Disclaimer: I don't own NCIS. ... What, I'm getting really bad at this thing? Yeah, I think so, too. It's really depressing when you have to keep disclaiming ownership :P

Spoilers: 10x19 "Squall," and it takes place in the context of Tony and Ziva's current relationship. Also, Gibbs and his infamous nuptial proclivities are mentioned.

I'm starting to feel like I recycle story lines :P my fics are starting to look like one another, though they weren't all that different to begin with, anyway. Still, I really like this one, so I hope you do, too!

Enjoy, and please remember to review!



"So. Stan Burley."

Tony leans back into his chair and props his feet up onto his desk as he observes the Israeli-American across from him type up her case report. As if on cue, Ziva narrows her eyes at him with her fingers paused atop the keyboard.

"Yes, Stan Burley," she answers in a drawling tone, seeming to contemplate why he's suddenly bringing up the man, and then the edges of her lips curl up into a wicked grin. "What about him?"

He delivers the news unceremoniously. "Did you know he's engaged?"

Judging by the blink and the slip of the smile on her face, Ziva did not, but she recovers fast enough. "Well, it seems he did not tell me, but now that I know, I should call him up and offer him my congratulations."

"Ahhh, your days of calling him up are over, Ziva."

The moment the words leave his mouth and a frown appears on her face, he gets the urge to smack himself silly.

"And what does that imply, Tony?" she enquires, her tone a little lower and a lot sharper now.

He falters, dropping his feet to the ground. He doesn't want to cop up to the fact that he'd thought Stan and Ziva were on the fast track to a shiny, brand new relationship. He doesn't want to admit to having been jealous; to still being jealous because even if Stan is taken, it's pretty clear that Ziva has a thing for him. He doesn't want to tell her that the fear of her being here today and with someone else tomorrow renders his brain-to-mouth filter hopeless.

He doesn't want to say any of those things. Clearly, though, Ziva won't be letting the issue go, because she now pushes back her chair and rounds her desk to approach his. Arms folded, she stands rigid in front of him.

"Stan and I have never had a relationship," she begins coldly.

"I know," he answers weakly. "It was a joke, Ziva."

"It was not funny," she retorts immediately. "You accuse me of having this … this whatever with Stan behind your back, and meanwhile you are changing TV channels just to look at the hot weathergirl. I am not you, Tony. I do not hook up with someone just for sex."

And that stings, because she knows better than anyone else that his current dry spell is dryer than the Sahara Desert.

"I haven't done that in a while," he says, and it seems to mollify her anger somewhat.

"I know you have not," she shakes her head, "but you still cannot say things like that. I mean, what could you possibly have to accomplish by making such a low blow?"

"You made a low blow, too!" he snaps, more out of incredulity than for the sake of argument, because he can't believe Ziva just got away with labelling him a playboy when she knows very well that he hasn't slept with anyone for months.

She sighs and pinches the bridge of her nose, her eyebrows pulling together, and his heart thuds painfully. If only she knew how much he loved her.

"I'm sorry," she says eventually. "I know you … no longer do that, but it is hard to remember when every other blonde you see turns you into a lusting, hormonal teenager."

He chuckles humourlessly. "Yeah…. Whatever." It's not like I could look at you that way and get away with it.

The bullpen falls into a not-quite-comfortable silence, and he chews on his lip while he tries to decide if he wants to say what's really been eating at him ever since he got off that ship.

"He told me I should try the whole marriage thing, y'know."

And then the prickly ninja of an ex-Mossad officer sits on his desk and morphs into the partner who has a liking for yellow pencils and making him feel as if the fate of his heart rests entirely in her hands—and his chest constricts so much, he literally aches.

"What did you tell him?" Her voice is soft and gentle, and the back of his eyes burns.

"Told him I might." He dithers. "Then I wondered, what if everyone only gets one chance at a marriage?"

She shrugs; he senses the motion rather than sees it. "Gibbs was married four times," she replies.

"Yeah, but only the first time really counted. The rest of the time, he was looking for someone to pick up the pieces Shannon had left behind."

"Perhaps…" Her silence is so long that he lifts his head to look at her, and when he does, the warmth in her eyes closes up his throat. "I would like to believe, though, that things aren't quite so tragic for you."

"So, you think I might still have a chance to be happy?"

The chocolate browns only shine brighter. "If you look in the right places."

His breath hitches. "I don't know … if the right place would want me, Ziva."

He doesn't know who is more thrown off by the bold answer—she or himself. He's talking about her, but it's obvious that she isn't aware of that; she merely stares at him for the longest period of time, until she slips her palm under his on the desk and squeezes his hand lightly.

"You would not know what lies in the heart of the right place until you stop looking in the wrong places," she says. "That is the only piece of advice I can give you. Some things … take exploring, Tony. But not of the kind you are currently doing—there is not going to be a giant signboard above the perfect woman saying, 'This is the ideal place for you.' The only way you are going to find that out is if you immerse yourself somewhere, make yourself at home in that place, and one day realize that you are happy where you are."

He swallows the lump in his throat as she stops and looks away. She seems to want to say something more, but it takes her a while to get up the courage; above her fingertips, his pulse races away in the hopes that she will not back down from speaking her heart now.

She does not.

"When that happens," she presses on, "you will not need to wonder whether that woman wants you, because you will know her and her mind by then. You will know what makes her happy; whether she … has made herself a home out of you. You will know everything about her—but only if you are willing to share everything with her. That is the thing about life, Tony: You only get as much as you can give."

He nods his understanding, not trusting his voice to carry him through a better response, and she gives him a tiny smile. He feels her fingers brush against his skin once more before she pulls away and slips off his desk; his previous barb towards her forgiven, she simply turns and crosses the bullpen to settle at her desk, leaving him to his thoughts.

He thinks about how she's the One for him.

He thinks about how there's no other, as melodramatic as that sounds.

But she's right, and he will never find out whether he could be the One for her until he's brave enough to actually reach out to her.

Rubbing his face tiredly, he turns to face his computer. It isn't long before he finds his gaze drifting towards her again. She's totally absorbed in whatever she's doing, and he hates that they aren't even close enough to be more honest about whom they were really talking about in the conversation they just had; all he wants, he suddenly thinks, is to tell her just how ready he is to be done with looking in the wrong places.

"Ziva?" he whispers, not wholly conscious that he's said her name until she looks away from her computer with an absent-minded, "Hmm?"

And for a moment, he feels like brushing her off with a joke—but then she really looks at him, and he finds that his usual method of deflection would actually take more effort than otherwise. So, he says, in a tone more needy than he intends it to be, "Um, you wanna maybe grab dinner with me later?"

Opposite him, he sees the glimmer of a smile flit across her face. "I would love to, Tony."

And that is when he thinks he might make himself a home out of her sooner than either of them realizes.