A/N: For those who have been waiting for the story of how Ziva and Gibbs got together in this universe I've created, the wait is over. (Yes, I am including you KurimoGrrl and abstractartist in that group. :D) Hope you all like this first chapter and the rest that is to come. A HUGE thank you goes out to iyimgrace and Sehrezad for your input and encouragement; I am fortunate to count you among my friends and to have you in my "writer's circle." And no thank you would be complete without a mention of my friends MollyGibbs101 and kaelleigh; your steadfast support and confidence warms my heart. And, lastly, THANKS also to CSIGurlie07 who agreed long ago that I needed to write this story; you were right, mi amiga. =) Enjoy!

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Ziva and Gibbs sat close together on the couch in one of the rooms upstairs in his house. Ziva called it their sitting room, but Gibbs couldn't get used to that. For him, it was more like a living room than the one they had downstairs. A few months into their relationship, she had wished for a space where they could relax or watch TV without worrying that someone would just open the front door and walk in on them. So one weekend they'd cleared out a room on the second floor that held an old desk and file cabinet, and brought over Ziva's couch and some other furnishings. Slowly that room began to reflect both of them, separately and together. It was Ziva's favorite room in the house for that very reason. This room and the bedroom held the only outward reflections that Ziva lived here, too. Even in the kitchen and bathroom, she kept to the early habit of putting her things out of sight…but soon that would not be necessary.

Her head was resting on his shoulder and his hand was playing with her hair. Gibbs held a beer in his hand, while Ziva fiddled with the buttons on his shirt. It was Friday night and it had been a long week. But the main topic of conversation was tomorrow night. Gibbs had invited the team to come over for pizza and beer, but there was a hidden agenda: Ziva and Gibbs were finally going to tell the team that they were a couple.

"Are you nervous?" Ziva asked softly.

"Nope. You?" he returned, already knowing her answer.

She nodded.

He pressed her closer to him for a moment. "It'll be all right."

"You cannot know that for sure," she demurred.

"What I know is that I won't have it any other way," he said firmly.

She shook her head in the face of his certainty – some would say arrogance – but allowed a small smile.

"You realize DiNozzo's going to want the whole story of how it started and how we've managed to keep this to ourselves for two years," Jethro pointed out.

With the smile still on her face, she let the memories roll through her mind.

"It all started with that undercover operation, remember?" she reflected. "The one with Hoffman."

"It started when I came back from Mexico to save your beautiful ass." He raised his beer to his lips as she pulled away to look at him in disbelief.

"It did not! I cannot believe you do not remember." Her tone was incredulous.

"Oh, I remember. I remember flying 3,000 miles all night with no sleep all because you were in a 'little' trouble." He rolled his eyes. "You know, we probably still have different definitions of a 'little' trouble."

She ignored that last bit to focus on the other. "You would have come back to help Abby or Tony or McGee."

"Probably," he agreed. "But all I could see at the time was that it was you."

He looked at her. "And that you didn't work for me anymore."

Her brows drew toward each other in puzzlement.

"There had always been something between us."

"I know," she agreed softly, one side of her mouth turning up.

"And even though we were focused on your 'little trouble,' the part of me that had always been attracted to you was chomping at the bit and was no longer reined in by Rule 12. So, that's when things started changing. For me anyway."

"But you left again right after – without even saying goodbye." Her voice got small at the end.

"Running scared," he admitted with a self-depreciating shake of his head.

"Scared? You?"

"Uh-huh." He cocked an eyebrow at her. "But if you say that tomorrow night, I'll deny it."

She snorted lightly, but started thinking back over what he'd said. It was true that she'd called him in Mexico when she'd been framed for murder and was on the run from the FBI, NCIS, Mossad and her father. She had called the one person who had always trusted her, who, without a doubt, she trusted back.

He had come, and together they had indeed saved her, with a little help from the team. He had left right after – she still wasn't buying that running scared part – but soon he was back to help Fornell…and that time he stayed.

After he was back, she began dropping by his house more and more frequently, and it gradually became a regular thing. She often cooked, and it was good for both of them to have someone with whom to sit at the kitchen table and eat a meal. Sometimes they just talked – occasionally assisted by his bottle of bourbon. There were times they simply kept each other company with very little conversation. They learned things about each other that neither talked about with anyone else. Over time, they became completely comfortable with each other, which was a first for them both. They were friends, best friends.

You could also say it was like they were dating, just without the sex.

And truthfully, there were moments of physical attraction, but both were careful to avoid bringing those into the open. Hello. Rule 12.

A few months later, they caught the case in which they met Roy Sander. Ziva was surprised to find that she really liked Roy. They had things in common, like running and their favorite quote. She only knew him for a few hours before poison claimed his life, but Ziva was tantalized by the thought of meeting someone who could accept her – even be attracted to her - for exactly who she was. She had decided that kind of relationship was destined to pass her by, because, honestly, she'd had those thoughts about Gibbs, but nothing had happened in all this time. But now she found herself wondering again...

Roy's death made her sad - sad for humanity's loss of a good man, and sad on a personal level, as though she'd missed out on something that might never come her way again. When she'd admitted as much to Gibbs during one of their late-night chats in his basement, he'd gotten a look on his face that she couldn't decipher. He'd told her not to give up, and suggested the person she was looking for might even be closer than she thought.

She'd looked at him with her brows furrowed, trying to decode the message he seemed to be sending, but he'd remained unreadable. Ziva knew she was missing something important, but was afraid to believe what her heart was telling her might be true. She was confused. Sometimes she could read his imperceptible signals - open a door, flank around to the back - as if he had said them aloud. But this she couldn't read to save her life. He was telling her something, but the signals were jammed. They had stared at each other for a long moment and then the moment was gone. He'd pressed a chaste kiss to her forehead and changed the subject, and neither had spoken of it again for months.

Gibbs sat lost in the memories, as well. Even from their rocky beginning, there'd always been a special connection between him and Ziva and in those months after he'd returned from Mexico that had deepened. He fell for her – hard – but was determined to bury it. He'd created Rule 12 for a reason, and he had no reason to believe he'd be any better at a relationship with Ziva than he'd been with his three ex-wives – which would not bode well for the team.

Hell, he'd even dated Hollis in an effort to avoid breaking Rule 12. Ziva had stopped coming around much then, and he'd missed her. But he had clung to his rules and his painful memories of Shannon and Jenny like a drowning man.

When Hollis realized she was never going to get something more permanent from Gibbs – though not for the reason she thought – she gave up on him and left. Ziva started coming around again and they soon found themselves back in their old routine. But those longing glances when they both thought the other wasn't looking and the hugs that lasted just a bit longer than necessary grew steadily in number.

Then, after months of pretending to ignore their growing attraction to each other, their watershed moment finally came.