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Tony was going Probie hunting. Although it sounded like a game he would typically enjoy it was quickly losing it's luster. Gibbs had required his participation, no free will involved. Boss had even threatened to fire him if he didn't "fix it." He was relatively sure Gibbs wasn't serious about the firing part.
Still, Worse than being forced to atone for his sins by el jefe was that, as he was learning, McGee was really good at not being found. Tony had already gone by his apartment, his coffee shop with the drive-thru, his usual writing haunts and every bar he could think of between NCIS and McGee's apartment. Tricky little Probie.
To make matters worse; he was getting zero help from anyone else. Even his faithful comrade, Ziva, refused to even acknowledge him aside from dirty looks after she'd heard about this latest fiasco. The fiasco that actually did, in retrospect, top him pretending to be McGee's online girlfriend.
She'd let out a rant he wasn't sure he wanted to see a translation of, then she had resorted to glaring. Not that he needed her. He could handle one angry probie. Who in all honesty he thought was exaggerating. He couldn't have known how bad things really were. Well, he could have just taken McGee's word for it but where was the fun in that?
Tony had been driving to various locales in the DC area for hours. He didn't know where else to look. Okay, new plan: To find the Probie one must think like the Probie. At work he'd just go down to the lab but McGee had already left the premises. That thought led to his lightbulb moment - Abby's. He was right too. Take that Mossad hunting dog.
The Porsche was outside her building. Tony parked and made his way up to her floor. She looked at him wearily when she opened the door. "Tony, I'm not sure that now is a good time..." she trailed off. He could see McGee coming up behind her. McGee took one look at him and stepped around Abby to slam the door in his face. That went well.
He heard a bit of shuffling on the other side of the door. Apparently Abby stayed in the entryway because he could still hear her half of the conversation. "No, Tim, he's allowed here too... because we're family...I'm not asking you to."
Abby reopened the door just in time for Tony to witness her bedroom door slamming shut. Without the shoes she was shorter than him but the look she was giving him still managed to make him feel small. "Of course you had something to do with this." He slunk past her.
Once he had melted down onto her sofa, her line of questioning began."What did you do? He's been like that since he showed up. I'm not saying that I don't think it's a refreshing change of pace, having to talk him out of homicide, but explain. Now."
He didn't have words to describe how quickly things had gotten out of hand. "I messed up Abs."
"I got that far on my own. Start talking."
"We had to go on an interview. McGee refused to go. First time he's every refused to do anything. May have given him a hard time about it. But Boss didn't question it. Gibbs said to take Ziva so I did. Found out we were going to be interviewing an Admiral- a very specific Admiral. Ziva's ninja senses picked up on some kind of tension and she tried to stop me. Probably should have listened. May have suggested he come by NCIS, insinuated that Probie'd like to see him. Might have forced the issue. Anyway apparently the Admiral is coming to NCIS tomorrow for the followup and he's requested McGee to be the liaison."
Monologue done, Tony chanced a glance over at Abby who was playing the hem of her skirt. She finally breathed out and looked back over at him. "He wouldn't tell me what was wrong, only talked about plans that involved your sudden demise. Some of them were pretty good. It was weird though, I'm the unreasonable one, not him. Maybe he wasn't being unreasonable after all."
Tony hadn't expected that. He logically knew Abby wouldn't have been likely to take his side. But still, it would have been prepared himself to aide in his own defense. "McGee seems all Mr. family man, I thought he was making a big deal out of nothing. He's not the pillar of family dysfunction like the rest of us. He never even mentions his dad. Figured it wasn't that big a deal."
"People don't talk about something for two reasons Tony, it means nothing or everything. His relationship with his dad doesn't mean nothing to him. Not that you have a lot of room to talk; Let's invite your dad around. You'd like that right? Or how about Ziva's? We could ring up Director David. Throw in Gibbs senior and it'll be a real party. I'd invite my own but I've misplaced my Ouija board. Our team familial issues alone could probably keep a whole wing of therapists at Bethesda busy year round, why would Tim be any different? The Admiral? Seriously Tony?"
Yeah, Abby wasn't happy.
However, she was also Abby, which meant that even though she wasn't happy with him, she still leaned her head against his shoulder and waited until he didn't feel so bad anymore. He really didn't like it when they were actually mad at him. Messing with them was fun but he didn't like it when things got out of hand.
Tony was determined to wait until McGee came out of her room. He'd have to eat eventually. Or they could try smoking him out or something. He didn't think Abby'd appreciate that last idea, it was her room after all. Instead, she talked him into leaving with the reassurance that McGee probably wouldn't hate him forever. He didn't budge until she promised to call and give him a heads up if McGee escaped with plans to make good on his plots.
Once Tony had been successfully evicted from her living room she turned her attention to her remaining house guest. She let herself into her bedroom to find McGee scowling at her from the base of her coffin. Deciding to stay in the doorway for the time being was a safe bet, give him space. Especially if she was going to poke the angry bear.
"It's not all Tony's fault. We work for the Navy. It was bound to happen eventually."
He looked up at her. "I know. Doesn't mean I want to be anywhere near him. I can't do it again." He really wasn't all that mad at Tony, at least no more so than usual. It was easier to be mad at DiNozzo than it was to admit he didn't want to see his dad. That was a relationship he had given up trying to fix years ago.
Abby abandoned her post in the doorway and curved herself around him. "Maybe this will be a good thing." He snorted in response. "I'm serious Tim. A new leaf. Fresh start. Everyone else has been getting reconciliation lately; maybe it's your turn."
"It's a nice thought Abs. But not everything gets a fairytale end." He felt her back away just the tiniest bit. He knew he shouldn't have said that.
"I know that McGee. But you all still can. You have that chance. Do you have any idea what I'd give for one more chance to talk to my dad? My mom? Kate?" He did know, probably as much as he'd give to let her have that chance. A second for eternity. Even if he could make it happen for her, It would still never be enough.
Abby didn't understand. All she had left were memories and questions. His family was different. In fact, his sister was daddy's little girl. She was everything she was supposed to be. That only made it worse. He wanted nothing less for Sarah then exactly what she had and deserved. He would never want that taken away from her. He only wanted the same thing for himself.
McGee could not tell the man how unfair he was. Not about all the times he had let down the son he did have in exchange for hoping it would alter the fundamental makeup of who he was. It had altered his relationship with his extended family as well. Nobody bothered to look at things from his perspective. He was the son who had cut his father out of his life. It was an unacceptable situation, he had made the wrong choices. To count the family members on his side wouldn't even require a full hand of fingers. He was the black sheep.
He hadn't seen his father in years, not since he had stormed out after another pointless conversation regarding his lack of being what his father expected him to be. He had glimpsed him once though, he'd been walking in Georgetown with Abby and seen him waiting on his car. McGee had never explained to Abby his sudden need for coffee but he had apologized for half shoving her ahead of him into the nearest café and staying until the dark SUV was well out of sight.
What self-respecting grown man could explain that he was hiding from his father. Luckily his father hadn't noticed him. Sometimes things were so far gone you couldn't even fathom what to say to start trying to make them right again. It was to the point that there was nothing left to say. To verbalize his feelings on the matter of his father would solve nothing. It'd probably just make everything worse. There was simply too much to repair.
Had he talked, the Admiral would not take kindly to being told that the expectations were killing him. He had tried for so long to be someone he wasn't and it wasn't possible for him to pretend anymore. If his dad couldn't accept that, couldn't let go of his idealized image of what a son should be- well, McGee had made his peace a long time ago. His dad was content to let him break away, never had tried to contact his son. It wasn't possible for everyone to have everything. This wasn't in the cards for him.
He had far from a bad upbringing. There was so much in his life he could be grateful for. Letting go of one relationship to save his happiness had been a decision he was willing to make. He did not need his father to approve of anything he did in his life. Not having a dad around didn't change anything. He hadn't really ever had one. A father yes, a dad no. Dads were unconditional. It was okay. He just had to keep telling himself that.
He got up and pulled Abby up with him. He couldn't sit there and think about his father anymore. There might be no escaping tomorrow but he would not let him monopolize his brain for another night. Abby had just won the role of distraction and entertainment for the rest of the evening.
Tomorrow was unavoidable. He had considered maybe calling in sick, except Gibbs would probably kill him. Hunt him down, they wouldn't find the body, kill him. There would be no excuses. He would have to face the music. He could do this.
As the next day started up, McGee spent the better part of the morning trying not to throw up. Luckily this little meeting had been scheduled earlyish in the day, long enough for him to work himself into a panic about it but still leaving him with enough time to finish before midday.
Abby had already informed him that they'd be going to lunch to celebrate the face-to-face being over and done with. Gibbs had been locked up in the director's office for most of the morning. He was glad the boss wouldn't be around. One problem down. He didn't need that introduction to happen.
Tony had been all too helpful all morning, doing any little thing McGee mentioned needed doing. He was considering hiring him as his own personal valet if he kept it up. Abby had been haunting Gibbs abandoned desk laughing with Ziva about Tony's new usefulness. Ducky and Palmer had even been in and out with little to do in autopsy. It was not a bad morning. Right up until the elevator doors opened to reveal the man of the hour. He froze. Ziva jumped up to escort the elder McGee to the conference room. That bought him a few more seconds of procrastination.
Tim gave himself 30 seconds to gather his wits and followed them in. By the time he had the door open, Ziva was slipping past him with an apologetic look on her face. He turned and properly faced the man he hadn't seen in the better part of a decade. He still looked every bit as intimidating as he had when Tim was a kid. The difference now, obviously, being that he wasn't a kid.
Also, it was a bit disconcerting to realize that he was basically looking at a stranger. His father had become simply someone that he had used to know. Still yet, the man could make him feel just as small and belittled as ever. Some things never really left you after all. Ziva had already collected the report he was to deliver. He had no more reason to delay speaking. "You're only here on a technicality. Is there anything else you can tell us about the contractor involved with your program?"
His father was staring at him inquisitively. "No, I've nothing else to report." Stern, just like always.
"All right then. If we have any further issues, an agent will be in touch." He did not want to stay in that room any longer than necessary. He wanted to leave but he couldn't help himself. "Why did you insist I be the liaison?"
"You are my son."
McGee continued to watch him silently before responding: "We were done with that a long time ago."
"Yes, but the only information we get on you comes from Sarah. People ask questions. Your life is still of consequence to your mother and I." A duty. Not a son. Not blood. Not wanted for himself, just for the idea. McGee could read the signs. If anything, his mother had probably forced this interaction on his father's side. Abby's idealism was not going to come through this time. Things were still as far gone as they'd every been.
Tim let the pause in the conversation continue for longer than it needed to. "All right then, I'll escort you to the elevator, someone else will take you out." They walked through the halls until the bullpen was in view. His father paused.
"Out of curiosity, have you married her yet? The girl, she is the same one from before, correct? And from that day you were hiding in that restaurant?"
His stomach dropped, he had been sure his father hadn't been witness to that little freak out of his. "Abby. No, we're not married."
"You would inform us?"
"I would tell Sarah."
"Who in turn would tell us. You will keep us informed?" A demand, not a request, not a question. Welcome to the world of the Admiral. The man who always expected to get exactly what he wanted.
It was an odd conversation, probably mostly due to the fact that it was the first one they'd had in what seemed like a lifetime. Was it the start of baby steps back to normal? Not anyone else's normal but his own. He didn't think so. However, McGee could tell that he'd be seeing him again. Most likely at NCIS, with his luck he wasn't done as liaison.
Nonetheless, civility was good. His mother would be pleased. It had gone better than he could have imagined. Despite the success, it was all superficial. They could be in the same room, not much of an accomplishment. Some things, for example childhoods, just couldn't be undone.
There would be no warm fuzzy reunion in the future. He was sure. But that was okay. In the past years, McGee had found his own family in the team. By going his own way, he had gained so much more.
They made it to the elevator where the Admiral's escort was waiting. Just when it seemed that the meeting would have no negative repercussions, McGee noticed the escort falling away. Abby was approaching, dangling his car keys. When he realized the setup, it was too far in play for him to be able to stop. McGee knew he should have foreseen something like this happening.
Getting his father in and out quickly would have been too easy. It had all gone too smoothly. Dread started to fill him. Gibbs had appeared and replaced the agent offering to take the Admiral to the main lobby. The doors closed after them before McGee could make any kind of protest.
Gibbs and his father. A nice private chat. Together. And he was pretty sure he heard the elevator power being shut off. Gibbs had planned this. He was sure. This could not end well.