Well it's been a long hiatus from writing, but I'm back with a little drabble I had to get out of my head. To be honest, I haven't watched much of the new season yet. Just long enough to see our girl go and some of the fallout. I know I will come back to the new episodes eventually; they're all waiting for me on the DVR. I'm willing to give the new girl a chance, but silly as it may sound, I'm just not ready to watch it yet without Ziva.

I did see the Tony/Gibbs bathroom scene though in "Once a Crook" and it flayed me alive. This is the result of that one little moment, and the end phoof of Tony falling asleep.

His eyes had barely closed - no more than a minute or two - when a presence near his desk roused him from the much-needed sleep. He squinted one eye wearily open, and then nearly jumped out of his skin at the sight of a shadowy figured leaning over him.

"What's wrong?" Ziva questioned without preamble.

"Christ, what do you think? You gave me a friggin heart attack!" he admonished, rubbing dramatically at his chest.

She shrugged, unpertubed, and sat down on the corner of his desk, her foot swiveling his chair towards her. "Why aren't you sleeping?"

His look was sardonic. "I am sleeping. At least, I hope so. Otherwise I've crossed over from extreme exhaustion to delusions." He scrubbed at his eyes and looked at her again, his gaze raking slowly up and down her familiar form. "Not that you would be my worst hallucination ever."

"I'm going to choose to take that as a compliment," she smirked.

He smirked back. "You should. Remember last year when I got clipped in the arm and the doc gave me the good drugs? I was convinced that there was a squad of extremely hot cheerleaders in my apartment."

She laughed, the sound so devastatingly familiar. "You kept trying to hit on McGee. He was so confused."

He shrugged. "In fairness, Percocet turns him into a pretty, leggy blonde. But you still look much better now."

"Thanks for that," she rolled her eyes as he chuckled, a silence falling between them. And then all he could do was stare at her, take in her presence that was at once blissful and torturous.

"What were we talking about?" she said distractedly after several long moments.

"World Series prospects."

She glared at his attempt to change the subject. "Why aren't you sleeping?"

He sighed, leaning forward in his chair. "Well Ziva, I've kinda had a lot on my mind."

She frowned, studying the dark circles under his eyes, "It's not only affecting your work but your health as well, Tony. You look tired, haggard even," she reached out a hand to brush at his wayward hair, but he quickly pulled back. He didn't know why, but the thought of her touching him - even in his dreams - was too much to bear.

She pretended not to notice even as her hand lingered awkwardly in the air before dropping down to the desk. "And you're losing too much weight," she continued hastily. "You are not eating well enough."

"Have I ever?" he challenged.

She scowled. "No. But at least pizza and burgers were food. Scotch and coffee do not a balanced diet make."

He shook his head and had to wonder if his subconscious was mixing up Ziva with his grandmother. "Well you don't have to worry about me anymore. Tim and Abby do plenty of that; I'm well badgered on all accounts of my life."

Her smile was sad as she nodded. "How is the rest of the team?"

"Broken," he answered honestly. She flinched at the accusation creeping into his voice, but he couldn't help but continue. "Abby is so angry and confused. You know she doesn't like change. Actually, I think Gibbs feels the same way, though he would never say it aloud. You didn't give any of us a good enough explanation; I still don't really understand why you left us. Why you left me."

She looks out the dark windows to the lights on the Anacostia. "It will get easier. You need to at least try and let me go."

"Tried, couldn't."

She tensed at the too-familiar words but continued. "No you haven't, Tony; you are clearly holding onto me with everything you've got. You haven't made the slightest effort to move on."

His brow furrowed and he grew angry as he leaned forward in the chair, "The slightest effort? How can you say that to me? Do you have any idea how much effort every stupid thing takes now?"

Her face twisted in chagrin, and she looked away from him, trying to avoid the accusatory glare. Her eyes wandered back across the bullpen to her empty desk. "You should start by filling the desk. It's like Kate all over again; you're all treating it like a shrine and acting like I've died."

"It would have been so much easier if you had."

The words were out before he could stop them, and her head whipped back to stare at him. The look of pain was instant, cutting, and he knew...he knew that he would never be able to say that to the real Ziva. He would never admit it aloud, but more than that, he simply could never cause her that kind of pain in real life. However, seeing how she was just an extension of him, a corner of his own mind content to torture what little sleep he was managing, it seemed appropriate to say it now.

After all, self-flagellation was one vice he'd always embraced.

"I've dealt with your death before, Ziva. I've already run through that gamut of emotions and so could have skipped the theatrics and jumped straight to the endgame this time." Her eyes widened, for of course she knew what he meant - what he had meant that last time during their darkest summer. "But I don't know what to do this time around; I don't know how to let go or move on in a world where you still exist. I don't know how to accomplish basic, stupid tasks like working and sleeping and breathing when I know you are somewhere on this god forsaken planet doing the the exact same thing. I don't know how to do it. And I don't want to. I don't want to move on," he pleaded.

"You have to," she said quietly. "If you don't let go, you'll become like Gibbs."

"You don't think he would have fought for Shannon?" he countered, leaning back in his chair to stare up at her. "You don't think he would have followed her to the ends of the earth if she were still alive?"

"Not if she asked him to let her go," she whispered.

He gave an angry groan, his elbows falling on his desk as his hands fisted in his hair. That was the rub. If it were based on his desires alone, he would be on the next plane to Israel. Hell, he would have never left her there. Would have given up his job, his life in DC, and stayed by her side until their last day.

But his personal desires had always taken a backseat to what she wanted. And she had been very clear about wanting a clean break.

He scoffed to himself, the hands fisting tighter at his temples as a memory tugged in his mind. He'd fallen once when he was six, out of a huge tree in Central Park while with his mother. She'd rushed him to the hospital where the doctor declared that his arm had, thankfully, suffered a clean break. And young Anthony DiNozzo had kicked the doctor right in the shins. His arm hurt - terribly, searingly - and at the time that boy had not seen any reason to be grateful.

And all these years later, he still found himself questioning the wisdom of that particular cliche. This was no clean break; certainly she must know that, must feel the same. The loss of Ziva had torn a gaping hole right through his chest, and no span of time, no amount of liquor, and no distraction could ever fill that void.

He felt her reach for him again, and this time he did not pull away. Her gentle hands loosened the fists at his temple as she ran her fingers lightly through his hair.

"Please just try, Tony. You'll not be able to sleep, to truly rest, until you try to let me go."

The anger and frustration flowed out of him in a long breath, and he was left with nothing but a weary, hollow ache. He leaned forward and wrapped his arms around her waist, resting his forehead against her stomach. "Can we just pretend? Can you please, just this one time, tell me that this is the reality? That I've dreamed the past month and that you're really here with me now?" He looked up at her placatingly. "Please Ziva."

She was silent for several long moments, her fingers playing with the hair at the nape of his neck. "¿Qué es la vida? Un frenesí. ¿Qué es la vida? Una ilusión," she whispered, her smoothly flowing cadence so painful and beautiful and familiar. They were words she'd recited to him many times before, from some dusty old story she loved.

"Y los sueños, sueños son," he choked out. He could feel the dream shifting as dreams always do, collapsing into disjointed flashes and he tried desperately to hold on to it. Hold on to her. He stood up in one fluid motion, his hands wrapping beneath her thighs to pull her closer to him. "Please Ziva, please come back to me."

She gasped at his sudden closeness, but rather than pull away, she leaned in closer. Her eyes searched his as he brought a hand up to tangle in her curls, her face tipping towards his, her lips parting ever so slightly as he -

The clash of metal against metal jolted Tony right out of the chair, his hand reaching for his weapon without thought. He blinked madly in the dark bullpen, his eyes finally finding the disturbance at the next cubicle over.

"I'm sorry Agent DiNozzo, didn't think anyone was here," a man apologized.

"It's fine Charlie," Tony sighed, scrubbing at his eyes and hoping the janitor couldn't see that his knuckles came away wet. "I was just heading out."

Tony fell back to his chair as the older man lumbered into the bullpen, turning Gibbs's trash over into a large rolling can. Five empty coffee cups tumbled out.

"Burning the midnight oil again, eh?" he asked jovially. Tony just nodded. Charlie peered in the empty can behind Ziva's desk. "Still one down on the team? No wonder you're always here and tired, about time they replace Agent David."

"Easier said than done," Tony mumbled, reaching wearily down to grab his trashcan and hand it over.

"Such a shame things didn't work out," Charlie lamented. "My Cecilia always loved to ask on about you two."

Tony's brow furrowed. "Sorry?"

Charlie chuckled. "My wife, Cecilia. She'd always ask about you two after my shift; loved the stories I'd tell about your bickering and back-and-forths. Said it reminded her of the two of us when we were younger."

Tony gave a small chuckle in spite of himself. "How long have you been married?"

Charlie's returning smile was sad. "Would have been forty-eight years in December. I lost her this spring."

"I'm sorry Charlie, I didn't know that."

The older man shrugged. "It's okay. I was damn lucky to get that much time with her."

"You must miss her a lot after all those years together."

Charlie nodded, setting the trashcan on top of Tony's desk and leaning on it, "When you love someone as much as I loved her, it doesn't matter if you have a day or a thousand years. It will never be enough time." The older man was lost in his thoughts for a moment, but then shook his head and studied Tony. "But I think you know what I'm talking about, eh?"

"More than I'd like to," Tony sighed.

Charlie grunted in agreement and moved on with a little wave. "You should go home Agent DiNozzo. No substitute for sleeping in your own bed."

Tony just nodded, thanked him, and left. It was far easier than explaining this his bed was part of the problem. Much bigger than its predecessor, it was a recent upgrade over the summer, a good faith purchase for a future he had finally allowed himself to hope for. Now it was too big, too empty, and his old twin mattress - complete with the memory of Ziva's sleeping form - was gone from his life.

Still, it was to the too-big bed he returned finally late that night. His sleep was troubled, restless as he fought against the endless dreams. It was after four when something woke him suddenly from a rare few minutes of genuine sleep. His hand tightened around the grip of his gun without realizing it, and he tried to reason through the haze for what had woken him. A shaft of light from the streetlight outside had broken through the curtains and landed on a chair in the corner of the room. On it rested a dusty and worn bag that he did not recognize. More familiar were the cargo pants strewn on the floor below it.

And most familiar of all was the arm wrapping over his chest, the curve of the slender body molding to his back. He tensed noticeably, as the body behind him shifted closer.

"I'm sorry," she whispered softly, her lips brushing lightly across his shoulder blade. "Go back to sleep."

He didn't dare to move, to turn towards her and see her face. He couldn't bear the idea of it being another dream and truly waking once more to a cold and empty bed. He knew, without question, that he wouldn't recover from another blow like that tonight. Reality or dream, in that moment he decided that as long as she was there with him, he was happier not knowing truth from illusion. And so he simply interlaced his fingers with the delicate ones at his chest and fell into the deepest sleep he'd had in weeks.

Choose your own ending...either this can be in canon or the start of a lovely little AU universe where we can all choose to live. :)

Spanish quotes are from the amazing work of Calderón de la Barca, La vida es sueño.