The food, somehow, was not quite what McGee expected. It was, more or less, average – which really didn't 'fit' with his image of Tony. Tony DiNozzo, whatever he was, was not average, typical, 'inside the bell curve', or, god forbid, "normal".
Tim wasn't really sure what he had expected – exceptionally good food, or exceptionally bad, or even exceptionally eccentric – but it certainly wasn't what he got.
The sauce was slightly off, but edible. The chicken was thoroughly cooked, unburnt, but a little dry. The salad was… well, it was salad.
Gibbs ate with gusto.
The atmosphere, on the other hand, was exactly what he had expected.
What made him expect a tense DiNozzo, strained conversation, and angry Sarah-glares, he wasn't quite sure. It certainly wasn't the norm. Even Abby was having a hard time keeping the conversation afloat.
So, all in all, things were slightly unpleasant all the way around, but definitely tolerable.
Until Tony spoke for the first time since taking his seat.
Tim's heart was beating just fine – a normal, efficient rhythm.
And then Tony opened his mouth.
"Sarah, my love, move in with me."
Tim choked on a particularly tough bit of meat.
O OO O OO O OO O OO O
Tony hid his grin at McGee's reaction, putting more effort into 'hamming it up'. He planned a huge production.
"I can't bear to live without you – I know we've only just met, but my heart longs for you!" Half of Tony's young, shut-in childhood had been spent watching a series of soap operas with the kitchen staff. He was giving any good soap star a run for his money here. "If you were to reject me – I would die! My heart would wither up and my soul would blow away…"
Tony trailed off, glancing around the room surreptitiously. McGee was still working on his throat-blockage. Gibbs stared at him stonily, but Tony knew he was laughing on the inside. Abby, poor Abby, had her face buried in one of Tony's oversized maroon cloth napkins.
Sarah McGee, however, was staring at him with awe. He sensed some kind of sick appreciation emanating from her. Before his very eyes, her posture straightened and she leaned forward dramatically.
Again, Tony hid a smirk. He knew Sarah would go along with this. After all, wasn't Jimmy always telling him that it was a sister's job to annoy, hassle, and otherwise upset their older sibling's life?
"Oh, Tony!" Her eyes actually teared up as she gazed at him joyfully, longingly. "Oh, Tony, my heart. Yes! Yes, I will move in with you. We will never again be separated – never!"
English major or not, Sarah had, very obviously, watched some of the same soap operas as Tony. Knowing, both of them, what should happen next in their impromptu plot, they stood and lunged for each other passionately – Gibbs had the presence of mind to duck, as they went around his side of the table. Their faces transformed with rapture.
McGee still looked as if someone had hit him over the head with a bludger. Or as if he'd been stunned with a phase pistol.
But Tony wasted no time staring. He grabbed Sarah up – in a very romantic manner – and whisked her away to his bedroom.
O OO O OO O OO O OO O
Tim was standing by the time the …. Pair of them made it to the bedroom, but he froze when the door slammed shut.
What the hell?
"What just happened?"
"Um," Abby began hesitantly.
"They hooked up, McGee. Deal with it."
Tim's head swiveled towards his boss. Surely… Surely Gibbs wasn't okay with that – that awful, awful thing they had just witnessed. But he appeared outwardly calm. Granted, it was rare when Gibbs didn't appear outwardly calm – unless he was angry. Tim never thought he'd wish to see Gibbs angry.
The bedroom, which, until then, had remained unnervingly quiet, suddenly became very loud. Steamy, passion-filled sounds drifted through the closed (and locked?) wooden door.
Tim was sure he turned green.
However much he disapproved, he was not going in there.
O OO O OO O OO O OO O
Abby was dying. Gibbs was always saying DiNozzo would be the death of them. He was right.
Belatedly, she remembered Ziva's coaching – stay in control. Breathe in slowly, hold the breath. This is control. Let it out slowly. Control.
Somewhat settled, Abby focused on the 'sounds' coming from the bedroom. She couldn't contain her grin when she recognized the movie Tony had popped in. It had been quick thinking on his part – not a whole lot of movies had a steamy sex-scene without loud, dizzying background music. Beneath that, though, she thought she detected some gasping and wheezing that she knew wasn't part of the film.
She glanced at Tim – and suddenly she was dying again.
Until the boss-man grunted. It was as if a spell had been lifted. She was able to restrain her giggles with ease.
This time, she was actually able to look at Tim.
He didn't look so good. Comical, yes, but good? No.
He was much paler than normal. Gibbs had moved over to his side and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. Tim didn't seem to be aware. He blinked slowly, staring in horror at Tony's bedroom door.
"You say they hooked up?" He croaked, rather lifelessly. "Tony and… and…"
"Your sister, McGee."
"You know…" Abby interjected as thoughtfully as she knew how. "This really seems kind of out of the ordinary for Tony. Don't you think, Gibbs?"
"With the girl?"
"No, no. I mean, with Tim here."
"Well, yeah. Usually he notices when McGee goes white-as-a-sheet. But I 'spose there's always exceptions."
"Really?" Abby sounded skeptical. "When was the last time you had to fix Tim during a case? Tony usually handles it, doesn't he?"
Until Mexico. Abby thought. But maybe Tim was in too much of a haze to register that.
O OO O OO O OO O OO O
McGee was in a haze. It was red and fuzzy and warm. Kind of nice, actually. But suddenly, something penetrated his pleasant haze.
Talking about Tony.
Suddenly his haze was gone. Tim remembered things pre-Mexico. Tony had been annoying, overbearing, and an ass in general, but Tim had come to realize that most of that was just a smoke screen. In recent years, he had come to count on Tony being there when he needed him. Those times almost always coincided with the times that Tim did not want to see Tony. The older agent had always dealt with that skillfully, however.
Why was Abby bringing that up now?
Maybe because Tony had never done anything to betray him. Certainly, he had felt that way after the whole Benoit incident. But that wasn't betrayal – Tony had been trying to do his job. He'd gotten in over his head, but no-one had been there to bail him out until the very end. Maybe they could have done something sooner, maybe not. But Tim had forgiven Tony for keeping that secret from them… he'd just never said so.
And he hadn't changed how he acted around Tony.
That was his mistake.
But he should know that Tony wouldn't hurt a member of his own team. Tim had watched many times, how protective Tony could get over Abby, Ziva, Ducky, and even Jimmy. He supposed he should add himself and Gibbs to that list.
Straightening his shoulders and decidedly not thinking his next action through, Tim marched straight to the Bedroom Door.
And yanked it open.
It opened easily, revealing his sister and Tony – not locked in a passionate embrace – sitting cross legged on the bed arguing over… something.
Was that a chessboard?
A large flatscreen plasma hung opposite Tony's bed, playing a very risqué scene over and over again.
He hadn't really been worried. Just surprised.
"Very funny you two." He said it dryly, going for some of Gibbs' classic sarcasm.
Tony looked up from the game board and grinned brightly, looking rather smug.
"C'mon, Sarah. Our food is probably cold by now-" Here he glared a bit a McGee. It had taken him a while to get with the program. "but there are brownies in the oven."
Tony brushed past him, leaving him and Sarah alone.
"Don't even start, Tim! Tony has been nothing but a gentleman, the entire time. Even before you got here. You realize I spent the night with him, right?"
Tim blanched a bit at that last statement, but – nah. He'd just received the shock of his life, Sarah was going to have to work harder than that to put him on the backfoot.
"I'm sure he was. I'll be sure to thank him. And-"
"You should also thank him for putting up with me for the next week or so."
"I'm staying here. Your place is nice, but I hate your couch. Tony has a nice bed."
Okay, fine. She'd proven she could still surprise him. But she was just kidding, right?
"C'mon, Sarah, be serious. I did say I was sorry I couldn't come get you. Very, very, sorry."
"I know Tim," she interjected, cutting him off once more. "And I forgive you. But I'm still staying here. It's the couch, you see."
McGee spluttered a bit.
"What are you afraid is going to happen?"
Now that was a rather loaded question.
He couldn't be afraid of what he thought had just happened. It, very clearly, was a joke between both of them. Like big brother and little sister ganging up on the middle child. Oh, lord.
But he couldn't be afraid of nothing either, because he couldn't ever be afraid of nothing with Tony. Or with Sarah. They were just too imaginative for anyone's good.
"Ahh – I'm just afraid for my own life."
"Should be, McGee," Gibbs called from the dining space.
Tim sighed. Of course.
"Cake!" Abby shouted. Tim and Sarah make their way back to the others, post haste.
"They're brownies, Abby." Tony's eyes lit up as McGee retook his seat. "So, I gotcha pretty good, eh, McGee. Oh, that was a classic. I can't believe you fell for it!"
Tim sighed. Lovely, just what he needed. He had been wrong. He'll freely admit it, but does he really need to listen to Tony crow about it for the rest of the day?
"Yeah, Tony, that was pretty good," Abby agreed. She smiled mischeviously. "Wonder what Ziva will have to say when I tell her what she missed."
Tim had the satisfaction of seeing Tony pale at her words.
All of them were still a little scared of Ziva. Probably always would be, but there was one in every family. Right?
O OO O OO O OO O OO O
A.N: So, very, very sorry about the long wait, guys. But hopefully this chapter was worth it. Thanks to everyone who stuck with me on this story! Thanks for reading, and please review. I'd love to know what you think.