Saints And Sinners by ceilidh

A/N: Well, folks, here we are, at the end of another story. Thanks to all of you who have left reviews and encouraged me - as always, that has been very much appreciated!

As I've written this story, I've realized that it's been as much a personal journey for Gibbs as it's been for Tim. So with some humour along the way, (sorry, Tony, but the way you teased Tim in Deception was really mean!) I'm going to let my three favourite boys enjoy a bit more bonding, while also letting Gibbs to find his place.

As always, I hope you enjoy, and I hope to see you here again soon. All my best :o)


Saints And Sinners

Chapter Ten – We Are Family

Beside him, Tim McGee was still grinning. Next to his junior agent, his senior agent was still sulking. And with the patient smile that only a father could cultivate, Gibbs was still sipping his coffee.

Then again, Joey's Java was the best in the Yard – especially when someone else bought it for you. And just to complete his penance, DiNozzo had kindly 'agreed' to buy in their lunches, and a boxful of doughnuts too. Needless to say, Tim McGee had gleefully chosen the most expensive box in the diner.

Of course, to make that punishment work, you really had to stick to your disciplinary guns, and – well, as he studied two gloriously jammy-sugared faces, Gibbs was finding that increasingly hard. Two grown men – yeah, he'd reluctantly included DiNozzo – should not need toddler-bibs to eat.

Thank God he'd chosen the ultra deluxe coffee size. It gave him something to hide his grin behind.

Of course, Gibbs also knew there was a more serious reason for this rare, and welcome, boys lunch out. It was giving Tim McGee a chance to talk through one of the hardest, most challenging days of his life.

So when that jam-rimmed smile turned into a pensive frown, Gibbs already knew what was coming – Tony's glance of big-brother concern met with an equally discreet 'just let him talk' wink. As experience had taught them both, so many times, a McGee in deep thought could not be rushed.

Once he got started, though – yeah, Gibbs then fondly noted, it was like opening up the Hoover Dam. Slowly at first, then with a rush of speed, those thoughts, memories and reflections came tumbling out.

"You know the scariest thing, boss? When we were kids, we had so much in common between us. We lived in the same neighbourhood, both our dads were in the Navy, so we had the same background.

When he wasn't kicking the hell out of people, he was good at sports. I mean, he was really good. There was even talk of him taking a senior high scholarship, his coach was always pushing him for that.

And I know I sucked at sports, but… well, in so many ways, boss, we both had our own talents, and… well, that's something I still can't get my head around, it's something I've never been able to understand. At one point we were so alike, and… well, somehow our lives took us in totally opposite directions-"

"And now, even more because of today, you're wondering why?" Gibbs cut in with a gentle smile – knowing from a familiar, sweetly shy grin that the best double-degree mind in DC needed a little help.

Yes, Tim McGee was one of the best agents he'd ever taught, but he'd also led a pretty sheltered life. Maybe it was a throwback to all that study and learning, all those years of top-flight academia, but – no, every so often, Timothy McGee, MA, BSc and now federal agent, needed a little fatherly guidance.

In the absence of the real thing, Jethro Gibbs would always make an equally respected substitute. And as Gibbs now proudly noted, his other surrogate son took privately grateful advantage of it too – two pairs of bright attentive eyes reminding him that, in all but name… yes, these boys were brothers.

They were also waiting for his latest words of wisdom. Through a helpless smile, they finally came.

"Well, Tim, I'd imagine it comes from an advantage you've always had, but one that Jay Clark lost. You've always had the love and support of your family, and parents who taught you right from wrong. And I'm sure they were strict with you when they had to be, but I'm also sure they never hurt you-"

Seeing that Tim was already nodding, guessing himself where this was heading, Gibbs then paused – nodding too, in proud approval, as Tim quietly completed his point without any further help.

"Yeah, boss, I – I see what you're getting at. My parents supported me without ever hurting me, and… well, studies have shown that a child in an abusive family usually grows up with the same traits-"

Told by another fatherly wise smile that he'd answered his own question, Tim shyly returned it – his next words reflecting not just his understanding of its significance but also his personal gratitude.

"Yeah, I was lucky, boss. My life's been tough at times, but for the most part, it's gone right for me. Now I'm doing what I've always wanted to do, and… yeah, I've been lucky, boss. So very, very lucky-"

Such deep thought wasn't usually Gibbs' thing, of course, but – hell, maybe it was the coffee. either that, or one almighty sugar-rush.

"Luck, life, and everything in between is what you make it, Tim. Never forget that-" he said at last, still smiling – whatever he'd planned to say next interrupted by the familiar, buzzing ring of his cellphone.

Both Tim and Tony knew there was only one kind of call that could reach him anytime, anywhere – his change of expression confirming their suspicions long before Gibbs closed the connection.

In fact, to Gibbs' amusement, they were already stacking up their trays and rising from their seats – the few untouched doughnuts that were left quickly placed, with expert teamwork, into their box.

As they left Joey's Diner and headed back through the Yard, Gibbs felt a rush of silent, personal pride. Yes, there was another murder for them to solve. Another killer had dared to strike, in their town.

By the time they reached the bullpen, Gibbs had allowed that pride out into an open smile. Yes, he missed Mexico sometimes – but right now? No, he didn't miss Mexico at all.

This was his calling. This was where he was needed. This was where he belonged. This was his family - and that family meant he was home.