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 Twelve

Cleared for field duty.

Four words Tony didn't think he'd ever hear again. But he'd said goodbye to Dr. Shea for the last time and vacated the office with the signed yellow sheet in hand. He'd set the sheet on Gibbs' desk with a flourish, grinning as he went back to his own seat.

Cleared. He was cleared for field duty. He was cleared. He wasn't even sure how this had happened, and he didn't care. He was cleared.

It was a good day.

Until Gibbs announced that they had a body.

Tony bullied the keys for the truck away from McGee so he could drive to the crime scene. McGee was annoyed, but handed the keys over, and Ziva didn't say much of anything; she simply rolled her eyes and followed Gibbs to the elevator.

It was quite the crime scene; a female marine lieutenant had been stabbed to death in the shower. The Psycho references were endless.

"We should watch that once we get this case wrapped up," Tony commented as McGee slipped out of the bathroom to report to Gibbs. Ducky and Palmer had just finished loading the body onto the gurney and were gone as well. "It's a great movie, I think you'll like it."

"A psychotic madman stabbing people to death. Does not exactly sound like my cup of coffee."

"Tea." Though coffee was certainly appropriate too, given who they were working with. "It's not your cup of tea. And I think you'll like this one. Come on, it'll be fun."

Ziva considered this for a minute before rolling her eyes. "Fine. When this case is over, we will watch Psycho."

"Brilliant." Tony grinned. "It's a date."

Gibbs, of course, walked in right as Tony said it's a date. "Goin' on a date, DiNozzo?" The older man asked with a raised eyebrow, looking between his senior and probationary agents. Tony opened his mouth…then closed it again.

"Um…uh…no, boss. No dates for DiNozzo."

He shuffled out of the room quickly, and Gibbs turned to Ziva, who shrugged, smiling weakly before slipping past Gibbs, out of the bathroom. The older man shook his head. Something had definitely changed between those two.

He wasn't sure if that was good or bad.

"…This is stupid."

Tony's mouth just about hit the floor as he turned to look at Ziva, who was staring at the TV in utter disbelief. "Okay, I know you did not just call Psycho stupid. There must be something wrong with my hearing, yeah, that's it…"

"No, you heard correctly the first time, this movie is utterly ridiculous."

Thankfully the ending credits chose that time to begin rolling. "You've got to be kidding me. I mean, I guess I shouldn't be surprised, you like musicals, of course you have no taste when it comes to movie, but come on — this is a classic!"

"Classically stupid, perhaps. And what is wrong with musicals?"

"Where do I start?"

Ziva glared at Tony for a moment before picking up her crumpled napkin and throwing it at him. He didn't even bother trying to dodge, choosing instead to just let it hit him in the head. "Ooww Zee-vah, that hurts. I'm injured now, thanks a lot."

"Would you like a real injury?"

Tony considered this for a moment, then grinned weakly. "Uh…no, I'll pass actually. Thanks though, maybe some other time."

"I will hold you to that."

Tony laughed as he gathered up the plates and trash and started into the kitchen. "Here, I'll help," Ziva started to say, standing up and grabbing the empty pizza box. Tony didn't even bother telling her not to; she would have anyways.

"You know," Tony said conversationally as they started into the kitchen, "I can't help but notice that you've been using a lot more contractions lately. I'm very proud, you've finally started to assimilate."

"Well Tony, as long as you are proud of me, then I can die happy."

It was a joke and he knew it, but the word die stirred something in Tony's mind. And for a moment, the images of the night in the warehouse flashed through his mind: his gun firing, Ziva lying on the ground, Ziva bleeding…and then his mind went back a little further, back to that sun-baked room in the middle of the desert, where Ziva had sat across from him with hopeless eyes, telling him she wanted to die…


A small hand rested itself over Tony's cheek, dragging him back to reality. While he'd been lost in thought, Ziva had moved to stand in front Tony, her head tilted a bit, curiosity alight in her eyes. "What's wrong?" She asked quietly, concern evident in her voice. Tony blew out a long breath from between pursed lips, raising his own hand to brush his fingers across Ziva's cheek.

"I almost lost you."

Ziva sighed, closing her eyes. "Come on Tony…I thought that was behind you—"

"I'm not just talking about the shooting," Tony interrupted, though she was definitely nuts if she thought he was ever really going to get over that. "I'm talking about…everything. The shooting, Somalia, you getting blown up in Russia…I'm so tired of almost losing you, Ziva."

"You are not losing me, Tony," Ziva argued gently. "I'm right here."

"If even one thing had gone wrong, you wouldn't be."

"Yes…if. If even one thing had gone wrong. But it did not. I'm still alive. And you need to stop dwelling in the past. If you continue to dwell on the past, then there is never going to be a future."

Tony stared at Ziva for a long time, absorbing this little tidbit. "Is that what you tell yourself?" He asked after a moment, and Ziva huffed, annoyed.

"Stop trying to turn this on me," she said at once. "This is not about me, this has never been about me. It is about you. It has always been about you." Tony opened his mouth to protest, but Ziva went on before he could. "You are the only one that is still holding on to the shooting — and I know you are holding on, I saw the way you kept fingering your gun today, you looked nervous, I know you were hoping you would not have to draw it." Tony didn't know what was worse: the fact that she had seen that, or the fact that she was right. "Nobody blames you, everyone knows it was not your fault. But you cannot let go. So stop trying to turn everything on me."

There wasn't much Tony could say to that. He opened and closed his mouth a few times, trying like hell to figure out something to say, but to no avail. What could he say?

"You're right."

Well Ziva definitely hadn't been expecting that. She blinked, confused, staring at him in what could only be described as shock. "You're right," Tony repeated slowly. "I am holding on to the shooting. I'm holding on because I'm going to use it to keep reminding myself what could happen the next time I make mistake. Next time I might not be so lucky. Next time you might die. I'm tired of you suffering for my mistakes. You suffered because I fired a bad shot, you suffered because I broke protocol and ended up shooting your boyfriend…so yeah, I'm holding on to what happened in that basement. Just like I'm holding on to what happened with Rivkin at your apartment, just like I'm holding on to Jenny dying and you getting blown up in Russia. I'm holding on because you're not getting hurt for my mistakes ever again. Because I'm sick of it. Sorry if you don't understand."

Ziva sighed, running a hand through her hair. "You do need to learn from mistakes," she admitted after a moment. "I understand you wanting to do that. But you need to move on too. You realize what you did wrong, you take the key points from it, and you move on." Tony swallowed hard, his eyes meeting Ziva's after a moment. "You do need to move on."

They were silent for a moment. "And what if you just can't?" Tony asked finally. Ziva smiled softly, hoping she looked encouraging.

"That is the beauty of being human. You can always move on."

Tony blew out a long breath. After a minute he nodded, holding his arms out slightly. Ziva didn't hesitate to step forward, allowing him to envelope her in his grip, and her head came to a rest against his shoulder. Tony ran a hand through her hair, breathing in her scent and sighing deeply.

"You know I need you, right?" Tony murmured finally. Ziva squeezed her eyes shut, swallowing back the lump that was in her throat. That was why EJ had broken up with him. It was why Ray had broken up with her. Because the two of them had such a strange dependency on each other. Because while the possibility of a romantic relationship was out of the question as long as they worked together, it didn't stop them from needing one another.

Because she needed him too.

But nothing could ever come of it.

She didn't answer, but Tony didn't need her to. He'd already made it blatantly clear that he wouldn't be able to handle it if she ever died. And she was no idiot. She knew.

So Tony just held her, relishing in the feeling of having her in his arms and wishing he never had to let go. Wishing he had the courage to break rule twelve with her. But he knew he couldn't, not only because she'd never go for it, but because he knew that if he had to choose between his job and her…

He'd choose her every time. And he'd never regret it.

"I should go," Ziva said finally, pulling away. Tony regretted it as soon as space came between them. They stared at each other for a long, long time. Tony didn't know what to say. 'See you tomorrow?'? 'Don't go?'? 'I love you'?

Those last two wouldn't have gone over too well. And Tony didn't want to settle for saying the first one. Ziva made no move to leave, at least; Tony got the feeling she didn't want to go any more than he wanted her to. Not for the first time, he wished he could read her mind. He needed to know what to say to make all of this right.

It was Ziva, predictably, who broke the silence. "You don't want me to go," she said finally, and Tony shrugged.

"You don't want to go," he retaliated. She didn't have much of an answer to that. It felt like they were stuck in a miserable stalemate, and it was driving Tony nuts; he'd always sucked at chess. "So maybe you could just…stay? Just for tonight?"

Ziva hesitated for a moment before finally nodding, and Tony smiled, just a bit.

At least he was getting tonight.

Gibbs had to admit, he wasn't surprised when the sound of footsteps on his steps reached his ears. He reached for a glass, dumping out the nuts and bolts that were inside and wiping it out, pouring another glass of bourbon. He knew, without having to look, who it was that had invaded his house on this otherwise quiet night.

"Not working on anything, boss?"

Gibbs slid the glass across his work bench, and Tony sat down, taking it. "Nothing to work on," he said simply. Tony took a sip of the bourbon, turning the glass around in his hand.

The two men sat in silence for a moment, sipping from their respective glasses. "What's going on with you and Ziva?" Gibbs asked finally when he had finished his bourbon and was sure he could deal with whatever answer Tony gave him.

"Nothing." Gibbs raised an eyebrow at his senior agent. "I swear on my life boss, nothing's going on with us."

"You two came in together this morning." It wasn't an accusation. Just a fact. The two of them had stepped off the elevator and walked into the bullpen at the exact same time. It wasn't something that happened very often. Gibbs couldn't help it if he was a little suspicious of the entire thing.

"Yeah. I'm not gonna lie, she spent last night at my apartment. And yeah, we ended up sharing the bed. That's all we did though, boss. She came over to watch a movie, movie ended, we talked…and we both came to the conclusion that she didn't want to leave. So she stayed. Nothing happened though. We both know it can't."

Gibbs poured himself another drink, taking a sip before saying, "Can't or won't?" He asked after a moment. Tony tilted his head, confused. "Maybe you two are just avoiding what might happen because you can't deal with it."

Tony couldn't help but let that get under his skin, just a little. "We're avoiding it because of your damn rule," he shot back angrily. A voice in the back of his head told him to shut up, this was Gibbs he was talking to. He ignored it. "We were together those three months you were in Mexico, you know, and we made it work just fine. But you came back, and rule twelve came back, and we had to stop, but you know, for those three months we were together, and we were happy, and it never once affected our work. So no, we're not avoiding a relationship with each other because we can't handle it, we're avoiding it because of you."

Oh yeah. He was so getting fired. Gibbs stared at his bourbon for a long time before setting it down on the work bench and turning his complete attention to Tony.

"You must really think I'm an idiot." Not exactly the response Tony had been expecting. "You think I didn't know you and Ziva slept together while I was gone? I was expecting the two of you to sleep together, I wouldn't have been surprised if you kept it up even after I came back. I wouldn't have been surprised if you walked down here tonight and told me you two slept together last night, I wouldn't be surprised if you told me you've been sleeping together since she came back from Somalia!" He didn't sound angry, at least. Just exasperated. Tony stared at him for a long time, his mouth just about on the floor.

"But…rule twelve—?"

"Not one of my better rules."

"But you gave me hell about EJ—"

"Because EJ distracted you," Gibbs explained with the air that he was explaining something simple to a three-year-old. "You weren't focusing, it was affecting your ability to do your job. Ziva makes you want to do better. See the difference?"

Tony looked down at his mostly untouched drink. It had definitely been unsettling, seeing EJ at his crime-scenes, taking orders from her…

"So…if something were to happen with me and Ziva…?"

"Then Abby would find herself coming in to a lot of money and you would both be a hell of a lot happier."

That was all Tony needed to hear. He drained his glass in one long sip and stood up, feeling more confident than he had felt in a long time.

"See you tomorrow boss."

Gibbs watched Tony go, shaking his head a bit. For the love of god, he hoped those two worked something out. If for no other reason just so Abby could finally shut down her betting pool.

Tony didn't quite remember driving to Ziva's. But he ended up in front of her apartment building, leaning back in his seat, tilting his eyes up until he was sure he was looking at her floor. He wasn't quite sure what he was doing here. What was he supposed to say? Gibbs said it's okay for us to be together? Did she even want a relationship so soon after breaking up with Ray? The two of them had had something pretty serious, maybe she was more upset than she'd let on about that break up. Tony didn't know. He didn't know what he was supposed to do.

His phone buzzed, and he pulled out quickly, surprised, but not really, to find that the text waiting for him was from Ziva.

Are you just going to sit down there all night?

Tony stared at his phone for a long time. Finally he just started laughing. Well there was his answer. He climbed out of his car and started towards the building, feeling lighter than he had in a long time. He still had no clue what he was supposed to do, of course. He hadn't brought a movie, hadn't been planning on a movie night tonight. But that was good. Maybe for once they could actually sit down and talk.

What a crazy idea that was.

But as he turned down Ziva's hall and found the woman in question standing outside her door, waiting for him, he realized it didn't matter what happened tonight. Would they work out the strange mess that was their relationship? Probably not. No amount of talking would ever work that out.

But maybe now they could finally get themselves onto the same level.

Author's Note: So I know most people probably aren't going to be satisfied by this, but I kind of like open endings; leaves things open to the imagination. Besides, if you've been reading my stuff long enough you know that I'm die-hard Tiva, so you can just imagine that from here the night goes on with them confessing their undying love and having hours of mind-numbing sex. Lol. Also, I know people wanted Ziva to come clean to Tony about Somalia - and honestly, I do too. But I'm fairly certain she's taking those stories to the grave...I just couldn't figure out how to work it in.

So that's the end! All and all I think I'm happy with how this story came out. I just want to thank everyone who reviewed and encouraged me — you guys all rock! Thanks a lot!

So what's next? Well I've got my AU baby Half A World Away going, and I started another story a couple weeks ago (I really need school to start — too much time on my hands). Details:

Title: A Test in Partnership
When a routine suspect pick-up turns into a hostage situation, Tony and Ziva find their lives and their partnership in shambles. Will they be able to survive? —Tiva — Warning: mature themes—

This one's pretty dark, even for me — note the rating and warning. But I'm loving it so far. Probably going to put it up within the next week or so. Hope people are interested.

So that's that for Somewhere A Clock Is Ticking. Review and let me know what you thought of this last chapter. Later! ~Sam