Hey, everyone! :)

I got this idea a few months ago after watching Penelope's Papers.
My friend and I had always thought that McGee never got the perfect life everyone seemed to think he had, and that episode just confirmed it.
And so, I've decided to play around with it and make up a bit more history for Tim.

Hope you like it! :)

Disclaimer: Not mine.


Tony sighed as he boarded the elevator and punched the button for the fourth floor.

This is not what he had been planning to do with his night.
He had been on his way home with plans to order some take out, pop in a good Sean Connery movie and forget this day had ever happened.
His plans, however, were brought to screeching halt when Ziva reminded him with a smirk that he had yet to repay McGee for a little bet they had made last week.

Leave it to Ziva to remember, even when McGee couldn't.

He cringed at the thought of his misplaced judgment.
It had been one week to the day he had bet McGee their latest case would leave them straight to the victim's ex-wife. Poison. The man had been poisoned. It was so obvious for it to be the ex-wife. Even Gibbs had agreed with him. But then again, considering Gibbs' track record, he really shouldn't have been surprised.
He had scoffed when McGee claimed that it was the man's business partner. Had said Tim was reading too much into it; writing it like one of his novels.
It had been a bitter meal when he had to eat his words and admit to a grinning Tim he had been right.

So, as the terms of the bet had stated, he owed Tim dinner. Had owed him dinner all week now.

He was surprised Tim hadn't collected on that all ready.

But then the younger agent had been acting a little distracted the past few days. Though who could blame him, when the man's own flesh and blood had been investigated for a crime just earlier this week. Tony knew too well how that felt.

Well, now he was going to collect, whether he liked it or not.

Tony would make sure he collected on his end of the bargain tonight before he had the chance to remember for himself.
At least by taking Tim by surprise maybe he could save a little face in his foolish bet.

They'd go out, eat, – probably to one of those Greek places Tim liked so much – talk for a while and waste away the night with mindless chatter as they pushed their last case to the back of their minds, and then go home and the bet would be forgotten.
And, really, if Tony had been being honest with himself going out for the night - especially after the case they had just had - for some good food with his friend for company, sounded pretty good right about now.

The elevator doors opened and he stepped out, making his way to Tim's apartment.

He had barely started down the corridor when a sharp voice caught his attention.

"You think that's going to make it better?" An angry voice shouted from further down the hall.

Tony froze.
Despite the unfamiliar angry tone that was being used, he knew that voice.

That was Tim.

An uncomfortable feeling settled in the pit of his stomach as he wondered what was causing his generally quiet, mild-mannered friend to sound so furious.

From behind Tim's door, a deep, unfamiliar voice rumbled loudly in response, though not loud enough for Tony to make out what it was saying.

"And you think-!" Tim's voice rose and carried down the hall again, before abruptly coming to a stop.

Tony leaned forward, straining to listen for a sign of a struggle or distress, but could only hear the deep voice speaking again, saying something unintelligible.

"But that's not...you're just...can't expect..." Tim spoke again, his voice having lost its incredulous tone in exchange for defeated exasperation.
Tony frowned, taking another tentative step forward, listening to Tim's words. They were broken and faded in and out as Tim's voice quieted and calmed.

He waited a few moments, but the voices were harder to hear now that they had lowered.
They carried on for a little while, rarely rising enough so that he could catch even one of the words.

Huh.

Whatever that was about, it was obviously over.

He hesitated, hovering halfway between Tim's apartment and the elevator – half way between going and staying.
Part of him was tempted to stay and listen, tempted to pry so he could satisfy his curiosity. And yet also tempted to stay and make sure Tim was okay.

After all, it wasn't often McGee lost his temper like that; whatever was happening behind that closed door couldn't be good.
And something about that deep voice told Tony that it was not to be trusted.

But if Tim caught him prying, he could only imagine the younger man's reaction.
Normally, the thought wouldn't bother him. There had been plenty of times he had snooped through McGee's things and into the man's personal business and it never led to more than an annoyed huff, a venomous glare, a few comments, or maybe a small argument between them at best.
But this was different, he could tell. And if Tim caught him prying in on the deeper parts of his personal life, he wasn't sure he wanted to know how Tim would react.

Ignoring his better instincts to stay, he, reluctantly, backed away and headed back down the hall, preparing to leave.
After all, whatever was going on, he was sure McGee could handle himself.

He had made it as far as the elevator when the voices rose again.

"I NEVER SAID THAT!" The deep voice boomed, seeming to fill the entire hallway, and Tony froze in his steps, one hand hesitating near the call button.

He turned, glancing between the elevator doors and the door that led to Tim's apartment down the hall.
He considered going back, to hear what was being said, but there was no need because now both voices were raised, carrying down the hall with great clarity.

"And that would be such a bad thing?" Tim's voice rose as fast as his anger.

"I have nothing to apologize for!" The deep voice responded.

"Of course you don't!" Tim's voice rose several octaves, "You never do! Because you're never wrong!" Tim's tone practically dripped with sarcasm.

"I'm not going to stand for this!" The voice snapped back angrily. "I am your father, and you will show me respect!"

Tony's eyes widened.

Father? What the-

Before Tony had the chance to even fully register the fact that the man that was shouting was indeed McGee Sr. the yelling continued.
Tim shouted something back to his father, but what it was, Tony didn't hear.

But whatever he had said was apparently not what his father had wanted to hear.

The sound of a crash and quiet thud, followed by the tinkling of glass hitting the floor, echoed ominously down the hallway to Tony's ears.
He strained to listen for something, anything, that would speak to testament that his partner was okay.
He heard McGee Sr.'s voice speaking quietly, his tone cold; but no Tim.

Tony hesitated for a brief second, torn, before he headed purposely back down the hallway to Tim's apartment.

If Tim was alright, then he'd probably get mad at Tony, maybe yell at him to stop snooping.
If he wasn't... then McGee Sr. would have allot to answer for.

He had just made it to Tim's door, one hand placed on his weapon, just in case, and the other reaching out for the doorknob, when the door burst open.

Fully drawing his weapon now, Tony jumped back in surprise.

An older man, obviously McGee Sr., stalked out of the apartment; his hair was graying and starting to recede, his face starting to show faint wrinkles. Had his suit not been as disheveled, and his expression not quite as angry, he may have looked distinguished, but as it was, he looked intimidating and even, Tony had to admit, a little bit frightening.

His imposing height didn't help matters.

He strode past Tony and down the hall, eyes locked on the elevator doors ahead of him, clearly fixated on his anger.

Tony watched as he angrily jammed the call button and then, without so much as a glance over his shoulder, boarded the waiting lift and left.

Tony stood, dumbfounded, for only a moment before shaking himself out of his surprise. He holstered his weapon, keeping his gaze on the metal doors, as if waiting to make sure the man wouldn't reappear before making his way cautiously around the open door and into to Tim's apartment.
He stopped in the doorway, assessing the scene before him.

Tim was kneeling, his back to the door, scooping up pieces of broken glass from what looked to have been, before being hurtled at the wall, a vase.
Tony glanced around.
Besides the vase and an over-turned table, nothing seemed to be damaged, including, and most importantly, Tim.

Part of him was tempted to just back out quietly before Tim could turn and notice his presence. To leave before he had to broach what he knew would be a very touchy and awkward subject.

But still another part told him he needed to stay. Told him that whatever had just happened had been bad, more so than he probably even knew; and that Tim would need his help, even if maybe Tim necessarily didn't want it.
He took a step backwards. He could just leave and Tim would never know what he had over-heard, never know he had almost come in. Tim would never know.

But he would. And if walked out now, knowing he could have helped Tim, he'd never forgive himself.

Protectiveness for his friend canceling out the un-sureness he felt, Tony stepped fully into the apartment, making sure to let his footfalls come heavier than normal to announce his presence.

It worked.

Tim spun around on his heels, his body tense and ready to spring.
Briefly, Tony wondered if he was tense because he was expecting an intruder or his own father.

Tim opened and closed his mouth a few times, his face the very definition of shocked.

"Tony?" He managed to choke out.
For a moment Tony considered saying something about Tim's father, maybe asking him about the yelling. But something told him that wouldn't get a very good reaction from Tim; that instead it would cause him to close off before they even started.
So, instead, he decided to go for normalcy.

"Of course." He grinned, or at least tried to. He apparently didn't do a very good job because Tim was frowning at him. Better try something else. "Who else do you know that's this handsome?"

That worked.

Tim rolled his eyes annoyed, before turning his back to Tony again.

"Did you need something, Tony?" He asked wearily as he continued his task of scooping up the glass shards.

Tony shrugged before realizing Tim couldn't seem him with his back turned away, so he added, "Thought I'd stop by. Check in. You know, see if you... wanted to... hang out." If Tim noticed the stalling in his voice as Tony struggled for the right words, he didn't say anything.

He sighed, "Not tonight, okay, Tony?"

Tony didn't say anything as Tim stood and deposited the handful of glass in the nearest trash bin.

"Well, I just thought you might...you know, need a night out." Tony watched Tim carefully, "Thought you could use a break."

Tim grabbed a broom that stood lone in the corner of the room. "Not tonight." He said, voice terse.

"You sure? Look like you could use it." Tony pressed.

"I'm sure." Tim spoke tightly, obviously trying to keep his cool.

Tony watched him for a moment as he swept the fine slivers of glass and powder onto a dustpan before speaking again.

"I don't know, Tim. Can't let stress build up like that." Tim continued his motions, apparently doing his best to ignore his friend at the moment. "Cases piling up, all that paperwork, wears you down after a while." McGee didn't respond, so Tony decided for a more direct approach. "All that yelling and fighting can't help either."

Tim froze, his posture almost painfully stiff, shocked.

Tony waited, almost wary of the reaction he'd get, for Tim to respond.
He wasn't disappointed. Tim turned his expression one of incredulousness and even slight betrayal.

"How did y-"

"I was out in the hall." Tony answered his unfinished question. "Was gonna stop by... I heard yelling."

Tim opened his mouth angrily for a moment, before snapping it shut again and instead letting his expression melt into one of exasperation.

"McGee, if-" Tony started, but Tim cut in before he had a chance to finish.

"It's fine, Tony." His tone testified to the fact that it was anything but. "I'm fine."

Tony frowned. He didn't believe that for a second.

"It's nothing." Tim continued. "And, no, I don't want to go out tonight."

"Don't have to go out." Tony shrugged, taking a few steps further into the apartment. "Could stay here, watch a movie, kick back..." Of course, he knew that wasn't going to happened, he didn't intend for McGee to take the offer, but maybe if he could just keep McGee talking to him, he could convince the younger man to let him stay.

Not that it would really matter. Tony had no intention of leaving right now. Not until he knew Tim was really okay.

It wasn't that he doubted Tim's ability to take care of himself, or that he was even worried that Tim might do something stupid.
But, even if only for himself, he needed to make sure McGee would be alright.

And he knew, no matter what Tim may say, he wasn't 'fine'. Tony knew that lie better than anyone, and there was no-way Tim was fine.

"You know," he continued, "there's this really good flick on-"

"You know what, Tony, just..." Tim sighed, sounding tired, as he turned and started emptying the dustpan into the trash again. "Just go."

Tony frowned again, deeper this time; he took in the slumped shoulders and the defeated posture of his friend, the way Tim refused to even look at him.
Leaving was the last thing he needed to do right now.

"No."

Tim spun to face his partner with eyes wide and his mouth hanging agape at the unexpected answer.

Tony stared back at him, his stance almost defiant as he stood his ground.

McGee ground his teeth in frustration.

Of all the times for Tony not listen.
Just this one time he asked Tony to listen to him, to understand and walk away, and he says no?
All he wanted was some peace to calm his nerves, a bit of quiet to stave of the on-coming migraine, and some time alone to deal with what had just happened. The last thing he needed was more chaos.

He scowled at his friend.

"I said, get out!" He snapped. He was not in the mood to argue with Tony tonight.

The fond look of concern Tony gave him in return is not what Tim expected.

And what Tony did next was even more unexpected.

He sighed, sending Tim a look before turning and walking to the door. But instead of leaving, as Tim had asked him, he, with a deliberate slowness, shut the door firmly before turning again and taking up a place on Tim's couch, never once meeting the younger man's eyes.

Tim continued to gape and stare at his partner in disbelief, altering between gesturing to the door Tony shouldhave exited through and throwing his partner a scowl.

After a moment he gained his bearings, "I said to leave, Tony."

"And I said no."

Tony's posture was all ease as he leaned back into Tim's couch, kicking his legs up on the coffee table, making himself at home; but his tone was serious and brooked no room for debate on the subject.

Tim sighed, giving a Gibbs-like growl in frustration. "Just once, Tony, just once can't you understand and listen to me?" He asked. He had meant to sound mad, maybe even a little angry, or at the very least frustrated, but instead his tone came out defeated and tired. These past couple of days had taken more of toll on him than even hehad realized.

Tony stared at his partner for a long moment before sliding his feet off the coffee table and sitting up straight to address him. "I do understand, Tim. Which is exactly why I'm not leaving."

"Oh, because that makes sense." Tim muttered, running a slightly shaking hand through his hair, making it stand on end.

"Tim."

McGee turned, the tone of Tony's voice taking him by surprise; it wasn't an order or a request, but the weight that one word carried held more meaning than if it had been either of those.

He met Tony's eyes and was taken aback by the depth of Tony's gaze. "I understand." He spoke with finality. "And I know what you want and what you needare different things right now." He gave Tim a knowing look. "I'm not leaving you like this. Not now."

"Tony, I'm not a child, okay?" He sighed, "I think I can tell the difference, and I sure as heck know how to take care of myself."

Tony quirked an eyebrow, as if disagreeing with this, but otherwise remained silent.

Tim blew out a frustrated breath, forcing himself to try and remain calm.

"I'm not helpless you know." He stated, "I know what I'm doing, Tony. I can handle this."

Tony snorted, "You sure, Tim? Because I'm not sure of that right now."

McGee knew Tony had meant in a teasing gesture, a way to rile Tim; it was a tactic Tony often used to get the reaction wanted.

He couldn't have known Tim's father had implied something similar only moments before.

"I know what I'm doing, dad. I can handle the job, and I can take care of myself just fine."
His father had sent him a calloused look before speaking.
"Can you really?" He glanced around Tim's humble apartment before adding, "I'm not quite sure of that, Timothy."

He tried to bite his tongue, tried to stop the biting remark that was sure to come; because he knew Tony hadn't meant it like that. But the emotions those words brought up weren't ones he could easily stifle.

"Stop playing big brother!" Tim snapped. "I don't need you to take care of me, DiNozzo!"

He regretted the words as soon as they'd escaped his mouth.

He opened his mouth to speak again; he wanted to take back the harsh words, but what could he say? How could he make up for what he had just said to his friend?

He hadn't meant the words. Of course he hadn't meant them.

Tony, like Gibbs, used his actions more than his words to show his feelings; and when Tony went into what Tim had deemed 'Big Brother Mode', Tim did in-fact feel loved and appreciated.
An adult he may be, but one thing he had learned from being a big brother himself, is that you're never too old to be protected and taken care of by your older siblings. You still needed them.

He looked up to meet Tony's eyes and instantly his guilt multiplied ten-fold.

Tony may have been trying to hide behind his well forged mask, but Tim knew him better than that.
The taught lines around his mouth and the depth of hurt Tim was able to glimpse in his eyes before Tony turned them to look down at the floor spoke volumes.

Tim opened his mouth again, hoping an apology would spill out, but none came. He couldn't think of what to say to his friend to make this better.

He snapped his mouth shut, turning his eyes downward and away in shame.

This night had turned into one big nightmare. What had started out as such a hopeful evening, had fallen to pieces in front of Tim's eyes.

First the fight with his father, dashing any hopes Tim had had of repairing their tattered relationship, and now he had damaged, if not destroyed, the friendship he had with Tony.

He'd like to blame his father. After all, if he hadn't started the fight with Tim, again, Tony wouldn't have overheard and, for whatever reason, decided he needed to help Tim and this wouldn't have happened.

But Tim knew he couldn't. He was the one who said those words and he was the one who had hurt Tony's feelings.

And even still, he was the one who had called his father and asked him to come to visit.
Okay, so maybe he hadn't thrown the first comment, and he hadn't been to one to keep pushing for a fight like his father had done.

But he had called. He had asked him to come by and talk. And he was the one who had been foolish enough to think that his father might possibly want to get to know him again.

What was next? Was Gibbs going to pop through the door so Tim could ruin that relationship too?

This was all too much in one night; too much to deal with.

With a frustrated sigh Tim turned on his heel and walked into the kitchen, leaving Tony to stare curiously after him.

He needed to get away. To vent his feelings and frustrations on something that couldn't be hurt like he had been when his father told him he was worthless; or like Tony had been when he had shot down Tony's attempts to be the big brother that he was.

"You're worthless, Timothy. The only thing this little reunion of yours has proved is that you are still just as worthless as you ever were. You are not worth my time - you never have been and you never will be."
"But...I'm your son."
"Not anymore."

Tim clenched his fist even as tears stung his eyes.

His father had never said anything like that to him before. He had yelled and screamed, he had told Tim he was a disappointment and a failure - all this had been a common occurrence at the McGee household when Tim was growing up.

But never once had he abandoned Tim.

Part of him couldn't help but be glad that this was over; that he would never have to deal with his father's cutting words again.
And a smaller part was angry with his father. Angry that he could never understand and angry that he could never just be the father Tim had dreamed him to be.
And yet the last part, the biggest part of all, made Tim feel abandoned and alone. The man, no matter how callous he may be, was still his father. And now he was gone. He had left Tim and hadn't even bothered to look back.

The tears made his eyes prickle, but he refused to let them fall. He wouldn't cry; not over this. His father certainly wouldn't be shedding any tears over him, so Tim wouldn't either.

So instead he focused on the anger and frustration, it was easier to understand that feeling and easier to deal with.

He jerked open the door to the pantry cupboard before slamming it closed; then turning, he opened refrigerator, giving it a cursory look before letting it slam close behind him.
He wasn't sure what he was looking for, but for the moment it just felt good to slam things.

At least he wasn't punching holes into the wall and throwing around things like his father would have done.
Because if there was one thing Tim was not, he was not his father.


Tony sat, shocked, as Tim stalked out of the room, leaving him to mull over his thoughts alone.

It had hurt, more than even McGee might realize, for Tony to hear those words.
Tony had failed at allot of things in life, including his role as the team's protector. As much he hated to admit it, they had all gotten hurt at some point or another, no matter how hard he tried to keep them safe. Kate had even died; because he couldn't protect her as well as he thought he could.

But that wouldn't happen again, not on Tony's watch.

Tony had sworn to himself a long time ago that so long as he was still kicking, he'd make sure no other member of the team had to meet Kate's fate - even if that meant taking their place.

And though he knew Tim hadn't meant what he had said - the younger man's shocked expression and troubled eyes showed that clearly enough - he had to admit the words still stung.

Bang!

Tony jumped, looking wide-eyed in the direction of the kitchen.

'What the-'

Bang!

Tony frowned. What the heck was McGee even doing in there?

Two more bangs sounded in the kitchen, shortly followed by the echoing sound of the garbage disposal whirring to life and proceeding to chop whatever unfortunate object McGee had decided to destroy by tossing it down the drain.

Tony was tempted to go and see what that was all about, but, though he hated to admit this even to himself, he was kind of afraid of Tim right now.
Tim didn't often get mad, but whenever the McGee temper decided to rear its ugly head, Tony had learned that it was just best to stay a safe distance and let his anger run its course (which, thankfully, never lasted long with McGee). It was never a good idea, however, as Tony had learned to bait or tease McGee while he was in one of his moods. It usually never ended well for him.

And considering McGee seemed to be currently armed with his garbage disposal, and was not adverse to shoving defenseless objects down it, he wasn't quite sure Tim would spare him either.

Another bang resounded from the kitchen followed by a pained yelp and an angry, muffled curse from McGee.

Okay, now he had to know what was going on.

He stood up and made his way to the kitchen. He peered cautiously around the corner first, just to make sure it was safe.

Tim stood with his back to the door-way, nursing what appeared to be an abused hand.

Tony hesitated - at least until he spotted the bright red patch that was now forming on McGee's hand.

He made his way further into the kitchen and walked over to stand by Tim.

McGee tensed as Tony came to a stop beside him- but weather it was because he had taken McGee by surprise or because he was still embarrassed by what had been said, Tony wasn't sure.

"You okay, McGee?" He asked, peering around to get a better look at Tim's hand.

The long, thin slice down the center of Tim's palm was quickly being covered with blood.

There was a slightly bloody knife on the floor where Tim had obviously dropped it, and an unopened container on the counter.

Tony glanced between the two before turning to raise a brow at McGee in question.

Tim swallowed thickly but didn't answer.

Tony sighed, "Here." He offered, moving to grab Tim's injured hand to take a closer look.

Tim pulled back, drawing his hand out of reach quickly and Tony paused.

Their eyes darted in different directions, not daring to meet each other, as the tension between them doubled.

Tony cleared his throat, "Right. I didn't..."

He trailed off, not sure what to say or do next, but luckily Tim took care of that for him.

Still keeping his eyes down-cast, he reached out, offering over the bloody injury for Tony to inspect in a sign of trust.

Tony glanced at McGee before grabbing the younger agent's mangled hand and lifting it to his eye level.

Tim stayed silent as Tony looked it over, neither protesting nor offering an explanation.

If he thought things had been bad before, they were even worse now, he realized.
He hadn't even meant to pull away from Tony - it had just been a natural reaction.

For so long he'd had to take care of his own wounds, or tend to those of Sarah when their father refused to tolerate their so-called signs of weakness, that it felt strange allowing someone else close enough to do it for him.

"Well, it doesn't look too bad, Tim." Tony informed him as he eyed the cut. "It's not too deep, so no needles for you."

He guided Tim's hand to the sink and turned on the tap water, leaving Tim to rinse off the worst of the blood while he went in search of bandages.
Tim gently scrubbed away the worst of the sticky substance as he listened to Tony rattle around in his bathroom.

He had just finished drying his throbbing hand when Tony returned.

The older agent silently jerked his head towards the small, round kitchen table before pulling out one of the chairs and claiming a seat; Tim followed him, taking the seat opposite him.

He willingly held out his hand - which Tony accepted without comment - and allowed him to tend to the wound.

"Might sting." He warned before taking an alcohol doused cotton swab and dabbing around the cut on Tim's hand.

He winched, but otherwise made no show of discomfort.

Finishing his ministrations, Tony tossed the swab to the trash basket across the room and shoved the alcohol aside before he tugged the pile of bandages towards them.

He glanced up at Tim, but the younger man's were firmly fixed on a small stain on the table before him.

Sighing, he slowly set to work wrapping the bandages around Tim's hand.
He tried catching the other agent's eyes several times, but McGee kept his gaze downward determinedly.

"You know," He started, frustrated with the silence. "Might leave a scar." He nodded at Tim's hand. "Chick's dig scars." He waggled his eyebrows suggestively in hopes of drawing a smile, or at the very least an annoyed roll of the eyes, from his patient.

McGee stayed stubbornly still and silent.

Tony bit back a groan. Fine, if Tim wanted to keep quiet that was just fine with him; he could fill the silence for both of them.

"Might catch the eye of that cutie in records, huh?" He smirked at Tim, "She was pretty impressed with that scar on your arm, right?" He paused, giving Tim time to respond, before he plugged on. "You ever tell her that was just a scratch, Probie? Tell the truth. You let her think it a cut from some daring escape, right?" He tried to grin tauntingly at Tim, but the gesture felt tight to his face, the tension in the room making the air seem thick.

"Well, at least she'll be half-right on this one." He pretended to shrug carelessly, "It is a cut. Might not be from a daring escape, but still..." He glanced at McGee again, but he seemed to have not even heard a word of what Tony had just said.

Okay, time for a new tactic.

"Of course, Gibbs might be a problem." He said this casually as he covertly glanced up at Tim.

McGee flinched slightly at the thought, but otherwise kept still.

"You show up to work already cut up, he's not going to be happy. But then, this is Gibbs we're talking about; he rarely is happy. Except when he has coffee."

This time he was actually rewarded with small twitch of Tim's lips.

Smiling for real this time, Tony continued. "But you know you could always convince Abby to feel sorry for you; she might help you out. She's actually crazy enough to stand up to Gibbs. Kinda."

Tim broke into a small smile as he shook his head incredulously. Leave it to Tony.

"Ziva….well, Ziva'll probably want to know who did it so she can threaten them." Tony added with a shrug.

Tim's smile broke into a slight grin and Tony congratulated himself on managing to successfully break the thick tension that had been filling the room.

Now for the hard part.
Clearing his throat soundly he braced himself for the coming discussion.

"So... uh, what happened earlier?"

He winced as the smile disappeared from Tim's face. The younger man took no time in shutting down the emotions on his face and closing him out again.

"Nothing." Was the only answer he received.

"That wasn't 'nothing.' "He pointed out seriously, "That was definitely something."

McGee remained silent.

"Come on, Tim." He coaxed, "What happened?"

Said man sighed, "You really want to know what happened, Tony?" He looked up to meet his partner's curious gaze, "We fought. That's what happened. That's what always happens."

"Well," he pressed, "what did you fight about?" He pulled at the bandage, drawing it tight enough to keep pressure on the cut.

Tim snorted, "What we always fight about." He mumbled.

"Which is?" Tony looked at him pointedly, waiting for him to continue.

Tim shook his, biting back an annoyed scoff, "Tony, just drop it okay?"

Tony continued to stare; refusing to let the conversation drop just yet.

Tim huffed, "Look, it's nothing, alright? My dad and I used to fight all the time."

"Used to?" Tony asked curiously.

"We…. haven't talked in a while."

"How long is a while?" He pressed, taking care in keep his questions neutral for the time being.

Tim narrowed his eyes in thought. "Seven years."

Blinking in surprise, Tony commented, "Wow. That's…. wow."

Tim sent him a strange look, "Didn't you and your dad stop talking for a while?" He asked curiously.

"Yeah." Tony answered casually, "For about," He paused, adding the years in his head, "Four years."

"Really?" Tim asked, surprised. That had been news to Tim. He had always assumed Tony and his father had spent more time apart than that. It had certainly seemed like it; they seemed so distant from each other. "I thought it was longer than that." He explained at Tony's look. "You never talked about him much."

"Yeah, well, we didn't talk much before. I'd call every couple of months, check in."

McGee didn't miss the slight emphasis Tony had put on 'I'. Somehow it didn't surprise him that Tony was the one who kept that relationship going, however rocky the relationship might be. DiNozzo Sr. certainly didn't seem quite as concerned about their shaky standing as his son did.

Frowning, Tim asked, "Why did you and your dad stop talking?" He had wondered for a while now. Tony seemed so desperate to cling to whatever shred of contact he could get with his father. It made no sense for him to just drop contact with him.

"We just…. stopped." Tony shrugged, focusing his full attention on working the cloth around McGee's injured hand.

"I called him a couple of times. But he was busy, you know? All those business investments he has to keep track of. And his ex-wives." He snorted, "Guess, he just lost track of time."

Tim paused to consider this before opening his mouth the continue with his questions when Tony carried on.

"S'not like we actually talked much before then." Tony said with a hollow laugh, "He'd mostly talk about his business. Or tell me about his latest…. fling."

"You never told much about working at NCIS?" Tim wasn't surprised. Aside from knowing that his son worked for a man named Gibbs, Sr. didn't seem to know much else about his son's work life.

"Nah. Dad never really liked to hear about it much." Tony replied.

"Why not?" McGee asked, though he was pretty sure he already knew the answer to that one. One thing McGee had learned quickly about the elder DiNozzo was that if it didn't pertain to him, his 'business', or a beautiful woman, the man didn't give it much attention. Even if that included his only son.
McGee wasn't surprised however when Tony offered him a vague answer.

"I don't know." Tony answered absently mindedly, "I don't know. He never really said anything. Ever."

Weather Tony really didn't know the reason, or he just didn't want to speak the real reason out loud, Tim wasn't sure. Either way, he couldn't blame him though.

He stayed silent a moment as he considered how to word his next question, watching as Tony worked the bandage around his hand, before speaking.
While his father and DiNozzo Sr. were as different as night and day, it was obvious their interest in their sons and their lives were just about the same.

"So, your dad, he doesn't know much about you, does he?" He finally asked, his voice quiet. Part of him felt invasive, almost like a voyeur, as he intruded on Tony's life. He knew allot about Tony DiNozzo. And one of the things he knew was that Tony never liked to talk about his personal life much. Most especially when that topic included his father.
But another part of him couldn't help but ask. It was so rare for Tony to actually open up to anyone on the subject and, having been given the chance, he didn't want to pass up the opportunity to get to know more about his friend. It wasn't likely they'd ever have a conversation like this again.

Tony snorted, "No, not really." Tony paused, and for a moment Tim wasn't sure if he was going to say anything more on the subject or not, but after an apparent internal struggle Tony continued. "You know, he never even knew I was sick."

Tim didn't have to ask to know what Tony meant.

"You never told him you had the plague?" He asked incredulously.

"Nope."

"But… why?" He grasped to comprehend what he had just learned. There was no doubt in his mind that DiNozzo Sr. could be an indifferent and distant man; but he could also imagine that the man might care to know that his son had nearly died. "Don't you think he would have wanted to know?"

"Honestly, Tim?" Tony laughed bitterly, "I don't think he would have believed me. I mean, the plague?"

"But still, don't you think-" He attempted.

"No, I don't." Tony cut him off quickly, but his voice was quiet as he did so. "I mean, even if he believed me, he was probably off in…. the Bahamas somewhere, or Cancun, making some kind of deal. I doubt it would have mattered even if he knew."

Tim sighed, squeezing his eyes shut tightly. He knew his partner was probably right.

Maybe now though things would be different. Sr. at least seemed to be making an attempt to have a relationship with his son as of late.
But, from what little he knew of the man, he doubted his son being in the hospital would have made much of a difference to him several years ago.
He wondered if now, now that things were starting to change, however slightly, between Tony and his father if it would make a difference. If Tony were to get sick or injured, if his father would make an appearance.

"I'm sorry, Tony." He heard himself say.

"For what?" Tony asked, "Not your fault, McGee."

No, it wasn't. But he knew how Tony felt. And he knew sometimes it was nice to know that someone else cared.

Oh.

He bit his lip as the realization rushed him.

Tony knew that too.
And McGee was willing to bet that was partly why Tony was being so annoyingly insistent in his pursuit of answers.

He winced.

He really wasn't in the mood to discuss this tonight; or ever, for that matter. Discussing his family wasn't something Tim often did; it was difficult, drudging up all those long ago memories that he would rather leave buried. And it was, not to mention, embarrassing; having to tell people just how screwed up things had been. They always gave him those looks when they found out, those pitying gazes.
But if there was one thing he knew he could count on from Tony, it was that he wouldn't receive pity. Tony hated it as much as he did.
And if he was going to tell someone, it should be Tony he figured. If there was anyone who would understand, it would be him.

And after all, Tony had just opened up to him about his life (probably to get him to talk about hislife, Tim realized belatedly), something that so rarely happened with the older agent.

Sighing, he steadied himself for the coming conversation. This was going to be a long night he guessed.

"You know, I was the one that asked my dad to come here." He admitted quietly.

Tony's head jerked up to look at Tim in surprise; he had obviously not been expecting his interrogation techniques to work so quickly.

Quickly schooling his expression, he asked, "After seven years?"

Tim nodded solemnly. "After talking to Penny... I thought it was time. It had been a while, maybe we could work things out." Allot of good that had done him, he thought bitterly.

"I'm guessing things didn't go as planned." Tony said.

Tim snorted. "Oh, no." He paused, considering his next words before he revealed his past to his friend. "You know, we didn't really talk the last time either. We said maybe two words to each other. The last time I actually talked to him in person..." He shook his head in disbelief. "I was twenty-two."

Tony gaped at that. He opened his mouth to speak but stopped abruptly when Tim continued. "When I was younger, I couldn't wait to leave home, you know? Just so I wouldn't have to fight with him anymore."

Tony paused, swallowing past his surprise, before asking, "What did you fight about?"

"Everything." Tim snorted, "Mainly about how I was ruining my life."

Tony looked up from his work to send McGee a curious look.

"He was always disappointed because I didn't go into the Navy." Tim explained with a shrug. "Every McGee since my great-grandfather has been a Navy guy. And that was great and all; I mean, I'm proud of my family. But—"Tim shook his head, "That's just not what I wanted to do."

"Did you tell your dad that?"

"Yeah. All the time. Didn't seem to matter to him." He paused, thinking back. He remembered, all too clearly, how his father had shown his disappointment in his oldest child. The cold glares, the stinging words and biting remarks, those looks of utter disappointment that he had sent Tim again and again when he failed to do as his father wanted.

"I just…. I was never good enough for him." He admitted sadly. "No matter what I did. Straight A's, valedictorian, MIT..." Tim shook his head. "He always said I could do better. And at first I thought, you know, maybe he was just trying to push me. Trying to help me. But no matter whatI did, I was never good enough for him."

"Well... you know... maybe he just couldn't say it. Maybe he wasproud." Tony tried, his voice faltering as he attempted to come up with a good reason why Tim's father would have acted the way he did; something that might console his friend.

"I don't think so, Tony." Tim shook his head.

"Why not?"

"Because he told me." Tim spoke, meeting his partner's gaze with a steady stare, "He told me I wasn't good enough."

Tony stilled in his movements as he registered those words.

Oblivious to his partner's shock, McGee continued. "The last time we actually talked..." Tim paused, shaking his head before correcting himself, "the last time we foughtwas the night of my graduation."

He swallowed thickly before continuing. "I'd just graduated from MIT... We had just gotten home from the ceremony... the whole family was there. Everyone was... was congratulating me and asking me what I wanted to do, but dad..." McGee shook his head. "He didn't say anything to me all night. He just ignored me."

Tony finished wrapping Tim's hand silently, not daring to speak and interrupt the younger man's story.
He blew out a heavy breath, as he took in Tim's words and started painting the picture of what a younger Timothy McGee's life must have been like. It wasn't a pretty picture by any means.

Tim continued, not noticing the affect his words were having on his friend, "After a while I... I couldn't stand it anymore. I'd tried talking to him all night and he just kept ignoring me." Tim paused for a moment, recalling, "I asked him if he was mad at me." Tim snorted, "I was pretty naive back then." He whispered quietly to himself. Speaking louder, he added "He said he was disappointed. And I couldn't understand it, you know?" He whispered sadly, "I did everything short of joining the Navy, and he was stilldisappointed."

Tony watched his partner sadly as he continued his story, so wrapped up in the memories he didn't even seem to notice Tony sitting next to him anymore.

"I thought maybe... maybe we could comprise, you know? I wanted to work at NCIS. It wasn't the Navy, but at least it'd be close. We'd both get what we wanted." Tim shook his head at his own stupidity. "I showed him the NCIS brochure. Told him I was going to sign up; that I wanted to be an agent."

He paused a moment, lost in thought.

"And?" Tony prompted his voice quiet.

"And," McGee started with a bitter laugh, "he tore it up, threw the pieces in my face, and told me that it was a coward's way out."

Tony winched at that, imagining how that must have hurt the younger man.

"He said it wasn't good enough. That I... I wasn't good enough." Tim hung his head, the echo of the words that had haunted him since childhood weighing even more heavily on him now. "He told me that I'd never make it; that I wasn't strong enough to be an agent."

Tony looked down, swallowing thickly.
It looked like he and Tim had something more in common than he had first thought.

Though where his father usually had to be drunk before he would start in on his tirades of his son's worthlessness, Tim's father had been well and perfectly sober.
He remembered his father's own words still, telling him he'd never make it as a cop, that he'd be better off sticking to the family business before he wound up in the gutter.
At least he could pass it off as his father's drunken ramblings. Even though he knew that his father's words held some truth to what the man really thought, he could at least pretend that his father didn't mean them.

Tim wasn't given that luxury.

Briefly, he wondered if that was why Tim seemed so unsure of himself when they had first met the stuttering probie. If maybe it was because of his father's cutting words and his disbelief in his son that led to Tim's own doubts and insecurities.

Probably.

He remembered all too well how hard he had worked to move past his father's debilitating words. And how much those words still hurt whenever his father decided to show up again.
He could only imagine how much harder it must have been on Tim, and how hard he must have worked to prove himself not only to everyone else, but to himself as well.

"Well, you obviously decided to prove your old man wrong." He said cautiously.

Tim smirked lightly, "I figured if I was going to really break ties with him, I might as well not do it by halves.

Despite the seriousness of the situation, Tony couldn't help but smile a little. "Always knew you could be a stubborn man when you wanted to be, McGee."

Tim sent him a small, playful smirk that only confirmed Tony's assessment and suddenly Tony held a new respect for his partner.

He had always been rather proud of Tim, knowing how far the younger man had come from his days as a uncertain, wet-behind the ears probie.

But this was different. Tony knew from experience how those kind of biting words coming from someone who was supposed to support and love you, could hinder you; but Tim had proved himself better than his father's words and made something of himself.
He was proud of his probie.

Tim chuckled to himself before adding, "I almost wish I could have seen my dad's expression when mom told him."

"You didn't tell him yourself?" Tony asked with a raised brow, "All that trouble and you let your mom tell him?"

"Yeah, well, he didn't want to talk to me." Tim shrugged carelessly and Tony wasn't sure whether to feel glad that Tim was over his father's hurtful actions or disheartened that he was so used to it by now that it didn't faze him anymore.

"I'm sure your mom was pretty proud of you though." Tony tried for a grin, hoping the subject change would get them to a less depressing discussion.
But as soon as he caught sight of Tim's expression, he knew that wasn't about to happen.

"Actually," Tim sighed, "I think she was kind of disappointed."

If Tim noticed Tony's shocked expression, he didn't react to it.

"I think she was hoping I'd find something else, something dad would approve of." Tim snorted sarcastically, "Like that's possible."

"But... your mom... I thought you said you got along with her." Tony pressed hesitantly. He wasn't quite sure he wanted to open this subject tonight. Normally, the chance to delve into McGee's past would be a welcome opportunity, but the more he learned, the more Tony wasn't sure he wanted to know any more. He had known that Tim's life hadn't exactly been perfect, but things were obviously much worse than he or the others had ever thought.

"We do." Tim nodded. "Better than my dad and I, at least."

Which really wasn't saying much, Tony noted.

"She just..." McGee sighed tiredly, letting his shoulders slump under the exhaustion he was feeling. "My mom just wanted everyone to get along, you know? Be one big happy family. She just couldn't handle the idea that that would never happen with us."

"So she pretended." Tony deduced.

Tim looked up and met his friend's understanding eyes before nodding.

"She wanted things to be perfect. And when they weren't," He shrugged again, "she'd just pretend it wasn't happening."

Tony was pretty sure Tim wasn't just talking about the night he made his announcement that he was going to become an NCIS agent.

"She figured if she ignored it..." Tim trailed off, not sure how to explain the situation to his friend.

"Things would fix themselves." Tony finished for him.

"Yeah."

Tony nodded; he knew these kinds of situations well too. His mom had never gotten to have her fantasy of an all-American life either. Expect when she didn't get to have that life, and when pretending didn't seem to work anymore, she had decided to trade her old life for a new one; the new friends, the wild parties, the drinking. Tony remembered that all too well.

"I mean, don't get me wrong." Tim's voice broke into Tony's memories, and for once he was grateful for that. "My mom... she was a good mom."

Yeah, Tony's mom had been a good mom too. When she was around and actually sober enough to remember he was her son.

"She took care of Sarah and me. Loved us. She just... loved my dad more, I guess." Tim shrugged it off as if he was talking about nothing more than a bad day at work, but Tony knew the hurt ran deeper than that this time.

"You know, we do still talk." Tim informed him. "And I send her flowers every Mother's Day - daises. She loves daises. Always said carnations were too showy." He chuckled fondly. "She sends me birthday cards."

Here he paused a moment before adding, "She always makes sure to sign dad's name. I think she likes to think I don't know; that I might believe that he really cares enough to sign his name, let me know he's thinking of me. But I know better."

Tim gave a short laugh; but not his usual warm chuckle, Tony noted, instead it came out sounding hollow and bitter.
He repressed a shiver. He hated that laugh.

It was rare McGee ever took that tone, but when he did, Tony couldn't stand it. It made him sound beaten down and at times almost cold. He didn't sound like Tim.
And that always worried Tony.

"You still had your sister though." He felt the need to point out.

Tim smiled at that. "Yeah. Besides Penny, Sarah was one of the few people who actually believed in me." He shook his head with a sad smile. "When my dad and I fought that last time Sarah stood up for me." Tim chuckled. "She kinda told my dad off for that."

"Must have been a sight." Tony grinned. He remembered Tim's sister and he could only imagine the fight that ensued; she seemed like a real spit-fire.

"Left my dad speechless from what I heard." Tim smirked.

"From what you heard?" Tony repeated.

"I... walked out." Tim shrugged. "I didn't really care what he had to say anymore."

Tony nodded silently before he broached one of the questions that was nagging at his mind.

"So I guess your dad doesn't talk with Sarah anymore either." It came out as more of a statement as he tried to carefully form his words. He wasn't sure why he was so curious. Maybe it was because Sarah was so important to Tim. And from what he had heard of McGee Sr. so far tonight, he was pretty sure his daughter standing up to him in defense of her brother would not have won her any points with the tough man.

Something he knew Tim would blame himself for if given the chance.

"Actually, it's Sarah that won't talk to him." Tim grinned.

At Tony's quirked eyebrow, he continued.

"I think he thinks he still has a chance with Sarah. You know, get her to follow tradition. He still tries to call her, but she won't talk to him... Hasn't really talked to him since I left." Tim admitted.

"Stuck by her big brother." Tony said with a grin.

Tim smiled fondly, "Yeah." He chuckled before adding, "I know she's called him a few choice words over the years... I don't even want to know how she knows half of them."

Tony snorted. He could believe that. Though he had only met the younger McGee once, it was pretty obvious she could be just as stubborn as her big brother, and had twice the temper.

"You two were always close?" Tony pressed, curious.

Tim nodded. "We were each other's best friend. When we were kids she would always come to me for help. Not like dad would do anything to help her." Tim shook his head in disgust. "Which is why she would always come to my room when she had a nightmare, and why she would always ask meto take her to school." He smiled absently, and it was obvious to Tony that he was talking more to himself now, as he got further caught up in his memories, than he was talking to his partner.

"I would always watch out for her. When dad would start in on her, I'd try and distract him. She used to be afraid of him when she was a kid." Tim shook his head sadly, "She didn't need that. And she didn't deserve to be yelled at like that."

"Neither did you, Tim."

Tim looked up to meet his partner's stare and Tony met his gaze steadily, his expression one of grim sympathy.

McGee couldn't help but allow a small smile to tug at his lips at the certainty in his friend's tone.

"I know." He said simply.

Tony gave him a small smile now as he nodded, satisfied.

"You were a good big brother, Tim." He commented even as he started rolling up the unused bandages and collecting the medical supplies. "Not everyone would have stuck up for their sibling like that."

Tim allowed himself a smile at the compliment for only a moment before he felt the expression slide from his face.

"Tony" he started, "what I said before, about...you know, not wanting you to play big brother...I didn't mean it."

Tony waved off his apology as if it were nothing, but the grin on his face spoke volumes.

"Don't sweat it, Tim."

"I mean it, Tony." He said firmly; he needed to make sure Tony understood.

"I know." Tony replied simply, offering Tim a reassuring smile before he retreated back to the bathroom to put away the supplies.

Shaking his head with a smile, Tim stood, careful not to lean on his newly bandaged hand.
Picking up the knife that had since laid, forgotten, off the floor and depositing it in the sink, he set to work cleaning up the rest of the mess in his kitchen.

"McGee."

Tim turned to look at his partner; he was leaning in the doorway, obviously having returned from depositing the materials in the bathroom, watching Tim with an odd expression.

"Yeah, Tony?" He asked, almost concerned with where this might be headed.

"Just so you know…. Your dad, he was wrong." Tony told him in all seriousness.

Confused, he frowned, asking, "About what?"

"You're stronger than he gave you credit for, Probie. " Tony said, his voice sure and firm.

To say he was taken aback by the comment was an understatement.

He blinked, opening and closing his mouth a few times, unsure what to say to that.
Before he found his words, however, Tony continued.

"And…" Tony paused, as if debating if he should continue. "And you're definitely a better man than he is."

Tim swallowed past the lump in his throat. "You've never met him, Tony." He pointed out, his voice quiet.

"Don't have to." Was all Tony said, but those three words carried more meaning than anything else could have.

Not trusting himself to speak, Tim simply nodded his thanks to Tony and received a smile in return.

"Besides," Tony added, his tone becoming lighter even as he walked across the kitchen to sling an arm across Tim's shoulders and steer him from the room. "I think it's best if I don't meet him anyway."

"Yeah? Why's that?" Tim asked, a small smile playing at his lips now.

Tony cocked his head, thinking, "Well, he's a pretty strong guy, right?"

Tim nodded, confused, not sure where this was headed.

Tony pulled a face, "Yeah, not sure which one of us would come out of that fight."

Despite himself, Tim couldn't help but laugh at that. Which, considering the proud smirk Tony was now displaying, he was pretty sure that's what the man had been aiming for.

"But really," Tony added, his smirk turning into a more serious expression, "I think it is best if we don't meet. Don't really see that ending well…." He trailed off, his tone distracted as he got lost in his own thoughts.

Tim couldn't stop the smile that formed on his face now.

While he hoped Tony never had to meet the older man (though if it was more for Tony's sake or his father's Tim wasn't sure), Tony's words brought with them a nice feeling.

The seriousness in Tony's tone spoke volumes, and he knew the man meant what he said.
It felt nice to be protected.

Though still, if ever such situation should occur, Tim would have to make sure never to leave Tony alone with the man. He didn't doubt Tony would make good on his word.

Or even worse, that Tony would tell Gibbs. He knew how that fight would end.
There was no question that it wouldn't end well for his father or that it would most likely end up bloody.
The bigger question would be if Gibbs used his gun or not.

He considered Penny's words from her last visit, when she had compared his father to Gibbs.
He supposed, in some ways, they were alike; their gruff attitude, their silent, mute-like tendencies, the military pasts. But there was one huge difference between the two men.
While Gibbs often showed his feelings through his 'tough love' methods, his father only showed the tough part, but never any of the love.
Gibbs may be hard on them, but they all knew he cared, that he would be there when needed or wanted, and that he wouldn't hesitate to jump to their defense.

Actually, that described most of the team pretty well.

It wasn't a secret that they all enjoyed tormenting and teasing each other, - some, Tim mused as he looked at Tony, more than others - but if one of them was hurting, the rest would always be there to defend, heal, or comfort them.

He couldn't help but smile a little; he knew without a doubt his little NCIS family, bizzare though they may be, would band together without hesitation to protect him.
It was an idea that Tim was slowly starting to get used to.

Growing up the only family he could count on was Sarah and Penny, but even then not for protection. Sarah was his little sister; it was his job to protect her not the other way around. And Penny did try, but she wasn't always around either. Quite often she was off on one of her crusades to the save the world.

To have a family he could count on, no matter what the circumstance, was new to Tim. But he was getting used to it.

At times he would still falter and still doubt. Some days it was harder than others to leave the things from his past behind him.
But when it came down to it, he knew they would be there for him.
That's what counted.

He was shaken from his fond musings when he felt the comforting weight leave his shoulders.

"You sure you don't want to head out, Tim?" Tony smirked him; the teasing bringing in a sense of normalcy to the otherwise unnerving evening.

Tim snorted, "No." He deadpanned. "Honestly, I think I'm just going to crash." He scrubbed his face with a weary hand.
The day was starting to catch up with him quickly.

Pulling his hand away from his face, he was met with Tony's scrutinizing gaze.

"You gonna be okay, Tim?" He asked, still concerned.

"Yeah." He nodded. And he would be.

"You sure?" Tony pressed, but Tim could hear the unspoken question hidden in the words. 'Do you need me to stay?'

"I'm sure." He assured.

Nodding his satisfaction Tony clapped him reassuringly on the back before heading for the door.
His hand had just landed on the knob when McGee called for his attention.

"Tony?"

Tony turned to look at him in question.

He paused, momentarily not sure how to say what needed to be said, but he quickly settled on a meaningful, "Thank you."

It wasn't allot, but he hoped Tony would understand what he meant.

The grin that spread quickly across his partner's face in response told him that was all that was needed, "Anytime, Tim."

Then with a teasing smile he added, "And don't forget what I said about that hand." He nodded at the wound, "That girl in records..." He trailed off suggestively. "You could work this to your advantage. Go with it." Tony smirked, sending him a wink before quickly making his exit and shutting the door in Tim's face to cut off any chance of a retort from the younger man.

Tim shook his head with an incredulous smile.

Only Tony could go from genuine concern to a teasing remark as if at the flip of switch.
Comforting once second, tormenting the next.

But then again, Tim thought as he traipsed back to his bedroom, that was exactly what a big brother did.

He loved Sarah and he would gladly shoot anyone who tried to hurt his little sister, but that didn't mean he wasn't hard-pressed not to tease her when the opportunity presented itself.

And, yeah, maybe he hadn't grown up with Tony. And maybe Tony, or any of the rest of the team for that matter, didn't share the same blood that pumped through his veins.

But if there was one thing Tim had learned over the years, it was that blood didn't always equal family.
And that sometimes family came to you in the strangest of ways and people.

But despite that, he wouldn't trade his little make-shift family for anything.
They had always been there for Tim, and he would be there for them.

Because that's what family does.


So, what do you think?
I'm horrible cruel to poor Tim, I know. :P
Leave a review and let me know what you thought, please. :) Any constructive criticism will be taken gratefully (I'm always looking to improve my writing). Flames will be ignored.