note: Hey everyone, 'tis me. Okay so I've had basically no inspiration since the season ended, and more than that, I haven't really wanted to write. That includes my as-yet-incomplete multi chapter, but I'm planning on wrapping that up with the next chapter. When that'll be, I have no idea. I've been content to do a hell of a lot of reading, actually, and when I'm not doing that, studying. I'm still only part-way through the barrage of exams I'm having at the moment, but after a prompt from my dear Sophie, I wrote this. It was originally a post-Truth or Consequences fic, but it kinda morphed into... this. I only wrote it today and it's a little different to the stuff I normally write and it might actually be a load of rubbish. I do believe I'm right in assuming, though, that Ziva may still be living at the navy lodge? I don't recall ever hearing when exactly she got a new apartment. Alas, enjoy.

disclaimer: You know you're obsessed with NCIS when you hide a quote from it in your English exam.

listening to: Comes and Goes (In Waves), by Greg Laswell


His eyes never leave her. Not when Abby pulls away after five minutes; not when the clapping subsides and Ducky approaches with a kind smile; not when Vance descends from his staircase-perch to share brief words of congratulations with them all. From Tony, all the big man gets is an affirmative grunt and a "Yes sir", whilst the former's focus is somewhere else entirely.

He can't quite believe she's alive. He thinks this as she rubs the back of her hand over her eye and says she's sorry but she's tired. Right away, everyone offers their houses or apartments, and it pains him to see the expression on her face. Lost, bewildered, confused, she looks all of them, and her eyes dart round the vast room until they link with his. And though he can't hold in his gasp at the sheer pleading in her gaze, no words come out of his choked mouth, and Gibbs speaks up before he even has a chance. It's something about a ride to a navy lodge, or along those lines, and Tony swears.
He waits until they've been gone for five minutes before picking up his few things and heading home himself. He thinks he just might drown himself in liquor tonight.

"Yeah, last time I said that I ended up tied to a chair in North Africa."

He wishes he hadn't been lying when he told McGee he hadn't spoken to Ziva. His failed attempts at conversation on the plane leave him blushing red inside and in hindsight he really is an idiot. Of course she wouldn't want to talk to him, the guy she hates more than anyone, right after being rescued from hell. But, foolish as he was, he still sat next to her and said her name quietly, and still he got nowhere fast. All he could do was wince when she jolted awake from what he guessed was a nightmare.

If there's anything this ordeal has taught him, it's that he really can't take anything for granted. And as much as now he might feel like taking every opportunity that comes his way, he won't. Because he and Ziva are still broken, and his main priority, above everything else right now, is her.

He's stunned when he sees her standing by the elevator. He wishes he could say something better than "Hi", or that he and McGee hadn't been arguing over something so trivial, but she just made what sounded like a joke and he's taken aback. Despite his idiocy, it feels like the first step between them, and he's about to say more when Vance turns up and takes her away, and not for the first time he wonders if they'll ever catch a break.

As they stand in the elevator, however, McGee has a small smile on his face, and he himself feels slightly more at-ease, and maybe they're getting somewhere after all.

God, he'll never get used to the sight of her. To the sight of her living and breathing and being. As she stands by the bullpen like an outsider, he can't take his eyes off her, and he's not sure when he fell in love but he knows he definitely is now. It's probably showing all over his features, as he drinks in her drinking him in, but he doesn't give a damn because as far as he's concerned, the whole world can know his feelings. The whole world probably already does.
But even now, the conversation's awkward, and they fire off insults that should be light-hearted like they used to be, only now they sting too much, and he wishes he could catch more words before they fly out his mouth.
He doesn't need to, though. His phone rings and it shatters whatever moment they were having, and as much as he adores Abby he's never wanted to hang up more. Of course, he doesn't. He hands the phone over to Ziva and breathes a sigh of relief when their fingers don't touch, and rather wants to disappear when she does just that.

Her lips are warm against his cheek and he's taken by surprise. This is new, and could be awkward, but instead her hand feels like it belongs against his skin, and he could easily shift his head and catch her mouth with his. But he knows that wouldn't be right, so he lets her pull back and for the first time since they brought her home, she seems at peace with herself.

And yeah, that's more wonderful than anything.

He can tell where this could lead, though, and he's not sure either of them would be comfortable with that.
So when her words remind him of something, his hand finds her cheek and his thumb brushes her skin, and he leaves before he can pull her into a kiss.

He's very tempted to flick the switch and have time to talk to her, and indeed that's what he planned to do. At least, until he turned to her and she turned to him, and her expression alone told him she would not open up to him today, not one little bit. Despite the progress they've made in the past few weeks, it's apparently not enough.
So with a sigh he turns back round, mind wondering as to whether Gibbs told him to take her down to Ducky's so they could talk. Before he can ponder it anymore, the doors have slid open, and he plays his part in "letting" her into Autopsy quite well if he says so himself.

But he still stands outside, just in case she needs him.

It shakes him to return to the bullpen and see her collecting her things with red, puffy eyes. He's not sure what happened after he left and Malachi was escorted away, but whatever it was it seemed to make her cry.

"You okay?"

She looks up, apparently taken by surprise, and he sends her a small smile as way of an apology.

"I am not not okay."

He's not sure why, but he believes her.

"Alright then." He pauses, wondering whether or not to say his next words, but he continues anyway. "Hey, you still staying at the navy lodge?"

"Yes. I have not had a chance to look for new apartments yet."

He could say so much more, but she swings her bag onto her shoulder and wishes him a goodnight, and she's gone before he's even shut down his computer.

It must be fifteen minutes that he stands outside her door. Not pacing, not conflicted, just waiting. Waiting for what, he doesn't know. His thoughts drift to earlier in the day, to Malachi Ben-Gidon and skeletons on tables and red-rimmed eyes, and he's tempted to just walk away. But he leans against the wall, right next to the door, and before he's aware of it his arm has swung round and rapped upon the wood.

He spins to face her when she pulls the door open. She's in sweats that might be Gibbs' and she's drying the ends of her hair with a towel, and her mouth falls when she sees him.

"I asked Gibbs where you were." he says, answering the question she'd no doubt ask him first. "And I brought you this."
With that, he hands over a home magazine, places to rent and some for sale scattered all over the cover.

She looks at it, happily surprised, and her mouth quirks into a smile.
"Would you like to come in?"

He grins and steps past her.

If someone asked him what the navy lodge looked like, he wouldn't be able to tell them.
He pays absolutely no attention to his surroundings whatsoever, merely keeps his eyes on Ziva as she walks over to the couch, slings her hair towel over a chair, and sits on the couch. She pulls her legs up and tucks her feet under her, and he tries not to frown at how very small she looks. And tired, too, on reflection. But she pats the cushion next to her regardless and flicks through the magazine.

He sits, and they're in silence for a while save for the rustle of glossed paper. He gestures to the pages when he speaks.
"I don't know if that'll even be any help, but I guess it's a start."

"No, it's, uh, it's very helpful, thank you, Tony."
Her voice sounds choked and perhaps teary, but when their eyes meet it's just like it used to be. Happy, and easy.

He smiles, but he's suddenly aware of the time and that she'll probably want to get to bed, so he clears his throat and makes to stand.
"It's getting late and today's been tough, I should let you get some sleep-"

Her fingers curl round his wrist and he stops short, the skin-to-skin contact almost burning. It pains him how contact can be so unfamiliar after all these years.

"I cannot sleep, Tony."

A frown sets itself in his forehead as he understands what she's hinting at, and he uses her grip on his wrist to tug her up so she's standing in front of him.
"Sure you can." He says, with a hint of a smile, and now it's her turn to frown.

He leads her through to her bed and pulls back the sheets, and she climbs in almost hesitantly. She moves over as if leaving him space, but he just pulls the sheets back up and covers her with them again.

"Tony, you-"

"I'll be fine right here." He tells her, as he slides down the side of the bed, sitting on the floor facing a wall, with his back against the wooden frame. As much as he'd love to hold her while she drifts off, neither of them are ready for that just yet.
"Sleep, Ziva."

He would tag on the fact that he'll be there when she wakes up, but that just seems far too much like intruding, and he's doing enough of that right now as it is purely by staying by her side.

He doesn't sleep much that night. He finds a pillow when his back starts to ache, and rests against it, and despite his desire to stay up and watch over her, he catches an hour or two at about 1am. He wakes up right away, however, when he hears pained noises coming from right behind him, and when he looks round he sees Ziva tossing and turning, legs flailing outwards underneath her thin sheets. His hand reaches up and finds hers right away, linking their fingers together, and when he says her name a few times, the noises subside, but she doesn't wake up. In fact, she rolls over, closer to him, and when he twists his head he sees her burrowing down even further into the pillow.
And he knows, there and then, that they'll be fine.

The next day, Gibbs saunters past, drops a piece of paper on her desk, and calls her Probie.
Tony drifts over and sees the "Approved" stamped onto the letter, and when he congratulates her, she thanks him. But as they hug, and her arms slide round his waist and pull him to her tight, he somehow knows that her thanks span more than just this moment. And so he wraps his arms round her shoulders and rests his chin by her temple, and they hold the embrace for just a beat longer than would be considered normal. The smile on her face when they pull apart says that she doesn't mind at all.


Let me know what you thought, if you want to.