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Life Preserver

by: BuffyAngel68 (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 004 Word Count: 9571
Rating: MATURE
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo, Abby Sciuto, Timothy McGee
Category(ies): Hurt/Comfort, Episode Related, Angst/Drama, Pre-Slash
Pairing(s): Tony/McGee
Episode(s): 1-00 Pilot
Summary: Immediately following the events of "Probie" Tim is floundering and he won't let Abby help. When his alternate method of finding solace leaves him in an even deeper hole, however, someone offers rescue, but his white knight turns out to be the last person he expected...

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

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"You ready to go?"

"I'm a lot better, so... yeah, I guess. Do I get to know where we're headed?"

"The Outer Banks. My family has a place on the beach, but nobody's there right now. Won't be for months. We'll have it all to ourselves."

"Sounds okay." Tim replied vaguely, not looking up, even though he'd finished re-tying the shoes Tony had slipped off him the night before.

"It won't be torture, Timmy, I swear. We'll have a good time. Fun just isn't the real point of going, that's all."

"I've gotten it out of my system, Tony. I don't need to sit around listening to shells, hoping to hear my inner child instead of the ocean..."

"You only think you're done with it. Here, take your jacket."


"Out. C'mon, march."

Tim sighed heavily, rolled his eyes and snatched the coat. As his younger colleague preceded him out the door, Tony snickered quietly, picked up Tim's overnight bag and strolled out to wait for the elevator. "It'll be okay." he said quietly. "You need this a lot more than you know."

Tim glanced over at him curiously and spoke with caution.

"You've been through this before?"

"We'll talk when we get there."

Tim nodded, but declined to push the issue, sensing he'd get an answer and the story when Tony felt the time was right. The ride down to ground level was short and both men were soon in the car. As Tony pulled out into traffic, Tim looked at the back seat and realized that a second small duffel sat beside his own.

"So that's what took you so long."

"I wanted to get on the road as soon as possible. As it is, we'll be getting in after dark."

"How far is it?"

"About five hours, maybe a little longer. I plan on taking it easy."

"Thank God cars don't affect me like boats. Why'd you pick the beach, anyway? It's almost December. It'll be way too cold."

"I didn't say we were going swimming, did I?"

"You said we'd be getting sun."

"Doesn't make much difference whether you're in a jacket and pants or a Speedo. Sun's warm, it feels good."

"But what's the point of being out on a beach if you can't do beach stuff?"

"Fine, I'll hunt up a salon, personally shove you in a tanning bed and we'll both stay 'till you look like a Hershey's bar! What's with the attitude all of a sudden, McGee? I thought you were okay with this."

"I am... I was. I just don't know why you're doing it, that's all. You and I... we've never really been friends, Tony. Most of the time you act like you can just about tolerate me."

Tony blanched and his hands tightened on the steering wheel.

"Yeah, well... I don't mean to. I never had an easy time relating to people... trusting their motives. When I say stupid, cruel things, it's a defense. I assume everybody wants to smack me down... so I throw out a pre-emptive strike to make sure they stay at a distance."

"If nobody gets close, you can't get hurt."

"Pretty much."

"It doesn't always work."

"No... no, it doesn't."

"Like with Abby. You think you're safe and then you look up... and she's right there, in your face, staring you down with those eyes. Before you really even know what's what, you find yourself spilling every single thing that ever broke your heart or made you mad..."

"Only because you know confidences are sacred to her. It'll never go any further unless she thinks you'll be in danger if she doesn't tell."

"That's why she called you."

"Probably. You don't get drunk... not like that, anyway. She knew you wouldn't be able to think or defend yourself if anything happened. Damn it, every day you see how nasty and amoral people can be. Making yourself so vulnerable when you didn't have somebody there you trusted to watch your six..."

"... stupid, I know. You don't have to keep rubbing it in."

"The decision was dumb, not you. You're going through a process. Can't change how it happens... all you can do is ride it out and get back up when it's done with you."

"It's gonna hurt."

"Oh yeah. But you aren't doing it alone, remember that. I've walked the road already. I know how to bring you out the other side whole and ready to dive back into the battle. If you trust me."

"Hey, I'm alive and past wanting to hurl every five minutes. I've got no reason *not* to."

"Okay, then. Lean back, take a nap if you feel it coming on. I'll wake you when we get there."


7:00 P.M.

Pausing as he pulled into the driveway, Tony gazed over at Tim, who was solidly asleep and had been since they'd grabbed a late lunch on the run two hours earlier. Grinning lightly, he eased off the brake and slowly finished the uphill journey to the house.

"Timmy. Timmy, c'mon, wake up buddy. We're here."

"Hmmmnn? Oh... I fell asleep?"

"Correction, you were dead to the world. After the last couple days, though, I can't say I blame you."

"No... I guess not."

"Can you get the bags while I get the car put away?"

"Yeah... sure."

"Great. Just wait by the front door, for me, okay? I'll be there in a minute with the keys."

Tony waited, headlights showing the way, until Tim had found the front entrance to the house. Once he was sure the younger man was safely up the short flight of steps, Tony slid the car into the attached garage, exited, locked the vehicle, closed the large door and hurried to where Tim waited.

"Man... the minute the sun is down this time of year, the outdoors turns into a meat locker... there. C'mon in. I called ahead to get it set up for us, so it shouldn't be too icy in here."

"No... not too bad. A little chilly." Tim commented vaguely as Tony relieved him of the luggage, shut the door decisively and flipped a switch to light the foyer.

"Be better once I start a fire. Hang out here for a second while I get more lamps on..."

Inside of an hour, and with Tim's help, both men were warm and relatively happy in front of a blazing fire, their hands wrapped around mugs of sweet, warm tea. McGee had been silent through every moment of the shared work, but Tony was fully aware that the younger man's mind was overflowing with thoughts and questions he was reluctant to voice, so he began the process himself.

"Yeah... I've been here, McGee... right where you are now. I didn't have anyone to pull me back from the edge of the cliff, though. That's how I ended up where Gibbs found me."


"Baltimore. Home of the best crab cakes I've ever had and the funkiest bakery the universe will ever know."

Tim gasped in surprise.

"You do *not* watch Food Network."

"I do, actually," Tony chuckled, sipping at his tea. "but I said it because I've been there. Got to be good buddies with a couple of the decorators, too."

"You did *not*!" Tim insisted.

"Enough with 'Disbelief Theater' and later on the fun stories, okay? That's not what we drove five hours for."

"More like 'Denial Theater'. I guess I'm trying not to do this."

"Understandable... and we don't have to get too deep in tonight. I just figured since you weren't talking, I'd give you a little jump start."

Tim frowned lightly and sipped at his mug for a few minutes before he found the courage to speak again.

"How... how did you make it... if nobody was there to guide you?"

"Truth? I don't really know. I remember waking up one afternoon, in a lot worse shape than you were by the way... and realizing I couldn't stay like that. 'Course, by that time they'd fired me..."

"They had no right. You were going through something horrible."

"Yeah, but I could've reached out and gotten help. The department had people I could've leaned on. That wasn't my style back then. I didn't think I needed anybody else, even if... anyway, I did just like you did. I got cozy in a bottle and stayed until I absolutely had to come up for air. I also learned the same lesson."

"It's not the answer."

"No... no it definitely isn't." Tony affirmed, draining his mug. "You ready for bed?"

"In a minute. I'm... warm, kind of at peace. When I go to sleep..."

"I know. It's fine. We can stay as long as you want."

"Can I ask an unrelated question?"


"Why tea?"

"Why not?"

"I always thought... I mean..."

"Oh, the Gibbs worship thing. Mostly... I'm over it. Have been for a while. It's good for his ego to think I'm not, though."

"*His* ego? He's the last person on the planet who needs that particular boost."

"Boy... the things you *think* you know are getting really close to overtaking all the real facts stuffed in your brain, Timmy." Tony countered, rising and stirring the fire a bit.


"Tomorrow. I'm gonna go make us a snack. You hungry?"


"Your wish, yadda yadda. Be right back."

As Tony left, he looked back for a moment and felt his pulse quicken. The glow of the flames had worked significant changes in Tim's somber profile, creating an impression of hollows and shadows Tony knew weren't actually there. At least he hoped they weren't. He knew all too well how deeply the trauma they'd both endured could change a person. Shaking off the sense that he too was being dragged down into emotional darkness, Tony turned away and moved into the kitchen, determined that he would talk McGee into a movie, even if the point was only to push the young man into sleep.


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