A/N: Hi! Thank you for your kind comments. They're very much appreciated. :)


Disclaimer: NCIS, the show and its characters are not my intellectual property. I neither receive nor seek any recompense for this or any other fanfiction attempt.


Very Special Agent Tony DiNozzo had spent his years with NCIS learning Code Gibbs. However, no matter how versed he became in Gibbs' rules and quirks – not to mention all the NCIS directors' rules and quirks - this didn't mean that Tony didn't have a few rules of his own. Foremost of all his rules, the axiom which superseded every other rule and corollary, was DiNozzo Rule No. 1: anticipate, anticipate, anticipate.

DiNozzo used his own rule to its utmost today.

It started with the burn phones and pre-paid credit cards hidden throughout his car and on his person. After being unjustly accused of murder three times, Tony had noticed a definite trend and figured that if it continued, eventually his team would stop believing in him, and so he had best prepare for that eventuality. Well, he had been correct, his team had stopped believing in him; only it had taken a disagreement about Tim, and not another murder rap, for this to happen. Although events may not have shaken out exactly as Tony had anticipated, the fact that Tony had anticipated had made him prepared to deal with current exigencies.

So while Probie culled through his few intact belongings for the items and toiletries he needed over the short term, Tony had been able to place some untraceable calls, all through different phones: one to Steve, an attorney friend from his Baltimore days; another to Rob, a doctor friend Brad had introduced him to during their college football viewing parties; one to Richie, a frat brother in the livery/car rental business; and another to Larry, a frat brother who was a talent agent. Maybe Tony had never been a Marine or a Mossad operative, maybe he didn't have a net of international informants, but he was okay with that; he still had more than his share of contacts – many more than Gibbs or David realized - and these contacts were local, immediately accessible, and friends loyal to him personally…all of which suited DiNozzo's, and therefore Tim's, needs perfectly.

But the anticipation did not end there. Tony had worked long enough with the MCRT in order for him to deduce with a fair degree of accuracy what his non-teammates would do in any given situation – or in almost any situation, he amended; he certainly had not foreseen how they would all turn against the Probie! And because he could anticipate what the traitors Gibbs, David, or Sciuto would do, he could also anticipate the appropriate countermeasures he needed to take beforehand.

Hence Sciuto, using her forensics "magic," would not be able to determine that Tony had made all the above calls or link them together, since he had used a different burn phone for each. Admittedly he was counting on her to trace the one call he had made through his cell, which he'd made reservations at an upscale hotel. As an afterthought, Tony used another of his burn phones to place a different hotel reservation for two under the name of Tony DiNardo.

Nor would the Goth be able to tell that Tony had exchanged his car with one of Richie's during a quick drive through the closest cemetery, since there were no security cameras there, and his and the Probester's cells had remained behind and powered on inside his original vehicle. In a short time, a couple of Larry's unemployed actors with a passing resemblance to the agents – and with a proper appreciation of classic cars, upon Tony's assistance – would be taking Tony's car on a wide-flung tour of the Metro DC area before heading for the fancy hotel. And once Sciuto triumphantly located the second set of reservations, the ones under Tony DiNardo, she would not realize that Tony and Tim had no intention of staying at that hotel, either.

NCIS had no way of knowing that Tony and the McGeek were tooling about in a decidedly uncool ride (a Civic!); they had no idea where the two agents were going, much less what they were doing. Therefore no one from NCIS would interfere during the doctor's visit, as Tony sat white-fingered in the waiting room, fretting that Rob was spending an inordinately long time with Tim. No one would crack the digitalized medical records for the visit after the fact, for the doctor would only keep paper records, not digital, upon Tim's express request. Arrangements would be made for remittance in full by cash, which would leave no paper trail and diagnoses codes through their insurance carrier. Nor would NCIS have any idea about Tim's special after-hours, private appointment with Steve, where Tim handed over a copy of Rob's medical findings and questioned his new counsel regarding his legal recourse. Finally, they would not think to look for the two missing agents at Tony's favorite Baltimore dive from his BPD days, where they would be picking up a latish dinner to be consumed on the road.

No, by now Team Gibbs would have left Tim's apartment; either they managed to restore it to a semi-livable state (which Tony deemed improbable, at best, even though this was what McWishfulthinking probably hoped for), or they had just given up for the evening and would return again tomorrow. A jolt of vindictive glee surged through Tony at this prospect; they should have to spend day after day in drudgery, putting Tim's apartment to rights! (It was a shame they wouldn't be able to set Tim's life to rights nearly as easily!) But whatever the reason or rationale, Gibbs and crew were likely long gone from Tim's apartment and in the midst of their "search" for Tim and Tony despite Vance's presumably stern instructions to leave the other two agents alone. For even if Gibbs' gut pinged that this was a very bad idea (and it was), Tony was sure that Sorrowful Sciuto with her crocodile tears or Doubtful Ducky with his convenient humanism, would have found some way to rally Gibbs onwards. Tony's money was on Ducky; Sciuto was likely on thin ice for her flawed forensic findings of "guilt."

In fact, it was well likely that at this very moment, Gibbs with his buddy David's assistance were even now breaking and entering into the posh hotel suite, violating Tony and Tim's civil rights in an ill-conceived attempt to force acquiescence if not actual forgiveness from them, only to discover that the two lodgers were complete strangers, strangers decidedly unhappy with this intrusion. Tony could only imagine – and savor – everyone's assorted reactions! And if Gibbs and David managed to get through this without getting charged with a crime and without getting into trouble with Director Toothpick, then they would fritter away the rest of their night on the stakeout of an empty hotel room…only to have to return for the next day of work.

"What are you smiling about?" the Probie wanted to know.

There Tim was again, not quite himself (would he ever be?), but much closer to the Tim McGee Tony knew than the pale, silent shadow who followed him out of the prison. So Tony told him.

The Probilicious One flashed a muted grin in return.

No, neither of them was healed of their recent trials, but Tony didn't expect them to be. Some scars you just take with you and live with the best you can. They may each have been betrayed and damaged, Tony admittedly to a much lesser degree than his Probie, but they had never betrayed each other, and that was the foundation upon which they could commence their healing.

Semper fi.