Tony could feel the lump building in his throat as he sat at the table, waiting for Ziva to arrive at his apartment. He'd been sure to decorate the place as nicely as possible - which mostly meant cleaning up the mess, buying some flowers for the center of the table, and lighting a few candles. He'd even made sure his best table cloth was clean to give it a real restaurant like affect. He was sure she'd wonder why he'd gone out of his way to cook such a nice dinner rather than taking her to a usual expensive restaurant, but he'd wanted tonight to be special. He wanted it to be something memorable for both of them.
They'd been dating for some time now. A few years, though he was pretty sure he'd begun to lose count. Gibbs had overlooked the ever feared rule #12 when they'd proven they could keep it out of the office easily. Tony was willing to bet he still knew about the occasional meetings in the copy room or the men's bathroom - maybe once or twice in the elevator, places they'd both been sure Vance had yet to install camera's in when they were working overtime. He was just thankful that his boss never said anything about it. They weren't really excursions he wanted to stop having any time soon. The slight thrill of sex in the workplace was actually a nice way of keeping things fresh.
Relationships never liked to last this long for him. He'd always done something to fuck it up. He'd run away, he'd cheat, he'd get too involved in work, he'd get scared and start lashing out... He was never very good at handling the stress of the long term. Commitment was a terrifying thing. He'd watched his father marry and remarry, destroyed by the love he'd had for his mother, turned into a different person over night by one woman's death. It was terrifying to think of that happening. To think that one person could hold such power of his entire being. But Ziva had for some time, hadn't she? When she'd been taken to Somalia, when he'd heard she was dead, hadn't he shut down? Hadn't he become a different person over night? Everyone had noticed the changes. Tim had been concerned. Abby was terrified for him. Even Gibbs had asked a few times if he'd been okay. Everything had fallen apart without her and still he had taken another few years to get the balls to say he'd loved her.
Love. He snorted at the thought of the word. Four letters put together should never have been so terrifying. He'd gotten used to them now. He said it pretty regularly. At least, regularly for them. The words were cherished and never really lost their meaning with how rarely they were uttered between the two. Only said when it mattered. When it counted. Tony was glad to find someone who didn't mind the rarity. Someone who understood how hard it could be to say those words to another person.
He'd been so lost in thought he almost missed the knock on the door. Scrambling up from his seat, he took quick strides over to it, pulling the door open and grinning at Ziva when he saw her standing on the other side. The blue dress clung in all the right places. She'd worn her hair down and curly, the way he'd mentioned liking it best once. A coy smile appeared on her lips as she took a step in, leaning up to place a kiss against the side of his mouth.
"What is all this?" she said finally as she stepped inside, going to the table and smiling softly as she looked at the steaming food set before her. He had timed dinner perfectly, it had seemed, and nothing had had a chance to go cold.
"Dinner," he said with a shrug, smiling softly. "I thought I'd treat you to something... different than usual. Something a little more personal."
The coy smile turned into a warmed and touched one as she took a seat at the table. Tony could be sweet and romantic when he wanted to be. Under the guise of a tough man, a self-proclaimed womanizer who shied away from too much affection, yet clearly craved so much of it. She'd gotten used to his keeping a somewhat emotional distance. Used to it enough that it surprised her when he did things like this, made her heart melt, and reminded her just how special he truly was.
"I really did pick such a winner, didn't I?" she said with a faux-smug air to her voice. "This looks delicious," she muttered, going to reach forward to grab the tongs for the salad.
"Wait!" he shook his head, going to grab her hand, earning an odd look. "You should um - you should grab a roll first. Butter it. That way you don't run out of room on your plate or something."
"... A roll." She looked at him oddly, shaking her head, and going to reach for one of the pieces of bread from the basket in front of her. "You are a strange man, Tony DiNozzo," she muttered. He laughed nervously, shrugging, and rubbing his neck. Pulling the cover off of the butter dish, she had been about to slice into it when she noticed just why it was that he had been so adamant about the order in which she was to eat her meal.
Shining in the candle light, a small but rather exquisite diamond ring sparkled up at her. The knife fell with a bit of a clatter from surprise. Ziva stared at the ring, unsure of what to make of all this, her heart already pounding before Tony was even sinking to one knee in front of her. She noticed his hands were shaking when he reached out to take hers and she couldn't help but wonder which one of them was more nervous.
"I... I know I always said that I didn't really believe in it and that settling down wasn't in the cards for me. But I keep... I keep thinking about it. About us. About the things we could have together. I keep remembering my father and how much he loved my mom. I keep remembering how even after she died, he never regretted marrying her, because he at least had those few happy memories to recall on. I keep... I just keep thinking about it and obsessing over it and I realized it's because... It's because I want it, Ziva. I want us. I want the white picket fence and the two point five kids who are probably all gonna be trained to be little assassins before the age of five and will be able to threaten people with paper clips." Ziva let out a laugh at that, already feeling tears forming in her eyes. "I want... a life with you."
Finally, he was able to look up at her, eyes locking onto her own. He could feel his stomach tying in knots and was pretty sure he was going to get sick if he wasn't careful. He focused on breathing, on keeping himself calm, even if calm felt like an impossible thing to reach at that moment.
"Ziva David, will you... will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
Her hand reached up to stifle the small sob that managed to escape her at the words. She could remember a number of times that she'd cried, but not many of them had ever been from joy. From relief. It took her a moment to gather herself, one that was obviously agonizing for him as he waited for her answer, but finally she was able to nod. She let out another happy cry as he pulled her down onto the floor with him, wrapping his arms around her in a tighter hug than he'd ever given her before.
"But I am not changing my last name to DiNozzo, you will just have to deal with that."
He laughed, pulling back, his hand cupping her face, a look of absolute joy on his features. It was then she noticed he had tears in his eyes as well. She was sure that it was the first time she'd ever seen him cry so openly.
"I think I can do that."