Disclaimer: same as always

Warning: Suggested adult themes. Ah, who am I kidding, they are not just suggested, they are here in black and white. I haven't changed the rating on this, as this is the last chapter. So please forgive me, and I have issued a warning for sensitive (or young) readers.

Chapter 21 – Phoenix Rises: Part two

Tony sits back up, sees the pinky red of the morning sun gently kiss the clouds behind Ziva's head. A wet sheen clings to her cheeks. He reaches forward, tenderly wiping with the soft pad of his thumb. His hand still lightly caressing her face, he waits for just a moment, before trailing his fingers over the puckering line of the scar she detests so much.

Watching; waiting. Her brown eyes never leaving his own green. She hasn't openly given him an invitation, but she hasn't shied away either. He leans forward; his breath tickles the side of her face, as he ever so gently kisses her scar.

Moving across he kisses the fine silvery line above her eye, before kissing the one down the side of her face. And when she doesn't pull away, or smack him for that matter – he pushes a little further. A light touch of his lips to the side of hers. Her mouth parts in surprise and taking the opportunity, he flicks his tongue along her bottom lip, before softly sucking.

Sitting upright he lets out a ragged breath: "Wow, you are beautiful."

"Am I?" she asks quietly, pensive. There is no false modesty, no fishing for compliments, and Tony realises yet again, just how much she has been hurt. And he looks at her, really looks at her.

Slipping her slender legs out from under, she stands. Before he has a chance to respond, she has untied her silk robe, holding it wide open, displaying the body that is hidden within.

"And now?" she asks quietly. His eyes take her in – all of her – as he allows himself the slow journey from her feet up to her face. He sees the healing wounds – the evidence of her capture - the fading bruises.

"You take my breath away." He whispers, his voice raw with honesty. Standing, his eyes stare deeply into hers, and she notices the desire that dances there. Closing his eyes briefly, questioning his own sanity, he captures the back of her head in his hands and pulls her towards him, his lips meeting hers, playing, caressing, tasting.

There is urgency in both of them, an insatiable need. Gasping for breath, they pull away and she views the truth in his eyes. A light smile flickers on the corner of her lips.

Sighing heavily, he pulls at her robe, closing it and his mind against the vision of her.

The hurt immediately flares in her eyes, the rejection, the humiliation.

"Not now Zi, not like this."

"What, not like me?" she asks, nastily, spitefully even. She is embarrassed; she laid herself bare – literally. And he rejects her? What was she thinking?

"No. Never. Don't do this Zi, don't question my motives here." He answers sadly. "We have just had two bottles of wine and have been more honest that we have ever been. This is too important. We have to be sure, you have to be sure…I am not about to ruin anything with a quickie on the living room floor."

She stares at him – a schooled blank expression.

He sighs again, heavily. "I don't know about you, but I am exhausted. Let's go to bed, Zi."

He is already lying on his side by the time she enters the room. A few minutes pass before he feels the bed dip, and turning, without opening his eyes, he reaches for her. She has changed, back into the oversized sweater and track pants she favors and lies on the far side of the bed, perched precariously on the edge. He pulls her closer, not too close, but close enough.

A few hours later, he wakes to her screams, her body thrashing as she is chased in her dreams by demons unknown and unseen. He pulls her even closer towards him, wraps his arms tightly around her and while she still sleeps, whispers words of comfort, love and home. She whimpers softly, he nuzzles her neck, gently calming her. And soon, her breathing is less ragged. She folds her body into his, relaxes against him.

"I'm not going anywhere Zi, like it or not, you're stuck with me. You are home now." He continues to whisper the words he wouldn't dare voice while she is awake.

When she wakes again, it's early afternoon, the sun streaming in the window. From the bathroom, she hears the sound of a shower running, and Tony's tuneless singing. She stretches in the bed, and glances around the room.

Her clothes, neatly hang in half of the wardrobe, Tony's in the other. The top drawer in the chest of drawers is hers; Tony has laid claim to the other three, but he does have more stuff than her – and it is his chest of drawers.

She knows that two backpacks, packed and ready, sit side-by-side in the passage cupboard along with their work boots – one pair big, the other small.

In the kitchen, her tea sits next to his coffee, her favorite veggies, salads and fruit fill the fridge.

A bookshelf has made its way into the living room, her books packed as neatly as his DVDs next to the TV, and there with a place of honor on the top shelf, is the photo that once sat on the director's desk. Tony never explained how he managed to get hold of the picture that means so much to her – the photo of Ari, Tali and herself.

And in the bathroom, she knows, her toothbrush sits along side his. Her toiletries scattered, and her smattering of make-up rolls round the bathroom cabinet drawer.

Stretching again, she looks over at the clock, and sees the gold phoenix charm with ruby red eyes hanging off a delicately fine chain. She smiles, thinking how apt the design is. She remembers seeing the charm on that first day back, nestled in the tissue paper of her memory box and realization floods her – he must have bought the charm while she was still incarcerated, before he knew for certain she was alive…

And the truth hits her with a shudder that ripples through her body. She doesn't need to find another apartment, another home – Tony is right - she has one already, she is home.

Smiling to herself, she slips out from under the covers; clutching the necklace in her hand. Stripping her clothes as she goes, she attaches the light chain around her neck. She slides into the shower behind Tony, working her hands under his arms, wrapping them around his chest. She presses a smattering of light kisses across his shoulder blades.

He chuckles. "Ah Theresa, I hope you didn't wake my roommate as you snuck past?"

His deep laugh quickly turns to a high pitched squeal as Ziva pinches his nipple hard between her fingers.

"Want to rethink that?" she growls low in his ear, as she stands up on her tip-toes, her body sliding up against the back of his.

"Umm, well, if this is my punishment…" he turns, facing her, lightly resting his hands on her hips as he leans back against the shower wall.

"Seriously Zi – are you sure? If you are not ready, we can wait. There's no pressure. I'm not going anywhere," quietly repeating the words he said while she still slept.

He holds his breath, waiting to see what her reply will be. It may not exactly seem like a declaration of love, but, for him, it is just as if he has said out loud the words that linger and pound in his chest.

She nods, tilts her head to the side and answers. "Just one thing – you need to give me another drawer. Seriously Tony – find another place for your hair products."

And with this statement, he knows she acknowledges and returns his unspoken words.

She collapses in giggles as he lunges towards her.

The first time they had sex was in anger – shortly after Gibbs disappeared on his self-proclaimed hiatus. Sex is the polite term for what they did, it was quick and heady, an explosion of pent-up frustration.

The second time was a way to get through the grief and pain they felt after the Director's death. Hot tears mingled with the salt of their own bodies, sad and sweet as they reaffirmed life.

The third was desperation – the night Vance split the team. It was slick and dirty. They clung to each other as they pounded away, not knowing if this would be their final memory as the scent of lust clung in the air.

But this time, this time was different. It was healing and tender, delicate and beautiful, and full of promise. They took their time, learning, exploring. They brought each other to the edge, and away again, ebbing and flowing until neither could take it any more, screaming as they went over the abyss, spiraling out of control then collapsing, spent, still entwined in each other.

And now wrapped in each other, they sleep. The final barrier shattered, the final wall torn down. They are complete.

Another week passes; each day gets a little easier, the memories fading at the edges, becoming a little more blurred. Her bruising has almost healed, barely visible under the subtle, soft make up she wears.

Gibbs isn't stupid. He knows what they are up to, knows that they are living together in every sense. And he knows that this is their own journey and any mistakes that will be made, will be made by them and them alone.

They are not him and Jenny and he accepts this. Plus DiNozzo is well aware that he will lose vital body parts if he steps out of line, and once Ziva has exacted her revenge, both he and Abby will be waiting to finish the job.

Gibbs also recognizes the intense glances the two share, when they think no one is watching. And it reminds him of what he once had. He understands this need, and not wanting to let it go.

If he were honest with himself, he was worried that things would change, that the dynamic would change. He had become used to the idiosyncrasies his team has, and to him, it feels like home. Watching them now, he realizes his concerns weren't necessary.

Oh, they still like each other's space, more so, now they have the familiarity of lovers. But it is not at the expense of others, rather, it's an unconscious move, as if the invisible thread that once tugged and pulled them towards each other, has reconnected.

It has taken a while, but that spark, that fire that made Ziva, well Ziva is slowly returning, keeping Tony, and the others, for that matter, firmly on their toes.

She may be more patient, more tolerant than she was five years ago, but hell, Gibbs certainly doesn't ever want to get on the wrong side of her.

Tony, having rushed through his paperwork (Gibbs knew he would battle to decipher the chicken scrawl and miss-spelt words later), was gathering his ammunition – a drawer full of crumpled paper balls, which he is now tossing, at regular intervals. His prime target clear: Ziva's bent head.

She doesn't stop her work, simply growls, the warning signal that she is about to pounce. He chooses, perhaps unwisely, Gibbs thinks, to ignore this. He doesn't look up, continues to read over his report, as he idly tosses another paper missile in her direction.

His skin prickles and he immediately realizes his mistake. His head jerks up; her desk is empty.

Hot breath against his skin, the gold phoenix with the ruby eyes swings forward on the delicate chain, brushing against his cheek. And the hair on the back of his neck bristles. He tenses his muscles, a second too late, as she shoves his chair hard against his desk and twists the offending arm behind him.

Just as it is about to get ugly, McGee comes ambling in, a coffee cup and bagel in his hand.

He looks over at the two in confusion – taking in Ziva's sweet smile and Tony's pained grimace.

Satisfied she has made her point, she saunters back to her desk.

McGee, his eyes still darting between the two, flops into his chair, and the wheels fall off – quite literally - rolling away under the desks.

McGee - now wearing his coffee down the front of his shirt, a dazed expression on his face - glances over at Tony, who simply shrugs.

Throaty laughter echoes across the bullpen. Two sets of eyes swing towards Ziva, who wears a smug grin on her face. She twirls the spanner between her fingers, the three nuts and bolts that once held McGee's chair together, displayed on her desk like a trophy.

And from his desk, Gibbs smiles – people don't change - situations do.

A/N:So this is the end of our journey. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I loved writing it. And I hope I maintained the integrity of the characters. X K

PS: Have posted the first chapter of new story: The devil you know… just in case you are interested...