Heroes And Demons by ceilidh

A/N: Hello again, and welcome to my latest story!

Now, as my regular reviewers know, I love the sadly undershown relationship between McGee and Gibbs. There's so much potential there, but there are so few scenes between them.

In my previous stories, it's been written - I hope! - with that unique, NCIS humour. But ever since 'Bloodbath' from season three, I've always felt that, when Gibbs forced Tim to kneel at his desk, our poor probie was treated really unfairly. After all, it was Abby who insisted she wanted her toothbrush, but it was Tim who got punished for what happened afterwards.

We know that Tim was bullied, too, although that's only been mentioned, briefly, in Deception. We've never been told in the series since then how severe that bullying was. So with some help from my angst-loving plot bunny, that scene in Bloodbath, and my sick imagination, I've written this rather more serious 'post episode' story.

It's set a couple of days after the events in Bloodbath, and - well, let's just say that Tim McGee isn't his usual. cheerfully happy self.

Spoilers for Bloodbath, of course, but references to Probie and Witness, too - well, I did say this would be angsty!

As always, I hope you enjoy!

Heroes And Demons

Chapter One - Too Many Questions, Too Few Answers

How could something so small, so harmlessly familiar, have caused him so much trouble? So much aggravation? Frustration? So much physical, and mental, pain?

Still staring at the tiny, innocuous object that had caused him so much grief, Tim McGee then sighed – shoving Abby's toothbrush back into his pocket, so that it was safely out of his sight.

Out of sight was one thing. Pushing the turmoil it had caused him out of his mind was quite another.

Even now, two hours after Gibbs had so kindly 'allowed' him to go home, he was still sitting here – occupying this solitary bench he'd found on the river-front where he could sit, in undisturbed peace, and just quietly think.

He'd been doing that a lot recently. In fact, Tim now tiredly noted, he'd been doing it a hell of a lot. Ever since John Benedict had died in that alleyway, possibly because of his actions, but so frustratingly, possibly not – yes, as its aftermath continued to haunt him, he'd spent more and more time out here, just… thinking.

Ever the pedantic stickler for accuracy, Tim sighed again, a humourless smile tugging at his mouth. No, he wasn't just thinking, he was asking himself questions. The same questions, over and over.

Had he shot John Benedict, and killed him? Was he equally to blame for Erin Kendall's death? If he was such a genius, with two damn degrees to prove it, why the hell did he keep screwing up?

And, of course, this current, bitter question that he'd been silently asking himself for the last two days.

In his frequently endangered lifetime, would Gibbs ever respect him, or just simply trust him?

After today, and the two days that had passed so tensely before it – hell, he was more likely to see that proverbial UFO landing on the White House lawn.

And I make more than enough of my own screw-ups, he sourly reflected, without taking the blame for other people's.

That had hurt him the most. That, and his complete inability to defend himself against his furious boss. Even if he'd been able to make his mouth coherently work through that damn unshakeable stammer – no, Tim sadly realized, Gibbs would still have inflicted the punishment which had hurt him so deeply.

He'd done nothing to deserve it, either. The more he thought about it, the more angry and bitter he felt.

However roughly he'd dragged her out of her lab - damn it, he could have died that day. He'd risked his life, to save hers.

And his reward for saving her? A pat on the back from a proudly grateful boss? A plain, simple 'thank-you, Timmy' from the woman he loved?

No, despite protests that had turned to whispered pleading, he'd been forced to kneel at his desk instead. For several, increasingly painful hours, he'd taken the blame for something that hadn't been his fault.

Yeah, some gratitude.

It hadn't been the humiliation he'd felt, though, or his discomfort, that had hurt him so deeply. No, it was this simple knowledge that he'd done nothing wrong, yet Gibbs had still punished him.

If not for that stupid damn toothbrush, Mikel would never tricked his way into his apartment. His beloved Remington would still be in one piece. And Gibbs wouldn't have punished him, so harshly, for Abby's mistake.

But then, he'd always take Abby's side. He would always take her word, miles above everyone' else's. Whatever she did, however many mistakes she made… yeah, his favourite child could do no wrong.

And knowing how much he loved her, knowing how much he wished that they were still together – no, that was an especially painful, bitter complication that Tim McGee just couldn't face right now.

Besides, something far deeper than Abby's rejection of their relationship was hurting him more.

Hunkering deeper into his coat, for both warmth and comfort, he then sighed again, swallowing hard – trying, yet again, to fight back memories that had turned three days of silent misery into an increasingly crippling hell.

He needed sleep, badly. But for the third night running, Tim knew the memories which kept waking him from it, shaking and soaked with sweat, wouldn't let him find it. So instead, wrapping his arms more protectively around him, he stared out across the water. For once, its gently hypnotic movement just wasn't calming his mind.

If only he knew. If this brash, brilliant man that he respected so much just knew what he'd done. But he never would. Gibbs would never know, could never know, the consequences of his actions

With the only control he still had over those consequences, Tim McGee now made himself that promise. He'd borne his childhood shame in secret. He'd lived with it, just as silently, for the last twenty years. So yes, he'd continue to live with that shame on his own, just as he'd done throughout his life.

He'd survived far worse than today's humiliation, everything else he had to endure in this job, but – no, as Tim stared miserably out over DC's nightlit skyline, a familiar question returned to haunt him.

'I could have worked at the Pentagon, or even MIT, and - damn it, what the hell am I doing here?'

Perhaps thankfully unseen, someone else was asking himself a worriedly similar thing.

He'd sent the boy home hours ago, and… Jethro Gibbs frowned now, as he continued to watch him.

How did Tim McGee know about his secret sanctuary? More to the point, why was he there?