Oh, The Places You'll Go

A Richer Dust Concealed

Notes: So that sequel you wanted to the boys meeting as wee!folk? I wrote it. Oh, hai thar, time on my hands. soupytwist looked it over and declared it fit for duty. (See what I did there?) This title taken from the poem A Soldier, by Rupert Brooke.

Sequel to At the Going Down of the Sun--you probably should read this first, I doubt it'll make huge amounts of sense without it. No spoilers.


This is the first year in several that the federal holiday has been just that. Tony thinks there's probably some kind of irony in the fact that when people across the nation are standing up and remembering the fallen and the survivors and the sacrifices they made for freedom, he and the others are usually busy rushing around to put some scum-sucking bastard behind bars who obviously just doesn't get it.

Not this year, though. This year there's no open case and Gibbs forbids all of them from setting foot in the Navy Yard. He has his own traditions, Tony knows, and wouldn't intrude even if he didn't have something to do of his own.

"Should've brought gloves," says Tim, blowing on cupped hands and rubbing them together like some little match girl from Dickens.

"I know how you can warm them up," leers Tony and grins at Tim's horrified response.

"We're in a cemetery, Tony! Show some respect."

"Relax, McProper, they can't hear us. Anyhow, Jack was never easily offended."

The autumn sun, finally breaking through sullen clouds, is already dipping low in the sky, skimming the tops of the trees, reflecting off the raindrops that cling to stubborn leaves, burnishing them into gold. The wet, white stones shine, each one standing straight and proud as if to say 'Remember me'. Tony has a map in one hand, though he doesn't need it, he's been coming to the same spot every year since he moved to DC. He turns left and Tim turns with him, keeping step.

"Thanks, you know, for bringing me with you."

Tony turns a surprised face on McGee. "What?"

Tim shoves his hands in his pockets. "It means something to me that you want me to be here. With you. Today."

"It's not just about the hot sex," says Tony and nudges Tim's shoulder with his own.

"Good to know," says Tim and his voice is wry, but he nudges Tony back and Tony knows he gets it.

"Why today?" asks Tim. "I mean, okay, so it's Veterans Day and I know Jack served, but we didn't come for the ceremony so, I guess, why not any other day?"

Tony hunches into his coat against the wicked gusting wind. "No funerals,' he says. They turn down a row and Tony sidesteps a middle-aged woman, zipped up tight in a rain jacket, though it's not rain on her cheeks. They exchange nods, united for a second by absence, a strange camaraderie. He waits until they are well past before continuing, not wanting to disturb her private bubble of grief.

"I figure I've seen more than my fair share, no need to relive this one, too."

"Was it your first?"

"Yeah."

"Do you remember it?"

"What did I say about reliving it, McGee?"

"Sorry." Tim's hand brushes down Tony's arm and Tony turns towards him, exasperated but smiling. It's not like Tim can turn off the curiosity tap, it's what makes him a good writer, though Tony's admitting that over his dead body.

He draws to a halt in front of a grave marker that looks exactly the same as all the others. In the years that have passed the grass has long grown in and the empty space that stretched behind and beyond Uncle Jack's grave has markers of its own, blunt teeth curving in a yawning smile. Tony swallows hard.

"Hey there, Uncle Jack," he says. "I brought someone to meet you." He gestures between the ground and Tim. "Jack, this is my partner, Tim. Remember I told you about him last year and how it was all-? Well, we stopped sucking and started-" Tony stops, wheezing with laughter that fizzes up from deep inside. "Sucking," he finishes, gasping for breath, grabbing Tim's shoulder to support himself.

Tim just stares at him. "Did someone drop you on the head as a baby? And if they did, how many times and from what height? 'Cos I can run a simulation on brain damage."

"Timmy, Timmy, Timmy, I have no secrets from Uncle Jack. Guy bought me my first Playpen back when I was ten. He may wish you had more in the boobular region, but he'd admire your fine ass, I'm sure."

"Why am I not surprised your family is as depraved as you, Tony? And don't call me Timmy. Nice though it is that you've managed to remember my given name after all these years, can you just stick with Tim?"

"Sorry, Tim-but-not-Timmy, I don't wish to offend your delicate sensibilities." Tony freezes. It's like a fly is buzzing across his brain, there one moment, gone the next. "Huh," he says.

"What?"

"I dunno. I had the weirdest- Never mind." Tony turns back to the grave. "So how've you been, Jack? They treating you well? I haven't been keeping up much with the gossip from home but I can tell you that Eudora Finch, you know, the one who had all the plastic surgery? Well, she-" And Tony launches into his yearly catch-up. In life, Uncle Jack had been the person Tony trusted with everything--there's no reason death has to change that.

When Tony winds up, telling the story of Tim, Jethro and the shoe showdown, he stands there, quiet for a moment. "I wish you could meet him," he says, finally. "I think you'd really like him. I know I do. Don't repeat that, Probie."

Tim slips an arm around Tony's waist then and squeezes, resting his head against Tony's. It's comforting and warm and the years recede until Tony's a little kid again, watching them bury his favorite uncle. There's a lot he's forgotten, but some things have stayed with him; the starched brilliant whites of the uniforms, the steady clop of hooves on tarmac, the buglers blowing Taps and the shots ringing out over the grave. The shots. He flinches. And, whoa. Whoa! This is insane.

He tears himself away from Tim's hold and stares at him, wild-eyed, trying to see the little kid in the man standing next to him.

"There's no one around, don't freak out," says Tim, who clearly is on a different page. Hell, he's in a different library.

Tony throws up his hands and backs off, nearly stumbling over the grave marker behind him. He rights himself with a self-conscious jiggle and reaches forward, grabbing Tim's upper arm. He shakes it. "Tim-but-not-Timmy. Oh my god, I don't believe- I bet you need a pee, right? Right?"

Tim's brows furrow with amused puzzlement. "No, I do not." He pauses. "Or I didn't until you mentioned it. Thanks a lot, Tony. Also, what? What are you laughing at?"

Tony can't stop. It's...it's crazy awesome is what it is.

"McGee, McGoo, little Timmy!" he crows through whoops of laughter, patting Tim's face. "Look at you all growed up and gay now. Though you were big on the hugging back then so maybe I should've guessed."

"Wh-?" Tim starts but Tony barrels on.

'"Because, wow! They obviously know what they're talking about with the taking responsibility for a life saved thing. I mean, who knew they meant, you know-" Tony waves his hand back and forth between them, "-relationship stuff, but hey, I can roll with it."

"Roll with what? Who is they? Is this a private conversation or do I get a Tony-translation?"

"I met you before," says Tony and if he hopes that will explain everything then the back of Tim's hand on Tony's forehead suggests otherwise. "Get off me, McMedicineWoman, I'm not sick." He double feints side-to-side to shake Tim off.

"You were here," he says. "At the funeral. You were this cute little kid all pudge and teeth-" he waves off the implied Hey! from Tim. He can be all affronted later, they'll mark it down in the schedule or something. "And you were running away under a horse cart. Because you were an idiot when you were five."

He stares hard at Tim, willing him to get it now, but there's not much light dawning there, and Tony can't blame the clouds that have come back over the sun for this one. "I got you out," he says. "It was a whole saving your life thing. Don't you remember? We hung out and you were scared of the guns. I bet your dad remembers me."

"You met my dad?"

"Um, you didn't wander into Arlington on your own, dummy. Of course I met your dad. Hey, wait! Does that mean I've already passed the parent test because that would be cool."

"I don't-" Tim frowns. "You're not making this up?"

Tony grins "Well, as fun as it is to make up the fact that you totally owe your ass to me--and we'll get into the specifics of that later--and that your bladder control hasn't improved since you were five, I can think of at least seven and a half better ways to use my time."

"Oh," says Tim, rubbing at the back of his neck. "I don't really remember, sorry."

"Hey, no biggie, you were a kid." Tony looks up at the sky, which is threatening rain again. "We should probably go," he says, turning back to Uncle Jack's grave. "Bet you knew all along, huh? You're just laughing your decomposed socks off in there, aren't you? See if I bring you any more nice surprises. Next year, Jack. You know, you could put some effort in, too, you never call, you never write." He brushes his fingertips across the marker before turning back to Tim and tucking his hand through his arm.

"You totally had a crush on me back then," he says, as they start to make their way along the row.

"Tony, that's gross! We were kids."

"Children have sexuality, too, Probie. I was pretty hot for an eleven-year-old."

"Yeah, I must have blocked you out of my memory because you were too over-whelming," says Tim. "My five-year-old hormones couldn't take it." He bumps Tony with a hip and they walk to the road in companionable silence.

Something's nagging at Tony, though, and he finally remembers what it was.

"So you never got to be Boba Fett, then?"

"Only for Halloween, 1999," confirms Tim, mournfully.

"See, that's what happens to little boys who pee in cemeteries. Their dreams never come true."

"That's not- I did not pee!"

"You totally did. You peed on a gravestone, McSacriligeous. In full view of everyone. There was shock and horror and perhaps a little awe at how so tiny a thing could contain quite so much pee. Teeny tiny peen, great big bladder. It was a sight to see, I'm telling you." Tony puts on his best wide-eyed innocent look. It has a pretty spectacular fail-rate, but there's a first time for everything.

"You are such a liar, DiNozzo. I did not pee on a gravestone. I have public pee syndrome."

"And where do you think you got it? From the ranking officer pointing the gun at you when you didn't stop peeing for the salute."

"You have a really tenuous relationship with the truth, don't you, Tony?"

"There's probably written accounts somewhere. The Boy Who Peed. We can look it up if you like."

"This wind's pretty brutal," says Tim and Tony wonders where he's going with this. "My lips, they're getting all chapped and sore. I'll have to give them a good rest."

Ohhh, so that's where he's going with it. Tony's got to admire the tactic even as he vehemently disapproves of it.

"Okay, okay, so you didn't pee on a gravestone. Happy now?"

Tim grins. "Yep."

They're still a good way from the car when Tim speaks again. "Tony?"

"Mmm?"

"I really need to pee."

Tony chokes. "You're kidding me, right?"

"I can't help it," Tim whines, face going long and pitiful. "All that talking about peeing and then it's cold and...I really have to go."

Tony looks around. It's busy in the cemetery today and there's nowhere to hide. Tim's out of luck. "I don't know what to tell you, McGee. You're gonna have to hold it."

"But, Tony. You saved my life, you're responsible for me, you have to fix it."

There's a quirk in Tim's voice that makes Tony stop in his tracks. He narrows his eyes and looks at Tim, the cemetery lights in the dusk lending him a soft aura, but it's not enough to tamp out the evil glint in his eyes.

"You are kidding. Just wait till I get you home, mister," he says.

"Can't wait," Tim returns, the smile that's been lurking under the surface flashing out and Tony can't keep up even a pretense of annoyance.

"C'mon," he says. "Jethro will be trying to get in the fridge again and you know how that ends."

"Badly."

"Very badly."

It's weird, thinks Tony, that the little kid you rescue one day becomes the most important person in your life years later. And, sure, so that's probably just coincidence and not serendipity at all, but soldiers and sailors and airmen and marines are sent around the world to take part in battles and fights that aren't always theirs to begin with, but their neighbors'. And it sometimes seems to Tony that thousands of miles from home might just as well be on the next block, or the next city over. The world is too small to ignore all but your own corner.

He sends up a silent thank you to the women and men who've understood that, and have worked and fought to keep the world free so that he can take his boyfriend home and fuck him stupid. So, okay, they probably didn't have exactly that in their minds when enlisting, but it's a by-product of freedom that Tony happens to be very fond of. Very fond.

"I'm calling Sarah and asking her for baby photos," he says.

'Then I'm telling Ziva that you cry at the end of Titanic."

"Everyone cries at the end of Titanic."

"Yeah, in Bizarro-World."

Tony launches into a spirited defense of Winslet and DiCaprio and they don't stop bickering until they get home.

"Thanks," says Tim, later, as Tony's stirring the pot. "You know, for looking out for me."

"No problem. What was I gonna do, let you get trampled to death?"

"Not just then. I mean, for that, obviously, but also for now. Since we've worked together. You've always looked out for me, so thank you."

"Stop making me love you more, McGee, it's an annoying habit. Also, likely to make me burn the casserole."

"Of course, you've also been mean to me in more ways than I can possibly count, so..."

"And now I love you less."

"Easy come, easy go," says Tim, slipping his arms around Tony's waist and pressing his chin into Tony's shoulder. Tony twists around in his grasp and kisses him, slow and easy. His hand brushes through Tim's hair and he has a sudden memory of petting it all those years ago--there's more product in it now but it's still soft. Tony knows that he may have saved Tim's life back then, but Tim had rescued him, too, helped Tony deal with a loss that had threatened to swallow him. It's a strange kind of miracle that he's here now, rescuing Tony all over again, just by loving Tony for who he is and not who he wants him to be.

"Did I ever tell you how lucky we are?" he murmurs into Tim's mouth.

The casserole burns.


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