A/N: Well, here we are! Can you believe it? For 7 months and 22 days this story has been going, and now it's over. Enjoy your final chapter!
The looks on the faces of the people in the rose garden, the way Abby's face lit up like the sun, the way McGee's expression read that he knew things were right again—those were things both Tony and Ziva knew they would never forget, when they walked hand in hand among the roses, approaching the altar with cautious footsteps.
"What happened?" Abby asked, jumping up from her seat, grinning but dumbfounded.
Ziva smiled at her dear friend, then threw a glance in Tony's direction. "I realised I was wrong," she answered simply.
"Took ya long enough," a woman's voice called from behind, her blonde waves blowing around her face as she paced towards the happy couple.
"I thought you left," Tony said, questioningly, and despite already having making amends with the girl, his grip tightened ever so slightly on Ziva's hand.
"Just wanted to offer my congratulations," EJ explained casually, completely understanding her presence being slightly unwelcome. "Besides, didn't want you two to seal the deal without this guy."
She cocked her head to the side and Gibbs sidled up beside her.
"Gibbs!" Abby exclaimed joyously, and threw her arms around his neck.
Tony's hand fell from Ziva's and he approached EJ.
"You don't have to thank me," she said.
"No," he argued. "I really do." For the second time that day, he shook her by the hand. "Thank you."
"What, no kiss this time?" she joked.
"Yeah, about that…Mossad-assassin-turned-liaison-turned-fed-turned-turned-girlfriend-turned-ex-turned-fiance-turned-ex-fiance-turned-fiance-again standing right behind me."
She laughed. "I was just kidding. Bye, Tony." She turned away from him, walking back through the roses.
"EJ!" he called loudly, and she looked over her shoulder. "You can stay, if you want to."
"Sorry, I got a plane to catch."
"You're leaving? But why?"
"It's like I said, Tony: Ziva's the one who's supposed to be your partner. I'd only be a filler for her. And we both know she's not replaceable."
Tony nodded wordlessly, and gave her a simple wave. She responded identically, and left them for the last time.
Ziva padded across the grass, standing next to him. "You ready to do this, Mr DiNozzo?" she asked with a smile.
He took her hand again. "Course I am."
"Are you sure you don't want to move the ceremony inside?" McGee whispered to Tony. "Those clouds are getting darker."
"Let 'em," he replied, not moving his eyes from Ziva's. "We're not going anywhere."
The ceremony itself was surreal. So many words…looking back on it, it often seemed a blur to Tony. But his purpose was always clear: to marry the love of his life.
It seemed pointless now, but Abby insist Ziva walk down the aisle, and Gibbs proudly escorted her, their arms linked. When they reached the altar, Gibbs planted a gentle kiss to Ziva's temple, and threw a wink in Tony's direction, which made the younger man grin even more, if that were possible.
When it came time for his vows, the speech he had spent so long working on was the furthest thing from his mind. Staring into the eyes of the woman he loved so much, all he needed to do was tell the truth.
"Ziva…I can't believe I went so long without realising how amazing you are," he said, honesty shining through clearly in his voice. She laughed a little, grinning radiantly. "I know we've gone through a lot to get here. We lost a lot, but having Willow, we gained so much. I gained the type of feeling that you just don't want to let go of for as long as you live, and you're the only one who can give it to me. Things are right again. The sun's bright again." He looked up, frowning a little at the slowly darkening clouds. "Hypothetically," he added.
"Tony," his name came from her lips, in a way that made his eyes light up. "Before I met you I had very different speculations about love. That it would be easy, that there would be no uncertainty…" she paused, knowing her words were treading on thin ice. "That you could never feel like you loathe that other person. Then our paths crossed and I wasn't so sure what I thought about you, but it wasn't until I nearly lost you that I realised you had somehow made your way into my heart, and no matter what I did I wouldn't be able to get you out. I'm done—we're done—being uncertain. I'm ready to jump off the edge with you, Tony."
More words were spoken, promises made, and gold bands were slipped onto their fingers.
But when those special seven words, so sacred Tony only hoped he would hear them this close once in his lifetime, he had no choice but to obey the command that followed.
"I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride."
And kiss her he did. With everything he had, and at that moment, the heavens opened up, pouring rain over them all, soaking them. But no one moved a muscle, especially not Tony and Ziva. They let the raindrops fall on them. They washed away all the scars, the ghosts, the pain, and they were ready to start anew, afresh, together.
Husband and wife.
Mother and Father.
Slow music played through the speakers, and Tony held his wife tightly, her head resting against his chest, his hand on her back, and the other on her waist.
McGee and Abby watched them from the other side of the room.
"Isn't it great, Timmy? They worked things out," Abby said, in awe of her friends' beautiful romance. "It's amazing that two people can love each other enough to get through all that crap and come out of it on the other end, with a little help, of course."
"I love you," McGee said suddenly, surprising even himself. Wide-eyed and pink-cheeked, he looked at Abby in panic, but she just smiled and hugged him tightly.
"I love you, too, McGee," she replied softly in his ear.
"No," he said bravely, pulling away. "I mean really." And he kissed her.
"Drinking, dancing, surrounded by the people I cared most about, that night was one of the best of my life. It was like the beginning of everything good in my life. I remember looking over her shoulder and saw Gibbs watching us, and he smiled, raised his glass, and sipped his drink. It was like I had finally grown up."
The room was silent. The only sound perhaps that of a passing car outside the window.
"That's a beautiful story, Tony," Abby said, softly. McGee, sitting next to her, squeezed her hand lovingly, almost in agreement.
"Yeah," Tony agreed. His arm was draped around Ziva's shoulders as they curled up on the sofas of their home.
"Guess not everybody got to enjoy it," Ziva whispered, jutting her chin towards the sleeping figure beside her husband. Eight year old Willow was fast asleep, her head in her father's lap.
"I know," he sighed. "Why do you think I stopped 'editing' five minutes in?"
The little girl stirred and sat up, rubbing her eyes. "What happened?" she asked unsurely.
"You fell asleep," Tony told her.
Willow yawned, opening her gap-toothed mouth wide. "I know that. I mean in the story. What happened to the prince and the princess? Do they escape the evil wizard?"
"They live happily ever after," Ziva answered warmly, kissing her husband, making Willow scrunch her nose up.
The couple pulled away when they heard little footsteps padding down the hallway.
"I wonder who that could be," Ziva said with a little edge of sarcasm.
A smaller figure appeared in the living room, carrying a teddy by his leg.
"Mommy, I can't sleep. Can I stay up with you?" the little girl asked.
"Why not?" Tony said, and she ran over to her father excitedly.
"How come Bailey gets to stay up too?" Willow asked, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Because it's a special occasion," Ziva answered her daughter, who had inherited both of her parent's determination.
"That's right," a voice continued from the armchair in the corner of the room. "It was exactly nine years ago tonight that the evil wizard first captured the prince and the princess, and that's when they first fell in love."
All eyes in the room looked with surprise to Gibbs, who had visited specially from Mexico for this very occasion. "What? Didn't think I was paying attention too?" he asked them.
"Speaking of which, it's almost midnight!" Abby piped up, glancing at her black skull-decorated digital watch (an engagement present from Tony and Ziva). "A minute and a half to go!" The Goth dipped her hand into her purse and pulled out a bunch of party poppers, handing one to everyone—two each to Willow and Bailey.
"Thirty seconds!" she called.
"Who ya gonna kiss at midnight, Boss?" McGee asked. "I mean, Gibbs."
"Guess I'm goin' it alone, tonight, McGee," Gibbs answered, a little tiredly.
Abby gestured for Willow to go to her and she whispered something in the little girl's ear. "You can kiss me, Gibbs!" Willow announced, and everyone laughed.
"Ten seconds!" Abby exclaimed. "Nine…eight…"
"Seven…" everyone joined in (except Bailey who did not yet know how to count backward. Ziva tried to show her with her fingers). "Six…five…four..."
"Our last New Year's as just the two of us," McGee whispered in Abby's ear, making reference to her protruding belly. She blushed.
"Three…two…one…Happy New Year!"
With a bang, streamers flew around the room and a small cheer erupted from the group. As promised, Gibbs pecked Willow lightly on the cheek. McGee and Tony kissed their wives of course. Bailey, feeling a little left out, kissed the shiny black nose of her teddy bear.
It was hard to say where their story ended, or where it even began in the first place. There were so many moments, so many special times for them, but simply not enough time to tell them. After all, New Year's only came once a year.
So much had changed in their time together. Agents came and went, cases were solved, promotions and demotions handed out like candy. Gibbs had retired again, and stayed there this time, EJ got her own team two years after leaving Team Gibbs (which later became Team DiNozzo and, due to popular demand, minus the campfires), though never came back to DC to work. Abby and McGee tried for a baby for a year, and she was due in just three months. They say so much had changed, but had it, really? He still had Ziva, Abby still had McGee, and Gibbs still gave McGee a head slap when he held that kiss a second too long. He thought about what it used to be like. Maybe he hadn't changed so much after all.
But through it all, they had pulled through. They finally stopped pretending and started living. And once they did, they realised they were never going to be alone again.
A/N: There you go! It's over! Finished, done, el finito! It makes me so sad to see this story go, but it feels right to end it now. I am so immensely grateful for all your dedication and patience and kind words throughout this entire adventure, so thank you. I cannot believe something I thought would just be a quick case-fic turned out to be something this big, and it's all thanks to you guys. It's incredibly amazing to think that every time I update there are 203 people waiting for it. And to have 458 reviews, 91,694 hits, and 91 favs, this is more success than I could have prayed for. I hope I can have as much luck with my writing in the future, and it would mean the world to me if you could just drop my a line, even just a few words, what you like, if there was anything you didn't like, I don't think that's too much to ask. Thank you again for reading this story! I love you all!