Oh, The Places You'll Go

The Travel Pills Won't Keep You On Your Feet

Notes: Episode tag for 907 (so spoilers). The sixth story in the Starting From Scratch 'verse. Probably best to start from the beginning.

"I have a question," says Abby, pointing her beer bottle towards each of the others in turn.

"I thought Gibbs told you to lose the clipboard," Tony says.

"Do you see a clipboard? This is a question for you guys. It isn't statistically significant in the Great Gibbs Debate."

Tim thinks about pointing out that grunts and avoidance aren't statistically significant either, but he knows he'll just get fixed with the patented Abby Scrutinizer Stare. He'd prefer not to feel like he's accidentally naked in public, so he keeps quiet.

"Go ahead, Abby," says Ziva, folding her hands in front of her. "I will answer your question."

"Suck-up," mutters Tony, and Tim smiles into his wine glass.

"Thank you, Ziva." Abby nods at her. "I'm promoting you to second favorite."

"Hey," say Tim and Tony in disgruntled unison because they both know only one person can hold the number one spot and his name rhymes with 'ribs'.

Abby ignores them both. "So, my question. Diane or Stephanie?"

"How?" asks Ziva, tilting her head and quirking her lips. "Do you mean which would I prefer to marry, put in jail, have sex with, what?"

Tony chokes on his beer and Tim pats him on the back, not in the least jealous because, seriously? Great mental image.

"Marry," says Abby firmly. "Like, Gibbs saw something in them both, right? Besides the red hair. So which way would you jump?"

"That depends on if I want to lose my testicles or, you know, my entire manhood." Tony waves his hands in the general area of his groin.

"Which is which?" Ziva asks with a puzzled frown.

"Which what is what, David? You've seen enough bodies to get a basic grasp of anatomy, surely?"

Tim zones out as Tony and Ziva bicker to and fro. Tony's legs fell open when he was describing his potential genital losses and his thigh is now pressed along the length of Tim's. Warmth seeps through Tim's pants like unexpected sunshine through a window. Tony always runs hot. Tim puts it down to his motor mouth acting like some kind of generator, but right now it's making it difficult for him to concentrate on anything that's not the solid presence of Tony's leg against his.

He grips the stem of his wine glass tighter to steady himself. Tim knows Tony knows exactly what he's doing and he can't help wondering what it means. They're another week further along and still skirting around the edges of whatever their relationship is and here Tony is, in a public place, resting his leg against Tim's like it's totally normal behavior. Maybe it is. Tim's so turned around these days he can't figure out what passes for normal any more.

The problem is that yesterday Tony had pulled Tim aside and said, "The part where you said it's not only Victor who has secrets? For a second there I thought you were going to spill to Gibbs about us. It's possible my heart actually stopped for a couple of beats. Don't do that to me. I'm too young for a cardiac arrest."

Tim had frowned and shaken his head. "Are you crazy? Do you think I have a career deathwish? What was I gonna say? 'Oh, hey, boss. We're in the middle of investigating the kidnap of your ex-wife's husband so I thought right now was an appropriate time to let you know that I'm kind of bending rule twelve and plan to smash it into pieces? I'll get my coat.'"

"I know, I know," Tony had said, starting to run his hand through his hair and then shoving it quickly in his pocket. "Smash it into pieces, huh? I like that." He'd smiled briefly. "Just. Gibbs can't know, Tim. He can't."

There's a dissonance between Tony's palpable freaked out reaction and his current state of physical proximity. It's confusing and perplexing and there's something Tim simply isn't getting. It's times like these when he understands exactly how Jethro must feel when he sinks his teeth into a toy and worries it until it comes apart at the seams.

He zones back in to hear Tony saying, "They both have incredible hair. I bet their shower drains never get clogged."

"Will you stop with the hair, already?"

"Come on, McKojak, you counted this morning, didn't you? Admit it. You'll feel better."

"Actually, no." He's not telling Tony about how he'd been so close—a hair's breadth—away from crouching down and inspecting his shower drain before he'd realized how ridiculous this whole thing was. There are some secrets that are worth keeping. "And I'm not going bald so don't even start."

Tony knocks his knee against Tim's. "You keep on believing that, Timmy."

Ziva rolls her eyes. "What about you, McGee? Diane or Stephanie."

"Stephanie," says Tim without pausing to think.


"Because she never called me Macaulay Culkin. I hate Macaulay Culkin."

"Do the face! Do the face!" crows Abby. Tim glares and she says, "Wrong face. You're no fun."

"Neither was Home Alone," Tim points out.

"My boy is partly right," says Tony, patting Tim's shoulder. "It may have been a box office smash, but it was uneven at best. The classic John Hughes genius of the first two acts degenerates into some weirdly vicious slapstick for the third. Classic Columbus. Doesn't trust himself at all. Now, if-"

"No one cares, Tony," says Ziva, and Tony subsides with his best hurt expression.

It lasts for all of a second before Tony is animated again and saying, "Does anyone think it's odd how close Gibbs and Fornell are? They married the same woman. Gibbs hates the FBI. You'd think they'd be daggers drawn. Pistols at high noon. That kind of thing."

"Shared misery can bring people together," suggests Ziva. "Perhaps they were not such good friends before Diane left Fornell."

"My friend Carol totally has the hots for Tobias," says Abby with a grin. "You should have seen his face when she was flirting with him. He was terrified. He kept looking at Gibbs with this pleading face, like he wanted him to pull his gun and protect his virtue."

"Pull his gun," sniggers Tony, "that's…Wait." He sits up straight, eyes wide and eyebrows practically clambering their way through his hairline. "They're real close. Fornell wants Gibbs to keep him safe from flirty, hot women. You don't think…nah. Because Gibbs and Fornell together, that's just…" He shakes his head.

"No," says Abby, echoing the shake, Ziva ducking out of the way of her flying pigtails. "I'd totally know if Gibbs dresses on both sides of his pants. No way."

"How can you dress on both sides of your pants?" asks Ziva. "Would it not be impossible to do up the button if it was behind you?"

Abby launches into an explanation of what Tim's calling Metaphor: American Idiom and You. Next to him, Tony is disturbingly still, and Tim thinks if the babble of general chatter suddenly dropped away, he would be able to hear the gears cranking through interminable changes as Tony grapples with his thoughts. Something tugs at the edges of Tim's perception and he realizes Tony's leg has moved fractionally away. It would be nothing to move his own to regain the contact, but the scant millimeters might as well be the Grand Canyon. He can't do it and he can't understand why.

"I don't know," says Tim, trying to lighten his mood. "They may not be together together, but they could pass as a married couple. There's enough bickering there for three divorces."

"Gotta take a leak," says Tony, sliding out of the booth.

Tim watches him walk away, trying to grab hold of the loose threads of hints and conversations and tie them together.

Abby says, "Do you have a stomachache, Timmy?" and Tim realizes he's grimacing.

"I don't know. Maybe? I should probably go to the bathroom," Tim says and is halfway there before he's fully processed the idea. A couple of glasses of wine in and his brain is obviously on a go-slow.

Tony is staring into the mirror above the washbasins when Tim opens the door to the restroom. One hand is in his hair, tugging it up, but it's almost as an afterthought, not his locus of concentration. He's frowning and seems to be looking beyond his reflection, as if he suspects there's a room behind the mirror.

Like hitting jackpot on a slot machine after steadily feeding it quarters for an hour, it all comes together in Tim's head, screeching klaxons and flashing lights included. Tony's reaction to the whole secret thing, his fascination with Diane and reaction to the idea of Fornell and Gibbs as anything more than friends—it all makes sense now. If he hadn't had a stomach problem before he has one now, because he's as queasy as if he'd stepped on board a ship. Tim swallows hard; he's going to keep this casual if it kills him. He goes to stand beside Tony, turning around and leaning back against the row of washbasins.

He doesn't look at Tony when he speaks. "You know," he says, "Given how invested you've been in Gibbs's love life lately, is there something you want to tell me?" His voice holds steady to the end and he lets out an internal sigh of relief.

Tony swivels his head around and fixes Tim with a stare. "What do you mean?"

Tim forces himself to make eye contact. Tony is hovering between interest and annoyance and Tim wonders which way he's going to jump. "I mean, you couldn't stop asking questions about his relationship with Diane, you kind of freaked out back there when we were kidding around about Gibbs and Fornell having a thing, and you really freaked out when you thought Gibbs knew about us. Do you…" No, he can't do this looking into Tony's face. He fixes on a spot on the wall over Tony's shoulder. "Are you in…" No, he can't say those words either. They grate unspoken in his throat and there's a raw edge to his voice when he says, "Would you rather be with Gibbs than me?"

"What?" Tony grabs Tim's arm and pulls him around so they're facing each other. "Is that what you…" He takes Tim's chin with finger and thumb, pushing his head up and forcing Tim to meet his eyes. "You think I'd rather sleep with Gibbs?"

Tim reaches for Tony's wrist, pulling it down away from his chin and holds it between them. He shrugs. "He's a silver fox, just like Abby says."

"And you're not hot? Do you need me to make you an appointment with my optometrist? Tim, come on."

Tim shrugs again, thinking about how easy it would be to slide his hand into Tony's. He doesn't. "We're doing this slow for a reason, Tony. You have all this…this, this, this stuff that you're figuring out and I don't know. You could be all, hey! I'm kind of gay now…again..whatever, look at all these hot dudes! Also Gibbs! And then you don't need to feel bad if you want to go try them out and unshackle yourself from me."

Tony looks at Tim like he's completely lost it, and Tim resists the urge to squirm under his scrutiny, stomach roiling a little in protest.

"What is wrong with you?" Tony asks and he sounds genuinely perplexed. "Have I not made myself clear? Here." He surges forward and kisses Tim hard and urgent, gripping his upper arm so tight Tim knows it will leave a mark. Tim exhales with a half-hitched sound somewhere just the right side of a whimper. Tony twists in Tim's grip and captures his wrist, taking Tim's hand and pressing it over his groin. Tim takes in a sharp breath, almost choking on it. It's the first time Tim has felt the hard length of Tony's dick and the heat of it burns against his palm.

"Oh god," he says, pulling back from the kiss.

"This is what you do to me, McGee," says Tony, backing Tim up into the corner between washbasins and wall, rubbing Tim's hand up and down the length of him with a barely suppressed groan. "I have to jerk myself off every night before I sleep because if I don't, with all the dreams I've been having with you in the starring role? I'd be out of clean bed sheets in three days tops."

Right now, Tim wants two things. The first is to check up, to say, "So you really want me?" Only there's no way that's coming out without a needy whine and he's promised himself not to be that guy. The second is Tony's mouth back on his, which he gets because he is just that lucky. His fingers curl in pleasure and—oh!—make that three things because his hand is curved around Tony's dick and his own is on the move trying to make some kind of appreciative statement and he really, really wants to move this to a more private place and the next level.

The door swings open and a gruff voice says, "Get a room."

"Get some perspective," says Tony against Tim's mouth, but pulls away all the same, Tim's hand dropping empty and forlorn by his side. Tony wipes the corners of his mouth with his thumb and grins. "This…ah…conversation is probably best held elsewhere."

"Totally," calls the gruff voice from a cubicle. "Let me crap in peace."

"Thanks for the input!" calls Tony. "Duly noted." He flashes his eyebrows at Tim. Lowering his voice he says, "Look, I get where you're coming from. I'm not exactly stable-relationship guy. But I'm done with the whole hunting fresh meat thing. It's not what I want. It hasn't been for longer than I wanted to admit. That's why we're going slow, remember? So I don't screw up this good thing we've got going."

Tim wants to give in, but he can't resist a final poke. "But, Gibbs?"

Tony's face is a picture of horror. "Gibbs is practically my father, Tim. I don't want to fuck my father. There are words for that and it isn't nice. I may have issues—and who doesn't?—but they do not involve Gibbs's…parts." He winces. "Now will you let it go? I'm not being held responsible if Ziva kicks this door down looking for us."

Tim nods, unable to prevent the triumphant grin spreading across his face. "Go," he says. "I'll catch up."

"I thought that was my job," says Tony, letting his fingertips trail down the outline of Tim's nascent erection.

"Not helping," says Tim and shoos Tony away.

Alone, Tim turns to the mirror and stares at himself trying to figure out what Tony sees to make him think he is hot. Objectively he knows the shape of his long, lean body is pretty pleasing to the eye and his jawline may not be exactly chiseled, but it's rocking some good angles. Subjectively it's a whole other thing. Tim has always been the geeky one, the chubby one, and he's been pathetically grateful for every scrap of sexual or romantic interest anyone has shown in him, sometimes with seriously dangerous results. He's worked hard on restructuring himself, getting himself mentally and physically healthy so that he's happy with who Timothy McGee is, geeky parts included, whatever weight he's at these days.

It's not been easy work, and it's still in progress. Probably always will be, Tim's fairly sure. There's still a mental disconnect, an imbalance that won't quite disappear, no matter how hard he tries. Tony's body and his words are showing Tim that, yes, he's wanted, desired, but the scared kid at the back of Tim's brain can't help but feel that maybe it's all just a big joke at his expense. That out there Abby, Ziva and Tony are laughing at how gullible he is and planning how long Tony can stretch this whole thing out without actually having to get Tim into bed. Tim closes his eyes and shakes his head. He can still feel the imprint of Tony across his palm and he curls his fingers in, pressing his fingertips hard into the heel of his hand, chasing the scared kid away with a graphic image of exactly what he'll do the next time he has the pleasure of introducing his fingers to Tony's dick.

Taking a deep breath and pressing his hand against his settling stomach, Tim makes a decision. He's going to go out there, finish his drink and go home. If Tony wants to follow, then awesome. If he doesn't, then Tim's at least got some new fantasy material to work with while he waits. He hitches up his pants with a shake of his hips, smoothes his shirt and, with a brief salute to his hopeful reflection, opens the door.

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