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Remember the Follow-Through
by: tigerlady (Send Feedback)
Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 3488
Character(s): Tony DiNozzo, Timothy McGee
Category(ies): First Time
Summary: Tim thinks he might regret pestering Tony into giving him undercover lessons. AKA, the 'guys play pool' story.
Tim stared at the squat brick-fronted building, taking in the neon beer lights shining from the tiny windows and the small painted sign hanging above the door. Tony shifted in the driver's seat, the leather squeaking and sighing with his every move, but he didn't say anything.
"A bar, Tony?" Tim tore his eyes away from the sight of the iron-barred door. The ping of the engine cooling in the night air seemed too loud, too demanding. Kind of like Tony himself.
Tony clapped him on the shoulder. "The first rule of undercover work is to be comfortable wherever you wind up."
"It's a bar."
Tony grinned. "Yeah? So?"
Tim sighed. "Tony, I'm not an innocent. I've been to plenty of bars. I think we can skip this lesson, okay?"
Tony arched his eyebrows, then ran his eyes up and down Tim in a way that wasn't exactly comfortable. They'd fought over his wardrobe like they always did, but Tony had gotten his way in the end. Tim was fine with the henley, but he'd meant to throw out the ratty jeans after Abby's Habitat gig.
"McGee. You're the one who's been bugging me to do this. Either you want to learn about going undercover, or you don't. Up to you."
Tim sighed and opened the door. "Fine. Whatever you say, DiNozzo."
Tony slid out and grinned at Tim across the roof of the car. "That's the spirit!"
The inside of the bar wasn't quite as scary as Tim had been imagining. Dimly lit, smelling of beer and stale smoke, it definitely wasn't the classiest place he'd ever been in. Thankfully, the smoke wasn't strong enough to create a haze, and the patrons gathered at the round tables in the middle of the room seemed normal enough, talking quietly, occasionally laughing about something.
Tony gave him a soft shove, hand low on Tim's back. Tim threaded his way through the tables, trying to figure out if it was more natural to avoid the other customers' gazes or to meet them. He'd feel a lot better if he knew exactly what part he was supposed to be playing. Of course, things were never that easy with Tony.
Tim got a glimpse of himself in the mirror behind the bartender, obscured by bottles as it was. He looked pale and nervous. Exactly opposite of the cool, collected undercover agent he was supposed to be.
Maybe Tony wasn't completely full of shit, after all.
"Two Sam Adams," Tony hissed in his ear.
By the time Tim turned, Tony was already gone, slinking over to the side room where two pool tables beckoned under bright fluorescent lights. Taking a deep breath, he ordered and paid for the beers–frowning as he realized DiNozzo had managed to sponge off of him yet again. The bartender winked at Tim like he could read Tim's thoughts. Tim sighed and grabbed the bottles.
"Hey, there he is," Tony called. He grabbed one of the beers and looped his other arm around Tim's neck. "Pat, Charlie, this is Tim."
"Nice to meet you," Charlie said. He was short and stocky, wearing a button-up shirt that could have been twin to Tony's. Tony looked a lot better in it, though. The taller guy, Pat, smiled and nodded but didn't say anything.
"You, too," Tim said, glancing over at Tony for his cue.
Which turned out to be a literal cue. Tim barely avoided getting chalked across the lip as Tony thrust the wooden stick into his hand.
"Pat and Charlie were looking for some fresh blood," Tony explained with a smile that was too wide and excited for Tim's comfort level. "Your break."
"Great," Tim muttered, then forced a smile when Pat cocked an eyebrow at him.
Tony moved over to the small table tucked against the wall. He knocked back his beer, throat working in smooth swallows, sighing when he finally lifted it away from his wet lips.
"I thought we weren't supposed to drink on duty," Tim whispered as he scooped up the cube of chalk. Always act natural, he reminded himself.
"We're not on duty, Tim
," Tony hissed through his smile. "But feel free to go dry if you want to. Wouldn't want you to mess up your shot."
"It's just--" Tony gave him the stare. Tim sighed. "Never mind."
"Your break," Tony repeated, and Tim turned back to the table.
Tony started up a conversation with the other guys, all fake smiles and charm that always took people in somehow. Tim ignored it as he chalked his cue, shaking his arm when blue flakes sprinkled towards his sleeve. He grabbed the scuffed cue ball and settled it slightly left of center.
Bending low, Tim stroked the cue over his knuckles. Trying to get it to slide smoothly, trying to awaken some muscle memory. Finally, he took a deep breath and let it fly.
Balls smacked and cracked. Tim straightened slowly, watching with squint-eyed trepidation as the cue ball skimmed the right corner pocket and finally came to rest against the side rail. The three jittering into the side pocket was almost extraneous relief. He really hated scratching on the break.
Warm hands landed on his shoulders. "Way to go, Tim!"
"Uh, thanks. Tony." He didn't think he'd ever get used to Tony using his first name. Or Tony's handsy-ness. Circling the table, Tim tried to concentrate on the possibilities on the table instead of getting caught up by Tony's charm. Stripes looked good, but he'd already scored a solid. He had a couple possibilities on the solids, but they were both tricky shots, and Tim didn't think he was up to the task.
He glanced back at Tony, who was back to chatting with Pat and Charlie. Tony flashed him a grin and a thumbs up.
Tim went for the six anyway. It was sitting on a tight angle at the corner, but he managed to kiss it perfectly with the cue ball. The six sank like a hot knife in butter.
And left him without a shot.
He didn't look at Tony this time, not wanting anything to interfere with his confidence. But the combo was too complicated, and the one barely moved when the five tapped it. He sighed and went to join Tony while Pat took the table.
"Great start," Tony said.
Tim was too busy sucking down his beer, bitter as it was, to question that. Tony was being especially nice tonight, and Tim had to keep reminding himself that it was part of the cover.
"Pat's going to even you up right here," Charlie said with a grin.
Tim looked over in time to see the nine and fourteen thunk into pockets within seconds of each other.
"Nice," Tony said. "You boys on the circuit or something?'
Charlie shook his head. "Nah. Just hang out here a lot. You know how it is."
"Right." Tony grabbed Tim's beer and took a swig.
Tim snatched it back. "Hey! You've got your own."
Charlie laughed. They all turned back to watch Pat line up on his next shot, and watched quietly while he sank the eleven, and shortly after that, the twelve.
He scratched on the thirteen.
"Oh, too bad," Tony gloated. "Time for a little DiNozzo magic."
The problem with Tony--the reason Tim fell for Tony's shit time and time again--was that he acted exactly the same whether he was full of crap or not. Half the time Tony showed off it was just macho swagger, and the other half of the time it barely revealed the tip of the iceberg of Tony's talents. Now, as Tony stalked around the table, all Italian swagger in tight jeans, Tim would have sworn he was all style and no substance.
So of course he was wrong.
The one was a blur of yellow as it zinged across the table and sank with a solid clunk.
"Oh, yeah," Tony crowed. He glided back to the near side of the table and planted his feet like he was ready for a pat-down. Stretched over the table, his shoulders bunched under brushed cotton as his elbow swung back in a smooth arc.
Tim missed seeing the shot, but he heard the ball go in. Tony straightened gracefully, then turned to face Tim and the other guys. He blew on the tip of his cue stick like it was a smoking gun. Tim rolled his eyes. Tony just grinned more widely.
Tony took his time circling the table before his next shot. Tim understood why when he finally lined up on the combo. Sinking the two wouldn't be that hard, but knowing Tony, he had eyes on the seven as well. Tim watched him slowly slide the cue between the loop of his finger, all coiled control. Just when Tim thought he was going to take the shot, Tony looked up at him and winked.
he took the shot. The seven spun into the pocket behind the two in like it was yanked by a string. Tony didn't look up before he took a step to the left, bent down, and sank the five fast and hard.
"Now that is how you do it." Tony grinned and pointed across the table with his cue. "Eight ball in the side pocket."
Tim's eyebrows shot up. Sure, the eight was perfectly positioned for the far side pocket, but there was a line of striped balls in between it and the cue ball. Tony couldn't possibly think...no, apparently he did. Tony slid his left butt cheek onto the side rail, then held the stick straight, almost vertical on the cue ball. If Tony made a jump shot to win the game, Tim was going to be very impressed.
Of course, listening to Tony gloat afterwards was going to suck.
Tony slammed the cue down and jumped back, watching as the cue ball leaped across the table–to completely missed the eight ball. Tim held his breath, but the cue ball stayed safely out of the pockets. Tony hadn't won the game, but at least he hadn't lost it.
"Now for a little Henderson magic," Charlie joked as he stepped up to the table.
"Do your worst, I dare you," Tony called back before he settled in beside Tim. Tim raised his eyebrows, and Tony shrugged. "What? I had to try it. There weren't any other shots."
"Wasn't a bad attempt." Pat smiled. "If you had a jump cue, you might have even gotten close to the eight."
"Funny." Tony elbowed Tim in the side. "Pat here thinks he's a funny guy."
"Well, you did miss by a mile," Tim said.
Tony glared. "I'm not feeling the love tonight, man."
Pat chuckled. "Now that's
the way to do it," he said, nodding at the table where Charlie had just made a jump shot of his own--successfully. "One of his best shots."
"Nice." Tony grabbed Tim's beer again, though he didn't actually drink this time. "Gotta put a lot of spin on it."
"Just like cranking a hog," Pat agreed.
Tony said something else, but Tim missed it. He was too busy watching Charlie flub an overly showy shot--which meant it was Tim's turn. Winning the game was all in his hands now.
Tim blew out a breath. Charlie's last shot had knocked the balls around quite a bit, and now the eight was up against the rail. Not impossibly tight, but definitely tricky. He could go with a lot of angle and hope to nudge the ball into the side pocket, or he could go for a bank shot.
Geometry had never been his favorite area of math, but that didn't mean he was bad at it. Taking a deep breath, Tim moved to the other side of the table and tapped the pocket with his cue.
"Corner pocket," he called. He half-expected Tony to say something derogatory or encouraging or funny, but all he heard was the squeak of bar chairs. Tim bent down, eyed the line, brought his elbow back in a perfect square. Sent the cue forward in a solid glide with good follow-through. Held his breath.
The eight went in.
"Way to go, Tim!" Tony was in his space again, arm wrapped around his neck as time suddenly snapped back in synch with his reality. Delight tingled through his stomach and up through his shoulders, easing the tension that had been with him all evening.
"Good game, guys." Charlie held out his hand. "Rematch?"
Tim nodded and shook Charlie's hand, but Tony shook his head.
"Nah. Don't want to demoralize you guys too badly," Tony said with a smile. "Right, Tim?"
"Uh, sure," he agreed, reminding himself he was supposed to be following Tony's lead, no matter how stupid the exercise had turned out to be. "Maybe some other time."
"We won't go so easy on you next time," Charlie said, Pat smiling and nodding beside him.
"I'll take that chance." Tony flipped the pair a sloppy wave. He headed to the bar for a couple more beers, then led Tim to a booth in the back corner. Tony sat with his back pressed to the wall, legs stretched out along the seat. The sweating bottle dangled carelessly from his fingers as he looked out at the dim room. "So, what have you learned tonight, Probie?"
Tim blinked. They'd been at the bar barely more than half an hour; he was still waiting for his lesson to start. He smiled tentatively. "Uh, well. You like Sam Adams and you're pretty good at eight-ball?"
Tony thunked his beer onto the varnished tabletop. "I appreciate the ass-kissing, but that's not what we're here for. Tell me about the guys we were playing with."
"Uh." Tim cleared his throat. "Charlie Henderson, Caucasian male approximately five foot six, about one hundred seventy pounds, in his mid-forties. Blond hair, wearing tan cargo pants and a maroon shirt. Accompanied by Pat, last name unknown, also a Caucasian male in his forties. Six foot, one eighty, black hair, wearing jeans and a polo."
"Great, McGee. I'll never have to prepare a BOLO myself again."
Tim's smile fell away as he realized he wasn't being complimented. "Okay, Tony. Cut the crap. What was I supposed to find out?"
Tony pursed his lips, tongue sliding around his teeth like he'd found a piece of spinach. "Patrick Conner works security at a bank in Georgetown. Doesn't say a lot, but likes to slip the fact that he has a Harley into conversation whenever he can. Charlie Henderson, on the other hand, is a talker once you get him started. Especially about the internet scheme he's trying to get started." Tony paused, raising an eyebrow at Tim. "I would have thought you two would have hit it off, McGeek. Of course, he only has eyes for Pat right now. The two of them met when Charlie came into the bank looking for a loan. They've been together for three months. Oh, and Pat's either recently divorced or cheating on his wife, because the tan line from his ring hasn't faded yet."
Tim stared, stunned. Tony beat out a drum roll on the edge of the table, looking very pleased with himself. "Anything to add, Probie?"
"Uh," he stalled, trying to figure out exactly where he'd gone wrong.
Tony sat forward, elbows on the table and hands clasped in front of him. "You're a smart guy, McGee. You've got potential, or else Gibbs never would have brought you on board. But you need to remember the big picture instead of just taking it frame by frame. You have to take in the mise en scene plus the way characters move through the set. You have to get into their heads and see where they're going, see the way everything interacts."
Tony stared at him earnestly. Tim blinked at him for a few seconds, then took another look around the bar. Taking in the setting Tony seemed insistent was more than a night out on the town.
The penny dropped.
"This is a gay bar!"
Tony made hushing motions with his hands. "What was your first clue, McGee? The disproportionate ratio of men to women? Or the way the men are completely ignoring the lovely ladies?" Tony held up his index finger. "Oh, wait a minute. Maybe it was the gay couple we were playing pool with."
Tim crossed his arms over his chest, irritation flaring. "Oh, I get it. This is all part of the "Probie is gay" campaign, right? I've told you, DiNozzo. I'm not gay."
"Would you keep your voice down? Getting thrown out of here for being homophobic assholes is not part of the lesson plan." Tony paused, head cocked to the side. "Although. That could be an angle under the right circumstances..."
"Are you done yet? Because I could be doing my laundry right now." Tim slid out of the bench seat, tossing a couple quarters on the tabletop for the nonexistent waitress.
"Well, excuse me for trying to teach you something you asked to learn," Tony snapped back. He pushed himself out of the booth, stepping in close to Tim. "It's all about taking it all in and being able to go with the flow, McGee. If you can't learn to handle situations a little outside your norm, there's no way you can handle anything harder than posing as the bellboy, buddy."
Tim glowered back. "Oh, right. I forgot how well you handled kissing Voss, Tony. You're a perfect example of dealing with situations out the norm."
Tony narrowed his eyes. "That's a completely different situation. Besides, I did just fine when it counted. Rule number six of undercover work: freaking out after the fact is perfectly acceptable."
Something that felt like the thrill of victory flipped through Tim's gut, just like it had when he'd sunk the eight ball. He had Tony on the ropes, and Tony didn't even know it yet. "Uh-huh," he said, drawing it out. "But you thought Voss was a hot woman at the time. What if you'd known she was a he when it counted? Would you have been able to do what you needed to do to for the case?"
Tony's left eyelid twitched. "Sure. Granted, I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much, knowing I was locking lips with a murderer, but I'm a professional."
"Why don't I believe you, Tony?" Tim wanted to step forward, press his advantage, but they were already standing toe-to-toe, breathing each other's air. "Could it be the way you're constantly chasing women like they're going out of style? Or maybe it's the way you look like you're going to pass out whenever someone brings up Voss." He held a finger up in the air, just like Tony had. Tony's eyes flicked to it before returning to Tim's face. "Oh, I know. Maybe it's the fact--"
He cut off as Tony swooped in, grabbing Tim's head in his very large, very strong hands, and...and kissing him. Tim grabbed at Tony's shoulders, suddenly off-balance, unable to do anything but let Tony take control of his mouth. And wow, Tony wasn't all talk when it came to kissing. Tony bit Tim's bottom lip lightly, and to his horror, Tim whimpered.
Tony drew back, licking his lips. Tim still felt off-balance. Almost dizzy.
Tony cleared his throat. "You were saying, Probie?"
"Uh." Tim realized his lips were still wet. He rubbed a quick hand over his mouth. "Go with the flow. Got it."
Tony grinned and slung an arm over Tim's shoulders, turning him towards the door. "See? Not so hard. I'll make a decent agent out of you yet."
MTAC - NCIS Fic