Lost At Sea
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: As most of you know, I'm usually a Tibbs fan, but this story just seemed to come out of nowhere and blindsided me. So here is my first—and possibly only—McNozzo pairing. It's longer than my usual fare, so I have decided to break it up into chapters. The story is complete, so the updates won't be long in coming, but I will be limited to when I have access to a computer while I take a short vacation. Sorry.
Tony made his way from his office on the USS Seahawk to the cramped bunk he now called home. It had already been a month and there was no sign of getting off of the ship any time soon. Tony had resigned himself to being there indefinitely. Gibbs had been in touch through email—which was a small miracle since the older agent notoriously avoided anything to do with technology—and he got updates from Abby almost daily on the status of the rest of the team. Well, everyone but Ziva; no one had heard anything about her since she had been sent back to Israel. But Tony knew that Ducky and Palmer were getting along as usual. He knew that Gibbs was being driven nuts by his new team and spent way too much time in the basement with his boat and his bourbon. He knew that Abby was depressed and missed both he and Ziva, and was worried about Gibbs. He also knew that McGee, his Probie, was thriving down in the sub-basement with a team of geeks following his every command.
Tony reached his quarters and quickly changed into sweats and his running shoes before heading back out into the narrow corridors of the ship. He needed to run. While there was no way he could run seven miles through the streets of DC, he could at least spend some time on the treadmill. He spent all day sitting on his ass, pushing papers and investigating petty thefts. When he was finished, there wasn't much else to do on board besides work out or watch movies on his portable DVD player. It wasn't like any of the crew, enlisted or officer, were going to invite him to a poker game. He was the law on this ship, and nobody wanted to trust the law, not even those who were completely innocent.
Tony reached the aircraft carrier's gym and noticed that there was a pick-up game going on the basketball court. A part of him really wanted to go over and join in, but the last time he had tried that, more than half of the guys had suddenly realized that there was something that they needed to be doing some place else. Tony sighed and headed for the treadmill in the corner. He programmed his usual course—two miles of warm up on a slight incline, followed by two at a steadily increasing incline with the next three and a half miles on intermittent inclines and plateaus with the last half mile cooling down on a flat surface—before setting the speed and starting his work out.
One thing about running on a treadmill: it gave a man entirely too much time to think. And Tony thought a lot while he ran. He thought about Jenny's death and his part in it. He thought about Vance and the way he had split the team over their failure to protect her. He thought about Gibbs and the fear that his boss blamed him for her death as well, no matter how often he told Tony that he was trying to get him back. He thought about McGee in the sub-basement and Abby in her lab. He thought about Ducky and Palmer. He thought about where Ziva was and what she could be doing. Most of all, however, he thought about how all of this was his fault. If he hadn't gone along with Jenny's orders, if he had stayed at his post, none of this would have happened.
That was the story of his life. If he had done things differently maybe Jeanne wouldn't hate him so much now and he could be living the white-picket-fence-life with her, two kids, and a dog. If he had done things differently, maybe Paula and Kate would still be alive. If he had done things differently, maybe his mother wouldn't have been drunk when she drove home from that party and would still be alive. If he had done things differently, maybe his father would be proud of him.
Tony knew that hate was not the worst thing a person can feel towards you. Indifference and apathy were worse that hatred any day.
Shaking off those thoughts, Tony forced his mind to take a different route. When he was stationed on the USS Ronald Reagan, he'd thought that he would only be there for a few days until Gibbs could get things straightened out. And he had been kind of right. He'd only been on that carrier for a couple weeks. When the orders had come for his transfer, he had, for a brief moment, believed that he would be going home. Instead, his hopes had been dashed as he'd read the communiqué that stated that he'd been reassigned here. Either ship was akin to torture for him.
At home, he would have gone out to a bar or a club, gotten drunk and found some pretty little girl willing to help him work off his demons. Or a pretty little boy—not that he ever told anyone about those nights. Stuck on a Navy carrier in the middle of the ocean, that was not an option. DADT was a real deterrent on a ship where everyone knew your business.
Oh, there were girls onboard, plenty of them, but they wanted the attention of and NCIS agent about as much as the basketball players wanted to shoot hoops with him. He'd tried on the Ronald Reagan. He'd tried to chat up several of the more attractive women on board. Every time, they shot him down with a sneer. Tony might have been a little off his game since the mess with Jeanne, but he wasn't that far off. It had only been a few months between the time things had blown up—literally—and the time he'd been shipped off to be agent afloat, but it was long enough for him to realize that his game face had suffered. He struck out more often than not, but he had been successful at least once out of every four or five tries—way down from his old average of two out of every three saying yes. Not on the Reagan, however. On the Reagan, he had averaged a great big goose egg, zero for fourteen.
Once he was transferred, Tony hadn't even bothered to try. What was the point? Besides, if things went belly-up, as they always seemed to do, he would be stuck in very cramped quarters with the woman. A carrier may be huge for a ship, but it was very small when you were trying to avoid someone. Tony knew that both from cases they had worked and from observing some of the broken romances on both carriers. He didn't need that kind of hassle right now.
So, not only was Tony banished to the sea, he was destined for a life of celibacy. All in all, it was a pretty shitty life.
Tony finished his run and moved to the weight machines. If nothing else, he would be in great shape by the time he got off of this barge.
An hour later, Tony made his way back to his quarters from the showers. His thoughts had continued to circulate over everything that had happened recently, and he had replayed Gibbs' most recent email through his mind several times. It was short and to the point. He'd said, "Don't do anything stupid. I'll get you back as soon as I can." That was it. There was no request for information, no questions to see how Tony was doing. Tony felt like there should have been more to the missive, but there just wasn't. He'd always thought of Gibbs like a substitute father, but ever since Gibbs had run off to Mexico he was reminding him more and more of his own father. As long as he was useful, Gibbs wanted him around, but when it came right down to it, Tony was expendable, nothing more to the man than a junior colleague. Tony thought that he would have given anything for a "Hang in there," or "You'll be fine." "I trust you," or "I miss you," was probably too much to hope for, but Tony had been hoping anyway.
He'd been Gibbs' Senior Field Agent for more than six years now. He'd even led the team while Gibbs was gone and had been offered his own team when Gibbs returned. Tony had stayed out of loyalty to Gibbs and the team, but now he wondered if that hadn't been another in a long line of mistakes. He could have avoided the whole mess with Jeanne if he'd taken the team in Rota, Spain. Sure it was a small town far away from the parts of Europe where Tony wanted to be, but he could have missed the fiasco with Jenny. And he certainly wouldn't be stuck out in the middle of the ocean without friend or colleague for company.
Tony turned on his laptop, hoping against hope that there would be something, anything, in his inbox. There was. Another email from Abby wasn't surprising. The email from Tim was. They hadn't communicated at all since he'd been shipped out. After everything with Jenny, lines had been drawn down the center of their team. Abby and Tim had blamed both him and Ziva, Ducky and Palmer had not. Tony wasn't sure on which side of that line Gibbs fell, but he knew for sure where Vance did. Abby had forgiven him, but a part of Tony resented the fact that she had blamed him to begin with. She should have trusted him. Yes, he and Ziva had left their post, but it was on direct orders from their employer. They couldn't have known what was going to happen. Tony might blame himself, but he resented the fact that Abby had blamed him too. If it weren't for the fact that he needed the lifeline of information she was sending, Tony thought he might have held a grudge and not returned any of her emails.
As for Tim McGee, Tony wasn't sure how he felt. Tim was his Probie, but Tony had also thought that they had become friends. Friends don't toss you away when you make a mistake. After everything fell apart, Tony had three days to get his gear together and make arrangements for his apartment and his life. In that time, Tim hadn't called once and the few times Tony had tried to approach him, McGee had clammed up and walked away.
In a lot of ways, Tim's disloyalty hurt worse than Abby's. Abby had always been more like a little sister to him, and siblings fought at times. He knew when it was all over, no matter who had been in the wrong, no matter what the circumstances, they would eventually work it all out.
He didn't have those same brotherly feelings towards Probie. In fact, his feelings for the young agent, Tony was beginning to realize, went much deeper. It was scary just how deep they went. After the Jeanne fiasco, Tim had been there for him as a friend. They had gotten closer and before this latest debacle they had even been known to spend several evenings a week hanging out together when they could.
Tony stared at the screen of his computer and toyed with just deleting the email unopened. He was hurt and angry enough that he could do it and not feel guilty in the slightest. But… But, like with Abby, his curiosity and need for a connection, any connection, to home outweighed his anger.
Tony clicked the tab that opened the email. It was short and to the point; nothing like he would have expected from the part time novelist.
I'm sorry. I forgot how much of life resides in the shades of gray. In my grief and arrogance I was back seeing black and white all over again. I should never have blamed you—I know you do enough of that yourself. You were under conflicting orders and followed the higher ranking individual. I probably would have done the same in your position.
If you can forgive me, even just a little, I'd like a chance to talk. Since phone time onboard is both rare and public, maybe you could IM me. You know me, I'm always online.
Hoping to hear from you soon.
Tony reread the email three times before sitting back against the wall behind his bunk. Well shit. That changed everything.
Tony pulled up his instant messaging program and signed in. Sure enough, Tim was already logged on. He probably was playing some game or chatting with another computer geek. Or possibly chatting with Abby. Tony hesitated. Messaging McGee was as good as saying that he forgave him. Did he?
Tony thought about everything that had happened between them. Not just since Jenny's death, but before that, before Jeanne. Over the last five years, he and his Probie had grown beyond colleagues. He had been sure they were friends. He had even believed for a while that they might become something more than friends, but Tony wasn't sure he could open his heart up like that after everything. Yes, he could forgive Tim, but it would take a long time for him to trust him again. Tony knew that McGee would have his six on the field. He knew that he could trust the man with his life. What he had lost was his ability to trust McGee with his feelings. In a way, the latter was more important than the former.
He was a guy who had grown up with no love, no affection, and no trust from the people who were supposed to be his family; the emotional baggage from that life was pretty heavy. Part of that baggage made opening up to people, trusting them, almost impossible. Once that trust was broken, it was even harder to piece it together again. Usually he didn't even bother to try. What good would it do to let McGee back into his life? He was an ocean away from the man it didn't look like he was going to be going home any time soon. It would be easy to make a break, move on like he had a hundred times before.
Tony began typing.
Magnum1970: Hey Probie.
ElfLord1687: Tony! I'm so glad you're here. You read my email?
Magnum1970: Well, I almost wasn't.
ElfLord1687: Oh. Why?
Tony paused with his fingers over the laptop keys. How to answer that. He knew what Probie was asking, but he could pretend to misunderstand. He could redirect and divert. Or he could be honest.
Magnum1970: Because I may have forgiven you, but I'm not sure if I can still trust you.
There was another long pause and Tony knew that Tim was probably trying to work through that information.
ElfLord1687: I am so sorry. I'm not sure what else I can say.
Magnum1970: There's nothing else to say, Probie. Trust is a fragile thing. Sometimes it gets broken and you can't piece it back together again.
Elflord1687: Don't say that! I can't…
ElfLord1687: I can't imagine not having you in my life.
Magnum1970: I can't either. That's why I'm here.
ElfLord1687: I'm glad you are. Do you think we can get past this? Go back to how things were before? I miss our movie nights with you telling me every minute detail about the movie, its stars and the circumstances of its production.
Magnum1970: I think we could probably still do that, except for the fact that I'm stuck out in the middle of the ocean. Things will change though. It's unavoidable.
ElfLord1687: I know that things change. I just don't want that to change.
Magnum1970: It will take time to get back even a semblance of what we had before. And then only if I can get off this damned ship.
ElfLord1687: We've got time to work on things. And Gibbs is working on getting you back. I've seen multiple requisitions go through the system to reassemble our team.
Magnum1970: Lol Probie! Are you hacking NCIS personnel files again? Tell me. Did you happen across Gibbs' birthday? I've always wanted to know when the man was born.
ElfLord1687: I admit to nothing. And if I did happen to come across any personal information about Gibbs, do you think I would be reckless enough to go bandying that information about? I do not have a death wish!
Magnum1970: You are such a worrywart! Well, at least give me a decade?
ElfLord1687: Lol! You are so predictable. I didn't look at Gibbs' files. Or yours, because I know that's your next question. In fact I've pretty much stuck to keeping an eye out for requisition forms and transfer papers. Abby insisted. She wants to know as soon as it's approved for you and Ziva to come back.
Magnum1970: How are you doing down in Cyber Crimes?
ElfLord1687: It has its moments. They call me Boss. But the truth is I miss being out in the field. I miss you and Gibbs and Ziva. I have lunch with Abby all the time, but I don't get up to see Ducky or Palmer very often. I know what we do is important, but I feel like I'm wasting away down here. I'm almost as pale as Abby these days. What about you?"
Magnum1970: Well, I have a nice healthy tan. There's a deck mid-ship where I can catch a few rays if we're heading the right direction.
ElfLord1687: Not what I meant, but it's nice to see some things don't change. How are you doing?
Tony paused with his fingers hovering over the keyboard for a long minute. He had just gotten through telling himself and Tim that he couldn't trust the man anymore. But he was considering telling him the truth, or at least some of the truth. It was so much easier to say things when you weren't face to face with a person. And the fact was, no matter how messed up things had gotten, Tim wasn't going to tell anyone what he said. He knew that.
Magnum1970: I hate it here.
It wasn't everything but it was a start.
ElfLord1687: Not surprising. Most servicemen and women hate us. Even if we're here to protect them.
Magnum1970: Don't forget that we also investigate them. They certainly don't forget it.
ElfLord1687: Any hot dates?
Magnum1970: What do you think?
ElfLord1687: Never mind, it was a dumb question.
Tony wasn't sure what that meant, but he assumed that Tim believed that he was making his way through the entire female population onboard. He snorted. There were some pretty women on the carrier. There were some pretty men too. But he wasn't going there with anyone, and he certainly wasn't admitting to months of celibacy to Tim.
Magnum1970: I should probably go. I have to be on duty in a few hours. More cases of petty theft to solve.
ElfLord1687: Can we chat again?
Magnum1970: Yeah. You're always on, so I'll find you next time I can get a few minutes away.
ElfLord1687: Thanks Tony.
They both knew he meant for more than the chat.
Magnum1970: You're welcome Tim. I'll be in touch.
Tony signed off and shut down his laptop. It was a better night than he'd had in quite a while. Sure he hadn't gotten to watch The Poseidon Adventure like he'd been planning, but talking to Tim was better any day. And he felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He and Tim were going to be fine. It would take time, but he knew that it was true. And he knew that trusting Tim was worth the risk.