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This particular case had been…unique, at best. A couple was found dead in an alleyway, and when they never came back to their 6 year old son, the babysitter called the cops. Long story short, the little boy Greg was placed in the protective custody of Tony and Ziva. They were hesitant at first, but once they started interacting with this little boy, they grew to adore him. They played in his playroom with him, fed him his dinner, gave him his bath, and tucked him into bed, reading to him until he fell asleep.
This case caused them both much anguish, as they both had spent too much time in funeral parlors when they were young instead of in sandboxes and playgrounds. Both of them knew what kind of loss this little angel was dealing with. As they quietly walked out of his room, their thoughts were in sync as they thought back to that conversation that nobody wants to believe will happen to them.
Gibbs approached Greg slowly and carefully. This was a reversed circumstance for him, telling the child he was never going to see his parents again, unlike his pained memory of that grey-haired officer gently breaking the news to him that his whole life had been stolen from him. Nevertheless, Leroy Jethro Gibbs forced himself to not think about that – all he could bear to think about was how to break the news to this little angel sitting at the rustic kitchen table with his feet dangling, swinging back and forth, and his hands clasped together in a messy fist.
He went to sit down next to him. He was silent for a moment, expecting the little boy to speak up first. He looked up at Gibbs with eyes that were no longer innocent, that no longer had that spark every child's eyes should have. "They…they're in heaven now, aren't they?" He said, not really as a question though. He knew. Children always sense when something is wrong.
Gibbs stroked his hand softly. "They are, Greg. They're not gone though. They'll always be watching you, smiling down on you, protecting you. They love you – they always will."
The little boy was solemn as he spoke his next words. He was mature for his age – not necessarily in a positive way. He already knew to protect and brace himself. "Where do I go now?"
"Your grandma is coming here tomorrow. She will stay here with you."
Tony and Ziva were silent, lost in their thoughts as they went back into the playroom to clean up after the sleeping child upstairs. They wandered, picking up this toy and that toy, not in the moment. Eventually Ziva sat down cross-legged next to a pile of Legos, its box laying spilled open on the wooden floor. After a few moments Tony stopped picking up to notice Ziva curled up, her head in her knees in a fetal position. Slowly he made his way over to her and sat down next to her, not saying a word. He knew she would talk when she was ready. They sat there in silence until Ziva looked up at him with tears threatening to spill from her eyes.
"Tony, I…" She pushed a stray hair behind her ear.
He looked solemnly at her. "Talk to me, Zi."
She sighed to herself. "It is…this day has been emotional for me to begin with." She shook her head. "No. It is silly, Tony. I am fine."
He stroked her curls softly. "Ziva, no you're not. Is it the case?"
She was still for a minute, and then she spoke up. "No…I mean that is a part of it. But I was doing alright…until now."
"It is not silly, Ziva, if it is making you so upset."
She looked back at the floor, her hands now toying with the spilled Legos. "I just….I saw this box. I do not know, maybe it is the melancholy mood I have been in all day…but…" She stopped talking, and instead picked up the box, showing it to Tony. It was obviously tattered and well-used, but he knew that wasn't what she was talking about. On it displayed the image of creating whatever children desired. Realization dawned on him quickly.
"You wish you could have the life you wanted, right? The ideal world…with good parents, living, normal siblings, a husband, kids, and a dog."
He saw her nod slightly, looking at the wall in front of her. "That little boy…he cannot have the life he should have. And neither can I."
"Ziva…that is definitely not silly. And you don't know that for sure. You, and maybe even little Greg too…you might have the foundation set, but you can always remodel."
Tony was silent until he had an idea. He toyed with a block in his hand for a moment, and then he started to build. Whatever came to his mind, he just took a block and attached it to another, again and again. After a few minutes Ziva looked up and smiled at him softly before starting her own building, right across from Tony's. They stayed like that for a long time, hours maybe. They only stopped when they used up all of the blocks. Tony and Ziva looked up and shared a genuine smile. He could see he had made the right choice. He looked down and saw that his building was now attached to hers. He looked up at her and she smiled sincerely at him. He smiled back. She didn't explain – and he didn't need her to.
Slowly they got up and put the blocks away, heading towards the living room where they'd take turns sleeping. Tony insisted that she rest first. Much to his surprise, she didn't argue. She stepped closer to him, invading his personal space as they had always done. There was, however, a different type of glisten in her eye that neither acknowledged out loud, yet they both knew what it meant. Tony had the same sparkle in his eye as she squeezed his hand and looked directly into his eyes.
"Thank you…Tony. For everything. You…you always know what I need."
This was his chance. This was his chance to bow out gracefully and step back across that thinning line by replying with some overused excuse about working with her every day for years, being her partner, having her back. He could say it was his investigative instinct. As he looked into her eyes though, as he opened his mouth, he knew that they would both know it was a lie. Instead, he leaned forward and kissed her cheek gently. He pulled away as if he was scorched. He couldn't believe what he had just done – until he saw the small smile creep onto her face. "I…I pay attention, Ziva. To you."
She squeezed his hand again. "Goodnight Tony." Her words were not dismissive; they were not writing him off. He knew that her words were her way of saying that she understood. As he walked back to sit near the front door, and she pulled the blanket around her neck, their thoughts were again in perfect sync, as they always were. They both knew they had one foot on each side of that line. There was an option to just write it off as a sentimental case and be done with it, never to be spoken of again. Somehow, though, both of them knew that that was not going to happen. Tony and Ziva both knew that there was really no going back for them. They were tired of pretending.