Latest entry for LFWS, and equal first place (though as there were only two entries, I guess that has less impact than it normally would). This week's prompt was to write a 'whump' fic. I don't really get what that is, so I just wrote what my muse wanted to, which apparently was another Somalia fic. Hrm. Maybe I should try something different next week... Thoughts?
The Somalian dust sticks in Tim's throat, makes his breath catch and rattle like Tony on a Washington winter's day. He breathes in gritty dirt, tastes it in his mouth, breathes out again like a fire-breathing dragon with a broken pilot light. It burns both ways.
Nobody warned him about that.
He expected the heat, and the somewhat primitive conditions, and Tony's false cheer throughout it all - as if he could rewrite the ending of their mission through sheer force of will.
Tim tries his hardest to laugh where required, but he ends up choking, spitting into the dirt.
The days just before they left passed in fits and spurts. The minutes passed tick tick tick, alternately slow - like dragging oneself through sticky treacle with two broken legs – or gliding quicksilver down a white-capped hill.
Tim's been skiing, back when Tom E Gemcity could still pick up the tab. Both of them quite liked it, until Tom realised that he might damage his hands and thus his sizable second-book advance, and Tim realised that half the time he wasn't sure whether he was falling or flying.
It's the reason he likes working for Gibbs – and by extension, Tony – so much. You're not sure, most of the time, whether your skis are on soft snow or black ice, but it's a thrill either way.
At least until you're falling.
Tony never once mentions the possibility that they might not make it back from this.
Tim is forever Robin to Tony's Batman, and he stays the course, but it doesn't erase the knowledge sitting heavy like sticky porridge in the bottom of his stomach. His heart pounding in time with the distant memory of an unanswered phone, ringing out while Tony was doing whatever Gibbs normally did behind closed doors with Vance.
Feeling slightly like he was nine again and watching another game of kickball through smeared lenses, Tim had picked up, poised to take a message. Only what came out was something different.
It's the only time he's iactually/i pretended to be Tony. The other times, he was just trying on the DiNozzo skin for size. In front of his mirror, or at a random bar to impress a girl.
It always pulled a little at the seams.
But judgement was apparently buried under childlike resentment that day, so he took the call, and so he now knows that Tony updated his will – just in case. Nobody warned him about that either; the maybes and just-in-case's. The ialmosts/i. He lost count of them awhile back. Not that there's much left after his spectacular stock crash, but still. He'd like to leave something for them to remember him by. His typewriter, maybe.
He's not sure whether Tony is putting on an act for them – he and Abby and the others - or himself, but either way he still figures it's a good time to update his will.
Just in case.
The night before the C-130 is scheduled to leave, Tim sits down at the typewriter in a fit of melancholy, primed and ready to write letters to those he loves, telling them how much he'll miss them and how much they mean to him.
The list begins as a few neatly spaced names, then as the whisky soaks into his system – just a little nip, not enough to be impaired tomorrow; just enough so he'll sleep tonight – it expands rapidly. The dry cleaner. His great-aunt Sylvia. Bert.
His fingers clench as though fighting against the sudden sentimental overload, and the words still don't come. His sudden verbal constipation is possibly not a bad thing – he's pretty sure that the man at the deli doesn't need a half-coherent testament to the quality of his service.
Even if the sandwiches are excellent.
He wakes up too soon to the not-so-dulcet tones of his alarm, shrilling out at a frequency and pitch designed to make dogs howl and the neighbours start banging on their walls. He's surprised to find himself in his bed, unsure of how he got there and half-expecting to find his face imprinted with typewriter keys spelling out unfortunate words.
Today is the kind of day that deserves to be slept through. A quick call to the office in the morning, fake sniffles and an exaggerated hint of early-morning croak, and then a blissful dive under the covers of a duvet he probably should have washed weeks ago.
To call in sick under Gibbs is unthinkable. To brave the perils of the second floor laundry room; unsanitary. He does make sure he has clean underwear on, though. Just like his mother told him.
One can never be too careful.
Tim tries not to cough. Saleem stalks around the room, kicking up dust with each steel-capped step. The window is grimy with it, and Tim can't imagine anyone being able to see out… or in. Maybe that's the point.
iThis does not bode well for our heroes/i, he thinks, inor for snipers with questionable vision/i. He almost laughs. Files it mentally in the drawer marked 'why Tony is a terrible influence', cross-referenced with 'Super Gibbs conquers all'.
He tries not to think of death.
He would like the chance tell his father that he did the right thing, joining this no-name agency rather than taking the cushy job he'd been primed for, had thought he'd wanted all his life. That as far back as the decision between being a postman, an envelope stuffer or a federal agent, he'd made the right choice.
The thing is, he's not sure – lying on the floor pretending to be dead, or unconscious, or anything but awake and listening to Tony choke out bitter truths swathed in the cloth of humor – if he has. If they have.
Then they bring in Ziva, filthy and blank-eyed, and everything flies out the window. His eyes burn with grit.
It's a miracle that they all make it back. He's not entirely sure how it happens. One minute they're dragging Ziva out of the room that smells like blood and dust and gunpowder, and the next Gibbs is framed by tan fringe in the hallway, their Wookie saviour.
Super Gibbs conquers all, including the laws of space and time.
The empty desk is filled again and everything and everyone is in their place, except they're raw around the edges and they don't quite fit like they used to. Ziva disappears at odd times and comes back smelling of soap and tearstains. Tony... stops being Tony and starts being a clumsy remake. Bad lines and awkward leaden pauses do the original no justice, though there are moments of brilliance.
Abby refuses his clumsy attempts at dinner invites and movie nights. Efforts to rekindle something long gone or to get their friendship back on track, he's not sure which.
Tim starts to lose weight.
It happens gradually at first, almost unnoticed by the others in the depths of their own self-destruction. The pounds just melt away. His credit card gets a workout – he needs clothes that don't swamp his shrinking frame. Tony makes cracks about him running over gypsy women, calls him McThinner. Ziva gives Tony a look that could melt steel, and for a moment it's almost like old times.
Except Tim can't eat, and not for lack of trying. He won't deny he's been fighting the battle of the scales for years. He's got it all wrong before now. The secret isn't lettuce leaves or pills or magic stomach-filling shakes.
The secret is being beaten to a pulp in the middle of goddamn nowhere by a bunch of wild-eyed terrorists, and swallowing half the desert along with oceans of regret. Pity he can't patent that. The Somalia Sand Diet has a nice ring to it.
Ducky makes clucking noises at him whenever he's in the morgue, so he starts making excuses and sending Tony or Ziva instead. Abby starts to bring him food; casseroles and pastas and double-chocolate cupcakes that are genuinely his without threat of evidence-free death after eating. He forces down as much as he can, just to make her smile.
He wakes up each morning choking and spluttering. For a moment the walls are stone and the window in his room is cracked and filthy, keeping the light and the bullets at bay. He tightens his belt another notch until all he can see is the indent of where he's come from in the cracked leather. There seem too few holes left, somehow.
Nobody warned him it would be like this.
Hope you enjoyed! :)