which makes me want to scream at him all over again for bringing her into the picture. And I'm trying to deal with it but it isn't working and…" He couldn't help the urge to rub his hands over his face in frustration. "I'm losing my best friend."

"You're not losing him, you just need to talk with him and let him know how you feel; listen to him in return." She placed her hand over his in what she hoped was a comforting motion. She'd been trying to get the two of them to speak since right after their argument.

"I don't know Ziva," Even as he said it he shook his head in disagreement. "Every time we're together I see red." He felt betrayed.

"I too am visited by anger quite often," Sometimes she felt like if let loose she could beat the world itself into oblivion. "But the trick is to find something still more powerful than it. Hold onto that for all you are worth and eventually the anger will fade."

"What do you hold onto?" He flipped his hand to grip hers as he wondered what
would be strong enough to pull her from something that seemed to nearly consume him.

"You," There was hesitance even as she said it. "And the knowledge that even at the worst of times good can come; we are proof enough of that."

"Do you think things would have gone differently between us if Charlotte hadn't showed?"
Never before had he been given the love or attention Ziva seemed to constantly offer.

"I think that whether it be getting us together or giving life to my son's brother, that she was put into our lives for a reason."
She honestly didn't know how things would have turned out had Charlotte not come into their world.
"She's here and I choose to accept that because at the moment that is the only thing I can do.
She won't be leaving and I'll only hurt myself if I fill my heart with hate for her and an innocent child so instead I try to love them as much as I can."

A guilty feeling spread over him as admiration for her doubled within. "You know that I love you right?"

With the hopes that he would try to amend the demons within she fully settled
herself onto the sofa, snuggling into his side as she let the subject drop. "As do I Tim."


29 Weeks Pregnant

The night was growing long and her eyes tired.
Not to mention the chill that was starting to pick up in the air.
These were not facts that slipped Tony's attention, yet the glee that relit her face every time a child enthusiastically approached kept him quite.

"I think we're running out of candy." Charlotte adjusted her position on the stoop as she did the same with the cat ears on her head.

"I've got more in the car if we need it." Tony shrugged as he leaned up against the railing to her building.

"Why'd you keep trick-or-treat candy in the car?" It wasn't doing anybody any use in there.

"I didn't keep 'trick-or-treat' candy in the car. I kept 'just in case Charlotte gets a weird notion for chocolate at two in the morning again' candy in the car. It just so happens to have a double purpose tonight." After too many trips to the one 24hr place within 10 miles of him he had learned to have a few things stocked here and there.

"That was one time. And I didn't even ask for it!" She didn't like feeling like she had put him out of his way.

"You said you wanted chocolate, so chocolate is what you got." He tried his best to be good to her. "You know all you have to do is ask."

"I know." She beamed as a pirate approached them, though some of the gleam behind it had to do with how well he was indeed treating her.

"You be safe," Tony called to the retreating form, treats having been safely tucked away, as he adjusted his NCIS cap.
"And I better not here about any incidents with walking the plank tomorrow!"

With a light chuckle Charlotte spoke, "And here you actually had me believing that you hated Halloween."

He really had, but he shrugged as he realized, "Maybe it just depends on how you spend it."

33 Weeks Pregnant

"I'd say it's time for a toast, but given the circumstances I thought perhaps we'd follow closer to the holiday tradition this year and each state what we are thankful for." Ducky spoke just as his guests of the evening all but finished situating their plates.

"Oooh" Abby voiced excitedly as she straightened up in her chair. "I'll go first!"
Smoothing out her crimson dress, complete with skull buttons, she began, "I'm thankful for my family and being able to work with them every day. I'm thankful that that work lets us help others. I'm thankful that Sister Mary Catharine has gotten lucky in the lanes and I'm especially thankful for all of our health and happiness."

Immediately her eyes fell to Tony who was on her right, as did everyone else's, after a few last quirked brows drifted her way.

"Well geeze Abs, I think you just about covered it." It was safe to say she seemed pretty thankful for her life.

"Nonsense Tony," Ziva chastised from across the table. "There are plenty of things to be thankful for."

"Well can I at least get a minute to think of one of them." He hinted with a tad of conviction and a ton of charm.


An echoed female reprimand in either ear had him relenting, "Alright, I'm thankful for…" But what was he thankful for? "Friends… that are both understanding and forgiving even when I don't deserve it."

"Awww!" Abby couldn't help herself.

Even though she did notice the gazes being exchanged across the table Charlotte didn't let attention drift to them as she took her turn. "Well I'm thankful that you've all been nice enough to let me join in on this life you've built together. I appreciate you sharing these moments with me."

"And I'm thankful for good grub that I didn't have to cook." Gibbs tossed in his two cents just as quick as he could, probably with the sole thought of getting it over with in mind.

"Spot on Jethro!" Ducky laughed from his spot at the head of the table, wishing he could claim the same.

"I for one am thankful for fine wine and finer company." No one could see the hand Ziva squeezed just a little bit tighter as she kept it simple.
Though they all witnessed the smile that brightened as that hand squeezed back, resting both of theirs on a slack covered thigh.

"It's your turn Tim." Abby announced as she stared absently at his tie, it coincidently matched the shade of Ziva's emerald dress perfectly.

"Okay" His gaze turned serious as he looked over to Charlotte and Tony.
"I'm thankful for the newest additions to our little family and the happiness they have brought to a man I truly consider my brother." He only hoped it would amend some of his mistakes. "And though they didn't come in a way any of us would have expected I am truly thankful for new beginnings."

He had offered an olive branch and for that Ziva was proud of him.
With a knowing smile in his direction she lifted her glass of wine declaring, "To new beginnings."

Gibbs and Ducky shared a moment of pondering even as everyone lifted their glasses echoing, "To new beginnings!"


36 Weeks Pregnant

"How is he?" Frantic was a safe description of how Charlotte entered the waiting room.

"There's no news on either of them yet." McGee offered as he stood to meet her.

"You called me twenty minutes ago! How is there no news?" Every minute it had taken her to get there had been agonizingly teasing.

"Why don't you sit down and try to calm yourself." Even as he said it he tried directing her to a chair but she wasn't having it.

"Calm myself! They were in an explosion for Christ's sake!" Just the thought had
her very core shaken; her fleece coat useless to protect her from those kinds of shivers.

"They weren't in it they were near it." Which was currently the only difference between life and what would have been their death. "Now I understand that you're worried but you've got to calm down; the stress isn't good for you or the baby." Not to mention he wasn't good with hysterics.

"The baby's fine, he's not." Her previous career had definitely opened her eyes to a
variety of injuries, but it had in no way prepared her to expect such calls about loved ones.

"Charlotte! He'll be fine." McGee made sure he was strict, though trying not to come off as mean.
"But if either of them finds out I let you get all worked up they'll have my head."

"I'm sorry I just…"

"I know." He sat down and she thankfully followed suit.

"He's been at my feet nonstop, not even taking the time to breathe, for the last two
weeks now and when he finally leaves them this happens." Her heart was pounding with fear.

"He's just worried… hell we all are. This baby means more than I could ever explain and if anything should happen to him it would destroy them." He didn't even want to imagine what it would do to him.

"He thinks I'll have the same fate as Ziva." Suddenly it dawned on her that she had just barely passed a time in her pregnancy that had previously brought Tony a world of pain, she couldn't even fathom how such a thing had slipped her mind.

"He's just being cautious." And he had to admit that if he were in such a situation he'd be just as bad, if not worse.
Heck, he'd probably be resisting the urge to tie her to a chair right about now. "A healthy happy baby will be a great way to start the new year."

"What was it like when Ziva gave birth?" Anything to distract herself from worry.

"Warm… everyone was trying to steal themselves a piece of free time to enjoy it." It was a taste of summer in what should've been an icy cold week.

"Why do you say that like it's a strange thing?" Who didn't want to have a nice day free?

"It was February." And oh how quickly things had gotten frigid.

"It bothers you to talk about it." She stated as she watched the discomfort settle in his eyes.

"It wasn't an easy time to go through." Tim shrugged as he tried to keep the subject at a distance.

"You loved him." She could hear it in his words.

"I did." So much for keeping distance.

"You love her too." May he excuse her if she was off but that was what was currently written all over his face.

"I…" He was shocked by such a statement, so much so that he didn't know what to say.

"Agent McGee?"

He was definitely relieved when his name was called; the doctor currently looking for him sure had nice timing. "That would be me."

"I have some information for you."

:-) T-O-N-Y (-:

"Tony?" Charlotte immediately called out, not caring that she had barely gotten the door to his hospital room opened.

"In here!" He spoke from what she could only assume was the bathroom; he proved her right a second later by walking out of it.

"What happened to you?" She immediately noticed the bandages on his right arm that led to a brace on his hand.

"It's just a couple of scrapes." He shrugged as he moved closer.

"And your hand? Last time I checked a couple of scrapes didn't need to be braced." She crossed her arms over a very protruding belly.

"This here is my get out of paperwork for free card."

"That's not funny." But still his smirk lightened her heart. "You had me scared."
Just the thought of her son never getting to know his father killed her.

"I'm sorry babe." Even as he said it he pulled her into a hug kissing her temple softly.

Such a gesture let her know that he really was and it had her holding on tight. It wasn't often that he was unguarded enough to let her this close but she had hope that she could worm her way in yet. "So when can you go home?"

"They were talking about me spending the night for observation but we just might get them to change their minds if they find out that I have my own personal nurse at home." There was more than a little hint in his voice as he moved his left hand to rub a comforting pattern on the underside of her belly.

She gave him a soft kiss with a slight smile promising, "I'll see what I can do."


"Hey pretty girl," Tim finally spoke from his seat beside her bed. "Wake up." The doctor hadn't had much to say but what he had was unsettling. "Let me see those eyes." He had only now decided to disturb her, having taken a long moment to just process and let her rest. "Come on Ziva."

With a sleepiness that could only be drug induced she slowly began to stir. "Come on, I know you can do it."

Eventually she slid her eyes open but they were so heavy that they wanted to simply droop back down.
Still she fought them to get a good look at who it was that wanted her attention so. "Ahava?"

With an emotion filled smile Tim nodded his head as he kissed the knuckles within his grasp. "I'm here baby, I'm right here."

"What's wrong?" Her face felt oddly numb but it was the expression on his that had her worried. "You look upset."

"I've been all kinds of worried Ziva." Not to mention he had Abby bugging him every two minutes for updates, though she was keeping him informed on what Gibbs' proceedings might be. The last thing he wanted was Gibbs doing something that would jeopardize his freedom in any way.

"What happened?" She began to rub at her temple but immediately pulled her hand away at the pain that pressure caused.

"Erik got the upper hand on us." He winced in sympathy for her as he watched her all but rip her hand away from her face. The whole left side of her face was swollen and bruised, a hematoma casually spreading on her skull. "Had his fuse been just a little bit longer you would've died today."

"Still I am here." The fear she heard in those words had her reassuring him that she was indeed still alive.

"As it is the CSI's say had you been even a foot further to the right you'd be in the burn unit right now." Just the thought scared the hell out of him.

"Which I am not." She couldn't remember if there was ever a time she had seen him this terrified; she didn't like it. "I will be fine Tim."

"Meaning in a couple of weeks!" She certainly wasn't fine now and he didn't like it even a tiny bit. "But in the meantime I've got to watch you suffer through a burned leg, broken ribs, and a concussion."

"It will heal, I will heal." She tried her best to sooth as she adjusted her hand to grip his.

"I could've lost you." Just the thought of it had his eyes burning.
"And the worst part of it is knowing that no one would've understood how much I had actually lost."

"As long as you still have a place within that holds my name you will never truly lose me." She wouldn't swear to be around forever for the plain and simple fact that she knew it wasn't a truth she could keep.

"Then let me make you mine." They had only been dating for a couple of months but that little fact didn't bother him at all.

"Tim, what are you saying?" She couldn't tell if it was nerves or fear that began creeping into her throat.

"I've known you for years and loved you for about half of them. You mean everything to me and I don't want to be stuck in the shadows if something like this should happen again. I want to be able to speak on your behalf and I want to have a free voice when it comes to us, anyone and everyone else be damned if they don't like it." He really hoped that she couldn't see how anxious he actually was.

"Timothy?" She couldn't help but look on with enormous eyes.
She could feel her pulse throbbing nearly as quickly as her head.

"Ziva," He took her other hand in his, feeling how it slightly shook, squeezing it in an offer of comfort.
There were only two ways this could go and he figured it was about time he played the odds. "Marry me."