A/N: My take on why Tony slept on that awful chair in Masquarade (may have been Jack Knife may have been something else) Anyway, Tiva, of course, and no obviously spoilers. Review if you want to, Kit.

DISCLAIMER: I own nothing. . . .

It is the insistent trilling of his cell phone that rouses him from the deep abyss of slumber. He tries ignoring it, keeping his eyes devoutly closed, until images of an irate Gibbs invade his dreams and effectively pulls him into coherency. His sleep-numb fingers fumble as he searches blindly for his phone and locating the convulsing device, flips it open and, combating a yawn, answers, "DiNozzo."


One word. One word and he knows, he just knows, that something was wrong. Something is wrong because she is calling him in the middle of the night and he hears it, it's in her voice, in the slightest waver of her voice saying his name. Two syllables that she has spoken so many times before, in anger, in sadness, in teasing, in understanding. But never like this. Never with such a hidden desperateness, such a seemingly ancient grief.

He collects himself, fights back the urge to panic, replying calmly, smoothly, "Ziva."

He hears her sigh over the line, can hear the relief wash through her, but relief from what, he doesn't yet know.

"Ziva," he repeats, not a question, not an inquiry for the confirmation the she is still there. But a statement, simply a word, neutral, slipping off his tongue like honey. "Are you still there?" Now a question, now a need to know if that is her breath on the other end of the line.

"Yes," another statement, another simple word. Three letters. Common letters really, 'y', 'e', and 's'. He realizes his thoughts are scattered, jumbled in his mind as his heart beats slightly erratic.

He doesn't know if he should be concerned or irritated, but he's already concerned, so he decides to just stick with that, a single emotion. "Where are you?" he asks, climbing out of bed, his toes exploring the floor for his abandoned pair of jeans.

"In my kitchen."

Now he is confused. Confusion mingled with a growing sense of dread. "What are you doing in your kitchen?" Why are you calling me?

"Sitting at my kitchen table." As if this is the most obvious statement in the world.

He rubs his face with his hand, the stubble on his cheeks scratchy against his palm. He struggles to pull a t-shirt over his head without setting the phone down, juggling the device between his hands. He succeeds, perching on the edge of his bed, finally formulating a adequate response to her previous exchange. "What are you doing at your kitchen table?" And he is a genius.

"Sitting. . . . Drinking tea. . . . ." she's deflecting, he decides. And unfortunately, left to no other choice, he must pose an extremely difficult question, one that is easier to ask than listen to, and one that is easier to listen to than answer.

"Ziva . . . . Are you okay?"

And she sighs again though it isn't a sigh, but a shaking breath revealing tears. Her voice is small, he thinks, and her accent thick as she says, "I need you to talk me down."

"Ziva where are you?" he demands, bolting upright, already calculating the time it will take to get from his apartment to hers. "Stay there, I'm coming to you."

"Tony, no. I am fine. I am sitting in my kitchen - I just - I just need you to distract me. . . . I just . . . . Please." I just need someone.

And he finally catches on, his blood pressure returning to a safe level, his heart rate dropping down considerably. "You had a bad dream."

He takes her silence as an affirmative.

He now takes his own relieved breath, wandering into his living room, running his hand along the wall in a blind search for the light switch. "What can I do to help?" he asks, sinking into his new arm chair, propping his feet up on the ottoman, letting his head thunk back against the cushions.

"Just talk. About anything. I do not care what," she sounds more relaxed now, more her normal tone, more levelness to her words. That awful shakiness that he can barely hear is gone and for this he is grateful. So he fidgets a little more, searching for that perfect spot, and finding it, settles comfortably because he has a feeling this will take more than a few minutes.

"Did you ever watch that John Wayne film I told you to watch?" he asked, genuinely curious as he suddenly remembered a conversation they had had weeks ago.

He can almost see her smirking into the phone: "Yes, I have been meaning to talk to you about that."

"You didn't like it?" he's incredulous.

"It was totally unrealistic."

"It was based on a true story!"

"A fabricated story, then," she argues, unrelenting at some forsaken morning hour. But he doesn't mind.

And they continue to talk and the minutes bleed into hours and he is exhausted but she is more important than his beauty sleep. And he talks and she listens and she talks while he listens. And they talk about everything and nothing and it all amounts to something, sacred seconds building into hours of words that build into a sentences that link them over a simple length of cables, connecting his voice to her ear and vise versa even though they several blocks away.

The conversations vary, from mutual friends to Ziva's role as aunt to her friend's children (and he would very much like to see her interact with these children, her nephews and niece). And Tony talks about football -a game that is still obscure to her ("No, Zee, there are no homeruns in football."*) - and he talks of his fraternity brother and this Thai restaurant he found that she just has to go to. And even when the exchange of words stalls and lapses of total silence reign save for the static on the line and the occasional yawn (Tony) or sigh (Ziva).

He quizzes her on her Constitution, silently thankful that she left part of her study guide at his place a couple days ago because his knowledge on the subject has grown rusty -he knows the Bill of Rights and the Miranda Rights and the Rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, but the others, no so much. Anyway, she proves to be near flawless on the matter, as she was a couple days ago, and he finds himself feeling proud of her. . . . .

And eventually he drifts off to sleep, and her snores whispered over the phone that had long since been put onto 'speaker'. And in the very deepest and vaguest recesses of his semi-lucid mind, right when he's just on the cusp of slumber, he wonders if he should hang up. But he decides against this, just in case she needed him again.

And even though he wakes up the following morning stiff and sore, his back aching in protest with every movement, he has no regrets.

And when she thanks him softly in the elevator, dark eyes conveying her gratitude, he knows he would do the same thing again. Because he is her partner and is there for her, on her six. And when he can defend her from her troubles, he will. Or if all he can do is alleviate her pain just a little, he will. And he is always willing to talk her down (or introduce her to the best Thai restaurant this side of D.C.) Because he'll always have her six. Because he's her partner and he loves her.

Though next time? Yeah, he's so sleeping on the couch.

Though the massage she gives him later is almost as much compensation as seeing her smile, untroubled, laughing.