Email: bananacosmicgirl at hotmail . com
Website: www . cosmicuniverse . net
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Words: 3 700
Rating: R (language, violence)
Genre: Angst, friendship
Characters: Anthony DiNozzo, Timothy McGee
Warnings: Some violence
Spoilers: Up to 6x16 "Bounce"
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: Tony's pissed off, McGee is arrogant, and the two don't mix well at all.
Author's notes: The first half of this story was what I'd originally planned for my other "Bounce" story to be. Since that didn't go the way I planned, I had to write another fic with this scene. They are obviously not in the same universe.
Tony ran his finger around the top of the glass, creating a high-pitched, whining sound. The glass was long since empty, one in a row of half a dozen. Tony wasn't sure why the bartender gave him new glasses rather than fill up the old ones, but he did and now there were lots of glasses. No bourbon, though, and Tony thought briefly that Gibbs would have been disappointed.
But Tony had always been a beer kind of guy.
"You should eat something, man," said the bartender as he came by Tony to wipe the counter.
"Should," Tony agreed. There was only the slightest of slurs to his voice. He wasn't drunk off his ass yet but if he had his choice he soon would be.
One would've thought he'd learned his lesson with the sake bombing – or one of the hundreds of other drinking sessions he had participated in – but Anthony DiNozzo had always been a little behind on the learning curve.
He'd sent an innocent man to prison. Just like that, I don't believe in your objections, you're guilty, and three years behind bars for someone who should never have been there in the first place. Someone who hadn't even been in the fucking country when the transactions took place.
Tony's anger was lazy, not quite so quick to turn into blazing fire when he'd downed a bit of alcohol. Some got more violent under the influence but Tony wasn't one of them.
Renny should have shot him, or something. At least given him a black eye. Tony remembered Chip, asshole Chip who almost framed Tony for murder, and he remembered the fury he'd felt. If Chip's attempt had actually succeeded then Tony was pretty sure he'd have killed Chip, had the chance presented itself.
Then again, the chance probably wouldn't have presented itself considering that Tony would've been in jail, quite possibly serving three lifetimes or something along those lines.
Thank God for Abby and her forensics.
Renny should definitely have slugged him. A black eye might have made Tony feel slightly less guilty. Renny seemed to think the money was his consolation instead – Tony thought he should have had both.
He ordered another beer and a shot of vodka because he wasn't disappearing into the alcohol haze fast enough.
He had only just started drinking the beer when he felt the presence of someone behind him. It wasn't like that in itself was unusual – he was in a bar after all and it was a bit crowded – but Tony had been a cop and a special agent long enough to develop a certain sense about these things. A hand automatically went to his weapon, concealed at his hip, and he thought that he was probably still a pretty good shot, even though shooting someone in a crowded bar rated pretty high on the stupid scale.
"Drinking again, Tony?"
Tony relaxed, making a face. "None of your business, McGee. Go home, don't need a sitter."
"You look like you do," McGee said, sliding into the chair next to Tony's.
Tony glared at him and then returned his attention to his glass. Half-empty, or half-full? Half-empty, Tony decided. He wasn't an optimist, no matter how much his frat boy persona made it seem like it. He'd seen too much in life go to hell.
Kate, Paula, Jeanne, Jenny.
It was funny – in that way that wasn't – how all the big things that had gone to hell were women.
He could feel McGee's eyes on him and Tony didn't have to look to feel the superiority McGee exuded. It had been there for days, weeks, maybe even months. The little itty bitty probie had grown up, grown a spine – and the arrogant attitude had been part of the package.
McGee, He Who Can Do No Wrong.
Tony scoffed at his glass.
"Why're you here, McPompous?" he asked, the alcohol taking the edge off his usual censor.
"I'm pompous?" McGee asked, and Tony could hear just how scandalous Probie found that idea. "You're the one who's been strutting around—"
"Like a peacock, yeah, got that part, thanks," Tony said, interrupting without the least bit of apology in his voice.
Never mind that he'd been the boss. The one they were supposed to listen to. Gibbs had listened – that had been a surprise and a welcome one at that, because when was the last time Gibbs had listened to him? – and Ziva had done what Tony had asked without much to say, good or bad.
McGee on the other hand had undermined Tony's authority at every single turn.
Think he'd go easy on us?
Showing Gibbs the photos of the cheating wife.
Not trying nearly as hard to track the money, as he would've for Gibbs. McGee had scoffed at him.
I'm working on it but I doubt it, "boss".
What the fuck had Tony done to deserve that kind of treatment?
They were supposed to be a team. They were supposed to listen to each other. Sure, Gibbs could be a dictator sometimes – sometimes more than just sometimes – and Tony could bicker with Ziva and McGee like siblings, but underneath it all, or maybe above it all, they were supposed to be a team.
How the hell was Tony supposed to trust McGee to have his back, if McGee didn't respect Tony?
Suddenly furious – now much more than that slow-burning ember of anger – Tony slammed down a few bills to cover the drinks, grabbed his coat and stood up. He wasn't drunk enough for the room to spin, but his gait was slightly unsteady as he started walking.
Still, he weaved through the crowd effortlessly, reaching the door and striding outside. The night was chilly but Tony barely registered it, the alcohol keeping him warm. He knew it wasn't real warmth but he didn't care, he'd be home soon anyway. He had chosen a bar not far from his apartment for a reason.
Steps echoed behind him and then there was a hand on his arm, whipping him around.
Tony growled and pulled out of the grip. "You do not have permission to touch me, McFuckery."
"What the hell is wrong with you?" McGee asked, the tone of his voice pushing although he did take a step back.
"Go home!" Tony snapped. "Leave me alone. Once we get to work tomorrow, you'll only have Gibbs to answer to – won't you be thrilled!"
McGee didn't back down, staring at Tony. There was part anger, part that irritating, ever-present disdain in his eyes, as though Tony wasn't worth much at all to McGee.
McGee scoffed. "Is that was this is about? Me not showing you enough respect? Well, I'm sorry, boss, but you're not my boss."
Tony took a step forward and McGee had the sense to shut up, the arrogance draining away just a little.
"I was your boss," Tony snapped. "I was your boss today, and I was your boss three years ago."
"You're not Gibbs," McGee said.
Did McGee somehow think that that particular bit of knowledge had escaped Tony?
"I don't want to be," Tony said, biting each word out. "I'm me, and I'm capable."
"You put an innocent man in prison for three years," McGee said, a flash of glee igniting in his eyes.
It was only the fact that Tony had already beaten himself up over this for days that stopped his fury from flowing over into a fist to McGee's face. Tony wondered what had happened to them – when had they gone from Senior Field Agent and probie, to this? To constantly fighting each other, to hitting below the belt at every opportunity?
"Gibbs has screwed up too," Tony said. He remembered the case with the bank robber who wasn't.
He wondered if he should point out that McGee had been there, on the embezzlement case three years ago too. McGee and Ziva had both worked with him; they seemed to have conveniently forgotten that.
He chose sarcasm instead. "Luckily, we have you to save the day. What would we do without you?"
"Just because I don't screw up—"
"You killed a cop," Tony snapped, and it was so far below the belt that it was almost underground. With the amount of anger pulsing through his body Tony couldn't feel sorry for saying it.
McGee's fist came out of nowhere and it was freeing. It meant Tony could hit back, that they had opened up a whole new venue of dealing with their anger. Tony tasted blood but he didn't bother to feel through the pain to what kind of damage had been done.
McGee's apology was cut short by Tony's fist, flying through the air. It hit McGee's nose, which gave a satisfying crunch as it broke.
Tony held his hands up in a guard position, expecting another fist or maybe even a kick. McGee had never been a strong fighter and taking him down could even be constituted as fun. He needed to be brought down a notch or four, and Tony was still furious and wanting to fight.
But McGee had stilled, pressing his fingers against his nose in an attempt to stop the bleeding. The punch had made McGee's eyes tear up. He looked suddenly pathetic.
Some of the anger washed off of Tony and he dropped his guard to press a few fingers at the side of his face. McGee hadn't gone for the nose, instead serving Tony a black eye, or maybe a black cheek. Running his tongue along the inside of his mouth, Tony could feel where the skin had broken against his teeth, blood oozing from the cut.
He looked at McGee again. McGee was standing perfectly still, looking like he was trying to work through the pain and re-learning how to breathe with a nose full of blood.
Tony could certainly pack a punch.
He nearly rolled his eyes, wondering if this was the first time McGee had ever had his nose broken. Tony could count at least seven occasions off the top of his head when his own nose had been broken. Most of those times had been when he'd been a cop although a few had been at NCIS.
"C'mon," Tony said. "Let's get some ice."
He started walking, not bothering to check if McGee followed. Tony wasn't magically fine and dandy with McGee again, just like that – in fact, there was still some serious anger there – but there was no point in having McGee bleeding all over the sidewalk or the inside of a cab, and they needed to talk anyway.
Tony hated talking.
He liked interrogations because then he controlled the conversation, the environment. He hated talking because then he had no control at all.
But, if they were at his place at least he had the environment on his side.
If McGee didn't follow it wasn't Tony's problem.
McGee did follow and Tony held the door open for him when they reached the apartment complex where Tony lived. McGee's shirt was stained red and his hands smeared with blood, but it seemed to have stopped flowing quite so freely.
The side of Tony's face throbbed with pain, too, now that the adrenaline had left him and he thought that it was a good thing that McGee didn't work out more.
Once inside the apartment, Tony went to fridge and grabbed two handfuls of ice, wrapping each handful up in a towel. He handed McGee one of the towels.
"Keep it on, fifteen minutes. Don't bleed on my carpet."
McGee looked at him, dazed. "I—I'll try. Not to, I mean."
Stuttering? That wasn't the point of this. Not that Tony had had a plan – in fact, he hadn't had any intention at all of seeing McGee tonight – but bringing back the stuttering probie wasn't the point anyway. Tony just wanted McGee off his high horse so that they could work together.
Tony pressed the second ice-filled towel against his own face, heading to the bathroom to survey the damage. It wasn't too bad; he'd have a black eye and some swelling across his cheekbone, but nothing much beyond that.
McGee was still standing in the hallway when he came back out, fingers pressed gingerly against his nose. He hadn't even removed his trench coat or his shoes yet. Tony rolled his eyes.
"The kitchen is probably more comfortable," he said. "I'll get you some Tylenol."
He turned to leave.
McGee sounded young; it was a while since that had last happened. Tony couldn't decide if he liked it or not – he liked confidence, as long as it didn't cross the line to arrogance.
"Yeah?" Tony asked.
McGee looked down briefly, before realizing that looking down with a broken nose hurt more.
"I'm sorry," McGee said, his 'm's and 'r's drowning in the blood in his nose.
Tony sighed. "Go sit in the kitchen."
Tony had a small table and two chairs in the kitchen. He didn't use the kitchen very often, because he spent most of his time at NCIS and when he didn't he lived on takeout, but it did have the basics.
"Hot chocolate?" he asked, because his sweet tooth would always prefer that over coffee, even with Gibbs as a boss.
It was sometime after midnight; Tony hadn't bothered to check exactly what time it was. The night was dark outside the kitchen window. In a few minutes, he had two cups of hot chocolate ready and he set them down on the table, together with two pills for McGee, before sitting himself down opposite McGee.
McGee dared to remove the ice from his nose to take the cup. His fingers were still bloody, though now more along the lines of pink rather than red because of the melted ice. McGee took the pills and a very careful sip of the hot chocolate, wincing as he swallowed.
"So what were you apologizing for?" Tony asked.
McGee looked at him, eyes uncertain. Tony wished there could have been an easy middle ground between uncertainty and arrogance, but it seemed to be one or the other.
"It wasn't just you," McGee said, and Tony had to focus to hear the words, slurred together by the broken nose. "Ziva and I – we were both part of the team too."
Tony shrugged. "I was the team leader. It was my responsibility."
It was a responsibility he didn't mind shouldering, even though it caused him pain and even though he'd thought about throwing it in McGee's face earlier. It was the team leader's responsibility, no one else's. Gibbs led by example, and Gibbs took the responsibility seriously – and that meant Tony would too.
"You were a good team leader," McGee said. "I liked being your Senior Field Agent."
Tony gave a quick grin before realizing that it hurt. "I'm sure you did."
"No, not just being Senior," McGee said. "I liked being your second."
Tony's eyebrows rose – he hadn't been expecting that, least of all with McGee's recent behavior. McGee had acted like Tony was the last person on the planet he respected and wanted to work with.
"So why—" Tony started.
"I don't know," McGee said. "You always played games with me, and I—I wanted to get back at you. Show you that I could do things too. That I wasn't the probie anymore."
Tony took a mouthful of hot chocolate and swallowed slowly, letting the liquid warm him.
"You'll always be the probie, Probie," Tony said.
"I know," McGee said softly.
Then there was silence, uncomfortable and stretching into impossibly long minutes because neither man knew what to say or do. McGee replaced the ice pack tenderly against his nose until it was more water than ice, and Tony could check out the damage. He had to admit, McGee's face looked way worse than his own. He wasn't sure whether to be proud or ashamed – probably more of the latter, because hitting coworkers, no matter how well-deserved, wasn't something to be proud of.
At least McGee's nose wasn't crooked; they wouldn't need to go to the hospital to get it fixed.
Finally, Tony took the now empty cups and placed them in the sink, rinsing them out. He worked meticulously as he cleaned them, buying time. He wasn't sure for what, exactly, but it felt good to be doing something.
He turned and looked at McGee. "So, what now?"
McGee watched him with eyes rather wide. "What do you mean?"
"Can I work with you?" Tony asked. "Can you work with me? For me? I am senior, and until you become the youngest ever Director of NCIS or something – which I have no doubt you will be – I'll always be senior. And sometimes, I might be team leader, and you'll have to listen to me." He paused and took a breath. "So, can I trust you? Do you have my six?"
McGee stared at him, mouth open. It was probably because the broken nose forced him to breathe through his mouth, but it made him look a lot like a goldfish.
"Don't say yes if you don't mean it, Probie," Tony said, consciously using the nickname that was obviously angering McGee. "If you don't mean it, it's useless to me."
McGee swallowed hard. "I don't think—"
He paused and Tony steeled himself for words that would lead to one of them being forced to transfer.
But McGee surprised him.
"I don't think there's anyone I trust more," McGee said. "Except maybe Gibbs."
Tony's eyebrows rose in astonishment. Before he could stop himself he said, "Really?"
McGee flushed and looked away. "Really." Then he seemed to force himself to look at Tony again. "It's never been about trust. I've always trusted you in the field and I probably always will. I know you have my six. You're great in the field – you'd never freeze up and risk my life, or anyone else's. It's just—with the computers—that's what I'm good at. And I just—want you to know that. That I'm good at something."
"I know that," Tony said, shaking his head. "We all know that. We all know you're a computer wiz with more tricks up your sleeve than Joe Labero."
He was talking more than he had planned on but it felt good.
McGee's cheeks were red. "Thanks, Tony."
"Yeah, well, don't get used to it," Tony said. "I don't usually go around praising guys who hit me."
McGee's eyes went wide once more. "I'm sorry about that too."
"If Gibbs were here, he'd smack you silly for all the apologizing you're doing tonight," Tony said. "As it is—"
He walked over and cuffed McGee lightly upside the back of his head.
McGee didn't flinch or frown at him; he smiled. With ease, Tony grinned back – until they both realized what a supremely bad idea it was to smile after using their faces to say hello to a fist and then they both winced instead.
Tony returned to the counter and leaned back. "Seriously, McGee. We all know you know your stuff. Even Vance is impressed with you. You don't need to play it up."
"Neither do you," McGee said. "But you play it down instead of up."
Tony gave a small, crooked smile. "That's just the way I am. Silly and immature."
"Sure it is," McGee said, in a tone that suggested he wasn't buying. Perhaps McGee was more observant than he seemed sometimes if he'd caught onto the frat boy act just being a front rather than the whole person.
It wasn't a subject Tony was willing to breach in the middle of the night. He and McGee had had enough of a heart to heart to last Tony a month, if not a year.
He pushed off the counter. "Bedtime."
McGee stood up. "Mind if I use the bathroom? I just have to, uh, clean up."
"Bathroom's down the hall," Tony said. "If you want to crash on my couch, you're welcome to it."
McGee looked surprised. "Thanks."
He wasn't sure why he extended the invitation to sleep over. Perhaps it was just the lateness of the hour and Tony's protectiveness of his people that made him unwilling to let McGee go out looking like an abuse victim, or perhaps it was something else. Something shared.
I don't think there's anyone I trust more.
It warmed Tony's heart as he thought about it. He wasn't sure why he believed it, because people around him had certainly managed to tell him bigger lies, but maybe it was like Gibbs said – McGee didn't know how to lie.
And besides, Tony had already believed in praise once today with Gibbs, so why not a line from McGee as well?
McGee looked better when he exited the bathroom. His nose was purple, but at least there wasn't blood all over his face anymore. His shirt still left something to be desired, obviously.
He stopped and studied Tony nervously. His voice was quiet when he spoke. "Tony? Do you trust me?"
At least that one was easy. "Always did, Probie. Just so long as you keep your head on straight."
McGee smiled crookedly. "I'll try."
"And once your nose has grown back, I'm taking you down to the gym," Tony said. "You punch like a girl."
"Your face begs to differ," McGee said, smiling just slightly.
"This?" Tony asked. "This is nothing."
The banter felt welcome and safe, a game they'd played a hundred times before. But then they fell silent and regarded each other quietly for a moment.
Tony handed McGee a shirt. It was one of Tony's old college t-shirts, grey and worn, but it was large and would fit McGee. Seeing how it wasn't covered in blood, it was a definite step up from what McGee was currently wearing.
"Blankets and pillow are on the couch," Tony said. "I'd recommend you keep your head up high. Night, Probie."
McGee nodded to his instructions. Tony, quite tired and still not completely sober – although McGee's punch had been quite the wakeup call – was looking forward to his bed. With a small wave, he headed towards the bedroom.
He stopped and smiled slightly back at McGee when he heard McGee's last words.
"Good night, boss."
Author's note: Hope you liked it :) Next chapter of The Raft of the Medusa will probably be up tomorrow, for those of you who care about that.