Oh, The Places You'll Go

Varying the Parameters

Notes: Just a little eptag for 712, so obviously spoilers for that. Keeping the Tim/Tony flag flying high! Readthrough by soupytwist, for which many thanks.


Tim's half asleep when the key grinds in the lock. He puts WD40 on his mental to-buy list and listens to the familiar sounds of Tony stumbling around trying to take his shoes off in the dark. Doesn't matter how many times Tim tells him it's okay to wake him up, and that he values the preservation of his vinyl from Tony's hopping staggers far more than he values an unbroken night of sleep, Tony's got this weird idea of chivalry and he's going to live by it if it kills them both. Sometimes Tim thinks it will.

He wonders if he should fake being asleep. It's not that he wants to, it's just that Tony's been in a strange place with his dad and all. It's enough for Tim that Tony's chosen to come over tonight; he doesn't want to make him feel he has to talk, too. He realizes the faint drumming he's been listening to is the faucet in the kitchen. It shuts off.

The bedroom door creaks open (WDfreaking40) and soft curses are added to soft footfalls as Tony pads over to the bed.

"I know you're awake, McObvious," he says as he lifts the covers, the inrush of cool air sending goosebumps in waves down Tim's body. "You don't breathe that heavy when you're asleep. You sound like bad porn."

"You like bad porn," argues Tim, shifting so that Tony can more easily settle against him. "Jesus fuck, that's cold!" he exclaims as Tony lays a hand on his chest.

"Sorry." Tony rubs his palm vigorously over Tim's skin.

"Not helping," says Tim and stills Tony's hand with his own.

"Nose is cold, too," says Tony, proving it by pushing the offending extremity into Tim's neck.

"Are you done?"

"Feet?" Tony at least has the decency to sound guilty.

"Get it over with," says Tim with the biggest fake sigh he can muster. And then gives the biggest real gasp ever as Tony's marble-cold feet wiggle their way between Tim's legs. "Real nice, Tony," he drawls, but his sarcastic tone is belied by the way he curls his hand around Tony's ear, rubbing it mindlessly with his thumb.

They lie still, unspeaking, for a little while, Tim's warmth leaching from him into Tony's cold skin. After a few minutes, Tony starts to fidget, as if Tim's heat has brought him back to life. Tim knows this Tony, though. He's got something to say but no way to say it, so as much as Tim doesn't want to say the wrong thing someone's got to make a start or it's going to be a very long night.

"I thought you might stay over at Gibbs' house," he says. It seems a pretty innocuous beginning.

Tony shoves his face tighter against Tim's neck. "He said he loved me," he says, and then, "Ow!" as Tim nearly takes his ear off when he flinches.

"Who? Gibbs?!"

Tony raises his head and stares down at Tim and Tim doesn't need to see him clearly to know he has the are-you-for-real? expression plastered to his face.

"Gibbs cooked me steak over his fire. We spoke as men do."

"So no need to say it, then?"

Tony huffs a laugh and shakes his head. "Why now, Tim? I'm thirty...mumble mumble something and I can't remember if he's ever told me that before. I should remember, right? I should have known."

Tim's hand tightens over Tony's. "Didn't you?"

"No. Yes. I don't know." Tony crashes his forehead off Tim's ribs. "It's complicated."

"Yeah," agrees Tim, thinking of the different versions of his own father, the vast gaps of things-we-do-not-talk-about-not-ever-if-you-know-what's-good-for-you-son, Sarah sitting white-faced on the floor in his bathroom, plastic stick gripped tightly in one hand. "Families are complicated. It kind of goes with the territory." He threads his fingers through Tony's hair, massaging gently. "But we're stuck with them so we do the best we can with what we've got. You did the best you could by not telling him you knew about the money and he did the same by telling you he loved you."

Tony jerks away from Tim, sitting up and drawing his knees up to his chest. "No," he says. "That's the problem. He lied to me, Tim. All my life maybe, I don't know. Great big honking fat lies covered in lie sauce. What if the...what if the other thing is a lie, too? I learned to live with disappointing him, you know? I love this job. I'm good at this job. Screw him if he can't see that. But. Crap. I'm not my job, I’m me, Anthony DiNozzo Junior, and it's his job to...warts and all. Fuck. I didn't know if I believed him. What does that even mean?"

Tim scrambles up, wrapping an arm around Tony's shoulder. Tony tilts slowly to the side, head meeting Tim's with a soft bump. "It means that he's an asshole." He turns his head and presses a kiss against Tony's temple. It doesn't seem nearly enough, somehow. "It means that he was a shitty parent. But you know what? I can pretty much guarantee that he was telling the truth."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

"What makes you so sure?"

"Okay," says Tim with a shake of Tony's shoulders, "I am denying saying this if you ever think of using it against me, but there's a lot about you to love, Anthony DiNozzo Junior. Fact is, it's pretty impossible not to love you. I tried."

"You tried?" Tony gives Tim a half-hearted shove.

"Didn't work out for me. You're hard to get rid of."

"Like old love letters?"

"More like syphilis."

Tony's shoulders shake under Tim's as he laughs and something inside Tim eases.

"You know, in the end, it's down to you," says Tim. "You choose to believe him or you don't. You choose to make it as simple or as hard as you like. And I know you, Tony, you like the easy life. So pick." And, okay, so that's never even going to pass Psych 101, let alone the complicated mess that lies at the center of Tony DiNozzo, but it'll do for now.

"Wow. Carl Jung, eat your heart out," says Tony, but he unwraps his arms from around his legs and pats at Tim's hand.

"Think you can sleep now?" asks Tim, ever hopeful.

"One more thing." Tony keeps hold of Tim's hand as he twists around to face him. "I'm sorry. About what happened at the hotel with Sayif and the women. I'm sorry. I didn't- I could've- She wanted to and she may have gotten the wrong idea about the handcuffs but...I nearly did. I didn't but I could have and I'm so sorry, Tim. Don't hate me."

Tim can't think what to say, swollen and stupid with love as he is, so he tugs Tony in and kisses him. He kisses what-do-you-mean-don't-hate-me? into the corners of Tony's mouth and there's-nothing-to-forgive along Tony's jaw line. He kisses you're-such-an-idiot-and-I-can't-believe-I-fell-for-you-on Tony's eyelids, he kisses I-trust-you-don't-you-get-it?-I-trust-you in the salty hollow of Tony's throat and he kisses I-love-you-more-than-you-can-possibly-know against Tony's lips.

"Get it?" he asks, drawing away.

"I'm thinking we're pretty high up on the whole not-hating-ometer."

"Your thinking is good thinking."

"My thinking is thinking if we go to sleep now we can wake up early, have sleepy morning sex and still have time to stop by the IHOP before work."

"Your thinking is great thinking."

They settle down into their by now familiar positions. Tim is used to the sprawl of Tony's various limbs over him, the heavy press and scratchiness of Tony's torso against his side. It weighs him down, anchors him, counterpoint against the soft thrum of happiness that constantly works through him on nights like these, making him weightless, lifting him up. And if it's still strange that it's Tony that provides both sides of this equilibrium he's found, Tim's learned not to question it.

"Tim," says Tony, just as Tim drifts along the edge of sleep, his breath a warm, swift exhale across Tim's chest.

"Mmm?"

"If he'd said it more I'd've believed him. I need you to know."

"I know," says Tim, fumbling his sleep-clumsy hand over Tony's wrist.

"I know you know, McSolo, shut up and listen. I love you, Tim. Today and tomorrow and until Gibbs slaps me into an aneurysm or I get hit by a bus or have a freak walker accident in the retirement home. Okay?"

"Okay."

"Tell you again tomorrow. Sleep now. G'night."

"Night, Tony."

Tim doesn't sleep straight away, though. He thinks about how loving someone means fear and letting go of control, but turned upside down, a negative become positive, and how some people get it twisted up and wrong and love turns dull in their hands instead of being polished to a brilliant shine. He thinks about being loved and how it doesn't confer power but responsibility because love is faith and is as strong as steel yet fragile as spun glass. He thinks about the future that Tony's admitted for the first time that they have together and the different shapes that it might take. He thinks about what it means to be a parent and how Gibbs can convey with a simple look what DiNozzo Senior can't even manage with blunt words. He wonders what it would be like to be a father, if his and Tony's less than stellar experiences with their own would make them better or worse parents. He's pretty sure Tony would be awesome, maybe they should try it some day.

Sleep drags at the edges of Tim's consciousness, pulling him down and he tightens his grip around Tony's wrist as if to reassure himself that Tony is safe under his hand.

"'ve got you," he mumbles. "Got your six and all the other numbers."

Tony's wriggles closer, fingers flexing on Tim's chest. Tim's lips stretch in a slow, tired smile and he listens to the sound of soft breathing from Tony and Jethro both. Family. It's what you make it. Tim adds a photo album to his mental to-buy list and finally, quietly falls asleep.


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