A/N: So it was a message from zivadavid19 that prompted me to write this little piece. It picks up about a year and a bit after the end of YANA. Probably quite a fluff warning on this!
It was mornings like this one – in the fall, when a chilly wind blew leaves of all colours off the trees and scattered them across the sidewalk – that Ziva would be surprised all over again at how context can change a thing.
Fifteen years ago, the Mossad assassin that she once was considered sleep as moments of weakness, open vulnerability and, for lack of a better description, a waste of time. Yes, on long missions or stakeouts it was necessary, but she never took more than she needed. She was a hard worker and an early riser. There was always something more to be done. Some might have called it progress for the sake of progress, but she preferred to think of it as staying up to the job at hand.
And now, the Ziva that was so very different from that girl – domesticated, living in the suburbs, a married woman, a mother – treasured sleep like it was her last meal. The mother of two had learned first-hand that it was something to be appreciated, and certainly not to be wasted.
For a girl that had sworn she would never turn out like this, her inner battles were seldom fought. It was hard to have regrets when waking up every morning in the arms of Anthony DiNozzo. In the nine and a half years they had been together, she had never quite gotten used to the feeling of a calloused hand resting on her hip, or an arm laying across her body, and the feeling of his warm breath tickling her skin as, under the covers, their legs intertwined. Though strange the feeling was, she never got a better night's sleep than when next to him.
She watched the digital numbers on her alarm clock flash, and waited for them to tick over to 7:30. Her jaw clenched and her stomach tightened into knots when she realised this September morning was no ordinary one. She sat up, the strap of her tank top slipping off her shoulder. Beside her, Tony stirred, and managed a semi-slurred "What's wrong?"
When she didn't reply, he sat up beside her, taking her hand in his. "She's gonna be fine, Ziva," he told her, wishing she wouldn't worry so. For the first six years they had known each other, he would never have guessed how strongly maternal she was; how protective. "Willow, she got the DiNozzo charm, but Bailey's like you. She's got that widow's peak, those brown eyes. And she's brave, like her mom."
A smile found its way to Ziva's face, and she relaxed into her husband's arms. But barely had her worries settled when the alarm sounded. It was all systems go.
She turned the knob of Bailey's bedroom door slowly, and approached her sleeping child. The little girl clutched a bear so worn that his fur was falling off in places and one of his ears had come detached from his body. It rested on Bailey's nightstand, waiting to be sewn back on. The little girl snored softly, and Ziva laughed softly as she kneeled beside her daughter's bed, stroking her hair. The girl's wavy locks were the exact colour of her mother's.
"Bailey," she whispered, almost not wanting to wake her. "Bailey, wake up."
At the sound of her name, Bailey, whose only dissimilarity to her mother was her love of sleep, buried her face into the pillow, pretending she was not there.
"Bailey, time for school," Ziva whispered. "You do not want to be late on your first day."
Immediately she jumped out of bed, suddenly full of energy.
"Come on," Ziva said, taking her daughter's hand. "Daddy and Willow are making special schoolgirl pancakes. Better hurry or they will be gone before we get there."
Bailey raced down the hall , eager for the mouth-watering treats – not to mention the flour fight that always seemed to coat the kitchen in a snowy layer of white.
"Are you excited for third grade, Wil?" Tony asked his daughter, who dipped her finger into the pancake mixture and licked it with an enthusiastic nod. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted the time, and apparently time had gotten away from them. "You better go get ready, kiddo. I'll finish these up."
"OK," Willow said, a tinge of sadness in her voice. She loved cooking with Tony. She loved doing most things with Tony. "But don't burn 'em like last time."
Ziva's face showed a proud grin as she fastened the buttons of Bailey's bottle-green school dress, a miniature version of Willow's. By special request, Ziva fastened her hair in high pigtails ("like Abby's", Bailey had said) with a green ribbon tied around them in neat little bows. And one cannot forget the girl's knee-high white socks and stiff, shiny black school shoes.
"Well, doesn't someone look grown up?" Tony exclaimed as he placed two pancakes on an empty plate. Bailey's cheeks grew crimson and she giggled, pulling up a chair and eagerly grabbing the syrup.
"Hey, no syrup for you," Tony said. "You'll get it on your dress."
"Please, Daddy?" she said, knowing all too well for a five-year-old where using those big brown eyes she had been given as weapons would get her.
Tony gave in instantly. "OK, but not too much. Hurry up and eat those, carefully. Don't want the other kids to see you with – "he licked his thumb and wiped the corner of her mouth, following her attempts at evading him, - "syrup on your face, do you?"
"Mommy! The bus is stopping at number four!" Willow called from the street. The girls' school bus stopped at numbers four, five, ten, and thirteen and then finally number seventeen, the DiNozzo household.
Ziva kneeled before her little girl once more, placing a hand on her shoulder. "I love you, tateleh. Be good. Promise?" She touched her daughter's little golden Star of David, the looking-glass twin of her own, and Willow's. Bailey followed her mother's hand, and held the little star between her thumb and forefinger, like she always did when she made a wish, or a promise.
"I promise, Mommy." She didn't know what her mother's nickname meant, but she knew that it was important, which is why she told herself she had to keep that promise.
The yellow bus braked loudly out the front of their house, and Ziva gave one last kiss to each of her girls before they boarded it, and it drove away.
"She'll be fine, Ziva," Tony told his wife again, and as she watched the bus become a distant yellow speck she smiled.
"Yeah. I know she will."