Chapter Seventy Eight: Your Family Are Waiting For You
Abby and Ziva sat on the couch until it was time for Penny to be woken up for school. Abby turning up had turned out to be a godsend as Ziva didn't know what time she had to be there, whether her uniform was clean, what lunch she liked to have, or even where her school was. She was impressed but not very surprised that Gibbs had fronted the bills for Penny's education at an excellent school. Penny was very proud to show Ziva around the house pointing out things that were different - her satchel with her library book inside, one that they read over breakfast because they forgot to read before bed the night before, her school uniform, her special new hair bands that Tony had bought for her to wear, that were no longer brand new and shiny as she explained them to be, her brand new school shoes, also in the same condition as the hair bands. It was adorable. She'd done something similar a few weeks into her day care position where she had been given an official place, and when they had gone to collect her that day she had shown them to her coat peg with her nametag over the top of it. She took pride in things that had her name on. It was why she religiously wrote her name inside the cover of every book they bought - ignoring the incident with the library book, of course.
When Penny was awake, Abby announced that she was taking the day off and that she would go with Ziva to drop Penny off and then come to the hospital with her for moral support. Unfortunately the young girl overheard this and immediately wanted to skip school and come along with them. It had taken a lot of convincing that they would definitely remember to pick her up and take her as well. Then when Penny was dressing herself for school, Abby suggested to Ziva that she should make an appointment for her OB to have a proper check on the baby. She'd only have a brief check in Israel in her haste to get back on track and now wanted to have a thorough check. She didn't feel that anything was wrong with the baby, but she had been in that tunnel for a long time in dire conditions, she was suddenly terrified that there was something wrong with the baby that she was unaware of. How would she explain that to Tony? Yes, I'm pregnant, but the baby may not yet survive because of what happened in Gaza. She was sure he would take that wonderfully. In fact, she would take it just as badly and they would probably join together to make her father suffer for sending her there.
True to her word, Ziva took Penny to school and introduced herself to Penny's class teacher. It was interesting enough for Abby to watch as she tried to casually explain her absence while Penny adlibbed with her own reasoning for Ziva never bringing her to school before. Unfortunately Tony's car was at NCIS and Ziva had no idea where her own was, she assumed parked in Gibbs' drive, so they went into Abby's car to get to school. There had been a hilarious moment for Abby to watch as they had crossed the road outside of the school which had just proved to Ziva that while on some level she had missed the regular parenting of Tony's daughter, sometimes it just bewildered her the way that a child's mind worked.
"But I saw him!" Penny argued intently as Ziva resorted to pulling her across the road by the hand to avoid her running into the road and standing in front of a bus pointing again.
"Penny, Barack Obama does not drive a school bus," Ziva told her tiredly.
"He's the leader of the free world, he can do what he wants!" she said stubbornly.
Yes, a lot had changed in six months.
Penny had changed her tune and become quiet clingy when it came to going into class, though. Once introducing herself to the teacher Ziva had found that Penny didn't want her to leave. She wondered if this had happened on the first day of school back in September, which Abby would later confirm for her. She'd needed to promise over twenty three times that she would absolutely be back to collect her from school. She understood why – she'd not once been away from Penny since she'd been reunited, and it was only natural for Penny to have that separation anxiety she was incredibly prone to. It had taken a while but they had managed to leave her there once Ziva wrote her a note that she carried around in her school dress pocket all day.
My name is Ziva and I am your Ima. I absolutely promise that I will pick you up from school today and that I will definitely not be late. If I break my promise and I am late we will get a Happy Meal on the way to seeing Daddy.
Of course, when Penny had taken this and with mild help been able to read it, she'd wanted Ziva to be late as she really wanted that Happy Meal.
"Where is Caleb today?" Ziva asked Abby as they got into the car again to go to the hospital.
"Tim would have taken him to day care," she told her as they started the thirty minute drive to Bethesda. "We managed to get him a spot in Penny's old day care."
"How is he? He is almost a year old now, yes?"
Abby nodded. "Ten months, three days," she said proudly. "A completely different baby to when you last saw him." Ziva smiled sadly at this and Abby quickly looked away from the road for a moment and put her hand on Ziva's knee. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean-"
"It is fine," Ziva assured her as her attention turned back to the road. "Six months is a long time for a child his age. A child Penny's age also."
"They're both growing," she agreed. "Caleb crawls, he climbs, he makes all these noises like he's going to start talking any day now. Tim thinks it'll be a while yet but Gibbs reckons he's just there. Caleb absolutely adores Gibbs. We all had to work Christmas Eve this year but the day care was closed that day so we had to juggle Caleb between us all, I swear I didn't see my son except when Gibbs was parading him around. Anywhere in the office Gibbs when, he carried Caleb around on his hip. I think Caleb enjoyed the power boost it gave him. If he gets mad at something he just shouts "bah" and throws his hand out as if to push you away, and he frowns like Timmy does when he's confused, and every time Gibbs tried to stare Tony down or get them to do something he would back him up. It was so sweet."
Ziva smiled as Abby rambled on about her son. She paid particular attention to the light in her eyes, the smile on her face even when she talked about how Caleb had smashed one of her ceramic skull ornaments, part of the story about how the apartment had changed dramatically in what was displayed since Caleb had begun moving around. She wondered how long it would take for her to get that light in her eyes. Abby had it instantly, and she didn't really know any other mothers talk about her children like Abby did. When she had been forced to socialize with the mothers in Penny's dance group and day care they always seemed highly strung and desperate to get home and have bedtime arrive. Did that change when kids became more exhausting, or did that change when you had more than one? She had no one's experience to compare it to in depth.
"You know what," Abby decided as they arrived at the parking lot for the hospital, "We're never allowed in Tony's room when they change his IV's and check his breathing. I think they're worried about germs and things during the transfer, but that usually gives us an hour or two where they force whoever's with him to get some lunch. When they come around today we can go sneak Caleb out of day care for a while and get some lunch. Maybe Jenny will come too."
"That will be nice," Ziva smiled. "Although, did you not say just five minutes ago that Tim did not like it last time you did that, as it defeats the object of paying for the day care?"
She just shrugged with one shoulder as they pulled into a space. "What Timmy doesn't know won't hurt him, right?"
Unable to turn down the offer of seeing how Abby's son had grown, she smiled. "Right."
They walked into Tony's room with shaking breath that morning when they saw the doctor standing beside Tony's bed. It could only mean two things, and for a startling moment Ziva wasn't able to hear the heart monitor attached to him and feared the worst, but there was a reassuring smile on the doctors face. "Relax, it's nothing bad," he said, holding up a hand. "We are a little late running our morning rounds today and I was just finishing up."
"Are we ok to stay?" Ziva asked.
"Of course," he nodded. "I'm Dr. Pitt, I treated Tony the first time for his pneumonia when he had the plague. Director Shepherd personally asked me to oversee his care again. You must be Ziva," he said, holding out his hand to her.
She nodded, shaking his hand over Tony's bedside. "Yes, how did you-?"
"Everyone here talks a lot," He explained, sharing a look with Abby. "Including this one," he said, indicating to Tony.
"How is he today?" she asked.
"We're all holding our breath, but I believe that he may be making an improvement," Dr. Pitt informed them with a smile. Abby grasped at Ziva's arm. "It's not set in stone, you understand, but since last night his breathing seems to be stronger and his heart rate is finally constant and steady. If he continues at this pace, we may be able to take him off the breathing apparatus this afternoon."
"Oh," Ziva sighed, unsure of what words to say next. She glanced down to Tony's still form, aware that when she was this close yesterday she could see beads of sweat on his forehead and heard him wheezing with every breath, and that she couldn't hear that today. Abby nudged her.
"See," she smiled. "He knows you're home."
Ziva said nothing and just smiled.
"I'll give you some privacy," Dr. Pitt said, excusing himself. "As always, any changes at all, good or bad, press the nurses button and someone will be here. He's been in and out of consciousness since dawn, so if he does wake up you won't need to alarm someone unless he's struggling for breath or experiences any sickness. There might be some confusion because of how long he's been unconscious but he seems relatively aware from what we've seen so far."
When he'd seen their confirming nods he left the room, allowing them to have their time with Tony. They each took up a seat on the opposite sides of the bed and took one of his hands each, an unconscious movement but they smiled when they realised they had done the same thing. "He's beating this," Abby smiled. "I'll call Gibbs in a bit. I just want to stay for a while."
Ziva nodded and was silent still.
"You ok?" Abby asked.
Ziva sighed, and ran her hand over her face. "Yes, I am just..."
"Overwhelmed," she admitted. "And yes, a little tired also."
Abby suddenly looked apologetic. "I'm so sorry, I stole half your nights sleep last night."
"It is fine," she brushed off. "I would much rather have spent the time with you."
"Yeah, but I know how much more wonderful sleep is when you're pregnant," Abby pointed out. "I used to survive on caff-pow and hardly any sleep, but when I was carrying Caleb sleep was just so fantastic I wanted it all the time."
"Tony is more important than sleep right now," she said.
"Oh, I hope you don't mind, but when you were dropping Penny off I made an appointment with an OB for you," Abby suddenly blurted. "I know you want to be focused on Tony and Penny but it's really important and-"
"Thank you," Ziva smiled. "When is the appointment?"
"Two-thirty," she said. "Are you sure you don't mind?"
"Of course not," Ziva assured her. "Thank you."
They fell into a comfortable silence, and after around an hour Abby excused herself to go to the bathroom. When the door had closed behind her, Ziva stood and leaned over Tony. With the moment of privacy, she placed her lips to Tony's forehead and greeted him properly. "Shalom, my love," she whispered.
A small moan greeted her, and a tiny squeeze on her hand. Her eyes widened a little.
"Tony," she whispered. "Tony, are you awake?"
"Tony, open your eyes," she coaxed, but there was no reply to this and he seemed to be more relaxed again as if he were sleeping. She sighed and placed her lips to his cheek, about to sit down when she realised that he had tightening his hand around her fingers when she kissed him. It reminded her of how they would wake in the morning, how he could ignore the alarm if his arms were around her but when she turned in his arms and kissed him he would wake slowly, bringing her in closer as he held onto sleep. She kissed his other cheek as his hand tightened again. "Wake up, Tony," she whispered.
This time, an odd noise came to his throat, guttural and dry.
She placed her lips against his, and heard his heart monitor speeding up a little. He was waking up. He was responding. She let her lips linger against his for a few more seconds and then pulled away slowly. "Please, Tony," she whispered emotionally. "Please, come back to me."
With that, she felt his hand release hers and come to rest on the back of her neck, weakly exerting minimal pressure as if to bring her closer. She responded willingly as tired lips reached out for her own, lowering hers to his as they met again in a kiss. It was soft, gentle and when she pulled away his eyes were still closed as if in sleep, but there was a tear escaping from one closed eyes. Dr. Pitt was right, he was aware. He knew it was here. He knew she was home.
"Oh, Tony," she whispered, pressing her face to his shoulder.
"Zi?" he whispered back, his voice dry, probably from being unused
"Yes," she nodded, raising her head to look at him and placing both hands on the sides of his face. "Yes, I am here."
"You're home," he gasped.
"Yes," she nodded again, tears on her own cheeks.
"You're safe," he said, his hand fell from the back of her neck, landing on his stomach as the exertion of keeping it raised got to him.
"I am safe," she said. "I am not going anywhere."
He sighed heavily, his face now streaming with tears. "Was so scared," he murmered.
She could see in his eyes that he wanted to hold her, he wanted to bury her against him and never surface, but he wasn't strong enough too. She'd seen it on his face when she'd been shot by Adam and she'd woken up and he wanted to hold her so close but was afraid to because of her injuries. She placed her lips on his again. "You have scared me too!" she pointed out to him.
"Penny?" he croaked.
"She's fine," she assured him. "She is at school. I am staying with her, she is fine, just worried about her Daddy."
He sighed and put his head further back on the pillow, as if relief were flooding through him. She stood full to ease the ache in her lower back and stroked his hair. "You should rest, love," she told him. "I am not leaving."
He rolled his head on the pillow to face her as best as he could. "Missed you so much," he whispered, exhaustion clear on his face again as he let out a small cough.
"I miss you too," she smiled. "You just need to recover, and we can all be together again."
"Together," he smiled gently, but was cut off by another cough.
She had to tell him. She had to tell him now, even though he had not yet discovered it for himself. She took one of his hands and placed it on her growing stomach. "All of us, together," she emphasized.
Tony was confused for a moment and then glanced down at where he hand was. Slowly, he made the connection of what she was trying to tell him and his breath caught in his throat. He swallowed audibly, partly because of the dry throat and partly because of disbelief. He couldn't organize his thoughts to put them into words, but after a long time, his face broke out into the most emotion she could ever remember seeing on his face. The expression was so raw, so real, that he couldn't have disguised a single thought and it dispelled every doubt that she had about telling him. He was happy. He was over the moon.
She could see the exhaustion overtaking him and the emotion on his face told her everything that she needed to know, he did not need to put it into words just for her sake. He saw, he understood, and he approved greatly. She smiled and ran her fingers through his hair again. "Sleep, my love," she told him with a smile. "Rest, your family are waiting for you, and we are not going anywhere."
He was improving. He would beat this.