Chapter 08

It had been a month since he had informed Gibbs about his assignment, and it had surprised John that the other man had taken it without throwing him out of the window. He even liked the idea of mixing up the team dynamic and partnered John with Ziva, while Tony and McGee made the other duo and Gibbs pulling whoever he wanted with him when the mood struck.

It was a bright and sunny Saturday when Teyla decided that he and her were going to have an impromptu sparring session while he set up the grill. He quickly found himself on his knees trying to fend her off with one Rattan stick and finding the sunglasses that had fallen off his face when she had dropped him on the floor.

“Hey, easy!” he said, blinking as he dodged Teyla’s attack.

“Maybe I should get her to join the team,” a voice called from across the yard.

“She’ll have McGee for lunch, Gibbs,” John replied and found his glasses. “Uhh…” he looked at him sheepishly. “No offense sir, but is this a business or social visit?”

Gibbs shrugged, “Social. Ziva suggested that I get to know you better. Here I am.”

“I don’t think she meant that you’d stop-” He suddenly found himself flat on his back again with Teyla towering over him.

“John’s happy that you’ve stopped by, Agent Gibbs,” She smiled warmly. “My name is Teyla and you’re welcome to come and sit.”

He shook her hand and chuckled. “I can see why Ziva has taken a liking to you Sheppard.”

“Ziva?” Teyla asked. “Is she a member of your team?”

“Yeah, she is,” John groaned and got up. “Why’s that?” he asked Gibbs as he put his stick away, he’d find the other one later. Gibbs only shook his head smirking as an answer.

She smiled at him sweetly before giving him her traditional Athosian head touch thing. “Call the rest of your team. We have plenty of food to share supper with today. I will not take no for an answer.”

John wanted to say something but decided he wouldn’t say it and he could hear Gibbs laugh. “Fine…” he said as he walked towards the house. “Can I get you anything, Gibbs?”

“Whatever you’re having is fine,” he answered.

“Good. Come inside. I think something hard is in order for today,” he grumbled as he went to the liquor cabinet and pulled out a bottle of scotch. “Since it is a losing battle with Teyla, you are welcome to call Dr. Mallard to join us. I don’t know his number,” John added as he flipped open his phone to dial Ziva and Abby. He’d rather speak to the girls first and hope they’d be willing to pass the word on to the other two. However knowing his luck – he’d opt for shooting them a text message invite.

He knew he’d probably had to tell Teyla about Ziva before she would arrive to avoid the same awkwardness he had felt the first couple of weeks on the job. Something John was not looking forward to doing.

“Are you sure?” Gibbs asked as he took out his phone. “Ducky likes to talk.”

“And Teyla loves to hear stories.” John replied smiling. “Um, would you mind if you called DiNozzo? I get the feeling that the guy doesn’t really like me much.”

“Ehh, DiNozzo will come around when he is ready.”

He wasn’t sure but nodded anyway. “Um,” John started as he scratched at the back of his neck. “I’ll be right back. I just need to talk to Teyla about something.”

“Sure.”

John walked into the kitchen where Teyla was taking more food out from the freezer and took a deep breath.

“What’s wrong John? You look like… what’s it what you call that? A beaten puppy?”

“I need to tell you something,” he admitted. “And you’re not going to like it.”

Teyla raised an eyebrow and nodded for him to continue.

“Do you remember those conversations that Rodney and Zelenka often had about everyone having a twin on Earth?”

“No, not really.” Teyla admitted, “Why?”

“There’s something about Ziva that you need to know, I can’t really describe it so I’ll just show you.” He pulled out his phone and showed her a picture of Ziva that Abby had stuck in his phone when he wasn’t looking.

She looked at the photo in shock. “John…It’s…”

“No, this is Ziva, the woman you just invited over for dinner with us today,” he said. “She looks the same, but she is a completely different person.”

“I don’t understand. This is why you have dreaded going to work for these people?” she asked still trying to comprehend the likeness of her friend and John’s partner at work.

John nodded. “At first, I tried to ignore her, but in the end, I couldn’t. Then I started to see similarities, in their liking, not personality. I still haven’t figured out what to do, but I’m making it work.”

Teyla nodded. “We all will come out stronger in the end. It could be fated that you have been chosen for this job.”

He loved the fact that Teyla was still her usual Athosian self, believing in fate and other things. “Please, don’t stare at her? I haven’t been able to tell her that I knew her twin, and frankly, I don’t know how.”

“Your secret is safe with me. Now go entertain your friend while I get more food prepared. Torren should be waking shortly from his nap.”

He nodded and walked back to Gibbs, who was looking at him questioning. “I didn’t know you had money.”

“Air Force set me up with this. Believe me, it’s way too much.” John said as he sat down on the couch.

“You must be in some good company for them to put out this kind of expense. Your girlfriend seems nice.”

He nearly choked on his scotch. “Girlfriend? You mean Teyla? She’s my best friend, that’s all.” John said a bit defensively. “She uhh… served with me.”

Gibbs eyed him suspiciously, although the way the woman had Sheppard on the floor easily made him think that she, too, was a soldier. “So that nephew isn’t really your nephew?”

“He calls me Uncle John, it’s easier to explain that way.” John shrugged.

“Makes sense. Ducky said he’d be honored to join…Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.”

John smirked. “Teyla is the perfect hostess, she’ll entertain everyone while listening to everyone at the same time.”

He and Gibbs sat in a comfortable silence for a while until he heard Torren call over the baby monitor. “Uncle Jooooohn! I know you hooooome!”

“Oye, excuse me again,” he said as he pushed himself up to go get the kid. By the time that he was done dressing Torren after the boy tried to tell him about the dream he had, they came down the stairs to see that Ducky and DiNozzo each arrived already after having been out already when they received the call.

“There are strange people here,” Torren said softly as he put his arms around John’s neck, nearly strangling him, making John realize that his ‘paranoia’ was getting to the kid.

He tried to pull him off and reassured the kid. “It’s okay. They work with me. Torren this is Dr. Mallard and Tony DiNozzo,” he said trying to get him to look at them. “They are okay. Trust me.”

“Really?” Torren asked with big eyes.

“Yeah, really.” John nodded and was relieved when Torren let go. “Go say hi,” he put Torren down and soon after, Torren was being entertained by Ducky.

Tony was busy looking around at the house. “Nice place you got here. Who’d you have to rob for it?”

“The Air Force,” John joked.

He mumbled something about Ziva before he wandered over to Ducky and the kid. John had already gone to refill his drink and their guests when the doorbell rang. “I got it!” Teyla called out as she came out from the kitchen, catching Tony’s eye.

“Girlfriend?” Tony asked, almost sounding relieved.

“Best friend.” John replied and pointed at Torren. “His mom.”

“She’s hot,” the agent breathed as he patted down his jacket and eyed her. “She single?”

John just glared at Tony, knowing that Teyla wouldn’t be interested, kick his ass if he tried something and chew him out.

“Just asking,” he grinned back in response as Teyla came back in with Ziva.

Sheppard could see the expression on Teyla’s face even though she appeared normal to everyone else. A silent exchange of looks was enough to know that she was unnerved by the clear and obvious resemblance. “It is a shame that Ronon could not join us,” she said with a smile as she rested her hand on John’s arm with a supportive squeeze. “She is a lovely person,” Teyla added so that only he would hear.

“Yeah, she’s nice,” he said softly and looked at Ziva who was staring at him. “I was trying to set up the grill when Gibbs came by and Teyla decided to invite everyone for dinner,” he shrugged, feeling uncomfortable because it was starting to get crowded in the once so quiet house. “Which I actually still have to do otherwise we won’t have any food tonight and get my ass handed to me, so I’m going outside.” He smiled and gently petted Teyla’s hand before going into the garden.

Gibbs looked amused because the man was actually flat on his back when he showed up.

“What is it, Jethro?” Ducky looked up to the man with a fondness in his eyes.

“Teyla had Sheppard floored when I walked into them an hour ago,” he grinned.

“Well, it’s not uncommon for certain cultures that even the small women learn how to fight, dearest.”

“I know that, but it was hilarious.”

Teyla turned back to their guests after seeing John walk out. “Would anyone like anything? You’re welcome to sit outside. John went to get the grill ready. We have plenty of drinks and snacks in the meanwhile,” Teyla said smiling. “Ziva would you mind assisting me?”

“Sure,” she said as she followed the woman into the next room with Tony staring after them.

Once John had the grill going he went to the shed to fork out some extra chairs to set out in the garden. It was typical of Teyla to invite everyone, she loved people and being around them, and there was a small part of him that didn’t mind her doing so. Teyla had a right to know more about the people he was working with, and maybe spend time with them off the clock as well.

He nearly bumped into Dr. Mallard when he turned around with a chair in his hands. “Oh, sorry Dr. Mallard, I didn’t see you there,” John apologized.

The other man looked up to him, smiling. “I’m easy to miss, and please, call me Ducky.”

“I don’t think I’ve really earned that right yet, Dr. Mallard.”

“Oh nonsense,” Ducky said and waved his hand. “I would have told you so weeks ago if you had come to see me down in autopsy.”

“Sorry, it’s just…”

“I’ve taken it upon myself to call your Air Force doctor, Dr. Beckett? Lovely man. He told me about the injuries you sustained during the attack on your base and what it has done to you,” Ducky pointed to a chair. “Sit, we need to talk.”

John sat down and looked at Ducky, who had a determined look on his face.

“If you had told me yourself, that you have some problems with your vision and the lights, then I would have dimmed the lights or even turned off the big autopsy light so you could come and visit. I know you’re not afraid of dead people, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed to come and visit me if you need to talk.”

John frowned and cocked his head. “What are you getting at?”

“Well, for example, if you have additional questions about the body laying on the slab, of course,” Ducky smiled warmly. “You’re an intelligent man, John, and I happen to know that Jethro likes it when people take initiative, especially since he doesn’t really share my findings with everyone on his team. I always have to send the rest of them emails.” Ducky mused. “Same goes with Abby, she promised to turn the music down and her flashing lights should you need to go to the lab.”

“It’s not necessary…”

Ducky glared at him. “And you should stop feeling as if you don’t matter or that your health isn’t important. We already have one of those people walking around on NCIS and we don’t need another one,” the man replied with a stern voice. “I’ve spoken to Dr. Beckett about your behaviour as well, and he happened to tell me that you once were a very different man. And yes, I can see through your pretense.”

John sighed, he knew that Ducky had studied forensic psychology as well, he should have anticipated that the man would want to talk to him one day. “I’m doing alright.”

“There’s a heavy and swing-able object in every corner of your living room, you have a state of the art security system and your nephew is wary of strangers even though his mother is not. Should you feel the need to talk about anything other than current cases, I want you to come and find me.”

John opened his mouth to object, but Ducky raised his hand to stop him from talking.

“Anything you’ll tell me, will stay between us.”

“I don’t know.”

“Give it time, John, knowing Jethro, you’ll be sticking around for a quite some time,” Ducky smiled widely. “Also, Jethro has a gut feeling that you’re not entirely the same person in private than you are at work. It was one of the reasons why he’s here today.”

“And behold, Teyla inviting everyone.”

“To quote Walter Anderson; ‘We’re never so vulnerable when we trust someone – but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy’. The man had many other quotes that are inspiring, but this one will do.” Ducky patted John on the shoulder as he got up. “Think about it, oh and don’t forget to light the grill, you don’t want the natives to go hungry!”

~o.O.o~

John had fired up the grill after Ducky had wandered back inside, rejoining the team and when John peeked into the kitchen, he was happy to see Teyla having fun with Abby and Ziva. He decided to give them some ‘alone time’ and joined the men with a beer.

Ziva smiled as Abby gushed over Torren. She could not but help notice Teyla studying her oddly, much the same way John had looked at her that first meeting with his tall friend. “May I ask why you keep looking at me the way you do? I catch Sheppard doing that from time to time and I do not understand why.”

“Oh, forgive me,” Teyla said as she chopped up some peppers. “I do not wish to be rude.”

“No, no. I’m just curious is all,” she insisted.

“You know, I noticed that too when they cleared our computers,” Abby added with a shrug.

Ziva frowned as she looked out the window. “I do wish to be friends with him. I don’t know…”

“You remind us of someone we used to know,” Teyla replied carefully, noticing the way she looked at John, and actually liked the way Ziva she did. “I think John would like that as well, being friends with you.” She replied with a smile.

She glanced back. “From where you worked with him before? I only ask because he says so little about himself or his past.”

“We didn’t even know about you really. He mentioned a nephew but other than that,” Abby shrugged and giggled as the kid tugged on her pigtail. “Can I take him outside?” she asked.

“John is a private man,” Teyla said understanding and nodding at Abby. “He’s also a very careful and guarded man. I am not surprised he did not mention me. When your leader appeared in our garden the other minute, I decided to force him to call the rest of his new friends.”

Ziva smiled as Abby left before looking Teyla over. “I suspect there is more to what you are telling,” she said. “I simply do not just remind you of someone…”

“There’s a strong physical resemblance between you and my friend,” Teyla said softly. “She was a very good friend and she perished when our home… base was attacked.”

She nodded slowly and looked back out the window. “Sheppard doesn’t take well to losing people, does he?”

“No, especially if he lets them get close to him.” Teyla stopped chopping the peppers, and looked Ziva in the eyes. “John was never very open about his life. Sure, he trusts people in his own special way, but it took a long time before he trusted me on a personal level, or anyone at our base for that matter.” She smiled softly. “For the past year, John has been miserable, grieving for the lives lost, lives that were under his command, and grieving for his friends, our friends, who did not make it while he also tried to come to terms with the Air Force decision in not letting him go back to work due to his…” She paused to find the right words with a smile on her face. “due to his history of trying to fix things even if it means that it would kill him, and he is still getting used to the repercussions of the injuries he received in that attack.”

Ziva nodded quietly as she took the information in. It certainly explained why he kept them all at arms’ length. “How would someone be able to – try – to break through? To get to know him more?”

“Oh, I do not know,” Teyla thought for a second. “Dr. Beckett and I used a mothering approach, which seems to work, and Ronon used the quiet buddy approach. John let Rodney in because Dr. McKay was smart and very talkative and John could beat him at chess.”

“I am not particularly a maternal figure and even though I know chess, I do not like it,” Ziva said. “I’m an agent, a fighter – or was…I do not wish to speak of it…”

Teyla nodded, she understood the woman. “So was I, I was a leader amongst my people and I joined John’s team to help them.”

Sighing she shook her head. “I don’t know why he intrigues me. It is a bad idea and if Gibbs knew…”

“John is a very intriguing man,” Teyla mused. “Does your boss do not like team members to spend time together? My experience is that it makes a team better.”

“Gibbs has rules. Number twelve is to never date a coworker.”

“Date?” Teyla tried to hold back her surprise and excitement. “Well, is it not that John is still getting paid by the Air Force?”

“Whoa! I don’t mean to date-date…Gibbs doesn’t believe that office relationships work…”

“Has anyone ever tried to prove him wrong?”

She made a face. “Gibbs has this tendency for being right about things.”

Teyla laughed and shook her head. “Should you have gotten to know John better and you do decide to go on your dates, I can tell you that you will prove Gibbs wrong. John is a wonderful man.”

Ziva looked at her suspiciously. “Why do I have a feeling you will not let this knowledge be?”

“I will leave it be, and I certainly will not tell John.” Teyla nodded.

“Mmhmm,” she nodded with a smile.

John made his way in to the kitchen and grinned at Teyla. “I think Torren’s found a new play date,” he said as he headed to the fridge to get the meat out. “Also, the grill is all fired up and ready so I’m starting… uhm…” he scratched his head, remembering the day that Ziva had taken him out to lunch. “You do eat steaks, right? Abby just told me she’s a vegetarian…” he made a face. “Ugh, a life without meat.”

Ziva smiled, “Not usually but I will have one of your steaks.”

“John always gets excited about grilling meat, always complaining that he couldn’t do it for years. I’m not much of a steak person myself, but I have to admit, his home made sauce that goes with it makes it all worth while.” Teyla held back a giggle, it had been too long since she had had ‘woman friends’ that she could talk to.

“Then you and Gibbs should go on just well. Steak I believe is his staple diet,” Ziva grinned at John. “Is there anything I can help with?”

“Uhm… well I’ve set up the chairs and the table in the yard, maybe you can bring some of those chopped vegetables over?” John suggested as he held the plate with a mountain of raw steaks underneath plastic foil.

“On it boss,” she saluted as she took the tray from Teyla. Following John outside she could not help but to look at him in a new light. What she did not see was that Tony also saw her looking.

Nearby, Tony took a sip of his beer and tried not to scowl. Ziva was smiling, she was looking happy. How much time had she spent in the kitchen with John’s girl anyway? He narrowed his eyes and then managed to amuse himself by thinking that Ziva had arranged a three way with John and Teyla.

“Oh don’t do that,” John chuckled, referring to Ziva’s mock salute and calling him ‘boss’.

“I was having fun,” she smiled and shrugged a shoulder cutely.

“Well, that’s a good thing,” John nodded as he set the plate with meat on the table next to the grill. “It would be nice for Teyla to have friends close by.”

“Everyone needs friends Sheppard. I thought you knew that from when I invited you to lunch that day,” Ziva commented as she snagged a pepper.

“Yeah well… no doubt Teyla has informed you about my inability to make friends on my own,” he smirked and took the pepper from Ziva’s hand before stuffing it in his mouth with a grin.

“She did,” she replied raising an eyebrow. “I suppose I will have to make sure you go out to lunch with me more.”

“Or I might take you out to lunch,” he pointed out and took another pepper for heading back in to retrieve the plates from the cupboard.

“What if I want to treat?” she threw back and popped a carrot in her mouth.

John laughed from where he was in the kitchen, looking at an amused Teyla. “What?”

“Nothing John,” Teyla grinned watching the two with an eagerness.

He stopped what he was doing for a moment and then started to make coffee. “I’ve had enough alcohol for today, well… not even enough but… enough,” he muttered and carried the plates out of the kitchen.

“So, I take it that’s a no to lunch?” Ziva asked innocently with a small smile.

“Lunch is good,” John nodded. “But I’m buying on Monday, if we’re at the office.”

Ziva grabbed glasses and napkins as she went to pass him on the way out. “And if we are not?” she asked looking up at him impishly.

“Then it’ll be on Tuesday.”

“What if you or I fall ill on Tuesday?”

“Then Teyla will make you or me chicken soup and we’ll try the next day for lunch.”

Teyla had been too entertained by the show between them that she nearly dropped the bottle of juice she was holding when her name came up. “No, you will bring each other soup and I will remain here.”

“Or that,” John nodded, and looked at Tony. He had been feeling Tony’s eyes on him ever since Ziva arrived and smirked. “I think Tony doesn’t like it very much that we’re having fun.”

Ziva turned to look at Tony before answering him. “No but he had his chance a long time ago if he were to try to be anything more than a colleague.”

John didn’t know quite what to say to that as he continued to walk outside to put the plates on the table.

When she followed him out Tony quickly got up from where he sat talking with Gibbs and Ducky. Pulling Ziva off to the side he tried to stare her down.

“What do you want?” she hissed.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

“Umm, helping with setting up?”

“Oh is that it?” Tony said, “Because for a moment I thought I was watching a show on Animal Planet with two animals doing a mating ritual.”

She grinned up at him. “You are jealous! You are jealous because I am talking a man that is neither part of the original team and is not a suspect in an investigation! You are unbelievable Tony!”

“I’m not jealous. If I were, I wouldn’t have come here.”

“Excuse me,” Torren tugged on Tony’s shirt. “Mommy needs some help in the kitchen.”

Ziva turned to look at Teyla who had a determined expression on her face and smiled.

Tony glared at Ziva before following Torren to the kitchen. “What can I do?”

Teyla smiled widely. “The bag in the bin is full, could you throw it out?”

He smiled as nicely as he could as he answered tensely, “Sure thing. Anything to help.”

“Thank you, Tony, that’s very kind of you,” Teyla said as she turned to finish the salad. “Also? I do not tolerate any kind of violence, jealousy or cursing in this house. We have a small child running around.”

“What?” he asked trying to laugh it off. “I wasn’t cursing and I am certainly not jealous…”

“Of course you’re not,” Teyla said politely. “However, I do have to tell you that the way John laughed the other minute was the first time for over a year since he laughed so warmly and with honesty,” she looked up to Tony with her ‘lioness and cub face’. “I should warn you that should you do anything to dampen his obvious good mood today, that you will leave here bruised and battered.”

Tony nodded. “I kinda got that hint from Ziva that she’d be more than happy to break my legs, thanks.”

“It’s not Ziva who you should be worried about.”

He started to laugh nervously before stopping, “I think I’ll take that trash out for you.”

“Thank you,” Teyla nodded, turning once again back to her salad.

“Want me to do the grilling?” Gibbs asked John. “I usually grill over my fireplace.”

“Sure,” John nodded. “Thanks.”

“You shouldn’t pay too much attention to DiNozzo, he just misses Ziva as a partner.”

“She’s still his partner.”

Gibbs just looked at Sheppard with an all knowing look on his face.

John took a piece of pepper from the table and shrugged. “She’s very approachable.”

“I’m glad you two are hitting it off as a team,” Gibbs said, “Would have been better of course, if you were a trained investigator.”

“I’m not going to Quantico, Gibbs.” John said.

“It doesn’t help to do some courses, especially since you’ll be staying for a while.”

“Maybe.”

“Think about it.”

John was glad that once everything was ready, they could start eating while the sun had started to set. As it turned out, Gibbs was good at grilling a steak or two and he actually seemed to enjoy it.

Ziva ate hers quietly as she wasn’t a big fan of red meat. It was also made more difficult when Torren decided to use her as a playground, climbing over her repeatedly. She only laughed and went along with it until Teyla came along to settle him down.

“I don’t want to go yet mooooom!” Torren whined. “I’m not tired!”

“It is only dinner time,” Teyla said as she tried to get him to sit at the table beside John.

“Pfew,” Torren let out an exaggerated smile of relief as he climbed onto John’s lap.

“He’s so adorable!” Abby squealed.

“You try putting him to bed then!” he replied.

“Dinner time mommy said. I still have another two hours.” Torren smiled widely, grabbing John’s steak with both hands and started to chew on it.

John looked at Teyla and smiled. “It’s fine, don’t worry,” he said before she could say anything.

Ziva watched on amused and was surprised to find herself even more attracted to the man and passed her napkins over.

“Thanks,” John chuckled as he put a napkin over his and Torren’s lap to at least absorb some of the dripping.

Everyone burst out laughing when Torren decided to turn on his lap, the sauce covered steak in his hand smacked the man in his neck.

Torren looked at him with a big goofy smile on his face. “Oops… did I do that?”

“Now you’re just showing off,” John said. “But since you’re doing that, how do we get this off huh?”

If Ziva had less self control, she would have suggested a method but remained silent as she looked at Torren for his answer. “I would not tempt the child like that Sheppard. Remember the friends he made today…”

“Oh! I know!” Torren smiled widely. “You could put your neck on the grill, I’m sure you taste good.”

She snorted out the soda she just took a sip of. “I think that would hurt. You could just lick it off him,” Ziva winked.

“Ew!” Torren said as he continued to chew on the steak, smearing the sauce all over his shirt and on John’s.

“To each their own,” she shrugged and smiled at John.

Abby looked at Ziva with a surprised look on her face.

She shook her head slightly and shoved a piece of fruit in her mouth. Ziva would have to deal with her later.

John grabbed the other end of the steak Torren was munching on and took off a bite himself. The kid was almost nose to nose with him and he could see Torren was about to burst out in giggles. “Boo!” John teased. That was all it took for Torren to start laughing uncontrollably, starting to hiccup in the process, dropping the steak into John’s crotch.

Ziva’s hand flew to her mouth as her eyes went wide. Teyla rushed over and took Torren from John. “Alright that is enough playing with your food. John you will be giving him his bath tonight,” she scolded.

“Yep,” John nodded, tossing the steak into the bin behind him and started to do some damage control on his clothes.

“Did you know that amongst many cultures it’s a well known fact that when women see a man treat a child well, that the women’s biological clock starts ticking?” Ducky mused.

“Well this was fun,” Tony commented, cuing that the conversation took a rather uncomfortable turn for him.

“Oh come on Tony, you’re just jealous because your biological clock wanted a little DiNozzo for years now!” Abby grinned

“I’m just waiting for the right woman that deserve my DiNozzo makers,” he replied glancing at Ziva who rolled her eyes.

“What are DiNozzo makers?” Torren asked.

“Ehm…Boss?” Tony asked, passing the buck.

“It’s your mess DiNozzo,” Gibbs shrugged amused.

“Ziva?”

“Nope. I’m interested in how you get out of this,” she grinned.

“Damn…Oops, sorry. Bad word. Um, they are – tadpoles! Yeah, tadpoles that live inside big boys..”

“Tony!” John growled.

“What are tadpoles?” Torren asked.

“Something you will learn in school when you are older I am sure,” Ziva smiled. “Tony just only recently figured out what they were for himself.”

“Okay.” Torren smiled widely. “I like her, Uncle John!”

Ziva missed the comment as Abby had pulled her down to whisper something in her ear that made her laugh as she looked back up to find John looking at her.

“Yes, I feel like a walking steak right now. I’ll be right back,” he said, excusing himself to go and quickly clean himself up.

She watched him leave before turning back to find Teyla smiling at her.

“Is there ice cream?” Torren asked looking around

“I think he’s hyper enough,” Ziva commented to Teyla.

“Oh yes, don’t get me started.” Teyla replied and sighed. “It is very exciting for Torren to have all of you here.”

He had changed into a pair of jogging pants and a clean t-shirt and walked back outside, blinked and then realized that he had forgotten his shades in his bedroom. He turned around and waited for his eyes to adjust before he walked back to his bedroom to pick them up. John walked to the kitchen to get the package of cornetto’s he had bought while he was picking up the meat. “I’ve got ice cream!” John said, as he walked back outside, putting his glasses over his eyes.

Teyla groaned. “He is soooo sleeping with Torren tonight,” she commented as she struggling to hold onto the sauce covered boy.

“Sleep?” John snorted as he handed Torren a cornetto and put the box on the table. “You honestly think he’ll sleep tonight?”

“Exactly. Which means you won’t be either,” she said setting Torren on the ground.

He shrugged as he sat down again. “Neither will you.”

“Sounds like you have a long night ahead of you,” Ziva replied.

“Oh no, I will sleep John. Or I will break your arm,” Teyla smiled serenely.

“Yep,” John nodded. “We’ll probably end up watching movies on TV.”

He winced after hearing Teyla speak. “And here I thought Torren and I could use your bed as a trampoline.”

“Do not give him ideas!” she scolded before smacking him in the head with a roll of paper towels.

“I’m not!” John said and started to pick up the dirty dishes. He saw the look on everyone’s faces but he didn’t care. “Yes, I’m house broken,” John nodded as he walked inside with a stack of dirty plates.

“You hear that Ziva? Maybe your landlord will let you bring home a pet!” Abby teased, earning herself a heel dug into her foot. “Ow!””

“Oh I hate to be rude, Teyla dear but Jethro, I think it is time for me to leave, could you drive me home?” Ducky asked as he pat Gibbs’ arm.

“Of course Duck. Thanks for the steaks Sheppard. I’ll see you in the office Monday,” he said standing.

“Sure,” John said as he walked back out. “But you should thank Teyla, really.”

Gibbs looked at him knowing perfectly well. “Teyla,” he nodded. “Keep that kid away from DiNozzo.”

“Do not worry, Agent Gibbs,” Teyla smiled. “I am sure that Tony will behave himself.”

“It was good to meet you.”

“And you too Agent Gibbs. It was a pleasure to finally meet you and your people,” she bowed her head slightly.

John walked Gibbs and Ducky to the door to show them out. “Enjoy the rest of your weekend,” he called.

“We will John my boy,” Ducky laughed as he got into the car.

He closed the door as the two men drove off and shook his head smiling. He knew that they were obviously trying to hide their relationship from the rest of the team, but John called it the minute he saw the two men together. Gibbs was a completely different man when he was around Ducky.

Tony and Abby were walking out as John started coming back. “Thank you for inviting us!” she squealed as she ran up to hug him. “We have to do this again soon!”

“Uhm…” John chuckled, taken aback by Abby’s hug. “Sure, but it’s Teyla you should thank…”

“Trust me, she already hugged her until her eyes almost popped,” Tony said grumpily.

“Yep, oxygen becoming an issue,” he gently pried Abby off of him. “It was fun, thank you both for coming.

“Anytime! And you better visit me in the lab more now. Just call on your way down and I’ll be sure to lower the music and all…”

“Yes Abby,” John nodded. “Thank you.”

“Later,” Tony said shuffling past on his way to his car.

“He’ll get over you and Ziva eventually,” she shrugged her shoulders.

“What about me and Ziva?” John asked Abby.

She smiled and waggled her eyebrows before skipping off after Tony. “Have fun John!”

He scratched his head as he walked back into the yard with a puzzled look on his face. McGee had left earlier, and the only one who was still in the garden was Ziva, trying to avoid getting hosed down with the garden hose that Teyla had given Torren to wash himself off and water the plants. “Torren that’s enough.” John said tiredly as he picked up some empty glasses to bring back in.

“I’ll help finish cleaning up,” Ziva called out. “You just sit back and relax.”

“Oh don’t worry about it,” John smiled. “You’ve already helped setting this up.”

“I really don’t mind, honestly,” she said taking the glasses from him, her fingers brushing over his hand in the process.

“Alright then,” John nodded and then headed out to pick up the rest of the glasses.

“How about you both sit down with a nice drink and relax? I will clean up.” Teyla offered. “Oh and I do not take ‘no’ for an answer.”

Ziva looked back at John as if confirming the clear threat.

“Ah, I’d better do as she says. I know you can probably take her on, but Teyla is a mean fighter,” John replied, pouring Ziva a glass of wine at the liquor cabinet.

“Okay,” she said nodding. Sitting down, she looked back at John and smiled, unsure what to say.

He handed Ziva the glass of wine and got a beer for himself. He tossed the sunglasses on the table and rubbed his eyes. “Did you have fun today?” he asked her.

She nodded, “I did. Thank you. I was quite surprised when you called but am grateful that you did.”

“You should thank Teyla, she basically threatened Gibbs and me.”

“Yes, and I will, but in the end, you still could have said no to them,” she pointed out.

“Saying ‘no’ to Teyla when I know she just wants to get to know everyone I work with… ” he shook his head. “I would have had to swear off steaks for at least a month,” he chuckled.

Ziva chuckled, “It might do you some good. All that red meat can’t be good for your cholesterol.”

“Probably not,” he shrugged and took a sip of his beer.

They sat in comfortable silence for a while, drinking their drinks while John kept an eye out for Torren who was going nuts with the garden hose. Maybe he would sleep sound tonight, John certainly hoped so because even though he had fun today, it had been tiring.

Ziva had been quiet, her mind in overdrive. Maybe she should have left when the others did? she wondered. “I um, probably should leave,” she said feeling a little awkward.

“Is it the wine?” John asked and frowned. “Because if you want something else, I can get you something else, I just assumed you were more of a wine girl.”

“No, no, it is fine. Quite good actually…” she replied as she shifted in her seat, unsure of how to say that she simply wanted to know him better.

Teyla had seen the uneasiness between John and Ziva in the living room and frowned, they had been doing so well during dinner. As she walked out of the kitchen towards the back door she shook her head, smiling. “John, Ziva didn’t leave when the rest of your team did because I think she might wants to get to know you better,” She stepped outside and scooped up Torren. “I will give him a bath, and for your sake, I hope he’s calm enough to sleep.”

Ziva made a face at Teyla’s outward comment and blushed. She tried to look away and hide it, hoping John didn’t catch the embarrassment she felt.

John swung a pillow from the couch to Teyla’s head as he had sort of figured that Ziva had stayed for company and to talk. In all honesty, he didn’t mind, but he didn’t know what to do or say either, as it was easier for him to strike up a conversation at work because at home he had this Xena warrior princess walking around trying to help him out or embarrass him while trying.

“Go for a walk or ride somewhere,” Teyla persisted. “You both are clearly at a loss here with my company.”

“Teyla…”

“John – out,” Teyla pointed towards the door.

“Teyla?” Ziva asked herself, worried. Going home and waiting for John to come around or not might be better for the par.

Teyla looked at a shocked John and a worried Ziva, then walked off clinging Torren and muttering about how people from Earth are ridiculously complicated as she walked upstairs.

“I am so sorry.” John frowned, “I have no idea what’s gotten into her.”

“It is alright,” she said. “I believe she means well for you.”

“It’s kinda embarrassing sometimes.”

She smiled and nodded feeling the same. “Yes, I realize that myself…”

“Oh, you’ll get used to it, eventually.” John shrugged and took a sip of his beer. “She’s from a different culture and all.”

Ziva raised an eyebrow as she sipped her wine at the comment he made. Would she get the opportunity to ‘get used’ to it? she thought. Looking back outside, she smiled. “A walk doesn’t sound too bad actually. The sun is setting so I doubt you would need your glasses.”

“Sure, we could go for a walk,” he nodded as he heard a loud thud coming from upstairs followed by some crying. “Yes, let’s go.”

As they were escaping the house, Ziva could hear an irritated Teyla call out John’s name. Chuckling she looked up at him, “You are in for it now.”

“She can’t get mad at me,” he chuckled. “She wanted us out of the house.”

“But you enabled the child with ice cream and playing with his dinner.”

He put his hands in his pockets and shrugged as they exited the yard. “I’m completely innocent.”

“Sure you are,” she teased, poking him in the ribs playfully. “I can see passed the baby face innocence John Sheppard.”

“Of course you can, no doubt you’ve been watching my every move in the last month,” he chuckled

Ziva grinned and looked away. “Maybe, but wouldn’t you like to know.”

“Oh I know you have,” John nodded. “Everyone has, so it seems.”

“Maybe you are just interesting to watch? Or they just want to get with you…I know Tony has been eying you a great deal,” she replied.

“Tony just wants to make sure I’m treating you right in the field…”

Ziva didn’t reply because she knew there was actually more to it. She walked along beside him looking around and enjoying the cherry blossom trees that many had in their yards in attempt to distract herself but failing.

John was quiet for a while and then frowned. “You don’t think that he’s in love with me, do you? That would be weird.”

“No,” she replied after letting him sweat on it. “He – is very protective, that is all. We had been through a lot as a team and more…It is hard to let someone new into the fold.”

“I know,” John said. “And I don’t mind, I know how well a team can work together and become a family. What they did for you in Somalia was amazing.” He then winced as he silently cursed himself. “I eh… had to read all your files… which isn’t fair, I know.”

She closed her eyes and stopped short in walking. “I do not speak of it. And Tony – after that, he believed…It does not matter. Tony and I do not agree on some things. You – are one of them.”

He blinked and shook his head. “That’s ridiculous, I know I was a jerk at first but that was part of my job, I’m no threat anymore.”

She looked up him with an expression that conveyed that he was more of a threat to Tony than he believed. “Not to the team or NCIS,” she said quietly before beginning to walk again, ahead of him slightly.

“Is it because we go out to lunch together?” John walked after her, “And that we’re having fun?”

“Yes, and yes,” she said careful not to say more but her tone might give her away.

“Oh… oh!” John reacted. I’m such an idiot, he thought. “Well, I like us having fun and go out for lunch with you.”

She looked back at him carefully and guarded. “As do I…”

“I was planning on renting a horse next weekend in Virginia and sleep a night under the stars, knowing Teyla, she wouldn’t want to come with, would you?”

Ziva blinked in surprise. “I – uh -“

“Don’t worry, I’m not a creepy guy who would want to do nasty stuff with you while you’re asleep.”

When she was able to find her words, she smiled brightly and nodded. “I would love to join you…But um, I think we should not tell Tony or Gibbs…”

“Why not?”

“They will go on about rule twelve and Tony, well…” she raised an eyebrow indicating the idea of this trip was what his issue was.

“What was rule twelve again?” John scratched his head and shook his head. “Abby and McGee go out to laser tag games often enough and no one frowns upon that.”

“Because Abby made her position quite clear with him,” Ziva tried explaining without giving away her own attraction.

“I’m just taking my partner out for a weekend away from it all, what’s wrong about that?” John shrugged. “Besides, if rule twelve is the one about dating co-workers, Gibbs should scold himself for breaking it.”

She grinned at him, “We all know. And trust me it isn’t his first time breaking that rule. I think if he sees it working, and not interfering with work he is okay with it but when it comes between
the team he says something.”

“Well then,” Sheppard smiled. “I hope you know how to ride.”

“If you read my history you know my uncle bred horses,” she replied and winked. “We just have to get through the week of work and Tony…”

“Easy,” John nodded, smiling goofily.

~o.O.o~

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