Thursday, March 7, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 26

McGee centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.

Chapter 26: Stakeout

Five days later they're on a stakeout and Tony says, "So, if you're my partner, who is Ziva's?"

"According to Gibbs, it's him."


"Why are you asking?"

"Just, thinking about it."

"Okay. Can I suggest something?"

"Suggest away McSuperfreak."

"Before you do anything beyond think, talk to Gibbs."

"He was cool with you and Abby."

"His exact words were, "McGee, DiNozzo's your partner. Abby's the love of your life. Now go make her happy.'"

"Sounds like he was cool."

"Yeah, but that doesn't mean he'll be cool with you and Ziva. He trusts me not to screw this up. I don't know if he trusts you with that, not yet."

"Why wouldn't he trust me with this?"

"Because you've got a horrible track record with women."

"And you don't?"

"Not the same kind you do. I pick the wrong girl. Stop picking the wrong girl, and I'm an ideal boyfriend. You're emotionally closed off and treat women like objects. Big, big difference. Look, he loves us." Tony doesn't look like he buys that. "You didn't see the way he looked at me when he thought I was hurt, or the way he was asking about you and Ziva when you were missing. He loves us. But we're boys. So, we get treated like sons, you know, hands off, not too protective unless we really need it. But Abby and Ziva, they're his girls. And if it's one of us or one of them, they win. Hands down. You screw things up with Ziva, and he will kill you."

"Like he'd get the chance. She'd kill me so dead so fast he'd just be standing there with the tape to mark where my body had been."

"Good point. Still, talk to him first. He'll appreciate it, you know in an old-fashioned-calling-on-my-daughter sort of way."

They sit there staring at a brownstone, waiting for someone, anyone to go in or come out.

"You want me to get us some lunch?" Tony asks.

"Sure, that sounds good."

Tony comes back to the car with two hamburgers, fries, and drinks. Tim pops a fry into his mouth. "Ahh... stakeout food. Yum!" His tone is about three quarters sarcastic. He likes burgers and fries, but they've been on stakeout for a while, and they're getting repetitive.

Tony's fiddling with his burger, not really eating it.

"What's wrong, Tony?"


"You sure?"

"I'm... Okay, no, not nothing. The thing with the ropes, how does that work?"

"They're ropes. You tie knots in them. It's not rocket science."  Okay that came out sharper than was probably warranted, but the way Tony's looking at him has him on edge. Tony's looking at him like he doesn't like what he sees when he looks at Tim.

"No... I mean... why? Is it a power thing? You're in charge, she can't leave? Your little inner rapists gets to play?"

Tim's eyes go wide and his burger drops out of numb fingers. He's never been more insulted by anything Tony's said to him. "Tony, what the hell is wrong with you?"

Tony looks really disturbed and very confused. "You don't have to tie them up if they like you!"

"I don't have to tie Abby up. I like tying her up. She likes being tied up. And she does it to me just as often as I do it to her. I like getting tied up. She likes tying me up. No inner rapists." He slaps Tony's shoulder. "It's a game. It's fun. I don't get basketball, that doesn't mean that I think you want to go run around and assault people."

"I just don't get it." Tony's looking at his burger, but that expression of disgust aimed at Tim has vanished.

Tim takes a deep breath and tries to think of how to explain this. "Okay, ropes. If you're using a rope, it's for the aesthetics." He grabs his phone and clicks on a hidden file. This is where he keeps his super secure items, mostly pictures of Abby, but bank statements, his password folder, stuff like that is in here, too. A screen pops up asking for the password. If you type anything into it, it destroys the phone, and not just in a wipes the memory sort of way, but shortly after watching Sherlock Season Two, he wired a tiny explosive into it as well. Type a password in and the phone goes boom. You have to wait a full minute for the password request to vanish. The screen goes black, it looks like it just powered down, then you type in the password. It's one letter: J. Type in the wrong letter, boom. Type in more than one letter, boom. Take more than five seconds to type in the password, boom. Open the phone, boom. It's probably the most secure phone in the western hemisphere.

He sorts through the images, keeping them out of Tony's view. Even though Tony's already seen this, he stood there for a minute before running out screaming, he doesn't want to share most of the images with him.

Just the one of Abby's forearms and hands. "Look Tony, take a moment and really look at it. It's beautiful. The red of the rope, the sheen of the satin, the way the knots make her hands and arms look so long and delicate. Look at her fingers, and the way they're twined in the rope. Look at her nails, crimson nails on scarlet rope. Look at the contrast between her skin and the rope. White skin, black ink, red satin ropes. The Japanese call it Kinbaku-bi, the beauty of tight binding. In Japan the rope would usually be jute or hemp, but they're sharp and itchy, so I go for silk or satin. This has a long tradition, and there are a lot of words to go with it. Shibari is a more common one, but doesn't indicate the same level of emotional attachment Kinbaku-bi does.

"Some people are really into this. Lots of specific knots, lots of tradition. Some of them like pain to go along with it, but that's not Abby or I, so I always make sure the knots are comfortable, once again, no hemp ropes. But for the most part, with a rope, it's about how it looks.

"Just look at it, Tony." He flicks to the next pic, this one just of her hands holding the rope. "Look at her hands, look at how they caress the rope. Look at how erotic and expressive just that image is. It's just two hands and a rope, but they tell a story, and it's beautiful. There's nothing hurtful or painful or scared or non-consensual about that."

Tony's face is pointed toward the image on the phone, but he doesn't seem to be seeing it. "That's how you see it. I see bound hands clenched against a rope, and that looks like pain to me."

Tim looks at the picture again and points it back at Tony. "Her hand isn't clenched."

"Okay, not that picture, but when I was... there..."

"Oh." Fuck! Tim rubs his eyes, taking a moment to think about what that might have looked like if you didn't know what you were seeing. "I wasn't hurting her Tony. You know that, right?"

"Yeah. But..."

"It looked painful to you?"


Okay, how to explain this... "You ever really watch a woman's face when she gets off? She looks like she's in pain."

"No she doesn't!"

At this point it occurs to Tim that either the kind of woman he sleeps with is in some way fundamentally different than the sort Tony sleeps with, or their technique is so radically different as to produce very different results. Either way, this isn't the road to take. "Okay, fine. She doesn't." Tim picks up his burger, and flicks the crumbs off his trouser leg. "That's gonna stain."

"You're just gonna leave it at that?"

"I'll bow to your superior experience in this matter. I've only seen three women get off."

"Three?" Now Tony's looking a bit happier.

Tim can feel him warming up for some serious teasing, so he gets ready to shut him down. "Yeah, three. I had one steady girl in grad school. My next two longest relationships have been with the same woman. I haven't hooked up with every woman in the metro area. And you can't see her face if it's too dark, your eyes are closed, you're behind her, you're going down on her, or she doesn't get off." That last bit makes Tony scoff. "Oh stop that. Eighteen-year-old virgin Tony did not get his first girl off, either."

"I was fifteen, and you're probably right about that."

"Probably?" Tim gives him his cut the bullshit look.

"Okay, yes, you're right about that. So, you do it because it's pretty?"

Okay, this is better. Tony's looking more curious than bothered right now. "You use the rope because it's pretty. If it's just about not moving, well, I've got handcuffs for that, and they're a lot faster."

And that shot curious to Hell. "Oh God, am I ever going to be able to look at your cuffs without imagining—"

"I don't use my work cuffs for that."

"Thank God. But you do use cuffs?"

"Sometimes. You know, for when we don't plan things out days in advance, but still want to do something different."

"Sounds rapey."

"Rapey?" Tim puts his head in his hands and groans in frustration. Then he looks up again. "You've never actually done anything like this with a girl, have you?"

"No! If I come at a girl with handcuffs, she's gonna run away, because that's a sign things are about to go very wrong."

"That's because you don't get to know the women you sleep with! Okay, Binding 101: trust. Her good time is, literally, in my hands... or mouth, I guess..." Tony's getting that disturbed look again. Tim flashes him an exasperated look. "Please, you cannot possibly be that vanilla."

"I'm not. It's just the image of you doing it."

"Fine. Anyway, she's trusting me to treat her right. She's letting me control everything, and putting her body in my hands for our mutual pleasure. Can you get how big of a deal that is?" 

Tony shrugs.

"Maybe it can't be explained. Either you get it or you don't. I get it. Abby gets it. And honestly, beyond the fact that nothing is happening that she doesn't want to happen, you don't need to get it."

"I want... Damnit... You're my best friend, and I want to get it. I don't want to think of you doing bad things to your girlfriend." Tony looks shockingly earnest as he says that, and it freaks Tim out on several levels.

"It's not bad!" And it's not, and he hates the idea that Tony might think it is. He's used to people thinking he's weird. That's more or less his default setting. But, with the exception of his dad, no one he's cared about has ever thought his interests were 'bad.' Granted with the exception of Abby, no one else has ever really known about this particular set of interests.

"So you say."

"God, you are such a prude." And yeah, that was probably mean, but he's feeling very defensive right now.

"I'm a prude because I don't like whips or chains?"

"No whips, no chains, and you're a prude because you can't get over the idea that if you don't like something no one else is allowed to like it either! Seriously, do you think Gibbs or Ducky or Palmer would be freaking out about this?"

"McGee, just, yuck, okay. I don't want to know what sorts of things Autopsy Gremlin gets up to with his wife, and I'm sure Ducky has an at least 3,000 word long monologue about the art of erotic knot tying, but I don't want to hear it, and Gibbs wouldn't freak out, he'd just calmly kill you if he knew what you were doing to Abby."

"With Abby, not to her, and no he wouldn't. He'd just get that exasperated look and file it under 'stuff McGee likes I don't understand' and leave it at that. And you should, too. It's just another sort roleplaying, sexy D&D for grown-ups. Shove it in your own 'stuff McGee likes I don't understand' file and let it go."

"It's creepy."

Tim tries very hard not to roll his eyes and ends up looking at the roof of the car as a result.  He sighs. "Okay, Tony, what sort of sex should I like?"

"You know: plain, normal, American sex."

"The kind of sex you like?"


"Meaningless casual encounters with women who won't remember me more than two days later? Why would I want that? Why should I like the same kind of sex you do? I'm not having sex with you!

"Look, I don't like the same movies you do. I don't like the same books. I only like some of the same foods." Tim stares at Tony for a while, getting the sense that this is close to something important, but not really there. He's having a hard time getting it just by looking so he switches from the DiNozzo in front of him to the version in his stories, and tries to figure out what would be motivating Tommy if he was freaking out like this. "Is it the idea that of the two of us, you're not the most sexually experienced, is that what's bothering you?"

"Not the most... Every girl in the greater DC area! They've got to ship 'em in from Baltimore and Richmond to find women I haven't slept with."

"Having exactly the same encounter with seven hundred different women doesn't count as variety or experience."

"It should."

"But it doesn't. This isn't about me or Abby. It's you. You've got this idea of yourself, worldly, experienced, sophisticated, and you walked in on something you've not only never done, but being done by me, someone you consider naive. You expect that if I've done it, you've done it too, a thousand times over, and probably better. No, that's not right. You couldn't care less about most of the stuff I've done, you aren't angsting about novels or code; you never expect to do it. If I've done something that matters to you, you assume you've done it, too, a thousand times over, and better."

Tony doesn't say anything, but Tim can see from his expression this is hitting him, hard. He's thinking about it. Out of the corner of Tim's eye he catches something moving. "We gotta go; the guy in the blue jacket just left the house."

And with that the conversation ended as they began tailing a suspect.


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