Oh, The Places You'll Go

If it Moves Mountains



Notes: Episode tag for 906 (thus spoilers) and the fifth story in the Starting from Scratch 'verse. You probably want to start at the beginning. Title via Jesus Jones. Ahh, my teenage years.




"I don't get it," says Tim, leaning forward, long fingers wrapped around a plastic cup of something calling itself coffee. Tony's thinking of inviting coffee to sue for defamation of character.

"Get what?"

Tim's shoulders lift and fall in a lazy shrug. "How no one noticed she was…you know."

"Crazy as a bedbug? A wrench short of a toolbox? Around the bend with Wile E. Coyote and the rest of the Looney Tunes gang?"

"Well, I was going for 'psychotic', but, yeah, the more colorful way works, too."

Tony considers. "Traumatic event? Repressed stuff? Huh. Maybe you need to watch your back, McGee. If I start leaving you creepy little gifts like, oh, I don't know, a severed finger or something, you should probably alert the authorities."

Tim rolls his eyes. "Yes, because this is all about you." He takes a sip of coffee and pulls a face. "I mean, with Abby's stalker he was always a creepy weirdo, and with Landon…" Tim shudders and Tony winces in sympathy. Neither of those episodes had gone down well for the guy. "He was young. Just a kid, really. But Mary. All those years helping people out, holding down positions of responsibility and then…this. It can't have come from nowhere. It can't."

That's Tim for you in a nutshell, Tony thinks. Always trying to make sense in a nonsensical world. "You're trying to apply your Earth logic again," he says. "Sometimes the only explanation is irrationality. I know you need your thought socks neatly paired, but I don't think there's anything to match that odd knee high in there." He indicates the room Mary lies in, being stitched back together. Physically, at least.

"Maybe." Tim shakes his head. "I just keep thinking poor Ducky, you know? Having the rug pulled out from under you like that? That's not just a bad breakup, that's…"

"Moider?" Tony supplies when there's nothing forthcoming.

Tim's laugh is grudging, but sincere. "Shut up, Tony. It's not funny." He takes another sip, grimacing and shaking his head. "Why am I drinking this again?"

"I know it's not funny," Tony says, leaning over and sliding the cup from Tim's unprotesting fingers. He puts it under the seat. No one needs to look at that abomination. "But it's unfixable, Tim. And it's sad. Sometimes laughter is the best medicine and we are in a hospital, so."

Tim turns furrowed brows on him. "You are so odd."

Tony spreads his hands in front of his face, fingers down and thumbs touching, then twists them upwards, wiggling his fingertips. "Tragedy and comedy, McGreekChorus. Staples of life."

"No, really. Odd. Is it the therapy?"

"Maybe." Tony drops his hands. "It's been a weird week."

"Want to talk about it?" Tim knocks his knee gently against Tony's and Tony thinks it's probably ridiculous that something so small makes the tiny Tony that sits in his brain do a little dance, but what can he do?

"Nah, it's nothing, really."

"Okay."

They lapse into silence, Tim leaning back and resting his head against the wall. His eyes drift closed and Tony resists the urge to poke him in the ribs and tell him no sleeping on duty, McVanWinkle. Instead he quietly studies Tim's profile, the flickering of his eyelids and the still taut curve of his lips proof that behind the apparent peacefulness his brain is still churning away, working through who only knows what. Just where his neck curves into the shadow of his jaw, if you know the right place to look, is a faint mark, a shade or two darker than Tim's skin. Tony snatches his hand back as it reaches out to trace over the mark---they're on duty here, it would be totally unprofessional. He smirks to himself, remembering the unprofessional behavior that put it there in the first place.

Though he's beginning to get that this whole relaxed silence deal is a Timothy McGee SOP to give Tony space to decide how much he wants to share, Tony can't help himself. "Don't you want to know?"

Tim's eyes open sharply, but he stays exactly where he is. "About what's going on in what passes for your brain?" he says with a smile. "Sure. Always." He pauses. "Well, maybe not always. Do you want to tell me?"

Does he? Talking about himself is usually one of Tony's favorite things, and, since he's been in therapy, getting the diving gear on and going beyond the surface-snorkelling of his usual conversational level has gotten easier, but some things are still hard to drag out.

"I wasn't flirting with the mail girl," he chooses for his opening gambit.

Tim rolls his head towards Tony. "I know that. You were hitting her up for a new source."

"You seemed pissed, that's all. And I wouldn't. Not after what we'd been doing, you know…earlier. In the breakroom."

Tim reaches up and touches the spot under his jaw, the flash of memory it sparks in Tony making him regret the fact that there's no way they can do anything but talk out here in the hallway.

"There was no coffee. How else were we gonna wake up?" Tim says, and the knowledge that he'd risk getting caught making out with Tony sends a pulse of excitement right through Tony's groin. Now is not the time, he tells it, sadly.

"Okay," Tim continues. "Maybe I was a little pissed. But I don't own you, Tony. And I trust you."

Tony exhales long and slow. He leans back, mirroring Tim's position, their shoulders brushing. It probably looks incriminating, but he can't bring himself to care. "You do?"

Tim doesn't answer for a second and Tony spares a moment to hate how he always has to look at things from every side. This shouldn't be a hard question, should it? His stomach squeezes tight and he pushes down on his thigh to stop his leg jittering.

"I do," Tim says after what Tony is willing to swear is at least a year. "I trust you to have my back in the field. I trust you to be honest with me. And whatever this turns into," he waves his hand between them, "I trust you not to deliberately hurt me. But I don't trust you not to tell Gibbs that I have non-sanctioned videogames on my computer."

"Okay," says Tony, rolling his head back to look up at the ceiling. One of the squares close to a skylight has a brown stain on it the shape of Africa. Tony wonders how that got there.

"But," says Tim, and it's the prompting kind, not the sentence stalling kind.

"But what?"

"You tell me."

Tony crosses and uncrosses his legs, arching his back. "Wow, these chairs are uncomfortable. You think we're stuck here the whole night?"

Tim folds his arms, his shoulder shifting against Tony's. "I’m not going to nag you, if that's what you want. I don't want to be that person."

"What person?"

"The one who's always running behind asking their b…their p…their…asking what they're feeling and where is this going and what does it all mean. I want to." He leans forward and pushes a hand through his hair. "You're kind of the same, but you're changing in all these other ways and I don't- I can't always read you and I don't know if you'd noticed but I don't do great with not knowing stuff. But. I can't. Because it does not end well, being the needy one. Ever."

But I want you to need me, Tony thinks, because I'm pretty sure I need you, and sits bolt upright wondering where the hell that came from. "The trust stepstool," he says, putting a finger in his ear and waggling it, as if it could release the pressure building behind his eyes. "It kinda…it hurt, Tim." He stands up and moves to the other side of the hallway, hooking his fingers into a metal cage full of laundry. He runs his other hand down it, the jarring tune brittle and loud in the echoing corridor.

"It hurt because I knew it was true. I am awful at keeping secrets. Like, the worst." He flashes a grin. "Surprise birthday coming up? Don't go inviting me. Secret crush on someone? Hey, better out than in, right? But you wanna know something weird?"

Tim looks at him steadily.

"I'll take that as a yes." Tony pokes at the wheel of the cage with his foot. "I never thought of it as a breach of trust. I just thought I was sharing the excitement. I know, right? That's crazy."

"A little bit, yeah." Tim looks confused and who can blame him? It's like a freaking labyrinth in Tony's head, and Tim doesn't even have a ball of yarn.

"None of it seems a big deal to me," he says, trying to explain the unexplainable. "So if it's not a big deal to me then it can't be to the person who told me."

Tim stands up and looks up and down the hallway.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm looking for a doctor. We need to get that ego deflated, stat. You could snap your neck any time now and I have better things to do than feed you grapes."

Tony flicks the cage. "There are many reasons I need the therapy, Tim. But give me something for figuring this one out by myself. I'm growing as a human being."

"I'll steal one of Gibbs's medals for you tomorrow," says Tim dryly, sitting back down and looking up at Tony with a thoughtful gaze.

"The thing is, though," Tony continues, meeting the gaze though part of him wants desperately to look away. "If it's big, if I'm in it, I won't say a word. You know that. Jeanne-" and when had he begun to say her name without the familiar guilt? "Cade, even stuffed full of the truth serum. Not a word out of place. I can deserve it." He pushes the word out through gritted teeth. "Trust. I won't…about us. With you I don't want to be on the stepstool, I want to be at the top of the Washington Memorial."

Tony feels vaguely formless and washed out, like the sudden absence of a headache. Maybe he should climb in with the laundry and go through a spin cycle to come out all clean and soft and smelling like meadow flowers. If only it were that simple.

Tim pats the seat beside him. "That was tough, huh?" he says, and Tony nods, collapsing into it. "It meant a lot to me if that helps. And you have to cut yourself some slack, Tony. It's not always about you. You were tied up and stuffed full of drugs and I was at gunpoint and I trusted you then. I knew you'd come through for me and you did. Sure, you go through my drawers and share my skincare products with the world, but you also knock on my door at stupid o'clock at night and don't let me wallow in self-pity. It evens out. It more than evens out."

Tony squeezes his eyes shut, reminding himself that as much as he wants to literally lean on Tim right now, he can only do it metaphorically. It'll have to do. "Can I be the needy one?" he says, trying to ignore the fact these words are actually coming out of his mouth rather than whirling around and around unsaid, making his brain hurt. "Just for a while until I figure this all out. Or we could trade off. My therapist said I should come out with this stuff because repression is bad, apparently, so, you know, you can blame her if you want someone to-"

"Shut up, DiNozzo," says Tim, his pinky finger looping over Tony's briefly before pulling away.

"Understood." Tony smiles, and mimes zipping his lip and slipping the key into his jacket pocket.

There's a sudden flurry of activity; a gurney rushed down the hallway, nurse astride a bleeding patient, counting aloud as she administers CPR, doctors calling out for machines and tests and things that sound vaguely familiar to Tony from spending way too long in hospitals as a kid. It doesn't look good at all. He watches them crash into a room further along the hallway and out of sight and then turns back to find Tim staring at him.

"What?"

"Nothing," says Tim, with a small shake of his head. "Sometimes slow is harder than others, that's all."

"I know," says Tony and then he's grabbing Tim by the lapels and dragging him up and across the hallway, crashing him into the corner created by the wall and the laundry cage. He wraps a hand around Tim's head and tugs at him, crushing their mouths together, pushing his hips forward to connect with a gasp, rutting against him until they're both red-faced and panting. The sense of relief is overwhelming and Tony can feel he's already close to the edge. He digs his nails into Tim's shoulder and…

"What?" Tony says, blinking away the mental images and hoping like hell Tim doesn't look down. "You get turned on by emotional diarrhea?"

"What if I do?" Tim's smile is way too dirty for Tony's disheveled mental state.

"Quit smirking, McFlirty. It's not like we can do anything to speed things up. Not while we're on Mary duty."

"Do you want to? Speed it up?" says Tim, his smirk fading into intense interest.

"I thought you weren't asking questions about where it's all going," says Tony. "You were pretty clear on that, actually."

Tim pushes out his bottom lip. "Maybe one or two? Ask or not ask. Speed up or keep it slow-"

"Do or not do," mutters Tony and receives a withering glare.

"It's a question of balance. Isn't it?"

This is where Tony could make a joke about how he's so far off balance at this moment in time that he couldn't walk a straight line if his freedom depended on it, but then he's going to need to show Tim why and—he can hardly believe he's thinking this—he can't be impulsive about that. Taking the next step is a big deal and Tony's only beginning to scrape the surface as to why that is.

So he says, "Yeah," and breathes a sigh of relief when the door opens and the doctor comes out. They stand up to meet her.

"She's all stitched up," says the bespectacled girl who Tony swears is too young to be out of high school, let alone being left to maraud Emergency Room corridors in a white coat. "And she's sedated, so she'll probably be out till morning if you want to go home."

Tony really wants to go home, preferably with Tim in tow, but he is trying so hard to be a two marshmallows later kind of guy instead of a one marshmallow now. "Can't," he says. "Duty of care, you understand."

Next to him he can feel Tim tense. "We're under orders," Tim corroborates. "We go home when she gets taken to the psych unit."

The doctor nods. "Whatever you have to do. Do you have everything you need?"

"Sure," says Tony.

Tim says, "I could wish for better coffee, but I'll survive."

"The machine stuff is so crappy," says the doctor. "I'm not even sure it's actually coffee. No one ever sees the machine get opened. It's an unsolved mystery. Look, use our break room; we keep the good stuff in there. I won't tell if you won't."

"Thanks," says Tim. "You're a lifesaver." He grins. "Literally. You're literally and metaphorically a lifesaver."

"You're welcome," she says, smiling at him and pushing her glasses up her nose. "I'm on break in fifteen minutes if you want company and a lookout."

"I'll look forward to it."

"Okay, so, I'll see you then. I've gotta-" and she jerks a thumb over her shoulder, turning around and walking away down the hallway.

Tony waves his hand in front of Tim's face and Tim bats it away.

"What?"

"Hi, am I invisible now?" Tony is shocked by the dark twist in his belly. "You be careful, Timmy. I know how you get in break rooms."

"What?" Tim's face clouds and then clears almost immediately. "Oh my god, you're jealous."

Tony sits down with a thud. "Am not."

"Are too." Tim drops down next to him and bumps his shoulder. "Welcome to my world," he says.

"I'm not jealous. You might not want to hurt her feelings, is all I'm saying. She seemed very sweet." Okay, so maybe he was a little jealous. Maybe. That or there was a very persistent rat making itself at home in his abdomen.

"You're the one who didn't want to go home," says Tim. "You could have at least called Gibbs and asked. I got my answer."

Tony twists around and stares at Tim. "You think I don't want to sleep with you so you flirt with the cute girl?"

"Woman. Or doctor. Both work," corrects Tim. "I'm not pissed at you, Tony, and I wasn't flirting at her. But if I'm going to be stuck here all night with you not being able to do anything about it or knowing when we might…" He spreads his palms. "What's so bad about a little distraction?"

Tony can't help it, his chest puffs out and he is this close to ripping open his shirt and beating his chest with the yodeling yell of a man that is at dangerous levels of smug. "You want me so bad," he stage whispers.

Tim rolls his eyes. "Not right now," he says, prickly as a cactus. Then his shoulders relax and his lips twitch. "Pretty bad, yeah," he agrees. "So a little time apart is going to be good for the blood flow to my brain."

"You're not just talking about the caffeine are you?"

"I am not."

Tony figures honesty requires honesty; it's only fair. "I know it must suck for you, the waiting," he says. "You've had the jump start on me for a while and I know how I'm doing, so." He touches Tim's shoulder lightly. "I said I couldn't start something until I was sure, but it's too late for that and I think you know it."

Tim's tongue flicks out to lick his lips and he swallows hard. He says nothing.

"It's easy, really," says Tony. "Why is it so hard to say?" He shakes himself and loosens his tie a little, taking a deep breath. "I want you," he says, and it's been out there in looks and touches and kisses and jokes and hints for long enough, but now it's in bald words and there's no taking it back. Not that he wants to: it's a lanced blister, it's the aftermath of the sneeze that tickled the back of the throat for hours, it's a warm shower after training with Gibbs. It's Tim's ridiculously beautiful face grinning at him like he's offered him the winning lottery ticket.

Tony grins back. "Soon," he says. "I want this—I want you—so bad, but I want to get it right and I don't care if that makes me needy. I am not screwing this up."

"So. Soon." Tim nods, his smile taking over his whole face. Tony's pretty darn proud of putting it there. "I don't need a candlelit dinner and rose petals on the bed, just in case you were wondering."

"You mean I can't go Trademark DiNozzo," Tony deadpans. "Damn. I'll just have to figure out what you do need."

Checking his watch, Tim stands up. "Coffee," he says. "I'll bring you some back." He looks down at Tony. "You're a Very Special Agent, or so I've heard. You'll figure it out."

He's walking away down the hallway when Tony calls, "Clue?"

Tim keeps walking but he holds his hands above his head, pointing back in Tony's direction.

"Oh," says Tony to himself. "Well, that's easy." He folds his arms, crosses his legs, tips his head back and settles down to wait. Through the skylight he can see the faintest tinges of pink in the lightening dark. Won't be long now.




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