It's only partway through the evening that the thought which has been hanging around on the edge of Tim's consciousness finally manages to fight its way into the forefront of his mind, and it's such a surprising thought, it doesn't occur to him to censor it.
"Didn't you have a date?"
Tony's expression is one of wide-eyed innocence Tim knows well enough not to trust. He's had way too much experience in this area.
"You know. Valentine's Day?" He's pretty sure it was Tony's idea to test out Tim's brand spanking new MMORPG subscription, which struck him as slightly suspicious at the time but makes even less sense in this context.
Tony shrugs. "Ahh, y'know, it's just a commercial holiday designed to get money out of insecure suckers."
Tim raises an eyebrow. "And sex out of unsuspecting women."
Tony tuts. "That's not very enlightened."
"I'm quoting you."
Tony manages to go even more wide-eyed, which Tim wouldn't have thought possible without surgical intervention. "Me?"
"Yes you, Tony. Aren't you the one who called Valentine the patron saint of getting in a woman's lingerie?"
"I... don't remember." Tony shrugs as if he has no idea what Tim's talking about, blinks a few times, shakes his head, his brow furrowing. "Does that really sound like something I'd say?
Tony frowns. "You know, you're getting very cynical in your old age, Tim. You might wanna watch that."
Tim closes his eyes and clenches his jaw, counting to ten so he doesn't actually strangle Tony with his bare hands.
"So," he manages finally, "you mean to tell me you don't have a date on Valentine's Day, even though you previously believed it was God's gift to the debonair single man looking to get laid?"
"Debonair? Pretty sure I never said that."
Tim rolls his eyes. "It was... implied."
It's Tony's turn to raise an eyebrow. "Yeah?"
Tim knows he's going a little pink, although he really doesn't know why he should be the one who's embarrassed here. "You know what I meant."
Tony shrugs, flops back into the couch cushions, and grins happily. "Debonair. Evocative, that word. Very... very film noir, y'know?" He gestures expansively with one hand as if to illustrate.
Tim stifles the next eye roll. He's not sure if you can strain your eye muscles, but he doesn't want to find out, and with Tony in this mood... he needs to pace himself.
"Is it really so terrible to want to spend the evening with my best..." Tony pauses. "My best Probie?"
Tim gives him a doubtful look. "Your best Probie?" He pauses. "You have had friends before, right?"
"Then you should know that, outside of work, you probably shouldn't call your friends by a word that sounds like something aliens would use during an abduction."
Tim shakes his head. "Never mind. Just... you know, consider calling me by my actual name sometimes. If I'm your best anything." Tim rewinds the sentence in his head and cringes slightly. 'Your best anything' is slightly better than being referred to as Tony's best Probie, but it's not exactly his finest hour, either.
Tony grins. "You're definitely my best Tim," he says, with a nod, as if this is a completely reasonable statement. "Now, I'll admit, there have been other Tims, but you, McOutstanding, have moved to the top of the class. Head of the table. Front of the-"
"I get it." Tim shakes his head again, but this time he's smiling reluctantly. It occurs to him to point out Tony is also his best Tony, then he nixes the idea. It sounds kind of ridiculous when Tony says it, but somehow Tony can get away with that. Tim isn't at all certain he could pull it off. "Thanks." However weirdly Tony expresses it, it actually means a lot.
Tony's grin widens. "You're welcome, McProbious. I mean, McGee. Uh. Tim." He frowns. "You have too many names."
Tim screws up his face. "I have two."
"Au contraire, Probie wan." Tony waggles his eyebrows. "You have dozens."
"Nicknames aren't names, Tony."
"No, they're expressions of affection and esteem and friendship and-"
"Well okay, so some of them were more successful than others, but-"
Tony has the grace to look guilty. He squirms a bit, pulls a face.
"Okay, okay. That one was mean."
Tim was taking a breath, ready to launch into a recitation of some of the less than flattering names he's been given over the years, but Tony's expression and the admission take the wind out of his sails.
"I'm sorry, McTim."
Tim gapes like a stunned goldfish. Tony apologising? He recovers as quickly as he can. "Should I be checking the back of your neck for a red mark, Tony?"
Tony grins. "Nice movie reference. And no, don't worry, I'll go back to being obnoxious tomorrow, I promise. I just..." He shrugs. "Your friendship means a lot to me, okay?" His grin softens, and he looks almost embarrassed.
He's being... well, entirely sincere, if Tim is inclined to trust his gut.
"Okay," he says, finally. "All right." He shakes his head. "Um. Your friendship means a lot to me, too," he adds quietly.
Tony seems far more relieved about this than Tim expected. "Glad to hear it." He looks at Tim for a long moment, and Tim is half expecting him to say something else deep and meaningful, but what eventually emerges is "Okay, Elf Lord, are you gonna show me how to nail some dragon ass or what?"
Tim involuntarily rolls his eyes again, and he could swear he feels something go 'ping'. Maybe you really can strain your eyeballs. "How many times do I have to tell you? This is a different game and I will never turn into an Elf and I am never going to dress up for you."
Tony smirks, and Tim flushes as he realises how it sounds. "Um. I mean. In a manner of speaking."
"So in another manner of speaking, you will dress up for me?" asks Tony, smirking still wider.
Tim shakes his head and shoves at Tony's shoulder. "I am never inviting you to my apartment ever again."
"Oh, come on, please, I'll behave, I promise." Tony's face falls, he's genuinely pleading, and Tim is slightly touched and a little suspicious of how worried Tony seems by the threat.
"Just... can you maybe try to not mock anything for ten minutes or so?"
Tony nods rapidly, his eyes wide again, looking like a schoolboy who's trying to feign innocence, and it's another expression Tim doesn't trust for a millisecond, but Tony is his best... something, and though he'd never admit it out loud, Tim does enjoy his company.
"Okay," he says.
They turn back to the screen.
Tim hears Tony's intake of breath and isn't sure what to expect, but Tony's voice is surprisingly quiet and sincere when he speaks.
"So, we good, McValent-" Tony pauses mid word, his expression panicked, as if he's rethought what he was about to say but can't think how to escape gracefully. "-tino?" he finally finishes.
Tim shakes his head again and reluctantly grins. "Yeah, we're good. Now can we play the game?"
Tim starts in on a lengthy explanation of challenges and duels, and though Tony's eyes do eventually glaze over, he doesn't make any snarky remarks or even stifle a yawn. As Valentine's Days go, Tim thinks... he's had worse.
~ fin ~