I make no money at all. They all belong to Belisarius Productions, Paramount Television, and CBS Television Studios. I do promise to put them back when I am done playing.

Ducky looks up from his desk when he hears the air locked doors open. "Anthony, how nice. I'm just finishing up my report on our young Sergeant."

"No rush, Ducky. I came down to see if you have any pain reliever. My bottle is empty."

Ever the doctor, Ducky can't help but be concerned as he looks at DiNozzo. "Where is the pain?"

"Just a headache, Ducky. It's been a long day."

"Long morning I think you mean." Ducky says as he hands Tony a cup of water along with two pain pills.

"Thank you, Ducky."

"You're welcome, Anthony. Jethro was down earlier, so do you have any idea why…"

"He is behaving like a first class bastard?"

"Well, yes, I suppose that is as good a description as any."

"It's the anniversary of Kelly and Shannon dying."

"But he was not like this last year. In fact, I don't recall him behaving like this at all in the past."

"Ducky, remember we just finished a case last week, the Burbank family?"

"I forgot; mother and two little girls killed in a home invasion."

"That's the one. The oldest daughter was the same age as Kelly and she had red hair, too. He'll be like this for a while. I'm just hoping my head can take it."

"Anthony, you've been goading him. I've seen you."

"Yes, I have. If he blows his stack on me it's one thing, but Tim and Ziva, they wouldn't understand. Besides, he doesn't hit that hard and his insults are nothing compared to what I've been called before."

"Why, Anthony?"

"Ducky, I might act like the fool, and I'm the first to admit that at times I go too far, but it serves me well. I keep my guard up and my masks firmly in place at all times. You know, Ducky, I envy him; not for what he does have, but for what he had. People in his life that loved him. Parents that actually loved and wanted him. They stood up for him and protected him like parents should. A loving wife and a child. Even if they were taken from him too damn soon, he had them. He knows the joy and the heartache. I hope that he finds peace in his soul."

"You'll find that special lady to live your life with, Anthony, and you'll have your own family in time." Ducky assures him gently.

"No, Ducky. I will never get married. Children need to see what a healthy, loving relationship is. I never saw it. My father tossed me away into boarding schools to get rid of me. I don't even think that my mother really loved me. I was the heir apparent, nothing more; something to be brought out and then put back after the show and tell was over for the night. As for children; no, I will never have them. I made sure of that twelve years ago. I couldn't take a chance. You know, you've seen my medical records. I had to break the cycle of abuse and neglect. I was never shown what true love is from a parent, so I have no idea how to love a child. And before you say anything about Jeanne, I think looking back on that I don't think that was true love, either. I got caught up in the chase and I made a mistake. I hurt an innocent woman. I don't know if I can ever really love a woman romantically with all my heart enough to marry her. That doesn't mean that I don't love, because I do."

"There is no mention of that kind of procedure in your medical file."

"I had it done in between jobs. I paid the bill in cash. I also lied to a doctor. I told him that my future wife had a genetic problem on her side and we didn't want to take the chance of passing it on. He said that it was the right thing to do and it was very commendable and responsible of us."

Ducky looks at DiNozzo intently. "When did you find out about his family?"

"When he offered me the job to work here, I did some research on him, and you and the people I knew that I would be working with, even Blackadder. From what I was able to gather, you are the closest person to him that worked here at the time, so I did the most digging on you and him."

"But you never said a word."

"I know how to keep my mouth shut and when to use what I've learned to my advantage. Sometimes, I think I should have taken the job that Fornell offered me. I would have never have met him or Abby. But I made the right choice. I've learned a lot from Gibbs. I can always count on him being on my six, and because of you, my friend. You are my sounding board and you always keep my secrets. Just like I always keep yours."

"What secrets have I shared with you, Anthony?"

"I know the reason why you never use the diminutive of anyone's name. I had a friend place flowers on her grave while he was overseas. He said that the grave was well cared for, as were her parents. Rose Alice McKay, your Rosie."

"Yes, they died together in that fire." Ducky sighs softly.

"I know, Ducky. I am truly sorry for your loss and for what might have been."

"One day, Anthony, you might change your mind."

"I don't think so, Ducky. If I feel the need for sex, I can still manage one night stands with willing women looking for the same thing. No strings, just sex. But one day, I might introduce you to my lifeline."


"My lifeline. She's my friend. We watch movies, go to plays. We never have sex, but we do share a bed holding on to each other, giving and taking the comfort of being in the arms of someone you love and who loves you. And it's enough. She doesn't let me wear my masks and when I'm with her I let my guard down, I can be myself. Me, Anthony DiNozzo, a middle-aged man trying live the rest of my life and do my job the best way I can."

"Anthony, that sounds so depressing and it makes me worry about you."

"No worries from me, Ducky. I have no intentions of eating a bullet or drinking myself to death. I intend to die watching a movie with a bowl of popcorn next to me. If I'm lucky, my lifeline will be near by. Thanks for the pills, Ducky. I better get back. One thing, Ducky, next time you talk to Jackson you should tell him that Gibbs needs a refresher course on manners. Eavesdropping is a lousy habit, especially when it's a private conversation. Like I said, Ducky, I'm very good at my job. Maybe you should remind Gibbs that's why he hired me in the first place, once he comes out of hiding from your office."