Retitled (from "Constructive Criticism") and updated/better beta-ed on 9/28/09.
This was written as an NFA Hangman Prize for Miss_Barbara who requested "McNozzo Fluff".
This one was a bit of a challenge for me since I'm not really all that fluffy, I'm not terribly romantic, and aside from a few fics writen with friendship in mind that I've been told "flirt with slashiness", I don't write slash. But yes, this fic has some M/M-ish-ness.
1. The DiNozzo Experience by Chaos
Contrary to his often over-cautious nature and his tendency to stammer when he talked, Agent McGregor was a confident man when it came to pursuing the opposite sex. He didn't care one iota about ‘leagues' or ‘types' when it came to selecting his lovers. When he knew who he wanted he was secure in his ability to determine how to win them over, and he wasn't afraid to put himself out there.
Timothy McGee frowned as he read his narrative back again. There was something that was bothering him about the passage, but he couldn't put his finger on exactly what that something was.
Maybe it was because it wasn't entirely the truth, he theorized. Not anymore, anyway.
A week ago he would have completely agreed with the assessment. And for the most part, he still did. He still didn't care about pursuing someone that he was certain everyone else would consider entirely out of his league or that he was attracted to someone that was generally not attracted to guys like him. He'd always had a knack at figuring out how to overcome those sorts of obstacles, and that hadn't changed.
So then why couldn't he just do what he always did and just go for it? Why didn't he feel any of the confidence he normally felt? Maybe it was because the stakes were higher; he was fairly certain that this time, he was pursuing the one. Perhaps that was what made everything more difficult.
Except that it shouldn't be that way, he told himself. He should treat it just like any other time. Sure, his feelings seemed stronger but that didn't mean that he should treat the situation any differently. If things didn't go the way he wanted him to, they weren't meant to, and he could chalk everything up to a miscalculation on his part. If things didn't work out, it shouldn't be because he didn't try. He had to formulate his tactics the same way he always did.
He knew who he wanted, and now that he was thinking about it, he knew exactly what he needed to do.
Tim smirked as he read the narrative back one more time. Every word really was true, he decided this time. With a new plan secured in his mind and his confidence restored, he inserted a fresh page into the typewriter and began to type.
It was harder this time, he admitted to himself, but only because the stakes were so much higher. He knew who he wanted, and he knew exactly how to win her over because he'd done it before. He knew what had gone wrong the last time they'd tried to work things out. He knew her desires and knew what pitfalls to avoid. This time he wouldn't make so many mistakes.
This time he was going to make things work with Amy Sutton.
Anthony DiNozzo snorted with disgust as he backed up a few paragraphs and read them over again. This was wrong. So very very wrong. On so many levels. He was actually sorry he'd snatched the pages from Ziva's desk and even sorrier he'd read them.
Oh, who was he kidding? He wasn't sorry he snagged the pages. Not in the slightest. Probie should've known better than to ask Zee-vah to proofread right there in plain sight, within earshot. Kid must've known that Tony wouldn't be able to resist taking a peek for himself. So it was entirely Probie's fault he read the pages.
With that in mind, Tony wasn't really even sorry that he read them. They were...pitiful. There was just no other word for them. At least he'd read them and could stave off impending disaster by running a little interference before Probie did something stupid--like send the story off to a publisher. Or worse, try to actually play out the scene in reality. Surely McGee hadn't tried yet or he'd have heard about it. Or at least seen the aftermath once Abby had chewed him up and spit him out.
Tony crumpled up the pages, though he knew it was a purely symbolic gesture--they were only copies, not the originals. But by the time he set Probie straight and made McGeek see the error of his ways, he'd make sure the originals (and all subsequent copies) were crumpled up, doused in gasoline, and set afire. And hopefully all of that would come to pass before any other innocent eyes fell upon the atrocity.
Now all he had to do was figure out how to broach the subject. It was going to take more than just talking to get Tim to listen and actually heed his advice. He was really going to have to illustrate the point with some finesse if he was going to get through to the Probester. Otherwise he knew McGoober would probably let everything Tony had to say go in one ear and out the other or pass it off as Tony gratuitously picking on him. Really, it was for the Probie's own good. The last thing Tony wanted to see was McWriter making a fool of himself (and the rest of the team by proxy) by publishing such a steaming pile of...swill. He had to find the right time and the right way to force McGee to reach the same conclusion.
As luck would have it, that opportunity presented itself a mere hour and a half later.
Tony was on his way back from evidence lockup after dropping off a few things and happened to spot Tim making his way back toward him, the younger man's attention completely focused on the file in his hands. Tony let the younger man pass without so much as acknowledging him, then silently turned and crept up behind.
Tim didn't even know what hit him. One moment he was walking down the hall minding his own business, and the next someone had grabbed him and forced him into the janitor's closet. Before he could even think about reacting he felt himself being pressed hard against the back shelves, his arms held tightly in his attacker's grasp.
"Relax, Probie," a familiar voice growled into his ear.
"DiNozzo? What the hell? I could have shot you! Or something."
"Yeaah. Right," Tony scoffed, his voice low and...dangerous.
"You call this a seduction scene, Probie?"
"You heard me. Apparently you think there's something enticing about having sex amidst the stench of ammonia and with a filthy mop poking into your side."
Tim let out an incredulous huff. "What are you talking abou...you know what? I don't care. So, let me go," he demanded. He felt one of his arms being released and relaxed slightly, though it didn't seem that Tony was finished with him just yet.
"You think Amy Sutton--you think Abby would want to have sex being shoved against these shelves?"
"Y-you read that?" Tim stammered, feeling his face turning bright red.
"Of course I read it, Probie! You left it on Ziva's desk!"
Tim shook his head slightly, his eyes squeezed shut and jaw dropped slightly as he tried to formulate a viable response to that. Before he could, Tony continued his rant.
"Tell me one thing you think Abby would find sexy about this dingy little craphole," Tony challenged as he reached up and pulled the chain to turn on the light. He blinked as he caught sight of the aforementioned mop that for some inexplicable reason had a photo of him affixed to it. That had to be Abby's work. "Okay, tell me two...make that three things she'd find sexy about this closet," he amended his request, only half-seriously accounting for himself and his photo.
"It's not about Abby, Tony..."
"Yeah, I know McGeezer. Just like it's not about Gibbs, not about Ziva, not about me or you. Like you don't take stuff that happens to us and put it into your..." Tony's eyes narrowed as his mind made a few leaps. "Tell me you didn't shove Abby in here like McGreg--"
"No! Of course not! Abby and I aren't even seeing each other any more!" Tim denied quickly. "It's just a fictional sex scene. Nothing like that happened." Tony's glare deepened. "O-or will happen!" he added quickly.
"It better not," Tony growled, though the fire in his eyes died down a little bit. He studied McGee for a few moments before releasing him. "But you want it to, don't you?" he asked quietly.
"No. I don't want to have sex in here," McGee denied again, wrinkling his nose. It really did smell terrible in the janitorial closet.
"Yeah, not that. McGregor wants Amy Sutton back," Tony recalled the pages he'd read. "You want Abby and...what? You thought this little scenario of yours would impress her?"
"Tell me you didn't think that scene you wrote would actually impress her enough to convince her to take you back."
"It's not that easy to write seduction scenes, Tony."
"I'm going to pretend that you didn't really just classify that as a seduction."
"I suppose you could write better?"
"I'll leave the writing to you, McGeek."
"But you think you could come up with a better seduction scene."
Tony let out a soft snort. "Duh."
"What? You want me to tell you? I can't just tell you, McGee. Doesn't work that way."
"So you can't."
"Didn't say that. It's just not something I can really tell. You need to experience it."
"So...you'd have to seduce me?" Tim asked skeptically.
Tony snorted. "As if. No offense or anything, but I don't...swing that way." McGee frowned slightly. Did he hear hesitation there? His brow furrowed, but before he could really think about it, Tony added, "Besides, even if I did, I'm way out of your league, Probie."
Tim rolled his eyes, unimpressed. "Whatever. Now if you'll let me out..."
"Look. You want Abby back. I get it. She's the best thing that ever happened to you and you want another chance. Believe me, I get it," Tony empathized, his voice suddenly quite serious. "But you're never going to do it like...like this." He wrinkled his nose as he gestured to the shelves filled with cleaning supplies and the mop bucket filled with disgustingly murky water. "Abby's a little wild, she likes adventure. Likes surprises. But this? This is not a surprise. It's revolting. And, trust me; no matter how outrageous she acts sometimes, she's still a lady who wants to be treated with respect."
Tim sighed even as he nodded his agreement. "Okay, so...what do you suggest?" he asked warily.
Tony thought for a moment. "Come over to my place tonight for dinner," he proposed.
"Why would I want to do that?"
"I told you. I'm not that great with words. I'd have to show you. So yes. Tonight I am going to give you the full DiNozzo Experience." Tim's eyes screwed shut and he reached up to rub his temple, looking quite uncomfortable. "Jeez, Probie. I already told you, I don't swing that way. This seduction isn't about sex, anyway; it's about...winning someone back. Convincing them to forget what went wrong before and to believe that this time it's going to work. Right? So for this little experiment of ours, consider yourself to be Miss Amy Sutton and I'll be Somewhat-Special Agent McGregor."
"Uh...I dunno, Tony. I really don't think this is going to work. I mean I know it's role-playing and all but..."
"Role playing," Tony repeated wistfully, a playfully lecherous smile creeping across his face as he seemed to momentarily lose himself in the thought. Tim rolled his eyes and tried to push past Tony. "Oh, come on. You know you love me."
"Ech..." Tim scoffed.
"My place. 8 o'clock, on the dot," Tony insisted.
"All right fine," Tim agreed, though the sarcastic tone was hard to miss. He tried to slide past Tony, but the larger man continued to block his path.
"I'm fixing dinner for two, Probalicious. You don't show and you will seriously regret it."
"Fine. I'll be there. Now will you let me out?"
Tony nodded, though held up his hand indicating that Tim should wait as he opened the door and peeked into the hallway. Seeing no one, he stepped out into the hall before turning back to Tim. "Be sure to wait a couple minutes so no one thinks we were hanging out in the closet together," he commanded. "Tonight dress nice, but casual. And don't be late."
Throughout the rest of the morning, Tim couldn't help but wonder what it was that Tony was planning. He silently questioned if Tony was taking the dinner thing seriously or if this was all going to lead to a night of him being the butt of a multitude of Tony's jokes. Every time he heard Tony chuckle, Tim would steal a curious glance, wondering if the other man had read something funny or if he had come up with another idea for torturing Tim that night. Whenever Tony fell silent, though, it was even more nerve wracking. It was entirely possible that Tony was actually just working like he was supposed to be, but considering that it was TONY, Tim had his doubts. The silences probably meant that DiNozzo was over there planning...plotting. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. Maybe he should call the whole thing off?
"Grab your gear," Gibbs called out, effectively cutting off Tim's opportunity to fret or give into his cold feet and cancel out of the "DiNozzo Experience".
The case turned out to be a rather simple one, but between collecting the evidence, gathering the witnesses, conducting the interviews, and finally breaking the culprit and garnering a confession, it was almost 6 o'clock before they wrapped up.
Tim noticed that Tony started glancing frequently at his watch once 4:30 had passed. It was apparent that he hadn't counted on an extended work day when he'd made the dinner plans.
"We can put this off for another night," Tim suggested as he passed Tony's desk after dropping his own report off on Gibbs' desk.
"Not a chance, Probie," Tony answered, though he looked slightly frazzled as he once again checked his watch. "I'm wrapping my report up now, so there's still time."
"Okay. If you're sure," Tim offered him one more out.
"I got it, Probie. I still have to pick up a few things so I might be a little late getting everything ready. When you get to my place, just let yourself in; I'll be busy in the kitchen and might not hear you knock."
"I'll see you at 8, then."
"Not a minute later," Tony replied as he returned his attention to his report.
Considering that Tony had just admitted that he wouldn't be ready yet, Tim almost protested but decided against it.
When Tim arrived at Tony's apartment building, he was a few minutes early. As he made his way up the stairs he was greeted with the heady aroma of an undoubtedly Italian dish. Even if he hadn't known Tony's apartment number, he was certain that he would have easily been able to identify the correct place by the scent wafting through the hallway.
Tim was about to knock on the door until he remembered Tony's instructions and let himself in. The apartment was a lot tidier than Tim pictured it would be, and it was dimly lit with candles throughout the living room and dining area. Also setting the mood, Tim was surprised to hear soft jazz playing on Tony's stereo system; surprised mainly because it was one of his personal favorite CDs. That had to be a coincidence, of course; no way would Tony have guessed that sort of thing.
When he heard the shower running, Tim considered stepping back out into the hall for a couple minutes to ensure Tony's privacy. He imagined that Tony would never let him hear the end of being late if he stayed outside too long, though. Besides, if he wasn't mistaken, he was fairly certain he smelled something burning. He was torn. Would Tony be embarrassed if he went into the kitchen and saved whatever was burning? Or would he be mad that Tim went in and took over? He considered for a few moments, and then decided that Tony would recover much quicker from embarrassment or anger than the apartment would if there was a fire and Tim didn't extinguish it.
It seemed, though, that he was too late. By at least several minutes, he determined as he found a badly scorched pan sitting in the sink. The kitchen window was open, allowing any smoke and most of the smell to dissipate. It also appeared as though Tony had pulled the battery out of his fire alarm. Tim winced as he spotted the fire extinguisher half-tucked behind the trash bin. The smoke had already cleared and there didn't appear to be any lasting damage except to the pan so it had likely only been a small fire, but it explained why Tony was late getting ready. And why the salad was sitting only half-prepared.
Not wanting to embarrass Tony about the apparent kitchen fiasco, Tim returned to the living room and sat down on the couch to wait. He was tempted to go poking around Tony's apartment just like Tony had done to his upon each visit, but this was supposed to be a "date", so he didn't feel right being on anything but his best behavior.
Then again, for the purposes of this date, he was supposed to be "Amy Sutton", and she *so* would go rifling through everything in the apartment. With that excuse, Tim began sifting through the things on Tony's coffee table.
There was a newspaper, opened to the puzzle page. The cryptogram was completed, as was the sudoku puzzle. Probably purposely left open to impress him, he figured, amused by the gesture. The crossword, on the other hand, was only about 1/3 completed, which for a moment Tim thought might disprove his theory, but then realized that it was also probably intentional--to make it clear that Tony hadn't just cheated and looked up the answers.
Under the newspaper was a small stack of magazines. Tim rolled his eyes at the Newsweek on top. He couldn't picture Tony reading that, but more than likely it was just a cover for the Playboys and Penthouses beneath. To his surprise, however, when he moved the top magazine aside he found a somewhat worn copy of the previous month's Wired Magazine. While it was a staple in his own collection, Wired didn't seem at all Tony's tastes. Again it was probably there to give Tim the illusion that they had more in common than they really did. Tony must have hidden the skin mags in his room, Tim figured before moving on.
There were a couple DVDs sitting on the corner of the table: one a recent horror flick that was supposed to be really good, the second a Cary Grant classic. Tim smirked as he picked up the 3rd DVD and glanced at the back. Love Ever After? What was Tony doing with such an obvious "chick flick"? He'd have to ask him when he got out of the...
Tim realized that he no longer heard the shower running. "Hey, Tony?" he called out. He couldn't help but gape as Tony appeared in the doorway still dripping wet, one towel swathed around his waist and using a second to towel dry his hair. "Uh..."
"Sorry, running a bit behind schedule," Tony explained hastily. "I'll be dressed and out in a minute. Make yourself at home," he invited before ducking back into his bedroom. "Remote is on the coffee table."
"Anything I can do to help?" Tim asked, and then immediately realized how Tony would probably purposely misinterpret that and the teasing it would set off. "With dinner?" he quickly added, clarifying.
In the few moments of silence that followed his offer, he could just imagine that Tony had to be in his room smirking. But the answer turned out to be completely appropriate. "Yeah. If you don't mind, there's a couple things that still need chopped for the salad."
Tim headed to the kitchen and picked up the abandoned task of fixing a salad. He was actually relieved at having something constructive to be doing; it didn't seem right that Tony do all the work...even if it was his ‘seduction' scene.
Tim was nearly finished with his task when he became aware of Tony's approach. "Sorry I'm a bit late," Tony apologized again as he stopped directly behind Tim. "Thanks for taking over. The salad looks fantastic," he added appreciatively in a low voice that sent an unexpected shiver down Tim's spine.
"Uh, sure," Tim replied, his mouth suddenly dry. The salad looks fantastic? Preparing a salad was hardly an impressive feat, so Tim could only surmise that...it wasn't the salad Tony was appreciating. Tim felt his face heat up as he glanced over his shoulder and caught Tony flashing him a small grin.
"Tip number one, Probie; always make sure to start the evening with a compliment, even if it's not a direct one. In fact, sometimes it's more effective if it's a bit veiled," he said, his eyes meeting Tim's for a few moments before flitting to the salad and back, as if making a point. "And tip number two; everyone wants to feel needed. Even if everything is completely in hand, make sure there's something you just can't quite do yourself, even if it's a little thing like finishing up the salad."
Tim felt a bit foolish as he realized that Tony was already playing his role. To save face, he latched onto the ‘completely in hand' claim and glanced at the burned pan in the sink, raising an eyebrow and giving Tony a smug grin in response.
Tony passed it off with an easy, "I'm afraid dessert flam-ed when it should have bé-d." Tim didn't have time to make any sense of the explanation before Tony continued. "The lasagna should be done in just a few minutes; shall we get started with the salad?"
Tim allowed himself to be led into the immaculately set dining area and seated himself while Tony served the salad and poured them each a glass of wine. There was no way that Tony should have been able to know, but somehow he'd managed to pick Tim's favorite Cabernet Sauvignon.
There were just a few too many "coincidences". The Wired Magazine, Tim figured, was a pretty easy thing for Tony to pick up on and guess, but the wine and the music? He tried to remember if he had mentioned either of those things at any time...or if he had them stored in his PDA somewhere. He eyed Tony, suspicious, and blanched slightly as he caught Tony studying him from across the table.
"Tip number three," Tony informed him, a knowing grin spreading across his face. "Know your target. Pay attention, even when you're ‘not paying attention'. You'll be amazed what you can pick up when no one thinks you're listening. And just...observe everything."
Tim frowned trying to remember when he could possibly have mentioned the wine or the music anywhere in Tony's vicinity. The music...Tony had been in his apartment. He'd probably noticed it then. The wine, though had Tim stumped. While it wouldn't surprise him to know that Tony had searched his cupboards, he generally didn't keep wine on hand.
"You asked Ziva?" he guessed, though he was doubtful of that answer. She'd asked him that once when she was organizing a small dinner party. Tony hadn't been there, though...nor had he been at the party. How would Tony have known that Ziva would have the answer? Besides, he probably wouldn't want to explain why he was asking Ziva about Tim's favorite wine.
"Could be," Tony evasively responded before casually changing the subject. "How's the new novel going?" Before Tim could answer, he tacked on a teasing, "Aside from the seduction scene?"
Tim rolled his eyes, but began explaining the plot a little bit as they ate their salad. Tim thought at first that Tony's interest was purely narcissistic and that his curiosity centered solely on what was in store for Agent Tommy, but as Tim talked, Tony seemed genuinely interested and asked leading questions to get Tim to expound. The conversation flowed seamlessly through the entire dinner as Tim described some future scenes and ideas, and Tony offered up legitimately helpful suggestions, never once making fun, even when he caught a particularly large plot-hole that Tim hadn't realized he'd left open.
"That was really good, Tony," Tim praised as he finished up the last of his meal. Though he was no longer particularly hungry, he was tempted to serve himself a little bit more. If Tony had taken a little bit more, or if he'd offered Tim would have probably stuffed himself silly. He was probably better off stopping, anyway; pretty soon he'd be too full to move.
Tony nodded graciously accepting the compliment. "Thanks, Probie. That's actually tip number four. Everyone may want to feel needed, but they also like to be pampered a little. And they certainly don't want to think their date is completely inept. I'd offer you seconds, but then you wouldn't have room for dessert," he added.
"But I thought..." Tim clamped his mouth shut, suddenly not wanting to call attention to Tony's earlier failure in the kitchen.
"It's not exactly what I planned," Tony admitted, "but there's an all-night shop just a few blocks from here; we could go pick up some ice cream. If you're up for a walk?"
Tim nodded amicably. "Sure."
"Just let me wash up a little and put out the candles. Only two fires allowed per night and all." At Tim's wide eyes he grinned. "I want to reserve the other for later. Rrrrow." His grin widened as Tim blanched. "Relax, Probie. Only kidding."
"Y-yeah. I know," Tim replied, though it was hard to miss the way he gulped nervously.
It turned out to be a really nice night for a walk. Tim wasn't altogether surprised as their conversation rolled around to movies. He was, however, startled when he realized a few minutes later that he was doing most of the talking. Movies were Tony's thing, not his. Not that he didn't like them, of course, but...he realized that he'd gone silent and that once again Tony was studying him.
"Always make sure that you can not only talk about your date's interests, but make sure that you try to include them in yours," Tony explained, feeding him another "tip". "For one, if they don't fit into your interests, you may want to rethink whether or not you really want the relationship to work. Of course if it's all about sex, it's not important." He suddenly stopped walking and stepped into Tim's path. "But that's not what this is about, right?" Tony asked point blank, his gaze not wavering from Tim's.
Tim gaped at him for a moment, speechless as he considered how to answer. "Uh..." he stammered uncomfortably.
"Tell me that this isn't just about getting Abby back in the sack," Tony demanded, a dangerous glint appearing in his eyes.
"What?! No. Of course not!"
Tony relaxed and resumed walking; picking up the conversation from where he'd left off as well. "For another, showing that you want them to fit into your world shows that you want them to stick around and make themselves at home there. Makes for good ‘bonding' moments," he added, casually draping his arm around Tim's shoulders as they walked. "So, have you thought about developing ‘Deep Six' into a screenplay? It's about time for another good action franchise. Maybe get Harrison Ford to play Tibbs...and you'll need a good, charming, handsome up-and-comer for Agent Tommy..."
When they got to the corner grocery, Tony led the way to the ice cream freezer. After glancing through the various flavors, he reached in and picked up a container, hiding the name away from Tim. "No peeking."
Tim's face scrunched for a moment but then he nodded, hesitantly trusting Tony to make the decision for him. He'd done pretty well knowing what Tim liked so far.
"Regular or waffle cones?" Tony gave that choice to Tim. Once the selection was made, he headed to the counter to make their purchases, declining Tim's offer to pay half. "You can pay next date...Oh wait. Seeing as this is a one-time deal maybe you should pay this one and I pay the next one," he playfully pretended to reconsider. Tim rolled his eyes and reached again for his wallet, but Tony rolled his eyes right back. "I got it, Probie," he insisted.
Once back to the apartment, Tony motioned for Tim to stay in the living room while he made his way to the kitchen. "There's some movies on the table there, why don't you pick one while I pop some corn and get dessert ready."
"I was meaning to ask you about that," Tim remembered. "The movies, I mean. Love Ever After?" he teased.
The corners of Tony's eyes crinkled with amusement. "I promise you, McGee, those are some very carefully selected movies. First off, Grant's a classic. Choosing one of his movies shows that I think outside the box and am not just picking up the latest cheesy romance. Plus his flicks usually shed me in a good light." At Tim's questioning glance, he elaborated. "Most of his characters tend to be a bit...challenged in the romance arena. He can be totally suave and in the next instant turn into a complete klutz or say something completely inappropriate but somehow women usually still find him charming, and know that in the end he's really a good guy. While, obviously I'm not a klutz or particularly awkward, sometimes...women don't quite get my humor." Tim couldn't help but think that Tony was putting it mildly. "So, watching Cary Grant can help them to overlook my...social blunders and focus on my charm." Tim could see the connection, though Tony's social blunders usually were a lot less innocent than the ones made in the movies.
"Okay, so that's the classic. Why the horror movie?"
"You are a total Probie, aren't you?" Tony asked incredulously. "Horror movies make great snuggle movies. If she's afraid, she'll be right there in your arms the whole time and she'll bury her face against you at the scary parts. Let you be her protector and all. Even if she's not afraid, a lot of times she'll fake it to give her an excuse to get close. Either way, you get some great cuddle time in."
Tim blinked, never really imagining Tony as a cuddler. "Okay, so...Love Ever After? Let me guess, you're trying to show yourself as a sensitive guy and--"
Tony snorted. "Not at all. You have to be honest with her, McGee. If it's all about sex, there's nothing wrong with a few stretchers here and there. But we're playing for keeps."
Tim swallowed hard as he considered Tony's words. "So...wait. You actually like this movie?"
"You ever seen it?"
"As it turns out, you're right. It's terrible. Horrendous even. I can enjoy a good rom-com or the occasional chick flick, but this one? Worst ever. Not even the chickiest man alive could possibly enjoy this one. I doubt many women can stomach it, either."
"So then...why?" Tim was genuinely confused.
"Odds improve that we won't actually spend the whole time watching the movie," Tony answered, flashing a smirk before he disappeared into the kitchen.
Tim looked back at the movies, weighing his options. He'd already seen the Cary Grant, and it was pretty good, but he really wasn't in the mood. The horror might be fun, but he was morbidly curious about just how bad Love Ever After had to be--and what Tony would do when the movie flopped.
"Hey, Timmy?" Tony called from the kitchen a short time later. "There's a lighter on the mantle. You want to light the candles on the coffee table for me? Then turn out the lights."
Everyone wants to feel needed, Tim amiably mused while he did as instructed. "Done."
"Good. Then take a seat and close your eyes."
Tim hesitated, but again curiosity won out and he did as he was told. "Oookay."
He heard Tony enter the room and a few moments later felt the couch cushion shift as Tony sat beside him. "Keep them closed," Tony murmured, his lips mere inches from Tim's ear. Despite knowing it was Tony, Tim couldn't help but feel his heart begin to race a little bit. He felt Tony leaning against him and knew something was being raised to his lips. He could feel heat radiating from it. He was expecting ice cream, so that didn't make sense. His brow furrowed and he almost opened his eyes, but again Tony stopped him. "Just trust me and take a bite."
"Y-you don't have to feed me, you know," Tim uttered nervously. At Tony's small chuckle he took a deep breath and then leaned slightly forward to taste the offering. Tentatively at first, just wetting his lips. He recognized a sweet caramel crème and became braver. Some kind of nut, most likely pecan, he identified the next flavor easily enough...and banana, he recognized before his lips hit the cold ice cream. He couldn't quite identify that flavor, but it mixed perfectly with the sauce. The battle between hot and cold, the unexpected mix of sweet, salt, fruit and nut...and the feel of mystery behind it all combined making it a fairly bizarre but sensual experience.
"God...Tony. What is that?" he asked. "Can I open my eyes yet?" Not waiting for an answer he did exactly that and looked at the concoction Tony was holding for him.
"This, my friend, is cheesecake ice cream with homemade bananas foster sauce," Tony answered as he leaned forward and took a small bite from the same cone. "Turns out it flambéd just fine, after all," he added with a wink.
"But I thought..."
"Not really a surprise if you knew it actually worked. Just had to sacrifice a cheap pan and let a little bit of it go a little too far. Not only did it get this moment to work, but it also probably earned me a few sympathy points."
Tim let out a small incredulous chuckle as he realized even the 'fire' had been a total set-up. "So...I don't get my own cone?"
"Greedy, Probie?" Tony asked softly, and Tim couldn't help but notice the way his eyes danced in the candlelight. He held the cone closer to Tim again.
"You really don't have to feed me," Tim insisted again.
"But that's no fun," Tony teased. "Doesn't give you the full effect of the DiNozzo Experience. Besides it doesn't give me the opportunity to--" Tim winced as he felt a glob of the quickly melting ice cream dripping down his chin as he took another bite. "--do this," Tony finished as he reached forward with his free hand and gently wiped the ice cream away.
Tim caught himself holding his breath for a few moments before he realized what he was doing. He quickly turned his attention back to the dessert.
"Better eat fast; or it's really going to make a mess," Tony practically purred as he leaned in again to take another bite.
Tim really wasn't sure what he'd expected when he'd agreed to come tonight, but this was definitely not it. Despite having all the classic date elements--the candlelight dinner, the moonlight walk, the impending movie, it all still managed to be a complete surprise.
Though it felt a bit awkward, Tim decided to play along and just go with it. He tried to time his bites to alternate with Tony's but there were a few times that they both moved in at the same time, their lips missing by mere millimeters. "Gay Chicken" he recognized the game; though somehow it was different...he didn't feel the same humor as he'd always thought there'd be if he ever engaged. He refused to be the one to cave first, knowing that Tony'd lord it over him. After a few more bites, he expected Tony to back off and hand the remainder of the cone over to him, but soon they were down to the last bite.
Tony once again leaned closer, his breath against Tim's cheek as he downright tenderly cleaned the drippings from Tim's face, this time with a wet, warm washcloth that he'd brought with him from the kitchen. For a moment their eyes met and Tim was almost certain that Tony was going to kiss him. He wasn't entirely sure how to feel about that, and was relieved when Tony began to speak instead, his voice barely louder than a whisper.
"The trick about a moment like this, McGee...is that you don't want to rush things." Tim swallowed as he watched Tony set down the cloth and run his thumb over his own lips and chin without his eyes ever leaving Tim's. "You want the anticipation to last. To grow. To consume you...her." Tim nodded slowly, captivated by the other man's narrative. He blinked as Tony broke into another grin and pulled back, popping the last bite of the cone into his own mouth. "You have to leave her wanting more."
Tim blinked, and felt his cheeks grow hot again. God. He'd actually...
Tony was never going to let him live this whole thing down, was he? He could feel the teasing into next year. He hoped his blush wasn't completely obvious in the dim lighting.
"So what movie are we going with?" Tony asked as he picked up the washcloth and cleaned off his hands. All trace that he'd even felt the intimacy between them was gone, making Tim feel even more foolish. Had it been real or had he really just imagined it?
Tim was tempted to opt out of the movie; it was late, he really should be going. Still, if he did that, it'd be obvious that Tony had gotten to him. He had little doubt that Tony knew it anyway, but he wasn't about to give the other man the satisfaction of ‘winning' whatever game it was that he was playing.
"Love Ever After," Tim announced, picking up his choice.
Tony accepted it with a raised eyebrow. "Reeeeaaallly?"
Tim shrugged noncommittally and handed the DVD to him. Tony started the movie, blew out the candles and joined Tim on the couch, casually putting his arm around the other man's shoulders and placing the popcorn bowl so that it was partially on Tim's lap and partially on his own, preventing either of them from moving without spilling. Tim rolled his eyes slightly at the obvious move, but didn't protest.
Tony was right. The movie was atrociously bad. Tim found it difficult to keep watching without letting his mind wander. There was no chemistry between the characters, and the dialogue was beyond forced. The mushy ‘banter' bordered on nauseous. He wondered how long it would be until Tony showed off his next ‘seduction' tactic.
As it turned out he didn't have to wait long. Tim flinched as a piece of popcorn bounced off his nose. He glanced over at Tony to find that the other man apparently still enthralled with the movie. Tim wasn't fooled, but returned his attention to the screen anyway. A moment later he felt another kernel bounce off his temple.
"Do you throw popcorn at all your dates?" Tim asked, not sure whether he should be amused or annoyed. Tony didn't bother to answer, just continued to remain ‘oblivious'.
A few moments after Tim turned back to the screen he was hit again, this time with several kernels. "Seriously?" he asked. "You do. Don't you?"
This time Tony grinned back at him. "Of course not."
Tim's brow furrowed. "I get it," he announced a few moments later. "It's because I'm special, right? Ha, ha," he drolly guessed.
"Nah," Tony denied. "It's because you're Abby."
Tim squeezed his eyes shut for a few moments. "What?" He felt another kernel hit his forehead. "Right. Tonight I'm ‘Amy' aka Abby. So...to clarify: You'd throw popcorn at Abby."
Tony laughed with genuine mirth. "I would." And to prove it, he threw another small handful.
"Why?" Tim asked, exasperated.
When Tony remained silent, Tim grabbed his own handful of popcorn and retaliated. Within moments it became an all-out popcorn war. The movie forgotten they each scrambled to arm themselves. Tony groaned as Tim managed to snatch the popcorn bowl away from him, though Tim highly suspected that Tony hadn't actually tried to stop it. He laughed as he pelted Tony with his easily won ammunition.
Tony snatched up one of the sofa cushions to use as a shield and scrambled to collect some of the corn from the floor to throw back. Still all too soon, he was once again out of ammunition. He raised his pillow then, not as protection but clearly intending to use it on the offensive.
Tim's eyes widened and he scrambled to likewise arm himself for the impending battle.
The next several minutes were a blur of unadulterated fun as Tim found himself in the first pillow fight he'd been in since he was a child. If anyone had ever told him that he'd be in one with DiNozzo of all people, he would never have believed it. It wasn't exactly a manly sort of thing to do, and yet...he couldn't remember the last time he'd laughed so hard!
Tim's mind raced as he tried to figure out how to get the upper hand. Unfortunately it wasn't meant to be--he zigged when he should have zagged and Tony hit him square in the chest, knocking him back. Feeling himself going over, he grabbed for Tony, yelping as instead of being steadied, he took Tony down with him. He sucked in his breath, bracing for the impact as Tony landed on top of him, but relaxed slightly as Tony managed to catch himself and greatly lessened the blow. He froze as Tony failed to move, instead staying where he was, pinning him and staring down into his eyes.
"Why I would throw popcorn at Abby?" Tony asked.
"I have no idea."
"Because adrenaline is a major aphrodisiac to me and to guys like y..." Tony let out a tense little chuckle then corrected himself, "I mean to girls like Abby." Tim anxiously licked his lips as he stared up into Tony's eyes. He swallowed nervously as Tony suddenly leaned down and let his lips graze ever so softly against McGee's. And then just as fast Tony jerked back, shifting his body quickly away from Tim's.
"Sorry...Probie," Tony apologized awkwardly as he sat up, drawing his knees to his chest and wrapping his arms around them as he looked first up at the ceiling, and then at the far wall. Anywhere but at Tim. "I..." He closed his eyes and Tim was certain that he'd never seen Tony looking so vulnerable.
As he slowly sat up, Tim knew he was at a crossroads. He could leave now and have this to hang over Tony's head for...ever. Or he could...
He leaned over and brushed his lips against Tony's just as Tony had done before; returning them to ‘even ground'. When Tony didn't back away or laugh or...well...hit him he leaned in again.
Their kiss was at first tentative and awkward. It was Tony who made the first move toward deepening it as his head tilted a little bit as he reached over to gently cup Tim's head. He felt Tim's tongue against his lips and with only a split second hesitation he complied. The kiss became more intense as they began to battle for dominance, neither used to not taking the lead. Tim was completely shocked when it was Tony who yielded to him, giving him control.
"The DiNozzo Experience," Tony drawled a few minutes later when they parted and he gazed at Tim's kiss-swollen lips with a self-satisfied look on his face. "And that, Probie, is how it's done."
Tim swallowed hard, licking his lips nervously. "Yeah," he agreed. "T-thanks, Tony." And then he leaned forward, initiating another kiss, which the other man quickly accepted and deepened.
Tim smirked as he read back through his original draft when he got home that night.
It was harder this time, McGregor admitted to himself, but only because this time the stakes were so much higher. He knew who he wanted, now he just had to figure out how to make it happen. It wasn't going to be easy, but he just had to play it just like he always did. Profile, strategize, and execute.
He already had the profile.
Agent Tommy always had to be in control. If anything was going to happen, he'd have to think it was all his idea. Getting him to think that, though, was going to be much easier said than done. After all, Tommy was a self-professed ladies' man. McGregor had his suspicions, though, that his fellow agent might not be completely opposed to...something a little different. He was certain that he could play to a couple of Tommy's other instincts--his desire to teach, and his protective nature. Tommy wouldn't knowingly let McGregor make a complete fool out of himself...at least not in such a public way. Tommy was also incredibly protective of Amy, so there was no way he would stand by and let anyone--McGregor included--treat her with anything but respect. Add in the facts that Tommy'd jump at almost any chance to show off his prowess, and take any opportunity to teach ‘his Probie' a thing or two, and the strategy became quite clear. All McGregor had to do was make Tommy believe McGregor was going to horrendously botch his attempt to reconcile with Amy and everything else would just fall right into place.
McGregor couldn't help but grin as he typed up a pathetic excuse for a seduction scene. He was almost embarrassed to let anyone read it, but if his plan was going to work, it had to be done. He went to Agent Lisa and asked her to proof read it for him, knowing darn well that she would agree but that it would never stay on her desk long enough for her to actually comply.
Agent Tommy would never know what hit him.
"No, Tony," Tim spoke even though the other man was not there to hear him. "That is how it's done."