The day had been absolute crap.

The rape victim from earlier in the week had gotten an infection in several of her deeper lacerations. The antibiotics the doctor at Bethesda had prescribed had helped, but the Petty Officer had spiked a fever so high it had caused seizures leading to her death.

Her body would be sent back to Ducky for the autopsy to officially claim that her death was a result of injuries sustained during her attack.

That upped the charge from violent sexual assault and battery to murder.

And it upped the work load on their desks twofold.

Gibbs had finally called it a day when he realized he was on coffee number nine for the day and the local coffee shop had closed. With no chance for a refill, he concluded that the evidence would still be there in the morning when they all had some rest and a fresh perspective.

More the lack of coffee than the need for rest, Tony had thought, exchanging identical looks with McGee as they grabbed their gear and headed to the elevator for the night.

If there was a red-light between the office and his place, Tony had managed to hit it.

Not like he had big plans for the night. But he didn't want to spend the evening in his car.

He wanted to go home, kick off his shoes, untie his tie and sit on the sofa and call Ziva.

But, at four in the morning in Tel Aviv, he was sure he'd wake Ziva. Of course, if he waited another hour, she'd be getting up for the day. He might be able to catch her before her morning run.

He grinned to himself at that realization, unlocking his door.

A delightful smell caught his nose and he looked up as the door shut behind him.

Her hair was pulled away from her face with the abalone clip she had purchased on Cobb's Island, her curls falling down her back.

She looked up and her brown eyes sparkled at him, a hesitant smile on her face. "Long day at the office? You are home late."

Tony wasn't sure to grin or glare. Ziva was in his kitchen. Standing over his stove making something that smelled absolutely divine.

But... Ziva was in his kitchen. iShe didn't call – just showed up and picked the lock and made herself right at home./i

She set the wooden spoon down and walked towards him, her hands immediately loosening the knot on his tie. Her brown eyes looked everywhere but at his. "I thought you would be home sooner- the dinner might be a little overcooked."

Tony frowned down at her, raising his hands and covering hers as she worked on the knot in his tie.

"You're back?"

She nodded and tugged on his tie, pulling her hands away with it. "I am."

"When did you get back, exactly?"

"This afternoon."

He couldn't help the exasperated look from forming on his face. "And you didn't call me?!"

She half-shrugged. "You were working. Gibbs said you had an important case."

It wasn't quite shouting but his voice definitely rose a level. "You called Gibbs but you didn't call me?"

"I wanted it to be a surprise?"

He sighed. Ziva stepped away, setting his tie down and moving back into the kitchen.

She turned her back to him and picked up the spoon to resume cooking. He watched her unnecessarily poke at the salmon on the stove top grill for a moment before following her and sliding up behind her. Tony set his chin on her shoulder – he slid his hand down her arm until he covered her hand with his own and stilled her from poking the fish to pieces.

She closed her eyes. "I should have called. You are right. I -"

"Thank you," he said softly, his breath tickling her ear as he spoke.

She put the spoon down, and turned in his arms. "I should have told you," she said. She spoke of more than just her surprise return. She spoke of the never-mentioned engagement. She spoke of the baggage she brought with her from her past.

Tony shook his head. "I had a crappy day. I was going to come home, kick my shoes off and sit on the couch for an hour until it was time for you to get up to go running in Tel Aviv. I was going to call you and just listen to you yell at me for harassing you so early."

"I would not have yelled-" she started.

"Yes you would have. And I would have loved every minute of it," he replied, grinning. "But coming home to find you here was better. It was the best surprise I could have asked for."

"You're not just saying that? Because-"

He bent his head and gently silenced her with a soft kiss. "I'm not just saying that."

She felt herself blush. When did I start blushing? This is ridiculous, she chastised herself, seeing Tony's knowing and cocky smirk.

"Did I just make the world-traveled, immune to everything Mossad highly trained assassin turned investigator, blush?"

She smirked at his taunting. "Its a possibility. It could also be from the heat of the stove."

He laughed and she grinned.

"So ... no marriage to Mr. Mossad-man?"

Ziva shook her head. "No."

"And Daddy-dearest isn't making you come home to set up house?"

"No." Her curls bounced as she shook her head again. "I am setting up house here."

"Here?" he asked, his eyes sweeping around his apartment. "Here-here? Or DC, here."

She grinned, her mouth lopsided with suppressed enjoyment. "For now, DC. Later we can discuss here-here."

"We definitely will discuss that." Tony nodded, his grin still in place. "And... Mossad breeding farm? You're not going to be recruited to pop out little assassin babies, right?"

"Well," she started, her fingers toying with the top button on his work shirt. "I will not be 'breeding' with anyone from Mossad. But I was politely reminded by my father that he would like grandchildren before he dies."

He nodded, his attention torn between her and the wonderful teasing sensations her fingers were causing through the cotton of his shirt. "My mother reminds me that every week."

"Perhaps giving them grandchildren will be the easiest way to stop the reminders," she said, coyly.

Tony nodded, feeling her finally free the top button. He felt Ziva move her hand to the next button and toyed with it half-heartedly.

"I think that would definitely stop the reminders," he said, his voice low and gentle. "But I think that would require us living together."

She nodded.

"And, considering how conservative your father is – and my mother... there would have to be a wedding before the grandchildren."

She nodded again.

"Is that something... is that something you want? In the future?" he stuttered through the sentence. "The distant future? You know... not... tomorrow or anything."

Ziva felt her cheeks heat again and mentally smacked herself at this newfound tendency to blush.

"I think tomorrow would be a bit soon, yes," she agreed, watching his features closely as she continued. "But if we were to wait – a while – and then decide if we wanted a wedding... well, we could discuss that."

"After a while?" he asked.

"Yes," she replied, "A few months, at least," she grinned as he let out a sigh of relief.

As mature as he had become since Jeanne, and since Jenny's death, he was still petrified of commitment. And she fully understood; too many people close to her had been lost. Letting in another person was a huge emotional gamble and she didn't blame him for his fears.

Rushing into a relationship with him wasn't something she had any intention of doing. The small steps and admissions they had made over the last several months had been slow – but she had kept that pace intentionally.

As much as she was attracted to Tony – and she knew he returned the feeling – jumping into bed for the sake of one night of fantastic sex, was not worth the fallout. Not to the team. Not to their friendship.

Their friendship was too valuable to ruin by diving into a relationship. But she felt a little more secure now- now that they had weathered the storm that Michael had brought from Tel-Aviv.

Tonight there would be dinner, a movie, a cuddle on the couch. There would be kissing, she was sure. And she predicted there would be a trip to... How did Abby call it? Second base. Yes, Tony could visit second base tonight.

Ziva felt his hand trace the side of her face, tucking a stray curly lock behind her ear.

"You're really back?"

"I am," she replied again, nodding.

"Any other fiancees I need to know about?"


"And you're staying."

"You gave me a reason to stay," she said, leaning up and kissing him, her hand cupping his cheek.

"The DiNozzo charm?" he said, cheekily.

"No," she replied, smiling, "It was the DiNozzo spaghetti."

AN: Thanks to all who read/reviewed. I have had a blast working on this series and love hearing from those of you who enjoyed reading it. :) Thanks for following the journey! The End.