First Times and Significant Moments.
Most people, who met Special Agent Anthony 'Tony' DiNozzo, took one look at his antics and immediately branded him a clown, a bully, an overgrown frat-boy, a womaniser, a commitment-phobe, a wise-ass or a slacker.
But if they took the time, if they really cared enough to look deeper, to see beyond the many masks that he donned when in public, they would soon realise that he wasn't truly any of these things at all.
There are moments in everyone's life that stand out clearly amongst the mundane. Occasionally those moments are of such deep significance and emotion that they shape and define who you are.
But mostly they were a series of first experiences and lessons learned, sometimes warm and satisfying and sometimes the hard, painful and unforgettable way.
Tony DiNozzo remembered clearly his moments, both good and bad. At times it seemed that the terrible, heartbreaking moments outnumbered the better times but he refused to push any of them away or store them in some deeply recessed compartment of his brain.
Instead, he kept them close by. He'd line them up in his mind and face them head on, forcing himself to remember how he felt at the time and he would use them to make himself stronger.
Through it all, he would remind himself that he was a survivor. Hell, he'd withstood more heartache, despair and disappointment in his youth than any kid should have to take and he had come through. He took pride in the fact that he had picked himself up and made his way alone, with no assistance from the DiNozzo name, or its' considerable fortune.
Yes, Tony remembered clearly his moments, both good and bad.
The first time he realised that, being 'his Mum and Dad' didn't necessarily mean that they were happy.
The first time he climbed that big old tree to the 'tipetty top' and gazed in wonder at the view. Felt the unbending strength and reliability as the tree stood resolute against the wind.
The first of many times that he sat on his mother's large bed and stroked her long brown hair as she wept for a man who didn't care.
The first time he attended a funeral. The deep solemnity of the occasion, the dark clothing and the muffled weeping and whispers of the mourners….and the smiling photo of his mother on the casket.
The day he moved away from home to attend boarding school and realised with stark terror, that at 12 years old, he was virtually 'on his own' from here on out.
The first time he realised that he was good at sports and that a special bond, a camaraderie and brotherhood that he'd thus far, never experienced, was to be had from being part of a team.
The day he learned that showing real emotion and confiding in anyone was to invite betrayal. Best to keep himself, to himself.
The first time he stood up to his overbearing father, set his shoulders, looked him square in the eye and refused to quit the school football team.
The first time he walked on campus at his beloved Ohio State University and realised that here, finally, was a place that he could belong. Somewhere he would be judged by his actions, rather than his pedigree.
The moment he realised that talking incessantly about himself was the best way to deflect any interest in his personal life and thoughts. That luckily, some people just refused to look beyond the surface.
The first time he realised that just one flash of his trademark megawatt smile, had the magical ability to open all manner of things. It opened doors; it opened opportunities, it opened mouths, and predictably, it opened plenty of young shapely legs.
The awful moment that he heard the snap and knew he faced a future that didn't include football. He was off the team and once more, the emptiness of being on the outside looking in, was overwhelming.
The first arrest he had made as a young probationary police officer at Peoria and the thrill it had given him years later in Baltimore when he had been the one to make the breakthrough and close that 20 year old cold case.
The first time he had met a certain former Marine turned NCIS Special Agent and the impact that this fiercely proud and private man had made on his life. The sense that here, finally, was someone he could trust and respect. Someone he could emulate and follow into hell and back if necessary. Once more he was part of a team and he belonged.
The moment that he felt the stinging acid of his own vomit rise in his throat as the warm, sticky spray of his partner's blood splattered across his face, watching helplessly as her lifeless form collapsed at his feet.
The utter confusion, the all encompassing sense of betrayal, abandonment and sheer panic as Gibbs handed him his badge and quietly spoke the words, "you'll do" before turning and walking out of his life and off the team.
The first, cautious vines of happiness that crept around his heart and filled him with such delicious but excruciating fear as he fell hopelessly in love with a beautiful young intern.
The day he looked her straight in the eye, saw the pain and confusion, the desperate hope in her face that he would tell her that he loved her, that it was real…..and lied.
The time he stood stock still outside the diner, his gut bucking and twisting as he anxiously searched his Boss' face, fearful of the blame and rejection he might find.
The time he stood on the deck of the carrier, leant against the rail and accepted his punishment, watching as his home, his security, his life, slipped over the horizon and out of view.
The soul wrenching, gut-thumping moment that he realised his Boss had used him like a pawn, withholding trust and faith, the very foundation of his team, of his allegiance.
The moment that Gibbs looked him square in the eye and quietly told him he was proud. Proud of his performance and of the agent, the man he had become.
That awful heart stopping moment when, after all the suspicion, the doubt and denial, the pain of battle and the killing, she had looked him in the eye and screamed that maybe…maybe she wished that it was he who was dead.
There are moments in everyone's life that stand out clearly amongst the mundane…