(A/N: There are a few intentional spelling errors, due to the person speaking; also is set in season 2 however Gerald couldn't make it to the set for this one so Jimmy volunteered to work that day. Slightly out of canon just because I needed the story to work this way.)

The Best Prize

"Timmy! Timmy! Where are you? Excuse me, but have you seen a little boy? He's blonde with green eyes and wearing blue overalls with a blue shirt underneath."

Private Leroy Jethro Gibbs and his fiancée Shannon Fielding shake their heads as the frantic mother rushes up to them looking for her son. Shannon looks at the woman and asks,

"How old is he ma'am?"

"He'll be four in three months. Timmy! Where could he have run off to? It's not like him to just wander off."

Gibbs and Shannon exchange glances as they look around their surroundings. The county fair has been running for two days straight and Shannon had asked Gibbs to take her to the fair. "You can show me what they've been teaching you to do with that new training of yours."

Gibbs had smiled and offered little protest; he couldn't deny Shannon much of anything. They were on their way to the shooting gallery when the woman had approached them. The woman wanders off and the young couple continues towards their destination.

"Gibbs? Do you think she'll find her son?"

"It's a fair Shan…does she really expect him to stay at her side when all this is going on?" Gibbs waves a hand in no particular direction.

"You would."

"Maybe, to some extent but she has to realize this is a fair…how many kids can resist the animals or the candy treats? I never could, and boy did Dad ever remind me of it when we got home!"

"Jackson didn't beat you did he?"

"Dad? With his voice maybe…his tongue-lashings were more than enough for me...made me cower under the covers more than once when I was a kid."

"I like your father."

"You like anyone…as long as they're not a lumberjack." They both laugh and Gibbs stops at one of the drink vendors to buy them both a soda. They finally reach the shooting gallery and Gibbs asks Shannon what prize she wants.

Shannon's eyes dance over the prizes before settling on a blue teddy bear. She points it out to Gibbs who playfully groans when he sees what it is that she wants.

"Geez, Shannon I thought you wanted to spend some time at other vendors not just this one."

"If you can't do it Gibbs, then we can leave." Her saucy tone and twinkling eyes dare him to win her that teddy bear.

"What prize is he shooting for honey?" The man behind the counter asks.

"The blue teddy bear."

"Oh, yeah that's a good one all right. Twenty-five bulls-eyes, five shots for a buck. You willing to risk five dollars for that bear son?"

"Nope, but I'll risk it for her." Gibbs grins at Shannon as he slaps down a five dollar bill and then starts picking up the rifles; seeing which one will give him the effect he needs to win the bear. Jethro gives an inward apology to his dad. Jackson Gibbs always told him that the rifles in the shooting galleries were rigged. It wasn't until his recent training that Jethro could see and feel just what his father was talking about.

Gibbs adjusts his stance and starts firing. Twenty-five shots later and Shannon is holding the blue teddy bear with a huge smile on her face. Gibbs turns to leave when a tug on his pants leg and a blonde head catches his eye. He taps Shannon on the shoulder and they both look down into the bright green eyes of a little boy.

There's dirt streaking the boy's face as well as fresh tear tracks. Compassion rushes over Gibbs and he kneels down pulling out a handkerchief as he does so.

"Hey little buddy, what happened?"

"I got losted from my mommy."

"What's your name?"

"T-t-Timmy."

"Timmy, this is my friend Shannon. Shannon why don't you go to the office and see if you can find Timmy's mother."

Shannon nods and says, "I'll have her wait there for you; so that you and Timmy don't get lost again." Shannon starts to leave, then darts back and hands Gibbs the bear, subtly motioning for him to give the bear to the boy. Gibbs smiles at her tenderheartedness and then turns his full attention back to the little boy who's placing so much trust in him.

Shannon heads for the office and turning a corner stops to look back at her boyfriend. He had looked a bit lost when she'd handed him the blue teddy bear and motioned for him to give it to the child.

"Are...are you a soldier?"

"I'm a Marine, yes. I'm still going through training. I'm going to be a sniper."

"Pow-pow-pow…just like the game you just did?"

Gibbs nods and offers to carry the child to the main office. Timmy raises his arms and Gibbs can feel a lump in his throat at the trust this little one is displaying.

From what Shannon can tell, Gibbs is talking almost openly to the little boy who is currently raising his arms to be carried. From the look on Gibbs face, this could be the first time anyone has trusted him so completely on such short notice. When she sees Gibbs turn towards the men's restrooms, Shannon can't help but smile at her boyfriend's diplomacy in giving the child the dignity of using a restroom without his mother being present.

"You do know that you're not supposed to talk to strangers, right Timmy?"

"But, you're a soldier and that's almost as good as a powiceman." Gibbs hides a chuckle at the child's logic. He picks up Timmy and starts to carry him to the office building. The child starts to squirm and Gibbs can see that the little one is trying not to hold himself. Making a right turn, he takes Timmy to the restrooms and the little boy sighs with relief.

"Thank you." he says as he enters the first stall and Gibbs can tell they'd made it just in time. Timmy comes out and washes his hands when he finishes without any prompting from Gibbs. Gibbs looks at him for two more seconds then silently holds out the teddy bear before entering the stall that Timmy had just come out of. When Gibbs is done, he zips up and washes his hands then picks Timmy up again to finish carrying him to the office.

Shannon continues to the building that had said office on the outside of it and knocking lightly steps inside. Inside the office the blonde woman is almost in despair at the thought of her son being lost in such a large area; especially with no idea of where to start looking first and Shannon steps closer to put a hand on her shoulder.

"Ma'am? I think we found your little boy. My fiancée will be here with him shortly. They had to make a pit stop at the men's room first."

"Timmy?"

"That's the name he gave us and he matches the description that you gave us when you were asking earlier if we'd seen him."

Shannon is engulfed in a huge hug from the tearful mother and within minutes the two blondes are reunited.

Just before they reach the office door, Gibbs puts Timmy on the ground again. Timmy starts to hand the bear back to Gibbs but the young man shakes his head.

"You earned him."

Timmy's bright green eyes widen and he stares up at Gibbs, clearly wondering how he'd just earned a teddy bear.

"You watched over him like a good soldier would so that I could use the bathroom. Figure that means you can be trusted with him."

Timmy nods fervently and Gibbs smiles.

"What will you call him?"

"Gibs...it means Guy in Backseat." Gibbs smiles at the irony of a bear having a name similar to his own then realizes what Timmy has just said.

"That it does, how do you know that?"

"Daddy's in the Navy. He's a Lieutentant. What's your name?"

"Gibbs, but you can call me Jethro."

"You have the same name as my bear." Timmy says with just a little bit of awe.

"With two b's. the second one stands for ba-" He couldn't say it…he couldn't say that word in front of those innocent green eyes. He swallows and says, "it doesn't matter what it stands for. You take care of yourself Timmy."

"K…thank you Jefro, for my bear and for bringing me back to my mommy."

"You're welcome, Timmy."

Gibbs opens the office door and they walk inside. Almost immediately Timmy is picked up by his mother who is crying with relief that her son is safe and sound. Shannon has tears in her eyes as she witnesses the reunion between mother and son. Later, Shannon watches thoughtfully as Gibbs pats Timmy on the back and the boy's mother carries him away; the little boy still holding tightly to the blue teddy bear as he waves goodbye to Gibbs.

Half an hour later, Shannon and Gibbs are walking back in the direction of the shooting gallery when Shannon asks, "That little boy really caught your heart didn't he Gibbs?"

"I'm sorry Shan. I just…he trusted me when aside from the Corps and you, no one has ever trusted me that completely in such a short period of time."

They continue walking and Gibbs looks at her, "Still want me to win you a bear?"

Shannon shakes her head thinking how he'll make a wonderful father for their own children someday as she hugs his arm and says, "I've got the best prize anyone could ever want."

Twenty years later:

Tim McGee steps off the elevator at NCIS and is about to sit down at his desk when his friend and co-worker Tony DiNozzo gleefully bounces over and asks him who the lucky girl is.

"What girl are you referring to Tony?" Tim sighs wondering just what his teammate is up to now.

"Well, gee Tim you don't ordinarily hide something this McPrecious unless there's a special lady involved? So, who is she and why didn't you tell anyone about her?"

Tim is still wondering what Tony is rambling about when Leroy Jethro Gibbs comes downstairs and barks, "Gear up! Dead Marine in Rock Creek Park! McGee gas up the truck! DiNozzo find go find Ducky and Palmer; tell them to meet us there!"

Tony is about to toss the object hidden behind his back onto his desk when Gibbs grabs the item out of his hands. There's a sudden stillness in the air and Tony's wondering if he should have run when Gibbs softly asks, "Where did you get this Tony?"

"Uh, out of McGee's apartment?"

"Why were you in McGee's apartment?" the question is laced with steel and Tony gulps as he nervously admits that he's been looking for something new to tease Tim about.

"It's just a teddy bear boss. Besides, why would McBaby even have a teddy bear at his age no less?"

Gibbs says nothing as he gently puts the teddy bear into his own desk drawer and silently dares Tony to even attempt removing it if he's not there. Tony gulps again and runs for the elevator which dings as it opens and reveals Caitlyn Todd.

"I take it we have a case?" Kate asks and Gibbs just nods as the two men join her in the elevator.

Kate looks at Tony who whispers, "Yeah and one of them is actually to do with a live marine."

Kate is a bit confused but says nothing more as they head to Rock Creek Park. Three hours later, they all return to the bullpen and Tony keeps staring at Gibbs locked desk drawer. Finally Kate sends him an instant message

Ktodd: What is going on?

Tdino: I'm not sure. That bear we found at Tim's is locked in Gibbs desk. The boss had a funny look on his face when he found me trying to tease Tim about it.

Ktodd: Maybe you should talk to McGee about the bear?

Before Tony can reply, Gibbs stands up and glares at Tony who shrinks down into his chair. Gibbs motions for Tony to go get lunch and to take Kate with him; then Gibbs walks over to Tim's desk and the computer wizard looks up at his boss with concern.

"You okay, boss? You've been a bit out of it today."

"You…I…meet me at my place 20:00 hours tonight. We need to talk."

"Oookay."

Gibbs whirls and heads for the elevator. Once inside he hits the button for autopsy needing to talk to an old friend. Jimmy Palmer looks up when the elevator opens and seeing the look on Gibbs face tells Ducky that Gibbs is there before taking his own lunch hour.

"Well Jethro to what do I owe this occasion?"

"Need a word Duck…a private word."

Ducky leads Gibbs into his office and closes the door. He then shuts down the computer so that prying eyes and ears can't "accidentally" listen in. Gibbs paces for a few seconds and Ducky has to wonder just what has the younger man in such a tizzy.

"Jethro? My dear fellow just tell me what is going on!"

"I dunno Duck. I feel like I just entered the Twilight Zone. Why wouldn't he tell me who he was. All this time and it takes DiNozzo snooping for me to find out?"

"Find out what Jethro?"

"That Tim...is...that little boy."

Ducky has no idea what Gibbs is referring to and sits his friend down. "Now then, Jethro, why don't you explain what Timothy and a little boy have to do with you being so frazzled?"

Gibbs just sits and stares at his hands thinking about his lost ones; his red haired first wife and daughter and a little blonde boy with big green eyes and a blue teddy bear.

A gnarled hand is placed upon his and he looks up into the concerned gaze of one Ducky Mallard.

"What is going on Jethro?" the gentle question almost, almost brings tears to Gibbs eyes. He swipes at them with an angry hand, and Ducky can tell that it's very personal and private matter.

A long drawn out sigh and then Jethro looks up, "I never told you about Shannon or Kelly."

"No, you never have. I take it that they were family?"

"First wife … and child. Killed ten years ago...just before I became an agent."

From what Ducky's seeing, they are probably the reason Gibbs became an agent. He keeps his gaze steady, letting Gibbs feel his presence without forcing it on him. Gibbs sighs and for the first time tells Ducky about Shannon and his daughter Kelly.

When he's done, Gibbs smiles through his tears and then brings up the other matter that's troubling him.

"When Shannon and I first got engaged, we went to a fair that was near the Marine base. While we were there we were approached by a hysterical woman looking for her lost son…"

He relates the story about winning a bear for Shannon and the green eyed little boy who tugged not only on his pants leg but his heartstrings.

"I never forgot that kid, Duck. For some reason that little boy stuck in my heart and mind for years; especially the way he called me 'Jefro' and the trust that he had almost immediately in me. The wonder in his eyes when I gave him that bear…and now I find out that it's McGee?"

"Are you so sure that it's him Jethro? After all, it is possible that the bear is intended as a gift for someone special and that Anthony could have ruined a surprise."

Gibbs is shaking his head. He's almost certain that Tim McGee is the little boy from so long ago. Something about that bear and the trust that he's already gained from Tim. Gibbs stands up and Ducky backs away.

"Thanks Duck."

"For what, Jethro?"

"Listening to me."

Gibbs heads back upstairs and Ducky returns to his charts stopping every now and then to speculate on what he's learned about his friend.

Back in the squad room, Tim is still working on his report when Tony and Kate come back with lunch. Tony hands Tim a sandwich then asks, "So just who is the teddy bear for McCarebear?"

Tim looks up at him clearly not knowing what Tony is referring to. "Tony what is it with you today? I've stated repeatedly that I don't have a girlfriend at the moment and now you're going on about some teddy bear that was supposedly in my apartment?"

Tony snorts, "Oh it was there McGoo…after all it was still sitting in the UPS box!"

Dead silence and Tony realizes just what he's admitted to…not just entering Tim's apartment but going through his private things including his mail. Tim stares at Tony, betrayal in his green eyes.

"What have I done that you just had to go through my things Tony? Is it because I won't discuss my personal life with you?"

"Now Tim, he just wanted-"

"And you went with him. I thought we were supposed to be on a team guys. I'd have been better off staying in Norfolk if this is the way you're going to treat me."

Tim stands up and places his report on Gibbs desk before heading to the elevator. It opens and reveals the boss. Tim nods at him briefly before hitting the button that will take him to the employee garage. Gibbs watches him go, and then turns on his other two agents.

"What have you done?"

"I-," Tony can't continue under that blue gaze.

"Now, Gibbs it's like this…" Kate too finds it hard to say anything more when that blue fire is turned her way.

"Did you two idiots just drive away our newest agent?" before either of them can reply Gibbs phone rings.

"Yeah, Gibbs." a muted voice on the other end sends his anger smoldering even higher as he stares at his oldest agent.

"I'll be right down, Duck. Don't let him leave if you can."

Gibbs snaps his phone shut then glares at Tony and Kate. "You two had better not have made him quit or I'll have both your asses in a sling!"

Gibbs storms off towards the elevator and hits the button that once again will take him down to Autopsy. Once in Ducky's domain he hollers, "Duck!"

"In here, Jethro. And please, calm yourself down before you see him. He's in enough pain the way that it is."

Gibbs reins in his anger and follows Ducky back into his office where Jimmy is finishing applying some wrappings to Tim's right hand. Jimmy looks up at the M.E. not immediately seeing Gibbs behind the aging doctor.

"He has some scrapings and bruises but he didn't break anything. He might have some pain for a few hours though. Do you need me to take him home?

"No, I'll do it. Come on, McGee you're staying with me tonight."

Pain-filled green eyes rise to meet Gibbs and Tim shuts his eyes again, embarrassed by his lack of control. Gibbs motions for the other two to leave and they do. Jimmy looks at Ducky in concern for his new friend Tim.

"Is he going to be okay Dr. Mallard? I don't think that I've seen Tim get that angry before."

"He'll be fine, Mr. Palmer. Jethro will make sure of that."

Inside Ducky's office Gibbs is trying to reassure Tim that he's not angry at the young agent, rather at the circumstances that led to Tim feeling the need to pummel a wall.

"I can have them suspended."

"No, it's not worth a suspension. I should have expected it I guess, being the new kid on the block. I just thought by now, as we're all agents; we'd be beyond that kind of behavior."

Gibbs nods and offers Tim a hand up. The younger man takes it and as he stands he sways a bit saying, "Wow those are some powerful drugs. Remind me not to take them very often."

Gibbs waits until Tim is a bit steadier before escorting him to the elevator. Once inside he tells Tim to stay put while he retrieves something from his desk. Tim just nods and shuts his eyes, the motion from the elevator making him slightly queasy. Gibbs steps out and going to his desk retrieves the blue bear.

Tony looks up from his desk and Gibbs bitingly tells both agents to go home when they've finished up their reports.

"Boss?"

"He's not quitting DiNozzo, no thanks to you!"

Gibbs strides back to the elevator where Tim is still waiting patiently. He hands the bear to Tim who smiles with drugged delight when he sees the bear. Gibbs then hits the button that will take them to the garage and once there escorts Tim to his truck.

"No girlfriend tonight boss?"

"Not for a while McGee. Come on, let's get you home."

"Okay, um, you're driving me all the way to Silver Spring?"

Gibbs blinks and shakes his head; clearly the drugs have fogged McGee's computer type mind. Then he thinks about the weekend ahead and how much simpler it would be to have a set of clothes ready for Tim that were actually in the younger man's size.

"Just long enough to get you some clean clothes."

"Okay. Can I take a nap?"

"Yes, McGee."

Those green eyes close and Gibbs breathes a slight sigh of relief from the lack of conversation. Talking has never been his strong suit even when he was married to Shannon. Then he looks at the bear, still cradled in Tim's arms. Gibbs can't help but smile when he thinks about that young boy from 20 years ago; the one he's certain is sleeping beside him right now. An unbidden thought comes to mind; what would it feel like for Jethro to be cradled in those arms?

Shaking that thought from his mind he picks up his cell and dials Ducky.

"Hey Duck, look up McGee's file for me would you? What's his physical address? Thanks, Duck."

Jimmy looks at his mentor who is smiling faintly. "Dr. Mallard, can I ask a silly question?"

"Why doesn't Jethro know where Timothy lives? For the same reason that Timothy didn't know where Jethro lived…neither of them asked the other."

Pulling up outside Tim's apartment complex, Gibbs smiles at the young man who is sleeping so contentedly. He leaves the engine running on the truck and runs up the stairs to Tim's apartment. Using his lock picks, he quickly steps inside and finds the box that the bear had come in as well as a letter. He pockets the letter to hand to his agent then heads to the bedroom.

Tim's bedroom is just as tidy as the rest of the apartment. Gibbs smiles when he opens the drawers and finds that they are laid out almost identical to his own; another factor to confirming his belief that Tim and Timmy are one and the same. Grabbing out two sets of everything (underwear, jeans, shirts) Gibbs tosses it all into the bear's box and tucking it under his arm starts to leave when something else catches his eye.

Grinning at the audacity of his agent to write under his own name and then use Gibbs as a template for the 'hero' of the book, the former marine can't help but feel a bit of pride in Tim for attempting such a feat. He turns and leaves making sure to lock the door again behind him.

Back in the truck he places the box at Tim's feet. He checks Tim's forehead to make sure he's not running a fever before putting the truck into gear and heading for home. Once in the safety of his own driveway, Gibbs grabs the box first and sets it just inside the doorway before coming back outside for Tim.

"McGee! Wake up!"

"Yes, Boss!" Tim struggles to sit up, wincing at the pain in his right hand. "Damn I am an idiot."

"Not really, you lashed out with your weak hand. If you had damaged the left one then I'd agree with you. Come on, let's get you inside."

Tim looks up at the man who rarely says two words let alone two whole sentences and follows Gibbs inside. Once in the doorway, Tim lets out a low whistle of appreciation for the craftsmanship that he can see just in the hallway.

"Did you do all this boss? It's beautiful."

"Thanks and yeah it's something I took pride in…once."

Tim swallows, wanting to ask but for the moment not daring to find out why Gibbs didn't still take pride in it. Nausea hits him just then and he thrusts the bear at Gibbs as he sways, "Boss?"

"This way, McGee."

Tim barely makes it before throwing up what little he's eaten that day. When it's all over, he sits on the edge of the tub, accepting the cool glass of water that Gibbs hands him with an embarrassed blush.

"Sorry boss."

"You're not in the habit of taking painkillers." It's a statement not a question.

Tim shakes his head. "I'm not in the habit of being in enough pain to need a painkiller. I haven't had anything that strong since I was sixteen. I didn't take anything that strong when I was wrestling either."

Gibbs can tell that the young man is starting feel a bit better due to the natural color coming back into his cheeks. Waiting for a few more minutes, to make sure that Tim won't throw up again Gibbs looks from the young man to the teddy bear now sitting a clothes hamper.

Tim looks from the teddy bear to Gibbs.

"Boss, is there something going on that I need to know about? Am I getting the sack because of something that I don't know I did wrong? Why is everyone so concerned about a teddy bear?"

Gibbs smiles, "Come on let's get you out of here and into someplace more comfortable."

Tim looks down and follows Gibbs out to the living room. Gibbs then hands him the letter that he'd found in the box and tells him that it might explain things better than he can. Leaving Tim to read the letter, Gibbs goes out into the kitchen to heat up some soup and make another quick phone call.

"Hey Duck, has Tim ever had anything stronger than an aspirin? Morphine due to his injuries but nothing else? No, he threw up and I wasn't sure if it was the drugs or not…yeah I'm fixing some chicken noodle soup even now. Thanks, Duck."

Inside the living room, Tim opens up the letter and tears spring to his eyes as he reads,

My dearest Timothy,

Too many years have passed since we last saw each other. You a mere child ten or eleven and me an old man of many more years. You had just found out something on the news and were inconsolable and asked me to put away this particular friend of yours. I'm still not sure just why. He had been such a good companion to you for such a long time. Oh you didn't play with him but you talked to him for hours. You told him secrets that I don't think even your father knew.

You were a child of four the first time you brought him home. Your father told me one time that you named him due to my designation. I couldn't help but get a chuckle out of that. To be remembered in the form of a teddy bear. In a way, I think I was honored.

But that day, that was a day that your father was away on assignment and your mother was at a doctor's appointment with Sarah. You had come to visit me and we were watching some program on television when a news report came on. That's when you went across the street to your house and came back with your friend asking me to put him away for you.

I never did find out why or what about that program disturbed you so much, but I did as requested and carefully packaged him up. Now however, I'm in the process of moving and need to send your friend back to you. I've kept tabs on you through your father, and am so proud of the fact that despite the fact that you get seasick you chose to go to NCIS.

I have a funny feeling that whatever happened that particular day is yet another reason you chose this particular career. Regardless, I am proud of you Timothy McGee. I hope that the day comes when we will meet again and you can tell me just why you asked me to seal away your best friend. Until that time I shall remain,

That guy in back,

Charlie Maris

P.S. Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year

"Gibs…" Tim mutters as he stares at the blue bear in his hands. Movement as Gibbs enters the room with two bowls of hot soup and a box of crackers on a tray brings Tim's gaze up to the marine.

"You…" Tim swallows hard as he struggles to contain his emotions, "you are Jethro? My rescuer?"

Gibbs nods and Tim looks down at the bear. "I didn't remember. Until Charlie's letter I'd forgotten all about you. I-I'm sorry, boss, I didn't mean to forget. But, I had to, I couldn't take anymore grief."

Gibbs blinks, not sure what Tim means and the younger man looks again at the bear.

"Two…not quite two years after you gave Gibs to me, I lost my real mother to cancer. I…this bear became my link to her, and I refused to give it up to anyone. My dad remarried a year later and soon he and mom had Sarah.

"I…I still had this bear, but by this time he'd been relegated to the closet. About the only time I pulled him out was when I wanted to share with him the news we'd found out about our rescuer. My dad, being a lieutenant commander in the Navy by now was able to help provide me with more information about you. He was able to tell me that you and Shannon had married and even had a baby of your own. One who was about Sarah's age maybe a year or two older."

Gibbs inhales, not daring to believe what he's hearing. Tim had followed him, and Shannon and even Kelly to all of his postings.

"He couldn't tell me all about your missions, but he could tell me that you were alive and where your unit was. I'd pull Gibs out and find it on the globe in my room. We'd-I'd pretend that we were neighbors and that Sarah and Kelly were best friends or that I had two little sisters not just one."

Gibbs looks at his empty soup bowl, wondering if he's going to be the next one in the bathroom when Tim says,

"Then one day, I was at Charlie's. You remember that I told you about dad's friend? The one I named Gibs after? He's the one who sent me the letter and the bear."

Tim hands them both to Gibbs and goes over to the window, staring out at nothing. Gibbs reads the letter and then comes over to stand beside Tim. "What news report?"

Green eyes shining with tears, Tim admits in a hoarse whisper, "The one confirming Shannon and Kelly being killed. In the report it also stated that you'd been injured overseas and no one knew if you'd be able to come home. It was as if I'd lost my father, my mother and my sister this time."

Tim sniffles and wipes his tears away almost angrily, "So I went over to my parents' house and brought Gibs over to Charlie. I asked him to put him away. I didn't want to remember anymore."

Gibbs pulls him close, holds him as Tim cries for both of their losses. Gibbs doesn't immediately realize that not all the tears are Tim's; that he's crying too. Not just for Shannon and Kelly but for the little boy who had just opened up his heart and was tugging on its strings once again.

Exhausted and spent with all the pent-up emotions finally let free, Tim starts swaying. Gibbs leads him down the hall and coaxes him out of his clothes; tucks him into bed before lying down beside him and holding him close.

Tim looks at Gibbs regret in his eyes, "I'm sorry, I didn't want to remember you anymore. I was afraid that if I did, you really would die and I don't know if I could have taken that too."

Gibbs runs his hand soothingly over Tim's head, "Shhh, it's all right Timmy. I'm here now. Go to sleep, we'll talk more in the morning."

Tim obediently closes his eyes then opens them again. "Who…what do I call you?"

"At work it's Gibbs…or boss."

"What…what about now?" the shy question is followed up by a yawn.

"Gibbs…or Jethro…go to sleep Tim."

The softly voiced reply, the steady heartbeat beneath his ear and the soothing hand on his head has Tim asleep within seconds. Gibbs lies there for several more minutes, making sure that Tim is sound asleep before slipping out of bed long enough to remove his own clothing.

Sliding back into bed, he gathers Tim into his arms. Sighing over the events of the night, Gibbs relaxes into a restful yet watchful sleep, wanting to be there if Tim should end up having a nightmare from reliving such a traumatic time in both of their lives.

Warmth…comfort…snoring. Tim blinks as he warily opens his eyes. He's still being held by Gibbs who is softly snoring in his sleep. Tim smiles as he listens to the unfamiliar sound. According to Tony and Kate the man holding him doesn't know how to sleep, much less snore. A soft tap on the top of his head brings his gaze up to the sleepy blue one of Jethro Gibbs.

"Don't pay attention to DiNozzo. He only thinks he knows everything about me."

Tim impulsively gives Gibbs a one armed hug and the older man flinches slightly. When he looks at Gibbs, he sees the pale face and starts to move away only to be pulled back into Gibbs arms. Worried Tim opens his mouth to say something when Gibbs shakes his head and gently runs his hand down Tim's arm. Tim lowers his head to Gibbs chest waiting with baited breath and an almost dry mouth to hear what the other man is going to say.

"I—I haven't, let's just say that my last hug was over 10 years ago. I…"

"I'm sorry. I'll leave or go back to Norfolk or get a transfer." Tim knows that he's babbling but he can't stop himself.

Callused fingers on his lips hush his babble. "I didn't bring you to my team to fire you or for you to go back to Norfolk. What's got you so skittish all of a sudden?"

Tim wryly looks up at him, "I just gave you a hug and I'm being held in the arms of my boss?"

Tim silently adds, my sexy good-looking boss…oh my god what am I thinking? He blushes and ducks his head temporarily making Gibbs wonder just what is going through the young man's mind. Looking at the pillow to his right Gibbs sees the blue bear sitting there. Stretching his arm just a bit so that he could reach it, he plops the bear down in front of Tim's face and watches with affection as Tim reaches up and caresses the bear's nose tenderly. "I used to tell him all my secrets."

"Like what?" Gibbs keeps his voice soft as he cards his fingers through Tim's hair. Tim melts into the touch and closes his eyes briefly as he thinks about the question. Opening his eyes again, he focuses on the bear, rather than the sensations being created by Gibbs caresses.

"When Mom…my real mom died, I wanted nothing more than to run away and find someone else to live with, but I couldn't so I ended up staying with Charlie's family for several weeks. Because Dad couldn't…couldn't…"

Tim breaks off with a deep sigh as if the memory still lay heavily on his heart. Gibbs can almost hear a silent, 'and you were too far away to run to.' Tim sighs again as he continues, "He couldn't be around me. Then, he met Maggie and they started dating. They were seeing each other for a while before they married. It wasn't long before they had Sarah."

Tim closes his eyes not wanting to appear any weaker in the eyes of this man than he probably already did. Gibbs stays silent for a few seconds, contemplating his words before stating,

"If I would have known, if I could have known…I'd have been there. You wouldn't have gone through that alone. Shannon and I… we often talked about you and the impact you made on both of our lives. We would have been here for you."

Tim looks up at him and Gibbs runs a finger down his nose. Tim's eyes cross as he tries to follow the finger and Gibbs smiles.

"Keep that up and you'll need glasses one day Tim."

"I keep a pair of magnifiers in my desk drawer." Tim confesses and Gibbs shifts so that he can look him more fully in the eye.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"What? DiNozzo teases me enough or wasn't yesterday proof enough for you?"

Tim slips out of bed and into the bathroom before Gibbs can stop him this time. Hearing the shower turn on, Gibbs lets out a loud sigh as he decides to let the younger man have his moment of privacy and turns his attention to the blue bear.

"Gibs…oh Shanny…you always said we'd find him again."

Not wanting to dwell on his losses any longer, Gibbs heads downstairs for his first cup of coffee. Tim joins him a few minutes later, a towel around his waist and Gibs in his hands. Despite the coffee he's been drinking, Gibbs' mouth dries at the sight of the younger man clad only in a towel holding the bear. Growling that he'll be in the shower and that Tim better not leave, Gibbs heads upstairs hoping the cold water will knock some sense into his overactive imagination.

Coming back downstairs, Gibbs is almost disappointed to find Tim already dressed and making breakfast for the two of them. Gibbs leans against the entryway taking in the scrambled eggs and toast that are sitting on a platter and Tim has tied an old apron of Shannon's around his waist and is frying up some sausages. Unable to resist the temptation, Gibbs glides into the kitchen on stockinged feet and slips a hand around Tim's waist just as the young man turns off the stove.

"Umm…Gibbs?"

"You were expecting DiNozzo, maybe?"

"N-n-no…just not quite...expecting…this."

Tim sighs as Gibbs starts nibbling on his neck. There's a soft exclamation as Tim accidently touches the still warm frying pan with his injured hand and Gibbs reluctantly pulls away. Gently taking Tim's hand in his, Gibbs makes certain that the younger man hasn't done more damage to himself before saying,

"Breakfast and then we talk."

Their meal over, and dishes put into the washer, Gibbs asks Tim to take a walk with him. Tim agrees and looks around for his coat. Gibbs hands him an extra trench coat that he has and leads him outside. The pre-Christmas winter air is crisp and the stars are still twinkling at this hour in the morning. One of the benefits to being a former marine. Another benefit is the lack of neighbors up and about. Two of the few are Kevan and Micah.

Tim looks up when Gibbs makes the introductions. Both men are handsome and Kevan holds out his hand. Tim shakes it and then does the same with Micah. As they walk off, neither Tim nor Gibbs see the speculative gazes on the other two men's faces. Kevan raises an eyebrow and his lover nods. They watch as Gibbs puts himself between Tim and the street.

Micah sighs when the other two turn the corner. "He's found that someone he was looking for."

Kevan nods in agreement, "Yeah, I think this time he really has. Providing he doesn't scare him off."

Micah shakes his head, "He's protective but nurturing at the same time. And Tim…he'll protect Jethro from himself when the man needs it. In a way, Tim reminds me of you when we first met."

Kevan leads him back inside, "Really and what was I like?"

"Quiet and shy, but oh so eager to learn…."

Around the corner Tim takes a glance back and sees Kevan leading Micah back into the house.

"Are they?'

"Yep. And before you say anything more, they don't tell and I don't ask."

Tim smiles and wraps the coat a little tighter around himself. He looks up when Gibbs puts an arm around his shoulders.

"Are you cold, Tim?"

"A bit…I think I'm still reacting from yesterday. I don't take medication and I really don't make a habit of punching walls."

They're back at Gibbs house and Gibbs has Tim sit down while he stokes up the fireplace. Making sure that the drapes are closed, he comes back over and pulls Tim into his embrace lightly running a hand over Tim's torn flesh.

"What really caused this?"

Tim sighs and confesses, "I—you—you …I've wanted you since we met in Norfolk. When Tony said that he'd been in my apartment and gone through my mail, I thought that maybe he'd found…"

"Found what Tim?"

"My letter to you…it was on my computer and I thought that maybe he'd read it."

"And it upset you because?" Gibbs is hoping that he's not misinterpreting what Tim is saying.

"In it I told you how much I love you." Tim says in a quiet voice and downcast eyes. He looks up again when Gibbs touches his chin. "I honestly didn't remember that you were the marine who saved me so many years ago; not mentally at any rate. I think my heart knew who you were the moment I saw you."

"If it's any consolation, I've wanted you just as long and I didn't know you were Timmy until I saw Gibs."

Gibbs nuzzles Tim's neck again, gently nibbling the younger man's neckline. Tim sighs and Gibbs pulls slightly away. There is a slight reddening where Gibbs was nibbling and the older man grins at the thought of just how sensitive Tim's skin might be.

"Gibbs?"

"Yeah, Tim?"

Tim holds out his left hand in silent invitation and Gibbs looks at him inquisitively before putting his own hand in it. As Tim leads him back upstairs, Gibbs wonders briefly where the blue bear is. Hours later, replete with the loving he's received and given, Gibbs opens his eyes long enough to watch Tim tenderly place the bear on the dresser, before coming back into Gibbs arms. As they fall asleep in each other's arms, neither man sees the slight twinkle that appears in a pair of black eyes; nor do they feel the light caress that touches both of their cheeks, "You're both still the best prize anyone could ever want."

A/N: This was a gift for a very gifted and talented writer who I am proud to claim as a friend...Gossamer Moonglow...written in effort to cheer her up a bit. Reviews are welcome...for those still reading...Letters To Ducky will have an update by the beginning of the new year...I hope ^)^

Merry Christmas, to one and all, Tigyr