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Change in Behavior

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Chapter One

In the wee hours of the morning, Special Agent Timothy McGee lay on the leather sofa in the living room of Special Agent Tony DiNozzo’s apartment and stared into the dark. Tony was asleep in his bed, thanks to heavy duty painkillers and sleeping pills.

The day before, Tony had been shot three times in the right arm when he had pushed Ziva and Tim out of the way of a shooter. They had been in the wrong place because Tim had listened to Ziva and fallen back into old habits, assuming they knew better than their team lead. But Tony had been correct and the perp had circled around and gotten the drop on them. If Tony hadn’t pushed them, the shots that hit him in the arm would likely have taken Tim in the throat and Ziva in the face.

Tim had known almost instantly he’d screwed up. He’d been doing better lately about not being an entitled asshole and not following Ziva’s lead in disrespecting Tony. A few weeks before, Tim had come across the older man asleep at his desk and when investigating why, had discovered he had been fixing paperwork Tim and Ziva hadn’t done properly. A bit of research had opened Tim’s eyes to the fact that the other man had been doing it for years.

It had opened Tim’s eyes to a lot. He had finally realized DiNozzo’s frat boy persona was a mask and he actually had more education than Tim himself had. And he had been covering for the junior agents before Gibbs’ retirement - all this time - so they wouldn’t get torn apart by Gibbs. Tim had resolved to be a better person and a better friend to Tony and had stepped up to the plate. He had looked into the corrections Tony made to his reports over the years and had worked on adjusting his new reports until finally, Tony had accepted them as written. He had begun doing the paperwork (things like expense reports and mileage reports on the vehicles, or requests for various supplies and training days), stuff he should have been doing once he was promoted to Senior Field Agent when Tony took Team Lead.

Things had been going better and then Tim had slipped, at the worst time and place. And it was only DiNozzo’s actions and the luck he carried with him that had prevented fatalities. While Tony had been getting stitched up, Tim had done some hard thinking about why he had followed Ziva’s lead when his superior had told them differently. Tim acknowledged the Mossad officer was deadly and he tended to buckle under to her because she frightened him. He’d always known it, but to face it head-on had hurt and embarrassed him deeply. Tony could have died because Tim was a chickenshit and wouldn’t stand up to his junior agent. He had to stop letting her bully her way around him, especially since he realized it was a bluff, mostly. Yes, she had the skills to kill him with simple office equipment, and often a temper that seemed to explode, but she wouldn’t do it. If she did something so hot-headed regularly, she never would have ascended so high in Mossad, regardless of her family connections. Mossad wasn’t a joke of an agency. It was Israel’s elite wing. Ziva just used her read on him to intimidate him and get what she wanted. And Tim had to make it stop, which meant standing up to her and letting her know he was her boss. And Tony was his boss, something he was finally coming to accept.

When he had finished his self-reflections, Tim had gotten a pizza and headed to Tony’s apartment, ready to take care of his boss and friend. Tim knew perfectly well Tony would have signed out AMA. He hated the hospital and Tim had a feeling getting the plague had not helped his feeling any.

Tim had been right and Tony was home when he arrived, but he was out of his head on the heavy duty painkillers he had likely only taken under duress. Tony’s reaction to medication was always worth a laugh, but after what Tony had revealed as they had eaten the pizza, Tim couldn’t see the joke. Tony’s lack of a filter under meds had led to near stream-of-consciousness babbling on the other man’s part. And the things Tim had learned were revealing and heartrending.

Tony was struggling not only with Tim’s idiocy and Ziva’s insubordination since Gibbs’ abrupt retirement, but also the loss of a longterm lover who had left without even recalling Tony as more than a work colleague. And there was something more Tony had mentioned in passing during his depressed babblings, something about the director being a pimp, and an arms dealer and his daughter, and Tony was her rentboy. It had come up a few times in a few different contexts and it had set off Tim’s radar.

Tim hoped in the morning, Tony would be able to face the day without the heavy duty medication so they could talk. But if he couldn’t, Tim would wait. Tony wasn’t allowed back to the office for a week and would be on light desk duty at that point. And by then, Tony would definitely be off of the good stuff. It wouldn’t surprise Tim if he had flushed the rest of the pills as soon as he got home last night (if he had been aware enough to think of it). And that was assuming he had even filled the prescription in the first place.

Tim knew he often didn’t. At first, when they had moved desks, he hadn’t realized the meaning behind the folder full of old prescriptions. He hadn’t thought about it until he had gotten his head out of his ass and Tony had been injured. At that point, Tim put it all together and understood he really didn’t know his co-worker as well as he thought.

Tony usually presented himself as being open and outgoing, but Tim was slowly realizing it was all a front, a mask he wore to protect himself. And Tim worried if he didn’t have someone to take the mask off for, he would suffocate behind it. It was like Tony was constantly undercover and even Tim knew long term undercover operatives had major problems when they were in character too long. And Tony had been in character ever since they’d met, and from what Kate had said, he had been that way since she had met him, too. Not that Kate had ever realized it was a mask. Tim had loved her like a big sister, but Kate had really been horrible at her supposed specialty of profiling.

As Tim closed his eyes to sleep, he vowed to encourage Tony to be himself around him, even if only in private. Tim hoped Tony had been able to lose the mask when he was with Gibbs. It was likely how he had managed this long. But with Gibbs gone, Tony would need another outlet, and Tim could be that for him. In a different way, certainly. Tim was straight. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t be there for his friend.