AN: I began this story in December, sitting on a white coral sand beach, with coconut trees, in Malaysia – (is the woman never going to shut up about that trip...) it takes place in between Seasons 8 and 9. No plot, just a bit of silliness...

I've no idea if the formatting will let me do what I want at the end... won't know until I post I guess!

Coral Sands and Coconut Palms

by scousemuz1k

It was the postcard that did it. It wasn't the fact that it was May, and bad things always happened in May. It wasn't the fact that his head was full of bad anniversaries; it always was at this time of year, how could it not be? And if he'd heard Kate's voice once this week saying 'suck it up, DiNozzo', he'd heard it ten times. Cubed.

Kate... She'd always kept him centred, and right now, after all this time, his memories of her, clear, sharp and painful, were adding to the weird mood that was making his thoughts fly off at woolly tangents, like, but not nearly so pleasant as the few little fair-weather cumuli floating around in the bright blue above him. It had been really difficult to keep focussed on the case they'd just closed; he'd done it, contributed positively to the successful outcome, and absorbed Gibbs' habitual grouchiness without getting his head slapped but twice – cue Kate's voice again – but it had been an effort to maintain his mask.

He kept looking gloomily out at the bay – well, technically it was still the Potomac estuary, this pretty, sandy beach on the eastern shore, with the lush vegetation that had hidden many a shady transaction concerning mysterious things brought in by boat... but the steely blue-grey out there was vast, and as far as he was concerned, this was the bay, and that was the Atlantic. Keep swimming and you eventually hit Lisbon.

There was a warship far off in the distance; it reminded him of his time as Agent Afloat on two aircraft carriers after a May he'd tried desperately to forget, bunking on the floor of his tiny office rather than keeping sailors from their sleep with his nightmares, and trying to bury his feelings of abandonment, guilt, punishment, you name it, DiNozzo, deeper than the thousands of fathoms under the hull.

When he'd told Ziva he wasn't drinking as much, he'd wondered how she'd thought he could be – my, wouldn't it look great if the Agent Afloat, having tracked down the illegal liquor on the ship, had then set about destroying his own liver with it? He'd made the miscreants watch as he'd lobbed the bottles off the fantail... somehow, different reasons, but... he'd felt just as glum as they had.

He returned to chewing on the bone of his thoughts. That May, and this May, had simply reinforced a conviction that had begun when he'd been a rookie in Peoria – that the Summer, with its alternating dryness and humidity, heat and lack of restraint, brought out the worst, smallest, meanest and most petty traits in people; the cases, like this one they'd just wrapped up, that left the nastiest taste in the mouth. And it always began in May.

He squinted back up the beach, against the sun, to where McGee, a dot in the distance, was laser measuring, 'just to be thorough with my report, Tony.'

Two smugglers fall out over one crate of cheap brandy, one shoots the other, and simply leaves the body in amongst the low vegetation, where two seven year old holidaymakers find the revolting remains six days later. Who cares that their holiday's ruined and they'll likely have nightmares...

Well, Ducky had taken the body early this morning, the culprit, back aboard his ship, had soon confessed to Gibbs and Ziva on screen in MTAC, when faced with the minimum of evidence from cell phone records. Gibbs would be back soon, Tony thought, or he and Tim would have a heck of a walk carrying all this equipment... he'd packed it all away except for the laser, and wandered disconsolately in the bright sunshine, actually wishing he still had something to do...

Nope, it wasn't May, or inactivity, or the pettiness of human nature... it wasn't even that photo that SecNav had shown him, with all that it implied – trouble for EJ, himself out on a limb, isolated from Gibbs and the team and working apart from them more often than not... no, the finishing touch had been that postcard.

From the south of France, with a very strong feeling of 'nyah nyah, hee hee, I'm here and you're not...' Charles, never Charlie, the frat bro with the mostest. Connections... money... new money, not even old, but still his mother called him 'Chols'... Whenever he'd heard her, Tony had remembered his mother, who was a real English lady, and either cringed or laughed inside.

Charles Willoughby... the bro with the ability to get the most out of people, (like his college assignments done,) with the minimum of effort... reminded him of his dad really.

He sighed; the thing was, he could have done it himself, better than either of them, if he'd chosen that path. He shook his head. Never.

Charles was in Nice by way of money originally made from the rents on tenements in many cities, apartments that you wouldn't have kept a dog in. Senior, almost the last time he'd seen him, had been heading for Monaco on his money.

Tony walked to the boundary between the wet sand and the dry, sat down slowly, and hooked his arms round his knees. He refused to allow smug, holier-than-thou feelings to surface, but the fact was, he wouldn't do it. And neither, he thought proudly, would his team, or any of the people he cared for.

Who needs the south of France? Isn't this a beautiful spot?

Yeah, but we only get to see places like this accompanied by bird-pecked, insect-nibbled corpses...

You chose this way long ago. Having second thoughts?

All the time. Deep down inside? Not for a moment.

There you are... Stop moaning, then.

He looked out to the line of surf, maybe fifty yards away. The tide was out and on the turn, and wet sand hummocks lifted between puddles and runnels of clear water. Very deliberately he removed his shoes and socks. His jacket, tie and shirt came next, and he weighed them down with the shoes. He rolled his trousers up to his knees, stood up in a leisurely manner, stretched his arms and rolled his shoulders, and scouted around for some pebbles to skim. There weren't many, so he walked back up the beach to a shingle bank, and filled the pockets of his designer pants before wandering back down. He thought he felt Tim's curious eyes on his back, but nobody called to him, so he guessed not.

He sloshed through the shallow pools out to the water's edge, revelling in the feel of the cold water on his feet; the waves coming in were pan flat and barely lapping. He smiled to himself. Ideal for stone skimming... he couldn't remember when he'd last done this. The sun was warm and pleasant on his bare back, and he chuckled to himself, thinking it must have been fun to be a caveman and go round half naked all the time. Then he thought how there weren't any dentists in prehistoric times... or pizzerias... he was beginning to relax. No EJ, no Secretary Jarvis, not a serious thought to contend with... and no Charles Willoughby.

Damn. He'd let him back into his thoughts. Blast. He remembered a trick he'd played in college, when he'd wanted to send a Valentine greeting to a girlfriend, but didn't want her to know it was from him, so he'd stood at the Amtrak station and asked the first kind looking person he saw by the gates to mail it from wherever they were going. St. Louis. Perfect. Becca had been suitably puzzled. Now he wished he could stand by the airport departure gate for Cancun or somewhere with a postcard and pull the same stunt.

He pitched a flat pebble out across the water – it sank disobligingly. He began to concentrate on getting it right, and at the fifth go it worked. This was good... the sun felt wonderful; he wondered how long he'd have to stay out here to get a decent tan. Alongside his eighth skim, another pebble skipped six times. Tony looked round in surprise, to find Tim standing there minus his shoes and socks.

"Er... beginner's luck?" Tony asked him. Tim grinned and shook his head. "Ah... Boy Scout, right?"

"Yep." Tim grinned and flipped another one. Another six.

Tony stood and watched his technique for a while, then tried again. He didn't quite get up to sixes, but he was happy when he got two fives on the trot.

"What's bugging you?" Tim asked out of the blue.

"May," his friend said promptly, not even wondering these days how Tim knew. "That and a postcard from a smug so-and-so frat brother on the Riviera." He explained briefly. "Was bothering me, isn't now." He flipped another pebble. "Although I have a yearning for coral sands and coconut palms..."

"You'll settle for down-town DC. It won't be May for ever." Tim paused. "This SecNav thing you can't talk about..."

"I can't talk about it." Tony grinned to try to rob his words of any offence, and shrugged ruefully.

"Yeah, I know that. I was only going to say that it's actually good to have you back on a case with the rest of the team."

"Really?" Tony was astonished. "Well..." he said awkwardly, "you know I'd rather be doing this than the SecNav thing... just hoping it'll be over soon. Maybe then I can tell you what it's all about."

Tim nodded. He half wished he hadn't said anything, because the strain was back in tight lines around Tony's mouth – but hell, the team did miss him every time he got a lead on this undercover thing and disappeared. The younger agent often found himself wondering if Abby could hide all the evidence if Gibbs were to murder Secretary Jarvis... he skimmed another pebble just as Tony did – both fives. They laughed as Tim's phone rang.

"Boss! Where are you?"

"Well, turn round and you'll see, McGee!"

The Boss's voice was loud enough for Tony to hear too, and they both turned towards the land. Gibbs and Ziva stood by Tony's neat pile of equipment; the nose of their big black Dodge could just be seen at the end of the dirt track.

"Ya think we're going to load all this by ourselves? And tell the beach bum to get his ass back here too... we brought your overnight bags from the Yard... two US and one Brit sailor found floating in the Caribbean, off Rose Island. Don't know what the hell's happened, but it's on the way to being an international incident. Secnav wants to send his best team... his jet's waiting for us at Reagan, to take us to Nassau."

Tony surprised him by not letting out a whoop of joy. "He won't want me to go, Boss, he'll want me to stay here and work for him," he said rather bitterly, and loudly enough for Tim's phone to pick it up..

"I told him if he wanted results I wanted to take the whole of his best team, DiNozzo. Get a move on."

He could hear the whoop now without the aid of his phone as Tony scooped up his clothes. As the two agents came up the beach at a gallop, the unearthly noise Gibbs was trying to make out resolved itself into DiNozzo falsettoing and McGee taking the bass line...

"So hoist up the John B sails..."

"Hoist up the John B sails"

"See how the mainsail sets..."

"See how the mainsail sets..."

A week later Charles Willoughby got a postcard from Conch Sound, Bahamas.

The End