Fan fic, original fic, fic recs, and artwork by Keryl Raist.
Friday, February 20, 2015
Shards To A Whole: Chapter 407: Lunch With McGee
McGee-centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.
Chapter 407: Lunch With McGee
Bootcamp without Tim is just weird. Not that Tony's been doing this all that long, but it just feels odd not to have McGee there.
After the first two months, when he started to wipe the cobwebs of not having really fought in years out of his mind, and got back into it, it became really fun.
And not just fun, but useful. First off, he's honing skills that have been rusting for a while. Secondly, this is vastly more interesting than any sort of aerobics or running he's ever done. On par with real sports. Because you have to think, watch, and react. He does kind of wish he could get this crew on the court, (they'd go home with a lot fewer bruises if he could get them playing basketball) but he's thinking that's unlikely. (When it comes down to it, he suspects the Wonder Twins both get off on telling people they're into MMA. It may be possible that he, sort of, gloated, a little, when talking to one of the CIA spooks about how he was keeping in shape with hand to hand when said Spook was talking about Pilates.)
And Tony is in better shape, now. (Not where he's wanting to get, not yet, but better. Fight Club was right, fighting turns men from cookie dough into carved wood. Say what you will about solving problems with words and whatnot, but he hasn't had arm or shoulder definition like this since Bush was in office.) In fact, it's possible that mesh shirt/leather trousers combo might come out again for Halloween, which is a bit earlier than he was expecting, and would please Ziva to no end.
He also thinks that it's good for him and McGee. As the last few months of working together showed, they need a space for competition. He knows he doesn't feel that with Gibbs or Palmer. He can fight with either of them and it's just about going through the moves, the exercise, working/fighting hard.
But that's not all it is for him and McGee. Gibbs has been and pretty much always will be Tony's Boss. That's part of why they can't work together any more. Tony can't be the Boss if Gibbs is around. And Jimmy's never been part of the chain of command. It's not that Jimmy was so far down on the pecking order that it never mattered, as that he's not actually a rooster, so he was never part of the pecking order. But McGee… Part of Probie-ing the ever living shit out of McGee was making sure he knew his place. Part of it was making sure Tony knew his. And when they fight, that history is part of it.
For the most part, they're past that now. McGee knows his place. Tony knows his. They each own their own places. But they've still got that edge of jockeying for who's on top. And that comes out when they fight each other. Tony can, as much as it's possible, relax when he's fighting Palmer or Gibbs. He can't relax when he fights McGee, because that edge is still there. Which means, of all of his sparring partners, McGee's the only one who really gets him fighting when he fights.
And he misses that.
"How's Tim really doing?" Collin asks as they finish up Bootcamp and are unwrapping their hands. He saw Tim at church and tried not to stare too much. He knew Tim got the shit beaten out of him. Amy had told him about that, but knowing and seeing are not the same thing. Seeing, and then of course, imagining, because you can't see a guy you regularly spar with hurt that bad and not imagine what had to put him there, made Collin want to throw up.
He's fought Tim, one on one, two on one, two on two, three on one, all sorts of combos. He knows Tim can fight. Sure, when they're doing it, they're pulling punches and trying to not actually kill each other, but… The guys who did that to Tim had to be the size of trucks.
He's looking at Jimmy for an answer, who notices that everyone else is, as well.
"As well as can be expected. He's messed up. He's hurting. He's not going to stop hurting anytime soon. It's only in the movies that someone goes through that and bounces back two days later."
Tony snorts a quick laugh. "Or they're him." He jerks his head at Gibbs.
Gibbs shrugs, unwrapping his fingers. He knows he always did heal up faster than most of the people around him. "Even I don't bounce back that fast."
"I've had hangnails that have taken longer to heal than you with bullet wounds," Tony says. "Still, I know McGee wanted to get started with knives, any ideas on…"
"Knives?" Collin asks.
"Tim doesn't have a knife combat proficiency, and he wants one. Eventually, when Jimmy says he's ready, we will begin training," Ziva says.
"He's got to get walking first, without a crutch, and that's at least three weeks, probably six, off, and he's not doing anything until his arm is out of the cast, probably another two months for that. So, best case scenario, he's back with us in fall. And just to work out, no one's fighting him then. As badly busted up as his arm was, it's going to be a long time before he's doing anything beyond rehab. And that's a really hopeful forecast. And…" Jimmy stops, thinking for a moment about Tim in Autopsy, not sure about saying it, but… "Look, he's saying he wants to fight, and that's fine, but… once he actually gets fighting, he may find very quickly that he really doesn't want to fight. I know I didn't want to shoot a gun after I had to do it for real, and even safe, with Tim, in a well-lit shooting range, once againsafe, that first shot brought back a lot of the feelings of fear and danger that went with doing it for real." Jimmy shakes his head a little. "Once someone's actually going after him, Tim might flash back to it. Since he's making his guys keep up their martial arts proficiencies, I'm sure he will, too, but… It might be a long time, it might never happen, where this is fun for him again."
Ziva's nodding when Jimmy mentions that. The guys catch that nod, know what it means. Jimmy's giving her a you want to add anything?look, but she shakes her head. Some things she doesn't like talking about.
Tony and Ziva are heading home. He's driving. She's looking out the window, watching cars blur by.
"How long?" Tony asks. Seeing her nod, it hit him that his Ninja knows all about going back to it after a long hard fight.
"Until fighting didn't bring Somalia back, or until I enjoyed it again?"
"Both?" They still don't talk a lot about Somalia. They have, he knows what happened and how she dealt with it, but neither of them like dwelling on it.
"A year before I could strike and not feel a second of panic. When I was taken, I knew they were going to win. I knew how to read a fight well enough to know I couldn't get out, and then… Then it was all about making myself as expensive a target as possible. For a year after I got back, every fight, no matter how easy, I felt that second of realizing I couldn't win. I was able to master it, control it, shove it into the back of my mind and not deal with it, but I felt it."
Tony nods at that. "Enjoying it again?"
She smiles, and it's a cold, hard, deadly smile. "Bodnar."
Tony nods at that, too. He'd told her, all those years ago, 'I will hold him down while you kill him.' He didn't need to do that. When he saw what Ziva did, when she went full out, no holds barred, no reserves in her mind, when she was fighting to inflict not just maximum damage, but maximum pain, he realized exactly how stupid that offer was. He'd meant it, and it was sincere. It was just… less necessary than offering to hold down an opponent for Superman.
All he did was occasionally kick Bodnar back toward Ziva when it looked like there was a shot of him running, and then limping, and then crawling away.
"You should talk to him," Tony says.
"I will. When he's a bit more healed, when he's had time to come to terms with the fact that this will always be there. You should talk to him, too."
His eyebrows furrow. "About?"
"He is your friend, he was hurt, you two have not had any time alone with each other since. Tuesday, if we don't have a hot case, have lunch with him. I will mind the store."
There is a case. Tuesday and Wednesday they're hunting down clues, interviewing suspects, putting the pieces together, but, by early Thursday morning Ziva's lounging in the back corner of interrogation, while Bishop breaks her first perp, pulling a full confession out of him.
Once the words are out of him, all that's left is writing up the paperwork and getting his signature.
Ziva heads out with Bishop, sending her back to her desk to start typing. She stops into Observation and says to Tony, "I have got this. Go have lunch with McGee."
He smiles at her, nodding, and pulls out his phone. Tony flashes a text to Tim. Lunch?
Sure. Comes back a minute later. Got a place in mind?
We'll figure it out. I've got to take you, right?
There's a minute long pause, where Tony is sure that Tim's being annoyed about the fact that he can't drive, but then, True pops up on his phone.
"So it hit me," Tony says, heading into Tim's office, carrying a bag and closing the door, "that you've got an actual office now. Which means," he's putting the bag on Tim's desk, and tugging a chair over, "that I can bring food to you a hell of a lot easier than I can get you to food." It also hit Tony, when he decided what he wanted to eat for lunch, that the place in question didn't have much in the way of seats. It's way more of a delivery/take out spot, and dragging Tim to somewhere he can't really sit is a bad plan.
Tim inclines his head in a somewhat annoyed gesture. It's not that Tony's wrong. He's dead on right; Tim's best crutching speed is about a third of Tony's walking speed, and, in his attempt to get back to real work on Monday, the only pain killers he's had are Aleeve (the absolute maximum number of them Jimmy says he can have at his weight), so he's aching all over and crutching even more slowly than normal. And, with hurting all over he's in a bad mood and annoyed by everything that makes him remember he's hurt, like not going to places, or, even more basic things, like breathing.
He closes his eyes and tries to pull away from the hot knot of annoyed festering in his head. "What'd you get?"
"Cheese steaks." Tony smiles. "New place on 35th claims they know how to make them."
This is a conversation they've been having for years. Tony's been on a quest to find a real Philly Cheese Steak since leaving Philadelphia. Apparently there are passable replicas in Baltimore, but once you get any further south than that, they vanish, replaced by something called "Philly Cheese Steak Subs" which are, in no way, shape or form, "real" cheese steaks.
Tim's gotten to the point where he no longer believes in the existence of a "real" cheese steak. He's thinking that Tony's built them up so much in his mind that they could go to Philadelphia, get the steaks, eat them there, and they still wouldn't pass muster.
"The unicorn hunt." Tim pushes his keyboard out of the way as Tony hands over a silver foil wrapped sub that smells pretty good, and puts a large container of fries between them.
"Always." Tony snags a fry while opening his. "Fries are good."
Tim munches one. They are. "Yep. Good omen. Maybe there's an actual unicorn in there."
Tony snorts at that. "Kind of horn-shaped." He inhales deeply as the scent of fried beef, onions, and…
"Cheeze whiz?" Tim winces. He can't imagine anyone intentionally putting cheeze-whizz on a sandwich, let alone wanting to eat a sandwich that has cheeze whiz on it.
"That's how they're supposed to be made. Yours has Swiss."
"Thank you." Tim manages to get his unrolled, and it looks pretty good. He's perfectly happy with not getting the 'authentic' experience. He takes a bite and his eyebrows shoot up, that's a really good sandwich. Not barbecue good, but fried steak, onions, mushrooms and Swiss cheese, on a roll with a crispy crust and a chewy crumb is definitely going onto the go-get-it-again list.
Tony's humming with pleasure. "Hard roll, processed cheeze, just enough grease… It's perfect. And look, no lettuce, no tomatoes. I didn't even have to tell them to skip the mayo."
Tim nods along. "Tasty." They eat quietly for a few bites, just enjoying the food and sitting with each other.
Tony looks out seeing the Minions (two of them are in right now) working away. "Didn't you have more of them?"
Tim looks out. "Twenty-four/seven and a lot of night owls. Any given time I want five of them on. Right now two of them are here, one's in the Great Lakes office, two more in Europe, and I think I've got one in Okinawa, one in Perth, and one in Istanbul. While I was out, Sturm came up with a scheduling program, you put the hours you want to work in, and then log in when you're working, and once five people are on, it lets everyone know the slots are filled. You can work or not as you like, it's fine if more than five people are on, and for a lot of shifts we've got more than five on. If we ever drop below five, it sends out a note to everyone who's got that time listed as one they want to work. It keeps beeping everyone on that shift who hasn't put their forty hours in every two minutes until someone logs on. If it goes for more than twenty minutes without someone logging on, then it opens it up to all of us. If another twenty minutes goes by, it lets me know, and I go kick some ass until someone logs on and we're up to full strength."
"Yeah." Tim watches Tony chew for a second, and then, once he's between bites asks, "How's it going with Bishop and Draga?"
"Smoother than you're walking."
Tim rolls his eyes some. "What isn't these days?"
"Good point. It's… I don't know. A quarter of the time I look over at the bullpen and want to ask who the hell all these people are and what they think they're doing in there. Fornell was in last week and he had the same response. Just stood there, stared, shook his head, sighed, and then got on with it.
"The cases are different, so the work has to be different, right? Homicides are still about the same, just wrapped one of them, but the big ones… We're getting intel from everyone, coordinating hunts from all over. We'll get a case, and the first week is just working through data from FBI, NSA, CIA, and Homeland. It's my job to track down who has what and make the bastards share it. That's why Fornell was in. Bishop slices and dices and give us some sort of projection of who we're looking for and what sort of stuff they're likely to do next. She's really excited about this, because back at NSA all she did was write papers about what could happen, and here she's getting to come up with her forecast and then work with us on what happens next. Ziva and Draga spend hours reading through cases, getting the details, putting the picture together.
"It's July, we've been on this since January, and the only one we've moved on was that London case. Maybe we'll be ready for another one of them by November. Nothing gets taken care of right away. We've always got something cooking, and we just shove it to the side to deal with murders. We don't even have paperwork days anymore. There's always a massive backlog of intel that needs to be gone through to add to whatever picture we're working on. We're adding cases a lot faster than we're clearing them."
Tim smiles at that. "Sounds like you've become the CIA."
"Really. You know how we'd walk into something and some local LEO would give us crap about trampling into a year-long case?"
Tim nods at that, too. "Got a bunch of them cooking. We set up a lot of electronic surveillance for you guys."
"That's what Draga's been doing. Something about 'passive intel gathering.' He's got the computers watching email and chats and texts and Facebook and whatever, searching for key terms Bishop dreams up."
"We do a lot of that, too. Coming up with anything?"
Tony shrugs. "I'm here eating with you, not in Istanbul busting up an ISIS cell."
Tony puts his sub down. "Okay, I may be messing this up, but Draga and Bishop were talking about it. You know we're on Silk Road 4 now?"
That's an oversimplification of the situation, but it'll work. "Yeah."
"Bishop wants Draga to figure out a way to break into it, and just watch. Not shut it down. She thinks it's a hell of a lot more useful up and working, because then we can see what's going on and who's doing what and where."
"If Draga pulls that off, I'm stealing him. I can pay him better and give him better hours."
Tony looks at Tim. He doesn't say out-loud that that's beyond Draga's skills, but it's clear in his eyes.
Tim looks back. "You know how to upload a job as well as anyone else. Put it in the system and we'll take a swing at it. Can't promise we'll get it working, let alone anytime soon, but, hell, we do that and we'll have every member of the alphabet soup begging for our data feed." Then Tim stops. Brand's first day is Monday, and sure, she's going to need some time to get up and running, but busting into Silk Road to monitor it might be a good match for her skillset, especially if she's got a decent team with her. Even if Tony doesn't put that in the job queue, he's thinking they're going to get on that. Then another thought hits. "Of course, there's always been this rumor floating around about Silk Road, that CIA's been running it since version 2. So, you may want to ask them pretty please and save me thousands of man hours."
"I know a guy who might know."
"Check in with him, and…" Tim thinks even more about the logistics of that case. "Hell, okay, if the CIA is running it; they don't want that getting out. So, if you get the sense that you're being stonewalled, we may go poking about in their data feed. Not like they're going to report us for piggy-backing onto their top secret op. They don't want the fact that they're running it getting out, especially since if they're running it they aren't sharing what they're getting out of it. The Congressional hearings alone on that would take years."
Tony smiles at that and takes another bite of his sub. "Is Abby going to need to start up another McGee Defense Lawyer Fund?"
"I'm better at this now than I was then, and I've already done it before, so I know what mistakes I made the first time." Tim smiles at Tony.
"And ever since you got that Director title next to your name, you've been feeling pretty cocky about everything."
Tim inclines his head, not disagreeing about that.
Tony shakes his head a bit. Tim most certainly has his place now.
Another quiet minute while they both eat. Since they're kind of on the topic, Tony decides to say something about it. "I got an email from Burley this morning."
Tim's eyebrows rise.
"He's double and triple checking every case Mane or your dad could have been involved with."
Tim nods, he knows that.
"He's not coming up with much."
Tim also knows that.
The door to Tim's office is closed, but Tony glances at it to double check, anyway. "So, really, you don't want us doing anything on your dad, or was that just about cover in front of Penny?"
Tim glances away from Tony, to the target on the wall behind him, then back to him. "You and Ziva are working on catching him at something, right?"
"That's all I need."
Tony's not buying that. Tim can read his So, are we not talking about this because we're at work, or is there more going on here? look.
"I'm good." We're talking, just keep it vague. Tim's face replies.
"Bullshit. You aren't good. You can't be good!"
Fine. I'm not good, there's a plan here, okay? Tim's eye roll tells Tony.
Tony nods at that.
This part's in bounds, so Tim says it out loud. "I want you guys to find something on him. I want him disgraced! That's what I want. More than anything else, that's what I want."
Tony nods at that, too. "You know, we can…" Fake the evidence. You want something pinned on him, and we'll make that case Chip put up against me look like amateur hour. At least, that's what Tony's trying to say with a look.
Tim gets it loud and clear. "No. I need him to go down for something he actually did."
"And if we can't? Burley's not finding shit. Ziva and I aren't, either. Mane's got lots of hinky stuff on him, but he's conveniently dead."
Tim hits Tony with a trust me, it's covered look.
Tim nods. "But, maybe…" He tries to think about it like a lawyer and how the patterns would work. "Okay, go through all the other secretaries and pets. If you can get stuff on all of them, that would be grounds for a conspiracy case, right?"
Tony nods. "Shaky, but better than nothing."
Tim puts his sub down, thinking about what happened to him, what triggered his Dad. "Um… long shot, but…" He rubs his face. "Check the cold cases, December 29th on to January of '95."
Tony grabs his phone and sends that as a text to Burley. "Okay. Why then?"
Tim knows Tony's asking not just because he's curious, but also because a twenty-year-old cold case is going to be almost impossible to solve, and unless it's a murder or kidnapping the statute of limitations on it'll be over.
"I've been talking to Wolf about all of this, and he says that domestic abusers usually have one victim. That, there's something they get out of going after that one person. December 24th 1994, I told him I wasn't going to Annapolis. That fight was so bad that they didn't let the two of us spend any time alone with each other after that. He was back on his ship by the 29th. That was the end of me as his target. It was clear he'd never get another shot at me, so… maybe he found someone else?"
Tony nods slowly at that. "Okay. We'll check." Tony puts his cell down. "You never said how bad it was."
Tim shrugs. "Took a while to get enough perspective to see how bad it was. Not like he did this," Tim looks at himself, getting across what this is, "to me when I was a kid. Just words. Lots and lots of words."
"That's what was going on before Kelly was born?"
"Yeah. It's why I'm not talking to my mom anymore."
"Ducky said it was… bad."
"He tried to have me killed, yeah, it was bad. Guys who get along don't do crap like this to each other."
Tony decides to leave it alone. He poked because he was curious, and to see if he could get Tim to expound on bad, but Tim's not touching it, so Tony's done, too. He might want to know exactly how bad bad was, but he's not going to press.
But after a few seconds, Tim does start to fill him in on details. One of the things Wolf's suggested is that talking about it'll numb some of the force of it, so, Tony's here, he's offered to listen, he's safe. Tim adds more, "It was bad enough that once I ripped up my acceptance letter, and that fight ended, they wouldn't let us be in the same room alone. My mom and Gran were afraid we'd really hurt each other. Six months later, I'm graduating. He'd already set it up so he had leave for my high school graduation and was land based that whole summer, but I wasn't going to Annapolis, so he didn't attend. Then they got me out of there. I got my diploma at something like 5:30 in the afternoon, and I was in the air first thing in the morning to go live with my grandmother until I could get into the dorm for college. I lived with her that summer, didn't speak to or see him again until my grandfather's funeral two years later.
"He was out of Alameda that summer, so… Summer '95, might be a good place to look. He was never happy on land, but he was there, because… I don't know, I guess there was supposed to be some sort of getting me ready for Annapolis crap, which probably would have meant sticking me on a boat until I'd thrown up enough weight to look good in uniform. It didn't happen, and my mom started the divorce proceedings that winter, so it must have been a worse summer for her."
He sees the light in Tony's eyes and knows what he's thinking.
"Yeah, she may have been his target of choice if I wasn't around. I don't know. Whatever happened, she wasn't telling me, and it finally got bad enough she decided to get out. Or my grandfather got so loopy with Alzheimer's that he didn't know what was going on in her marriage anymore. Pop was very, very Catholic and Mom and the Admiral divorcing would have killed him."
"Oh. Would have freaked my grandparents out if they'd been alive when Dad started getting divorced every two years."
"Yeah. That was a bad few years for my Mom. Pop faded away, she and The Admiral," Tony notices that Tim never calls him 'Dad' anymore, not that he used to, not a lot, but every now and again it'd pop out. It doesn't anymore. "got divorced, Gran was sick, but we didn't know. She thought she was just run down because taking care of Pop was three full time jobs. They died within a year of each other, and Mom was taking care of them and Sarah, and trying to get on her feet again."
"California didn't have no fault divorces back then, did it?" Tony's thinking he may look into their divorce papers, too. The custody set up for Sarah may be informative of what was going on.
"Don't know. But even if it went 'well' which it probably did, a long, messy divorce would have looked bad so he would have tried to avoid it, it would have required breaking everything up." Tim's feeling pretty tired and listless just going over that and Tony can see it.
"Sorry, this sucks to talk about, doesn't it?"
"Rumor has it, it gets better."
Tony shrugs at that, not in his experience. "She's been gone forty years, I don't find talking about it any easier."
Tim sighs. He knows the 'she' in question is Tony's mom. "Yeah." He taps his fingers on the top of the desk. With the situation with his own parents being so messed up, Tim's never really asked any questions about Tony's family. Tony's told him things, and Tim listens and nods, but he never dug any deeper. "Tony, what happened to her?" He's heard stories about her, about who she was and the sort of things she'd make Tony do. When he was new to the team those stories focused on the Little Lord Fauntleroy obsession, and the vampire themed home and just weird stuff. As more time went by, they got stories about going to the movies and quiet time, and… And he doesn't know what happened to Tony's mom.
Tony smiles softly, sadness in his eyes. "I don't really know." He exhales. "I think, but I don't know, she was schizophrenic. There were times when she was normal and good to be with, and we'd see movies, and go into the city, and I think she was on medication then. And then there were times where she'd be ripping out the electric lights and making sure everything was lit with candles because it'd keep us safe. Or drinking all the time and fighting with my Dad. And, uh… One day I come home from school, and the housekeeper takes me to the hospital, my dad was already there and she was 'sick,' and for three days we stayed there, but she didn't get better. I think she ODed on something." Tony blinks, hard, and gives Tim a see, forty years, not getting any easier look, and Tim nods. "I never looked into it any deeper. She just got sick one day and died, and then I was in boarding school until I went to college."
They sit there quietly for a few more seconds and then Tony forces a grin onto his face. "God, that's depressing. So, Silk Road 4, is that something you can do?"
Tim picks up his sub and takes a bite from it. "Not easy, but yeah, I think we can."