A/N: Even though I posted the other two first, this is actually the first NCIS fan fiction I ever wrote. It's based on a dream I had, and I'll welcome any critique of it because it is a LONG story and I'm not sure I got all the characterizations and techno-babble right (I'm not computer geek).

Disclaimer: I don't own the characters or any part of the NCIS franchise. I just love it to pieces.


Chapter 1

"That was a nice performance back there, Probie," Tony snarked as the team walked back in the office.

Covered head to toe in mud, Tim said nothing.

"Yeah, McGee, I never saw someone go down so thoroughly before. I'm impressed," Ziva added.

"Thanks, guys. Thanks a lot," Tim muttered, his face burning.

"McGee!" Gibbs shouted.

"Yes, boss!" McGee came to immediate attention.

"Have you finished with the Dobson files yet?"

"Not yet, boss. I-I was out with–" He didn't get a chance to finish before Tony jumped in.

"McGee was mudsliding in pursuit of a suspect, boss."

Gibbs ignored Tony. "I need those files, McGee."

"Well, the cipher hasn't been responding to any of the–""

Gibbs interrupted him. "I don't want explanations, McGee! Get on it."

"I-I just need to change..." Tim trailed off in the face of Gibbs' glare. "Or I could just get started right now." Dropping his backpack, he sat down at his computer and got started with the encrypted files from the case. A Navy lieutenant had been murdered and the case had taken an unexpected turn when he had been connected to an earlier embezzling case. Tim's task was to decrypt the files on the lieutenant's computer, but so far he'd been having little success and Gibbs was getting more and more impatient as time went on.

Tony and Ziva were still snickering over his attempt to take down a fleeing suspect wanted in a string of robberies on a naval base. The hillside had been slippery from the recent rains and after tripping over a rock Tim had gone flying down the muddy slope. He was bruised and muddy and highly embarrassed by the jibes from his colleagues. Ziva had been the one to arrest the suspect. Neither she nor Tony had the slightest bit of mud on their clothes. Now, they started typing up their reports. As time went on, Tim kept working on the files, still without success, and Tony and Ziva got ready to leave.

"Coming, Pigpen?" Tony asked.


"Come on, McGee. The files will still be there tomorrow," Ziva said, teasingly.

"So will Gibbs and he'll kill me if I don't have something to tell him."

"You'd probably get my car all dirty anyway, Probie."

"See ya later, McGee."

Tony stopped and walked back to Tim's desk. "I think I found something of yours, McGee."

"What's that?"

Tony dropped a handful of mud on the desk. "You must have dropped it." Laughing he walked out.

"Thanks, Tony. I really needed that." McGee looked around the rapidly emptying office. He sat back for a moment while his latest attempt ran.

"McGee, you're pretty casual today. Did you decide to try a little mud-wrestling?" Abby stuck her head around the corner.

"Oh, hey Abby."

"Don't look so glum. Everyone has a bad day."

"Tony told you about what happened, I take it?" Tim asked with thinly veiled frustration.

"You know Tony."

"Unfortunately, yes."

"Come on, McGee. He's just teasing."

"Well, I could use a little less teasing."

"You're taking it too seriously, Tim."

"I don't think I am. I try to get along, but every time I make a mistake he rubs it in my face, sometimes for days afterward. I'm getting sick of it."

"Go home and sleep it off."

"Maybe you're right."

"Are you done yet, McGee?" Gibbs asked, appearing out of nowhere as usual.

"Not yet, boss. I can't seem to break through this encryption. Lieutenant Dobson really didn't want anyone getting to his files."

"I don't want to hear that. This case has stalled and I need something."

"I'll keep working, boss," McGee answered, resignedly.

Abby gave him a sympathetic look and left. With a sigh, Tim looked back at his computer as it beeped a negative at him. Gibbs' look was decidedly unsympathetic and McGee didn't dare even consider going home, not even after Gibbs himself had gone.

By midnight, the office had been empty for hours and Tim was increasingly frustrated with every aspect of that day. He was still dirty; the computer had told him yet again that his attempt to decode the files had failed; he was still sitting at his desk, and no one else seemed to care. In a sudden burst of anger, he slammed the keyboard and stood up. Agent Lee had called once to say that she was making no headway in the hard copy she had from the other side of the embezzling case. It seemed to be a lost cause. As he gathered up his stuff, he tripped over his trash can and kicked it. Tim glanced back at his desk as he began to walk out of the office. The chair was caked with mud; the glob of mud Tony had dropped on his desk had dried somewhat and had begun flaking off. The trash was on the floor. Normally, Tim left his space immaculate, but today, he just didn't care. By Monday, the cleaning crew would get to it and while they might grumble at him, it was the first time. He'd come in tomorrow and get to work again.

As he pulled up to his apartment, Tim was a little calmer. He regretted leaving his desk in such a state. Then, when he got to his apartment, such mundane thoughts disappeared. His door was slightly ajar. He pulled his gun and edged inside. Flipping on the light, he spun to the right and left looking for the intruder. His apartment had been completely trashed. Then, he heard something behind him. As he turned, he got a glimpse of a man masked beyond recognition right before he felt a flash of pain on the side of his head. Everything went black.