Oh, The Places You'll Go

Let's Do the Show Right. Here!

Notes: Thank you to my darling lilac_one who bounced ideas around with me for this fic way back along. I wouldn't have ever started it if it wasn't for you. Thanks also to ever lovely soupytwist for readthrough and nailing that tricksy middle for me. *smishes* This entire fic can be blamed on the title. Yeah, I don't even know, it's something about NCIS that does that to me. I wouldn't ask me what White Knights, Big City is about if I were you. (Not that it's ever getting written.) Set somewhere around mid-S6 so you can assume spoilers up to then, though nothing major.


"I think it's time," says Tony, only his mouth is full so it sounds like, "Or fu i er." And really, he should be better at keeping his mind on the job in hand (in mouth) so it doesn't come as a surprise when McGee doesn't respond with words, merely tightens the grip of his thighs against Tony's ribs. He should probably try again later. When he's less busy.

"I think it's time," Tony says, one knee bent to his chest, squinting in concentration at his toes. Why do the big toenails always ping? He's tried everything but every time he's hunting the little bastards down because McGee'd stood on one in the middle of the night once and Tony hadn't heard the end of it for days.

"Time you learned to cut your toenails properly? You know, I'd have to agree." McGee grins at Tony as his head emerges through the top of his t-shirt. His hair sproings every which way, but, unlike the toenails, does not shoot halfway across the room. It seems slightly unfair.

Tony's hand hovers over his foot and he meets McGee's eyes head on, no escaping. "I think it's time we told people about us."

Give McGee credit, he doesn't flinch. Much. "And by people, you mean..?"

"The guys at work, Abby, Ducky, Ziva..."

"Gibbs."

Tony nods. "Gibbs."

"No."

"McGee, c'mon. Your family knows, my dad knows, your publisher knows, and you don't think we should tell the people we trust to have our six?"

"No." McGee folds his arms and juts out his chin. "Rule 12. Gibbs could send me back to Cyber Crimes. He could put you back on board a ship. Three months, Tony. That was not good. It was not good for so many reasons."

Tony reaches out to catch McGee's wrist, pulling him down beside him on the bed. "It was pretty much the definition of not good," he agrees, nudging McGee's shoulder in a way that totally means that-was-a-really-crappy-time-for-me-too-I-missed-you-a-whole-lot-and-not-just-alone-in-my-rack without, you know, actually having to say words.

The sheet rustles as McGee shifts to face Tony. He heaves a little sigh and Tony knows he's done for before Probie even opens his mouth--he's going to break out the puppy eyes and Tony's attempts to build up resistance have so far proved fruitless.

"Can we hold off a little longer?" And there they are, wide and round and soulful like James Brown. This is Stage 1. Tony isn't prepared to hold out to Stage 3, it's too early in the morning.

"I won't say anything yet," he says, and--just like that--the puppy eyes are gone and McGee's lips curl into a happy grin. He leans in and presses a brief kiss on Tony's mouth before bouncing to his feet and urging Tony to come on or they'll be late.

Tony takes a second--as he regularly does--to wonder just how the hell he wound up here, in love with McGee of all people, and then he hears,

"Okay, Jethro, Auntie Thea will be here at nine to pick you up. If you have to chew a shoe to prove your dominion over leather-based outerwear then can you at least pick one of mine this time? You know we both hate it when your pop cries. Who's a good boy? You are, yes, you are."

and remembers--as he regularly does--exactly how.

"I love you," he yells, almost without thinking.

"I know that, Tony," McGee yells back. "But we're still going to be late for work whether we love each other or not, so shift your ass, would you?"

Tony shifts.

"How did you know I didn't mean Jethro, McAssumer?" he asks later from behind a stack of folders so high it's entirely possible they're going to need their own weather station.

"Since when did you become so informal, Tony?" asks Ziva, eyebrows raised.

"Since he was a dog, Zi-va," Tony retorts.

McGee just smiles in the way that manages to be almost unbearably smug but stupidly hot at the same time and Tony gives himself his five hundred and twenty-third lecture on inappropriate workplace behaviors.

It goes like this:

Do not make out with your boyfriend in the workplace. This includes, but is not limited to: the squadroom, Abby's lab, autopsy, MTAC, the breakroom, any of the sundry restrooms, the elevator, the van, the evidence garage and/or any of the identikit cars. Do not do it even if he loosens his tie, rolls up his sleeves and has that sleepy look that means what he'd really like is for you to fuck him right here, right now, nice and slow. Do not do it. Do not think about doing it. Do not think about thinking about doing it. Stop it! You're thinking about it right now, don't think you have me fooled, you arrest-for-indecent-public-behavior-just-waiting-to-happen, I am you.

Questions?

Tony's never said he was any good at lectures.

About halfway down his stack of never-ending paperwork it occurs to Tony that though he may have promised not to say anything to anyone about his and McGee's Big Gay Love just yet, there is no clause in the verbal contract against him doing stuff. And, okay, maybe McGee would expect him to stay within the spirit of the law if not the letter, but then he's chosen to throw in his lot with Tony DiNozzo so really, he should know better. Specify, always specify; it's one of DiNozzo's Rules (and if it hadn't been ten seconds ago, who's to know?)

But what to do, that's the problem. McGee's never going to let himself get caught offsides with a dip and kiss, and Tony's not sure his back muscles are up to it anyway. He flips through his mental shelves of movies but on first pass he comes up empty. If the goal were to declare his undying love or beg forgiveness via the medium of a big romantic gesture then he'd be spoiled for choice, but there seems to be a distinct lack of source material for 'hey, guys, this is my boyfriend, isn't he super cool?!' It's possible Tony needs to Netflix more gay-themed movies, if by more he means any at all. And not the triple-X kind because there's doing stuff and then there's doing stuff and no one appreciates a public money-shot outside of horny adolescents in a boarding school dorm room.

"DiNozzo, the paperwork won't do itself, don't matter how hard you stare at it." Gibbs shoots him a friendly half-smile that Tony's long learned is Step 1 on the road to getting smacked around the head.

"No, boss," he says, squeezing his eyes tight to dispel the scratchy dryness caused by too much thinking.

"Are you trying to Jedi mind-trick your work done again?" asks McGee. "I've told you before, Tony, the Force is not with you, not until you face your father."

"And I've told you that just because he's a jackass doesn't mean he deserves to die."

"He'll take over the galaxy."

"Then I'll always get the best tables at restaurants. I don't see the bad."

"He'll cut off your hand."

"Ducky'll sew it back on."

"I have a gun," says Gibbs and that's Step 2.

Tony ducks his head back down, though not before exchanging a quick grin with Probie Wan Kenobi. Work now, think later.

Tony's down in Abby's lab, watching the back of her while she and Tim bash simultaneously at keyboards and exchange techno-babble. There are a lot of acronyms in computing and Tony's not sure they all actually stand for something, he's sure they make half this stuff up to make themselves sound smarter than everyone else. He tunes it out like so much white noise and tries for the umpteenth time to count the spokes on Abby's spider web tat. Oh! A tattoo. He could get a tattoo, a symbol of his manly devotion, maybe a T for Tony and an M for McGee. Huh, no, wait, that will look like he's been monogrammed as McGee's possession and, yes, well, love is one thing, but a guy has to at least pretend to some kind of independence.

There's always T and T, he supposes, and then frowns. It's not like he hasn't tried to call McGee by his given name, it's just that 'Tim' still doesn't feel right on his tongue (leastways not in the way little Tim does, heh), not even after all the time they've been together. McGee is still McGee, and Probie, of course, though that's now got a whole new connotation than it started with, thinks Tony with a dirty grin. And anyway, probably a tattoo wouldn't work because it's not like he can randomly strip off and show it to people, and besides, Tony's not been overly keen on needles ever since his encounter with the plague left him stuck like a porcupine.

Strike one.

Ziva's driving the van. Tony's not sure how this state of affairs came to be, but here she is, yanking at the steering wheel as if she thinks she's maneuvering some ancient tank rather than the power-assisted, well-horse-powered vehicle that Tony's fairly sure is the pride and joy of someone, somewhere. McGee's hanging on to the door handle for dear life, and if Tony's thigh is pressed tight against his, it's only the G-force that's doing it.

Tony can feel the heat of McGee's leg through the light woolen fabric of his suit pants. It gives him an idea. (Actually, it gives him more than one idea but only one that's suitable for company.) He transfers his hand from his thigh to McGee's and gives it a little squeeze.

"Ow!" he yelps, totally unprepared for the shoulder punch McGee lands on him. "You're an idiot," he snaps, snatching his hand away and using it for its primary headslapping purpose.

"Your mom's an idiot." McGee returns the headslap.

"My mom's dead," Tony volleys with headslap number two.

"So's your face." Thirty all.

They glare at each other.

"Oh, I am sorry," says Ziva, wrenching the van around another corner. "I was under the impression we were driving to a crime scene, but it appears I am escorting the two of you to kindergarten. Get a gripe!"

"Grip," McGee and Tony mutter in unison.

"I do not care to take linguistic direction from a pair of five-year-olds," says Ziva with extra hoity added to her toity. "And I believe the phrase is, 'if you can't say something nice, do not say anything at all."

"But-"

"Shh!"

"It was-"

"Shh!"

They shh. Not that they're scared of Ziva or anything, it's just bad form to distract the driver. Especially when that driver has a tenuous relationship with the laws of the road at best and at worst will somehow find a way to drive them all off a ravine despite the geographical certainty that in central DC there are exactly no ravines to be found.

Later, they're all three standing in front of the plasma, trying to make sense of a life that had been stamped out because someone wasn't who they were supposed to be, and McGee's got the frowny look on his face, the one that says 'we can't fix this.' And it's true, they can't. Petty Officer Hird is dead and they can't change that. Catching the killer won't bring her back and it won't make the news of her death and double life easier for her family to bear either, but it's something.

"We'll figure it out," says Tony and shuffles closer to McGee. And he can't say he's not aware of the opportunity this presents but it is at least part unconscious of his actions that his arm goes around McGee's back and he rests his hand against McGee's hip, fingers curling possessively into him.

McGee springs away from him as if he's been scalded.

"What is wrong with you?" he demands. "Now? Really?"

Tony can't think of what to say. Nothing that doesn't include some variation on the theme 'you will still have sex with me, right?'

"I'm going to see Abby." McGee stalks off.

"What was that about?" asks Ziva, turning towards him, eyes narrowed with curiosity.

"Nothing," says Tony, his own gaze following the departing McGee, ramrod back fairly broadcasting 'DiNozzo is in some deep, deep shit'. "Just some ill-informed work-based humor, is all."

"Hmm," says Ziva, returning her attention to the screen. "I think that here is more than meets the eye."

"McGee's not a robot in disguise, if that's what you're thinking."

"But of course, why would he be?" Ziva's using her were-you-always-this-crazy? voice and Tony sighs.

"Popular culture will never be your friend, will it?" he asks. "Shall we find a killer instead?"

"Works for me," Ziva says.

McGee returns fifteen minutes later with Gibbs and a solid lead. He keeps at least one person between him and Tony at all times. It's going to be a rocky evening at home.

Strike two.

Tony hadn't even tried to explain himself and had headed straight for the Mea Culpa Pass. He doesn't apologize often, but when he does he makes it good, and by the time McGee had rolled panting onto his back Tony had been fairly sure he'd forgotten why he was pissed in the first place. Still, it pays to be careful and Tony determines to keep a watch on the applecart for the next few days for fear of accidentally tripping over a shaft and sending the whole thing flying again. Bruised apples everywhere, so very not good. Not except for the apple and cinnamon cake his old maid Ramona used to make from the windfall apples Tony used to 'liberate' from a neighbor's orchard back when he was still in sneakers and short pants. Mmm, cake. And then images of shafts and apples send Tony's thoughts spiraling right back to McGee and his bitable ass and he can't help but 'apologize' all over again.

He lies low for the next few days, planning his next line of attack. It's not easy, not being able to say anything. And no, he can't do a Lloyd Dobler; he wants the team to know about them, not the entire Navy Yard. Besides he's never been a big fan of Peter Gabriel and it's not like boom boxes are easy to come by in these days of iPods and headphones that refuse to stay in your ears. Sending flowers to his desk won't work either: McGee has weird allergies and it's not like Tony can subtly ask him to write out a list so his 'Yeah, so I can send my boyfriend flowers if I want, doesn't make me gay, no, wait' gesture doesn't end in sneezing fits and runs to the pharmacy for anti-histamines.

It's a conundrum, is what it is and it's another few days before Tony stops in at the store for milk after taking Jethro for his evening run, and picks up a box of Charleston Chews while he's there.

He drops them on McGee's lap when he gets in. McGee's face brightens. "Hey, thanks, Tony!"

"Strengthen your jaw muscles," Tony leers, tugging at McGee's hair. McGee swats him away.

"Go shower, I don't want you dripping sweat on me."

"That's not what you said last night," says Tony, finger guns at the ready as he walks backwards out of the room.

McGee rolls his eyes. "The face cloth is for your face," he yells as Tony rounds the corner.

In the shower it occurs to Tony that he's managed to make McGee happy without even thinking about it. Probie loves him some Charleston Chews so Tony had picked them up because that's what you do for people you care about, little things that put smiles on their faces. And then it hits him. He can do that at work. He can do things that he knows make McGee happy and then either the guys'll pick up on it because they're all veterans of relationship campaigns (Gibbs has probably got a Marriage Purple Heart in some drawer somewhere for injuries above and beyond the call of marital duty) or McGee will be so happy that he'll totally forget himself and kiss Tony in front of Gibbs and everyone.

Yeah, that's just how Tony sees it going down. He's plugging numbers into a database digit by disturbingly boring digit and McGee comes over, says what're you doing, Tony? And Tony explains how he's doing the work McGee's been putting off for weeks so he doesn't have to murder his brain cells by the unremitting tedium of it and McGee says, my god, you're a sainted angel, come here! and frenches him right there and then.

Or something.

He puts the plan into practice the very next day, swinging back into the squadroom around lunchtime with a song on his lips and a takeout box in his hand. He puts the food down on McGee's desk.

"Oh my god,' says McGee, all wide-eyed and incredulous. "That smells like Alfonso's Steak Sauce."

"Got it in one, McGourmet," says Tony. "Enjoy."

"Wow," says Ziva. "What did you do to deserve that, McGee?"

"I, er, I don't know." McGee looks up at Tony, puzzled.

Tony fishes in his pocket for the cutlery he'd charmed out of the hostess, inspects it for dirt, gives it a quick wipe on his sleeve and then hands it to McGee. "I passed the Steak House on my way back. Thought I'd do something nice for my junior partner here." He grins at McGee who beams at him before attacking the steak.

"Are you feeling quite well, Tony?"

"Hungry, Ziva?" Tony rounds on her, one eyebrow raised. "Snack machine's thataway," he jerks his thumb over his shoulder. "Maybe it will be 'Be Nice to Ziva' Day tomorrow, but I wouldn’t count on it, I'm not setting foot in that vegan place you love so much. I'm a manly man, I need meat. I need blood."

"You're not a vampire, DiNozzo," says Gibbs as he passes. "Although it would explain a lot."

That night McGee tells Tony he's sweet--which he totally doesn't admit to liking--and gives him a blowjob while they're watching a Magnum rerun--which he totally does. Tony's liking his plan more and more.

The following day, Tony saunters over to McGee's desk and puts a package down on it. "I know, I know," he says. "It's not your birthday, but your desk looks so bare and," he waves his hand around, "functional and I know how you covet my Mighty Mouse stapler and all, so...Open it," he urges.

"Ohh-kay," says McGee, uncertainly. "It's not going to explode in my face is it?"

"Would I?" says Tony, clutching his chest, all earnestness. He drops his hand. "Well, yes. Yes, I would. But not this time, Probatron. This time your eyebrows are safe."

"And I'm very grateful for that," says McGee, tearing into the packaging. "Oh, cute!"

In the box are three Korean anime figurines that look to Tony like the result of some kind of weird breeding program between Mickey Mouse and Margaret Cho except without the sex because a) cartoon b) eww bestiality and c) the huge age gap is bound to cause them problems down the line.

Still, McGee is grouping them next to his penholder with a big smile on his face so it's all good.

"I gotta tell you, to me they look like a pale imitation of Mickey Mouse that only their mother or you could love, McGoofy. But if it keeps you away from Mighty Mouse..."

"That is a very sweet gesture, Tony," says Ziva. "What have you broken that belongs to McGee?"

"Nothing!" says Tony, throwing up his hands and going back to his desk. "I told you, I'm merely protecting my office equipment from McStealy's wandering hands."

"Hmm," says Ziva. "Perhaps I shall steal your hole punch, maybe then you will buy me a little gift, no?"

"No," agrees Tony, leaning back in his chair, hands behind his head. "Though I have a spare box of paper fasteners if you want 'em."

"I am perfectly well-equipped, thank you."

Tony rakes his eyes over her tightly-fitted white sweater. "That you are," he says.

"DiNozzo," warns Gibbs. "She'll break your arm."

"Good point, boss. Not that I'm- I mean, I'm not- Shutting up now."

"You do that."

Tony sneaks a glance at McGee but he's busy making his new toys have a conversation about who even knows what--probably about potential copyright violations--and clearly hasn't been paying attention. That's a relief, Tony thinks, not that McGee's the jealous type, it's just that admiring Ziva's...assets...is counterproductive to the task in hand.

On Day Three of the campaign, Director Vance sweeps McGee off to Cyber Crimes, telling Gibbs he'll have him back just as soon as he fixes the mess the guys in the basement have created of the network security updates.

"And I swear," says Vance, "if it turns out to be a case of 'switch it off and switch it back on again' heads will roll."

McGee mutters something about filing and casts a despairing look behind him as he follows in the Director's wake.

Aha! thinks Tony, who's been racking his brains for today's boyfriendly deed. Filing! Usually Tony rushes through his busy work to get home faster. Today he's speeding through it to get to more filing. And not even his own. How did this become his life?

He whistles while he works, even though at this particular point in time he could only qualify for one out of the seven dwarves.

"What are you doing, DiNozzo?" asks Gibbs.

"Filing, boss."

"Yeah, that I get. What are you doing, DiNozzo?"

"Um, not whistling any more, boss?"

"Sounds about right."

Abby skips into view. "Are you ready to go to- Ziva, why are you staring at Tony?"

"He is doing McGee's filing. And he is whistling."

"Sounds pretty quiet to me."

"He was whistling. While filing. Filing McGee's papers."

"Huh."

"That is not normal, is it?"

"Did you take his temperature?"

Tony smiles to himself at the conversation. This is exactly what he'd been hoping for. Come on, Ziva, he thinks. You know how to add 2 and 2. It's basic math.

"Maybe McGee is holding Tony's long lost sister hostage in an underground lair and to stop him chopping off bits of her Tony has to do nice things for him."

"I do not think that is very likely, Abby. I think Tony has driven McGee's Porsche without permission and had a--what do you say?--a ding. And now McGee makes him pay."

"I like the cut of your jib, Ziva. What d'you think, Gibbs?"

"I think imagination is your friend, Abs."

'"Well, duh."

Tony squeaks--in a manly way, of course--as Abby throws her arms around his chest from behind and squeezes him tight, chin digging into his shoulder. "Whatever your reasons, I think it's very thoughtful of you, Tony. I'm sure Timmy will be very grateful."

"Thanks, Abs."

Now was Grateful one of the seven dwarves or was that a different G?

Abby drags Ziva off behind her and Gibbs is shrugging on his jacket ready to go when McGee returns looking pretty tired. And also dusty about the lower pants area. Computers and DiNozzo, the only things that can get McGee on his knees.

McGee stares at his empty desk. "Where did they go? Oh god, no, seriously, who took my files? I can't start looking for them now, I need to get home and shower. Do you know what it's like to spend the day in a mainframe surrounded by guys who haven't yet mastered the art of using deodorant? Do you?"

Oh Grumpy! That's the right one. Of course.

McGee's looking kind of wild-eyed and Tony reaches out a hand to steady him. "Hey, it's okay, Probie. Breathe. I-"

"DiNozzo filed 'em," says Gibbs, tossing his backpack over his shoulder and heading out, and okay, maybe Tony would have embellished a little more, taken some more time over it, but it gets the message across.

"You did that for me?"

"Yup."

McGee narrows his eyes. "You did that. For me."

"Yes, McGee. For you."

"Wait a minute," says McGee, and pushes Tony away. "Wait." He sits down on the edge of his desk, knocking over one of the figurines. Righting it, McGee picks it up and stares at it.

"No," he says and quietly, deliberately puts it down, looking up at Tony. "Asshole." He gathers his stuff together and stalks off. Tony has to race to catch him before the elevator closes.

"McGee, I-"

"Not now."

Tony is so sprung.

Strike three.

They don't speak the whole way home. When they get inside, McGee throws his coat over the back of the couch--which, if Tony hadn't already known he was mad would've been a total giveaway, McGee being nuts for hanging stuff up--and glares at Tony who hovers in the doorway.

"Okay, admit it."

"Admit what, McGiggle? That I'm a snappier dresser than you? That I ate the last of the dinosaur cereal then dropped the box on the floor and pretended Jethro had done it? That I secretly watch Gilmore Girls when you're busy doing the sexy pipe and writing thing? One to three of those things are true, I leave it to you to decide."

McGee's lips twitch but he folds his arms and stares Tony down. "Stop trying to distract me, Tony, I'm not playing the tangent game. Admit that you're trying to out us at work."

Tony drops his head and rubs the back of his neck. "Yeah," he says. "I am."

"Why would you do that? Why?" McGee's hands twist in the air like they're practicing strangling someone and Tony has a very good idea exactly whom. "I specifically told you no, didn't I? I said I wanted to wait."

"Ye-es," admits Tony. "But you said not to say anything, and I didn't."

"Oh for- Come on, Tony, you know that's not playing fair. I said no and I meant it. Why do you always have to have things your way? Isn't this supposed to be about both of us?" He flings himself into a chair. "Man, you are so selfish."

The look of scorn that crosses McGee's face at this hits Tony right in the gut. Tony's willing to bet a real punch from Probie wouldn't hurt nearly as much. McGee's right to be angry, of course he's right, but...

"Look, I was just-" He takes a deep breath and crosses the few feet between them, dropping to his haunches between McGee's legs. "Hey," he says, cupping McGee's cheek, "I'm proud of you, is all."

"Oh," says McGee and blinks. "Oh. That- Oh."

"I promise I'll leave it alone. When you're ready you'll tell me, okay?"

"Okay."

"And now I will feed the dog before he eats any more of your cereal. Whoops, no, that was me, apparently."

"The dish and spoon in the sink this morning gave it away, you idiot. Unless he was bitten by a radioactive human I don't see how Jethro could develop opposable thumbs overnight." McGee pushes at Tony's forehead but he's smiling and Tony grins back. This is good, what they have, it's great. He'd be exactly the moron he lets people think he is if he doesn't let it go--man, all this being considerate of other people's needs is tricky business, there should be a manual. With diagrams.

Tony wakes in the middle of the night to an empty bed. He stares blearily at the alarm clock--it's past 3 a.m. Dim light shafts through the open door.

"McSleeplessinDC, what are you doing? It's time for all the good little boys to be tucked up in bed," he yells.

There's a pause.

"I just had to make some notes for the book. Had an idea I couldn't let escape. I'll be back in a few minutes, go to sleep."

"''S'easier if you're here," Tony mumbles into his pillow as he finds a more comfortable position, but he's already asleep by the time the last word is out of his mouth.

It's a hustle bustle stop start kind of day. Gibbs spends half of it running up and down the steps to MTAC, Abby keeps popping up in the squadroom like some kind of Goth-chick jack-in-the-box, hanging off of McGee and bouncing up and down as he types, his lips moving silently. Even Ducky graces them with his presence, complaining he has nothing to do.

"So let me get this straight," says Ziva. "You are upset because no one has been brutally murdered in the last few days?"

"Well, when you put it like that." Ducky tips an imaginary hat at her. "I apologize for my thoughtlessness, my dear. I suppose I could rearrange my shelves. But how to dispose of Mr. Palmer?"

"Sharp scalpel and a body bag?" suggests Tony with a grin.

"Really, Anthony."

McGee's been pretty quiet the whole day, but Tony's put that down to lack of sleep what with the whole midnight author thing he'd had going on. Certainly he'd grabbed the coffee jug that morning like it was a life preserver for a drowning man.

"Hey, Ziva!" McGee's got Abby wrapped tightly around his shoulders now, her cheek pressed to his and she's grinning at something. Tony's not jealous, not at all, but, you know, someone needs to uphold the workplace standards that the DoD sexual harassment lady had been so sure about. Inappropriate touching! he wants to yell. Yellow light! Yellow light!

"What is it, McGee?"

"Wanna see my new screensaver?"

"Not particularly, no."

"But you love Jethro."

"Aww," says Ziva, getting up and moving around her desk. "Of course I wish to see Jethro. Is he giving you another big kiss, McGee?"

"Not exactly," says McGee and Abby's grin gets wider as she meets Tony's eyes.

Something is going on. Tony's not sure if he should clench his fists ready to fight or get on his toes ready to flee, but something tells him it's probably going to be one or the other.

"I'll put it on the plasma." McGee hits a button.

"Not exactly, indeed," says Ziva after a pause, raising her eyebrows. "That's still quite a kiss, McGee."

Tony turns to look at the screen. It's- Oh. Wow. The photo is a candid snapped by Sarah one weekend when they'd all been out hiking. Tony has an arm around McGee's waist and McGee is pulling a leaf from Tony's hair. They're kissing, smiling into each other's mouths while Jethro stands on his hind legs, pawing at them both, determined not to be left out of the love-in. It's one of Tony's favorites.

For a second he's speechless as he takes in what this all means and then he catches McGee's determined eyes and his quiet smile, calm and so very sure, and he's off his seat and over at McGee's desk in two bounds. He peels Abby off McGee and gives her a little shove out of the way, then tilts McGee's chair back and drops a quick kiss on his upturned mouth.

"My boyfriend!" he declares to the room at large.

"Ya think, DiNozzo?" says a voice from up above.

"Is this the voice of God?" asks Tony, looking about him. "Have I died and gone to heaven and if so, why is it still so orange?"

"You have until I get down the stairs to get back to work. All of you."

"Yes, boss,"

"Certainly, Jethro,"

"Sure, Gibbs," they chorus.

And then all hell breaks loose.

"Can you put me back, now, Tony?"

"Oh, dear boys, how long have you-?"

"You should have said something earlier. Do you not trust us?"

"Oh my god this is so exciting. If you ever want to compare notes-"

"Hey!"

"Hold it, hold it!" Tony raises a hand. "All questions will be answered by McGorgeous and myself after work tonight. Drinks on us. And now, I think we've got half a flight left before we all lose our jobs."

They scatter, and if they're not working when Gibbs strides into view then they're at least doing a damn good job of faking it.

"So," says Gibbs stopping in front of the plasma. Tony expects McGee to scramble to get rid of the photo, guilt plastered all over his face, but it doesn't happen.

"Sorry, boss, personal use of government property, won't happen again," he says instead. And then, "We have that one framed at home anyway." He presses a button and the picture disappears.

If it were possible to die of shock, Tony thinks now would be the time to do it. Not only has McGee outed them at work, but also he's practically told Gibbs that they're living together. 0-60 in three seconds flat, that's his Probie. Tony wasn't lying when he'd said he was proud of him and he wonders how short they can cut the drinks later so he can get McGee home and show him just how proud.

"Good picture," Gibbs says, settling behind his desk. "Maybe a bit under-exposed. Photography's not so hard, though, not if you keep everything in focus."

"Sure, boss," says McGee and nods sagely. "Sarah uses a manual focus. Takes practice and sometimes she screws it up, but the results are pretty good. She keeps working on it, though."

"I like that attitude," says Gibbs, slipping on his glasses and picking up a file. "She'll do well."

Tony looks between the two of them, sitting there all calmly discussing photography like he and McGee hadn't just blatantly admitted to breaking one of Gibbs' favorite rules, and he can't help but think he's missing something. Dammit! They're using metaphors again. What's with this whole cryptic back and forth? Can't anyone use plain English any more? What the hell have Sarah's photography skills got to do with anything? What he needs to know is, is Gibbs going to kick his ass back to the USS Reagan or not?

"Boss," he starts.

"Do you really have an end to that sentence, DiNozzo?"

Tony thinks about it. "No," he admits.

"Didn't think so. Oh, and listen, you want to know something about rules?"

"Yes, boss."

"They always have exceptions. Even mine."

"Yes, boss." Tony can't keep the grin off his face. He could live without Gibbs' approval, of course he could, but this way is so much better.

Gibbs looks up from his file and studies first McGee, then Tony. "Exceptions need to be exceptional," he says. "Remember that," and drops his gaze back down to the page.

"Yes, boss," they say, trying very hard not to look at each other.

"I think it's time," gurgles Tony a week later, toothbrush waving dangerously close to McGee's eye.

McGee snatches the toothbrush away from him and pushes his head down towards the washbasin. "Spit."

Tony spits.

"I've told you already I can't get pregnant, Tony. It doesn't matter how many times you watch Junior, the science isn't sufficiently advanced yet."

"Oh, ha ha, McSeinfeld." Tony wipes his mouth with his arm. "Not that."

McGee narrows his eyes. "What then? You can't want us to come out to more people. We're all done. Unless you want to write a note to the President."

"I don't think he'd come if we invited him, Probie. He's a busy man."

"Invited him to what?"

"Our party."

"Why are we having a party?"

"Don't people throw parties to celebrate domestic partnerships? I'd've thought it was a great excuse."

"Do what now?"

Tony can see his reflection in the mirror, he's got a cocksure grin on his face that totally does not reflect what's going on inside him, what with the thudding heart and his guts' best attempt to recreate Medusa (and he's not sure if he means the Six Flags rollercoaster or the snake-headed stone-making crazy lady or maybe even both at the same time).

Enlightenment dawns on McGee's face--leastways Tony hopes it's enlightenment and not the Indian food from last night making its presence felt.

"Anthony DiNozzo, was that a proposal?"

"Um, maybe? If you're going to say yes. If you're going to say no then it was just me jerking your chain, you know, whichever. It's not like I've got my hopes up or anything. Or that I think it would be a good idea for you to have rights if something bad happens and I end up on life support because god knows my dad would probably pull the plug without thinking twice and I've always been bad at taxes and-"

"I think it's time," McGee interrupts.

"Time for what?" McGee's grinning at him now, but it's the grin that's wicked around the edges and Tony can't predict what's coming next.

"Time you learned to shut up and let me get a word in," says McGee, leaning in and kissing him long and sweet. Tony curls up his toes and holds on.

"Ha ho na wur," Tony says against McGee's lips.

"That's not a word," he repeats as McGee pulls away and frowny-faces in confusion at him.

"Huh, and there was me thinking it was DiNozzian for 'yes,'" says McGee. "I've obviously still got a lot to learn. Now, where were we?"

"Here," says Tony, catching sight of his grinning-like-a-buffoon reflection as he tugs his affianced not-husband in for another kiss. It's going to be a good party, he thinks. It's going to be a good life. After all, they are exceptional.

"I love you," he blurts out again as they draw apart. One day he's going to get that under control.

Today is not that day.


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