A/N: Welcome to my new story! I've had this little idea floating around in my head for quite a while and I've finally decided to write it down. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT IN ANY WAY AFFILIATED WITH THE WRITERS, PRODUCERS OR ACTORS OF NCIS AND I MAKE NO MONEY FROM THIS STORY. FIRST SECTION TAKEN DIRECTLY FROM S3E13 'DECEPTION', THE REST OF THIS STORY BELONGS TO ME, SCOOP AND IS MY OWN WORK.

"Jason Geckler," Special Agent Timothy McGee said as he sat down opposite the kid in interrogation. "My name's Special Agent McGee, NCIS."

The kid didn't seem concerned by this bit of information. "Like I told your other agents, I'm not saying anything until my dad gets here."

McGee nodded; he expected that. "He's on his way. He also said that he expects you to give us your full cooperation."

"Yeah? And how do I know that you really talked to him?"

Oh, the kid knew how to get out of the conversation well enough. McGee wasn't about to let him though; the Commander's life was at stake. He grabbed the manila folder from the desk and started to leaf through it, finding the message that was taken down. "Well, he wanted me to remind you that Winthrop Military Academy is still accepting applications."

"He would never send me there," the kid said, looking smug. "It kind of costs money, dude."

McGee looked at him for a moment, then pulled an evidence bag out of his jacket pocket, then took the mobile phone out and put it on the table. Jason Geckler just looked at it. "Look familiar?" McGee asked. Jason said nothing. "It was being used by two of your classmates, a Timothy Griffin and Daniel Austin. They said they got it from you."

"Did they now?" Jason asked in return, still not looking concerned in the slightest. "Well, I'll just have to be sure to thank them for that when I get home."

McGee held back a sigh. "Look, a woman's life is at stake here, okay? I need to know where you got the phone." Still, the kid said nothing. Clearly this approach wasn't working. Thinking quickly, McGee stood up and walked around the table before coming to rest on the edge of it, beside Jason.

"Tim and Dan...they must be pretty scared of you, huh?" Tim asked, looking down at him. Jason shrugged slightly.

"What makes you say that?"

McGee smiled slightly. "Come on, they're obviously geeks. Ah, we used to shove them into lockers, pull their gym shorts off in class, drop their books down the toilet...it's even better if they start crying, right?" He knew he was getting somewhere. The kid was nodding.

"Or wet their pants," he said, grinning up at McGee. McGee chuckled at that, even though it wasn't funny, not to him.

"Yeah, well, that too," McGee agreed, standing up. He stood slightly behind Jason and continued talking. "And you know the best part is when you get older, you're not gonna remember their names...but you know what? They're always going to remember yours. That's pretty cool, huh?"

Jason now looked confused...that was exactly what he wanted. "You know, I really haven't thought about it too much..."

"Yeah..." McGee nodded; he assumed that. Typical bully. "Well, I have," he said, and then grabbed the chair Jason Geckler was sitting in and pulled it around violently and lent down. "You know why? Because I was one of those kids. And I've been looking forward to this day my entire life, dirtbag."

"But I didn't do anything!" Jason said, sounding slightly rattled by McGee's sudden change in behaviour.

Oh yeah, I'm getting close now. "I got you for aiding and abetting a kidnapping, interfering in a Federal investigation and selling stolen property. You know what that means?" McGee asked, straightening up. "That means they can try you as an adult, Geck! And when you're in prison, every night when you're crying yourself to sleep, I want you to think of me, tough guy," he said, and then flicked the kid's neck, causing him to flinch.

"We're done here," McGee said and started to gather up the items that were on the table. "See you in court," he told Geckler as he headed towards the door.

It only took a few seconds. "Wait, wait, wait!" He exclaimed as McGee was in the process of opening the door. He paused. "Look, I found it, all right? I can show you where."

McGee felt a tinge of pride before slamming the door shut and facing Jason Geckler once more.

Gibbs stood in the Observation room, watching the tape of McGee's interrogation with Jason Geckler. He had no doubt in his mind, when he first told McGee to take it over, that he would be able to break the kid. And, just as he suspected, McGee succeeded in a way that Tony never would have been able to. He smiled when he saw Geckler flinch when McGee flicked him, and could only assume how it made McGee feel.

He knew McGee had a less than stellar childhood. He never mentioned it to his junior agent, deciding that it would be better to let the kid come to him rather than forcing the issue. But he knew that McGee had his fair share of bullies in his life, and he knew that getting back at one, even if it wasn't his own tormenter, would have given the guy a sense of satisfaction.

Almost automatically, Gibbs' mind was transformed back to when he was a junior agent himself, working under Mike Franks...

Gibbs walked outside, intent on getting himself a fresh cup of coffee as Mike attempted to break their suspect in their latest case. He grabbed a fresh cup of Joe and started the journey back when, out of nowhere, someone slammed into him, sending him, and the sweet, much needed beverage down to the ground.

"Hey!" He said, annoyed. Gibbs picked himself up and turned around, intending on giving whoever ran into him a grilling about not looking where they were running...but the words died in his mouth when he saw a kid, a small kid, sprawled on the ground.

The boy looked up at him, the green eyes bright with embarrassment and shame. "Sorry, Sir," he said, his voice wavering. "I didn't mean to run into you or spill your coffee, I can buy you another one or I can..."

Gibbs shook his head and held out a hand. The kid just looked at it. Gibbs sighed and then dropped his hand. Slowly the kid pulled himself to his feet, but then winced. Gibbs noticed it right away.

"You okay kid?"

"Fine, Sir."

"I can tell when people lie, you know."

The kid just looked at him, and then opened his mouth, as if to say something, but then the sound of running feet could be heard and a group of teenagers - Gibbs guessed them to be about three years older than the kid in front of him - ran up to where they were standing. Gibbs watched as the kid stiffened and looked around wildly, as if trying to figure out a way to escape.

The group of teenagers skidded to a stop and looked between the kid and Gibbs. "Uh...Sir, is he bothering you?" One of them asked.

"No," Gibbs told them. "We were just...talking. He a friend of yours?"

One of them, the tallest one, stepped forward. "Friend, no," he said, staring down at the kid. "We are, however, looking after him. I'm his babysitter, Sir, he just ran off with no warning. I think something spooked him."

Yes, I'm sure something did, Gibbs thought, looking at the kid. He most likely ran because he was scared, yeah, and the tallest probably was his babysitter, but Gibbs was willing to bet that he was the reason the kid took a runner.

"Babysitter, huh? You can't be, what, much older than fifteen."

"I turn sixteen in three months, Sir. I'm a friend of his fathers and if you don't mind, we need to get going. I'll get in big trouble if I don't get the kid home soon."

Gibbs paternal instinct was telling him to not let this green eyed kid go with the teenagers, but what could he do? It wasn't like he could arrest them or anything...

Eventually Gibbs nodded, completely ignoring the fact that he had coffee dripping from his shirt. "Right," he said. He didn't want the kid to go with them. He knew what they were doing to the kid. But he couldn't do anything about it and he knew that. Maybe I can find a way to help, though...

"Come on, Timmy, time go home. Bet your father will be real pleased when he finds out about your disappearing act," the tall one said, grinning at that. Why, Gibbs didn't know, but he could only suspect and guess.

The kid, whose name was apparently 'Timmy,' nodded. "Right. Uh...sorry about your coffee, Sir, it was an accident..."

"All good," Gibbs said, nodding at him. The all started to walk away, but before they could, he called the kid back. "I come out for coffee here every day about this time. If you really feel guilty, I'm not against you shouting me tomorrow."

The kid grinned at that. Gibbs knew his type. Totally willing to do whatever it took to even things out with anyone. "Yes, Sir!" He said, and then hurried off.

Gibbs shook his head to clear his thoughts. That was the first day he saw Tim. It was under the wrong circumstances, though. He headed towards the bullpen and was greeted with a familiar scene: Tony and Ziva standing over Tim's desk while his youngest agent continued to work.

"Come on, McGeek! Tell us how you broke Geckler!" Tony demanded. "I mean, come on, it's not like you're someone who is great in interrogation, so how'd you do it?"

"By using normal interrogation techniques," Tim replied softly, tapping away at his keyboard.

"Come on, McGeek! Tell us!" He whined, clearly not wanting to let it go.

Gibbs stood and headed towards the spot that Tony was standing...then, when the agent least expected it, he administered the famous 'Gibbs-slap.'

"Ouch, Boss! What was that for?!" He asked, spinning around to face Gibbs.

"For not getting back to work," Gibbs told him. Taking that as a cue, both Tony and Ziva scrambled to their desks. McGee didn't say anything. "Hey. Well done with Geckler," Gibbs told him.

McGee looked up at Gibbs, clearly surprised at the affirmation, but in typical McGee style, he didn't say anything. He just nodded, smiled slightly, and then got back to work. Gibbs moved to his desk and sat down, still observing his youngest agent.

Gibbs walked outside the next day at the exact same time and headed over to his favourite coffee cart. There, sitting on the grass and looking mighty nervous, was the green-eyed kid known as Timmy. Gibbs stood as the he stood and headed over to Gibbs.

"Good afternoon," Gibbs said as the kid fell into step with him. "I 'm glad to see you made it back here."

"I spilled your coffee. It's only right that I make it up to you."

Gibbs looked down at the kid. How would he know what was right or not? "You're only a boy; it's not your duty to owe anything to anyone."

"That's not what my dad says," he said stubbornly.

Gibbs snorted. His attitude actually reminded him a little of Kelly. "Look, I don't want you to buy me anything, kid."

"Then why did you tell me to meet you here?"

"I didn't," Gibbs said, looking at him. "Did you hear me say that yesterday? I told you I take my break here at the same time; I didn't tell you I expected it."

Timmy looked up at him, confusion clear in his large green eyes. "What do you want from me, Sir?" He asked, sounding a little afraid. Gibbs led him over to some tables and chairs.

"First of all, call me Gibbs. Not Sir," Gibbs told him as they sat down. He detested being called 'Sir.' "Second of all...nothing. I want nothing from you, except to talk."


"Those boys yesterday. That true, what they said? Was he your babysitter? Were they friends of your fathers?"

Timmy shifted around a bit. "I dunno if..."

"Nothing you say to me will get back to them," Gibbs said. "I promise."

"Why do you wanna know?"

"I want to make sure you're okay," Gibbs told him. Timmy looked quite confused at that. "I'm no idiot, kid. You winced when you got up yesterday, so you were injured. A fall like that wouldn't make you wince. They're bullies."

Timmy looked like he'd seen a ghost. "N-no, they're not…I'm...n-not b-b-bullied," he stammered. "I-I-I'm not."

Gibbs sighed. "Kid," he started, "you don't need to lie to me. I know confidentiality, kid. You know what NIS is?"

He nodded. "Naval Investigative Service," he said almost immediately. Gibbs nodded. Clearly the kid knew his stuff. "Are you an agent?"

"I am," Gibbs said, unclipping his badge and showing it to the kid. He reached out and touched it, almost like it was something that would break.

"Wow..." he said breathlessly. "I've never seen a real badge up so close before, only on television shows...you must be real smart, Sir, to be able to catch the bad guys."

Gibbs smiled. "Don't call me Sir," he told the kid again.

"Sorry, Si...uh...Gibbs," Timmy said. "I'd like to join NIS one day. My dad, he's in the Navy, but I can't be on a boat for long because I get seasick...at least being a Navy cop I can still be a part of it, you know?"

Gibbs nodded. "I know. But kid, don't do something because you feel you owe your father; you need to do what you want to do. Remember that."

"Tim. Not kid."

Gibbs nodded again. "Noted. Now are you going to answer my question? It won't go past us, I promise."

Tim shifted around for a bit, and for a second Gibbs thought he wasn't going to answer. "He's not my babysitter," Tim said eventually. "But he is the son of my fathers' friends. We're in the same grade."

Gibbs raised an eyebrow. That seemed unlikely. "You don't look their age."

"He was kept back," Tim told him.

"You still don't look fourteen going on fifteen, Tim."

Tim shifted once more. The kid was clearly quite nervous talking to Gibbs. "I'm not," he said softly. "I skipped a few grades."

"How old are you?"

"Twelve," he said softly. Gibbs just nodded; he wasn't surprised at the kid's age...but the fact that he had skipped a few grades...that was surprising.

Gibbs leant forward. "That why they bully you? Because you're smarter than them?"


"Got anyone who looks out for you?"

Tim shifted around some more. "No."

"Maybe we should change that."

Tim looked up at him and smiled. "Yeah," he said softly. "That'd be cool."

That was the first real smile he got out of the shy kid. Gibbs would never forget that. The first time he saw McGee that first case, he knew exactly who he was. It had been hard to say the least to differentiate between the kid he knew and the agent in front of him, but he got there in the end. Their past history played no part in his recruitment of McGee and he had been sure to keep the kid at arm's length so there wouldn't be any conflict of interest.

Perhaps he'd done too good of a job, though...McGee never came to his house, not like Tony and Ziva, and Kate when she was alive, did. They actually used to have quite a good relationship when McGee was a painfully shy twelve-year-old and if Gibbs was being honest, he missed that on some level.

"Sorry I'm late," Tim said between puffs. Gibbs just stood, waiting for him to catch his breath. "The entire class was kept back because some of them were mucking up. So we all had to pay."

"That's the way it usually goes, right?" Gibbs asked. Tim nodded. "You know you didn't need to run to meet me."

"Oh I know," Tim said. He was a lot more confident now. It had been five months since they first met, and Gibbs saw Tim like a son. He cared about the kid, helped him through issues and taught the kid self-defence so he'd be able to fight off the kids who tormented him. "But I had something to tell you."

"Oh, yeah?"

Tim nodded. "Yeah. Mike and his gang, they came up to me today and demanded my homework coz they didn't do theirs...when I said no they got angry and Gibbs, I didn't run away, I stood my ground and defended myself and they backed off!"

Gibbs grinned. "That's great, Tim! I'm proud of you."

"Thanks, Gibbs. It felt really good. Do you think i can do that with all of them?"

He nodded. "Yeah, Tim, I do. I think that if you set your mind to it you can win against anyone."

"Couldn't have done it without you though, Gibbs. Thank you," he said, and then did something he never did before: he hugged Gibbs. Slightly taken back, Gibbs froze for a second...and then hugged the kid back.

"I'll pay you back someday, Gibbs."

"You don't owe me anything, Tim. I'm happy to help."

Gibbs smiled slightly at the memory. Perhaps Tim didn't owe him anything, but he'd payed Gibbs back tenfold by using his expertise to help solve cases. He looked over at Tony and Ziva, who were both shooting each other looks.

"Go on," Gibbs said. They looked up at him, surprised. "Go home, get some rest. You've earned it."

"All right Boss!" Tony said, jumping to his feet. "Who wants to get a drink? Ziva? McGoo? Boss?"

"I'm right, Tony," Gibbs said.

"Well, I would gladly take you up on that," Ziva said. "So long as you are buying, yes? I am paged."

Gibbs saw Tony roll his eyes. "Parched, Ziva, you're parched, not paged. McGoo, you coming?"

McGee looked up and nodded. "Yeah, Tony, I'll come...I'll meet you guys there, okay? The usual place?"

Tony nodded and he and Ziva headed towards the elevator, bickering the entire way. Gibbs stood and headed over to McGee's desk.

"McGee," he said softly. Tim looked up at him, an unreadable expression on his face. He'd changed a lot since he was twelve...

Gibbs could see something was bothering the kid. He wasn't as talkative, and he looked very worried about something. Gibbs didn't want to pressure him, but as the afternoon wore on, he seemed to get more and more nervous.

"Okay, Tim, spit it out."

"Spit what out?" He asked softly.

"Whatever's on your mind. And don't say you're fine because I can read you like a book," Gibbs told him. Tim sighed and looked down. Oh yeah, something was bothering the kid, that was for sure. "Come on, tell me. Maybe I can help."

"You can't," Tim said softly. "My uncle is visiting. I...I don't like it when he visits."

Gibbs looked at Tim, searching his downcast face for emotions. The clear one was fear...he was afraid of his uncle. "Why don't you like it when he visits?" Gibbs asked gently. Tim shrugged. "Come on. Tell me."

"It's nothing...he just drinks a lot...him and my father, they get drunk and sometimes..." Tim shrugged again, unable to finish the sentence. "It's okay, Gibbs. I'll be okay."

"You're afraid."

Tim shrugged.

"Verbal answers are preferable."

Tim sighed. "Yeah."

"In that case, then, you're staying the night with me," Gibbs said, almost smiling when Tim looked up, surprised. "What? You're afraid and I have a solution. Unless you don't want to, of course..."

"I...I do, Gibbs, but...I don't want to put you out," Tim told him. Gibbs shook his head.

"You won't be. I'll call your dad, cover for you. How's that sound?"

He smiled, looking relieved. "That sounds great, Gibbs. Really great."

"Boss?" Tim asked, his voice pulling Gibbs out of the memory. "You okay?"

"Hm? Yeah, McGee, I'm fine," he said, remembering the amount of times he asked Tim that very same question as a kid. Until he started to teach Tim self-defence, he would turn up daily with new wounds. Hell, even after it ended the scars plagued his body; Gibbs had seem some very faint lines on the occasions the kid had to take off a shirt due to blood on it and whatnot. "Just wanted to remind you that my door is always unlocked, McGee."

"I know, Boss."

"Just making sure, McGee," Gibbs said before leaving.

Tim never quite knew what to make of Gibbs. The man never once mentioned the bond they shared when Tim was a kid. He didn't know if that was a good or a bad thing. Though if he was being honest, he missed the man he looked up to like a brother, or a father...

That night, at the bar, when Tony was complaining about his own father, Tim made up his mind. He got up, paid for his drinks, and headed towards his car. He knew he'd be under the legal limit, so it was safe. Before he could second guess himself, he was sitting in his car outside Gibbs' house.

He walked up the front walk and stopped. Was he sure he wanted to do this? Tony did it all the time, and he knew Ziva did as well, but Tim wasn't them.

Tim didn't get to make up his own mind, though, because suddenly, the door swung open to reveal Gibbs standing there, in an old NIS sweatshirt and sweatpants. In his hand was a steaming mug of coffee.

"Come in," Gibbs said, standing aside. Tim looked at him for a moment before entering the house. "Had a feeling you'd show up tonight, Tim."

"You did?"

"Yep. Interesting day."

Tim nodded in agreement. "Yeah...interesting," he said, following Gibbs down the stairs to the basement. "I...didn't know if I should come or not."

Gibbs said nothing, just sat there as if he expected Tim to continue talking. That was very typical of Gibbs; didn't speak unless he absolutely had to. "I didn't think I'd be welcome here."

"I said my door was always open, didn't I?"


"Then why the hell wouldn't you be welcome?"

Tim just shrugged.

"Oh for God's sake, Tim, didn't we talk about this years ago?"

Tim smiled slightly. He remembered that conversation. Sometimes he had to remind himself of those days, just to make him smile when things seemed bad. "Boss…I'm different," he said softly. "Tony and Ziva...they're not like me. I'm just the geek, they're the real cops. They're far more deserving than me to be here…I know they come to let off steam every now and then…but I'm not a real part of your team so I don't feel like I should even be here."

Gibbs stared at him for the longest moment before sighing. He grabbing a stool and pushed it to Tim before sitting down on another one. "We gotta talk."

"You're kicking me off the team, aren't you?" Tim asked. Gibbs stared at him again, longer than the last time. He blushed. "Um...are you gonna head slap me now?"

"If you keep talking like this then yeah, I'm gonna head slap you!" Gibbs exclaimed. "Listen, Tim, I know I haven't treated you like I have Tony, Ziva, Abby and Kate...I had to hold you at harms length so I wouldn't get Agent McGee confused with Tim."

"But I'm the same person."

"No. Tim is the kid I knew, McGee is the man I know. There's a difference and yet, at the same time, there's not." Now it was McGee's turn to stare. He had no idea what that meant. Gibbs sighed. "Look, I'm not good at this emotional crap. Just know that you're a valued member of my team. You all are. Never, ever, think that you're not."

"But –"

"No buts, McGee," Gibbs told him sternly. "Valued member. Don't forget it."

McGee sighed. He knew he should believe Gibbs...but he found it hard to do so. "I'm sorry, Gibbs, I never should have come tonight, I should just go..."

"Oh no you don't," Gibbs said, jumping off his stool and grabbing Tim's arm before he had a chance to take even one step. "You came here for a reason. Talk to me, Tim. Pretend I'm not your boss for a second and talk to me."

Tim sighed and sat back down. "Boss...Gibbs...why'd you choose me?"

"Excuse me?"

"For your team. Was it just because of the computer stuff? Was it because you knew me? I'm nothing special, Gibbs, and it's killing me to wonder why you chose me over so many other better choices – ow!" He said, rubbing the back of his head that Gibbs just struck.

"No talking like that," Gibbs told him. "I chose you because to me, you are the best. You're brilliant at computers, Tim, you're smart, you can be something really great. I told you that all those years ago. You got the motivation to do whatever the hell you want. You're what we needed on our team. You know how technology moves. You gotta keep up. Me, I'm not clever enough to work that stuff out. We need what you do; you're vital to our team."

Tim smiled softly. "You're smart enough, Boss...or you would be, if you stopped shooting your computer..."

Gibbs laughed at that. "But then I need to be nice to it and I don't do that," he said, smiling at Tim. "Did I choose you because just because I knew you all those years ago? No. Did it affect my decision making process? Yes. It did. But only because I knew what you could do. You picked up self-defence fast enough, Tim, you were twelve and could fight off kids far bigger than you. Not all could do that. I knew of your smarts, your ability, the drive you have. When I observed you in the field and you on the computer, it just came together and I knew that our team needed you. Tony is street smart. Kate was an excellent profiler. You were the brains. You balanced us out. You understand?"

Tim nodded slowly. "Yeah...I think so. So I'm not expendable?"

"God no. Who the hell put such an idea in your head?"

Tim just shrugged at that. He didn't really want to tell Gibbs his life story. Yes he knew Gibbs from when he was a kid but a lot had changed since then. "No one," he mumbled.

"Don't lie to me, Tim. Tell me."

"You're not gonna let it go, are you?"


Tim sighed. He expected that. "My...my dad...we moved when I was thirteen; you knew that, right?" He asked. Gibbs nodded. Moving just about broke Tim's heart; he desperately missed the man he'd loved like a much older brother or second father. "My parents...they went through some issues and...well my uncle came to live with us for a little while...Dad was okay on his own, just tough, but when my uncle was around..."

"This the same uncle you were afraid of?"

Tim nodded. "Yeah. Same one. He...didn't like how I was so..." Tim shrugged. "It's not important, Boss. It's over. I survived it."

Gibbs narrowed his eyes, clearly reading between the lines. "He abused you."

Tim sighed; he knew he'd figure it out eventually. "No…"

"What would you call it, then?" Gibbs asked. Tim shrugged. "What'd he do to you? Belittled you? Called you names like Tony does? Did he ever hit you? Make you feel stupid, not wanted?"

Tim shrugged again. How could he answer all that? What happened between him and his uncle had been locked away for a long time; he didn't really want to delve into it, not that night. "Um…well…"

That was clearly enough for Gibbs to know the truth. "Goddamn it," he growled. "No wonder you're so diffgerent now to how you used to be. Son of a bitch. Why didn't you ever mention it, Tim? Why didn't you ever come to me?"

"Not like you could help."

Gibbs looked angry at that. Tim gulped; he hated angering Gibbs. "When, back then or now? Tim, you knew my address, you coulda sent a letter and I would have been there in an instant. You were like a kid to me, Tim, I cared for you. I still do."

That could never happen; Tim had been forbidden from sending letters. His father intercepted one once and…Tim would never make that mistake again. "Doesn't matter, Boss, it's over and I survived it. That's the main thing. And by the time I joined your team…well its not like I could come to work one day and tell you everything, could I?"

"I suppose not," Gibbs said, looking a little amused at something. "Imagine Tony's reaction if you'd done that, though."

Tim snorted. "I think he'd try and have me committed!" He said with a laugh. "Pretty sure he already thinks I'm crazy."

"Who, DiNozzo? Nah, he's just not smart enough to understand what it is you do," Gibbs told Tim. Did he just say that Tony is stupid? "Just like you don't understand some of the things he does, or the way Ziva knows how to kill someone with a paperclip…a balance, see?"

Tim nodded. "Yeah, I get it," he said. "You know, Gibbs, when it was happening...all I remembered was that someone, somewhere out there, there was a guy who believed I could do anything. That guy was you, Boss. I woulda died, killed myself, if it weren't for you. Even though you weren't there...you helped."

Gibbs didn't respond to that. He sat there, just looking at Tim, and he began to wonder if he should have kept his mouth shut. But then Gibbs stood up and hugged him. "Told you long ago that I cared. Never would have given up on you, Tim. Never will. Remember that."

Tim smiled as a feeling of warmth and comfort washed over him. "I will, Boss. Was afraid you didn't wanna know me anymore, when you never mentioned...you know..."

"You thought I forgot about you? Nah, Tim, I just didn't want to force it. For all I knew, it would make you uncomfortable, having your boss talk to you about all the stuff that happened over ten years ago. Nor did I want it to become a conflict in the workplace."

"It won't now, will it?"

"Nope. Told you that you belong to me and nothing is ever gonna change that."

Tim was silent. "Thanks, Gibbs."

"For what?"

"Being there back then."

"Still here now, Tim. You have a problem, you come see me, got it? Don't care what it is, don't care how small you think it is. I'm here for you. Always have been, always will be. I'll always look out for you. Don't forget that."

"I won't, Gibbs."