Author's note:

Hello everyone!

Hope you are all doing alright and managing during the pandemic. We are fairly good in here, restrictions are lifting up, the numbers are rising but steadily and not so much but there is also the rising number of recovered so things are looking well.

I want to thank all of you who keep being loyal to this story, your support mean everything to me.

I want to thank Randy for his wonderful Beta services and apologize to him in the same time for the wedding bits that had to be exhausting at times to go through.

I want to thank Debbie for her beautiful reviews.

I want to thank to my surrogate sister Athina who keeps supporting me in a way no one else does.

Either way – anyone up for a wedding? I advise you to be because it's the main topic of this chapter. We could have also returned to my home city for a while. ;) Enjoy!


I do not own NCIS or its characters.

Christmas Meeting – Chapter 43

It had been approximately five hundred days since Tony touched the medieval stones forming the solid structure of Charles Bridge for the last time. While the feeling itself was fleeting and he loved to relive it all over again, the memory was vivid and colourful, warming his heart. After all, almost every pleasant memory of Ziva David in his mind had such an effect.

And this city – Prague – could already tell stories about their mutual past in this place. Every single step he took, his head was flooded with pieces of nice memories. It was a place where they had found each other again, reconnected, talked through their feelings, forgiven one another and decided to start over. All promises made during the fateful meeting on Christmas one and half year ago were fulfilled.

It was a perfect destination for the final seal on the imaginary sheet of paper where their relationship history was written since the first moments that had eventually led them together. No disapproval had passed between them when they started to plan their wedding because both had listed Prague on the first place while writing down a list of places where they wished to get married.

So after some dutiful research to find about the possibilities, endless email communication with several agencies, expense calculations and consent of their closest friends and family, a series of booking arrangements took place from plane tickets, hotels, venue and restaurant to honeymoon arrangements that had involved pretty much the same hustle.

In the midst of all of it, the final finishing touches were also necessary to deal with so it took long weeks and months to choose all the clothes from the wedding dress, the bridesmaids dresses to the suits for male counterparts, the floral decorations in the venue, the right music accompaniment, the photographer and videographer, the makeup artist and hairstylist, means of transportation to both the wedding and the restaurant for reception and he was sure he certainly forgot about something.

Not to mention the theatre over the legal blessings. He used to think that his paperwork was boring, mundane but necessary part of his job but after all the ordeal, he was willing to start loving it. The amount of documents and certifications to satisfy the bureaucratic requirements of all involved authorities was maddening.*1 Thankfully, Ziva kept her US passport so at least they had had to go round the same offices.

If it wasn't for their Prague-established wedding planner with Terri as a liaison officer, he was sure that him standing on the Charles Bridge and watching the Vltava river flowing below him would be just a wishful thinking. He didn't wonder anymore that some people simply eloped instead of going through such vast, stressful planning. He had held out only thanks to his love for his bride but there were moments he wished it would be all over.

Nevertheless, they made it and they were all here. Two days ago, they had landed on the Czech soil with their little baby girl and the whole wedding procession consisting of their friends and family, minus Terri and David who had taken a different route from Israel. Everything was expertly arranged so the move to all the hotels hadn't been problematic and all had gone smoothly.

They had dined together and left for bed quite soon to deal with the jetlag and exhaustion from the long flight. The next day, everyone but Tony and Ziva had gone on a stroll through the city while the engaged couple had taken care of other legal necessities arranged by the wedding planner and taken a look on the venue and restaurant to get aquatinted with the environment and negotiate the very last details.

Today was the day before the wedding, once again filled with sightseeing, relaxing and just enjoying themselves. The weather in Prague was very spring-like with low temperatures in the mornings and higher temperatures in the afternoons thanks to the sun occasionally obscured by the clouds. Rain had surprised them only on the first day, the rest of the week was supposed to be nothing but sun perfection.

It was almost ideal, too perfect but he refused to look for the stain that would ruin his content mood. Even though there was a certain line of fear inside him, an irrational concern that things might go awry based on the first-hand experience, he kept it buried with all his will. He firmly believed that the last couple of months had happened to him for a reason and the reason certainly couldn't be to give him everything he had ever wanted and then take it away.

"I knew I would find you here." The sweetest voice in the universe roused him from his contemplation, softly touching his hand as she stood next to him with the brightest smile.

He was aware that a kiss would ruin it but he couldn't help himself and bent down to taste the lips of his fiancée lovingly, thinking about symbolism since they had been standing on the same place where he had seen her for the first time that winter evening in 2015. While their reunion had commenced here, they were now just certifying its continuation, not at all some end.

Pressing her body to him, he turned his gaze back to the divine view on Prague Castle, basking in the warm sunrays. "How's Tali?" He asked with a hint of concern, although he knew that his baby girl was nothing but hungry and Ziva had gone to breastfeed her.

"Stuffed and pampered like a princess I imagine with so many uncles and aunts around her." Ziva calmed him down and leaned her head against his shoulder comfortably.

Thanks to that, she registered the slight unnerving tremor that shot through his body as he nodded in silent acknowledgment and sighed deeply. The sound itself was relaxed but she could feel that his body was stiff as if imprisoned in some eternal spasm he wished to be free of. He was also very taciturn lately but not for the lack of trying. His thoughts were apparently transferring him to some secret plain of existence that he didn't notice a chance for expressing his boyish nature.

"Okay, so what is wrong with you?" She asked him sternly but on the other hand caringly so she would hint that she didn't have any intention to back down because she cared about him so it was easier for him to spill the beans. Take the band-aid and rip it off.

He looked down at her with confusion plastered on his face. "What?" He asked in puzzlement as he wasn't aware of anything. She had already known about his fear of abandonment and did her best to lessen it so it certainly couldn't be the issue she was talking about.

"Tony, I can see that something is troubling you." She reduced her sternness and conjured up a face full of worry because he was either masterfully hiding his true feelings or whatever plagued him was rooted somewhere deep down where he wasn't fully aware of it. "And since we arrived at the airport, your unrest had tripled. So out with it."

Staring at her as if being obtuse was a norm for him for a couple of more seconds, his face then relaxed as he internally admitted that there was something that kept bugging him. Albeit invisible and of low meaning, he couldn't deny that it was a thought he had bumped in his mind quite often lately. Considering that it was too late to discuss it with her, he simply pushed it back.

"Fine... There is something I hesitate to ask you but the opportunity never really offered itself." He confessed with guilty eyes, shielding himself before her reproachful gaze.

Narrowing her eyes, she scanned him quietly to detect the seriousness of that something. "How long have you been sitting on it?" She asked carefully with raised eyebrows.

There was even guiltier grimace on his face, his attempt to look innocent by scratching his head absolutely failing. "Well, a few months. Even before I proposed to you." He conceded with a shrug of his shoulders, knowing that it was hardly believable that he didn't say anything for over a year.

"What is it?" She inquired him with a threatening poke into his chest as she closed her eyes, bracing herself to minimize the impact.

There was a loud exhale as he blew the remaining air out of his lungs to fill them in with fresh air. A play for time to sort out his thoughts and choose the right words without sounding ignorant. "So... You're a Jew." He stated neutrally as he turned to her to fully reciprocate her attention.

She blinked. No, that wasn't it. She blinked again but the haze around her brain that prevented her to grasp at the roots of comprehension of his statement seemed impenetrable. Expecting many things to deal with because life wasn't always sun soaked, the question about her origin and religion was still somewhere at the bottom of the imaginary list. Another blink and yet, more confusion.

"What's up with that?" She questioned with a shake of her head but it was as useless as the blink.

"Uhm... I know you're not some fanatical zealot but you practice your religion occasionally, you do have your faith." He pointed out cagily, still hovering over the main point of his thoughts. "You're Jewish, your family was Jewish and you come from Israel..."

"Yeah, yeah. So?" She interrupted him, trying to get to the bottom of it as quickly as she could because the meaning of this conversation kept escaping her and she hated that.

He made a waving gesture towards the Prague Castle. "And here we are, in Prague, for our wedding ceremony that is a civil one, not a religious one." He remarked with a certain level of concern in his voice as he focused his eyes on her. "So there won't be any ketubah*2 or chuppah*3 or whatever else is part of Jewish traditional weddings. Though some glass breaking is involved if I understood that part correctly..."

"Plate. Plate breaking, not glass breaking." She corrected him easily to distinguish the Czech wedding traditions from the Jewish ones.*4 "Although I cannot deny that the plate might be made out of glass, but whatever... What is your point exactly?"

He sighed and for a moment looked into an unseen distance. "I should've asked you when we started to plan the wedding..." He mused out loud but then he turned his eyes back to her and concern filled them. "Do you mind that we're having a civil ceremony? Wouldn't you prefer to have a religious wedding according to Jewish customs?"

For a moment, she thought her heart stopped beating. Then she took a breath and its erratic, wild beating brought her back to the present as she stared at him with wide eyes. The way he sometimes cared about people he loved... It was setting her heart ablaze with deeper and profound love she didn't think was ever possible. There were moments she thought she couldn't love him more but then he did something that made her to revise that.

And this case was no exception. It dawned on her as another sack full of heavy bricks and she had to strain her muscles enormously to keep herself standing. For all those months, this man was plagued by a simple, light guilt because all he wanted was to create a perfect wedding day for her. He was contemplating to sacrifice himself on the altar of her religion just to deliver what she desired if she had ever wished so.

She reached her hands out to his face and pressed her lips on his mildly. "No, I do not mind having a civil ceremony, Tony. If I ever wanted to have a religious one I would have said so." She then told him, caressing his cheeks reddened by the lashes of fresh wind in the air. "Besides, it is impossible anyway because you would have to convert to Judaism and I do not want you to do that."

He furrowed his eyebrows. "Why not?" He objected almost whiningly. She knew that he would do everything for her and if having a religious ceremony meant to accept the faith of a different religion, so be it.

"Because you would do it for me, not for your own beliefs." She pointed out and he had to agree with it. "And that is not right."

He attempted to say something, to change her mind but she saved his words by another, this time very passionate kiss that made him feel quite wobbly. There was no need to study on countless renowned universities and graduate with an immense number of diplomas to recognize the sinful taste of a 'please-just-shut-up' kiss. And so he complied and let her to do to his lips whatever she wanted.

"But..." He whispered across her mouth weakly and she caught his lips in a pout between her two fingers as she caressed his face softly with her free hand.

"I mean the 'no' for real, my love." She shushed him gently and released the grip on his lips, focusing instead on the thick hair cover on his head. "You are very sweet to be so thoughtful but it is not necessary because religion is not what binds me to you, Tony. It is not a cornerstone of our relationship. But the marriage will be."

He settled his arms around her waist to press her closer to him as he nodded in understanding. There was still a gloomy wrinkle etched in his face as if wished he could do more for her, to give her the moon, the stars, whole solar system, galaxy or even the whole universe if it was in his powers. His concern for the religious ceremony was born out of love to her, nothing else.

"You have to learn that my religion and my faith are only between me and my God." She explained to him further because she could see that he needed to understand her specific relationship with her religion that was hers alone. "My love and my bond to you, however, are only between me and you."

She always perceived her faith as something strictly personal and her relative secretiveness wasn't about her not wanting to share things. It was just something she strongly protected within her heart, separated from everything else, and turned to it when she needed its energy, its strength. Letting someone in, even just to peek inside, meant an irreversible damage she couldn't ever patch up.

"Just as I will not let my love for you to affect my faith, I will not let my religion affect our marriage." She continued and he nodded softly to show that he comprehended her motives. "I am marrying you because I love you and because I want to create a marital bond between us. There is no religion involved, only our mutual love. And trust me, my God understands that."

He leaned down and captured her lips in a sweet, unhurried kiss – their own sign of a complete harmony. Gratefulness was also part of it as he wanted to thank her for her explanation that freed him of his guilt. Now, he could devote the rest of the day to his favourite activities with her, proving to her just how much he appreciated her as a person and woman he loved beyond comprehension.

Ziva nervously looked herself up and down in the full-length mirror to assess her looks. Her hair was tied in a hairstyle she would be never able to create by herself and it took her breath away that her hair could even be tied into something so beautiful. More down than up, her hair was bound by hair elastic in the area of the nape of her neck and curled so it created a very nice, loose but thick wavy ponytail.

The crown of her head was adorned by braided headband, fully attached to the ponytail in the back, creating a nice, smooth hill on the top of her head where a flowery hair comb was decorating her head. A few loose strands, taken off her non-existent fringe that also created the base of the braided headband, framed the rest of her face, slightly obscuring the long flowery earrings in the same design as the hair comb.

Her make-up was very decent in various shades of brown, complemented by a very light tone of beige lipstick to underline the whole look and make it look more natural. Still, it was more make-up than she was used to wearing with all the eyeliners and eyelash curls, powder blushers and some other make-up props she didn't even know they existed.

The hairstylist and make-up artists had done a magnificent job and she couldn't ever thanked them enough as they had been leaving about half an hour ago. Hitching up the skirt of her wedding dress, she assessed the look of the white low-heel shoes with opened forefoot and flowery lace around the edges and lacy strap around her ankle with a white ribbon on the back. They went with the wedding dress quite nicely and more importantly – they were comfortable.

"Isn't your mommy the most beautiful woman you've ever seen, princess Tali?" Terri sweetly asked Ziva's daughter she was holding in her hands, both watching as the Israeli woman judged her looks.

Ziva turned around and smiled at both widely, waving her fingers in the direction of her baby girl who had just been stuffed into her own toddler wedding dress. White with laced flower bodice and wide airy skirt, belted with a dark blue ribbon tied into a bow around the middle and headband in the same colour and same ribbon on the top of her tiny head, she looked absolutely adorable.

"Do you really think so?" She asked her friend who turned Tali in her arms in order to show her clothes off, laughing when she heard the bubbly giggle coming from the toddler.

"Of course, you are gorgeous!" She assured her and kept rocking the baby girl in her arms because she apparently loved it. "Damn, I'd marry you just for the way you look. Okay that is a bit shallow but you know what I mean..."

Ziva laughed in response and didn't omit to compliment Terri on her look as well. Her hairstyle was a system of strands of hair put there and there, tied in a nice bun at the back of her head but it still looked very natural. Her cocktail ivory dress with a lovely V-neck and the multiple times folded fabric on the bodice, loose flowing skirt down to her feet with a slit up to her thigh were an example of beautiful bridesmaid dress.

"So... Are you nervous?" Terri then asked her as she put the drowsing baby girl into an adorned white car seat for children, letting Tali rest so she would have energy for the ceremony itself.

Ziva shook her head immediately. "No." Taken aback by her confidence that could have been high when it came to her other abilities than emotions, she hesitated. "Well, yes but in that kind of normal way for a bride."

She turned back towards the mirror and once again saw the person she had become over the last few years and pride swelled inside her. "I am just... excited. I know that I am doing the right thing, that it will make me happy." She described further her feelings and smiled at Terri's reflection behind her back. "There are no doubts, no stress, no anything negative..."

Taking a deep breath into her lungs and then releasing it loudly, she revelled in the free feeling that bore nothing of the previously omnipresent tension inside her chest. "It is liberating." She commented it and smiled widely until the corners of her mouth started to hurt.

Terri approached her and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. "That's what I call 'therapy with love'." She said and laughed softly at Ziva's amused snort. "No really, Ziva... You deserve your happiness. I'm just glad I can be part of it."

A sob riddled through Ziva's throat, her emotions flying everywhere. But she refused to let any of the tears fall because she couldn't allow that perfect make-up to melt away and destroy the amazing job of the make-up artist. Instead, she turned around and wanted to hug Terri but she stopped her with a raised forefinger, signalling her to wait as she fished for her buzzing cell phone in her clutch bag.

"Ah, Abby's just texted me that the car is outside." Terri commented as she quickly wrote the reply and shoved back the cell phone back. "Grab your gear, your coach is here, milady."

Ziva nodded in understanding and draped her shoulders with the shawl protecting her from the cold outside, albeit it was quite warm weather for this time of the year. Then, she grabbed the car seat with her daughter, caressing her beautiful sleeping face and went out of the room. Terri took her clutch bag, Ziva's clutch bag, checked if they had everything and nothing was left in the hotel room and closed the door, slipping the key card to the bag.

Outside, Ziva hugged Abby who was similarly dressed and styled as Terri for a long second, sharing one of her last moments with her while still being single and giggling like a little girl with tears in her eyes as the Goth wished her all the good luck and best things in the world. Then she entrusted her with the car seat with Tali, thanked everyone around her and greeted the driver of her limousine.

For some reason, Tony hadn't hesitated to insist on treating her like his queen and personally had chosen a luxury car for her (and later for them as they would transfer together to the place of their wedding reception). It was a Rolls-Royce Phantom VII made in 2008 in a beautiful dark sapphire colour. A very robust car with everything that made Rolls-Royce a Rolls-Royce*5 and mainly spacious enough for a bride with monumental wedding dress.

She looked over her shoulder and waved back at her two bridesmaids and her little flower girl and climbed through the coach door inside the limousine, settling on the black leather black seat, leaning her feet against the softly carpeted footrest beneath her. The driver shut the door behind her and went to resume his seat behind the wheel so he would transfer the precious cargo at the rear to her destination.

Closing her eyes, she willed her heart to stop trying to break through her ribcage and rather focused on the pleasant piano melody coming from the speakers – a music playlist Tony had not only constructed but also recorded specifically for this occasion. She also noticed the lights above her and emotional tears fell down her cheeks as she looked up at the starlight headliner of the Rolls-Royce roof where to optic lights formed a bright heart shape with the others lights dimmed around it.

Her emotions were on overdrive when the screen built into the front seatbacks turned on and started a slideshow of photos of her and Tony, as well as them as family together with Tali. She could only thanks to the luxurious nature of the car that the passenger privacy had been ensured and the driver wasn't bothered by her emotional outburst whenever a new photo appeared on the screen.

The destination of their wedding ceremony wasn't far, as far as she could remember it was about 5 minute walk from the hotel they were accommodated in which was the same hotel they had been year and half ago. But because it was right in the middle of Prague historic centre where the streets could get very narrow, the car had to choose a different path to go around streets wide enough for the cars to fit in so she was in for about twice as longer ride, giving her enough time to appreciate the touching surprise from Tony.

Her two friends, her daughter and the hired photographer travelled behind her in a Blue Lava Škoda Superb*6 and definitely enjoyed the view through the centre of the city more than she did. Riding beneath Charles Bridge towards Prague Castle, they detoured towards their destination which was Vrtba Garden*7, a High Baroque garden on the slope of Petřín Hill with three garden terraces and Sala Terrena*8 where the wedding ceremony was about to take place.

When the car stopped on the free space by Karmelitská street where the entrance to the garden through Vrtba Palace was, she took a deep breath and wiped away the tears of emotion from her face. The car door opened and Gibbs' hand courteously reached for her to help her get out and she accepted it gratefully as she gathered the layers of her wedding dress to prevent any damage to it.

The driver left to make space for the second car, following the given instructions. Gibbs looked Ziva up and down and his breath hitched with the beauty he was examining. "You are absolutely stunning." He commented it as he embraced her in one of his fatherly hugs and Ziva thanked him warmly by kissing his cheek.

"As always, Agent Gibbs is right." A female voice with thick Israeli accent uttered behind him and Ziva pulled away to see if she heard right. "You are indeed a stunning bride."

"Orli!" Ziva exclaimed in happiness and replaced Gibbs' welcoming arms for those of the Mossad Director.

Gibbs smiled softly and went to pay attention to the second car where he played the same gentleman duty as earlier – helping Abby and Terri out of the car, as well as carrying the car seat with the precious baby girl whom he personally considered to be his granddaughter. And despite his inner reluctance, he openly posed for a couple of photos the photographer wanted to make.

"You are here!" Ziva continued as the hug with Orli ended and the woman caught her head to caress her cheek gingerly. "We were so worried when you did not let us know if you would come."

Orli had confirmed her attendance almost immediately after sending the wedding invitations but her position within Mossad ranks was a bit problematic. Regardless of her desires to be part of this marriage ceremony and the measures she could apply in order to attend it, her duty was to react on the current events in Israel so the possibility that she wouldn't have eventually come had been strong.

The engaged couple had prepared for this eventually and planned the ceremony in two variations – with her presence and with her absence. Every person involved in the ceremony had their role, some of them more significant one, some of them less significant. And Orli was given one of the most important ones so they had to count with her potential inability to show up.

"I flew in last night so I did not want to bother you in the morning of your big day." Orli apologized and her eyes couldn't get enough of the radiant beauty the woman in front of her radiated. "I rather decided to surprise you instead."

Ziva embraced her for one more time and then she went with the rest of those who had arrived into the passageway that would lead them to the garden's premises, cooing over her sweetly dressed daughter who kept resting peacefully. They went beneath an arc gate with a monumental statue of Atlas*9 and smaller statues representing abundances and fortune, reaching the garden entrance in the back wing of the building.

In the meantime, the rest of the wedding party was gathered upstairs on the third terrace at the very top of the garden where the bridal walk was supposed to begin. Tony, McGee, Senior, David, Ducky, Jimmy and Breena stood in a semicircle at the top of three radial paved paths that came together below a small gloriette which was a little ornamental auditorium decorated by seashells, mascarons and festoons with mermaid and tritons*10 reliefs and a breathtaking vintage point at the top of the structure where Ellie and Jake admired the view on historical centre of Prague with Prague Castle and other famous dominants.

Delilah, McGee's girlfriend and as he hoped soon-to-be fiancée, couldn't come with him due to some work issues and considering the nature of the wedding venue that was formed mostly from stairs, it wouldn't be convenient for her wheelchair. Abby's boyfriend Burt also had to stay back home, taking care dutifully of their mutual adopted pitbull puppy since they couldn't take the dog with them.

Vance and Tony's new team, the former Team Tudor, had to do without the presence at the ceremony, as well because someone had to stay back at the agency, manage it and do the necessary work. Tony and Ziva inspired in the example of Terri and David and also prepared a wedding reception later on in D.C. with everyone else included so no one would be robbed of the celebration of their marriage since not all of them could afford to attend their dream wedding.

After a commotion could be heard downstairs and Ellie gave a signal to Tim, he smiled at the groom. "Well, they're here." He commented it and stuck out his neck to catch a sight of the girls below and Ducky, Jimmy and Breena moved towards the railing framing the third terrace to see the bride for the first time.

"Wonderful, I'll go greet them." Tony spun around but was immediately stopped by David's strong hands.

"No way, man, turn around and stay as you are." David ordered to him seriously, seeking the support in the other two men who provided it gladly. "You're not allowed to see the bride until she comes here."

"But..." Tony protested but was silenced by the stern looks of his best man, his father and his friend. He shuffled his feet and rebelled by turning his head over his shoulder at least.

Senior stepped up and patted his back soothingly. "He's right, Junior. Seeing your future wife for the first time in the wedding dress is..." He pointed out wistfully, searching for the right word.

"Unforgettable." Both Senior and David uttered in unison, earning a chuckle from McGee.

Tony played nervously with his hands for a moment. "If I recall correctly, you saw Terri for the first time in the wedding dress when you argued with your parents." He complained and growled when Tim forcefully turned him back so he couldn't see anything but the gloriette.

"Well, I saw her in the dress before that. That's..." He paused, his ears turning red for a moment but he didn't even have a chance to finish the sentence because a loud call of his name bounced off the walls of the garden.

He stood to attention and smiled at everyone apologetically. "Well, that's my cue to get my ass down and help so the ladies wouldn't fall in their high heels. That, my friend, is one of the perks of marriage." He said with a wink and hurried off down to offer the helping hand.

The remaining three men laughed softly and Tony took them affectionately around their shoulders, suddenly having the need for support. The step he was about to make was a serious one and he was aware of the years he had spent avoiding it because the first attempt he had gone through went awry, damaging his heart irreversibly. He just needed a momentary assurance that he wasn't dreaming but it was a genuine reality.

"Are you okay?" Tim asked him when he exchanged the look of worry with Senior. Tony could be affectionate without a reason at times but considering the approaching big moment, this display of feelings was definitely well-founded.

Tony laughed in response and clapped excitedly the shoulders of both men. "Yes. I have never been so ready in my life." He replied with a wide smile and patiently waited until the girls would climb the stairs up on the third terrace before turning around.

And the wait was definitely worth of it, even if it took a whole eternity according to his opinion. When he turned around he was immediately blinded by the reflection of sun against all the white colour in front of him. Shielding his view with a hand, he gasped in awe, stunned beyond imagination by the natural charm of his wife-to-be who seemed to be born to wear such beautiful wedding dress.

The brightly white sleeveless bridal gown of an A-line silhouette with a narrower top, flaring gently wider toward the bottom as the hemline softly touched the floor, creating a slight train at the back was breathtaking. The high neck, halter and sheer neckline decorated by tiny crystals substituted perfectly any kind of jewellery as it created a delicate collar on her swan neck.

At the back, the dress had an oval cut, leaving most of the skin exposed down to her nicely curved loins. Two thick straps ran from the front under her bust up towards the collar, narrowing into thin straps and creating a support for the chest. The material was very lightweight with fine and stiff netting called tulle with laced flowery hemline of the skirt, the bodice down to her hips and the straps.

Her hairstyle made her look like a queen to him with her hair mostly down and curly in places. The floral decorations like the hair comb and earrings only stressed the incredible prettiness she was embodying, just like the shoes he had the chance to notice at one point as she hitched up the skirt in the attempt to smooth it out and the adorable fingerless wrist gloves.

It was simply a joy to behold and he had to take David's and his father's point – seeing his future wife in the wedding dress for the first time was indeed an unforgettable moment because the image had already burnt into his mind. She was like an apparition from his dreams and fantasies if it wasn't for the real, familiar smile she had on her face as she adjusted the blanket in which Tali was tugged in.

Then she looked up at him and she appeared to be just as awed with his attire as he was with hers. Dressed in a groom variation of a tuxedo with black shiny pumps, black trousers with a single silk braid covering the outer seams and without cuffs, ivory low-cut waistcoat with black buttons, white shirt underneath with double cuffs and silver cufflinks as a gift from his father, turndown collar and a black silky blow tie around his neck, he looked dashing.

His ivory jacket with silky black shawl lapels was done up around his waist with a single large black button. The pockets of his jacket were hemmed with black silk as well; his breast pocket was adorned by a white silk handkerchief folded into "the puff" or "the Cooper" pocket square (as once famously worn by Gary Cooper) and a boutonnière out of her wedding bouquet embellished one of the lapels.

A moment of silence passed between them as if the world ceased to exist for this one fleeting moment and he noticed the tremble that ran through her. Worried that she might be too nervous in spite of all the care their family and friends had provided to her, he walked over to her. This time, no one attempted to stop him to be closer to his betrothed because everyone understood the need.

She looked up at him as he smiled at her encouragingly and before he could ask about her wellbeing, she launched herself at him, kissing him passionately. An ardent Ziva David wasn't an unfamiliar sight to him so he knew how to handle himself, yet the emotional weight of the whole event they were experiencing was a bit too much and he got carried himself away for a moment.

"Whoa, what was that for?" He asked her, ignoring the teasing whistling and cheers from his friends when the kiss ended and they held onto each other tightly. "We're not even married yet; leave the best part for the wedding night."

She fanned herself with her hand, trying to loosen the firm grip on her throat. "The ride here... you..." She struggled to find the right words to express the emotional rollercoaster she had been through during the Rolls-Royce ride from the hotel to their wedding venue.

"Ah..." He uttered with a knowing smile, his heart skipping a beat to see that his surprise had born the fruit he had intended. "I'm really glad you liked it."

A sob escaped her lips and her throat tightened as she choked on her own tears she desperately tried to hold back so she wouldn't ruin her make-up. He clicked with his tongue in a cute manner and caressed her back soothingly to help her to get her feelings under control. It moved him beyond imagination that she appreciated something he had worked on during nights when she and Tali were sleeping so greatly.

She pulled away from him and wiped off the wetness on her face, frowning. "I hate you, you know that?" She whined like a petulant child, tapping the tears carefully to prevent any smudges.

"I think that's fairly obvious. It's one of the reasons why you're marrying me." He commented with a chuckle and helped her out with making her to be presentable again, peppering her cheeks with soft kissing.

He was pulled away from her the moment he felt a hand on his shoulder. "Sorry to interrupt, my dear lovebirds, but make-up emergency is here." Terri nudged him away and pulled out some fixation make-up stuff out of her handbag, already working on any damages that were done by the emotional outburst.

Ziva winked at him and he smiled, appreciating Terri's and Abby's looks with both words and gaze, as well. Especially for Abby it was very unusual but actually pretty nice look and he wished Burt could see her in the white colour. Maybe it would help him to take the plunge and propose to her, as well, but he guessed that adopting a puppy was enough for the time being.

Then, he realized that another person had joined their wedding party, focusing his eyes on the softly smirking Orli by the stairs on the third terrace. "Orli!" He exclaimed and stepped out in her direction, his arms spread in an anticipation of a hug. "I'm so happy you could make it."

She accepted his embrace warmly, smiling all the way through until she pulled away and her face turned serious. "Can I talk to you for a moment, short way off from the others?" She asked him, touching his arm gently to assure him that she didn't have in mind to talk with him about some serious business.

He nodded in understanding and pointed towards the gloriette that should provide them some privacy as everyone else gathered around the bride to be unstinting with praise on her beauty and the loveliness of her dress. Although a couple of nosy people noticed their momentary aloofness, none of them commented on it and let them do whatever they had in mind to do.

"How can I serve you?" Tony turned to Orli the moment they reached the gloriette, watching from afar as Ziva thanked to everyone around her for their compliments.

Orli took her time to observe Ziva in her most radiant moments of her life, too, and then she sighed contently. "I'd say by taking care of her but you are already doing a splendid job. It's above reproach." She replied with a proud smile and Tony's cheek turned a little bit red at the acclaim. "So... you can just give something to her for me."

She took her handbag off her shoulder and unzipped it to explore its contents. After some rummaging, she pulled out a blue square jewellery box, making sure that no one but Tony saw it at the moment. Putting her handbag back on her shoulder, she kept the box in her hands for a while and then almost ceremonially placed it into Tony's opened palms who accepted it with certain unease.

He didn't open it to see what type of jewellery it held but judging by the size of the box, he guessed at a necklace. "Orli, you didn't have to..." He tried to protest because this honour was supposed to belong to her, not to him.

She silenced him by covering his hands with her own on the jewellery box. "I know it should be me to give her this present but it's not from me. It's from Eli." She clarified because she had her own reasons for passing this honour on Tony. "I shouldn't be in possession of this at all but... Eli used to hide various things in the most curious of places."

It had been a couple of months she had made the discovery of the jewellery inside the box. She would have expected from someone like Eli David to have a secret compartment in his work desk but she would have never guessed that he had kept some of the most precious personal gems inside. Her heart had melted at the sight of the first pictures Tali and Ziva had drawn for him, the first toy car Ari had played with and her breath had caught in her throat upon seeing the content of the jewellery box, together with the self-explanatory photo.

Tony nodded in acknowledgement and opened the case, his yes caressing the dazzling splendour in it. A choker necklace made out of pink freshwater pearls and brilliants falling into three rows in a wavy manner connected by five sapphire flowers around the neck took any of the words of praise out of his mouth. Any queen or princess would be delighted to adorn herself with such a nice jewellery.

He was so captivated by the beauty that he didn't register the photo stuck at the corner of the case. If he would, he saw a photo of young Eli David and a woman in the wedding dress on what definitely had to be their wedding day. The woman on the photo wore this particular necklace and seemed to be incredibly happy, similarly to the bride that was about to become his wife.

"It belonged to Rivka." Orli added to provide further explanation and Tony gulped visibly. "Eli always wanted one of his daughters to have it."

Tony lifted his hand and after a brief moment of hesitation caressed the gorgeous pearls, the shining brilliants and deeply blue sapphires with his fingers, marvelling at their fine design. Then he looked at Ziva who was just laughing at something his father had said, closing the box firmly with a grateful nod towards the Mossad director in front of him. "Thank you." He stated and pressed a feathery kiss on Orli's cheek.

Since he had no place to put the jewellery box at the moment, Orli offered to guard it for him for now and then give it back to him at the wedding reception. With that, their conversation had ended, interrupted by the wedding planner from the agency who started to issue orders for their specially planned bridal walk through the 'aisle' towards the altar.

Tony exchanged a teasing wink with Ziva as she walked up the middle one of the paved paths towards the gloriette where her bridal walk was about to begin and he walked down to assume his position by the balustrade adorned with vases and statues of seven Ancient Gods – Apollo, Mercury, Diana, Juno, Minerva, Jupiter and Vulcan*11, where rest of the wedding party gathered in advance arranged positions.

Gibbs linked his arms with Ziva's and genuinely smiled at the radiant bride next to him which filled her with a confidence she hadn't felt for a long time. Whatever his wrongdoings could have been, whatever disagreements had occurred between them, their relationship was better and he earned the honour to 'give her away' as the fatherly figure she had sought in him.

And then, the first tones of Canon in D composed by Johann Pachelbel*12 and beautifully played by a string quartet stirred the silence inside the garden and the bridal walk could finally begin. The wedding party split into two even groups and started to slowly and ceremonially walk down the stairs to the second floor of the garden with respectful distances.

The first group descending the stairs from their right side was led by Terri as the witness of the bride and included Orli, David, Jimmy, Breena and Ducky, while the second group was led by McGee, formed by Tony, Senior, Abby who was entrusted with Tali, Ellie and Jake. Gibbs and Ziva remained motionless by the gloriette and just watched the festive stroll from their scenic position.

Once the party reached the bottom of the stairs, a new song – Royal Procession March in G – invited them to form a new arrangement in the second terrace of the garden. While Tony went forward towards the other set of stairs leading to the first floor, Orli stayed rooted on her spot by the stairs she had just descended and the rest of the wedding guests formed a double row between them around the small pond in the middle of the second terrace with two large flowerbeds comprising of European Boxes and Horned Violets.

Ziva firmly gripped the white satin cloth wrapped around the stems of her wedding bouquet consisting of beautiful array of white blooms like white orchids, white roses, white lilies, freesias and mini hydrangeas offset by lush greens arranged in a cascade fashion when the first tones of the next composition resounded in the garden, giving her the hint that now, it was her time to move.

Putting carefully one foot in front of the other with her chest proudly stuck out and with Gibbs' strong hold on her, she walked down the paved path towards the balustrade and then down the stairs, aware of the all the eyes that were focused on her. Her ears absorbed the pleasant sound of Greensleeves*13 melody and she fearlessly and with a broad smile on her face let the wedding dress flow behind her majestically as she ended up right in front of Orli.

There, Gibbs released her and offered her hand to the Director of Mossad who accepted it with a deep nod, linking her arm with the bride just like Gibbs had before. The melody then profoundly changed into Lute concerto in D Major, II Largo by Antonio Vivaldi*14 as the wedding party set off on another descend through the garden to the first floor, passing by two monumental thujas, leaving the bride and Orli behind them.

The formation of a double row with slight alternation as Gibbs was the one now standing at the foot of the stairs and with Tony waiting by the fountain of a chubby child fighting with a water-spewing dragon was done during the melody of Te Deum in D Major, Prelude composed by Marc-Antoine Charpentier*15. The tension was escalating as the main part of the bridal walk neared to its peak.

The two women upstairs set off on their stroll down as the melody of Ave Maria by Franz Schubert*16 gave them the cue to do so. It was a magnificent spectacle and everyone was aware of the symbolism that Orli's presence presented. She was the father who was no longer alive and the mother Ziva had resented at first but eventually had chosen to assume that vacant position, as well.

When they arrived at the foot of the stairs, Gibbs linked his arm through Ziva's second one and the walk fluently continued towards Tony standing by the fountain accompanied by the soft tones of Serenade from Swan Song, once again a work of Franz Schubert*17. The surrogate parents led the radiant bride through the path of the garden to give her away to the raring groom.

And that Tony almost tripped over his own feet when he eagerly accepted the hand of his beloved who smiled up at him with the most shining smile he had ever seen and he was sure that it wasn't any different for him. He would have kissed her endlessly right here and now but he managed to control himself and just watch the whitish aura enveloping her, glowing like a snowdrift under the sun.

After all, it was time to line up for the great finale of the bridal walk while the rest of the wedding party moved to the Sala Terrena, the fresco-decorated place of the wedding ceremony as the string quartet changed the tune to Air on a G string, an arrangement of Bach's second movement from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major by August Whilhejm, allowing the violinist to play the composition on a violin's lowest string, the G string.

When all was set, Tony and Ziva stood at the front facing Sala Terrena with their witnesses behind them and followed by the parental figures of their lives – Gibbs, Orli and Senior. The rest of the wedding guests were already seated inside the Sala Terrena with the officiant, the registrar and the interpreter who were standing inside, waiting for the bride and the groom to come forward.

Upon their signal, the string quartet started to play probably one of the most famous classical songs associated with weddings – The Bridal Chorus from opera Lohengrin from German composer Richard Wagner*18. The bride and the groom took a one last breath simultaneously and stepped out in the same time in the direction of Sala Terrena with Tim, Terri, Gibbs, Orli and Senior accompanying them on this last step of the long journey towards the altar.

Faithfully guided, draw near

to where the blessing of love shall preserve you!

Triumphant courage, the reward of love,

joins you in faith as the happiest of couples!

Champion of virtue, proceed!

Jewel of youth, proceed!

Flee now the splendour of the wedding feast,

may the delights of the heart be yours!

This sweet-smelling room, decked for love,

now takes you in, away from the splendour.

Faithfully guided, draw now near

to where the blessing of love shall preserve you!

Triumphant courage, love so pure,

joins you in faith as the happiest of couples!

Breaking the traditional cycle of bride walking down the aisle with her father, they marched towards the altar side by side towards their marriage. It was a simple symbol of their unity, affiliation and equality. It was a metaphor to their relationship because only when they were together, they formed a strong, rare bond that made them both powerful and confident than anything else.

The registrar welcomed them inside Sala Terrena and introduced them to the wedding officiant and the interpreter as it was officially required, including the witnesses and the parents. Senior, Gibbs and Orli then sat down on their chairs while Tony and Ziva approached the altar with the wedding officiant and interpreter behind it, Tim and Terri standing behind the groom and bride respectively to serve as their dutiful witnesses.

"Vážení svatebčané, milí snoubenci, dovolte mi, abych vás přivítal v tento významný den, který mohu s potěšením sdílet s vámi." The wedding officiant announced ceremonially with a pleasant smile on his face, his loud and strong voice commencing the wedding ceremony.*19

"Dear wedding guests, dear bride and groom, allow me to welcome you here on this day of great significance that I am delighted to share with you." The interpreter translated his words with equally broad smile and a really melodic voice that intensified the festive moment.

"Dnešní den patří k těm nejdůležitějším ve Vašem životě, protože hodláte přijmout manželský slib, kterým posvětíte svou vzájemnou lásku, úctu, toleranci a podporu." The officiant turned his attention solely on the engaged couple in front of him. "Vaše manželství bude potvrzeno slavnostními slovy a od dnešního dne budete životem kráčet po boku někoho, bez něhož žít nelze."

"This day belongs to the most important ones in your life because you intend to make a marriage vow that sanctifies your mutual love, respect, tolerance and support." The interpreter followed with an appropriate translation. "Your marriage is going to be certified by ceremonial words and as of today, you will walk through life with someone you cannot live without by your side."

Those words didn't create a certain type of smirk on bride's and groom's faces only, but on the wedding guests' faces, as well. Each of them had become witnesses of their courting, their endless dance around each other and most importantly, their connection and relationship. Their multiple separations had proved enough that they indeed couldn't be without each other for too long because only the closet presence of the other was the basic element of shot in the arm and reason for living.

"Vše má určitou chvíli. Veškeré dění má svůj čas. Od okamžiku, kdy jste se poprvé poznali, již uplynula dlouhá doba. Cesta k naplnění vašeho vztahu svazkem manželským byla trnitá, složitá a často plná bolesti. Bylo by však nemoudré tuto minulost plně odstřihnout, protože právě naše chyby z nás dělají to, čím jsme." The officiant wisely incorporated the love story of Tony and Ziva into his speech and completed it with a necessary lesson.

"Everything has a certain moment. All developments have their own time. A plenty of time passed since the moment you have met for the first time. The journey towards the fulfilment of your relationship by the bond of marriage was difficult, complicated and often painful. However, it would be unwise to fully cut yourselves off of that particular past because our mistakes are shaping us into who we are." The interpreter translated dutifully and smiled at the engaged couple as they received the lesson with a knowing smile.

Ziva didn't lower her head although she would have done so only a couple of months ago. She was fully aware that the complicated relationship with Tony was mostly her fault but she agreed with the lesson in the wedding speech – mistakes had shaped them into who they were and as a couple. Those mistakes had made them stronger than she could ever imagine.

She couldn't know what their relationship would have been like if they had accepted their feelings from the very beginning but considering how immature they both had been, she had suspected that it wouldn't have ended well. She and Tony had embraced the pain they had caused to each other and instead of using it as instrument of bad memories; they had reformed it into the experience that was necessary in order to be so confident and in love with each other as they were at the moment. The positive outweighed the negative.

"O to víc je pro vás důležité vážit si Vašeho spojení, toho pouta, které jste konečně ztvrdili – jak jsem s potěšením dozvěděl – zde v Praze." The officiant continued and spread his hands towards the city he had just mentioned. "Věřte mi, že pro oddávajícího neexistuje větší radost než provádět posvěcení lásky dvou lidí se společnou minulostí v tomto krásném městě. Rozhodli jste se tak uctít nejen vaši trvalou vzájemnou náklonnost, ale i okolnosti, které vás konečně svedly dohromady."

"The more is important for you to cherish your connection, your bond you have strengthened – as I found out with delight – here, in Prague." The interpreter explained the meaning behind the words of her colleague. "Believe me, there is no greater pleasure for an officiant than to perform a blessing of love of two people with mutual past in this beautiful city."

Tony returned momentarily to that moment his eyes had caught the sight of the love of his life on Charles Bridge. It was one of his favourite memories he loved to revisit often because it meant a significant turn in his life, one he couldn't have predicted even with the help of the best fortune tellers in the world. The more he was grateful to be bestowed with so much happiness thanks to it.

What could have happened if he had visited London, Vienna, Paris or any other city he had ever wished to explore? No answer existed on such a rhetorical question because it was unimportant. Fate had led him to Prague, Fate had put Ziva David in his path and he thanked the Fate for it every single day. That fateful Christmas meeting one and half year ago had changed his life beyond recognition.

"I proto je nyní podstatné uctít ty pozitivní okolnosti Vašeho spojení, Váš láskyplný a šťastný společný život, který již z části došel naplnění narozením Vaší úžasné a roztomilé dcery Tali." The officiant stated and laughed softly with everyone else when Tali yelled out in her adorable baby voice upon hearing her name.

"Therefore it is now essential to honour the positive circumstances of your union, your loving and happy common life that has partially come into fruition by the birth of your amazing and adorable daughter Tali." The interpreter followed as Abby had to calm Tali down with a slightly rocky movement because she was getting too excited over so many mentions of her name.

The engaged couple couldn't resist and both heads turned around to look at the fruit, the literal sun of their lives. Tali's existence only cemented all the previously uttered promises and love confessions between them. She was the product of their mutual love they had created together in the waves of passion and she would be treasured as such for the rest of her life. Probably to her embarrassment in her teenage years but her parents would assure her that they meant no harm.

"Nechť se tento den navždy zapíše do Vašich vzpomínek jako den výjimečný, jedinečný a neopakovatelný, prožitý ke vší spokojenosti bez zbytečných stresů a starostí v kruhu rodiny a přátel, které jste si sami zvolili a kteří mají Vaši plnou důvěru a lásku." The officiant concluded the wedding speech when both the bride and the groom turned their heads back to him.

"May this day be fixed forever in your minds as an extraordinary, remarkable and unrepeatable day spent to your full satisfaction without pointless stresses and worries in the circle of family and friends you have chosen by yourselves and who have your ultimate faith and love." The interpreter wished to the happy couple in the language they both understood.

The bride and the groom barely managed to hold back the tears full of emotion as they gratefully nodded at both the officiant and the interpreter for the beautiful, truthful and kind wedding speech. They hadn't had any hand it in, not because they wouldn't care but because they simply had too much to do and the officiant himself had offered to construct the speech by himself after acquiring a couple of details of their love story.

"A nyní přistoupíme k manželskému slibu. Prosím, otočte se k sobě a vezměte se za ruce." The officiant appealed to them with another broad smile.

"And now, let's proceed to the marriage vow. Please, turn face to face and take your hands." The interpreter repeated the same words in English.

Ziva took a deep breath, her cheeks colouring in a deep shade of crimson, increasing the presence of red colour in her face as she turned sideways to meet with already expectant Tony. He held out his shaking hands to her and she reached for them immediately, both seeking the support and balance in one another. They achieved that because once their hands joined, surge of great confidence shot through them, calming their breathing at least.

"Pane ženichu, opakujte po mě: „Já, Anthony DiNozzo Junior, beru si tebe, Zivo David, za svou ženu, abych tě mohl milovat dnes a navždy." The officiant began and the interpreter promptly translated the words for Tony so he could repeat them as he was invited to do so. "Budu tě milovat, když jsme spolu i když nás život rozdělí. Má láska k tobě bude stejně silná, ať už bude náš společný život snadný nebo těžký. Tvé životní cíle budu vždy ctít a pomáhat ti v jejich naplnění. Vždy vůči tobě bude otevřený a upřímný. Toto ti teď slibuji z hloubi svého srdce."

"I, Anthony DiNozzo, take thee, Ziva David, as my wife so I could love you today and forever." Tony dutifully recited every single word of the marriage vow as if he had it etched in his memory, looking deeply into her eyes. "I will love you when we are together and even when the life separates us. My love for you will be equally strong no matter if our life together will be easy or difficult. I will always respect your life goals and help you in their achievement. I will always be open and sincere with you. That is what I promise to you now from the bottom of my heart."

She squeezed hard his hands to maintain her composure and not to start openly crying here and now for she was touched beyond imagination with his words. She could see and hear that he meant them because his voice was trembling with emotion for the whole time and his eyes watered but he refused to let the tears fall because he didn't want to tear them away from his beautiful bride.

"Slečno nevěsto, opakujte po mě: „Já, Ziva David, si beru tebe, Anthony DiNozzo, za svého manžela a slibuji ti, že při tobě vždy budu stát a milovat tě, v časech dobrých i zlých." The wedding mercilessly continued and she took another deep breath to ease the tension inside her chest as the officiant dictated the words of her marriage vow. "Budu dělat vše pro to, abys nikdy nepochyboval o mé lásce, úctě a respektu k tobě. Jsi mým dechem, mou myšlenkou, mým vědomím i nevědomou intuicí. Pro to, aby si se mnou byl šťastný, udělám vše, co bude v mých silách. Toto ti teď slibuji z hloubi svého srdce."

"I, Ziva David, take thee, Anthony DiNozzo, as my husband and I promise to always stand with you and love you no matter if the times are good or bad." She faltered but found her voice pretty quickly, especially after Tony smiled at her encouragingly. "I will do my best to never make you doubtful about my love, my respect and my appreciation for you. You are my breath, my thought, my consciousness as well as my involuntary intuition. To make you happy, I will do everything that is in my powers. That is what I promise to you now from the bottom of my heart."

Tony would love to tell her that she had already done everything she could to make him happy but this was her vow and so he was in no position to object. He accepted the words with a tearful smile, his elation doubled when he heard the sobs from other wedding guests. He knew she had written this vow by herself just as he had written his and it did reflect all their insecurities they swore to work on together.

"Oba dva snoubenci před oddávajícím uvedli, že jim nejsou známy překážky, které by jim bránily uzavřít manželství, že navzájem znají svůj zdravotní stav a že zvážili uspořádání budoucích majetkových poměrů svého bydlení a hmotného zajištění pro uzavření manželství." The officiant carried on, reciting the part of the wedding ceremony that was required by Czech laws while the engaged couple wiped away their respective tears.

"Both the bride and the groom stated in front of the officiant that they are not aware of any obstacles that would prevent them to enter into marriage, that they know the health conditions of one another and that they considered the organization of their future property relations of the housing situation and financial security for their time of marriage." The interpreter rapidly translated the legal necessities, exchanging a knowing smile with the officiant.

"Nyní se Vás tážu milí snoubenci, zdali vstupujete dobrovolně do manželství?" The officiant turned back to the engaged couple and looked directly at Tony. "Pane ženichu?"

"Now I ask you, the bride and the groom, if you enter into the marriage voluntarily?" The interpreter explained when Tony laid his eyes on her in question. "Mr. Groom?"

Tony's eyes found Ziva and he didn't need a moment to think about it, he even didn't dare to make some childish joke because he felt incredibly honoured by this simple chance. "Yes." He confirmed, certifying his love for Ziva and his desire to marry her with a three-letter word that meant more than anything.

"Slečno nevěsto?" The officiant turned to Ziva whose eyes shone like the two of the brightest stars on the night sky.

"Miss Bride?" The interpreter chipped in.

Ziva also toyed with the idea to ease the situation by cracking some obviously fake second of hesitation but once she looked up at him, she forsake the idea. Having fun was one of the most important spices of their relationship but one had to also know when it was time to be serious and honour the gravity of the step they were currently taking together at the altar.

"Yes." She answered in the most convincing tone he had ever heard from her and his heart skipped a beat.

"Tím bychom za sebou měli tu zákonnou stránku věci, přistupme tedy k té slavnostnější." The officiant announced and closed the file in front of him that served him as a clue in order not to forget about something during this very important moment. "Můžete provést výměnu prstenů."

"That would wrap up the legal side of the things, we can now proceed to the more ceremonial one." The interpreter translated and McGee squeezed the velvet box in his hands. "You can exchange your rings."

Tony turned to Tim who handed the box with the ring over to him, pulling out the diamond and sapphire gold ring that once belonged to his deceased mother. She couldn't be her physically but at least her presence was symbolized in this piece of jewellery that symbolized the eternal love of his parents. Gulping, he reached for the shaking hand of his bride and slid the band around the ring finger of her left hand.

Ziva clenched her left hand into a fist a couple of times as if she wanted to get used to the ring and then she accepted the offered simple gold ring with a diamond on top in the same shape and cut as hers was from Terri and slid the band down the ring finger of her groom, smiling up at him as she did so. Her joy was absolutely indescribable at that moment, watching as Tony joined their hands and the rings clanked against each other for the first time.

"Gratuluji Vám, teď již ne milí snoubenci ale milí novomanželé. Svůj sňatek nyní můžete stvrdit prvním manželským políbením." The officiant stated with a smile, gesturing at them quite tellingly.

"Congratulations to you, dear no-longer-bride-and-groom but dear newlyweds. You can now seal your marriage with first kiss as husband and wife." The interpreter added dutifully as required, although everyone had the idea what was about to come.

The pair, now indeed a married couple, looked at each other and for a moment everything else ceased to exist. No words were needed. Their unshed tears, their reddened cheeks, their laboured breathing, their longing looks – they were enough of an evidence proving how much they were in love with each other and what a thorny way they had travelled in order to be here today.

Tony erased the rest of the remaining gap between them and carefully took her around her waist, bending down to kiss her passionately, albeit modestly. She pressed her hand on his cheek in return, deepening the kiss according to her wishes, tasting the sweetness of the very first lip-lock as husband and wife. While there wasn't seemingly any difference, they both felt that certain change had occurred.

Neither of them heard the applause from their friends and family who clapped in celebration through their tears. It wasn't until Tali squirmed in her carrier and let out an excited scream as if she understood what was happening in front of her, despite her age, when they finally became aware of their surroundings again, the parental instincts kicking back in.

"Now, only one formality remains – you and your witnesses must sign the marriage certificate." The officiant switched to fluent English as the ceremony had just ended and the usage of official language was no longer required.

And they all confirmed the marriage certificate with their signatures from Tony, Ziva, McGee, Terri to the officiant, registrar and interpreter. Afterwards, the registrar handed over to all of them a glass of champagne and a little toast occurred before all the celebrations could begin to honour the just concluded wedding ceremony in a festive fashion.

The officiant, registrar and interpreter then took their leave, congratulating them once more and wishing them the happiness for the future life, as well as pleasant rest of their stay in Prague to enjoy their celebrations. The newlyweds thanked them for their services and the beautiful ceremony they had orchestrated in a perfect harmony with so many nice and unforgettable details.

As a cue, the string quartet then started to play probably the most famous wedding song in the world – Wedding March in C major composed by Felix Mendelssohn.*20 The rest of the wedding guests formed a line in order to congratulate the happy newly married couple, adding a couple of personal words in their wishes and exchanging hugs and tears of joy over such a beautiful and emotional wedding ceremony.

Afterwards, the wedding party had left for the Restaurant Aquarius where the reception was about to be held. Since it was just a couple of steps from the place of wedding ceremony, in the immediate vicinity of the US embassy, they walked there while the newlyweds remained in the Vrtba garden for a photo shoot within the serene and lovely nature.

The photographer was very innovative and came up with many interesting ideas for the photos of the bride and the groom including their daughter. The sweet classic wasn't omitted either, however, and so the photo shoot went smoothly and to the satisfaction of all. The woman expressed her joy to work with the pair for their natural photogenic nature and having the ability to bring her ideas to life.

With the help of the Rolls Royce, they then transferred to the restaurant with a gorgeously decorated interior. The antique furniture made of white wood and red cushioning, the walls adorned by Venetian plaster and hand-painted wallpapers and the crystal breathtaking chandeliers created a very luxurious and fairytale atmosphere of the wedding reception.

Moreover, there was access to a courtyard with a baroque fountain adorned by flowers, providing the wedding guests with a romantic environment and enough privacy. There was the place where Tony and Ziva cut their wedding cake – as a part of the traditional wedding customs. Ziva held the knife and Tony covered her hand with his as a symbol o her support. Together, they sank the blade into the cake to share it with the others who couldn't refuse the offer.

It was also the place of their first dance on the melody of Masquerade Waltz by Aram Khachaturian*21, although in a way slower tempo – while both could dance quite well, it was still strenuous to dance on something so bouncy. The others joined after to the classical melodies like The Blue Danube composed by Johann Strauss, Waltz no. 2 by Dmitri Shostakovich or Swan Lake Waltz by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

There were other wedding customs they indulged in and with the help of the restaurant staff, in a Czech fashion. After they arrived to the restaurant, the wedding guest threw rice in the air above them as they were walking hand in hand inside through the row. It was a rendition of old pagan custom bringing fortune and fertility, originally with the use of nuts, seeds and flowers.

Then right after they came inside, the staff broke a porcelain plate (glass was forbidden in the custom) in front of them (accidentally, of course) and then offered them the dustpan and brush. While the noise of breaking plate was supposed to chase away the evil spirits, the shards were always the symbol of happiness. And well, the way the newlyweds would deal with cleaning the shards indicated how well they would work in marriage.

Another marriage test followed during the feast – the staff brought them one plate with a soup and tied the couple together with a white tablecloth. Both received a spoon and they were supposed to eat the soup together, feeding each other. It was lesson in which the husband and wife should realize that their cooperation during marriage was necessary and it was required to contribute equally to its success.

More and more traditions followed including funny and festive toasts and tossing of the bride's bouquet everyone was involved in due to the relative low number of guests and because most of them were already in a serious relationship, simply just for fun. Because that was what it was supposed to be – a funny, leisure, harmonic and lovely celebration of the marriage that everyone knew would happen one day.

And on that day, May 11th 2017, Tony and Ziva had finally confirmed their eternal love with a marriage vow, opening maybe new, but already familiar chapter of their lives. For their marriage was just a bonus to what they found in each other – the enormously strong support, the fabulous fulfilment of their dreams, the love that could defeat anything and the mental connection nothing could severe.

The End of Chapter 43

*1 Just for information – I am one of these bureaucratic crazies as I am the office rat and a strict one at times. ;) So, here's a jab at myself.

*2 Ketubah – marriage contract, an integral part of traditional Jewish marriage that outlines the rights and responsibilities of the groom concerning the bride

*3, Chuppah – a canopy under which Jewish couple stands during the wedding ceremony. It's a structure of four poles with a cloth or sheet stretch over them. Chuppah symbolizes the home that the couple will build together.

*4 Glass breaking and plate breaking – even though they look similar, their meanings are different. Glass breaking is a Jewish wedding custom where a groom breaks the glass, crushing it with his right foot after the bride has given the ring or after the end of the ceremony. The guests shout 'Mazel Tov'. Meanings are two – joy must always be tempered and that despite joy, Jews still mourn the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Plate breaking is a Czech wedding custom I will also explain later in the story. To understand the differences, though, here is the explanation – at the beginning of the wedding reception, a plate is broken at the feet of the bride and groom and they must sweep the chips together. Meanings are also two - there is a superstition that says that chips bring happiness and it also shows how the newlyweds are capable of cooperation by sweeping together and thus to show if their marriage will be harmonious or not.

*5 Rolls-Royce – a luxury automobile made by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited situated in the United Kingdom, wholly owned by German BMW group. Phantom VII was launched in 2003 and is credited for reviving the Rolls-Royce brand and its credibility. It uses a unique chassis platform, body, interior and retains traditional Rolls-Royce design cues such as The Spirit of Ecstasy, the bonnet ornament sculpture in the form of a woman leaning forward with her arms outstretched behind and above her and cloth running from her arms to her back, resembling wings, or the grille at the front of the car.

*6 Škoda Superb, third generation – large luxurious family car produced by Škoda Auto, a Czech automobile manufacturer founded in 1895, now part of the Volkswagen Group. The second generation belongs to one of the most successful cars made by Škoda, as it was critically acclaimed world-wide (e.g. Luxury Car of the Year by Top Gear Magazine), third generation has also received positive ratings by The Telegraph, Autocar, Top Gear or Auto Bild (each rating not below 80 %), defeating rivals of Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen Passat. It is the Car of the Year in the Czech Republic (and for some reason in Macedonia, as well) and a World Car of the Year finalist.

*7 Vrtba Garden – as mentioned, it is a Baroque garden in the Lesser Town district and is opened to public. It neighbours with Vratislav and Schönborn gardens that are closed to public due to its US embassy ownership. In fact, US embassy seats a couple of meters away from the Vrtba garen, right next to Vratislav Palace where are embassies of Ireland, Kosovo, as well as Honorary consulate of Ethiopia and American Centre.

*8 Sala Terrena – an opened architectonic structure typical for Baroque palace and castle gardens. It's a hall on the ground floor with its space opened to the garden by classic arcade of three arcs. It was used as a relaxation and snack area, decorated with various ornaments and fountains.

*9 Atlas – from Greek mythology, he was a titan condemned to hold up celestial heavens for eternity which is why he is so often depicted holding celestial sphere on his shoulders and back or his statue is often used a column.

*10 Well, let me break down all the garden features... Gloriette = building in the garden erected on a site that is elevated with respect to the surroundings. Probably the most famous one stands in Schönbrunn Palace Garden in Vienna in Austria (and it's freaking impressive with an incredible view on the whole of Vienna, trust me I was there). This one is actually called 'teatron' in Czech but I couldn't find any English version of that feature so I went with gloriette, instead. Mascaron = face ornament, usually human, originally used to frighten away evil spirits. Festoon = carved ornament depicting arrangement of flowers, foliage or fruit bound together and suspended by ribbons. Triton = Greek God of the Sea, the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite, often depicted as a merman (upper body of a human, lower body tailed as a fish).

*11 Apollo = God of the Sun, light, oracles, knowledge, healing, diseases, music, poetry, songs, dance, archery, herds and flocks and protection of young, son of Zeus and Leto and patron of deity of Delphi. Mercury = God of financial gain, commerce, eloquence, messages, communication, travellers, boundaries, luck, trickery, merchants, thieves, son of Maia and Jupiter, guider of souls to the underworld. Diana = Goddess of the hunt, wild animals, fertility and the Moon, Roman version of the Goddess Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo and the virgin goddess and protector of childbirth. Juno = Goddess of marriage and childbirth, protector and special counsellor of the state, Roman equivalent to Hera, wife of Zeus. Minerva = Goddess of poetry, wisdom, strategic warfare, commerce, weaving and the crafts. Jupiter = God of the Sky and Lighting, Roman king of the gods, equivalent to Greek God Zeus. Vulcan = God of Fire, metalworking and the forge.

*12 Canon in D is a very popular composition for wedding ceremonies. While the circumstances of the composition are unknown, there are suggestions that it could have been composed for Johann Christopher Bach's wedding (brother of more famous Johann Sebastian Bach) that Johann Pachelbel attended. He was a German composer, organist and a musical teacher, living in the second half of 17th century.

*13 Greensleeves – traditional English folk song from 16th century, originally registered by Richard Jones at the London Stationer's Company. The legendary belief, however, is that it was composed by Henry VIII for Anne Boleyn who kept rejecting his attempts to seduce her before she would become his queen. Same melody is used for a Christmas carol 'What Child Is This?' written by William Chatterton Dix in 19th century.

*14 Lute concerto in D Major – one of four works featuring solo lute from 18th century composed by Antonio Vivaldi, an Italian Baroque musical composer, virtuoso violinist, teacher and one of my personal favourites when it comes to classical music. His most famous composition is Four Seasons (with Winter and Summer being my favourite).

*15 Te Deum is a composition of six movements (only four of them survived, though) composed by French Baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier in 17th century.

*16 Ellen's Third Song composed by German composer Franz Schubert in early 19th century is commonly known as Ave Maria, the Latin name of a prayer Hail Mary. While nowadays, the song is sang with the lyrics of Hail Mary prayer, Schubert wrote it as a part of his musical cycle inspired by Walter Scott's The Lady of the Lake where the character Ellen Douglas, the Lady of the lake, sings a prayer addressed to Virgin Mary, calling upon her for help.

*17 Schwanengesang or Swan Song in English is a collection of songs written by Schubert at the end of his life and published posthumously.

*18 The Bridal Chorus is commonly known in English countries as Here Comes the Bride. It became popular since the wedding of Victoria, the Princess Royal and Prince Frederick William of Prussia. Although it is played without the singing, I am taking the liberty here to present the beautiful lyrics translated to English from German (not by me).

*19 Since the wedding is taking place in the Czech Republic and the official language here is Czech, all legal acts must be conducted in the Czech language, including marriage ceremony. That is why I keep the Czech version of the wedding speech by the officiant in the text as well and introduce the interpreter in the story. The structure of the wedding, including some of the phrases necessary for legal reasons, is also in accordance of a typical Czech wedding.

*20 Wedding March by Felix Mendelssohn – one of the best known pieces written in 19th century of his suite of incidental music to Shakespeare's play 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. The song became popular at weddings with the marriage of Victoria and Frederick William of Prussia, just like with the Bridal Chorus.

*21 So I gave a lot of thought to this... And then I realized that I actually project things I personally like the most into the story since the beginning so... I chose Masquerade Waltz because it's probably my most favourite Waltz classical melody (aside The Godfather Waltz by Nino Rota), no matter that I don't specifically agree with political views of its composer (Aram Khachaturian was a Soviet-Armenian composer and is considered as one of the leading Soviet composers). It's epic and lively, energetic and yes, I often dance on the melody at home across the apartment.

So, I didn't mean to create any religious discourse – I, myself, am profound atheist but I still felt like it needed to be touched upon since Ziva does have her faith but never really openly showed it unless it was for personal reasons. Which is what I went with in this chapter. If it offended anyone, be sure that I never meant to do that.

Albeit being TIVA writer for years, it's actually the very first wedding I have ever written for them and I hope it was okay for you and up with your expectations. I advise you to listen to all the musical compositions and look up all the stuff I mentioned in the footnotes because they are incredible to look at (the Rolls-Royce, damn – my favourite research when it comes to this chapter). Anyone interested to see Ziva's wedding dress, just Google "Eddy K Milena" and the results should show you what I mean (also my favourite part of the research to choose the dress – so many pretty ones to choose from!). Unfortunately, I can't offer the final wedding look for Tony because I patched it from three different models to get the ideal image in my mind.

Well, that's it from me for now – expect the very last chapter next month! Have a lovely week everyone!