Team fic; specifically Tony/McGee bonding.
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"Tony! I told you, I just want to be alone! It's after 11:00. Please, just go home."
Timothy McGee was getting desperate. His senior teammate had shown up at his door nearly four hours ago and simply would not be persuaded, enticed, bullied, or guilted into leaving. Apparently the current "high stress situation" left him "doubly vulnerable to mind-controlling aliens", just like in some movie or another, and he couldn't be left alone.
"Aw, Probie, you act like I'm imposing or something. We both know you're secretly glad I'm here. You know, to keep you from dwelling on the fact that you killed a cop and will probably be interrogated by his pissed off boss and really pissed off partner. Not to mention what this might mean for your career. Nah, no way you want to be alone with those thoughts." Tony DiNozzo smiled widely as if he'd just made an important point and jammed the rest of his hotdog into his mouth.
"Yeah, Tony," he said flatly, "wouldn't want me to dwell."
"Knew you'd see it my way, Probie. You sure you're out of ketchup?"
"Yes! And I'll be out of food soon, the way you're eating!" Tim yelled, exasperated.
Predictably, his outburst had no effect. DiNozzo merely shrugged, picked up his plate, and went back to the kitchen, presumably looking for ketchup or an acceptable substitute like…canned corn? McGee watched from the dining room table as Tony searched for a can opener, found it, and proceeded to empty the contents over his two remaining hotdogs then cover the ensemble liberally with mustard.
DiNozzo had been eating non-stop since he barged in. Not to mention the constant, extremely irritating stream of comments and absurd questions. Basically, he was being the usual Tony DiNozzo that McGee put up with at work every day. At least at work he could count on Gibbs to keep Tony in line.
"Hey, McProbie, you do anything besides write about us when you're home?" Tony asked, coming back into the room with a fresh glass of juice and re-loaded plate. "We could always play a computer game, but I'd beat you of course. Or we could watch a movie. Clubbing would be more fun. You're such a stick in the mud."
McGee sighed as Tony continued to ramble, managing to somehow get from stick in the mud to Rocky III. His teammate hadn't been serious since he'd told about his first time shooting at someone. That had surprised McGee just as much, if not more, as his actual visit. Totally un-Tony like. He had acted almost like he cared.
Tony banged on the table, adding emphasis to some element of his unending gibberish. Tim wasn't really listening. He was staring at a random spot on the table trying not to listen to Tony and trying not to think about shooting a cop. Turned out, it was more difficult to ignore DiNozzo's animated monologue; bits of it kept getting through.
"You know, I'd really hoped to get you drunk outta your head before I told you this, but you haven't got a lick of alcohol in your apartment." This was one of the bits that drifted through. It caught McGee's attention because it sounded serious. Oh man, he was trying for a record – Tony DiNozzo was going to be serious twice in the same night.
"Before what, Tony?" he prompted dutifully at the expectant pause.
"I've been in your situation. Well, not exactly your situation. In college. I was playing football-" McGee interrupted him incredulously.
"You're equating my killing a cop with football?"
"Hey, don't interrupt, McGee", Tony said, sounding a trifle put out. He glared before continuing. "As I was saying, I was playing football, when this guy got his leg broke. He was good, lived for sports. His dream, ever since he was a kid, was to go pro. He could've made it, too, if it hadn't been for the injury. It happened during his senior year; he'd already played for talent scouts and was pretty much guaranteed a spot on almost any team he wanted. Basketball. Anyway –"
"Tony, I really don't see where you're going with this. I shot a cop. You knew someone who broke his leg."
"Well, if you'd let me finish, McRude, it'll all make sense." McGee huffed at DiNozzo's rebuke, but stayed quiet.
"Anyway, the broken leg killed any chance the guy had to go pro. He lost more than just his dream, his girlfriend left him and his teammates, his brothers, left too. You could say he died a metaphorical death, while still having to live with it."
"To-nee!" Tim's thin layer of tolerance for DiNozzo's antics was perilously close to breaking. "I still don't-"
"It's impatient, Tony. Unpatient isn't a word", McGee droned wearily.
"I know that, Probie", Tony paused, squinting his eyes at the other man. "I used it for dramatic effect. Now, do you want to hear the rest of my story, or not?"
"No!" The younger agent was emphatic, but not hopeful.
"Too bad, McGee. Shut up and listen. Before you so rudely interrupted me, I was going to say that the guy with the broken leg went to see the guy that broke his leg. You see, that guy screwed up. Launched a low tackle, didn't do it right. It wasn't really his fault, but he still screwed up, and the guy with the broken leg wanted blood." DiNozzo's narrative was dizzying, and McGee could only hold out so long.
"So, what, Tony? It was an accident. They talked it over, and Brokenleg forgave Brokeleg and they lived happily ever after. Or did Brokenleg kill Brokeleg and you're telling me to watch my back?"
A slight frown forced its way onto Tony's face. Up till now the senior agent had been grossly cheerful and pleasant. When he spoke there was a hint of something darker – an out of place scary-seriousness – in Tony's voice.
"Brokenleg and Brokeleg. Nice, McGee. No, Brokenleg didn't forgive Brokeleg. He didn't hurt him, either. Brokeleg felt guilty, though. Carried that with him a long time – ha, a sports injury that wasn't really his fault. He gave up his chance to go pro, did something else instead."
Tony stopped talking. Apparently, he'd made his point. Confused, Tim stared at DiNozzo, waiting for him to explain why he'd just tortured his partner with a Ducky-caliber story. DiNozzo stared back. Two seconds, three, four, five…. A minute. McGee blinked. Tony blinked back, grinned triumphantly, and returned to his forgotten food. McGee watched as Tony shoved half of a corn and mustard covered hotdog and bun into his mouth. Darn it, Tony knew he was going to ask.
"Ok, Tony. You win. You told me this, why?" McGee's tone indicated simultaneous resignation and irritation. That combination may sound difficult to achieve, but Tim was a pro – he should be, he got to practice it every single day.
"Aw, come on, Probie. It's obvious. Brokeleg shouldn't have given up his chance to go pro." And, just like that Serious Tony was gone, "You sure you don't have any movies around here?" Tony polished off his hotdogs and wandered over to the entertainment center.
McGee was understandably shell-shocked. How on earth did Tony know he was thinking about quitting? Okay, not quitting quitting, but quitting field work. He hadn't even said anything to Gibbs, although Gibbs might have guessed. But Tony… there was no way Tony would come up with something like that on his own.
Then again, Tony had caught some pretty good leads. Maybe it wasn't just luck. Tony could actually be smarter than he acted. He was good at undercover work, right? Tim leaned out in his chair, craning his neck to catch a glimpse of the man in the other room.
Tony had removed all McGee's DVDs from their cubby and was sorting through them methodically, tossing most into a large, untidy stack in the middle of the floor. Only a select few made it to a much neater stack on the edge of the coffee table. This man was smarter than he acted?
Nah. But he did have a point, well, sort of.
"Hey, Tony?" Tim hesitated, well aware that he was about to re-open Pandora's Box and unleash another set of DiNozzo Ramblings on himself.
"What, McGee?" Tony sound just a bit annoyed at being distracted from his intense concentration.
"What happened to Brokeleg?"
"Gee, McGee. I thought you'd be more concerned about Brokenleg. After all, he did break a leg - er, his leg was broken." Obviously Tony had used up all his reserve seriousness for the night.
"Tony, just tell me, please" Resignation and irritation, he doubted anyone else did it quite so well – or had quite so much practice.
"Fine, but I'm not telling you about Brokenleg," came the petulant capitulation, "Brokeleg became a doctor, trying to make up for it, I guess. Even saved the other guy's life, eventually. But it was funny, the other guy had moved on to bigger and better things. He was almost glad it happened, otherwise he'd never found his true calling. It was the doctor that hadn't moved on, had gotten stuck on it and let his guilt influence his life choices."
Okay, so maybe the over-grown frat boy had more stamina for seriousness than he let on. The message wasn't even that subtle, and Tim was grateful. He was grateful because he knew that however this ended, he was going to have to move forward, accept what had happened as an accident that "wasn't really" his fault. And he knew that his team would be there to help him let go.
"Thanks, Tony." And he meant it. Somehow, DiNozzo had known just what he needed to hear.
DiNozzo just grinned and went back to sorting DVD's.
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When Tony made it to work the next day, both Gibbs and Abby were waiting for him expectantly.
"You talk to him, DiNozzo?" Gibbs demanded gruffly.
He'd been worried about the computer-geek. McGee still didn't think like a field agent. He was trained - hell, between him and DiNozzo, McGee'd gotten better 'training' than most rookie cops did. And recent events showed it. Gibbs had no doubt whatsoever that McGee had followed protocol to the letter. He assesed the situation and responded appropriately. Thank god he didn't freeze. If there was a mistake it fell on his teachers. Well, ultimately it fell to him, because it was his team.
So, Gibbs was worried about McGee. He was questioning his judgment. He'd been alone – and once again Gibbs questioned his own decision to have McGee cover the back entrance alone, but pushed it aside. He'd already beat himself up over his boat, in the basement with bourbon. DiNozzo would probably have something cute to say about all the b's matching 'b' for bastard or something.
Which led him back to the subject at hand, DiNozzo. DiNozzo sure didn't show it though typical behavior, but Gibbs knew that his senior field agent thought of McGee, Ziva, and Abby almost as younger siblings.
That being said, Gibbs also knew that DiNozzo had never had any real siblings and that he didn't willingly confront emotionally volatile situations. He also knew, that if he hadn't come up with something, DiNozzo would have spent last night in his basement, pestering him. So he'd ordered him to talk with McGee, and had Abby back him up.
"Yeah, Boss. I talked to him. And I stayed with him most of the night. Didn't think he'd sleep much if I left him", Tony obediently reported.
"So, he's gonna be okay, right? It wouldn't be the same without the same ol' McGee, you know what I mean?"Abby gushed worriedly. It didn't look like either of them knew what she meant.
"Yeah, Abs, he'll be fine. I think." Tony cringed as he recalled the numerous objections and rejections he'd had to plow through to get his point across to the Probie. "He wasn't exactly in a receptive mood when I got there, but I think I managed to get through to him".
"That's why I sent you, DiNozzo." Tony gave him a look of mild disbelief. A look that meant he'd have company tonight. Well, it was lonely in his basement anyway.
"Now get back to work; we're going to solve this thing." With that, Tony's boss stormed off to his desk leaving himself and Abby to share a knowing look.
"Wait, Tony", Abby called out as he began to head in the direction of the bullpen. She had a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. "Which story did you use? The Peoria I-screwed-up-and-almost-got-my-partner-killed-but-still-caught-the-bad-guy or the Philadephia my-partner-almost-got-me-killed-because-I-followed-my-gut-and-not-protocol-but-still-caught-the-bad-guy?"
"Neither, Abs. Football story. McGee really needs to man up, get into sports."
"What football story? You haven't told me your football story! How could you tell McGee your football story, but not me? Not that McGee isn't good enough for your football story, but I'm-"
"Abs!" Tony stopped her before she could really get rolling, "Gibbs is going to kill me. I have to get back to work."
"Okay, but we're not done here, Mister. I expect you to tell me the football story later," the forensic Goth called after him, shaking her fist fervently.
"Whatever you say, Abs."
Tony grinned. It was good to fit in with people like this. He'd never had people care about him like Gibbs, Ducky, Abby, and even Director Morrow and Gerald did. Or had people to take care of. McGee and Ziva were getting better. They'd get the hang of it soon.
Yep, he'd found his calling. He'd have to remember to go easy on Brad Pitt the next time they met for a friendly game of basketball.
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A/N: What'd you think? I'm thinking about doing a couple other team-bonding fics like this. Also, I only saw this episode once, and I'm not really sure about the timeline. I do know that SWAK happened before this. Lastly, I like mayo on my corn, but DiNozzo struck me as a mustard guy, so I ran with it. ;) Reviews are loved.