Your mom always told you; "If you love 'em, let 'em go. If they come back, they'll be yours forever". And you know your mom was a wise woman, but still, the idea of letting Tony go scares you beyond your own comprehension.
Because you know if Tony leaves, he won't come back... why would he come back to a washed out old marine where there are a million men and women out there just dying to meet a man like Tony.
And you want to fight against it, but Tony looks so sincere as he tells you he loves you, promises to come home again soon.
"I just need to get away Jethro, it won't be for long. I'll be home soon, I promise."
And you believe him; believe him because you know you can't make him stay, and because your scared of letting him go, because telling yourself you believe him makes it that much easier when you wave him goodbye at the airport.
You're snappy with everyone and they can tell you haven't been sleeping or eating much, but they just give you sad looks. Let you off with shouting at them for things they didn't do, because they know... Tony is gone and you’re falling apart inside.
He called a few days after he left, never said where he was, and even though you wanted to, you didn't ask when he was coming home.
The day after that call you actually thank Kate for bringing you coffee, but the day after that you throw your coffee at the wall, because Tony didn't tell you when he's coming home.
Weeks pass, and people are starting to get annoyed with your bad temper, and you really do try to tone it down, but then Abby shows you a post card Tony sent her from Spain, and you almost destroy a perfectly good piece of lab equipment when you kick it.
A month, becomes two, and before you know it, it's been almost six, and you’re waiting, waiting as patiently as you can for the call from the Director that Tony isn't coming back, because somehow you know he won't call you.
Kate and McGee know the dates coming up for Tony's return as well, and their both on tenterhooks, even Abby is being more cautious around you, and no one has said Tony's name when they knew you were in earshot, for at least three months.
You feel like maybe time is slowing down, and like wishing your mother was still alive so you could tell her what an idiot she was, because you let him go, and now you’re never going to see him again.
And your chest gets a little tighter everyday, and you just wish he'd call, so you'd know one way or the other. Because if he's not coming back as you suspect he isn't, then you'd like to know now and just die as soon as possible.
Kate wears a skirt that day. And McGee is wearing a suit you don't recognise. You know the bow tie Ducky is wearing is the same one he wears on dates. And that Abby's dress is the same one she wore to your housewarming... and you know they are all ready to welcome him home, but as the clock ticks closer and closer to lunch time, you’re sure now that he's not coming.
You try to argue when the others follow you home, you just want to die in peace, but they are insistent, Tony probably just went straight home and crashed, and they want to see him. You wish you had the heart to just say he isn't coming, but that would make it real, and even as you die inside you still try to hold on to that vein hope.
Your not surprised by the empty house, and honestly even less surprised when the others refuse to leave, and you really, really try not to let them see the tears, but Kate is an astute woman, and you hope you aren't ruining her top by crying all over it.
You try not to think about how he promised he'd be home, and you really try not to think about where his home is now, and with whom he's sharing it, and you gladly drink the vodka Ducky gives you in one gulp, as you hold your glass out for more.
And your aware your being weak, but you don't have the strength to really care, because Tony's gone, and you're not sure you know how to be strong without him now... a brief laugh escapes your lips at that thought, Tony always said it was you who kept him together, he had no idea he was the glue holding all the precarious pieces of your heart in place, and how without him it's breaking and smashing into a million pieces.
You notice the others when their attention seems to wander from you to the front door, but you've lost count of the drinks you've had and the tears you've cried, and you honestly couldn't care less if someone broke in and stole everything you own, because half of it's Tony's and it'll only remind you of what you lost.
Your tired eyes close, as your head lolls back and to the side, and you’re just floating, and for a second you can almost fool yourself that you feel peaceful, but then another whimper escapes you, and you hate the pain, but it just won't go away.
The voice is soft, and you're sure you imagined it, sure you're imagining the soft feel of his skin against your five o'clock shadow, even though five o'clock passed hours ago, but it sounds so real, and feels so good, and you gather up every last piece of hope still left in you, and open your eyes.
And there he is... his eyes are concerned, but there is a soft smile on his face.
You want to say something, to tell him how much you missed him, but you don't need to, because he's holding you so close you feel like you might suffocate, but that’s okay with you, as long as he keeps holding you like that.
And you’re sure you hear Abby crying, but you can't look up, because that would mean taking your eyes of Tony, and your still a little scared that he'll vanish if you do.
"Sorry I'm late, traffic was a bitch." You hear him say in your ear, and you feel the laughter bubble up inside you, and you feel like you could burst into songs, like in those old movies you hate, but watch because Tony loves them.
And when Tony kisses you, and you can really believe he's home, you cry some more, because maybe your mom was right after all. You let him go, and now he's come home, and you can feel it right down to your toes, neither of you will ever be alone again.