A sea of blue caps stretched across the floor of the auditorium, all of them tilted upward as the wearers watched their class president speak. The rest of the audience was less enamored with the kid; there was much shuffling, coughing, and impatience as they waited for the receiving of diplomas to begin.
Taking up almost an entire row were Abby, McGee, their son Josh (who hadn't looked up from his video game in half an hour), Gibbs, Tony, and Ziva. Each of the latter two felt they'd been clutching the other's hand all day, and that probably was not far from the truth. Their daughter's graduation was both elating and terrifying, bitter and sweet. Whatever lay ahead of her remained unknown- Azalea had yet to make a decision on what path she wanted to follow.
Today wasn't the time to worry about the future, though. It was time to celebrate the present.
The speeches came to a close, there was a small transition, and then the first name was called. Ziva squeezed Tony's fingers.
"Know what's funny?" he quipped quietly. "My hand hasn't hurt this much since you were in labor with her."
She halfheartedly punched him in the arm.
Soon, they were into the Ds, and Tony didn't have much room to talk- he was returning her fierce grip. Dawson, Deville, Dexter, Dilley…
And then it was their little girl walking across the stage in her cap and gown and carefully controlled curls and, yes, her promise ring. Her eyes shone, and a smile graced her face. At least to her family, she was radiant.
"Look at my baby," Ziva whispered, completely mesmerized even as tears rolled down her cheeks.
Tony, trying to hide that he was also choked up, said, "We did a damn good job."
It'd been a little more than a year since Azalea busted her ankle, and she'd been walking normally for some time. However, she would often try to perform a move, something that used to come easily to her, and it would turn out clumsy. Her parents, fearing another injury, told her to stop; she replied that the habit of dancing across the kitchen would never completely fade.
Now, after she received her diploma, her parents watched in shock as she spun once in a perfect pirouette. And she exited the stage, head high, shoulders back. Looking forward.
Oh, I feel bittersweet right now.
I want to thank EVERYBODY who has been reading, reviewing, favoriting, alerting, etc. this story, and I also want you to know that I don't think this will be the end of Azalea in my stories. So, ciao, but just for now. And THANK YOU ALL. SO MUCH.