"And this one," Schmeil said with a laugh, pointing to Ziva, "fell right into the poison ivy patch! Rashes all over."
"Don't tell McGee," Tony warned, stifling a laugh. "After all the fun you made of him last time he fell in there."
"Tony, that was years ago," Ziva said, sipping her club soda.
"Ah, yes, but the icy Israeli, she leaves a mark," Tony replied, twitching an eyebrow and raising his glass a little.
"That she does," Schmeil agreed, and Ziva looked mock-offended. "And you know what, I've yet to meet someone with a better poker face, either."
"Well, what do you know? The terrible liar is apparently a great poker player."
Ziva laughed. It was true.
"So, Schmeil," Tony continued, changing the subject. "Have you really known Ziva all these years, since she was three?"
"Well, I first met her when she was three, but I didn't see her for a couple of years after that. I was an old friend of her father's, and I told him there was a lot next door to our house - where I lived with my wife. He'd been looking at moving out of Be'er Sheva."
"That's right," Ziva said, remembering. "I was eight years old and you were our neighbour." Her warm smile then turn downward as she remembered something else. "That was the year before my mother took my sister and I away from Eli."
Schmeil touched her shoulder warmly. "I remember the first time I saw her once she moved up to Tel Aviv." He launched into the story.
The sounds of Eli David's children barely made him turn his head anymore. The family had finally finished unpacking all their things after moving into a much larger, older home than the one in Be'er Sheva. The Davids - Eli, Rivka, Ziva and Tali - had settled into their new house in Tel Aviv just last week. Ari was at Edinburgh, though had been writing to his little sisters frequently.
Now, eight year old Ziva was chasing four year old Tali through the shrubs on the dirt path along the side of their new house.
"Tali! Talia!" Ziva cried. The smaller one kept running and laughing, and approached a gate that was ajar. "Tali! Don't go in there! It could be - "
Tali of course ignored her big sister and stepped through the gate, tumbling into a pile of weeds in the garden of the next door neighbours. Ziva ran faster, right up to the gate, where she saw a man with graying hair and a kind smile was crouched, peering curiously at the little girl in his garden over thick glasses.
"Well, hello, little one," he said.
Ziva, panting and pink-cheeked, spoke on behalf of her rather naughty little sister. "Sorry about my sister. She liked to run around a lot." Ziva shot Tali her best, iciest glare and Tali giggled.
"It's perfectly alright. Little children should be able to run around. Don't you think so, Ziva?"
Ziva frowned at the seemingly friendly man and grabbed Tali swiftly by the wrist, pulling her to a standing position. Eli had always taught her not to place any trust in the hands of strangers, though this was the first time she had thought that perhaps this had actually been good advice.
"How do you know me name?" she asked hesitantly.
"Don't tell me you don't remember me!" the man replied with a silly smile. "Who do you think gave you that chain around your little neck?"
Ziva clasped her Star of David, which she had been told was very special for a long time. "M-my necklace?"
The man shrugged. "It has been a while, I suppose. Why, you must have been only four or five last time I saw you. This one, though," he poked Tali's stomach. "She was only a baby."
"What's your name?" Tali asked, tilting her head to one side.
"Schmeil Pinkhas, your grace," he said, bending over and handing each of them a little white flower from his garden, which they graciously accepted. "Best you be off now, girls, before your mother comes looking for me. She's not too fond of me, so don't tell her I'm here. Our little secret, right?" he asked, in a loud whisper.
The girls exchanged a smile and hurried off. Tali had forgotten about running away. For now.
"She was a very lively child, and you know something? She looks almost exactly the same," Schmeil said.
Tony swore Ziva actually blushed, then. Schmeil stood up, placing a fifty in American dollars on the table for their drinks. "Well, it's getting late, I best be going."
"Aren't you staying with me, Schmeil?" Ziva asked.
"Just walk me to the door, that's all I ask," he replied, giving a goodbye nod to Tony. They walked towards the entrance of the bar they were in.
"Are you sure you don't want to stay with me?" Ziva questioned for the third time in about a minute.
"Really, it's not necessary, dear. And besides, I'd hate to intrude on your private time with your boyfriend over there," Schmeil gestured, completely genuinely, to Tony, who was tapping a faint beat on their table - a habit of his when he was bored or waiting.
"He is a nice man, it's clear he cares about you very much."
"Tony isn't my boyfriend!" Ziva exclaimed with a laugh. "We just work together."
"Well, if you ask me…" Schmeil began, and Ziva got the first inkling that Schmeil would get along very well with Ducky.
"OK, OK, shalom," she said, kissing his wrinkled cheek. He left with a big wave as always and Ziva walked back to the table.
"Those were some stories," Tony said. "Were any of them actually true?"
"All of them," she confirmed. "Except the one where Schmeil thinks we're dating."
Tony laughed, somewhat uncomfortably, and then he looked right at her. "Well, you did say he was wise," he said, teasingly, and stood. "I'm gonna clear out. See ya Monday."
He gave her a squeeze on the shoulder as he walked away and she watched him. Perhaps Schmeil's wisdom had been underestimated.