Epilogue:

Tim sighs and the others look at him.

"Hard to believe that all I wanted was to know the reason for the rule. If my thoughts surrounding it were correct. I never expected all this to happen." He rubs his eyes wearily, as the day's events start taking their toll.

"Let's get you home little probie." Mike says softly and Tim nods.

"My home." Gibbs states as they enter the elevator. Mike and Ducky hide smirks at the possessiveness in Gibbs' voice. They are almost to Gibbs' truck when an evil voice with an equally evil smirk says,

"Hey McGee."

Joe Waits doesn't stand a chance. Three shots and a knife thrown later, the twisted man is lying on the ground staring up at Tony, Pete, Mike and Ziva in disbelief. Fornell is standing nearby, catching his breath.

"Freak of nature...damned freak of nature." Waits says as he closes his eyes for the last time.

Tim, Gibbs and Ducky come over and Ducky pronounces the man dead with a satisfied nod.

Tony and Ziva tell Gibbs they'll get their reports written up and handed in while Mike, Ducky and Fornell start dragging Waits corpse back to the elevator. As it opens, Jimmy steps out with a gurney and a few packets which he tosses to Gibbs who pockets them as he once again guides Tim to his truck. Pete looks indecisive for a moment, then heads for the elevator to give his statement to Tony and Ziva.

Alone for the first time since waking that day, Tim looks at Gibbs who puts a hand on his shoulder and tells him to buckle up. They get back to the house and Gibbs guides Tim inside, knowing that the younger man is near the end of his proverbial rope. Gibbs leads Tim to the living room, gently pushing him down on the couch before he goes to the fireplace and starts a fire, knowing that Tim is like himself and that he'll be able to open up more as he stares into the flames.

"Talk to me." Gibbs commands softly as he sits beside Tim.

"I just wanted to know if I was right. If you and Franks were the real reason for the rule. I wanted to know if I had a chance to actually belong to you. I never anticipated all this...this...this rigamarole."

Gibbs watches as Tim's head leans back. "And now?"

Tim's head turns towards him. "I'm still wondering if I can belong to you. If you want me in your life after all that we've discovered today."

Gibbs tugs him closer, wrapping him in his embrace. As Tim leans against him, relaxing into his arms Gibbs states. "You are mine Timothy McGee. Nothing and no one is going to take you from me."

"Promise?" Tim asks sleepily as he stares into the flames.

"Promise." Gibbs states firmly and tightens his grip around the sleeping man.

Hours later Mike Franks stares down at his two probies. Gibbs holding Tim protectively against his chest and Tim snuggling close, his head tucked under Gibbs chin. Mike carefully drapes a comforter over the sleeping men, then steps outside smiling to himself in satisfaction. His Probie and little probie are well on their way towards that reason. The real reason for rule number 12. The one reason that Gibbs could never admit to anyone, not even Mike Franks. A four letter word called love.