A/N: Hey.

So a couple nights ago I was watching just a clip of an old episode of Star Trek: the Next Generation (my parents were mild Trekkies, and when I was a baby and they watched it, I would point excitedly to the screen during the title sequence and cry, "Space!" Fortunately for all of us, I am not a Trekkie) and a character mentioned how difficult it is when you realize for the first time that someone you love is gone forever. My mind immediately thought to Tony and Ziva, and I wrote this story that night.

It can be set in a few different times: 1. Right when Tony came back from being an agent afloat, having learned that Ziva was with someone, 2. After Nine Lives and Tony find's the photo of Rivkin, 3. After coming home from Israel, having left Ziva behind, 4. When Tony learned that Ziva was dead, 5. When Tony and Ziva and the team came back, but things are still a little… different.

I like numbers 4 and 5, because I think it really explains the recurring phrase, "When you realize someone you love is gone forever" well. Tony has faced loss time and time again in his own life before her met her, but then, since season 6, I think he's felt like he's been losing her again and again until she was finally out of his life forever, and each time it gets harder and harder to deal with. Even when she was there, she wasn't really—she was growing more distant with every day, and it was incredibly hard for him (hence the extra dose of wackiness in him in season 6). And then finally, it was done, and she was gone forever—or so he thought.

If you choose option 5, think of it like this: Ziva's back, finally back for good, but he's stuck. He thinks too much time has passed, their chance is long gone, and there's no hope for a future for them, not in any way. He's alone and too much has changed.

So, pick a setting, or pick them all. You'll get the idea once you start reading. Which reminds me: listen to "No Envy No Fear" by Joshua Radin while you read this. It sets the tone, and it's such a great song.

Now that you've accomplished reading my extremely long A/N, please enjoy the following:

It was an idea that Tony DiNozzo had always believed himself to be familiar with.

His mother had died when he was a boy, but he had lost her long before that.

His father had never been a father, never been anything but the stranger with alcohol in his hand. He had lost him long ago.

He lost plenty of girlfriends throughout the years, to other guys, to those better than him. He always he knew they deserved better.

He lost Kate—she had always been family, from the first day they met, it was as if they were just meant to bicker beneath the watchful eyes of Gibbs.

He lost Paula, twice, first because he was simply stupid, and again to a terrorist. But she had given her life as a sacrifice, for her men, for all of them.

He lost Jeanne, but it couldn't have ended any other way.

He even dealt with loss on a daily basis, facing the worst, vilest of humankind—those who took the blood, the lives of others.

But Tony… he never understood what it meant, not to its fullest, most slicing, most volatile extent until then.

He never understood until he lost her.

Tonight he sat in a cold room, a familiar one where those who had passed were cared for for the last time, a room so full of memories of the life he had had. It was an ironic thought as he sat there in the dark, the only light streaming in from behind the glass windows upon doors.

He felt as if he belonged there, as if it made sense that he might find solace, relief with those who already had, in another world now still. It was so quiet in that room, the only sound the hum of the generator cooling it down for its guests. The only scent was that of cleaning supplies, but he hardly noticed.

Tony sat against the lockers, full aware of those behind him.

"Guess you've got all the answers now," he whispered, almost chuckling wryly. "You ever lose someone you love?" he shook his head as his smile faded, remembering that they had been lost too, that someone out there had tears upon their cheeks tonight. "Sorry, guess that was insensitive. Still learning, I guess. But," he exhaled, almost turning his head to speak to the guest behind him. "I've gotten better. Wiser, I guess. Or maybe I just know more,"

"Is that not the same?" Ducky's voice echoed from the threshold. Tony hadn't noticed the doors open for his friend.

Tony smiled up at the doctor, just a little. "I guess so," he began to stand when Ducky's hand rose in petition.

"Do not get up, dear boy, I am merely passing through," he gestured to the door which led to a small file room.

"How about you? You ever lose someone you love?"

Ducky sighed as he headed for Tony, pulling a stool to sit on, turning on a single light, revealing a single stain of a tear upon Tony's face. He decided not to ask, and instead answered the young man's question. "Yes, once," he replied, knowing Tony meant not family, nor friends.

"What was her name?" Tony asked, staring at his hands which were resting upon his knees, pulled near his chest casually.

"Elizabeth Wells," he remembered. "Most lovely, most beautiful I ever met," he laughed a little. "She always had the most remarkable comebacks. I was lost in a debate with her, but she was so charming, I couldn't resist," Tony smiled a little. "I suppose that's how I knew I was in love—at the end of the day, I still wanted to be with her… But that's not why you came down here, to hear about my first love, is it?"

Tony's smile faded. "No. I was just, ah, thinking,"

"About?" Ducky asked, though he could guess easily. He watched Tony for a moment, the agent not answering.

"Forever's a long time," Tony mused.

"And whom are we discussing the particulars of forever about?"

Tony shook his head, ever so slightly, unable to answer. "It's too late now,"

"Well with that attitude, you'll never get anywhere,"

"I'm thirty-nine years old, I've been working at the same job for the past 9 years, I'm not married, no kids, no family… I've been nowhere for a long time," he seemed to be speaking now more to himself than to the doctor before him.

"Loss is something we must all be acquainted with occasionally in life," Ducky commented.

"I thought I was,"


"But there's nothing like losing the one you…" he let his voice trail off.

"Love?" Ducky filled in, understanding what the boy meant. "It is always quite difficult when we realize that someone we love is lost forever,"

"I thought I lost her before, but I thought… I don't know. It's just… Before at least…"

"At least there was hope?" Tony nodded. "And now?"

"I dunno, Ducky. Just seems like I'm meant to be alone," his tone sounded almost sarcastic, but his soft eyes said differently.

"My dear boy, if you believe that thirty-nine is such a dreadful age to be alone at, do something about it. But don't just sit here and mope about. My guests need their rest," he said kindly. He waited a moment more before adding, "There is always hope,"

"You think?"

Ducky smiled. "Yes. Now go, I have work to do here, and so do you,"

Tony smiled gratefully in return as he stood. "Thanks, Ducky,"

"Anytime," the Scottish man replied.

And so Tony would wonder about loss, and hope, so familiar with one, and such a stranger to the other.

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