A/N: I don't know if this has ever been done before. I think it might have, but I can't remember. This is unbetaed because I was too impatient to wait. My muse is refusing to cooperate on some of the other stories I've started, including my Tony gets lost at sea story, tentatively titled "Finding Tony," but instead forced me to write this. This story is different from my usual writing, but as you'll see in one part, old habits die hard.Through the Eyes of a Child – by Tweeter
She has her father's eyes and his love of laughter. Even as a baby she greeted everyone with a huge smile. Her grandfather called her Elizabeth and spoiled her in ways he never spoiled his son. "It's a grandparent's prerogative to spoil their grandchildren, Anthony," he would say. "You remember how yours treated you as a child." Her father would shake his head, but relent when his daughter threw her arms around his neck and whispered, "I'll always be your girl, Daddy."
Her parents called her Lizzie and loved her unconditionally, encouraging her to be her own person, even when she decided, at five, that she was going to be a rodeo clown and walked around for weeks dressed in cowboy boots her aunt bought her and striped shirts she took from her father's closet. Aunt Abby apologized for taking her to the rodeo, but didn't look contrite at all.
Lizzie had lots of friends, boys and girls, and had a 'boyfriend' in kindergarten. "Just like her father," her mother would say, smiling ruefully at her husband. Her father was not amused, acting stern and protective, much to his wife's amusement.
But the person her future boyfriends would fear the most was her godfather. Few people met the loving, caring man beneath the gruff exterior. He held a special place in their family, a welcome presence at all their special occasions and holidays. His basement was a warm and inviting place she could visit when her parents wanted some 'alone time.' She would always associate the smell of coffee and sawdust with security and comfort. With her godfather's guidance, she learned to appreciate the beauty of wood, to shape it and make it do her bidding. Her first project was a tie rack for her father. It was slightly crooked, but it was hung with pride and held her father's expensive ties for years.
On rare occasions her father would take her to the office. She loved those times, her godfather would make her an assistant. Sometimes she would help her Aunt Abby; help consisting of wearing a lab coat and twirling around in a chair. She loved when Uncle Ducky would come to the lab and tell her stories about exotic places he had visited. Lizzie loved his voice, it was smooth and mellow and his accent made him seem as exotic as his stories. He called her Elizabeth and told her all about the first Queen Elizabeth and how she overcame obstacles to become Queen of England. Lizzie was proud to have the same name as such a famous queen.
During one visit everyone in the squad room was called out on a case. Uncle Ducky and Jimmy didn't have to go, so they took Lizzie out to lunch. Jimmy was lots of fun and played "guess what they do" with her in the restaurant. They made up stories about the other diners. Uncle Ducky's stories were always the most interesting, full of spies and secret agents. When her father had to work late, Lizzie got to ride in Ducky's funny car. He told her that in England the drivers were on the right side and that it was a throwback to the days of jousting. She didn't know what a throwback was, or jousting, but Uncle Ducky knew a lot about everything and explained them to her.
When she was eight her father was hurt in the line of duty. She remembered the fear in her mother's eyes that betrayed her soothing words. Her godfather was very serious, but he smiled and held her when she asked if her daddy was going to die, telling her everything would be okay – and she knew that it would. She wasn't allowed to visit her father in the hospital, but her Aunt Abby helped her sneak in. Her father, usually tall and larger than life, looked small and weak. When he saw her, his eyes lit up and a grin split his face. He held out his arms and she ran to him, careful not to hurt him any further. She crawled onto the bed and curled up in his arms, reveling in his warmth. He smelled of antiseptic instead of his usual subtle cologne. Just as her godfather had promised, her father came home and after a few weeks everything was okay again.
One day Lizzie's father told her that her Uncle Ducky had passed away. Her parents helped her understand death very early, when her goldfish died. She knew that Uncle Ducky was very old, older than her godfather and grandfather, but she was still very sad, even though she knew he was in heaven. Jimmy was very sad too, and came to her house to talk to her father. He was afraid he couldn't fill Ducky's shoes and was afraid to talk toher godfather about it. Lizzie's father helped him see how much he had learned from Uncle Ducky and how proud he would have been to see Jimmy take over as Medical Examiner. There were others who could take the job, but her godfather wanted Jimmy in the position and the Director relented. When Jimmy heard that her godfather wanted him in the job he was so surprised he almost fell out of his chair.
When she was ten, her godfather got married. There were many jokes she couldn't understand; he was given a football helmet as a present, with a note saying it was good protection against most blunt objects. She was the flower girl, dressed in pink and lace. She walked down the aisle, carefully scattering rose petals. At the front of the aisle were the two men she loved most, dressed in tuxedoes and smiling at her proudly.
When she was twelve, her world crashed down around her. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer. None of the treatments they tried worked. It was the first time she ever saw her father cry and it rocked her to her very soul. He took time off from work, took her out of school and the two of them went to the lake house where they spent their summers. The weather was cool and the summer crowd was long gone, so the two of them spent their time sitting on the pier or going for long walks through the woods. They laughed, they cried, and together they healed.
The next year her godfather did the unthinkable. He retired. Her father had been leading his own team for years, but he still felt he was a part of Gibbs' team. Retirement meant there would be no more late night brainstorming sessions. It was a difficult time for her father, not having his wife at home or his mentor at work. Old insecurities resurfaced and it took a stern dressing down by her godfather one evening to make him recognize all that he had achieved over the years.
Her father never remarried. He occasionally dated, but he devoted most of his time to his work and his teenage daughter. He claimed she gave him gray hairs. She said it made him look distinguished. He would joke with her boyfriends, but would still make them see that he could make their lives a living hell if they hurt his little girl. He would warn them not to anger her godfather. They would laugh at the thought of some old retiree scaring them, until they met the man in question – strong and foreboding, with eyes that could bore into your soul and uncover the secrets you were hiding. It was soon well known at school that Liz's father and godfather were not people to be crossed, and only the confident boys would dare to ask her out.
Stephen was one of the confident ones. He was intelligent, handsome and fun-loving. He showed the proper amount of respect to her father and godparents. He adored Liz, and encouraged her in her love of art. She had become expert at sculpting, creating beautiful works of art out of wood. Her father had given up the garage for her workshop. There were no power tools in her shop. She learned that shaping the wood with hand tools was the only way to give her creations life, to give them a soul. Her father called her Michelangelo. She pretended to be insulted to be called a giant turtle.
She worried about going off to college and leaving her father alone in the house, but he laughed and said he was a big boy and could take care of himself. She wasn't so sure, but she reluctantly set off to Northwestern University, where she majored in psychology. "You'll have a field day analyzing our extended family," her father said, laughing. She had long talks with her father every week, when he'd tell her what was going on at home; about Aunt Abby's fight with her daughter over shaving her head – Cousin Mandy threatened to run away from home if her mother did that; how Uncle Tim was now the new Director and his boss, but he'd always be Probie to her father. She could tell her father was proud of Uncle Tim. He told her that her Aunt Ziva would be visiting during spring break and that Lizzie was expected to be home for that; and how her beloved Uncle Jethro was now a consultant for the agency, having been unable to stay away for very long, his sharp mind needing the challenge of work. She missed them all very much and looked forward to her summers at home.
Elizabeth Marie DiNozzo graduated, summa cum laude, from Northwestern University. She was going to continue her graduate studies there. Head held high, she walked across the stage as her name was called, accepting her diploma from the Dean. A cheer erupted from the audience and she looked out to see her family; her father, Tony, cheering loudly and clapping; her godfather, Jethro, clapping and whistling, his wife Theresa wiping away tears; her grandfather Anthony, smiling proudly; Aunt Abby, Uncle Marty and Cousin Amanda; Uncle Tim, Aunt Ruby and Cousins Donald and Caitlyn; Aunt Ziva and Uncle Eitan; and Uncle Jimmy, Aunt Sarah who left their triplets with a babysitter. The entire family was there and she knew that they would all be partying well into the night.