Author's Note: Thank you for the reviews and even to all those people who didn't leave one. The number of hits on the story and the number of countries where the stories have been accessed from makes me happy. Of course reviews make me smile even wider :)
Tim looked up from his computer screen as he heard the elevator doors open. Hearing what followed made him drop his eyes back to the screen and slip on his headphones, so it at least appeared that he wasn't paying attention.
"I can't believe you did that," Tony hissed. Walking around his desk he forcefully flung his backpack on the floor behind his chair.
"But I like the team name - Wolverines," Ziva defended trying to keep her voice low, firmly placing her own backpack on her chair. "I do not even know what a Buckeye is."
"They're University of Michigan, Ziva," Tony explained leaning across his desk, his eyes flashing with anger. "They are Ohio State's arch rivals. And for your information, a buckeye is a tree."
"Ohio State's team is named after a tree? That just does not make any sense." Her voice rose and she copied his actions leaning over her own desk.
McGee cast a wary glance at his friends.
"A tree? A tree just grows," Ziva said. "A wolverine attacks." Reaching into her backpack she pulled out a blue and yellow scarf and defiantly wrapped it around her neck.
"A Michigan scarf? I refuse to be seen or work with someone wearing Michigan clothing!"
Reaching back into her backpack the Israeli extracted a small stuffed animal sporting a Michigan jersey and placed it on her desk facing the Senior Field Agent.
"A stuffed wolverine? You can't be serious. That's it, David, game's on! And that thing we talked about earlier," Tony lowered his voice and cast a sly look towards his Probie. "It's off. Forever off."
"That's just fine with me, DiNozzo." Ziva looked at McGee silently defying him to speak.
"Gear up, people!" Gibbs shouted as he strode into the bullpen. "Dead corpsman in Norfolk. Bring your go-bag."
"You don't know what I'm sacrificing doing this," Tony remarked.
"You don't know how much I appreciate it," Ziva said with a grin.
Tony adjusted his sunglasses and gave her a sly smile. "Of course I may require some tender care after we get back."
Ziva laughed and urged her horse into a trot. Tony followed, but grimaced every time his rear bounced up and down on the saddle.
She looked back over her shoulder at him. "I cannot believe you remembered me talking about my uncle and the Arabians he raised."
"Well these aren't Arabians," Tony noted. "I think they're the canine equivalent of mutts." Reaching forward he gave his dapple gray horse's neck a pat.
"It does not matter. It is the thought that counts. When you texted me on our burn phones Friday afternoon that we were going to Rock Creek Park, I didn't know what to expect. Last time we came here, it was to investigate a murder."
"I'm glad you're so happy. I love seeing you smile."
She smiled wider. "At least we do not have to worry about our movements being tracked. When we got back from Norfolk, Abby had already removed the GPS units from our cards, and with the new phones we can communicate without worrying about the phones being traced."
"So you think we have them fooled?"
"Well at least Tim and Abby, not sure about Gibbs."
"True, you can never be sure about Gibbs, but if he suspects he's hiding it well."
"I hope so, Tony, but I thought after a couple 'coincidental,' and," Ziva's voice deepened into a sultry purr, "memorable, rendezvouses at my apartment…"
"Oh, Ziva, you spoke French!" Tony exclaimed.
"Cara mia!" Urging his horse closer to Ziva's mount he reached for her free hand drawing it to his lips.
"I think I know that one," Ziva exclaimed. "Umm..something do to with a bald man and a mortician!"
"The Addams Family," Tony said and gave her fingertips another kiss before releasing her hand. "Very good though, you were close and it's not a mortician it's Morticia, though I can see where you might have made the error."
"C'mon, this is the place up ahead. We can tie up the horses over their by the fence and have our picnic down by the creek."
"It is a beautiful day, Tony. Blue sky, and unseasonably warm for November." Ziva slowed her chestnut mare to a walk."
"I aim to please m'lady. I put in a special order with the Big Man." Tony urged his horse closer to the fence before dismounting. Looping the reins around the fence post, he watched Ziva do the same. He reached into the saddlebag and withdrew an insulated cooler and a padded totebag.
Joining Tony, Ziva took the totebag from him and slung it over her shoulder.
Grasping her hand, Tony led her over to a small picnic table near the water.
"What's on the agenda for next week?" Tony asked as he placed the cooler on the table. Ziva placed the totebag next to the cooler.
"Hmm. Have we argued about dark chocolate and milk chocolate yet?"
Tony paused, skewing his eyes shut while thinking. "I think that was week before last." Opening his eyes he laughed. "Really had Gibbs going didn't we?"
"I thought he was going to blow a basket."
"That's a gasket, sweetie. But yeah, we really had him going, not to mention McWhiteChocolate. Figures, he'd like white chocolate."
Ziva chuckled as she remembered the moment. "I do not think we have fought over American cars versus foreign cars yet."
"Good one. You'll take the foreign side, of course, and I'll extoll the virtues of domestic vehicles, in particular late 60's Ford Mustangs. Okay, what say we schedule that for Tuesday?"
"I think we should make it Wednesday, that way it can extend into Friday without any problem."
Tony nodded with a grin. "I love it when plan comes together…"
"I know that one. It's the A-Team!"
"Have I ever told you I love you, Sweet Cheeks?" he remarked, pride evident in his voice.
"A few times."
"Only a few? I think I better do something about that."
Ziva smiled and started to take their meal of cheese, crackers, and fruit out of the cooler, reaching into the bottom she brought out a chilled bottle of champagne.
"You brought champagne?" she asked clearly surprised and delighted.
Tony opened the totebag and extracted a Styrofoam block which he pried apart and removed a pair of champagne flutes. "Only the best for you," he said and reached for the bottle. Aiming the bottle away from them, and using the corkscrew on his Swiss army knife, he opened the bottle. As expected, after having been jostled on the horse, some of the champagne bubbled and overflowed out of the bottle. With a laugh, Tony filled the pair of flutes and toasted his lover.
Feasting on their repast and sipping on the champagne, they enjoyed each other's company.
Finishing their meal, they repacked the saddlebags.
"Let's leave the horses here for a bit and stretch our legs," Tony suggested.
Ziva ran a hand over her horse's shoulder and gave the animal a pat. "That sounds good. When we get back we can take the horses down to the water to get something to drink."
Hand in hand they walked along the path down along the water and over a small footbridge which led to a secluded area with a view of the creek.
She turned to face him.
"I want you to know that I've never been happier than the last few months."
"I feel the same way, ahuvati. I have enjoyed our time together, the dinners, walks, talking, laughing." Leaning against him she rested her head on his chest knowing that he would comfortingly embrace her. "Not to mention our special times with just you, me, and our passion." Ziva purred.
He ran his fingers down the side of her face and dropped a kiss onto the top of her head. "I-I never thought…" he swallowed hard trying to maintain some degree of control. "After Jeanne, I never thought I'd find that kind of happiness again."
Ziva started to speak, but he silenced her by placing his fingers over her lips. Tony pulled her away from him so he could look her in the face. "Please let me finish, Ziva. This needs to be said."
Placing a kiss on his fingers, she pulled his hand away from her lips and nodded indicating that she understood.
"Like I said, Ziva, I never thought I'd ever find someone to make me that happy. I was right, I never did." He paused and could see she had misunderstood the intent behind his statement. "I never did, amore mio, because I found someone better – so much better. I found someone who has completely captivated me. Someone who has unselfishly enveloped me in her love both mentally and physically and every other way in between. Ziva David, you are my other half, my soul mate. I love you intensely and completely."
"I feel the same way," Ziva whispered, mesmerized by his confession. "I thought in the past I had known true love, but it wasn't until we decided to ignore Rule #12 that I finally found out what true love really meant. How it really felt."
Reaching into his front pocket, he withdrew a small velvet covered box. He flipped it open with his free hand to reveal a sparkling oval diamond set in yellow gold. Ziva David, will you marry me?"
"I'm completely serious, Ziva. I want you to be part of my live forever. I want to wake beside you in the morning, and go to sleep beside you at night. I want to have children with you and," he smiled, "I want to grow old with you. I can't imagine my life without you."
"Tony, I have dreamed about this moment." She rose up on her toes and pressed her lips against his. "Tony DiNozzo, I love you too and I would love to be your wife. I would love to have your children and grown old with you." Ziva's eyes welled up with happy tears.
Tony smiled broadly, pulled out the ring and slipped it on her finger.
The happy pair clutched each other kissing and laughing, reveling in their happiness. Until suddenly Ziva pushed her new fiancé away from her.
"What's the matter?"
"What are we going to tell Gibbs?" Ziva asked eyes wide with fear.
Tony smiled. "Well I've been thinking about that." Leaning forward he whispered in her ear.
Ziva's eyebrows rose and she smiled.
End Chapter 3