Oh, The Places You'll Go

Stone Walls Do Not a Prison Make

Notes: This fic was written for Christmas, 2009. It's for everyone who came along on the wild Tim/Tony ride of the past few months, those who were there before me and welcomed me into our tiny corner of fandom, those who let themselves be tumbled in by me. My life got pretty difficult for a while there and it was those guys letting me squee at them, squeeing right back, loving the boys like I do, that made it not just bearable but pretty damn awesome. I thank them. They are wonderful.

Extra big thank yous to soupytwist and celli for beta and approval (which, yeah, seriously, thank you, heh). ♥ So the fic is totally jossed by Faith (710) but it's AU anyway, so lets pretend that episode never happened, 'k? 'K.

By the time they're done working it's too late--the plane that should be carrying Tim to San Diego to join his family for Christmas is long gone and Tony's ride to Maine has got to be at least six hours up the road by now. If he didn't think apologizing was a sign of weakness, Tim would be pretty sure that's exactly what Gibbs' shrug and "Go home, you earned it," means. Tim wants to ask Gibbs what he's going to do with the holidays or at least with the next twenty-four hours, but long experience has taught him he won't learn anything he wants to know.

L. J. Tibbs spends the holidays with his close friend, Chicky, getting drunk on good bourbon and exchanging endlessly practical gifts like socks and chisels--it's the least Tim can do for him.

Tim glances at Tony, who's stuffing his backpack and trashcan with the detritus of the day. Ziva doesn't do Christmas, of course, and had escaped on vacation before the latest body literally washed up on shore. Abby has plans with some mystery guy who'd flown in the day before, so there's just the two of them--loose ends on the annual unwanted, home-knitted, misshapen Christmas sweater. Maybe Tim should invite Tony over; they can at least commiserate about how fucked up their holidays are.

Tony's been pretty weird with him lately, though, even taking into account Tony's normal standards of behavior, and Tim's worried he's figured him out. Maybe that's what Tim gets for congratulating himself on another year gone by without accidentally confessing a particular intractable issue. Retractable, maybe, he thinks with a grim smile. But then, maybe he's just being paranoid--Tony's not the type to keep that kind of secret, even if it means people looking at him funny.

So, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

"Hey, Tony," he calls, hop-skipping to catch him before the elevator swallows him up. "You wanna come hang out with Jethro and me tomorrow? We can order some takeout and you can school me on my poor knowledge of pre-Technicolor Christmas movies."

Tony face brightens momentarily before blanking over again. See, weird, thinks Tim.

"Takeout doesn't exactly scream Christmas, McGrinch." Tony jabs at the elevator buttons. "Not when the alternative is a skiing lodge and extra-special turn down service."

"So I'll stick some holly in the moo shu pork. C'mon, Tony," wheedles Tim, "whadda you want to do? Wallow in your own misery and filth all day?" He grins as Tony attempts to surreptitiously sniff his armpit.

"It's hardly my fault Collins is a marathon runner, is it, Probie? Didn't see you trying to catch him. All that dieting and no extra stamina? You should ask your personal trainer for your money back."

The elevator pings and they step out.

"My stamina is just fine, thank you. Someone had to cut off his escape route, it's not like you were even close to bringing him down. You should be thanking me for saving you a couple days of screaming muscle pain. Time's not exactly kind to you, you know, old man."

"This is how you convince me to spend time with you? No wonder you haven't been on a date in weeks."

"Whatever, it's not the same thing. Face it, Tony, do you really want to be on your own for Christmas?"

"No-o," says Tony, and Tim knows he's winning.

They're nearing the corner of the parking lot now; it's dark and the air is heavy with frost waiting to settle, Tony's breath puffing white clouds like a steam engine gathering speed. Tim purses his lips and blows through them, watching the long, unbroken curl of vapor hang infinitesimally before dissipating into the chill air. He wonders if he could track the atoms as they spread out across the lot, across DC, across the neighboring states. Where will they wind up? Will some of them frost the trees in their winter coat? Will someone curse their existence tomorrow morning as they attack their windshield with an ice scraper? Will some person on the other side of the planet hold out their hand as they splash down on it, praising the rain that's finally come? Tim never ceases to be amazed by how the universe is shaped, one atom at a time, how everything is both insignificant and entirely significant at the same time. He breathes out again, steady and sure.

Tony stops abruptly and Tim stops, too, turning to face him. Tony shoves his hands in his armpits, then his nose wrinkles and he yanks them out, stuffing them in his pockets instead.

"Okay," he says. "It's not like I have other plans," he jerks his head in the general direction of the building, "and thank you so much for that, Marathon Man. But you have to come to my place. I'm not spending Christmas surrounded by dust and static. Plus, I have a couch, which puts me approximately a thousand percent ahead of you on the comfort scale."

"I'll bring the joy, then," mutters Tim, saying more loudly, "You can't have a thousand percent, but, you know, whatever. Your place it is."

"Don't come too early," warns Tony, setting off across the lot. "Sleeping in is my finest holiday tradition."

"Okay," says Tim with a nod and a satisfied smile. No lonely Christmas for him. Score.

Tim sleeps naked. It's easier that way, less constricting, and it's not like he ever gets cold. Jethro had learned the status quo early after a couple of "No! Bad touch! Bad touch!" incidents and sprawls across Tim's feet (in the winter) or across the floor next to the bed (in the summer). Tim outwardly kvetches about this arrangement on a regular basis, complaining to Jethro about his sleep-yipping or the imminent gangrene Tim's going to suffer what with the occluded circulation, but if he's honest, he loves the company. It's been a long time since he's shared his bed with someone who honestly loves him.

"C'mon, boy, up and at 'em," he says, wiggling his toes (at least he thinks he's wiggling them--it'll be another ten minutes or so until they regain any actual feeling) under the heavy, warm lump that constitutes his dog.

Jethro blinks awake and staggers to his haunches, and Tim shifts his feet and gets out of bed, the covers falling away. Nothing to see here, he wills Jethro's way, move along. Considering that as far as his body's concerned he has no feet, Tim's impressed with the speed with which they get him first to the kitchen to feed the dog and then into the shower. They tingle back to life as he's jerking off (coincidence or cause and effect Tim's never been able to figure out). Just because it's Christmas doesn't mean there needs to be a break in the routine. Personal predictability is Tim's way of balancing the general weirdness of the world, in particular those parts Tim's faced with on a daily basis.

The dog park is almost deserted--prime present-opening time, Tim figures--and Jethro runs off his energy without his usual companions, Mitch and Tessa. He streams across the park from tree to bench to tree, sniffing and jumping and snapping his jaws to catch invisible flies in the air. He looks so free and for a moment Tim wishes...he wishes. He's made his choice, though--he's already a geek, no need to add freak to the label--and he's at peace with that. Mostly. Tim looks at Jethro and then up into the sharp blue sky, eyes watering with the sun and the cold. His vision films over and he blinks it away, looking back down and checking his watch. It's time to go.

Grateful to the Jewish bakery around the corner from his apartment for proving that the whole of the nation doesn’t grind to a halt on Christmas Day, Tim fidgets with a brown paper sack as he waits for Tony to answer the door. Jethro noses at his leg, but Tim's learned the pack leader thing the hard way and his firm, "No," is enough to settle the dog down, though not before he throws in a slightly pathetic whine for dramatic effect. Sometimes Tim thinks Jethro's been taking secret lessons in emotional blackmail from Tony.

The last of the bolts shoots back and Tony opens the door. His hair is sticking up, slightly damp, and his face has the freshly shocked look of the recently-caffeinated.

"Wow, you really meant it about the sleeping in," says Tim, offering the paper sack as Tony steps aside to let him in.

"It's not even noon, McEarlyBird, this is nothing. In my college days I could get to four in the afternoon, easy. Woke up just after ten today--must be losing my touch." He shuts the door with his heel, opening the bag at the same time. "Mmm, bagels," he says and shoves one straight in his mouth.

"Or, you know, you didn't stay up until five in the morning doing beer bongs," Tim points out. "It's possible that has some bearing on results."

Tony grins around a mouthful of bagel, splitting off a piece and feeding it to Jethro before turning around and heading for the kitchen.

"I'll just make myself comfortable then, will I?" Tim calls after him, taking off his coat and hanging it up next to Tony's. There's an empty peg there, now. Tim could've sworn there never used to be any room, but he's not going to miss playing musical jackets, so by the time he's tugging his sleeves straight he's already forgotten about it.

Tony's place, always a little haphazard, takes well to Christmas. There's a tree to one side of the large window, decorated with multi-colored lights and mismatched bulbs. The star on top lists lazily to the right and Tim surprises himself by how quickly his instinct to straighten it is subdued. It's fine the way it is. Tony's strung warm white Christmas lights around the framed poster of Butch and Sundance that has pride of place over the fireplace, lending the room a cozy glow even though it's still daylight out, and a few cards are randomly scattered around spare surfaces. A stack of DVDs stands in a neat pile on Tony's coffee table and from a quick glance at the spines it looks like they're all Christmas-themed. Tony's obviously decided to take Tim up on his challenge. Tim sinks into Tony's couch, hands behind his head, closing his eyes, breathing in the faint pine scent and listening to the murmur of Tony's voice as he chats away to Jethro. Just about his conversational level, he thinks with a smile.

There's clattering too, and a rhythmic hum and whine. Tim pays no attention to it until it all stops and there's a "Hey, McGee!" being yelled at him. "I only have two hands," calls Tony, "so if you wanna eat, you'll have to come and help."

They spend their day working through the pile of DVDs and a ridiculous amount of snack foods and takeout.

"What, no holly?" asks Tony as Tim shoves an oyster pail of shrimp at him.

"The 7-Eleven was only carrying mistletoe, I didn't think you'd approve."

Maybe it's Tim's imagination, but for the briefest second Tony seems to freeze. Then he points his chopsticks at the TV and says something about Alastair Sim's elastic face and the moment is gone.

It's been dark for hours when Tony slips It's A Wonderful Life into the DVD player, but it's still early. They're not on call this weekend so Tim has no excuse to leave, and he doesn't want to, not really, even though the movie makes him itch, too bone deep to ever scratch. It's not that he doesn't like George Bailey, it's just- He leans forward so his back is no longer touching the couch and sits rigid and still. Jethro, lying at his feet, looks up at him and whines softly. Tim raises two fingers from his knee, moving them in a tight circle, and Jethro settles his head back on his paws again. He watches Tim for a few moments before closing his eyes, seemingly satisfied.

Tony isn't so easily settled, though, and Tim hears the soft rustle of hair against fabric as Tony's head shifts to look at him and then back to the screen, over and over. It makes his muscles lock up tighter--strange how Tim only realizes how relaxed he'd been now that he's so on edge.

Out of the corner of his eye, Tim sees Tony pick up the remote control, and the screen freezes on George's disappointed face.

"Tim, we gotta- I should- I think we need to talk."

Tim turns to Tony, who's rubbing the back of his neck and looking what? Embarrassed? Why would he be embarrassed? "Do we?" he asks, puzzled.

"Yeah, I think we do. I mean, we could keep ignoring it, but it's getting kind of hard to, you know?"

A cold lump settles low in Tim's stomach and his back aches. So Tony does know. What now?

"It's not a problem, Tony. It hasn't been and it doesn't need to start now." His voice catches the edges of his throat, scratching at the lining, making the words tumble out wrong. He flushes at the sound of it.

"That depends on how you define 'problem', doesn't it, Probie? I have a problem with it."

"You do?" And the lump in his belly is heating up fast now, twisting and fizzing. Heat expands. Tim places his hands over his stomach, pressing down, and hunches his shoulders.

"Yeah. I have a problem with the fact that you thought you couldn't tell me." Tony stretches out a hand, grazing Tim's knee with the tips of his fingers. "Hey, I know I'm not always- And then there's- Okay, you could be forgiven for thinking I wouldn't take it well but I thought--I hoped--you had me better figured out."

There's bitterness in Tim's mouth. He wants to spit it out; it doesn't sit well with the warm flood that's pulsing in his fingers and toes, setting them to tingling. To talk about it, to stop pretending, even for a few minutes, maybe that's the miracle of Christmas.

"It's not a secret I wanted," he says, trying to drag his eyes up to meet Tony's. "I didn't ask for it, and now I'm so used to hiding I don't know what- I don't know."

He does meet Tony's eyes, then, and what he sees there sends a wash of sensation right through him, crashing over his brain, pathways changing in its wake so that when the wave subsides the world is entirely different--brighter and softer both.

"I see you," says Tony. "You can't hide from me. I don't want you to."

And maybe he doesn't see him, not in the way Tim thought he did, but then Tony presses his hand warm and firm on Tim's thigh and leans in, tilting his head and touching his lips to Tim's. Tim sees it, the circle of connection, hand to thigh, mouth to mouth and if he takes Tony's other hand in his it's the double twist loop of infinity and for the first time in what feels like endless time, if only for the most minuscule of moments, Tim's world makes perfect sense.

He reaches out and curls his fingers through Tony's as Tony's lips part and he shifts the kiss from the quiet seeking of confirmation to something deeper, needier. Tony's tongue strokes the inside of Tim's upper lip and Tim wants to burst out of his skin. This, none of this, was what he was expecting, but now it's happening, now they're here, he can't see any other way it was supposed to be. He lets himself be taken by the kiss, lifted up and transformed by the imprint of Tony's fingers on his leg, the rasp of stubble across his chin, the gentle scrape of nails against his palm. He lets himself believe in it long enough for Tony to break the kiss and press his head against the curve of Tim's neck, breathing hard, the sensation strangely comforting through the cotton of Tim's shirt.

"Okay, that went well," says Tony, not moving, and his voice breaks the spell.

Tim crashes back down to earth, laying his hand on Tony's head as if the solidity of his presence could cushion the blow. When Tim, aged nine years and fourteen days, had nearly sliced off his finger with a penknife he'd calmly bandaged it up and taken himself off home and asked his mom to drive him to the hospital. A couple of months later, he'd fallen a few feet from a tree in his yard into a pile of leaves, emerging entirely unscathed. They could hear his screams a block away. Falling has always been a problem.

"Tony?" Tim slips his hand down to Tony's shoulder and gives it a half-hearted shove.

Tony sits up and the speed with which the wide smirk on his face disappears is painful.

"Not well?"

"Yes. No. Well!" says Tim, trying to flap his hands in some sort of defense and realizing that one is still entangled with Tony's. He takes hold of Tony's wrist with his other hand and separates the two of them, laying Tony's hand on a pillow. This will go better if they're not touching.

"Ah, crap," he says and then laughs because really? If that's all language can give him then he's better off not talking at all. He gets to his feet, carefully avoiding Jethro, and starts to unbutton his shirt.

"Now we're cutting to the chase? Help me out here, Tim, I'm feeling like I've stepped into an episode of The Twilight Zone."

Tim keeps unbuttoning, looking straight into Tony's eyes, and whatever Tony reads there causes him to sit up ramrod straight. He has the serious look that he brings out so rarely, the one that Tim will usually go to any lengths to wipe off. A hysterical giggle bubbles up his throat because these are some lengths. Some serious lengths. He clamps his teeth over the laugh and swallows it down.

He reaches the last button, his steady, sure fingers just one more sign that Tim has gotten too good at pretending, and he shucks off the shirt. He closes his eyes and breathes in deep through his nose, feeling for the release. It's a yawning stretch of movement, freedom from a caged prison that locks from the inside. He opens his eyes, concentrates hard and shifts things just so and spreads his wings. At full stretch they're only a few feet shy of the width of the room. Jethro yips once as the wingtips brush his fur, then stands and trots to the kitchen. This is nothing he doesn't see every day.

Tony, though.


Tony half-reaches out a hand towards Tim, before pressing it over his mouth. He shakes his head and hiccups a laugh. He draws his eyebrows together almost as if it's hurting him to look at Tim and he says, "What are you?"

Tim has never allowed himself to play this conversation in his head, not this one nor any like it. He has no idea how it's supposed to go. "I...don't know."

"You don't know?! You've got freaking wings, Tim, and you don't know? I just. Questions. There are lots of questions. To start with, what. The fucking. Hell?"

Tim draws in his wings, settling them against his back. He sits down on the coffee table, knocking over the pile of DVDs with his hip. He starts to straighten them but Tony makes an impatient noise.

"Okay," Tim says, his hands on his knees creating two right-angled triangles with his body. Two triangles make a square. Before, he and Tony had made a circle. You can't square a circle. "I think I'm an angel."

"You think you're a what?"

"Tony, I know. I know, it's crazy. I'm just this guy--or I was just this guy--and now I'm the delusional guy with the freaky wings, but I'm doing the best I can."

"Okay, okay," says Tony, scrubbing at his hair. "You're an angel. Whatever."

"I think I am, yeah. I'm adopted, you know? My parents found me, literally, when I was about four years old. I was naked, I could only speak in a language that they couldn't understand, and yeah, wings. They didn't run screaming, which is a good quality in potential parents, I've always thought. My mom said I was a miracle and my dad could never say no to her. I have no idea how they fudged it with the authorities, but they managed it." Tim tries a smile. It doesn't sit right on his face and he snuffs it out.

"But wings. And we're not talking cutesy fairy wings here, McClarence, this is serious wingspan you've got going. How the hell does no one know?"

"There are things I can do, I don't know how. I've just always known them, like we don't remember how we figured out to talk but we did, we didn't learn the language, we built it from the ground floor up. What I can do, the way I can shift reality, bend light so you can't see them, I don't know if I remembered or I learned or I figured it out, I just could do it. Like this." He moves the patterns in the air, the atoms and photons, the strings. The dimensions shift and Tony says,

"Fuck me, they're gone."

"No," says Tim, and stretches out a wing, brushing the tip against Tony's face.

Tony jumps half a foot into the air, slapping his cheek. "Jesus!"

"Maybe related," says Tim, and, while he's desperate for Tony to understand and to accept him, there's a part of him that's so happy to be talking about it that the consequences no longer matter. He tries the smile again. It fits better this time.

"But you can't- I would have felt them, wouldn't I?" Tony flings himself back against the couch with a shake of his head, as if he can clear this whole thing up by readjusting his vision. "I don't know if you've noticed, cuz, you know, gotta tell you, sometimes you're a little slow on the uptake, but I touch you kind of a lot. Invisible or not, they're pretty impossible to ignore."

Tim had noticed. He'd noticed a lot. First Abby, then Tony, Tim's not sure he's ever been hugged and petted and futzed with as much as he has since he fell in with Gibbs' team. He'd had to work hard not to be torn apart by it, the desire to be touched by another human warring with the horrifyingly real fear of discovery. Maybe he'd been working so hard on feeling okay about Tony's inability to maintain any personal boundaries whatsoever to wonder at why he was doing it.

"I can, er, retract them," says Tim. "It's not the most comfortable thing ever, but if it's all you've got...I learned to make them 'invisible' first. My parents were real grateful for that, let me say. The retracting I figured out a lot later. They were smaller when I was a kid, too, less obvious. No one warns you about that at puberty. By the way, you're gonna start shaving, you'll grow five inches in three months, you'll masturbate like your life depended on it and your wings will trip you up when you get out of bed in the morning. Have a nice day."

Tony grins. "Tough life," he says, and the cord of his hoodie is still twisted tight around his fingers, skin bleached white underneath it, but the smile is genuine enough and Tim lets himself relax the tiniest part.

"You don't know the half of it," he replies.

"Tell me, then," says Tony. "You said you can do things. What can you do?"

"I can see things. Not like, you know, dead people or anything like that, before you ask. I see patterns in nature, in numbers, in everything really, it's so clear and distinct to me. It's why I'm good with computers."

"Huh, I knew there was something other-worldly about your technology skills. No one gets to be that smart without spending most of their days rocking on a chair in their mom's basement."

Tim shrugs, the shift of feathers soft against his skin reminding him that he's half naked. He shifts the world around him again and his wings are once again visible. It doesn't make him feel less naked. He wraps his arms around himself.

Tony leans forward, untwisting and retwisting the cord around his fingers. "Can you- Can you fly?"

Tim presses his lips together and shakes his head, the question piercing him like an arrow. His throat tightens and he clears it, shaking his head again, playing for time.

"I never have," he says and hopes Tony's ears aren't attuned to the frayed edges of his voice. "I can't. I don't know how and I don't even know if I can. I mean, physiologically speaking I could rip myself to pieces, I don't have hollow bones or an armored breastplate, I'm just me. And then, even if I could fly I couldn't because I couldn't risk being discovered and god, Tony, if I flew, just once, just one single flight, how could I stop? How could I?" He stops, clenching his jaw and squeezing his eyes tight shut. His wings ache with the want of it, the stretch and the pull of it. He will never soar heavenward, not without the help of jet propulsion.

"Maybe I was punished," he chokes out, the words escaping before he can stop them. He's never admitted this out loud, not even to himself. "Maybe I fell, maybe that's why I don't remember, maybe that's why I've never had-" Anything.

There's a rustle and a thud and then Tony's hands are on his face and he's saying, "Oh god, I can't even begin to- Why do you always have to do everything on your own? You're such an idiot, come here." And Tim's eyelids flutter as Tony slides a hand around the base of Tim's skull, tugging his head down. With a touch as light as snowfall, Tony kisses Tim's forehead, his eyes, cheeks, nose, the corners of his mouth.

Keeping hold of Tim's head, thumb stroking into his hair, Tony pulls back and looks at him, hiding nothing. "I want to touch them," he says.

And Tim says, "Yes."

Tony stands and offers his arm. Tim reaches up and his fingers close around Tony's wrist, the tendons shifting against his skin as Tony pulls him to his feet. Tim follows Tony into the bedroom where Tony turns and kisses him briefly before sitting down, scooting backwards until his legs are at full stretch, pulling Tim down to straddle his lap. Tim catches the cord of Tony's hoodie in his hand, using it to tug Tony towards him, and they kiss again. The kiss is slow and measured with an undercurrent that Tim doesn't entirely understand. It isn't desperation but there's a sense of muted urgency, and his wings arch out behind him, beating out slow desire.

Tony nips on Tim's bottom lip as he draws the kiss to its close. "My turn," he says, so close that the words escape into Tim's mouth. Tony shifts his legs underneath Tim and, always a quick learner, Tim kneels up so Tony can get out from under him.

"Lie down," says Tony, and Tim does, the soft cotton cool against his chest. He lets his wings spread either side of him, resting on the bed. The weight of Tony's body as it settles on him is a welcome anchor. Tim knows what is coming and he's half-eager, half-terrified, the hairs on his body rising in anticipation even as he clenches his fists.

So softly his fingertips barely graze the skin, Tony strokes the joins where wing becomes back. Tim's heart thuds painfully hard in his chest and his skin ripples with sensation, wind chasing across a field of grass. Then Tony slides his hands along the arc of the wings, sweeping down them with broad, flat strokes. Tim can't feel it directly, but the pressure and vibrations transmit along his bones and between that and the knowledge that someone--that Tony--wants to touch him this way, that he isn't scared, or angry, or cruel, turns the moment into bliss.

It's utterly quiet in the room as Tim feels Tony bend and rub his cheek against the wings, his nose tracing the downy feathers along the line of join. He presses kisses to Tim's spine.

"God, you're beautiful," he says.

And then Tim can't lie still any more. He pushes up on his elbows and says, "Off. You need to get off."

Tony stills. "You don't like this?"

"Yes! Seriously. Yes!" Tim is quick to explain. "I need to be kissing you now, okay?"

"Oh, that," says Tony, and Tim doesn't need to see his face to know the smile that's on it. "Well, sure."

The bed creaks as Tony's weight shifts off Tim. Tim's barely on his knees before he has an armful of Tony and it takes about ten seconds for him to realize that they are both entirely too clothed. He scrabbles at Tony's hoodie and Tony pulls his mouth away from Tim's long enough to say, "This is why you're the genius, Timmy."

It's awkward enough to get rid of unwanted clothing even when the only obstacle is the need to be touching and kissing at all times, but with wings added into the mix it's a minor miracle in itself that they're finally naked. The sight of Tony's body, skin clinging stubbornly to the last vestiges of its summer tan, faded scars illustrating a life not always lived the easy way, hair curling down his chest, channeling into a point that leads to his cock, hard and eager, sets Tim's knees shaking and he collapses back down on to the bed, Tony following.

Tony hooks his legs over Tim's, and shuffles in until they're shoved together as close as they can get without crawling into each other. Tony's warm skin against his, the soft, insistent press of his erection against Tim's belly, the rough brush of hair on Tim's own cock is almost too much to bear. Tim breathes deeply, rests his palm against Tony's cheek and stretches his wings out wide, curving them forward so they wrap around Tony's back.

"Oh god," says Tony, voice hoarse. "Tim." He leans forward until his forehead is touching Tim's and slides his hands over Tim's skin, finding the underside of his wings and placing his palms flat on Tim's shoulder blades, pinkie fingers brushing the ridge of soft feathers.

Tim gasps and tilts his head, tugging Tony's to meet him. Their kisses deepen and intensify, and Tony presses hard into Tim's back, bringing them closer together, chest to chest. The muted urgency of before is back, only now the brakes are off and, though Tim knows he won't die if he doesn't touch, isn't touched, right now, it feels almost as if he could. Tim, grateful not for the first time for his long fingers, reaches into the warm space between them, closing them around him and Tony both. Tony mutters a yes against Tim's lips and they're joined at three places. Tim sees the double loop of an eight, of balance and cosmic order, of new life, of love and of friendship and his heart is full; it's only the murmured encouragement from Tony that reminds him that he needs to move.

He strokes them together, slow and steady at first, a deliberate twist of his wrist on the upstroke, but the pressure builds quickly, his own breathing is coming shallow and fast and Tony's too. They break apart, Tony digging his chin into Tim's shoulder, his fingernails into Tim's back. Tim shuts his eyes, anchoring himself with his other hand on Tony's hip. He speeds his rhythm, Tony's ragged gasps and garbled chants loud against his ear.

Tim's not sure which pressure breaks first, the deep pulse in his groin or the shallow band around his chest, he only knows that something is breaking inside him, and he heaves a dry sob as he comes, brilliant and clear. Maybe it's not breaking; maybe patterns are rearranging, coming apart as Tim does, and reforming, newer and better. Tim's half-laughing, half-crying now as Tony pushes his face into Tim's neck and shudders against him. He feels not just the usual light-headedness of post-orgasmic bliss, but light. Light as if he truly could fly, as if he had flown.

Tim clings to Tony with both hands, the solidity of the flesh under his fingers reminding him that this is all real. He's shaking with it, the fierce punch of emotion, of connection, of everything he's never allowed himself to feel before. He is safe here, he can fly here. Is this--is Tony?--his redemption? His face is wet and he lifts a wing, rubbing his cheeks dry.

Tony lifts his head, concerned. "Hey! Are you okay? Did I do something wrong?"

And Tim laughs, a little shakily, and says, "Well, let's not start making a laundry list, okay?"

Tony's eyes narrow, and Tim cocks his head, smiling. Tony must be satisfied with what he sees because his face relaxes into a grin and he tweaks Tim's nipple.

"You're staying, right?" There's no doubt in Tony's voice, even though he's voicing a question, no worries that it won't go the way he wants it to, and Tim realizes that it's not arrogance or self-aggrandizing, it's because he knows. He'd seen what they could be, what they almost already were even if Tim couldn't see it himself. He'd had faith.

He nods. "We have a movie to finish. Can't let Clarence down," he says, adding, "I should, er, retract."

"No!" says Tony quickly.

Tim raises his eyebrows.

"I, er, like them?" Tony says, scrunching up his face.

Tim thinks it's possible his smile could be seen from space.

The back of the couch provides more than ample support for Tim's wings, the tips brushing the floor. ("I'll vacuum tomorrow, sorry," says Tony.) Tony settles against him, head practically buried in Tim's armpit, playing with Tim's fingers as they rest against his chest.

They sit quietly through the movie, until the whole of Bedford Falls are singing, and then Tim asks, "Do you believe in God?"

Tony stills his hands against Tim's and pauses. "Maybe now I do," he says.

"Before-" starts Tim and then stops because he doesn't exactly know what to say. He tries again. "When I cried, it was because you make me believe in something. I mean, I have to believe in God if I believe I'm an angel, it's kind of a default setting. But you make me believe in something else, in us, and I needed that. I didn't know, but I needed it so much."

Tony doesn't move for a second and then he does some sort of weird flip and scramble so that he's kneeling, facing Tim. "I'm gonna buy a bell," he says. "A tinkly little bell. And I'm gonna keep it on my desk." He grins. "McClarence."

"Don't you dare."

"Oh, I dare. In fact, I am no longer going to call you across the bullpen, I'm only using the bell."

"And then I will load your computer with so many viruses that you'll think it's the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Try me."

"Every time a bell rings..." chants Tony.

Tim grins, big and broad. He doesn't know if it's crazier that a few hours ago he would never have dreamed he'd let any one in on his secret, especially Tony, or that it's taken him so long to get here. With mathematical precision of long practice he draws in his wings, folding them meticulously, smaller and smaller. He reshifts matter and dimensions, and they are gone, safely stowed. Strange how the discomfort seems far less than usual.

"Okay, DiNozzo, you are on," he declares, and tackles Tony to the floor, waking Jethro in the process. In the chaos of barking and laughing, limbs and fur that follows, Tim sees new patterns, sees how the universe alters around them, absorbing them as if they were always meant to be this way, together.

On Tony's tree, the lop-sided star catches the light. Tim has no need to wish on it; Christmas has already laid a miracle at his feet. Instead, he pins Tony to the floor, kisses him roughly, flapping a hand at Jethro to be quiet and says,

"So, about that bell..."

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