A/N: Kudos to tingreca for the quick beta and help with the title!


He fidgeted as he sat there in his row, right at the front of the hall. It was a big space, filled with people. The robe he was wearing was getting uncomfortable - the place was warm and stuffy and he was sweating like he had just run a marathon, but he waited. He silently waited as speeches were made, and for his name to be called.

He wasn't quite sure what he was feeling – accomplished, proud, scared, uncertain. It was the single biggest moment of his life – well, his professional life at least.

He still remembered the moment he'd made the decision that ended with him sitting where he was right now. He didn't know whether he'd even be able to go through with it, let alone succeed in it. But he was glad he did.

He knew what people thought of him. He was the over-grown frat boy, the jock, the brainless idiot, and the good for nothing son. Except all of that was what he'd wanted the world to see.

Shocking, wasn't it?

No, he was smart. He knew he didn't want to end up like his father so he pretended that he didn't understand supply and demand. What they didn't know was that he'd learned all too well the art of smoke and mirrors – like father like son, he supposed. He played up the frat boy image so no one would look too closely at him. It was what made him so good at what he did.

Although some people did manage to look through all that. People who he knew were sitting at the back of the hall, waiting for his name to be called - people who he'd come to consider family.

People who were proud of his accomplishments. Proud of him.

He stood up and walked to the side of the stage as the usher gave him the signal.

He thought he'd be more nervous, but he felt strangely calm at that precise moment as he stepped up to the stage.

"Anthony D. DiNozzo, Doctor of Philosophy, Sociology, with specialization in Criminology."

He smiled.