"Oh Probie, stop pacing. . .you are making me sea sick." DiNozzo said jokingly.
"How could I be making you sea sick?" McGee said angrily.
"I feel like you are rocking the room back and forth." DiNozzo said.
"I know what is really making you sick. The fact that you are stuck working and unable to text Erica right now." McGee said.
"Yes, Probie, that is what is making me sick." DiNozzo said slouching down further against the wall. The room got quiet.
"You know what makes me sick, DiNozzo!" McGee started to yell. DiNozzo swallowed hard as McGee prepared to rant.
"No, but you sure are already on a role today, so why don't you spit that out too." DiNozzo said looking down to the ground. DiNozzo slid down to the floor now, as McGee stood over him ready to start lecturing him.
"I am sick of being called Probie!" McGee yelled. DiNozzo looked up at him and nodded.
"Okay, Tim." DiNozzo quickly said.
"And, I. . ." McGee hesitated a moment in realization that DiNozzo had already agreed to stop calling him "Probie."
". . .don't like it when you steal food from me. I don't like it when you pour super glue on my keyboard and desk. I don't like being the butt of all of your jokes, DiNozzo! I am sick of your jokes."
"Okay, Tim." DiNozzo said quickly again still looking up at him.
"You are Probie-no more. I will take all my tubes of super glue home. I will bring you a brand new package of Nutter Butters tomorrow, and I will stop stealing from you."
"You don't have to bring me Nutter Butters." McGee said. "I was wrong. You didn't take mine this morning."
"I will still bring you Nutter Butters." DiNozzo said. McGee sat down on the floor next to him.
"What is your angle, Tony?" McGee asked. DiNozzo looked over at him and shook his head without answering.
"Tony?" McGee asked in confusion. DiNozzo got up and walked away from him.
"There has to be some way to get out of here. Maybe we can try the ceiling or something." DiNozzo said.
DiNozzo turned quickly around and bumped into McGee.
"Ugh, sorry about that, P. . .McGee." DiNozzo said.
"What's the matter?" McGee asked watching him.
"Well, we are trapped in a closet. We are being held here against are will. We don't know if Gibbs knows. There is an armed, mad man outside with our guns and cellphones." DiNozzo said in monotone trying not to sound sarcastic.
"Yeah, I know that part." McGee said, grabbing his arm as DiNozzo headed in the opposite direction.
"What?" McGee asked again. DiNozzo shook his head.
"Were you surprised that those things bothered me?" McGee snapped, knowing that was not the problem but wanting DiNozzo to start talking again. ". . .the being called Probie, the teasing, and your pranks bother me."
"You aren't claustrophobic are you?" McGee finally asked, when it got quiet. DiNozzo now started to pace. He looked desperate to find a way out of there.
"Tony. . .stop. Stop!" McGee yelled. "I was too harsh and too direct. I am sorry."
DiNozzo shook his head.
"No you weren't." DiNozzo said. "You were firm. You stood your ground. You have had enough, so I'll stop."
"It's your turn now." McGee said.
"My turn?" DiNozzo asked turning to face McGee.
"You tell me what I do that frustrates you." McGee said.
"You don't irritate me. There is nothing that could be changed. You are perfect." DiNozzo said.
"Tony? I am far from perfect." McGee said trying to figure out DiNozzo's angle again.
"You are perfect, Tim. You are smart and very capable. You are a great agent and a very caring person. You are a tech-genius. You have so much professional potential to go into any direction you would want. . .potential team leader or Cyber Crimes division. If you weren't so dedicated to your job, I think you would be married to a bright, beautiful woman by now."
"Come on, Tony. What is your angle here? I am waiting for the punch line." McGee said.
"You don't want me to make jokes about you anymore, so. . ." DiNozzo said. "What else is there to say? You are perfect. I tease you about your good qualities already, Tim. You don't have any bad ones, so there is nothing left to say."
"Tony?" McGee said again. "Come on, I have to irritate you in some ways."
"No, I am proud to know you. I have never known anyone with such honorable qualities before." DiNozzo said walking away.
"Tony?" McGee said following him. He grabbed his arm again and pulled him around to face him. Looking at him closely, McGee could see that DiNozzo was being straight and sincere.
"You are serious." McGee said. "I. . .I don't know what to say."
"You don't have to say anything." DiNozzo said.
"Are you okay?" McGee asked again. DiNozzo quickly shook off his concern.
"Just want to get out of here McGee." DiNozzo said trying to pile up some boxes to try to ram into the door.
"Does this have something to do with Ziva's leaving?" McGee asked.
"I just told you the honest-truth as I see it." DiNozzo said turning to face McGee. "Now let's get out of here. Do you think we could blow up the door somehow? Maybe we could ram the door with these boxes."
"I don't like being teased, Tony. But, it does not mean that I am planning to ask Gibbs for you to be removed from the team like Ziva did." McGee said with a smile.
"Yeah?" DiNozzo said unconvinced.
"Yeah." McGee repeated noticing an unusual reaction from DiNozzo.
"What Tony?" McGee said. DiNozzo waved off the comment again.
"It is nothing." DiNozzo said softly turning and walking to the far end of the storage closet.
"Is that what this is about?" McGee asked.
McGee became irritated with DiNozzo's unpredictable behavior and raw emotions.
"You weren't too happy when I came back after being an agent afloat though." DiNozzo finally admitted. DiNozzo threw up his arms in frustration.
"What, no." McGee said defensively. "That isn't true. I was just kidding. Who told you that I said that, anyway?"
"What is the matter, Tony? Is that what is upsetting you? Ziva is just grieving right now, so she didn't return. Again, I never wanted you to stay an agent afloat." McGee asked in an irritated tone. McGee bolted across the closet and grabbed DiNozzo's arm again whipping him around to face him.
"Let it go, McGee, please." DiNozzo said.
"This isn't going to work." DiNozzo said looking at the boxes that he piled up.
DiNozzo looked him closely in the eyes. He then looked him over again before sliding down to the floor again. McGee sighed and slid next to him.
"I didn't mean it, Tony." McGee said. "Did Gibbs tell you that I joked about that?"
"Look, I know I snapped at you several times-unjustly—just after Shepard died. And, I am sorry." DiNozzo said. "I also know how I treat you on a daily basis. It is almost abusive."
"Come on Tony. . ." McGee emphasized. ". . .hey, I never wanted you to have to stay an agent afloat."
"I'll stop teasing you, McGee." DiNozzo said.
"Tony, I didn't mean to come down on you so hard, but you do really push my patience at times." McGee said. "I don't want you to change your personality."
"Why do you even care what I think?" McGee asked.
"Of course I care what you think. I always value your judgment." DiNozzo said.
"What? Since when?" McGee said.
"I always have." DiNozzo said. "This is nothing new."
"Stop it, Tony." McGee said.
"This is me not joking so much." DiNozzo said. "It is okay, McGee. I understand. I have an effect on people. You don't have to explain anything to me. My own father wanted nothing to do with me when I was growing up. Neither did my mother."
"She died when you were a kid, Tony. She didn't leave you." McGee said. "And, your father was a single parent. He was just overwhelmed. It wasn't you."
"Thanks Tim, that is sweet for you to say that." DiNozzo said trying to end the conversation. "We have to get out of here."
DiNozzo tore apart one of the boxes that he had gotten from a shelf in the storage closet and looked for something that could be used to pry the door open. McGee could not stop himself from staring at DiNozzo. His out-of-character behavior was not only concerning him, but it also confused him as to how deeply DiNozzo felt about these issues.
McGee continued to face DiNozzo in the back of the storage closet with the boxes. McGee considered the door behind him. Unfortunately, that metal door was not the only barrier between them and getting out of here. Even if they did manage to get out of the closet, they still had an armed mad man to confront. McGee turned around to eye the door again.
"Boss?" McGee said, when made it completely around.
After hearing McGee's comment, DiNozzo quickly turned to face them both. He was shocked to see the metal door had been opened and that Gibbs was standing there staring at them.
"Boss, how long have you been standing there?" DiNozzo asked stepping closer to them.
DiNozzo and McGee both headed closer to the door to where Gibbs was standing.
"Hey, let's get out of here." Gibbs said softly looking them over carefully.
"Whoa Boss, what happened?"
"The remains belonged to Chris Dunlap. It was a case we had roughly six months ago. We had arrested Ted Knight, but we had suspected Steven Dunlap back then. Steven Dunlap was the killer and was overwhelmed with guilt. He was keeping you two here, until I reopened the case and reexamined the evidence. Abby thinks she found proof now that he was guilty of killing his own brother, and Ted Knight was innocent. When I came up here to arrest him, he surrendered and gave me this key to the storage closet. You two needed to have a talk though, so I didn't interrupt."
"You were listening? Do you mean we could have been out of here sooner, Boss?" DiNozzo asked.
"I heard your promise to McGee, Tony." Gibbs said emphasized.
"McGee, there is nothing wrong with being called Probie. Mike Franks still calls me Probie to this day, and he means no disrespect by calling me that. I have said this to you before. As far as the teasing goes, we could use a little less of that, DiNozzo."
"And, . . ." Gibbs said approaching DiNozzo. He stepped very closely and examined him. "I control who is on this team, DiNozzo, not Ziva. McGee was right. She just needed sometime to grieve and maybe to return to her roots. This was not your fault."
After hearing the trouble McGee was having earlier getting through to DiNozzo, Gibbs made sure that DiNozzo processed his comments.
"Are you hearing me, Tony? Did you hear what McGee just said to you?" Gibbs said forcefully. DiNozzo nodded without making contact with Gibbs."
DiNozzo continued to shake his head, still not looking at Gibbs.
"Do I need to repeat myself?" Gibbs said forcefully and in a threatening tone. "Do I need to beat this into you?"
"No, Boss." DiNozzo said softly, looking bashfully away.
"Let's get out of here, then." Gibbs said, keeping his Gibbs' stare on DiNozzo. He finally turned and headed out of the closet. DiNozzo and McGee started to follow.
"I will pay you back, Tim." DiNozzo repeated once again.
"I do believe you, Tony." McGee said with a smile and a nod.
A/N: I want to thank you so much for your feedback suggestions and for the story alerts. I especially want to thank you for reading this fanfiction.