Look what I did in math class! :P Oh, I'm such a good student.
This is very much related to my longfic, Worthy. It probably won't make a whole lot of sense unless you've read that story, but feel free to read anyway!
Angelina is 18 months old in this, meaning Ziva has been gone about nine months.
A cry rings out across the apartment, jarring Tony awake. He lies still for another minute; when Angelina sobs again, louder, he heaves himself up and swings his legs over the side of the bed. The clock reads 12:36. Rain hits the window and slides down in droplets, creating a scene that is as dark and dreary as his mood. Sighing, he runs a hand through his hair and heads down the hall to the nursery.
"Ang," he calls softly, pushing open the door. She is standing up in her crib. At the sight of her father, she reaches out but does not cease in her fussing. Tony lifts her into his arms and immediately knows what's wrong: her entire body is burning hot. On closer inspection, he finds beads of sweat trailing down her face- puzzling, considering it's February. "Shh," he says. "Shh. Daddy's here. I'm gonna fix you up."
He carries her into the kitchen and opens the medicine cabinet, continuing to coo, trying to calm her. With one hand, he searches for the baby Tylenol. He becomes desperate when he doesn't find it right away. Angelina is screaming in his ear as he shoves bottles to the side; finally, he gives up and accepts reality: they're out.
Times like these make him really mad at Ziva. Being a single parent is hard, way harder than he ever would have imagined, and for many reasons. This one is practical: the baby needs medicine, and now he'll have to drag her to the store with him in the middle of the night. If Ziva hadn't run out on them, she could watch Angelina and he could go alone and everything would be so much simpler.
No reason to dwell on it, though.
Nothing he can do now.
It's freezing outside, but Tony isn't sure whether he should bundle her up or let the fever keep her warm. He eventually decides to wrap her in a fleece blanket for the walk from the apartment to the car. He moves briskly, head bowed against the wind and rain. By the time he is settling Angelina into her car seat, she has quieted down. If she didn't look so miserable, he would be relieved.
At 1:02 a.m., they pull out of the parking lot. They're the only pair of headlights around.
The closest place to them is a 24-hour drugstore. He parks right by the front doors and hurries to unbuckle Angelina, wrap her back up, and run inside. She lays her head heavily on his shoulder. "Daddy," she whimpers. That's one of the few words she can say coherently, and she repeats it several times as they weave through the aisles. He hushes her without a whole lot of conviction.
He's glad to see that the Tylenol shelf is fully stocked- if they'd had to go somewhere else, he might just have become an exhausted, weeping mess. "Here we are, Ang," he says, shifting her to his hip and using one hand to grab the medicine. "Looky here. We're ready to go, sweetheart."
At the register, the clerk on duty smiles sympathetically. "Tough night?"
Tony sighs and wipes Angelina's nose with his jacket sleeve. "That's an understatement."
At home, she falls asleep on his chest. She seems to have cooled off a bit since taking the Tylenol, but he's going to wait awhile before returning to bed himself, just in case she's not down for the night.
Tony wonders- definitely not for the first time- what Ziva is doing now. Right this second. Sleeping, probably. Soundly. There's no child to interrupt, because she abandoned her child.
Be fair, he tells himself. Sometimes, he's good at doing this, and other times, his anger toward Ziva is blinding. He gets caught up in questions- how could she? Why didn't she try harder? Where the hell is she now?- but he knows that they're pointless. Nothing is going to be resolved by glowering. It happened. And Ziva… she had reasons.
Angelina shifts and opens her eyes briefly, just long enough to grab a handful of his shirt. Yawning, she drifts off again.
And, on second thought, what better reason had there been to stay than this sweet little girl?
Tony barely sleeps that night, but he still gets up in the morning, checks that Angelina's fever has broken, and takes her to daycare.
He tells the woman in charge of fifteen to twenty month olds to call him if she needs to come home.
Then he goes to work. And two hours later, when his phone rings and he is told that Angelina has vomited, he leaves straight from a crime scene.
This is his life, revolving around his daughter. He chose it.
He doesn't think he'll ever understand Ziva's choice.