A/N: Final chapter! More of an epilogue. It's short, but it needs wrapping up. Also: strong warning for blatant mush.
Since walking through Ziva's front door three hours ago, Tony had been wholly focused on indulging in activities that, while growing in frequency, were still too sporadic to satiate his desires. Their quickie the other night had taken some of the edge off, but being stuck in close quarters with Ziva for a week and not being able to act on most of his impulses had driven him slightly mad. Now, after hours of extremely enthusiastic relations, Tony felt he had regained some semblance of sanity. He figured that would last at least until the morning.
While he'd been otherwise occupied, Tony hadn't noticed the late afternoon sunshine slowly fading into dusk. Ziva's apartment was now quiet and dark, a virtual cocoon against the outside world that Tony wholeheartedly approved of. Life continued as usual on the other side of the apartment's walls—cars passing slowly on the street below, people laughing in an apartment somewhere above—but the cocoon was where Tony was happy to stay. Lying in Ziva's bed, his head on her breast and his hand making slow circles on her belly, smelling her and soaking up her warmth. This was as close to perfect as it got.
They'd been enjoying shared silence for a while now, happy to just be in each other's company. It was a stark contrast to the cacophony of screams and moans and cries and thump, thump, thump that preceded it. Their bodies were expended and pleasantly sore, knotted as they fell after the last scream sounded. He thought he'd fallen asleep ("Passed out, Tony") at one point, but he couldn't be sure, and it didn't matter anyway. Even sleeping with her—in the literal sense of the word—filled him with contentment.
For all the romantic thoughts, Tony was also a realist. He knew that they were likely to screw this up—several times—before they got the hang of it. But visionary or fool, he was sure that they'd get it right in the end. He would chase this feeling of contentedness and love and home every day for the rest of his life. He'd do whatever it took to make it work out, and he knew the next step was sorting out their working arrangements. She probably knew what he'd decided about that, but he wanted to make it clear.
Breaking the silence seemed almost offensive, so he kept his voice barely above a whisper. "I'm going to talk to Vance tomorrow."
At first, she didn't react. Her body did not tense, and she did not sigh or grumble. He would have thought she was asleep if he didn't feel her consciousness so keenly. He tilted his head back to look up at her, and caught a wide smile he didn't think he'd ever seen before slide across her face. He felt an answering pang in his chest that was starting to become familiar to him. It was the feeling he got when he knew he'd made her happy.
Despite her clear happiness she managed to keep her voice mostly measured and rational. "Are you sure?"
She wasn't talking about the job. The way her voice barely broke on the last word gave her heart away. She was giving him an out. Turn back now if you're not sure about this, or forever hold your peace.
Tony had never been very good at holding his peace. "About you?" he asked softly, letting her know that her poker face wasn't as good as she thought anymore. "I thought I was pretty clear about that."
She opened her eyes and gave him that melty expression of hers that always made him melty in return. She cupped his cheek. "Yes."
He nodded, and kissed her palm. "Then, yes."
Ziva turned on her side to face him, and he rearranged himself so that his head was on the pillow beside hers. He slipped his arm around her, and his hand tangled in the curls against her back.
"I think it will be good for you," she said softly. "Stretch your legs, yes?" She knew it would be good for them, too. But she wanted to support him before making it about them. Be his partner. Have his back. Whatever she could do to help him be happy and content.
He drew a deep breath and brushed a kiss against her lips. "Yeah. I think it will be too."
"We're all behind you," she assured him.
He knew it, but he appreciated the support. "Yeah."
Ziva let her thumb brush across his lips as she watched his face, his warm eyes, the lines and scars she could trace with her eyes closed. Something clicked within her, and all of a sudden she felt centered and calm. She realized that her real life, her grown up life, her family life, truly started now, and she gave him the most honest smile of her life.
"I really am in love with you, you know."
Tony's reaction to her words was slight. Just the barest of smiles curled his lips, but she saw the change in his eyes. The lightness and joy and love he sent back to her made her shiver, and although he'd warned of manly tears, Ziva found herself welling up at the admission. All her life, she'd thought of those words as being something unattainable, as something she would likely never hear or feel the need to say. But now they were real and existed in her life, she felt…liberated.
Tony watched her as she gazed back at him, and he didn't think he'd ever seen her face so open. He drew a deep breath, as if he could draw her words into his body like a drug, and he felt the high of it spread through every vein and nerve ending. In the next moment, he was hit with an epiphany: This is what life is about. This feeling, right now. This is what my life is supposed to be.
"Yeah," he said softly, as his joyful smile finally broke over his face. "I know, Ziva."
The next morning, Tony stood before the roll of honor that hung outside Director Vance's office. It was a tribute to agents that had given their lives in the line of duty, a long list that both depressed and inspired. Tony had paid tribute to it many times in the past, silently thanking them for the part they'd played, and the sacrifices they'd made to serve their country. Today, Tony's eyes paused over one name: Caitlin Todd, May 24, 2005.
The back of his eyes stung for a moment as he remembered his fallen partner, but then he blinked and his lip curled in a nostalgic smile. He wondered what she'd think of him now, committing to a woman who had intimidated the hell out of him when they'd first met and was nothing like the bimbos Kate had teased him mercilessly about. What would she think about him finally taking the step out of Gibbs' shadow and demanding to be given respect and responsibility?
If he had to guess, Tony would say that she'd probably laugh her ass off…before telling him she always knew he had it in him, despite his protests to the contrary. He thought she would be proud of him (after arguing him into agreeing that she probably would have deserved it first), and then encourage him to take it all on and kick ass. No, butt. Kate would never say 'ass'.
He cracked a bigger smile as the door to Vance's office swung open. Tony looked over to see the director standing in the doorway.
"Agent DiNozzo," he said, his tone both greeting and summoning.
"Sir." Tony followed him back into the office, and swung the door closed behind him.
Vance glanced over his shoulder before he leaned over his desk and hit the do not disturb button on his phone. "Nice job with the Werner interview," he threw at him.
Tony nodded. "Thank you, sir."
Vance gestured at the conference table, and they sat adjacent to each other with Vance at the head of the table.
"What's going on today that has you in my office?"
A part of Tony thought he should have been nervous here, but instead he felt completely calm and in control. Maybe he was setting himself up for failure—Vance had never been his biggest fan, after all. But honestly, he thought he had a pretty good shot of getting his way. "I wanted to talk to you about the team leader position that will be available with Agent Michaels' retirement."
Vance wore total poker face, and Tony took that to mean that he'd managed to blindside the director. He wasn't sure if that was a good thing until Vance tilted his head just a little to the side, and Tony knew he was open to hearing more.
"I don't know if you've started thinking about replacements yet, but I wanted to let you know that I want to take it on."
"You do," Vance stated.
Tony nodded, full of confidence. "I'd be damn good at it, too."
For a few long seconds, Vance continued to stare at him. Then, the poker face gave way to the barest of smiles, and Tony knew he was in.
Vance sat back in his seat, and spread his hands. "All right, Agent DiNozzo. Sell it to me. I'm all ears."
What, you don't want to sit in on the negotiations, do you? Bor-ing.
Thanks to all who have followed this, bigger thanks to those who have reviewed and encouraged and said ridiculously kind things to me. I really hope you enjoyed it, and that you'll give whatever I pump out in the future a read as well. Hint: it's likely to be more TIVA-ness with lots of dialogue and some sex. Yeah, I play to my strengths.