A/N - Hi! This is my first ever published fanfiction. I've been reading for a while and finally decided to try it out for myself. This is a very AU universe and might seem confusing at first but I promise I'll explain it as I go! It's Tim-centric, obviously, but the whole team will play a major part, despite how the first few chapters might seem.
Thanks for taking the time to read, and any constructive criticism is welcome. I'm English, by the way, but as it's an American show I'll try to keep English cultural references out of it. If you spot anything, feel free to point it out.
"I thought we had more time."
Timothy did not need to ask why the woman was standing in his apartment.
It was very close to midnight and the NCIS team had just wrapped up a particularly gruelling case. All Timothy wanted to do was take a very hot shower and sleep for about a week, but the moment he saw her all thoughts of rest were driven from his mind.
Harriet Mason wasn't one to make social calls. Standing ramrod straight in the centre of the room, flyaway hair pulled back into a tight ponytail and familiar black-with-red-piping uniform in the pristine condition of official business, the purpose of her visit was all too clear. To ask would be a waste of time and Timothy knew he probably had very little of that left as it was.
So he didn't ask.
He shut the door behind him and tried to tell her, without actually using the words, that he just wasn't ready. Ten years was not enough. They had promised him at least twenty, probably closer to thirty. Ten years, for all that he had given and all that he still would? It wasn't a fair trade. It didn't even come close to being enough.
"The situation has changed." Harriet Mason said in her perfectly calm, even voice. Her dull blue eyes fixed on him, taking in every detail, no doubt evaluating how much work there was to be done. "You are needed immediately. We all are."
He could refuse to go, of course. They could not force him to leave behind this new life he had built up from ruins. He had signed no contract, made no promises, swore no oath. But the thought was a brief, tantalising tickle in the darkest corner of his mind, lasting all of a few seconds. If he was needed, he would go.
"Do I not even get a day or two to sort things out?" He asked, anticipating the answer. "I have a life here."
"So I see." Harriet glanced over at the desk where his typewriter stood. Beside it was a framed photograph of himself, Abby and Jethro the dog. It had been taken the same day Abby had made him take Jethro home. At the time he had been rather irritated both at Abby, for making him adopt a dog that had attacked him, and at himself for letting her. Now, though, the image had pride of place as a fond memory.
"We can find a home for the dog."
Timothy rolled his eyes, not caring that Harriet could see. She was an old ... friend wasn't the word. He knew her well, though.
"It's not just the dog, Harriet." He said, exhaustion beginning to creep in once again. "I have a job, I have friends. I have family."
Harriet frowned. "You tracked down your family?"
"Of course I did." Timothy frowned right back. "Why wouldn't I?"
"You knew you'd be leaving again."
Timothy looked down at his shoes. She was right; he had always known this was, at best, a break. It could not last. He had already hurt his family once, disappearing without a trace and then returning suddenly with no explanation for his four-year absence. Now he must do it all again.
"Like I said. I thought I had more time."
"Time is relative." Harriet said. "I have not seen you in almost a century."
"It's been ten years for me." Timothy looked up now; Harriet's easy dismissal of the mundanity of human emotion was an easy way out of awkward conversation. Of all the soldiers Base Command could have sent to retrieve him, she was the least likely to ask questions about his new life. Right now, any discussion of those he was leaving behind would make this harder than it already was.
"We must leave immediately." Harriet abruptly switched the conversation back to its original point. "However, Base Command has promised every returning soldier two priority phone calls to their friends and family. As respected as you still are, I am sure you will be given first access."
It wasn't ideal, but it was more than Timothy had expected. From the moment he walked through the door to find Harriet on his couch, he had just been hoping for time enough to write a note for the team to find later.
"Should I bring anything with me?" He asked. There was nothing left to do but accept the inevitable. He would never forgive himself if he chose to stay behind and do nothing.
Harriet raised an eyebrow.
"You're going to war, Timothy, not camp."