AN: This is a continuation of my stories "Step Up" and "Five Candles." I imagine it would be helpful to read those first. In fact, I recommend it highly!
Several folks asked for me to continue "Five Candles" through the winter holidays and wrap up some loose ends- I didn't think it would happen, but it did! All in one night, almost, too! Thanks to my fantastic betas, Jessie, Jaimee & Jen.
This is short & sweet, folks. There are currently 5 chapters. Unless I get a fantastic inspiration from my muse, this is IT for the story. I hope its what you all wanted!! I enjoyed writing this series more than you know and have enjoyed all of the feedback you have given.
"Was that REALLY necessary?"
His voice was harsh and Ziva felt her shoulder's stiffen in reaction to his tone and the edge to his gaze.
"You would not have done the same thing?" she asked, sliding her jacket off her shoulders and hanging it up in the closet. In habit, she turned and took his jacket, hanging it along side her own.
They had a routine. Occasionally she would stop and pause, realizing that such a routine came with a closeness she hadn't intended; letting him into her life so fully had never been in the plan. But even with that realization and the load of emotion that came with it, she had no intention of changing anything. She enjoyed his company, his companionship, and the closeness that had developed between them.
Tony paused and glared at her. "I so would not have!"
"I do not believe you," she replied.
Tony snapped, throwing his hands into the air in frustration before storming down her hall and into her bedroom. He called over his shoulder. "Ziva! I wouldn't want anyone to see you naked but me!"
Ziva stilled her movements and allowed her mind a moment to process his admission. This is new, she thought.
Since their impromptu slumber party at Thanksgiving, they had ended up staying the night at each other's homes more and more often.
She had a companion for dinner each night this week as well as someone to hold her while she slept. Ziva wasn't complaining.
There still wasn't any sex.
And for the first time in her adult life, Ziva wasn't rushing. This wasn't about sex. This wasn't about being in control. This wasn't about her raging libido. This wasn't about being the best in bed he'd ever had – though she was sure she still would leave a lasting impression.
She had merely fallen in love with her partner, co-worker, protector and best friend. And instead of diving head long into a physical relationship that she was sure would be excellent yet still complicate things, they had merely progressed as if sex was not even an option.
In some small part of her brain, she knew it was very odd. And it was odd for both of them; with their typical libidos, the lack -of-sex was something for the record books.
Yet she felt closer to him than she had any of her other lovers. There might not be sex, but there was still intimacy with Tony where there had been none in her previous relationships.
And therein was the big difference- Tony was an actual relationship and partnership. Her previous experiences at relationships had been two people who were merely physically attracted to each other, able to tolerate each other's company in public, and had similar ambitions in life.
Despite the close quarters, however, they had yet to cross the physicality barrier that kept them "just co-workers." There was certainly kissing. And snuggling. And he had actually volunteered to give her a foot rub the other night during an Indiana Jones marathon.
But with Tony, there was intimacy.
He brushed her hair each night when she got out of the shower and worked his strong fingers so gently through her locks, forming a long braid down her back. He would kiss the nape of her neck when he was done, his fingers sliding down her shoulders and around as he held her from behind and rested his chin on her shoulder.
When she forgot to fill a prescription, he ran out and picked it up without question, cramming his longer legs into her Mini Cooper with only a few grumbles.
He would lay on the couch with his head in her lap while she ran the tips of her fingers across his scalp in a gentle scrub; he loved it and his eyes always closed with pleasure as she toyed with his hair.
When he had a migraine, she sat with him in bed after work, gently rubbing his temples until he finally was able to fall asleep.
They would discuss politics – admittedly in a very animated fashion – over dinner. And they each respected each other enough to know that "Are you crazy!?" wasn't a literal question. They agreed to disagree.
Ziva's favorite was grocery shopping. A chore she once found mundane and a true 'chore,' now was the highlight of her week. They strolled through the various farmer's markets in the area, finding the best fall produce. They had discovered that they both loved to cook and fresh vegetables made their mouths water. Of course, true to his genetic roots, Tony had an affinity for red-meat and Ziva made it her mission to drag him to every butcher in the area until they found the best steaks. In turn, he learned the types of teas she enjoyed and found a small boutique that catered to high-end herbal teas. Even the average grocery store became a fun excursion as they bickered over the best brand of pasta, the cheapest paper towels, and the most eco-friendly laundry detergent.
Yes. Laundry detergent. With the amount of time they spent at each other's homes, it was logical to just do laundry together each night.
That was what they said the first time her bra got tangled in his boxers.
The second time they merely made eye contact quickly before changing the subject.
By the third time, he was respectful about folding her bras and putting them in her lingerie drawer without comment.
Her panties, however, remained fair-game for his taunting and lewd comments. And if she was forced to admit it, Ziva really didn't mind.
Ziva shook her head from her drifting thoughts and followed him down the hall. He had shed his shirt and tie and stood at 'his' side of her bed.
"You want to see me naked?" she asked when she caught up with him in her room.
"I've already seen you naked," Tony replied, pulling his undershirt on before reaching into what had slowly become 'his' drawer and pulling out a grey t-shirt.
"Yes," she agreed as she forced herself not to blush. "But why would you not want to share that?"
Tony's head popped up through the neck-hole in his shirt. "There's no way I would take your baby-picture and put it on the plasma! No one's looking at you naked but me, Dah-veed!"
Ziva shrugged, taking his possessiveness for the compliment it was. "Your mother sent me the photo, Tony." She stepped to the dresser and pulled out her running pants and jog-bra and zip-up hoodie.
"My mother is a loon!" he countered. "I love her, but she's crazy. Who goes and sends someone they don't know a naked baby picture of your grown son? Crazy DiNozzo mothers, that's who!"
Her shoulders shook as she chuckled. "But it is an adorable picture, Tony! I bet that bear skin rug was soft against your baby skin," she crooned, ducking as he playfully lunged towards her. She stepped into the bathroom, just behind the door without closing it, and changed clothes as they continued to talk.
The photo was typical of the day; a baby-Tony lay on his stomach on a bareskin rug, his body bare and his baby butt prominently displayed in the photo. His eyes were bright and, even then at only a few months old, he still had the beginnings of the famous DiNozzo smile.
When she had initially opened the email from Teresa DiNozzo, Ziva couldn't help but croon a small "Aww" at the sight. Nor could she help the instinctual thought in her head of how cute their babies would look if that was what he looked like as an infant. She had immediately squelched the thought and mentally chastised herself for even going there.
"Thankfully, I remember nothing about that day. My therapy bills were already too high, thanks," he said, pulling on a pair of running pants and slipping into his tennis shoes. "However I will remember today for many years. I'm scared for life, Ziva! Gibbs laughed at my butt!"
"He did not laugh," she countered as she stepped out and pulled on her own running shoes. It might bet twenty degrees out with snow still on the ground, but they would still go for their run. It was Tuesday night, after all. "He said it was almost as cute as Kelly's was when she was a baby."
"He compared me to a girl!"
She paused and gave him a meaningful look. "Gibbs compared you to someone he cherishes and never speaks of. That is a compliment." she stood and stretched. "Besides, Tony, had such a cute butt!" she said, grinning.
"Have," he corrected. "Its still cute. Isn't it?" Tony twisted, trying to check out his own butt.
"I did give it a high rating, did I not?" she teased, leaning up and kissing his nose before heading to the door to get a head start on their run.