From the author's desk: So, at the end of Sweet Little Boy a lot of you asked if you'd get to see Tim tell the rest of them his story. Well, you asked, and now you shall receive. This is what I came up with.
I wrote this several months back, and my writing style has changed a bit since then, but I hope this will be just as enjoyable for you as SLB was.
Disclaimer: NCIS and its characters are the property of Donald P. Bellisario and his associates. This was written strictly for non-profitable entertainment purposes.
"So Probie-san! What are your plans for this weekend?" Tony DiNozzo's keen green eyes glanced at his younger counterpart, his curiosity simmering.
It had been three months since Tim and Abby had made that trip to Philadelphia, going to visit "someone special" to the younger man as Abby had told him. She had promised to give him details when she came back, but never made good on that promise, explaining that it wasn't her place to say and that Tim would tell him when he was ready. Since then, Tony had noticed that every two or three weeks, Tim made preparations for a day trip to Philly. Abby had gone with him more than once, but there had also been a couple times when he had gone alone.
It had been nearly four months since Tony had kept watch over a sleeping Tim in the break room after what Gibbs had deemed "a trip to hell and back" for the younger man, since Gibbs had told him that he couldn't repeat what Tim had told him the night before.
Tony was the kind of man who couldn't stand having a secret kept from him in plain view. Tim hadn't hidden the fact that he was going regularly to Philadelphia, but he would never say who it was he was going to see.
The curiosity was eating at him. He had to know.
"I'm going to Philadelphia on Saturday, but otherwise I'm just going to be at home," Tim told him simply, glancing briefly in his direction before turning his attention back to his computer.
Tony glanced across the bullpen at Ziva, whose eyes were bright with her own curiosity. "To visit someone special again?" she asked with a small smirk.
Tony watched as a soft smile lit McGee's youthful face, as he nodded. "Yeah."
He wondered why Tim's smile seemed to have a hint of sadness in it, but shook it off as a figment of his imagination.
"So who is this special person, McVisit?"
Tim didn't have a chance to answer as Gibbs strode into the bullpen. "How about finding out who killed our Petty Officer instead, DiNozzo?"
"On it, boss!" Tony said, snapping to attention in his seat, gathering his notes to brief Gibbs on the information he'd gathered about their culprit.
The next day, Tony and Ziva found themselves alone in the bullpen while Gibbs had gone to speak with Vance, and McGee worked in the lab with Abby to track down their suspect, a man by the name of Garrett Mossman.
"So who do you think it is?" Tony asked, staring slightly into space while twirling a pencil in his right hand while he rested his chin in the cup of his left.
"Who?" Ziva asked absently, tapping at her keyboard.
"McPhilly's special someone."
"I haven't the faintest idea, Tony," Ziva replied back, continuing to concentrate on her computer screen.
"Maybe a girlfriend?"
"Unlikely. He took Abby with him more than once. If it was a relationship with someone out of state, why would he take her with him for the visit?"
"Hmm." Tony tapped his cheek with the pencil eraser. "Yeah, and his visits are only for a day. "
"Tony, I'm sure if he wanted us to know, he would tell us," Ziva said matter-of-factly as she continued to work, before pausing suddenly. "Wait…"
Tony looked at her sharply, watching as her facial expression changed from confusion to realization. "That's who he's going to visit!"
"Huh?" She'd lost him.
"That day you were making sure McGee was undisturbed in the beak room! Ducky had come up with a folder, looking for McGee. He said that McGee had asked him to find out a woman's gravesite, because he was having trouble doing it himself. Gibbs took the folder and said he would get it to McGee," Ziva explained hurriedly. "They never said the name of the place, but three weeks later, he and Abby made that trip to Philadelphia. He'd been a bit worried that whole week, remember?"
Tony snorted. "No wonder Abby likes to go along. Probie's been going to a cemetery. But whose grave is he visiting? It's not like his family's dead or anything."
Ziva seemed confused as well. "And is he not from Maine? Why Philadelphia?"
Tony thought. "Well, Old Man McGee was Navy, remember? He must have been based near there at some point. Maybe it's a friend's grave or something."
Ziva shrugged at him, before going back to work. "Perhaps. Leave it alone Tony. It's his business."
Just then Palmer came into the bullpen, holding a folder. "Hey guys," he said, depositing the folder on Gibbs' desk.
"Hey Palmer. You seem cheery," Tony said, noticing the light skip in the assistant ME's steps. "Got a good test score?"
The younger man grinned at him, obviously pleased. "Top of my class, in fact!"
"Jimmy, that's excellent news!" Ziva told him with a smile and a nod of approval in his direction.
"Yeah, that's great news, Gremlin!" Tony said, standing from his desk and giving Jimmy a hearty clap on the back. "Nice!"
"Thanks! Anyway, I'd better get back to Autopsy," Jimmy replied with a slight blush at the attention, turning to head back to the elevator.
Getting an idea, Tony called back to the younger man before he could get inside the metal box. Once he had his attention, Tony asked him, "Do you know the name of the person whose gravesite Ducky found for McGee?"
"Someone named…Anna Harris," the bespectacled man said after a moment of thought.
"Do you know where?" Tony had just gotten the best idea. Ziva seemed to notice his tone of voice as she looked sharply at him with the tiniest bit of dread, and he grinned at her.
Jimmy seemed worried at the look on Tony's face and the sound of his voice. "Why?"
Tony turned back to the younger man, his grin getting just a little bit bigger. "Well, Jimmy, my man… I was thinking me, you, and Ziva here could take a road trip this Saturday…"
Ziva and Jimmy glanced at each other before they looked at Tony with similar hell no expressions on their faces.
"Oh c'mon. You know you're just as curious as I am as to who this Anna Harris is to McGeek," he taunted in a sing-song voice. Tony was sure they'd cave.
Ziva and Palmer exchanged slightly guilty looks before sighing in resignation.
"All right, Tony," Ziva said. "We'll go."
"Yeah," Jimmy agreed. "But I don't think this is fair to McGee."
"I second that. I don't like this either," Ziva confirmed. "If he gets mad at us, I am blaming you Tony, because this is your stupid idea."
Tony smiled. "Aw, McGee won't be mad…much. It's not like he won't tell us eventually anyway, but this way we'll find out sooner."
So the three of them quickly hashed out the details for their trip to Philadelphia that Saturday. At the back of his mind, however, Tony was starting to have doubts. Was he really being fair to his friend by intruding on Tim's privacy this way? Was he really just being jealous because Abby and Gibbs knew, but he didn't?
Still, his curiosity outweighed his sense of caution. Tony wanted to know, not because he cared who she was, but to satiate his own curiosity. And now, he would find out.
They were halfway there when Ziva turned to Tony, trying to convince him once again to turn the car around. Jimmy had said nothing, though the slightly nervous expression on his face gave away his misgivings.
"Guys, if you didn't want to come, you could have just said so. Now we're halfway there, and you want to turn the car around? We may as well just go and find out why McGee keeps going to see this lady's grave," Tony explained to his companions.
The rest of the ride was relatively quiet, Ziva and Jimmy talking quietly about med school while Tony concentrated on the road.
The weather in Philadelphia was nice—cool enough for a light sweater and jeans, but sunny and bright as well. It was the perfect autumn day.
"Hey Gremlin, you know the name of the place, right?" Tony asked as they had a quick lunch.
"Yeah. Um…it was called Greenmount," he said around some fries.
"You know…it's kind of creepy that you know these details off the top of your head," Tony murmured aloud. "Maybe it comes with studying for tests in med school. As long as you know where to go, though, we're good."
The drive to the cemetery was uneventful and quiet.
They pulled through the cemetery gates and made a beeline for the main office to find out where they needed to go. After getting directions from the receptionist to the proper plot, the three head out down the pathway past rows and rows of tombstones.
Tony was slightly creeped out by being in such a quiet place surrounded by the dead—Ducky's morgue was somehow less scary, though he'd never be able to explain why—but then, what did he expect? He was walking through a cemetery, trying to find out why his friend was keeping this woman a secret.
Tony glanced behind him at Ziva, who looked worried and solemn. He could tell she still thought this was a bad idea. Jimmy wasn't too far behind, and he had a similar expression on his face.
He could listen to them, he probably should have. But…dammit, he had to know. He didn't like being left out of the loop.
But is that a good enough reason to invade McGee's privacy like this? a small voice at the back of his mind whispered. Tony pushed the thought aside. He was Tim's friend; it was his job to look out for him and make sure he wasn't doing something crazy. And right now, making regular visits to the gravesite of a woman who seemed to have no plausible connection to the guy sounded pretty crazy to Tony. Tony was just doing his duty as a friend.
It wasn't long before they caught sight of a singular figure sitting under the broad shade of a tree, touching a gravestone.
Tony glanced behind him, signaling that they approach cautiously and as silently as possible.
As the three walked carefully, quietly through the rows of resting places, the lonely figure of Timothy McGee came into view, dressed in jeans and a light sweater. Tony noticed the bouquet of sunflowers in front of the stone, and he was close enough now to hear him talking.
"—need to tell them. I wish I knew how. Telling Gibbs…I can't really remember how I did it, save for the fact that I remember thinking I had to get it all out if I was going to sleep properly again. Abby...needed to know. I had to tell her, to make her understand that I had my reasons for the way I acted, for the way we…well, you know. I don't need to tell you that, do I?"
Tony heard him chuckle softly.
"And I told Ducky, after I came to visit that first time with Abby. The thing about Ducky is that he's just…so easy to talk to. Doesn't push for anything. He told me he knew I'd tell him when I was ready." Tony was close enough now to see the small smile on Tim's face, and glanced back to see Ziva and Palmer right next to him. He pointed to the broad trunk of the tree, and they moved silently and cautiously towards it.
"Tony, Ziva, and Jimmy…I should be able to tell them, shouldn't I? But I…I don't know. I want to, I know I do, and I'm sure you know too. It's just…I had a valid reason to tell Gibbs and Abby and Ducky. It's not that I don't trust the others. But how do I bring up a conversation like this?"
Tim fell silent for a moment before speaking again.
"And though I hate to admit it…I'm still scared of what they might think of me. Though I'm trying really hard to not think that way."
His hand reached out, and Tony watched as Tim traced the letters engraved in the tombstone, pondering the questions swirling around in his head. Who was this person? Why was she so important? What was this massive secret that Tim was so reluctant to tell the three of them? To tell him? And Ducky knew before him and Ziva?
This was getting too intense. And Tony wanted answers.
Pushing his jealous thoughts to the back, Tony stepped out from behind the tree, intent on finding out what this massive secret was.
"Who're you talking to Probie?"
He watched as Tim's fingers froze on the tombstone as the younger man's head slowly turned toward him.
The shock on the kid's face gave Tony some cruel satisfaction.
"Most people I know don't talk to graves, Probie-san. I know Ducky talks to corpses, but it's Ducky. He's got an excuse. What's yours?"
Tony watched as Tim flinched at the nonchalance in his voice, a mask for his jealousy at being kept out of the loop.
Tim slowly stood and faced him fully. "Tony, what are you doing here? How…how did you know about this place?"
Tony heard footsteps behind him. "I'm sorry Tim. That's, uh, m-my fault," he heard Jimmy say from just slightly behind him. "If it helps, both Ziva and I tried to convince him that this was a bad idea, that it wasn't fair to you."
He heard Ziva come up next to him on his other side. "Yes McGee. We did. I'm sorry for intruding."
Tony watched as Tim simply stood there, staring at them. The expression on his face was a mixture of betrayal and anxiety and fear and hurt. But he didn't say anything, didn't offer an explanation.
Tony was more annoyed than ever. "So who is she, McGee? Old girlfriend? Playmate from back when you lived on base? Because, of course, she's someone special. Right? Who was she, your first love?" he bit out with a sneer.
"Tony!" Jimmy gasped. Tony could see that Jimmy felt this was really none of their business, and was appalled that he kept pushing the younger man to spill the beans.
Ziva was the one who elbowed him in the stomach, asking aloud, "What the hell is wrong with you?"
But Tony kept his eyes on Tim, who remained silent, staring at him with a very hurt, very angry expression, fists clenched at his side.
"What do you want?" Tim asked him, his voice quiet, controlled.
"What did you tell Gibbs and Abby and Ducky? Why didn't you tell me? I thought I was your friend!"
He could see Tim's fist shaking. "If this was just friendly concern, Tony, you would have let it go, and waited for me to figure out how tell you about this. But you got jealous, because I didn't tell you first. Didn't you?"
He watched as Tim glanced at Ziva and Jimmy, and took a deep breath. "I'm not really pissed at you guys, since I'm pretty sure he," he indicated Tony with a jerk of his head, "put you up to this. I'm a little hurt that you didn't back out, but again, who can argue with the great Agent DiNozzo? He doesn't know how to leave things alone."
The three of them fell silent, and Tony could see the anger still burning in Tim's eyes, swirling with hurt and the pain of old memories. "You really wanna know, DiNozzo? Fine. She's my mother. My Momma."
Tim turned his back on them, facing the grave once more, and Tony could see Tim trembling and hear his harsh breathing as he worked to calm himself down.
"You guys wanted to know, right? That's why you followed me here," Tim glanced back at them and said. His eyes were devoid of the anger, replaced by pain and grief. "Come sit down, and I'll tell you."
Ziva and Jimmy stepped forward first, and Tony followed this time. The three of them sat in a small semi-circle around Tim, and listened as he told the heartbreaking story behind his childhood, from his Momma's murder, to the orphanage and that man, to his adoption and everything after. Tony thought he was going to be sick when he heard the details of what his friend had been through, and of the repercussions those events had wrought on his character and the way he lived. Next to him, Ziva was silent as tears slipped down her face, and Jimmy was pale but silent, eyes wide in shock and horror.
God, I feel like such an asshole. What the hell was I thinking, trying to drag this out of him? What kind of friend am I?
In front of him, Tim spoke somewhat steadily, with his eyes straight ahead on his mother's tombstone, his hand gripping Ziva's—when did that happen? Tony wondered—but he could see the tears dripping silently down his cheeks, and the effort it was taking for him to tell this story as calmly as possible.
Gradually, Tim's tears subsided, replaced by a pained yet reflective look as he reached out to trace the letters on Anna Harris' gravestone again. When he stopped talking, Tony sat with Ziva and Jimmy in silence, simply watching his friend…and mentally giving himself a royal head slap for once again getting caught up in what he wanted, and not paying attention to his conscience or the wishes of the people around him.
"Now...now you guys know why I haven't said anything. It's hard to bring up a story like that out of the blue, you know? I didn't want to spring it on you," Tim murmured quietly to them.
He surprised them, then, by turning to Tony. "Thanks."
Tony looked at him, shocked once more. "What?"
Tim smiled, a small upturn at the corners of his mouth. "Thanks. I've been trying to figure out how to tell you guys. I just…didn't know how to bring it up. Only you could piss me off enough to get me to start talking without having to think about it."
Tony dipped his head, ashamed. "Yeah, about that… That was really low of me, man. I shouldn't have pushed your buttons like that, but…" Tony paused, grimacing. "Yeah...you're right. I was jealous. I wanted in on the…I don't know…it's like you and Gibbs have some special bond now because you told him, and you and Abby keep sneaking off here. I wanted the closeness, too, I guess."
Tony looked up to see a warm smile on Tim's face, and his eyes bright and clear. They looked relieved. "…Apology accepted."
He watched as Tim turned back to the tombstone. "Momma, some friends snuck up to see me. This is Tony—I've told you about him, the movie nut—and Ziva. She's the Mossad officer who works with our team. She's a great cook, Momma. Though your cheesecake was the best—I doubt anyone could beat it. And this is Jimmy. He's our assistant ME. We don't get to hang out as much, but he's a good friend."
The four of them sat for another hour before Tim told them they should all probably head back. Ziva decided that she would ride back with Tim since they lived in the same area. Tony agreed that was fair, and he and Ziva headed back to his car so that she could retrieve her bag.
"I would never have guessed that McGee had been through as much as he has," Ziva murmured aloud as they came to Tony's car.
"Yeah, me either," he agreed, somber. "Sure explains a lot, though I wish it didn't."
"I admire his courage," Ziva said, closing the door as she pulled the strap of her bag onto her shoulder.
"Yeah. Kid's a fighter, all right," he agreed. "Anyway, see you Monday, Ziva."
"Enjoy the rest of your weekend, Tony," she nodded, and Tony watched as she walked to meet Tim at his car, exchanging good-byes with Palmer as he headed to Tony's car.
He caught Tim looking in his direction, eyes locking with his, searching. Tony shot his friend a smile, and mouthed a solemn Thank you to the kid. Tim smiled back, nodded, and ducked into his car, he and Ziva waving as they drove off.
Tony sighed, finally getting into his own car to go home.