Title: Somewhere a Clock is Ticking
Summary: It all came down to that one moment. That one ricocheting bullet. That one mistake, easily worse than any of the other mistakes he's ever made with her. How will he be able to fix this?
Disclaimer: If I owned NCIS, Ray and EJ wouldn't exist and Tiva woulda happened four seasons ago. Song belongs to Snow Patrol
Beginning Notes: So...this idea kind of came out of nowhere. But I love it. I really do. I'm an angst junkie (which you'll know if you happen to be a reader of my other story, When It All Comes Down), so if you like angst, you'll like this. Hopefully. Not really much to say other than read, please!
I've got this feeling that there's something that I missed
(I could do most anything to you...)
Don't you breathe, something happened, that I never understood
You can't leave
Every second, dripping off my fingertips, wage your war
Another soldier, says he's not afraid to die, well I am scared
In slow motion, the blast is beautiful
Doors slam shut
A clock is ticking, but it's hidden far away
Safe and sound
Somewhere a Clock is Ticking — Chapter One
It was dark.
It had been a long, long couple of months of tracking the Port-to-Port killer, and now it was all coming down to this. This one moment. This dark warehouse. Both teams were split up into pairs, moving quietly through the area, their eyes peeled for any kind of movement in the darkness with nothing but thin beams from their flashlights to guide them, hands gripping guns tightly, fingers wrapped around cool metal.
"Outside perimeter clear," McGee reported quietly into the earwig. He'd stayed outside with Levin and Cade. Gibbs and Barrett had ended up paired together, searching the first floor of the warehouse, leaving Tony and Ziva to the basement.
"First floor clear," Barrett reported after a moment. Tony sighed as he readjusted his earwig. Another dead end. Of course.
"Wait," Ziva spoke up suddenly, and Tony stopped mid-word.
"Ninja sense tingling, Zee-vah?"
"Tony shut up," Ziva hissed, tension ringing clear in her voice, and Tony straightened up instantly. A sudden gunshot broke the silence, followed by a quick succession of shots, and the light from Ziva's flashlight disappeared, and Tony jerked his gun up, twisting back and forth, trying to find the source of the noise, the arm holding his flashlight falling to his side as his gun took priority.
"DiNozzo, report!" Gibbs ordered tersely; there was a series of flashes as more gunshots rang out, and Tony quickly ran towards the corner the shots were coming from. He could just make out Ziva's small, lithe form, dodging the bullets fired by a larger shadow. He raised his gun and fired off a round, cursing when he missed.
One last shot, and suddenly the larger of the two shadows crumpled as someone — presumably Ziva — put a fatal round in him.
"DiNozzo, David!" Gibbs was shouting now, his voice reverberating off the walls and in their ears as he and Barrett hurried down the stairs. "One of you, answer, now!"
"Um…suspect down, boss," Tony said uncertainly as he holstered his gun, his eyes flitting to Ziva, who was moving slowly towards him. He swiveled his flashlight around quickly, leveling it with Ziva's shadow, bathing her in light.
The flashlight nearly slipped from his suddenly numb fingers.
He darted forward just in time to catch her as her knees gave out, her body very nearly colliding with hard, unmerciful ground. Her left hand was pressed tightly against her right side, fingers digging into her skin as she attempted, futilely, to stem the flow of blood.
"Boss Ziva's down!" Tony called hurriedly over his shoulder before returning his attention to the woman in front of him. He moved his hand to cover hers, cringing when a low, pained whimper escaped her lips. He didn't notice that Gibbs and Barrett were standing over him now, the former barking orders at McGee to call an ambulance.
"I am fine, Tony," Ziva tried to mumble, but her words were cut off by a sharp cry of pain, and she doubled over, her grip on her side tightening.
He readjusted her so she could lie down on her back, ignoring the token resistance she tried to put up. His free hand sought out hers, his fingers wrapping tightly around her own, shaking ones. "Come on Zi, look at me," he muttered hurriedly, trying — and failing — to get her attention. "Just look at me Ziva, focus on me. Open your eyes Zi, come on…"
"Really…like my name, huh…Tony?" Ziva managed to choke out after a moment, her weak smile turning into a grimace as she cringed harshly, choking back another cry of pain.
"Oh shush," Tony said, moving his hand to her forehead, pushing back a few strands of hair from her sweaty skin. Her eyes opened, just a little, pained mahogany orbs finding panicked green. "All right, good. Just keep your eyes open for me, all right? The ambulance will be here soon, just keep your eyes open, focus on me. You're not going to die. You're not allowed to die."
"I know—" Ziva cut herself off as her entire body arched, another cry escaping her lips. Tony squeezed his eyes shut, forcing back the tears that came with hearing her in so much pain.
"Easy, Ziver." Suddenly Gibbs was kneeling beside Tony, resting both hands against Ziva's shoulders as he tried to keep her still. She was trembling violently, clearly in more pain than she was letting on. And that was saying something.
"Come on Ziva," he begged quietly, trying to bring her attention back to him. "You're not allowed to die. I need you, remember? You can't die."
"M'not…going…to…" Her words were lost in a haze of pain, her throat closing around another scream. Tony had to force himself not to look away. He needed to be strong. She needed him to be strong.
It wasn't until Gibbs was dragging him away that Tony realized the paramedics had arrived. And suddenly Ziva was lost in a flurry of activity and words. Everything kind of washed over him. Gunshot wound…blood loss…ruptured appendix…
The bullet had hit her appendix.
"All right, let's get her onto the gurney, on three. One, two…"
Tony watched, numbly, as the men lifted Ziva's trembling body onto the gurney, watched as they started to wheel her away. He was still kneeling on the ground, staring at the spot where she'd been lying not twenty seconds earlier. His hands were warm, still sticky with blood.
Blood. Warm, red blood. Her blood.
Tony's stomach turned, and he stumbled up, hurrying away from Gibbs and Barrett. He barely managed to make it into the corner before he doubled over, retching.
It took him a moment to empty his stomach. When he finally came back to his senses, he became aware of a strong hand on his shoulder, holding him steady. He straightened up, shrugging out of Gibbs' grip and yanking his windbreaker off, using it to wipe off his hands the best he could. Desperate to get the feeling of blood — of Ziva's blood — off his skin.
He doubted it would ever go away.
"Okay?" Gibbs asked after a moment as Tony tossed his windbreaker aside, looking disgusted. His skin was almost the same ashen color as Ziva's had been. Tony nodded, yanking his hat off as well, though opting against running his hands through his hair, as he was so desperate to do. "All right. Let's go."
McGee, Levin, and Cade were waiting outside, McGee looking a little worse for wear. He'd gotten a look at Ziva as they had loaded her into the ambulance. It had been almost two years since he'd seen her looking that bad.
It was frightening.
"Crime scene is yours," Gibbs informed Barrett stiffly as he started towards the car, beckoning for Tony and McGee to follow. Neither thought twice before doing as they were told.
The short ride to the hospital was spent in silence. Gibbs drove faster than they could ever remember him driving, faster than they could even remember Ziva ever driving. Tony spent the ride staring out the window, watching the lights flash by, seeing nothing but Ziva, bleeding out under his hands, the entire time. McGee just stared straight ahead, praying to whatever god existed that they didn't lose another teammate. That they didn't lose Ziva again.
No one's psyche would be able to handle it.
Especially not Tony's.
It was no surprise, when they arrived at the hospital, all three shoving their badges into the poor receptionist's face, to hear that Ziva was in surgery, and it would probably take more than a couple of hours. Not only did they have to fi the damage done by the bullet, there was also the matter of her ruptured appendix to attend to.
It was going to be awhile, in other words.
They were directed to a waiting room, and then left to…well, wait. Gibbs disappeared for a few minutes to get coffee; he returned with three cups, but neither McGee nor Tony were overly interested in the hospital's disgusting concoction, and Gibbs gave up rather quickly on his own cup. McGee settled back in a chair, preparing for a long wait, his hat gripped tightly in his hands.
And Tony…Tony paced.
He paced the short length of the waiting room, from the window to the wall and back again, over and over and over. He was starting to make McGee nervous, and definitely starting to get on Gibbs' nerves.
"DiNozzo, park it," he ordered finally, losing his patience. "Wearing a hole in the floor isn't going to get her out of surgery any faster. Just sit the hell down."
For a moment Tony considered mutiny. But Gibbs was right, and anyways he was starting to get dizzy. So he sat. He pulled out his cell-phone and tried to play Tetris, giving up when he lost five consecutive times and shoving his phone back into his pocket.
They sat in silence for almost half an hour.
"Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod…"
Suddenly Abby came bustling into the waiting room, Ducky right behind her. McGee was the first to stand, and found himself on the receiving end of Abby's bone-crushing hug. "How is she, is she okay, what do you know?" Abby rattled off the words quickly, her arms tight around McGee's neck, effectively preventing him from answering.
"We don't know anything yet, Abby," Gibbs answered in McGee's stead. "She's in surgery now. The paramedics said the bullet ruptured her appendix."
"What?" Abby yelped, pulling away from McGee, and Ducky made a noise in the back of his throat.
"Poor dear, I can only imagine the kind of pain she was in…"
Tony closed his eyes, trying very hard not to think about Ziva, lying on the dirt floor of the basement, choking back cries of pain, her body twisting, as if she could somehow escape from it. Escape from the pain.
"She's going to be okay though, right?" Abby demanded, looking between Gibbs and McGee and Tony. "I mean…she's going to be okay? Right?"
"Of course she will be," Tony said quietly, his voice hoarse from having not spoken in hours. "She's Ziva. She knows she doesn't have permission to die, and she's too stubborn for that anyways. She's going to be okay."
Abby smiled shakily before throwing herself at the senior agent, wrapping him in an awkward hug. After a while the group settled back into silence, preparing themselves for a long wait.
It was almost dawn. Abby and McGee were fast asleep, resting their heads on one another's shoulders. Gibbs was turning an empty cup around his hands — he'd finally managed to finish a cup of coffee. Ducky was leaning back in his chair, his eyes closed, but he wasn't asleep. Tony was sitting straight up in his seat, staring at the wall across from him. His eyes were itching, begging for sleep — it had been almost four days since he'd gotten more than three hours of sleep, and that had been hunched over his desk. He was exhausted.
But he would sleep. Not until he knew for sure that Ziva was okay.
He wouldn't sleep.
"Family for Agent David?"
In the time it took to blink everyone was standing, even McGee and Abby. "Dah-veed," they all corrected in one voice. It was a knee-jerk reaction. The tired doctor looked between the group of people, taking in the varying states of weariness, and returned their looks with a weary smile of his own.
"Agent Dah-veed. Sorry."
"How is she?" Gibbs demanded, silently ordering the doctor to get to the point. He wanted to know how is agent was doing, damn it.
"She's out of surgery, we have her up in recovery now. I'm not going to lie, it was pretty touch and go, especially with her appendix, but we managed to get it out without too many problems, she's going to have to be on antibiotics for a while to combat the toxins that managed to get into her system. We also managed to extract the bullet, we're having it sent to your lab now."
"Can we see her?" Abby asked, rubbing her eyes. The doctor smiled sadly in the young woman's direction.
"As I said, she's in recovery now. When we move her to a room, you'll be able to see her. That probably won't be for a couple of hours though." Everyone sighed, a bit of annoyance present in their expressions. All this time, and they still couldn't see her.
"Thanks Doc," Gibbs finally said, running a hand through his greying hair.
"If you want to leave, get some rest, you can leave a number with the receptionist, she can call you when Agent David is in her own room."
"All right." Gibbs turned to face his team. "Go home." They all opened their mouths to argue. "Don't wanna hear it. Go home, get some rest. I'll give 'em my number, when I know something, you'll all know. Now go."
It was surprisingly easy, getting them all to leave. Too easy.
Gibbs really wasn't surprised when he got back to NCIS and found McGee and Tony sitting down in Abby's lab. With Abby, of course.
"I knew that was too easy," he sighed as he leaned against the counter, his eyes roaming over his people. Tony and McGee both looked exhausted; he was surprised they were still managing to sit up straight. And even Caf-Pow didn't seem to quite be doing it for Abby anymore.
"I'm running ballistics now, both on the bullet that hit Ziva and the one that took down the suspect."
"It was a single shot to the head," Tony said before Gibbs could ask. "Probably Ziva's shot. I only got one shot off and I missed."
Before anything else could be said, Barrett walked into the lab with — Tony noted with more than a bit of annoyance — Agent Cruz right behind her.
"Agent Gibbs." Barrett greeted the silver-haired man dryly.
"How's Ziva?" It was Ray, annoyingly enough, who cut right to the chase. Tony tried not to be too irritated — he knew the man cared about Ziva. But exactly where the hell had he been over ten hours ago when they had been sitting in the waiting room, waiting to hear whether Ziva had lived or died?
"She'll live," he said shortly. He knew he should play nice. But technically Ziva wasn't with Ray anymore — so Tony didn't really have to be polite, did he?
"We're still waiting to be able to see her," McGee added quietly. Before anything else could be said, Abby's computer beeped, followed by a low "oh" of surprise, and all eyes turned to the scientist.
"Abby?" Gibbs prompted when she didn't immediately volunteer the information. Abby was biting her lip as she turned to face everyone.
"Um…I'll run it again, because I don't really think that's right, but um…um…"
"Spit it out, Abs."
The woman took a deep breath before she spoke. "I um, I matched the bullet that the doctor…took out of Ziva…it wasn't from the same gun that the suspect was shooting, though."
A confused look flashed over McGee's face, and Gibbs narrowed his eyes. And Tony…Tony had a rather frightening moment of clarity. He sees himself, raising his gun, shooting it. Sees his bullet missing, ricocheting off the wall…
"The bullet was from Tony's gun."
Author's Note: For the record, I'm not trying to do a "what if" for the finale — I've given up on trying to figure out where that psychotic-ness is going. As long as none of the core people die, I'll be happy. I just really wanted to do this story, and I wanted Ray and EJ involved, and bringing the P2P Killer into it was just the best way to do that. So yeah. Review please? I'm kind of excited for this… —Sam