Oh, The Places You'll Go

Wrong Move, Right Time

Notes: This may well be the post-ep fic that you are looking for, in that it's post-ep and also fic. Other than that, ymmv. Post-703 (The Inside Man), enthusiastic thumbs up from soupytwist but it's highly possible she was drunk at the time so do with that what you will.


"And then she asked if I was in a committed relationship." Tim hands off the wet dish to Tony who fumbles it and does his best juggling hot coals impression as he regains control.

"She asked what?"

"If I was in a committed relationship," repeats Tim, paying what could be called a significant amount of attention to the fork he's cleaning.

"Seriously? She asked that? Red light, Timmy, red light! Did you say you were going to sue her shady ass for harassment?" Tony's rubbing so vigorously at the dish he's going to rub the pattern right off. And it's engraved.

"Nope."

"What did you say?" Tony's voice is soft and curious but there's an edge to it that Tim can't quite define.

He dips the fork back in the suds and scrubs again. It's very important to do this right, or next time there'll be all gross, crusty stuff on the tines and that's the way food poisoning is spread. Tim isn't a fan of violent stomach cramps, not for any reason. "I, uh, I said 'no'."

"Oh," says Tony. And, "Oops, silly me! Sorry," as the dish shatters on the floor, shards skittering across the linoleum.

It's weird, but Tim feels like it should be him apologizing. "Don't move," he tells Tony. "I'll go get some newspaper to wrap up the pieces."

He thinks he hears Tony mutter, "It's gonna take more than paper," but that makes no sense so he ignores it.

They get the mess cleaned up without further injury to plates or person and five minutes later they're done. Tim sets the tea kettle on the hob to boil and follows Tony into the living room.

He's slumped in the armchair, legs slung over the arm, Jethro curled up in front of him. One hand is dangling down, fingertips curling into Jethro's fur, and the other rests along the back of the chair, remote pointing like a gun at the TV. Tony fires off rounds, stabbing the channel up button over and over.

Tim settles on the couch and picks up his book from the coffee table. He watches the images flickering on the TV for a minute, each one barely bursting into noisy life before it's gone again. "You want to settle on something, Tony? You're gonna break the remote."

"I don't know," Tony replies. "It's a difficult decision, McGee. Shall I watch a crappy reality show about who can grow the longest armpit hair or another rerun of Murder She Wrote. I just. Can't. Commit." How Tony manages to hiss out the last two words when there isn't an 's' in sight, Tim has no idea, but somehow he manages it.

He sets the book down unopened and asks with genuine curiosity, "What'd I do?"

Tony gives him a look--the one that with the curled lip and hard eyes that says, 'I thought you were supposed to be the smart one,"--but his mouth doesn't move.

"Tony, c'mon, man, it's been a long day. I don't want to play Twenty Questions, I had enough of that from Agent Grady."

"Didn't you, though?"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

The worn leather creaks as Tony shifts in his armchair, pulling his knees in to his chest and wrapping his arms around them. Jethro looks up and whines, disgruntled at the loss of attention.

"Why'd'you say no when she asked?"

"I- What?"

"She asked if you were in a committed relationship and you said no," Tony says through gritted teeth. "Why'd'you do that?""

Tim's stomach swirls and he could really use some peppermint tea right now. Escape to the kitchen would probably not go down well, however.

"I, ah, don't ask don't tell?"

"Nice try, McCoward. Only, a, you're not in the military and, two, she didn't ask with whom you were engaged in a committed relationship, she merely wished illegally to assess the probability of you being in one."

There are many things Tim is scared of--most of them are Gibbs--but Tony in grammatically precise mood has to be near top of the list. It usually means he's focused, clear-headed and very, very pissed.

Tim swallows hard. He hasn't done anything to be ashamed of, so why does Tony get to try to claim the moral high ground here?

"I don't think-" he starts, but Tony interrupts.

"No. No, you obviously don't think." He flaps his fingers and knocks his forehead off his knees. "Except for how you do," he says into his legs. "That's all you ever do. Tick, tick, tick--that brain of yours is always going, there's no off switch, I've looked." He drags his head up, then, and looks at Tim. His eyes are bleary and he's open and hurt and Tim doesn't get this at all.

"Which only means one thing. As far as you're concerned we're just casual dating and-" he tips back his head and laughs maniacally, -"how come I'm the one that has to say this? Did I grow breasts when I wasn't looking? Must be all the hormones they're pumping into the cows these days. Why don't you want to be with me, McGee?" He emphasizes the rhyme as if to minimize the plaintive tone of the question.

Tim is appalled. "I do!" he blurts out. "Of course I do. I don't know why you'd think- It's not me, it's you."

Tony does a double take and sneers. "The breakup speech usually goes the other way around, Timothy."

"I'm not- Tony!"

The kettle whistle pierces the air with a high-pitched scream. Jethro barks, same as usual, and Tony shushes him, same as usual. Tim says, "I'll go, shall I?" on automatic pilot, but everything isn't the same and it feels like the ground rocks under his feet as he makes his way to the kitchen to switch off the hob. He stares at the kettle, wondering what to do next and decides to go ahead, fixing the drinks will give him something to focus on. He organizes the mugs and pours in the water, surprised at the steadiness of his own hand. The weird, but familiar, scent of his peppermint tea mingled with Tony's hot chocolate rises into the air. It smells like home.

When he carries the mugs back into the living room, Tony is on his feet, pacing the room. Jethro is still on the floor, tracking his movements, head bouncing back and forth like he's at a tennis match. Tim sets the drinks down on the coffee table, fidgeting with the coasters until everything is all neatened up.

"Spit it out," says Tony, whirling about on his heel to face him. "What did I do this time? Because clearly this is all my fault." Tony's eyes glitter dangerously. "It's not like I can ask you to marry me, McGee, there are laws--federal, state and Gibbs'."

"You- I- Crap." Tim feels like he should stay standing, be at eye-level for this conversation that he's been avoiding since they got back from the Sahara, but his legs don't appear to want to hold him up and he drops onto the couch. "Ziva," he says as if that explains everything, and when Tony does nothing more than stare at him adds, "I've seen how you look at each other, like there's no one else in the room. I heard what you said to her in the compound, that you couldn't live without her. I...If you want her. If you lo-" and the words stick in his throat. "I can't compete with that. And if you want her now she's back then that's kind of not the dictionary definition of committed, no matter what I want."

Tony's face softens. "For a smart guy, you're kind of an idiot," he says.

There's a flutter down low in Tim's stomach. A flutter like a newly hatched butterfly, full of hope and ready for flight. He barely dare believe it's there.

"I don't get it," he says.

"No," says Tony. "You really don't. Oh my god, you're a dumbass. Where are we?"

"In your house."

"Correct. Ten points to you. And when did I buy this house?"

"Four months ago."

"And that's another ten points. When did I start looking?"

Tim's bottom lip slides forward, slick against his upper lip as he thinks. "A month before that. After the whole thing with the SecNav and ICE."

"Ten more points to you, Probie. And a bonus five if you can be more specific."

Tim frowns, confused, but Tony's bouncing on his heels, his eyes wide with encouragement so Tim thinks hard. "Oh!" he says. "After we had the look-but-don't-touch conversation about the ICE princess."

Tony nods. "Correct. That takes you through to the second round, Tim McGee, where you'll have the chance to win your very own Cuisinart food processor, or retain the possibility of sex sometime again in your sorry existence. Now tell me, what were the three key points I was looking for in this house?"

"Easy," Tim grins. "Seeing as how I had to go with you to every viewing." He ticks off the items on his fingers. "Proximity to a dog park for Jethro, good links to work and room for a study."

Tony claps his hands together once, the sharp sound ringing in Tim's ears. "And for your final test, what do two of those three things have in common? Remember, you can have one clue, any more and you forfeit your right to perfectly chopped onions or any of my body parts coming into close, non-professional proximity with yours."

And Tim doesn't know if he's that excited about perfectly chopped onions or just really, really worried that Tony's fixation with touching won't be used to his advantage any more, but it only takes ten seconds of screwing up his eyes and jiggling his legs before he's got it.

His eyes fly open and he gasps out an "Oh!", getting to his feet and taking a step towards Tony.

"Nu-uh," Tony shakes his head, his hands held up to ward Tim off. "Talk to me."

"Jethro's not your dog, he's mine. No. Wait. He's ours. Jethro is our dog." Right on cue, Jethro barks and Tim feels a rush of love that can't only be put down to the big ball of fur sprawling on the floor. He has an urge to grab hold of the dog and give him the biggest belly rub of his life, but he isn't finished yet. "And the only things in the study belong to me. You can't work unless the TV is on and your feet are up on the coffee table. I have no idea how you- Wow."

"Food processor," prompts Tony.

"You bought this place for us. For the three of us."

Tony pumps his arms in the air then cups his hands around his mouth, making a noise like the sound of a thousand fans cheering through radio static. "And the crowd goes wild! Timothy McGee, registered genius, terrible swordsman, spectacularly boyfriended, wins the top prize. It's never been done be-"

Only he has to shut up then because Tim's kissing him, reveling in the hard press of Tony's body against his. He wraps his arms around Tony's back and hugs tight, burying his face in Tony's neck. There's a tight band around his own chest that isn't only caused by the fact he's had his breath knocked out of him with discovery. Tony's hugging him back and muttering something into his hair that he can't quite hear, mostly because Jethro doesn't do well with public displays of affection and is at once barking and trying to get his nose in between the two of them to join in the game of happy families.

Tim lifts his head and tilts it back. Tony's a little too close to be in focus, but it'll do. "You totally love me," he says, and his smile could power a 100-watt bulb, minimum.

Tony slides a hand down and grabs Tim's ass. "I totally do," he agrees, cheerfully. "There's probably antibiotics for that."

"About that prize?"

"Sure thing, Timbo. Wanna collect now?"

Tim nods.

"One Cuisinart food processor coming up," says Tony, letting go of Tim and sidestepping away.

"Tony!" Tim makes a grab for him, but Tony dodges and runs past him, taking the stairs two at a time. Tim's close on his heels, and Jethro's left alone to stare at the ripples on the surface of the cooling tea and hot chocolate until they disappear.

Tim can't leave it alone, though, and later, when Tony's curled up against him, forehead resting on Tim's shoulder, shin pressing against the length of Tim's thigh, one hand grazing Tim's side and the other kept in place by the elastic of Tim's boxers, he says, "So, Ziva."

Tim feels, rather than hears, the sigh. "I know it's me," he adds hastily. "I know you chose to be with me. But cut me a break here, Tony. There was truth serum. I heard what I heard."

Tony slips his hand out from under Tim's waistband and slides it up his torso, coming to rest over his heart. "I do love her," he says. "But not like I love you. She's my annoying little sister and she drives me crazy at least half the time, but if she died I wouldn't know what to do. I didn't know what to do. That's why I said what I said. It would have been the same if it had been Abby. Only there'd probably be less desert rescue because there's no way Abby's going into the Sahara with that skin tone. Also, she's not a freaky Mossad assassin."

"Okay," says Tim, and it's the first time he can remember that he doesn't have a 'Yes, but-' or a follow up question. It's peaceful.

"Okay?"

"Yeah, okay." And it is. It really is.

"So, Agent Inappropriate," says Tony, drumming his fingers lightly on Tim's ribcage. "What happened to her?"

Tim grins in the dark. "Apparently she was flirting."

"Go on." Tony gives Tim's chest a smack. Tim presumes it's in substitution for a headslap.

"Honestly, I didn't know," Tim says, running his hand up Tony's forearm and holding on. "Gibbs had to practically tell me in words of one syllable. He even offered to draw diagrams."

"He did not." Tony's head jerks up and in the dim light Tim can see his eyes glittering with amusement.

"Did too."

"What did you do?"

"I went to find her and I told her that I was seeing someone and though it might not be by definition committed, it was important to me and I wasn't in the market for anyone else."

"You said that? Even though you thought we-?"

Tim shrugs. "Got two kidneys but only one heart," he says. "It's not like I can give it to more than one person at once."

Tony doesn't say anything for a second and Tim wonders if he's thinking about Jeanne.

"And then you told her you were reporting her for inappropriate workplace behavior and she was dismissed from her position never to darken the Navy Yard again."

Tim tugs at Tony's arm hair. "And then I wished her well and told her I was sure she'd meet someone soon."

"I like my version better," says Tony. "And leave my hair alone, McFidget."

"Okay," says Tim, smoothing down the hair. "We'll go with your version. What happened to her after she got fired?"

"Funny you should ask that," says Tony, settling in even closer, resting his head in the hollow of Tim's shoulder and throwing a leg across Tim's. "It's quite the tragic tale..."

Tim closes his eyes and drifts off to the sound of Tony's voice, his thoughts loosening and scattering until they're simple wisps of cotton consciousness. He's going to miss the ending, but it doesn't matter, he can ask Tony to fill him in tomorrow. They've got time.


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