A/N: The final chapter!
They celebrated Christmas together that year.
She was Jewish and, before Tony, had never actively participated in the celebrations, but he had dragged her across town in the cold all the way to the Ellipse, a park in DC just south of the White House, wherein sat the nation's Christmas Tree. It was a sight to behold when decorated—all sparkling lights, varying in their size and colour, winding from the bottom of the tree all the way up to the top where a star stood proud.
Tony and Ziva had gotten pushed around by the crowd for ten minutes, their eyes never leaving the spectacular evergreen, before the cold forced them to take refuge in the doorway of a closed shop. There, amidst a constant flow of jokes and high-spirited giggling, they had their dinner—spaghetti with meatballs in little plastic containers courtesy of Tony, and chocolate chip cookies in one big box courtesy of Ziva. It was not the traditional, ideal Christmas dinner, but it was so very them.
They were together again on New Year's Day.
They had not spent New Year's Eve with each other, but he showed up late the next afternoon, outfitted in jeans, a T-shirt, and a paper bag that he held loosely by his side. She narrowed her eyes suspiciously at his brown handheld companion but let them in regardless. Dinner was already cooking; the ding of an oven and the whir of a blender later, they served themselves to roast with salad and chocolate mousse for dessert.
The paper bag turned out to hold a scarf, all cotton and colour blending into colour, and she chided him for the purchase but accepted it when he insisted to her that it was the only way he could ever repay her for what she had done for him.
It was a good winter.
They went on a pseudo-date on Valentine's Day.
Neither of them would call it an actual date, and both of them would steer clear of romantic settings as if those environments gave them bad rash, but it seemed as if both could not avoid meeting up. It was not that out of the ordinary. They were spending most of their free time together by now. But it seemed—or so Ziva thought—that they had met up with a purpose that day, because their hands would discreetly brush each other's every so often, and then their eyes would guiltily avert: Stolen moments of romantic intimacy that neither would address outwardly.
Even so, their Valentine's Day date—pseudo-date—was nothing that Ziva would want to put out of her mind. She was reminded again of how much she laughed while with Tony; how much he seemed to light her world up, and it gave her hope. Not hope for his affections towards her, because she already knew where he stood on the topic of them, but hope for herself and her being brave enough to acknowledge reciprocating his feelings.
In the middle of the year, they celebrated his birthday.
She was the one with a bottle of wine and a gift this time—a watch that was just glittery enough to catch the attention of the child in him and subtly elegant enough to gain the stamp of approval from the adult in him—and over dinner they revelled each other with stories of past birthdays and made merry until far into the night.
That was the first time she slept over at his place. (Other than sitting up through the night to sponge away his winter-induced illnesses, that was.) It was in a strictly platonic manner, but when they woke up and made breakfast, moving around the kitchen in sync with each other, it was more domestic than she dared imagine.
By the time breakfast was over, she was already convinced of what her answer would be, should he ask her the question she knew he had been wanting to for more than a year.
Time progressed—one day he said that he wanted to go back to school. He had never finished that last semester of his Phys. Ed. degree programme from years ago, and he was keen to get a bachelor's degree now to assist him with a career. He wanted to work somewhere he could help others, he told her. Someplace not unlike where she was working—and he was willing to do whatever it took to get there.
Thus, they spent weeks together, brainstorming universities and programmes and credit transfers and financial aid and work-study opportunities and all that was necessary for him to continue his studies.
Eventually, they narrowed it down to three universities. He sent off his applications in August.
He got answers back from two of them in October.
He was over the moon, even grabbing Ziva who happened to be there joyously and spinning her wide circles that left her blushing furiously. He looked mildly apologetic after putting her back down, but she only smiled and enfolded him into a hug without reservation.
And they were there, she knew. He was growing up; working towards the place professionally where he wanted to be. She, for her part—she would be a detective for a long time to come, and she had absolutely no qualms about that. And they, as an entity?
Well, they would do it all together.
"Tomorrow, I'm officially going to be a university student again."
She grinned proudly at the man standing tall before her—her hero, in every sense of the word. "Yes, you are."
"You gonna miss me?" he teased good-naturedly.
She laughed. "You wish. Your university will have to be farther than an hour away for that to happen."
He chuckled and nudged her arm. "You could always come visit me. I'll show you off to all the guys on campus."
"That is a very—"
"I'm kidding, Ziva."
She huffed, pretending to be put out. "Well, it's not funny."
"Since when have I not been funny?" He put on his best mock hurt face. "Do you think uni's changing me already? Is it all the assignments—all the pressure? Do you think it's taken my funny bone? You think—"
She managed only a two-second glare before they both melted into laughter. She shook her fist at him when she caught her breath, and glared sternly at him. "Alright. You better behave in university."
"I always do, Miss David," he replied, promptly and obediently.
"Good." She took a deep breath. "For the record—I am very proud of you."
His smile grew genuine. "I couldn't have done it without you."
"Nonsense," she threw back at him. "You were always going to succeed."
And then she steeled herself with a smile, her heart thumping in her chest as she looked up at him. "Tony?" she said.
"Ask me now."
His eyes lit up immediately, as if his thoughts were so very in sync with hers—as if he knew what she was hinting at. "Really? Are you sure?"
"Okay." He stepped towards her, scooping up her two hands with his and pressing a kiss over her fingers with a hopeful, if slightly nervous, beam. "Do you think, Ziva David-… Do you think you could give us a chance?"
The answer was definitive.
The outcome would turn out to be wonderful.
A/N: And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a wrap :P
A/N 2: I'd also like to take this moment to tell all of you that this will be my last regular fic for NCIS. That doesn't necessarily mean that I will never write NCIS again; it just means the majority of my writing won't be about NCIS. Thank you for all your support as well as the encouragement and positive feedback that was offered to me while I was writing NCIS fanfiction :P A million thank yous. I couldn't have done it without you guys, honestly. So, thank you! Virtual chocolates for you all!
A/N 3: I'm thinking, at this moment, of trying my luck in Castle fanfiction. So, if any of you read Castle fanfiction, I'd appreciate the support. If not, wish me luck, because they have some really good authors :P