Oh, The Places You'll Go

Like the River, I've Been Running

Notes: I asked my flist to ask me questions about Tim and Tony. Some of the answers...got away from me a little and became a strange answer-fic hybrid. Fic-lite? This is that, anyway.

For soupytwist: who said "I think you should tell us about what happens when Tim decides now is the time for something else and Tony figures he wants his own team. Cause that is a big shift in their lives! (A good one, i think, but huge!)"

Actually, as much as you'd expect it to be Tim who gets itchy feet first, turns out it's Tony. Tony still thinks the sun rises and sets with Gibbs, but he's starting to notice how he'd do this or that differently and maybe it would work better, maybe it wouldn't, but he'd like the opportunity to try it out. For the first time he's remembering the cool parts of when he was leading the team and not thinking of the undercover work Jenny was having him do on the side, which, yeah, badness still lives there. He's getting bored, is what it is, and he tries to be all subtle about it because he doesn't want Tim to think he wants out of the team because of him because that is obviously totally not the point, but he goofs off more and indulges in more risky behaviours with Tim (or tries to except Tim usually slaps him down) as if he wants to get caught and then he'll need to go.

Tim watches this for a while and, yeah, there's part of him can't stand the idea of not working with Tony every day and he has no idea how he's not going to worry himself into an early grave when he doesn't know or trust the people that will have Tony's back, but they can't go on like this, with Tony regressing and Gibbs getting pissed and Ziva constantly looking at Tim like he's got a magic wand to stop Tony being a jackass or something. (And, yeah, as a point of fact he does have a magic wand that stops Tony being a jackass, but he can't exactly get it out in public if you know what he's saying, and I'm pretty sure you do.) So in the end he sits Tony down and says, "You need your own team."

And Tony says, "But I don't want to move to Spain."

Tim points out that NCIS has a lot of locations and most of them aren't Spain, Tony. "Come on," he says, "Man up and admit what you want."

Tony says, "Yeah, I don't know, I mean, you. And Gibbs. And Ziva. But I'm just so- So I can't-"

"What?" says Tim. "Finish sentences?"

Tony leans forward, dropping his head onto Tim's shoulder. Tim pats his hair gingerly. He saw how much product went into it this morning.

"I want my own team," says Tony.

And Tim says, "No shit, Sherlock." And then he twists his head, presses a kiss to Tony's hair and says, "You're a great leader, Tony. You deserve your own team, everyone knows it."

Tony bolts upright at that because the last he'd heard, Tim was doubting his leadership abilities all over the place, but Tim's deadly serious and it settles something in Tony that he hadn't even realized was bothering him. He checks anyway. "You mean that?" he asks.

Tim presses his lips together and nods. "I'm sorry if I ever made you feel I didn't believe in you," he says. "I just...I wanted to keep you around."

Tony stares at him. Part of him figures he should be angry or hurt or something, but mostly he wants to hug the hell out of Tim and tell him that hey, he's in the market to switch jobs not relationships and Tim's an idiot for even letting that thought cross his mind. So that's what he does.

And that's step one. The next step is to talk to Gibbs, and then Vance. It should be the other way around, but Tony owes Gibbs a lot, and besides, he doesn't want to face the man's death glare if he doesn't run the plan by him first. Gibbs is totally supportive in that way where he exudes quiet confidence while telling Tony he's proud of him and then slaps him around the head for not getting to this point at least 6 months ago when they'd met that strange and unusual creature, a really efficient, Gibbs-friendly FBI agent, who had made noises about wanting to jump ship and had since been head-hunted by some super-security firm.

So, Tony goes to Vance and Vance is all, well I don't think we have any openings here, Tony, how would you feel about a transfer to San Diego? Looks like we're losing the Agent in Charge for Major Crimes. You don't have family to consider, do you? And Tony feels cut out at the knees because fuck, yes, he has family to consider, and he's not just talking about Tim. Mostly, though, he is talking about Tim, and San Diego? That's a long way. He can't ask Tim to up sticks and move either, not when he's about to be promoted to senior field agent on Gibbs' team.

Vance says, "Sit down, DiNozzo, you look like you're about to throw up." And, "Is there something you want to tell me?"

So Tony does. Not the whole truth because he doesn't want to jeopardize anything for Tim, but he tells Vance that he's in a committed relationship with someone who's fairly tied to the East Coast and he doesn't want to turn down the chance to lead his own team, but he can't not factor in their perspective either and if Vance catches him playing the pronoun game he doesn't bat an eyelid. He does tell Tony that Martello, who's headed up the Cold Case team since Pacci was murdered, has been making noises about wanting to move back to the west coast, so leave it with him, DiNozzo, and he'll see what he can do.

Tony weighs it up--Major Crimes versus Cold Cases. Leaving Tim (and everyone else) behind or sharing bullpen space so close he could flick paperclips at Ziva's head. When he thinks about it, cold cases are the perfect opportunity for a guy as nosy as he is. Yeah, and generally less with the getting shot and killed, too. Unless you're Pacci. Sorry, Chris.

Tim says, "Cold Cases, no question," just like Tony knew he would, but follows it up with, "You'll be right by us, Tony. Can you handle that? I'll be at your desk, there'll be a new agent at mine. We'll be disappearing off to live murder cases that you don't get to help with while you're stuck trying to reignite a paper trail that may or may not lead to ten thousand cans of stolen soup which has got to have passed its use by date by now. Gibbs is going to be right there, you can't get away with doing your impression of him. How's that gonna make you feel?"

Tony thinks probably it'll make him feel pretty shitty, at least at first. On the other hand, maybe he's ready to be not-Gibbs, and his PT bill for the knee he busted back in college has been creeping up over the past few years. "It's not just about soup. I still get dead bodies. Really, really gross old ones. I can handle it," he concludes. "I've got mad skills."

Tim agrees with this point and suggests Tony get to using a different set of his mad skills. Tony is, unsurprisingly, down with that.

It goes pretty quickly after that and a month later Tony's at a new desk, head buried in more files than he's seen since the last time Gibbs made them do a full spring clean of their corner of the squadroom. Some of the cold cases make him want to hit his head off the desk with boredom, others catch his interest right away. His team consists of two agents, one of whom Tony is really glad wasn't around in his days of obnoxious flirting (he's downgraded himself to borderline irritating flirting these days). Tony isn't sure if it's going to be easier or harder to win them over given that they already know him (sorta), but he'll do it if it kills him.

The first few weeks are really tough and Tony questions the wisdom of staying in the Navy Yard a lot. Some nights he stays awake and watches Tim sleep, just so he can remind himself why he puts himself in a position to be torn in two every time Gibbs yells, "Gear up!" It took him the first four, five, six (twenty) times before he trained himself out of the Pavlovian response to grab his backpack and head for the elevator.

Tim stops asking how he's doing after Tony yells, "Everything's just peachy, Timmy, will you quit asking?!" and set Jethro off into a fit of barking. But Tim talks to Abby about how worried he is that Tony regrets his decision to stay and it's all Tim's fault and Abby collars Tony the next time he's down in her lab and tells him to buck up, relationships are about compromise and the bit where they get difficult is where you get to show what you're made of. "And I don't think you're made of marshmallow fluff, Tony."

After that, Tony and Tim stay up way too late talking and, if it isn't all smooth sailing from then on, at least they're both trying to steer the boat the same way. (Tony thinks Gibbs would take issue with the boat-based metaphor, but then, he's not on Gibbs' team any more.)

It takes them another month or so to realize that they don't have to keep their relationship secret. Which, yeah, for definitions of secret is not really because Ziva and Abby have known for a while and if Gibbs hasn't worked it out then he's not the super agent they know and love (and fear). But, still. It's the point of the thing. It's not like they're going to start making out in the bullpen or anything, there's a matter of professionalism (even if it is entirely one of their own brand), but when someone asks Tony what he's doing for the holidays he can say, "I'm taking Tim and Jethro to the Gold Coast. Can you believe McGeographicallyChallenged has never been to Long Island?" and not care how that gets interpreted. He can yell across the squadroom, "I'm done here, Tim, are you ready?" and negotiate the time they're going to leave without wondering if anyone's thinking about how come they're carpooling when they live in opposite directions. He can look Gibbs in the eye and say, "Take care of him," when they're about to head off on some unnecessarily dangerous stunt (and, wow, Tony's noticed a lot of unnecessary danger since he's been off the team. He swears it follows Gibbs around like a stray dog) and have Gibbs stare back with a, "Ya think, DiNozzo?" which, as Tony knows, means, you're an idiot, I always do.

Tim gets to yell, "Don't forget Jethro needs to be picked up from the vet," as the elevator doors close on him following up a last-minute lead. He gets to tell the still-persistent Agent Grady that, yes, just because he didn't cop to being in a committed relationship back then, doesn't mean he's not in one and he and Tony are very happy together, thank you and feel sure that, finally, that's the end of that one. He gets to put Tony's name down as his emergency contact and feel morbidly relieved that it's Tony who'll have to identify his potentially mangled body in autopsy should the worst happen, and not his kid sister who, yeah, just no.

So, no big announcement, but they're out, the two of them, and Tony never knew it would be such a relief. It makes the lingering sadness at moving on ease. Being part of (in charge of) a new team gets easier, and Tony pretends like he always knew it would. Tim chooses not to call him on his bullshit because he likes his testicles where they are, thanks.

Exactly six months after Tony takes over Cold Cases, he takes Tim out for dinner and when they're done he picks up Tim's left hand and plays with his fingers and kinda sorta squints at him and says, "We could wear rings. If you want."

Tim wants.

It's all legal and everything, in so far as the DC system allows for same-sex partnerships, and they're doing pretty good. Turns out there's lots of benefits to not being on the same team, like getting vacation time together, like not being terrified that your mistake will put the other one in danger, like not having to work with each other when they're in the middle of a fight, like getting to wear a ring. They have their ups and downs--who doesn't?--but they figure stuff out and it works. And then Vance calls Tim into his office.

When he comes down his face is set in that purposefully blank expression Tony's learned to hate. He beckons to Tony who follows him into the elevator. Tony thinks he's going to hit the stop button, but no, they ride it to the ground floor and Tony trails Tim out of the building. They're halfway through a circuit of the Yard when Tim says, "He wants me to head up the Cyber Division."

"That's good," Tony enthuses. "It's good, right?"

Tim says, "The Atlantic Cyber Division. In Texas."

Tony says, "Oh."

Tim says, "Moving locations promotes personal and professional growth and is part of the NCIS experience."

Tony says, "Quote Vance again and I will punch you in the face."

Tim says, "Fuck." And Tony doesn't disagree.

Tony says, "I didn't go to San Diego."

Tim nods. "I know."

"But you're going to go.'

"Tony," Tim screws his face up. "I'm-"

"Yeah, you're sorry. Whatever, McGee," says Tony and storms off. Ten seconds later he says, "If I'm storming off you're not supposed to follow me," and shrugs Tim's hand off his shoulder.

"Come with me," says Tim, grabbing Tony's forearm and tugging him to a halt. "Please."

It's the work of a moment to come up with at least ten reasons why Tony does not now and will not ever want to move to Texas. It's the work of less than a moment to list the one reason he would.

"This is gonna take a lot of working out, Tim," he says.

Tim nods again, eyes wide, solemn as an owl and Tony can already see how it's going to end.

Still, over the next few days they hash it out all ways. Tim going and Tony staying. Tim staying. Breaking up, long distance relationships, what happens to Jethro, the whole nine yards. The idea of losing Tim makes Tony sick to his stomach, he's more important to Tony than any job. But then the idea that Tony isn't that important to Tim, that he's prepared to take the job whether Tony comes or not, that makes him sick, too. He wants to support Tim, but when it's at the expense of himself? It's so hard to think straight.

Tim wants the job so bad. He knows he can do it, he knows that eventually he could be Director of the whole CIOD and he signed up to make a difference and this is about as big a difference as he can get to make. And he's not romantic enough to think that he can't live without Tony. Of course he can. He just doesn't want to. Not now, not ever. But Tony can't expect him to hang on at Major Crimes for the rest of his life on the off-chance he'll be promoted to Agent in Charge when Gibbs ups and retires for good when realistically the job will probably go to Tony anyway.

Jethro spends a lot of time alternating between them, nudging his nose into their hands. Be happy, he's saying. Be happy. But they can't figure out how.

The third night when Tony's lying alone in bed, waiting for Tim to decide he's sleeping and to sneak in, quiet as a stealth mouse, keeping way over to his side, he rips up the tape that's been playing on loop for the last few days and asks himself, what do I really want? The answer comes as a surprise.

When Tim comes to bed, lying there ramrod straight, and Tony has no clue how he expects to sleep like that when he's so uptight and probably that explains the dark circles that have been deepening under Tim's eyes since this whole move thing started, Tony rolls onto his side, puts a hand over Tim's heart and says, "Okay."


"I'll come." Before Tim can react he adds, "but I have one condition."

He feels Tim's heart speed under his hand and the silence holds an expectant weight.

"I want a kid," he says. "I want us to have a kid."

Tim says, "Wow."

Tony says that actually, it turns out he's okay with the fact that he wants to prioritize family over career and that he really, really wants to be a dad and do a better job than his own dad did. He wants to be there for his kid (or kids), whatever that means and it also turns out that he's down with being a kept man if that's how it works out.

Tim doesn't believe him, and Tony's not surprised, it's not like he's gone here before, but it's like a weight has been lifted from him and he knows it is definitely what he wants. Abby's spent long enough yelling at him about gender stereotypes for him not to feel less of a man for not wanting to be king of the rat race. He wants tiny DiNozzos and tiny McGees and tiny McNozzos if they can figure out how that works.

"Texas passed gay marriage law," says Tim. "Anything's possible."

"Could you-? Would you-? Can you just be fucking me now?" asks Tony, feeling desperately empty all of a sudden.

"I can't impregnate you, Tony," grins Tim, but he rolls over and kisses him all the same.

The next day, Tim says yes to Vance and Tony polishes his cowboy boots.

A year and change later, the dark circles under the eyes mostly belong to Tony because he's up half the night with a colicky baby. Turns out San Antonio has one of the largest populations in the country of gay couples raising kids so they blend right in and Tony's never short of advice, or cookies. There seems to be a lot of baking cookies. There've been some bumps in the road getting here, and twice Tony's been on the verge of heading back to DC, but somehow they've managed to weather every storm and Tony knows it's worth it when Tim comes home, drops his bag, rolls up his sleeves and gets ready for bath time, cooing at his tiny son things like, "And did we thwart the intrusion of a dumb- I mean foolish hacker today? Yes, we did." And if Tim's still pumped from his day thwarting cyber crime when they've got Samuel ("We are not calling him Tommy Lee, Tony.") down to sleep and wants to give Tony a well-earned blowjob, then so much the better.

Tim's not a fan of the climate, but other than that, Texas is working out just fine. It's not forever, he tells himself, when the air con breaks down yet again and he considers asking the vending machine company to consider stocking deodorant. A lot of deodorant. Tony's getting a drawl to his speech that is both ridiculous and endearing and Samuel's too young to worry about schools (although Tim worries that there's no such thing as too young to worry about schools). Tim knows he has a lot to be grateful for, and he makes sure Tony knows it, in as many ways as he can find.

Abby's coming for a visit in a couple of weeks and Gibbs is coming by on his way down to Mexico in a month or two. Sarah's only just left and they're taking Sammy to Tim's parents for Christmas. Ziva says she's calling dibs on them for New Years. Between all that and Skype, Tony gets to see almost as much of everyone as he did when they were all working in the Navy Yard. It's not that Tony doesn't miss his job because he does, but at the moment he's got everything he needs, including some better cowboy boots and a Stetson. He's open to change, though. All you can do is work with what you've got and take it from there.

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