BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE
Set a couple of weeks after Aliyah.
Tim is looking for something in his desk and comes across a scrabble tile. It sets him thinking about relationships in general and his and Abby's in particular.
An established relationship story.
Written: June 2009. Word count: 1,000.
It's not where it should be, in his top drawer, nor does it appear to be in his second. He knows he hasn't lost it, he can't have; it's too important to him.
He looks across the office. "Tony, have you taken my pen; the black one with the silver top?" He's aware his voice has an edge to it, and he silently chastises himself.
Tony looks at him. "Do I look like black-pen-with-a-silver-top kind of guy, McProbie?" he sneers.
Tim shakes his head. "No. Of course not. Sorry."
Tony nods slightly. "Yeah, me too, kid." For a moment or two they stare at one another; they both know the apologies are for more than just their exchange. Despite Gibbs's Rule #04, 'sorry' has become a word spoken on a daily basis. At least it has between Tim and Tony, and they know they share equal blame for the need to say it.
Unwittingly Tim glances at the still empty desk. It's pristine, tidy, devoid of anything unnecessary; it's just waiting for its occupier to return. Tim looks away and again catches Tony's stare; the look tells him he wasn't alone in where his gaze had been. That's another thing that's been happening for two weeks.
It's quiet in their area of the squad room; too quiet for Tim's liking. Gibbs has taken to spending less and less time at his desk, and if either Tim or Tony wants him, they know he'll be in Autopsy. In an almost reverse situation, Palmer, along with his text books, has taken to occupying the spare desk in their area on a more regular basis. As neither Palmer nor Gibbs is there, Tim surmises it must be a Medical School day.
"Come on, I'll help you look for it." Tony's voice cuts into Tim's thoughts.
"Your pen," Tony says quietly; there's no hint of teasing or belittling in his voice.
"Thanks, Tony. I'd appreciate that."
"Don't worry, Probie, we'll find her."
Tim frowns. "Her?"
For a second Tony says nothing, he just stares at Tim. Then he shrugs, gives one of his half-laughs, and says, "Well, boats and cars have a gender, why not pens?" His look is a mixture of cockiness, despair and a hint of a plea.
Tim nods. "Why not indeed. It seems only fair."
A jazz record plays softly in the background, but other than that there are no sounds, not even the tapping of his typewriter's keys or a computer game. Instead, Tim sits in the partial darkness thinking.
They'd found the pen; it was in the second drawer. It had somehow got hooked onto some papers, so that when he'd lifted the papers in the first place, the pan had been picked up with them. He's glad they found it. But it isn't the focus of his attention. Instead he holds the single Scrabble tile in his hand, they'd found it next to the pen, turning it over and over as he remembers
It's the 'Q'. The letter Ziva had put before an 'I' to make 'Qi' and thus win the game; the game Tim had been certain he'd win. He remembers how pleased she'd been to beat him, and how Tony had teased him; even Gibbs had got in on the act, as far as Gibbs ever did. He also remembers how the Scrabble tiles he'd hastily pushed into Ziva's desk drawer when Gibbs had appeared, had later helped Palmer remember the name of the man who'd been trying to kill him.
But it isn't Palmer who's at the forefront of his mind; it's Ziva. Or rather it's Ziva and lost opportunities. Not for him, he likes Ziva, but she scares him. No, for Tony and Ziva. Ziva had left it too late to let Tony know how she'd felt about him, and Tony had realized too late that he could love again.
Instead of finding common ground, of maybe finding love, they had fought, literally at one point. Lies, recriminations, things said that shouldn't have been said, things done that shouldn't have been done. And for what?
He worries about Tony, not that he'll ever let him know, but he does. It seems that his coworker, his irritating, annoying, frustrating, juvenile, loyal, caring, passionate, honest friend, Anthony DiNozzo, always leaves it too late.
He'd cared for Kate, but had never told her, preferring to bicker, bitch and play one-upmanship games. Tim had always thought they'd make a good couple. But Kate had died, and Tony'd dealt with her death in the way Tony always dealt with such things.
Then he'd let Jeanne, the woman he should never have fallen in love with, walk away, because when it came down to it, Tony had been scared he couldn't love her enough; couldn't give her what she wanted, what she deserved. So he'd lied to her and let her walk away.
And then there was Ziva. Tim hoped against hope, that they would find her, and somehow she and Tony would find a way to heal their relationship, and maybe build a deeper one.
As for Tim himself, he knew what he was going to do. He wasn't going to leave it until it was too late. He was going to tell Abby the truth. Tell her how he felt about her; tell her he loved her; tell her she loved him (because he knew she did); tell her they were right for one another. And he was going to tell her now.
Throwing the 'Q' into the bag with the other ninety-nine tiles, he grabs his coat, the Scrabble box, his car keys and heads for his car.
She opens the door. "Timmy!" She sounds happy to see him. "What -"
He silences her with a kiss.
When he breaks it, she's just stares at him; she still looks happy, albeit somewhat confused and questioning. "We're going to play Scrabble," he says, backing her into her apartment. "And then there's something I'm going to tell you."
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