Ziva has been to a great many funerals in her lifetime. Each one was terrible in its own way, but to see this tiny casket with McGee's tinier son inside renews her sense of horror at the useless face death all too often takes.

McGee consented for his son to share his funeral with Lila's mother, Grace, and most of the mourners address her family. Only the team and McGee's parents and sister—who had had to fly in from Arizona where they had been visiting Mrs. McGee's elderly mother—keep with McGee the entire time.

It seems, at moments, that they are truly the only ones there for Lila as well because Lila's twin sister Lily can barely even speak to any of them, so angry is she at her sister for their mother's death. It is only then, in the middle of the funeral home where Lila sits in a wheelchair, barely conscious for all the drugs in her system yet still in obvious pain despite them, that Ziva learns the car accident was Lila's fault. According to the police report Ziva looks up later, Lila lost control of the vehicle on the offramp of the interstate, jamming into a guardrail and over an embankment.

Watching the way Tim steps between the sisters, trying so desperately to remind Lily that their loss is shared, Ziva knows—absolutely—that McGee would never have spoken a word against Lila himself about the accident. It still startles Ziva sometimes how very good Tim is. At times, it is just as hard for her to have faith in that goodness now as it was on the first occasion she saw it because she has never seen its like in anyone else. If there is anyone less deserving of losing a child, she cannot imagine who it might be.

The worst of it though, is when McGee sees Lila back to the hospital after they bury their son in the ground. Ziva did not witness it herself, but Tony, whom McGee had not refused when Tony asked if he might drive them to and from the funeral, tells of how McGee had no sooner seen to her re-admittance to the hospital than Lila forbade him from coming to her room. Lila has it written on her chart that Tim is not permitted in to see her at all.

McGee stays inside the hospital that day anyway, writing Lila notes that beg her to let him visit her. Tony cannot convince him to leave until the charge nurse comes out to the waiting room and tells McGee he is upsetting Lila and possibly setting back her ability to heal. And so they go.

Tony, though he is almost viciously angry at Lila when he recounts the story to Ziva that night, tells Ziva how he knows the separation is not what Lila wants. He says to Ziva that he cannot understand why Lila would do such a thing to Tim when she has to need him as much as he needs her. But Tony is lying, and Ziva knows it even before his eyes give it away, because Tony has always understood guilt as few others come to know it. And Lila's guilt seems much like Tony's often is—truly inconsolable.

McGee returns to work the next day, but he is as a ghost in the bullpen. Ducky tries to convince him to go home while Abby jumps into the conversation with the suggestion that what Timmy really needs is to cuddle with Bert for a while, but Gibbs interrupts the exchange and tells them all that he will not hear of anyone telling McGee what he needs and does not need right now, and then Gibbs stands between McGee, where he sits meekly at his desk, and the rest of them team until Ducky eyes Gibbs knowingly and leaves the bullpen, until Abby hugs her little farting pig and retreats back to her lab with pouting lips, and until Ziva and Tony retake their own proper seats.

Ziva watches, then, from the corner of her eye, as Gibbs walks around McGee's desk. Their Boss lays both his hands on Tim's shoulders, and he lingers behind Tim for a moment, mouth poised as if he wishes to say something. In the end, Gibbs simply squeezes McGee's shoulders and walks silently back to his desk.

And after the days of McGee's complete silence comes the irritability when the only things he seems able to tolerate are Gibbs' concentrated muteness and Tony's solid touch on his upper back. Later, Ziva discovers McGee can also sit for her soft praying in Hebrew. Sometimes she does not even pray, though. Sometimes she simply tells him how terribly sorry she is and that she loves him and misses him and she would do anything at all to bring his son back to him were it in her power.

Through it all, Tim does not speak of any of it. He will not say a word of Josh, whom Ziva can always see on McGee's face and on his mind whenever she looks at him. Tim does not talk of Lila, though Ziva has heard him leave messages for her at the hospital and on Lila's cell phone numerous times, has watched McGee compose countless letters and emails to her.

And so it is that Ziva and the rest of the team discover, once again after the fact, when Lila comes home two and a half weeks after the accident. They find out because they each spy Tim's rental car, laden with clothes and suitcases, when they come through the garage that morning. And Tim does not have to say anything at all for them to know that he no longer has a place to live.

Ziva does not know what words Gibbs finds to convince him, but McGee follows their Boss home that night. McGee's car is missing from the parking garage the next day, but the passenger seat of Gibbs' Charger is pushed farther back than it usually is, and when Ziva walks into the bullpen, Gibbs and McGee sit silently but companionably across from one another.

That weekend, she and Tony help Gibbs clean out two rooms of his house—the den and Kelly's old room. They must shuffle around Tim's things where they rest amongst Kelly's possessions. Afterward, the whole team, along with Sarah, pitch in to move the rest of McGee's belongings from Lila's townhouse into Gibbs' home.

When they arrive at Lila's, the nurse she hired stands at the door to the downstairs guest bedroom with compassionate eyes as Tim tells her what foods Lila likes to eat and asks if she knows Lila's allergic to strawberries and tells her Lila can't generally stand television but she always watches Anne of Green Gables when she's sick. He does not ask to see Lila, perhaps because the answer is so obviously 'no' in the way the nurse keeps position outside the bedroom.

It only takes two hours for the team to separate McGee and Lila's lives, but it seems as ages longer because Ziva must jog interference the entire time between McGee and Abby. Every time she passes him in a room or hallway, Abby tries to hug the sadness from Tim's face. And Ziva can see the way Abby's love and compassion for McGee is almost overwhelming to the Goth. Ziva can see in Abby's slightest body language how deeply she wishes to comfort McGee and connect with him, and even how angry she is at Lila's rejection of him, despite the feelings she's recently revealed to have for McGee. But Abby seems not to take into account that this was Tim's home with his lover—a lover that was not Abby—for many months. How impossible must that feel for Tim to be caught between two women that he loved? Two women who both turned him away?

And so Ziva distracts Abby as best she can, though she is unable to remain with the other woman at all times. It is not until the rest of the team is cleaning up the downstairs study after removing McGee's bookshelves, that Ziva realizes she is not nearly as successful as she supposes in her plan to keep McGee and Abby apart.

Abby plops down on Lila's living room sofa beside where Ziva carefully packs McGee's framed photos in newspaper. When Abby glances up at Ziva, their eyes just meeting before Abby's flitter away, there is a hopelessness there that Ziva has never known of Abby, not even in those dark days when they first met. After Kate had just died.

"Abby!" Ziva grabs at the other woman's arm. "What is wrong?"

Abby shakes her head, her brow furrowing as she licks her lips. "I didn't understand. Why didn't you tell me I didn't understand?" she demands, her lips quivering in a manner so far removed from her usual determinedly playful purse.

"What has happened?" Ziva ducks her head to try to look Abby in the eye.

"He doesn't want me to hug him anymore," Abby tells her miserably.

"McGee?" Ziva asks with high inflection, knowing there is only one 'he' on Abby's mind right now, but at the same time, unable to believe that McGee actually turned Abby away.

Beside Ziva, Abby nods. "He told me I didn't understand, and he told me," her breath catches, "he meant every word he'd ever said to me but he would still—" she sniffles, "Josh was still—" Abby's face crumbles up completely. "I didn't understand," she reiterates, seemingly unable to repeat whatever McGee had said to her.

"Abby!" Ziva bites her bottom lip and opens her arms to her friend, but Abby jumps from the couch and starts shaking her head.

"No, I'm okay," she insists, even as she wipes away tears. "I'm not the one who—" and then she gasps like she's remembering it all anew. "I'm going to, uh, I'm going to go," Abby says almost evenly, almost sedately then points to the door as she finishes. "Jimmy's out there, I'll see if he'll give me a ride home."

Ziva stands and watches her leaving. "Are you certain, Abby?" she asks to the other woman's back.

"Of course!" Abby states, but even her walk is wobbly as her tears make their way to her throat. She exits the front door, and Ziva follows her to the threshold, watches long enough to see her say a few words to Jimmy as Tony silently looks on, and then Ziva keeps watching as Abby hops into the passenger seat of Jimmy's Taurus and the two of them wave goodbye and drive down the road.

Tony finishes stuffing another box of books into the moving van once Abby and Jimmy are out of sight. He calmly walks back to the front door. He twists his body, so he does not have to touch her even where Ziva stands still in the door frame. And then Ziva stops Tony with a hand to his forearm when he would have walked by. Tony tilts his head at her but immediately grabs her back, holding on until she lets go, and Ziva tries to imagine what she would have felt like if Tony would have refused her that small touch as McGee had refused Abby, though she supposes it is not quite the same thing. She wonders what McGee could have said to Abby to make her run away as she did, with shame in her eyes.

They make quick and quiet work of the last remaining items, and soon, there is nothing left of Tim in Lila's house except for Tim himself. And then, just as they are preparing to go, McGee goes back up to what had been their bedroom and stays there for ten minutes before Ziva takes it upon herself to fetch him. She waits until both Tony and Gibbs step outside again because, despite the fact that McGee would most likely respond best to one of those two men right now, and despite the fact that both men realize this truth, the compulsion Ziva feels to reach out to Tim is too strong to ignore.

He's sitting on the bed with his back facing the door when Ziva walks in. There are two wide marks on the carpet in front of him where Sarah had directed them an hour ago to remove the McGee family cradle. When she looks down at his hands, Ziva realizes he is holding some pictures.

She sits directly beside him, not quite close enough to touch, but close enough for him to reach her without undue effort should he wish to do so. As per his new norm, Tim doesn't say a word. However, he does offer her the pair of photographs he is holding in his hands.

The first shows the tiny baby Ziva remembers from his casket. He looks so pale, but his fingers are extended in a very definite demonstration of life. She had known Josh was not stillborn because of the nature of the birth certificate released, but she had not expected to see this. She turns to the next picture to find McGee holding his tiny son in his arms. She almost catches her breath to realize Josh's fist is wrapped around McGee's first finger.

"One of the nurses took the pictures on her phone. There are seven of them, but these are the ones where you can really see that he's alive," McGee sniffs, nearly shocking her as he speaks so openly. "He lived just over an hour after I got there. I held him the whole time. I was holding him when he died."

Ziva reaches for his hand, and she laces their fingers. "I am glad you were there with him."

"Yeah," McGee sniffles again, his hand remaining lax in hers. "Me, too. I just—Lila didn't even get to hold him at all. She touched him," he clarifies, "at the funeral home, but she was unconscious during the c-section and afterwards she wasn't actually physically able to hold him. He was already dead by the time she saw him, anyway."

"It is not your fault," she reminds him gently.

"It's not anyone's fault," he is quick to return.

Ziva tilts her head as she looks at him, "Then why do you feel guilty?"

Tim blinks, and his face crumples, "I," he shakes his head, knocking a tear loose from his eye. "Why didn't I go with her that day? I could have, I could have—"

"No," Ziva contradicts him. "There is no way to know what could have been. We can only ever know what is," and even she can feel the hollowness to her words.

"He, um, Josh," McGee speaks his son's name a little breathlessly, and suddenly his fingers clutch at hers. She clutches right back. "He made this sound every time I touched his face. It, uh, it reminded me of a cat," he sobs out a chuckle. "And then I think he recognized my voice because when I spoke to him he moved his head like he was trying to move towards me." Tim squeezes her hand tighter. "I wanted to tell Lila that, but she won't even talk to me, so I thought if she could see the pictures," he trails off when he starts weeping.

Ziva lays a hand on the back of Tim's head, and she pulls him down against her shoulder. It surprises her how readily he comes to her, how much he needs this simple affection. Maybe moreso that he allows her to provide it to him.

"I believe your son lives on in God," she tells him in Hebrew, unsure whether she could piece the words together if he could actually understand them. Maybe he would not have even been able to hear them anyway beyond the strength of his grief. She holds him tighter, knowing his body will understand the comfort that his mind cannot yet find.

"I am so sorry," she finally manages to say in English.


When Gibbs shuts the front door after Tony and Ducky and the girls Saturday night, taking care to lock it, it's just him and McGee in the house, just like it's been for the last two nights. And just like the last two nights—No, the last three weeks—Gibbs can't think of anything he might say to his young agent.

"Did you get enough to eat?" Gibbs prods gently upon reentering the living room, tilting his chin towards the pizza boxes in the dining room.

Tim nods his head where he stands next to the fireplace, just like Gibbs knew he would.

Gibbs walks over next to Tim. "Come on," he orders, patting a quick hand to Tim's shoulder, "Help me clean up from dinner."

Tim nods again, just as listlessly, then stands to join Gibbs in the dining room. They make quick work of consolidating the remaining pizza slices into a single box and then breaking down all the other boxes to throw them away.

"You should recycle those," Tim says quietly, startling Gibbs just as he's about to toss the cardboard into the trash.

"Thought you couldn't recycle pizza boxes," Gibbs squints curiously.

Tim shakes his head. "The city won't take them because of the organic remains on them, but there's an independent contractor Lila and I use that takes all recyclable materials. They have a community compost for items that can't be reprocessed directly." Tim shrugs, "I can take it over to their closest drop off point tomorrow if you want."

"That's a good idea, Tim," Gibbs praises the initiative, is frankly grateful to hear something besides, 'yes, Boss' or 'no, Boss' or 'on it, Boss' coming from Tim's lips.

Tim nods, then collects the boxes and sets out for the front door. Gibbs follows him into the living room, then just watches by the nearer end of the coffee table while Tim picks up his car keys from the hook and tries to turn the knob. The boy's brow furrows when he realizes it's locked. He makes quick work of the latch and steps outside. Gibbs glances out the window, watching Tim carefully lay the pizza boxes in the trunk of his rental, adjusting them this way and that after he places them inside, focusing much too acutely on the simple task.

When Tim walks back into the house, he places his keys back on the hook by the door. He turns, is about to step out of the foyer and up towards the stairs when he stops himself and very carefully turns the lock. He flips the deadbolt, too, then pats the door just above that thick, upper lock.

"This was my job at home," Tim whispers, still facing the door. "I checked the doors every night after Lila went to bed." He shakes his head, and one side of his mouth flips up with the idea of a smile. "Lila said it was silly," he sniffs, "overprotective of me because we always locked the doors whenever we came into the house anyway, but one night I found the front door unlocked when I checked, and I knew right then in that moment," Tim locks his jaw, and his face pinches up, "that I would keep checking that front door every night for the rest of our lives." Tim swallows, and it's so quiet in the house that it seems as loud as if Gibbs were standing right next to him. "Guess I was wrong, huh?" And Tim bites his lip to whiteness and squinches his eyes shut tight for a brief second. He can't stop the tear that runs down the side of his cheek, but he swipes at it, hard and fast, like he can pretend it's not there if he gets rid of it fast enough.

And Gibbs' tongue stalls again because he understands, horribly and miserably and in that bone deep way that makes him ache to ever think about. And God, how he tries to never think about it.

The silence stretches between them, and Gibbs isn't even sure Tim notices silence anymore, thinks Tim must be screaming too hard inside his head to realize that everything outside it is quiet and still. And as he watches Tim, watches that young kid he remembers from Norfolk eight years ago stiffen his shoulders and blink without seeing, Gibbs feels his own stance widen, as if he can already feel the wind of a storm about to come.

"Does it ever get better, Boss?" Tim's voice pinches tighter and tighter right up until it breaks, and the words and the tone each seem to make Gibbs' heart stop. McGee angles his neck, straightens his chin to look Gibbs in the eye, and Gibbs has no idea what's on his face in that second, but Tim's head drops right away. "Oh, G-God, I'm s-sorry B-boss, I s-shouldn't've," he stammers, this boy Gibbs used to know. "I know it's n-not the s-same. I know K-kelly was, w-was…a-and J-J-Josh w-wasn't—" Tim breaks off, shaking his head, "I'm s-sorry." Tim's chest heaves as he gasps for air, and his hands go back to the lock, but those normally agile fingers can only fumble at the latches they so purposely turned just a moment before.

"Hey, hey. It's okay, Tim," and by the time the words come out of Gibbs' mouth, he's already beside his agent. "I," and Gibbs' tongue fails him again. He clears his throat and sets his hand to span across the base of Tim's neck. Only then do McGee's fingers stop trying at the locks, though they do stay connected with the door. "It is the same," Gibbs starts again. "It's always the same, and no," Gibbs shakes his head. "It doesn't get better," he confesses quietly, "but it gets bearable," he promises.

Tim nods, his fingers curling into the wood of the door as his breathing gets more rapid, fighting with the urge to cry.

"It's okay," Gibbs shakes him at the neck, and Tim's body is both stiff and fragile, moving easily but like one solid, immovable piece of hollow wood, not like a man at all, under Gibbs' hand.

"I had so many plans," Tim exhales the words shakily, still holding onto the door. "We were taking all these night classes—Parenting Techniques, Basics for New Moms and Dads," and if Tim'd told him a month ago, Gibbs would have smiled at the very thought. Of course, Tim would take classes on how to be a dad. And he would have applied everything he'd learned and so carefully taken notes on during that schooling and then he'd've wondered why it didn't all work out like it was supposed to.

"I started sign language just over a month ago," Tim continues, "but Lila won't take it even though the evidence for verbal skills and motor skills is solid, she keeps saying it's colloquial because there aren't enough peer reviewed studies, and I keep telling her you have to start somewhere, and then she licks her lips like she does and tells me to teach her to talk to me with her hands and—" he cuts himself off abruptly, and blushes as red as Gibbs has ever seen, his lips stuttering even if nothing comes out.

"And now she won't even talk to me," Tim's voice cracks when he's finally able to spit some words out again. "How are we supposed to get through this if she won't even talk to me?" he coughs, choking as he sniffs heavily. "Who's going to remember Josh if we don't do it together?" Tim sobs, and when he leans into Gibbs, Gibbs catches him right away, holds him as close as he knows how.

And the promise is there on the tip of his tongue, so Gibbs speaks what he's thinking, wondering as he does if it's the worst thing he could say, "We will. We'll remember Josh. You and I and the team and your parents and Sarah," Gibbs swears. "It's not the same," he acknowledges before Tim might say it, "but we loved Josh, too. We loved him because he was yours."

"I thought you didn't really want—" Tim cries and shakes his head into Gibbs' chest. "I was going to—the Marshals…" he trails off, but it's not as though he needs to finish. Gibbs had known from the moment Tim introduced the team to Marshal Brown at their crime scene that their relationship was at least as much professional as it was personal.

"Stay with me as long as you want to," Gibbs tells Tim, hoping the younger man understands he means everything—his house, the team, NCIS, "or leave if you have to," Gibbs strokes his thumb along Tim's temple, "but you'll always be one of mine," Gibbs vows, "wherever you go."

And Tim only cries harder, but he throws both arms around Gibbs now, clutches him as tightly as Gibbs holds onto him. Neither man lets go for a long time.


Two months later…

It's a chilly day for late March. Tony's got the heat on high in the van, and Tim knows he only cranks it up because Tim once told him how much colder he gets now that he's dropped thirty pounds. He can't believe Tony actually remembers the one off comment, but the proof of it comes every time they make their way to a crime scene anymore.

There's no heat on in Rock Creek Park, though, and Tim wishes he'd worn his heavier coat this morning instead of the new one Abby'd gotten him. It's just that it was so nice to be thought of when she'd surprised him yesterday 'just because' as she'd put it, that he wanted to keep the feeling with him for as long as he could. The grin on her face as he wore it into work today made the jacket seem warmer anyway.

Abby'd been doing things like that a lot in the past couple months, and Tim didn't know why she was doing any of it at all, especially after he'd told her he'd trade every moment they'd ever shared together for just a little more life for his son. It wasn't fair of him to say to a friend, even if was true. The fact of it is, though, that these small gestures Abby keeps making lately make him feel more loved and appreciated than anything she'd ever said or done for him in the rest of the entire eight years they'd known one another.

Tony takes his hat off his own head and lands it squarely on Tim's noggin the second the younger man steps under the stretch of tape nearest the body. A moment later, Ziva slaps him in the gut with a pair of gloves that had to have been hiding in the lower left cabinet of the van because no one ever looks in there because you have to lug the mostly unused monster toolcase out of the way to get to it.

Tim grins at both his friends and joins Gibbs by the body at once. The rhythm of the team's routine fills him with a sense of purpose and satisfaction. It feels so good to have this part of his life back when he thought he'd been removed from it forever. He hadn't realized how very much he'd missed his team. Even when he was in the thick of preparing the way for Josh with Lila, there'd always been something missing. He doesn't know how he didn't realize before, why he didn't think to go after it.

Of course, now it's the other half of the equation that's missing, and Tim feels guilty and incredibly disloyal to his friends, but he knows if he'd had to make that choice himself between his family and his team, then he wouldn't be here right now.

Ultimately though, he wishes it had never been either/or but both. Tim's not sure he could ever be entirely happy or content without having both in his life. He wishes he'd known earlier it was all about balance, not about choice.

While Tony and Ziva bicker over who should pick up something that's apparently hugely disgusting by the sound of the argument and as Palmer wraps up the body, Tim's phone rings from his breast pocket. He juggles his grip around the crime scene electronics and just manages to yank off a glove so he can get his phone to his ear before the fifth ring.

"McGee," he squints distractedly as he traps the cell between his ear and his shoulder.

"Tim," a soft, breathless voice he'd know anywhere speaks in his ear.

"Lolly," the nickname comes to his lips unbidden.

The word gets Gibbs' attention at once. He lifts a brow at Tim as if trying to determine if Tim needs backup on a simple phone call. Tim gives him a half smile, warmed at Gibbs' thought to have his back, but he waves Boss on. Tim'll probably end up telling him about it on the way home tonight, in any case. Then Tim sets the case of evidence back to the ground near where the body was and gives the phone call his full attention.

"H-how are you?" she asks.

"I'm, uh," he wants to say 'good' but that's not quite true. "I'm doing all right," he settles on, and walks a little deeper into the newly budding trees and away from the soft and familiar noises of his team. "How about you?"

"Better," she tells him. "I wanted to thank you for the pictures," her words are more tentative than any he's ever heard from her. And then she whispers, "Of Josh. And, um," her voice wavers, "I wanted to tell you that I read every letter and email you sent, and I'm so sorry. For all of it."

"Lila," he bites his lip because he'll take an apology for the last three months, but he won't accept one for the accident itself. "I never blamed you for it," the soft words just make it past his lips, but he can't seem to bite out the phrase car crash.

"But you should have," she insists.

"I never will," he promises.

The silence stretches between them a moment, and Tim just wishes he could see her, wishes he could convince her of his words with his whole body.

"I thought," Lila starts and stalls. "I thought maybe I could buy you coffee sometime," she finishes with tears in her voice.

"No," he shakes his head and smiles at the memory, "but you can join me."

That sweet chuckle he loves so much gets braided with relief as it comes across the line.

"Are you busy tonight?" Lila asks, tone still tentative despite the laugh between them.

"Mmm," he winces. "We just caught a case."

"Oh, right, okay," and he can almost see that nervous nod she gets. "Maybe another day."

"No!" he comes back quickly, afraid she'll lose her nerve, or he will, between then and now. "I mean, Boss will probably let me get away for a little while, though I probably won't be able to give you much lead time. I mean if that's—"

"No, no, no! That's okay!" Lila's quick to interrupt, and it soothes his nerves a pinch to know something might yet remain between them.

"You could always come to the Yard if you want," he leads, knowing it's probably not the best combination to jump right into but desperately needing his worlds to merge nonetheless.

"I thought you didn't want me coming there?" and it seems as though there's a lot of weight behind her question.

He licks his lips, knowing she's asking something beyond the obvious. "I changed my mind," he tells her.

"Yeah?" he hears her smile in that word and can't help but to smile back.

"Yeah," Tim confirms.

"Okay," Lila sniffles, but the noise almost sounds satisfied somehow. "I could bring you lunch from that deli you like near the dry cleaners."

"Ooh, that turkey sandwich with the—"

"The extra sweet pickles and mustard," she interrupts. "I know."

Tim tilts his head, imaging that soft look she gets about her when she gets lost in a good memory. "Twelve-thirty will probably work if that's okay."

"I'll see you then," Lila confirms.

He closes the phone and slides it back into his pocket. When he turns around, Tony and Ziva are practically wringing their hands as they straddle listening range of his conversation. The laugh bubbles up from deep inside Tim at the sight.

"That was Lila," Tim confirms as he walks closer to them, and Tony nods desperately, and the senior agent's actually, sincerely biting his tongue, but he doesn't push Tim at all for any details. Tim offers them anyway. "She's bringing me lunch at the Yard later."

"Yeah?" Tony ducks his chin, scanning Tim's features for whatever reaction he thinks wouldn't be readily apparent at this news. "So do you think, maybe…"

"I don't know," Tim shrugs. "But I'm not gonna rule it out."

Ziva smiles at him, and Tim knows it's an honest reflection of his own happiness back at him. "I have to get this back to Ducky before he leaves," she gestures with Ducky's liver thermometer, which just eww, Tim does not want to know. Then she runs off for the ME van.

"Oh, hey," Tony says as they go back towards the crime scene van. "Did I tell you about that yoga class I'm checking out? I signed up because of the serious hottie it had for a teacher, but I really think I'm already more flexible, which," he waggles his brows, "is useful in a myriad of situations," Tony finishes sedately.

"Hmm," Tim can't hold back his grin at both the sex story Tony so obviously wants to tell him and the fact that he doesn't in order to maintain Tim's sensibilities about privacy. Tim finds he doesn't mind as much as he used to about the whole privacy thing, though. Maybe it's because Tony's okay with him not offering any details back or maybe it's because it doesn't feel like Tony's telling somebody else's secrets so much anymore as it seems kind of obvious he just wants to share his own with Tim. Or maybe it's just that it's Tony inviting these intimacies that it seems okay. Hard to say.

"You know," Tim says under the privacy of the trees to his best friend, the words just popping out of his mouth and in between the two of them as if they were always meant to, "Lolly—I," he clears his throat. "It's short for lollipop," he confesses, and Tim knows how incredibly vague his phrasing is, but, the truth is, he still doesn't want to relate the intimate details of what happened between him and Lolly to anyone, he only now wants to share with Tony the significance behind those private moments.

Tony stalls, brows high on his forehead, and thank God for Tony's dirty mind because it's obvious that he gets it immediately and thankfully without Tim actually having to use the word 'blowjob'. "I take it she's a fan. Of lollipops." Tony levels his gaze at Tim, and McGee can see him trying so hard not to grin madly at the confidence.

"The biggest, most enthusiastic fan I have ever met," Tim finishes, lips curling like he can't even begin to contain them.

"Good Catholic girl?" Tony guesses then presses his lips together hard.

Tim shakes his head. "Very, very bad Catholic girl," he returns slyly.

Tony chuckles wildly, finally completely losing the battle with his grin, and Tim's laughing right there with him, and their shared laughter feels light and purely joyful, like it was always supposed to.

And everything might be changing for Tim, but all of a sudden, it's a normal day even if it is a new kind of normal, and Tim may not know what's coming next, doesn't even really know what he wants yet, but at least he knows now who's at his back.

END