Still sitting on the porch swing, Gibbs had silently watched as Tim escorted his mother back to the porch and stand still to listen to what she had to say after she kissed him. Seeing the shimmer of tears in her eyes as she'd walked into the house came as no surprise to him, nor did the sight of his agent seating himself on the middle porch step. What did surprise him, though, was the unexpected disruption of his cell phone ringing and the way in which that ringing startled Tim, even while he was quick to answer it.

"Yeah. Gibbs."

"Boss, I'm taking Mrs. McGee home and then I'm gonna split, too."

"Okay. Thanks."

"She wants to take Christopher home with her. Wants Probie to have some time to think without having to worry about being attuned to his every need for tonight."

"I wouldn't. Not tonight."

"Okay, I'll tell her.

"Appreciate it."

"Night, Boss."

"Night."

Having been startled by the boss' cell phone, Tim was now aware not only of the man's presence, but also of the conversation he'd just had with Tony, since the Senior Field Agent's voice carried quite well over the phone. Getting to his feet, he climbed the few steps up to the porch and took a seat next to the swing the older man remained sitting on and smiled softly in silent acceptance to what he'd just heard.

Putting his phone away in his pocket, Gibbs looked over at his agent and felt a measure of relief at the sight of the young man looking his way with just a hint of a smile, even if it didn't reach his eyes. Before he could put any stock in that expression, Tim looked away, his posture less than erect and his silence speaking volumes of what he wasn't letting go of. Letting the younger man guide where this was going, the older man kept his silence as well as his seat on the swing.

It wasn't long before Tim rewarded the man's patience; getting up and looking over at him as he turned to head into the house. "Thank you for being there for Mom, tonight, Boss. I know it's late. You don't have to stay. I'm fine."

Gibbs cocked his head at the side angle he liked to use when invoking questions he didn't have to voice but got answers to without a sound.

Tim paused in his trek and huffed out a small laugh. "I know. I'm not getting' off that easy."

Gibbs smirked in response as he waited for the younger man to sit back down.

"Can we take this inside? I'd like to be closer to Christopher in case he wakes up."

Within a few minutes they were safely ensconced in Tim's kitchen as the young man set about making a pot of coffee strong enough for the boss since right about now he felt the need for a strong drink himself. As the coffee maker did its job, silence seemed to settle in almost comfortably between them, as had become the norm since the baby's entrance into their lives. Gone were the embarrassed moments where Tim couldn't think of what to say or where he tried too hard to fill the silence.

The uncomfortable stretches had been replaced with the matured version of who Tim had become, more willing to share what was bothering him than keep it bottled up, at least, when Gibbs included himself in the resolution process which he did sparingly, but much more than he'd ever done it before Christopher's arrival.

"What's goin' through that head of yours right now, Tim?" Gibbs asked with more of a parental tone than he realized.

Grateful beyond words for the man's efforts to help him through this, Tim respected the man's efforts by answering him honestly although he couldn't quite look at him. " Like I said earlier, Boss. I'm responsible for all Mom's pain and sorrow with all those years of fighting with Dad over stuff she'd do for me or let me do for myself."

"Why?"

"Because he told her it was my fault. I'm all they ever fought about according to him and looking back I have to admit he's right. Then again, it's like I told Mom. Dad was never one to ever say something he didn't mean, even when he was irate." Tim answered quietly as he sat twirling his spoon through his coffee, watching the liquid move around in the cup.

"Whatever it was you said to her out there, didn't make her feel any better." Gibbs warned him quietly.

"I know, Boss." The young man replied sadly as his conversation with his mother just a short time ago now replayed itself over in his head.

"Don't listen to your father, Sweetie. He was just angry. People say things they don't mean when they're angry."

"Most people. Not Dad. We both know he meant it, just like we both know he's right."

"NO! He's NOT right!"

"Sash. Mom. It's okay. Really. It was the wake-up call I needed. It straightened me out about a few things. Now I know not to ever bother trying to talk to him again."

"Oh, Tim."

"And maybe someday…"

"What, Honey?"

"Maybe someday, you'll be able to not have to face the consequences of standing behind me instead of him."

Seeing Gibbs frown now, Tim drew in a sharp breath and got up to busy his hands and his mind fixing himself another cup of coffee as he realized he'd spoken the conversation out loud almost verbatim. He braced himself for what he thought was the pending head slap to top all head slaps he'd ever been given by the man, but none seemed to be forthcoming.

"That really how you see it, McGee?" Gibbs unexpectedly asked from directly next to him where he'd come to stand, as he leaned back against the counter now, his arms crossed over his chest.

"Yeah. But it's not him I'm worried about anyway, Boss. Nothing's gonna change between the two of us. I know that now." the young man admitted seriously as he glanced at the older man momentarily before looking toward the window, seeing the lit yard beyond the house. "This just proves to me that I've been wasting my time expecting it to. Now I can focus on making sure Sarah and Mom are gonna be okay. But, I also know that that's asking an awful lot of them."

"They're both strong, women, McGee." His boss reminded him quietly.

Tim nodded. "Ordinarily, I'd agree with you, Boss." His tone left no doubt he didn't consider this to be one of those ordinary times and he only held himself responsible. "Backing the wrong side for all these years has been painful and rough on both of them. And if that wasn't bad enough - now Mom ... and Sarah, God only knows how she's gonna take it...I'll be mincemeat before the lawyers have even been hired." The sardonic tone coming from the younger man lifted the corner of Gibbs' mouth into an irrepressible smirk.

Not immune to his boss' sense of humor, Tim had to smile, in spite of himself.

"You afraid of your sister, there, McGee?" Gibbs quipped as he stepped over to the coffee pot and refilled his mug before turning back to the conversation.

"Guess that depends on the situation, Boss." Tim replied only half-joking, although the pain in his eyes was still visible to the one looking for evidence of exactly how his agent was feeling about it all.

"Makes sense." The older man returned with a straight face but an unmistakable hint of humor in his tone, bringing forth another smile to Tim's face for just a minute.

Breathing out deeply, Tim straightened his shoulders and turned to head out of the room. "I really need to check on Christopher."

Instead of disputing the fact by trying to remind him that if the baby had woken up, the monitor would have picked up on his movements, the boss silently fell into step behind the young man and followed him up to the baby's room, neither of them speaking during the trek up the stairs or down the hall to the nursery.

Immediately drawn to the sight of his sleeping angel cuddled contentedly into his blanket with his favorite little beanie baby, the calico cat, Tim couldn't help but feel everything else begin to just slip away into the recesses of his mind. It was a long silent few moments before he realized Gibbs was still with him in the room. Standing here with the man who'd helped bring this about – without complaint and with much sacrifice and hard work on his part – reminded Tim that he'd never yet taken the time to adequately thank Gibbs for all he'd done.

"You've been more of a father to me than Dad has ever been, even when you weren't trying to be." Tim offered quietly as he looked the boss straight on. "Thank you. For everything"

Gibbs nodded in silent acceptance of what Tim was sharing with him as the young man glanced his way.

Almost without realizing it, Tim found himself explaining himself further. "Standing here looking at him makes me realize that I don't need to worry about what my father thinks about me anymore because he's never been there for me to begin with. But you have, even though you weren't trying to be on any conscious level. And maybe I don't have to worry about becoming my father after all."

**Thwack**

"Ow." Tim exclaimed softly in reaction to the unexpected head slap.

"Don't ever compare yourself to him, McGee." Gibbs was practically growling even as he kept his tone quiet. "You will never be the man he should have been."

Tim frowned as he attempted to process what the boss was telling him. He didn't have too long to think on it before the older man came at him with even more of an explanation.

"You're already a better man than he's shown himself to be and don't you forget it." Gibbs' eyes were fairly snapping with anger at the thought of this young man comparing himself to that poor excuse for a father of his. "Don't let anyone tell you that you won't be a good father, either. You're doin' just fine."

Unable to stop the smile from lighting his face and going all the way to his eyes, Tim had only one thing he could think of to say. "Thanks, Boss. That means an awful lot coming from you."

"So long as you believe it, Tim. So long as you believe it."

~~ FINIS~~