Tony DiNozzo's gut clenched as he replayed Tim McGee's words in his head. "You make me feel like I'm not good enough."
He was a jerk. He and his frat brothers practically made a sport of it in college. You were either a jerk right back or they ate you alive. Most men he had ever known were jerks or worse; often worse. Even Tim McGee himself was a jerk, though Tony had to admit, he was less a jerk than most men he'd ever met. It was one of the reasons Tony liked the guy. Tony thought of all the times Tim was a jerk to him, and sighed. Tim had to be pushed to be a jerk, and he had no doubt that Tim hated himself later for it when he was. Well, except with him, maybe. He was a bigger jerk to Tim than Tim ever thought about being to anyone else.
Tim had walked away in frustration when Tony hadn't responded and Tony had no doubt that had made Tim even more angry. There had been something in the way Tim had said it that had stopped Tony's words in their tracks. He had tried to let it go, but he was honest enough to admit he hadn't tried that hard to let it go. After all, no one knew better than he did how bad it felt to never measure up.
Tony sat at his desk long after everyone left, even Gibbs, and silently berated himself. It was bad enough he often felt he wasn't good enough, often wondered why Gibbs kept him around, but it hadn't occurred to him that he made Tim feel that way. He respected Tim, admired him even. Tim was a good agent, sometimes better than average, sometimes not. His computer expertise often helped them access more information and solve cases more quickly. He remembered when Gibbs asked his opinion about McGee and Tony acknowledged he would be an asset though he hated to admit it. At the time he worried that Gibbs would find him wanting in all the ways that mattered, but though Gibbs never said as much, Tony worried less about it now. His skill set was different than Tim's, and he recognized they all brought something important. It was what made them so good at what they did.
He thought about his comments to Tim and winced. So yeah, he was riding Tim about women again and okay, maybe his comments did imply that he wasn't good enough for any woman. If he was honest with himself, and yeah, right now was the time for honesty, he knew that wasn't true. The truth was…He wasn't good enough for most women, and Tim genuinely liked women, respected them, and by all appearances, it wasn't all about sex for him. Tim was the marry forever kind of guy, like Gibbs if Gibbs could get his act back together. He didn't feel like he was good enough for most women so he ragged on McGee to cover it up.
Tony shook his head though he didn't realize he was doing it. He could never admit that. Besides, it wasn't just about women. It was about his obvious geekiness, socializing skills or lack thereof, and his inability to think fast on his feet.
Okay, sometimes Tim did think fast on his feet, usually with him, but in other situations, not so much. Tim was better at it than he used to be, but it didn't come as naturally to him. One of the reasons he was so rarely sent under cover was because he too often froze to process instead of rolling with the punches. Tim had an exacting, analytical mind and when the object of his analysis was under his direct control, like a computer, he understood that, processed it quickly and efficiently but take something unpredictable and complicated like a human being and that was where Tim sometimes floundered.
Though he was sometimes really good at getting him back when it counted. Maybe that was just a consequence of having known each other so long. At first though, Tim seldom had a good comeback or any comeback at all. Now, Tim knew him, probably better than Tony wanted to admit.
Tim had come a long way from his stuttering probie days and that fact went unacknowledged. That had to change, Tony realized. He had to change. He ran his hands down his face, and finally stood up. He looked at his watch and noted the time was 1900 hours. Still early.