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One Mistake Away

by: kaffetaar (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 1048
Rating: YTEEN
Warning(s): Character Death
Character(s): Ziva David, Other Male Character
Category(ies): Alternate Universe, Angst/Drama
Pairing(s): - No Pairing -
Episode(s): 4-16 Dead Man Walking
Summary: And the police said, 'It's okay to stop crying.'

AU after Dead Man Walking. Set into the future, no real spoilers.

Author Notes: This is, actually, my very first story in this fandom. Go easy on me, yeah?

Chapters: 1

1/1

It is midnight when a noise pulls him from sleep. It's not a loud noise, not loud enough to jolt him completely to wakefulness. He thinks it's the sound of the coffee machine spluttering to life, and he buries his head in the pillow with a small groan and a smile. His outstretched hand meets emptiness on the other side of the bed, and he can't admit to being surprised. This case in particular is keeping her late more often than not, these days. He doesn't know much. Something garbled about a personal connection to Gibbs and Tony and it being a favour to them, her mumbling a few names in between mouthfuls of toast last week.

He doesn't blame her. With a baleful noise, he pulls himself from the warmth of their bed. On nights like these, he might be apt to rue the day he met her, but only in passing, and never in seriousness. He might never let her behind the wheel of a car for the rest of their natural lives, but he would never regret meeting her.

The dressing gown helps ward off the chill of a late-night house in a Virginia winter, and he belts it loosely before fumbling blindly for the stair rail. The lights would only blind him, and his eyes are fuzzy enough as is. This way, at least, he doesn't think he'll knock over that vase her mother gave them for their third anniversary. Ugly damn thing, but she loves the crap out of it, so who is he to knock it off in search of a light switch he doesn't need?

Theirs was a strange courtship. He seems more prone somehow to ponder the nature of things when he's wandering the house in socks and his boxers, and he does so now as he attempts - valiantly, he might add - not to break his neck on the stairs she insisted they have. It, they, began by a hospital bedside - although she might argue for the Potomac, knowing his wife - and it ended much the same. He still remembers the day the doctors gave her the news, the pale and stricken look on her face, and the desperate urge it gave him to do something, anything, to make that look disappear. Disappear and never return.

He did, too. They told her she was barren, and so he'd taken her hand and knelt awkwardly by the bed, and asked her to marry him. She had smiled through that look, and so to this day, he tells everyone from her co-workers to her friends from shul that it was because he knocked her up.

The thought brings a smile to his face now, and he scrubs a hand over the rough surface of his chin and jaw line as he slides his palm along the wall, padding down the hall.

"Honey, really, it's past midnight, you know," he starts, before he has even entered the kitchen. Some nights, he has learnt, it's safer for him to enter mouth-first. "Come to bed, you don't need coffee-"
The kitchen is empty, tiles and benches wiped spotless and the table with only a neat stack of placemats and one of papers. Just as he left it this morning.

And he remembers.

His breathing echoes, the sound cold and harsh in his ears and his belly, and he hears another noise behind him.

"Daddy?" The voice is just as sleepy and warm as his own, pitched higher and cleaner than a gravelly baritone. He turns on his heel, balancing himself and his disrupted equilibrium against the rough wood of the doorframe. It takes him a moment to focus his eyes, and he is seeing another ghost, this one the replica of old and grainy photographs.

"Daddy?" He clears his throat, swallowing, and smiles despite himself. Big brown eyes blink up at him, and though she's stretching one hand up towards him, she's got the other one wrapped around a stuffed hippo half her size. Thank you, Auntie Abby.

"It's alright, princess," he says, hoisting his daughter up into his arms. He'll need to be with her for most of the night, now that she's awake. Like her mother before her, she doesn't sleep easy in the dark. He'll turn her nightlight on, tell her a story, and still she'll insist on having him there.

He won't mind. It's a newly developed habit, but he noticed it emerging about the same time he needed to stay by her side at night, so he won't try and break her of it anytime soon. "I heard a noise. Is that what happened, did you hear me?" he asks, and she nods her head, resting her dark, curly mop on his shoulder. It's completely untameable, at least to his limited skills. He just can't braid it quite the same.

He doesn't mind. He likes being reminded that the doctors were wrong. He likes seeing her hair wild and askew, watching her futile attempts to tame it. Usually they're followed by the childish, five-year-old versions of the tantrums he remembers from the woman. Patently Sara. He remembers the fight she put up, the way she argues that Sara Sanders just wasn't a fair thing to do to a child. Her name reminds him just how much his wife loved him, every time he hears it or reads it or says it.

These past few days, despite everything, he just likes being reminded.

"Yeah, I thought so. It's alright, sweetie. Everything's alright." She yawns against his shoulder, takes his words as gospel, and he wonders who needs the convincing more. Because he knows that, like every one of the last six nights, the next question is going to turn his insides to ice, and make his heart pound in his throat, and he's going to need someone to tell him that everything is going to be alright.

She doesn't look like she's going to ask. For the first time since he had Gibbs and Dinozzo, one lamed and the other singed around the edges, on his doorstep with that look, he thinks he might not have to explain this all again. Just for one night.

He is wrong.

"When's Mommy getting home from work again, Daddy? Soon?"

Chapters: 1

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