Disclaimer: I say, do you think Ben and Lila could ever be NCIS agents?
Spoilers: None, except to my family fic "How Far We've Come."
It was a rare day indeed in the DiNozzo household that little Ben was unable to stay quietly seated and concentrating on something or another. Today was one of those days, and Ziva watched in exasperated amusement as her son wriggled onto and off his chair constantly, excited that his birthday was in a week and that Christmas was barely five days after that.
"Benjamin Isaia, stop running around. I've told you that twice," she said sternly, making sure that Ben had sat down again before turning her attention to Lila, who was reading beside her.
"Alley cat, Mom!" the bubbly seven-year-old girl giggled. "'Cause it's a cat who loves to bowl, geddit?"
Before Ziva could reply, Ben was off his seat again.
"Ben!" Ziva groaned tiredly, and her almost five-year-old skipped over to her side.
"It's my birthday, Mommy!"
"Not yet, nasich. In a week's time." She ruffled Ben's dark brown hair before scooping him up and settling him into her lap. "Ooh, you are getting really heavy."
"That's because he's almost five," Tony answered smugly from the stove, as if she had somehow missed the first fifty times Ben had pointed it out.
Sure enough, Ben wriggled off her lap and ran over to Tony, yelling out that fact for the fifty-first (and fifty-second, and fifty-third) time. Ziva growled and got up to retrieve her son.
"No running in the kitchen," she scolded Ben as she picked him up, "and if I have to tell you that one more time, you're going into time-out."
Ben pouted. "I don't like time-out."
"Then you will come and sit with Ima and Lila, hmm? And we will listen to her read; she is reading very well."
"She reads slow."
"Hey!" Lila protested. "You can't even read ten words!"
"I'm four!" Ben retorted.
"Oh, now you're four," Lila huffed. "You keep saying you're five. You're still just a baby!"
"I'm not. I'm 'most five!"
"Enough." Ziva sighed, reclaiming her seat and making sure to hold Ben with a firmer grip. "Ben, you will be five in a week, and that will be the end of this argument."
"I was much gooder at almost-five, wasn't I, Mommy?" Lila asked, eager to get her parting shot in, and Ben stuck out his tongue at her.
"I do not remember," Ziva lied with a faint smile before tapping Lila's book. "Keep reading, please."
Lila eyed her little brother suspiciously before looking down at the book. "'Why are cats bad—uh, mm, story…tell-ers?'" She pointed a finger at Ben, evidently flustered by her inability to read the four-syllable word in one go. "You better not—"
"What are 'storytellers'?" Ben asked instead, looking at his sister with wide eyes.
Lila paused, seeming taken aback. "People who tell stories."
"Like Mommy and Daddy?"
"I guess so." Lila shrugged. "At bedtime."
"What about not at bedtime?"
"Mommy's a police!" Lila answered excitedly, clasping her hands together with her index fingers pointed at Ben. "And she goes bang, bang!"
Ben slumped in Ziva's arms, playing dead, and Ziva had to bite back a laugh as she met Tony's eyes across the kitchen. So it wasn't the most accurate description of her job, but her children were, after all, only children.
Just then, Ben came back to life. "What 'bout Daddy?"
Everyone looked at Lila as she appeared to think about that. "Daddy was a police too," the seven-year-old finally replied. "But when you and me were born, he said he wanted to be a Lila-and-Ben Daddy instead."
"Just for us?" Ben asked, as if it made perfect common sense in his world that his father had given up a career for them.
"Just for us," Lila assured him with a firm nod.
When Ziva met her husband's eyes for a second time, she noted that Tony's eyes were the tiniest bit moist.
"Dinner is ready," he said softly, his voice wavering slightly.
Ben and Lila cheered, completely eager for food and unaware that with just a simple few sentences, they had made Tony's world.
But as the children settled down into their respective seats and Ziva brushed past her husband to collect the plates, she felt a warm hand press into her back and knew it was Tony's way of telling her that, as far as he was concerned, there was no better job in the world than being Daddy to Lila and Ben.