A/N: I apologise for another timeline mistake-
For the sake of this story – "Truth or Consequences" & "Reunion" took place two months prior to this story – July, 2009
A very special "THANK YOU" to my totally awesome BETA - Gottahavemyncis!
"…Are we doin' this or not, McGee?"
The boss's question resounded on endless replay in Tim's mind as he watched the others nervously wait for Ziva's arrival. Once he'd explained that the rush to pack up his apartment ironically coincided with the approaching expiration of his lease, they seemed to more readily accept the packing and had thrown themselves into it.
Now, tired and hungry, they moved restlessly about the house while Abby, who hadn't said two words since they'd come back from Tim's apartment, remained stubbornly silent. All Tim could do was think about that brief yet oh so meaningful dialogue between himself and his usually silent mentor and Team Leader.
In the moment the boss' words had reached his brain and been processed, not only had Tim relished the realization that the man never doubted that Tim would step up and do this, but their solitary leader had said 'we'.
Knowing that Gibbs still carried the pain of the tragic and violent loss of his own family, Tim understood that that one word carried with it so much more than he could ever have asked for. He also realized that he would have all the support he would ever need.
"Yeah, Boss. We're doing this."
"Hey." The word quietly spoken at his ear shifted Tim's attention now, drawing him from his thoughts.
Turning, he found the man at the crux of his thoughts watching him with just enough concern that Tim registered it. "Boss?"
"She'll be fine." Gibbs vowed with the conviction he felt.
Realizing the man misunderstood the reason for his silent contemplation amidst the bustle of the room around him, Tim offered a small smile. "I know. At least, I keep telling myself that she won't be armed with a box of paperclips. "
Gibbs smirked. "She only needs one, Tim."
Tim's face lost a little color. "Boss, seriously, part of letting her in means letting her read those letters,"
"Just Kate's." The boss reminded him.
Tim nodded. "Okay." Looking at his watch, he frowned. "She'll be here in a few minutes. What can I do to help?"
"Nuthin'. Dinner's done. We ordered out. "
"No, McBusy, Not you. We – as in your tireless move crew." Tony offered as he entered the room, his arms loaded down with pizza boxes while the air filled with the aroma of everything the expected fast food could possibly be topped with to satisfy this group.
"Tony, I said thank you. I don't know what else I can say. Seriously, there isn't anything to say that can tell you how much I appreciate everything, but, hey, doesn't Ziva hate pizza?"
"No, McGee. I do not hate pizza." The woman in question replied as she entered the room unexpectedly. "What I do hate is being kept in the dark while the rest of the team is involved in something together. Am I to believe you do not want me on this team any longer? Do you not trust me?"
"No!" Tim nearly shouted desperately. This was exactly what he'd feared. "Ziva, you have to believe me, it's not like that!" His eyes flew to those of the boss who'd just come in the room behind her. Silently, his look shouted his frustration, I told you she'd take it wrong!
Giving Tim a calming steady look, Gibbs stepped up behind Ziva and quietly spoke in her ear. "That's not it at all, Ziva."
"Gibbs." The Israeli beauty turned and looked at the Team Leader. "Kindly tell me what it is, if that is not it."
'Need to eat first." He requested calmly, his eyes offering her all truths she was after once she did as he was asking.
"Alright." She reluctantly agreed, making no effort to hide the fact she was still unhappy.
The audible sigh of relief that came from everyone in the room did little to ease the frown from her face. It was Ducky spoke to her as he accompanied her to the kitchen and it was his words that chased her frown away. "Ziva my dear. You must keep in mind that the decision to ask you to wait until this evening to be included in this situation was made strictly with your best interests at heart. If you would please relax and enjoy dinner together, they will tell you everything after dinner."
"Alright, Ducky. " She conceded. "For you, I shall do it."
"Not for me, Ziva. Do it for them. But most of all do it for yourself." The M.E. urged as he patted her on the arm and pulled out her chair for her at the table.
"Since we've promised to tell you about our day after dinner, Ziva, why don't you fill us in on what we missed at work today?" Tony suggested with the most captivating smile he could offer her.
"Do not think you can charm me, Tony." She warned seriously before answering his question. "You missed nothing. I was unable to make any progress on any cold case, though I did try to do so on several. I have made many phone calls to most of my contacts in search of updated information."
"Why? All of the cold cases you were working on involve other countries?" Tim asked with serious interest.
"Not necessarily. I simply wish to be thorough, McGee."
"Oh. Right. Sorry, I …" Tim attempted to extricate the foot he'd just inserted into his mouth.
"It is quite alright. I do not mean to sound snapped."
"Heh. That's snappy, Ziva. And I think we can take it, right Probie?" Tony chimed in with a grin.
With a frown etched across his face, Tim remained silent, lifting his coffee cup to his mouth as a buffer between himself and what he'd already feared was a conversation doomed to make the later one much harder to get through.
Conversation around the table lagged at that point and dinner became an uncomfortable situation. No one knew what to say to fix it so long as Ziva hadn't yet been read into things and couldn't be let in in just any ole' way.
Ziva was the first to stand, suddenly unable to sit still any longer. It was obvious she continued to be bothered that something big was going on and she was the last to know about it. After the conversation she'd had with Gibbs about trust and secrets, well, this just wasn't easy to swallow. Gibbs watched his still recovering surrogate daughter as she headed out of the room, anger vibrating around her. As she left, his eyes accidentally met Tim's across the table.
The young man was just as bothered by her having a reason to be this upset with them as he was about her possibly being hurt by what Thomas had written. It didn't matter that she wasn't going to see that letter. The words were burned into Tim's brain and sitting in his heart like a dead weight. None of it could be helped but that didn't make him feel any better, as evidenced by the anxious look in his eye. With a silent gesture of his head, the Team Leader advised him to go talk to her.
Nodding back, Tim got up and followed in Ziva's wake, much to the surprise of the others watching this soap-opera like situation continue to unfold as they attempted to finish filling themselves with pizza. Gibbs remained silent, trusting not only that the others would understand he had faith in Tim, but also that they'd figure out it was about time they displayed their own trust in their teammate as well.
Ever the perceptive one of the group, Ducky gestured towards Tony's plate as he offered his own advice. "Let's finish eating, shall we?"
He found her restlessly pacing the backyard, her every move a testament to the mood she was in.
"Ziva. If you'd just let me explain, I…"
"You what, McGee?" She stopped and turned to glare at him, angry daggers shooting from those orbs that were oftentimes beautiful and shining with newfound moments of happiness at new discoveries.
"I'll explain everything." He relayed without missing a beat. "Including why not letting you in until now was the only decent thing for us to have done, in consideration of your friendship and your feelings."
"Since when have I asked you to treat my feelings with kid gloves, McGee?"
"Just because you don't ask us to remember that you have feelings, doesn't mean we're not going to." He quietly pointed out.
"I am sorry, McGee."
"You don't have to apologize, Ziva. But I would appreciate it if you would hear me out on this. One friend to another?"
"That I can do." She replied calmly as she sat down beside him on the picnic table bench, far out in the yard under the old maple tree.
"Thank you." He offered as he took Kate's letter out of his shirt pocket and unfolded it. "I received this last night."
"The mail you needed to sign for, yes?"
"Uhm, by extension, you could say that, yeah."
"McGee, you are not making sense."
"The letter I needed to sign for was from a law firm that settles people's estates and represents their wills in court when necessary."
"Someone in your family has died?" She asked sympathetically.
"No. Well, not my immediate family and not recently."
"Again, you are not making sense."
"I'm sorry. I'm just not sure how to put all this in words…"
"Perhaps it would be best if I simply read the letter for myself, yes?"
Tim cleared his throat and thought on it for a minute. As far as he remembered, there wasn't anything in Kate's words that had ever even mentioned Ari so the chance that Ziva needed to be protected from that letter, was silly. "Sure." Matter of fact, it might be helpful for you to be able to take it all in at your own pace." He handed her the letter. "But, I'm not going anywhere. If you have any questions, ask away."
"That is very sweet of you, McGee. But I am sure I will be fine." Ziva settled her eyes on the letter in her hands, effectively ignoring Tim now. He got up and paced, unexpectedly more nervous now than he'd been before he'd asked Tony for help earlier in the day.
Countless minutes went by as Ziva poured over the letter but Tim noticed she was flipping it over and over again, rereading it several times. He didn't mind if she needed the extra time to digest everything but he wasn't looking forward to the question and answer session coming up when she was done.
Then again, he had gotten to know her fairly well over the past couple of years. Tim knew it was just as likely that this would renew the pain over what her brother had done to Kate. After all, this would make that whole mess as fresh for her as it had for them. Either way, he wasn't sure what the next move should be; though he did understand it was her move to make.
He had no idea how long they were out there, although after a while he did tire of pacing and sat down. Ziva had yet to move, but she had clearly stopped reading as her hand holding the paper had fallen to her lap. The fact that her eyes were unmoving as they remained almost glassy and locked on him, was what concerned him.
"Ziva?" He voiced his worry.
When she didn't stir or even blink, he drew up short in opening his mouth again. Seeing a motion out of the corner of his eye, he looked up to find Gibbs approaching, his eyes only on Ziva.
Not needing to be told, Tim silently got up and headed back for the house, gladly leaving Gibbs to do what he could for his teammate. It was obvious he wouldn't be able to help her; though that realization stung, it didn't come as a complete surprise. He just wished it hadn't had to come to this at all.
"Ziva" Gibbs quietly spoke her name as he sat down next to her.
"It can never be made right." Ziva spoke finally, her voice flat as she struggled with how she felt to discover her brother had stolen a mother away from her unborn child.
"No. No, it can't. Best we can do is help her daughter, if the courts will let us."
"I understand now, why you did not want me here when the others were told. I am sure there was much fresh anger."
"Only grief, Ziva. Time for anger's long gone."
"How can that be when the child's existence has only just been discovered, Gibbs?"
"Misplaced anger is what it would be, Ziva. We're all smart enough to know that."
"Meaning what, Gibbs?"
"Meaning the only thing that matters now is that little girl."
Getting to her feet, Ziva stood stock still as she let her thoughts loose. "Gibbs, I can not be a part of this! My brother killed her mother! "
"You're right. You can't." Gibbs agreed with her.
"So, you agree with me?" She glared at him.
"If you can't put that behind you. You're damned right I do." He told her brusquely as he joined her where she stood.
"That is exactly my point, Gibbs! I will not be able to put it behind me if I, as you say, help Kate's daughter. What would I say to her when she asks me who I am?"
Looking into her eyes for a long silent minute, his head tilted while his eyes searched hers, he finally answered her, one hand reaching out to clasp her encouragingly on the shoulder. "Someone who wants to be her friend, Ziva."
Nine the next morning found Tim and Gibbs back at the attorney's office, this time hell bent on getting some answers as to what would happen next and in what time-frame. Tim couldn't help but feel buoyed by the way last night turned out, once Ziva and Gibbs talked. When she'd come back inside and expressed her regret for her earlier snap to judgment at being kept out of the loop, she'd been quickly embraced by Abby and given understanding nods from the guys. And while she still had reservations that the idea of her trying to infiltrate the 4 year old's life was a good idea, she did vow to think about it while supporting them in their efforts in whatever other way they needed her to .
With the team's support behind him, although he wasn't quite sure of Abby's version of that support yet since she was still not speaking to him, Tim almost felt like he could do this. As if reading his mind, the boss glared at him until he stood straighter and put the last shred of doubt away and his game face on.
Who was he kidding, with the team's support, he absolutely could do this.