McGee checked his phone again, trying to find any excuse to not have to think of Tony whining in his earpiece right now. McGee had gone out to grab breakfast for their stakeout, which was going on its fourth day, and he was well past ready to kill Tony. Thumbing through his phone on the way back, he found the chat window and the message he sent while waiting in line.
The message still had not been read by the other user, “ScruffyLookin,” but McGee wasn’t surprised as the user still displayed as offline. Looking up from his phone, McGee saw the familiar red BMW parked in the middle of the street with the same man inside, waiting.
“Pusher’s back,” he said quietly so only Tony could hear him.
“I’m starvin’ like Lee Marvin, McGee.” Tony sprawled himself across two uncomfortable chairs trying to find a comfortable position. Unable to do so, he stood up and went to look out of the window of the dingy apartment they were stuck using for the stake out. “What’s taking you so long?”
McGee watched as yet another junkie stumbled towards the car. “He’s making another deal.”
“We’re here to find out who stole Navy radar and stashed it across the street.” Tony looked through the binoculars down to the deal. “He’s not our problem, unless he’s pushing steak and cheese hoagies.”
Rolling his eyes, McGee kept walking but returned his focus to the car. “I’m a sworn federal agent, Tony. I’m not gonna stand by and watch a felony go down.”
“That’s a good idea. Blow our stakeout over a $50 crack sale? If Gibbs doesn’t slap you silly, I will.” Tony refocused the binoculars on down McGee, and the bag containing the delicious goodness that would be his breakfast. For entertainment, he decided not to mention the person coming up behind McGee.
McGee refrained from saying ‘If it were up to me I’d have pummeled you by now,’ but instead retorted with “Oh, you’re gonna slap me?”
“If that’s what you want, honey.” The raspy voice of the local hooker, nicknamed ‘Goldilocks’ for her blond (and quite fake) hair, made McGee’s blood curdle.
Tony chuckled to himself as he watched McGee scramble out of Goldilocks’ reach and across the street.
McGee pulled out his phone while going up the stairs, relieved at seeing a message waiting.
ScruffyLookin: Hey there. Jeez, you must really have nothing to do. Haven’t heard from you this much outside of an all-night raid before :)
McGee would’ve been more amused if Tony weren’t still on his nerves. ScruffyLookin was a friend, as much as a friend through an online RPG could be. Between his work schedule and writing, McGee wasn’t exactly a consistent player, but Scruffy was always up for chatting in and out of the game. He’d messaged him every day this week, which, even for McGee, was unusual.
Elflord: Work’s been hell. Stuck on desk duty for 4 straight days, ready to strangle my coworker. At least I can type.
McGee only lied a little bit. They didn’t know each other’s real name or job, other than some general descriptions. Scruffy was in his late 20’s worked full time but seemingly regular hours, loved computers, gaming, played guitar and was terrified by bees. McGee told him that he wrote, but didn't reveal that he wrote “Deep Six.” He told him he worked with computers, liked to cook, and drove a Porsche. Sometimes it was easier to spill your guts to someone knowing it wouldn’t come back to bite you.
ScruffyLookin: He stuck you with breakfast duty again?
McGee entered the apartment where various computers and monitoring equipment was keeping tabs on the storage lot across the street.
Tony gave a monitor a hard smack with his hand. He looked up proudly at McGee, “Hey. Monitor number two was flickering there - fixed it!”
McGee ignored him, dropped the bag of food on the table, and absentmindedly walked to the window while looking at his phone. Tony hungrily went for the bag, digging through to find his breakfast. McGee took the binoculars to get one more look at the BMW making the deals before returning to his phone.
“Come on!” Tony glared angrily at McGee, holding up his plastic container. “I said scrambled! Maybe you’d get an order right if you’d stop looking at your phone. Focus, McSony!”
McGee tuned out Tony’s complaints and returned to his messages.
Elflord: Today might actually be the day I kill him.
ScruffyLookin: Congrats! Where do I send the deathday cake?
His smile was broken by Tony throwing his breakfast burrito at his head. McGee huffed, dropped the phone and lunged at him. It was on.
By sundown, Gibbs and Ziva finally arrived to relieve them. Tony and McGee had managed to make it look like they had NOT brawled in the apartment, but they each wasted no time getting the hell out of there.
Finally sitting down after a long shower, Tim sat down in front of his computer, enjoying the sweet silence only broken by the gentle hum of his machine. He checked his emails, then went to his chat window to find a message waiting.
ScruffyLookin: Been arrested for murder yet? Or did you let him live?
Elflord: Nope, he lives to annoy me another day.
Elflord: Ugh, now I’m even talking like him.
ScruffyLookin: Don’t worry, I won’t tell. Besides, it’s not like my work day went much better. I spent most of my breaks looking for my new car.
Elflord: Tell me you STILL haven’t decided.
Tim chuckled and shook his head. Scruffy almost as passionate about cars as Tony, but was somehow less obnoxious about them. Even in this current state of indecision, Scruffy still had Tony beat as far as tolerability. It wasn’t about the sex appeal, it was the fun.
ScruffyLookin: It’s hard to decide! I know I want the Mini Convertible, and I know I want it imported. But I don’t want to be a model year behind just because I didn’t want to wait a few weeks!
Elflord: I told you, the ‘08 and the ‘09 are virtually identical. At this rate you’ll be waiting forever! “Deep Six” will be a movie before you decide on a car.
ScruffyLookin: Shut it, you. :P
Elflord: Why do you want in imported anyway? It’s just going to take longer and cost almost twice as much.
ScruffyLookin: It’s the novelty. Plus it’s nice to shake things up once in a while. Once I drove a car in England with the wheel on the right side, it was like a whole new experience.
Elflord: Tell you what, want me to help you decide? If I get this project done before the end of the week, you get the ‘08. If I don’t, you go for the ‘09.
ScruffyLookin: Hmmm… how good are you at this job?
Elflord: Very, but at this point the odds are still 50/50.
ScruffyLookin: Haha fine, deal!
Tim smiled, got up and padded over to the kitchen for a glass of water. Even after another long day, Scruffy still managed to make him smile. There was something comfortable in their talks.
Sometimes Tim thought he detected a subtle flirty vibe, but he chalked it up to them both being single and just having fun. He knew Scruffy was gay, based on his gratuitous sensual description of one of the muscular male models in their RPG. Tim never really considered himself gay or bi, he just kinda was, well, Tim. He never really contemplated those messages from Scruffy since it was all just online. Besides, messages over text were often misinterpreted, and Tim was famous for overthinking.
He walked back to his desk, looking at the next message waiting for him.
ScruffyLookin: So, other than work, how you?
Elflord: Huh? You mean, there are things other than work?
He tried to decide how seriously to ponder the question. The clock said 2000, he hadn’t yet eaten anything he would consider “real” for a while, and he was in for another long day unless someone made a move for the stolen Navy radar soon.
Elflord: Tired. I haven’t had much time to write lately, though I did think of several potential murder scenes today.
ScruffyLookin: Productive :) Wanna blow off some steam?
Elflord: Nah, not tonight.
ScruffyLookin: Aww :( We haven’t pillaged or raided anything in a while.
Tim looked at the screen as it would say Scruffy had typed, then stopped, then typed, then stopped. He wondered what he was trying to type. Finally a message came through:
ScruffyLookin: I’ve missed you.
Tim’s heart skipped a beat looking at that message. At first he smiled. After a few days with just Tony for company, it was nice to be appreciated and to have good conversation. But then he was a little confused, wondering if that message wasn’t a bad sign or if it’s just Tony’s twisted advice in his head. He tested the waters.
Elflord: I thought you were surprised to hear from me as often as you have these last few days.
“Ew, that didn’t come out right,” he said aloud to himself.
Elflord: I mean, I thought you would’ve been bored hearing from me by now.
ScruffyLookin: Naw, I don’t mean “work” you, I meant ELFLORD, the fun you :)
Satisfied, Tim paused for a moment, figuring out what he was doing for the night. Deciding to test a little further, he typed.
Elflord: Well, I need to make dinner, but if you’re gonna be around, do you wanna stick around and maybe help me bounce around some writing ideas? I’ve kinda missed getting to actually talk with someone, too.
He bit his lip in anticipation, hoping he didn’t push too far or sound like a moron.
ScruffyLookin: Sounds good :)
Tim smiled, and went to prepare dinner. He spent the rest of the evening typing away on his typewriter, occasionally typing something to Scruffy, who always responded. As the clock hit 2330, he was having trouble keeping his eyes open. He turned to his computer.
Elflord: Dead tired… thanks for staying up. Good night :)
ScruffyLookin: Anytime :D g’night!
Tim smiled, but once his computer turned off his smile faded. He felt alone, even though Scruffy wasn’t actually there to begin with. He wondered what Scruffy would be like in person, which also led him to wondering Scruffy’s real name. Based on references, he’s pretty sure ‘ScruffyLookin’ referred to Scruffy-Looking Nerf Herder from Star Wars, but he had no idea what Scruffy’s real name was. He could ask, but then he’d have to give him his. Tony would have a field day explaining what a bad idea that would be. He sighed and walked over to the bedroom, stripped down, and tucked himself under the cool sheets. His last thoughts of the night were about a friend he’s never met.
“Come on, come on!” McGee shouted into the steering wheel. He was stuck in a traffic jam on the Mason Bridge on his way into work. He thought he could see an accident up ahead, but was more concerned with getting away from the car behind him, which was way too close to his Porsche for comfort. ‘At least Tony’s not here to complain about it…’ he thought to himself.
They had decided to commute separately in order to spend as little time together as possible. Tension at the stakeout was at an all-time high because of the lack of progress. The only release for him, Tony, and Ziva, was in a series of pranks, each superseding the last, yet not going so far as to involve Gibbs.
McGee opened up his phone and pulled up a chat window for Scruffy. Seeing that he was online, and making sure that traffic wasn’t moving, he typed:
Elflord: Did I ever mention how much I hate DC traffic?
ScruffyLookin: Maybe once or twice lol
ScruffyLookin: Running late again?
Elflord: Yup. And not looking forward to another desk day. I’d like to see some action.
ScruffyLookin: Ugh. Well unfortunately I won’t be as able to talk today as I was yesterday. Got some pretty involved work to do today.
McGee was a little disappointed, but of course Scruffy had to have a job and a life, too. McGee sometimes wondered what Scruffy did, and thought he had narrowed it down to some kind of either retail or cooking.
Elflord: Fun work or annoying work?
ScruffyLookin: My work is always fun :) Just today it’s a little more meticulous.
Traffic started to move.
Elflord: Gotta run. Good luck!
ScruffyLookin: You too!
After finally getting out of traffic and parking ways away from the stakeout, McGee broke into a full sprint trying to get there on time. He finally got to the apartment and saw Ziva and Gibbs ready to leave, with Tony looking out the window with the binoculars.
“Sorry, boss, there was an accident on the Mason Bridge,” he said breathlessly to Gibbs.
“Still working on it.” He tried to remember all the details despite not yet having his morning coffee. “It’s definitely a free account opened under a fictitious name.”
“Knew that two days ago.”
“Trying to track the e-mail’s path, but there’s several servers. Whoever tipped us off about the missing radar being in the storage locker is going to great lengths to remain anonymous.”
“Pusher’s back.” Tony said, turning from the window. “So is the suit in the Beemer.”
Tony’s eyes had been lined with ink from the pads on the binoculars. ‘Oh, Ziva…’ McGee fought very hard to keep his smile hidden, and while Gibbs obviously had seen Tony, the look Gibbs gave McGee seemed content enough not to say anything. McGee switched back to the topic of the pusher, if only to contain himself.
“Guy’s dealing drugs up the street.”
“Yeah. Noticed.” Gibbs was obviously tired.
“Same buyer was here yesterday, too. Love to bust ‘em.”
“Record it. Turn it over to Metro when we’re done.” Gibbs started walking out, Ziva followed a moment later. While passing McGee, she gave a mischievous smile, which McGee was finally able to return.
“Have a nice day, McGee,” she said with a coy chuckle while stepping out the door.
“Alone at last.” Tony still had not seen himself to know he had been marked, but McGee could tell he was already calculating what to do with the day. “You watch. I’ll do this, you do that.” He sat down at the computer, and turned on the webcam. Tony’s eyes widened in surprise, then narrowed in anger. “You’re a dead man McGee,” he said to the image of a laughing McGee on the webcam.
“Don’t look at me, it was Ziva.” McGee had to tell Scruffy about this one. He took out his phone but wanted to get a shot of the drug deal going down first. The deal began turning into an altercation. McGee’s flag went off. “Something’s going on.” He followed the two men in the deal with the camera’s view as they went down an alley.
A moment later, someone shouted “Call 911!” and McGee saw Gibbs and Ziva running across to see what was going on.
‘Wasn’t exactly the action I had in mind.’ McGee thought.
McGee was quite happy to close this case. No more staking out in apartments, no more chasing down junkies, and no more being cooped up with Tony. He was also quite happy to see Ziva’s chair collapse underneath her in the final prank, but now he needed to make himself look busy to avoid her Mossad death-glare, so he quickly checked email then opened up the chat window.
Elflord: Project is done! Got another department involved and we finally got it wrapped up.
ScruffyLookin: Aw, that’s cheating! I figured something was up though, hadn’t heard from you since yesterday. All-nighter?
Elflord: Not quite but was too exhausted to even think when I got home last night.
ScruffyLookin: No worries. Well I guess this means I have to order the ‘08?
Elflord: Haha, yup. Send me a picture after you order it. You wanna do a celebratory raid tonight after work? Seems like ages since I’ve had a free night and been awake enough to enjoy it.
ScruffyLookin: Thought you’d never ask! See you later ;)
McGee smiled, and immediately dove into his paperwork so he could go home.