Small Worlds, Precious Worlds by ceilidh

A/N: Hello again, everyone, and - well, to be honest, I really don't know where this story came from! I think my hayfever meds must have something to do with it, though, because I saw Bikini Wax last night, went to bed, and - well, came downstairs this morning and wrote this!

It's set a couple of weeks after season five's Dog Tags, but you'll also find references to some of my other favourite episodes too - Bikini Wax, of course, and season five's Lost & Found.

All comments will be welcome - and as always, I hope you enjoy!

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Small Worlds, Precious Worlds

For a federal agent, fitness was one of those never-ending necessities that just came with the job. Their state of the art gym made it slightly less of a grinding chore, of course, but – no, not today. On a day of cloudless, blistering sunshine, the best place for a six mile run was definitely outdoors.

And for Jethro Gibbs, the challenging trails in Rock Creek Park was the best training track in DC. From level grassland to its steep rocky outcrops, it gave even the fittest body one hell of a workout – the views around him much easier on his eyes, and his nose, than sweat-soaked, reeking tracksuits.

Aside from its beauty, the best thing about Rock Creek, as far as Gibbs was concerned, was its size. Even on a day like this, when the place was crammed with people, you could still find solitude.

You could run for miles, spend a whole day here, and the chances of meeting anyone you knew –

"Jethro? Jeth-ro!"

– were as astronomically small as hearing one of your agents call you by your first name.

"Jethro! Hey, slow down!!"

Not just calling it, either, but yelling it, increasingly loudly, and… aaaah, yes. That explained it.

Explained it, yes, but Gibbs still couldn't believe what his wide, astonished eyes were telling him. On the path below him, thankfully out of his sight-line, Tim McGee was taking his Jethro out for a run.

At least, that would have been the typically logical plan he'd have had when he'd left Silver Spring. But as the boy was now discovering, the hard way, you never took your dog for a walk, or a run. He took you.

And letting your dog 'run' you through a park full of squirrels? Oh yeah, that was a really bad idea.

"Jeth-roooooooo!!!"

A pause then, followed by a plaintive, breathless wail that had Gibbs doubled over in helpless laughter.

"Jethro, stop! Stop! Heel! Jeth-roooo-aaaaa!!!"

Was there any chance that his favourite furry namesake would take any notice? Like hell there was. And with the advantage of two extra legs over his hapless owner, Jethro was making the most of it. Or maybe he was playing his own, unique part in 'helping' his new master to pass his next physical.

Either way, team-Gibbs' newest addition was giving Tim McGee the hardest workout of his life – the fastest one too, as happily barking dog, and frantically staggering human, shot past him.

Every instinct he had was telling Gibbs to follow them, but – well, he'd have to stop laughing first. Leaning against a nearby tree trunk, his sides still aching, Gibbs knew that wouldn't be anytime soon. Yeah, maybe he'd just sit here instead, and wait for McGee, and McMutt, to whiz past on their next circuit.

With the wisdom of much experience, Gibbs then came up with a wickedly mischievous compromise. Well, his tracking skills needed a bit of a refresher anyway, and tracking Tim McGee would be easy.

Assuming the kid didn't collapse from exhaustion first, he'd just follow those subtly fading yells.

"Jeth-rooooooooooooo!!!"

Levering himself, albeit with difficulty, back to his feet, Gibbs then set off in practised pursuit – his eyes taking that pursuit on now, tracking a bobbing, sunlit-blond head along the path below him. And instead of those frantic yells, a symphony of barks and laughter were starting to take their place – suggesting that McGee had surrendered to the inevitable now, and was just happily living the moment.

Beyond its simple humour, though, Gibbs was genuinely grateful for what that sound signified. Considering how they'd first met, savagely mauled on one side, and shot in desperation on the other – hell, no-one had expected that Tim McGee would adopt the dog that could easily have killed him.

Now, just two weeks later, that rockiest of starts had been transformed into the closest of bonds – so much so that Jethro 'McMutt' McGee now had his own, proudly accepted place in the bullpen.

As Gibbs had dryly noted, he was better behaved, and mannered, than certain members of his team. And at least he was house-trained – DiNozzo's yelp of protest cut swiftly short by a growl that hadn't come from Tim McGee's stomach.

So yes, there were definite advantages in having a highly trained, ex-tracker dog on your team. Anything that kept Tony DiNozzo quiet, and Tim McGee fit, would always be silently welcomed.

That last part, though, especially where his junior agent was concerned, might be in for a re-think – because as Gibbs now ruefully noted, those four furry legs were showing no signs of slowing down.

And Tim McGee's response, as they ploughed on towards a grass-sprinkler? Hell, what else?

"Jeth-roooooo-oooooohhhhh-------------nooooooooo!!!"

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As he took in the glorious scene in front of him, Gibbs finally yielded to its inevitable consequence. Damn it, what was it with Tim McGee, water, and appliances, big or small, that used it?

First, there'd been that car wash, which had also given him a beautifully wax-glossy finish – not to mention a trendy new hairstyle that every 'dresser in DC would trade their tongs to copy.

And now this.

Being dragged, face down, through soaking wet grass… oooooh, that was gonna hurt. No wonder he'd let go of Jethro's leash. If he hadn't, he'd be out of DC by now, and halfway to Pittsburgh.

If there'd been a warden around, of course, or the Park Police, he'd have been in serious trouble, but – well, wasn't it typical that Jethro should now stop, turn around, and trot happily back to him, without any kind of prompting?

No wonder Tim McGee's head now dropped, shaking in disbelief, back onto his outstretched arms. Gibbs could almost hear the 'what-the-hell-have-I-got-myself-into?' groan that had surely followed.

And yes, he really ought to go check on the kid, make sure he was okay, but – no, not yet. Not yet. Sympathy had to sound genuine and sincere – kinda hard when you were laughing too hard to move.

Besides, Gibbs now noted, still wiping the tears from his eyes, the other Jethro had got to him first – a wetly probing nose finally rewarded by a half-hearted hand swat as Tim rolled gingerly onto his back.

Raising his head again, just as carefully, Tim then let it drop, so gratefully, onto the grass behind it – the effort of keeping it upright just too much to take, against the laughter that now overwhelmed him. Not just his usual, typically modest chuckles either, but all-out howls that made his whole body, all six foot one inch of it, visibly shake.

Spreadeagled beside his quizzically curious dog, Tim McGee was giggling like the proverbial loon – so hard, and so gloriously unstoppably, that he was an easy contender for the nearest strait-jacket.

Thank God there was no-one else around to see it, or this could have become really embarrassing. Explaining why one of your best agents was in jail to your Director and the SecNav was one thing. Explaining why he'd been carted off to the nearest padded assessment area was quite another.

McGee had clearly had the same thought, since that tide of spluttering giggles now began to subside. After a few more moments, they stopped completely, enough for Tim to find the strength to sit up, push Jethro onto his back, and give him the mother of all tummy-rubs.

To Gibbs' surprise, and then proud approval, he then pulled a large canteen from his back-pack – using most of its contents to fill up Jethro's bowl, before joyously dumping the rest over his head.

Gibbs couldn't blame him for that. Even in partial shade, it had to be pushing into the nineties. In temperatures this high, you had to keep yourself hydrated – especially when your dog had just dragged you, willingly or otherwise, on such a strenuous run.

Little wonder, then, that DC's biggest boy-scout now rose to his feet and set off for a refill – a public water tap in one of the picnic areas nearby put to gratefully quenching, face-cooling use.

Still covertly watching him, Gibbs felt his smile widen from a fatherly proud memory. Yes, he'd endured days of razzing afterwards, but when he'd brought his Scout troop in for that visit –hell, even DiNozzo had grudgingly admitted, eventually, that Tim McGee had a great way with kids.

And wasn't that typical of him, too, that he'd brought two canteens with him instead of just one?

Yeah, that was Tim McGee all over. No-one took that 'be prepared' motto more seriously than he did. And while his tracker skills might be a bit rusty, Gibbs dryly decided to let that little faux pas slide.

Still oblivious to his presence, the boy was clearly enjoying himself, just loving this peaceful Sunday. Such relaxation was so rare, such a precious break away from the horrors they had to deal with, and – yes, Gibbs knew that when such moments came, they had to be cherished, without any interruptions.

It was good for him, too, just to sit here, in peaceful quiet, and watch this scene of carefree innocence. He was even laughing now as he watched Tim return to an eager nose and happily wagging tail – a playful wrestle as he lay back down in the grass speaking volumes for this new bond between them.

Just two weeks earlier, in a battle of mutual desperation, it had been a wholly different story – one that had left Tim McGee with a badly mauled arm, and a natural fear that it would happen again. So to see him now, snuggled against the dog that could have killed him, really was something special.

Not even Jethro's deadweight belly-flop on top of him broke, or disturbed, his peaceful contentment. Instead, tousling Jethro's ears, Tim stretched out beneath him, settling back for a well deserved nap.

He'd need it too, especially after that run, and – yes, Gibbs knew it was time, now, to leave him to it.

Tomorrow, they'd both be back in the brutal world of death, violence and senseless destruction. But as Gibbs stole silently away, he knew they'd always have this other world to come back to – a peaceful sanctuary, right on their doorstep, where dads could be dads, boys could be boys, and dogs could be dogs.

Taking a final glance behind him, Gibbs smiled. He'd settle for that. Yeah, he'd gladly settle for that.