CHAPTER SIXTEEN – "All I need is you next to me"

The day had been slow. They had been doing paperwork all morning, due to an unexpected lack of cases. McGee had found some excuse to spend the morning helping Abby, and Gibbs was inexplicably absent.

"What do you reckon the boss man's up to?" He asked Hayley, in an effort to pass the time.

"Who knows? He's probably up with Vance."

She seemed intent on catching up on the work, while he was too preoccupied. His phone rang and he answered it quickly, thankful for the distraction.

"Very special Agent DiNozzo," he said, for Hayley's purpose alone. She rolled her eyes at him and he grinned.

"I got the job," Ziva's voice was enthusiastic, and it was contagious.

"Congratulations!" He exclaimed. "That's great."

"I start in two weeks," she told him. "It's so perfect."

"It is. I'm thrilled for you, Ziva."

"Thanks. How's work going?"

"Slowly," he sighed. "No case."

"So you're enjoying the paperwork?" She said, and although her tone was neutral, he could hear the smirk in her voice.

"Yes, actually, I would really like to get back to it," he said sarcastically.

"Gear up," he heard from behind him, and he looked up to see Gibbs striding down the stairs.

"No such luck," he heard Ziva in his ear, as he reached into his drawer for his gun, acting on auto-pilot after hearing those words. Pulling his coat on with the phone tucked under his ear turned out a little more difficult.

"Be safe," she said softly.

"I will, see you tonight."

"Bye."

He hung up quickly, surprised how much those two words got to him. Be safe. They reminded him that whatever happened, there were two people waiting for him. Regardless of whether they were living together, there was a commitment there, and for once in his life, commitment sounded pretty good.

. . . . .

It was a miracle that he got home before Jamie and Ziva arrived. The case had taken a turn mid-afternoon, which usually meant cancelling all plans for the evening and the foreseeable future until the case was closed. But thankfully, they arrested the victim's brother in law just before six and he confessed on the spot. So Tony managed to arrive home five minutes before they arrived, which gave him precisely enough time to open the fridge, and be thankful that he had prepared the meal the night before.

"So what are we eating?" Ziva asked, as she and Jamie sat on the stools at the bench, while Tony poured a glass of juice for Jamie.

"Pizza," he responded, fully expecting the eye roll.

"Tony –" she began, but he held up a finger, stopping her.

"We're making pizza," he clarified, placing three pizza bases on the bench, then reaching into the fridge to retrieve bowls of toppings.

"Awesome!" Jamie exclaimed, excitedly reaching for the tomato paste.

"Tony, he's going to –" Ziva started, but he stopped her again, producing one of his old t-shirts that he knew would cover Jamie from head to toe.

"Now he can spill as much tomato paste he wants," Tony grinned, satisfied when Ziva held up her hands in defeat.

"So you're not going to cook for us?" She teased, trying to help Jamie keep the food on the pizza.

"Oh Ziva," he shook his head, opening the fridge. "Chocolate mousse, which I made from scratch," he bowed and she laughed throatily.

"I'll see if it's edible before making any judgements," she smirked.

"You're quite hard to please," he responded, his voice playful.

"Not particularly," she returned, her voice a touch too seductive for him to continue this conversation with Jamie in the room, although the child was too busy decorating his pizza in a smiley face to listen.

"How's it going Jamie?" Tony changed the conversation, not missing the triumphant expression on Ziva's face.

"Good," Jamie turned to face him, and Tony saw the need for the cover over his clothes. Tomato paste was splashed across his front, cheese somehow mushed into the fabric.

"Oh, Jamie," Ziva sighed, choosing to laugh at the mess of toppings surrounding him.

"Done!" Jamie declared, as Tony stared down at his own base, empty save for the tomato paste.

"Can you help me with mine?" He requested, moving the base closer to Jamie, who nodded furiously, already reaching for the cheese.

"You almost ready Ziva?" Tony asked, looking over to Ziva's pizza. She was clearly a better multi-tasker.

Not that he'd ever tell her that.

. . . . .

"This was a good idea, Tony," Ziva conceded, as she wiped the food off Jamie's T-shirt, opting to leave it on him for the eating portion of the meal as well.

"Thank you," he grinned. "I also have this, for later," he produced Finding Nemo, handing it to Jamie.

"You bought that for him?"

"It's a classic Ziva; I'm ashamed I didn't already have it in my collection."

She shook her head, as Jamie smiled.

"This is my favourite," he said proudly.

"It's pretty good, huh?"

The timer went off for the pizzas, and Tony took them out carefully, depositing them on plates while Ziva set the table.

"Can I eat with my hands?" Jamie asked, staring at his pizza indecisively.

"Of course, buddy," Tony responded, frowning.

"Mommy said when I'm out I have to eat with a knife and fork," he explained.

"Pizza can't be eaten with a knife and fork, Jamie," Tony said. "It's not allowed," he demonstrated, picking up a piece with one hand and taking a huge bite.

Jamie nodded, diving in, hands first. Some of the toppings inevitably fell onto his lap, but thankfully the t-shirt was big enough to cover his legs.

"I think we deem this Jamie's pizza shirt," Tony declared, peeling the now almost all red monstrosity off the child. Whenever we make pizza, this is your shirt."

Ziva smiled, stacking plates in the sink.

"Leave it, Ziva," he told her as she started washing up. "Chocolate mousse and Finding Nemo," he ordered, pointing toward the couch.

"Fine," she sighed dramatically, but the way the edges of her lips turned up in a smile gave her away.

"You may carry the tray," he allowed, handing her the tray carrying the chocolate mousse dishes and spoons. He loaded the DVD, taking a seat beside her.

"So, what's the verdict?" He asked, as they started chocolate mousse.

"Not bad," Ziva said, as Jamie answered "real good."

Tony chuckled, taking his own dish and pressing play.

Dessert was finished fifteen minutes into the movie, and by the time it hit the twenty minute mark, Jamie was fast asleep, his head resting on Ziva's lap.

"Tonight was great, Tony," she told him, as she stroked Jamie's hair mindlessly.

"It was," he agreed. "I keep feeling like this is too good to be true, this night, you, me, Jamie," he confessed.

She nodded, understanding. "Everything has happened so quickly in the last few days I keep having to remind myself that it is real."

"It's real," he told her softly. "I've been waiting so long for this."

"Me too," she admitted, kissing him. She had always expected their kisses to be desperate, passionate, and hasty, but this was a different kind of passion. They were taking their time, and while unexpected, she loved every minute of it. They were aware that this wasn't leading anywhere further tonight, that this kiss would be as far as it went, and that was okay.

"I was thinking," she began, as he pulled away, slightly breathless. "Are you free Friday?" She inquired.

He nodded immediately. "The three of us could do something? Movies, Mini-golf?" He suggested, but she shook her head.

"Just the two of us," she clarified. "Lissa offered to watch Jamie; we could pick him up on our way back."

"Sounds great," he answered. "What do you want to do?"

She shrugged. "Something we can't do with Jamie," she said, and he nodded, his brain scrambling to figure out other possibilities than sex, which was the first thing that had jumped to mind. He couldn't be sure that that was what she meant.

"Can you give me an example?" He asked, and she rolled her eyes.

"A movie that isn't animated?"

He nodded. Clearly they hadn't been on the same wavelength. She kissed him again, hard this time.

"Then maybe see where it takes us."

"Sounds like a plan," he agreed, his hand still rubbing up and down her side.

"I should take Jamie home," she sighed, looking at the child's face; so peaceful. "I hate waking him."

He kissed her again quickly, while given the opportunity. He loved that he could, now. He'd never take it for granted.

"Thanks for tonight," she murmured against his lips, before kissing him again.

"Anytime," he replied as she pulled away. "You want me to carry him down to the car?" He offered, gesturing to Jamie.

"Yeah, that'd be great," she agreed, as he stood, lifting Jamie from Ziva's lap. He stirred, but only momentarily, before resting his head on Tony's shoulder and falling back to sleep.

"Can we do something Saturday, all three of us?" He asked as they began down the stairs.

"Sure, what would you like to do?"

"You guys can decide," he said, carefully setting Jamie in his car seat.

"Okay. So I'll see you Friday?"

"Can't wait." He kissed her again before she got in the car, taking his time.

"Love you," she said, after pulling away and getting in the car.

"Love you too," he replied, closing the car door and watching as she drove away.

. . . . .

By the time Friday came around, he was exhausted. They'd been working the most recent case non-stop for days, and by the time they solved it, mid Friday afternoon, he was wanting nothing more than to go home and sleep the weekend away.

Gibbs had even ordered them to go home and get some rest, knowing that paperwork completed after working so long with no sleep would be useless.

"Thank God we're not on duty this weekend," Hayley moaned, as they entered the elevator. She looked the worst of all of them. "I think I'll sleep right through til Monday."

"Mmm," McGee agreed, as Tony yawned, knowing he'd have to settle for a three hour nap. No way was he cancelling. He had waited far too long to take a rain check over a little exhaustion.

. . . . .

Within seconds of arriving at Lissa's, Jamie and Zoe had disappeared to the playroom, leaving Ziva and Lissa chuckling in the doorway.

"Bye, Jamie," Ziva called, laughing, following Lissa to the kitchen to make coffee.

Jamie came back moments later, wrapping a hug around Ziva's legs.

"Bye, Mommy," he responded, before returning to Zoe.

"So you looking forward to tonight?" Lissa asked, a mischievous glint in her eyes.

"Yeah," Ziva replied, at which Lissa turned to her, suspicious.

"You are not allowed to feel guilty," she told Ziva sternly, placing a cup of coffee in front of her.

"I'm afraid to rush into anything too soon," Ziva admitted.

"From what you've told me, this isn't soon. It's ten years overdue."

At that, Ziva rolled her eyes, opening her mouth to argue before Lissa interrupted her. "Does it feel too soon?" She inquired.

"It doesn't feel too soon, but I feel as if it should," Ziva explained.

"Daniel would want you to be happy. I know that sounds silly and clichéd, but that's one thing I know for sure," Lissa stated, unwavering.

"It's just… Different when Jamie's not there."

"That's because you hide behind him, you pretend that Tony's only there to see Jamie. You need to stop making excuses, and just let yourself be happy. You deserve it."

"Do I?" Her voice was painfully unsure, painfully vulnerable, coming from a woman who Lissa had only ever seen be strong to a fault.

"Yes," she said, without hesitation. "So go have your fun, please, and tell me all about it when you come to get Jamie," she grinned, opening the door.

"I'll see you tonight,"

"I won't wait up, so you might have to knock loudly," Lissa warned.

"Nine at the latest," Ziva promised, as Lissa rolled her eyes.

"Yeah, yeah. I'll believe that when I see it."

. . . . .

The sound of his phone ringing woke Tony with a start, and he reached for it in an effort to just make it shut up.

"'lo?" He mumbled, trying to pry his eyes open.

"Tony?" Ziva's voice woke him up instantly, as his eyes flew to the clock on his night stand.

"Am I late?" He asked, the figures in front of him blurring as he blinked.

"No, I was just calling to ask what the plan was for tonight. Were you asleep?"

"Kinda," he mumbled, the time coming into focus. 5.30. "Stupid case took forever. I don't think I've slept since I spoke to you last."

"Oh, well if you want to do this another night –" she started, but he cut her off.

"No, no. Um. Maybe if we just had a quiet night, a movie, takeout, that sort of thing?" He suggested, sitting up slowly.

"Sure. You want me to come over there?"

"Nah, it's fine. Just let me jump in the shower and I'll head over. I'll see you soon."

"Okay, see you soon."

. . . . .

He fell asleep half an hour into the first movie, which certainly proved just how tired he was. Tony DiNozzo did not sleep through movies. He woke when he heard the door slam, opening his eyes to see Ziva holding a bag full of takeout.

"I ordered Chinese," she explained, setting it on the coffee table in front of him. "Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you."

"Sorry I'm such a lousy date," he returned, sitting up. "Guess I can't handle the all-nighters like I used to."

"It's fine," said, taking a seat beside him. "This is nice."

"What? Listening to me snore over the movie?" He laughed. "Don't lie."

"It's relaxing, comfortable, being here with you," she explained.

"Boring?"

"Definitely not. Your sleep talking is quite entertaining," she smirked, kissing him quickly before handing him a container of food. "Eat, go back to sleep. We can always try this again next week," she assured him.

"Okay," he agreed easily, smiling. "I hope you were joking about that sleep talking thing," he narrowed his eyes, and she just laughed in response.

"You'll never know."

. . . . .

She left Tony asleep on the couch, and a note on the coffee table explaining where she was when she left to get Jamie, arriving at 9.01.

"You disappoint me," Lissa sighed as she opened the door. "I was all ready to get the call asking if Jamie could stay the night."

"Jamie awake?" Ziva inquired.

"Not quite," Lissa laughed, leading Ziva into the playroom. Jamie and Zoe were lying side by side on the couch, sleeping peacefully, with some sort of Disney princess movie flickering on the small television in the corner.

"I have to take a photo," Ziva smiled, reaching for her phone.

"That won't be your reaction when they're sixteen and we find them like this," Lissa replied, a playful smile on her lips.

"Don't remind me," Ziva laughed, pocketing her phone and reaching for Jamie.

"Come on Jamie, time to go," she murmured, lifting him into her arms.

"Mommy?" he mumbled, rubbing his eyes.

"We gotta go home, baby," she explained.

"I'll see you on Sunday," she whispered to Lissa, who nodded. "I told Jamie I'd take them to the movies."

"I'll drop Zoe off at 2," Lissa agreed.

"Thanks for watching him," Ziva said, as she stepped out the door.

"Anytime."

. . . . .

After finally convincing Jamie to change into his pyjamas and then getting him to bed, Ziva looked to Tony, who hadn't moved since she left.

"Tony," she whispered, running a hand through his hair slowly. "You'll hurt your back sleeping on the couch," she told him, as his eyes fluttered open. He took the hand she held out, and followed her, half asleep, to her room.

"This isn't exactly how I imagined this happening," he mumbled, as she helped him unbutton his shirt.

"Next time," she promised, chucking as he slipped under the covers now clad in only boxers, falling asleep almost instantly.

She went back to the kitchen, throwing away the takeout containers and turning off lights. She locked the door and checked in on Jamie before returning to Tony. Changing quickly, she got into bed beside him, watching him sleep. Residual guilt melting away, she sighed contently, closing her eyes.

Maybe they were ten years overdue.

. . . . .

She woke suddenly, as she realised that the body beside her was much bigger than she had expected. She opened her eyes to see Tony, snoring lightly, Jamie nowhere to be seen. The clock read 08.23, so she got up slowly, reaching the kitchen to see Jamie eating cereal at the table.

"Jamie," she grinned, realising that it was the first night in three months that he had spent in his own bed.

"'Morning," he mumbled through a mouthful of Cheerios.

"You slept in your own bed all night?" She verified, and he nodded.

"Tony was there," he stated, confused.

"Yeah, Tony had a big day at work and he was too tired to drive home," she explained, realising that it sounded like a poor excuse. But Jamie just nodded, satisfied.

"But that's great, baby, I'm proud of you," she told him, kissing his cheek.

"Is he gunna stay today?" Jamie asked, sliding the cereal box across the table to Ziva.

"Yeah, he wanted to spend the day, the three of us together. We can do anything you want."

"Like a family?" Jamie questioned, eyes hopeful.

"Yeah." Ziva smiled. "Like a family."


End.


A/N:

1. I know I said there would be an epilogue, but I combined it with this chapter instead.

2. I am planning to write a sequel, however it will take some time. I haven't even started writing it yet. I also have half a dozen T/Z one shots sitting on my computer that are almost finished, so hopefully they will be up in the near future.

3. WOW. I can't believe that this story has come to an end! I can't thank you all enough for the reviews, alerts and favourites, it really means a lot to me. I love you guys.

:)