Tim sat awake on the bed surrounded by rumpled bedsheets, twisted from sleep and sex. He glanced at the cheap dollar store digital clock on Tony's side of the bed. Barely quarter to six and Tim was already lost to thought. He'd been up since five. Fed the cat — Tony's cat, really — if only to keep it from barging in and stepping on their faces and other delicate body parts. Put on a pot of coffee. Turned the television on low.
Then he'd gone back to bed, not to sleep, but to sit. And think.
He looked Tony's way. The room was still dark, and Tim could barely make out his face in whatever morning light had managed to sneak past the crack in the curtains. He slept deeply, sprawled on his back. He breathed noisily with his mouth open, a cross between snoring and wheezing.
Chilly air stinging his naked skin, he listened to Tony mutter something in his sleep, something that sounded a lot like "murderous librarians." Then he turned over and embraced Tim's pillow, falling back into deep sleep. Tim really should wake him up, or he'd grumble all day about over-sleeping. He reached a hand to touch Tony's hair.
"What're you doing?" Tony asked, voice a quiet croak, eyes still closed.
Tim pulled his hand away, face flushing. "Nothing." He smiled, odd and awkward. "Good morning."
What had he been planning? To "gently caress" Tony awake? How does one behave after a courtesy fuck? Was it all subtle touching and familiarity? Or should everything reset back to normal, buddy-buddy, "we're not lovers, we're just really, really good friends." Because that's what this arrangement was, wasn't it? A courtesy fuck. Several courtesy fucks in a row. Tony asked for it, and Tim said, "yeah okay, I'll do that for you."
Tim felt stupid. Incredibly stupid. He was like this, always. Sex provoked attachment in him. Emotions. Love. He was all turned around. Sure, they'd had sex before. A few times. This was normal, all of this. Right?
He felt Tony's sleepy eyes on him, reading him, judging him. The attention made him self-conscious of his buck-nakedness. He tugged the sheet away from Tony and covered his lap. He studiously avoided noticing the fact that he'd tugged the sheet right off of Tony's middle. But unlike Tim, Tony seemed rather unashamed about it. He blushed even hotter.
"It's just sex, McPuritan," Tony said. "No need to change your Facebook status." He winked. "Or buy me a ring. Or send out invitations. Or-"
"Shut up, DiNozzo."
"Or join the pride parade," Tony snuck in.
Tim threw him a dirty look.
"And I really gotta thank you, because you've sorted me out, again," Tony said, before asking, "It was fun, right?"
Tim didn't answer because he was afraid of the answer.
Tony sat up, eyes fixed on the side of Tim's head. He pressed, "Right?"
Right, Tim had to tell himself. He turned to face Tony. "It's just sex," he confirmed with an oddly vacant smile. "Glad it helped."
A mischievous smirk formed on Tony's face as he tilted his head. His hair was out of control. Tim found himself staring, and staring... and staring. He remembered the feeling of Tony's body under his, the way he'd encouraged Tim to hold him down. How being pinned to a bed, to the floor, to a wall turned him on. Tony'd said he let some of his girlfriends hold him down like that, said he could orgasm from that action alone.
"Just sex," Tim repeated, visualizing Tony's tongue laving cum off both of their hands.
Just sex. Just sex. Wasn't it fun watching the great playboy Tony DiNozzo suck his dick? Just some good, innocent… pornographic fun.
When "it happened" the first time, Tim had been spending an entire evening moping because his date at the time - what was her name again? Linda? Belinda? Galinda? - had canceled last minute. Tony had been a little drunk that night, which was hard to tell because Tony tended to get quiet when he drank, not loud or goofy or clumsy. He said he'd ridden the Metro up from... somewhere. Some club or another Abby dragged him to, Tony'd said. Some club with throbbing music and flashing lights and pulsing bodies, gyrating and vibrating, vaguely human-shaped and riding a wave of molly. But all the women were too young or too butch or too... something, Tony said. So he'd left there; showed up here, a little sweaty and disheveled. Only after draining a couple more manhattans made from Tim's liquor stash did he suggest: "We might as well have some fun here, right?" And then: "I need some fun."
And who was Tim to refuse him?
It had been wrong then, and it was just as wrong now.
Because it was wrong… right?
Back in reality, Tony leaned over and kissed the corner of Tim's mouth. Slow, lazy, wet. "Earth to McGoo," he spoke to the side of Tim's head.
"It's not real," Tim said to himself, and it wasn't, because Tim was a temporary placeholder, and Tony was already slipping on his pants and buttoning his rumpled dress shirt. He would brush his teeth and pat his hair back into some semblance of normalcy - normalcy unlike both of their lives right now. He'd go to the office like that, take a run around the Navy Yard, and then he'd shower at the gym.
Still, Tim offered, "You should take a shower. I'll make breakfast." He stood and pulled on his own pants which he found flung near a bookcase. "Coffee's already on."
"Don't bother," Tony called over his shoulder. "I'll shower at work. Thanks for feeding the cat."
The door slammed shut, followed by a brief gust of spring air, wet with rain. Tim stood in his living room, wearing nothing but regret and yesterday's cum-stained pants. "See you at work," he muttered.
Here he was, thirty some odd years old and reprising a role he thought he'd left behind in college. College! Back when he dressed up as a mascot Beaver, spent long weekends in the stacks, and played doormat for that sorority girlfriend, Cindy or Bindy or whoever the fuck.
"I need some space," Cindy/Bindy/whoever-the-fuck had once said. "You're too..." Too Insert-Negative-Quality-Here. Tim had started keeping a list at one point, during that one summer when his obsessive-compulsive tendencies threatened to completely derail his education. And that same summer he'd had the most intense blow-up at his father on record.
He edited and revised the "too-ism" list every time he had to slog through a rough patch: grad school, FLETC, first week in Norfolk, first week with Gibbs, DiNozzo's relentless hazing, shooting that cop, Kate getting killed, Gibbs leaving, Somalia, and on and on — until this: sleeping with Tony.
Too involved, he thought. Too attached. Too serious. Tim was too everything, it seemed. Too stupid to realize how Tony was playing him, playing with him. And when the game was over, so too would this... whatever this arrangement was.
Tim had grown weirdly comfortable with this: quiet nights, shared dinner, video games or a movie or just whatever was on basic cable, a glass of wine or beer or something a bit stronger. After shitty days, and good days, and great days. Weekends and week days. Didn't matter. They got together; they talked. Tony would share stories from his days as a patrol cop. Sometimes he'd go further back and offer vague details from his childhood on Long Island. His time at various boarding schools, getting himself through college, drifting around in his early twenties - a bit of a pot head, Tim was shocked to learn, sleeping on friends' couches, or just sleeping with them, full stop. Tony was the kind of guy who had a whole ream of crazy stories he could pull out like party favors.
Tim wasn't socially brave in the easy way Tony was, so Tony was the one who'd initiated the sex. By asking for it, saying he needed it. Tim was always aware that he could have said no. He should have said no, because they were coworkers.
Because rule 12, which Tony loved to break.
Because they were best friends, or at least close to it, and sex was the surest way to ruin that.
But he hadn't said no. He didn't. And now Tony expected it, and Tim wouldn't stop him because in an extremely round-about way, he welcomed it. He felt needed, and fucking Tony had quickly become the highlight of his life.
How's that for convoluted?
This was Timothy McGee's life right now.
"No harm, no foul," Tony would say, all guileless smiles, laughing hazel eyes, and outrageous bed head. "It's just sex, Tim."
The seed had been planted, and now it was beginning to grow. Too fast. Too wild. Tim couldn't keep up with it. This lust was starting to look a bit too much like love.
Love wasn't in the cards.
This was Just Sex.
Changing into some sweats, Tim escaped the apartment for a pre-work run. He needed it. Badly. Maybe he could outrun his own head. Outrun his own stupid thoughts. Outrun the vision of Tony looking at him with that dumb smile on his face, probably thinking of some new McIsm.
By mile two, he'd worked up a light sweat.
By mile five, he realized doubt could run a lot faster than he could.
His running shoes slapped against the pavement. A dog barked from a nearby yard.
Too committed. Too needy. Tim wasn't the only one guilty of the latter; after all, it was Tony who'd said, "I need you," more than once. More than twice, actually.
"I need you, Tim. I really, really just fucking need you right now."
And Tim had said, "Hey, it's okay. I'm right here. I'm right here for you." Because Tim was a sucker, and Tony needed him. If anybody was too needy, it was Tony. Too clingy. Too insecure.
Tony never said he needed Ziva. Not anymore, anyway. Not since she'd told him thanks but no thanks. He'd given up on that, after the truth of it had bashed him several times about the head.
"Thanks, but..." Tim imagined her saying - curly brown hair, brown-black eyes, smile like a panther's; God, he missed her. "... I just don't need you."
No pity fuck to be found there, because Ziva David was a goddamned force to be reckoned with. And she never took what she didn't want, nor did she ever give what she'd later regret giving.
And Tim knew that whole thing had fucked with Tony's head, left him a fair bit broken and shipwrecked. If there was anything that could take the wind out of Tony DiNozzo's sails, it was the feeling of being discarded. Tim had felt sorry for him. He pitied Tony and his hopeless tailspin, because beneath the bullshit, he knew Tony was a good person, one of the best people he'd ever met. Tim cared about him, a lot. Professionally, and now personally. And watching Tony flounder around just plain sucked.
In hindsight, Tim knew that was the start of it. The real start of this. The start of them. It was dubious. Doomed. A bad idea. It wasn't a healthy foundation for anything lasting.
The word "toxic" sprang to mind.
He ran his hands over his face, over his head, wet with sweat. His feet had taken him back home, and here he was staring at his front stoop, dead hollyhocks slapping the siding in time with the springtime breeze. He gathered his sweaty hair in his palms and tugged at it.
A car door slammed. An engine started. His neighborhood woke up and left for work, and nobody gave a shit that Timothy McGee was fucking his male coworker because he'd felt sorry for him, nor did they give a shit that he was going through an existential crisis as a result of it.
Because he'd fallen in love.
Last night had been passionate. It had been different. It had meant something. Hadn't it? Tim felt like it should've meant something.
And yet still, Tony had said, "It's just sex, Tim. Just sex."
By the time Tim arrived at the office, Gibbs and Ellie were already at their desks, and Tony, too. He had a mug of coffee cooling on his desk. He'd taken a shower, changed into something clean, and was now going over backlogged paperwork.
Everything back to the status quo. A veneer of professional impersonality.
For the next eight or so hours, he and Tony would pretend they were merely coworkers. If they were lucky, they'd go to lunch together, just them. If they were extremely lucky, they'd leave the office at a respectable hour, together.
"Morning," Tim mumbled, face ruddy from the morning rush and embarrassment. He hurried to his desk; he hated being last one in, but he'd spent too much time navel gazing after Tony had left. Too much time running — literally running and figuratively running — and after that, he'd spent even more time calming himself down enough to shower and dress for work. This wasn't a mid-life crisis. It wasn't.
Except it sorta was.
Tony looked up and smiled, an expression small and warm and familiar. Tim found himself returning it without thought; it was rote response. Tim loved that smile. At the risk of sounding too sentimental, he'd started loving everything about Tony, even his most annoying traits, the ones that pissed Tim off and drove him crazy.
Way too sentimental. Too sappy. Some more too-isms for the pile.
"Glad you could make it today, McGee," Gibbs commented, voice made brittle from sarcasm.
Tim felt his face grow even hotter as he glanced at his watch. He didn't think he'd been that late, and according to his watch, he wasn't. It said five minutes before eight, but the clock on his computer — always accurate — said 8:24. The one in his car? Ten before eight when he'd parked it in the garage. Shit. His clocks were all out of whack, just like his brain. He stopped the "sorry" that was perched on the tip of his tongue, saying instead, "Won't happen again."
"It's my fault, Boss," Tony mentioned. "I made him late."
Dread filled Tim's chest as he stared blankly at his keyboard. What the hell was DiNozzo playing at now? Surely he wasn't going to out the both of them - right here, right now on a Monday morning, nearby phones ringing off the hook and Gibbs pissed off because he was late for the third time that month.
And it was only the 9th of April. It'd been a rough month so far.
"I asked him to pick something up for me," Tony went on. "On his way here." He was a good liar. The best, in some ways. And contrary to what some people assumed, he could lie just as convincingly to Gibbs' face.
After that, while Gibbs was busy glaring at some malfunctioning electronic device, and with McGee's serial tardiness momentarily forgotten, Tony threw him a wink.
"If you two are done covering for each other," Gibbs then said, "I'd like the both of you to head on over to that warehouse for a look-around."
Tony was up, gun strapped to his hip, jacket on, before Gibbs had even finished talking. Tim readied himself a bit slower, which earned Gibbs' attention and a quick remark, "You got a problem with working today, McGee?"
"No," Tim answered quickly, moving faster now. He felt Gibbs' eyes on the both of them as they stepped onto the elevator, and only when the doors closed did Tim breathe out in relief. "Looks like I'm on Gibbs' shit list."
"Nah," Tony said with a smirk, poking Tim in the ribs with an elbow. "I think we both are, McTooWonderful."
Huh. Too wonderful. Well, that was a new one.
Before Tim could scoff and tell him off, Tony said, "I know what you've been thinking."
Tim kept his mouth shut and his eyes on the doors.
"And I've been thinking it, too," Tony finished his thought.
It was a rare thing, Tony bringing about a serious conversation that may or may not hint toward actual emotion. Tim kept staring at the doors. The elevator was coming to a stop; the doors would soon open. But before they could, the whole thing shuddered to a stop and a second later, Tony had him backed into the wall, their faces inches apart.
"Are you listening to me?" Tony demanded.
"What am I thinking?" Tim asked.
"You're thinking what I'm thinking."
Tim huffed. "Which is?"
Tony shook his head. "Don't go falling in love with me, Tim. I'm an idea that's in your head. You think it'll be good, but it won't. I'm not what you need."
"Then why am I what you need?"
"I don't know."
"Don't know, or won't say?" Tim challenged, shoving Tony aside. "Or are you just too much of an egotistical asshole to realize what you're doing to me?"
Tim caught the tail-end of Tony's flinch, and he felt sorry for having said that, because Tim was too nice. Too polite. And too fucking in love with this guy to genuinely cut him down like that.
"You're right. I haven't been fair," Tony said. "You wanna know the truth?"
"Of course." Tim bit his tongue.
"Like I said, I know what you're thinking," Tony began, "but I'm too much of a coward to reciprocate."
"Tony, you're not—"
"I can't do it, Tim," Tony broke in. "I can't do it. I'm not ready."
"When'll you be ready?" Tim asked. "I'm not waiting forever."
"I don't know."
"Don't know, or won't say?" Tim repeated the question.
"Too afraid," Tony finally whispered, and that might have been the truest thing he'd ever shared with Tim.
After that, Tim had to soften his expression.
He wanted to be fair; he wanted to be patient, because he knew Tony also was too much of a lot of things.
And he couldn't fault him for that.