Disclaimer: The characters are property of DPB and CBS and no money is being made off their use.
AN: I'm a huge McAbby/Tibbs fan, but a combination of a Michael Weatherly comment in an interview and the spoilers for Guilty Pleasure a few months before it aired got the plot bunnies hopping in a McNozzo direction. While it is slash, it's not explicit. Just a tale of people, with all their flaws, trying to navigate the craziness of life even as the universe is throwing everything in their path. And for the SWAK fans, keep an eye out for everybody's favorite doctor - the one who majored in medicine, not journalism. ;) (Yes, he did major in journalism, at my alma mater. He's two credits shy of his degree, but I don't think he really cares.)
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." -- Robert Frost
Gibbs was going to kill him in the morning, and all he could think of was Robert Frost.
Tim McGee stared at his typewriter and scrubbed his face with the heels of his hands. It wasn't supposed to be this complicated. Three years ago, he wouldn't have hesitated to say "yes." A year ago, he would have found it easy to say "no." But everything had shifted during the past few months and now he didn't know what to do.
Three years ago, all Abby would have had to do was say the word and he would have been with her. In her coffin, by her side and in her heart. He cherished the time they had spent together from the time they first met until his first anniversary with the team. His dark angel, the mistress of the night who loved to hear him talk geek and looked beyond the stuttering rookie Gibbs could frighten with a look.
Gibbs had ended it between them. Not that he stole Abby — far from it. But once Kate mentioned Rule 12 to him, Tim knew that he had to end it before Gibbs killed him.
"Hey, Tim?" Kate caught him by the vending machines after a long day bringing in the singer who killed her sister.
"Yes, Kate?" he replied.
"You know, it's a good thing Gibbs was so busy trying to figure out whether Willie was a victim or suspect that he didn't catch you breaking Rule 12." Kate crossed her arms and looked at him, her face expressionless.
"You think we didn't catch what Abby said in the lab the other day?" Kate shook her head as she sat on the edge of the break room table. "I'm surprised DiNozzo hasn't made a point of giving you grief in front of Gibbs."
"Wh- Wh- What do you mean?" Tim could feel the tips of his ears getting hot.
"You never disappoint her? I love Abby, she's one of my best friends, but she's pretty wild and crazy when it comes to the bedroom. You know DiNozzo's not going to just let that slide, and once he says something, Gibbs will invoke Rule 12."
"Rule 12?" Tim knew he sounded like a broken record. "I know Rule 1 is don't screw over your partner, Rule 2 is always wear gloves at a crime scene and Rule 3 is never be unreachable. 9 is always carry a knife and 13 is never let lawyers get involved. But I missed 12."
"Rule 12. Never date a co-worker." Kate smiled. "He taught me that one before I even joined NCIS."
"He's not going to like it when he realizes you and Abby are still seeing each other."
"But he knows. I mean, he's the one who asked if I'd slept in the coffin, back when I was up here trying to identify Ari." Tim frowned. "He didn't say anything then."
"You weren't working here then," Kate said. "You are now." She shook her head. "When he finds out, he's not going to let it slide." She stood and turned to go, then looked back." Which would you rather have, a spot on Gibbs' team or Abby?"
Tim had to think about that at the time. He'd worked like crazy to earn a spot on Gibbs' team and he couldn't imagine not being part of the MCRT. But Abby also was somebody he could see spending the rest of his life with. And then he'd thought back to the week before Gibbs had asked about the coffin, the Sunday at the coffeehouse that led to his first fight with Abby. He'd blushed and stammered and stuttered and made a fool out of himself telling her his feelings, and all she had said was "Thanks."
They'd straightened it out, but Tim always knew he was more into Abby that she was into him. And so he'd ended it, not wanting to give Gibbs a reason to ship him back to Norfolk. After while, he got used to being Abby's friend. There even were times when he wished she didn't have such a hold on him. Who else could get him to adopt the dog who had tried to kill him just days earlier? He couldn't imagine life without Jethro now, but Abby couldn't have known that at the time. She didn't know how much he enjoyed quiet weekends at home with his lover, Jethro curled on the floor at their feet, or sometimes stretched across both laps, a warm fur blanket on cold days.
That was the sticking point. Abby didn't know. She made that clear when she asked him yesterday to come back. She didn't know that "her geek" was now somebody else's geek. She didn't know whose cellphone rested beside his on the nightstand in his bedroom. She didn't know Tim had found somebody else during those long, empty days when Ziva was missing in Somalia. And she definitely didn't know Tim had decided Rule 12 was the only one of Gibbs' rules that he would break. She thought he would, or she wouldn't have asked him to restart their relationship. But she thought he would only break it for her.
When he told her the truth, she wasn't going to take it well. Or quietly. And she was Gibbs' favorite.
"Are you coming to bed?" Tim's lover's voice floated into the room. Tim hadn't said anything about Abby's request, wanting to figure out how to handle it on his own.
"I'll be there in a minute," he replied. "I'm just ... thinking."
"I know." The sleepy voice was in the doorway now. "I can almost smell the smoke from the spinning gears in your brain, McGenius."
Tim smiled at the nickname. The long, long list had started out as a way of hazing him, but now when Tony called him Mc- anything, affection filled his voice. It was a way they connected when they were at work and couldn't rely on their usual methods. Tim pushed his chair back and decided to go to bed and deal with it in the morning.