Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Thinking

McGee-centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.

Chapter 328: Thinking

For the last twelve days, Ziva has been thinking. A lot.

Not so much on the let's have kids part of things. She's settled on that. And she understands that Tony is afraid, and that he's not really a kids sort of guy. He doesn't just naturally click with kiddos.

Not without some effort.

And she certainly gets that this is complicated for him on a whole bunch of levels beyond mundane fear of kids. She understands that, too.

They've talked about it together, talked about it apart, and are going to keep talking, because otherwise this is going to bite both of them in the ass.

But she's also sure that like a relationship (which he was nervous about), like a marriage (which scared him even more), that they can do this, together. She's sure that Tony will be a good dad, and that if he finds himself being a good dad, he'll get confident in his ability to be a good dad, and that a lot of the fear will vanish.

He's not scared of being married anymore, let alone of having her live with him, or dating. They did it; he found out that he could do it, that he could be good at it, and he got confident in it.

It's just that babies are the current unknown. And if there was ever a man who feared wandering into the unknown, it's Tony.

Of course, there's unknown, and unknown. Some unknowns, like going undercover, bursting into a house without full intel, or whether or not the guy with the gun really means it, he's got a lot of experience with. He's got scripts ready to go, processes in place, and lots of skills to depend on to deal with those unknowns.

A warehouse with six perps in it, no clear vantage points, and a ticking clock at his back is vastly less scary to him than a crying baby, because he knows what to do with the building and the perps, while the baby is something of a loud, tiny, inscrutable mystery.

But, like how to deal with the building and the perps (or having her in his space all the time), he'll learn babies, and as that happens, he'll start to get cocky and confident and… And it'll be good. Might take a while, but he'll get there. (And honestly, given how quickly he took a shine to Vance's kids, she's thinking awhile will translate into, at most, three weeks.)

However, he did have a very good point about how to get there. How to do the job and raise those kids. Namely, they both work at least sixty hours a week.

So, how are they going to do the actual parenting part of being parents?

Abby's scaled back her hours. She is delegating more and more of the work. McGee's headed to a new department where he may work the same number of hours, but he can do at least some of them from home, and they should be set regularly, same number each day. And Tony was right, if the autopsy is done by five, Jimmy heads off. You need him, he's got his cell on, and will come back in, but he doesn't stick around a minute longer than necessary.

And if they are going to be there for this child they're envisioning, something has to change. They cannot both be on call, all day, every day.

She thinks she knows what the change is. She's been feeling it for… honestly, since it was clear that this was serious, that she and Tony were building a life together, one that would last for the rest of their days, but feeling it doesn't mean it's a good idea.

But, good idea or no, when she envisions herself with this child, who as the days go by is becoming more and more concrete in her mind, she envisions herself with him. (And yes, he's a boy. A sturdy little boy, with her curly hair and brown eyes, but Tony's easy grin.)

She doesn't see daycare or a nanny.

And if she were to do the whole stay-at-home-mom, take-care-of-the-kids-and-house-and-everything-else route, that would mean that when Tony's home, he'd be free to be with them. He'd still have the insane hours, because that's the job. You can't lead the team on eight hours a day. But pick up dry cleaning, get groceries, fill up the cars, make dinner, all those little, piddly errands that eat up hours of your week, she'd be doing, so that when he's home, he'd be home.

But that means change. Big, big change. Team Gibbs would be gone. Thirty-five percent of their income would be gone. They'd have to move. Their current place is big enough for a baby, but the rent is too high for them on just Tony's salary. They'd have to scale back in a lot of ways. Between lost income and added expenses it'd be a huge hit to their finances.

There is one other thing Ziva knows about this, 'this' is not the sort of decision you whip out on a man after you are pregnant. If you tell him, 'I'm going back to work after the baby,' and then change your mind about it, dropping a massive change into his lap without him having any input into the situation, he's liable to resent the hell out of it.

So, thinking, lots and lots of thinking.

"Down here," Gibbs calls out when he hears footsteps on his floor. He's completed ripping the boards and is now in the process of getting them cut for assembly.

He's surprised to see Ziva on his steps. Of all the kids, she's the one least likely to just drop by to chat.

She looks a bit surprised to be on his steps, too. She'd been a bit tentative about going to see him, whatever was causing his black mood seemed to peak on Monday and has been getting better since, but he's not exactly perky right now.

But she needs advice, advice from her dad. So, perky or not, she's on the basement steps, staring at Gibbs.

"Hey, Ziver."

She smiles at him. "Gibbs." And proceeds to say nothing else, though she does head down to him, looking over his work. "Does anything need to be sanded?"

He shakes his head. "Not today." He touches the hand saw next to him. "Cutting today."

"Okay." She looks very distracted. Her plan, work with him, and then let the words just sort of flow out while she's focused on something else, has just hit a major snag.

"You need to sand something?"

Ziva shrugs. "It might have helped."


She takes a deep breath, ready to plunge into it cold. "Do you remember the Passover story?"

Gibbs nods; he knows that story, but he's got no idea at all where she's going to take this.

"The Angel of Death passed over those who marked their homes. That's who my father trained me to be, The Angel of Death. He told me that there were people God made, special people, who would be His wrath, who would protect or avenge others by wielding righteous death. That when everything else failed, there would be people like me, Angels of Death, who would finally settle the score. I was an assassin Gibbs, not an agent, not an investigator, but an assassin."

He lays his tools down and turns to face her, focusing entirely on her words. He's still got no idea where she's going with this, but he can feel it's deeply important to her.

"I broke people. That was what I did. I know who I killed, know what they did, and I don't regret it. I met Jenny coming off a job to take out one of the men who ran Buchenwald. I broke him. Like he broke hundreds of thousands of others, and I never lost a moment's sleep over it." And that's true. The only thing she felt was the satisfaction of a job very well done, and the righteous joy of long overdue justice served. That is, until recently, until she started thinking more about the idea of a life with a child. "But I broke his family, too. And I broke his wife. And his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren, and none of them had ever done me or mine any harm.

"But I did them irreparable harm."

Gibbs is following along, but this is nothing he'd expected out of her. There's something he's… sensed… maybe. Just the ghost of a feeling, since Mike died, that there was something like this lurking in the back of Ziva's mind. A sort of regretful weariness. He's surprised it's coming out now, but everything is changing now, so maybe it's a good time for it. And he's starting to get a feel for where this is going to go.

"More than ten years ago, I came here, and I stopped breaking people, for the most part, and started to clean up the pieces that are left over after a break. Justice and closure, and maybe that helps. I like to think it does."

He nods. It helps. It helps as much as anything can help.

"But we don't create here, Gibbs." He hears that and knows that whatever is coming next, she's made her decision, and right now, she's looking for reassurance and support. "On our best days, our very best days, we pick up the pieces and keep the mess from getting any bigger than it already is. We give other people the tools to try and patch the pieces back together." She looks at the already cut pieces of wood in front of her, and picks one up, no idea what it'll be. (Once it hits the lathe, it'll be a peg.)

"What if that isn't enough? What if I want to create? What if, instead of breaking people, or cleaning up the mess left by broken people, what if I want to build people? What if I want to make a home, and a family, and devote all of myself to it? What if I want to spend my time cherishing my husband and children?" She puts the piece down and turns to look him in the eyes. "My whole life has been about death, murder, pain, vengeance, and justice. And maybe, maybe it's time to focus on life."

Gibbs pulls her into a hug so fast she gasps, and then gently kisses her forehead. He holds her close for a long time and finally says, "Maybe?"

She smiles a little at that, looking relieved. It hits him then that all the girls work. None of them are or (in Penny's case) were, stay at home moms. And for as much as Ziva has a 'couldn't care less about what other people think' armor in place, she does care, very much, about what this family she's collected over the years thinks. He wonders if she's here, with him right now, because he's the one most likely to respect this decision.

"I haven't spoken to Tony about this. We've been talking about children, you know that." And he does, so he nods. "But I have not said anything about…"

"Being a full time mom?"

"Yes. Beyond anything else, there are practical considerations. With both of us working, we can live here comfortably, with just his income, that won't be true."

Gibbs nods. The only reason he can afford to live here is the fact that he bought his house back in '86 and owns it outright now.

"You speak nine languages. You could translate part time or teach or tutor one on one. Vance might be willing to hire you on a per-piece basis for translations."

She nods at that.

"And the CIA and the FBI both have a huge intel backlog. They're always looking for people to listen to tapes and translate them, too."

"I know, Gibbs. It's not a lack of potential other jobs that's the issue. In the long run, say when this child we're thinking of is in school, that will be an attractive option. But when he's a baby, every hour I am doing that is an hour someone else is raising our child. And I know Tim and Abby have a nanny, and Kelly is thriving. Molly is in daycare, and she is fine. Anna, when she goes to daycare will be fine, too. But… when I imagine it. When I think about the kind of mother I want to be, I don't see myself handing my baby over to someone else."

"You think Tony won't like that?"

She shrugs. That's not precisely that. "I think Tony will be exceptionally uncomfortable with the changes necessary to make that possible. He's already at the edge of his comfort zone with the idea of a baby, and… And a completely new team. A new home. Fewer comforts. Less money. A less 'nice' home…" Gibbs is nodding along. Tony does like his luxuries. A kid (or two) does cut into that, major loss of income would make it even worse.

But he also thinks of the child Tony was. He thinks about the fact that Tony doesn't talk much about being a kid, but the bits he does talk about, the moments he cherishes, are time spent with his Mom. He knows he personally would have given anything for more time with his mom, healthy. And he's sure Tony would have, too. So Gibbs says, "I think a man who was raised by nannies and boarding schools might just surprise you on how far he'd be willing to go to have his child's mother home with that child every day. And I know for a fact that we're both a whole lot more comfortable with you nowhere near anything even remotely dangerous. If the biggest risk you've got facing you in the next ten years is going stir-crazy from too much Sesame Street, we'd both approve." Gibbs squeezes her a little tighter. "When are you going to talk to him about it?"

"Tonight? Tomorrow? Depends on when we've got a quiet night in without a case to focus on."

Gibbs nods at that. "Let me know when you do."

"I do not think I'll need to. He'll probably be in your basement about twenty minutes later."

Gibbs smiles and kisses her again. "Yeah, he probably will be. I'll help get him straight."

"Thank you."

A/N: So, according to my Word Doc, the first version of this was written almost a year ago. (Honestly, I can't remember details that well. I do know I was in Costco, snorking down a diet Pepsi, typing away.) Yes, some of these scenes have been around for that long, some are even older, some I write the day before they go live.

I also know it was before Cote De Pablo-gate, and the firestorm of she's not coming back!

No, as I was sitting there, working through the conversation with Gibbs, I was mostly thinking of the scene in Swan Song or Pyramid, where Tony and Ziva are talking about there always being another monster. And Tony's tired, he's sad, but he's ready to go out and fight more monsters. But Ziva's not. In that moment, she's done. Now, obviously, they got her going again, but when I got thinking about which of the girls would eventually be the stay at home mom, that scene stuck with me.

Ziva was tired. She wanted a new path. She just didn't know what it might be.

Likewise, there was the bit in A Man Walks Into A Bar about wanting something permanent, something that could not be taken away from her.

And thus, the Angel of Death, and the desire to focus on life.

And, as much as I thought Past, Present, Future was... rushed? (Is that a nice way to put it? Riddled with gaping plot holes large enough to swallow Godzilla? I guess that's less nice.) I was fairly pleased to see that same, 'I've broken people, and it's time to stop mindset.'

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