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Children of the Night

Chapter Text

Children of the Night

AU TIVA meeting in a different time and place. May challenge.

Chapter 1 – The Ambassadors' Ball – January 1989

Ten year old Ziv David tugged at his shirt collar for the millionth time that evening. Why he had to dress in this monkey suit and act like a 'proper gentleman' was beyond his patience. So what if his father was the Israeli Ambassador to France? He would much rather be at their new home, watching television, than sitting at a stuffed-shirt dinner with all of these adults pretending to be important.

He tugged at his shirt again; and that's when he noticed her; a raven-haired beauty sitting quietly at the other end of the row of chairs designated for the children of the dignitaries.

Eight-year-old Antonia DiNozzo shifted in her chair yet again. She watched her mother glide with ease though the men in their tuxedos and the women in their ball gowns. She herself was dressed to the nines in a designer gown tailored specifically for her; she'd even had a choice in the color and fabric this time. Mother had insisted that she learn to tell the fine fabrics for the elegant wear apart and know the characteristics of each one and suitable uses. "As the daughter of the United States Ambassador to France, you must learn to be a proper lady." How she hated those words every time they left the mouths of her parents.

She adjusted her emerald green gown - the green chosen to accent her emerald green eyes – and that's when she noticed him. His olive-toned skin and dark brown eyes spoke of exotic lands. He, too, looked about as thrilled as she was to be relegated to the children's section.

Their glances met briefly as they first noticed the other; each quickly looked away, pretending to be interested in the sea of adults on the ballroom floor. Each stole a glance at the other as often as possible while trying not to be caught looking by the other.

As he was stealing another look in her direction, his father appeared from seemingly out of the blue. "Ziv, straighten your tie and fix your jacket. You must look presentable when I introduce our family to the others. Stand up straight, boy; be proud you are an Israeli. Mind your manners and remember to shake hands with the men when you are introduced to them. Let the others dictate how you react with the women."

"Yes, sir," Ziv reluctantly followed the elder David onto the guest-filled ballroom floor. He tried to catch a last glimpse of the girl, but a woman in an overly gaudy dress blocked his view. Perhaps he would see the girl again before the night was over.

"Antonia, dear," her mother stepped into her view. "Come along, your father is introducing our family."

"Yes, Mother," she sighed and glanced at the other end of the row of chairs; the boy had disappeared. Perhaps, if she were lucky, she would catch another glimpse of him before the evening ended.

Each ambassador was queued behind the stage with his or her family as the crowd settled down at the tables set up for the dinner. An emcee took the stage and greeted everyone. Then he started introducing the ambassadors. As each ambassador came to the mic, he or she introduced any family and significant staff members present.

"The Ambassador from Israel, Eli David," the emcee called out. Ziv straightened up and watched his father strut across the stage. When had Abba become so full of himself? Of course, the boy hardly had time with his father since his mother had passed away a little over two years ago. A series of nannies had seen to his care for the majority of the time since his Ima had first been hospitalized with the cancer that eventually took her life.

"Thank you, Mister Chignon. Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor to be among this group tonight. While I have been in my post for the past three months, this is the first time I've been at one of these balls," Eli droned on about how he enjoyed being the ambassador. Ziv tuned him out until he heard his own name.

"I have the honor to present my son, Ziv David," Eli glanced in the direction of the boy as Ziv stepped out onto the stage. He walked over to his Abba and stood by his side as the group politely applauded. As the applause subsided, the emcee guided Eli towards the other already introduced ambassadors and their families standing to the side of the stage. Ziv followed his father and stood silently, watching the emcee.

"The Ambassador from the United States of America, Anthony DiNozzo," the emcee waited for the man to approach the mic. Ziv barely half paid attention to yet another stuffed shirt.

"And now I have the pleasure to introduce my family," Ambassador DiNozzo grinned as he presented his wife. "Marian DiNozzo, my better half," he waited for her to come to his side before his next introduction. "Antonia DiNozzo, my daughter," he beamed at the raven-haired girl as she carefully walked across the stage.

Ziv was suddenly at full attention; Antonia DiNozzo… he would remember that name for sure. He recited it in his mind several times as she moved to her parents. Ziv only had eyes for her; she drew his attention like a magnet. He barely registered that the ambassador was speaking again.

"I have another daughter, but she is too young to be here tonight; Natalia DiNozzo is only four years old."

The emcee took the mic again and the DiNozzo family moved to the line of dignitaries; suddenly Antonia was standing alongside Ziv. He felt her presence even when he tried not to look at her. She turned to him and smiled; his insides nearly melted. He grinned back at her.

"Hi," she whispered. "I'm Antonia."

"Ziv," he whispered back to her. "Pleased to meet you."

Guests filed by the receiving line, wanting to see and be seen by the dignitaries. Ziv and Antonia shook as many hands as their respective parents and chatted when they could. Finally, the seemingly endless line of humans came to an end and the children were directed to a back room where nannies and caretakers were waiting to shuffle them out of the spotlight and back to waiting homes. Ziv and Antonia walked together as each looked for the waiting nanny.

Ziv spotted Miss Emilie talking to another young woman at the same time Antonia spotted Miss Rosalie with another nanny. The two children smiled when they realized their nannies were friends.

Ziv was handed a garment bag and duffel by his nanny. "Change into your jeans and shirt for the walk home," she directed him towards a men's room. "Remember to hang your jacket on the hanger please."

'Yes, ma'am," he slipped into the restroom to change into his usual attire. He was very glad to shed the tux and dress shoes for his jeans, polo shirt, and sneakers. He zipped the tux jacket and pants into the garment bag and placed his shoes, tie, and folded shirt in the duffel.

"Ready to go, Miss Emilie," he announced as he exited the restroom. "Are we walking through the park?

"Yes, Master Ziv; and my friend and her young charge are going with us, so that we can visit some."

Ziv smiled to himself; he would get to see Antonia more.

Meanwhile, Antonia followed her nanny into a ladies' room to change out of her gown. She wiggled out of the dress and quickly donned her favorite cargo pants and t-shirt, along with sneakers. Rosalie hung the gown on a hanger and zipped the garment bag around the dress to protect it. She watched Antonia pull the rhinestone-studded barrettes from her hair. The unruly curls fell free as the girl shook her head from side to side and laughed.

"Miss Antonia, do not let your mother hear you; you know she prefers that you wear your hair clips over letting it free," Rosalie scolded.

"Yes, ma'am. Are we walking through the park on the way home?"

"If you would like. I want to visit with my friend a bit more, so I think she will bring her young charge as well. The boy you were chatting with on the way out of the ballroom," the nanny explained.

"Ziv; I like him," Antonia grinned at the woman. "Let's go!"

The two exited the ladies' room to find Emilie and Ziv waiting for them. Each nanny handed the bags containing the children's formalwear to the family driver to put in the respective limos to be taken back to living quarters later that night. The two women and the two children exited into the cool night air.

Antonia took in a deep breath, "Ah, fresh air! So much better than inside with all those people. I don't know why the adults feel a need to have huge parties all the time. They are boring and stuffy."

"Do they do this often?" Ziv questioned her. "I have only been here about a month. Abba has been here for three months, but I had to finish the school term before I could join him."

"About every other month, or so," she replied. "Always the same; parade the families; send the children home and then the adults have dinner. One time, I got to stay for the meal. The food was gross; I would have much rather gone home and had spaghetti."

The two women sat in a small gazebo and chatted while the children headed to a larger gazebo to explore. Ziv climbed on the nearest bench in the octagonal gazebo. He began walking along the benches that lined the perimeter of the structure. Antonia followed him around as they shared information.

"I am an only child," Ziv shared. "I am ten years old, in case you were wondering. Ima died when I was eight; she had cancer." He jumped across the opening to the next bench.

"I am eight years old, and I have a sister who is four," Antonia jumped across the opening behind him. "Daddy is always travelling or busy. Mother has a busy social calendar. What is it like to live in Israel?"

Ziv stopped moving and turned to face his companion, "It is very different from Paris. In Haifa, where Ima's family lives, there are nice beaches. In Tel Aviv, it is a big city like Paris, but much warmer temperatures. What is America like?"

"I don't remember much; we lived in New York before we came to Paris. We moved when I was almost five and Natalia was a baby. We haven't been back since Daddy was made Ambassador," she replied. "Do you like school? I like to learn, but not necessarily at school. Sometimes school is boring. I know five languages and want to learn more. What languages do you know?"

"Hebrew, English, and French," he answered. "What languages do you know?"

"English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian. Will you teach me Hebrew?" she looked into his eyes as she asked. His dark chocolate brown eyes drew her in; she could see his soul within them.

He maintained the eye contact with her emerald green orbs. Her eyes spoke of an old soul, wise beyond her years. They drew him in and held him fascinated. "Yes, I will teach you Hebrew."

"Good," she broke the eye contact and shimmied up one of the poles supporting the roof of the gazebo. He followed her up onto the roof of the gazebo. She turned as if to show off and found him right behind her. "Oh; I guess you like to climb stuff too. You can see a lot from up here." She gestured out over the city as she spoke. The two sat down on the roof and looked out over Paris.

"It is quiet up here," he noted. "I bet if we laid back we could see the stars." Both children stretched out on the roof and gazed upward. He pointed out constellations to her, inching as close as he dared. There was something about her that spoke to his soul. He would definitely be seeing more of her in the future.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2 – Friends – May 1991

The two children began to spend time together as they got the chance, often in the evenings when their parents were hosting dinner parties or other events. The nannies helped the two whenever they could, often using the pretense of seeing an old friend to go out to the parks to meet up.

Day time trips to "get some air" or run errands also covered for the pair to spend time together. While neither Eli David nor the DiNozzo parents forbade the association of the children, they did not encourage it either. Eli spent the first six months assimilating to the Parisian social scene, particularly the diplomatic social scene. Anthony DiNozzo divided his time between Paris and Washington DC and his wife maintained their social status in the Parisian diplomatic community. More often than not, the care of the children was relegated to nannies. Antonia was thankful that her sister had a separate nanny.

Both Emilie and Rosalie noted that their charges tended to be loners; preferring to avoid 'play dates' with the children of the other ambassadors. The only company either Ziv or Antonia wanted was each other.

"Only two things get that boy animated and talking; his films and Antonia. He really wants nothing to do with the other boys at the International School," Emilie shared with her friend.

Rosalie nodded, "So like Miss Antonia; she prefers her books over anything other than Master Ziv. Ask her about Ziv and her eyes light up. Very different from Miss Natalia, who is a social butterfly. They are good for each other."

"They are; it's like their souls are linked over the ages," her friend agreed. "And now that their fathers are doing more business together, the friendship is encouraged and even desirable for social status. I hate that the fathers are using the children that way, but if it allows them to be together, so be it."

Ziv held out another shelled peanut to the squirrel on the ground. The animal slowly approached his outstretched hand, cautiously sniffing the proffered treat. It scurried forward, grabbed the tasty morsel, and scampered up a nearby tree to savor the peanut. Antonia laughed at the antics of the animal and awaited her turn at offering the squirrel a peanut.

"So, what do you want for your birthday?" Ziv turned to his friend. "I need some ideas of what to get for you."

"I dunno; maybe a book? In Hebrew would be cool," she suggested. He'd been teaching her his native language for over two years now, and she'd become fairly fluent with practice. She was now learning to read and write Hebrew. "You still have almost two months; remember my birthday is not until July eighth."

Ziv shook his head and took her hand in his, intertwining their fingers. He led her to the Ambassadors' Garden in the park on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. He stopped in front of one of the more colorful floral displays.

"A book is too plain; I want to get you something that has the magnificent beauty of these flowers. But also something that will last much longer than the flowers," he looked in her eyes as he spoke. "You are my friend, Antonia. Nothing is too good for you." He squeezed her hand in his and raised their joined hands. He placed a light kiss on the back of her hand and grinned at her.

"And then I will have to come up with something just as grand for your Bar Mitzvah in November."

"November twelfth to be exact," he added. "Abba is sending out the invitations soon, from what I overheard him tell his assistant. He wants to be sure it is a grand social event. It is really just another excuse for him to host a party."

She nodded; she fully understood where he was coming from. "As are my parents with my birthday party. They are planning to start on Thursday, with a Fourth of July celebration and continue all weekend. My birthday party will be on Sunday. I can tell you now that I won't be the star of the show. My birthday is just another excuse for them to party as well."

He thought about her statement a bit, "Well, if that is the case, you and I will have our own party. We will have real birthday cake and ice cream if you want it. And presents for you to open. We can come to the park and be outside also." He walked on the paths between the colorful flowers, her hand still interlocked with his. "YOU will be the star of my show," he smiled at her, again locking gazes with her emerald green eyes. "You always are…"

~July~

Ziv followed his father into the ballroom at the American Embassy; his eyes skimmed the crowd looking for any sign of HER. He slipped his hand into his sport jacket pocket and touched the box in the velvet pouch. Her gift from him; besides the dozen pink roses he carried in his other hand.

Eli spotted a woman he wanted to talk with and left Ziv to his own devices. The boy inwardly groaned; his Abba had been schmoozing with all of the eligible women and some not-so-eligible women for the last four or five months. Each dinner party hosted by the Israeli had a different woman as his companion. For Ziv, the plus side was more time for him to spend with Antonia.

He wandered the room, seeking his friend. If he was honest about it, she was his only friend; not that he cared. She was all he needed. He spotted her sitting in an absurdly decorated chair looking as though she would rather be anywhere else. She looked up as he approached and offered him that shy smile that filled him with joy. He grinned at her and offered her the flowers.

"Happy birthday; these are for you," he handed the bouquet to her with a bow. "Beautiful flowers for a beautiful girl."

"Thank you; my favorites!" she beamed at her best friend; her only friend. She took his hand in hers and squeezed it as they interlaced their fingers. Eyes locked in a gaze that spoke volumes to their souls, but it was cut short by her mother.

"Come, Antonia; we must greet our guests," she grabbed the flowers from her daughter and tossed them to the side. "Oh, hello, Ziv. Is your father here?"

"Yes, ma'am," he replied politely. "He is talking with Mademoiselle LeGrangier, I believe." He barely got the words out when Madame DiNozzo turned her back on him and dragged her daughter in the direction of the Italian ambassador.

Antonia looked over her shoulder and mouthed, "Later…" He nodded and watched her follow her mother. When she disappeared from his sight, he wandered to a bench by a window overlooking one of the large patios and stared out at the yard.

Ziv jumped and was startled from his thoughts by a hand on his shoulder; he looked up and saw Antonia laughing.

"I'm sorry that I startled you, but the look on your face was funny," she giggled. "Let's get out of here. I am finally done with Mother's introduce me to god and everyone game."

The boy stood and took her hand as the two slipped out the doorway to the patio and into the gardens. He stopped at the covered swing and the pair sat together enjoying the quiet and the company. He wrapped an arm around her resting his hand on her shoulder and upper arm, his fingers playing with the curls that lay across her shoulder. She leaned her head on his shoulder and sighed.

"Are you enjoying your birthday?" he whispered.

He felt her nod against him, "Now I am…"

"Good. Miss Rosalie rescued your roses and put them in a vase in your room," he added. "She also put a picnic basket in the small gazebo for us to have cake and sandwiches. We can go there or I can bring the food here."

She sat up and looked at him gazing at her. "Let's go to the gazebo since there is a table over there; then we can come back here to the swing or take a blanket and go on the lawn to look at the stars."

He stood up first and offered her his hand, "Our celebration awaits, my lady." She took his hand and intertwined their fingers. At the gazebo, he bowed and signaled for her to enter first, "After you, my beautiful lady."

She giggled, "You have been watching too many movies again, Ziv. But I like it…"

He unpacked the food from the picnic basket; a plate of peanut butter and strawberry preserves sandwiches, a small chocolate cake for two, and two insulated tumblers of lemonade. He laid the small cloth over the top of the table, and set plates and forks at each place. Then he unwrapped the sandwiches and offered her the platter.

"Peanut butter and jelly, well, strawberry preserves," he grinned at her surprised expression. "I had the cook make them just for you."

"Don't tell my mother we are eating 'commoner' food," she smiled and took a huge bite of her sandwich half. "Mmm, so good…" He watched her enjoying the simple food and took a large bite of his own sandwich. She had introduced him to the basic food about two months after they met. He'd been just as hooked on the taste as her from the start.

"Your secret is safe with me," he mumbled with a full mouth. "Abba would never let me hear the end of this if he found out." He got quiet, he was thinking about his Ima. She would have let him eat anything kosher that he wanted. Knowing Ima, she would have made her own strawberry preserves or jam.

Antonia noticed the far-away look on her friend's face; she gently placed a hand on his arm. "A penny for your thoughts?" she spoke quietly.

He turned to her with his eyes glistening, "Promise you won't make fun of me?" When she nodded, he continued, "I was thinking about my Ima and how she liked to cook. She would have made her own strawberry preserves or jam and made the bread as well." He got quiet again and she could see tears in his eyes.

"What was she like? Tell me some more if you want; I'd like to hear about her if you want to share," she encouraged him.

"She was the best; she was so fun and full of life… I remember," he choked on a sob. "I remember her singing in the kitchen as she cooked and baked. She would let me watch and sometimes she let me help. Abba would come into the kitchen and just smell the good food cooking. 'Rivka, I do not know what you are making, but if it tastes as good as it smells, then I will be a happy man.' He'd say that every time…"

Antonia linked her hand in his as she waited for the young Israeli to continue. He wiped at his eyes with his free hand.

"And then in an instant, it was over. I came home from school and called out to her that I was home. She usually had freshly baked cookies waiting for me, but that day, there was no smell of food in the house. It was strangely quiet. I called out to her again, and she still did not answer. When I walked in to the kitchen, I found her on the floor…" he sobbed and Antonia pulled her to him. She rubbed her hand on his back and then played with his hair absently as he cried on her shoulder.

"I… screamed so loud… I guess.. I was told that I screamed very loudly… The neighbors came running in the house and someone called an ambulance. One of the women took me out on the back porch so that I could not see what was happening… Abba came and took me to Doda Nettie's house and I stayed with her for two weeks… They let me see Ima one time in the hospital… She was so tiny in that big hospital bed with all the tubes and monitors, but she never opened her eyes. I talked to Ima and held her hand and she squeezed my hand when I told her I love her… but I never got to see her eyes to tell her goodbye…" he started sobbing again. "Abba said that men do not cry…"

Antonia held her best friend as he finally shed the tears of grief for his mother; she wiped at her eyes as he sobbed and comforted him as best she knew how. His sobs became sniffles and finally he sat up; she wiped his face with one of the cloth napkins.

He took her hands in his, and looked her in the eyes in the growing dusk, "Thank you, toda, merci, gracias, grazi… You let me feel safe in letting that out of me. I am glad you are my best friend." He dug into his pocket and pulled out the small box in its velvet pouch. "Happy birthday, Antonia," he handed it to her with a teary grin.

She drew the box from its pouch and tilted the hinged lid open, "It's beautiful, Ziv" She could just make out the cloisonné beads with pink roses and red hearts on the bracelet. He removed the jewelry from the box and placed it on her left wrist. After making sure the clasp was firmly locked, he took her hand in his and raised their joined hands to his lips. He pressed a soft kiss to the back of her hand.

She leaned in and kissed his cheek, making him blush. "I think I love you, Ziv David," she whispered.

"I love you, Antonia DiNozzo," he whispered in reply.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3 – BFFs and More – July 1993

"Happy birthday to you," the guests sang to Antonia as she watched Ziv on the other side of the table where "her" cake lay with thirteen candles blazing.

"Make a wish and blow out your candles," her mother encouraged her daughter. Antonia closed her eyes and made her secret wish; she opened them and blew out the candles as Ziv watched. He grinned at her and she hoped her wish would come true sooner rather than later.

She was whisked away from the table and the dinner guests; herded to a small patio with the other children in attendance. Cake and ice cream were being served to the others when she entered. Her eyes sought the one person who she wanted to be with, and found him alone near one of the benches on the side of the patio.

She slipped over by Ziv and the two joined hands. They turned their backs on the partying children of other ambassadors, diplomats, and Parisian social bigwigs. Hand in hand the pair walked to the secluded garden behind the Ambassador's residence at the US Embassy.

Ziv pulled a small box out of his pocket and smiled at his best friend. "Happy birthday, Antonia. I hope you like it." He shyly held out the box for her to unwrap and open.

She tore the wrapping paper from the box and lifted the lid; inside was a beautiful 14K white gold heart-shaped pendant with a ruby and a golden topaz gemstone on a delicate chain. She looked closely to see the initials 'AD + ZD' engraved on the heart. Ziv helped her put it around her neck. She turned to thank him and he leaned in and pressed his lips to hers.

When the pair pulled apart she ran her hand over his bits of stubble and grinned. He was taller, filling out more, and his voice had changed about a year ago. He sported a small amount of facial hair on a body that no longer was a child but a man.

He looked at her as she gazed at him; she had started changing as well, her body softening into the curves of a woman. She had shared with him when she had started her monthly flow about six months ago. He loved the woman she was becoming as much as she loved the man he was growing in to.

"Tag, you're it," she touched his face and ran towards the gazebo. He followed her past their favorite private hangout place to the lawns behind the rose gardens. She chased after a butterfly laughing as she ran. He stopped and watched her, appreciating the newly defined curves in all the right places.

She came closer to determine why he was stopped and he took advantage of her slight pause in motion to gently tackle her into his arms. He wrapped her in an embrace and turned her to face him. She looked up at his face and he fused his lips to hers again. He could not get enough of the feel of her lips on his. Kissing her was all he had hoped it would be and more.

Antonia saw the love in the eyes of her best friend as he placed his lips on hers; her birthday wish had come true and it was more than she had even dared to dream. Kissing him was like floating in the clouds in a gentle breeze. She could kiss him all day and not grow tired of the feel of his lips on hers and the nearness of his body. His physique had become more defined, and she loved how broad his shoulders had grown. Her head rested comfortably on his shoulder as they stood with arms around each other.

She lifted her face to him and brushed her lips across his in yet another kiss. Together with lips still joined they lowered to the lawn to lie side by side. They rolled onto their backs as they broke for air and she sighed as did he.

"I like kissing you," he said softly. He rolled onto his side and propped his head on his hand. He let his free hand wander onto her body. "I want to ask you something…"

She turned to meet his gaze, "Okay."

He swallowed hard and gathered his courage, "Would you be my girlfriend?"

She turned her body towards him, locking her gaze on his chocolate brown eyes. She stroked his face with her free hand and finally she replied. "Yes, Ziv, a thousand times, yes!" She locked her lips on his as the new couple wrapped arms around each other and pressed their bodies together.

~November 1994~

"I cannot believe he is sixteen already," Nettie commented to her brother-in-law. She and Eli were watching Ziv escort his girlfriend to the buffet table. "And the young woman, she is a beauty."

"She is the daughter of the American ambassador," Eli nodded at the Italian ambassador and his wife as they passed by. "He is quite smitten with her and her with him. Socially, it is quite the pairing for all parties."

Nettie clucked her tongue, "Always the master manipulator, Eli. You never change. However, I can see that my nephew has fallen in love with the girl just from the way he looks at her. She has nothing but love for him in her eyes as well. Will we see a wedding before he returns to Israel to fulfill his commitment?"

Eli chuckled, "Nettie the matchmaker as always; I do not see any wedding until after he finishes with the IDF. She is two years younger than my son. I do not foresee her parents allowing a marriage at sixteen."

"Good evening, Eli," Anthony DiNozzo greeted his counterpart. He extended a hand to Nettie, "Anthony DiNozzo, United States ambassador to France." He bowed slightly and kissed Nettie's knuckles on the hand joined with his.

"Anthony, this is my sister-in-law, Nettie Levy. She is my late wife's younger sister," Eli completed the introductions. He turned to his associate, "Where is Marian tonight?"

"She is over talking to the Canadian ambassador and his wife, offering our condolences. I assume you've heard that her father passed last week?" Anthony looked in the direction of the group with his wife and the Canadians. His gaze shifted as Ziv and Antonia walked hand in hand to the dance floor.

Eli made note of who the American was watching, "They make a nice couple, do they not?"

"That they do," the man agreed.

On the dance floor, Ziv wrapped his arms around Antonia as the music began. He started with a gentle kiss on the lips and then the couple positioned themselves for the first waltz of the evening. The pair had been taking dance lessons from a private tutor; they had gained quite the reputation as naturals on the dance floor as they moved in sync. Everyone who watched them noted they moved as one.

"Happy birthday, Ziv," Antonia whispered as she rested her head against his shoulder.

"Toda, neshama," he placed another kiss on her head as they moved to the music. "I am hoping we can get done with the see-and-be-seen and slip away to the gardens soon," he spoke softly as he led her through the dance moves.

She lifted her head and they locked gazes; all around them seemed to fade away as they only had eyes for each other. Their heads drifted together and their lips met in a kiss. Time seemed to stand still as the young lovers savored the taste of each other.

The kiss was interrupted by the eighteen year old son of the German ambassador. He put his hand on Ziv's shoulder roughly, and yanked the Israeli backwards. "Pardon me, this next dance is mine," he sneered at the younger man. Ziv started to argue, but the German's younger sister snagged him by the hand and nearly dragged him away.

Ziv sighed in annoyance; he and Antonia both despised the brother and sister duo who were so pushy and crass. He carefully watched Antonia while pretending to pay attention to the current dance partner. Thank goodness it was a short number and a faster tempo so less contact.

Ziv saw the German's hand slide down Antonia's back and hip towards her derriere; he shoved the sister aside and rushed to defend his girlfriend's honor. Before he could deck the German, Antonia had him on his face on the floor with her foot on his neck.

"Try that move again, and I will break every bone in your body," she hissed at him. A crowd gathered as she turned to Ziv, "Let's get out of here, now." He obliged by taking her hand in his and snaking through the gathering crowd towards the doors to the gardens.

Outside she began to calm down in his arms; he just held her and could feel her heart pounding. As her breathing slowed he placed a soft kiss on her forehead.

"Nice move, Ninja; that Krav Maga is really paying off," he tilted her chin up so he could look in her eyes. "Are you okay?

"I will be," she huffed. "Did you see what he did?" Ziv nodded as she continued. "Mother wants me to be nice to him; I think not. Pig. I have you anyhow…" She melted into his kiss as he pressed his lips to hers.

"You and I are inseparable," he breathed into the next kiss. "I cannot imagine my life without you in it, Antonia."

She smiled at him, "Nor can I live without you. I love you, Ziv; always."

Chapter Text

Chapter 4 – Separation - December 1996

Antonia's sixteenth birthday was a major event in the political circles of the diplomats. Her mother went all out for her daughter's debutante ball. Antonia feigned interest in the preparations for her mother's sake, but she could care less about social norms.

Ziv watched as the dressmaker draped various fabrics over the teen's shoulder looking for the perfect one for THE dress. He nodded his appreciation for the shades of green that were selected to highlight his girlfriend's emerald green eyes. Antonia was in a slip for the session; a concession to her mother to allow Ziv to be present. He'd seen her in her bikini, but Madame DiNozzo made a big fuss about him seeing her in her underwear and bra.

After the dress fabric was selected, he was also measured and fitted for a new tuxedo with matching cummerbund and tie to Antonia's dress. On the night of her birthday ball, the couple made their entrance to the oohs and ahhs of many of the guests. Ziv still despised having to dress up but he had learned to tolerate the garishness of the whole party scene of his father's preferred social group. He and Antonia were always together at the events, never more than a few feet apart.

Many guests commented to Eli and the DiNozzo parents that the young adults made a fine couple; a few noted that the two seemed to share a unique connection. Eli's date for the evening, the sister of the Spanish ambassador, asked if the young couple were engaged or about to be.

"We shall see," Eli replied as Marian DiNozzo smiled to herself. Anthony DiNozzo grinned; the pairing was definitely a notch in both belts for the fathers.

After the meal, the teens slipped out of the ballroom and into the private gardens. Ziv fingered the small box in his pocket nervously. The moonlit night was the perfect setting for what he was about to do, but he was still nervous. After all, what man wouldn't be at least a little anxious when he asked his girlfriend to commit the rest of her life to him?

In the gazebo, Ziv pulled Antonia to him and locked his lips on hers. He teased her a bit, "What is that saying? Sweet sixteen and never been kissed…" He kissed her again and guided her to sit on one of the benches.

"Ziv, thank you," she breathed into a kiss. "You are my best friend and I love you."

He grinned at her and dropped down to one knee in front of her; he took her hand in his and with his free hand reached into his pocket. He swallowed hard and gathered his courage as he prepared to make the biggest question of his life.

"Antonia DiNozzo, I cannot imagine my life without you in it and I love you so much," he began. He noticed her eyes glistening as she realized what was happening. "I know that we are going to have to be apart for about two years very soon. It makes me sad to think about it, but I do not take my obligation to my country lightly. Will you marry me when I come back? I promise to be true to you while I am away." He opened the ring box to reveal a promise ring with a small diamond, a ruby, and a golden topaz stone set into a heart shape.

"Yes," she whispered. "Yes, yes, yes… Oh, Ziv!" Tears rolled down her face as he placed the ring on her left hand ring finger. She wiped his tears as she caressed his face. She drew him to her and fused her lips on his into a passionate kiss.

The kiss was interrupted by a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder. Clouds had moved in quickly but not been noticed by the couple who only had eyes for each other. A second flash followed by a rumble of thunder got their attention as it was closer than the first. The pair moved to the gazebo entrance and noticed the approaching storm.

"We better make a run for the house," Ziv took his girlfriend's hand in his and the two started towards the kitchen entrance. They got about a third of the way there when the skies let loose in a downpour. The teens were drenched by the time they got to the door. Inside, the pair took the back stairway to the living quarters and Antonia's suite.

"Good thing you have a change of clothes in your duffel," she commented as the pair entered the suite of rooms. "I need some help with the zipper on my dress, please."

His fingers trembled slightly as he grasped the zipper pull and slid it down her back. He brushed her skin as he moved, and he shivered slightly. He knew it was not just from being in wet clothing.

As Antonia shimmied out of the dress, Ziv removed his suit jacket and pants. He had just slid his shirt off when he noticed his girl standing in her underwear just looking at him. He was in his underwear and socks. He hung the shirt on a hanger as she stepped closer to him and put her hand on his chest.

His hands went to her waist as he pulled her to him. His body reacted to her nearness and lack of clothing. She pressed herself to him, noting the obvious bulge in his underwear. He raised his hands and unfastened the clasp on her bra, letting it slide down her arms to the floor.

"You are beautiful," he tentatively fingered her breasts as she watched him. His arousal was plain to see and she felt a heat at seeing the bulging underwear. He put a finger under the elastic waistband of her panties, "May I?" She nodded and he slid the panties down her legs; she stepped out of them and stood before him completely undressed.

His hands touched her skin; she felt as though each touch was lighting a little fire on her. She liked being touched by him and held by him. She put her hands on the waistband of his underwear.

"Okay?" she whispered. He nodded and she lowered his briefs to his ankles. He stepped out of the underwear; his body now fully visible to her. She looked him over - elevator eyes they called it – and she very much liked what she saw. "Make love to me," she kissed him and pressed her body against his.

"Are you sure?" he asked. When she nodded, he scooped her into his arms and carried her to the bed. He laid her down gently and climbed up between her legs. "You can say stop any time; I do not want to hurt you…"

In response, she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him to her for another kiss. She could feel him pressing between her legs and shifted slightly underneath him. He slowly entered her, not wanting to hurt her.

"Oohh, that feels so good," she sighed.

"Uh huh," he lost all rational thought at the feel of her around him. When he spilled his seed in her, he thought he had died and gone to heaven. It felt so right to make love to her; one more connection of their souls and bodies.

He rolled to her side and the pair cuddled and fell asleep in her bed. About two hours later, they awoke in a tangle of limbs and made love a second time. By morning light, the lovers had joined their bodies four times, each time better than the one before.

~November~

"Happy birthday, Ziv," Antonia cuddled with her lover after the couple made love. Many nights had been spent together since her birthday. "I can't believe we are going to be apart so soon." She kissed him.

"I know; my flight leaves tomorrow around noon," he sighed. "I report to basic training on 18 November. I will miss you every day and every night, sweet cheeks." He'd started calling her that as a joke one night and it stuck. She didn't complain.

She sat up and opened her nightstand drawer; she took a small box from inside and held it up for him to see. His promise ring that the pair had chosen together; she opened the box and took the ring from its slot. She slid it on his finger as both tried not to cry.

"I love you Ziv David; and this ring is my promise to you that I will be waiting for you," she spoke quietly as the reality of the impending separation hit both of them. "I don't know how I am going to make it without you. I will have the memories of our love-making…"

"We have one more night," he reminded her.

~January 1998~

"David; phone call," Ziv was awakened at 0340 by his commander. He padded to the office still half asleep.

"David," he spoke into the handset.

"Ziv? How are you son?" his father's voice pulled him out of his sleep brain quickly.

"I am fine; but you did not call to ask how I am doing. Especially not at 0345," Ziv answered curtly. In his fourteen months of IDF service his father had not contacted him even one time. No letters, no phone calls, nothing. He'd had letters and a few phone calls from Antonia and even a phone call from the elder DiNozzos on his birthday.

"There is no easy way to say this, son. There has been a plane crash," Eli began. Ziv's heart jumped into his throat. "Marian and Natalia DiNozzo were among the victims… Ziv let out the breath he'd been holding.

Later that day, Ziv placed a ten minute phone call to Antonia; it was all the time he was allotted. She was still in shock and he wished he could be with her and hold her.

~October 1998~

Ziv limped into the entryway of the Israeli embassy living quarters; his cane helping him when his ankle still tried to give under his weight. The IED had shattered his ankle and after three surgeries to rebuild the joint and multiple pins and screws to hold all in place, he'd endured two months of rehabilitation to learn to use the reconstructed joint.

"Ziv," his father called out from his office. The young man walked to the door of the room.

"Hello, Abba," he greeted his father.

"Come, sit," Eli motioned towards a chair opposite his desk. "Visit with your father."

Ziv sighed, "I have more important places to be."

Eli nodded, "Your woman can wait a few minutes longer. Does she know you are home?"

"Not yet; I decided to surprise her since I was not sure until two days ago when I would be released from rehab,"

Eli unlocked a drawer on his desk and removed a small box. He handed it to his son across the desk. "You may want to have this for when you see her…" At the questioning look, he continued, "It was your mother's engagement ring."

Ziv opened the box to the diamond and sapphire ring he remembered from his childhood. "Toda, Abba," he grinned. "I know just where it belongs now."

He pocketed the small box and its precious contents after changing his clothing. He called his father's car service and had the driver leave him by the rear entrance to the DiNozzo home. He walked in the door to see one of the familiar kitchen staff with a tray of food.

"Master Ziv! It is good to see you!" Pierre greeted the young man. "Does Miss Antonia know you are here?"

"Hello, Pierre," Ziv smiled warmly. "She does not know; I thought I would surprise her."

The man grinned, "I was just about to take her breakfast to her suite. Perhaps you would like to deliver her food?" He handed Ziv the tray of food and nodded in the direction of the rear stairway.

Ziv carried the tray to the doorway to his love's suite of rooms. He knocked lightly and pushed the door open with his elbow.

"Just place my breakfast on the table, Pierre. Merci," a sleepy voice came from the bed.

Ziv put the tray on the table and walked to the bed. He sat down on the side of the bed. "Are you too sleepy for breakfast, neshama?" he whispered.

Antonia shot up and turned as she heard the voice she longed for every day, "ZIV!" She wrapped her arms around her lover and kissed him with tears running down her face. He also let the tears fall as he held her to him and just savored the feel of her in his arms.

She started unbuttoning his shirt as he slipped a hand under her nightshirt. Clothes were tossed aside as the lovers felt each other's skin for the first time in nearly two years.

"I want to make love to you all day," he breathed into a kiss. "Twenty two months and seventeen days… I have missed you so much…"

She pulled him to her as he entered her, "Shut up and make love to me, Ziv David…"

Sated, the couple lay in her bed in a tangle of limbs. Gentle kisses and long gazes filled the air until Ziv's stomach let it be known that he was hungry. Antonia laughed and joked that some things never changed. The pair shared the breakfast tray, feeding each other bits of fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, and toast.

As they were finishing the food, Ziv jumped up and found his jacket. He fished in the pocket and found the velvet box. He carried it behind his back to the table.

With a flourish, he presented the box to his girlfriend. "Antonia DiNozzo, I love you with every fiber of my being. Will you be my wife for the rest of our days?" He removed his mother's ring from the box and slid it on her finger above the promise ring,

"Yes; a million times, yes!" she caressed his face with her hands and fused her lips to his after he placed the ring. "I am yours for eternity."

Chapter Text

Chapter 5 – Epilogue – October 2000

"Zachariah Anthony David," Ziv proclaimed as he held his eight day old son up for the gathered friends and family at the baby's bris. His eyes sought out the only two others in the room that mattered to him. He found Antonia with the other women, holding fifteen month old Talia Rivka, aka Tali, in her arms. He moved over near the other half of his family as the baby yawned sleepily.

After informing both fathers of their official engagement, plans were started for a June wedding. Those plans were aborted in mid-December when Antonia suspected that she might be pregnant. She and Ziv sat in her bathroom waiting for the results on the little plastic stick with hands intertwined. When the result showed positive, Ziv was ecstatic. He couldn't help himself; he started singing 'She's Having My Baby' as he carried his fiancée in his arms. He placed her on the bed and kissed her all over. A doctor's appointment the following day confirmed the pregnancy. When the couple informed Eli and Anthony of the news, Eli used his influence to get a rabbi and a priest for a wedding ceremony the following week. Traditions from both religions were observed, including the vows for both religions, the Ketubah, the breaking of the glass, and the Holy Communion.

After a short trip to New York for a honeymoon, both Ziv and Antonia began their studies at the University of Haifa, Both chose to major in education, Ziv in the sciences and Antonia in elementary education with a concentration in languages. They lived in Ziv's Ima's house in Haifa and both fathers agreed to help support the couple while they were completing their undergraduate degrees.

As the end of the first semester rolled around, Antonia was getting uncomfortable. Ziv was overly protective of his very pregnant wife, but he learned to temper his need to protect her with her need for some independence. Both finished the term with high academic honors. Ziv took a part-time job as a supervisor for the beach clean-up crews.

Antonia readied the nursery and stocked the freezer with premade meals for after the baby's birth. On the afternoon of her birthday, she started having contractions. Ziv had just come in from work when her water broke and the couple headed to the hospital. Fourteen hours later, their baby girl took her first breaths in this world.

"She is beautiful, she has your curls already," Ziv held his swaddled newborn as Antonia expelled the afterbirth and then was cleaned up. Tears streamed down his face, "My love, you have given me the greatest gift possible." The nurse nodded and he placed the baby in his wife's arms.

"Hello, mia bambina," Antonia cooed at her baby girl. "She has your eyes, Ziv."

The couple officially introduced Talia Rivka David to the world eight days after her birth. They chose to name her after her late aunt and one of her grandmothers. Eli David and Anthony DiNozzo flew to Israel for the weekend after to meet their new granddaughter.

Both started back to classes during the fall term alternating schedules when possible and using the university provided day care if they both had class. Again both finished the term with high honors. Eli paid for the family to fly to Paris for the winter holidays. For many of the embassy staff at both the American and Israeli embassies, it was a reunion with the young couple and a celebration of the new life of the next generation.

Spring term started without any complications. Young Tali enjoyed the company of the other babies at the day care. Ziv and Antonia noted her milestone achievements, such as smiles, laughs, first tooth, rolling over, sitting up unassisted, and getting into crawling position with photos and videos. Anthony had sent a video camera as a baby gift.

Soon after Passover and Easter, Antonia noticed some familiar signs. She purchased a home pregnancy kit and when the test showed positive, she shared the results with her husband. A doctor's appointment confirmed the second pregnancy and a due date of 10 October.

At Tali's first birthday party, an obviously pregnant Antonia tried to keep up with the little one. Tali was not quite walking but she scooted fast. Ziv chased her down as she laughed and moved away from her Ima. The baby had her own small birthday cake which she wore with pride; Ziv took lots of video footage and many still shots for the memory books and to share with grandfathers.

Nettie came to stay about two weeks before Antonia's due date. Antonia was thankful for Doda Nettie and her help with an active nearly fifteen month old who was into everything. Tali had taken a few tentative steps a week after her first birthday and by the end of July was running nonstop.

Ziv joked that their daughter was a perpetual motion machine. About the only thing that would get the baby to stay still were Disney movies. Tali loved to sit with her Abba and watch the video tapes of Disney animated films.

Antonia only missed part of the semester that Zach was born and continued her studies in the following spring. Both graduated Summa Cum Laude with degrees in education at the end of the summer of 2002. Ziv began a teaching job at a boys' school in Haifa. He taught general science, physical education, and coached a baseball team. Antonia started her job at an elementary school teaching languages and history.

The couple's third child, Josiah Eli David, was born in late February 2003. The pair purchased the Haifa house from Eli, making it their permanent home. As they celebrated their fifth anniversary in December of 2003, Ziv reflected on the long connection between the two.

"I would do it all again as long as the end result was the same," he kissed his wife as the couple sat in the living room after getting the children in bed for the night. "You are my everything, Antonia David."