Written in response to the NFA The Playboy, The Goth and The Geek challenge by AlbertBester.
Word count: 2,369
Rating: T (PG-13)
Pairing: McGee/Ziva (Implied Tony/Abby)
A/N: The prompt for this challenge was an animation showing Tony and Abby very much in love, with an upset McGee in the background. I chose to tell the story from McGee's perspective, so there is very little Tony/Abby in this story. Sorry to disappoint.
Timothy McGee slumped back in his chair and glared at the computer screen. His fingers tapped the keys almost violently as he entered the most recent information for the search into the system. He was sulking. It had been years since he and Abby had dated, but they were friends. Close friends. Best friends, even. And he loved her. No matter how often he told himself that she didn't want what he did, and no matter how many times he reminded himself how much loving her hurt, he couldn't stop. Because to him Abby was irresistible. There were times when she showed herself to be jealous of his interest in another woman that gave him so much hope, but it never materialized into anything more than a ray of sunshine: it warmed and illuminated, but couldn't be touched.
This morning he had witnessed an unexpected moment between Tony and Abby that had shaken him. He was accustomed to seeing her with other men; she dated a lot. But not Tony. Not in the workplace. Here at the office, Abby was always still a little bit his. But apparently no more.
His face grew more determined as he continued to pound his keyboard into submission, gaining the stares of Agent Gibbs and Ziva David.
"Is everything okay, McGee?" Ziva asked.
"Fine," he muttered.
Gibbs glared at him, willing the agent to raise his head to meet his gaze. Naturally, it worked. Gibbs stared into McGee's eyes, reading what he could from the situation.
"Don't let it affect the case, McGee," Gibbs ordered, his voice stern and yet somehow sympathetic.
McGee's eyes widened at the idea of his boss knowing what was bothering him. How did he always know?
"Yes, Boss," he mumbled, lightening his touch on the keyboard slightly.
The elevator sounded its arrival, and McGee stiffened slightly as Tony walked out, whistling. Tony walked to his desk and turned to find Ziva and Gibbs staring at him.
"What? Is there something on my shirt?" he asked, spinning in his chair. It was obvious he had something to smile about.
McGee's face flushed, partly with annoyance and partly with hurt. Something was definitely going on between Abby and Tony, and he had no idea how he was going to deal with it. How did one completely shut off feelings, even if those feelings are unreciprocated? How could he ever get over her? How could he sit here day after day and watch Tony live the life he wanted?
"Find anything new, DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked sharply.
"You could say that," he said cryptically. At Gibbs' unwavering stare, he continued, "Um, Abby was just filling me in on…"
At the mention of Abby's name, McGee tuned Tony out. He knew he should be paying attention as this information could be pertinent to solving the case, but he couldn't. All he could do was picture the scene from the lab earlier that morning, again and again. His imagination was working overtime, filling in all the blanks. When had they first begun to notice one another that way? Why hadn't he seen it before?
"McGee!" Gibbs barked, pulling him away from his bitter musings.
"Yes, Boss," he answered automatically.
"I need you to run this over to Wycliffe's office and wait for a response," he ordered, handing a file to the younger agent.
McGee gave his boss a confused look. Typically they sent others from the office on these types of errands. Gibbs' returning look confided to him that he knew he needed a moment away, and was trying to accommodate him.
"Yes, Boss," he agreed with a nod. He gathered the information and made his way toward the elevator.
"McGee," Gibbs called out just as he was about to leave. "Take Ziva with you."
McGee blanched. Not Ziva; anyone but Ziva. She had the uncanny ability to make him talk. He swallowed and glanced her way. With a smirk, she grabbed her bag and jacket and joined him at the elevator. This was going to be a long trip.
"Are you going to tell me what is bothering you?" Ziva asked, once they were settled in his car. He had offered to drive, not wanting to end up in a traffic accident by trusting a driving Ziva; not on a day like today, anyway.
"No," he answered simply.
"Yes, you will," she smiled.
McGee swallowed. His mind began to think of all the possible things Ziva might do to make him talk. He wasn't looking forward to this at all.
"You may as well go ahead, McGee," she continued, her tone coaxing him to reveal his innermost thoughts and secrets. "You know you will tell me anyway. Eventually," she added with a smirk.
Red-faced, McGee tried to ignore her, but it was useless. She was too good an interrogator and his feelings were too close to the surface.
"And if you didn't want to discuss it, you shouldn't have worn your feelings on your shirt," she pointed out.
"On my sleeve," he corrected her automatically. Deciding he would rather spill the information on his own terms and avoid whatever torture Ziva most assuredly had in store, he took a deep breath and then spoke. "Tony kissed Abby in the lab this morning," he divulged, and then paused to await her reaction.
"So?" she asked.
"So, it looked like they were both enjoying themselves."
"I should hope so," Ziva noted. "Kissing is an enjoyable experience, with the right partner."
McGee rolled his eyes. He should never have told her.
"You are jealous, yes?"
"Of course not," he lied. "I just don't think work is the right place for that kind of thing. When Abby and I were going out, we never…"
"You and Abby went out?" Ziva asked, shocked that she had never heard of this. She had known of McGee's feelings for the Goth forensic scientist, but had never known things had ever been anything more than they seemed.
"For a while, and you don't have to act so surprised."
"I'm not surprised you were together, McGee. Only that I hadn't heard about it." She paused a moment before continuing. "You ARE jealous. Admit it."
McGee sighed. Of course he was jealous. Abby was… everything. "I guess I thought that someday our friendship would become more… like it used to be."
"And what exactly was it then? Did Abby love you?"
"No," he admitted, his head hanging slightly.
"So you were happy simply to love her. You felt privileged that she allowed you to love her, even though she didn't return that love."
McGee crinkled his brow. Hearing the situation turned back around, he didn't like how it made him sound.
"Abby was right," he said softly. "I am like a puppy dog."
"You are not a puppy, McGee," Ziva told him, the emotion in her voice begging him to see himself as he truly was; to see himself as she saw him. "You are a good agent, and you are becoming a better one every day. I would trust my life to you, Tim."
He looked at her a moment, seeing the truth in her eyes. "Since when," he joked, hoping to lessen the sudden tension in the car.
"I am not sure. I know in the beginning, I had a hard time coming to rely on you. But there is no question now. I trust you."
"But that doesn't change the fact that I've been living like a lap dog at Abby's feet, begging for her to drop an occasional crumb of affection," McGee said miserably.
"That is not true, either. Abby cares for you; just not in the way you want her to. And you have dated other people, yes?"
"Yeah, but it's never been like it was with her."
"Because you need a strong woman, McGee. Someone who can see who you really are. Someone who, like you, longs for the strength and security of a family. Someone who understands the demands of your job, and is happy with that. Someone who finds you incredibly attractive and who would go to the ends of the earth to be with you. Someone…"
"Who doesn't exist," he interjected.
McGee gave her a skeptical look. "And I'll find her when I'm sixty, and Abby and Tony are married with kids."
"You could find her sooner. Sometimes what you're looking for is where you might least expect it."
McGee snorted. "If you meet her, will you at least give me a heads up?"
"I actually already know her," Ziva answered with a sly grin.
"Really?" McGee asked, suddenly interested. His mind ran back over the list of qualities Ziva had just described. If she had been thinking of an actual person, this could be just what he needed to get over Abby.
"I will get you up," she said definitively.
"Set me up, I think you mean," McGee said, blushing.
"Yes, that too."
Straightening his tie for probably the seventeenth time, McGee glanced at his watch and then the entrance to the restaurant. What had he been thinking to allow Ziva to set him up on a blind date? He glanced at the bottle of expensive champagne he had splurged on, noting how beads of condensation were gliding down the sides of the bottle from the time it had spent chilling. She was late. She probably wasn't coming.
Tamping down even more feelings of rejection, he opened the menu and began to peruse the restaurant's offerings. Even if she didn't show, he could at least enjoy a nice meal. Alone. He sighed as negative feelings began once again to overtake him. He could feel tears just behind his eyes, and struggled to maintain control of himself. He wasn't going to cry over this; he had been stood up before. The hardest part would be having to face Ziva the next day. He began to wonder if this was her intention all along: to give him hope and then slap him back down.
The sound of someone clearing her throat brought his attention back to the situation at hand. He lifted his eyes, and immediately forgot how to breathe.
Ziva was standing next to the table, adorned in the most amazing dress he had ever seen. She smiled as he took his time looking her over, and when his eyes finally found hers, spoke, "I'm sorry I'm late. I hate panty hose."
Dropping his eyes back to her bare legs, he grinned. "I see you found a way to deal with that." He rose and led her to her chair.
"I threw them away," she admitted, allowing him to push the seat up behind her.
"Good plan," he said quietly. Was she interested in him, or was she here because the person she was thinking of backed out and she wanted to be kind? He took his seat, and handed her a menu.
Seeing the doubt in his eyes, Ziva explained. "I have always been attracted to you, Tim. When I first came to NCIS, you were kind to me and welcomed me from the start. I had hopes for a relationship at that time, but it became clear you had feelings for Abby and I didn't want to overstep. I hope I didn't freak you out, but this seemed like the perfect opportunity to… I don't know, McGee."
"Don't stop," he urged with a smile, earning one of hers in return. "I always thought you and Tony…"
Ziva gave an exasperated sigh. "I know what you thought of me and Tony. I read your books, remember? But you were way off bait."
"Way off base," he corrected her with a smile. She was so cute.
"What do you think now, McGee?"
"I think I was wrong about a lot of things."
Ziva nodded. "Clearly," she said, somewhat jokingly.
He chuckled. "So what's next?" he asked, not really certain he wanted to know.
"Well, I set you up, now it's time to get you up," she said seductively.
Gibbs stepped off the elevator to find a completely different atmosphere than the one he had experienced the day before. He smirked. He had known sending Ziva with Tim was the right move; McGee may have been oblivious to Ziva's feelings, but he was not. Of course, he couldn't let on that he knew. He schooled his features into his normal morning case-face, and quickly crossed to his desk.
"Good morning, Boss," McGee said, handing him a steaming cup of coffee.
"Suck up," Tony muttered.
"I'm not sucking up, Tony," McGee rolled his eyes. "I was early today and decided to stop for coffee. I have one for you, too."
"Oh," Tony said. "In that case, thanks Probester."
"Any time," McGee said, with no sign of yesterday's animosity in his voice.
Tony eyed him warily. Abby was almost certain McGee had witnessed their kiss, and McGee's behavior the day before had pretty much confirmed it. What had happened to cool him off?
"What gives, McGee?"
"McGee has given you coffee before, Tony," Ziva said. "Why is this any different?"
"Because McGee was mad at me yesterday. Upset people don't buy coffee for the people with whom they are upset, Zee-vah."
"Maybe you misinterpreted," she continued. "Maybe McGee has more important things to think about than you and Abby making out in the lab."
Tony stared at Ziva suspiciously. So he had confided in her. She probably hadn't given him a choice. He smiled at the thought of McGee uncomfortably sharing what he had witnessed. "Not McGee; no, McGee lives to breathe the air Abby expels. I'm not wrong." He continued to watch Ziva with interest. He caught the look that passed between them and nearly choked on his coffee.
"Can we get back to work people?" Gibbs barked.
The sound of paper shuffling and mumbled agreements suddenly filled the squad room as they all got back to work.
"And DiNozzo," Gibbs began.
Tony looked up into Gibbs' steely stare.
"If I ever see what McGee saw yesterday, I'll shoot you myself," he warned. Of course, he didn't mean it. But maybe they would keep it out of the office… maybe.