A/N: Well, the votes were unanimous, so here is your final chapter, all 2469 words of it!
The doors sealed the three agents into the metal cage and the emergency switch was flicked with haste by Gibbs' experienced hand. Tony took Ziva's in his, standing in front of her just the slightest, as if trying to protect her.
"I know what you are thinking, Gibbs," Ziva said, trying to justify their actions. "And it is probably that we are crazy but it doesn't matter because—"
"I wasn't thinking that, Ziver," he told her, deliberately using her special nickname. "I was thinking that you look really happy."
Gibbs' hand rested on her shoulder and he smiled down at her. She grinned back at him, relieved after all the worrying they did that she'd lose him as a friend, a source of trust, and most importantly as a father. But she hadn't lost him. He just looked like a dad who was proud of his girl.
"But what about Rule Number Twelve, Boss? Aren't you mad?" Tony asked, bewildered that he hadn't already been head-slapped to the point of unconsciousness - and almost asking for it by ruining the moment.
"I depend on you both, but you don't wanna end up like me. You can have as many one night stands as you like, but you only get one shot at something good." He turned away from them, flicked the switch and the elevator began to move again. "Don't screw it up."
The doors opened at the third floor once again, and McGee and Abby's nerves were eased when Ziva walked out with a grin on her face, sitting cheerily back at her desk. Tony went to follow her, beaming, but Gibbs stopped him, and his newly confident grin quickly faded.
"You hurt her, DiNozzo, and I swear to God—" he threatened
"You'll slap me into the next millennium, got it Boss. Don't worry, I won't."
Gibbs took a step back. "Nope. I know you won't, Tony. We've all waited too long to watch you screw it up now."
As he walked towards the waiting couple, Gibbs called out one more thing to the others: "And don't think I didn't notice the ring!"
"What ring?" Abby asked, her eyes going wide when she spotted the diamond on Ziva's finger. She gasped loudly and bounded across the squad room to admire it up close, nearly knocking over Gibbs, McGee and Ducky on the way.
"Oh, it's beautiful! Congratulations!" She wrapped her friend in the tightest of hugs, then turned and punched Tony in the arm.
"Ow!" he said, rubbing it. "What was that for?"
"For not telling me you were going to propose!" She turned back to Ziva and practically switched personalities. "How did he do it? Did he get down on one knee?"
"Abs," Gibbs said, bursting her bubble, cocking his head towards McGee's desk. She slunk over there, whispering to Ziva, "We'll talk later."
Ziva laughed as Tony came up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. She admired the diamond ring herself, splaying her fingers out to let it sparkle in the light pouring in from the skylight above them.
"It is very nice," she said approvingly.
"Not to mention expensive," Tony muttered. "I got it on the way home from the airport." He leaned forward, speaking into her ear. "Had a feeling I'd need it."
"Well," she examined it closely, "you got your money's worth."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Never doubt an Israeli about diamonds, Tony."
Before they could listen in on what seemed like a similar conversation between McGee, Abby and Gibbs, Ducky approached the engaged couple.
"I do believe congratulations are in order," the Scotsman said jubiantly, taking Ziva's right hand and kissing it. "Congratulations, my dear. And to you too, Antony. You two have certainly found your places. In quite a short amount of time, it seems."
"Yes we have, Ducky," Ziva replied with a laugh as Tony kissed her cheek. "Thank you."
After things had been completely smoothed over with Gibbs (and the appropriate threats given to Tony as well as McGee should things turn bad, though that was extremely unlikely), Ducky approached his old friend.
"Jethro, I know Abby's the one you'll worry about the most; Ziva can look after herself, but I do hope you weren't too hard on them." They both looked over to the laughing partners. "I haven't seen her so happy in such a long time." Ducky was right. They were laughing and talking. Tony was happy without hiding behind the face of a clown. He had everything he wanted. "We all knew this day was coming, Jethro.. And they deserve to be happy, don't they? They are good agents, and they are simply in love. I'm sure you know the feeling."
Ducky was right again. Gibbs remembered the way his heart used to melt whenever he set eyes on Shannon, or caught a whiff of her strawberry shampoo or a glimpse of her milky white skin.
Gibbs took a look around the squad room. Its orange walls may have stayed the same colour over the years, but they held many stories; sad ones, joyous ones and everything in between. This was the place they saved lives and cracked cases. This was the place they ate late-night Chinese and suspicious-looking sandwiches. This was the place they stayed late at night doing piles and piles of paperwork and fell asleep at their desks. This was the place where they started as separate people and became a team. This place was home away from home. And right now his team were there, and they were all happy. He cared about them all, more than he cared to admit, and he wanted them to learn from his mistakes.
Gibbs' Rules may have worked for Gibbs, but everyone needed a code they could live by. If Shannon had taught him one thing in their years together, it was that, and he learned it in the first minute they met. If Rule Number Twelve wasn't on his agents' agendas, then he would just have to live with it. They may have been like his kids, but all kids have to grow up one day. And sure as hell, he would be there for everything he could. He would be there to walk Ziva down the aisle, and he would be there to hold Abby's hand when she had kids of her own. And Ziva too, someday.
His resolution was interrupted when his cell phone rang. Another day, another case, just like always.
"Got it," he mumbled, and flipped it shut.
"Grab our gear, Boss?" Tony asked.
"You got it, DiNozzo," Gibbs replied, leading his team out of the squad room. McGee kissed Abby on the cheek as he left. The boss tossed the keys to the truck in the air and they all made a scramble for them, Ziva emerging victorious.
"Oh no, hand 'em over, David," Tony said, stepping forward and leaning over her a little bit, using the fact that she was noticeably shorter than him as grounds for intimidation. "I'm pulling rank on you."
His plans failed miserably.
"Really? Because I have a feeling you will let me have them."
"And why's that?"
"Because you want to get lucky tonight." She winked.
He frowned. "That is sexual blackmail!" he said in a hushed tone.
She smiled. "I know."
"OK, just so we're clear," Tony said, and pouted. McGee patted the Senior Field Agent on the back. "Look, if you manage not to die, you'll get lucky tonight." That certainly cheered him up. But the blackmail thing was smart, and Tim held his hand out for Ziva to high five. He could only hope Abby didn't find out about that, or it would be used against him.
They piled into the elevator and Gibbs smiled as the doors closed again.
After all, some things never change.
The next year passed slowly but soundly, fall came and went, and Thanksgiving and Christmas flew by. The couples eliminated the no-presents rule, and exchanged extravagant gifts. It was living at its easiest. Well, as easy as it got when you get shot at every other week.
One spring afternoon, Tony and Ziva were called down to Abby's lab. McGee was already down there, and when they shot him a questioning look, but he shrugged. He didn't know what was going on either.
"So," she began, rather loudly. "I know we all have some vacation time coming up, and in honour of our joined anniversaries, I got us all tickets to—wait for it—Las Vegas!"
The small group erupted in cheers for the Goth.
"Two fun-filled weeks!"
"Abby you are the best!" McGee exclaimed, and kissed her on the cheek.
"Ah, Vegas," Tony mused. "Casinos, bars, not to mention the strip clubs…" Ziva shot him a look. "Which of course I won't be going to."
Though it was not long before things got out of hand.
McGee and Abby got married, which was hilarious to Tony and Ziva, who had stayed sober the night before. The married couple fell asleep in the wrong hotel room, veil and all. Ziva guessed they would get divorced once they got back but they ended up holding a huge reception and staying married. Tony and Ziva, had married six weeks earlier, in March; a spring wedding.
Those two weeks were the birth of a tradition, that every summer the four would take a vacation together. The tradition lasted twelve years, including Miami and Vegas (with the exception of 2013, when Abby and McGee's twins, only a month old, were too young to leave. Tony and Ziva's daughter, Talia Grace, was a winter baby, born on New Year's Eve, as a result of a weekend away as a wedding anniversary celebration. By the time summer rolled around again she was six months, and they left her with Gibbs. They told him it would only be for one week, that they would shorten their vacation. He told them not to worry. It was his duty, as godfather, to take care of little Talia DiNozzo. Little Penelope Caitlin and Leroy Timothy McGee were with Tim's parents, since he and his father had made up for their bad history.
Over the years, the four friends visited LA and New York, then branching out to England, Spain, Italy, Australia, Hawaii, France, China and India. They saved up for it every year, and would take turns picking where they would go (by the pattern of Tony, McGee, Abby, Ziva). When it was Ziva's third turn, she picked Miami again, just for a long weekend.
She did run into Ray that weekend, by some weird unlucky chance. He was very polite about it all. She asked him how he was doing. He told her after the breakup he didn't do well, even dated EJ for a while, but ended up marrying a beautiful woman and having two boys, who looked just like him.
She showed him a picture of Talia. She had her olive skin and dark hair, widow's peak and all, but Tony's emerald eyes and that 1000 watt DiNozzo smile. The picture was with Anthony DiNozzo Senior in hospital during his chemotherapy a year earlier. He came out of it, though. Good genes.
"If my son can survive pneumonic plague, I can beat this thing," he had told them, and he kept his promise. "Don't you worry, sweetheart," he had said to a teary Talia. He made a better grandfather than he did a father.
"She's a beautiful child," Ray said to her. "She looks like you. Tony too."
They got coffee, they talked. Ray's boys were eight and ten years old, and they loved baseball and football, she learned.
"Tali plays the piano, and does ballet," Ziva said.
"Just like her mom," Ray smiled. He remembered after all this time?
"But she loves movies. Wonder where she got that."
It was surprisingly not weird. It was like two old friends, almost.
She never told Tony. She was about to, but when she got home, she found Tony on the phone to Talia, and the smile on his face was too precious to ruin by dredging up the past.
"Wanna talk to Mommy?" Tony said into the phone, and Ziva's face lit up when she heard her daughter's voice.
"Hi, Mommy!" she exclaimed.
"Hi, sweetheart, how was your day?" Ziva asked, and Talia launched into a long-winded story.
Talia celebrated her tenth birthday that winter. Gibbs, who had long since retired, visited specially, with a new bike for her. It had been some time since he had seen Tony and Ziva, or McGee and Abby—in person, at least (Abby always made sure they had an active webcam connection no matter where he was), but they looked as happy as they did when he left. So did Tali and Penelope and little Leroy, three of the closest friends you could possibly get.
As they clock struck midnight and they rolled in the New Year once again, everyone cheered.
It wasn't close to the end of their story, but it was nothing short of happy.
A/N: The end! I can't believe this story is over! I have loved writing it so much, it's been the best fun and I hope you have enjoyed the ride. I love you all, readers, each and every one of you are spectacular people and the best a writer could ask for!
One more thing before I go (drum roll)
I'm releasing a sequel to this story, about McGee, Abby, Tony and Ziva's adventures around America and the world! Be on the lookout for it, everyone and for the last time. . . . .