Final chapter up! :D Now I can board my flight with nothing on my conscience, lol.
For the first section, one need know one thing: The first fic in this series is actually Memoir (for those of you who haven't read it), and in one part of that fic, Ziva finds out that Tony's in the process of writing his memoir (hence, why his bucket list says "finish memoir" and not "write memoir." I may be reading too much into it, but it's more fun that way). Anywayyy, Tony writes while he's drunk, lol, so his spelling sucks. Okay.
Also: Fluff alert :P like, major fluff alert. I have a toothache! And the last part time-jumps six months to their first anniversary as a couple.
Enjoy, please review! And thank you to everyone who's stuck around, encouraged, and supported me for so long. I couldn't do this without all of you, so you have my eternal gratitude.
He's writing at the desk when she enters their room, and she's silent and sneaky and completely unnoticed by him until she jabs him painfully in the ribs from behind. He jumps, knocking hard on her chin in the process.
"Oh my god, Ziva." He whirls around, torn between rubbing her chin and the top of his head. She winces when he touches her jaw. "Why'd you do that?"
She shrugs. "I wanted to surprise you."
"Okay, let me rephrase: Since when do you do that?"
She opens her mouth and then closes it, shrugging once more before moving around him to look down at his work. "What are you writing?"
"Um." He clears his throat uncomfortably. "Memoir."
"Oh." She pauses, frowning at the papers. "You still write your memoir?"
"I scrapped the old one. This is brand new. Less spelling errors, 'cause I'm sober right now."
She chuckles and meets his eyes. "Can I read it?"
He deliberates for a second, with her eyes earnest and unnervingly trained upon him, and eventually pushes the papers towards her. There's probably nothing in there that she doesn't already know about, anyway. She reads through his writing at a snail's pace—probably just to torture him—and he watches as her eyes flit downwards, left to right, left to right, page after page. Her face is expressionless. He wonders what she's thinking.
Finally, she rearranges them and hands them back to him with a tiny smile. "You're writing about us," she says, and he's startled by the fact that she sounds slightly breathless.
"Yeah…" he answers hesitantly. "I just … y'know, thought I'd want a way to remember this stuff when I grow older. Is that okay?"
Her smile widens a smidge, and she nods. "Yes, it's okay." He breathes out with relief. "You want to remember us?"
His breath catches, and he stares at her dumbly. She is so beautiful, with the late morning sun casting gentle rays on her person through the thin white curtains. Chocolate brown hair curling around her shoulders and tumbling over her back, a face made radiant by both youth and wisdom. Pretty red lips, curled into a smile that shines through even in her mesmerizing eyes. Ethereal, he decides, must be the only way to describe her. And I love her.
So yeah,he does want to remember them. He'd want to remember this moment forever if he could, no matter whether they would end up eventually being 'permanent'. But that would've been way too sappy for him to say and her to hear, so he just smiles back, his heart tripping all over itself. "Yeah, I do."
And he thinks she may understand when she leans down to kiss his forehead, her thumb stroking his cheekbone lightly.
They go to HaYarkon Park in the North of Tel Aviv for lunch.
He helps Aunt Nettie pack some fruits and sandwiches, while Ziva hunts high and low for a blanket and a picnic basket, and—for reasons unknown to him—a board game to play with.
"Scrabble, really?" he asks sarcastically when she emerges victorious, and she raises her chin defiantly before packing it away with the blanket. He rolls his eyes and returns to the onion dip he's making.
He later regrets his sarcasm when it becomes obvious that: A) Ziva kicks his ass at Scrabble, which isn't even fair; and B) Aunt Nettie could probably beat them all in her sleep, which is simply scary. It makes him think that more books and fewer movies would be good for him, after all.
His brain completely revolts at the thought, causing Ziva and Aunt Nettie to have to protest when he tries to put down 'Asgard' as a word in the middle of their second game (Aunt Nettie won the first) in the picnic grove where they've lain out their picnic blanket.
"Okay, it is a word," he insists, stubbornly putting his last tile back on the board from where his partner had picked it up and used it to gesture somewhat violently at him.
"It is not a word!" Ziva huffs. "What does 'asgard' mean?"
"It's a kingdom."
"Of the … um…" he trails off, and Ziva unfurrows her brow and beams triumphantly at him.
"Not a word. Take it off."
"Fine," he mutters. "What can I even spell with SGARD and these random X and Y tiles anyway?"
"I'm sure you will figure something out," Aunt Nettie speaks up from her spot against the tree, where she's leaning back and fanning herself. "You could switch one of the tiles on your rack for another from the bag."
"Yeah, I think I'll do that," he answers, picking two tiles out of the bag and tossing X and Y back in. He checks the letters of the new tiles. E and O. Much better.
"My turn." The elderly lady stretches forward, gingerly placing her tiles on the board, and his eyes widen with disbelief.
"'Erotica'? You have to be kidding me. There's no way the letters on your rack spell 'erotic,'" he splutters as Ziva shushes him and steals a glance, her form shaking with laughter, at the nearby family with young children.
"Oh, they spell 'erotica,' but there was already an A on the board," Aunt Nettie replies sweetly, "and there is a way. I just put it down."
"Is the universe on your side or something?" he asks incredulously, and Aunt Nettie chortles.
"About time! I have been sucking up to them for sixty-seven years."
He points a finger at her. "Okay, you really need to teach me how to do that, 'cause I could use some luck."
"I asked them really nicely," Aunt Nettie answers as she digs into the bag for more tiles, and he scowls.
Grumbling under his breath, he helps Ziva turn the board so that she can put down her word. 'Rucksack,' played on the R from 'erotica.' He sighs and stuffs an olive from the picnic basket into his mouth.
He's about to lose in another Scrabble game to two women who don't speak English as their first language.
"Eli knows about us," Ziva tells him while they get ready for bed that night, and he stares at her as she chews on her lip nervously, the hair brush she'd been using lowered into her lap.
"Eli knows about us," he repeats slowly, feeling the hairs on the back of his neck start to rise. He'd assumed Eli hadn't known, since Ziva hadn't mentioned anything upon coming back from the visit, and he can't fathom why she chooses to tell him now, of all times.
"Yes. And I didn't tell him," she adds quickly, as if afraid he'll accuse her of something. "He guessed."
His heart starts to race, and his mouth goes dry with trepidation. "So what's the verdict?"
She shrugs and puts her brush down onto the table behind her. "He does not care, apparently. He said he just wants us to know that he knows."
"That's not a threat, is it?"
She shakes her head, hair falling over her shoulders. "He sees no reason to stop what we are doing. But I would advise you to stay far away from him, Tony. I do not trust him not to threaten you."
He rolls his eyes, the movement almost painful in his show of faked nonchalance. "You're kidding me. He wouldn't give me the Protective Father act."
She lifts her head and gives him a dry smile. "The only one of my boyfriends that Abba has completely approved of is Michael Rivkin, and that was only because Michael had been in Mossad. He has never … expressly forbidden me from dating anyone except terrorists, but you and he have a history of … arguing, and I do not want that to have the opportunity of happening again."
The whole summary of Eli's involvement in Ziva's dating life, even if slightly alarming, is so utterly hilarious that he suddenly can't help the avalanche of chuckles which tumble out of his mouth. She blinks at him in bewilderment, only to earn herself more chuckles from him, before he finally manages to finish undressing for bed and go over to her.
"Okay, no approaching Eli," he promises, holding up three fingers on one hand and pulling her off the chair and into his arms with the other. She's soft and warm against him, and he feels relief flood his senses at that.
"What were you laughing about?" she asks, her eyes wide and bemused, and he chuckles again before pressing his lips to hers.
"I think I'm just relieved I'll get to keep you, and there'll be no modern-day version of Romeo and Juliet, Mossad-versus-NCIS style." He smiles gently at her. "Can you imagine the carnage?"
A grin starts to grow on her face. "Do you want to know how he said he knew?"
He eyes her with mock suspicion. "He's not tailing us, is he?"
"No, he stopped tailing me after I left Mossad for NCIS," she answers, and it's his turn to blink at her. He hadn't known anything about Eli tailing her before that, and certainly didn't expect his joke to have once been reality. She shakes her head, warning against further discussion, and continues, "He said I look like a 'woman in a romantic relationship,' and that I 'act like Tony DiNozzo' now."
He snorts and pulls her closer. "I guess coming from him, that's a compliment."
"Doubtful," she answers, sticking her tongue out at him, and she makes a face when he tweaks her nose.
"Watch your words, Juliet. Now, it's time for bed."
And that's it, he realizes in an exhilarating rush once they're in bed and she's in his arms again. One less obstacle between us. It's as if against all odds, they might actually work out, after all.
Packing the next day makes him feel as reluctant to leave as he'd felt when the road trip had been about to end. Sure, there's been no countdown this time, and he's much more certain now than he'd been then that he and Ziva will still be a couple when they set foot back in DC, but Aunt Nettie does serve them a spectacular breakfast that makes him wish he could stay in Tel Aviv forever.
But then he remembers how he has to avoid Eli, and how Abby (and of course, Probie; maybe even Gibbs) will miss him, and the urge goes away. He thinks hanging out with Nettie has been fun, though. He tells her that and leaves her a standing invitation to visit DC at any time, or even retire there; she points out with a chuckle that she doesn't have a full-time job to retire from, but thanks him gracefully for his offer. As he straightens up from a gentlemanly kiss to the back of the elderly lady's hand—during which she actually curtseys in return—he catches sight of Ziva leaning against a wall, watching them with an expression that might very possibly be pride.
He and Ziva go to the airport alone. Aunt Nettie had wanted to accompany them, but Ziva had insisted that she stay home and rest after having entertained them for so many days. Nettie had relented in the end, giving her niece one last tight hug and a "be safe, Zivi," and then sending them off with a huge smile and a hand that didn't stop waving until they'd turned the corner.
Yeah, he thinks, Ziva's right: Aunt Nettie is a pretty awesome person.
"So, what do you think?" Ziva asks, a questioning smile on her face as they wait to board their flight.
"I liked Nettie," he announces, and his partner's face lights up.
"I think she likes you, too."
"Yeah? Well, I always knew I could charm her," he drawls, earning himself a nudge in the ribs and an amused shake of Ziva's head.
He sobers and slips an arm lightly around her waist; her cheeks turn pink, as usual, and she leans her head against his shoulder. After so long, he suddenly realizes with joyful disbelief. After so long, she still blushes whenever I hold her like that.
And it's not something he can take for granted.
"Hey, Zi?" he whispers into her soft hair. She hums in response. "I love you very much."
She lifts her head, her eyes meeting his in more than a little surprise, and he gets it. They may have been saying it more often lately, but rarely without purpose, and even more rarely at random moments like these—while in an airport, waiting for a plane. But these random moments are the kind he would want to remember forever in a memoir, he thinks. So, he gives her his most charming smile and watches as her eyes start to sparkle, and the red on her cheeks turns even darker before she hides her face into his shoulder.
And because he knows to listen for it now, he hears the quiet words against his shirt: "I love you very much, too, Tony."
Almost Six Months Later
He feels Ziva start to wake up beside him, but he doesn't turn to face her; instead, he waits for her to stretch and then snuggle closer, flinging a leg and an arm over his body, before he smiles at her.
"Happy One-Year Anniversary," he whispers, and he can tell from the slightly startled expression on her face that she hadn't been expecting him to remember that it's been a year since their first day as a romantic couple. He chuckles when a sleepy beam starts to grow on her face.
"I have something for you," she whispers back softly.
"Yes. I was planning to surprise you and wait to see how long it took you to remember what today was, but you beat me to it," she answers ruefully, and the corners of his lips curl up into a smile.
"You can't be complaining."
"Of course not," she replies with an innocent expression that makes his body shake with laughter.
"Liar. You love holding stuff over my head, like how I 'forgot' our one-year anniversary."
She shrugs indifferently. "I should have leverage."
He shakes his head with a grin and flips her over, pressing his body into hers and nipping her bottom lip. "So, what do I get for remembering?"
She smirks. "I would tell you," she answers, "but your actual surprise is under the bed, and I need you to move so that I can get it."
He dips his head to kiss her mouth. "It can wait."
"I don't want to wait to give you it," she protests breathlessly, pulling away.
He groans and rolls off her. ""Who actually postpones sex for stuff like presents?"
She laughs as she slips off the bed and sticks her head underneath it. "Are presents not important?"
"Yeah, they are, but so is sex…" He narrows his eyes at her when she re-emerges. "Wait, you're not going to say, 'Just for that, I'm not giving you your present,' are you?"
"No," she replies, climbing onto the bed with a wrapped, rectangular box in hand. He sits up and eyes the box sceptically.
"What is it?"
"Open it." She pushes the box towards him. Holding his breath, he undoes the wrapping paper.
And lying before him, looking spectacularly unremarkable, is a glossy cardboard box holding the object of his dreams.
"Oh my god."
"Do you like it?" she asks tentatively, biting her lip, and his face splits into a wide grin as he gingerly lays the box on the bedside table before pulling her into his arms.
"My very own DSLR? Hell, yeah!"
She laughs and kisses him. "Okay, now we can get to the sex."
He presses a finger to her lips. "Oh, no, wait. Now that we've gotten the gift-giving rolling, I wanna give you yours first."
"Okay," she answers bemusedly, and he lets her go, shifting to block her view as he reaches into his bedside table drawer.
"I didn't wrap it, but hopefully you won't mind." He takes the box from the drawer and turns back to her, and watches as the expression in her eyes goes from confusion to understanding to shock, and her mouth falls open. He grins nervously. "Here, let me open it for you."
He does, and her hand flies to her mouth as a sob escapes it. "Yes," she gasps out, launching herself forward and almost knocking the ring box out of his hands. "Yes, Tony, I will marry you."
He laughs, his heart swelling with incredible happiness and pride as her hands come around his neck. Her face is all tears and a huge, huge smile, and he can barely believe that she said 'yes.' We're going to get married.
"Wait, wait," he manages to get out as she presses him into the bed, the look in her bright eyes carrying a promise for the present and the future. "I've to put the ring on first."
She stops short, blinking as if she's just remembered the material aspect of the proposal, and starts to giggle before she holds out her hand. Her body rocks with laughter as he slips the ring onto her finger, and when he's done, she buries her face into him, kissing and kissing his neck in between laughs. He rubs her back and waits until she's composed herself before gently rolling them over, leaning into her and pressing his lips to hers like he plans to for years to come.
He doesn't think either of them really misses the fact that she hadn't hesitated for a single beat.