AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
CHARACTERS: Timothy McGee & Anthony DiNozzo
SUMMARY: Set after Reunion. Tim goes to see Tony and both men learn something about the other of which they were not aware.
WORD COUNT: 2,320
SPOILERS: Semper Fidelis, Aliyah, Truth Or Consequences and for a tiny scene seen in the promo for Reunion.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
Tim slammed the door of his car, the noise reverberated around the neighborhood, and headed for Tony's apartment block. He'd tried to tell himself just to let it go, to forget it, not to let it bother him, and all kinds of things like that. However, once he'd found he couldn't write a single word as he was getting so mad, he'd known he had to do something about it. He had to go and have it out.
He reached the apartment door and rang the bell, simultaneously knocking on the wood. Maybe he should have called first; it was possible (probable even) that no one was at home - or worse still, more than one person was inside. He rang the bell again and this time heard footsteps coming towards the door.
"Okay, okay, keep your panties on," he heard Tony mutter. The door was opened and Tony stood in front of him, a look of surprise on his face, a bottle of beer in one of his hands. "McGeek? What do you wa-"
Can I come in?" Tim asked, not waiting for an answer as he pushed past his coworker. Once inside, he turned around to see Tony still standing by the door, one hand on it, staring at him, his mouth slightly open, his eyes wide. Muttering to himself, Tim strode back to the door, yanked it out of Tony's hand and slammed it.
"Hey, mind the -"
"Just be quiet, Tony. For once in your life be quiet and listen to me." Tim snarled the words, as the frustration he'd been feeling all day and the hurt he tried to hide began to over-whelm him.
He didn't know what Tony saw on his face and in his body language, but rather than make a sarcastic or jokey comment, Tony nodded. "Sure. Here," he held out the open bottle. "I haven't touched it," he added, as Tim just stared at it. "I've only just opened it."
Tim snatched it from Tony and took a long swallow of the cold liquid; it helped, for a second or two it helped. He watched Tony cross to the ice-box and snag another beer, which he opened, never once taking his eyes from Tim, and put it to his lips.
"Well?" Tony said after a moment or two. "I'm listening. You can sit down if you want," he added, plonking himself down on the couch and holding the bottle between his parted legs.
But Tim was too hyped to sit. Instead he began to pace around the room. "I guess if I'd really thought about it, I knew it had to happen. I knew the real Anthony DiNozzo had to return. But I kept telling myself you'd changed; that things had changed you. Four months, Tony, four months, you were . . . Different. Then what happens, we rescue Ziva, we bring her back and you're back. Back to your old ways. Back to the 'I'm the boss when Gibbs isn't around'. You know what, Tony? I know that. And I respect it, I really do. But I'd respect it a hell of a lot more if you didn't ram it down my throat ever two minutes. It's one thing in the field, but at a crime scene, there's no need. I'm not a probie anymore, I'm a established NCIS field agent. I've helped process hundreds of crime scenes; I don't need you to give me orders. Okay? I don't need it. Why do you do it? I really thought these four months showed we'd gotten beyond that, that we'd become friends, real friends. We did friends stuff, went to dinner, had movie nights, did other things. But no, it was all too good to be true. Ziva returns and Tony DiNozzo returns. Well I've had enough." He finally stopped speaking, utterly exhausted after his outpouring. His throat was dry, his palms wet, and he knew he was trembling. He also realized to his surprise Tony hadn't once interrupted him. He took another swallow of the cold beer and sank down into the sole armchair that stood at right angles to the couch.
The silence stretched between them and they just sat and stared at one another. Finally, it was Tony who broke the quietness. "Why do you constantly remind me that you've got a degree from MIT and another from John Hopkins?" he asked, his voice steady.
"What? I don't. I -" But he did. He glanced away from Tony's steady gaze and stared down at the carpet. "It's all I've got," he said finally.
"What? What the hell are you talking about, McGee?"
Tim looked up. "It's all I've got, Tony. The only thing that I'm better at than you. Well, that and computers. I'm never going to be as good a field agent as you. Never. I'm never going to lead my own field team; but you will. I can't compete with your skills in the field or in most areas of investigations and I don’t want to. I know I'm not as good as you, but I don't need you to remind me all the time."
Tony was shaking his head as he looked at Tim, a look of surprise on his face. Again the silence stretched between them. Then Tony, glanced away, staring down at the carpet and said, "Because you're better than me; you're more intelligent than me; you're more versatile than me. Your skills are the future of the agency, not mine."
"What? What the hell are you talking about, DiNozzo?"
Tony looked up. "You don't get it, do you? Yeah, okay, so your field skills might not be as good as mine, I say might 'Tim', but don't forget I was a cop for several years, but in everything else you outstrip me."
"Don-" Tim cut himself off, realizing how stupid this was beginning to sound.
"Who's already had his own team?"
Tim frowned. "Tony, that was -"
"It might not have been a field team, but it was yours. Yours, Tim."
"But you -" Again Tim stopped speaking; he wasn't certain Tony would recall his drunken confession that Jenny had offered him his own team in Spain, but he'd turned it down. Turned it down because deep down he'd known he hadn't been ready. "So that's why you do it?" he asked, his voice soft. "That's why you -"
"Constantly remind you I'm the boss when Gibbs isn't around? Yeah. Real mature, that is. But that's why I do it. I want to . . ." he trailed off and again looked away from Tim; once again he studied the floor.
"Be Gibbs's favorite? Be the most important person in Gibbs's life?" Tim spoke quietly, and made sure there was no hint of mockery in his voice. For a moment he thought Tony wasn't even going to acknowledge the question. But then, after a moment or two, Tony jerked his head up and down once. "Oh, Tony," Tim said. "You're never going to be that. No, wait," he said hastily, holding up his hand as a look of pure hatred shot from Tony's' eyes. "Come on, Tony, you know that Ducky's Gibbs's favorite, he's the most important person in Gibbs's life, and then it's Abby. But you're next, Tony, and you're next by a long, long way. You're head and shoulders in front of anyone else. You, Tony. And Ducky and Abby aren't part of the field team, so that makes you the most important member of the field team, Gibbs's favorite."
Tony stared at him, his look was speculative. "Do you think so?" he asked softly.
Tim shook his head. "No. No, Tony, I know so."
Tony blinked. "How?"
"I'm an investigator, Tony. An investigator who owes a hell of a lot to the man sitting across the room from him." He hid the smile that flirted with his lips as Tony glanced to one side, as if expecting to see Gibbs sitting there. "I mean you," Tim added, feeling his coworker needed to hear it.
Tony looked at him and for a second or two things were said with gazes that would never, that could never, be spoken aloud. Then he leaned into the couch back, threw one leg over the other and took another long drink from the bottle of beer. "You know, I haven't done a bad job."
Tim shook his head, also now leaning back against the chair back. "No you haven't. So it stops, yes? The 'I'm the boss when Gibbs isn't around'. It stops. And I'll stop throwing my degrees at you. Deal?"
Again they stared at one another; again things were said non-verbally. Then Tony nodded. "Yeah. Deal."
"Good." Tim drank some more of his beer and then, because he had to know asked quietly, "Why did you change back? Why when Ziva was . . . Missing," he said softly, "were things different?"
Again he thought Tony wasn't going to answer. Then Tony shrugged, stood up, strode to the ice-box, pulled out two more beers, opened them and retuned, pushing one into Tim's hands. "It's all different," he said. "The team will be different."
"It'll be as it was," Tim said quietly, putting the empty bottle onto the table that stood in front of the couch and chair.
Tony shook his head. "No. It never can be. Never. You might be able to be the same, but me. Ziva and me, how can that ever be the same? I killed the man she loved. I killed him, Tim."
"You had no choice," Tim said softly.
"Didn't I?" Tony sat forward on the edge of the couch and stared at Tim. "Didn't I?"
"No." Tim spoke firmly.
Tony shook his head. "I wish I was so sure. So convinced. Gibbs isn’t; Vance isn't; Ziva certainly isn't. Ducky and Abby? I don't know about, but they'll have doubts, especially Ducky. But you, you're so certain."
Tim nodded. "Yes. Yes, I am, Tony. I know you."
"Yeah. Maybe. But whatever the reason, I killed Rivkin. How can Ziva and I ever be the same? Thus how can the team, how can things, ever be the same?"
Tim sat forward and looked into Tony's eyes. "Do you love her?" he asked quietly.
Tony nodded. Tim blinked. "As a friend, as a coworker, in the way I love you, Abby, Gibbs, Ducky, damn it even the Autopsy Gremlin. I love her, yeah. But you didn't mean that, did you?"
Tim shook his head. "No."
Tony shrugged. "I don’t know. Sometimes I think I do, other times, I know I don't. But what I feel doesn't matter. I killed her lover; that kind of thing tends to get in the way of positive feelings."
"You saved her life; you brought her home."
"I thought she was dead. We all did. I didn't go there to save her; I went there to revenge her."
"You told her you couldn't live without her." Tim spoke quietly.
Tony shrugged. "Words."
"But you were -"
"Under the influence of a truth serum, yeah, I remember, McGee. I was there."
"Hey, so was I."
"You weren't the one tied up and shot up with the stuff and -"
"No. I was the one who had to lie on the floor, keep still and listen, while my partner was hit and made to spill his guts. I know where I'd have preferred to be." Tim's voice rose slightly as he glared at Tony.
Tony met his look and held it until Tim let the anger fade. "Yeah. So do I. Where I was," he said, his voice low and gruff.
"Do you want her back on the team?" Tim asked.
Tony nodded, then shook his head, then nodded again and then again shook his head. "I don't know, Tim. I liked what we had over the summer. I liked us being partnered; we made a good team. We worked well together, we were partners, equals," he added softly. "Having Ziva back changes that."
"But if it's not Ziva, it'll be a new person, you know that. The team needs four field agents."
Tony nodded. "I know that. Anyway, it won't be up to us. It doesn't matter what we want. It's what Gibbs wants, what Vance wants."
"What Ziva wants?" Tim said softly.
Again they sat in silence for several minutes. Suddenly, just as Tim was thinking about getting up and going home, Tony spoke. "Want to watch Bad Day At Black Rock, with me? We'll order a pizza, open some more beers and just chill. You know, like we did over the summer, before -" He stopped abruptly. But the 'Ziva returned' hung in the air. And then Tony added, "The old Anthony DiNozzo returned."
"And went again."
Tim smiled. Maybe 'for good' was pushing it a bit. "I'll drink to that," he said, holding up his bottle of beer.
Tony stood up and clicked his body with Tim's. "To . . ." he trailed off and frowned. Then something hit him as he smiled. "To what we had during the summer."
Tim stood up and they briefly shared a one arm each embrace.
Moving to the couch now, Tim sat down and called to Tony, who was digging menus out of a drawer. "About the pizza, I didn’t bring my wallet with me."
Tony looked up and their eyes met as the 'lie' was accepted and 'believed'. "Not a problem, Timmy, you can pay next time. But you also have to pay a forfeit."
"I do?" Tim said, now resting his head on the back of the couch and tilting it back far enough so that he could look at Tony upside down.
"And that would be?"
Tony just grinned and waved his hand at the DVD cabinet. "Movie night!" he cried!