Chapter One


There’s something about nearly dying that has him spilling his guts before he’s evenhad time to catch his breath.

“I love you, McGee.”

Tim glances at him, chest still heaving, and Tony knows that Tim doesn’t believe him. It’s just as well. Really, those words should never have been spoken to begin with, but Tony dangled over the jaws of death – or at least over a cement floor seven stories down – just seconds ago, and his mind ran through all the things that he failed to tell the people around him. Telling Timothy McGee, the big, super intelligent teddy bear that he was, that Tony loved him, was at the top of that list, and as such the first thing that came out.

“I promise never to give you a hard time again,” Tony says, trying to catch his breath still, needing to say something else, something more, to avoid hearing the silence that follows his first proclamation.

“Yeah, right,” Tim pants, clearly not believing it.

Tony slumps against the wall and Tim’s shoulder, his heart slowing down with each passing second. It’s still pumping around adrenaline in his body, but he knows that it will pass soon and he’ll be left shaking. He’s been there before, it’s nothing new. It’s far from the first time he’s been near death, and it probably won’t be the last.

“You okay?” Tim asks, and Tony smiles goofily at the ceiling above them. It’s all grey cement, just like the ground below them, and it doesn’t look very deadly now – not like it did a few minutes ago. Of course, then the cement had been a bit farther away, and the only thing ready to catch him when he fell.

“I’m fine, Probie,” Tony says, and he uses his nickname for Tim because if he uses his first name, then Tim will be freaked out. It seems unnecessary, and Tony hopes he can continue to remember to call Tim ‘Probie’, ‘McGee’, or some other version of his last name. ‘McGeek’ is the most fitting one.

“You’re shaking,” Tim says.

“It happens,” Tony says, “when one comes down from an adrenaline rush after hanging off the side of a building.”

“Technically, it’s the inside of the building,” Tim says.

Tony rolls his eyes and gives Tim a very weak punch, because he deserves it. He’s always pointing out things that don’t need to be pointed out.

“We should probably get moving,” Tim says. “Gibbs will start wondering otherwise.”

“I’m sure him and Ziva have things under control,” Tony says. He wants to sit there, resting against Tim, for just a little longer.

He thinks of the stunt he pulled in the psychiatrist’s office earlier. Tim was so flustered when Tony had suggested they were together. It was both cute and saddening, to see the blush seep over Tim’s cheeks and hear him vehemently deny any romantic involvement with Tony. Still, it had been worth it. Even more, the events that had taken place just before that had been worth it – Tim’s body against his own as he tried to get his hands on the cell phone with the incriminating evidence of his fear of height.

Tony wonders if he can still tease Tim about that – saving Tony must have meant facing that fear.  

He sighs, closing his eyes. He is getting tired, his eyelids drooping as the adrenaline leaves his body for sure. It has been a tiring few days. Weeks, even. He can’t remember when he last slept six consecutive hours.

Tim rouses him by moving to stand, the warm pillow Tony has been leaning against disappearing. He tries not to look disappointed.

Tim’s hand, which is smooth and rounder than Tony’s, is there to help him up. Tony grabs it, and feels the familiar feeling of his body being filled with a combination of spaghetti and lead all at once. It makes it very hard to walk without shaking.

He almost smiles when Tim hovers next to him, like an overprotective mother hen. Tim may be the younger of the two, but he’s just as protective of the team as Tony is. Tony likes to think that Tim is protective of him too, but that’s probably just wishful thinking.

They reach the ground floor of the garage, where Gibbs and Ziva are waiting with Lt. Arnett’s traitorous wife in handcuffs. She’s glaring daggers at them, eyes dark with hatred. Tony stares back for a brief moment – she almost killed him. Falling to his death isn’t in the top three on his Worst Ways To Die list, but perhaps it should be moved up there. It is at least in the top five after almost trying it today.

He feels Gibbs’ gaze on him, traveling up and down to check for injuries. He seems satisfied, because he moves onto Tim.

Ziva approaches Tony.

“Are you all right?” she asks.

Tony shrugs and smiles. The façade comes easily. “It wasn’t that bad. In fact, it was a good view. You should try it sometime.”

“No, thanks,” she says, and turns away, satisfied with his goofed off answer.

She cares for him, he knows, but she rarely wants to see beyond the silly exterior he keeps up so that people will keep out. Since the mess with Jeanne, his heart is even more guarded. He’s not sure what he felt for the weapon dealer’s daughter, if it was love or a sense of camaraderie never felt before, but whatever it was, it was fake and it scarred him just as much as it must have scarred her.

“McGee, take DiNozzo home before he crashes and pukes all over the place,” Gibbs says suddenly, and Tony wakes from his thoughts.

“I’m not gonna puke, boss,” he says.

“I’d rather not chance it,” Gibbs says, a hint of amusement in his voice, but mostly, Tony knows it’s his way of showing concern. He also knows that Gibbs noticed that he didn’t deny that he would crash – they both know he will, because he has done it before. It’s better for him to be at home when his body runs out of adrenaline, sugar and caffeine completely.

Another agency car comes around to pick Lt. Arnett’s wife up, because they can’t transport her in Gibbs’ car. Gibbs and Ziva ride back to NCIS in that car, while Tim takes the keys to the car they came to the scene in. For once, Tony doesn’t argue with him about who’s driving – he knows he’ll be a danger to everyone if he tries to drive.

He feels the concerned looks Tim is shooting at him, but that doesn’t stop him from nodding off during the ride home.

He’s awoken by Tim’s hand on his shoulder, gently shaking him. “Uh, we’re home.”

Tony looks up at the apartment complex where he lives. There are no lights on in his apartment, nothing to make it the least bit inviting. He thinks for a second about inviting McGee up, but decides against it.

“Thanks for the ride, Probie,” he says.

“You sure you’re gonna be okay?” Tim asks.

“I usually am,” Tony says.

He unbuckles himself and opens that door. His body feels heavy; his limbs are hard to move. He finally manages to get out and stand up, but then he leans down again and gazes at Tim.

“Thanks,” he says, “for saving my life.”

Tim looks shocked at the thank you – he must think Tony’s been replaced with an alien, especially with both an ‘I love you’ and a ‘thanks’. Tony blames the sleepiness on his slip-ups.

“It—uh, it was nothing,” Tim says.

“You’re afraid of heights, McGee,” Tony says, “and I was hanging off a seven story drop. I doubt that counts as nothing.”

Tim shrugs, looking uncomfortable. “It was my fear or you. You won.”

Tony gives him his best grin, and it’s pretty real, he thinks. He knows Tim would do the same thing for Ziva, or Gibbs, or Abby – especially Abby – or probably anyone else at NCIS or—well, he’d do it for most people, Tony is sure. But it still feels good.

“Good for me,” Tony says.

He doesn’t say thank you again, because he’s already said it, and he knows Tim won’t forget that he did. They look at each other for a long moment, and there’s a second when all Tony wants is to pull Tim into a kiss. But he doesn’t, because he knows the consequences that would have – Tim isn’t stronger than him, but he probably would manage to deck Tony with a right hook at the moment. And that’s not even starting to mention the consequences it would have at work, although those are second rate to what the damage on Tony’s heart will be. Better not chance it.

The moment is lost, and Tim sighs.

“I—I should probably head back,” Tim says. “Abby’s probably still pretty upset. I should talk to her.”

Tony has managed to forget all about Abby and her job offer. Perhaps all the slaps to his head are finally making themselves known, he thinks. Or perhaps he simply doesn’t want to remember it. The latter seems more likely. He loves Abby, but he knows that she gets more appreciation in a week than Tony gets all year, so she really shouldn’t be the one to complain. It’s not as though she’s the only one who works hard.

“Yeah, you do that,” Tony says.

Tim nods uncertainly. After a moment’s hesitation, he says, “Uh—call me if you need anything.”

Tony smiles at him again, knowing he won’t. “I will.”

“Good,” Tim says. “See you tomorrow.”

“Yeah, Probie,” Tony says. “Tomorrow.”

He closes the door – it slams shut loudly – and waves at Tim as he drives off, the wave overdone and silly, like the women sometimes do in the movies.

He sighs, and starts the trek towards his home. He wonders how he should label his day – a good day, or a bad one? He’s had more bodily contact with Tim on this day than he’s had put together in the last two months, and he’s told Tim he loved him. Then again, Tim’s reaction to the first part was blushing beet red and profusely denying their gayness, and to the second part – nothing. Tim didn’t acknowledge Tony’s words at all, instead signing it off to Tony’s near death experience. It was brought on by that, of course, but that doesn’t mean Tony meant it any less.

He wonders if Tim will return to NCIS and give Abby one more reason to stay with them, to continue working there – he knows the two of them once dated, and it doesn’t seem as though that crush has ever quite gone out.

They’ll be good together, Tony thinks as he puts the key into the keyhole in his front door.

The apartment is quiet and dark, and Tony wonders if he will always come home to an empty apartment. He allows himself, for but a second, to imagine what it would be like to have Tim there after work, to live with him. There would be a desk with his typewriter, of course, and beside it would be his super advanced computer. There would be more books – Tony’s shelves are filled mostly with DVDs as is – and more general geekiness. Still, Tony thinks it would have been nice.

But then he banishes the thought from his mind, because it’s not going to happen. Tim will marry Abby, or some other nice girl, and he’ll be happy with her and he’ll have super smart little McBabies. Tony will stay the goofy playboy, and perhaps he’ll get to play the funny uncle if he’s lucky and still around when that time comes. He’ll pretend to be happy about it.

It is simply the cards life has dealt him.

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