Disclaimer: So since the Ziva here has a teenage kid, and the Ziva on the show doesn't even have a kid, does this mean I own the Ziva here? ... No? :( Oh, TPTB, you break my heart!
Spoilers: Very mild spoilers to one of the "Enemies" episode. Although Tony and Ziva depart canon starting from early Season 7 for this family series, some elements that are not conflicting with the story line are incorporated into the fics. One of these is ... well, you'll see.
Dedication: To Mathilde, the Elise to my Ziva.
So this is written from Lila's POV. And let me tell you, it is hard. ... Okay, I actually could ramble on for a lot longer, but I'll sure y'all would rather I didn't, so please, just practise a little suspension of disbelief at my interpretation of a teenager :P
Also: Ziva tells Lila a lot of things in this fic. A lot of these are not things that have been mentioned on the show before, and so I write based on my opinions rather than what is definitely in character—but that is not the point. The point is that I am not a parent, and am barely an adult, and so my opinions are not necessarily sound and shouldn't be taken as the answer. Any teenagers out there who face the same troubles Lila does, look to your parents ^^ just sayin', okay? Okay ^^
Now that you've gotten through that ridiculously long A/N, please enjoy!
There weren't many things Lila knew about her mother, but there were two of which she was very sure: One, that her mother had a past which even her dad didn't know everything about; two, that if her mother was crying, chances were that Lila herself had caused it.
It wasn't very comforting knowledge.
Lately, it had even been leading her to tiptoe around her mum. Lila had no great desire to push her mum to the limits, and it was hard knowing what to say and what not to; not speaking up was sometimes turning out to be the easier option.
That's why she'd been rather harsh that morning. She'd tried to calmly tell her mother that she didn't want to celebrate Chanukah that year, but her mother had gotten that face, the half-hurt, half-confused one, and it'd caused her to snap. Telling her mother that Chanukah was childish and stupid wasn't remotely the crux of the issue—in all honesty, she didn't even think that. But telling the truth was worse.
She was tired of tiptoeing around. She'd wished she could say anything she wanted to, for once.
Such were the wishes of the naïve and the tactless, she knew. One never just said the first thing that came to mind, good or bad, without considering the effect the words could have on the other person. But the damage had been done, and her mother had just closed her eyes and nodded in understanding, and Lila had just left for Brook's house trying to feel as un-guilty as possible.
Apparently, though, her guilt had been perfectly warranted.
Lila reflected on all of that as she approached her mum in the kitchen now. The middle-aged woman was at the stove, stirring a pot of what smelt like curry; Lila was again struck by how much her mum cared about them all. Her mother didn't hate curry, but didn't enjoy it as much as the rest of them did, and Lila knew that her mother often made it just for them. Just because.
Guilt certainly didn't go easy on a conscience.
"Hey, Mom," she greeted as she neared the stove, and her mother turned and smiled weakly at her. "Whatcha cooking?"
"Chicken curry," her mother answered, using one hand to fish a clean spoon out of the cutlery drawer. "Would you like to try?"
"Sure." Lila held out her hand for the spoon, and her mother dropped the spoon into the open palm, and Lila proceeded to dip the spoon into the curry. An age-old tradition between mother and daughter. Neither was stupid enough to take that for granted.
The curry was delicious, as always. Lila told her mum accordingly.
And then came the hard part. And her mum seemed to know that, too, because the curry was just left to simmer and the vegetables were chopped up and her mum just … waited. NCIS agents were good at that. Unnervingly so.
It wasn't long before Lila started to get twitchy. The silence wasn't unforgiving or even anger-filled, but the unfortunate talent her mother had for simply knowing when Lila needed to talk irked her to no end. (Even if it was, often, a comfort to know her parents would listen.)
Lila cleared her throat and bowed her head. "I'm sorry I called Chanukah childish and stupid," she mumbled, and it was to her everlasting relief that her mother didn't ask her to repeat the apology properly.
"You were just expressing your opinion, yes?" the aproned woman asked gently, laying her knife down, and Lila looked up in surprise.
She shifted on her feet. "No. Yes. I don't know."
"You don't know?" The tone was soft, probing; but not accusing.
Lila shrugged. "I like Chanukah. But it's different."
She picked at her fingernails. "I don't want to talk about it."
"Did your friends say something about Chanukah?"
"No," she answered defensively. "No one's dissing Chanukah, if that's what you're trying to imply."
Her mother studied her for a while before nodding. "Okay." The vegetable-chopping continued, and Lila started to get twitchy once more.
"I'll celebrate Chanukah, though," she said impulsively, and she didn't really regret her decision until her mother glanced at her with once-again saddened eyes.
"Nesicha, you know that I would accept your decision about Chanukah no matter what it turned out to be."
"That's not true," Lila muttered. "You acted like I'd killed your puppy this morning."
"I was sad."
"Well, I don't like you being sad," she retorted indignantly.
Her mother put down the knife again, turning off the gas and holding out her arms, and Lila went to her reluctantly. It wasn't that she no longer liked the way her mother crushed her to the chest; it was simply that she didn't often feel up to admitting anymore that she needed it.
"Sweetheart," her mother whispered gently, bending lower and wiping away a tear that Lila hadn't the faintest clue had fallen down her cheek, "the culture of Israel and Judaism is important to me, and because of that, I would be sad if my daughter chose not to embrace it. But it does not mean that what is important to me has to be important to you, hmm? I know it must be hard to see me sad, but you must not let that stop you from finding who you are."
"I don't wanna find who I am if you're gonna be miserable all the time," Lila protested thickly.
Her mother pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead. "I will not be miserable all the time. I cannot lie and say I am not sad, Lila, because I do not want you to lie and say that you're not sad when you are. But I will learn to cope with it. And I will never stop loving you. Know that, nesicha, no matter how I feel, you will always have your own special place in my heart. Just like Ben and your father do."
Lila nodded, sniffling. She hated that her mother had found the heart of the issue so quickly, and yet… "I'm so sorry, ima."
"I accept your apology for saying that Chanukah was childish and stupid, but you do not have to apologize for trying to find yourself."
"It really sucks," she confessed.
A hand stroked her hair. "I know. But that's why your father and I are here."
Pretences forgone, Lila buried herself in the comforting arms of her mother and sobbed.
Lila shifted in her seat at the kitchen island, wondering, as she watched her mother cook, what news she could offer about her best friend. "Oh, she got a puppy yesterday. Golden retriever. That's what she was all dying to show me today."
"I bet she and Kellan like it. They have been asking their mother for one forever, yes?"
"Yeah, and so have I. Why can't we get one?"
"Because, nesicha, the last time we had one, your father and I ended up doing all the work."
"I learnt responsibility from watching you and Dad take care of the puppy?" Lila offered hopefully, and her mother shot her a look, lips twitching.
"We will think about it. Samantha?"
"Went to a concert in June. Fell in love with the lead singer. Grew out her hair to look like his."
Her mother blinked. "Really?"
"Seriously. It's a good thing he has awesome hair."
"Speaking of 'in lov —'"
"Aww, Mom," Lila interrupted, her cheeks colouring. She knew where this conversation was going. "We're not talking about him again."
Her mother grinned. "I do not bring him up most of the time; you do. So, how is Jaxon?"
Lila bit her lip, trying not to let the smile on her face grow. "Jaxon's fine."
"Yes? Nothing new to update on him?"
"N-no," she stumbled. And then caved, turning red. "Okay, he split his lunch with me that day I forgot my lunch money. But I paid him back later anyway. It's not, like, a big deal."
"And is that why you are blushing like a beet?"
That made Lila laugh. She couldn't help it. "Mom! I don't even want to explain how you messed that up. But … what he did was … cool."
"Mmhmm." Her mother eyed her in amusement. "You do like him."
"Well, it's not exactly news," she huffed. "Can we move on now?"
Her mother chuckled. "Fine. Lacey."
Lila's smile faded, saddened by her friend's plight. "Lace's parents' divorce just got finalized."
Her mother's smile faded, too. "How is she?"
"Down in the dumps most of the time. Brook and Sammie and I do what we can, but…"
"Tell her that if she needs a grown-up who isn't her parents to talk to, she can always come to me."
"I will. Mom?" Lila asked quietly. "You and Dad … won't … right?"
"No, we won't," her mother answered, sounding surprised.
"It's just, y'know, Grandpa Eli and all…" She wasn't unaware of her maternal grandparents' history.
"Well…" her mother pondered that. "Your father and I are very different from our parents. And … I suppose, that's why finding yourself is important."
Lila frowned. "'Cause you won't get divorced that way?"
"No, because then you will know how different you can be from your parents."
Lila shifted in her seat, watching sadly as her mother turned contemplative and the situation turned serious. "… Mom, I can still celebrate Chanukah, right?"
Her mother gazed at her, expression indecipherable. "Do you want to, nesicha?"
She shrugged again. "I don't mind."
Her mother nodded uncertainly. "Okay. Of course you can still celebrate it. We will always make a place for you, but whether you take it is up to you."
"I'll just think of it as family hangout time or something."
There was a long pause before her mother finally turned away from the stove, eyes suspiciously shiny, to press another kiss to her forehead. "In that case, I will make sure to remember your share of gelt."
Lila smiled, relieved.
So maybe she wasn't any closer to figuring out who she wanted to be, but … maybe joining in the festivities was a small price to pay for her mother's happiness, at the end of the day.