Author’s notes: I’ve been wanting to write this since I watched ‘Love and war’. It was terribly kind of the writers to make Tony/Tim canon. *g*


All is fair


Tony didn’t want to think too closely about just why he’d decided to create a fake online persona named Claire just so that he could chat up a certain computer geek. Really, there was no reason – he was simply bored and he wanted to mess with McGee. That was all.


Tony sighed and wanted rather badly to slam his head against the table. He never should have started this to begin with. He should have known that it was an exceptionally stupid idea to start flirting with McGee.

Tony was very good at flirting. He’d done it since – well, since always, really, because he couldn’t remember a time when he had not been doing it. It was second nature. It didn’t always work perfectly but a glitch here and there was to be expected. There was at least a majority of girls – and quite a few boys – who didn’t stand a chance.

The thing was, McGee was obviously also pretty good at flirting, at least after overcoming the initial blushing. And yes, Tony could see the blushing even through the lines of instant messages.

McGee used very few smileys, unlike Tony who figured that a young woman in her twenty-somethings probably used smileys more often, and McGee’s online speech was a lot like his every day speech – correct and sometimes not all that understandable when he got into computer lingo.

Tony’s biggest problem was keeping up with the typing – it had never been his forte.

Flaming Sorceress: So what do you do?

They had covered books and music, philosophy and education, and of course gaming which was what Tony started out with to get McGee to start talking. He told himself that it was just to collect more stuff to tease McGee about – only McGee had turned out to be an interesting person to chat with.

And behind a twenty-something female level five sorceress, Tony could flirt all he wanted with McGee.

It wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

But here he was, hours later still chatting away. Although McGee had told him some personal tidbits, Tony was surprised that McGee hadn’t brought up the big Author-card. McGee had said nothing about being the author of a bestseller. Then again, perhaps a new acquaintance online wouldn’t really buy it.

McGeek: I work as a Special Agent.

Tony smiled. Glancing at McGee’s screen name, he allowed himself another flash of pride – that was his nickname for McGee.

Flaming Sorceress: Like the FBI? That’s so cool.

McGeek: Yes, but I work for NCIS. It’s sort of like FBI for the Navy.

Tony chuckled. After seven years at NCIS, he’d more or less stopped getting annoyed with the masses of people who had no idea what NCIS was. McGee’s explanation was understandable.

Flaming Sorceress: I’ve heard of it. So do you have a gun?

Tony grinned as he hit enter to send the message. Guns tended to impress girls in his experience. Now he just had to pretend to be impressed rather than being the impresser.

McGeek: Yes. It’s mandatory for Special Agents to carry a gun.

Flaming Sorceress: Have you ever shot anyone? Don’t think I could do it – I could never take anyone’s life.

Now that was a lie, obviously. He had lost count of the lives he’d taken, although if he thought about it – he didn’t very often because it wasn’t all that pleasant. He could remember each and every instance when he’d killed. Some were worse than others; some had been borne out of necessity and others were kills he could second-guess himself into insanity if he wasn’t careful.

McGeek: I’ve learned to live with it. It was either cope or quit. A team mate of mine helped me through it the first time I killed someone.

The undercover cop. Tony remembered that vividly.

A ghost of a smile crossed his lips, because he was the team mate who helped McGee through it.

He looked at the clock and his eyebrows rose in surprise when he realized that it was nearing two in the morning. Tony found himself surprisingly reluctant to end his conversation with McGee and go to bed. He was perfectly aware that McGee could track his IP-address or whatever and find out that Tony was on the other end at any moment and Tony didn’t really want it to end. He wanted this to last as long as possible. He liked talking to McGee.

Just as surprisingly, McGee seemed to like talking to Tony.

Then again that was because McGee thought Tony was Claire, and Claire was an innocent, lovely young woman who was impressed with what McGee did for a living and who didn’t tease him at every turn.

McGee told him more about his job, telling ‘Claire’ about his boss and the cases, but other than the brief mentioned of ‘a team mate of mine’ in reference to his first kill, he never mentioned his coworkers. Although a part of Tony wished he could’ve heard what McGee really thought of him, another part was glad that McGee didn’t blabber on about him to total strangers online. Tony had enough people wanting to frame and murder him without adding to the list because McGee told stories about him.

At two fifty-five in the morning, McGee finally ended the conversation. Tony had the feeling that he was just as reluctant as Tony.

new scene

Guilt. It had to be the reason why he decided to tell Ziva about the fake profile and the chatting with McGee. Once the words had left his mouth he regretted saying anything at all, but they were already out.

He really likes her, Tony. You have to tell him.

I know. But it’s actually kind of flattering—

He had to add in a creepy way to the end of it because just saying that Probie’s interest in him was flattering was not a good thing to tell Ziva. Tony was pretty sure she wouldn’t tell McGee – she liked watching a train-wreck happening just as much as the next person – but giving her incentive to meddle—no, not if he could help it.

He knew he had to end it. It wasn’t funny anymore and regardless of how much they had connected – and they had, despite Tony’s attempts to deny it, they’d connected in a way that wasn’t at all as coworkers – it was not something that would ever work. Tony was Tony and McGee would never be interested in him.

No matter how much Tony wanted him to be.

He told the voice in his head to shut the hell up. He wasn’t interested in McGee – this whole thing was just an experiment with a socially awkward computer geek.

Of course he based his exit strategy on a movie. Not that they’d been IM’ing in Fatal Attraction but men would always react the same way to crazy women.

I got worried when you didn’t email me back. Why aren’t you responding? Don’t you like me anymore? I just want to talk to you, don’t you want to talk to me? Maybe we shouldn’t email each other anymore. Emailing destroyed my last relationship – my boyfriend never responded to me. Computers aren’t very good at all, you know.

Tony smiled as he sent the letter off. It was ten minutes since the last time he’d emailed a long and whiny letter and McGee had yet to respond to it. Tony didn’t know why anyone would want to respond to a letter such as the one he’d just sent off. No man should want to be within a ten-mile radius of such a woman.

Apparently, McGee wasn’t so much a man, as he was a crazy man. Remembering too late the debacle with the girl who stole McGee’s credit cards – with whom McGee seemed to be very happy despite that – Tony’s plan to be the clingy, wacky girlfriend with a sudden hate for computers didn’t work very well.

“Kick her to the curb,” Tony told McGee at work when McGee told him of the latest emails.

Tim shook his head. “I think I’m going to give her another shot.”

Tony’s eyebrows rose and he made a face. Perhaps being interested in McGee was a bad idea for more reasons than one – if this was the kind of girl McGee was interested in then Tony wasn’t sure he wanted to be anywhere near McGee.

McGee smiled. Tony didn’t know when he’d started cataloging and saving McGee’s smiles in a particular folder of his brain, but he had. This one was serene and in love. Tony wondered what it would be like to be on the receiving end of one of those smiles. Tony rarely got any smiles from McGee and when they were sent in his direction they were more along the lines of smirks. He wondered what McGee would look like on a date, all dressed up and hot, his hair slicked back and his charm turned up.

Tony told his imagination to take a hike; he did not need the image of McGee, all primped and polished for a date, in his head.

However, the image did give him an idea.

Getting stood up was never fun. And seeing how Claire wasn’t real she would never be able to do anything but stand McGee up. Tony smiled at his own ingeniousness. Being stood up was bound to be the straw that broke McGee’s back – he wasn’t going to just shrug that off. Right?

There was a bit of guilt involved as he arranged the date with McGee, insisting on it happening tonight because she had other things to planned for the rest of the week. McGee didn’t seem to mind the hurry, and judging by the look on McGee’s face when he spoke of Claire, he had already fallen half ways in love with her.

Of course, afterwards there was more guilt. McGee didn’t seem crushed but he wasn’t happy either.

Tony had to talk to McGee about it. He tried to come up with a reason as to why he had to talk to McGee about it and though the voice in his head said that it was because he wanted to make sure that McGee was all right, Tony pointedly ignored it.

“She never even called,” McGee said dejectedly.

Tony did his best to sound chipper. “Well, that ends that, huh?”

Finally, he’d be able to put this silliness behind him, right? He’d had his fun. He’d gotten to talk to McGee throughout a weekend and though he’d never gotten to have McGee looking at him lovingly, he had been allowed a few loving messages.

Bleh, he thought to himself – when did he turn into such a romantic fool?

But McGee was more stubborn than Tony had expected. “Maybe.”

“Maybe?” Tony asked. “Know when to fold them, McGee.”

There was something in McGee’s voice as they continued talking that headed straight to Tony’s groin.

“Tony, I’m not like you,” McGee said. “It’s not that easy for me to meet women. Never has been. So I was hoping this girl might be, you know.”

Tony wondered if the guilt was written all over his face. It must’ve been; McGee’s words made him feel bad in a way he hadn’t felt since Jeanne.

“You’ll find your girl,” he said, his voice slightly rough to his own ears.

Something crossed McGee’ face but it was gone before Tony had the time to decipher it.

“Well, I did,” McGee said.

Tony’s mouth was as dry as a desert. What had McGee just said? Tony couldn’t possibly have made up the perfect girl for McGee, just like that.

Perhaps he should go out and find a Claire for McGee. Didn’t he kind of, sort of, in a way maybe owe him that? There had to be a female computer programmer who was also a level five sorceress somewhere out there, right? Someone who found McGee as funny and cute as Tony—

No. No, no, no. Tony snapped at the voice in his head – he did not think McGee was funny and cute.

They wrapped up the case – of course the boyfriend did it – and for a few hours, Tony had other things than McGee to think about. It didn’t last long, though, and having McGee in close proximity most of the day didn’t exactly wash him free of guilt.

Well, I did.

Tony wondered just how big the disappointment and anger would be when he told McGee that Claire wasn’t real, that he was Claire. He wondered if McGee would be able to take that disappointment. He didn’t even know where to start in telling the truth.

He sent the last email, a last effort to get out of having to tell McGee, saying that Claire was getting back with her ex-boyfriend. He made it as flippant and near rude as possible – although he tried to keep it at least a few steps away from crushing, because Probie didn’t deserve that – so as to quell any further urges McGee would have to keep pursuing her.

But then there was a discussion in the bullpen.

Tell you what, though. I’m not giving up on her.

I’m telling you, this girl might really be the one.

Tony ran out of there after throwing Tim the money he owed back at him. It couldn’t possibly be – this was simply torture. What sane person would want to keep going with a girl who was obviously crazy?

At least it made Tony slightly less inclined to wish for anything to happen with McGee.

Then again, nothing would ever happen between them – McGee was decidedly straight and obviously in love with a psycho – so it was really a moot point anyway. Tony told himself that he was absolutely not at all interested in McGee, in any way other than to torture him for his general geekiness.

He drove home. Once he had locked the door behind him, he seated himself on the couch and turned on the TV. One of the many not-all-that-accurate crime shows was on and Tony figured he could watch some, mindless entertainment as it was. He could chuckle at the forensics, coming back with answers way too quickly, and at crime scene investigators strolling around murder victims in high heels and clothes that were nowhere near practical.

He was relaxing on the couch after he’d finished his dinner when the doorbell rang. Frowning slightly, Tony stood and headed to the door. Looking through the peek hole he was surprised to find McGee on the other side.

“Probie,” Tony said, opening the door. “To what do I owe the honor?”

He hoped McGee wasn’t here to continue blabbering on about Claire. Tony had heard more than enough already and if that was the case Tony might have to chuck McGee out the window. It wouldn’t be a pretty sight.

McGee smiled at him. “I figure you owe me a date, seeing how you stood me up last night.”

Tony’s mouth fell open and he tried his best to get his brain working.

Does—not—compute, was all his brain could come up with before he exclaimed, “Ziva told you!” because it was a fairly rational conclusion to reach.

McGee rolled his eyes. “I checked your IP-address when I got your first weird email on Monday.”

Tony’s thoughts halted again. Monday? Monday? That meant McGee had known about Tony being Claire for days without saying anything. It also meant that McGee had put Tony through hell as he tried to get McGee to give up on Claire.

Tony reached out and punched McGee’s shoulder a bit harder than necessary.

“You were messing with me!” Tony said.

Another roll of his eyes and McGee crossed his arms in front of him. “You are aware that you started it, right?”

“Then you should’ve been the bigger person to end it,” Tony said sulkily. He didn’t like getting played, even less so by his own probie. It didn’t matter how smart and cute said probie was.

“You seemed inclined enough for the both of us to end it,” McGee said, a smile that was almost a smirk on his face.

Tony glowered at him and tried to shut the door. McGee easily blocked the attempt with his foot.

“You don’t get to be pissed off, Tony,” he said.

“You knew all along that it was me!” Tony said. “I have the right to be pissed.”

McGee took a step forward into the apartment and closed the door behind him. Tony was mostly glad; whatever conversation they were about to have, he really didn’t want to have it in the corridor where any of his neighbors could hear them. The part of him that wasn’t glad was the part that was screaming ‘Danger! Danger!’ because McGee was actually in Tony’s apartment and that hadn’t ever happened before.

“I didn’t know all along,” McGee said. “You had me fooled all through the weekend.”

Tony still stared grumpily at McGee. McGee looked good, dressed in his overcoat and a dark grey shirt. And despite the fact that McGee should’ve been very angry and annoyed with Tony for the stunt he pulled, there seemed to be little of either of those emotions in his eyes.

“So, why’d you do it?” McGee asked.

Tony had no idea what to answer so he shrugged, looking at his feet. “It was just something to do.”

He glanced at McGee in time to see McGee’s face fall, just for a moment. He wondered why but he figured he knew the answer – McGee disliked getting played just as much as Tony.

“That’s all?” McGee asked.

If Tony heard dejection in his voice, it was all his imagination.

“What else would it be?” Tony asked. “I was bored.”

“We chatted for a total of fourteen hours over the weekend,” McGee said. “We chatted until three in the morning. All because you were bored?”

Tony hadn’t realized just how many hours they’d been chatting. He had gone out to run and buy a few groceries, but now that he thought about it, he realized that he had spent the rest of his weekend in front of the computer. He never did that, usually growing bored and twitchy within an hour of sitting down, unless he was working on something.

But he still didn’t have an answer for McGee. “You seem to have a theory on why we talked – why don’t you share with the class?”

He didn’t care that he was sniping at McGee. He felt trapped, both physically and emotionally, with McGee blocking the exits. He hated the feeling.

“I don’t know why you decided to do it,” McGee said. “I just know that I liked it.” He took a breath, obviously steeling himself to continue. “And it wasn’t just the level five sorceress stuff, or the computer programming. I liked talking to Claire. Which in extension means I liked talking to you. In fact, I liked it so much, I barely played that night – I was just sitting there, chatting. With you.”

Tony’s mouth felt like sandpaper and he had to give McGee props for managing to make that happen twice in two days. His heart rate had sped up and he could feel each beat of his heart loud in his ears. This couldn’t possibly be happening, whatever it was that was happening.

McGee sighed, running a hand through his hair.

“I’ll just go,” McGee said. “I just wanted to, you know, tell you. That I know that it was you. And—uh—and I don’t mind.”

Tony wondered if McGee was really saying what he thought McGee was saying. It seemed impossible – and yet overwhelmingly likely.

Well, I did.

If McGee had known since Monday that Tony was behind Claire’s screen name, then that meant McGee had known when he’d said that too. Was it just a ruse? Was it just playing more with Tony? Getting back at Tony by getting him to admit to being in love with McGee – now that was a mighty great way to extract revenge.

In love? When did he get to that point?

McGee bit his lip indecisively. He placed his hand on the door handle, turning to leave, but just before he did he turned back to Tony.

It was just a kiss on the cheek, nothing major at all, but definitely not something they had ever shared before. Tony stared at McGee, unable to form a coherent sentence. McGee would not do that just to get back at Tony, right? That was way over the line for petty revenge.

McGee turned back to the door, shoulders slightly slumped, and opened it.

Tony felt like he was in interrogation and McGee had just left him with the big revelation that meant Tony would call him back just as he was about to leave, finally deciding to cooperate.

“I liked it too.”

His voice sounded squeaky, in a state of near panic. But then, that was how he felt so it was to be expected.

McGee froze, the door already a foot or so open.

Then slowly he closed the door again and turned around to look at Tony.

“Why did you do it?” McGee asked.

“I don’t know,” Tony said. At McGee’s look he continued quickly, “No, I really don’t. Or I didn’t, then. I just—did it. I don’t know if it was to screw with you, or if it was because I wanted to talk to you, or because I—” He trailed off, not willing to admit too much just yet. “And I liked it too.”

There was a stupid grin forming on McGee’s face. Pride bloomed in Tony’s chest for having put it there.

“You have a very strange way of showing people you’re interested,” McGee said. He shook his head.

“Yeah, well,” Tony muttered. “I don’t get why you’re interested. I’m nothing like Claire.”

McGee rolled his eyes. “You are Claire.”

“Not a computer expert, last time I checked,” Tony said. “Nor a level five sorceress. And I have fired a gun and I work with you, and I—”

“I’m computer expert enough for the both of us,” McGee smiled, interrupting him. “As for the sorceress stuff, I can teach you to play.”

“Oh no, you’re not dragging me into your games, Elf Lord,” Tony said, trying for jokes, because it was his most basic mechanism of self-defense.

“As for the other things,” McGee said calmly, ignoring Tony, “I like those things. I’ve always liked those things about you.”

“So why’d you like Claire?” Tony asked.

McGee pondered his answer for a moment. “I guess a part of me knew that it was you. Or hoped, anyway.”

“Just exactly how many girls have you chatted up before ‘Claire’ in hopes of it being me?” Tony asked, leering just a little.

“Oh, shut up,” McGee said, though he was still smiling.

Then Tony fell silent, wondering how on earth they could talk so normally right now. With everything that had happened, they were still able to bicker with each other – that was a good thing, a good sign.

McGee noticed the change in Tony. He moved forward, standing too close for comfort.

“If I kiss you now, will you freak out?” McGee asked.

Tony glared at him. “I’m not a probie at kissing guys.”

“Maybe not,” McGee said, “but you were freaking out before, and it seemed like a good idea to ask first now.”

“I wasn’t freaking—”

The rest of Tony’s protest was lost as McGee’s lips met his. McGee was slightly taller than him, which was different from most of the other women and men Tony had kissed – but it wasn’t an unpleasant difference. McGee’s – maybe Tim now that they were doing this? – lips were warm and soft and slightly moist.

McGee opened his mouth, running his tongue along Tony’s lips. It seemed it wasn’t the first time McGee had ever kissed a guy either, or maybe McGee just realized that it wasn’t that big a difference between kissing a girl and kissing a boy because he was good at it.

There was still some shock, some surprise at the fact that this had actually happened, but Tony decided that creating a fake online persona named Claire just so that he could chat up a certain computer geek had been one of the best decisions of his life.

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