He'd tried to deny it, the pain he'd see in those deep brown eyes. The cataracts, the loss of hearing were bad enough. It was when his friend had started stumbling to his feet that he knew he'd done everything he could to keep his friend alive. That was when the anger had started. Anger that he'd have to make a decision soon. One he didn't want to make, but that he knew was coming soon, no matter what he wanted, his friend was in agony and he would have to make that ultimate decision, how could he do it, and yet how could he not?

He could have tried bargaining, but knew from past experience that God or even the devil couldn't help him now. It was one of the reasons he hadn't wanted a pet, and yet at the same time he had caved in to Abby's demands. He couldn't imagine why to this day he had, but he couldn't deny the good times they'd shared or how the animal had wound its way into his heart.

He tried to deny the depression he knew was going to consume him. He could almost guess what the others, especially Abby would say or think once he told his friends the truth about why he'd been so low lately. He couldn't deny it however and so, sighing in sad acceptance of the truth, he went to the two friends he knew would keep his secret. The two men that would be able to help him find that final peace of mind for what he was about to do.

Tim shuffled into his apartment, threw down his keys and headed into the small laundry room. He didn't look at the empty kennel as he swept out the dust and cobwebs, or even as he picked up the dishes. It wasn't until he reached for the faded blanket that his eyes started filling with tears as he remembered watching his beloved pet turn this way and that, pulling and pushing the blanket until it was just at the stage of comfort the animal needed in order to lie down and go to sleep.

He was unaware of compassionate blue eyes watching him from the doorway, those same ice blue eyes that could make a criminal cringe at the very sight of him. He didn't know about the phone calls that the blue-eyed man had received over the past two hours.

From Ziva: "I am worried about my friend."
From Tony: "Man, Probie's really out of it today."
From a hysterical Abby: "He killed Jethro! Why Gibbs, why would he do that?"
From Ducky: "I have given Abigail a sedative, but it is you that Timothy will need tonight my friend. The loss of a loved one is something no one is prepared for, and he will be in shock for the next few hours."

The phone call from Jimmy was the one that explained everything. How they'd had to put Tim's beloved Jethro to sleep due to the animal being in too much pain and discomfort. How Tim had asked Jimmy to be the one to give the animal the shot and how Tim had held the animal's head in his lap, silently stroking it as Jethro had opened his eyes as if to say "thank you" and closed his eyes one last time, before giving a sigh and falling into the eternal valley of sleep.

Tim finally felt his presence and turned to face him, but Gibbs could tell that he was not really seeing him. Those emerald green eyes were full of unshed tears, tears that Tim would not allow to flow in the presence of others.

Gibbs was reminded of something from his past; how his grandfather had told him when his own dog had died that tears shed over a pet were for women and children, not men. How Jackson Gibbs had come in at that time and ranted at the older man, as he'd held his son close telling grandfather Gibbs that emotions were as necessary as breathing. He'd led Jethro outside and told him that it was okay to cry, that Muttley had been family and when the tears had subsided, they'd buried the dog in his favorite flower garden, the one that the dog had been determined to dig in, no matter how many times he'd been reprimanded.

"Hey Boss."

"Tim."

"I...what are you doing here?"

"Offering a shoulder if you need one."

Tim shuffled his feet and Gibbs was reminded of the times in years past when Tim would shuffle his feet in an effort to avoid a straight answer, but unable to tell a lie just the same. He reached out a hand, put it on Tim's shoulder and the younger man crumbled in his arms. He led Tim out of the laundry room and into the bedroom. They sat down on the bed and Tim leaned against him as he said,

"He was in so much agony. I didn't want to do it, but I couldn't let him suffer the pain anymore. I couldn't do it."

"Arthritis?" Gibbs asked sympathetically, already knowing the answer from Jimmy.

Tim nodded and sniffled, "He was getting cataracts on his eyes and he couldn't hear that well either. I know Abby hates me just now, but I wasn't about to let him suffer needlessly."

"I know."

"Tony and Ziva probably think I'm a wuss, but he was family. He was more than family, he was my best friend and I couldn't, I didn't know what else to do."

"You did what was right." Gibbs said softly.

Tim looked at him with watery green eyes. "Then why do I feel so terrible?"

Gibbs pulled him closer, and Tim leaned against him, savoring the strength and warmth coming from the older man's body.

"You already stated why. You lost part of your family today."

"He was just a dog."

"No, he was more. They always are."

Tim sighed and Gibbs could tell that he was about to drop. He leaned back against the pillows, still holding Tim against him.

"No matter what any one tells you, McGee, any animal that we bring in becomes our best friend and a member of the family. Don't let anyone tell you differently. Now sleep, remember the good times you had together. I'll take care of Abby in the morning, you get some sleep."

Tim sighed and Gibbs ran a paternal hand over the younger man's head. "Sleep Timmy, know that he's in a better place now and that he'll be eternally grateful that you didn't extend his pain."

Tim shifted slightly and Gibbs could tell that the young man was almost asleep. "Gibbs?"

"Yeah Tim?"

"Can you...can we?"

"I know just the place to put him." Gibbs says, thinking about a certain time capsule. He tells Tim about it; how he'll place Jethro next to it protecting the memories contained within.

Tim nods in sleepy agreement.

"Gibbs?"

"Yes, Tim?"

"Thanks."

"You're welcome, son."

The End