Not Just a Date

Tim stares at his publisher in disbelief. He starts shaking his head, denying the paperwork that Lyndi is shoving under his nose.

"Tim it's in your contract. I admit, I wasn't sure that you'd be this successful after Deep Six, but Rock Hollow is a huge hit. This can only increase your sales."

"But a date? With me? Are you nuts? Have you actually taken a look at me?"

Lyndi looks at Tim in surprise. She has been looking at Tim and has seen the subtle changes in him. He's slimmed down considerably from the pudgy young man who had first approached her three years ago with a story idea based around a team of investigators who solve crimes with their leader LJ Tibbs.

Why he's denying his own attractiveness is beyond her comprehension. Then she thinks about the sudden change in the ending of Rock Hollow. Tim's original story outline had included McGregor telling Amy Sutton that he loved her. The story he'd submitted had changed. There hadn't been any couples at the end. Not only had McGregor broken up with Amy, but Tommy and Lisa stopped dating as well.

Lyndi puts a hand on Tim's arm. "It's one night, with a famous author. Put yourself into their shoes. Better yet, put yourself into Thom E. Gemcity's shoes and enjoy a night out with a young lady."

Tim slowly nods and together he and Lyndi start hashing out the Win a Date with Thom E. Gemcity Contest.

Two weeks later:

Ziva looks up when Tim brushes past her without a greeting. Tony chuckles and Ziva asks him what he's done to upset Tim now.

"Me? Oh nothing, I was just pointing out to McAuthor that his newest advertisement is in the paper."

Ziva picks up the paper lying on Tim's desk and reads. Win a Date with Thom E. Gemcity. One lucky winner; one special night with one of today's most prolific mystery authors. To enter fill out the entry form in its entirety and send your entry to the address below . Many shall enter only one shall win.

"So what is the problem?"

"The problem Zi-va, is that Probie has cold feet. He doesn't want to do it anymore; he's chickening out."

Ziva cocks her head at the senior agent. Tony looks like he couldn't be more pleased by the news that Tim is unsure of committing to the date.

"Tony why does this please you so much?"

Tony blinks in surprise at the question. He looks around the squad room, verifying that he and Ziva are alone. He doesn't see the shadow under the stairs, sipping silently at his coffee. Gibbs was on his way downstairs after his evening review with Jenny when he'd seen Tim run out. Gibbs stays where he is, wondering how Tony will reply.

"Oh come on, Ziva, it's another ploy for attention. He wrote that second book after we told him not to, and now he's scared that we're going to retaliate."

"I thought that Abby said Gibbs had told Tim to finish the book?"

"Well, yeah, when we were saving Abby from Landon. You know, the rabid fan…of course that could be a reason he's worried now…this date might end up pulling another Landon on him."

Ziva stares at him in disbelief. "You actually suggested as much to him didn't you? Why would you do that Tony? I thought that McGee was your friend?"

"This isn't about friendship Zi…it's about Probie doing something he wasn't supposed to do."

Ziva walks over and delivers a head slap that Gibbs can hear all the way under the staircase. "I do not suppose you bothered to ask Tim if it was in his contract to do so. Tony, if he has an obligation to do so then he will do it, even if he does not want to! That is just part of who he is."

Ziva drops her report on Gibbs desk and strides out of the room. Gibbs finally emerges from the staircase and continues watching silently as Tony finishes his report and dashes for the elevator. Jenny joins him at his elbow and Gibbs barely looks at her as he walks over to Tim's desk and picks up the newspaper.

Gibbs reads through the ad and flips out his phone to dial the one person he figures that Tim might have gone to talk to.

"Autopsy."

"Palmer is McGee still talking to Ducky?"

"Not down here sir. They took an elevator ride about five seconds ago."

"Thanks Jimmy." Gibbs shuts his phone just as the elevator dings and Ducky steps out with Tim McGee. Tim silently steps to his desk and turns off his computer after printing out his report. He then hands the report to Gibbs and walks back to the elevator.

"I shall expect you for morning tea young man!" Ducky calls out as the doors on the elevator start to close. Tim smiles faintly and then is gone from view. Ducky then turns to Jenny and Gibbs.

"Well, what do you want me to say?"

"Is he going to be all right Ducky?"

"Oh, he'll be fine director, once this silly contest is over. Like the books, the contest is part of Timothy's contract. One he has no choice but to finish."

Jenny looks at Gibbs who shrugs as he heads out the door. Ducky refuses to say anything more but does make a stop on his way home.

One week later:

Tim receives the phone call that he's been dreading. Lyndi has picked his winner and is making the arrangements for Tim and his lucky fan.

"What is my winner expecting from me Lyndi?" Tim's voice is resigned, almost defeated.

"We changed the rules so that all your winner will be getting is a limousine ride to the restaurant and a meal. If anything else develops it will be because you want it to Tim."

Tim doesn't reply right away and when he does, Lyndi almost can't hear him. "Thanks Lyndi."

Tim spends the rest of the day in relative silence not responding to any of Tony's barbs and Ziva waits for the Italian to go on a break before asking, "Are you okay, McGee?"

"Yeah, my publisher called letting me know that Thom's date is all set up for Friday night."

"Why does this bother you so much McGee? It is only a date after all. Just one day out of the year?"

"I'm…that's not it. I just…oh I can't explain it."

"I think I understand you are doing this to complete your contract, yes?"

Tim sighs. "Maybe…anyway, Lyndi says that it's just dinner now. If anything else happens it's up to me and my fan."

Ziva walks over to her filing cabinet and pulls out her elf ears. She puts them on and walks back to where Tim is staring at his computer screen. Ziva then plonks herself down beside Tim and he can't help the laugh that escapes him when he looks up at her. "You can think of Friday as a game or a chore McGee. The choice is yours."

Ziva takes off her ears and pats his hand before heading back to her desk. As she sits down she hears the familiar sound of her inbox chiming and opens up an unsigned note with four little words in it, "Thank you for listening."

She smiles at Tim who gives her a genuine smile for the first time in days, before he ducks back behind his computer. Ziva thinks for a few minutes then tells Tim that she's going to autopsy. Tim nods and continues working on his report.

Down in autopsy over a cup of freshly brewed tea, Ziva tells Ducky about her concern for her friend and co-worker. Ducky smiles at her and says, "You managed to get him to smile and laugh within seconds, my dear. That is a huge accomplishment. As for Friday night…I don't think he has anything to worry about."

"What do you mean, Ducky?"

"Oh, oh nothing my dear, just…make sure you check your regular mail when you get home tonight, will you?"

Ziva nods and finishes her tea, then heads back upstairs to finish her own report after thanking Ducky for listening to her. Later that night Ziva remembers Ducky's words and snuggles down into her recliner looking through her mail. She finds an unfamiliar envelope and cautiously opens it. Reading what is inside, she smiles knowing what she has to do next. She flips open her cell phone and makes a quick call.

Friday dawns and Tim finds himself almost looking forward to the evening ahead. He knows that Tony will give him grief all day about the night to come but he's decided that he's going to ignore Tony as much as possible and take Ziva's advice. He can look at the night as a role-playing game or a chore.

Five o'clock rolls around and Gibbs has to smile. Two of his three agents are finished with their reports and printing them off for him to read. As they hand them to him he quietly thanks them and tells both Ziva and Tim to go home for the night. Tony stands up and starts to leave too when Gibbs barks at him, "Where do you think you're going DiNozzo?"

"Uhh, the others are leaving boss."

"They have their reports done and handed in. You quit playing around, and then you can go home too."

"Ahh, boss!"

"Zip it DiNozzo."

###

Tim drives to the publishing house and Lyndi's assistant shows him in to the office. Tim looks at Lyndi and asks her how she managed to pick a winner.

"I just followed your guidelines Tim. You may not remember everything, but when we first sat down and discussed it, you were adamant that it be on your terms. The only thing you wanted from your fan was for her to write down in 50 words or less why she wants to meet Thom. We sorted through all the junk and then found three entries that actually had meaning. This is the one we chose."

Tim reads through the entries and has to agree with Lyndi's choice. He asks Lyndi where he's supposed to pick up his date and is mildly surprised and somewhat disappointed when Lyndi tells him that he won't meet her until he gets to the restaurant. Lyndi gives him a small shove and tells him to go get changed.

"Enjoy yourself tonight Tim; you deserve it."

Tim knows he's at least a half hour early when he pulls up to the restaurant. He walks inside and smiles at the manager on duty.

"Sasha, I didn't realize you were working tonight."

"When I heard that you were going to be here, Mr. Thom, I made sure that I would be on duty."

Tim smiles knowing that Sasha will protect his privacy and that of his date. He chats amiably with the other man, following him to a secluded dining room as he relaxes into the role of Thom E. Gemcity. Sasha hands him a glass of ice water and promises to return when "Thom's" date arrives.

Tim gazes out of the window, wondering briefly who his date is. He knows who he wants it to be, who he wishes it could be and shakes his head in order to collect his thoughts. He owes it to his date to give her his full attention. She'd gone to the effort of trying to find out more about him and he wouldn't disappoint her.

He pulls her entry out of his pocket and reads it again. ""I have read Thom's books and think that we would be able to carry on an intelligent conversation while enjoying a good meal. It would be a unique way to make a new friend with no commitments expected by either of us at the end of the night."

A knocking tells Tim that his date is about to begin and he clears his throat before walking forward to meet his date.

The woman and he can tell by the curve of her back that she's definitely female, is dressed in a form fitting sheath of a dress that shimmers as she walks. Her dark hair is hanging in loose curls and she's carrying a small clutch purse. She's talking to Sasha about something in the man's native Russian.

Tim stares in delighted disbelief as his ears tell him what his eyes have yet to confirm. He starts smiling, and as she turns to face him, Tim can feel the smile on his face getting bigger. He holds out his hand to bring her further into the room and asks Sasha for a bottle of his finest white wine.

Sasha bows out of the room, returning a short time later with the wine and two fluted glasses. He brings a menu as he has a feeling that the two might be staying a bit longer than Thom had originally anticipated. Thom looks at his menu briefly then at the woman sitting across from him.

"Trust me?"

"Always."

"Bring us two of the house specials please Sasha."

"Of course Mr. Thom, would you like your traditional sides?"

Tim looks at Ziva as he verifies, "Salads with light vinaigrette to start and then garlic bread when the meal comes out."

"Sounds delicious; may we get another carafe of water as well?"

Sasha beams and nods his head. Soon they are alone again and Tim finally gets to ask

"You really are okay with this? I mean…"

Ziva puts a finger on his lips. "Stop it, and start believing. I am extremely pleased to be with you tonight. Admittedly it is under unusual circumstances, but I welcome this time with you Tim. I have often wondered where you would take someone if you were to date."

Tim blushes and admits that he's never brought anyone here. He just likes the ambience of the restaurant and has to admit that Sasha's cooking staff are another reason he likes to eat there.

Their salads arrive and Ziva has to agree with Tim's choices so far. The light vinaigrette is a perfect foil for the tossed salad greens, with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and topped with homemade croutons.

"This is almost a meal in itself, what is the rest of it going to consist of?'

"Actually, it's just soup and some breadsticks."

When it arrives, Ziva can tell that everything is made fresh on a daily basis, including the soup. The vegetables have been cooked to just the right tenderness before being added to the soup base. The breadsticks are lightly covered with just enough garlic seasoning to enhance the natural flavor of the dough without overpowering it.

Ziva looks up when she's finished. She starts to ask him something and then she remembers that he stated earlier he's never brought anyone here before.

"Tim, may I ask you something?"

"Sure."

"If you have never brought a date here, why would you bring a contest winner here? This is one of your sanctuaries. You would not destroy that for just a date."

"You've never been just a date Ziva. Truth is, I …" he fumbles for a minute just as Sasha comes in to take their dishes away. Sasha smiles when he sees the empty bowls and then seeing that they need some privacy, shuts the door behind him after locking it from the inside.

Tim looks up; when the door closes and blushes as he realizes that he's truly alone with the woman of his dreams. He sighs and stands up, moving closer to the window in an effort to collect his thoughts. Ziva steps up beside him and putting a hand on his shoulder, turns him to face her.

"The truth is what Tim?"

"That I was hoping you'd win. I was hoping you'd want to enter and win. If you hadn't, I would have arranged with Lyndi to go somewhere else. I mean, it's hard enough with Gibbs rules about not dating a co-worker. I tried to fight it, but I can't. I can't fight these feelings any longer."

"Fight what Tim?"

Tim takes her hand in his and brushes her hair out of her face as he whispers, "My love for you Ziva."