Author's note:

And here we are, people – the last chapter, the epilogue. Whenever I finish some story, I can't believe how many words and chapters it has in the end. And you know what – it's all your merit, because you keep supporting me and that helps me a lot to keep writing. Love you very much, guys. :)

I know that this story brought some controversies, so I'm truly thankful for those of you who stuck with me, believed in me and waited patiently for the outcome. Without you, I would have never had enough strength to finish it. Thank you very much.

Anyway, first – let's answer on the reviews from the latest chapter.

Thank you Guests, I'm so glad you enjoyed the last chapter. :) Making people cry in a good way is always my pleasure. As for the Christmas story, since it's AU to Season 13, I can't avoid Zoe for that matter. Not sure if Jeanne will be mentioned, since this kind of ruins what I prepared, but Zoe has certain part in the story. But don't worry – it's purely TIVA story and the main focus is and always will be TIVA. I will write more information below the chapter, so check that out.

Dear Debbie, thank you so much for the review, as always. :)

Oh, Celine, I will miss your reviews so much. Hope your trip to Italy was good. :) Though it had to be, I love Italy, I've visited it personally many times. Awwww, that's one of the sweetest things anyone has ever said to me – many stories in here deserve to be made as a movie. And you don't have to give me anything, your attention is all a writer can wish for.

Now, I have to mention few people without whom this story would have never seen its end.

My surrogate sister Athina who has been my solid rock over the last year. I can't ever thank enough to fate for bringing us together. Love you very much. :*

Loyal and faithful Debbie, whose reviews have always been the needed booster for which I'm eternally grateful. Plus, you are the mother of my lovely Beta and I always feel so honoured to speak with you and share the friendship.

DS2010 – loved your reviews and the way you stuck with me for the whole time. Amazing days and I truly thank you for those.

Mie779 - I always looked forward to what you have to say and I've never been disappointed. Thanks for all those kinds words. :)

Dear and lovely, BertAndTiva aka Eve, you gave me more than one idea on this story so you helped to improve it. Good luck with your school and may your dreams come true. I just hope your opinion on towels didn't change that radically. :D

Celine Krause – I've said it many times, but I will repeat it again. I love your reviews and your nice personality. You terrific human being and I feel blessed that you read my stories.

Merci beaucoup, ihvee, for everything. I love chat with you and discover your artistic side. You have a wonderful future in front of you. :)

Also, I can't omit you, blackfleur, because your lovely PMs throughout the year always cheered me up. I'm always happy to find another friend in Germany.

And finally, Mine1986, I can't even express how much your friendship means to me and how happy I am for your family. Good luck into the future and congratulations! :)

The THANKS belong to all of you, of course – all who reviewed, favourited or followed this story. If you just stopped by and read, I'm grateful for that too. You are amazing group of people, I feel so honoured to speak with many of you. Thank you. :)

Now, go the read the last bit. :) I hope you will enjoy it.


Towel – Chapter 27

The Epilogue

The sound of a running shower echoed through the bedroom as the light of the sunset caressed it with its rays. It was peaceful summer evening with kids still playing outside, couples going for a walk with their dog or just enjoying the last days of this hot period of the year. The sound of the shower suddenly stopped as the person taking said shower turned the water off, finishing the evening routine of cleansing their body.

Ziva stepped out of the shower, taking the towel into her hands and wiping her wet skin dry with it. For a little while, she ceased her movements to admire the sunset through the window. She'd always wanted to have a window in her spacious bathroom, but that had been wishful thinking in the apartment building she used to live in. Now, when she lived in her own house, she had fulfilled this wish, though the window was made from that type of glass so no one could see inside, of course.

She applied her body lotion, humming a song. Then, she dried hair and brushed it thoroughly. While she was meditating about the odds and ends of life, she realized that she had left her bathrobe and clothes in the bedroom. There was no avoidance, she took the towel and wrapped her body up, not caring that it was quite small to her current body proportions.

Opening the door, she stopped in her tracks as a familiar person entered the bedroom from the hallway. "Hey Ziv, I..." Tony greeted her, his voice abandoning him when he saw her body in the fluffy towel standing in front of the bathroom.

He started to think that she had done this on purpose just to remind to him how they had become a couple. This happened on numerous occasions, but it always felt like the first time. The excitement whenever he saw her body in flesh, the beautiful form he so much loved to explore day and night, always penetrated his body. It was nice and familiar, sweet and domestic. He loved the sync they had been in.

The little cry of the baby he was holding in his arms made him snap out of his stupor, purring in delight to watch her olive skin in the sunset light. She leaned against the doorframe invitingly, watching him hold the baby girl in his embrace. It was obvious that the infant was more than satisfied in this particular man's hands. She couldn't help but find it a turn-on, but in her state that was quite normal. Almost everything about the man in front of her made her horny.

The desire inside him wouldn't leave him be. He wanted to touch her skin and taste her lips. Carefully, he put the baby down in the crib, assuring himself that she was sleeping peacefully and didn't need any assistance. Then he made a few strides across the room and took the love of his life into his arms, watching the beautiful smile on her face with which she urged him to do whatever he wanted.

And so he did. Kissing her tenderly at first, and then claiming her mouth fully. He had let the passion explode for countless times since they had been together. She smiled into the kiss widely, wrapping her arms around his neck to bring him as close as possible. Even though they had been a couple for more than a year, now, and were freshly married for two months, the kiss didn't lose the electrifying nature.

His hands couldn't refrain from roaming all over her body, but they eventually stopped on her stomach. He had fallen in love with touching her growing belly so much. It was addicting to think that there, inside her womb, was a little baby growing up. The baby that was only theirs. His and hers. The fruit of their mutual love, the bundle of joy they had created.

He didn't think that their relationship had shifted too wildly. It was just a natural development from dancing around each other for so long. They had started to plan the wedding right after Tony had proposed on the anniversary of the day they had met and, around Christmas, all had been done. They got married in June with Ziva in the first stages of pregnancy, because they had agreed that they were ready to have kids.

So they were about to have a daughter or a son. He truly didn't care what it would be. What made him happy was just that she would be the mother of his child. On top of that, everything was just perfect. Despite the initial disapproval from her father's side, even Eli David had softened his approach when he had been informed that soon he would be a grandfather.

Gibbs had set a new set of rules for them and he strictly enforced them, but they had managed to be careful enough when they couldn't stand not to touch each other anymore. As their surrogate father, and forthcoming grandfather, he couldn't wait for the baby's arrival, making wooden toys in his basement. Tony had to admit that he had never seen his boss in such a wonderful mood. It seemed that his relationship with Ziva actually helped the old Marine to find the peace in his heart.

McGee and Abby had accepted the roles of uncle-to-be and aunt-to-be immediately, happy for their friends as if it was their own child. Their earlier fears and doubts about them were dispersed within the first days. Tony and Ziva didn't give anyone a chance to doubt them. Sure, they had had small problems, because those couldn't be avoided. They had always managed to solve those problems without affecting the team, though.

Ducky and Vance always stuck around to give them some advice. Not only when it came to kids, but also when it came to marital stuff. And Jimmy and Breena were always there to share the happiness with them. Others had accepted their relationship in one way or another. Senior was delighted to heavens, but Tony had known very well that his father would have been delighted by the news, anyway.

Slowing the kiss down, still caressing the skin on her belly beneath the towel, he released her lips and leaned his forehead against hers. She sent him a dazzling smile, licking her lips to memorize his taste. "Have a nice shower?" He asked her, only slightly disappointed that he hadn't joined her. But just a little. After all, she was his until the end of the world.

She nodded and hummed in agreement, playing with the hair on the nape of his neck. Biting her lip, she couldn't help but notice how her husband looked extremely yummy today. If it wasn't for the baby lying in the crib right now, she would have let her dirty thoughts to take over her mind. All she needed was to throw the towel away, since she already knew what effect this attire had on him.

"What did you want?" She asked him to distract herself from the lust that was trying to win over.

He grinned at her, taking her by her hand and dragging her over to the crib. He picked up the sleeping baby girl and undid a part of the romper suit so her diapers were visible. "See? I finally did it right!" He proudly showed his wife how neatly and perfectly he had changed the baby's diapers.

Ziva let out a chuckle, ruffling his hair to show her appreciation for his effort and his enthusiasm to learn to do things correctly. He was an exemplary father-to-be. She remembered how he had made fun of Jimmy earlier. Now, he behaved exactly the same. Nervous, but cute in his typical DiNozzo way. She couldn't choose a better man to have kids with, because his devotion to this particular cause knew no boundaries.

He leaned into her touch and let her take the baby into her arms as she looked down at the beautiful little bundle. She nudged the nose of the sleeping baby with her forefinger, lifting her gaze back up towards Tony. She couldn't get enough of the sparkle in his eyes whenever he saw her with the baby. It was obvious that he had wanted to have a family for quite some time, and that his claim about settling down had been serious.

"You are really lucky that Jimmy and Breena let us look after Victoria. You can properly prepare yourself for being a father." She teased him, putting Victoria Elizabeth Palmer, a five-month-old baby girl, back into his arms. She went over to the wardrobe to put on some clothes.

With a chuckle, Tony carefully lay little Vicky down in her crib, glad that she was sleeping peacefully. He watched her for a long second. "Yeah." He uttered in a sad tone as the dark thoughts started to cloud his mind once again.

To be honest, he was really happy about having a baby and all, but he couldn't stop the feeling that he shouldn't be allowed to have kids. He had never been good around them. They didn't like him and he didn't like them. As much as he wanted to have one of his own, he just didn't know whether he even had any paternal feelings to love the baby in the way he/she deserved.

Sometimes, he understood his father and his helplessness after his mother had died. If he didn't have Ziva, he didn't have any idea what he would do. She was his solid rock, supporting him and assuring him that everything would be OK. That was why he was treating her like a queen. Not only did she deserve it, but he was very scared of losing her. He couldn't allow to anyone to destroy what he had built so far.

He just didn't want to repeat the mistakes his father had made. He wanted to be the perfect parent to his child. Even though he had made progress with casual parental duties-and especially thanks to Jimmy and Breena who always were willing to lend them Victoria for a little while-he knew that to take care of his own baby was an entirely different thing. And he had serious doubts about himself whether or not he would make it.

He sighed deeply, watching as Victoria mumbled something in her sleep with her adorable baby voice. He lightly caressed her head and flinched when he felt a hand on his shoulder as Ziva tried to gain his attention. She heard his sigh and the sad tone in his voice, knowing that something was off.

He turned to her and noticed her worried face, trying to smile at her casually to show her that nothing troubled him. "Is something wrong?" She asked him, because she didn't believe the fake smile. He wasn't good at hiding his true feelings from her, anymore. Nor was she from him.

"No, everything's fine." He tried to lie to her, knowing that it was useless when she took him by the hand and squeezed it. He couldn't tell lies to her. She knew him too well.

So, he just hung his head down, ashamed of his doubtful thoughts about himself. She didn't deserve a weak man; someone who didn't feel confident enough. Especially because he knew that she would make a perfect mother. Whenever he witnessed her interaction with a kid, she was natural. Babies, kids, teenagers – Ziva handled them all perfectly.

"I just... What if... What if I won't be a good father?" He asked her, looking up at her with genuine fear in his eyes. He so much wanted to be the perfect parent, but he didn't know how. "I don't even know how to be one. You know me... Me and kids... It just doesn't fit well together." He stated with sorrow, getting angry with himself.

She was the one who was pregnant, who carried the child, who risked her health to deliver their baby. And here he was with his pitiful problems, throwing them at her as if she could solve everything. If he didn't know how to help himself, then why should she? He just hated these states he was having lately when his mood jumped up and down as his doubts and joy took turns in control.

Ziva only smiled, reaching her hand toward his hair, playing with the strands to soothe him and make him feel better. It hadn't been the first time he had voiced his doubts over being a good father. And if she wanted to be honest, she was terrified herself. It was a great responsibility, and no one could give them the right advice as to how to handle it. But she always showed Tony the support he needed. He was strong for them while they had started their relationship, fighting for them tirelessly. So she was the strong one for them now.

"No one is born as an ideal parent, Tony. We all learn during the whole process of bringing up a child. You never know how it will turn out in the end." She tried to calm him down, assuring him that every expectant parent was going through the same moments of uncertainty. He wasn't alone in this. "But let me tell you this. No matter how your paternal role will turn out, I know that you will give it your best. Because you always give the best of you to the things you love the most." She reminded him of his unrelenting fighting spirit she admired in him so much. She knew he genuinely couldn't wait for the baby, that he already loved it more than himself. That he was ready to lay down his life for him/her and for her, to protect them both. He already had the right paternal feeling, he just didn't see it.

He smiled at her faintly, taking her into his arms to get a hold of something familiar that made him feel secure. "It's one of the reasons why I fell in love with you." She told him. "Why I married to you and why I'm having a child with you. So, don't worry. We'll be just fine. Together." She intertwined the fingers of their joined hands, making their wedding rings to clink against each other.

He raised his free hand, caressing her face to appreciate her features for a little while. "I love you." He confessed sincerely, meaning it also as a way to thank her for putting up with him and supporting him. No one had ever believed in him just as she did.

Smiling widely, she beckoned him with her finger to lean down so she could capture his lips in the loving kiss he obviously needed. The ever-so-comforting kiss that made his head spin and forget about everything but her. She didn't know what she had done to deserve such a wonderful man, bright future and family, but she knew that she wouldn't trade it for anything in this universe. And neither would he.

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage." – Lao Tzu

THE END


Really, guys, thank you for staying with me for so long and reading this. I hope I didn't disappoint you. If you liked the epilogue, I'm the most thankful person in the world for that.

As for my next story, as I mentioned – it's a Christmas story. A lot selfish from my side but you will see what I mean when you read it. It will be AU to Season 13 exploring more Tony's struggle over the last few months. So, there will be a lot about Tony/Gibbs relationship and all. Even though, as a TIVA fan, I would love to avoid Zoe and her relationship with Tony, it brought me a great opportunity to explore a bit of different side of human relationships. And since my friends often nickname me 'Mrs. Freud', I can't do anything else but to take the chance. But the main goal is the same – it's a TIVA story. About TIVA, about Ziva going back home etc. The only present characters in the story from the very beginning will be only Tony and Ziva, the rest will be talked about but they show up a lot later. The story won't be happening in the US and neither in Israel, because we will try to find the lost spirit of Christmas in Mother Europe (and that's when my selfishness shows the most). Why our two love birds travel to Europe to spend Christmas holiday there? Well, you'll get the answer in the story. ;) I hope you will like it, because I write that from the bottom of my heart.

Thank you for your amazing support throughout the wonderful year of 'Towel'. It was, again, a wonderful ride and I love you eternally. :) Bye!