Hey, so this is just a one shot that I came up with after listening to the song Tender by Blur. They story was mildly influenced by the song but particularly by this lyric. "Tender is the touch, of someone who you love too much." It reminds of Tiva a little. But it occurred to me that Tender was a little light to be the title of this :) So enjoy this and review. And listen to Blur because they are amaze.

Helpless Despair

Vance had let them go home early after the ceremony. Which meant that McGee, Abby and Palmer had dragged her out to a bar that was open from lunch time, and they didn't plan on leaving until the place shut. Vance had disappeared back to Navy Yard, ever the unsociable boss and Ducky had even passed on their celebration, making his excuse with a curious concerned eye which led Ziva to think that he was off in search of Gibbs.

So Ziva found herself sitting in a booth in a hazy dark bar which already by 2pm had been quite full. Music blared from a dj who was stood at the far of the room and some of the particularly drunker patrons were dancing on the relatively empty dancefloor. As the afternoon wore on the bar filled up. Ziva swirled her drink around in her hand, watching as the ripples faded out. She took a sip, it was warm from being in her hand. The ice had melted long ago. Another one sat on the table which showed Ziva that she was a few rounds behind the rest of the party.

Ziva could see it in their eyes. They knew that she was upset, that she didn't want to celebrate, that she wanted to grab Tony DiNozzo and shake him silly because he wasn't there. He hadn't turned up. He had promised and he hadn't turned up. There was no excuse either. No attempt at making sure she knew that whatever had heald him up was unavoidable. No note, no call, no email.

She had been so sure that she meant more to him than some of his one night conquests or the girl from the printer company that he flirted with every time she unnecessarily swung her hips past his desk every Tuesday morning.

Abby had shot her enough looks across the table that Ziva felt bad for dampening her friends evening as well as her own. Abby had bought her drink after drink until she finally realised that Ziva wasn't in the drinking mood and was still on her second glass. And McGee following Abby's lead had tried to fill her up with tequila but she only drank a few, passing the rest off to Palmer who seemed oblivious to the unspoken words at the table.

This made Ziva's mood worse. Her friends knew her feelings and this meant that she was too annoyed to put her mask on, shield her feelings away from the real world where other people rarely saw what she was truly feeling.

A few hours of forced smiling and swirling her unsipped drink in its glass, a more than tipsy Abby finally spoke the words that were floating about in her head.

"I can't believe they didn't show." Abby announced as they quietened down after Palmer had escaped to the dancefloor with a pretty petite dark haired girl. Ziva could see them from where she was sitting as they swayed along with the quick beat.

"I mean where's the excuses?" Abby demanded. "Gibbs didn't even pick up his phone. What is wrong with him? You are like his daughter and he didn't even show up. After you had went to Mexico to save his ass. What happened to the rule where you always have your cell phone on you? He's away breaking his own rules now."

McGee and Ziva stared at Abby as she vented.

"I was so stressed these past few weeks because this whole Mexico thing and he just decided to not to go to your ceremony? What sort of thanks is that? Where's the support for our family huh? He's alright when we're all running around helping him but he can't support us back. I really felt like he was more than this."

"Abs." McGee started and Abby shook her head. She swallowed the last gulp of her drink and sighed.

"And Tony." She muttered. "Out of us all he should have been there the most."

Her face crumpled into a frown and she looked up at Ziva who was doing her best to keep her face neutral. "I mean look at you two Ziva! Ziva and Tony, with the sexual tension and the partner thing and the bickering. But I know that you two kick ass in the field and know just in an instant what each other are thinking. After everything that you had been through and he just doesn't go?"

McGee reached over and gripped her arm. He glanced over at Ziva who was staring at the grain in the polished bar table.

"I think I'm going to go home." Ziva told the table, her eyes not rising to look at either McGee or Abby.

"Yeah, I think Abby has had too much to drink." McGee agreed and looked over at Abby who was staring at her hands with a sad expression on her face.

"Thank you both for today." Ziva told them and sighed. "I will see you tomorrow, thank Palmer for me."

The wind had picked up by they time she had gotten home. She fumbled with her keys and shivered as she pushed her door open. Her apartment looked the same as it had this morning but with a smile she realised that it was now her home. Her American home. She sat down on her couch and looked around her living room, noting all the reminders of him. The stack of dvds in the corner, all of his favourites that he had left after movie nights. There was two empty wine glasses sitting beside the sink in the kitchen. A pair of his running shoes by the doorway. She knew there was a drawer full of his stuff in her bedroom including a t-shirt she wore to bed as pyjamas. In the bathroom there was mens shampoo so he didn't have to use hers and smell like a girl. Even though they had never taken the next step, said the words or even kissed, she knew how he felt about her. And more importantly every day she was realising how much she felt about him.

She didn't bother turning on lights as she made her way through the darkening apartment and she stood at the bottom of her bed. The few shots of tequila she had consumed were making her head fuzzy and she just wanted to go to sleep and forget about the disappointment this monumental day had also brought with all the other emotions it had awakened in her. She pulled off her clothes and slipped into the bed. She buried her head into her own pillow and sighed. She had expected him to keep his promise and she couldn't bite down the niggling thought in her mind that she had once again placed too much trust in a man that didn't deserve it. But another part of her screamed the opposite. Tony had protected her from evils far worse that anyone should imagine. He had travelled to Somalia to avenge her death and he had been right all along about Michael. She squeezed her eyes shut. The alcohol magnifying her emotions. A tear slipped out of her tightly shut eyes and she shivered as it ran down her cheek. All she wanted was him there with her, in the bed. The comforting warmth across the bed. A hand brushing against her skin which not only sent shivers through her but also contented her and made her feel safe. Another tear escaped as she thought about it. The out of nowhere her cell phone squawked. Jumping, Ziva rolled over in her bed and grabbed the phone off of the night stand. Clearing her throat she spoke into the phone.

"Hello?" She asked and was met with a crackle and then silence. Ziva let her tired eyes slip shut as she called out to the other side again. "Hello?"

"Ziva?" Came a gasping breath. Ziva's eyes snapped open and staring into the darkness around her.

"Tony?" She asked tentavlely. Hoping her voice wouldn't give away that she had been crying. He sounded far away and the reception on the phone would every so often cause it to buzz and squeak in her ear.

"Yeah it's me." She heard his distant voice and it sent conflicting emotions through her. It calmed her in an instant and she already was forgiving him for today and then panic and worry coursed her veins as she didn't know where he was or why he sounded so far away. "Where are you? Are you alright?"

There was silence on the other end and Ziva squeezed her eyes shut again. "Tony?" Her voice coming out in a sort of begging tone that made her want to kick herself.

"Sorry." His voice finally came back to her. "I wanted to phone you earlier but this is the first opportunity I've got. And Franks is gonna kill me for making contact."

"Franks?" Curiosity getting to her. "Where are you? Mexico?"

"Yeah." Tony sighed. "Vance sent me on a mission. I wasn't really supposed to tell anyone I was going."

There was another crackle and Ziva frowned. "And Franks is in on it? He's alive then?"

"I don't really know whats going on." Tony answered honestly. "I ran into Franks and we've sort of came to an agreement. I don't - I can't."

There was more silence but somehow she heard his breathing. It was deep, as if breathing through pain.

"Tony, are you alright?" Ziva asked, her stomach somersaulting. There was a sharp intake of breath on the other end.

"Not really." Tony finally answered and Ziva heard the mask in his voice fall away and his real tone told her he had been hurt. Anger flared up in her at Vance for sending him to Mexico without backup. What sort of protocol was that?

"How bad is it?" Ziva asked, her voice suddenly shaking, with rage or concern she wasn't too sure. There was another sharp intake of pain from Tony and Ziva's stomach twisted. "Tony." She insisted and he heard his low chuckle.

"I suppose it's pretty bad." He tried to deflect. "It's just worse because I can't really go to a hospital but I'm sure Franks will be able to sort it all out. I mean he was able to fix his lovely missing finger just fine."

Ziva suddenly thought she was going to be violently sick.

"Tony." She said seriously. "You have to come home or go to a hospital."

"No." He said suddenly serious. "I need to do this. I was given orders. I'll be fine. Look this isn't why I phoned you, I didn't want to worry you."

Ziva stayed silent and listened to his breath through the crackle of bad reception.

"What did you phone me for then?" Ziva finally asked trying to push images of whatever injury he had received out of her head.

"To apologise." Tony told her honestly. Ziva smiled to herself she was about to open her mouth to mention that that was breaking one of Gibbs' rules before Tony cut her off. "Fuck the rules. I'm sorry Ziva. I'm sorry for missing today even though I promised I would be there. I'm sorry for everything."

Ziva sighed. His tone had turned suddenly passionate.

"I mean all the rules Zi." He suddenly spoke and Ziva couldn't stop the gasp tumbling out of her mouth. That meant Rule Twelve as well. "We're still pretending. And I'm still tired of it. We've danced around this long enough."

"Tony." Ziva started but he continued.

"I just wanted you to know that." His tone suddenly morbid. Panic flared in Ziva's stomach.

"No." She uttered strongly into the handset. "No, I want to hear this when you get back."

She was met with more silence.

"Tony." She snapped, urging him for any response.

"I don't know if -" He stopped again, he couldn't bring himself to say those words.

"Tony." Ziva cried, she didn't care if he heard her desperation and panic in her voice. Or the tears that welled in her eyes again. "You have to come back. I can't let you - why didn't you come and get me and I would've - why did Vance - what are you - Tony."

She heard a low and sad chuckle come from Tony.

"Ziva, do not do this to yourself. This is what it is." Tony sighed and she could hear the frustration in his voice now. "Vance knew what he was sending me into. And if it wasn't by chance that I had ran into Franks then I would be in a much worse state."

Ziva's stomach lurched and she fought to swallow the bile that crawled up her throat.

"Where are you?" Ziva asked suddenly. She heard Tony hesitate.

"I'm not telling you." He told her seriously. "I'm not putting you in danger too."

"Tony." Ziva growled.

"Listen Ziva, I've got to go." Tony said sadly. "Franks is coming back to patch me up. I'll be good as new. Everything will be fine, it will all work out, I promise."

Ziva sighed. She couldn't help but think that promises were just as easily broken as they were said. Anger, fear and worry festered in her chest as she thought it over.

"Be safe." She eventually murmured. "Don't do anything stupid."

Tony let out a low laugh, not excited enough to be a real Tony laugh.

"I want to break the rules when you come back too." Ziva muttered seriously. "All of them."

"I'll see you soon Ziva." Tony said. The note of finality in his tone nearly made Ziva scream.

Desperately she murmured "Tony, I lov-" The dial tone rang loudly in her ears. Slightly shocked Ziva dropped the phone onto her pillow. Words would not come to he, in any of the languages she knew. She wanted to curse at the sky and at Vance and the world. At this new country that she had been accepted into and at Tony for going alone to Mexico. But instead tears took over her. She gave into the helpless despair that was engulfing her as she wept silently into the t-shirt that still smelt faintly of him.