Disclaimer: I do not own NCIS.

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"It's just an award ceremony," Gibbs chided as he passed by a certain Very Special Agent's desk.

Tony looked up from his computer, where he had been working furiously. "I know, boss."

It was almost overkill, really. To Tony, it all came with the job. Sure, a few years ago, he'd be calling McGee and telling him he wouldn't be as McTorious as himself, or as distinguished when he took on little probies of his own, but then again, he'd grown a lot in the past few years. Some maturity had taken the place of his childish tendencies, but then again, it really hadn't.

What kind of McNicknames could he possibly use this time?

"So, Timmy, you bringing a date to my shin-dig?"

McGee looked up in surprise. He'd been adressed by his first name - er, kinda. It was an affectionate nicname, so it counted, right?

"Actually, yes."

"Janice, right?" Tony pointed at him with a knowing smile. "I knew you liked her, McManhands."

Well, there went that, McGee thought to himself.

"Actually," McGee inserted, "I asked Abby."

Tony's jaw dropped. Literally. He fake sniffled, wiping away invisible tears. "My little McProbie's all grown up and taking little sis on a date."

Gibbs made a humming sound that borderlined laughter. "Tim, Abby asked you."

McGee turned red. Tony laughed. Hard.

"Now there's a win right there, McPantsonfire. You can tell who'll wear the pants in that relationship."

Gibbs gave a threatening look Tim's way, as if daring him to even attempt a relationship with the world's happiest goth. Gibbs would eat him for breakfast, spit him back out, and repeat for lunch and dinner.

Tim tried like hell to shrink back from Gibbs' gaze. "What about you, Tony? It's all about you tonight, who're you taking?"

Tony pretended not to stare at the empty desk across the way from him. "Obviously not you, McTaken," He joked.

"How about EJ? Heard she's in town," Gibbs threw his way, his gut already telling him that he did not have a date, and he probably wouldn't since his first choice was away on an undercover operation. Strictly classified.

But Gibbs knew everything, so he had the inside scoop on that, too.

And seeing as he was the one who had to introduce his Very Special Senior Agent, he really needed to make sure that his right hand didn't make a fool of himself, and didn't get too uncomfortable. At least for reasons that weren't Gibbs's fault.

"Nah," Tony breathed, bringing Gibbs back to the conversation at hand. "She'd look good, but she's too-" Tony trailed off.

"Afraid she'll steal your spotlight?"

"Afraid she'll bring another serial killer with her, probie. Or do something else to bring the wrath of Gibbs upon me," He added the second part only by mouthing to McGee.

"I can read lips, Tony."

Tony jumped in his seat. "I know you can, Boss."

"Then why'd you do it DiNozzo?"

"Uh, dunno, Boss."

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"Are you nervous? It's just a ceremony and some casual hors d'oeuvres."

Tony gulped. He really didn't want to talk about this. "No," he lied a little too quickly. "Not at all. Us DiNozzo's have a gene that makes us immune to nerves."

"You are shaking in your socks, yes?" She laughed and it shattered any insecurities he had for a moment. He found it in himself to smile too.

"Boots, Zi. And I am not," He retorted, emphasizing each word. "How's your case?"

"Still classified."

"Oh, that's what you always say. Can't you just play the naughty secret agent for one minute and tell me what in the world you're doing in Brazil?"

"If I could, I would. You know that, Tony. But I cannot."

"Yeah," He finally admits with a sigh.

She senses his insecurity returning. "I am sorry I will not be able to make it. I will make it up to you when I get back, I promise. But you will have to have McGee take pictures. And let Abby pick out a reasonable tie, and tell her I said no skull and crossbones, okay?"

"I'll try, I don't know if she'll be listening. She's been babbling and charging every digital camera NCIS has."

"You will do great," She says, and he can hear the smile in her voice. "You deserve this, Toh-nyee," She adds, drawing out his name. "But I have to go, I have a meeting in ten minutes. Call me when you can. I will have my phone on."

"Alright, I'll talk to you later, Zi." He pauses. "You really better make it worth my while for you missing my shining moment."

"Oh, I will. Maybe I will give you back those pictures you took of me all those years ago..."

Tony's smile has returned now. "You're a bad liar. I better get at least a pizza and some classic movies."

"Deal," She confirms, and they both hang up.

As Tony reclines in his desk chair, he clasps his hands and puts them over his head, stretching and thinking about exactly how he had gotten into this situation.

Everyone outside of NCIS regarded him as a hero; he regarded it as doing his job.

And yes, that means protecting a little girl from a known murderer, at the cost of his new shoes, his personal car, and a couple superficial cuts and bruises. Did no one understand that someone had to be the good guy. He'd seen it first hand. There were enough jerks, dirty cops, and secret-agenda wielding agents. He kept it simple. Good guy. Occasional need for the good-cop bad-cop routine, but even then. It was so easy to see how the lines between good and evil were blurred. He'd done his fair share of both, all the while believing he was doing good.

And now they reward him for it? It seemed stupid, to be reward for one good deed when most of their cases began with murders, or people who were within inches of death. In any case, Tony knew to accept the award with a gracious smile, but he really wished he had his whole team when he went up there and said thank you, and all that other good stuff he knew he'd probably forget to say. Ziva was like the other side of himself, when he lacked the confidence, she picked up the ball and supported the both of them. With her gone, it was strange, like he was missing part of himself. Reminding himself not to think too deeply into this kind of stuff, he dropped it, hoping that she'd solve the damn case already so he could get back to the part where they have each other's six, and she bought the pizza and he netflixed a new movie.

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Gibbs stood next to him as he fidgeted with his tie - a deep scarlet color, one Abby insisted would go well with his pewter colored suit and white shirt. Finally, the boss had had enough, and batted away his agent's hand, adjusting the tie himself.

"Thanks, Boss."

"Relax," Gibbs whispered. "You earned this."

"Don't feel like it," Tony answered back before looking up at the podium where a man he barely recognized stood.

Gibbs smirked. "For someone who wants to be the center of attention, you really don't act like it."

"Don't deserve it."

"Bullshit." Gibbs met Tony's eyes, and that was the end of the conversation. "Dont make me compliment you, DiNozzo. I won't."

"Yes Boss."

Turning his attention toward the podium where the man he barely recognized as McKenzie's father Gunnery Sargent Pharmtan - yes, he had learned the little girl's name when he ended up watching her while they spoke to her parents - he realized that the moment of truth had arrived.

"And now, I'd like to introduce my daughter, McKenzie, to present Special Agent DiNozzo with his medal of honor."

"She's like three," Tony whispered to Gibbs. "Guess they start this stuff early."

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Three Hours Earlier...

"If you do not get me on this plane to Washington DC, I will have your job, and your anatomy cut off in less than ten seconds."

"Ma'am, You cannot go around threatening airport employees or security like that."

Ziva reached her arm over the counter, grabbing a hold of the man's tie and pulling him up to her eye-level. "I am a federal agent. Does that not mean anything to you?" Her badge was nearly shoved down his throat. "I am also a trained assasin, and I am sure you do not want to see where that will get you."

"No ma'am. I'll get you right on that flight."

"You better, and I had better not hear you call me ma'am again."

"Okay."

Ziva smirked as the man immediately retrieved a ticket she assumed was pried out of another passenger's hand and handed it to her. "Your plane takes off immediately, and you'll be flying first class."

Ziva smiled, taking the ticket out of his hands casually, her face and body language completely opposite of thirty seconds ago. "Thank you," she chimed, and walked to the gate.

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Gibbs stood when McKenzie's father had finished speaking, walking fast to the staircase to the podium, the side from which McKenzie would be emerging. He was good with kids, Tony acknowledged.

Which is why it concerned him when the little girl made it four steps out onto the stage before screaming and running for the off-stage area, right past Gibbs and everyone else, terrified of all the people looking at her curiously. Tony smirked. If he was her, he'd do it that way. Run the entire length of the stage and then right on out of there. Except..

"I think she's a little shy," Gibbs said with a smile into the podium, and everyone laughed, the tension broken just a little. "Why don't you bring her out," Gibbs added, leaning into the podium, looking in the direction in which the woman left.

There was silence, and Tony took a quick count of the people beside him. Yup, everyone was there that was supposed to be, so it couldn't be anyone he knew bringing her out.

Scratch that, he noted, as a curly brunette with magnificent bronze skin and a matching dress in the color of deep scarlet emerged from the side of the stage, a white flower tucked behind one ear and a tiny blonde attached to her hip.

"What do you say we do this together," Ziva asked softly to the girl as the approached the microphone.

The girl looked up at her, giggling, and turned toward Tony.

"Hi Tony!" She said in her brightest three-year old voice, her little palm opening and closing in a greeting as she found him in the audience.

Tony smiled a goofy smile and waved back, before looking up at the woman holding the child. She met his gaze with a smile and a quirked eyebrow that he registered as a 'Bet you didn't expect this one,' while Abby smiled and nodded toward the woman, glad she could help coordinate their outfits.

Tony made a mental note to harass Abbs for being in on it, but then again, he figured all of them were. Except maybe probie.

Ziva smiled out at the crowd. "I know Gunnery Sargent Pharmtan has told you all about the wonderful deed Agent DiNozzo has done for him and his family. I was away when he did this, but I will be the first person to tell you that there is no one more deserving of this award than Anthony DiNozzo. He has saved more lives than this little girl's, and he will be the last person to expect anything in return. All of us at NCIS, especially myself, are honored to work with and know him. Ladies and gentlemen, Very Special Agent -"

"Anthony DiNozzo!" The little girl said as best she could, as Ziva pushed her toward the microphone.

Tony made his way to the stage amidst boisterous applause, most of which coming from Abby and McGee. He hugged all the members of his team, before approaching the stage, where he shook hands with the Gunnery Sargent and his boss, who even clapped him on the back and whispered a "Well done, Anthony."

He'd be sure to try and get a recording of the proceedings, just to see if someone caught it on tape.

When he made it to the podium, the little girl latched onto him immediately, saying a thank you that was just audible over the microphone. The crowd aww'd, and Tony smiled brilliantly. Ziva stood off to the side, and the little girl reached back for her as he hugged his partner.

"Told you I wanted to be here," she whispered with a smile.

Tony kissed her cheek. "Still owe me, Zee-vah."

Ziva nodded, and waited for his own speech to begin, and for McGee to tally up the number of movie references he'd include. She had bet him there'd be six.