Wow, it has been a very, very long time. I didn't mean it! Honest!
Many thanks to Amilyn, Chemmie, and dear girleffect. Say "hello" if you get the chance.
Lots of love to everyone.
. . . .
Work like a soul inspired,
'til the battle of the day is won.
You may be sick and tired,
but you'll be a man, my son.
-Fred Astaire, "Pick Yourself Up."
. . . .
The bedroom was cold. Tony slid from beneath the eiderdown and fumbled in the dark for a pair of warm-up pants and a heavy hooded sweatshirt, then stumbled into the hallway only to have to squint. It was bright and colder yet. He bumped the thermostat from seventy-three to seventy-five and flicked on the weather report; snow was coming down heavy. The meteorologist promised eight to twelve more inches for the DC metro area by sundown. Government offices were closed, public transportation was running only necessary routes, and everyone was advised to stay home as much as possible.
Tony grinned as the coffeepot bubbled and poured himself a cup. A snow day at home, alone, with Ziva. He couldn't contain his glee and skipped back into the bedroom to wake her for the morning routine.
"Oh, what a beautiful morning," he sang. "Oh, what a beautiful day." She sighed and shifted. He kissed her cheek, then her temple, then the corner of her mouth. "C'mon, gorgeous. Snow day. Let's get up and get your programs done so we can enjoy it."
She swiped at her face with a lazy hand. "Mm?"
"Come on," he begged. "I let you sleep and extra half-hour. You should see outside; it's beautiful. I haven't measured yet, but I'm sure we've got at least half a foot. Maybe more. Want to see?" She gave him a sweet, sleepy smile and his heart fluttered. He nuzzled her neck; his stubble on her skin made her shiver. "C'mon," he urged again. "Let's get the routine out of the way."
"Ok," she sighed finally, resting a lazy arm around his neck.
"Am I transferring you?" he asked innocently. "Because you're usually adamant about doing it yourself."
She smiled again. "I was just saying good morning."
He scooped her up and stood to his full height. "Good morning, beautiful. What can I get you for breakfast?"
She chuckled—a sweet, husky sound—and he lowered her into her wheelchair. "I can make it myself, Tony. Let me do this first."
Ziva set off for the bathroom, shivering, and he returned to the kitchen to make toast and tea for her. Tony arranged orange slices in the shape of a heart and counted out meds while she did her programs.
She held out a sweater to him when he came in with their breakfast tray. "I cannot get this on," she croaked, rubbing her eyes. He put down the tray and tugged it over her head. Her curls went wild with static and she gave him a wry, sleepy smile. "Breakfast in bed?"
"It's a snow day," he said, nearly capering with delight. "We're supposed to have breakfast in bed and cuddle and watch movies."
She hummed. "Ok. Oh, a heart. Sweet, Tony." She ate the orange in two big bites and then transferred back onto the mattress.
He stretched out next to her with his coffee cup. "I'm sorry we can't go to Bolling today," he apologized. "But I think we should wait until the weather's better. I can't take you out in this. You'll freeze your ass off." He winked and groped her. "And there isn't much left to lose."
She batted his hand away, blushing. "I understand. Do we have a map? I want to see even if we cannot go."
He nodded. "I'm sure Abby has something; let's email her."
He retrieved the laptop from their home office and set it in the bed with her. She put down her grapes and opened the mail program, only to hesitate, wide-eyed, and pull her hands back.
"What?" he asked around a mouthful of toast.
Ziva shrugged one shoulder and peered at him from between long lashes. "I cannot think what to say."
"You don't have to go into the gory details, just say you want to see a comprehensive map of Bolling Air Force Base. She'll understand."
Her gaze hardened. "Gory details, Tony? What that means?"
"Sorry," he said quickly. "Sorry. That was a stupid thing to say. I just meant that you didn't have to pour your heart out to her in an email."
She closed the laptop and put a hand on his arm. "Was it gory? Was there blood?"
"Not much," he offered feebly. "Your nose, your ear…the scarier part was just how you looked, lying there under the trees. You'd gone totally grey and like, stiff. Your skin was cold. When I took your pulse it was thready and kind of weak."
She stroked his cheek and made a soft clucking noise with her tongue. "What happened next?"
He smirked. "I started screaming like an old woman, begging someone to call an ambulance. Then two EMTs came like…tumbling down the hill like clowns out of one of those tiny circus cars." She gave a small smile and stroked his cheek again. "And that was the last time I saw you until the ER doc called us back."
She cocked her head. "What he said?"
"That you'd sustained blunt force trauma. Your spinal cord was swollen between your C2 and T2 vertebrae and you were on a ventilator. The treated you initially with a dose of corticosteroids."
She frowned, hand still on his arm. "I do not remember that."
"You wouldn't," he agreed. "You were sedated. I was there for it, though. They strapped you to this big table that was in like…a gyroscope and they flipped you over and stuck this huge needle into your skinny little neck and I thought I was going to throw up. Then they put you in a room and you twitched for two hours. You couldn't feel pain but your nervous system was like…lit up. I was terrified. I stayed up all night." He exhaled sadly, unable to look at her. "And I prayed," he admitted softly. "It was nothing formal—you know how I feel about organized religion—but I prayed. And I said that I didn't care if you couldn't ever walk again; I didn't want to live without you."
Ziva shoved closer and pulled him into her arms. "Tony?"
He'd gone quiet, pensive. "Hm?"
"You saved my life," she avowed. "I would not be here, in our bed, in our home, had you done anything different. I am proud of you."
He stayed silent in her arms for a moment. "You aren't angry that I didn't protect you?"
"No," she replied honestly. "I cannot think all those questions, Tony. He would have hurt me anyway. Maybe not that day, but another time, and perhaps he would killed me, then. You got him and now it is safe." She looked down at him and batted her long eyelashes. "You are my hero, Tony."
He smiled and closed his eyes. "Can you say that again?"
Ziva put her mouth next to his ear. "You are my hero," she repeated, and kissed him hungrily. Tony pulled her down to him and kissed back, hard. She pulled on his shirt. "Off."
He removed his clothes, then hers, and flipped so he was on top. "Ok?" he asked gently.
She gave him a devilish grin and bit his lower lip. "Do not make me wait."
He wanted to go slowly, to savor her inch by inch, make her writhe in pleasure, but she pinched the nape of his neck and locked her thin fingers around his wrist, panting in his ear and nipping the lobe to egg him on. "Harder," she demanded playfully. There was a hint of her deadly ninja-self in her dark eyes.
He leaned on his elbows and dug his knees into the mattress. "I don't want to hurt you," he whispered.
"You cannot," she replied simply. He teased the skin on her throat and she moaned.
He took her quickly and as hard as she wanted before falling beside her, panting, and pulling the blankets up over both of them.
Ziva propped her head on her hand and rolled to face him. "That was lovely."
He snagged his cold coffee off the nightstand and took a swig. "So, um, what do you feel when we make love?"
She frowned. "Feel? Oh, you mean there?"
He shook off his embarrassment with a grin. "Yeah, I guess. I know your paralysis starts at the bottom of your ribs but Dr. Monroe said something about sacral sparing and sensation."
"I feel most things when we're together," she said candidly. "Light touches are difficult, but that is more my sensory issues than level of injury. But deep pressure," she trailed off and bit her lip. "Like when you are on me and inside is just as it always was, Tony. And I forget that I am not…that I am disabled. That things are different than they were before my accident." She smiled a small, distant smile. "I need those moments. I need to remember that I am still me."
"You are still you," he affirmed. "I don't see you any differently."
She gave him an are-you-kidding-me look. "Tony, our lives were very different six months ago. We worked together doing dangerous things. Now I cannot tie shoes or prepare a meal or write an email. You cannot tell me you do not see me different."
"What you do is different," he argued. "Not who you are. You're still Ziva. You're still kicking ass. Or punching it, maybe."
She laughed aloud, kissed him, and arced her neck to look out the window. "I want to go out," she declared.
He scoffed. "You hate the cold."
"But I do not hate snow. Take me outside."
He groaned. "Then I have to shovel. The snow's to deep for you to roll."
"Use the bl…the thing. The thing Abba use last week."
"The snowblower? Fine. But don't complain when I come back inside looking like I've driven a mushing team across Alaska."
"Please, Tony." Ziva kissed his bare shoulder and he shivered, still riding the post-coital high.
"Fine," he sighed. "But promise you'll make me a white-chocolate mocha when we come in."
She kissed his shoulder again, slowly, and purred. "I can think of better ways to warm you up."
. . . .
Tony re-Velcro'd the wrist closure on Ziva's down coat and brought the lapels just a bit closer to her face. She was bundled to the eyeballs in two sweaters, fleece leggings—a present from Abby—and a thick scarf. He'd gotten out a pair of waterproof NCIS-issue gloves for her hands and double-socked her feet inside her warmest boots.
She smirked when he pulled her hat down for the tenth time. "I think it is enough, Tony. We can go out now."
"I just want to be sure," he fretted. "You get cold so fast."
"And then we will come back in."
He huffed and swung open the front door and she bumped onto the front porch, smile widening as snowflakes swirled and settled on the railing before her. "Is pretty," she said softly. "I love the snow."
"Says someone who never pushed a car out of a drift," he jibed.
"You think I did not? I had missions in Russia in winter. It was freezing. I had to sit in the cold for a long time, waiting for a man who shot refugees as they got off boat in Haifa."
"That must've been…intense."
She shrugged. "Was my job." She was quiet for a second, then scooped a handful of snow off the porch rail and sifted it between her fingers. "I may not work again," she said evenly. "Dev and Dr. Monroe think I should file Disability."
Tony stepped beside her. "You ok with that?"
Ziva shrugged again. "I thought maybe I could go part-time, but I cannot write or plan or organize or think so I understand why say that."
"Understanding it and being ok with it are two different things."
"Yes," she said firmly. That same devilish smile crossed her face and she flung a handful of snow at him, catching him squarely in the face with accuracy he'd forgotten she had.
"Ack!" he gasped. "The, hell, Zi?"
She giggled and took off down the ramp, outdoor tires—bought under the advisement of Adi—skidding and sliding on the icy surface. "Did not expect, did you?" she taunted.
"No," he shot back. He packed a loose snowball and tossed it at her. It fell short, but she looked at him in shock and vague dismay.
"You throw snow at a disabled woman?" she scorned, and called him something in Hebrew that surely meant he was a chicken. Tony threw another one; it landed in her lap. She brushed it off. "I cannot feel that!"
He jumped down the stairs and joined her in the yard for an even match. Snow flew and they laughed, faces red in the cold.
"I cannot believe you," she spurned. "You throw snow at a woman who can hardly throw back." And with that she nailed him in the throat.
He ended the fight by scooping her out of her chair and dumping her gracelessly into a drift. She sputtered, laughing, and lay back. He joined her. Snow fell on their hair and coats.
"Beautiful day," she sighed. "I am lucky."
"Me, too," he decided.
Ziva shuddered. "Is cold. Should we go back in?"
He picked her up. "Yeah. I want that white hot cocoa you promised me."
She beat him to the front door. "No, warm up in the pool."
"Naked?" he begged.
She pulled off her scarf and coat, then transferred to the entry bench to switch wheels. He grinned at her, proud. "I'll bet you're so glad you can do that yourself now."
She grinned back. "Yes. I did not like to rely on you or Abba to do it. And sometimes you pull too hard and it hurt my back."
He froze. "You never said anything."
"What I was to say? I needed to move and could not do it myself. If it hurt, then so be it."
"Don't like that," he muttered.
Ziva rolled her eyes and peeled off the top sweater. "Pool," she commanded. "Now."
"Naked?" he begged again.
She stopped at the door and rolled her eyes again. "Yes, unless you want stuff me into a suit."
"No," he drawled, shimmying out of his sweater and pants. "No way."
She paused at the edge and set the brakes. "I cannot get down," she said honestly, meaning onto the floor from her chair. "I am work on it, but I still need help."
A sliver of uncertainty flashed in her eyes. He cupped her cheek. "I'm always happy to help you. Seriously. Stop looking at me like that; it breaks my heart."
She looked away. "I worry you will tire of this."
He smirked. "Well I worry you will tire of this." He picked her up, bridal-style and whirled a little to make her laugh. It worked. She giggled and he put her down, only to yank her sweater over her head. "We're skinny dipping."
"Yes," she sighed.
He rid her quickly of the rest of her clothes and she slid into the water. He gasped when it came up over her head. "Ziva!"
She surfaced and wiped water from her eyes. "What?"
He eased himself in; the water was so warm the pool could double as a bath. "You are trying to give me a heart attack. Stop doing reckless things."
"Reckless? I can swim, Tony." She pushed off, demonstrating, and made it almost to the other side before surfacing again. She clung to the edge and faced him with cheeks sill red from the cold outside. "I love the water. I always did, but now it makes everything easier." She swam to the other end and back with only a few breaths. "See?"
"You swim beautifully," he acknowledged. "Especially naked."
She looped both arms around his neck. "I am happy when you say that."
He brushed his lips across her temple. "Hey," he said, thinking. "You didn't have a single seizure today."
She slapped his arm. "Shush! You will curse it."
He winced. "Sorry. Forget I mentioned it."
She ducked down again and popped up. "Ok, ready to out. Grab me a towel, please."
He got out, snagged towels off the top of the dryer, and came back for her. They dried and dressed quickly, shivering though the house was warm.
"Why does everything feel so cold when it snows?" Tony complained. "It's almost eighty degrees and I'm a frozen popsicle."
She made a face. "No talk of popsicles. I had too many after my surgery."
"You didn't finish a single one," he groused.
"I am still tired of them. Did you say something...movies?"
He rubbed a towel over his head. "I used to lie on the couch and watch old movies with my mom on snow days. It was our thing, ya know?"
"Maybe can be our thing, too?" Ziva asked softly.
Her big doe-eyes made him damn near swoon. Had she always been so sweet? Had he just not noticed before? "Sure. What do you want to watch?"
"Black and white," she decided. "A musical."
"Swing Time? Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, lots of tap dancing."
"Yes," she crowed happily. "Sounds perfect."
Ziva transferred to the sectional while Tony started the film. He joined her and ran a finger down her cheek. "You're still pink," he commented softly.
"I have not done so much lately. I work in therapy, but it is different."
"Less fun," he supplied.
"Much less," she agreed, smiling fondly. She focused on the screen. "What is happen?"
"Lucky Garnett is late for his own wedding. He lost a bet and his way to New York City. The plot's mostly forgettable. Wait for the dance numbers."
She hummed and settled in, resting her head against his chest. He stroked her wet hair, humming the score, until the first number began and she jumped, startled by the crescendo.
"This is a really playful duet," he said automatically. "They use a lot of horizontal space on the stage."
She mulled, watching. "His technique is bad," she mused.
"Fred Astaire was a vaudeville performer, not a trained dancer."
"I can tell. His arms are weak. Not weak, but not…precise."
He pulled a face. "I forgot you were a dancer. Maybe we should watch His Girl Friday instead."
"I was a dancer, but never serious. I had so much training for my father that…that there was no time."
"There's time now. Oh, did you notice the camera angles? Astaire wanted their movement to be the key to the scene, not the cinematography. He made cameramen stay in one spot while they were dancing."
"Nice," she said softly.
Tony smiled; her head was growing heavier, her breathing deep and even. She'd be asleep soon. He hummed a few bars of Pick Yourself Up and she relaxed further, drawing the throw up to her chin. She gave him a small, sleepy smile.
"So take a deep breath," he sang, "pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again."
. . . .
Tony didn't mean drift off in the middle of Never Gonna Dance, but he did; his head propped on hers, one arm around Ziva's narrow shoulders. He woke slowly, teasing the curve of her hip with his fingers, sniffing and blinking in the cool afternoon light. Days were short this time of year, and the light was weaker yet due to the snowstorm.
He rose slowly, replacing his shoulder with pillows, made sure no cold air sneaked in under the blanket, and tiptoed to the refrigerator. He was thirsty—desperately so—and his skin itched a little from the pool chlorine. He paced the floor, watching the snow and drinking a can of tangerine spritzer, until a small, sharp noise from the man cave made his ears prick like a horse's.
He poked his head back in. Ziva was sitting up among the blankets and pillows, staring dully at the dark television screen. She quirked a smile at him and scrubbed at her eyes.
"Did you just sneeze?" he asked, confused.
"Yes," she replied, clearly congested. "Allergies."
He switched on the table lamp to her right. "Do allergies come with watery eyes and pink cheeks?"
"Yes," she said again, but flatly.
He put his wrist to her brow; she was warm, but not enough to scare him. Yet, he refused to think. "Do they come with low fevers, too?"
She waved a dismissive hand. "We were having a nice day. I do not want to ruin it."
"You're not ruining anything, Zi. What hurts?"
"Nothing," she said seriously. "I am fine. Please do not hover."
He held up both hands, one still holding the can of soda. "No hovering. Want some citrus drink? It's delicious."
"I would like some tea," she said easily, dragging her wheelchair closer. She transferred into it and set off for the kitchen, only to pause and sneeze again.
Tony groaned aloud and caught her by the handles. "No. No pretending you're not sick. No faking, no hiding, no sign of weakness bullcrap." He came around to kneel before her. "Let me take care of you, Zi."
She frowned at him. "Is all you do, Tony. That is not fair."
He caught her chin between his thumb and forefinger and fixed her with a puppyish look. "You said I was your hero."
She jerked away, eyes dark in the low light. "You are. Does not mean you are allowed to hover."
"Am I allowed to defrost some chicken soup while you convalesce on the sofa?"
"I will do it myself," she grumbled, sniffling, and elbowed him away from the freezer drawer. "I made it; I will thaw it."
"And you will eat it," he added, grabbing a saucepan. "Do you want to take something—some decongestant or fever reducer, maybe?"
"No," she snapped, but softened. "I do not know what I can take. My meds, you know?"
"I'll call Dr. Monroe and ask her for advice."
"I do not need to take medicine. It is a cold; nothing will make it go away except time."
Tony's shoulders slumped. "I don't like needless suffering. If you feel bad then you should take something so that you don't. See what I mean?"
"I do," she acknowledged. She looked down at her hands. "I felt so good today. I do not, usually. So if I can have one good day and then get a cold…it is worth it."
He gripped the edge of the countertop and exhaled, nodding. "A sniffly nose and low fever aren't much compared to…"
"Yes," Ziva sighed, putting a hand over his. "I had no pain today, no seizures, no spasms, no AD…it was a good day. A little cold is nothing, really."
She leaned her head on his hip. He rubbed circles on her back. "You have pain every day?"
"I rarely see pain meds on your chart."
She shrugged. "I do not take them unless it is bad."
He swallowed roughly, sad for her. "Why don't you ever tell me?"
She whirled and took both of his hands in hers. "The few hours I get to spend with you are the best part of my day. Why should I talk about pain?"
"I want to know when you're hurting," he said slowly. "I want you to tell me, even if you don't need meds for it."
"Ok," she promised lightly. "I will tell, but you still may not hover." She got close again and bumped his leg with her shoulder. "I have had enough of being a patient."
"You're not a patient," he countered, portioning soup into two bowls. "You're a former ninja assassin with tricked-out wheels and your own personal do-boy. Think of the superheroes, Zi—does Bruce Wayne heat his own soup? Does Tony Stark starch his own collars?"
She rubbed her forehead. "Who?"
He set the table quickly; Ziva seemed to be losing her bearings. He bet she'd be back in bed within the hour. "Tony Stark is Iron Man. Robert Downey, Jr. as the brash-but-brilliant industrialist. Bruce Wayne is Batman and…there were too many to count. Michael Keaton was the groundbreaker, but The Dark Knight had the best film cast. I have a strange fondness for the silly Sixties TV show. It's both iconic and classic—kinda my style. And the root of so many good jokes." He ushered her to the table and strapped her spoon across her palm. "I have the whole series on DVD. Want to watch it?"
She sipped her broth and made a face. "I cannot taste anything."
He took a small taste. "That's a crying shame—this is the best chicken soup I've ever had. What did you put in it to make it a little sweet?"
She thought for a minute, swirling her spoon among bits of celery and carrot. "White carrot…no…parsnip!" She poked a finger in the air, momentarily victorious, and sneezed into the crook of her elbow.
"Easy, tiger," Tony jested gently. "Do you need to get back in bed?"
Ziva shook her head, eyes widening. "No, we did not email Abby."
"We were busy!" he defended, spoon in his mouth.
She dug the laptop out from under their duvet and brought it to the table. "I cannot type," she declared. "So you have to do it. I will tell you what to put."
He stacked their bowls—she hadn't eaten much—and pushed them aside. "What do you want to say?"
"Dear Abby," she began. "Please email me a good map of Bolling Air Force Base that shows where I got hurt. I want to see where it happened. And anything else you have will help. Love, Ziva."
"Love, Ziva?" he echoed.
She nodded. "Abby is very good to me, Tony."
"She's crazy about you. I think she feels a little left out without you in the bullpen. Too many dudes."
"I know," she said softly. "Is why she is here often. I like spending time with her. I have never had many friends. She is a good one."
Ziva rubbed her head again and he caught her hand, looking deliberately into her eyes. "You are, too. Let's pull out the sectional, get cozy, and watch another film. Sickie's Choice. But not Sophie's Choice—too damned depressing."
She put their bowls in the dishwasher, thinking and sniffling. "I want to watch Sound of Music, but I know you do not. Is there something else?"
"Have you seen Mary Poppins?"
She furrowed her brow. "No."
Tony's jaw fell. "You've never seen Mary Poppins? Well we're going to fix that right now. Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke. She's a musical nanny hired to care for a wealthy banker's unhappy children, he's both the Bert the Screever and the affable Mr. Dawes, Senior."
Ziva was of little help as he pulled out the sofabed and arranged pillows. Her arms trembled when she tried to transfer onto it and she sad back, frustrated. "Help," she demanded crossly.
Tony lifted her up and pressed his wrist to her brow again. "I think you're getting warmer. Will you take something if I call Duck and make sure it's ok?"
"No," she contradicted. "Because why? The fever will come back if I still have the virus. I will wait." He pinned her with a stern look. She glared and dabbed her nose with a tissue.
The film credits opened and she gasped. "Oh, look at London."
"Depressing," he agreed. "And Edwardian, at the behest of the Sherman Brothers."
"Yes." She cocked her head in that way that made him a little crazy; Ziva was cute when she was perplexed. "She is dead, Tony? In the clouds?"
He scoffed. "She's not dead, Zi; she's magic. She's just waiting for the Banks children to need her."
"Most of them were actually men in drag."
Her head tilted again. "British nannies were men in drag? I do not think so, Tony."
He tucked a swath of staticky curls behind her ear and laughed. "No, the actors in that scene were."
Ziva giggled at the Banks children's letter demands. "Never scold nor dominate them?" she mused aloud. She turned to him. "Will our children be so…mischief, Tony?"
His stomach dropped. He'd been thinking about family since the Shilton's visit—Idan so bright and bookish; sturdy, sweet Tal, all baby-chub and curly hair—but hadn't had the courage to bring up the discussion with her. "Um," he stuttered. "I don't know. We never really did talk about that…"
"I know," she said quietly. "I do not know how. It is another thing that I cannot do. I cannot walk, I cannot work, I cannot get pregnant."
He craned his neck and looked down at her. "Who said that, anyway? Not Dr. Monroe."
"No. I saw a physician after I came home from Somalia. I got sick from his men and it damaged my fallopian tubes. They are scarred. Surgery did not work. I cannot get pregnant."
"You had surgery?" he blurted. "And you didn't tell me?"
"How could I?" she countered. "Things between us were…wrong. I had surgery on a Friday and was back by Tuesday. I did not think you noticed."
He nodded, blinking, as the Banks children tidied up the nursery with finger snaps. "You were riding a desk."
"Yes. I recover quick. As soon as Vance say I could go back in the field, I did."
They grew quiet. Bert punted an invisible raft down an imaginary Thames. "Do you think I can parent?" Ziva asked suddenly. "Do you think I will be a good mother?"
"Yes," Tony replied resolutely. "Why would you even ask me that?"
She cleared her throat and rubbed her watery eyes. "I was an assassin. I took life. Being a mother means making one." She glanced at her wheelchair. "And now my life is…complicated by my disability. My health is not so great."
"It will get better," he soothed. "And your job has nothing to do with how well you can raise children. Plenty of people with crappy jobs have great families. And look at what we've been through—I think we've got the stick-to-it-iveness to handle parenthood."
"You want to be a father?"
"Oh yeah. I told you I bought this house for you, me, and tiny Tonys."
She sniffed. "What if we have girls?"
"You will teach them film."
"Yeah, I've got all kinds of kid-friendly movies, and not all Disney stuff, either. An American Tale, E.T., Kirikou and the Sourceress, Wallace and Gromit. You name it, I got it."
Ziva shifted and wiped her eyes again. "And what will I teach them, Tony?"
"You'll teach them that they are safe." That seemed to appease her; she curled into his side and heaved a sigh. "Getting tired again?"
"Stay awake," Tony crooned along with Julie Andrews. "Don't rest your head. Don't lie down upon your bed."
"I am not," she argued, voice muffled by the front of his shirt.
He stroked her hair. "Will you sing our children to sleep?"
He smiled. "Will you sing that lullaby you sang to me that night in the hospital?"
He felt her smile against his chest. "Laila, laila?"
"That one," he breathed. "Sing that to our kids, ok?"
"Yes. They will not have a nanny."
"They'll have Gibbs."
"He is a good man. I wish it had not taken…this to grow close to him."
Tony hugged her with both arms and kissed her head. "This?"
"Almost dying," she replied morosely. "Being so…dependent."
He stroked her hair with long, slow strokes. "He loved you long before your accident and so did I. We should've been more up-front, I guess, but we were both scared. After what we went through we're not going to take those chances anymore." He tipped her chin up to look at him. "I love you."
"I love you, too." She smiled a bit and sniffled. Her nose was already growing red from rubbing and blowing. She took a breath and watched the chimneysweeps cut a caper on the London rooftops. "There will be more to our life than just…my getting hurt. There is possibility that I did not know before. I love you, but I also love what is possible. You know what I mean?"
The chimneysweeps exchanged brooms and began again. Tony grinned, drunk with love, and kissed Ziva full on her chapped mouth. "Though I spent my time in the ash and the smoke," he sang. "In the whole wide world ain't a happier bloke."