Chapter 23 – Water – July 2025
Tony jumped as the icy cold water fell over his head. He heard laughter off to the side of the deck from at least three of the offspring. He suspected all five were in on the latest prank. He'd opened the door from the master bedroom to the deck to step outside to check on the kids and pets. About a gallon of ice water cascaded over him as he exited the master suite.
"Very funny," he commented in the direction of the laughter. "Good thing it is hot as blazes out here today. Now that I am over the shock of the ice water, it actually feels good."
Asher trotted over and licked the water off his arms and hands. "Were you in on it, too?" Tony scratched the dog behind the ears. He got the infamous greyhound lean as a response.
"We gotta get Ima next," one of the twins told the others.
"Yeah, Ima would be a good one to dump ice water on," LJ laughed.
Anthony grinned at his siblings, "We could blindfold Ima and tell her we have a surprise; then lead her out into the yard and dump the ice water on her…"
"Hey," Tony called out to the kids. "We need to have a talk about pranks and Ima before you plan anything."
Tali looked up at her Abba, "You just want in on it." She gave him his own grin and mischievous eyes as she spoke.
He shook his head, "No, well, heck yeah, I want in. But there are some things we just don't do when it's Ima being pranked. We need to talk about those things, so you know."
"You got your serious face on, Abba; this must be important," Beth looked at the others and at her father as she spoke. "Are we in trouble?"
Riv nodded, "Yeah, are we in trouble, Abba? Or are we going to be in trouble?"
Tony motioned for the five kids to come closer, "No one is in trouble, but there are just some things that you all need to know. Let me talk to Ima and then we'll have a family conference." The children all nodded. "Ten minutes, usual place," he called over his shoulder as he headed inside to find Ziva.
She was working at her computer, so he knocked on the office door. When she looked up from her screen, he stepped into her office.
"Hey," he began. "Got a few minutes for a family conference?"
She looked him over from head to toe, "You are wet; prank?"
"Yes, and that started a small discussion with the kids. They wanted to prank you next and some of the ideas they had aren't things you would be okay with," he explained. "Are you good to talk about generalities with Somalia and your early life?"
"Being blindfolded, sudden loud noises and explosions, that kind of stuff."
She sighed and nodded, "Yes. I suppose we have to tell them things some time; now is as good as any."
Tony put his hand in hers, "I'll do most of the talking if you want. And you can anchor yourself to me…"
"Toda; let us go get this done," she squeezed his hand in hers. "I will be okay with your help."
The couple walked hand in hand from the small hallway with their offices, through the kitchen to the dining room where the five young DiNozzos were already sitting around the table. They'd put bottles of water at each place while they waited for the parents.
Tony moved Ziva's chair to the same end of the table as his own. He held it for her to sit and then grabbed the water bottle from her place and placed it in front of her as he sat.
"Serious family conference," he looked around at the five kids. Each one was a mix of him and Ziva; Tali was Ziva's mini-me with his eyes. Anthony was his mini-me with Ziva's eyes. The other three were more of a mix of features, although each of them had brown eyes and varying curliness in their hair. The twins had his lighter hair. One thing all five did get from him was the trademark DiNozzo grin.
"Tali, you know how you don't like fire? Anthony, you are not so fond of spiders. Riv and Beth, snakes just aren't your thing. And LJ, we all understand about how thunder scares you. Remember how these things make you feel."
"I want to run from snakes; I get really scared," Riv shuddered to think about the reptiles.
"Uh huh," Tony continued. "Well, Ima has some things that she gets scared about just like I do and you all do. Sometimes, that fear is more than a fear; it triggers a reaction in the body called a panic attack. I used to be that way around kids; totally freak me out…
"Anyhow, Ima has had a very different life before we became a family. Things in her life weren't always very nice; some things were even terrifying." He felt Ziva squeeze his hand as he spoke. He looked at her, "Some places Ima had to go for her job before she worked for NCIS and even after she came to the team were not very nice places at all."
"You mean like when Doda Tali killed was in the bus explosion?" Tali asked.
"Yes," Ziva nodded at her eldest. "I did not see that happen, but exploding vehicles are not something I want to see." She turned to look at her husband; their look to each other left many unspoken fears open to the two.
"Well, one of the things that happened to Ima many years ago is that a bad person took her captive. That bad person tied Ima's hands together, and put her in shackles. He also put blindfolds and bags over her eyes and head. So all of those things are not good memories for Ima at all. If someone were to blindfold Ima now, her mind could remember the bad time and put her into a panic attack…"
Ziva cut in, "My mind would play tricks on me and convince me that I am back in that bad place. It would be hard for me to breathe, my heart rate would increase, and I would feel as though I needed to escape any way possible. When one is in a panic attack, the mind stops working rationally. It becomes fight or flight to survive." She paused and unscrewed the top of her water bottle. Tony put a hand on her thigh as comfort and to let her feel his support.
The kids sat silently, waiting for either parent to continue. LJ grabbed his water bottle and took a drink. Beth fidgeted with her water bottle and Anthony played with the cap on the top, twisting it open and then closed. Riv reached over and grabbed her big sister's hand under the table. Tali squeezed her sister's hand in support.
Ziva took a sip of water and then continued, "Your Abba was captured when he came to find me. I did not…" she choked back a sob. Tony pulled her to him and placed a tender kiss on her head.
He picked up the story, "I was scared, but I could not live without your Ima, even then. But that is another story for another day. The main point today is that there are some things we just do not do as pranks to some others because of prior history. For example, I would not put a spider in Anthony's bed, ever, because I know how much he is afraid of them."
"Thank you Abba," Anthony replied softly. "I would not put an open flame in Tali's face because I know she is afraid of fire."
"So, if you are going to prank Ima, remember that she does not like blindfolds or other things over her head and eyes. Sudden explosion sounds are not a good choice either. Binding her hands or feet would be something to avoid also," Tony concluded; he squeezed Ziva's hand in his as he spoke and locked gazes with his soulmate.
The seven DiNozzos sat in silence for several minutes. Tony could see Ziva doing her controlled breathing as the children absorbed what they'd been told. She turned to her love, and sighed.
"It was not as bad as I thought it would be," she spoke softly to him. "Thank you for understanding," she spoke to her offspring. "We can have fun, but we just need to keep in mind that some things are better off avoided.
"Now, I have a paper to finish for my class before dinner, so I am going back to my office," she stood. Each of the kids gave their Ima a hug before she left.
Tony turned to the kids, "Now about that prank on Ima…" Five pairs of mischievous eyes with DiNozzo grins looked back at him.