Yes, yes, the dreaded "Pyramid" add-on. Hey, I wanted some good Tiva action, and what did we get? Zilch. I'm using my power of author on this. The Tiva is here, dammit!

This is set the evening after all the drama of "Pyramid."

NCIS is not mine, but the property of CBS and its creators. I am not one of them. Damn.

The end of yet another long, horrible day, and Ziva David just wanted to sleep. She wanted more than sleep; she wanted numbness. Complete sensory shutdown. It had been that bad of a day. Almost as bad as Somalia.

But in Somalia, she'd only been concerned - fearful - of her own death.

Losing Mike Franks was an entirely different spectrum of fear, and pain, and loss.

They'd caught Cobb. Whoopsie-duh. Hooray. They managed to fix the CIA's problem - again.

But they'd lost Mike. Gibbs lost his mentor, and the team had lost a valued and loved friend.

Ziva had seen the way everyone tried to stay strong. Abby's smile was forced, her way of keeping some semblence of normalcy in her lab. Ducky's bouts of trivia increased, while Palmer scuttled around trying to be useful. McGee typed his reports like a machine, but his eyes barely registered what he wrote. Gibbs...stayed the same, and if his eyes were a little brighter with suppressed tears, then it wasn't Ziva's place to say.

And Tony...after that group hug in the elevator, he remained the proverbial rock that everyone built their strength on. When EJ went missing, there as only a brief moment when his calm cracked with worry. When Cobb was taken in, he returned to being everyone's big brother DiNozzo.

Ziva felt stretched out, taut and tight like a rubber band. Collapsing on her sofa, she breathed a sigh of exhaustion. I just need to sleep, she thought. Sleep for about a does that song go? Wake me up when November ends? She didn't care. All she cared about was getting some sleep.

Maybe this was all a bad dream, and when she woke up tomorrow everything would be all right. Yeah, and maybe tomorrow Gibbs will switch to drinking tea while Abby wears a yellow dress.

Her inner thoughts were disturbed by the buzzing of her cell phone. Reaching over to her coffee table, she picked up the device and checked the incoming text. The sender wasn't Ray, which she'd expected, but Tony.

Want company? Can't sleep.

She couldn't blame him. Ziva texted a quick affirmative, then laid down on her couch again. A deep sigh escaped her body, as if she tried expelling all the sadness and anger and sheer angst that had collected within herself.

In half an hour there was a knock on her door. Ziva opened it to find her partner standing in the hallway bearing late-night munchies. "Stopped by Pai Gao's. Figured you were hungry too," he said, walking in and putting the food on the kitchen counter.

There was silence as they shuffled around the kitchen, getting forks and glasses and napkins. Ziva pulled out two cold beers and handed one to Tony, who popped his cap and took a long pull. Grabbing the cartons that were theirs - Ziva smiled weakly when she saw Tony's name on his spare ribs container in Sharpie - they dug in to late-night Chinese.

Tony broke the silence first. "How you holding up?"

Mouth full, Ziva chewed slowly as she decided to answer. "I am...all right," she said after swallowing her mouthful. "It has been a long few days."

"Tell me about it." He put down his food to take another drink of beer. "CIA conspiracies, the Director's involvement, Kort's involvement...this is a bad rerun, isn't it?"

Ziva tiredly realized he was drawing parallels to to Jenny's hunting of La Grenouille and the subsequent hell that followed that. "Except we were not rung in to this operation."

Tony's lips pulled back in a tired chuckle. "Dialed in, Zi. We weren't dialed in."

"Nevertheless, we survived."

He nodded. "Yeah, we did do that."

In silence they drank again, the food all but forgotten. Ziva also saw this as a bad rerun; meeting in the morgue with Ducky's hidden bottle of scotch, two tumblers, and the harsh light of one desk lamp as they drank themselves to misery. She put down her bottle. "I'm going to bed."

"I'm staying with you." He said it so faintly, so softly, that for a brief second Ziva thought she'd imagined it. But when she looked over, the Israeli woman could tell he was anything but in her imagination. "I'm staying, Ziva," he repeated a little stronger. "None of us should be alone tonight."

"Tony, no - "

"Well, maybe Gibbs, but he's got his bourbon and his boat," he amended, taking another drink.

"Abby and McGee - "

"McGee took her back to his place." Tony stood up, took the half-eaten food, and walked into the kitchen to put it away. "He's really stepped up, McGee. He's just what Abby needs."

Ziva got to her feet. "And what do you think I need, DiNozzo?" she asked crisply.

He turned around to face her squarely. "A hug from someone who's not halfway across the world. A hug from someone who cares for you."

The former assassin instinctively flinched. Physical contact was still tough for her. The moment of weakness in the elevator had been just that - a moment of weakness. She'd needed the reassurance then. She didn't need it now.

"Yes you do, Ziva," Tony said quietly. At her puzzled look he smiled fondly. "You're speaking with your eyes, as usual. Shouting, in fact. Crying - " His grin slipped away, replaced with surprise. "Ziva?"

Liquid dripped down her cheeks, and that's when Ziva David knew she was coming undone. It was bound to happen sooner or later. Mike's death, her own kidnapping, the stress of finding EJ and catching Cobb - everything had been piling up inside her, stacked like building blocks and tipping precariously from side to side. Now they had fallen.

Suddenly she felt strong arms enveloping her as her nose inhaled a familiar cologne she'd imprinted in her sense memory ages ago. Habit made her hands reach up and push against his chest. "Tony - "

"I love you, Ziva."

Unlike his earlier declaration, there was no way she misheard this one. He said it right into her hair, his lips moving over her forehead as he held her like she was more dear to him that life itself.

"I thought I almost lost you again, Ziva." His voice was rough with emotion, strained and harsh, but gentle. "Somalia was bad - I thought you were dead, and I was just going in there to get revenge - but this was...I didn't know if you were alive or dead." He hugged her tighter. "When EJ told me to relax, that we were all worried about you, I told her it was different for some people." She stiffened in his arms. "It was different for Gibbs, for McGee, for Abby - for me. You're daughter, best friend, and sister to them. But to me, you're so, so much more than my partner, my friend, and the only woman I can honestly say still intimidates me even after seven years of mellowing out."

Against her better judgment, Ziva giggled at that last admission. But then she got back to the seriousness of his words and the impact they threatened to have on their partnership. "Tony, you just got clean of Gibbs and Rule Twelve - "

"Screw Gibbs and his goddamn Rule Twelve."

Her surprise at his blatant dismissal of one of the Cardinal Rules of Gibbs (and Gibbs himself) was only eclipsed by her shock when he tilted her head up and kissed her passionately. Then the shock melted away, along with her self-restraint, and she kissed him back.

Her. Ziva David. Not for a cover, or anything else. She, Ziva David, was kissing him, Anthony DiNozzo, with everything she had been feeling for the last seven years of their partnership. Attraction. Desperation. Lust. Love.


Yes, she thought as they angled to capture each other's mouths. Yes, love.

"Tony," she moaned, pulling back ever-so-slightly. "Tony, wait."

"Don't tell me to wait, dammit," he growled. "I've waited too damn long for this, Ziva."

She smiled. "You are so impatient," she purred, her accent deepening with arousal. It amused her to see his pupils dilate at the change in her voice. "Tony, this is important."

Tony pulled her closer against his body. "Make it quick?" he asked cutely, giving her the DiNozzo pout.

Ziva laughed deep in her throat. "Fine." Looking deep into his eyes, she simply said, "I love you."

His cute wounded frown made an appearance. "You interrupted a perfectly good kiss for that? Zi, I knew that already. Shouting eyes, remember?"

"I wished to say it out loud, Tony," she replied.

"Well congrats. You've done that." His forehead touched hers. "Now can we please start kissing again? I really liked it."

"Are we going to stop with that?" Ziva asked in a teasing manner, smirking wickedly.

His grin was pure mischief. "Only if you cry mercy."

But to her credit, she never said it. Not once all night. His ninja was tough like that.

And for one night, Ziva let herself be vulnerable. She let herself be loved. She let her heart love Tony with everything she had.

After seven years of denial, it felt good to finally stop pretending.