I've been totally immersing myself in the Tiva fandom lately, so I felt writing one was appropriate. Not to mention that I've just finished my exams and I finally don't feel guilty for writing something that isn't getting marked. Lol.

I've tried to do them justice, fingers crossed, but this is just how I imagine Tony and Ziva, as friends, partners, and how they might be if they got together. I hope you enjoy it.


Five Times.

Special agent of not, some things are just plain hard. Like saying I love you to someone for the first time. Especially for Anthony DiNozzo.

He'd never pictured himself in love. At least, not again, not after Jeanne. But somehow it had snuck up on him, like it can, when you're not expecting it.

It took him five tries in total to finally get the words said properly.

The first time he'd tried was about a week after the actual realisation had happened. They were out at a pub, McGee, Abby, Ziva and him, a case had been closed, a marine was in jail pending rape charges, life was good and whatever he was drinking was strong.

Half way through the night, when he'd drunk just enough that the part of his brain that normally thought about consequences seemed to be floating slowly away from him, and Abby and McGee were laughing indulgently at something he'd said, he managed to find the courage to drape an arm casually along the back of booth where Ziva was sitting next to him. Another drink later and the arm slithered down to curve along her shoulders.

Ziva either didn't notice or didn't care. She was chatting animatedly with Abby over something.

"Don't you think?" She asked him suddenly, turning to him with a great wide smile on her face.

He returned it ten fold. "Yeah." He agreed utterly clueless to the subject. But clearly it was his agreement she was after and with a wider grin she turned back to Abby and continued.

It took a couple more rounds to get his courage up to the place it needed to be for any kind of confession, and when he felt it get there, he took a deep breath, steeled himself, and turned to her.

"Hey Zi," he murmured, his face close to her hair and lips just about where he thought her ear should be, though he was making no attempt to whisper.

"Mm?" She looked up happily, turning away from a conversation she'd been sharing with McGee.

"I want to tell you something important." He continued, his voice just a little more serious and squeezed her shoulder, which had, at some point during the evening, found it's way into his hand.

Ziva seemed to sober instantly. The smile slipped off her face, her lips suddenly parted and her eyes big and curious, and also probably a little bit worried.

"What is it?" She asked anxiously.

She was obviously still intoxicated, a fully functioning Ziva never let so much emotion exist so plainly on her face, and yet, the happy, uncaring, easily accepting and easily forgetting drunken Ziva, which he'd been so counting on for this plan to succeed, was suddenly absent. Damn. He'd forgotten all that Mossad stuff, the never letting your guard down, the always ready for anything. It's what you did if you were a good agent, you could bring yourself back to that alert, functioning level, even when you'd been drinking all night.

It was what he did too. And suddenly he was doing it. Here was a danger, here was an alert and aware Ziva, and a truth hanging on his lips that he wasn't sure either of them were ready for, and danger meant agent mode, and agent mode meant not being drunk.

But if he wasn't drunk he couldn't do this.

He couldn't do this.

"Tony?" She questioned carefully, when he didn't instantly clarify, the myriad of emotions brewing in his eyes only succeeding in making her more worried.

"N, Nothing..." He stammered, suddenly abandoning his plan and grasping for a new one. "Just that…you look really nice tonight, Zi."

She continued looking at him, their faces closer than their sober selves ever allowed, but now she seemed less worried, more stunned, her lips still parted and her eyes wider than they'd been and shining.

"Aw." Whined Abby suddenly, from the other side of their booth. "That's so sweet Tony."

"Huh?" He looked away from Ziva, and instead found Abby making googly eyes at him, her hands clasped in front of her adoringly and her lips pouting. "It…um, it is?"

"Yes." She exclaimed dramatically, "Just telling a girl she looks nice is sweet, but saying it like is all really important. Like, you know, it really matters to you that she knows how beautiful she looks. Tony!" She cried accusingly, giving him a glare, "Always acting like you're so emotionally insensitive then going and doing something like that. You big lying teddy bear!"

Tony blinked, utterly bewildered.

Abby sniffed, and then suddenly slapped McGee's' arm. "McGee." She whined. "Tell me you have something important to tell me."

"Uh, I have something important to tell you?" Returned the agent unsurely.

"Tell me I look beautiful tonight."

"You look beautiful tonight."

"Aw, McGee!" She cried happily, and curled herself around his arm.

McGee looked at him, equally bewildered.

"It was sweet." Whispered Ziva suddenly, from beside him. It was the first time she'd spoken since he'd said it and he looked back to meet her eyes. "Thank you, Tony." She murmured, but the soft smile that pressed across her lips was a real one, and that made it a thousand times worth it.

"You're welcome." He promised. And the fact that she spent the rest of the night leaning lightly against his side made the 'I love you'-cover-up worth it too.

The second time he attempted it was not planned for at all, and was arguably a bigger failure than the first.

They'd just finished a case, well, not finished, there was still paper work and what not, but for the most part it was resolved. The perp was in jail, and a mother and daughter returned to their Naval Officer husband and father.

Tony was on cloud nine. His day could not have gone better. He'd spent nine tenths of it working solely with Ziva, and almost all of that work had been field work, the best kind, he'd found the trapdoor in the basement that had lead to the victims, the little girl had actually seemed to like him and Gibbs had told him "Good Work DiNozzo.", which, really, made any day a good day.

He was whistling as his team left the Officers house, and impulsively, because he was just so darn happy, slung an arm around Ziva's shoulders.

"Tony!" She scolded him half-heartedly, but there was a laugh in her voice and he knew she was in a good mood too. Which meant he could probably get away with this.

How it happened, then, he wasn't quite certain, he was just in a ridiculously good mood and she looked beautiful, as always, and he kept remembering the joy in the Officers eyes as they'd brought his 'presumed dead' family back to him, and he thought about family, the one that was his by blood and his adopted NCIS one, and also, maybe, the one that existed in some very distant future, and then he thought about Ziva, who'd given up struggling and was now doing that arms around each other amble that couples did, but with him, and then it just went straight from his head to his mouth without filtering through any of the usual sensors.

"Hey Ziva, will you marry me?"

She stopped instantly and as he went to take another nonchalant step he was pulled back to her, yo-yo style.

"And whiplash." He confirmed.

"Are you serious?" She asked, and he looked down at her and found big, confused brown eyes, that searched his own beseechingly.

Well, it sucked that the brain vomit had come out, but now it had he was going to have to deal with it. Was he serious? Well yeah. He loved her, marrying her would be awesome. But the fact that the proposal had come out on a random suburban side walk in front of Gibbs and the probie, and with him not kneeling was a shame. That, and the fact he hadn't told her yet how he felt about her.

Did he want to marry her? Hell Yeah. Did he want this to be how it happened? Not so much. But he could play this off, he could act like it was all in good fun, and still secretly keep the idea there for her to suddenly blaze in and tell him how much she thought he was absolutely the most perfect guy in the world. Sure he could. Anthony DiNozzo could do anything today.

"Sure," He grinned at her, "We'd make cute kids, you and me."

"…Tony," she was gaping at him. "We…we work together, and we're not even dating, and, rule twelve!" She insisted. "I'm just, I'm not sure how well you've thought this through."

He laughed happily. Because she was rambling, and also because she seemed to still be taking him seriously, but mostly because he had yet to hear a straight out 'No', anywhere in her objections. Just that Ziva wasn't disgusted by the suggestion washed over him and bubble up inside him like some kind of wonderful, fairy flossy induced illness.

"Aw." He complained, teasingly, "Pity. We would have made a good match." He smirked, but he'd said the words with just a touch more seriousness than the rest and he saw her brows knit together as she considered it.

"DiNozzo!"

"Yeh Boss." He turned around, Ziva swinging with him under one arm and the other flying up in a mock salute.

"Can you not go around proposing to my agents?" Asked Gibbs, but Tony figured it was less a question than a death threat.

He grinned. Not Gibbs or anyone could bring him down from his happy Ziva high.

"Sorry Boss. Won't happen," But he stopped. He couldn't promise it wouldn't happen again. If he had his way it certainly would happen again, sooner rather than later. "Ah," He licked his guiltily smiling lips and tried again, "Won't happen again where you can see it, Boss."

"DiNozzo." The warning was growled out.

"What?" He laughed and raised his hands, one still around Ziva's shoulder, up in a protective way in front of him. "Can't ask a man to burn all his bridges!" And with that he spun them back around and continued the amble towards the car. Oh god, he hoped Gibbs wasn't driving.

The third time was a disaster. In the most literal sense of a disaster. Guns, blood, tears. And while he actually managed, for the first time, to get the god-forsaken words out, he would not have described it, in any sense of the word, a success.

It started with a case, a bad one. They'd found the first body Monday, in a park in Quantico. A young girl with pretty, wavy blond hair and maggots feasting on her intestines. It wasn't a great way to start a week. The second body and the third was Tuesday, the fourth Thursday, and the fifth, sixth and seventh over the weekend, which, of course, they had worked. Needless to say, by the following Monday, on which Tony didn't come in complaining about the start of the week but rather woke up at his desk in a pile of papers and drool, Gibbs was not happy.

Three bodies later, when they finally identified a prime suspect the following Thursday, he was nowhere to be found. Ducky had retrieved a single eyebrow hair from under victim ten's fingernail which lead them to John Lindsay, but nothing else, anywhere, in any data base had lead them any close to him for almost a week.

And then a hit came back on their BOLO.

Tony was running. Three week of bad case Gibbs and the perp was though he could get away? Oh, think again Mr Perpy Pants.

Lindsay had been meeting a dealer, and of course: Warehouse. Tony did not like warehouses. Probably because most criminals did. Tony didn't like ally ways either. But here he was, sprinting around old crates and knocking into struts. This guy was going to SO pay.

He bolted around the doorway of an old loading dock to find Lindsay and his dealer trapped by a closed garage door.

"NCIS!" He yelled at once, "Drop your weapons, on the ground, hands on your heads!"

The pair looked at him, it was two to one, a fact of which he was painfully aware, and one which it seemed was dawning on his would-be captives as well.

"I said drop your weapons!"

The still refused to comply. And then the team burst in behind him.

"NCIS!" Yelled Gibbs again for good measure. "Drop your weapons!"

A quick shared glance and guns clattered to the ground.

"Get down, hands on your head." Cried Tony again as the pair gave up.

"Good job DiNozzo." Praised Gibbs, and Tony huffed a thanks before he began to cautiously move towards the serial killer they'd been tracking for weeks to kick away the still loaded and potentially dangerous weapons. He'd done it so many times it was mechanical. Move closer, keep your eyes on the perps, move, don't lower your gun, give them an inch and they'll take a mile, he knew from personal experience, move, lean forward, and then, provided you know you're being covered by someone you trust (or three someones), take your eyes off the perps and get the guns the hell away from them.

He was beside the second gun and moving to kick it and then many things happened with rapid succession. The first thing was that someone sneezed and a gun went off. Still bent over slightly, Tony was suddenly horrified Ziva had shot one of the captives for sneezing, it wouldn't be unbelievable. Then pain hit him, another gun went off, Ziva cried out and people started running. And Tony flew backwards, hitting the concrete in agony.

He'd been shot.

"DiNozzo!"

"Tony!" Gibbs and Ziva were with him, Ziva hoisting him from where he'd fallen in a crumpled and awkward heap and pulling him across her lap, and Gibbs beside him, the always-serious grey eyes now worried. Tony blinked and looked around him, noticing a dead John Lindsay and McGee finishing cuffing the dealer before he whipped open his phone to call an ambulance.

"How," He began, but couldn't even begin to phrase the sentence. He couldn't have happened. They'd had him covered. He couldn't have been shot.

"He sneezed." Ziva murmured, her voice catching in the back of her throat, "His hands came forward as if to cover his mouth and I thought it was instinct so I didn't shoot. I went to tell him to put them back on his head, but, he pulled out a concealed gun and shot before I had the chance." She touched his cheek gently. "I am so sorry Tony."

"We all made the same mistake, David." Gibbs assured her.

"But partners are meant to have each others backs!" She insisted, suddenly angry.

"Guess we should amend that rule to fronts as well." Tony tried to joke but suddenly talking was very painful and his throat seized up, a cough sending a spray of blood down the front of his nice white shirt. "Oh, I don't feel too well Boss." He admitted.

"Try not to talk DiNozzo. The paramedics are on their way, you'll be fine."

But the twin looks of worry in both Ziva and Gibbs' eyes, and McGee's own horrified one as he joined Gibbs in kneeling beside him, did little to assure.

"So." He wheezed, "How bad is it?" It felt bad.

"Your right lung." Admitted Gibbs slowly. "No exit would, you'll need surgery."

"I love surgery." Grinned Tony sarcastically, a tone that didn't suit the gravely forced sound his voice was making.

Pain seized within him again, and he squeezed his eyes shut. He could feel his breath becoming shorter, his limbs heavier. It was like having the plague all over again. He was dying.

He groaned. "Boss I'm sorry."

"Nothing to be sorry for DiNozzo, just shut up until the ambulance gets here."

"No, boss, really, I'm sorry. I can't." He didn't want to say it out loud, but it hurt so much, everything, and everything ached, but at the same time was numb. He'd been shot before, but not like this, never like this. He could feel the blood pumping out of his body, pooling beneath him, on Ziva's lap. It was a lot of blood loss; he didn't need to see to know. "I never got along with my old man." He confessed, "So it was kinda cool that someone would yell at me when I did stupid things but tell me well done if I got them right. Sorry I didn't try harder, I could have been a better agent, just…thanks though. For believing in me." He finished, and gave Gibbs a smile, a little embarrassed at the sincerity of the words. If he wasn't expecting to be dead within the hour, he never could have voiced them.

"You're not going to die DiNozzo." Trust Gibbs to understand, he should have started with Probie.

"We all die." He murmured, a little philosophically, and then squeezed his eyes tightly closed as another wave of pain washed over him. "It just sucks," he growled, and when he opened his eyes he was looking at McGee, "you know? I had plans! When I got my own team I was going to steal you from Gibbs and make you my McSenior Field Agent, McGoo. I mean, you'll probably become Senior Field Agent now anyway," he conceded, "but I won't get to boss you around. And I was really looking forward to that."

"Tony," McGee whispered.

"Shut it Probie." Tony continued, but the glare was half-hearted, and his tone was raspy and not the least bit commanding. "You're a good agent, and a good friend. I always fancied myself something of a big brother to you…a role model." Tony half smirked, and McGee raised an eyebrow over teary eyes at the comparison but did not object. "I just hope the rest of your life is filled with only successes. Go…marry Abby or something."

McGee gave a half a chuckle, "Thanks Tony."

"You are not going to die, DiNozzo."

"No boss." He answered, but the truth was different, and they all knew it.

Then, with a sigh, he finally looked up at the woman above him.

"Best till last." He remarked softly, but was silenced but the deep sadness in her eyes, and the welling of unshed tears. She was so beautiful, but never more so than now, and he drank her in. She leant over him, her loose hair spilling forward around her face, curly, tumbling black curtains, that framed those perfect chocolate eyes.

He might have seen her like this, he thought, in the now unattainable future. Leaning over him in a struggle for dominance the night his wildest dreams came true, a rueful but self satisfied smirk on her face as she flipped him, waking him gently the morning after their wedding, a soft smile in place and rose petals still sticking out of the fall of untamed hair, bending over the back of the couch to place a kiss on him nose as he watched TV one afternoon, leaning over the side of the crib to kiss their baby goodnight, her hair brushing his soft cheeks, laughing as she helped him up from the floor where their children had conned him into a tickle war…just, leaning over his desk, as they worked together everyday in the bullpen. He didn't want to miss it, any of it. The ridiculous dreams or the same ritual they'd kept for nearly 5 years.

He reached up, shocked by how weak and heavy his arm was, and gently touched her cheek.

"I'm going to miss you." He whispered, as she leaned into his touch, hand coming up to cover his and hold it more firmly against her face. "You're crazy ninja skills, zero understanding of personal space, total botchery of the idiosyncrasies of the English language," he could have gone on, but the watery smile that curved her lips was what he'd been looking for. "Better." He murmured, and traced the soft curve of her mouth with a fingertip, "I'll miss your smile." He whispered, "You're laugh, but mostly," and he saw her, as he had planned to remember her when they thought she'd died in Somalia, as he dreamed of her, when he dreamed of her, as she should always be, with sparkling, mischievous, beautiful eyes. He had to swallow around the lump in his throat. "But mostly, your eyes." He finished, and looked into them.

"Tony-" She whispered, a tear finally escaping and slipping down her cheek, off, and onto his.

He cut her off. "I'm sorry. It shouldn't be like this, I hate that it's like this, but… I love you Ziva. I love you so much. I'm sorry." He raised his spare hand to whip across his face, dragging blood and tears with it. "I don't want to go," his voice broke, "I want to be able to be near to you forever, I love you. I'll wait for you. I love you."

"You are not dying Tony!" Fear now mixed with the command. "Do I make myself clear."

"Crystal, Boss." But it was less a voice than a breath that answered him.

Ziva had looked up at Gibbs when he spoke, tears now falling beyond her control, and turned back to Tony to find his eyes closed again. She sniffed, but forced a wobbly smile for his benefit, his hand still plastered to her cheek where she held it.

"Tony," She murmured, beckoning his attention, "Tony, I-"

But the eyes didn't open. No deep green depths, suddenly sincere and vulnerable as they never were. His eyes. Sure, confident, perfect eyes. They remained closed.

"Tony?"

She stroked his cheek.

"Tony? Tony!?"

The siren of an ambulance pervaded her sudden panic, and then the scene was swamped by paramedics, and Tony was whisked away from her lap as she sat in disbelief and terror.

One more time. She wanted to see his eyes, just one more time.

Please.

When they told her, after his surgery, that they suspected a full recovery, she'd broken down and bawled onto Gibbs' shirt.

After that she'd composed herself. She was an NCIS agent, not a doting housewife or a damsel in distress. She'd spent the next few days solidly immersed in work. Finishing the papers that comes with a dead suspect, questioning and breaking the dealer, who had no idea about the killing spree but was certainly involved in other things, tracking down Lindsay's residence and family, through which she built, with McGee's help, a very conclusive file of evidence which Vance agreed more than proved Lindsay's guilt, and which he would bring before the court and show to the victims families to provide closure, and which he used to encourage the media to document the horrible things Lindsay had done, and the agent that had almost given his life to bring him down.

She'd heard Tony had woken up, but she couldn't visit him, not until it was all finished, not until the whole case was behind them and she could face him and say, 'I didn't have your back, but I finished all your paper work.'

When she finally did make it, only twelve hours after Abby and McGee had sat by his side as he'd woken up, it was the end of visiting hours and the whole team was there, Abby, Gibbs, McGee. And Tony sat, half up, half slumped, his head lulling on the pillow, eyes weary but happy, a contented smile curving his lips as he talked to the worried forensic scientist.

"Took your time David." Remarked Gibbs, not even looking away from Tony as he managed to notice her first.

They all turned to her, standing there, not even at his doorway, but still in the corridor, just starting in. "Yes." She agreed. "I'm sorry. I managed to finish everything off thought, so there's no more paper work, and Vance has the media covering the story so all this work has not gone to waste and Lindsay is remembered truly for the scum he was, and I have also completed the paper work for Tony's leave and asked Vance for several days leave for all the rest of us which he has not confirmed with me yet but I believe he will agree too and,"

"You did good Ziva." Acknowledged Gibbs, effectively stopping her rambling, "Now come over here.

She made it to the door, and there she met Tony's eyes, properly for the first time since the accident, and remembered wishing, preying for them just once more. He grinned at her, wide and sincere and probably, she saw it now, loving. It couldn't be like this, she couldn't be allowed to have him, the world was not that good and fair and kind and yet, here he was. Smiling. And she could only look at him from the doorway, still worried, still unsure, but so, so glad he had not left her.

"You said you'd wait for me." She whispered. What did she mean? The fact that it had taken half a day from him awakening for her to finally visit, or the fact that she hadn't yet been able to return his confession?

He looked at her, and then blinked as though confused.

"I'll wait for you." He agreed quietly, if unsurely.

She drew a breath. What did she do now? Something had been started but where did it go from here? What did she tell him? She should wait for the others to leave, she thought, but maybe then it would seem like she was avoiding the issue. Still, it did not seem right to have the talk the needed to have in front of everyone.

"How are you feeling?" She asked quietly, with true concern, still standing in the doorway.

"Good, surprisingly," he chuckled, "You know, considering what happened."

"The surgery turned out well," Gibbs agreed and Tony beamed at his boss, "He's going to heal up just fine. However, at the moment he's suffering from a mild form of memory loss,"

"It's not even an amnesia really." McGee picked up, "The doctors say its quite common when someone experiences a trauma."

Ziva's heart stopped. What did that mean? They were skating around a truth because they knew she wouldn't like it. Had he forgotten her? No, but then, what?

"Like loosing 5 litres of blood and letting one lung collapse." Abby scowled, glaring at Tony, who shrunk in the bed like a guilty teenager.

"It has to do with memory storage," McGee continued, as Ziva finally came into the room and stood with wide, worried eyes at the end of the bed. "You see, it takes the short term memory thirty minutes to consolidate information into long term memory, and if that period is interrupted, especially by a trauma that inflicts bodily damage, many of those memories are likely to be lost."

Ziva sat down very gently on the edge of Tony's bed. So that was it. She looked at him, searchingly, but when she found nothing more than a guilty acceptance of the words there, she turned to McGee. "So he does not remember anything that happened within half an hour of the accident?"

"No." McGee confirmed. "The doctors say bits of it might come back, especially earlier fragments, but it is unlikely he will recover any of the memories from close to the time he lost consciousness," continued McGee, now speaking to her very deliberately, "The doctors say it's very common, it's not brain damage, just a mental process that didn't have time to be completed. It's the reason a lot of car crass victims can't remember much of what happened to tell authorities."

She sat for a long moment, staring at McGee, waiting for him to tell her it was a lie. The confirmation never came. Gibbs and McGee met her eyes understandingly, Abby didn't notice, or Tony, as she straightened his pillow, laughing at how rumpled it had become. And Ziva looked at them helplessly. They were giving her a choice. A do-over card. If she wanted, then the confession had never happened. Or, if she wanted, it was for her to tell him. She knew with just the briefest incline of her head they would leave, but she was not sure she wanted them to. She was not sure of anything, suddenly. What were you meant to do… in a situation like this?

Four times. She thought. Just four 'I love you's. Was that it?

"I see," she suddenly recovered, turning to Tony and drawing a smile onto her fact that she forced truthfulness and happiness into at every point. The kind he had been so determined to draw from her as he lay dying. The kind he…loved. "Well, then, perhaps we should not tell him how he confessed his adoration for the Sound Of Music - Oh." She covered her mouth mockingly, "Oops!"

Tony gasped. "I did not."

Ziva laughed, finding that at least a portion it was actually truthful. She was happy, because she got him back. "I suppose you will never know."

"Actually Zi," Tony checked slowly, avoiding her eyes, "I didn't say anything weird did I? When I thought it was all over."

She looked at him for just a moment, then shook her head. "No. Nothing." She confirmed, "It happened too quickly. I think you were about in the middle of telling McGee just how much you thought of him as a younger brother when the lights turned off."

"Went out." Corrected Tony automatically, then processing what she'd said whipped around to McGee for confirmation.

"Actually, that one did happen." Confirmed McGee with a smirk.

"Ha!" Tony exclaimed, "So that Sound Of Music thing was a lie! I knew it!"

They laughed.

The fourth time was a failure too, technically. Although honestly Tony couldn't have cared less. He liked the fourth time. A lot.

He'd been staying at her house for about a week. She'd insisted, because that way there'd be someone around if he fell or hurt himself, and someone to help him stand if he couldn't and make sure he ate, when he had no energy to cook. Both of them had been sharing her bed because neither would permit the other to sleep on the couch. He in a most chivalrous way, insisting it was her house, and he was intruding and, well, she was a girl after all, and men didn't make woman sleep on couches. And she in a much more logical manner, frowning at him and redirecting his attention at the bullet wound in his chest. The bed was a compromise.

He'd spent a lot of the time just lying in it, yelling out at her when he heard the tell tale, whisper of a creek as she attempted to lower herself very gently onto the couch and leave him to sleep alone. But he was healing well and one evening, after he was already up to take a bath, because the lack of showering was not appreciated by his bed mate, he flopped back down not in the bed, but on the couch.

"Tony, you are not sleeping there!" Insisted Ziva, whisking a bowl of some wonderful smelling pasta under his nose, but glaring at him as he took it.

"Yeah yeah," he grinned, "Come on, let's watch a movie. Beds get boring after a while. Even yours."

She smirked at the suggestion but sat her bowl down on the coffee table and pulled out some DVDs from her shelf.

"What do you want to watch?"

IN the end, after Tony had insisted that she was not allowed to sit on the floor, but she had refused to let him move from the comfortable, feet up, sprawled position he'd found on the couch, she'd ended up sitting in between his legs, really the only place still free, and reclining, very gently, against his chest.

After that it didn't take too long. Half way through the movie Tony had forgotten he was trying to keep his affections for Ziva from her and had looped his arms around her. Her head had found a cushion in his shoulder some time later, so he'd rested his head against hers, and when at last he noticed the position they'd worked themselves into, he was very, very pleased with himself.

When the credits began to role, Ziva yawned.

"Bed time?" Asked Tony, yawning in return.

"Mm." Ziva murmured, but didn't move from her position on his shoulder, "Tony?"

"Yeah."

She paused. "How are you feeling."

"I had pasta for dinner, in front of a movie, and there is a beautiful woman in my arms. Not bad."

She chuckled. "The injury." She reminded him.

"Is fine," He finished, assuring her. "Doesn't even hurt unless I'm using the muscles."

"I am sorry. I should have had you back, Tony."

"Ziva," he reprimanded instantly, "I'm pretty sure we've had this conversation, but it wasn't your fault. Hey, even Gibbs didn't notice it! Not that you're not as observant as Gibbs, but well, it's Gibbs! If Gibbs didn't notice it then neither would've I, and I can't blame you for missing something I would have, especially when Gibbs missed it too."

She frowned. "It was my job to protect you and I failed."

Tony sighed. "Well then, failure noted and forgiven. I promise, I don't blame you."

She smiled slightly, but it was hollow. "But I blame myself, and I cannot forgive myself." She stopped, and had to swallow the lump in her throat to confess the fears that had been plaguing her since he was taken away in the ambulance, "What would I have done if I'd lost you?" She murmured, voice steady but unsure, confused and vulnerable.

"You'd probably have found the squad room a less annoying place to work." He grinned, but the joke only drew a light chuckle from the mossad assassin, so he stopped trying to brush it away, and silence washed around them for several moments.

"I could not bare to loose you Tony." It was only a whisper, but in the now quiet room, in his arms, the words echoed as though she had yelled them, and the hands that had rested in her lap, came up and tightened around his.

"I'm not going anywhere." He assured.

"Tony." She said again.

"Yeah?"

"I love you."

The world stopped.

"What?" He asked, the first thing that came to his head. "Wait, what? No!" She looked over her shoulder at him in surprise as he withdrew his arms from her as if stung "Ziva, you…what are you saying, I," Her eyes grew large, had she misunderstood? And then his eyebrows, which had been raised in surprise and worry, curved in the manner of a child denied their favourite toy, and his shoulders slumped, "I was meant to say it first!"

She paused. And then laughed outright, flipping where she sat in his lap so that she now hung over him, her hair tumbling down and her hands holding her steady, clutching the arm of the couch. She dipped her head and claimed their first real kiss. Just a taste of his lips, short, but lingering, and with no absence of suggestion lingering behind it.

"You already did." She murmured.

"I did?"

"Mm," she smiled, her eyes moving quickly over his lips again then back, "When you were shot." She added. "You told me, just before you passed out."

"Oh." He whispered, against the curve of her lips, and then pressed them together again in a sudden moment of want, her smile spreading further across her already delighted face. "You lied. You said I didn't say anything weird."

"It was not weird." She smirked, "But very sincere, very kind and…very beautiful. A word I never would have imagined to associate with Anthony DiNozzo!" She laughed.

He snorted, but stroked a lock of hair away from her face. "You'll have to tell me what I said one day."

"I will."

She was beautiful. This way of seeing her especially, there had never been a more perfect thing in the world. Her above him, her hair a tumbling cascade of black curls over her shoulders, her smile soft and cunning, and her eyes beautiful pools of sparkling, chocolate, that glinted with mischief. And he saw a future in which existed this moment, in which he saw this perfect thing, hanging over him, a hundred, a thousand times more, stretching impossibly, and immeasurably, far, far into the distance.

"You got it easy." He commented offhandedly. "Already knew how I felt, you just had to say your piece."

She laughed. "You gave me a heart attack when you began saying no! I thought I must have mistaken your feelings."

At that he smiled softly, "Ziva, I-"

"I know." She cut him off, and silenced him with a kiss.

Then she stood, and together, with some effort and some hauling, they got him off the couch. "Now come to bed," she murmured, taking his hand, "my love."

He grinned as he followed her to her bedroom, the tell tale glint in her eyes all the warning he needed. "You'll have to be gentle with me." He told her, in a voice that swam with amusement, excitement, and love. And she laughed.

"Oh." She said, and turned to him, her eyes positively wicked. "You will regret having said that." She promised.

But as she dragged him through the door, Tony was hard pressed to imagine anyway he'd regret anything about tonight.

Life might have been perfect, Tony thought, but there was something missing. It took some time, and a hot thoughtful shower, before he realised that he wanted to say how he felt; even though she assured him he'd done so before. Besides, he wanted the memory of the words. But more than that, though he would not admit it, even to Ziva, he wanted that moment when he said 'I love you' and she said it back. That was how it was mean to be, or the other way around. That was a love confession.

The fifth time happened two mornings after she had dragged him to her bed. Well, two mornings after the first time she'd dragged him to her bed. There had been many more times since. It happened when he'd spent two days trying to convince himself that he was not a chick for obsessing over the perfect place to tell her, and the perfect way, the perfect words, maybe some music…flowers…maybe a hotel room?

Strangely, when it happened, he'd momentarily forgotten about perfect. When it happened, it just happened.

It was his first day back on the job. Although where job before had meant chasing bad guys and rescuing damsels in distress, with a bullet wound still healing on his chest, job now meant paper work, and lots of it.

But he had fun.

Abby had rushed up almost less than a minute after he'd walked into the building and had thrown her arms around him in insurmountable glee. And then sprung back like a burnt thing when the whole team, Gibbs included, called out her name in worried, and barely suppressed exasperation, as she again forgot that hugging and near fatal wounds didn't mix. But Tony just laughed, and scooped her into his arms, holding her fast against his chest and telling her just how much he'd missed her. Which made her cry.

Gibbs had offered him two smiles. A personal best. And just for doing paper work; clearly the boss had missed him. McGeek had been largely tolerable, even grinning once or twice when Tony teased him, a sure sign that, despite his feigned indifference, he'd missed his senior field agent. Ducky had come up from the basement with the Autopsy Gremlin, to pat him on the shoulder and regale him with tales of similar bullet wounds he didn't need to know about, before Palmer had cut in with an anatomy lesson he needed to know even less. He sang over them to block out the anatomical details of his injury, but slung an arm around both when Ducky looked faintly offended and told them he'd missed them. Because it was true.

Even Vance had smiled at him.

But that had been creepy.

There were two things Tony enjoyed most about his first day back, and neither of them involved the way his colleagues welcomed him, or even the sense he got of how much he'd been missed.

The first was the work. Even if it was paper work it was something to apply himself to, and when he wasn't mucking around he put his head down and did it, in that strange DiNozzo way of seeming like he was slacking off and yet finishing before everyone else.

And when he'd finished the work, about a half hour before knock off, far before either of his junior team members, and sent it to print or by email to who it needed to go to with a meaningfully loud tap of a key, signalling to them all how much better he was, what he enjoyed most, was Ziva.

He watched her adoringly from his desk, the clever tap of her slender fingers on the keyboard, keen eyes on the screen, her gorgeous hair whisked back into a tumbling ponytail.

She hadn't made a big deal of his return. She'd just driven him in that morning, taken the elevator with him, chatting about what she'd make for dinner that night, walked to her desk, and gotten stuck into it. It was as though nothing had changed, when in fact everything had.

But maybe that was just it. What made them work, what made them special, was that they didn't have to change. They were just themselves. They loved each other as each other, and what was special, was that nothing was special. It was just them. The same, easy, comfortable, way they could be together.

"Ziva." He said, and without any rush, she finished her sentence, and tore her eyes slowly from the screen to focus on him, and waited for him to continue. "I love you."

She blinked, and then the keen, serious work eyes softened, and her lips quirked into a soft smile. "I love you too." She returned, and for a moment they stayed that way, held by one another to that point in time. Her eyes flickered back to the screen. "I'm almost done." She told him, quietly, the soft smile again replaced by her serious work expression, but her eyes still happy, as her fingers began to skim over keys, "Give me a minute, we can't all be Tony's."

He laughed. "K." And reclined forward on his desk to watch her.

"DiNozzo."

He groaned.

"Boss, come on!" He turned to Gibbs, "It's Ziva!" He defended as if that were all the argument it would take. Gibbs raised a brow. "I know I'm braking rule twelve, but, I have to. And if you're not going to let me have her then I'm going to resign because-"

"DiNozzo."

He stopped. "Yes Boss."

"I was just going to tell you not to screw this up." Gibbs growled, but behind it there was a smile, and a genuine happiness and Tony grinned.

"No boss. Never."

"Are you ready to go?" Ziva asked, as she moved to grab her backpack and sling it over her shoulder.

"Yep! Way ready. I need a shower so bad."

"Yes you do." She agreed with a happy smile, as they fell into pace beside each other, hands bumping and then intertwining.

"And I was thinking with dinner, maybe rice instead of cuscus? I'm just not a huge cuscus fan you know? And-"

It had happened in the bullpen but no matter how he tried to feel bad, he couldn't. Because maybe, in some strange way, that kind of easy, un-thought-out sincerity, that happened, just spontaneously, in front of whoever, wherever, was perfect.

Because for them it didn't have to mean roses and scented oils, for them a soft smile across desks was all, and everything, they needed. For them just being able to hold hands as they walked to the elevator, to talk about dinner, to go home to the same house was somehow better than anything he'd ever dreamed.

And if it only took a drunken night of botched admissions, a proposal, and a gun wound to get it, he knew he'd do it a million times over, or even more. As long as it took, as long as he needed. To get her.

Fin



I really do, whole-NCIS-heartedly, hope that Tony and Ziva get together eventually. It may be a bit unrealistic, but it's a nice thought that, instead of some dramatic catastrophe, they could just end up together in a really simple way, with than same sense of teasing but caring that their relationship has always had. Anyway. I'm actually quite pleased with how this turned out, the characters pretty much write themselves so it was fun to do!

So please let me know what you think! Reviews don't take much time but they mean a lot!

Thanks!