Note: This might be seen as slightly Kate/Tony and/or Tony/Ziva, but it's intended as mostly gen with a little cannon partner-ish UST.

Sometimes he wakes up screaming, but this is not the status quo.

What usually happens is this:

Tony comes home and un-holsters his gun, then he places it beside his ID badge in a drawer. He turns on the TV, a movie maybe, starring Cary Grant or Tom Cruise or Steve McQueen. He'll fall asleep before it's over, but more likely than not, he's got it memorized already anyway.

He won't think at all, won't hardly move; not until the alarm wakes him and he starts again.


Ziva sometimes forgets the rules, lingers a little too long. It's a game, this flirting thing he does, but she smiles sometimes like she'll let him catch her if he tries.

Kate was never that careless.


The first time Ziva and Tony go out on a stakeout they sit in the front seat of NCIS's oldest Sedan and don't say a single word in the eight hours they're stuck there. Ziva is quiet and dangerous and coiled like a spring, and Tony thinks that if he were here with Kate he'd be laughing by now.

The second time Ziva and Tony go out on a stakeout they're in the penthouse apartment of some fancy upscale building watching a bedroom in the hotel across the street. Ziva is still as focused as she always has been, but every once and awhile she looks over at him and throws him a wry grin, and once they start talking he finds out that they actually have quite a lot in common.

It's not exactly like old times, because Kate fit with him so well because they were nothing alike and Ziva's just a bit too much like him for comfort.


Ziva uses her smile the same way he does, almost never because she means it, but because sometimes it's as good a weapon as a gun.

Kate just used to roll her eyes because she was above things like that.


Eventually they actually become a team again, and Tony wonders if any of the new people ever look at them and realize something's missing, or if they just look at them and think they've all been together like this for years, always been this well-oiled machine they've become.

It hurts a little to think about, because it's wrong, and he picks up the habit of talking about Kate all the time.

My partner used to do that, and my partner never did that, and Kate would love this, and Kate would hate this and Ziva gets tight-lipped every time and McGee gets quiet and sullen and Gibbs acts like he doesn't even notice and Tony wonders what the hell's the matter with them.

Because they can't just forget, even if remembering hurts.


He'd always thought Kate was the kind of girl he could ask to marry him; mostly because she'd never say yes.

Everyone knows Ziva isn't the marrying kind.


Tony has never really had any anniversaries of note. His relationships never last long enough and he tends to forget his own birthday most of the time, let alone remember anyone else's.

But he knows Kate's death down to the very second, so when the day rolls around again for the first time since it happened, he doesn't know what he's supposed to do.

He's never quite bought into the whole "celebrate the life, don't grieve the death" school of thought--not because he doesn't think it sounds like a good idea, but because he knows what it really is; it's denial, pure and simple, and Tony may lie with the best of them but he never does it to himself.

He can't remember her on that particular day without seeing that little bullet hole between her eyes, and everyone's very careful not to mention her name.


Kate wore a cross everyday like she thought it might protect her.

Ziva wears the Star of David, but she doesn't believe it protects her; for all of her faith she still expects she'll be dying young.


The worst part is when he starts forgetting, too.

It's inevitable, he tells himself, it's not that he doesn't miss her, not that he doesn't still ache, it's just that he's still alive, and she's not.

Eventually he stops comparing Ziva's every move to Kate. Eventually he stops expecting her to be there behind him. Eventually he stops waking up in the mornings believing, just for those first three seconds, that she's still alive.

That's what moving on means, he supposes, only he never thought it would hurt this much.

Time was supposed to make it better, but now even though the times he hurts are farther apart it's always worse when it hits.


Kate never took life lightly.

Ziva is more like Tony; she understands the need for levity in their line of work.


Gibbs is a bit colder than he used to be. Ziva doesn't realize it, because that brief bout of kindness right after has pretty much faded into some odd out of place nightmare along with the rest of it, and this is really all she knows.

McGee understands the change in ways she doesn't, and they share looks sometimes that she doesn't catch, and wouldn't understand if she did.

Ziva is ruthless in ways that he isn't; he thinks it might be the most obvious difference between them. He knows that probably isn't fair, even if it is mostly true, because Ziva never knew Kate. It's easy for her to just give a solemn nod at the mention of her name, see just another fallen comrade in arms.

Tony knows what it's like. To hear a name and see a date of death on a file, hell, he deals with the dead for a living--and if he bled for every single one he'd have nothing left.

It's still hard sometimes to watch her at Kate's desk, feet up on the surface like it's always been hers, like she can't even see the ghost beside her.

He's not quite sure he can forgive her for that.


Ziva looks nothing like Kate at all.

Tony knows this is for the best.


Sometimes he wakes up screaming, but this is not the status quo.

What usually happens is this:

He lies down and closes his eyes and thinks about movies maybe, pretends he's Cary Grant or Tom Cruise or Steve McQueen. He falls asleep making some great escape and then it just goes blank.

Because more often than not, he sleeps like the dead.