Title: Loving Him
Author: Cosmic

Email: bananacosmicgirl at hotmail . com
Website: www . cosmicuniverse . net
LiveJournal: bananacosmic . livejournal . com

Parts: 7
Words: 14 000, 2 000 words per chapter
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Slash, angst, hurt/comfort
Characters: Tony DiNozzo, Timothy McGee
Pairings: DiNozzo/McGee

Warnings: Slash

Spoilers: 5x05 "Leap of Faith", general spoilers

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations from the TV-show "NCIS", created and owned by David P. Bellisarius and CBS. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Summary: There's something about nearly dying that has him spilling his guts before he's even had time to catch his breath.

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Loving Him

By Cosmic

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Chapter Seven

Tim

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Tim's mind is reeling with the instruction Abby left him with. Kiss Tony. Kiss. Tony. He can't even begin to wrap his mind around the consequences of such an action, be they good or bad – and the latter is, unfortunately, far more likely than the former.

His heart beats wildly as he drives his car from Abby's home. He's probably a real danger on the roads, but luckily, there's little traffic out. Only one car honks angrily at him for not paying attention to where he's going.

His hands are shaking badly enough for him to have some trouble locking his car after parking it on Tony's street. He feels feverish with nervousness, bouts of hot and cold passing through him. It gets even worse as he heads up the stairs to the second floor, each step heavier than the previous. He wants to run screaming in the other direction – yet something forces him to keep going, perhaps Abby's words about finally risking his heart.

No pain, no gain.

The likelihood of pain is overwhelming in this case.

He knocks raptly on Tony's door, before he loses his nerve. He swallows as he waits for it to open; it takes a few seconds, but then there are steps and the door is unlocked and opened.

Tony doesn't look like himself. He is clean and neat, his hair combed back and his clothes far better fitting most of the stuff Tim owns even now that he can afford expensive suits, but there is a haunted look in his eyes. The shadows beneath his eyes get even more pronounced in the harsh yellow light of the corridor. Tony's apartment appears dark.

"Probster," Tony says. "What can I do for you?"

Tony's expression changes; Tim can't say if it's for the better. It seems like a mask, to hide whatever Tony's really feeling.

He doesn't know what to answer. "Uh—I—uh—can I come in?"

He wonders if Tony thinks he's a stalker now – it's midnight, and Tim is at Tony's apartment for a second time in a single day, despite never having been there at all twenty-four hours ago. His heart is still beating a mile a minute.

Tony shrugs, and moves aside. Tim enters, and closes the door behind him. He hangs up his coat, and then tries his best to come up with something to say. He fails, and instead, Tony speaks.

"So—" he says. "You decided to stop by at midnight because—"

He leaves the sentence hanging, and Tim knows that Tony does think it's weird that he's there. He regrets coming, but now that he's there, he decides to see it through. He needs to risk his heart to gain anything of worth – and Tony is certainly worth it, if there's even the slightest chance.

"I wanted—uh," Tim says, wondering what it is he wanted when he came. "I wanted to see you."

Tony looks slightly surprised at this, but he quickly schools his face back into a mask of indifference. Tim wonders why; he'd like to see the real Tony.

When Tony doesn't answer, Tim says, "You, uh, you didn't seem—ah, happy, this afternoon."

Tony shrugs. "I'm fine and dandy now. Got a movie and popcorn and everything."

The apartment does smell of popcorn – perhaps Tim's just disturbing Tony in a movie marathon of some kind. Perhaps he's completely unwanted. Perhaps Tony is really fine, despite that look in his eyes.

"Oh," he says.

He doesn't know what to say, or do, or even where to look. Tony appears calm and a bit questioning still as to why Tim's there, and Tim can't calm himself enough to even pretend to be relaxed. Abby's words are echoing back and forth in his mind – kiss him, kiss him, kiss him. And Tony's tongue darts out to lick his lips, just for a millisecond, and it's all that Tim needs to actually do what his body wants.

He moves fast, and hopes that Tony won't hit him. He places his hands on each side of Tony's face, and presses his lips gently against Tony's before he can chicken out.

It feels wonderful. Tony's lips taste of alcohol – he's holding a glass in hand, so that's not odd – and a bit of salt, and a taste that's just Tony. His lips are soft and full beneath Tim's, warm and perfect.

But then Tim realizes that Tony is standing limply; he's not responding at all. There's not even a hint of a reaction.

Realizing that Tony most certainly can't want this if he doesn't react, Tim pulls back. He gasps for breath, not realizing he ever held it, and fear runs through him as he looks at Tony. Tony must hate him now, must think him disgusting—

The urge to flee overcomes him, and he turns and runs before he can give his legs the instruction to do so. He almost falls in the hallway outside, stumbling clumsily over his own feet.

He gets to the street, and swears out loud, realizing that his car keys are in his coat, which is hanging in Tony's apartment.

Suddenly, he's turned around by a strong hand, and a fist hits him. Tim raises his arms, shielding his face, and he thinks it's rather likely that Tony will kill him now. He probably should – after this humiliation, Tim is certain he won't have a job to return to come Monday.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?"

There are no more punches coming; the single hit spreads pain from his eye and cheek, but no more are raining over him. It's just Tony's words, furious and loud.

He opens his eyes, lowering his arms just a little, to see Tony glaring angrily at him.

"I—God, I'm so sorry—I'm—I didn't—"

"Didn't what? Mean it?" Tony asks.

Tim stays quiet, because he can't lie and say that it didn't mean anything. It meant everything. He can still taste Tony's lips on his own.

"Are you toying with me?"

This makes Tim lower his arms completely, as they go limp in shock. "What?"

"Are you toying with me?" Tony asks again, slower. There's a break in his voice, a hurt. "Why did you kiss me?"

Tim swallows hard, heart racing. What is Tony asking? Why aren't more blows coming? Why is there a light in Tony's eyes that isn't of disgust or hatred? "I—uh—"

"Why, McGee?" Tony asks, and in the midst of the harshness, Tim hears despair.

"Because I'm in love with you," Tim says, and it's said without stammering. He squeezes his eyes shut, waiting for cruel, hateful words to rain over him.

But no words come. In fact, nothing at all comes. There is silence and stillness, and Tim opens his eyes hesitantly to find Tony staring at him, his expression wide-eyed and unguarded. There is heavy disbelief radiating from every part of Tony's body.

"What?" Tony says.

"I'm in love with you," Tim says again, quietly. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean—"

"Why?" Tony asks, still staring. He looks beautiful, Tim thinks, his hair blown into a disarray of shiny locks by the wind, and his face so open and vulnerable for once.

"Why what?" Tim asks.

"Why are you in love with me?"

Tim frowns at the question. He hasn't thought much about it – not in terms of finding a reason why. But just looking at Tony now, he can come up with a thousand reasons to love Tony – the brilliance, the goofiness, the beauty, the protectiveness he shows those he loves—

But he doesn't say any of it.

"Are you—okay with it?" he asks instead, deciding that before he pours his heart out, he should know that it's not just so that Tony can feed the gossip mill for months to come.

Tony gives the slightest of nods, wide eyes steadily on Tim.

Tim slumps down, the adrenaline that has been pumping through his body since he first left his own apartment to go to Abby and ask what he should do, finally leaving his body at the admission. He still doesn't know what Tony will do, but the fact that he's watching Tim the way he is, and listening to him the way he does—it seems to bode well.

Tim looks at the street as he speaks. "You're intelligent."

"Not like you," he hears Tony mutter to the ground.

Tim frowns at this. He says, "You asked me, and I'm answering. So shut up and listen. And you are intelligent. And beautiful." Saying the words empowers him; his voice grows stronger as he continues. "You see things that the rest of us miss. You're headstrong, you can handle yourself, and at the same time, you can be silly and annoying and make me want to strangle you."

He takes a step towards Tony, who says, "That doesn't sound like a very good reason to—you know."

Tim shrugs. "I need silliness. I get way to boring in all my geekiness otherwise." He takes another step closer, and they're suddenly just a foot apart. "You're creative. Fun. And even though life hasn't always been all that fair to you, you love with all your heart."

Tony is staring him, mouth hanging open, but when Tim trails off, he snorts and looks away. "I'm pretty sure you have me confused with some other sap, 'cause that doesn't sound like me at all."

Tim smiles, trying to appear calmer than he feels. He takes another step forward, and they are touching each other, Tim's hands on either side of Tony's face.

This time, he descends slower, and Tony is prepared for it. They lean into each other, lips meeting in the middle. They both let their eyes fall shut, and when Tim hesitantly pulls Tony into a deeper kiss, Tony responds in kind by flicking his tongue out.

The kiss leaves them both breathless, and when they pull apart, they are both breathing hard.

"So, are you—you know?" Tim asks. "With me?"

Tony hesitates before giving a small nod. "Yeah."

Tim's heart leaps with joy, and a goofy grin spreads over his face. That, however, makes him wince, as the punch Tony threw earlier makes itself known – his eye is throbbing.

"We should probably get some ice on that," Tony says, wincing at the sight. "Although you'll probably be pretty in purple tomorrow either way."

"You really had to punch me?" Tim mutters.

There's a sheepish smile on Tony's face that makes up for the pain of the punch. It's the first real smile Tim has seen on Tony in days; it reaches his eyes and lights them up, even though it's with some shame in this case.

"I was—confused," Tony says.

"Well, you might have a shot at the insanity plea, that's for sure," Tim says.

"So do you," Tony says. "You kissed me. In the hallway. Just like that."

"Yeah," Tim says. "Uh, blame Abby."

They start walking back to the apartment.

"Abby?" Tony asks, eyebrows rising. "She knows?"

"She knows," Tim confirms.

"Of course she does."

They go up the stairs and back into the apartment. Tim's coat is still hanging on the hanger. Removing his shoes, Tim follows Tony into the apartment. Seeing the full bowl of popcorn, he raises an eyebrow at Tony, who shrugs.

The shrug, which seems a bit forlorn, prompts Tim to pull Tony into a hug.

"You know, I'm not all that into hugs," Tony mutters.

"Deal with it," Tim says.

"I'm stronger than you."

"And yet you're still here," Tim says, and it's true – Tony is still standing in the embrace, his arms sneaking around Tim's waist. Tony leans his head on Tim's shoulder, and it feels as though it's where Tony was always supposed to be – he fits so well.

"Gibbs isn't going to like this," Tony says softly. "Rule number twelve and all."

"If we fail to deal with him, I'm sure Abby can do it," Tim says.

"So she's all for this?" Tony asks.

"She's our number one fan, apparently. She told me to come here and kiss you," Tim says. "She, uh, expects us to call in sick on Monday because we're busy in bed."

Tony grins. "That can be arranged."

This time, Tony initiates the kiss, and it feels just right – like this was what was supposed to happen all along.

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Author's notes: Thank you so much to everyone who's commented. I have read and appreciated every single one of them - perhaps more so this time, because without the positive feedback I received on the first two chapters, the rest of this story wouldn't have come into being. And the last line of the story is what I felt when I was done with it - it was supposed to happen all along.