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Office Romance

by: tigerlady (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 13431
Rating: ADULT
Character(s): Tony DiNozzo, Timothy McGee
Category(ies): Angst/Drama, Character Study, Episode Related, First Time
Pairing(s): Tony/McGee
Summary: In the aftermath of Tony's deep-cover assignment, Tim tries to help Tony move on, but Tony's romantic past might prove too great an obstacle.

Chapters: 1

Tim frowns down at the bag of pizza rolls sweating in his hand. Junk food and a six-pack are hardly the deepest psychological aides ever invented, but then again, this is Tony. Normally, it would be enough, but after what Tony's been through the meager offering just feels desperate. Cheap, like maybe Tim is trying to bribe his way out of friend duty instead of putting forth serious effort.

But it isn't like Tim has any great insight to contribute. He's had his heart broken, yes, but the situation with Jeanne is on a whole different plane of existence than anything Tim has experienced. Which is why it's taken him a month of arguing with himself just to show up here.

Get a grip, Tim. He takes a deep breath, shifts the beer to his left hand, and knocks.

And waits.

And waits.

He's dithering between knocking again or just taking off when the chain scrapes across the slide and the door opens. Tony stares out through the crack for a few long seconds, like he can't remember who Tim is or why he might be showing up at Tony's apartment at eight o'clock on a Saturday night. Then he pulls the door open and moves out of the way without saying anything. Tim steps inside, just as silently.

Tony's apartment is as immaculate as Tim has ever seen it. Not a bowl on the coffee table, no pizza boxes running rampant, no socks strewn in interesting places. The tassels on the rug have even been straightened. Everything's in its place.

Nothing's out of control.

"So what's up, Probie?" Tony snatches the beer out of Tim's grasp like he's stealing a basketball. "Bad news to deliver? You know what they say about geeks bearing gifts."

"No, everything's fine," he says, switching the pizza rolls to his other arm. "I just wanted to see how, uh, see if you wanted to watch a movie or something."

Tony snorts. "Wanted to see if I was pathetically moping in my apartment on a Saturday night? Sorry to disappoint you, but I'm on my way out. Got a hot date with a smokin' Swedish stewardess."

"Flight attendant," Tim corrects. "And you're telling me you're going on a date dressed like that?"

Tony glances down at himself. Tim has to give him the fact that he even makes worn grey sweat pants and a plain white T-shirt look good--but it's hardly hot-date wear. And the stubble on his face makes him look dangerously rakish, but Tony's stated more than once that he likes to be clean shaven for his dates. For less-than-pure reasons, of course.

Tony sighs, then grabs the pizza rolls out of Tim's hand and heads towards his oven. "I don't suppose you actually brought a movie to watch?"

Tim reaches into the inner pocket of his trenchcoat, pulls out the case and holds it up. When Tony glances back, his eyes go wide.

"Bullitt? Oh, McGee, there might be hope for you yet."

"High-definition version," Tim brags. "Really makes the action sequences pop."

"Put it in the player," Tony says, and he's actually smiling now, so Tim figures he's made the right choice. Tim pops the disc in and cues up the movie while Tony putters around in the kitchen. He takes off his trench, then makes himself comfortable on Tony's couch. Nothing unusual about it. Just like any other time they've watched a movie together.

Except for the fact that they haven't done this in nearly a year.

Tony sits down and starts up the movie without saying anything. That's different, too; Tony can rarely go a full five minutes without some commentary on whatever movie he's watching. Tim shifts, slowly easing himself deeper into the soft leather so he can see both Tony and the screen. Tony doesn't look upset, though. His lips are parted slightly, giving him sort of an expectant smile as he stares raptly at the action. Which makes sense since he's probably seen the movie a thousand times before. Tim doesn't really get that, himself. He can enjoy rewatching a movie, rereading a good book, but not the way Tony does. Tony always watches like there's something new to discover. No, more than that. He always watches like he isn't sure that it will unfold the same way as it always has before. Like he can't wait to find out how the movie will end this time.

The timer on the oven goes off, a high-pitched beep that has Tim's heart racing with adrenaline before his mind identifies the source of the sound. He jerks his gaze away back to the TV until Tony pauses the movie and gets up. By the time Tony returns with cold beer and two bowls full of hot pizza rolls, Tim has gotten himself under control.

Tony still doesn't say anything, though. Tim keeps searching for something to say while they watch, anything to fill in the gaps between the sounds of them munching and sipping beer. But he can't concentrate on the movie enough to come up with something smart or funny to say about it, and Tony will only shush him if he brings up anything else. So they eat, and watch, and by the time he's halfway through his bowl of pizza rolls, he really wishes he'd brought something different. Even if pizza is Tony's favorite. The grease is starting to react with the alcohol and nerves in his gut, which means he's going to sleep like crap tonight, at the very least.

Then Tony shuts the movie off, even though they still have twenty minutes to go.

"What's on your mind, McGee?"

Tim forces a smile. "Just, ah, I'm glad we don't live in San Francisco? With the way Gibbs and Ziva drive, I mean."

"We'd be dead inside a day," Tony agrees. Hope flares in Tim for half a second, but for once, Tony isn't that easily distracted. "You don't have to babysit me, Probie. Not that I don't appreciate the thought. Although, come to think of it, you could have shown a little concern before now."

"I was giving you time to heal!"

Tony grins; Tim frowns. It always goes like this. No matter how hard Tim tries, Tony always manages to make him feel like an idiot. He doesn't know why he keeps trying.

Then Tony closes his eyes and drops his head to the back of the couch. He rubs his hand over his face with a deep sigh, and Tim remembers that no, not always.

"At least you're better than Ziva," Tony mutters. He rolls his head to the side, rubbing at his neck with one hand. "When did she turn into the den mother, anyway?"

"Maybe it had something to do with us thinking you were dead."

"I thought you guys never really believed I was gone?"

Tim doesn't answer. He can't. He's too caught up in remembering Tony's car exploding, too overwhelmed by the burning scent of leather and oil as they combed through the remains. His stomach is roiling, now, but his throat is too swollen to even think about puking.

And then Tony's fingers curl into his shoulder. Tony shakes him slightly, and that's enough to drive the memories back where they belong. Tim clears his throat, glad when his stomach settles down into a mere unhappy grumble. Tony starts the movie again, and slowly Tim relaxes.

"Remember what I said about Gibbs's Rule Number Twelve?" Tony asks when the credits start rolling. Tim nods. He almost asks about his suspicions, then, but he can tell that Tony has something else on his mind and this isn't the time to broach the subject. "Consider this DiNozzo Rule Number One. Don't ever, ever get involved with an assignment. Got it, Probie?"

Tim nods again. "Don't worry," he says, trying to lighten the mood. "I'm not planning on it."

Tony rolls his head against the back of the couch, like he's too exhausted to lift it up to glare at Tim. "I wasn't either, kid. Believe me."

Tim winces. "I'm sorry, Tony. About everything. I wish..." He stops, unsure what to say. I wish it had worked out for you would probably be the best thing, but he can't make himself say it.

"Yeah." Tony runs his thumbnail back and forth over one of the rubber buttons on the remote. Each pass produces a surprisingly loud click, like a mini grandfather clock set to double time. Tim wants to reach out, still Tony's hand or snatch the remote away from him, but he doesn't dare. Finally, Tony sighs and pushes it away from himself. "Listen. I'm sorry that I couldn't... I wanted to tell you about Jeanne, really. But Jenny..."

"Had her own agenda," Tim fills in easily enough when Tony trails off. That had been as obvious as the nose on his face while they were trying to track down Le Grenouille. Knowing the director's orders doesn't make a difference, though, except to make him a little more angry on Tony's behalf.

"Something like that." Tony shakes his head. "You let me down, Probie. I thought for sure you'd figure me out, but instead I had to keep dodging Little Miss Mossad the whole time."

Tim swallows. "You made it pretty clear that your personal life wasn't any of my business."

Tony closes his eyes.

"Look," Tim says. "I should get going. I need to get some work done on my novel--"

"Gibbs doesn't make up those rules just for shits and grins, McGee."

"Whatever you say, Tony." Tim stands up, swaying a little until he gets his balance. He's tired, more tired than he should be at this time of night. He grabs his coat, but he doesn't take the time to put it on before he heads for the door.

"Thanks for coming by," Tony says, somehow right behind him, DVD case in his hand. "I was getting kind of hungry, and it always takes Gino's an hour and a half to deliver on Saturday nights."

"Sure," Tim says. He grabs the DVD case and flees before he can say something stupid, like hey, let's do this again. After all, he's smart enough to learn from his mistakes.


Two weeks (and three cases) after Tim's transfer from Norfolk, Tony pulled him aside and invited him out to a bar. Tim really, really wanted to say no--it wasn't hard to envision the pain and humiliation that would come with the outing--but Tony made it sound like a life-or-death order. And even though Tim had already learned that Tony was full of shit most of the time, there was still a big part of him that wanted to snap 'yes, sir!' when Tony got a certain look in his eye. Plus, Tim still wasn't sure where he sat with Gibbs, and where Tony sat with Gibbs, and Tim really didn't want to take any chances with his position on the team.

"Uh, is Kate going?" he finally asked.

Tony laughed. "Kate? In a bar? With you?" Tim gave him a sour look, but Tony just made his superior I'm a jock and you're not face. "In your dreams, McGee."

"Right." Tim gave in to the inevitable and grabbed his jacket. "Where are we going?

Tony slapped him on the shoulder, looking more pleased by his acceptance than Tim had expected. "There's a great place just down the street," he said, guiding Tim towards the elevator. "Smokin' hot waitresses. You'll see."

The waitresses were hot--young, thin, and chesty, totally Tony's type--but Tim was only mildly interested in eyeing them up. Abby was the woman truly on his mind, and the bubbly redhead who practically sat in Tony's lap every time she came over just couldn't compete. He wished he'd been able to swing by Abby's lab earlier, see if she wanted to do something, instead of letting himself getting roped into killing time here, watching DiNozzo toss peanuts in the air and try to catch them in his mouth.

"So you all moved in, all unpacked?" Tony tossed a peanut directly at Tim's forehead. Tim dodged to the side just in time to prevent an eye injury. "Got the place all readied for the ladies?"

Tim sighed and reminded himself that he really did like Tony. He'd simply reached the point of saturation for the week. He wondered if that point would start to come sooner the more they worked together, like toxins in the blood reaching critical levels, or if it would eventually take longer, like building up a tolerance to alcohol.

Or to pain.

"When would I have had time to do that, Tony?" He'd been a hell of a lot busier here than he ever had been at Norfolk. Tim didn't regret it one bit, though. Living out of cardboard boxes for a couple of weeks wasn't going to kill him.

"I guess we have been keeping you a little busy lately," Tony conceded. "You need some help unpacking?"

Tim blinked, surprised by the offer. "Uh, no, I'm good," he said automatically.

Tony shrugged. "Suit yourself. But if you ever want any advice on how to turn a place into a real bachelor pad, you know who to ask." He emphasized his point by tilting the bottom of his beer bottle in Tim's direction. Tim figured that DiNozzo was the last person he'd ever ask for decorating advice, no matter how many waitresses ended up draped all over him.

Tim fiddled with his napkin while Betty and Linda, the latest to come by, told Tony all about the benefits of their spinning class. A TV was mounted high in the corner right above Tony's shoulder. It was tuned to a baseball game, but Tim watched anyway, trying to avoid the spectacle in front of him.

"You know, I should probably take off," Tim started when Tony set about tucking both the ladies' phone numbers into his wallet.

"What's the rush? Linda gets off at ten. She thought you were kind of cute."

Tim sighed. He actually appreciated the fact that Tony seemed to be trying on his behalf, but he knew Linda never took her eyes off Tony once the whole time she was supposedly recruiting people for the local gym. Not that he could blame her. Tony was a super-magnet, all irresistible pull when powered up.

"Listen, Tony. I'm just really not in the mood," he tried again.

Tony thumped his bottle down on the table top. "Okay, I'm going to cut to the chase here, McGee. Tim."

"Okay, what?"

"You need to be careful with Abby."

Tim stared. Tony stared back, eyebrows slightly lifted like he was daring Tim to say something, face otherwise blank. Tim closed his gaping mouth and tried to figure out where he wanted to start.

"Are you seriously warning me off Abby? Because last time I checked, she was an adult who could make her own decisions." Tim sat forward, set his elbows on the tabletop. "And so am I."

Tony patted the air with little calming motions. "Whoa, whoa. Take it easy there, Tiger. That's not what I'm saying at all."

Tim sat back, crossed his arms over his chest. "Oh yeah? Well, maybe you should start over, then, because I could have sworn that's what you said."

Tony leaned forward, his hands under the table so only his chest against the wooden edge supported his weight. "Look. Abby can get away with a lot, because she's Abby. Gibbs knows she's going to do her job, no matter what. But you're the new guy. You screw up one time because you're making googly eyes, and Gibbs is going to boot you out the door."

"You're saying he'll fire me for having a relationship?" Tim knew Gibbs's bite was worse than his bark, but even for him that seemed a little extreme. "He can't do that. It's not against the Code of Conduct."

"Oh, how little you know, grasshopper." Tony slowly shook his head. "He can fire you for not doing your job." Tony eased back, reached for the bowl of peanuts. "You can push the limits. Just don't ever fuck up, and you'll be fine."

Tim sighed. Dropped his arms and rubbed at the drop of sweat on his forehead. The bar was stuffy, and the light over their booth was a little too close. "Great," he muttered. "How am I supposed to manage that?"

Tony grinned. "Pushing Gibbs's limits? Couldn't tell you. I am an exemplar of the perfect agent."

"Yeah, right." Tim couldn't help but smile back; 'infectious' was the perfect word to describe Tony when he wasn't take himself seriously. "But I meant not fucking up. I feel like I'm constantly screwing up in front of Gibbs."

Tony slouched back in the seat, giving him a considering look. "That's 'cause you are. You're the probie, Probie. You're there to make mistakes." He flashed a shark's grin. "You make the rest of us look good, and believe me, we appreciate that."

"Oh, ha, ha. Funny."

Tony shrugged, shoulders pressing into the faded vinyl of the seat back. "Just don't get careless. Because if you do, you'll really fuck up. And Gibbs will know."

Tim sighed again. "Right." They were quiet for a few seconds: Tim absorbing Tony's warning, Tony staring off at the beautiful women in the bar. "So you're telling me you never slept with anybody at NCIS?"

Tony's gaze shot back to Tim immediately. Then he grinned his dirty grin and spread his arms wide. "Hey, I said you have to push the limits, didn't I?"

"So that's a no." Tim smiled, knowing he'd yanked Tony's chain good. He honestly wasn't sure what he believed. Knowing Tony's good looks and charm and his apparent appetite for the fairer sex, Tim had a hard time believing he'd completely rein himself in.

Then again, Gibbs was scary as hell.

"Maybe I'll tell you about my exploits sometime." Tony scooted to the edge of the bench, then winked back at Tim. "Make a man out of you yet."

"Two words for you, Tony," Tim shot back. "Abby. Sciuto."

Tony wagged his finger in Tim's face, obviously looking for a good come back. "Oh, yeah? Well." He frowned, then narrowed his eyes. Leaned in close enough that Tim could smell beer and peanuts. "Don't hurt her, or you'll have more to worry about than your job."

And that was that, for the most part. His relationship with Abby never went further than friends with very occasional benefits, anyway, so he pretty much forgot about the conversation.

Until the night he drove Tony home after the undercover assassin assignment that nearly got him killed.


Ziva had been the one to go with Tony to the ER, partly because she was acting so worried, and partly because Gibbs gave her that look like he was afraid she was going to tear apart their suspects with her bare hands. That had left Tim doing the jobs of three people--which was actually a good thing, because that didn't leave him any time to worry about Tony.

The rest of the team got back to NCIS right before Tony and Ziva did. Tony looked like shit. Enough to make Tim cringe. But he was walking and talking and playing up his injuries for sympathy, so Tim didn't worry too much. It was nice, though, to have that moment of all of them together, knowing that they were all okay.

This time, anyway.

And then Ziva had offered to drive Tony home, and Tony had turned big eyes on Tim, and well. There was no way Tim could leave Tony to her mercy after that. Her driving scared Tim more than Gibbs without his coffee. He was pretty sure Tony felt the same way.

Tony fumbled a bottle of pills out of his pocket as soon as he got settled into the passenger seat. "Don't tell Ducky," he said around the pair of capsules in his mouth. He moaned and groaned as he reached into the back seat, coming up with an unopened water bottle. "But I'm gonna stick with the ER doc's prescription."

"I don't blame you." Tim turned the key, admiring the way the motor purred under his hands. "You doing okay?"

Tony waved lazily. "Just take me home, Jeeves."

Tim did. Tony fell asleep halfway there, but he woke up most of the way when Tim turned off the car. Abby was beside them within seconds, and Tim kind of feared for his own car. At least she'd managed to convince Ziva that her presence was unnecessary, and that Abby could drive Tim's car just fine, thanks. Tim wasn't sure how Abby did it, and he wasn't sure he wanted to know.

Unless it involved chick-fighting.

Tony groaned as they levered him out of his seat. Even without a concussion, Tim imagined he had quite a headache, on top of the pain in his battered face. Tony mumbled at them as they guided him up to his apartment. Following Tony logic was tough enough when he wasn't drugged-up, but tonight it was pretty much impossible. Tim just concentrated on making sure Tony didn't fall down. Abby got the key in the lock, then swooped in and started directing things.

"Take him into the bedroom, I'll get the door. Ooh, and make sure he's comfortable." Then she shut the door behind them and darted off into Tony's tiny kitchen.

Tony's apartment wasn't as messy as the last time Tim had seen it, which was a good thing. Otherwise one or both of them probably would have ended up on their faces. It still wasn't up to Tim's own level of organization, but at least it didn't stink.

"Tony doesn't have any soup," Abby said as she dashed back out. "Or ice, but I'll make some when I get back. It should be done by the time he's awake. But I need to get soup first. Be right back." She paused long enough to raise up on her toes and kiss Tony on the forehead. "And hey, great job with the smell."

"Rats," Tony mumbled. "With the stinky cheese."

Whatever those painkillers were, they certainly seemed to have done the trick.

"Let's just get your shoes off and then you can get some sleep." Tim got them into the bedroom and let Tony flop backwards onto his bed. Tony giggled--giggled--and lifted his foot. Tim would have appreciated the effort more if Tony's foot had wound up anywhere near where Tim needed it to be. He sat down on the edge of the bed, pushing his trench coat out of the way, and started to untie Tony's fancy shoes.

This really wasn't anywhere in his job description. All things considered, though, Tim didn't really mind. He'd seen the knife the guy was going to use on Tony, after all.

"You know," Tony said, louder and more clearly than anything since he got into the car. "Gibbs did this for me once."

Tim let Tony's shoe thunk to the floor. "You're imagining things. Gibbs?"

"No, he did." Tony nodded so vigorously that his hair fluffed up on the pillow behind him. "Just like this. Just like you, McGee." He drew out the middle of Tim's name, hardening the G until he nearly had to spit it out.

Tim moved to Tony's left foot. "That doesn't sound like Gibbs."

"No. No, it doesn't. Does it?" Tony chuckled, then started humming something. Tim snorted when he realized it was the Grinch song.

After he got Tony's other shoe off, he debated with himself for a few seconds, then decided Tony could undress himself later. He wasn't going to notice any discomfort right now, anyway. Tim simply worked the covers out from under Tony's ass and legs and pulled them up over him.

"Thanks, MahGee." Tony's eyes were closed, but he was smiling through his split lip. "Hey, are you going to stay, too? Like Gibbs did?"

"Uh, I wasn't planning on it." Tim considered for a moment. "Do you need me to?"

Tony waved. "No, that's okay. I like you, Tim. Wouldn't want to mess things up with you, too."

"Mess things up?" Tim's world slid a little sideways, because it suddenly sounded like Tony was saying things that he couldn't possibly be saying. Things that had to do with Tony and Gibbs and beds and things that should never go together in his head.

"Remember what I told you. With that rule. Gibbs's rule...something." Tony yawned. "Hey, can I have a banana milk shake? My mom used to make them when I was sick. Well, the cook made them, but my mom was the one who told her to."

Tim rubbed a hand across his face. "Sure, Tony. When you wake up."

"K." And like that, Tony was out.

Tim turned off the bedroom light. Turned on the light in Tony's bathroom. Headed out to Tony's kitchen and poured water into the ice cube trays.

Sat down and waited for Abby to get back, the conversation with Tony replaying over and over in his head. Each time he convinced himself that he was completely wrong, Tim remembered the way Tony had said mess things up. He might not have the investigative instincts that Gibbs and Tony did, not yet, but his gut was sure about this.


Ziva chuckles.

Tim glances up; she's got a phone in her hand, flipped open like she's looking at something on the screen. Tim shakes his head and goes back to writing his report on the Kalatsky case.

Ziva snorts.

Tim gives up. He's pretty sure Ziva's trained her laugh to be as frighteningly evil-sounding as possible, another tool in her Mossad-manufactured belt. He has to get up and see what has her so amused--out of self-preservation.

"Is that Tony's phone?" he asks as he gets closer. Tony's only phone, now that Le Grenouille has gone to ground. Now that Jeanne is out of his life.

Ziva doesn't deny it. She curls her hand around the base and tips the screen towards her desk, so Tim has no hope of seeing what's on it. "McGee," she purrs, and Tim takes a step back from the way the light gleams off her eyeteeth. "I always knew there was a hidden side to you."

"What do you mean?" he asks, wondering what Tony could have possibly done to him this time. "I swear, if he posted that video on YouTube, I'm going to Superglue his bodybuilder magazines to his face."

"I don't know about YouTube," Ziva says with a shrug. "But he has plenty of material in a folder labeled 'The Probie Collection'. Tony has quite the fascination, it seems."

Tim stares at her, trying to decide if she's lying. She chuckles again, deep in her throat, and Tim can't resist any longer. He lunges for the phone. Ziva makes no move to resist, though, and as soon as he rights himself, he's staring at himself in tiny 2-D.

He's staring at himself doing unspeakable things while sitting at his desk, back turned to the camera. His entire body flushes, all at once, so fast he feels nauseous from the sudden heat of it. He knows it can't be what it looks like. He wouldn't do that. Not here, not anywhere in public.

Well, except for that one time Abby talked him into the hinky thing at the graveyard. But that was at night, with no one around, and this...

He shifts to the side in the video, and Tim realizes exactly what he's watching. "That was poison ivy!" he shouts, still embarrassed, but anger is quickly taking over. "I'm going to kill him."

"Oh, but then you wouldn't have a secret admirer." Ziva makes an exceedingly fake O of surprise, then taps her lips with her pen. "Unless it's not a secret? Oh, Tim, forgive me for intruding on your torrid affair."

"Stow it, Ziva," Tim mutters, but he's too distracted for her teasing to have any impact. 'Collection' is right; there have to be a dozen files in the folder. All clips or photos of him. A lot of them are embarrassing, though none quite as bad as the rash-scratching, but there are a few that are just...something. Nothing that makes sense. Tim at a crime scene, picking up trash. Tim glaring at Tony while he's on the phone, presumably right after Tony's done something annoying. Tim smiling at Abby in her lab.

The last one is kind of blurry, the focus too close, like it was taken accidentally, but Tim knows what it's from right away. His and Tony's faces are pressed tightly together as they struggle for Tony's phone in Dr. Flemming's office.

"Give me that," Tony snaps, and snatches the phone out of Tim's hand before he can react. Tim starts to protest, but then he remembers it's not his phone.

Even if his face is the one that's all over it.

"Forget the meaning of personal property, McGee?" Tony hisses out, nothing like his usual joking tones, and puts the phone back on its charger with a glare.

"Ziva did it," he says, no compunctions about tattling. "Besides, since when does personal property mean anything to you? Or I guess it only counts when it's your stuff, huh?"

Tony takes another step forward, so they're standing nose to nose. "Yeah, well, I've never looked through your files like some Peeping Tom, have I?"

"You totally have!" Tim's angry again. Angry at the stupid games Tony always insists on playing. "You do it all the time!"

Tony opens his mouth, but there's nothing he can say that wouldn't be a blatant lie. Not that that's stopped him before, but he's groping now that he's been called on it. He glares at Tim, and Tim glares back.

"Hey!" Gibbs barks, and it's a measure of how wound up they both are that neither of them react. Not right away. "Am I the only one who knows what the word 'work' means?"

Tim blinks, then ducks his head, muttering, "Sorry, Boss," as Tony does the same. He returns to his desk and holds his hands above the keyboard, though he can't quite get the words on the screen to mean anything to him yet.

"They were having, what do you call it, a lover's fit, yes?" Ziva says, sounding even more amused than she had when she started it all.

"Tiff," Tony says. "Lover's tiff. Oh, and here's a phrase for you, Ziva. In your dreams."

Ziva chuckles again. Tim ignores them both, taking a deep breath and forcing himself to type out a sentence. Just like he does on his typewriter at home.

"Rule Number Twelve," Gibbs murmurs, and Tim thinks he's probably joking, trying to pull their legs in that sly way of his.



Two days later, Tim stands in front of Tony's door again, anger a distant memory. The office had been deadly quiet when he left earlier, even though they'd won today. Too many bad things had almost happened for them to feel victorious. Tim had been planning on just going home, maybe knocking out a page or two before relaxing with some first-person shooter. But Tony looked up at him on the way out, hair spiky from drying ungroomed, eyes too serious. Didn't say a thing, but Tim's plans went up in smoke, just like that.

Tony lets him in with a funny look, puts popcorn in the microwave and grabs beer from the fridge without asking. He stares at his DVD collection, but he doesn't pick up any of them.

"We don't have to watch anything," Tim says, but Tony finally snags a Three Stooges disc. Far from Tim's favorite, but he's not going to protest. Not tonight.

"Gotta love a classic," Tony says, and then adds, "Nyuk, nyuk nyuk!" before shoveling a handful of popcorn into his mouth. Tim rolls his eyes and reminds himself that there's a great deal of satire behind the slapstick, and besides, Tony's already looking less haunted.

That still doesn't keep his neck from getting tense with each slap and poke, or the back of his head throbbing in anticipation of the next time Tony feels like channeling Gibbs's own brand of slapstick. It's a huge relief when Tony pauses the player after the first short, so much so that when Tony returns from the bathroom, Tim leaps into the deep end of the pool out of desperation.

"I'm sorry we didn't get there sooner," he says, the guilt still deep in his gut. Tony had been so still, so empty-looking when they'd run up that Tim had thought for sure Gibbs was gone. But then Gibbs coughed, and the girl rolled onto her side, and Tony stood up, legs and hands shaking. Because he hadn't been too late.

"Ziva drove, didn't she?" Tony raises an eyebrow until Tim nods. Tony's exaggerated shudder says everything Tim could about the experience. "At least you made it in one piece."

"Yeah," Tim says. He can't find words to fit the emotions he wants to express. You did a great job saving their lives is way too patronizing, even if it wasn't overly obvious. He's a writer, but Tony isn't Tommy, and Tim's bumbling efforts are a hell of a long way from McGregor's easy wit.

"I thought Gibbs was dead," Tony says. Dead drops like a solid thing into the quiet room, the final D snapping against the far wall and ringing back to them, until the echo blends in with the low electronic hum from the entertainment center. "I gave up on him, because I knew he'd kill me if I didn't save Maddy."


"No, I know." Tony smiles to himself. "I did what I could, and they're okay. It's just..." He shakes his head, then gets up and heads to the kitchen. Returns with a glass of water that he drains in one long swallow.

"Were you," Tim starts. It still isn't the right time to ask, he knows that. But Tony's open like Tim's rarely seen him, and he's got hurt crawling over every inch of his skin. Hurt that shouldn't be there, not like this, and Tim has to know. "Why is Gibbs so hung up on Rule Number Twelve?"

Tony smiles at the bottom of his empty glass. "I'm pretty sure it has to do with our dear director."

"No." Tim shakes his head. "I mean, yes, I figured that out, too, but that's not what I meant. What does it have to do with you?"

Tony looks up fast. In that instant, he's not surprised. He's pale and shaky, eyes miles away, just like he was this afternoon. Afraid. Then he sets his glass down, and when he looks up again, Tim wants to take a step back, but he's trapped where he sits on Tony's couch.

"I think it's about time to call it a night," Tony says. "I'm kind of tired. Long day being heroic. I'd say you know how that is, but let's not kid ourselves." He grins and slaps Tim on the shoulder, but Tim's not buying. Not tonight.

"You don't have to tell me," Tim says, even though he wants to shake the story out of Tony. "But I think..."

I think you owe me. He doesn't have the nerve to say it. But Tony must hear it anyway, because he heads to the kitchen and comes back with an unopened bottle of Jack Daniel's.

"I need something a little stronger than beer for this conversation." He pops the seal on the bottle by the expedient of twisting the cap and then splashes a healthy amount into his empty water glass. He doesn't cap the bottle again, like he's expecting to top up soon, but he doesn't drink right away, either.

"It was before you joined the team," Tony starts, running the tip of his index finger around the rim of the glass. "Before Kate. It was just me and Gibbs there for a while, because we couldn't seem to find a third who was up to Gibbs's standard and wasn't scared to death to work for him."

Tim snorts. "I can't imagine that;"

Tony smiles. It's one of his true smiles, sudden and wide, but with a self-deprecating softness that makes Tim's pulse race, just a little bit. "Hard to believe, isn't it?"

"I mean, I've never felt intimidated by Gibbs," Tim says as seriously as he can manage.

"Me either," Tony says, his smile turning into a full-on grin for a second. Then he clears his throat again. "So, anyway. Even though Gibbs is...well, Gibbs, we pretty much clicked right from the beginning. And when it's just the two of you, you really depend on each other in the field."

Tim nods, ignoring the growing lump of jealousy in his throat.

"It was the Huntington case. One minute I'm watching Gibbs's back, the next my gun is gone, my wrist is broken, and I'm about to take a bullet to the brain."


"Yeah." Tony brings the glass halfway up, but lowers it again right away. "I really thought I was gone that time. Gibbs must have, too, because he was freaked out afterwards. Freaked out for Gibbs, anyway. He took me to the ER, stayed with me the whole time they were dealing with my wrist. Even got my prescription for me. And then he took me home."

Tim knows what's coming next. He's known since that night he took Tony home. Part of him wants to stop the words from coming, and another part has to hear them now. And every bit of him is charged with adrenaline, muscles tensing in preparation for what comes next.

"I don't remember exactly how we got to that point," Tony says at last, "but yeah, kid. We slept together." Then he laughs, a little too high-pitched to be comfortable. "I had sex with Gibbs."

Tim swallows. "Was it only the one time?"

"Yes." Tony shakes his head. "No. I was kind of messed up after the first time, thinking there was something between us, and Gibbs just went back to being Gibbs. So one night I went over to his place and confronted him. There was a lot of yelling. And sawdust. But I kept pushing until he gave in."

Tony finally gives up on his glass, setting it down on the coffee table. "Afterward, he told me that I could keep having sex with him, or I could keep my job."


Tony nods. "Gibbs."

"Cold," Tim finishes. He's hot, though, furiously hot, suddenly taken with the urge to hit something. To hit Gibbs. "Even for him."

Tony shrugs. "He had his reasons. And after Jeanne, I think I understand them."

"Dating someone you work with is completely different than what you went through with Jeanne," Tim protests. "Gibbs could have tried, at least."

"There is no try. Only do." Tony tips his head to the side, gaze distant. "Huh. Gibbs and Yoda. Who do you think would be the immovable object?"

"Are you in love with him?"

Tony blinks. "Yoda? That's pretty twisted, even for you, Elf Lord."

Tim glares until Tony sighs and drops the act.

"In for a penny, in for a pound, huh?" Tony rubs his eyes, fingers massaging up and down, then around in circles. "No. I think I thought I was, maybe? I don't know. But I know I'm not, now. Other than, you know, that kind of fatherly affection thing that we all crave and hey, what do you say let's not go there tonight."

"Right." Tim knows his relief is completely selfish, but right now he's not feeling particularly generous. Not on Gibbs's behalf, anyway. He looks down at his hands; he's left fingernail crescents in the middle of his palms. "Right."

Tony straightens. "So now that you've heard the whole sordid story, I'm going to find my nice warm bed and forget this conversation ever happened."

"Sure thing," Tim says. He's found out more tonight than he ever expected to, and right now, he's not sure what to do with the information overload. His hand is on the doorknob before he gets the nerve to say anything else. "He's not always right, you know. Especially when it comes to relationships."

Tony snorts. "If you're saying I should try again with Gibbs, you're insane. Certifiable. One-hundred percent off your--"

"Not with Gibbs, no."

"Don't go there, Tim." Tony shakes his head. "You don't want to go there."

Yes, I do. And I know you want to, too. But Tony looks so tired, with the skin around his eyes swollen and dark, that Tim lets it go.

He's tired, too.


"McGee!" Tony crowed, as soon as he opened the door. He slapped out a drum roll against Tim's chest, then peered around the frame. "Didn't happen to see the Gino's guy on the way in, did you?"

"He was just pulling up," Tim said, edging past Tony's eager-puppy energy and into the apartment. "Going all out tonight, Boss?"

Tony glanced back at him, a softer smile on his face than what Tim usually got when he called Tony that. Fond rather than puffed-up, and Tim couldn't help smiling back.

"Just you and me," Tony said. "I figure I can shell out for real food just this once."

"I'm not sure pizza counts as real food," Tim said, but his stomach was already rumbling at the thought of it. And the smell; the delivery guy must have entered the building.

"Bite your tongue," Tony said, frowning at him before turning back for his pizza with an extra-wide smile. Tim shook his head and sauntered into Tony's tiny kitchen, sliding the six-pack onto the empty bottom shelf of the fridge. He never used to drink beer at all, but it had become their drink of choice for these movie nights. He didn't mind it so much now. Kind of even liked it.

It was definitely better than Tony's coffee. Eight days after Gibbs turned in his badge, Tony had hosted the first team movie night. Attendance was compulsory, they watched Air Force One all the way through the final credits, and afterwards Tim had to wash his clothes twice to get out the smell of burnt java. By the time July rolled around, Tony had finally relaxed enough to get rid of the coffee and drop the attendance requirement.

By August, Tim was the only one who still showed up, and when it came down to it, he was pretty sure that he was the only one Tony was still inviting. He had a couple theories why, the primary one being that Tony liked the fact that he was a geek. Which didn't make the most sense once he verbalized it. And okay, sure, Abby was a geek, too, but she was also a hot, perky goth wonder. Not the same as Tim at all. Ziva was too scary to be anything but cool. Ducky was Ducky, and Michelle Lee was wound too tight to have any fun being geeky, and Jimmy... Jimmy was too geeky even for Tim.

So, maybe it wasn't watertight as theories went, but it still held together better than his second one. The one he didn't dare gather evidence for, because he was pretty sure there was no way in hell it could be true.

"Ohhhh, yes," Tony said as he opened the lid of the pizza box. Steam wafted up, dampening his face as he closed his eyes and breathed it in. "Pepperoni, sausage, extra cheese. That is the very definition of real food, McGee."

The very definition of wrecking his diet, but Tim slid two slices onto his plate anyway. The point of the night was bonding, after all, and besides, Tony'd never let him live it down if Tim said one word about watching his weight.

"So what's the movie tonight?" he asked, hoping to distract Tony from the fact that he'd brought light beer.

"The Untouchables." Tony stuffed half a slice into his mouth and pointed towards the living room with the rest of the piece. "Kewin Cozzer inna decen row."

"I've known you way too long, because I actually understood that."

Tony grinned, showing off the cheese coating his teeth. "I always said you were a smart guy. That's why you're my senior field agent."

"I'm your senior field agent because Ziva's Mossad," Tim said.

"Nah." Tony grabbed the pizza box and a beer and headed for the couch. "You'd still be senior, even if she were NCIS."

Tony was stating nothing but cold hard numbers, but it still warmed him deep. Just like it had when Tony'd announced his senior status to the group with his full Tony pomp. Like Tim had actually earned that place in Tony's eyes.

"Come on," Tony called, patting the cushion beside him. "I'm not kidding. Costner's good in this, and Sean Connery won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. I'm a little iffy on DeNiro, but man, he's still DeNiro."

"I have seen it, Tony," Tim said, taking his place, propping his feet up on the coffee table on the left side of the pizza box. Tony had the right side, like usual. "We watched it in one of my history classes in high school."

Tony stared at him. "God, you make me feel old sometimes."

"Just start the movie, okay?"

Tony started the movie. And he was right--it was a good one. Tim remembered liking it in high school, remembered how much he'd wanted to be on a team like that. Catching bad guys by outsmarting them. He'd thought he'd be good at it.

He was still pretty amazed that he'd been right. And that he'd found a dream team of his own.

Tim turned his head, watching his new boss watch the movie. Tony fit the role well, but he really wasn't anything like Gibbs. Tim couldn't imagine sitting here with Gibbs, shoulders pressed together, feet up, hands coated with pizza grease and condensation, Gibbs murmuring movie fact after movie fact in his ear.

Tim had to fight down a shudder at the thought, actually.


"Uh," Tim said, completely unprepared for the way Tony's raised eyebrow made him want to spill something ridiculously sappy. He glanced back at the TV. "Not really. It's just, I've never really liked the baby stroller on the steps bit. It just seems cheap after everything else. Gratuitous."

Tony chuckled. "Oh, McGee. Baby. How very little you know."

"Oh yeah?" Tim said. He crossed his arms across his chest, elbowing Tony in the side in the process. Just a little. "And you're going to enlighten me, I take it."

Tony pulled his feet off the coffee table and leaned forward to snag the remote. He rewound and paused, right on the very frame that had caught Tim's eye in the first place. "That, my dear friend, is a direct homage to a scene from The Battleship Potemkin." Tony hit play, but that didn't stop his lecture. "Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 silent masterpiece. Considered one of the most influential films ever made."

Tim shook his head.


"I can't believe you keep riding me about being a geek."

"That's 'cause you are a geek, McGeek."

Tim opened his mouth to protest, then closed it again, because it was true. Tony grinned at him, and Tim chalked up another point for his prevailing theory. Then Tony's grin faded, and that simple little hypothesis erased itself from Tim's memory.

"Oh," he said, because even though his mind was still having a hard time believing what Tony's look was saying, his body knew. Adrenaline tripped through his heart, dried his mouth, sent a prickle of sweat up his spine.

Tony brought his hand up. Tim couldn't stop himself from sucking in a breath when the pads of Tony's fingers landed on his cheek, one-two-three, as quick and soft as raindrops.

"Going for the scruffy look again?" Tony rubbed his thumb over Tim's chin.

Tim swallowed, trying unsuccessfully to keep himself from leaning into Tony's hand. "It's just five o'clock shadow."

"It's the same color as your hair," Tony said. He slid his hand back, fingers brushing the hair at the base of Tim's neck. "Most guys, it comes in lighter or darker. Weird."

"I always thought it was darker." Tim dropped his head back, resting it partly on the back of the couch, partly on Tony's hand. Tony was so close now, staring down at his thumb stroking over Tim's lower lip like it was the most fascinating thing he'd ever seen. Tim licked his lips without thinking; Tony's skin tasted like pizza and beer.

"Bad lighting, maybe," Tony murmured. He leaned in a fraction more. Tim tipped his head up, ready for what came next--

And Tony pulled back. He dropped his hand, scooted back half a foot, and cleared his throat.

"Now, if you want to talk about cheap, I think the courtroom scene is a little too pat," Tony said. "But you don't really notice the first time you watch 'cause of the momentum of the rest of the film."

"Right." Tim blinked, but the room still felt out of focus. Twilight-Zone fuzzy. He forced himself to look back at the movie, to pretend to watch it through to the end. Tony pattered away the whole time like nothing had happened. By the time they were carrying bottles and the pizza box back to the kitchen, Tim had convinced himself nothing had happened. That it was all his imagination.

Then he turned to go--and Tony snagged his wrist. Two fingers and thumb wrapped in a loose circle. Enough to freeze him in place, his pulse pounding as he wondered what would happen next.

"Hey," Tony said. He let go of Tim's wrist slowly, the pad of his thumb catching on the knobby inner bone. "I don't know if I'm going to have time for movie night anymore. There's this conference in Germany coming up, and on top of that the director's really been on my case about reports and stuff. If I don't get my act together, you might as well start calling Palmer 'Boss'."

Tim blinked. But I thought you were doing great, he almost said, but he figured it out just in time. He was getting the brush-off. Tony-smooth, so swift and clean it was nearly painless.


"Look, I--" Tony stopped and shook his head. "Drive careful, okay? I need my senior field agent safe and sound."

Tim faked a smile the best that he could. "Whatever you say. Boss."


The sun is weak today, even though it's warm for late winter. At least it's not blowing too bad. The wind flags would hardly even be fluttering, if anyone were out here playing.

Tim's still not anywhere close to warm.

"I can't believe Gibbs is really making us walk all the way back," Tony whines for the fiftieth time in the last mile. "I mean, come on! It's not like we're going to ruin the upholstery in the truck."

"I can't believe you pushed me into the water hazard." Tim kicks his left foot out, trying to resettle his squelching shoe into a more comfortable position. He already has blisters, but it'd be nice if they don't start bleeding before the halfway mark. "Are you ever going to grow up?"

"Hey, I was saving you!"

"From a duck? Come on, Tony. I'm not that naive anymore."

"It could have had bird flu," Tony says, so sincerely that Tim has to remind himself to not be that naive. "And I'm not exactly warm and dry over here, myself."

"Serves you right," Tim mutters. He hadn't meant to pull Tony in after him. He'd only been trying to keep himself from going in, but if he had it to do again, he'd do it the same way. Except he'd hold Tony's head under--just for a little while. "What the hell crawled up your ass today, anyway?"

Tony spins around, forcing Tim to stop or run into him. He holds his hand up to his ear and stares off into the distance. "What? What was that I heard? Did the good little Probie actually swear?"

"You know what, Tony? Screw you." He takes a step forward, shouldering Tony out of the way. Or at least that's his intention. Tony gets his hands up before Tim's clear and shoves him hard between the shoulder blades.

That tears it.

They go down hard, but Tim manages to twist so Tony takes most of the impact. Tony doesn't take time to whine, though. He starts rolling immediately, fighting for the pin, but Tim isn't about to give in that easily. Not after Tony's been such a jerk lately. He gets his right hand on Tony's chin and pushes up. Control the head, control the body. Tony tries to shake him off, but Tim's got a good grip.

But then Tony grabs his wrist and pulls. Tim yelps.

Tony lets go right away. "Sorry! Are you okay?"

Tim manages to nod. The muscles in his shoulder are still weak from the dislocation, and now they've spasmed up in protest of the rough play. Tony figures it out right away. He starts rubbing at the knots, fingers digging in just shy of too hard. Tim groans as the pain starts to fade away.

That's when he feels it. They're still tangled up together, Tony more on top of him than not, his right leg firmly between both of Tim's.

His cock, hard against Tim's thigh.

Tony starts to shift away, obviously trying to be subtle about it, but Tim catches his gaze before he can escape. He drops his head and sighs heavily. "Never tell Abby you don't believe in karma," Tony says. He rolls to the side, flopping onto his back with another heavy sigh. "Some days I'm pretty damn sure she controls the universe."

"Only on the days that end in -y," Tim says. He stares up at the grey above them. The sky is so overcast he can't make out a single shape in the clouds. Which is pretty much the same as what's going on inside his head. He can't think of a single thing to say. But he's cold and sore and not just a little turned on, so he does what his body wants him to do. He rolls over. Drapes himself half across Tony, resting his hand on Tony's chest. Tony's hand comes up, like he's going to push him away, but Tim can see him remember that's the bad shoulder.

"McGee," he growls instead. "That wasn't an invitation."

"Sure felt like one to me." Tim smiles, though he's not all that amused. "Or are you gonna pretend this didn't happen, either?"

"Nothing happened!"

"Then why are you holding my hand?"

Tony blinks. He tucks his chin towards his chest, staring down at where he's resting his hand on top of Tim's, his thumb stroking softly over the knuckles. Tim thinks he's made his point, but then Tony jerks his hand back and rolls out from under Tim and onto his feet.

"Great," Tim mutters. He drags himself to his feet as well, feeling as old as Ducky and not half as fit. Tony's pacing in front of a row of bushes, hands laced behind his neck. At least he's not acting like nothing happened, but Tim's not all that sure this is better.

He steps in right in front of Tony. "You know, the hot and cold game is getting really old. If this is some kind of elaborate hazing thing, you can stop. I get it. You can have anyone you want. Who's next, Abby? Ziva? Or have you already been there, too?"

"Don't make me hit you," Tony says softly. It's his menacing voice, the one he uses when he really means business, but it hits Tim right in the balls. In the good way. He takes another step forward so they're practically nose to nose. Tony doesn't give an inch.

"I like you," Tim says, his voice spiking like a teen's. "In that way. And I really think you like me, too. Are you that scared of Gibbs? Or are you still hung up on Jeanne?"

Tony's jaw clenches, and for a second Tim thinks that he really is going to throw that punch. He has just enough time to think I should be scared, before Tony throws his hands up in the air and spins away from him. He marches over to an outcropping next to the bushes and plops down without an ounce of his usual grace. Tim follows, a little warily, and sits down next to him.

"Jeanne didn't break it off with me."

"What?" Tim stares at him stupidly, unable to believe what he's hearing. "How? I mean, why didn't you tell us--"

"I didn't mean we're still seeing each other," Tony says with a little laugh. "I meant last fall. She gave me a choice. Go with her, or keep working for NCIS."

"Oh." Tim looks back down at his hands. "And you picked NCIS."

"Obviously." Tony snorts. "Just like I did with Gibbs."

"They shouldn't have asked that from you," Tim says quietly. "It's not fair."

"No, it's not. Totally not fair." Tony jumps up, but he doesn't go anywhere. Just rubs at the back of his head until his hair sticks out like it's been attacked by a thousand balloons. "But that's not the point, is it? Anthony DiNozzo is good at exactly two things in life: sex and his job. And don't tell anyone, but if I have to choose between the two... Well."

"Except it's not about just giving up sex, is it? It's about people you love letting you down." Tim swallows. He's gone this far, he might as well see it through, no matter how big a fool it makes him. "I'd never make you choose."

Tony turns around. He looks down at Tim with narrowed eyes, weighing Tim like any suspect. Tim tries not to fidget, tries to put every bit of sincerity he's got onto his face. Tony sighs, his shoulders dropping, and Tim thinks he has him.

"And what happens when it doesn't work out anyway?" Tony says softly. "When we have to see each other every day? Work together, sit next to each other, watch each other's backs?"

"I think you're selling us both short," Tim says, acid burning up into his throat. "But we'd get through it. You did it with Gibbs."

"I never watched movies with Gibbs!" Tony shouts. "We never did anything together, McGee, except for work and sex. Not like you!"

Tim gropes for the edge of the rock he's sitting on. The whole world has gone askew; Tim feels that knocked flat by what Tony's really saying.

"I'll always be your friend," he says once he finally gets a grip. Literally and figuratively. "No matter what. Just ask Abby."


"If you don't believe me, ask Abby. I wanted a steady relationship, she didn't." Tim's cheeks still burn a little from that misstep. "But we get along just fine. And if you think that's because it didn't hurt, well, maybe you should rethink the whole detective thing."

Tony shakes his head. "I'm not Abby."

Tim stands up. He brushes the dirt off the seat of his pants and the stray twig off his cuff. He can't do anything about the grass stain on his sleeve. "No," he says, looking Tony straight in the eye. "You're better."

Then he turns and walks away.


Tim's shredding the tenth sheet of paper of the night when he hears a knock at his door. His neighbor again, he assumes, pissed off about the noise though it's not even nine o'clock. Tim defiantly shreds another sheet--a blank one--and then marches over to the door and flings it open.

It's not his neighbor.

"Hey." Tony's got his hands stuffed into the pockets of his letterman jacket, which makes him look all of seventeen, scuffing his shoes on his date's front porch. "I didn't bring anything."

"That's okay," Tim says. Those are the first words they've spoken to each other since Tim walked away this afternoon, and he can't imagine what Tony wants now. Maybe to offer an apology, or receive one. Or just to torture Tim a little bit more. Somehow, it doesn't really matter what it is, so Tim just steps to the side, letting Tony come in, and then closes the door behind him.

"You really need a couch in here," Tony says, looking lost beside the computer desk. "Or at least a futon."

"I don't actually get that many guests." Tim resists the urge to offer Tony a chair or a drink or any other amenity. "Look, I was in the middle of writing, so if you don't mind..."

"You're not exactly making this easy for me." Tony slips his right hand out of his pocket and starts playing with the spring on the joint of the swing lamp. Bunching it up and letting it sproing out again. Tim wants to reach out and stop him, but that would require touching.

"I learn by example," he says. It comes out more bitter than sarcastic. "What do you want, Tony?"

Tony drops his right hand and pulls his left out of his pocket. Then he takes a step closer to Tim.

"To find out if I'm wrong."

Tim gets it a second before Tony's hand lands on the back of his neck. They're so close in height that all Tony has to do is move forward a little and tip his head to the side. Tim meets his lips automatically, moves his own like he's supposed to, but he's so shocked he doesn't feel a thing before Tony pulls back.

"After all the campaigning you did earlier, I thought you'd be more into it, Probilicious." Tony's lips twitch upward, but he can't quite pull off a smile.

"No, I was just... I mean..." Tim gives up on words. He can't figure out where to put his hands, so he leaves them at his side. He knows he's awkward as he leans in, but at least Tony's hand is still on the back of his neck, guiding like it's second nature.

Tim feels the kiss this time. Feels it all the way to his bare toes. Tony has a careful way of kissing. Not reserved, but like he puts every bit of care and concentration he has into it. He nips at Tim's lower lip ever so gently, then opens his mouth, teasing, tempting Tim to join him in a deeper kiss.

Lust surges up. Tim grabs onto Tony's upper arms, hanging on as those careful kisses turn sloppy and wild. He still can't believe this is happening, that he's kissing Tony, that Tony really wants him, too. But Tony's making small noises in the back of his throat, little satisfied grunts with each breath, and his hand sneaks under the hem of Tim's T-shirt, stroking the sensitive skin above his hip bone, so Tim thinks maybe it's real, after all.

He brings his right hand down, but Tony's jacket is too heavy for Tim to feel anything through. He finds the zippered edges and pushes them back, trying to get his fingers closer to warmth. Tony goes with it, shrugging the jacket off his shoulders without breaking their kiss.

Tony's not wearing anything special. A white cotton dress shirt and faded jeans. But he's clean-shaven, and Tim doesn't recognize the cologne he's wearing. Tim pulls back, his breathing heavy from more than the kissing.

"Tell me you at least have a bed in this place," Tony says. Huskily. Tim swallows, then nods and leads the way towards his bedroom, still not on friendly terms with the English language.

Tim switches on the bedside lamp, then takes a deep breath and turns to face Tony. He wants this. He wants this so much he thinks certain parts of him might shrivel up and fall off if they don't it. Except right now he's having a little problem with moving.

"So," he says, and then he has to swallow to remind his throat how to work. "What do you have in mind?"

Tony grins. It's the grin that gets Tim every time, the way it's so wide and real. Like Tony didn't have time to weigh it down with a layer of machismo. It's a grin that says he knows exactly what he wants, and it doesn't do anything to ease Tim's nerves.

"Oh, I don't know. What do you have in mind?" Tony takes a couple steps forward, so that Tim's trapped between him and the night stand and the bed. He rests his right hand over Tim's heart--and starts slowly rubbing Tim's nipple.

"I don't know," comes out in a rush. Tim tries to ignore the heat in his cheeks, opens his mouth to say something that makes it sound less like a confession, but Tony's eyes have already gone wide.

"You haven't done this before?"

"I've had sex before," Tim blusters. "You do remember Abby, right?"

Tony snorts. "I remember that our Miss Scuito is a very beautiful woman."

Tim shakes his head. "Don't give me crap for this, Tony. Please. I can't take--"

Tony puts his hand across Tim's mouth. Tightly. "Hey," he says. "Would I do that?"

Tim raises both eyebrows.

Tony frowns at him. "Okay, yeah, I totally would--if it were anything else. I realize you don't have any reason to believe me, but I don't do that. Not with this." Tony pulls his hand away. "Okay?"

Tim nods. He licks the taste of Tony off his lips, and then has to say, "I still don't know how--"

Tony quiets him with a kiss this time. "Just go with it," he says quietly. "We'll have a good time, I promise." He steps back, giving Tim a little breathing room, and starts unbuttoning his shirt. He looks directly into Tim's eyes as his fingers glide over the buttons, but Tim can't keep holding his gaze. He has to look down, has to watch as the fabric slowly parts to reveal Tony's skin.

Tony doesn't have a perfect body. He doesn't have a six-pack, and the definition at his waistline is a little bit lacking. But he looks damn good. Broad shoulders, nicely rounded pecs, just enough hair to look masculine but not gorilla-like. Tim's torn between envy, self-consciousness, and desire. Desire finally wins, and he reaches out to touch.

Tony's warm. More than warm--almost feverishly hot. Tim runs his fingers under the line of Tony's collar bone, and then he inches downward until his hand rests in the same position Tony's had on him. He spreads his fingers wide, until he finds Tony's nipple, already coming to attention. He rubs his finger back and forth, bringing it to full hardness. Tony closes his eyes and drops his head back a bit, breathing with his lips slightly parted.

Tim drops his hand. He pulls his T-shirt off, so fast his ears burn from the brush of fabric and static zings through his hair. He has to feel Tony, all over. Has to get close to his warmth. Tony pulls him back in until their chests meet. They're not quite hugging, not when Tony's mouthing down his neck like that, but almost. Tim's got both arms wrapped around Tony's very solid back, and it feels incredible. He strokes his hands over Tony's lats, then lets them dip down to the edge of Tony's jeans, then after only a second of deliberation, drops them down to cup Tony's ass.

"Yeah," Tony says. He shifts his leg, pressing his thigh forward between Tim's. Pressing just right into his balls and cock. Tony's hard, too, like he was this afternoon. Only there's nothing to stop Tim from pressing back now. Nothing to stop him from touching, except for his own nerves.

And Tim's always been determined to overcome the things that hold him back.

He slips his right hand around Tony's hip, letting his fingers catch on the edge of Tony's front pocket. The denim is soft, well-worn, except for the hard line of the seam. And just a little farther over--

Tony gasps against his neck. Just like that, Tim's nerves evaporate. He wraps his whole hand around Tony's cock, as best as he can manage through the layers, and slowly rubs. Not trying to get Tony off. Just trying to make him gasp like that again.

Tony pulls away from him, and Tim wonders if maybe he did something wrong, but Tony's just unbuckling his belt. He unbuttons his jeans, then sits down on the edge of the bed to take off his shoes.

"Come here." Tony spreads his legs, and Tim takes a half step so he's standing between them. Tony's not smiling, not with his mouth, but his eyes are warm as he looks up at Tim. He puts his right hand on Tim's inner thigh, against the skin below his boxers--and slides it up. Right to the crease of his thigh, until the backs of Tony's fingers are flirting with Tim's balls.

"Tony," he pleads. Tony slides his hand back out--slowly--and then he draws Tim's boxers down and lets them drop to the floor.

"Nice." Tony curls his hand around Tim's cock and slowly strokes. Tim tries to widen his stance, unsteady from the rush of pleasure, but Tony's legs are too close. Instead he reaches out, finds Tony's shoulders, hanging on as Tony leisurely moves his hand up and down. He has to close his eyes when Tony rubs his thumb over the head of his cock, too overwhelmed to keep them open.

"Why don't you join me down here," Tony says, letting go so Tim can do just that. It takes Tim a moment to get his brain working again. He blinks several times and licks the dryness out of his mouth, and by then Tony's stripped off his jeans and underwear and has shoved the blankets halfway off of Tim's carefully made bed. Tim moves forward out of instinct rather than thought, drawn by the sight of Tony's bare ass.

They lie down side-by-side, facing each other. Tim leans in for a kiss, only intending to it to be a quick touch, a reconnecting, but Tony has other ideas. They keep kissing while they touch each other, hands roaming over shoulders and chests and bellies, until Tony captures Tim's fingers with his.

"Just follow my lead," he says, and then he guides Tim's hand to his cock. He leads Tim in a few strokes, then wraps his hand around Tim's cock, matching his pace. "This work for you?"

"Oh, yeah." Tim's never really paid much attention to the way his own cock feels to his hand. But Tony's Soft over hard, and his hand is actually turned on by the glide of skin on skin. Sensitized, he guesses, although it'd be better if-- "Hang on," he says, and rolls over, digging through his nightstand drawer.

"You really believe in that 'be prepared' motto, don't you?" Tony says when Tim rolls back, but he doesn't hesitate to take the lube and open it. He pours some into Tim's hand and then into his own before capping it again and tossing it over his shoulder.

It's easier to keep a rhythm with the lube. He moves his hand in time with Tony's, until he's biting his lip with concentration, trying not to just let go and lose himself to his own pleasure.

"You're pretty good at this," Tony pants out.

"You too," Tim manages, and then he can't hang on any longer. He knows his hand is going slack, but he can't help it. He thrusts his hips forward, shoving into Tony's hand, and comes. All over Tony's hand and cock and belly and that'd be really hot, except he's entirely certain everything in his brain is completely offline.

When he opens his eyes, Tony's watching him.

Tim's breath catches, even though he's short of air. He's never seen Tony look like this. It's not the arousal--the way the green of his eyes is barely visible or the way sweat is darkening the hair at his temples. It's something else, sort of like when he's working late, his brow furrowed as he tries to figure out a case. Only seconds away from making one of his instinctive leaps.

Tim starts to move his hand again. He can see Tony making the effort to keep his eyes open, the muscles around his eyes twitching as his eyelashes flutter, but he finally fails. He turns his face into the pillow and breathes harshly, open-mouthed, as Tim speeds up. He's so quiet that Tim's taken by surprise when he comes.

Tim's not sure what Tony likes, so he moves his hand up and down a few more times and then lets go. He rolls over, finds his box of tissues and makes a half-assed effort at cleaning up--until Tony grabs the wad of tissues out of his hand and tosses them into the wastebasket without looking.

"Sorry," Tim says, but Tony waves him off.

"I'm good," Tony says. He rolls onto his back, legs spread wide. He fumbles blindly with his left hand, finally just draping it across Tim's hip. "You good?"

"Oh, not bad," Tim says, and then he starts to grin. Joy is trying to burst out of him through every pore, and he tries to tamp it back. He takes a deep breath. Then he makes himself ask, even though he's not sure he's ready for the answer. "So, were you wrong?"

Tony rolls back towards him, and his eyes are so serious that Tim braces himself for another one of those smooth let-downs. But Tony leans in and gives him a quick kiss.

"It's kind of one of those things I have to find out with time," he says. Then he clears his throat. "But, ah, if you're okay with it, I'd like to try."

Tim doesn't fight the grin this time. "There is no try," he says, and that's when Tony brings a pillow down on his head. He starts to laugh while they roll around on the bed, wrestling for control of the pillow, and he doesn't stop until Tony kisses him breathless.

Chapters: 1

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