I wish you sunshine on your path and storms to season your journey. I wish you peace in the world in which you live... More I cannot wish you except perhaps love to make all the rest worthwhile.
Robert A. Ward
Two years later:
Jethro tried to hide his smile as Ziva walked into the living room and flopped down onto the sofa. “Problem?” he asked.
“They are little devils,” Ziva replied, closing her eyes. “I have a headache. Back when I was a child, little girls did not scream so loudly, I am sure.”
Jethro looked out into the front yard, grinning at the sight of Tim, Jimmy, and Ducky trying to corral six excitable children into an orderly line for “Pin the Tail On the Donkey”. “Yeah, they get pretty noisy at times.”
Ziva sat up, pinning him with a direct look. “You have surprised me,” she said. “I didn’t think you’d be like this. So… warm. You have changed, just as Tony has.” She blushed then stood up. “If you don’t mind I will skip the cake lighting.”
“We light the candles, not the cake,” Tony said, coming in behind Gibbs and wrapping his arms around Gibbs’ waist. “You sure you want to leave now. There’ll be screams for sure as they all fight over whose turn it is to blow out the candles after Lily as her turn.”
“Yes.” Ziva stood up and walked across to plant a kiss on Tony’s cheek. “I’m sure my head won’t stand it. Besides, tomorrow is my turn to volunteer at the day care center. I could use an early night.”
“Okay, bye. Thanks for the gift. I think it’s Lily’s favorite. Who knew they made militia Barbies?” Jethro turned and planted a kiss on the end of Tony’s nose as the door closed behind Ziva. “Think we could sneak out while Ducky’s back is turned and make a run for it. We could get a motel room for the night,” he wheedled.
“Yeah, sure, that’d be real romantic. You’d spend most of the night on the phone checking on Lily and giving Ducky instructions on what to do if she wakes up,” Tony said with a grin. He pulled free of Jethro’s arms and walked over to the window. “I still can’t believe we’re here, like this,” he said softly. Turning, he picked up a photo from the sideboard and held it in his hand. “I still miss Emmy,” he whispered, “but I’m so glad we have Lily. It’s like new hope.” He put the photo back and shot Jethro a grin. “Getting mushy in my old age.”
“Come on,” Jethro patted him on the backside and led the way outside, “let’s go give the guys a break before they mutiny and jump ship.”
Tony winced as Jethro’s appearance in the backyard led to a renewed round of squeals from the kids, their daughter’s voice ringing out loud and clear above the rest as she screamed, “Papa!” in sheer joy at seeing him. Watching Jethro scoop her up into his arms almost brought tears to Tony’s eyes as he wondered how Emmy would have loved having Jethro as her papa too. He guessed, in a way, he had been. Still was. Putting the sad memories behind him for now, Tony stepped out into the sunshine.
Jethro ran a hand over the smooth wood and smiled. The boat was pretty much done. Now all he had to do was get it out of the basement and onto the trailer and he, Tony, and Lily could set sail. He couldn’t wait for Tony to see the bronze nameplate he’d had made. He was a little nervous at how Tony would take it but he’d decided on the name months ago and he’d let the chips fall where they may.
Things had done a 360 degree turn for Jethro since the day Tony had arrived on his doorstep with a small pink bundle in his arms. Along the way there’d been anger, hurt, recriminations, and not a little pain, and Jethro knew now he wouldn’t have had it any other way. The one thing he wanted to change was beyond his power to do so and so he’d done as he had when Kelly and Shannon had died – he’d learned to accept losing Emmy, just as Tony had to.
When Tony had brought forth the idea of adopting another child with HIV, Jethro had said no instinctively, almost horrified that Tony would even consider putting them through that agony again. Tony was nothing if not persistent however, and by the time he’d brought Lily home on home visits four or five times, Jethro was as much under her spell as Tony was. The difference this time was that Lily was, for the most part, healthy and her doctor felt that with continuing advances in AIDS research, there was no reason she couldn’t live a normal life. That was all Jethro had needed to hear and he’d done his utmost to give her that every day since.
He snorted as he remembered Vance asking him if he’d consider taking over as NCIS Director when Vance received a transfer to Homeland Security. He was an NCIS Special Agent, he told Vance. He had no aspirations to be anything more than that but then two weeks ago on Lily’s fourth birthday, looking out the window at her playing with her friends, he’d realized he did and he’d retired the next day.
“What’s so funny?” said a voice from behind him and Jethro turned within the circle of Tony’s arms.
“Just thinking about when Vance asked me to become Director.”
“Everyone seems pleased to have Tom Morrow back,” Tony said, giving him a long, sweet kiss. He pulled away and looked up at the boat. “She’s ready?”
“Yep. I – I wanted to show you something,” Jethro replied, reaching down for the nameplate at his feet. “If you want me to change it, I can…”
Tony ran his fingers lovingly over the letters etched into the brass then pulled Jethro back in for a hug. “Emmy. It’s perfect. She would have loved the sea,” he murmured. “Thank you,” he whispered into the crook of Jethro’s neck, “for everything.”
“Ditto,” Jethro replied. “So, bed? Tomorrow’s going to be a big day. We need to work out how to get this boat out of the basement.”