Oh, The Places You'll Go

Rocky Road

Notes: Written for and from a prompt by the amazing shetiger. No spoilers, though in my head it takes place between S6 and S7 (and you can play spot the S5 reference if you like). Read-through by my dearest soupytwist.


The candy-striped paper sack crackled invitingly as Tony placed it (with an entirely necessary flourish) on McGee's desk.

"What's this and what's it for?" asked Tim, looking at the bag as if it was going to grow legs and teeth and snap his arm off.

Tony sighed inwardly. One day, McSuspicious was going to let Tony do something nice for him without first calculating all the ways in which it was intended to blow up in his face (mostly literally). Okay, so given that they'd been sleeping together for three months now, at least McGee'd stopped looking like he was deeply concerned that Tony would bite his dick off every time he went down on him, but, you know, Tony was getting bored with baby steps. Why didn't Tim trust him?

"It's a giant cookie. I thought you could dip it in your redunculously oversized coffee mug and pretend you were a pixie." Tony grinned, imagining the scene. "Or, you know, you could just eat it. Say thank you, McGee."

"Thank you, McGee."

"Ha ha." So the thing, Tony wanted to say. Our thing. You're coming around later, aren't you? Because it's been a few days and if you think I'm going to tell you I miss you, you should probably think again only I miss you. Damn! Tony made a note: internal monologue has developed mechanical fault. Please fix ASAP.

But Gibbs was swinging into view with a sharply barked, "McGee, with me," and Tim was on his feet and halfway to the elevator before Tony even had a chance to draw breath.

"Hey!" Tony called after him, holding up the paper sack. "What about your cookie?"

"Saving it for later," McGee tossed back over his shoulder and then Tony was alone. Well, not alone because there were at least twenty other people in the room, typing, filing, mumbling, detectiving and doing other things ending in 'ing' that were entirely legal and twice as boring.

The brightly-coloured bag sat on McGee's desk all day, failing to look even remotely forlorn, which it should've done because something had to represent Tony's current state of mind and, as far as Tony was concerned, the cookie sack was falling down on the job. In fact, he'd go so far as to say it was mocking him with its jauntiness and the promise of tasty goodness within.

(It was possible Tony'd had too much alone time today. He...didn't always do so well by himself.)

Setting his jaw, Tony reached a decision. He stood up and crossed the short distance to McGee's desk, picking up the bag and unrolling the top. He took out the cookie and set the bag back down, crushing it flat with one sharp blow.

"Not so jaunty now, are you? Yeah, you'd better stay down," he said, and then realized he was left with two problems. One, he was talking to an empty paper sack, and two, he had a cookie in his hand and nowhere to put it.

He had no answer to problem one (unless it meant lying on a black leather couch in some shrink's office saying 'boredboredboredblahdaddyissuesboredexhibitionisttendenciesboredboredsecretfantasylifeasabondgirl' and that wasn't ever going to happen) so he moved swiftly on to problem two. That was a no-brainer. Cookies were best fresh and left out in the air it would go stale. A stale cookie was no gift at all, Tony should eat it.

He ate it. It was delicious, even without a glass of cold milk to wash it down. Feeling magnanimous and thoughtful, Tony swept the crumbs off McGee's desk, tossed the bag in the trash and went back to work. The general air of well-being and satisfaction caused by gourmet chocolate chips lasted for exactly 37 minutes which was when Gibbs and McGee returned. Gibbs looked fresh as a daisy but McGee looked tired--he'd been looking like that a lot lately.

Tony glanced up and saw Tim check his stride as he walked across the room.

"Where's my- Oh." He'd obviously caught sight of the crumpled pink and white stripes in his trashcan and Tony had to force himself not to squirm in his seat. Baby done a bad, bad thing.

"I ate it," he said, scrunching up his face in an apology. "I didn't know w-"

"Whatever, DiNozzo," Tim cut across him, throwing himself back into his chair, which creaked and sighed under the unaccustomed force. "I haven't eaten all day so it would've been nice, but I guess I should know better."

Better than what? Tony wanted to ask and it was like Tim had just handed him a cup of guilt to swallow down. It was not at all like milk, it left a bitter taste in his mouth and didn't mix well with the cookie. Tony's gut churned.

When Tony was five and learned to count all the way up to one hundred, he'd been a champion at connect-the-dots. Okay, so it was a tournament with exactly one contestant, armed with a box of crayons and a dot-to-dot coloring book, but the point was that he was good at it. He'd never had trouble finding the next number and most times he could figure out what the picture was going to be before it was halfway done. Somewhere along the line he must have lost the skill, though, because there's a straight line between McGee's trust issues and the mostly-digested cookie in Tony's belly and he should have gotten there faster. And forget about the earlier cup of guilt, now someone had driven him blindfolded to the guilt factory, dumped his struggling body in the big gloopy guilt vat and was holding his head under.

Tony could slap himself upside the head for the next ten days straight, but what good would it do? His grandfather had always said it was no use crying over spilled milk (or spilled guilt), what made a man a man was how he faced up to his mistakes. On which count, Tony was often a pretty crappy kind of man, but it wasn't like he had a record to keep up or anything. Shake it off, DiNozzo, he told himself, and gave himself a good mental shudder. Unfortunately, that meant he was spraying guilt droplets everywhere around the room. It was a good job they were metaphorical or he'd be getting it in the ear from the cleaners for days.

He was waiting by McGee's car when the Probie finally called it a day (and he'd have to send Bobbi on Reception some flowers for causing a distraction long enough for him to slip by).

"Go home, Tony," said Tim.

"I'm trying to."

"In your own car."

And it was right about then that Tony sang a silent hymn of praise to central-locking because there was no way McGee could get in his car and not have Tony in the passenger seat before he could lock it from the inside.

"Ha!" he exclaimed as he shut the door behind him and then subsided because Tim was looking at him with an expression of faint contempt and, god, Tony'd rather have full-on hate than vague not-quite-emotions that meant that he just wasn't enough.

"What do you want?"

So tired. He sounded so tired. Tony could fix it, he knew he could, only he hadn't quite figured out the exact words yet. He opened his mouth and prayed for inspiration. What came out was,

"How long have you been waiting for the other shoe to drop?"

Tim looked momentarily nonplussed, but then comprehension washed over his face and he looked almost ashamed, which was just- No. No stealing Tony's shame thunder. Shame heavy cloud. Whatever.

"Since the first time you kissed me. Or-" Tim paused, screwing up his face in thought. "No, since then. Before that, it was just...I dunno, come to work, get glued to something electronics-based, go home minus several layers of my epidermis. After...yeah, I-" He faded out.

Tony waited, but Tim didn't seem to be able to finish that sentence and that was fair enough--there was no way it could end well.

"Tim," Tony said, gripping Tim's forearm and leaning forward as if there was something in the angle of his body that could prove his sincerity. "All that stuff. Stealing your food, overzealous use of office issue superglue, calling you Elflord, telling you you run like a little girl-"

"You never said I ran like a little girl," said Tim through gritted teeth.

Crap. He was supposed to be digging himself out of a hole, not disappearing down it like some kooky white rabbit with a fetish for vests. "I didn't? That's because you don't. I mean...maybe I thought you- Okay. Look. The point is I only ever did it to get your attention."

Tim boggled at him. "Are you twelve?"

"Kind of," Tony admitted with a rueful smile. "I just- I wanted you to look at me, okay? I figured the rest would take care of itself."

"No, see, a twelve-year-old would be ashamed at displaying that kind of emotional maturity."

"Yup." Tony fidgeted in his seat. He had to make Tim understand. "Listen. Tim. When we're out in the field, do you trust me to have your six?"

"Yes." Tim's reply was without hesitation and Tony'd known that, really, but his chest got tight all the same.

"You trust me not to willfully endanger your life, right?"

"Yes."

And Tony wanted to say, see? I wouldn't endanger your heart, either, but he was making himself want to vomit just by thinking it, so he went for a different tack.

"I'm not a Tootsie Pop, I don't have a soft, chewy center. Maybe a Tootsie Roll from the future all preserved in amber or something and hard as rock and-"

Tim rubbed a hand over his face. "Tony, I'm concerned your point is making a run for it with my sanity. Could you maybe arrest it and bring it in?"

Okay, this was it. No messing any more. Tony took a deep breath, pulled a face, dug his fingers into Tim's sleeve and said, "I'm sorry I ate your cookie, but I didn't eat it because I'm an untrustworthy asshole, I ate it because I'm a thoughtless asshole. I'll bring you cookies every day for a month and not eat them if that's what it's going to take to prove that the other shoe? It's not gonna drop. I'm in this."

"You're in this?" Tim sounded uncertain, but his face was brightening, the frown lines easing away.

"I'm so in this. So in this."

"For how long? A week? A month? A year?"

"I had my eye on a nice retirement community in Chestertown." So, fine, maybe he was missing all the big words, but Tim was smart, he'd figure it out.

"Really?"

"Really."

And now there was a smile edging McGee's lips and Tony knew a corner had been turned.

Or at least he thought so.

"You should get out, now."

"What?"

"Tony," and Tim's face relaxed into the fond, slightly exasperated expression that never failed to make Tony's heart stutter, "you need to get into your own car and drive it home. Because I really can't kiss you in the parking lot at work, there are rules, and I'm not playing the car dance tomorrow morning. I have to be here early."

"Oh," said Tony. "Ohhh. Right. Yes. Kissing. Good." He swore he could remember the days he spoke in whole sentences.

Tim looked down at Tony's hand still gripping his arm. "And I think I might want to do that thing you've been so very carefully not begging me to do."

Tony's mouth went dry. Well, so long there, baby steps. This was...this was seven league boots.

"One giant leap for mankind," he said.

"That's not in the manual." Tim grinned and Tony was grateful he wasn't standing because his knees were doing their level best to imitate Jell-O. How he was supposed to drive home with failing legs and his brain screaming 'aWOOOOOOOgah! aWOOOOOOOgah! Awesomeness alert!' he had no idea, but he'd figure it out because apparently when he did something majorly right he got rewarded, like big time. This was an incentive system he could totally get behind. And that probably wasn't the best thing to be thinking about if he was going to get home alive. Bad, innuendo. Bad.

"Is the child lock on again?" asked Tim. "Go!" He leaned over Tony and opened the door.

Tony had a brief urge to push Tim's head down into his lap right then and there and screw the consequences, but he fought it like the lion tamer he'd always wanted to be.

"I'm going, I'm going," he said, instead, sliding out of the car. Turning, he bent down and stuck his head back inside the door. "Gimme a ten minute headstart and I can be naked in the kitchen mixing up your first batch of cookies when you get there."

"You don't know how to bake."

Tony considered this inescapable fact. "I could learn," he offered. "For you."

Tim's eyebrows shot up. "Is that a promise?"

"Yeah," said Tony, slow and thoughtful. "Yeah, it is."

And it was.


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