Oh, The Places You'll Go

Reasons to be Cheerful

Notes: Episode tag for 904 (thus spoilers), and the third fic in the Starting From Scratch 'verse. Starting at the beginning is advisable. Title from Ian Durie & The Blockheads.

Tony does a little two-step jive and spin as he wipes off his fingers, balls up the napkin and tosses it in the trash. That was one tasty tofu burger even if he will die under torture rather than ever admit it to Ziva. He's watching his heart health these days and marinated tofu tastes like what an alien creating a cow based on a kid's drawing might consider beef to be, so it's got that going for it. Beef-lite, if you will. Light on the taste and light on the old cholesterol. Tony pats his tummy with a satisfied sigh and checks that the burger wrapper is shoved way down in the trash. Just because he's eating the stuff doesn't mean he wants anyone to know about it—including the trash guys who couldn't link his trash back to his apartment even if they were A-grade detectives which they're most certainly not. Tony pauses, head cocked to the side, mental images of Trash Can Detectives, the new mega hit on NBC flashing through his head. Why isn't he a network president again?

The phone rings—if you can call it ringing when it's spooling out strains of White and Nerdy. A grin spreads across Tony's face and he half jogs, half skips for the handset he's left in his bedroom, lunging for it before it rings off.

"What's the haps, McMIT?" he asks, throwing himself onto his bed, belly down. He kicks his legs in the air, crossing them at the ankles, phone wedged to his ear with one hand. He's about to reach up with the other hand to twirl his long, golden tresses when he remembers he doesn't have any. He squeezes his eyes tight and scrunches his face up with an internal damn. Maybe he should invest in a wig.

"I just called to see if you'd heard from…" Tim is saying. "Wait a minute. 'What's the haps?"

"It means, 'what is occurring in your particular environ at this moment in time,' McPerfectEnglish."

"I know what it…You're acting weird, why are you acting weird?"

Tony gasps in mock hurt. "I don't know what you mean, Timothy."

"Doing a little dance? Dating dead Drew? And did I mention the dancing?"

Tony splutters. It's so easy to get a rise out of Tim that he forgets it might not always work in his favor. "I was only kidding around with the woman, Tim. You know I would never date an accountant because I have an allergic reaction to receipts. And spreadsheets." He considers. "And the fact that they'd probably want to know where I actually spend my hard earned cash and that? Is best not shared with a bed buddy, know what I'm saying?"

"Hardly ever," mutters Tim. "That doesn't explain all the…" Tony doesn't need to see it to know there's a hand being waved around in frustration. For some reason the knowledge makes his heart perform a complicated hop-skip that would totally score top marks in a heart percussion festival if such a thing existed.

"Dancing," Tim manages to finish.

Tony reaches up for the hair again. Still nothing. Dammit. He tugs his ear instead. "I'm in a good mood. Is that against the rules? It didn't used to be against the rules." He presses his lips together. "No, actually, this is Gibbs we're talking about. It probably is against the rules. Make a note, Probie. Check Gibbs's rules for the potentiality of unremitting doom."

Tim huffs good-naturedly, but he's on a straight path now and Tony knows there's no stopping him. "Not against Gibbs's rules—yes, Tony, the rules as we currently understand them—or any rules that I want to live by. But these past few weeks? There's been no dancing. Not even a soft shoe shuffle to get that gum off of your boot that time we went to dig up the permanent high schooler's treasure. And it's not just the dancing. You totally blew a North By Northwest reference. Like the most glaring reference that ever existed ever to the point where Brett must have wanted to be caught or have been the most epically stupid criminal in the 50 states. That's like…that's like Batman missing a great big muddy footprint lying next to a signed confession in the looted bank vault. It's bad, is what I'm trying to tell you."

Tony shrugs and then realizes that Tim can't see him doing it down the phone. "These things happen," he says because they do and he figured out the secret room so whatever. He's still ahead according to Tony's (admittedly somewhat complicated) points system.

"These things...?" Tim's voice must have climbed at least an octave. Tony winces and holds the phone away from his ear. "It's Cary Grant, DiNozzo. He's like one half of your alter ego."

Tony would ask who the other half is but he's aware of the patchy nature of Tim's movie education and he's not entirely sure he wants to hear McGee name check Hulk Hogan or Rizzo the Rat or some other not-even-remotely-Tonyish actor.

"I had other things on my mind," he says.

"Caffeine?" asks Tim, warm and sympathetic. "I knew the new coffee machine was a mistake."

Tony pauses. This is where he could fill in with a trilogy's worth of blather or he could keep up the whole honesty shtick he's had going for the past few weeks. He blames the concussion for how easy it is to tell the truth.

"You," he replies simply.

There's a silence at the end of the phone, but no dead tone so at least Tim hasn't hung up. Too far, too fast?

"Me?" comes the response after what feels one skinny millimeter away from breaking point. "What did I do?"

"Oh, Timmy, Timmy, Tim," says Tony, smirking into the phone. "What didn't you do?" He clears his throat. "No, really, I'm…I think I might be happy, Tim. And it's kinda sorta your fault." And wow, either he's heading towards peritonitis or his insides have their own special way of congratulating him on not chickening out of this one.

There's another silence and then, "It's a good thing you're over the other side of town because I don't think I could be held responsible for my actions."

The patterns on the comforter distort as Tony squirms almost involuntarily. He's assaulted by Technicolor fantasies in glorious 3D of Tim and his plump bottom lip and long, elegant fingers and he rolls over onto his back pressing into his newly attentive dick with the heel of his hand, trying to get himself back under control.

"Tell me it's a good thing," he says.

It's a good thing, repeats Tim dutifully, adding in some confusion, "what is?"

Tony grinds down with his hand and groans. "The slow deal. The part where you're not in my bedroom and we are not doing indecent things to each other."

Tim pauses for a third time.

"Ti-i-i-i-iiiiiim," Tony whines, "If you're imagining indecent things I need to know right now. In detail. Lots of detail."

Tim's laugh is sudden and startling and kicks Tony's heart into a dancing beat. "It's the right thing," he says and it's not the answer Tony asked for, but maybe it's a better one because right does not always have to mean good and that's a lesson worth learning.

"Though maybe less about men strapped to rockets and allusions to how all you'd take is five minutes. You're not helping. Seriously."

"Okay, " Tony says, with a sheepish grin. "Okay." He blinks hard, gives his dick one last little pat and rolls back onto his stomach. "What else is new, McGoo? Talk to me of, what is it? Cabbages and…some other stuff." He takes a deep breath and hears it echoed down the line. He may be on his own, but he's not alone and it's a comforting thought.

"Well," Tim says, "Did you hear from Abby?"

"Not after she went to meet Kyle. You?"

"I got a text about puppies and Daddy Warbucks? I tried to call her cell but she has it switched off."

"Daddy Warbucks, huh? Is that the same thing as Papa Bear because…?"

"Yeah, probably. So she's good for now, right?"

"Right." Tony considers. "I have some concerns about the puppies."

Tim laughs.

According to the relentless flip-flip-flip of the digital numbers on Tony's alarm clock they've been talking for nearly two hours. It doesn't feel even half that long. Tony guesses he should get sick of Tim, hanging out with him all day and then talking to him until it's practically his bedtime, but it feels like it's exactly what he should be doing. He should go to sleep, but the I-don't-wanna whine is hovering perilously close to his surface.

There's a natural lull in the conversation (at least partly because Tony's interest in jetpacks is way less than Tim's inability to shut up about them) and Tony says, "Are we going to do that hanging up thing? You know, 'you.' 'No, you.' 'No, you.'"

Tim's voice is scornful. "Of course not. Goodnight, Tony. See you tomorrow."

Tony frowns into the silence. It takes a couple of seconds but he realizes that there's no dead tone. If he listens hard enough he can hear Tim doing his best not to breathe down the line. "Oh my god, you didn't hang up," he crows and Tim's laugh comes out in a rush.

"Are you messing with me?"

"Maybe," says Tim, drawing out the 'a'.

Tony sits up straight. "Nobody messes with Very Special Agent DiNozzo. I'm hanging up now."

"Sure you are, Tony," says Tim in his most smooth tone. The one that used the right way will have Tony doing anything he asks. He's not letting Tim in on that one, though. At least, not for now.

"No, I am," Tony says, nodding to himself. He holds the phone at arm's length, closes his eyes and stabs at the off button, tossing the handset across the room into his overflowing laundry basket before he can redial and give Tim the chance to hang up first. After another hour or so's conversation, naturally.

This whole thing is ridiculous, Tony thinks. The squirmy stomach, the permanent goofy smile, the serious consideration he's giving to handcuffing himself to the bed to stop himself rooting through his dirty underwear for the phone to call back his….whatever they're calling themselves these days. It's happiness, is what it is, and he's not used to it. In some ways he doesn't want to ever get used to this feeling—this life that's warm and syrupy and yet clearer and sharper and brighter than ever all at the same time—but in others he does because it'll mean that it's become his default, his everyday and that's not something he's ever considered he could have. Not since his mom died, and that's several Tony-lifetimes lived away. It's not only Tim that's doing this to him, Tony knows—the mirror and Tony are getting to be real friends these days and not just drinking buddies—but he's a big part of it, and the one Tony gets to look at every day.

When he was younger Tony would always root for the hare. It seemed stupid that the slowpoke tortoise lugging around that heavy shell could ever win, whatever Aesop and his Gibbs-slap you around the head moralistic claptrap said. These days, though. These days he's thinking about investing in new glasses. Rose-tinted and horn-rimmed.

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