Disclaimer: I don't own any part of NCIS, no copyright infringement is intended.

A.N.- Here is the third installment in this series of stories about our two favorite partners. It follows the previous stories 'Not Partners Anymore' and 'Partners Again'. Maybe there will be more after this one too...I don't know, we'll see. Anyway, this particular story occurs just after 'Cloak' and contains spoilers for 'Nine Lives' as well. It's definitely more risque than anything I have written before, so I'm a little nervous about it, but I don't think it's as graphic as other stories I have read on this site before. Either way, I hope you enjoy it.

****This story is rated M for strong sexual content. Read at your own risk.****

Partners Forever

by Mamapranayama

***************

"Ooookay." Abby started, her eyebrows reaching so far up her forehead that it shouldn't have been possible for them to get so high. "I don't know about you guys, but after a day like today, I could use a drink."

"Agreed."

"Ditto"

"I'm in."

"Me too."

After watching Michelle Lee walk out on her own accord and stunning everyone as she casually said goodnight to the five friends sitting around the bullpen as they discussed her possible fate as a traitor and murderer, everyone felt the need to blow off a little steam.

Jimmy, McGee, Abby, Tony and Ziva all piled into the elevator together and separately went to their own cars, agreeing to meet at the bar down the street.

When Ziva walked into the appointed establishment, she noted that Tony had been the first to arrive. He was standing by a wall, looking at a myriad of faces in various uniforms. Ziva had not been to this particular bar before, but as she approached, she realized that they were the photos of those who had died either in the line of duty or in the military, most likely posted by friends or family of the fallen. One photo in particular had apparently caught Tony's interest; Paula Cassidy's. She wondered vaguely if it had been him that had put it up there. She saw Tony sigh and put his head down for a brief moment in contemplation.

She didn't want to interrupt his thoughts, but he must have noticed her from the corner of his eye. He spoke without turning his head.

"Hey Ziva."

"Hello, Tony." He turned to her and flashed her a quick grin and headed for the bar, she followed and took a stool next to him, giving her a clear view of his bruised eye and evoking a pang of guilt deep within her.

It was her fault he was now sporting the shiner and he was lucky the blow to his head hadn't caused a concussion. If she hadn't lost control, he wouldn't have been hurt. But no, she had reacted without thinking. Seeing the flash of the gun and believing that Tony was in trouble, she had attacked the guards when they were caught at the DOMINO facility. It was instinct, that was all, she tried to tell herself then, but in hindsight she knew that she allowed her feelings get in the way of reason and Tony paid the price.

Ziva's memory flashed back to that heated conversation they had in the elevator at work. Actually, fight or blow-up, might be a more apt term for what took place. But Tony had been right, they had been playing a game of denial for far too long and she was sick of pretending just as much as he was.

Since Tony came back from the Seahawk, she had done her best to make believe that things were just the same as they were before the team was split up by Vance, but the truth was that they weren't. On the surface nothing was out of the ordinary for them, she would joke, flirt, and make it seem as though she wanted nothing more than to be his partner and friend, but the facade was crumbling fast and Tony had called her out on it.

Tony had been playing along too and it was growing tiresome for the both of them. Something had to give and today was that something. Tony's belief that the team was being manipulated and used as puppets by Vance had only been a catalyst to an explosive release of the frustration that had been building since Tony came back from his stint as Agent Afloat.

She recalled that first night after he came back and going to his apartment after the little get-together Abby had thrown for him. She had every intention of talking about everything that needed to be said before he left for sea, but it had been just too hard for either of them to open themselves to that kind of vulnerability.

Instead, she backed off in fear and tried to make it clear that nothing could happen between them, that they would need to get past whatever feelings they may have had for each other. Tony had been angry and she could feel the seething jealously barely contained in his voice when he surmised that she had met someone back in Israel.

Truth be told, She did everything she could think of to get over that damned kiss they shared the night before he left for sea and she returned to Mossad. Even having a brief courtship with Yosef, a friend from her days in the Army. It had been nothing more than a few dates and she never thought of him as much more than a good friend. However, she knew Yosef wanted more and in a desperate attempt to finally push her thoughts of Tony out, she agreed to accompany him when he invited her to his yacht for a week.

Tony had been nearly intolerable and drove her crazy with his less than subtle prodding before she left on that vacation when she wouldn't tell him anything about what she was going to do on her trip or whom she might be seeing. It was obvious he was still jealous.

She thought a fling with Yosef would be just the thing she would need to finally lay her feelings for Tony to rest and focus on just being his partner. But when she got there, she was distracted still and Yosef took notice. Being a perfect gentleman and one of her best friends, he sat her down for a long talk.

"Whoever it is you are trying to get over, Ziva. You are not doing a very good job of it." He pointed out at one point in their conversation. "You are obviously in love and it is not with me."

She couldn't deny it anymore to herself, than she could to Yosef. She cared about Tony, deeply and more than she had for anyone else before and certainly more than a partner should. Was it love though?

Now the events of the last two days coalesced and crashed into each other as they played out over and over in her head. Holding her breath in a closet with Tony a hairsbreadth away, hiding from the guards in the DOMINO facility, fighting said guards and losing, learning that their planned break-in had been nothing more than a mole hunt, feeling used by Gibbs and Vance, being lead to believe that Abby was a traitor and the fight in the elevator....The latter playing itself out the most and driving her to distraction.

"What are you getting?"

"What?" She asked, Tony's question shaking her out of her thoughts.

"Are you getting something to drink or not?" She hadn't even noticed that he had already ordered a beer and a gruff, heavyset bartender was waiting for her order with very little patience.

"Oh, uh...I will have what he is having." The barkeeper wordlessly turned and poured two tall drafts of beer and sat them in front of them before turning to his other customers. Tony stole a look at her as he took a large gulp of his drink. She could tell from his look that he had something he wanted to say. He swallowed and was about to address her when a couple of familiar voices approached from behind.

"Tony! Ziva! Man, you guys must have like, superpowers or something to get here so fast." Abby called out as she came up to the bar with McGee and Jimmy in tow.

"Well, of course Abby, you should know by now that I'm a super-crime fighter by day and by night. In fact, I've got the Batmobile parked out back. Maybe I'll take you for a spin later" He joked before giving Ziva a pointed look that only she was the beneficiary of.

"Ziva on the other hand, just drives like a maniac." She narrowed her eyes on Tony and stuck out her tongue playfully.

There wasn't enough room at the bar for everyone, so Tony and Ziva grabbed their drinks and headed for a booth while the others ordered. A couple of uncomfortable minutes and several looks that could have held a conversation all their own later and McGee, Abby and Jimmy joined them.

"What are you drinking, McGirly?" Tony asked McGee teasingly as they sat.

"It's a cosmopolitan."

"Hello...total girl drink." Tony pointed out.

"No it's not, Tony. I'm just not a big beer drinker." McGee argued.

"You disappoint me Probie. Even Abby's drink is manlier than yours."

"She has a fuzzy navel."

"My point exactly." Tony smiled broadly, obviously satisfied with his little zinger towards the younger agent.

The rest of the evening went pretty much like that conversation wise. Abby and McGee broke off at one point when Abby challenged McGee to battle each other in the ancient centipede arcade game at the back of the bar. Somehow Ziva and Tony managed to avoid having to converse directly other than the occasional jibe thrown at each other to keep up the appearance that all was normal between them. Jimmy on the other hand, had taken to drinking way too many daiquiris in his lament over his relationship with Agent Lee, giving Tony further ammo to make the argument that men should never drink 'froo-froo girl drinks' as he called them.

"Ya think more people than just you guys knew about me and Michelle?" Palmer asked with a slur, swaying a bit as his eyes glazed over behind his thick glasses.

Tony looked at Ziva with a knowing grin. It was common knowledge around headquarters that Jimmy and Lee were having an affair. More than once, Denise from the secretary pool witnessed the pair go into a janitor's closet on the second floor and being the biggest gossip in NCIS history, the story had spread like wildfire. Apparently, the only ones who hadn't heard it yet were Palmer and Lee. When neither Tony nor Ziva answered him, he groaned before his eyes went wide with fear.

"Do you think Dr. Mallard knows?" Jimmy asked afraid of the answer. Again, they did not answer and he dropped his head down to the table with a thud. There was little question that he was in no shape to drive home that night. Ziva gave him a comforting pat on the back.

It was then that Abby came bounding back to the table with McGee.

"Guess who just broke the bar's high score in Centipede?" She asked Tony and Ziva, but answered for them before they could respond.

"This girl." She pointed her thumbs to her chest with exuberance before whirling on McGee. "Ha! I totally smoked you Timmy!"

"You did not. You just got lucky."

"It was all skill; luck had nothing to do with it. Either way, you still lost our bet. Now you're ass is mine." She grinned evilly before turning back to the table.

"What did you bet?" Ziva had to ask.

"I bet McGee that I could beat his score and if I did, then he had to take me to see one of my favorite bands: Sewer Spandex, they're playing tonight at that new club downtown."

"Lucky me." McGee said half-heartedly. With Abby's back to Tim he mouthed the words 'help me' silently to Tony and Ziva. Ziva supressed a chuckle when Abby smacked him with the back of her hand on his chest without turning around.

"I heard that, Tim."

"Sorry, McGullible." Tony grinned. "You should have known better than to accept any sort of challenge that involves video games with our Abby, ya know she's got mad ninja skills when it comes to that sort of stuff."

"Aww thanks, Tony. That's so sweet of you to say." Abby gushed, giving him a fierce hug before she turned on McGee. "At least someone recognizes my talents. Now, let's go Timmy, show starts in an hour and I want to get there in time to get a good view of the drummer; he's totally hot!"

"Can't wait." McGee grumbled, grabbing his coat from the booth seat he left it on.

"Whoa, wait." Tony called after them as they began to leave. "You guys gotta take Palmer home, he's not looking too good."

"Can't you take him home, Tony?" McGee whined. Even though Tim had acted less than enthused about taking Abby to the concert, Ziva was perceptive enough to see that he was looking forward to spending some time alone with the Goth. She even had the sinking suspicion that he may have thrown the game on purpose in order to lose the bet.

"C'mon, what if he hurls in my car?" Tony complained.

"Tony..." McGee rolled his eyes and looked like he wanted to knock Tony's head off his shoulders.

"I tell you what McGee," Ziva interrupted. "Tony and I can take him home in my car."

"Thanks, Ziva." Abby bounced on her feet before pushing McGee towards the door. "Now that Jimmy has a ride we can get going. C'mon, McGee, times a wastin!"

Tony gave Ziva and irritated look.

"Thanks a lot, Zee-va. No way I'm driving with you. I think I'd rather take my chances with Palmer here driving me home." He groused, pointing to the half-passed-out young man.

"Tony, I am not going to be able to haul Jimmy up to his place by myself, I am going to need your help and we are not going to leave him here in this condition." She argued back.

"Fine." Tony sighed, standing up and grabbing Jimmy by the arm and hauling the drunk man up . "On your feet, Palmer and don't you even think of puking on me or you'll be buying me a new Valentino suit."

Ziva and Tony managed to get Jimmy to her car and drive him home, but not without two stops along the way for Palmer to lose his dinner thanks to Ziva's warp-speed driving. After half-dragging the young coroner's assistant out of the car and making sure he made it to his door safe, Ziva and Tony walked out into the cold, November night together.

It was after mid-night and the bar that Tony's car was parked at was all the way across town. Being only a few blocks away from his apartment, Tony decided to walk the rest of the way home rather than risk another cross-town trip with Ziva driving.

"I shall come with you." She stated, not taking 'no' for an answer. "One should not walk alone in this city, even you Tony."

"Well, I guess it's good I have you around to protect me, Ziva. Just like you did the other day." She could see the muscles in his jaw flex as he ground his teeth together after saying that. He was still angry and she too felt upset at him for bringing it up, but maybe now was the time for them to finally talk about it and get everything out in the open before another explosion occurred between them. Things as they were would not be able to go on for much longer, not it they wanted to remain partners and friends.

They walked on until they reached his building without exchanging a word. Ziva was still trying to think of the right words to say that might fix this when as they approached his door. He opened it and walked into the apartment as she followed.

"Tony...."

"Ziva...." The both spoke at once. Causing them both to grimace a little.

"You go first." She told him.

"About earlier in the elevator....." He began, walking off a few feet, turning his back to her.

"There is no need to apologize...." She tried to say but he cut her off.

"I wasn't going to." He stopped, turned and looked into her surprised face, closing the gap between them quickly and grasping her shoulders with his hands, his eyes ablaze with passionate anger. "I meant every word. I'm tired of this...this farce...this game that we play!" He stepped closer to her, close enough for his body heat to mingle with her own.

"It's killing me." He suddenly whispered intensely, dropping his hands in frustration. Her breathing increased and heartrate picked up as he moved impossibly close without touching her, his face bearing down on hers, green eyes piercing deep into her own, penetrating into her soul and trying to push through that barrier she had erected around her heart.

"Me too." She finally admitted softly, her eyes locked on his.

Tony reached up and slid both hands to each side of her face, his cold fingers touching her smooth skin and sending shivers radiating across her body. She felt weak and offered no resistance as he targeted her lips with his own, starting tenderly, but giving into passion far faster than she ever anticipated. Their mouths grew hungry for each other, like two people that had been starving and were suddenly sat before a buffet. His tongue greedily slipped along hers, driving deep inside until she struggled to breath and eventually they both broke apart, gasping for air.

"What are we doing?" She had to ask, reason taking hold again, attempting to override her desires. "We cannot be doing this. We work together...We are..."

"I know... we're partners, we need to be objective, blah, blah, blah..." He moved in even closer, his chest coming fully into contact with her own as he snaked and arm around her waist. "I just don't give a damn anymore, Ziva."

She closed her eyes. Should she give into this temptation? She felt his hot breath next to the skin of her neck, his nose nuzzling her ear, his lips lightly carressing her jaw. She moaned involuntarily. Responding to her pleasure, the pressure from his lips increased and traveled from her jaw back to her lips. They came together again in a searing kiss as he leaned further into her body. She gave in. She was too far gone in her passion to turn back now and she turned herself over to it completely.

Ziva walked backwards as Tony pushed her against the wall, knocking over a lamp from a small table in the process, but neither of them noticed. She slid her leg up his as he pressed into her, their lips never leaving each other as his hands freely roamed over the contours of her body, stripping her of her coat and stopping only momentarily to remove his own jacket before going to work again, feeling every inch of her body.

Desperate to feel more than just his body through his clothing, she worked frantically to remove his tie, suit jacket and shirt. In kind, he reached for the bottom of her shirt and pulled it up over her head in one swift movement. She sighed in pleasure as he reached behind and expertly undid her bra far more easily than even she would have been able to do. One hand landed and her exposed breast, teasing her nipple into a taut peak while he knelt down to take her other one in his mouth, licking and suckling at it. She ran her fingers through his hair, moaning in delight as his tongue did acrobatics across her hot flesh. Her hands slid down the bare skin of his back, working her way down to his belted pants and unfastening the buckle. Unzipping his fly, she pushed down the waistband with her hands until gravity took over and they fell around his ankles. Stepping out of them and kicking off his shoes, he continued to play and suck at her breasts.

Quickly and deftly, he unzipped her pants and she kicked them away with her shoes. Pressing against her again, every inch of his erect manhood strained to escape his underwear, pushing against her now soaked panties. He thrust against her and she lifted her leg once again to feel the length of him against her, luxuriating in his hardness rubbing into her, heightening her pleasure to new extremes.

But it wasn't enough; she craved more and reached around, sliding her hand into the back of his underwear, pulling them down along the way until he was free of them, simultaniously he tugged at her panties as well, taking them down and off, caressing her backside and legs with his hands as he did so.

Fully disrobed, Tony pulled Ziva to his heaving chest.

"Bed." was all she could get out and Tony obliged, picking her up in one smooth movement and carrying her the short distance down the hall to his bedroom.

As soon as he put her down she pushed him onto his back on the bed, his long legs dangling over the edge. She straddled his lap as he sat up and aggressively attacked his lips again, gasping momentarily as she sank down onto him, feeling him enter and slide deep inside. He groaned in delight and thrust every bit of himself into her heated depths as he kneaded her breasts and sucked on her bottom lip before bringing his lips back to her nipples.

Their rhythm picked up speed as their desire escalated and their two voices mingled together in a sort of melody, panting together in a series of moans and hums. In a sudden swift move, Tony grasped her behind and picked her up, flipping her onto her back and driving himself in as far as he could. She wrapped her legs completely around his waist as they rapidly came crashing together, she pressing her hips into his, wanting to feel him further all the way inside of her as her peaked neared . Her body shaked and a loud moan escaped as a powerful orgasm ripped its way through her with a ferociousness she never knew was possible before.

"Oh God." He gasped into her ear, his own pleasure nearing completion. Unable to hold back, he grunted loudly and drove into her, coming hard, releasing himself deep into her core.

He collapsed onto her, his breath raggedly coming in hot puffs against the side of her neck as the afterglow decended upon them. Finally able to move again, but exhausted and spent, Tony rolled off and reached for Ziva's hand, kissing her palm and then reached for her face. They kissed tenderly for a long moment before she rolled onto her side and placed her head onto his chest. A hand landed on her head and he tangled his fingers into her wild hair.

Neither one of them said a word, neither daring to say those three little words that would seal them together forever, knowing that having the other near was enough for now. She listened to the slowing rhythm of his heart as she began falling into a deep slumber, content and secure in his arms. Morning would be upon them soon enough and they would have to have a serious discussion about finding a way to remain lovers and partners then. Until that time, it was enough for Ziva to know without any doubt that she had fallen in love completely with Tony; she had a long time ago. She could only hope that he loved her just as much.

OOOOOO

Ziva threw and arm over her face against the harsh light streaming in through the window. Thankfully, today had been scheduled to be a day off and sleeping in until the sun came up was a luxury she rarely indulged in, but after last night, she needed the rest.

Tony on the other hand, was already up. In fact, he had been the one to open the curtains.

"Rise and shine, sleepy head." He called out cheerfully.

She grunted and rolled over in response, throwing the blanket over her head. He hopped onto the bed, bouncing her up and down as he jumped on the springs.

"Wake...Up...Ziva!" He gleefully cried out with each hop until he flopped onto his bottom, nearly sending her into the air when he impacted

"I am awake, already!" She laughed and he moved to snuggle up against her from behind, gently and playfully kissing her ear and pushing away her hair to kiss her now exposed neck.

"How can you have so much energy?" She questioned.

"How can I not?" He growled. His hands slipped under the sheet and found her still naked and warm body underneath, running a hand over her smooth stomach. "I made coffee and breakfast, you should come and eat."

"You made breakfast? Is it edible?"

"Yeah, the cereal box says to just add milk unless there's a step somewhere that I'm forgetting."

"I need a shower first." She laughed.

"Sounds like fun. Need help?"

"I think I could manage on my own."

"Okay. Let me put it another way...Want help?"

"Well, I suppose I could use a hand reaching my back...." She turned to him with a coy smile.

Tony rolled off the bed and rushed to the bathroom door. "I'll start the water..."

After a very long and very hot shower in which both of them got thoroughly dirty and thoroughly clean at the same time, Tony and Ziva sat at his kitchen table sharing a pot of coffee and a box of Cap N'Crunch. She wore his bathrobe with her hair up in a towel like a turban while he sported only a pair of sweatpants with his hair spiking in all directions.

"More cereal?" He asked, still chewing on a spoonful of food. He reminded her so much of a man trapped in a perpetual state of boyhood that it was hard not to contain her smile.

"Did your parents teach you to not speak with your mouth full or was that a lesson they thought better not to teach you?" She asked teasingly.

"They did, but I was never one to listen." He grinned sheepishly.

"That explains a lot." She chuckled and he gave her one of his patented smiles that never failed to turn her into butter. She opened her mouth to speak, but Tony started in before her.

"I guess we need to talk, right?" He asked in all seriousness. She nodded in confirmation.

He put down his spoon and slid his chair over to hers and took her hand, kissing it softly, engaging her eyes the entire time with his own. She couldn't help but beam at his unusual brand of charm. He always had her on her toes which was something the she loved even more right at this particular moment in time. The way he could go from joking and funny to serious and romantic was smooth and effortless for him.

"Before we go into what we need to do about work and all of that jazz. I just want you to know that I want this to be more than just a friends with benefits kind of thing. You know what I mean?" She didn't. English idioms were still very confusing to her sometimes, but she figured it had something to do with sex, but she asked just to make sure.

"Friends with benefits? I do not understand. What does that mean?"

"You know....friends who have sex with each other because they happen to be available or around....you know?"

"Oh...." She understood now.

"Anyway." His eyes squinted in that way that told Ziva he was going back into his serious mode. "This...you and me....thing...It's not just about sex, it's not a fling....it means more to me than that. I want more anyway, I don't know about you..." He closed his eyes, searching for the right words. "I'm not really very good at this....."

"Tony!" She interrupted, cupping his cheek for encouragement. "Just say it."

"Right....I'm not sure I ever said this before to anyone and truly meant it and felt it with every fiber of my being, but here goes...." He took a nervous deep breath and drew himself closer to her. "I love you."

Ziva swallowed the lump in her throat and put a hand through Tony's messed up hair with a smile. "You have no idea what that means for me to hear you say that." She admitted freely. She leaned in and kissed him deeply. When they came apart, she saw him as close to tears as he had ever been before and came to the realization that she was crying as well, the tears spilling down her cheeks with abandon.

"I love you too." She whispered before they crashed their lips together in another heart-felt and passionate kiss that neither ever wanted to end.

From that point on, nothing else mattered. Sure, they still had to find a way of working together and remaining partners for as long as possible. No doubt they would have to try to hide their affair from their co-workers and keeping it a secret from Gibbs would be nearly next to impossible, but they would do what needed to be done. They'd play it by ear when the time came for them to go back to work.

As they kissed, everything faded away and time lost all meaning; it was just Tony and Ziva: two friends, two partners, two lovers becoming one for the rest of their lives.

The End

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