Summary: "In the deafening silence of his apartment, he can hear the seconds ticking by on his clock." When Tony reviews his bucket list, he decides that what he really needs isn't written on it, after all.

Disclaimer: I once said, "I own NCIS," and my nose grew longer like Pinocchio's D:

Spoilers: Minor 9x08 "Engaged (Part 1)" and 9x09 "Engaged (Part 2)"; major CBS-released full version of Tony's Bucket List.

Warnings: There is one sentence which is slightly unflattering to God, haha. Also, while this story involves positive interaction between the characters Tony and Ziva, it is far from Tiva. You have been warned!

Enjoy; please review!



In the deafening silence of his apartment, he can hear the seconds ticking by on his clock. Which is strange, because he doesn't own a ticking clock. But he can hear it ticking anyway, slowly and steadily in the background, telling him that he has that fewer minutes left.

He stares at his bucket list, wondering why he typed it out anyway. It's a list of empty hopes and wishes, with everything from find Jimmy Hoffa, dammit to tell her. 'Tell her'. C'mon, seriously? he yells at himself. What is he hoping to gain by that? What the hell kind of a difference does he think he can make by forming this list?

He starts slowly, pinching the top-right corner of the first piece of paper in between the thumbs and indexes of both his hands, and then pulling in opposite directions. The sound the paper makes as it rips has a surreal quality, as if he can hear his dreams being torn up along with it. Perhaps that's all good – he's never been one likely to live out his dreams anyway. God would attest to that.

Pretty soon the first page is gone, and there are just the last few items left on the second. He spares a few moments to mourn the ones that were really important to him, like tell dad it's okay and discuss Paris. But it doesn't matter. He can still tell his dad that he loves him, and Paris with Ziva was never meant to be discussed. He casts a sad smile at let friends get closer and then tears it up too. Now he won't have to worry about their not wanting to get closer.

He pauses at number 26, the last item on his list; not because he thinks he might still carry it out but because he knows that the shattering of the dream associated with this item will be more painful than anything else. It must be done, though. Things are not meant to work out; things are never meant to work out for him.

The last ripping sound has a tone of finality to it, and he smiles with bittersweet-ness as the little bits float to the floor to join the rest of their snowy white companions. He gazes down at his barely written memoir next; it is a crude production of scrawly writing and crossed-out words. He's not even sure what he's written – most of it had been penned on drunken nights when being remembered had seemed like a good idea. There are three or four sheets at most; he picks up the one on top to destroy, too.

A quick knock on the door both startles him, and tells him that it's Ziva, at the same time. She's always had a distinctive knocking style. He lays down the piece of paper and strides out of the living room to the door; she is standing there looking rather small and lost when he opens it.

"Um. Can I stay here for a few hours?" she asks. Her eyes seem to hold a tinge of uncertainty in them, as if she's afraid he might refuse her request.

He frowns over his shoulder. "Yeah, sure. But what for?"

She rubs her face tiredly and sighs. "You know, difficult case. I – we lost Quincy."

"I know."

"Shouldn't have lost him." She shakes her head with regret, staring at her feet. "So many soldiers lost in combat."

"Combat is their job."

She lifts a shoulder and drops it. "I know."

"You wanna talk about it?" He pushes the door open further, and she steps in hesitantly.

"I just want to hang out here for a while … if it's okay with you."

"Yeah." He shrugs and closes the door behind her. "You might wanna go into the kitchen."

She peers into his living room on her way to the back of his apartment, and her mouth falls open. "There is paper all over your floor."

He steers her towards the kitchen. "I've noticed."

"Am I interrupting something?"

"No. Just tearing some stuff up."

"What are they?"

He sits her down and crosses the room to put the kettle on. "My bucket list," he eventually mutters as softly as he can.

He sees her face fall slightly out of the corners of his eyes. "Oh, Tony. You know McGee and I were just making fun of you."

"I know." He flashes the happiest smile he can muster at her, but it must be falling short because her expression is still one of sadness mixed with sympathy.

"So why did you tear it up?"

"'Cause some things aren't meant to be done." He slips a teabag into an empty mug and fervently prays for the kettle to boil soon.

"Like 'ride in a motorcycle ball of death'?" There is a hint of amusement in her question. "I think you can still discover the meaning of life, though."

"Yeah. Well, what am I going to do with it once I discover it?" He leans back against the counter and tilts his head, feigning indifference. "So what happened with Captain Quincy?"

"He was shot." She blinks her eyes several times, not in tears but thinking. "I want to help you with your bucket list."

The kitchen seems to quieten as he grows sombre and gives up on pretences. "Help me how, exactly?"

"Help you cross some things off, perhaps." She shrugs. "I asked Abby about it. That is how your bucket lists work, yes? You do those things, and then you cross them off?"

"Yeah. But it's fine. Hey, if I died without having accomplished anything I'd be just like my dad."

An expression that looks halfway between laughter and guilt crosses her face. "Do you really want to be like your dad?"

"No. But I'm a DiNozzo; it's practically genetics."

She studies him for a while, and then slowly gets up – the chair making the tiniest squeak on the tiled floor – and walks over to him. She reaches around him to turn the gas stove off before looking up at him. "Break the pattern."

He sighs and humours her. "How?"

"Like how you've been doing it all this while. You are a good man, yes?" She places a warm hand over his heart, and his pulse jumps at the unexpected contact. "You try. And sometimes you fail, but it is important that you try. Because sometimes you succeed too, Tony."

"No, I don't." He covers the hand that sits on his chest with his own and brings it away gently. "See, you don't get it, Ziva. All of those things that I do, they're not gonna make any difference when I die."

"Yes, they are."

"How do you know?"

"Because there will be people there to remember them. I will be there to remember them."

"Nah. You'll be off somewhere on your private yacht with Ray and his little stash of CIA money … no fun attending something as morbid as my funeral."

"I'll hold your luncheon on-board." She gives him a slight smile. "It'll be a luxurious affair with a movie about your life, just like you would have wanted."

He feels the sharp sting of tears at the back of his eyes just then, even though he knows they're completely dry. He opens his mouth and chokes out a bit brokenly, "I just want you to be there."

She nods and curls her fingers around his. "I will be. I promise, Tony."

"Don't want the yacht or the movie. Don't even want Ray present."

He watches as her face changes to take on an expression of mild puzzlement, but he does her no favours by elaborating. His honesty has run its course by now, and he's already said too much anyway. And then she nods again, once. "I will kick him out of your funeral or luncheon if he dares to show up."

His heart beats painfully. "You'd do that to your boyfriend for me?"

"Of course." She searches his eyes. "I'd want to remember you the way you want me to."

He lets go of the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. "Thanks."

"Mmhmm." She searches his eyes in confusion once more before suddenly leaning up on tiptoe and pressing a kiss just to the side of his mouth, much like she had two years ago. "And I will always remember you. Always, Tony. So don't worry about it. Okay?"

It's a good thing he's not a man prone to crying, or he would have crumpled into her arms right then and there. God, he's wanted to hear that for so long. His breath catches now because the idea that he matters enough for anyone – Ziva, especially – to keep him in their memory after his death makes his head spin. "Thanks," he repeats hoarsely, and a shudder runs through him.

She notices, of course, and smiles as she tightens her grip on his hand. He blinks back non-existing tears. "Come on," she says, and to his relief the moment is broken. "We're going to take a look at your bucket list. You have another copy, yes?"

"Ah…" he pauses and tries to make his voice even. "Actually, no. I never saved it on the computer and I printed only one copy."

She frowns as she takes that in. "That is okay. We can make another list. Do you remember what was on the one you tore up?"

"Yeah, most of it. But y'know, there may be some modifications I wanna make."

"We can incorporate them. Where is your computer?"

He finds a smile upon his lips as he tells her that he will go hunt for his laptop; and when he turns away, he realizes, with great surprise, that the feeling in his heart is peace.

Peace, because he's finally found what he's always needed.

A/N: The bucket-list items mentioned in this fic are, in order of appearance, "21. Find Jimmy Hoffa, dammit", "26. Tell her", "10. Tell dad it's okay", "19. Discuss Paris", "24. Let friends get closer", "6. Ride in a motorcycle ball of death", and "3. Discover the meaning of life".

Accompanying analysis piece: anonymous033[dot]tumblr[dot]com[slash]post/12918231098/you-do-remember-our-bargain - not necessary to be read and may be slightly different from Tony's thoughts in this fic!

Hope you enjoyed! Please leave a review on your way out :)