A/N: This little "what if" hit me when I saw a gif of Tony during SWAK (2.22), before I knew it the muse had written a whole story surrounding this AU. Hope you enjoy!

ZtZ

They tell her his name was Tony.

Handsome, smart, a fine senior field agent.

When she asks, they tell her of how he died. How he passed only weeks before the gunshot that claimed another one of their own and led her to them. How pneumonic plague claimed his life like it used to in medieval tales of knights and castles.

They tell her his name was Tony.

A man never without a movie quote, a self-proclaimed film aficionado.

She's never even owned a TV, doesn't plan to either, but then McGee comes forward to offer her Tony's old TV and DVD player along with some of his films, saying she's welcome to take them or else they'll be donated. She accepts the offer, happy to spare Tim from having to search further for a place to part with his former co-workers belongings.

She finds it strange no family collected his effects, finds the question slipping out before she can stop it. Only a father they tell her; took them two weeks to track him down to deliver the news of his son's death. She understands perfectly-distant fathers an all too familiar constant of her life.

The movies sit in a box by her sofa for a week before she gets around to watching one. Work is quiet, but busy, the rest of her new team still mourning their losses, and she still the outsider not quite trusted by anyone but Gibbs. Finally on a Friday night, after wrapping up her first case, she digs through the box, pulling out a worn case, cracked around the edges; The Untouchables starring a man named Sean Connery, an obvious favorite of the former owner. She places it in the DVD player. Thirty minutes later, she's beginning to understand why he liked it.

Two hours later, the credits roll, and she finds herself picking another disc from the box. Friday nights become her movie nights.

She gets to know his memory through his favorite films.

They tell her his name was Tony.

Italian, playboy, always a man with a cocky smile.

So she imagines he must have looked the part, swagger in his step, ridiculously immaculate suit that brought out smoldering eyes to break any heart.

She finds Caitlin Todd's old sketchbook in her locked desk drawer at the end of her first work week; sits quietly in the dim after-hours light of the bullpen flipping through its thin pages. She recognizes his face easily, it's the only one she doesn't see every day. The drawing isn't what she expected, neither is the photo of him with the team that slips out from between the pages, his green eyes sparkling up at her. Sure, he has a slightly cocky grin, maybe a little bit of arrogance around the edges, but she also finds him relaxed, cheerful. However, it's his gaze that gets to her the most, green orbs that aren't leering and lustful like so many womanizing men she has known.

No, Tony DiNozzo had kind eyes, soft, soulful. The kind that told you everything, the kind that wouldn't shut up. They remind her of her mother's.

She discovers the ring in another box of DVDs Tim brings over a few weeks later, mistakenly tossed in when someone was clearing the closets of his things perhaps. It's dusty, not been touched in years, yet the diamond is still clear and bright after it's gentle use. Clearly, the playboy had once wanted to commit.

It inexplicably saddens her to think someone would break his heart. Makes her wonder if the person who did regrets it.

They tell her his name was Tony.

Prankster through and through, never a moment for serious matters.

It takes time to fill his desk. Senior field agents are not as easy to find as junior agents, and Gibbs seems particularly strict in his requirements for the desk across from hers. Candidate after candidate passes through the bullpen, but none of them ever sit in his chair. His desk remains untouched.

Late one night in the bullpen, long after everyone else has left, she ventures over to the vacated space, partially out of need for a stapler, and the other part mere curiosity. Sifting gently through the drawers, she can't help but smile-the whoopee cushions, McGee's missing CDs, a Mighty Mouse stapler-his personality takes over the desk. She would have liked to seen one of his pranks; would've hated him for it if she became the subject of it, but nonetheless, she's sorry he never tried to make her laugh.

She imagines he wouldn't have had to try very hard to earn her smile.

A stack of papers shoved into the back of the desk catches her attention, and she pulls them gently from the drawer. A decade of newspaper clippings fill her hands, some recent, some yellowed from age, all related to a tragedy, a murder, or in the oldest case, a fire. She does some digging into old files, ascertains that they are all snippets from cases he couldn't solve, from events he couldn't stop in time. The oldest article breaks her heart even as it changes her view of him completely. Tearing at the edges, the paper reads of a young basketball player who saved a boy from a fire, and the little girl who was lost. The news makes no mention of the young man's name, but she knows it was him. She'd never understood how a college basketball star decides to become a cop, until now.

She wonders if the rest of them know how much of a hero their friend really was, how much guilt he carried around under a mask of jokes.

She decides someday she'll tell them.

They tell her his name was Tony.

Unwavering in loyalty, a man who could be counted on through all the jokes.

Sometimes, she swears she sees his face. A quick glance at the empty desk across from her, and she can almost see him smiling back at her, that same lazy, genuine grin so prominent in all his photos. Even once they fill the empty team slot, his memory still persists around her, a mirage of a partner she never knew.

Casually, she jokes to McGee that it sometimes feels like he's still there; words stated half in jest, half because she is mildly concerned for her sanity. Tim shudders and returns the quip, stating that being haunted by Tony would involve more unexplained tricks and pranks than mere feeling, but if she ever finds her hands inexplicably glued to her keyboard she should probably call an exorcist. A ghostly DiNozzo would never be a good thing.

Yet she feels strangely comforted by the idea of his continued presence; somehow the idea of him makes her feel safe, assured. She tells herself she is an idiot for feeling this way, for putting any stock in souls and spirits, for allowing the memory of a dead stranger to worm it's way into her heart.

Weeks turn into months, cases dock sleep from her schedule and put paperwork on her desk. Gradually, life seems to return to her teammates, the world moves on. She finishes his DVD collection, closes the case on the last disc, feeling as though she's losing a piece of herself with the final credits. She knows it's time to leave, to move on, rejoin Mossad, and stop losing her focus on dead men with kind eyes.

After all, this was only ever supposed to be temporary; she can't allow herself to become attached to this place, this team.

Still, she slips a picture of him between the pages of her book as she prepares go.

They tell her his name was Tony.

And every time she thinks of his name, a pang of sorrow seeps through her chest, a feeling of longing closes up her throat.

She imagines he would have made her want to call this place home.

ZtZ

A/N: Thanks for reading! Reviews make my day, so if you enjoyed I love to hear your thoughts by clicking the pretty review button below!