Gibbs alternated between dozing and watching Ziva while she slept solidly for about three hours straight. As she came awake, she rubbed against him like a cat, turned into him as naturally as she had six weeks ago.
When she blinked open her eyes and found him looking down at her tenderly in the waning light, her slow smile warmed him from his head to his toes.
Real she breathed almost soundlessly as her hand smoothed over the muscled contours of his delectable chest, nearly delirious with pleasure.
His mouth found hers and they made love again without hurry, as though they had all the time in the world.
After another shower – because she had no idea how she was going to tame her wild curls without washing them after falling into bed with wet hair earlier and making love not once, but twice – he brought her bags up to his room and left her to get dressed while he made them something to eat.
"You actually went to the grocery?" she teased from the doorway into the kitchen.
He glanced over to find her still finger-combing her long, damp locks until they were mostly straightened. Even dressed in a simple royal blue top that fell off one shoulder and a pair of soft black yoga pants, no make-up and barefoot, her beauty slammed into his gut, momentarily taking his breath away.
His characteristic smile tugged at his mouth.
"All part of the plan," he admitted, adding spaghetti to a pot of boiling water and then stirring the red sauce that had pre-made fat meatballs he'd found in the deli bobbing in it.
"Oh?" she drawled slowly as she walked over to him. Wrapping her arms around his waist, she pressed a kiss to his back before resting her cheek against it. "What plan is that?"
Finished at the stove for the moment, Gibbs turned and wrapped his arms around her.
"To keep you naked and in bed most of the weekend," he revealed with a roguish twinkle in his eyes. "Figured we'd need to eat now and then just to keep our strength up, so I went to the store."
She laughed, then rose up on her toes to press a kiss to his mouth.
"That is an excellent plan," she commended him, setting back down on her heels. "You may count on my full participation."
His expression faded from affectionately teasing to something a little more serious as he looked down at her. He raised a hand to cup her jaw, spearing his long fingers into her hair.
"Missed you, Ziva," he told her softly. "A lot."
A delicious warmth spread from her heart to her belly and beyond.
"I missed you, too," she husked.
Their heads bent toward each other and they lost themselves in another long kiss that lasted until the bubbling pasta required some attention before it boiled over.
She opened a couple of beers and they ate at his table, playing footsie and sharing stories from the last six weeks that had not made it into their phone calls.
He tried to brush off her compliments about dinner, but she wouldn't let him. He diverted her attention by revealing that among the groceries he'd bought were the fixings for cheeseburgers, and grinned at the way her eyes lit up.
He also informed her that he'd grill the burgers and the steak he'd also picked up, but they would just about have tapped out his cooking skills by that point.
She graciously – secretly delightedly – allowed herself to be sweet-talked into doing the rest of the cooking.
After they'd rinsed the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen, they sat close together on the couch, touching, nuzzling, holding … simply enjoying being near enough to do so.
"You said we'd talk after we got home," he reminded her, his heart poking at him and begging to know just how long she was staying.
Ziva was sitting sideways facing him, one elbow resting on the back of the couch, her head leaning on that hand. She smiled and squeezed his hand that she was holding with her other one.
Taking a breath to calm her suddenly jittery nerves, she jumped in with both feet.
"I received a call this past Monday from your president," Ziva began. His eyes widened in surprise.
She chuckled. "I know. I had the same reaction."
After a brief pause, she continued.
"Apparently, he has had a vision and finally has the support he needs from other leaders and the United Nations to make it happen. He wants to put together an anti-terrorism task force made up of intelligence operatives from several different countries," she revealed. "This group would collect and analyze intel, share information, move to stop everything possible before it happens, organize responses … all with the goal of working together to decrease terrorist attacks around the world."
His eyebrows lifted slightly in surprise.
"He also hopes it will foster a sense of …" She searched for a word. "Community, I suppose, between nations, the understanding that we are all connected, that it should matter to one of us what happens to another."
"Wow," was all he could say at first. After a moment of thinking, he added, "Didn't see that coming, but sounds like a good thing."
"I thought so, too," she said. She waited a heartbeat. "I have been offered a position with the task force."
She actually saw his pulse leap at the base of his throat and prayed it meant what she hoped with all her heart that it did.
He all but snorted, trying to keep his wishful thinking from galloping too far ahead of the conversation.
"They should put you in charge of it," he observed.
"Actually, that is the position," she revealed softly.
His eyes flew to hers and stayed there.
"I pointed out that, in the intelligence world, he is taking a risk putting a woman, especially one who is likely to be younger than many she is leading, in charge of such an operation, but he was not concerned," she shared. Her respect for the president's opinion on that and his commitment to securing the best person for the job – regardless of gender or age or anything else - was obvious. "Apparently, after that last meeting when I was here before, there were several in his cabinet who suggested that I be considered."
She was clearly more than a little staggered by that.
That particular news didn't surprise Gibbs in the least, though. She was a natural to head such a group, in his opinion.
He'd all but forgotten about that meeting in the wake of the news she'd delivered directly after – that she would be leaving for Israel in about twelve hours – but now recalled that she'd been in conference with Homeland, the FBI, the CIA and the White House that morning.
"He did some research of his own and agreed."
Her eyes took on a wry gleam as she added a little more.
"I did feel compelled to point out that I do not exactly have a reputation for … diplomacy." He snorted and she grinned. They were much alike in that. "However, he was impressed with the manner in which we worked with NCIS and actually sees my style as a plus for the agent in charge of this particular operation." Amusement gleamed in her eyes. "He also says we could find a second-in-command for whom 'tactful relations' are a strength."
"Don't look at me," he snorted.
"You have many wonderful gifts, but, on that, I am forced to agree," she grinned, her arresting brown eyes twinkling.
Not that she would wish him any other way.
He grew serious once more.
"What are you gonna do?" Jethro asked quietly, carefully, searching her face for the answer.
She smiled and lifted her head off her hand so that she could caress his cheek with the backs of her fingers.
"Though I am not completely sure how I feel about the high likelihood of being in an office more than I will be in the field, I have accepted the position pending a meeting next week with several of the leaders involved to discuss some of the specifics," she admitted. "Much is still to be determined. For instance, the president would like me to be attached to one of your agencies here or his National Security Council, though I will also retain my standing within Mossad."
She paused for a moment, her eyes catching his meaningfully.
"I also requested the chance to discuss this with you before formally accepting."
"Where will you be based?" he asked, grateful that she wanted to include him in her decision, but afraid to let loose his hope for exactly where she would be living.
"That is another thing that is still to be decided," she shared. "It will likely be here or in New York City, and there are arguments to be made for both."
His heart pounded.
"Do I get a vote?" he husked.
Her lips curved even more tenderly, though a hint of vulnerability crept into her gaze. Squeezing his hand, she made a further admission.
"Yours is the most important one."
Satisfaction flared in his eyes and he hauled her onto his lap, holding her as though he didn't intend to let her go.
"D.C.," he voted. "Want you here."
The thrilled, relieved light in her eyes warmed his heart.
"I was hoping you would feel that way," she admitted on a grateful, happy sigh.
Smiling, their lips came together again, connecting tenderly, warmly, with more feeling than either of them could put into words just then. After they finally parted for much-needed air, Ziva tucked her face into his throat and snuggled in.
"Then, to answer your question from earlier and the other day," she finished softly, "it appears I will be staying for a long time."
The squeeze of his arms around her and the kiss he pressed to her head told her he was a big fan of that plan, which couldn't have made her happier. She relaxed completely into him as a sense of peace stole over her. They sat in comfortable silence for a few long moments until he made a request.
"Can I be the one to tell Malachi?"
A grin pulled at her lips at his question.
"Only if you promise to sound very possessive," she murmured into his ear in a sultry tone that skittered down his spine, "and you allow me to listen in."
"First part's a given," he informed her roguishly, "and, sure, if you want."
That earned him a kiss that rocked him to his toes.
"Guess this means won't have to have McGee book me on a flight to Tel Aviv," he reflected somewhat distractedly after she released his mouth to press a string of tiny kisses along his throat.
She pulled back so she could see his face.
"You were going to do that?"
A slow, beaming smile lit up her beautiful face.
"And I guess this means I can stop trying to figure out how to convince my father that I should become the Mossad Agent-in-Charge in Washington, D.C."
His characteristic grin accompanied by a satisfied, heated gaze made her stomach flop and her pulse throb between her thighs.
She buried her face against his neck again, pleased to simply hold him and be held in return.
"So, perhaps you would help me find a place to live?" she asked contentedly. "Although I suppose I should not sign anything until after my meeting next week, hmmm?"
Even she could hear the relaxed, happy note in her voice that had been missing for a while.
At least six weeks, to be exact.
"I'll help," he told her. He waited the space of two heartbeats. "Found a place."
She lifted her head from his shoulder to look into that handsome face of his that she was certain she'd never tire of seeing. Her brow was lightly furrowed in confusion.
"Here," he shared, answering her unspoken question.
"Yes," she said slowly. "We have both already voted for D. -"
Her breath caught.
"What do you mean, 'here'?"
"Here," he repeated with certainty. "In this house. With me."
Her heart was pounding so hard she marveled that he couldn't hear it.
"Jethro," she started carefully, "you do not have to suggest that. We have time now; we do not have to rush."
But, oh how she wanted to despite her usual guarded approach to matters of the heart, though she hadn't allowed herself to hope for anything beyond living in the same city with him.
"I know," he nodded. "Don't need time to know that's what I want." He looked at her without a doubt in his blue-eyed gaze. "Unless you do."
She shook her head.
"I do not," she whispered, the cautious longing that had been banked in her eyes breaking through to shine as brilliantly as the sun.
"That a yes?" he asked with one brow cocked, his eyes warmly teasing, unmistakable hope in his gaze.
"Yes," she husked joyfully. Then she shifted so she was straddling his lap and hugging him for dear life. "It is most definitely a yes!"
He laughed and hugged her back.
Sitting back a little, Ziva cupped his face in her hands and traced his features with her eyes for a moment as her thumbs smoothed over his cheeks, her smile gradually fading to something deeper that made his heart rate kick up.
God, she'd missed him.
"My father believes my heart stayed here when I left before," she admitted, her voice husky with emotion.
"Whadya you say about that?"
"I … think he may be right," she shared, uncharacteristically a little hesitant, her eyes skittering away from his.
"Just think?" he asked quietly, his gaze intent on hers once more.
Ziva consciously quieted her nerves and found that strong, confident, reach-for-what-she-wanted side of her that had attracted him in the first place. She took a steadying breath, then stepped further out onto this emotional ledge they were both so carefully treading.
"I know," she admitted, her voice soft, but clear and true. She held his gaze, hiding nothing. "The question is … do you want it?"
For a moment, he simply looked at her, allowing everything he felt for her, all the relief he was experiencing that she was back with him where she belonged, to creep slowly into his gaze.
"Seems only fair," he answered strangely, before clarifying, "since you have mine."
Her delighted, grateful smile and happy laugh zinged through him. She threw her arms back around his neck and held on tightly, one hand on the back of his head pressing his face into her throat as she buried hers against his hair.
Gibbs spoke again as one arm banded her tightly to him and the other hand rubbed up and down her back simply for the pure pleasure of it.
"Should probably know I'm gonna change your mind about getting married."
Her breath caught.
Her heart pounded.
Leaning back slowly, she stared at him for a long moment, surprise and wonder giving way to love and happiness shining from her big brown eyes.
"You should know that I intend to let you," she whispered emotionally in response.
His relieved grin pulled an answering one from her as they melted back together in a kiss that telegraphed the words that would soon be spoken out loud.
Those three little words he hadn't uttered since losing Shannon and Kelly.
Those same words she had never said to anyone but her mother and her sister.
Ziva's last coherent thought as she settled completely against Jethro once more was that with this man, wherever he was, that was where she belonged.
~ The End ~