Chapter 1: the one with the bad introduction
Disclaimers: NCIS, the rights to the show and its characters do not belong to me. No money was made by this.
Spoilers for S8 finale.
Pairing: Ziva David/Ray Cruz romantic pairing
NCIS Special Agent Ziva David took a deep breath and brushed a strand of hair behind her ear before slowly turning around and surveying the area. The tables had been arranged, the wedding planner was supervising a couple of last minute changes, like placing the name cards on the plates rather than over them.
This was it. By tomorrow evening, she would be a married woman. She, Ziva David, would have said 'I do'. And to think it had all started as some sort of flirt to make her forced vacation in Miami more fun and less boring…
As if he had sensed her thoughts, her fiancé walked up and wrapped his arms around her waist, kissing her neck gently. She felt herself relax and melt back into his arms, the tension drifting away.
"You alright?" he asked, his voice soft in her ear, and she found herself draw a shuddering breath.
"Nervous. But in a good way." she admitted, smiling slightly when his hand came up and he held out the blossom of a white rose to her. She carefully took it and inhaled the soft scent, happiness washing over her. The chirping of her cell phone brought her out of the cocoon Ray had woven, however, and she groaned slightly before leaving his arms to walk over to the windowsill where she had planted her purse upon their arrival. Ray didn't follow her but went to talk to their wedding planner instead. She watched him shortly, the grin on his face and the happiness in his eyes making her heart flutter, before she opened her cell to find a text from Abby, informing her that she would be with them shortly. Ziva swallowed thickly, running her hand through her hair before grabbing her purse and walking over to her fiancé and brushing her lips across his in a soft kiss.
"I was just telling Mr. Cruz that there may be a small problem with the seating, since you informed me of three more people attending this morning." Amber turned to her, and she felt Ray's hand squeeze hers in a not-so-comfortable way. She didn't tell him about that little fact. Oops.
"I know it's short notice. But one of them is my father. I do not want him at our table, though. I was thinking more like, the NCIS table. That way, Tim can have an eye on him." Ziva explained.
"So, who're the other two?" Ray questioned, his eyebrows furrowing.
"Malachi Ben-Gidon. You met him in Israel, remember?"
"You invited Mossad to our wedding?" Ray's voice went up and she flinched slightly.
"No. I invited a friend, and he only just got back from an op, so he could not tell me for certain if he was going to make it before today. Ray, he is one of my oldest friends, I really want him here, if not at the wedding itself. Plus, he will be able to keep an eye on my father." she told her fiancé, her eyes making it clear she was not going to back down on this one. When Ray sighed and nodded once, she smiled at him and kissed his cheek, leaning into his side.
"Shall I put Mr. Ben-Gidon at the NCIS table, then?" Amber asked and when Ziva nodded, made a quick note on her clipboard.
"Which leaves guest number three. Who's that?" Ray questioned.
"Tony." Ziva softly whispered, and she felt Ray kiss her temple and brush over her hair affectionately. "I know he hasn't been easy to deal with, lately, but he apologized, and he used to be my best friend. I just… I don't want this day to happen without him." she admitted, tears brimming in her eyes. Amber quickly excused herself to give them some privacy, and Ziva turned her head into Ray's chest, letting him rub her back and hold her close. When they had announced their engagement, Tony had flipped. It wasn't unlike him to sulk and pout and whine, but this time, he had really outdone himself, and it had caused a great rift between him and Ziva, his behavior almost leading to the point where she doubted their friendship could ever be repaired. It wasn't that he wanted Ray's place, that much she had gotten out of Abby, who was more used to Tony and his moods. It was more like her not telling him before they announced it to the rest of the team. And maybe she should have told Tony before Gibbs and McGee and Abby and Ducky and Palmer, but at the time, she had been so happy that she simply hadn't considered his mood and reaction to the news.
"If you want him here, I'm sure we will find a seat for him. Even if it's at the bar." Ray softly told her, kissing her gently.
"Sorry to interrupt." a chirpy voice cut them off, and Ziva smiled against his lips before taking a step back and hugging Abby as a greeting, who then shook hands with Ray. "So, everything settled?" the Goth asked her, bouncing on the balls of her feet slightly.
"Yes. You have my cell number, call me if you need anything. Even if it's just to hear my voice." she turned to Ray, hugging him again and seeing Abby glance at her watch pointedly.
"Will do. I love you." Ray murmured against her lips.
"Love you, too." she returned, kissing him a last time before allowing Abby to pull her out of the room and hotel to her hearse.
"Bad luck to see the bride 24 hours before the wedding, you were cutting it really close." Abby told her when she held open the door for her. Ziva got in, rolling her eyes.
"I told you, I do not believe in this… hocus pocus."
"Superstition. Hocus Pocus is magic." Abby told her when she started the engine.
"Whatever it is, I do not believe in it." Ziva insisted, throwing her purse on the backseat. "We need to stop by our place, I need to grab my bag." she informed Abby when the landscape of Virginia sped past.
"Your dress is at my place, so is your makeup and toiletries. I can give you PJs." Abby offered.
"I would love to wear my underwear tomorrow, Abby." Ziva laughed, reaching over to gently squeeze Abby's hand. "So, what do you have planned for tonight?" she asked, watching as Abby took the exit for Silver Springs.
"Breena and Sarah are coming over and we are going to play some games involving dirty stories and lots of alcohol." the Goth grinned at her shortly, and Ziva felt her hart speed up in her chest. Oh shoot.
"Um, Abby… Is there a way to play these… games without the consumption of alcohol?" she asked, trying to sound casual. Abby threw her a quick glance.
"Don't worry, I'll make sure you'll be able to stand tomorrow." she shrugged.
"It's more fun with alcohol. Loosens the tongue. And you can hold your liquor, I know that, so there's no need to worry." Abby interrupted her, cursing softly when another driver cut across their lane.
"It's not that I don't know how to handle my liquor. I just…" Ziva began, rubbing her sweaty palms against her jeans.
"You just what?" Abby asked, turning to look at Ziva when they reached a red light.
"I shouldn't drink. At all." Ziva admitted, bitting her lip.
"Why shouldn't you- Wait a second. Are you telling me that he knocked you up? You're pregnant?" Abby asked, her green eyes wide. Ziva found herself nodding and flinched at the happy shriek Abby let our before she leaned over and hugged her tightly to the orchestra of blaring car horns.
"Geez, calm down!" Abby shouted, sitting back in her seat and hitting the gas pedal, a grin on her face. "Did you plan this? I mean, I know you like kids, but I thought you two wanted to wait…" she asked, and Ziva shook her head.
"We did. Wanted to wait, that is. We haven't told anyone yet, so please, try to keep this to yourself. Especially around Tony."
She saw Abby bite her lip and inwardly groaned.
"Abby, I know you are best friends. And I know you don't want to lie to him or keep things from him. But my friendship with Tony is on the stones right now, and if he finds out you knew before him, he is going to be so mad. Again."
"Rocks. On the rocks." Abby softly corrected her and sighed. "I won't tell him or bring it up or anything. If he asks, though…" the Goth told her, and Ziva knew that was all she was going to get. So she nodded.
"Thank you, Abby." she smiled at her, turning to watch the road again. It didn't take long to pick up her belongings from the house she and Ray had bought two months prior, and when they were on the road again, Ziva quickly texted him that the air was clear and he could come home, feeling a pleasant thrill of excitement run through her body. A glance at the clock told her it was just another 22 hours until she was Mrs. Ziva David-Cruz. She couldn't wait.
Chapter 2: the one with the emotional baggage
On a less funny note: this needs a trigger warning for hints at past sexual abuse/rape.
"Okay, I want to know all the dirty details." Abby said when Ziva finally emerged from her bathroom after a long shower. Her hair was currently drying, dripping over the towel on her shoulders and onto Abby's carpet. Breena and Sarah had left forty minutes ago, after Abby had called them a cab. And while the Goth had been doing a pretty good impersonation of someone drunk almost out of their mind, Ziva found that she had sobered up and was not watching her intently when she sat down on Abby's couch. To buy time, the Israeli busied herself with untangling a knot from her uncombed hair. When she glanced up, she found Abby watching her like a hawk with a glint in her green eyes that definitely smelled of mischief and mayhem.
"What dirty details?" Ziva asked, reaching over the small table and grabbing a glass. Taking a sniff of the clear liquid, she scrunched up her nose and placed it back, accepting her former glass from Abby, who had also switched to normal water.
"Come on, Ziva. You may be a trained investigator and get to dodge questions by Breena and Sarah, but I for one noticed you not answering any on the juicy ones. So now that we're alone, you will spill." Abby shook her head, taking a sip of her water. Ziva groaned, her head hitting the headrest when she closed her eyes.
"So, how's the sex?"
"ABBY!" Ziva shrieked, looking at her friend with what she hoped was a shocked expression. She could feel the heat rising in her cheeks and knew she was blushing. And judging by the way Abby's grin grew, she was not just blushing but turning into a lobster.
"Come on! I mean, he's kinda cute, but I never really see you two kiss in public. Just those chaste little pecks. And it's my duty as Maid of Honor to make sure that your future husband can satisfy your sexual demands." she giggled, and despite herself, Ziva found herself grinning.
"I guess we're just private people, you know? I don't need to devour him in public, and I don't need my face eaten in front of my friends." Ziva shrugged and took a sip of her water. Which almost turned into a deadly mistake when Abby opened her mouth again.
"I would've thought that you wanted something else eaten, but whatever floats your boat, I guess." she muttered, almost dropping her drink when Ziva spit water everywhere and had a coughing fit. Abby thumped her on the back, hard.
"Are you trying to get me killed before the wedding?" she wheezed, trying to catch her breath and glaring at Abby at the same time.
"Sorry. Wow, you're really a prude, aren't you? I thought, with all the flirting you've been doing in the past-"
"That I want to discuss my sexual preferences or describe in detail what I like Ray to do to me?" Ziva asked, getting up to grab a napkin to wipe her mouth. When she sat back down, Abby had the decency to look chastised.
"Sorry." she apologized, blushing slightly. "I keep forgetting not everyone is comfortable with sex talk."
Ziva drew a deep breath and shook her head.
"It's not that I don't trust you, Abby. But… after Somalia-" her voice hitched slightly and she forced herself to remain calm, "I don't like to talk about it. Some things can be… triggers for me. And while being eaten out by Ray is not one of them, the… reverse… would be. So don't even ask about that."
Abby's eyes widened and she moved next to her, hugging her hard. Harder than Ziva liked, but she had come to recognize it as Abby's way of comforting people, so she returned the hug briefly to let her know she was going to be okay.
"I'm really sorry, Ziva. I never considered… God, I'm horrible." the Goth said, her voice barely above a whisper when she turned from Ziva.
"It's okay, Abby. You didn't know, because I didn't tell you." Ziva tried to make her feel better. "And for the record, Ray is a fantastic lover." she attempted to lighten the mood, causing Abby to stare at her. "What? You asked." Ziva shrugged, hiding a small grin behind her glass when she took another drink.
"I'll never really get you." she shook her head, the corners of her mouth lifting slightly. She rearranged herself so she had one leg up on the couch under her and her body turned towards Ziva, who mimicked her position. "Have you told him yet? About the baby?" she asked, her voice soft. Ziva slowly nodded.
"He got worried when the smell of coffee and his cologne made me sick. He insisted I see a doctor and threatened to cancel the wedding if I didn't. I only found out six days ago, I told him the same evening when I found out." she told her friend, feeling the warm feeling of happiness spread out through her body again.
"How'd he react?" Abby asked, her brows furrowing slightly.
"Really well, considering we said we'd wait at least a year before trying." Ziva shrugged. Seeing Abby's face, she quickly shook her head. "Don't, Abby. He's a great guy, and he was actually thrilled. Once the initial shock went away a bit. For a second, I was afraid he was going to faint, he had turned so pale." Ziva laughed at the memory, happy to hear Abby join in.
"How far along are you? Have you discussed names yet? Are you gonna find out what you're having?" the Goth bombarded her with questions.
"I'm seven weeks along. We haven't talked about names we want; I just said that it's considered bad luck naming a child after the deceased in Judaism."
"I thought you didn't believe in this sort of stuff?" Abby needled her, and Ziva stuck out her tongue.
"I believe that some things draw attention to the baby, good and bad. Hence why we are not going to have a baby shower, and you will have to answer to my wrath as an emotionally unstable pregnant ex-assassin if you even consider throwing one." she told Abby, giving her her best glare.
"No baby shower, got it. But once it's born, I can spoil it rotten, right?" Abby clapped her hands slightly, and Ziva shook her head in amusement.
"We'll see about that." she told her, trying to run a hand through her still wet mess of hair. "Another thing, there are no Godparents in Judaism. I know that Ray feels like the baby should get them, anyway, and we haven't even begun discussing the issues our different faith will bring. If he insists, however, I will need someone to suggest. And I was thinking about you. If you want to."
Abby stared at her, her mouth open and moving slightly, but no sound coming from her. Ziva was beginning to grow worried when her friend suddenly moved forward and hugged her again, this time more carefully. When she pulled away, though, she could see tears in Abby's eyes, and wasn't sure if that was a good thing.
"I would love to, but… Ziva, do you know what Godparents are supposed to be?" she slowly started, and Ziva furrowed her brows.
"Spiritual guidance. Which is sort of confusing, because in Judaism, it's the parents' jobs to make sure the children become valuable members to the Jewish community and are raised proper Jews. Unless they die, then the duty falls onto the community and remaining family members." Ziva shrugged.
"Um, yeah. Spiritual guidance is the general idea. But, um… they're also… well, in case something… happens… to the parents, it's usually the godparents who are then called upon to raise the child. Or children." Abby explained. This time, it was Ziva's turn to widen her eyes.
"Oh." she breathed.
"And I am honored and I would love to do it, it's just… with your jobs, yours and Ray's, it's a real chance. And don't get me wrong, I would totally do it, it's just… I don't think I'm the right person? I mean, look at me, I don't have a boyfriend or anyone to help me, really, and look at my job and the hours I work and-"
"Abby, stop." Ziva interrupted her ranting. "I stand by what I said, if Ray insists on Godparents, you are going down as my choice for Godmother. And it will be spiritual guidance. One of the few things we did discuss was actually what would happen if something happened to us, and as soon as this baby is born, we will change our wills so Ray's brother Sean and his wife are listed as our preferred guardians for our children." she explained.
"Sean the Best Man?" Abby asked, her eyes flashing with appreciation.
"That's the one." Ziva nodded.
"He's really nice."
"And really married." Ziva shook her head. She hadn't missed how Abby had almost drooled on Sean during the last few meetings with the Justice of Peace and Amber when they went through the wedding the final times. It didn't help that Abby had yet to meet Sean's wife, who apparently, didn't like Ray all that much and didn't want to get involved in the wedding more than she had to. But from what Ziva had seen the last year, Mira and her husband loved each other very much, and while he was always up for flirting, whenever a woman made her intentions clear, Sean told them he was married and that they were not getting anywhere with him.
"A girl can dream." Abby sighed, glancing at her clock and Ziva followed her gaze. It was close to midnight, they would have to get up around eight. For some reason, Ziva wasn't tired, at all.
"Nervous?" Abby asked her, and she swallowed.
"Yes." she admitted. "My father is going to attend. His secretary called yesterday to confirm it. And between him and Tony, this could turn out a disaster."
It felt good to finally voice her fear. She had not felt like unloading it with Ray, because he had his own family to worry about. His parents weren't thrilled he was marrying a former Israeli and a Jew, and his mother had been very vocal about her displeasure when she had met Ziva for the first time.
Abby grabbed her hand and squeezed it tightly, giving her a reassuring smile.
"Tony's a good guy. There's just, he's got a lot on his mind right now. And he's truly sorry about how he behaved. And your father… he may be an ass, Ziva, but, he loves you." she softly said, and Ziva blinked against the tears that were welling up in her eyes. "You're his daughter. He didn't get to see Tali and… Ari marry, and he won't pass up the chance to see his only living child tie the knot. I don't think he'll try anything, and if he does, he'll have to answer to Ray and Timmy and Tony and Gibbs. And trust me; they'll be four very displeased federal agents."
Ziva gave a short laugh and sniffle and accepted the tissue Abby handed her, blowing her nose.
"Hey, I didn't tell you, guess who also called me?" she suddenly said, sitting up slightly. Abby watched her shortly before shaking her head.
"No idea. But judging from the look on your face, it wasn't Agent Barrett." she joked, and Ziva made a face.
"She actually did, two weeks ago, when we send out the invites and had the announcement in the paper. She congratulated me and asked if I had Tony's current address and number. I pretended I was driving through a tunnel and disconnected the call, she didn't try again." Ziva shook her head. "No, I was talking about Malachi." she then informed Abby.
"Is he coming with that stupid Liat person?" Abby asked, her voice taking on an edge, and Ziva quickly told her no.
"They aren't together any more. Actually, they never were, officially, they were scratching each other's itches or something." she frowned slightly, making Abby laugh.
"Well, in that case, I may have found someone else to concentrate my efforts on. If you are sure Sean is taken?"
Abby merely grinned when Ziva hit her in the face with the couch cushion.
Chapter 3: the one with all the talking
She had no idea how, but finally Ziva had managed to fall asleep around 2 am, cuddled close to Abby in her bed. Contrary to most people's believes, the Goth actually did own a king size bed and only used the coffin when she was having trouble falling asleep because something in her bedroom kept distracting her.
Abby woke Ziva at 8am and forced her to eat something before they drove to the beach house where the wedding ceremony would be held. They were the first ones to arrive there, unsurprisingly. The men got to sleep in a bit, seeing as the wedding was scheduled for 11.30 am and they were at the house at 9.
Abby was just untangling Ziva's curls and brushing out her hair when Ray's sister Maria arrived, bright cheery smile on her lips that did nothing to hide the anxiety in her eyes when she hung up the dresses for herself and Abby. While Sean was Ray's best man, Tim was the second groomsman, and Gibbs would give Ziva away. She had debated with herself and knew that this would probably lead to a fight with her biological father, but she was not going to give him this moment. He hadn't been a part of her life in two years now; he was not going to be honored like this when Gibbs deserved it more. It was Gibbs Ray had asked for permission to ask her to marry him and it had been Gibbs' whose approval she had sought for years now.
"You look gorgeous, Ziva. Like you're glowing." Maria told her, and Ziva stepped on Abby's foot rather hard to keep her from making a comment and threw the Forensic Scientist a warning look. "Did I say something wrong?" the younger woman wondered, looking from one NCIS employee to the other, and both quickly shook their heads no. The last thing Ziva needed to happen was for someone else to find out about the pregnancy minutes before the wedding ceremony.
A soft knock on the door kept them from having to explain things, thankfully. Abby hurried to it and made sure that Ziva was out of sight before opening it.
"Gibbs!" she yelled, hugging the man tightly before allowing him inside. When he saw Ziva, he stopped dead in his tracks and swallowed. It was a good thing he had not waited until she was wearing her dress. The Israeli smiled at him, slowly walking over and hugging him, allowing herself to bury her face in his chest briefly and to seek a little of his strength.
"Ray told us that Eli's coming." he muttered and felt her nod, her body trembling slightly. "It's your choice, Ziver." he told her and watched as Abby pulled Maria into the ensuite bathroom to give the two some privacy and use the time to change into their pale turquoise dresses.
Gibbs pulled Ziva over to the desk and pushed her into one of the chairs before positioning the other one as close as possible to her, so that their knees were touching when he sat down. He took her hands in his, squeezing them softly and kissing the crown of her head. "I won't be mad if you want him to give you away. He's your father-"
"No, he's not." Ziva whispered, shaking her head. She looked up at him, a tear running down her cheek. "I didn't ask you to give me away because I didn't have the option of having Eli do it. I wanted it to be you. I have needed your approval for years now. I need to know you are proud of me, of my choices. I would have never said yes to Ray if you had hinted that you did not trust him after everything that happened in Israel. I… I haven't had a real father for most of my life, and I am glad I have you now. You built me up again, Gibbs. After Ari, you took me on your team and guided me, you taught me how to be more than a killer. You taught me that the world doesn't exist in black and white and shades of gray. You showed me that love isn't weakness but strength, that tears can be cleansing and emotions need not be feared when they do not come without reason. You believed I was dead and still came to Somalia to avenge my death, even though you felt that I had betrayed your trust. My father did not even attempt to get proof of my death. And when it was obvious I was alive, he send Malachi to escort me back to Israel. He didn't even feel the need to come for me himself." she told him, brushing away her tears. "I want you to give me away, Gibbs. I don't care for Eli and his approval, it is yours I need."
Gibbs swallowed thickly and nodded once.
"You got it." he told her, his voice heavy with emotion. He looked up to see Abby come back into the room, an uncertain Maria in tow. He nodded in her direction to acknowledge her presence before standing next to Abby.
"Now, we've got a little surprise for you." Abby told her, bouncing in the balls of her feet. Ziva looked at them, confused.
"Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue." the Goth recited, and Ziva furrowed her brows.
"According to tradition, that's what a bride needs on her wedding day." Gibbs informed her, withdrawing a small package from his jacket and handing it to Ziva.
"Your wedding dress is new. This is something old." he said, waiting as she unwrapped it to find a white gold wristband. Turning it around, she saw the quotation on the back and her throat closed up. She looked at Gibbs, tears brimming in her eyes.
"It belonged to Shannon. She wore it when we got married, and it was supposed to be Kelly's when she got married. I want you to have it." he told her, and she couldn't help but step into his arms again, hugging him tightly as she whispered a thank you before letting him slip it on.
"Two down, two to go." Abby chimed in, getting a small package from her bag and handing it to Ziva. "Something borrowed."
This time, Ziva found a small silver comb. She had seen it in Abby's bathroom before, and knew it was pretty old; her grandmother had given it to her.
"It'll match the necklace." Abby told her, accepting her hug with a big smile.
"So, I got two. One, something blue." Maria said, holding up pale blue nail polish. "For your feet." she explained and then pulled out a coin. "We're part British, I know Ray told you that. And our saying goes further, it's 'something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue and a sixpence in your shoe'." she told Ziva and handed her the coin. The lily on the coin was the same found on the Israeli one shekel, but the coin itself was heavier and bigger than Ziva remembered it to be. When she turned it around, she felt her heart speed up. The number on the coin was not one, but two, and the Hebrew letters spelled her name and Ray's, their wedding date standing out under the number. Ziva swallowed thickly. "I know our mother did not give you the feeling like you are welcome in this family, and neither did Mira. But they don't matter. Ray loves you, a blind person could see that, and I'm glad he found you. I don't care that you're Jewish or that by definition, my nieces and nephews will be Jewish, too. Religion doesn't matter, what matters is that you two love each other, with all your hearts. Welcome to the family, Ziva." Maria smiled and hugged her tightly, not letting her go until Ziva broke the hug, upon which she gave her soon-to-be sister-in-law another tissue and bumped fists with Abby.
"Now, let's get you into that dress." Maria grinned, and Gibbs took that as his cue to leave the room and get changed himself. Once Abby and Maria had laced up her dress and Ziva was confident that it was staying up, having opted for a strapless wedding gown, the two women went to work on her make-up and hair, Maria taking a detour to paint Ziva's toenails. Abby was putting the finishing touches on the upsweep Ziva's curls were in and placed the comb in it when there was another knock on the door. The three women held their breaths.
"Who's there?" Maria called out finally. When a familiar voice answered, Ziva found she would have been relieved if it had merely been Ray. As it was, Abby hurried to the door and pulled it shut behind her, her heated voice drifting through the wood, though the sounds were muffled enough that Ziva couldn't understand what exactly she was saying. She gave a forced smile in Maria's direction before busying herself with checking her reflection. She saw the door open in the mirror and Abby step in. Drawing herself up, she turned, bracing herself.
"He'd like to talk to you. Malachi's also out; he can come in, too, if you want." Abby softly said, waiting for Ziva's decision. The Israeli bit her lip and leaned against the vanity, drawing a couple of deep breaths. "You don't have to do this, Ziva. After the way he's acted, he doesn't have a right to demand anything from you, much less on your wedding day."
Ziva found herself shaking her head, looking at Abby.
"I want to talk to him. Set a few ground rules." she told her.
"Are you sure?" Abby asked, wringing her hands slightly, but Ziva nodded.
"Ok. We'll leave you alone then." she said and waited for Maria to finish putting on her lipstick before stepping out and leaving the door open for Malachi to enter. Who immediately went and hugged Ziva, kissing her cheek and muttering his congratulations in Hebrew.
"Your father is being watched by Doctor Mallard and Gibbs' father. For a man so old he definitely has balls." Malachi told her, drawing a small smile from her. "I made sure he didn't have anything to drink. I'll sit next to him in the back, if he starts causing trouble, I'll escort him out immediately."
Ziva nodded, feeling grateful. "Thank you. I know you didn't imagine coming here to be his guard dog. I appreciate it."
"Anything for the woman that saved my life." Malachi shook his head. "I'll make sure to stay away from you, though. As I remember, your fiancé packs quite a punch." he joked, rubbing his jaw. Ziva flashed back to Ray decking Malachi when he had caught them together in Israel, just after she had shot Kort in the shoulder and Malachi was hugging her in thanks.
A throat was cleared softly, and Malachi's face darkened. "Though he's not the only one." he muttered, stepping to the side. Ziva took a deep breath before looking to the door. Tony was still standing close to it, as if ready to make a run for it. The fact he felt it necessary made her heart clench and she felt anger and frustration bubbling up inside of her.
"I see you could make it." she said. Not the first thing that came to her mind, but by far the more polite one. Tony reached up and rubbed his neck sheepishly.
"Yeah. I wasn't sure if you wanted me here." he said, looking at her with uncertainty shining in his green eyes. Ziva forced herself to draw a deep breath. Exploding at him was not going to change the past nor would it help them at all.
"I wasn't sure if I wanted you here, either." she told him, feeling some satisfaction at seeing him flinch at her tone of voice. He slowly shifted his weight, his eyes darting around the room before finally settling on her.
"I'm sorry, Zee." he said. She shook her head.
"You can't even make it sound like you are. How am I supposed to believe you, Tony? After all the things you've done, we were still friends. You killed my boyfriend, for Heaven's sake. And I did not hold it against you, because really, I think you may have done the world a favor. But then I fall in love with someone else, and you act all jealous and suspicious. You tell me you believe he is a mole. You follow him to Israel, because you feel like it's your damn job to protect my sorry ass, to save me from another monster-"
"I'm your partner! It's my job to have your back!" he returned, anger rising in him.
"Yes! And I needed you to trust me on this! I needed you to have my back and believe that Ray and I were in love. I needed a friend, Tony, not a jealous stalker. You almost got Malachi killed! And yourself!" she shouted at him, biting her tongue. "And if that's not enough, when I tell you Ray proposed and I said yes, you go to get drunk out of your mind and then show up in the middle of the night at my house, trying to kiss me. What sort of friend does that, Tony? Tell me, because I am very interested in your answer."
To her surprise, he closed his eyes before bowing his head and staring at the carpet. She had her mouth open to tell him to just leave when he looked up.
"A crappy friend. One that doesn't get when he's missed his chance, when to leave things alone. One that doesn't care for the happiness of others. A selfish asshat." he shrugged, drawing a breath. "I am truly sorry, Ziva. What I did… there's no excuse." he apologized.
"You're right, there isn't." she nodded, looking away from him and trying to gather her thoughts. She heard Tony shift his stance again.
"I guess I better leave then." he muttered, and she had to close her eyes against the heartbroken tone of his voice.
"Wait." she softly whispered and turned to watch him again. He had his back to her, his hand already on the doorknob, his head turned slightly so she could see his profile. "You were my best friend, Tony. And I want you here, today. But… one word during the ceremony, just one single word of disapproval, and we are done. I love him, Tony. With all my heart. And I won't let you ruin this for us; I can't let you do that to me."
Tony nodded then turned. "I can watch your father." he offered, and Ziva narrowed her eyes at him. "Or just help keep an eye on him. I know Ducky and Jackson would rather pay attention to the ceremony. I won't be up in the front anyway, so I can make myself useful. It's the least I can do, considering…" he trailed off.
Ziva exchanged a quick glance with Malachi, who shrugged.
"Fine." she agreed and then hugged Malachi before the two men left the room, leaving her alone to gather her thoughts. Ziva took a few deep breaths to compose herself and checked her reflection in the mirror one last time before squaring her shoulder and nodding to her reflection. Then she turned and went to exit the room.
Chapter 4: the one with the cliche vows
This was written before Season 9 even started airing and waaaay before the promo for "Desperate Man" was released.
Outside the room, Gibbs was waiting for her, checking his watch. When she stepped through the door, he looked up and his face froze, his eyes travelling over her and taking in her dress and hair and make-up. He swallowed thickly before giving her a lopsided smile that made her blush. She moved to stand next to him, feeling anxiety well up inside of her.
"How much time until the ceremony?" she asked him, regretting that she wasn't wearing a watch. Abby had insisted on her forgoing it, saying it would just make her more nervous. The way Ziva felt now, though, nothing could've made her more nervous than not knowing if they were behind on the schedule already.
"Relax, we're a couple of minutes ahead. I just saw Ray and Sean leave the house and go down to the gazebo." the silver-haired man told her. "Abby and Maria should also be in position already. Now we're just waiting until everyone settles down and then Tim will go down and give them the signal to start the wedding march."
Ziva slowly nodded, feeling her hands shake from nerves. She had never been as nervous, never in her entire life. Not when she had been doing ballet performances on stage, or when she had been trying out for Mossad, nor when she had had marksmanship exam and her recruiter had been breathing down her neck the entire time, or when she had been waiting for Ray to return home so she could tell him about the pregnancy. She reached up and almost rubbed a hand over her eyes before remembering she was wearing make-up. Gibbs gave a small chuckle.
"Relax, Ziver." he told her, and she rolled her eyes at him.
"Because that's so easy. How could you get married four times? I feel like I'm going to vomit." she said, trying to draw deep breaths. She leaned forward slightly, cursing the corset under her dress. To her surprise, she felt Gibbs' calloused hands on her shoulders, gently rubbing her soft skin. She looked up at him to see his face full of affection and a hint of worry.
"Deep, steady breaths. You don't want to start hyperventilating." he guided her through taking breaths until she was doing better on her own and the worst of the sudden nausea seemed to have passed. He waited until she drew herself up again before speaking. "It doesn't get easier with each wedding. People get nervous because there are no guarantees in life. No one can say you'll still be in love with him in ten years, or that you're both going to be alive at that point. Getting married means taking a chance, a huge one. You gotta have confidence in your love for each other and in your relationship, be willing to work on things. It's a commitment, one that's supposed to last 'til you die. That's a huge step to take." he told her, his voice soft.
"Do you love Ray?" he asked her, and Ziva felt a sudden wave of calm wash over her.
"With all my heart." she nodded.
"Do you think he loves you, too?"
"I know he does."
"Do you want to spend the rest of your life with him?" Gibbs pressed, and she found herself smiling at the prospect.
"Yes." she softly whispered.
"Then there's no need to be nervous or afraid." her boss told her, offering her his arm. She took it, accepting the bouquet of flowers from him before he nodded at McGee, who returned the gesture and then left the house. Gibbs guided her through the hallway to the back doors that led to the patio that overlooked the sea. They watched as Tim took his place next to Sean and the wedding march began to play. People in the audience rose, and Gibbs gently squeezed her hand before taking a step forward, out of the house and pulling Ziva with him. The first few steps she was concentrating on the floor before she looked up and saw Ray stare at her with love and adoration on his face. She found herself hold his gaze and the weight lifted off her shoulders. She didn't even register when they passed the row in which her father sat. Dimly, she heard the Justice of the Peace ask who was giving her away and Gibbs answered, letting go of her hands and taking the bouquet to pass it to Abby when she clasped hands with Ray, still staring into his dark eyes and feeling like she was coming home from a long journey, while the Justice of Peace started the ceremony.
"Ray and Ziva have decided to share their own vows with us." the Justice's voice broke through the fog in Ziva's brain. Her palms were sweaty and she felt lightheaded, though she was pretty sure that this didn't have anything to do with the pregnancy. Ray smiled at her, letting go of her hand shortly to wipe his at his pants. Apparently, she wasn't the only one being nervous.
"Ray, whenever you are ready."
Ray nodded and drew a deep breath.
"For the longest time, I watched my friends find love, get married, have kids. And I went from one woman to the next, trying to find that. But somehow, something was always missing. Until I met you. I never believed in fate or destiny, or any of these things." he said, his voice shaking slightly.
"But when I met you, I suddenly started to believe in soulmates. You complete me, Ziva. I know I don't tell you how much I love you nearly as often as I should, and I promise I'll get better. I love you, Ziva David. Everything you are, your smile and how it brightens my day, your eyes and how they make me feel like I'm the only person in the room at times, your humor and how you can make me laugh when I'm really down, your love and your belief in me, in us. I want to spend the rest of my life with you, as my beloved wife, my trusted friend and my loyal partner."
Ziva drew a shaking breath, reaching up to brush a stray tear from her cheek. She could hear Abby sniffle behind her, and Tim was looking suspiciously red-eyed, too.
"Ziva, whenever you are ready."
She had to shake her head and drew a teary laugh from the party before she closed her eyes and forced herself to calm down.
"I have been through a lot. And for most of my life, I watched couples from afar, elderly people, happily married with grown children, and I felt jealous, because I thought I would never be able to have this. It wasn't in my plan, and it certainly wasn't going to happen with my lifestyle. I honestly thought I would be dead by now." she said, shaking her head lightly to clear it from the dark thoughts. "But I am not. I survived. Somehow, I managed to get through this. And I had lovely friends, my family, that helped to build me up again. But despite their efforts, they couldn't mend every broken thing in my body. Bones heal, but hearts… not so much. And then I met you. And you were… different. You didn't run when I told you what had happened. You stayed. And more, you still tried to woe me. You always tried to make me smile and never demanded more than I was able to give. And before I realized it, I had fallen in love with you, I had fallen hard and fast like never before. I was afraid, afraid that my past, that I would somehow manage to ruin this." she started, pausing to swallow against the lump in her throat. "I love you, Ray. For everything you are. You make me believe in the good in people, in happy endings. And I knew that it wouldn't be easy with our jobs, but looking back… if I were given the choice to do it all again, I would, in a heartbeat. Because this is real, this is love, this is what I have dreamed off for so long. To love someone as much as they love me. And I promise to always love you, to be a friend, a confidant, a sounding board, a lover and a partner."
When Ziva had ended, Sean stepped forward and gave the rings to the Justice of the Peace, who held the box out to Ray. The groom took the ring and paused shortly before looking into Ziva's eyes.
"With this ring, I thee wed." he softly said, pushing the wedding band onto her finger. With a shaking hand, Ziva reached for his ring and took Ray's hand.
"With this ring, I thee wed." she repeated, easily sliding the ring onto his finger and feeling like an immense weight had suddenly been lifted from her shoulders.
"I pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride." the Justice smiled at them. Ray took a step towards her and gently cradled her face in his hands before brushing his lips across hers. What was intended as another chaste display of their feelings quickly escalated with the emotion they were feeling and Ziva found herself melting into his embrace, her hands tangling in his short hair as his came to rest on her waist as they continued to kiss through the cheers and catcalls from the audience. She felt Ray smile against her lips and happiness bubbled up deep inside of her, warming her soul. When they finally separated, she didn't dare look at the back of the seating rows, in fear of catching her father's eye and having the look in them ruin the moment for her. Instead, she stood next to Ray as they accepted the congratulations and hugs from their closest friends and the people she considered family. Abby was still crying when she hugged her, and Ziva felt herself tear up again, out of sheer happiness. To her surprise, Ray's mother was civil to her for once, shaking her hand and welcoming her to the family, though her tone remained cold. Well, Ziva was not going to ask for more right now, it was more than she had actually expected.
When almost everyone had spoken to them, she found herself face to face with Malachi again, allowing her former colleague to hug her.
"Mazel Tov, Ziva." Malachi grinned before thumping Ray on the shoulder, and rather hard at that. Some things would never change, Ziva thought, when she saw the glint in Malachi's eyes. Her attention, however, was immediately diverted to the man now standing in front of her. Her father. She swallowed thickly, thankful that her makeup would be hiding her sudden paleness. She felt Gibbs step closer behind her, ready to intercept. But Eli remained quiet and merely watched her face for a long moment before nodding, once.
"Mazel Tov, Bat." he said, extending his hand. Ziva could feel Ray shift next to her and quickly took her father's hand, shaking it. Once she let go, Eli turned around and stalked off, Malachi hot on his heels, but not leaving before he gave her an apologetic sort of half-smile that she knew he used to accompany the delivery things he couldn't change. Ray gently touched her elbow, stepping closer again, his lips near her ear.
"You okay?" he softly asked her, making it look like he was pulling a strand of her hair back up. She nodded, not trusting her voice at the moment, but squeezed his hand.
"So, how about we get this show on the road? There is food waiting for us at the hotel." Sean suggested.
"Food, thank God, I'm starving." Tony muttered, drawing a laugh from the team, including Ziva. He caught her eye and gave her a sheepish grin, but she merely winked at him, letting him know she appreciated his attempt to lighten the mood and draw attention away from her. Tony mouthed back a single word. Partners.
Chapter 5: the one with too much Gibbs
When everyone seemed to have found their seats and gotten settled, Ray and Ziva exchanged a look and both rose, champagne glasses in their hands, Ziva's actually containing ginger ale. They had chosen round tables for their guests, except the table for the wedding party, which was a long wooden one with the seats for Ray, Ziva,
Ray's parents, Gibbs, Sean, his wife, Tim, Abby and Maria.
"Um, hi." Ray began, earning some laughs from the guests. He grinned wildly and squeezed Ziva's hand tightly who returned the gesture. "First of all, thanks for coming. For letting us share this day with you. It means a lot." he said, looking at his mother shortly. "I hope we're going to have a wonderful night. There's gonna be a refill of water bottles on the tables, if you want something else, order away. Oh, and before I forget," he stopped and took a small camera from the table, "each table should have three of these. They have twenty pictures, so if you see something you think should be remembered, click away."
With that, he looked at Ziva.
"Well, hi from me, too." she said, blushing slightly when the laughter got louder. "I am horrible at making speeches, so I will make this short. Thank you for coming. I think tonight's going to be great. Have fun, laugh, drink, dance." she smiled, nodding at her husband. Both raised their glasses.
"To love." they toasted, clinking glasses and taking a sip before kissing and earning a huge applause. Once she sat back down, Ziva felt the day catch up with her slightly. Gibbs leaned over to her when the waiters started filling people's cups with coffee and Ray announced that the table in the hallway with the cakes was free to be raided.
"You're a bit pale." Gibbs muttered, handing his cup to a smiling waitress. When she moved to take Ziva's, she quickly held her hand over it.
"Thanks, but I'd like some jasmine tea instead." she told the younger woman, ignoring her slight frown by turning to Gibbs. His raised eyebrow would be harder to ignore.
"I know you don't like coffee, but where did the black tea go?" he asked her, watching her face intently.
"I feel a bit… weird. I didn't have much for breakfast. Nerves, I guess." she shrugged, trying to dismiss his concern.
"Want some cake?" Gibbs asked her. Ziva had just opened her mouth when Ray appeared again, placing a plate of cheesecake in front of her and stabbing the fork into it.
"Eat. Or I'll make you." he told her, trying to give her a stern look. She merely smiled at him in thankfulness. Gibbs nodded at him before rising to get himself some cake, and she knew she was off the hook for now. When he was out of earshot, Ray softly asked if she was alright, and Ziva slowly nodded, after taking a bite of the cake and hoping it was not going to upset her stomach further. Until now, morning sickness hadn't really been an issue, she had felt queasy a few times but never bad enough to throw up. And she was really hoping that this wasn't going to change today.
Forty minutes later, she knew she was out of luck. In the middle of a new conversation with Gibbs, she felt the bile rise in her throat and quickly excused herself. Thankfully, the women's room was empty when she emptied the contents of her stomach into the sink, not being able to make it to a stall in time. She was resting her head on the cool marble of the counter when she heard the door open and squeezed her eyes shut. Really not what she needed right now. To her surprise, the person merely turned on the water to rinse the sink and took some paper towels to wet them, holding them against the back of her neck gently. Ziva moaned in appreciation, not even caring whoever it was that was taking care of her right now. The wet paper towels were removed and the water shut off and Ziva knew she would have to straighten and face whoever had entered. When she looked up in the mirror, her eyes locked on pale blue ones, and she knew she had been found out. Gibbs was smirking slightly at her and she groaned.
"It's not funny." she muttered, turning and taking the towels from his hand to dab her neck again.
"Actually, it is." her boss argued, leaning against the counter. "Given that I was wondering how long it would take for you to figure it out and tell me." he added. Ziva froze in her attempt to cool her skin, a fresh wave of nausea washing over her, this time not having to do anything with her hormone levels.
"You knew?" she asked, her voice trembling. She was screwed. Oh, this wasn't good, not good at all.
"Shannon was pregnant with Kelly, Ziva." he softly reminded her. "I may be old, but I'm neither stupid nor blind or deaf."
"How long? I mean, I only found out a week ago, how could you-"
"You were really cranky. More than usual. You hated the smell of coffee, you asked for salad instead of cheese steak when McGee bought lunch last week. Last crime scene, you took one look at the body and almost ran out of the room. You're a lot of things, Ziva, but squeamish isn't one of them." he listed. "I figured you knew sometime last week, you wanted to stay behind when we went to arrest Anderson. I was waiting for you to come to me, to tell me." Gibbs gave her a somewhat stern look.
"That's why you had me go through all the financial records." Ziva realized. "You were trying to keep me out of the field without making it obvious why you were doing it."
Gibbs just nodded.
"I'm sorry, Gibbs. For not telling you when I found out." she apologized. "It's just… Ray and I agreed to wait until after the wedding. We didn't plan this, it just… happened, and I guess we're still trying to figure things out. I didn't want to keep it from you, I just… I'm not even twelve weeks along and…" she muttered, afraid to voice the reason why she and Ray had agree that until she started showing or was entering her second trimester, they wouldn't tell people about the pregnancy. Truth be told, she had wanted kids, and Ray, too, but they had postponed it not simply because they didn't think they were ready to be parents. After Somalia, Ziva had been told that she may not be able to have children of her own in the future, that it would be difficult for her to get pregnant. She didn't want to jinx anything by telling everyone about the baby prematurely.
"I understand, Ziver. But with our jobs, I need to know if there is a reason that you can't do field duty. Why you shouldn't be out in the field." he quickly corrected himself when Ziva opened her mouth in protest. "I'm not gonna make you ride a desk all the time, but you're pregnant. You're part of my team, I gotta protect you, and since you're caring it, that's true for that baby of yours, too."
Ziva slowly nodded. "I really am sorry, Gibbs."
"Next time, tell me right away. I won't go telling everyone else." he told her, hugging her carefully. "Congratulations, Ziver." he murmured into her ear, and Ziva found herself hugging him hard, tears welling up in her eyes. Damn hormones.
"Now, how about we get back to the others? I doubt they missed you leave, if we stay here much longer, they're gonna think we're having an affair." Gibbs joked, and offered Ziva his arm to lead her back to the party.
Chapter 6: the one that's mostly a filler
When she walked back into the room, Malachi rose and nodded towards the door, indicating he wanted a few words with her alone. She told him to go ahead, she would catch up in a minute before leaning down and kissing Ray's cheek.
"I'm fine." she whispered into his ear before leaning back. "It's lovely weather outside, I won't stray far." she promised him before walking after her former unit leader.
She found Malachi sitting outside in the sun, his eyes halfway closed, enjoying the temperature.
"It reminds me of Haifa." he said when she sat down beside him. "It's a shame you had to get married at the end of summer, Ziva. I would have really loved to see the cherry blossoms."
Ziva watched him, waiting for him to continue. There was something more, and she had a feeling he had not brought up the blossoms for no reason. And she did not have to wait long before he began to speak again.
"Liat is dead." he whispered, rubbing a hand over his eyes. "I would like to say that your father killed her, but actually, it was her ambition. She asked for the assignment, even when I tried to convince her otherwise. We were over, but still… what a waste." Malachi shook his head.
Ziva opened her mouth to say something, but had no idea what. She hadn't been the biggest fan of the woman, yes, but she cared for Malachi. He had seemed happier when he was with her. And she knew what losing a partner, a Mossad partner you had worked with and trusted to have your back, felt like, how much it hurt to lose someone you would have died protecting.
Malachi leaned forward, resting his arms on his knees and looking over the small garden belonging to the hotel.
"I think you need to speak with your father, Ziva." he told her, turning his head to look at her. "Perhaps not today, it may be a mistake. But in the near future, you should speak to him. Try to make your peace with him, if you want to. If not… at least tell him you don't hate him."
The woman raised an intrigued eyebrow before frowning slightly. Since Hadar's death, Malachi had more of less taken over as Eli's personal guard, his assignments getting rare. She knew that Eli had confided in Hadar, but she had been sure that her father would not trust Malachi as much. Or perhaps he had not told him anything but Malachi had simply picked up a few conversations.
"Are you trying to tell me my father is dying?" Ziva asked, surprised by the waver in her voice and the sadness she felt welling up inside of her. Malachi swallowed.
"I am not sure. He does not trust me with everything, something you will be very aware of. Had you not invited me, I would not be here today; he never mentioned the invitation to me. That being said, he is getting old, Ziva. And he does not look healthy. He is tired very often, his mind wanders… It is not my place to tell him to step down as Director, and I will not do it. But something is going on, and it feels like being here today is his attempt to bridge the gap between you two. Just, if he tries talking to you again-"
"I will not push him away." Ziva nodded, drawing a deep breath.
"Thank you." Malachi attempted a smile and then leaned back again. "Your aunt sends her congratulations. She wanted me to tell you how proud she is."
Ziva managed a soft smile. "Thank you. And tell her I got her letter and will write back soon."
"After the honeymoon?" Malachi grinned, waggling his eyebrows and earning himself a slap to his arm. "Ow, I didn't even say anything!"
"You thought it!" Ziva argued back, sticking out her tongue at him before she felt someone step up to them. She saw Malachi tense and look over her shoulder before relaxing immediately, and appreciated his concern. He might not know about the pregnancy, but even he knew that kicking butt in a floor length wedding gown would be hard, even for her. Abby came around and pulled up a two chairs before sitting down, and it didn't take long for Ducky to occupy the other one. They fell into a soft conversation, Ducky regaling them with tales of weddings he had attended. Malachi excused himself shortly after the other two arrived, and his chair was taken by DiNozzo after a few minutes, who scooted closer to Abby and away from Ziva after he had sat down. Sean came outside to fetch Abby for something and Ducky disappeared shortly after, leaving Ziva alone with Tony, her former partner. They remained silent for a few minutes before Ziva managed to work up the courage to turn to him. Until know, he had proven to be on his best behavior, and she was hoping he would remain so, after what she was going to tell him now. With Gibbs knowing, she had to tell the team about her pregnancy when she returned to work in two weeks. And while she was currently partnered with McGee to ensure they trusted their partners, she remembered Tony's reaction to the engagement announcement and wanted to prevent another one of those.
"The party's great. How did you find this place?" Tony asked her, and Ziva shrugged.
"Ray knew about it, one of his colleagues celebrated his retirement here. We went here after three other hotels that were either too expensive or had doubtful ideas of a wedding reception, and they proved to be what we had been looking for." she told him, drawing a deep breath. "Tony, I have to tell you something." she started, and watched him get serious.
"Okay." he nodded.
"I am pregnant." Ziva said, holding her breath. Tony blinked once, twice, before shaking his head slightly.
"Wow. Are you sure we got champagne earlier, because I could swear I just heard you say you're pregnant." he said, and her hope crumbled.
"Tony…" she muttered, shaking her head and looking at her hands to not let him see the tears that she was trying hard to fight.
"Woah, hey, I was joking." he quickly apologized, scooting close and resting his hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry, Ziva, I shouldn't have said that. I really was joking. That's great, Zee, really, I'm happy for you." he said, squeezing her shoulder gently. She looked up at him, biting her lip.
"Yeah. I was an ass the past few months, and I know that. I saw you and him today. You're really happy with him. He loves you, you love him. And if you're having a baby, then that's great. Well, it is if you want kids?"
"We do." she quickly nodded, taking his offered tissue and wiping under her eyes. Tony looked at her, his head slightly sideways before grinning and then hugging her.
When he leaned back, he thumbed her on the back.
"Guess you won't need the honeymoon, then." he grinned, ducking quickly before Ziva could headslap him. He had managed to make her laugh with his comment; it was such a Tony thing to say. But she sobered quickly.
"You can't tell anyone, Tony. Gibbs knows, and Ray, but the others don't. We'll announce it after the honeymoon, but please-"
"My lips are sealed." he interrupted her, his tone serious again. "Guess McPartner will have to look out for you more now."
Ziva slowly shook her head. "I'll take desk duty. Gibbs said he won't force me, but I don't want something to happen. It's not just the baby I'm afraid of something happening to, it's also you and McGee. If someone drew a gun and aimed at me, I doubt I would not freeze up in fear. I'm not sure if I'd be able to have his back, and as long as that's true, I can't go in the field. It would be too dangerous."
Tony whistled quietly with that revelation. "Wow. So it's probably me and him now. Oh goody." he muttered, giving a thumbs-up. When he saw her face, though, he quickly sobered. "I trust him. I just… got used to you. Last couple of months, I was the sidekick. I know how McGee must have felt all these years, and it wasn't nice. I just thought that, if I got a partner again, it would be you. Once you were able to trust me again, that is."
Ziva slowly nodded. "Yeah, I know that feeling." she told him before grabbing his hand. "If we work on this, I don't see why I should not return to NCIS as your partner, once my maternity leave is over." she said, surprising herself with the words, but feeling how true they were. And Tony's soft, insecure smile told her it had been the right thing to say.
"Sounds like a plan." he agreed, shaking her hand. "Now excuse me, I think I'll join Ben-Gidon in keeping your father company."
And with that, he rose and walked back to the hotel, a slight skip in his step that made Ziva smile.
Chapter 7: the one with the wedding night
note the change in rating. also: trigger warning for hints at past sexual abuse.
Hours later, the party was slowly starting to wind down. Ziva and Ray were dancing, his hands resting on her back while she had hers on the back of his neck, looking up into his eyes and getting lost in them.
"Today was great." Ray softly said, brushing his nose against hers shortly. Ziva smiled up at him, nodding.
"It was. I was so nervous before the ceremony started, I thought I was going to faint." she admitted, allowing him to turn them slowly to the soft music playing. She looked over his shoulder and saw Abby and McGee dancing close together. Abby was resting her head on his shoulder, and Ziva wasn't sure if it was merely the late hour that had worn her out and made her tired and cuddly. She hadn't pushed the issue further when they had included Tim in the wedding party, but she knew that he and Abby had a past, had seen it herself in the NCIS elevator on the day Mike Franks had died. But she had gotten the feeling that Abby didn't want to have a relationship with him, even though McGee may have been interested. At least he had been, lately, Ziva had gotten the feeling that Tim was getting over his crush on the Forensic Scientist. Which she had considered to be a good thing, until now. She didn't want either one of her friends to get hurt.
"Have you seen Tony?" Ray asked her, looking around slightly, and Ziva had to bite her lip to keep herself from laughing. "What?"
"Last I saw him was after Malachi had escorted my father out. He seemed to be slightly drunk and was trying to hit on your cousin."
"He was hitting on Andy?" Ray's eyes bulged slightly and Ziva grinned.
Ray shook his head, chuckling softly. Just then McGee looked down and saw Abby fighting to stay awake. He whispered something in her ear before slowly removing her arms from around his waist. He nodded towards Ziva and Ray and then gently dragged the Goth out of the room and towards the stairs. Ziva frowned slightly and hoped that they would be staying in their separate rooms. Before she could muse further on the behavior of her two friends, Ray bent down to whisper in her ear.
"What do you say? It's past midnight, I think no one would be mad if we slipped away now." he muttered and she felt her heart speed up in anticipation. She swallowed thickly, leaning back and nodding. On their way out, they ran into Gibbs, and Ziva felt herself blushing to her toes when he looked at them with a knowing smirk. He didn't say anything, though, merely raised his glass of bourbon in their direction and then let them pass, though Ziva could feel his eyes on her back still when they got into the elevator. Ray was drumming his fingers against the railing while his new wife wiped her sweaty hands on her dress. This was ridiculous; she had nothing to be nervous about. Once at their floor, Ray opened the door to their room, standing in the way and not letting Ziva get through.
"Hands around my neck, hold on tight." he told her, and she rolled her eyes at him, but obliged. He bent down and swept her legs out, lifting her up and carrying her over the threshold and into the room. Ziva expected him to let her down immediately inside, but he carried her to the bed, gently placing her down before turning to close the door. She got up and reached up to take out the pins that had kept her hair up most of the day. She shook her head, causing her curls to fall to her shoulders, and when Ray turned back around to face her, his jaw dropped and she felt herself blushing yet again.
"What?" she asked, and watched him swallow thickly.
"You're gorgeous." he whispered, slowly walking to her and taking her face into his hands, scanning her features as if he hadn't seen her in months.
"So you have told me twice today already." she reminded him, her voice dropping to a whisper when he leaned in and brushed his lips over hers in a gentle caress.
"I can't help it, it's the truth." he muttered before kissing her again, wrapping his arms around her waist, and Ziva found herself responding to the kiss. Her hands at her sides grew restless and she reached up, burying them in Ray's hair and pressing herself against him. She felt one of his hands leave her back and going to her hip as the other went up to tangle in her hair and she sighed against his mouth. "I can't believe-" Ray muttered between kisses, "that we're actually married now. Feels like a dream."
"I know what you mean." Ziva responded, brushing his jacket over his shoulders before loosening his tie and starting to unbutton his shirt, kissing the newly exposed skin. Just as she was pulling the hem out of his pants, Ray gently grabbed her face and pulled her up, kissing her again.
"Turn around." he muttered, and Ziva swallowed before doing it. He kissed her neck and she felt him slowly lowering the zipper of her dress. Anticipation was rising up inside of her again and her breathing quickened. Just then, Ray cursed softly and she couldn't help but laugh softly. His lips felt soft on her shoulder.
"You did this to torture me, didn't you?" he growled, and she bit her lip to keep from laughing out loud again. Instead, she nodded, turning her head so she was looking at him.
"Of course. Where would have been the fun in a dress without corset?" she grinned at him and he stuck out his tongue shortly before giving her a quick peck on the lips. He disappeared again and she felt his hand run down her spine, tracing the lacing.
"Ok, this sounds really stupid, but… where the hell do I start?" he asked her sheepishly, sounding really confused.
"Abby tucked the ends into the lacing, they should be down somewhere." she told him, trying to look over her shoulder. Her husband was wearing a slight frown as hetraced her spine again, sending a shiver racing down it.
"Ha!" he called out in triumph as he finally spotted the ends of the strings and carefully started undoing them. "How long did it take to get you into this?" he asked her, his fingers tracing over her newly exposed skin, making Ziva shiver again and again.
"Long enough." she shrugged, her breath hitching when he reached the line where normally her bra would be. Ray seemed to notice, because he stopped unlacing her and bend down to kiss her skin. "Stop teasing me." she muttered, closing her eyes and leaning back into his touch.
"But that's my favorite part."
She felt him grin against her skin and a soft moan left her mouth. Before she realized it, he had undone the remaining lacing and her dress fell to the floor, leaving her standing there in her underwear and heels, with her back still to him. Ray stood and wrapped his arms around her from behind, kissing her neck. His skin was burning hot in contrast to the cool air of the room and Ziva felt like he was setting her on fire. She slowly turned around in his arms, looking up at him shyly.
"Hi." she whispered.
"Hi." he returned, a soft and happy grin tugging at his lips as he traced her collarbone with his index finger. As he reached down to cup her breast, Ziva moaned deeply before grabbing his hands and walking backwards to the bed, tugging him with her. Her legs hit the wooden frame and she sat down, her hands undoing his belt and pulling his pants down. She kicked off her heels as he got rid of his pants and shoes before laying down next to her, his head propped up on his one of his hands, the other tracing down from her breastbone to her panties, making her arch her back into his touch. She grabbed his head and pulled him in for an urgent kiss, gasping against his lips when his hand slipped into her panties, brushing over her. "Easy there." Ray smiled, flicking his wrist and sending shocks of pleasure through her. It never ceased to amaze him just how responsive she was. Though it had taken some time until he got in any position to realize that. After what had happened to her, she needed to completely trust the person she was with, and even though she insisted she trusted him, the flashbacks she had gotten early into their relationship had made him doubt that statement at times. He knew it wasn't something she could control, but he was never able to shake the pain when he sent her into another one and saw firsthand her fear and pain.
Ziva hand wrapping around his wrist pulled him from his musings. His finger stilled immediately in her grip, but it lacked the iron strength she used when she slipped into a flashback. Looking into her eyes, he saw them clouded with lust, not fear, and breathed a sigh of relief.
"I believe I told you to stop teasing." she muttered, a mischievous glint in her eyes. He shrugged.
"Huh. Short memory span." he returned and leaned in for another kiss. Just after her tongue started tracing his, Ziva somehow managed to turn him onto his back and sit down on him, pulling his hands over his head with a triumphant grin. He gave a weak attempt to get out of the position, but found he rather enjoyed the view she presented him with. She leaned down again, kissing him, her breast rubbing against his chest. Her hips rocked slightly against him, brushing against the tip of his erection and he groaned into her mouth. Now it was her time to smile and her hand to travel south. When she touched him through the material of his boxers, Ray threw his head back and clenched his eyes shut.
"You may wanna," he pressed out when he felt her skin against him shortly after, "stop that." And just like that, her touch vanished. Her weight left him and when he opened his eyes, he saw her removing her panties before her fingers tugged down the waistband of his underwear. He couldn't help the moan that left him when she ran her soft hand over him again before removing his underwear and throwing it into the general direction hers had taken shortly before. Ziva sat back down on his abdomen, and he felt the moisture between her legs against his heated skin. She leaned down for another kiss, one he greedily returned, twisting his hand into her long curls while the other ran down her back. She had braced herself with her hands next to his head, and again he felt her hips shift, rocking into him, and this time, he couldn't help but counter the motion, causing her breath to hitch in her throat. Her hands traced down his chest, nails digging into his skin slightly, adding a tiny amount of pain to the pleasure. She felt his hand leave her back and squeeze her thigh roughly, his body shifting under her to move her down, and she broke the kiss. Staring into his eyes, she allowed herself to relax and shifted her weight so she could run a hand through his hair.
"I love you." she whispered, her voice barely audible between their harsh breathing.
"I love you, too." Ray returned, leaning up to kiss her again. Ziva gathered her courage and slowly rolled off him, pulling him with her, not letting up in the kiss. She could feel his arousal pressing against her thigh and shivered in anticipation. He was hovering over her, letting up in the intensity of the kiss immediately. One of his hands found her hip and he gently stroked her skin in a calming motion before he opened his eyes, looking into hers. "You sure?" he asked her gently, drawing up his hand to stroke her cheek. She turned her face into the touch and kissed his palm, waiting for the well-known feelings of anxiety and panic to start up like they had often enough in the past.
She had liked to be in control during sex before Somalia. After, it had become a necessity. It had taken months for her to not panic when Ray accidentally trapped her, for her not to freak when she could feel his erection through his jeans when they were making out. She never blamed him for her flashbacks, and they had talked a lot about what could be possible triggers for her. Once they found something that set off a flashback, Ray would go out of his way to avoid it. It was only recently that she found herself comfortable enough with him to relinquish the upper hand. And if her suspicion was correct, the first time she had done so had ended up being the time that got her pregnant with his child.
"Yes." she nodded, reaching up to wrap her arms around his neck. "I trust you, my love."
Ray leaned down, resting his forehead against hers as he shifted his weight and slowly started entering her. Despite the flare of pleasure, Ziva forced herself to keep her eyes open, to watch his face and the emotion playing on it. She felt his hot breath on her face and inhaled, relaxing as the familiar scent of his cologne and sweat filled her nostrils. Once he was completely sheathed in her, he kissed her again, and Ziva allowed her eyes to flutter close shortly as he started moving inside her. Her hands wrapped around his biceps, nails digging in as she arched her back to change the angle slightly. She gasped as he hit her just right, her legs wrapping around his waist in an effort to get even closer. She let go with her hands, reaching up with one to twist it in his hair and pull him in for more kisses, other stroking over his back, feeling the muscles work under his tight skin. Ray broke their lip-lock to trail open mouthed kisses down her jaw line and neck to suck on her skin where her neck met her shoulder, teeth teasing her flesh. She found she didn't care about the hickey he would surely leave as one of his hands cupped her breast, making her moan his name loudly. She could feel the pleasure building, coiling deep inside her, and the increased urgency of his movements told her her husband was not far behind. She rose slightly to meet his gentle thrusts and before she knew it, she felt her orgasm wash over her, unexpected and strong enough to make her see stars. Her walls clenched around him and it was enough to make Ray join her with a groan, shuddering against her.
She let him roll them over so she was sprawled on him, deeply sated. She sighed softly, kissing his chest before rubbing her face in his neck, trying to catch her breath. Ray pulled out of her and leaned down to grab the comforter so he could cover them, and Ziva cuddled close as soon as he had laid back down. He wrapped his arm around her, kissing her forehead gently.
"I feel like I should say something." she whispered, her eyes closed, her fingers tracing nonsense patterns on his skin.
"Like what?" he returned, his voice husky.
"I have no idea." Ziva admitted and felt his chest rumble with laughter before he kissed the tip of her nose and she couldn't help but smile a little herself.
"Do you know that everyone will know we had sex tonight?" Ray muttered sleepily and Ziva groaned slightly.
"I had managed to push that thought away, thank you very much."
In response, her husband shrugged against her, running his hand through her hair.
"Ray?" she muttered after a while, thinking he had fallen asleep.
"I have never felt so loved than when I'm with you." she admitted, pressing a tender kiss to his cheek before resting her head on his shoulder. She felt him turn his head so he could look at her face and turned it upwards to look into his eyes. Surprised, she saw the tears shining in them and felt him wrap his arms around her more tightly, pressing her against him.
"I love you, so much." he breathed against her neck and she could feel the tears drop onto her skin and had to close her eyes against her own.
"That's good, because I love you, too." she returned, squeezing his arms in reassurance.
Chapter 8: the one with the big time jump
Tony had been surprised when Ray had shown up at NCIS, inviting them all over for the 26th to have a Christmas get-together. What had surprised him even more was that the man had extended the invitation to him, too. At Tony's confused look, Ray had made it clear that it was Ziva's express wish that he got an invite, too, even if Ray himself was not that thrilled about it.
Tony had been the only one who hadn't come to visit them at the hospital when the baby had been born a month ago. He had called and left a message on their machine and given Abby a card and teddy bear to deliver to the little Cruz, but he hadn't felt comfortable seeing the family together for some reason. It wasn't that he was still jealous, it was just… his friendship with Ziva was hanging by a thread and he knew that with his tendency to open his mouth and insert a whole shoe store, he would manage to say something so out of line that an emotional Ziva would kick him out and cut ties with him for good. So he had figured he'd wait a couple of weeks, maybe a few months, until the worst of hormones and emotions should be over and then start with really rebuilding their friendship.
Now he didn't have much of a choice, though. He spent three hours in a store of kids' toys and outfits to find something for the baby (he kept forgetting the name, too… something with J, so much he remembered) but nothing had seemed good enough. In the end, he had settled on a small, soft blanket with a round-shaped head sown into the middle, figuring that at least it wouldn't make sounds and unnerve the new parents further.
He felt weird showing up on the day. He hadn't really known what to wear and in the end, settled on a shirt and jeans and a jacket he could take off. He hadn't wanted to be overdressed, it wasn't Chrismas Eve (We're spending Christmas Eve with my family, Ray had told them), but then again it was still kind of Christmas…
He was pulled from his musings when the door opened. Instead of Ray or Ziva, he found himself facing Abby.
"What are you doing here already?" he asked her, frowning as he checked his watch, showing he still had fifteen minutes until he would be late. Abby rolled her eyes and waved him in.
"Tiny baby, first time parents and dinner for nine people don't really work out when no one's helping. Now get in or I'll burn the sauce." she snapped at him, shooing him along the hallway. Faced with the choice between three closed doors and the stairs, he turned to her. Yeah, he hadn't even been at her new house yet. Abby rolled her eyes again and pointed.
"Study with bassinette one for the time being, downstairs bathroom, living room with connection to the dining room, kitchen." she told him, opening the door to the living room and pushing him through. "Look who's early." the Goth declared in a hushed tone. Tony frowned at her before noticing that Ray wasn't alone as he rose from the couch. Ziva was standing by the window, cradling the baby and slowly shifting on her feet.
"Hey." she muttered, looking at her shoulder when the baby sighed.
"Hi. Merry Christmas." Tony stammered, shaking Ray's hand when the man disappeared with Abby to leave the two of them alone for a bit. Or rather, three of them. Tony set down the present and slowly approached his former partner. She looked… different. Ziva had never worn much make-up, but he found himself wondering if she was wearing any at all right now. Still, she was glowing, different than when she had been pregnant. Her hair was in a messy bun and she was still wearing jeans and a plain shirt while Ray had already changed into suit pants and dress shirt with a tie.
"He's cranky today." she told him, looking at her son again and rubbing his back gently as she kissed his head of dark hair.
"Not much of a fan of Christmas, huh?" Tony joked. "Knows he's half Jewish."
Ziva rolled her eyes at her former partner. "I think it's more being passed from one person to the next the last two days and having his schedule messed with."
The baby suddenly jerked in his slumber and pulled a face before erupting into almost panicked crying. Tony took a step back, but Ziva merely sighed, shifting her son and muttering soft Hebrew to him.
"Wow. That's impressive." Tony whistled over the crying, turning when he heard the door open again.
"Need help?" Ray asked his wife and Ziva sighed before nodding. She walked over to him and passed the baby to him. If Tony had thought that the volume had beenimpressive before, he soon found that the baby had been working on half of what he was capable of. "Okay okay, I get it." Ray muttered, handing the little bundle back to his wife and stroking her back gently.
"I think I'll try lying down again." she softly said, resting her forehead against his shoulder.
"I'll try calling the others, tell them to take their time." her husband nodded, kissing her forehead before he grabbed the phone and started dialing as Ziva went to leave.
"Are you coming?" she called to Tony over her shoulder and he was too surprised to muster a reason to decline, so he followed her up the stairs and down the hall. Ziva went into the nursery and nodded towards the dresser. "Top drawer, there's a light blue blanket." she told him and Tony went to get it, his eyes finding the first family picture proudly on display. The baby was resting on Ziva's chest, her hair stuck to her face. She was looking exhausted but proud at the same time and Ray was peering over her shoulder, his pinkie in the grasp of the baby. Tony swallowed and took the blanket. When he turned around, he found that Ziva had laid the baby down on the changing table and was changing his diaper. After the volume increased again, the tiny guy suddenly quietened down and gave a mere whimper when Ziva lifted him up again. Tony quickly bent down and picked up the burp cloth that had fallen to the floor. When she shook her head and nodded towards the stack of cotton diapers, he put one of those on her shoulder instead, following her to the master bedroom.
"You need to hold him." Ziva told him, rolling her eyes at his terrified face. "He won't break, Tony." she assured him, waiting until he had put down the blanket. "Careful with his head, you need to support it because he can't hold it up on his own just yet. Don't put pressure on it, though." she warned, carefully transferring the baby into his arms. Tony held his breath as the baby scrunched up his face again as he had when Ray had held him before he had erupted into his shrill crying. To his surprise, the baby gave a soft sigh instead and slowly relaxed.
"I think it's save to breathe now." Ziva whispered, winking at him as she pulled of her shirt. Tony looked up at her and quickly averted his eyes when he found her standing there in only her bra. Ziva got into the bed and relaxed against the headboard, holding out her arms for her son and Tony transferred him back to her. She let the baby rest against her chest and drew the blanket she had Tony get over them, shielding the little guy from light and sound.
"If you wanna nurse him-" Tony started and Ziva quickly put her finger to her lips to make him shush. "Sorry." he whispered.
"It's okay." she assured him, lifting the blanket up to peek under it, a soft smile forming on her lips. "He's asleep. Just keep your voice down." she declared, covering the baby again.
"Not too fond of his father, huh?" Tony teased, surprised by the sad sigh Ziva gave as he sat down on the bed, too.
"Ray was gone a lot through the pregnancy. It sounds weird, but babies get used to the voices of the people that talk to their mother while they're still in the womb… Ray didn't have much of a chance to do that." she told him, shifting slightly. "I know it hurts him when Jayden reacts like that. Then again he has days when he can't stand me, either, so it balances out." she added, tensing when they heard a car pull into the driveway. Either Ray or Abby had heard it, too, or whoever was coming had the foresight not to ring the bell in a house with an infant, because all they heard were soft voices drifting up and Ziva relaxed again.
"I'm sorry." Tony apologized. "For not being at the hospital, not visiting sooner…"
"Tony." Ziva sighed, shaking her head. "Let's not talk about that, okay?" she asked. "You're here now."
"Still, I should have-"
"You do realize that I had little sleep last night and I just told you to shut up about this, right?" Ziva interrupted him, giving him a mock glare and Tony instantly shut his mouth. Instead he looked around the room and took in the slight chaos.
"Straightening up the bedroom wasn't on the top priority list." Ziva told him, seeing his reaction.
"Well, you got me here now." Tony told her, getting up and starting with picking up one of Ray's shirts. "Fresh, dirty? Hamper or hanger?" he asked her, taking in how her eyes widened in surprise and the slight flush that colored her cheeks as she got over her surprise.
"Hamper." she declared, nodding at the corner of the room. Instead of taking it there, Tony threw it over the bed frame, slowly making his way through the room, folding laundry and then picking up the dirty clothes and putting it into the hamper.
"Someone has small feet." he declared when he found one of Jayden's socks under the bed and held it up, making Ziva laugh. He handed it to her so it wouldn't get lost again.
"I was wondering where it had disappeared to. He somehow manages to lose them in his sleep every time or when we're holding him and walking around. I keep finding them all over the house, there were five between the couch cushions and none of them belonged together." she smiled, suddenly blushing furiously.
"What?" Tony asked her.
"Someone wants to be fed." she told him, sitting up.
"Oh." her partner breathed. "I guess I better leave you two alone, then."
"Thank you, Tony." Ziva smiled at him, shifting the baby. "Can you tell Ray to come up?" she asked when he was already out the door, he just told her yes, not too keen on looking back and what he would find when he did. Downstairs he found that pretty much everyone had arrived, except for Palmer and Breena, who had called Abby toapologize. They were snowed in at Palmer's parents' house and wouldn't be able to make it.
"Ziva's asking for you." Tony told Ray when he passed him in the hallway, the man nodded and went upstairs to check on his wife and son. Half an hour later, the couple and baby joined them, Jayden seeming much happier now and staying quiet in his father's arms before Ray passed him to Ducky, forgoing the instructions Ziva had given Tony.
"Who's this from?" Abby asked, holding up and shaking the present Tony had set down carelessly on the coffee table before she passed it to Ziva.
"Uh, me?" Tony admitted, somewhat embarrassed as he watched his partner open it. To his surprise, Ziva didn't make a face, instead, a wide smile spread on her lips.
"Thank you!" she smiled at him, taking the knife from Gibbs' to cut off the tag before she handed the toy to Ray, who was again holding the baby, so she could hug Tony.
Surprised, he returned the hug.
"It's just a toy, what's the big deal?" he muttered, feeling his ears burn at the sudden attention from the others.
"We were looking for something like this." Ray told him, carefully laying Jayden into his bassinette and using the cushioned ring to attach the toy to one of the boy's pacifiers before he put it into the bassinette with the baby. "My sister-in-law didn't have the one they had for their baby any more, they're damn useful as snuggle toys and for keeping track of the pacifier. Saves you from going into panic mode when you can't find where he dropped it yet again." the man chuckled.
"Thank you." Ziva repeated, hugging Tony's middle again and smiling up at him, her dark eyes sparkling.
"You're welcome." Tony nodded, returning the hug and thankful when Ducky produced his present for the baby, knowing the attention of the others would finally shift from him.
"Hey." Ziva muttered, making Tony look down at her. "Merry Christmas." she smiled up at him, leaning on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek before slipping from his embrace to go hug Ducky and thank him for the present, leaving Tony to swallow thickly around the lump in his throat.
"Yeah, Merry Christmas." he whispered, looking down into the bassinette to see Jayden blinking his dark eyes at him before the baby yawned and closed them, sucking away on his pacifier.