Set somewhere in season five between Dog Tags and Judgment Day. With references to seasons one through five throughout and I don't own rights to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory...while the book was written by Roald Dahl...there was the movie starring Johnny Depp...I don't own them either...

The Gateway to His Heart

Win a date with award winning Author Thom E. Gemcity. To enter, applicants need only find the book(s) with the silver ticket inside. Only ten tickets have been issued, so hurry out to your favorite bookstore and find your chance to win. See official contest rules on the winning tickets. All proceeds from the sales will go to the families of federal agents that have fallen in the line of duty.

Tim sighs as he re-reads the current publicity gimmick set up by his publisher. There is only one person he wants to date and he's not about to set his heart on that person wanting him back. Still he signed the agreement knowing that the publicity will help sales on his newest novel. This latest rendition he's dedicating to those friends he's lost over the years, Chris Pacci, Caitlyn Todd and most especially Paula Cassidy and her team.

He's agreeing to it primarily to help set up the fund he's trying to set aside for fallen NCIS agents. After all it had only been a grace of God that had kept Team Gibbs from being the ones that were killed the day that Paula's team died. That and maybe a Gibbs' gut instinct to switch weekends. Hollis Mann could have been part of Gibbs wanting the weekend off, but Tim has worked with the man for over four years now and isn't sure that the boss didn't get one of his hinky feelings that allowed the team the weekend off.

For his own part Gibbs is watching the youngest male member of his team. Something is bothering the kid and not for the first time he wishes Tim would feel comfortable enough to come talk to him. He knows that Tim talks to Ducky so he heads downstairs to look for the M.E.

Palmer is cleaning one of the autopsy tables when Gibbs steps off the elevator. This young man is almost more geeky than Tim in ways, and Gibbs has to smile as the assistant tells him that Ducky is in his office finishing up some paperwork on their latest visitor.

"Ahh, Jethro to what do I owe this visit?"

"He won't talk to me Duck."

Ducky looks his friend in the eye and shuffles over to lock the office door.

"What is wrong Jethro? I've never seen you so unsure of anything before."

"What is wrong with me that he can't come talk to me? The others think nothing about it. They've all come to me at some point after they've joined the team; yet he won't talk to me."

"I take it you mean Timothy? Oh, don't look so surprised Jethro; after all, you usually come to me after you talk with them. Timothy is the only one we haven't talked about over the past few years. Or should I clarify that by stating that you've talked about him, but not that he's been to talk to you?"

"So what is it Duck? Why won't he trust me with his troubles?"

"Trust goes both ways my friend. Did you trust any of us with knowledge about Shannon and Kelly? Mmm, yes, that rankles me to this day, but still, you never told anyone, especially me and I am your best friend. "

"But Ducky, it's McGee. He talks to just about everyone."

"No, not really Jethro not when it comes to the important things. He's a lot like you in that respect Jethro. Very close to the chest when it comes to personal or family matters. Something you might keep in mind for the future."

With those cryptic words, Ducky opens his door and ushers Gibbs out, clearly finished with his side of the conversation. Gibbs sighs as he heads back upstairs. Once in the squad room he looks around and finds his three agents studiously working at their keyboards, finishing up their reports. Well, Tony and Ziva are; Gibbs knows that Tim finished his report almost a half hour ago, so what has the young man so troubled?

"McGee, my office, now."

"Gee, Probie did you forget to tell him about the latest promotional gimmick?"

Tim gulps as he pales and hustles over to Gibbs side. Once in the elevator Gibbs throws the switch and waits.

"I—I what's wrong boss?"

"Why don't you tell me McGee? Obviously something has your knickers in a twist as our Scottish friend would say."

Tim blushes faintly as he holds out the contract for his latest book. In it, the agreement to the contest for a date with the author. Gibbs can tell that it's just a copy of the agreement as it was signed a good three months prior.

"I'm not sure I want to do the dating thing now, boss. I'm just not comfortable with it. But it's for a good cause. The money from this latest book will go to help other families, NCIS families."

"Is the book still based around our team?"

Tim sighs as he slowly shakes his head then nods, "It is but it isn't. I still took events that we've worked on but I put them into a new team. I actually introduced the team in Rock Hollow. In this book the Tibbs team is basically just doing cameo roles while the new team comes into play."

Gibbs thinks to the final chapters of Tim's last book and the cast of characters that had been sketchily introduced. He nods in approval then looks at Tim who still looks miserable at the thought of the contest and the upcoming date. Or is it something deeper? Could Tim be in love with someone here? He wouldn't have thought so, but then again it is McGee. Who had once dated Abby…

"Are you worried about rule # 12?"

Tim blushes and for the first time Gibbs wonders if he's on the right track when Tim shakes his head no. "I—this person doesn't know I exist boss. For now, it's probably best that they don't. I wouldn't want to disappoint them."

"Why would any woman be disappointed by winning a date with you Tim?

Tim mumbles something that Gibbs can't hear and he puts a hand on Tim's shoulder as he repeats his question. For the first time in the four years that Gibbs has known him, Tim avoids his gaze.

"McGee?

"I can't tell you boss. Please, don't ask me again." The pleading in those green eyes sets Gibbs gut to churning. Who or what could so affect his agent? Then he thinks about how Tim phrased his plea…don't ask/don't tell is still in effect especially at NCIS. He nods thoughtfully as he flips the switch and the elevator goes into motion.

Later that evening:

Leroy Jethro Gibbs opens the inside cover of the book he'd pre-ordered months ago and that had arrived that very afternoon. Just inside the dust jacket is a silver ticket stating Win a Date with Thom E. Gemcity. All ticket winner(s) must submit one paragraph stating why they deserve to win a date with the author to the email address below. Ten will enter but only one will win. Just one paragraph per entry will be allowed and the winner will be informed via email. Gibbs growls under his breath as he looks at the publishing firm's email address. He picks up the ticket and heads out the door.

If Ducky is surprised to see Leroy Jethro Gibbs on his doorstep a few hours later, he makes no comment. Instead he welcomes the other man inside and watches in concern as the younger man starts wearing a path in his carpet. Finally he steps in front of Gibbs asking what has him so upset.

"The contest…it's…she's not rigging it…I saw two email entries come in when I was there."

Ducky looks appropriately surprised then asks, "Why is this bothering you Jethro? We both know that even though you've been in love with that young man for years you've never let him know. Or is it the fact that you love him and now see him slipping through your fingers?"

"I don't know…I do know that he's either dating someone or wants to and knowing McGee's head, he'll be seeing it as cheating on that person."

"You could always go and tell him. Oh that's right…don't ask/don't tell…something tells me Leroy Jethro Gibbs that if you don't tell him…you could lose him. And that ticket could be your introduction. It's time to tell him Jethro. Let the ticket be your gateway to Timothy's heart."

"A gateway?"

"Hmm…that could be a nice phrasing in an introductory paragraph now couldn't it?"

Gibbs looks at Ducky who returns the look with a serene smile.

"Can I use your computer Dr. Mallard?"

"Oh but of course Agent Gibbs…of course."

Gibbs sends the paragraph to the email address then stares at Ducky with suspicion dawning in his eyes. After all the talks he's had with the older man, especially in regards to Tim, this contest is beginning to look a bit fishy…or is it a bit Ducky?

"You didn't have anything to do with that contest did you Duck?"

"Jethro! How preposterous of you to think so! Although it would make a wonderful story idea. I must jot that down!"

"Don't even think about writing it down." growls Gibbs as he stalks out the door. He doesn't see the warm yet sly smile behind him or hear the rapid retreat as Ducky picks up his phone and calls a certain number.

"Is everything proceeding to plan my dear? Excellent…yes, yes, he was just here…oh I completely agree. Yes I have called them and they are ready to send; are you ready to have Timothy receive them? Did you like Jethro's entry? I thought you might and thank you for suggesting the word prompt. Sometimes that's all we need to get a story going…or in this case a date."

Ducky had been approached by Lyndi several months earlier when the woman had noticed that while Tim's writing has improved, his general attitude towards himself had taken a bit of a beating. Wanting reassurance that her newest ploy hadn't contributed to Tim's lower self-esteem, she'd contacted Ducky.

"Tim had agreed to the contest just prior to the release of Deep Six. If that book and the one after it were successes, we'd have a contest during the release of his third book. We loosely based the contest around the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Tim loved the idea that he could meet one of his fans. But he was also adamant that there had to be limits: the first being able to screen applicants via one paragraph to be written to him, explaining why that person should be allowed to date him; be able to enter the gateway to his heart."

Ducky too had seen the sudden lack of self-esteem and started asking subtle questions whenever Tim would come down. One thing the doctor has noticed is the jumpiness whenever Gibbs was around which is Ducky's main reason for believing Timothy to be in love with the lead agent.

The only real fly in the ointment so to speak has been Gibbs own attitude towards Timothy. He'd thought that the two were making a bit of headway after Gibbs had talked to the younger man when Tim's sister Sarah had been accused of killing that poor young sailor just last year.

That however had been before the release of Rock Hollow; before Abigail had been endangered by a crazed fan of Tim's writing. And before Timothy was forced to take in the dog, the one that Abigail named Jethro. The same one that had mauled Tim's arm and throat.

That was when Ducky decided it was time to step in. After all he'd seen Timothy just after the dog attack and had been genuinely surprised that the younger man could take in an animal that almost killed him. He'd asked Tim about it and the young agent admitted that he'd been terrified of taking the dog, but more afraid of letting down the man beside him.

Ducky had been confused at first but then realized that Gibbs must have been with Tim when Abby had approached him with the idea. And since Abigail is Gibbs favorite, Tim had gone along with taking the dog in; not because he'd wanted to, but because he hadn't wanted to let Gibbs down yet again.

Ducky immediately called Lyndi and asked her if she'd be willing to assist him with Tim actually gaining his confidence back. The woman had agreed and the two had started conspiring.

Several days had passed and it was during a football game that Ducky had seen a chance to ask Gibbs how Timothy was doing.

"What do you mean Duck? He appeared fine to me."

"Mmm…maybe, Jethro. I just wondered how it could be possible that Timothy could take in an animal that almost killed him."

"Didn't think about it Duck."

"Why not Jethro? I thought you said you liked Timothy?"

"I like him just fine Duck and he knows that he can come to me if anything was wrong."

"Oh he does, does he? But Jethro, you just showed him that you don't care one whit for him."

"When was that?"

"When you allowed him to take in the dog that mauled not just his arm, but his throat, or have you forgotten the injuries he sustained before getting the dog?"

Gibbs hadn't said a word, but Ducky hadn't missed the slight swallow as Gibbs reviewed the case in his head. Nor had he missed the way Gibbs left during the halftime and not come back home until the game was almost through the third quarter.

That had been almost a month ago. Things have been going a bit smoother now, and Ducky contacted Lyndi with the next step in their plan. To have Lyndi remind Tim about the contract agreement.

"Shall we update it a bit Ducky, since it's been a while?"

"Or just remind him that he agreed to it. Only this time, we'll have our own little twist in there my dear."

Lyndi listens to his suggestion and her romantic heart starts thumping at the idea presented to her. She nods in complete agreement and makes the arrangements at not only the publishers but also the distributors. The night before Tim's latest book is released, ten particular books go out to ten people…seven of whom have been informed about the actual reason behind the contest. Seven of whom grin when they get a phone call from a particular grey haired medical examiner. All seven submit emails that they know would hold no interest at all to a certain author.

Tim wakens the morning the contest is supposed to end and finds himself nose to nose with a snoring German shepherd. He hugs the dog before heading into the shower. Once he's finished showering and dressing, he whistles and chuckles as he sees Jethro McMutt McGee is sitting by the front door, leash in mouth waiting for his own morning routine to start.

"Silly mutt, okay let me grab the phone…I'm sure Crawshaw will have posted the winners by now…"

They head for the park and as soon as he lets Jethro off the leash Tim accesses his email account. Like he'd predicted, the ten contest winners have been forwarded from Lyndi in an email to Tim's account. It was the one thing he'd insisted on: no one would get his private email address.

Lyndi has put something else in the email as well: she highlighted the one paragraph entry that she thought showed the most promise. Tim sighs as he reads through the entries. Most of them are the typical, "Oh I love how the characters…or I love your books…or marry me Thom E…"

The last one though catches his eye and he has to grudgingly agree that it is the most promising of the ten entrants.

"I'm not sure I will win a date with Mr. Gemcity. I do think that if we went on a date it could be a pathway of sorts. It might end up being a gateway as it were into something new; something promising for both of us. My only concern on winning is that he would be disappointed to find himself on date with a man."

Tim thoughtfully re-reads the last entry. He hasn't told anyone about his latest dreams and fantasies although he has alluded to them in his chats with Ducky. He grins at the thought of Ducky being his date. That could be a night of story-telling all right even if Ducky isn't the man of his dreams.

Tim sighs as he dials and tells Lyndi that he agrees with her selection. Crawshaw winks at Ducky as he slips into her office just as Tim is telling her his final decision. She puts on her most concerned voice, "Are you sure about this Tim? I don't want to have Agent Gibbs come storming into my office if your date ends up being someone particularly nasty. He kind of scared me the last time he was in here."

Tim not knowing about Gibbs visiting the publisher before the contest started, can only surmise that she's referring to the false letters she'd sent in an effort to get Rock Hollow more publicity.

"I've already shown Gibbs the contract and told him that I'm okay with it. Who knows, this could be a night to remember."

"I'm sure it will be Tim. I'm sure it will be. Now, I'm going to send that email, letting your winner know where and when to meet you."

Tim gives a faint sigh as he says goodbye and Lyndi turns to Ducky with a thumbs up. The two conspirators then set the next phase of their plan into motion: getting two stubborn men who care about each other to go out on a date.

When Tim heads into his local bookstore, the clerk behind the counter asks him if he'd made his decision yet, in regards to the contest. Tim swallows and admits that he does have a winner in mind, but that according to his contract, he's not allowed to say.

"I want to have a private date with the winner and I can't do that if the media are there."

Of course, Tim has no way of knowing that the clerk is actually one of Lyndi's aides. She calls Lyndi letting the woman know that Tim is on his way in. Lyndi smiles as she looks at the man standing by the window of a small restaurant in Georgetown.

"You do know that he'd have agreed to meet you anywhere."

"I know."

"Alright, I'll let you two have a quiet night then. Congratulations again on winning your date. Hello Tim, he's waiting for you inside."

"Lyndi? I wanted to give you this, for keeping it quiet. I know that it's not that easy to do sometimes." Inside is a rare copy of a book, one that Lyndi has been trying to find for her daughter to take with her when she goes into college. She looks up with tears in her eyes, only to find the door behind her closing as Tim takes a deep breath to meet his date for the night.

Silver hair, silver-blue eyes, and a trim body with a rare smile greet him as the man at the window turns around.

"Boss?"

"Not tonight Tim; tonight it's Jethro or Gibbs."

###

A/N: Ten books but only seven people...has the cat lost the ability to count?
Not really: Tony, Ziva, Abby, Palmer, Jenny, Cynthia and Sarah. Well, we know that Ducky gets the eighth…and he's one of the instigators as is Lyndi, who as publisher would automatically get the ninth book. Which leaves the tenth book for Gibbs.

As for the emails...Lyndi would have it set up so that her assistant and Ducky would be sending the first two when Gibbs came in...after that...Tony, Ziva, Abby, Palmer, Jenny, Cynthia and Sarah... and Gibbs of course ^_^

In regards to the date itself...Tim promised it would be private...although...with enough encouragement, I might be persuaded to write more about the date ^_^