Co-Written by Shelbylou - You Rock!
Tim's mind wouldn't shut off during his 30 minute drive home and questions flew through his mind fast and endless. Every single one of them demanded an answer, questions that he just couldn't find the answer to.
Had he really lost his sense of humor?
Or did Tony just not appreciate his jokes anymore?
Am I thin skinned?
Am I a wimp?
Am I the weak link I used to be?
Just because the things that are said sometimes bring back memories or concerns from the past didn't mean a person was weak or a wimp. Did it? Especially, if they were taking the time and making the effort to think things through in an effort to fix whatever the problem was? Wasn't being strong, having the fortitude to look at situations and learn from them? Wasn't the willingness to ask himself and answer honestly, the questions that the situation had raised for him, a true testament to maturity?
Tim hadn't complained or even replied to Tony's blatant disrespect and carried on as if he hadn't heard it. That had to be the sign of a pretty tough skin, right?
The whole situation grated on his nerves. Tim thought back to his conversation with Gibbs. There was something hinky right there with that chat as it was and Tim wanted to be able to put his finger on it before tackling the situation with Tony.
The questions were relentless and joined the funnier when statements that had returned and begun once again to whirl around in his mind. He gripped the steering wheel harder and tried to get his mind to stop with the demoralising thoughts that threatened to eat away at him. The first thing that popped into his mind, the first real fighting thought was that maybe, just maybe, Tony didn't like the fact that Tim was no longer such an easy target. He was on par with the Senior Field Agent at last, in mind and now, finally in body.
Have I done enough?
Is losing the weight worth losing your identity over?
Is losing weight antagonising people?
Has my personality really changed so much?
'ENOUGH!' Tim's mind started to scream back at the subconscious questions that just kept on coming.
It's not about being thick skinned!
It's not about my personality changing!
It's not about being a wimp!
No! This was about respect and Tony's complete lack of it towards Tim. It was about why Tony thought nothing of trying so hard to belittle him. Every statement, every question and every bit of fight Tim was pondering in his mind was replaced by one little question:
'Why does Tony still think so little of me?'
Tim felt a small surge of hope as he tried to mentally fight back against himself. He knew that, despite Tony being his friend and colleague, he had seriously toughened up under Tony's unbridled over-the-top crap. And yet here he was, once again, with every last bit of confidence slowly dripping away.
Why had Gibbs said he and Tony needed to talk?
What did the Boss man know?
He'd seemed unusually concerned tonight AND he'd let Tim's leaving on his own go with a smile! Yeah, the Boss knew something and he hadn't gotten it from Tim. The penny dropped and his sudden realisation made Tim smile. It was great to be able to hear it verbalized and that conversation with the boss left him with no doubt that Gibbs did care about whether his agents got along in general and not just out in the field.
Tony's mind was warping through questions almost at the speed of light.
Had he really gotten so callous that he was willing to be downright disrespectful to get his jibes in where McGee was concerned?
Where had that close-knit working relationship gone?
How had Gibbs known about it? He didn't even yell or raise his voice! Gibbs wasn't angry, he was genuinely concerned! Why?
Gibbs was right. He and Tim had become a strong team – just the two of them - while Ziva was away.
What had happened?
How could they fix it?
Tony heard a sharp blare of the horn from the car behind him and pulled himself out of his reverie. He glanced at the lights and realised they were green before wincing slightly and driving off. With his mind back on the road, he still heard the questions filter through his mind.
How could they fix it?
The question was on repeat and there had to be a way. All he had to do was find it. In a moment of sheer inspiration, the answer came to him and made him grin wildly.......YES!
He took the next left and stopped at the minimart to grab a six pack of beers, next stop, the pizza place. It was foolproof and the fact that he was doing something by actually taking the proverbial bull by the horns felt good. The smell of the pizza sitting on the passenger seat was making him hungry and he couldn't help the rush of nerves that ran through his body.
"Ok DiNozzo, time to get this show on the road." He said as he picked up his beer and pizza before heading to the familiar apartment block.
Tim was sitting as his typewriter and was subconsciously twirling his grandfather's pipe round in his hand. In true 'starting as you mean to go on' style, his day, which had started badly, was hell-bent on ending in exactly the same way.
An hour ago...............
Tim had stopped to pick up his mail on the way to his apartment and noticed a familiar looking envelope among the usual bills and fan mail that was delivered through a PO Box address. He tucked the other letters under his arm and trudged slowly up to his apartment. It didn't take long for him to drop his mail on the sideboard and change into his old faithful MIT t-shirt and loose boxer shorts that he often wore around the apartment. He sat down at his computer and booted it up in order to check his emails. The first one struck a chord of despondency in him as he opened it to read.
To: Timothy McGee
Need I remind you of the fact that your manuscript is overdue? I asked for it to be sent to me no later than 5th April and now it's the 6th.
Can you call me to discuss any problems you are having because I need to let the proof department know that there will be a delay.
He sighed heavily and typed out his response, promising Lyndi he would have it over to her by first thing tomorrow morning.
So here he was, sitting in front of his good old antique manual typewriter trying to get the final chapter down. He had made a good start with the document, but for some reason found the last few pages difficult. A new set of questions joined the party of words that had jumbled around in his mind since the beginning of the day.
Can I really do this?
Why am I doing this?
What's the point?
He swore loudly before tearing out the page he had just typed to send it through the shredder and sat back in frustration.........Damn it, just a few more paragraphs, I can't even write those!
A knock at the door made him cringe and, thinking it was his neighbour complaining about his shredder, he walked to the door with his shoulders slightly hunched in defeat. He glanced through the peep hole in the door and was surprised to see Tony standing on the other side.
Another loud knock startled him slightly.
"Come on McGee, I know you're in there. I heard the shredder. Open up already, we need to talk."
"Go away Tony, I really don't feel like talking right now."
"Tough, McGoo, we're going to sort this out now before the boss decides to bench us both."
Tim huffed out a small sarcastic laugh and started to move away from the door. He was stopped in his tracks by his cell phone chirping; he picked it up and looked at the caller ID....DiNozzo
He answered the phone and tried to use his best impression of his answer machine.
"Hi, you've reached Special Agent Timothy McGee, if you are anyone other than Tony DiNozzo, then please leave your name and your number and I'll get right back to you."
"McGee, Tim. Come on man we need to talk, I've got beer and Pizza."
"Tony, seriously GO AWAY!"
"Nope, not until we've had this out. Don't make me pick your lock, the boss man taught me well Probie!"
Tim huffed his way back to the door and opened the door as wide as the chain would let him. He saw Tony's grin flash across his face and scowled heavily.
"Tony, please. I'm busy so can we pick this up tomorrow"
"Hell no, there is no way I'm leaving here without talking to my buddy over a beer and pizza, which by the way McGee, is getting cold."
"Tony...why am I still talking to you on the phone? Aw, crap."
Tim hung up the phone and unlatched the door completely to let Tony in. He heard the snap of a cell being closed and marched back over to his writing desk.
"You need a couch Probie."
"I don't know, so I can sit down maybe?"
Tim reached over and grabbed the back of his computer chair so he could scoot it over to his teammate.
"Thanks, Tim I wanna apologise."
"Yeah? Why now Tony? So the boss won't, quote, bench us both?"
Tony had the good grace to look abashed and looked down to the beers in his hand. He got one out and passed it to Tim.
"No Tim, because I don't want to lose a friend. It's been bugging me since I said it and I know I was wrong."
"Wha...you can't be serious Tony. You don't apologise, you just leave everyone in your wake and move on. Besides, you sure didn't act like it bothered you in the least, until now. I'll bet the only reason you're here at all is because that's what Gibbs wanted to talk to you about. He told you to come talk to me, didn't he? That's why you're here?"
"Yeah, okay. Maybe you're right. But that doesn't mean I feel good about saying it."
"Feeling good about what you say has never worried you before, Tony. You'll keep on this till I say I forgive you and then, it'll start up all over again."
"Not this time. Look, I didn't mean it. It was just -hell, I don't know what it was. You seemed hell bent on bugging me this morning and it annoyed the crap out of me."
"It's no different to what you do to me all the time Tony."
Tony was quiet for a moment and with a voice barely louder than a whisper, he looked at Tim and simply said "I know."
Tim sat back in his chair and sipped at the cold beer he was holding.
"Why Tony? That's all I want to know. You have no idea how that comment affected me."
"I know it had to hurt, Tim. I'm sorry."
"No, Tony. It's like I said, you have no idea how it affected me. Because you don't take the time to look at me as a person. I've taken everything you've thrown at me over the years and I've used it to change and grow, the best way I knew how. Not just to hopefully get you to appreciate the effort and back off me for a change, but because it was who I wanted to become anyway."
Tim paused briefly and took another swig of his beer. He needed that break, that cleansing pause, to rein in his building anger. He watched as Tony's face dropped slightly at the snappish response and felt slightly guilty at making the man feel worse than he already did. He sighed loudly before continuing.
"I stopped complaining because I realized that you just wanted to help push me harder than I was pushing myself. Sure you pushed a lot harder and a lot more painfully than ever did. But the truth is, Tony, I was proud of who I'd become and I thought I'd finally reached the point where you and Gibbs were proud of that, too."
"Jeez Tim. I really am sorry. I didn't realize..."
"I mean, you suddenly started acting as though you could actually relate to me." Tim continued on his roll as if Tony hadn't spoken. "The last two months, before we rescued Ziva, were the best we'd ever gotten along; we gelled as partners, Tony. I know for a fact that Gibbs saw it and you know what? He appreciated it. I mean, how many head slaps did we earn in those two months, one? He listened to both of us, took what we had to say under advisement and actually treated us like we knew what we were doing."
Tony sat patiently, his gut was telling him not to answer just yet and, for the first time, he decided to listen to it.
"Maybe it was because for the first time in all the years on the team, we were actually partners without having anyone else there to be that partner for you. I mean, let's face it, I've spent as much time being partnered to the computers at NCIS as you've spent partnered with Ziva and the two years with Kate. So, yeah, maybe this being the first time that we were actual partners had a hell ova lot to do with it. But, the fact remains, Tony, that we were a damn good team and we treated each other with respect. Even you've gotta admit, we kicked ass in those two months! You know we did."
"I know..." Tony again tried to say something.
"And with one five word remark; you just threw it all away." Again, Tim kept going. "No. I take that back. You had already started wadding that trust and mutual respect up, getting ready to throw it away with the changes in your attitude toward me that started the minute we got back here with Ziva."
"What are you talking about, Probie?" Tony asked in surprise.
It the whole situation wasn't so damn serious, Tim would have laughed as Tony's eyebrows danced from his hairline into a deep frown.
"My contribution to her rescue was, and I quote you here, 'lying around on the floor'" Tim answered him seriously. The pain from that remark had long since faded, but the effect on their relationship, which had indeed started its' downward spiral from there, had only fallen apart like a house of cards.
"Tim... I don't know what to say. I'm sorry. Really. I..." Tony was almost speechless. He'd literally fallen back into the habit of not thinking about Tim as anything other than the Probie that had taken all of his crap over the years and still came back for more, time after time. He'd forgotten recently, how much of a friend and an equal Tim had become. He looked at Tim and saw, once again, the man and ally the man had become all those months ago.
"I don't want you to say anything Tony. I just want.....I need, what we had back when Ziva was gone, back again. I can't go back to the way it was before then, do you have any idea how much that time, our partnership helped me gain confidence. In that time, I decided to grab life by the balls and do things that I didn't have the motivation do to before."
Tim stood up and moved towards the window, the faraway look on his face didn't go un-noticed by Tony who followed and perched himself to the side of Tim on the windowsill.
"I've been bullied all through my life Tony; I decided to finally lose the weight that had been holding me back in more ways than one. I've written two books, well, nearly two. I've done things in the past few months that I would never had done before. I embraced life Tony, I actually started to live and that wouldn't have been possible if it wasn't for the respect and standing I'd gained at work. I just wish you could understand how much hearing what you really think of me today has really worked against what I'd achieved with the help of you guys."
Tony could feel his chest constrict at Tim's statement, sure he knew the kid had more confidence and even he had to admit that Tim looked good after finally shedding that excess weight. What he hadn't known was, that whilst trying to help Tim with his taunts and jibes, he had actually been no better than the other bullies that had pushed Tim to develop into the shy, retiring man he once was....was in danger of becoming again.
"Aw man, I had no idea. Why didn't you tell me when I went too far, I didn't want..No! I never meant to be one of those bullies....."
"You weren't." Tim's quiet answer surprised Tony.
"You had a different motivation. You wanted to better me not drag me down. Sure you belittled me, and sometimes it seemed as though you poked fun just for the sake of doing it. The names Tony, those damn names." Tim shook his head sadly.
"Do you realise, you never called me Probie once when Ziva wasn't there, that was the one name I didn't freaking mind so much. It was the others; McGeek, McGoogle, MgGluey, McFlabby.. The list is endless Tony. They sting, but you know what, I never stopped you, never had the balls to step up to the plate. I'm done being the butt of your jokes Tony, no more!"
Tim made to move away from the window but was stopped by Tony's hand grabbing his wrist firmly.
'McGee, I can't promise that I won't say things like that, but I will try not to. That is something I can promise. I miss the new confident Probie, and I miss my friend. I love you like my kid brother and that is one of the reasons why I do the things I do. You know my history, you know my family. I haven't got any brothers or sisters, Hell; I don't really even have a dad. To me, you are all more than my colleagues and team mates, you are my family and I love you all as if you were blood. Tim I'm sorry, I'm not saying that because Gibbs sent me, I'm saying that because I want my brother back. I want my best friend and my team mate back. I might be hurtful sometimes, but I've always got your back Probielicious."
Tim couldn't hold back that little tear at Tony's words. They were heartfelt and sincere which seemed to help lift the weight that had settled on his shoulders. He wasn't Atlas, he wasn't supposed to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders; it was time to rein it all in and find that confidence and self control he had lost recently.
"I forgive you Tony and I promise not to give you a hard time in return. I know I've got a family, but you have all become my secondary family too. I guess that's why it hurt so much."
Tony pulled on Tim's wrist and wrapped his arms round him in a manly hug. Tim stiffened before melting into the brotherly embrace that made him feel strangely safe.
"I've always got your six McGee, don't you ever forget that ok?"
Tim pulled away and nodded slightly.
"I know, I've always got yours too Tony."
Tony moved away from the window and opened the pizza box to snag a slice.
"I still get to keep Probie and Probielicious though McGee, those are non negotiable and are all mine."
Tim looked at Tony and burst into a fit of giggles so hard he had to sit down.
"Yeah Tony, you can keep them. Just don't abuse the privilege."
He was handed another beer and the two of them soon fell into a comfortable, comfortable conversation. Oh yeah, the boys were back and stronger than ever. Their new found strength in having talked thorough their problems was definitely a step in the right direction.
It's getting late Probie, I should be going."
Tony stood up and grabbed his coat. He had helped Tim clear up the empty beer bottles and pizza boxes and the two of them had fallen comfortably into a much happier conversation.
"Yeah, I'll see you tomorrow. Tony...."
Tony looked up into the much brighter green eyes of his friend and smiled broadly at him.
"Thanks for, you know, coming round to sort this out. I appreciate it." Tim offered with genuine gratitude
"Anytime Probie, I'll see you tomorrow." Tony clapped Tim on the shoulder and turned towards the door.
"Oh, there is one thing I need to know though Probie, what's with the sprinkles and the blowing?"
Tim laughed and shook his head.
"I like sprinkles on my doughnuts, but not too many. They never have them with just a few on, so I pick them off. I blow my coffee that way because short bursts seem to cool it quicker than one long one. There's a method to my madness DiNozzo, you just have to be privy to it."
Tony shook his head with disbelief.
"Wow, there really are many depths to Timothy McGee, huh, who knew. Now you've explained it, it kinda makes sense. See ya Probie, get some sleep." Tony clapped Tim on the back and left, leaving Tim standing in front of the open door looking thoughtful.
Tim walked over to his typewriter and sat down in front of it, with the air cleared between him and his friend, he was finally able to think straight. All the questions, the demoralising statement, the degrading thoughts of dread were finally filtering out of his mind. Smiling, he started pounding at his typewriter with a renewed confidence and freedom. His relationship with Tony was back on solid ground. Their boss had cared enough to push them to fix it. The team sense of family was intact.
At that moment in time, Life was good.