It was nearly two weeks later and the Sheppard household was still a bustle of activity between friends of from the Air Force visiting and the NCIS team coming and going with one excuse after another to justify their reasons for visiting each day. While John and Ziva were both grateful for all the help everyone wanted to give, especially when it came to moving some of personal her belongings over to the house, as the only thing they were able to agree on at the hospital was that it would be that it made sense for her to move in at least temporarily while she recovered from the incident and from giving birth.
She was the most appreciative to Teyla who was always there to help when she needed that extra hand or when she was lost on what to do with Mariely, but unlike everyone else, the woman knew to stay away when she just wanted to be alone and do simple things for herself such as making a cup of hot tea.
“Not today, Abby,” John gently grabbed Abby by her shoulders and turned her around.
“Don’t ‘But John!’ me,” he sighed, rolling his eyes.
“Fine! But then at least email me a picture of little Mariely tonight!”
“I’ll think about it,” he said as he closed the door and sighed before heading to the kitchen. “I’m making coffee, who wants some?”
“Me!” Torren ran towards him.
“I don’t think so buddy.” John smiled and lifted the kid up to set him down on the counter. “Juice?”
“Do I have to?”
“Is your mom secretly allowing you to drink coffee while I’m away?”
“Then yes.” John poured Torren a cup of orange juice and handed it to him. “Coffee is for grown ups.”
As usual, Torren didn’t pace himself while drinking his juice and burped loudly as he set the cup on the counter. “Aren’t you and Mommy together anymore?”
John blinked at the boy. He remembered that he and Teyla had made it clear to him, more often than not, that they were just good friends, living together underneath one roof but that was it. “Torren, how many times do we have to tell you that we were never together?” John asked as he ran a hand over the boy’s head. “Wait a minute…” The kid was smart, John had to give him that. “Are you jealous of Ziva being here and that she’s Mariely’s mommy and I’m her daddy?”
“No,” he sulked, putting his little fists in his lap.
“I think you are.”
“Yes you are,” John nodded and switched on the coffee maker. “And you know what? You have no reason to be jealous. I’m still your personal jungle jim. We can still do fun things together, and I’ll always be here,” he said as he made Torren look at him. “I am very tall.”
“Well… there’s a lot of love and attention in me, because I’m tall. It won’t all go away now, will it?”
“I guess…” Torren thought for a moment and then smiled. “Are we going to barbecue with just us tonight? Please? No more friends of yours?”
“Deal, you go ahead and make the shopping list, then you and I will go shopping together.”
“Yay!” Torren hopped off the counter and ran to his room to work on the list.
Ziva had walked in just as the boy ran out, careful to not drop Mariely who was in her arms. “Did I miss something exciting?” she asked as she looked at John. “And please tell me that there won’t be any more visitors today other than those that are already here.”
“Torren’s a little bit jealous, that’s all,” John shrugged. “And I just sent Abby away. So it’s only us in this house for today.” He smiled and kissed Ziva with a lot of love in his eyes. “You look beautiful.”
“No generals, no doctors – other than Carson. He’s welcome,” she smiled. “And thank you but I am a mess. I really want to spend a long while in a hot bath as soon as I am done with her feeding now.”
“And you can,” he nodded. “Torren and I will go shopping for dinner once he’s done with his list. We’ll probably end up throwing ice cream on the barbecue…”
Ziva’s eyes lit up with a thought at that. “Actually, when you go out, can you stop off at the Japanese take out and get their tempura ice cream? I would really like that instead of the regular tonight,” she asked with a grin.
“Of course, anything for you. What else do you need?”
“Ahhh, the only thing I can think of, I can get myself or ask Teyla. It’s not a problem,” she replied as she went to pull a premade bottle out of the refrigerator.
“If it’s woman stuff… don’t worry about it, Teyla already brainwashed me into not being ashamed of buying it.”
Ziva laughed. “She’s trained you well,” she nodded approvingly. “Where is she by the way?”
“John Sheppard, housebroken. At your service,” he grinned. “I think she’s upstairs, probably helping Torren make his list.”
She glanced up at the ceiling out of habit but continued to move around as she went to pull over the pot that they’ve been keeping out for the bottle warming. So far she had quickly managed to adapt to doing almost everything one handed, not that she would let anyone do anything else that she knew she was more than capable of doing.
“We need to talk,” John said as he pulled the pot towards Ziva and then went to the fridge to get turkey slices in order for him to make himself a sandwich. “We haven’t really been able to really talk lately and we need to.”
Taking a deep breath, Ziva looked up at him. “I figured that this was going to happen sooner or later. Though I hoped it would be later rather than sooner…”
“Don’t look so sad, you have no idea what I’m about to say.” John chuckled as he reached out to her. “I love you, Ziva. I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again, I love you. And I love our little girl and I want you to move in with here. I know it must be weird for you to have Teyla and Torren here but I’m all that’s left for them. She’d be so lonely if she’d live with Ronon or Carson and I need her – not as much as I need you – I could try and find us a bigger house if you want to, but please? Please move in with me?”
She stared at him for a moment before letting out a small laugh. “John, I think this house is more than large enough for all of us,” she pointed out. “But if you really want a different place, I think a two family one would work because I would not want to leave Teyla on her own either.”
“So is that a yes?” he asked with a large smile.
“I have thought about it myself to be honest and I cannot come up with any reason that we shouldn’t,” Ziva replied. “But – Gibbs did ask me what our intentions are in the future, regarding you and I. He asked if we were going to get married. Evidently, it is an NCIS policy that married agents cannot be on the same team. Now please John, hear me out – I really do love you, but I know I am not ready to get married, to anyone and I am unsure if or when I would be…”
“Woah, hold on,” John said shocked. “One, I still work for the Air Force. Two, if you’re trying to scare me off by telling me you are not ready to get married then sorry to disappoint you. I am not ready for it either. I’ve already been married and I screwed that up. I don’t want to screw us up!”
Ziva shifted Mariely in her arms and shook her head. “No, no, I’m not trying to scare you off or anything. Its just something that Gibbs said that made me think is all. And I am happy to hear that you don’t want to get married either. I know of too many relationships that are ruined by that formality. But whether you are employed by NCIS or the Air Force, I doubt that Gibbs would stand for it, and certainly not Director Vance unless someone can find a needle hole to get around it!”
John took a deep breath and shook his head. “Loop hole – and Gibbs already said he’s willing to put us on probation for now, to see how it works. However, I’ve already told him that I am willing to retire or find another job should it not work out. I am sure that if things do not work out, that Teyla would make an excellent new liaison and I’ll be a stay at home dad.” He grinned, “I don’t mind.”
“Oh no. You will drive Teyla and I crazy if you were to retire,” she shook her head so fast, she almost looked like a cartoon. “Absolutely not. We will talk to Gibbs more once the both of us return to work. Ducky and Dr. Beckett convinced Vance to force medical on both of us.”
“Hmm… and yet, they keep visiting us every single day,” he kissed her and poured himself a coffee. “But don’t worry, Ziva. If we run out of options we can have the same doctors force Vance, and Gibbs, to keep us together if only because of my vision and how attuned you and I are in getting me around in the sunshine and how impossible it would be to retrain me.” He kissed her again. “Don’t worry so much about that, okay? What’s important is us.” He took a sip of his coffee and took Mariely in his arms. “And our little girl. And of course Torren and Teyla.”
Ziva narrowed her eyes at him and nodded slowly, “Alright. Well – now that you decided to take your daughter, you can go change her diaper because she just pooed,” she smiled smugly. “I’ll be there shortly with her bottle.”
John cooed at Mariely and placed a kiss on her forehead. “Yum, diaper change!” He excited the kitchen and walked to Mariely’s nursery – his former office – and gently started to undress his little girl while she was on the commode. Mariely was making happy sounds and when he opened her diaper, she pushed an extra load out of her tiny body. “Oh disgusting!”
“It’s what babies do John,” Teyla laughed as she passed by the door with Torren in tow. “I can finish that for you because it seems that you promised someone else a shopping trip?”
“Oh yes! Ha!” John grinned and smiled widely at Torren. “How did the list making go, Buddy?” he tossed the dirty diaper in the basket and moved aside when Teyla stepped in. “I’d hug you but I think my hands are dirty.”
“Steaks!” Torren held up his list, showing drawings of cows. “And mommy made me add vegetables and some chicken as well. She said you know that she and Ziva don’t like steak. why is that?”
“Because they’re women.” He laughed and got a cloth to wash his hands with. “They can’t stomach red meat much.”
Teyla raised an eyebrow at her friend. “Careful,” she warned. “Us women can still take you out.”
“Although both your mom and Ziva are very scary at times so let’s quickly sneak out before I get us more into trouble!” John lifted Torren up and put him on his shoulders. He took his keys and sunglasses and checked if his wallet was still in his pocket. “Two crazy people leaving the house, good luck!” he laughed as he entered the garage.
“Don’t worry mommy! I’ll make sure Uncle John gets you your diapers too!” Torren yelled.
Ziva was confused as she came into the nursery with the bottle and looked at Teyla. “Do I want to know?”
“I am about to get my monthly visitor,” Teyla shrugged as she cleaned Mariely up. “So I had Torren draw a few rockets on his shopping list… Unfortunately, the boy is too smart for his own good.” Teyla then saw the look on Ziva’s face. “If it disturbs you that John and I tell each other personal things and that I’m letting him pick up such things for me, you should say so. It is a habit we have fallen in to and I understand it is unusual for your people to be this open when they are not in a relationship with each other.”
“No, it doesn’t bother me. I am just trying to get used to him being comfortable with feminine products is all. Even my father avoided it as much as possible and paid one of his friends to deal with it after my mother died,” she explained. “I was okay with your relationship with John long ago. Even more so after I learned about um, how you met.”
“John’s very considerate.” Teyla smiled as she put a fresh diaper on Mariely. “There were a few months where he was in a heightened state of alertness, paranoia if you will, and he would not let me out of the house to buy groceries, so he had to buy me the products that I need. Frankly, I am very fond of your hair products, and that’s the only time where he doesn’t get looked at as if he is completely crazy,” she grinned as she took a new romper-suit out of the closet.
Ziva sat down in the rocking chair and laughed. “I can understand that. There are plenty of different things to try. Actually, there is a particular line that I like to order time to time that is online. Next time I go on, I’ll be sure to get you some for you to try. It’s really a great line but not cheap which is why I only get it as a treat for myself occasionally.”
“I would like that.” Teyla smiled. “Do not get me wrong, Ziva, but I really enjoy your company in this house. Have you considered moving in with John? I can understand if it is awkward with me around, I would not mind moving.”
“Is how John and I intend to go forward with everything on everyone’s mind?” she asked. “He actually just asked me that down in the kitchen. He mentioned getting our own place, like you just inferred but I don’t see why we couldn’t live here as we already have. It’s been working so far, has it not? I don’t want you to go on your own either because if I don’t know what to do, I won’t have anyone to ask nearby.”
Teyla smiled. “No, it’s not on everyone’s mind, just my own. I don’t know if John has told you, but my people and I were as close as family. If one of our friends would see someone romantically, they would be a part of our family. I believe it to be unthinkable for the both of you to live apart while you have been gifted such a beautiful young girl.”
“For the most part, I agree with you. At least to give it a try. A month from now, a year from now, or longer, it may not work as well, but we have to at least try.”
“That is all one can hope for.” Teyla wrapped Mariely up in her little blanket and gently placed her in Ziva’s arms. “I have finished a new batch of soap to use in the bath today, would you care to try? I made it out of lavender and a hint of rose from our garden.”
Ziva smiled up at her, “Sure. I was planning on taking a long bath after I feed her anyway.” She looked back down as she put the bottle to the tiny mouth. It was such a surprise how everything was discovered and fell together, but strangely enough she could not be any happier.
A couple of hours later, Torren and John finally arrived back home from shopping. “Ah… ehm… don’t look?” John said as he put the first few shopping bags on the counter in the kitchen, he was followed by Torren who was dragging a huge blue bean bag pillow. “Don’t drag it up the stairs, Buddy. I don’t want you to fall.” John warned him when he walked back in to the garage to get the rest of the stuff he and Torren bought.
The girls were seated at the table working on their tea, both all clean and relaxed from their own baths that they had taken during the boys’ absence. “Don’t look? That makes me think that they got something they weren’t supposed to,” Ziva commented to Teyla.
Teyla sighed and nodded. “Get used to it, whenever those two go shopping, we always end up with more toys or video games and junk food.”
“Ahh. So they have really made you one of us since you came here then,” she laughed. Looking back towards the door, she saw John coming back in. “So what did you get, Father of my Daughter?”
“Groceries,” John pointed to the counter. “See? Two big bags.”
Ziva and Teyla each raised an eyebrow at him knowingly. “Somehow I doubt that is all…”
“John,” Teyla warned him.
“Okay fine, we went to a few more shops. Torren wanted a big bean bag pillow, so I got him one. He also thought he needed some more clothes, so we got him some and some shoes. Then he wanted to buy something for Mariely, and he found the cutest little dress for her. And a huge stuffed animal for her room.” John thought for a second. “Don’t worry, I did get you the Japanese ice cream on the way back and it’s in one of those bags on the counter… same with your fancy rockets you made Torren draw on his shopping list, Teyla.”
They couldn’t help but to laugh. “He sounds like a teenage cheerleader with her dad’s credit card at a mall!”
“John doesn’t really care about currency,” Teyla sighed. “And he doesn’t have to, but sometimes… it is somewhat over the top? For some reason I have the feeling that he’s holding back something.”
“I’m not!” John quickly said and walked back into the garage to get the last bag out of the car, following Torren out who was dragging the stuffed animal for Mariely’s room.
Ziva watched after him and narrowed her eyes. “I believe you may be onto something. I’ll be right back,” she said as she got up from the table to put her ice cream in the freezer and followed John.
“There’s nothing to see here,” John told Ziva and grinned as he handed her a bag filled with Belgian chocolate.
“Thanks but I still have chocolate from Christmas in my desk that I haven’t finished,” she pointed out. “What is with all this spending? Don’t we have enough already?”
“It’s not that much, you should be happy that I didn’t buy another grill despite Torren seeing an awesome one,” he smiled and kissed her.
“Uh huh,” she replied with a smile. “Well while you were out, Gibbs called for you. He didn’t ask to come over but I’d welcome him simply because he won’t be overwhelming like everyone else. I think he wanted to talk about when you go back to work on Monday.”
“So, what? Is he coming here or do I have to call him back?”
Ziva pulled the cordless phone out from behind her and smiled as she handed it to him. “He wants you to call but then he’ll come by later. He’s at the office so I assume it’s a phone meeting with Vance.”
He stuffed the phone in his pocket and tried to smuggle another bag out of the car without Ziva seeing it. “I’ll call later. Is that Mariely I’m hearing?”
“No, you’re calling now. I don’t hear our daughter, and what is that?” Ziva quickly grabbed the bag from John’s hands. “Oh…” she smiled widely as she eyed the contents. “I’ll take these to our bedroom and save these for when I’m cleared medically. Call Gibbs!”
John sighed and took the phone from his pocket and dialed Gibbs’ number. Maybe he should ask if could cash in on some of the vacation days he accrued. It was worth a thought.
She shook her head as she walked back into the house to leave him to his call. “I’ll get the meat started for you in the meanwhile,” she said quickly. “By the time you are done with the call it should be ready for the grill. I’ll add an extra steak to it for Gibbs too.”
“Yeah yeah…” John nodded and sat down on the hood of the car, waiting for Gibbs to pick up.
“Gibbs,” the older man eventually answered on the phone.
“Its Sheppard. You called?”
There was some rustling of papers on Gibbs’ side of the line. “Yeah, you ready to come back Monday, right?”
“Yeah… and I already emailed our reports about what happened to McGee this morning. He should have them printed for you by now.”
“It got redacted,” he replied. What the man didn’t know was that evidently the email had been rerouted to the SGC before actually going to NCIS. “I don’t know what you did before Sheppard but if you are going to be a permanent member of my team then we are going to have to talk about this.”
“Sure,” John replied. “I’ve bought enough steaks and beer to last a life time for the barbecue tonight, Ziva and Teyla would love for you to come over. By yourself. Not anyone else, because we’ve been snowed in with visits every day, and also because you’ll have to hear the summary of my life before NCIS, you. Not Vance. Or Tony. Or McGee or anyone else. I at least owe you that.”
Gibbs glanced around at the two remaining team members at their desks. “Yeah, sounds good. What time?” he asked.
“Whenever suits you, Sir,” John smiled. “But after work would be great because I am sure that I’ll be getting grief from both ladies for doing too much shopping today.”
“Sure Sheppard, I’ll come and rescue you. I’ll be there around seven,” Gibbs replied before hanging up the phone.
John breathed a sigh of relief and hopped off the hood of the car before walking back inside the house. “Coffee, anyone?” he called out and then shook his head. “Forget it, I’m getting a beer.”
Teyla looked at him amused. “Anticipating a long evening?”
John nodded. “We’ll have a dinner guest and we’re going to – tell him the truth behind our not-complete-true truth.”
“Are you sure about that? Have you spoken to General Landry?” she asked with concern. “You know I support your sharing this history but I have also seen the lengths that the people of your work respond with to the unknown.”
“Well, the General isn’t going to know about this, or hear from this. Gibbs knows more secrets than anyone else I’ve known. He doesn’t need to sign papers to hear things. I’m not even sure if he’d sign them anyway. He needs to know this, if only to make him put more trust into Ziva and I to continue to work on the same team. He won’t tell a soul, Teyla.”
She nodded slowly. “I understand. I will keep the children upstairs or outside when you are ready to tell him so that you will have no interruptions.”
“Thanks Teyla,” John smiled and grabbed a beer from the fridge. He took a sip from the bottle after opening it and then pointed to the backyard. “I’ll set up the barbecue.”
“Don’t set yourself on fire,” Teyla said with an amusing smile on her lips.
“As if I would do that!” John shook his head with a grin at the memory and walked towards the backyard, only to be jumped upon by Torren who had climbed up to a chair and jumped on John’s back.
“Hi!” John copied Torren’s voice and made sure he was holding on tightly as he continued to walk towards the grill.
It wasn’t much longer before Ziva and Teyla soon came out from the house with Mariely to sit in the fresh air. “Gibbs coming?” she asked as she tried to readjust the small hat that the baby kept trying to pull off. For only being a few weeks old, she was certainly a stubborn child, and smart.
“Yep, told him to come straight after work to save me from you two.” John grinned. “I’m severely out numbered.”
“Don’t tell me that McGee and DiNozzo are insisting on coming too,” Ziva sighed. “I truly do not have the patience for them any more this week.”
“No, just Gibbs.” John shrugged and finally managed to fire up the grill. Torren was still dangling on his back and giggling like crazy. “Do I have a monkey on my back?”
“No!” Torren giggled as John got up and started to spin around.
“I can’t see anything on my back.”
Torren started to laugh louder and eventually, John sat down in the grass and carefully laid down on his back, making sure he wasn’t putting his entire weight on the boy. “AHH!”
“Oh! Torren! You were on my back!” John then sat up and looked at the boy. “Are you okay?” He started to gently poke Torren’s sides, making the kid laugh even more.
“Oh there are potatoes that are wrapped in foil on the counter in the kitchen that should go on first before you start the meat. It’ll take some time but no rush, right?” Ziva said, interrupting the boys’ play time. “By the time Gibbs gets here, they should be close to finished.”
“Yep, no rush,” John nodded, and then looked at Torren. “You think you can get them?”
“YES!” Torren quickly jumped to his feet and ran to the kitchen. “Woohoo!”
John got off the ground and grabbed his beer, while he waited for Torren to return with the potatoes so he could throw them on the grill. “Sorry, I think we had too much sugar when we went out shopping.”
“Considering that he wasn’t born here and rarely gets out, he certainly sounds like any other kid,” she laughed.
“Yeah, he’s adapting very well. Teyla has him playing with the other kids in the street, arranging play-dates and things like that.”
The boy’s mother rolled her eyes. “He has been trying to convince me to have him home schooled and to hire an instructor, but if he is going to live on this world, he will need to grow up and experience the same things as the other children.”
John whistled innocently as Torren came back into the yard with the potatoes. He started to carefully place the wrapped packages on the grill. “Schools are scary.”
“No, John, that is not what Carson has told me. Or General Landry. Or anyone else for that matter. Torren’s going to school as soon as he’s old enough,” Teyla said in a tone where she was not going to budge.
Ziva looked at him with a combination of shock and amusement. “You better be over these issues because I will break your arms if you try to keep Mariely from going to school like that.”
“We’ll see.” John said. “She’s two weeks old, I don’t have to worry about school for her yet.” He sat down on a chair and took a sip of his beer. “What?”
“Nothing, John. It’s just that when you act like this it’s a combination of thinking you’re either completely crazy or adorable. You said it yourself, this area is a safe area and all three of us are more than capable of defending ourselves and our children.”
“Well, I’m working on it still!” he said, defending himself.
“That’s right, you’re finally letting Torren play with other children,” Teyla said amused as she sipped on her own drink. She loved pushing the man’s buttons sometimes.
“Alright, that’s enough.” John took another sip of his beer.
Ziva was busy laughing at the expression on his face that she just barely caught the sight of Gibbs coming into the yard through the side gate of the yard. “I tried the bell but there was no answer. Figured that you were back here,” he said as he made his way over to the table to see the baby who just stared up at him. “I brought some decent bourbon for ya Sheppard. Nothing like the stuff you have in that bar inside. I had the feeling you might need it and judging from the way the ladies are laughing I figured right.”
“You’re a lifesaver Gibbs,” John said as he got up. “Please, have a seat. I’ll fetch us some glasses.”
“How are things going at the office?” Ziva asked after she finally calmed down. “I’m hoping Dr. Beckett will clear me in the next couple weeks. As much as I would love to stay here with Mariely, I will go insane not working.”
“Oh, the usual,” Gibbs smiled. “Cleaning up after you two,” he said shrugging. “And you should enjoy your time off as much as you can, you’re a mom now.”
She shook her head. “Maybe, but doesn’t change what I was still a month ago – a woman who wants to work. Why am I getting the feeling that I have had this conversation before?” she asked, looking over at Teyla.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Teyla said with a smile on her lips and looked at John who was coming back outside with glasses for Gibbs’ bourbon. “Maybe because to your culture’s standards some men are still ‘old fashioned’, as you call it?”
Gibbs chuckled. “Sorry, Ziva, it won’t happen again. Tony, McGee, Ducky and Abby really can’t wait until you are back at work.”
“Thank you,” she smiled. “Have we missed any interesting cases?”
“Nope,” Gibbs answered amused. “Do you get enough sleep now that you have a daughter?”
“Actually, I do,” she sighed and looked at John pointedly.
“What? I do too!” John said as he poured him and Gibbs the bourbon.
“He actually does.” Teyla smiled widely. “He hasn’t been waking up screaming for two weeks, even I get a good night of rest now.”
“Now that’s called progress,” Gibbs looked at John and sighed. “Dr. Beckett didn’t tell my anymore what I had already expected about your health, but you should have come to me, Sheppard. You need to trust the people around you.”
“I do now, Gibbs, that’s one of the reasons you’re here now.”
“Good,” Gibbs nodded and cocked his head towards the grill. “Potatoes are burning.”
John quickly got up and got the potatoes off the grill with the tongs.
“I will get the plates before the hot packages burn a hole in the table.” Teyla said as she walked inside.
Ziva sighed as she looked around. She absolutely hated feeling helpless, even if she was there with her baby. While everyone ran around trying to get things ready, she tried to focus on the infant to make sure she didn’t need anything, like a diaper change but even she was like an angel. “I need to work,” she stated simply. “Is there anything I can do from the house here?”
“I’ll see what I can find when I go back in tomorrow,” Gibbs replied.
“Thank you. Would you mind keeping an eye on Mariely while I go get a bottle ready for her?” she asked as she stood. The man smiled and already pulled the carrier over to him and played with the girl’s hand.
John stood there watching Ziva walk away and turned to their boss. “I haven’t told Ziva yet that I planned on telling you everything. Teyla knows, and is concerned because I haven’t exactly gotten the okay but I just need you to know so that you understand what really happened and how – I guess, why I feel that things will work out. With the team, and Ziva, and all.”
Gibbs sighed. “And you are certain of that?”
As Ziva and Teyla came back out, John looked from their curious expressions to the man. “Gibbs, do you believe in space travel, aliens, any of that stuff?”
“Ahh, nope. You know that is entirely Abby’s area anyway – ”
“Well, this is going to be easy,” John grinned.
The older man raised an eyebrow as his team member went to sit. “Now I get the feeling that it will be me who is going to need that bourbon,” he commented as he pulled the bottle closer so that he could refill his glass for this conversation.
The Colonel grinned as he refilled his own glass and coughed before looking at Gibbs. “What if I told you that space ships, travel, aliens…That all that were true…”