NCIS Special Agent Tony DiNozzo smiled as he carefully stepped around a toy fire truck and a blanketed lump he assumed was a sleeping baby doll. Toys perpetually littered the entry way from the garage to the kitchen. His wife, Ziva, tried to pick them up every night after the kids were asleep but it was a losing battle.
"Daddy, watch me," his almost four year old son called from the kitchen eating area as Tony rounded the corner.
Tony hurried to the kitchen just in time to see the little boy blow into his straw and raise bubbles in his milk glass. Mischievous brown eyes sparkled up at Tony as his son grinned proudly. Although he greatly resembled Ziva's father physically, the little boy was developing Tony's playful personality.
"Too cool, buddy," Tony cheered holding out his hand for a high five.
"So it is you who taught him this? Nice, Tony," Ziva admonished but Tony knew she was teasing.
Ziva, more than anyone, was grateful to see her cherished little boy acting like a typical preschooler. There had been days when she had desperately wondered if he would ever be a carefree child again.
"Now, dear, I don't know a kid in the world that hasn't figured that one out on their own," Lucy joked before turning back to the toddler in a high chair.
"One more bite of peas, please, my little ladybug," Lucy told the child in a sing song voice.
"Dada. Eat," the little girl announced proudly before shoving a handful of peas into her mouth.
She had only just begun talking a few months earlier and Tony often struggled to understand her. Eat was one of the few words she was able to say clearly.
"Good job, ladybug," Tony encouraged his daughter although he actually hated the bland taste of English peas and wondered how they could possibly appeal to her.
The toddler was a picky eater and it was usually a struggle to get her to consume a full meal. Physically, the little girl was the perfect blend of Tony and Ziva with her father's expressive hazel eyes and her mother's riot of dark brown curls. The little girl's disposition, though, differed dramatically from either of her parents. The first year of her life had not been an easy time for their family and she had been a fussy baby. Now almost two, she was a very serious and emotionally sensitive child.
"Boring day of paperwork and skills improvement," Tony shrugged answering the unasked question in his wife's eyes.
Tony began making faces at his daughter hoping to cause her to smile. Her smiles were a perfect replica of her mother's and Tony lived for those moments when either of them graced him with one. It was his personal mission to make those moments happen several times each day.
"Perhaps your day will become more interesting now that you are home. There is something you need to see on the desk," Ziva informed him.
Tony was accustomed to Ziva putting important mail and other paperwork in their bedroom to keep it away from sticky little hands. He decided it was best if he changed from his work clothes before the owners of said hands finished eating and wanted him to play. As he made his way to the bedroom, he thought he was prepared for whatever he might find there. He was wrong.
Tony stared long and hard at the positive pregnancy test safely contained in a clear plastic bag. Ziva had inscribed today's date on the bag in permanent marker. Bagged and tagged, he thought momentarily amused that Ziva had already begun keeping records for their third child. Confirmation of the pregnancy was not unexpected but the deep sense of dread and despair that quickly overcame Tony's amusement caught him off guard.
Ziva did not appear surprised when Tony returned to the kitchen almost immediately still wearing his work clothes. His face was tight with worry and even held a hint of anger.
"You need to drive, yes?" she asked softly her expression filled with love and understanding.
"Yea," Tony sighed dropping a kiss into her hair and then to each of the kids' faces.
Lucy gave him a sympathetic smile as he left and then she began to pick up dishes.
"I can clean up, dear. Why don't you go rest for awhile before it's time to start the bath?" Lucy encouraged Ziva.
"I am fine, Lucy. It is early, I know, but I do not think I am going to be so tired with this one," Ziva asserted resting her hand protectively on her still flat abdomen.
"There's no reason to push when I'm here to help, dear. You'll be wishing for rest soon enough," Lucy teased.
"I napped with the kids this afternoon," Ziva reminded her patiently.
Others might have thought Lucy to be nagging but Ziva appreciated the mothering and knew it stemmed from deep concern. The little family depended greatly on their adopted grandmother and her love had seen them through some very difficult months.
"Dada?" an anxious little girl asked interrupting Ziva's thoughts.
"Oh, my little precious, you do not need to worry. Daddy only went to his cave…," Ziva began telling her daughter.
Before Ziva could reassure the child that Tony would be back soon, her son did it instead.
"Daddy be home for night-night," he told his sister confidently.
Ziva and Lucy shared a smile. Even at such a young age, Tony's son already understood his father very well.
Gibbs sighed when he heard the basement door open. The NCIS team leader looked up from the child sized baseball bat he was crafting to see his senior agent rapidly descending the stairs. The younger man wasted no time explaining the reason for his visit.
"Hey, Boss. Ziva's pregnant," Tony announced.
"That didn't take you long," Gibbs responded knowing the couple had only begun trying a few weeks ago.
When Tony didn't take the opportunity to brag, Gibbs knew the young husband was truly worried.
"You scared?" Gibbs asked bluntly.
"You're not? After last time…," Tony countered.
"Her doc says it'll be fine. Ducky agrees," Gibbs interrupted to remind him.
"Yea, I know," Tony sighed.
Gibbs waited silently for Tony to continue. Truthfully, the older man had had his share of fears when Ziva had begun openly trying to convince Tony to attempt another pregnancy but a visit with Ducky had alleviated Gibbs's concerns. Gibbs had known Tony's demons would not be defeated so easily.
"I didn't think it was going to hit me like this. I thought I'd be more excited, you know? I love my kids but…I can't stop thinking about her laying there hooked up to all those machines. Not moving. Looking paler than she did when we brought her home from Somalia. I can't do this, Boss. I can't ever go through that again," Tony admitted.
"Too late now, DiNozzo," Gibbs replied pointing out the obvious.
Gibbs knew sympathy would only make Tony more anxious. On the other hand, indifference would provide reassurance. Gibbs decided to have a little fun at his agent's expense.
"You got bigger problems anyway," Gibbs observed drily.
"What's that, Boss?" Tony asked with trepidation.
"One more's not gonna be enough for her," Gibbs predicted with a serious expression.
"Oh, shit," Tony breathed.
When Gibbs smirked triumphantly, Tony added in a panicked voice, "No, seriously, Boss, you're right. We talked about this before we got married. She didn't want three kids because one of them would always feel left out. She said it had to be an even number. We were going to stop with two but that was before the whole pregnancy euphoria took over. You know, that whole 'my body is sustaining life instead of ending it' thing she does. Oh, God, I can see it now. She's never going to stop. She's got at least ten or fifteen more good years of child bearing left. We'll be just like Cheaper By The Dozen. That movie was based on a true story, you know. I'm going to be Steve Martin with a stop watch…"
"Night, night, little buddy. I love you," Tony told his son before the little boy snuggled Buckeye, the treasured teddy bear cop Ziva had gifted to him, and closed his eyes.
Unlike his sister, their son was a surprisingly good sleeper now. He loved his race car bed and rarely left it during the night. He fell into slumber quickly and his nightmares had almost completely disappeared.
"Didn't go well, huh? I'll rock her," Tony offered when he met an exhausted Ziva in the hallway and saw that she was still holding their daughter.
"She cannot settle down tonight," Ziva explained tiredly.
"I got this. Go lay down," Tony urged reaching for the little girl.
As Ziva handed him the cranky toddler, he added, "You know I'm happy we're pregnant, right? I just freaked out a little. I'm going to try not worry. Really."
"I would fear something was wrong if you were not worried," Ziva teased before turning wearily toward their bedroom.
Her relieved smile told Tony he'd been right to acknowledge he was glad about the pregnancy, though.
"Come on, my little ladybug, let's cuddle," Tony told his daughter deliberately trying to relax.
"It's all going to be okay," Tony whispered softly a few minutes later as he gently rocked his daughter.
She studied him solemnly before speaking one of the few words she could form correctly.
"Baby," she told him her face alight with one of her precious smiles as her eyes drifted shut.