TI: Stripped.

AU: SnoopMaryMar

DI: Not mine. DPB and CBS got there first.


SU: As much as I **LOVED** "Baltimore", this is what I would have loved to have seen. My inner, not-so-secret angst girl would have been very happy.

AN: This is what happens when I listen to "Howl" by Florence and the Machine on repeat for five hours.

McGee had never seen so many homicide detectives in one place. Then again, he'd never seen Tony go that still, that quiet or that pale that quickly before he answered that phone call today.

An older man, obviously one used to command from the deference and presence of mind the others gave him, stepped forward and beckoned them closer. "In there, Tony." The words clearly hit Tony hard. McGee could tell by the way Tony's body jerked so very slightly before stilling at the subtle touch of Gibbs' hand on his back.

'In there' meant the body of his old partner, the body of the man who had guarded Tony's six until a parolee with a grudge took a cheap shot on a dark night before vanishing into the cold rain of Baltimore. Whenever they had come into contact with the BPD, McGee had listened carefully, aware that it wasn't Gibbs those wearing the uniform were stepping lightly around. He'd pieced together enough information to know that solitary hunts and interrogations that came oh-so-close to the line had nearly destroyed the man who Tim constantly measured himself against.

"He hasn't been moved. We wanted to wait until you could say goodbye, Tony."

McGee bit his tongue and forced himself to wait in the doorway, no matter how much he wanted to follow his friend into that room. He understood that Tony considered it a personal failing that he had never been able to catch up to the man who had taken out his partner after a lab tech's error had led to the dismissal of charges. He understood that sometimes the nights Tony spent at his desk weren't on their cold cases. And he understood that this wasn't just any body; it was Danny, the guy Tony trusted more than anybody, even Gibbs.

This was Tony's best friend, his partner, the one he'd run to when the situation with Jeanne had gone to hell.

No one said anything. They let Tony uncover the body and for the first time, McGee saw Tony cry. Danny was on the floor in front of his wheelchair, lying in a pool of dark drying blood, hands clutching his stomach. The agony and twisted rage on the dead man's face chilled McGee. McGee could see Tony whispering under his breath and averted his eyes. He didn't know if it was a prayer or a promise, only that it was incredibly personal and private.

"How...?" he heard Gibbs mutter to one of the detectives.

"Came in through the fire escape. You can see the ridges of a hiking boot on the sill. Bastard wanted it to hurt first. A gunshot wound to the stomach," Tony choked out, shuddering as he stood, "leaves you with time to think before you die, Probie. And he made sure Danny couldn't call for help." Tony wiped his cheeks self-consciously, waving a distracted hand at the smashed cellphone by the window, before draping the sheet back over his dead friend's corpse.

McGee fought back a shiver as Tony turned to face them. He ignored the funny hitch in Gibbs' breathing, the way Ziva shifted into a tense perching. "This was cold-blooded and deliberate. He was beaten before he was shot. This was an interrogation followed by an execution that was meant to send a message. This was hate, Probie. Pure and simple hate."

It was rare when McGee saw Tony unmasked. As much as they all played into Tony's fratboy persona, they all knew that there was a reason Tony was Gibbs' SFA, the one who could and wound reign in Ahab. This was the homicide cop with a solve-rate that McGee hated to admit intimidated him; the deep-cover investigator who worked without back-up and without a net. Gibbs' chosen successor and someone who even a semi-rogue CIA operative stepped lightly around.

It wasn't a smile, a snarl or even a grimace. It was blood-curdling and terrifying and everything Tim had hidden from in his closet as a boy.

"I. Want. Him."