Disclaimer: I do not own NCIS.

Disclaimer: I don't own NCIS or anything affiliated with it.

My first NCIS fic, folks. Hope you like it!

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Chapter One

Tim stepped around the corner of the service station, trying to hold the key to the public bathroom as gingerly as possible. The place had been filthy, and the attendant hadn't looked any better. No telling what kind of nastiness covered that sticky key.

He stopped in his tracks at seeing a figure near his parked car. Damn! Gibbs. He hadn't realized his boss was that close to him, he thought he'd thrown him off his trail miles ago. Tim backpedaled quickly back around the side of the small building, hugging the greasy wall as he peered around it cautiosly.

Gibbs was looking around slowly. Tim held his breath. He knew the observing, intelligent and analytical mind that Gibbs posessed. He was actually quite suprised that he'd made it this far without having been caught yet, especially with Gibbs on his trail so closely most of the time. The Boss had started out after him sooner than Tim had expected, therefore shortening his headstart.

Tim glanced at the surface of the parking lot and breathed a small sigh of relief. At least it was asphalt rather than dirt or gravel. He'd have left no footprints leading from his car to give away his current position. But he knew better than to let his guard down. Gibbs could find a trail anywhere if he had enough time. The question was, would he take the time now, or would he use a different strategy?

Damn it, Tim swore again. What was he going to do now? The car was obviously a loss. Gibbs had it now, there was no getting it back. He might think Tim would come back for it, might try to use it as a lure or a trap. He'd definately search it for clues, maybe even go so far as to have it hauled back to NCIS. But either way, Tim knew he wouldn't be getting it back. To try would mean certain capture, but so would hanging around too long. Gibbs was clever, and sneaky. And besides that, he knew what he was doing and he knew Tim almost better than Tim knew himself. Tim would rather have a squad of FBI agents on his tail rather than that single man. He knew he couldn't evade him long.

But he couldn't afford to be caught.

Another car. He'd have to find another car. He was losing time, every delay put him further behind, but first he'd have to get past Gibbs. First that, then a car.

He balked a little at the idea of auto theft, but he tried to push it to the back of his mind. He didn't have much of a choice. He couldn't use his credit cards or debit card and he'd run out of cash two days ago. Besides, he'd done a few things on this little jaunt that he'd never thought he'd ever do, and he suspected worse was to come.

But above all, he had to keep up, and he had to avoid confrontation with Gibbs. That was paramount. Gibbs was the one man that could put a halt to his mission.

The car contained the few articles of clothing he'd brought, the last small amount of food he'd had and, most importantly, his laptop. He could do without the other stuff if necessary, but he had to have that laptop. And his phone. He'd ditched his own cell phone so NCIS couldn't track him, but he'd purchased one of those cheap pre-paid phones. Thankfully, that was in his pocket, and he reassured himself by patting the bulge the phone made on his hip, along with the small, ever-important scraps of paper.

He quickly slid back against the wall a little as Gibbs' gaze swept across his position, then back, seeming to settle on him for a moment. Tim breathed a sigh of relief when Gibbs' eyes moved again, no indication in his expression that he suspected Tim was there.

Tim waited, impatient and anxious. After a little more looking around, Gibbs left the car and went into the little store. Tim knew that was probably the only chance he was going to get.

Tim followed the wall back around the backside of the building, passing the men's room, around the trash-strewn back of the building, then to the corner opposite of where he'd been moments before. This put him closer to the car and allowed him to get to the car on the far side, without crossing the main parking area or in front of the door and windows of the small store.

Now to get to the car. Would Gibbs be watching the car or questioning the clerk? Probably both. He knew Gibbs knew he was here, and the clerk would only confirm it. It was only a matter of time before Gibbs came back out and searched for him. Maybe that would be his chance. The clerk would tell Gibbs that Tim had taken the key to the bathroom, which was now on the opposite side of the building. Most likely, Gibbs would head that way first. Maybe. Or maybe not. You never could tell with Gibbs. Sometimes it was like he had supernatural powers or something. Maybe he'd step out of the building and his Gibbs-sense- or Gibbsness, as Abby would say- would pinpoint him directly to Tim.

He'd probably be coming out anytime, unless he was watching the car. Tim knew he had to take his chance now. Before he lost his nerve.

Tim crouched down, and sprinted to the car next to his, which Tim only just now realized was Gibbs'. He was about to sprint to his own car, but then he had an idea. He almost chickened out- it would be taking his own life in his hands. But he did it. Tim pulled his knife from his ankle- one of Gibbs' own rules- and firmly embedded the knife in Gibbs' front driver side tire. Then he scooted down and did the same to the back tire, then replaced his knife. Tim winced at the damage he'd inflicted. Gibbs was going to kill him.

Back at the front end of the car, McGee prepared to sprint around and to his own, then froze and backpedaled quickly as the bell on the door jingled and Gibbs stepped out. Tim landed on his butt in the dirt, jarring his teeth, then made a quick, low run around the wall of the store again. He pressed himself close to the corner, hoping he hadn't been loud enough to alert Gibbs' excellent hearing.

On his knees, Tim peered around the rough brickwork of the wall. Gibbs headed toward the opposite side, where the bathrooms were. But after a couple steps he stopped and turned, looking at the car.

Damn, damn damn! Tim cursed again. Gibbs sensed something, probably that Tim was watching.

Tim looked at his watch. He was running out of time. He had no choice, he was getting further behind than he could afford. He had to leave the laptop. He couldn't confront Gibbs. His boss wouldn't let him continue this, though he had no choice, and Tim certainly had no chance of overpowering the former Marine. It was a struggle just to keep ahead of him, and combined with the occassional presence of the mysterious Mutt and Jeff to deal with, Tim had about as much as his nerves could take.

Coming to his decision, Tim scooted back along the wall, again toward the back of the building. He really felt the loss of his laptop, but he resigned himself to relying on just the clues she managed to leave every so often. If he could decode thousands of computer code under pressure, he could manage this. He'd have to; the consequences were more than his mind could grasp.

Tim got to the back of the building to a small cracked, asphalt lot behind the store. There was a rust covered, used-to-be-blue, two-door sedan from the ' 80 's era back there. He wondered if it would run. He guiltily hoped it belonged to the clerk and wasn't some cast-off that hadn't been worth the effort to tow away.

Tim opened the door as quietly as the squeaky hinges allowed, crouched down just in case Gibbs showed up back there, and reached under the steering column. These old cars were no problem to hotwire. Any average Joe could probably learn how on the internet.

Tim suppressed a shout of victory as the old car roared to life, a suprisingly strong and mellow sounding engine under the decrepit shell. It was obvious where the owner of the vehicle concentrated his attentions. This was the kind of engine that deserved to be paired with a classic mustang or corvette. Tim vaguely thought that this would be a good story for DiNizzo, the lover of sweet cars, but the thought was fleeting and more out of habit than anything. He had other things more immediate on his mind.

Knowing that the sound of the engine would carry, Tim jumped into the car quickly and slammed the door, no longer worried about stealth. Just as he put the car into reverse, Gibbs came charging around the corner.

"McGee! Stop, McGee!" Gibbs voice was harsh, full of command, the tone that Tim was used to obeying.

Tim froze for a moment and Gibbs slid to a stop, just feet away. They locked eyes. Tim wanted to. He wanted to kill the engine and tell Gibbs everything and let him take care of it all. But he couldn't. There were lives at stake. Even Gibbs', though Gibbs didn't know it.

Tim gave a tiny, regretful shake of his head, and Gibbs eyes narrowed. Tim revved the engine and spun out of the parking lot backwards, then slammed on the brake when he hit the street on the back side of the store.

He looked at Gibbs once more. He thought he read his name on his boss' lips, then he shifted to drive and punched it, spinning the tires of the chariot in disguise, leaving rubber behind as he roared around the store and onto the two-lane highway. In his rear-view mirror, the young clerk was standing in the parking lot, staring after his now stolen car. Gibbs was there as well, hands on hips and watching Tim's escape. Tim knew he wouldn't evade Gibbs forever, and he had a feeling that when Gibbs did finally catch up to him, Tim would have to pay the piper for this little stunt. But that was a worry for later. Right now, he had a deadline to meet.

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Standing in the weed-eaten asphalt parking lot of the roadside gas station, Gibbs stared after McGee as he roared down the narrow highway in his stolen car.

He'd been so close this time, and he cursed himself for letting his wayward agent slip through his fingers. It might take time to catch up to him again, but he'd find him. He sprinted the short distance to his car, but stopped short at the slit tires.

He kicked the front tire in frustration, cursing. Then he heaved a sigh and shook his head.

"Good job, Tim," Gibbs muttered, pride in McGee hidden under the anger. "Smart thinking."

He stepped forward, staring after the long disappeared car driven by his man. He sighed again.

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