A/N: Okay, well, this is exciting . . . . It took me the better half of five hours to write this thing and it isn't even a thousand words. I really don't know how it is, it was hard to write. It's like, 'Cool we're here . . . .And now where do we go?' So I really hope you like this. I may continue this, depending on the feedback. And there we go. Okay. Kit.

DISCLAIMER: I do not speak Spanish, French, Italian, Hebrew, or Irish (though only two languages aside from English are featured in this story) . . . .Oh, I don't own NCIS either.

What Is Been All Along

"I love you, Tony," Ziva whispered.

And now they both stood in the dimly lit hallway, heat radiating out of Tony's open apartment door, staring at each, no unspoken conversations, just simple staring. Ziva was holding her breath, berating herself for even entertaining the thought that he had meant his own sentiment in any way besides platonic. Tony was merely trying to reign in his franticly beating heart.

Seconds past, melding into a minute, trickling beyond even that. He was still, completely and utterly unmoving, sandy brown hair sticking up in porcupine fashion, sweatshirt creased and wrinkled, ocean eyes familiarly reflected in hers. . . .She too was immobile, standing tentatively, hesitantly with her hair loose and curly, tumbling over her shoulders, framing her face. Her dark eyes were swirling with emotions that he couldn't accurately identify, but he knew they were coursing through his veins as well.

And then he suddenly was overcome with a fit of laughter, because the moment was so surreal, and because this was nothing like he'd ever imagined them to be , and because Ziva was glaring at him now, daring him to do something -he didn't know what so he settled for describing it as something- and because he was a DiNozzo, and his greatest coping mechanism was humor.

"What?" she demanded, schooling her features to resemble anything other than the crushing hurt and debilitating rejection that had lanced through her like searing knife. But he was shaking his head, suppressing his laughter with a few shaking breathes. "I'm sorry," he sighed, wiping at his eyes. "Oh god, I love you." And it was there. Again.

She didn't launch herself at him, fling herself into his arms like in some passé storyline, because, after all, their relationship was far from ordinary, far from the glamour of the silver screen. But she did come to him, gradually stepping into his embrace. And he wrapped his arms around her petite frame, kissing her lightly, chastely, on her lips. Cradling her head to his chest, he was not surprised at the ease in which she relaxed into him, how effortlessly she seemed to fit against him.

Then he pulled her away from him, placing his warm palms on either of her blushing cheeks, studying her face, memorizing the moment fate had finally permitted them to steal. He closed his eyes, straining his ears, but all he could hear was his own heartbeat and Ziva's breath as she asked, "What are you doing?"

"Shh. . . . I'm listening."

"For what?" Ziva too was now listening intently.

Tony opened one eye, regarding her with a lopsided grin. "I'm waiting for Gibbs to call. The man has this bizarre knack for interrupting important stuff. . . . I love you, Ziva. Honest," he murmured, breath fanning across her face, as he continued rubbing his thumbs over her cheekbones.

"Ti voglio bene, Tony. Onesto."

And he kissed her forehead, lips soft, delicate brushes. And he brought her back against him because he was certainly not tearing up, and she buried her face in his sweatshirt, that smelled uniquely and comfortingly of him, because she was certainly not trying to inconspicuously dab the moisture from her eyes.

So this is what she was missing: this feeling of belonging, of love, of happiness, of wholeness, entirety. And the one, singular thing she had been searching for without ever even knowing it was missing? All it took was enough lies to nearly drown out all truths, countless 'almosts,' too many bullets as bodies piled up . . . . All it took was the better half of twenty-eight years. And one brave, relentless, loyal man who had been there all along. And she was an idiot for not realizing this sooner.

"I understand now," she said, her breath at his ear, her chin resting on his shoulder. And he smiled into her hair, kissing her cheek, relieved that comprehension had finally dawned on this densely brilliant woman.

They didn't talk anymore, except for their whispered 'good nights' a few minutes later, because it was delicate, this thing they'd found together was timid and new and easily breakable. . . . So Ziva did not ask to stay. Nor did Tony offer her his couch, or his bed for that matter, because they both deserved better than that and after five years of dancing around each other, painstakingly re-erecting every bridge that they'd burnt , facing every variety of evil, surviving every threat and bullet and punch . . . . It seemed like a poor way to respect the moment that had brought them here.

Together. . . . .

Because what was missing, was never really missing at all.

ITALIAN: Ti voglio bene, Tony. Onesto. : I love you, Tony. Honest.