Back to the Badlands
by Enthusiastic Fish
Tim looked around the bullpen. No one was there but Gibbs...and him, of course. He glanced at the desk where Ziva had been. It stood empty. He looked over at Tony’s desk. Tony was back now...but he was withdrawn, depressed. He had tried to get Ziva back, and she had said no. He didn’t talk about it, but it was obvious, given that she wasn’t there.
Finally, Tim screwed up his courage and walked over to Gibbs’ desk.
"Boss?" he asked.
For just a moment, Gibbs didn’t reply.
"Boss?" Tim asked again.
Gibbs looked up at him, his expression giving nothing away about what he’d been contemplating. He silently raised an eyebrow.
"I want to request some leave time. For me...and for Tony."
"Both of you?"
"Does Tony know about this?"
Tim smiled a little. "Not yet."
"To...return a favor."
The eyebrow went up again.
"When I was all screwed up by what happened with Dearing...Tony stepped up and basically forced me to get help. He got me to talk about what was wrong. He...he went above and beyond the call of duty to help me figure things out. He’s the one who needs the help now, Boss."
The eyebrow stayed up.
"It’s not that I think he’s as bad as I was. I was two seconds away from self-destructing. He’s not...but I think it would help if he could get his mind on other things. Stupid tourist things, like he did for me."
"Do you think it will help?"
"I don’t think it will hurt...but I know that will be...basically taking the entire team out of commission. ...without Ziva."
Gibbs was quiet for a few seconds.
"A week? Two weeks at most?"
"What are you going to do?"
"A road trip. Tony wanted to go back to the Badlands and see it without someone crazy ruining everything," Tim said self-deprecatingly. "With everything that happened, we never did go back there...and I know there are a lot of things to see on the way. We won’t have to duplicate anything, even, unless he wants to."
"You think he’ll say yes?"
"If we have permission," Tim said, hoping he was right. He didn’t want to have to convince Tony that this was the best idea. He didn’t really even know if it was.
Another long pause. Tim wondered what was going through Gibbs’ mind because he had no idea. They’d all been thrown for a loop by Ziva’s vanishing act...but she’d at least talked to Gibbs. Tim hadn’t even had the chance to say good-bye, really. She was just gone. Tony had seen her when she had decided to cut off ties with NCIS. Was it for good? Did anyone know? Did Ziva even know?
"Do we?" he asked.
Gibbs looked at him for one more long moment and then nodded.
"Thanks, Boss," Tim said.
"Better make sure Tony agrees."
Tim stood outside Tony’s apartment. He hadn’t had a chance to grab Tony at the end of the work day. He’d slipped out too quickly.
Now that the time had come to present his brilliant plan, Tim was worried. What if Tony thought this was the stupidest thing since Tim’s own breakdown? What if Tony resented Tim worrying about him? What if Tim had read Tony all wrong and he just was tired from everything that had happened? What if it was just jetlag?
What if he refused?
Tim didn’t get the chance to try and be helpful to Tony very often. Tony didn’t allow it, and it made Tim more than a little nervous to take this on. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to do this. It was that he didn’t know if he should be making the suggestion. He didn’t know if Tony would appreciate it at all.
Still, he really liked the idea and he really hoped that Tony would be willing...and that he’d have fun, too.
He took a breath and knocked.
Then, he knocked again.
Then, he heard movement on the other side of the door.
The lock turned and the door opened.
Tony didn’t look too happy to see Tim standing there, and Tim’s courage almost failed him.
"Hey, Tony," he said.
"Hey, Tim. What’s up?"
"Am I interrupting?"
Tony smiled a little.
"No. Nothing important. Come on in."
Tim walked in and was relieved that he didn’t see any sign of Tony drinking. He wasn’t sure he would have known what to do about that.
Still, Tony being so...bland was disconcerting. Tim perched awkwardly on a couch.
"What’s up, Tim?"
"I was thinking..."
"Am I supposed to be surprised by that?" Tony asked with a smile, a shadow of his usual cheeky grin.
"Probably not," Tim said, smiling back. "And I was thinking that...you might want a vacation."
"I was already in Israel for quite a while. Wasn’t even working."
"Are you going to claim that was a vacation?"
Tony sighed. "No. I’m not. ...but I have been gone for quite a while. Probably shouldn’t be taking more time off."
"I cleared it with Gibbs."
"You cleared what with Gibbs?"
"You and I going on a...road trip."
Tony laughed incredulously. "What?"
"A road trip. I asked Gibbs about it today."
"Before you’d talked to me?"
"I wasn’t sure he’d agree. The whole team will be gone...you know. Now."
"Yeah, I know. But he said yes?"
Tim nodded. Now came the real question.
"Do you want to?"
"Oh, I get a choice?" Tony asked, but it wasn’t pointed.
"Yes...even if you didn’t give me a choice the last time."
"The last road trip."
Then, there was a glint of comprehension in Tony’s eyes.
"Oh, I see."
"Do you want to go?"
"I figured we could plan it."
"It’s a road trip. You’re not supposed to plan. It’s supposed to be spontaneous."
"Even a road trip can have some planning."
"I thought we could go back to the Badlands...you know, so you could see them and have fun...unlike last time."
Tony gave an understanding smile.
"I don’t resent that, Tim. I really don’t."
"I know you don’t, but you gave up a lot for that. It was such a bad vacation for you that you had to take another vacation after...just to recover from it. I still owe you for that."
"No, you don’t. I wasn’t taking you because I was going on a vacation. I was trying to help."
"Yeah," Tim said. "Exactly."
Neither of them addressed what exactly Tim was trying to help with.
"So...you want to end at the Badlands?" Tony asked.
"I figured that would be a good place. That’s as far as we went last time."
Tony shook his head.
"Okay," Tim said, feeling his heart sink. His great idea had...
"We can’t stop at the same place we stopped last time," Tony said, almost grinning like he used to. "A good road trip can’t replicate another road trip. It has to be different!"
Tim smiled, feeling better. "So you want to go?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I do, Probie. This time, though, we’re not going to Wall Drug and we’re not going to go back the same way we came. We’re going to make a loop...or a zig zag...or whatever. We’re not covering the same ground."
"So you don’t want to go to the Badlands?"
"Oh, I want to go there, but we’re not taking a direct route. You’re going to regret suggesting this, Tim."
Tim smiled. "I’m okay with that."
"When are we going to do this?"
"When we’re ready. We will have to give enough notice to HR. They’re mean in there. I’m not getting on their bad side."
Tony actually laughed...for about the first time since he’d come back.
"Okay, okay. We’ll plan a little bit. Not too much."
"Deal," Tim said.
Maybe this would work out like he wanted it to, after all.