Okay, I'm giving y'all fair warning. Some of you are going to hate this chapter. And some of you are going to love it. That's all I can say without giving everything away (and I think I've already said too much). In retrospect, this chapter does seem a tad bit... silly to me, but again, this whole story came to me in a dream, and I have no control over my subconscious.
How does he know?
What spirit comes to move my life?
There is another way to go.
Another story must begin...
- "Valjean's Soliloquy," from Les Miserables.
Ziva stands close to the mirror in the quiet darkness of observation, watching Tony grill a suspect that the two of them just brought in. Tony had wanted her to come into interrogation with her, but... she just didn't feel up to it. Staying away from Gibbs has been harder than she thought, and she leans her head against the glass wearily. She won't be able to keep this up much longer.
In interrogation, Tony paces back and forth behind the suspect, trying to get under his skin. He's taken off his jacket and rolled up his shirt sleeves. Damn, he looks good in those shirt sleeves. Just earlier today, Tony had asked her what was wrong between her and Gibbs, and Ziva feels horrible for still not telling him the real reason why she's avoiding their boss. But she can't tell Tony, not yet, not when she still can't face it herself.
She doesn't know what to do, except maybe –
But her thought is interrupted when the door to observation opens, and Gibbs himself steps inside. Ziva starts a bit, surprised, but before she can do anything, Gibbs holds up both hands, as if in surrender.
"Hey, it's just me," he says softly, and Ziva's eyes narrow suspiciously. What does he mean by that?
But Gibbs doesn't explain himself. Without a word, he steps closer, until he's standing right next to her, and watches Tony in interrogation. He doesn't look at her, but having him so close is enough to make Ziva's stomach churn from what she hopes is nerves. Her eyes dart towards the door, but Gibbs must know, somehow, that she's planning to make a break for it because before she can move, he jerks his head towards Tony and asks her the last thing that she wanted or expected to hear.
"So... does he know, Ziver?"
It's a simple question, but it makes Ziva's world rock on its hinges for the second time since that awful day. She wants more than ever to turn and run now, but she feels frozen to the spot. She can't answer Gibbs - she can barely even breathe - so she just stiffens and keeps staring hard at Tony on the other side of the glass, where he's still interrogating their murder suspect. "Why don't you tell me what really happened?" he demands.
When she doesn't answer, Gibbs sighs and decides to spell it out for her. He asks again, gently, "Does he know why the smell of coffee makes you nauseous now? That's why you've been avoiding me, isn't it?"
Perhaps she shouldn't be surprised. Perhaps she should be used to it by now, but still, Ziva feels a vague curiosity and wonders how he does it. In the silence, she hears again Tony's words from that night when he came to her apartment from Gibbs's house and woke her up to tell her that their boss already knew about them. "Have you ever notices how the boss just knows stuff? Especially the stuff you think he doesn't know?"
It feels like a very long time before she's able to swallow and shake her head no. And then, of their own accord, the words are rushing out of her mouth and Ziva is powerless to stop them. She's been wanting to say this to someone ever since that awful day when she took the home pregnancy test - careful to destroy the evidence afterwards, so that Tony wouldn't find it.
"Tony does not know. I have not told him yet. I just... I do not know how to tell him." She pauses, still staring straight ahead, sure that she'll lose her nerve and clam up if she looks at Gibbs. But Gibbs is looking at her, his head titled to one side. Ziva is usually so confident, so sure of herself. He almost never sees her uncertain like this. She goes on, her voice scared and halting, "We were not planning... We never talked about... Tony..."
But Ziva stops abruptly and blushes a bit, embarrassed at how close she came to blurting out that Tony always wears a condom. She can't possibly say that to Gibbs. Her cheeks grow hot, and she doesn't even care if he notices. She doesn't have the words to tell Gibbs how unplanned this was, or how utterly unprepared she feels. She's a trained assassin. She's an expert in taking life, not creating it. She had never imagined herself with a child, and now she has one, hers and Tony's, slowly growing to life inside her.
"I have not told him yet," she says again, but her voice is shaking, then her shoulders, and she blames the damn hormones when her vision blurs with tears. She isn't aware of Gibbs pulling her in and hugging her, but the next thing she knows, his strong arms are around her and her head is on his shoulder. She takes a deep, shaky breath, trying to calm herself, and notices that Gibbs's polo smells like pine. He sprayed himself with air freshener before he came in, to get the coffee smell off his clothes. For some reason, that makes her want to cry, too.
"You're scared," Gibbs says quietly. It isn't a question, but he feels Ziva nod against his shoulder, hesitantly, as if ashamed to admit this. "Ziver, listen to me. Every parent feels scared - every one." He doesn't add, I was scared too, but she hears it anyway and immediately, she feels better. Gibbs, one of the strongest people she knows, was also intimated by becoming a parent. It isn't just her. Ever since that awful day, she had been wondering what was wrong with her. Surely every other woman in the world was thrilled by learning that they carried life inside them, so why wasn't she?
"Every parent feels like they can't do it," he goes on, and he feels Ziva lean against him, her tense body slowly relaxing. "But you can do this, okay? You and DiNozzo can do this." Gibbs tightens his arms around her, trusting her to know that he isn't just saying this to reassure her. He believes it. He never would've given Tony his blessing, that night in his basement, if he didn't believe that the two of them could stay strong through whatever life hurled at them. He might not have seen this curve ball coming - they certainly didn't - but he knew that they could do it. They've good partners for years, working together, always having each other's backs. They can be good parents too.
Ziva remains silent, her eyes big in the dim room, thinking. You and DiNozzo can do this. She realizes that she's been doing this all wrong. She's been going through it alone, ever since that awful day, but she isn't alone. She has Tony, and they have an entire team of people behind them - including the man who has his arms around her right now. She's missed saying more than a few words to Gibbs at a time. She never realized how often he drinks coffee, or how the smell of it clings to his clothes, until one morning when just the sight of coffee was almost enough to turn her stomach. That night, while Tony slept, she turned on her laptop and read about strong aversion to certain odors during the first trimester - and then she immediately cleared her browser history, so he wouldn't find out. When she couldn't find the courage to tell him why the smell made her sick, she started keeping her distance from Gibbs; she didn't want to risk catching a whiff of coffee and throwing up in the bullpen - or even worse, at a crime scene. Looking back now, Ziva realizes what a stupid idea it was. Of course she wouldn't be able to avoid Gibbs for long. Of course everyone would notice. She's lucky that only Gibbs figured it out.
"It's okay to be scared, Ziver," he says, his voice soft but firm. He pauses for a moment to let the words sink in. It's okay to be scared is probably the exact opposite of what Eli taught her. "DiNozzo is gonna be scared too, but you two can do this. You just need to tell him."
"I know," she whispers, the words slightly muffled against his shoulder. She still sounds scared, but her voice isn't shaking anymore.
Gibbs smiles and brings one hand up to stroke her hair. "Right now he thinks you're avoiding me because I'm pissed at you for something."
"I know," Ziva says with a tiny chuckle. As the sound leaves her lips, she realizes that it's the first time she's laughed since that awful day. She goes on, with new, steady resolve in her voice, "I am going to tell him, Gibbs. But you cannot tell him about... this. I do not want him to know you knew before he did."
"Deal," Gibbs agrees easily. He can understand that. Tony did have a right to know first. He's the father, after all; Gibbs is the grandfather.
"Thank you, Gibbs," Ziva whispers after a pause, and then, before she can lose her nerve, she quickly stands on tiptoe and kisses his cheek. Gibbs smiles and holds her a little longer, not quite ready for this moment to end. It isn't lost on him that he isn't just holding Ziva right now; he's holding her and Tony's baby, too. And suddenly, all the memories that seemed so far away feel so close... like that evening when he came home with Chinese take-out, which Shannon had always liked, and the smell of it sent her running from the room.
Gibbs is just releasing Ziva from his embrace when the door opens, and Tony steps in. They had both forgotten that he's been in interrogation with their murder suspect this whole time. Tony stops short, staring, when he sees the two of them together. His gaze darts back and forth between them, registering Ziva's bright, wet eyes and shaky grin, and Gibbs's arms still half-around her. His face shows confusion, then relief - huge relief that whatever was going on between them, they've obviously patched it up.
He moves closer to them, a jaunty spring in his step, and brags, "Well, got a confession out of him, Boss. Case solved." He doesn't ask about what just happened, but Ziva has already made up her mind to tell him tonight.
I know some of you would probably like to see this story continue, but this is as far as my muse took me. I hope you enjoyed the ride as much as I enjoyed reading all of your wonderful reviews! And whether you're disappointed or thrilled by this ending, feel free to let me know!