Disclaimer: Still not mine.

A/N: And so we reach the final chapter. Warning: it's a bit shippier than I'd initially planned. Thanks very much to all of you who have read and reviewed!

Chapter Five: Putting the Operation on Hold

"So…" Ziva says, strolling over to McGee.

The case is wrapped up and the paperwork completed. Tony left HQ just a few minutes ago, so their section of the bullpen is empty.

"Wendy's clean," McGee states.

"Nothing?" Ziva asks, frustrated.

"Nothing," McGee confirms. "I mean, she's been charged with trespassing a couple of times since she became a reporter, but the charges were dropped. Beyond that, the worst thing on her record is the occasional parking ticket."

Ziva sighs. She hadn't wanted Tony's ex to be a criminal, exactly, but…

"Well, then that is that," Ziva says.

"You're just giving up?" McGee asks, surprised and perhaps a bit disappointed.

"What would you have me do, McGee?" Ziva half-snaps. "Stalk the woman? We have no reason to believe that her intentions are anything but pure. There is nothing else I can do without more information on her relationship with Tony, and the only people who know about that aren't talking."

McGee nods slowly. "OK," he concedes. "So we stop investigating."

Ziva nods. "We stop investigating. I will continue to keep my eyes and ears open, but that is it."

"Do you think they're going to… well, you know?" McGee asks.

"I do not know," Ziva says quietly. "And for the moment, it is technically none of our business."

"Mmm," McGee agrees, looking a bit disbelieving. After a brief pause, he says, "Vance called Gibbs 'cupid,' you know."

Ziva raises her eyebrows. "Now there is a mental imagine which I did not need."

"No, cupid as in a matchmaker," McGee clarifies quickly.

"And how did Gibbs respond to that?" Ziva asks.

"He grinned," McGee says, still bemused.

"Hmm," Ziva says. Shaking the thought away, she says, "Well, I am headed out. Do you have any plans, McGee?"

"Actually, I do," McGee says, smiling slightly. "Since we finished at a reasonable hour – for once – we'll actually be able to make our dinner reservations."

"Anyone I should know about?" Ziva asks curiously.

"Not yet," McGee replies. "It's still pretty new. Might not amount to anything."

"Ah," Ziva murmurs. "Well, have a lovely night out."

"Thanks," McGee says, grabbing his backpack. "What about you, Ziva? Any big plans?"

"I have a new book," Ziva says, shrugging, "and I might do a little cooking instead of ordering take-away."

"Sounds nice," McGee says. "Enjoy."

"Thank you," Ziva says. "I intend to."

-–- -–- -–- -–- -–-


It's the familiar trill of her cell phone.


Temporarily abandoning stirring the tomato mixture in the skillet, Ziva hurries over to the counter and answers the phone. "Hello?"

"Hey, Ziva," Tony's voice greets her.

"Tony," Ziva says. "This is certainly a surprise."

"Wanna grab a beer? I mean, if you aren't busy or anything," Tony asks casually.

"I would like to, but I am afraid that I cannot leave my apartment at the moment," Ziva replies. "Dinner is cooking on the stove." She hesitates briefly before saying, "…You could join me if you like. There is enough food for two."

"I'll bring the beer," Tony says promptly. "See you in twenty."

And he hangs up.

-–- -–- -–- -–- -–-

By the time he arrives, dinner is finished cooking and on the table.

"Brrr, it's cold out," Tony says, setting a six-pack of beers down on the table with a thud.

"It is winter," Ziva points out as she sets out the flatware and napkins.

"But it's been warmer lately," Tony protests in a tone approaching a whine.

"Sit, eat," Ziva tells him, smiling. "You will feel warmer once you do."

"So what is this, anyway?" Tony asks, jerking his head in the direction of the pan on the table.

"Shakshuka," Ziva says. "It is a bit like your huevos rancheros, yes? And I have some store-bought bread to go with it."

"Huh," Tony says, helping himself to some. The middle of a bite later: "Ishgud."

Ziva shakes her head in amusement and serves herself some as well. "It is very popular in Israel."

Tony swallows his bite and says, "I can see why."

For the next few minutes, the only sounds are of chewing and swallowing, punctuated by the occasional clink of spoons.

"I did not expect to hear from you tonight," Ziva says at last.

"Oh?" Tony says, playing innocent.

"You seemed… eager to see Wendy again," Ziva comments carefully. "I thought the two of you would spend time catching up once we had closed the case."

Tony's eyes sober a bit.

"Nah… not tonight, anyway. It's been… we hadn't talked for nine years, you know? Not since she broke things off."

Ziva's eyes widen. He is actually talking. And Wendy was the one to end the engagement?

"I know," Tony says with self-deprecating humor. "Hard to believe she'd turn all of this down. But enough about me, how are you doing?"

"I am… actually OK," Ziva says slowly. "I thought today would be more difficult than it has been. But I am finding that I do not miss Ray very much. He was never truly in my life, so there is not much for me to miss."

Tony's expression is serious as he says, "You deserve someone who will be there for you, Ziva."

"So do you," Ziva replies firmly.

Sometimes she thinks Tony does not realize how valued he is, how worthy he is of happiness.

"To us, then," Tony says, lifting his beer. "May we find someone who will appreciate us."

"To us," Ziva agrees, tapping her beer can against his.

A surprisingly warm smile spreads across Tony's face, and Ziva basks in its glow.

The night may be cold and their hearts may still be healing from previous hurts, but right now, in this moment, Ziva can't imagine anywhere else she'd rather be.