AN: To this day, I believe Call of Silence is the most truly brilliant episode of NCIS ever created. The performances were spot-on (check out Charles Durning's line, "She was a peach" when he's remembering his recently-dead wife in the bullpen, for example. Watch not only his amazing delivery, but also the reactions of the other characters...McGee in particular). We have a more mature, cool Abby too (gosh I miss her!). The writing was magnificent - even though we suspect from the start of the episode that he'll be found not guilty, Ernie's life story and anguish are captivating and keep us interested all the way through. And that lovely little twist at the end...perfect. The episode was also filmed in a very unusual way, with odd camera angles, intense close-ups (right up against Gibbs' face as he begins the interrogation, for example) and panoramic shots taken from high up in the ceiling. All designed to generate an emotional response - and it works incredibly well.

But the best part of this episode for me, is the Tony DiNozzo that it gives us. This is the Tony I fell in love with in the early going. In the presence of Ernie Yost, he drops his immature boyishness and shows incredible empathy for this tortured soul. I've never loved Tony more, and I wish they'd give us more of this on the show.

This little piece is my tribute to that episode, and to that Tony.

WARNING: Minor character death

DISCLAIMER: All characters belong to DPB, CBS & Co. No copyright infringement is intended.

Unbeta'd - Comments & concrit welcome.

Fallen Hero

The package arrived on a Thursday, hand-delivered.

Ziva feigned disinterest, but out of the corner of her eye she watched as Tony inspected it from all angles, shaking and sniffing it with suspicion. The return address was a law firm in Winchester, Virginia.

This couldn't be good.

Pulling the knife from its sheath in his belt, he carefully sliced the packing tape and opened the lid gingerly. There was a letter on top, and as much to aggravate McGee and Ziva as anything else, Tony decided to read it first. He set the box aside. After a few moments, he swallowed hard, and let out an audible sigh.

Gibbs strode off the elevator, brandishing a coffee. "Hate mail, DiNozzo?" he quipped, noticing Tony's disconcerted attitude. When there was no response, Gibbs backed up and stood in front of Tony's desk. Tony handed him the letter without a word.

Dear Mr. DiNozzo,

We are the executors of the estate of the late Mr. Ernest Yost, who passed away on March 23, 2011. In his Last Will and Testament, Mr. Yost bequeathed to you his Medal of Honor, which we enclose herewith.

Should you have any questions regarding this bequest, please contact our office.


James Mathieson
Attorney at Law

As Gibbs read silently,Tony reached for the box once more. He pulled out a black, hard leather case, worn with age. By now, Ziva could no longer contain her curiosity, and was hovering next to Gibbs. McGee abandoned his computer and wheeled his chair closer to Tony's desk.

Slowly, Tony opened the case. A small square of folded bond paper lay on top of the medal. He gently removed it, revealing a blue ribbon, at the end of which was a gleaming gold star – Ernie had polished it up before putting it away for the last time. Tony read the note aloud...

Agent DiNozzo -

Dorothy and I never had kids, so it hasn't been easy figuring out what to do with all my stuff. Most of it's junk, but this is one of the few things I really care about, and I wanted to make sure it went to someone who'd appreciate it. I think you will – at least, I hope so. We had a good talk, that day. It was kind of how I always imagined talking to my kid, if I'd had one. Good memories.

Semper Fi

- Ernie

"Who is Ernie?" Ziva queried.

"A hero," Tony blurted, leaning back in his chair and biting his lip. He hadn't thought about Corporal Yost for several years, but the note brought back fond memories, just as Ernie said...

He'd grudgingly driven Ernie home the previous afternoon, wondering how long this detail was going to last. Gibbs had ordered him to stick close and not let Ernie out of his sight. Much as he sympathized with the man's plight, two tickets to the National Ballet were going to waste that evening (granted, it was the National Ballet of Suriname, and granted, Tony wasn't a 'ballet' kind of guy, but that wasn't really the point, was it? He was missing out on a hot date - THAT was the point).

He'd been none too pleased with the early morning wake-up call either (complete with marching band fanfare), and had arisen in a grouchy mood; but there was something about this elderly man – he simply couldn't stay aggravated for long. Soon Ernie had begun regaling him with tales of his adventures at Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima, and Tony had been spellbound. He remembered wishing he could have a conversation like this with his father; but Senior never shared much of his life with anyone, and in any case, Tony wasn't sure there was much he'd care to know about it.

By the time he'd driven Ernie back to the Navy Yard, the former marine had touched Tony in a way few others ever would. The hot, legwarmer-clad bakery cashier was long forgotten. Here was a man who'd been married to the same woman for 58 years (and boy, was SHE hot!). A man who'd gone above and beyond for the sake of justice and freedom, yet was so full of humility that he was reluctant to admit his heroism, even to himself. Tony had never met a man like him, and he somehow doubted he ever would again. He hadn't thought he'd ever look up to anyone the way he did Gibbs, but Ernie definitely made the grade.

And now, he was gone.

Tony sat slumped on his couch later that evening, nursing two fingers of Macallan 18 and watching "Broadway Melody of 1940". He was still in shock – that Ernie would want him to have his most prized possession was almost inconceivable. He hadn't realized the impact of that day, not only for himself but for Corporal Yost as well.

As Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell tap-danced to the strains of Begin the Beguine, his thoughts drifted back to Ernie and Kate, slow-dancing in the bullpen as Ernie softly hummed the tune. He smiled at the memory. He wasn't sure if he believed in an afterlife, but if there was one, surely those two would find each other and have that dance once more.

Tony sat up straight and raised his glass towards the medal case that lay open on the coffee table in front of him.

"Semper Fi, Ernie."