Three months had passed since Tim McGee was rushed to the hospital, his body shattered by a killer's bullet. Two more days and he'd be going back to work at NCIS. Tim whistled as he locked his car door. He'd spent the afternoon at the gym working to regain his strength. First there had been weeks of physical therapy and now he was working with a personal trainer. The goal was to get him up to speed without over doing it. So far, he was happy with his progress.
As he started up the front steps of his building, he heard a car pull into one of the nearby parking spaces. Quickly, he turned his head, his heart skipping a beat. After everything he'd been through, he was still a little jumpy.
"Timothy! Sweetheart! I'm so glad I caught you!"
McGee relaxed. He paused by the building door and smiled as his grandmother, Penny, hurried up to meet him, a plastic container in her hands.
"I brought you some of those wonderful wheat grass bars I know you enjoy so much," she announced waving the plastic container. They're so good for keeping your bowels regular."
Tim winced at both the bowel comment and the thought of eating those awful bars. He just didn't have the heart to tell her how revolting they really were. He smiled gamely as he took the proffered box.
Penny stood on tiptoe and kissed him on the cheek. "You look better every time I see you, Timothy. You're finally beginning to lose that sickly look. Getting some color back in those cheeks." She eyed him critically. "Still need to put on some more weight though." Then she smiled as she hooked her arm through his and followed him up to his apartment.
"I told your mother I would keep an eye on you, and I meant it."
Tim smiled again as he unlocked his apartment door. "It was really great seeing Mom and Sarah. I've missed them."
"You need to take more time off, sweetheart. Spend more time with your family."
Tim paused as he set the box of wheat grass bars on the kitchen counter. An image of his father flashed through his mind.
"Including Dad?" He immediately regretted his words.
Penny hesitated, then sighed. "I am sorry, Timothy."
Tim gave her a lopsided smile and shrugged. "It's not your fault, Penny. I'll just never measure up to his standards. I've come to accept that. Besides I've got you, and Mom, and Sarah."
Penny looked away for a moment then hurried over to him and embraced him in a firm hug. "You'll always have us, Tim." Her voice was rough with emotion.
He hugged her back as hard as he could. He loved her more than mere words could ever express. She was his rock. He never would have gotten through any of this without her. He finally stepped away, lowering his gaze so she wouldn't see the tears.
"Well, are you excited about returning to work?" Penny broke the awkward silence as she moved into the living room and sat on the small sofa.
Tim leaned against his desk. "Yeah, I really am. I think my brain has started to turn to mush after being gone for so long." He frowned. "I hope I don't screw up too much."
"Oh Timothy," Penny shaking her head. "That's your father talking. You put those ideas out of your head right now. Your team has nothing but wonderful things to say about you. Although, maybe I should have another talk with that Tony DiNozzo…" She leered and winked.
Tim laughed softly. But he was worried. Between his convalescence after his kidnapping, his suspension, and recovering from the gunshot wound, it seemed like years since he'd spent any time at NCIS. He wondered more than once if they really even needed him back. Surely after all this time they'd found someone to replace him. He felt his stomach begin to knot.
"Timothy! Stop that!"
Tim blinked and looked up to see Penny glaring at him.
"I know exactly what you're thinking. They have not replaced you at NCIS so don't even go there."
"But…how…" Tim's frown deepened.
"Oh sweetheart," Penny sighed. "You are just so predictable. You still don't think you're good enough no matter how many times you prove yourself."
Tim felt his face grow warm.
Penny stood and put her arm around Tim. A warm sense of security radiated through his body.
"Your father has hurt you far more than I ever imagined. And I'm not just talking about now. I'm talking about when you were growing up. I hoped I'd managed to shield you from most of it, but obviously I failed."
"No, Penny…it's just me…"
"No!" snapped Penny fiercely turning him to face her. "It is most definitely is not you. That's what you've been told all your life by your dad and it isn't true now and it wasn't true then. I tried so hard to encourage you while your father systematically destroyed your self-confidence, but I can see I didn't try hard enough."
"Maybe I should have just gone to the Naval Academy," began Tim with a sigh. Then he stopped. Damn it Tim, you're doing it again.
"You weren't cut out for the Academy," replied Penny angrily. "You know that, I know that, everyone knew that. Except for your father. He just couldn't accept the fact that your strengths were more intellectual than physical. But sweetheart, let it go. You have a wonderful team at NCIS. Believe me, they care as much for you as your mother or Sarah or even me. That Gibbs was a regular Rottweiler, protecting you in the hospital. They were all so worried about you. Still are."
Penny paused. She bit her lip and began to fidget with the copper bracelet encircling her wrist. "Tim, there's something more I need to tell you."
There was a long silence. Tim watched her expectantly, his stomach tightening again. He knew that look and it never boded well.
Penny cleared her throat. "I've still got a few well-placed contacts in the navy, even after all these years. Well, they tell me that although your dad isn't saying anything in public, he's…well, he's still doing all he can for Lt. Owens behind the scenes."
Tim stiffened and closed his eyes. Of course Dad would support Owens. He steadfastly refused to believe Owens would try to kill Tim for something as trifling as mere jealousy. McGee ran a hand over his face. He wasn't surprised. Not really. After his father had spent years putting Owens on a pedestal, regaling his colleagues with the younger man's accomplishments and outstanding abilities, he would have looked like a fool to admit he'd been wrong. But still…there'd been a flicker of hope that maybe, just maybe, Dad would choose him for once.
Finally Tim raised his troubled gaze to meet his grandmother's.
"Why wasn't I ever good enough? Would going to the Academy really have changed everything? You and I both know I wouldn't have lasted a week. But, if I had gone and washed out, would that have made him happier? At least I would have tried."
Penny opened her mouth to replay, but Tim wasn't really listening.
"I loved him more than anything. I just wanted him to love me back. To be proud of me. I did everything I knew how to get him to notice me. But nothing worked. My accomplishments have never made any difference to him. I mean, Dad went to Sarah's graduation from Waverly. He even went to cousin Jerry's graduation from the Academy and he had to fly home from Philippines to make that. But he was much too busy to come to my graduation from MIT, and I was even the class speaker." Tim swallowed and moved to the window.
"Then, the next thing I know, I've been replaced entirely by some Navy SEAL. Owens was the perfect son. Someone I could never be."
Tim's heartbeat began to pound in his ears. He whirled to face Penny, his pain almost more than he could bear.
"Why?" The small word practically choked him.
As Tim turned away, his gaze fell on the nearby bookshelves. He frowned for a moment then slowly reached out and picked up a small framed photo. He stared at it, clearly remembering the moment it was taken. It was his tenth birthday. The one and only birthday he remembered his father attending. His father had his arm around him and was smiling down him. It was the only such memory Tim had. With a cry of fury he hurled the photo across the room where it smashed against the far wall with wrenching crash of shattering glass.
Penny stared at Tim, her eyes wide. "Timothy…"
He stopped her with a stony gaze. "I'm done, Penny. Please don't mention him to me again. As far as I'm concerned, I have no father."
He glanced at the broken photo, swallowed, then turned on his heel and disappeared into the bedroom, closing the door firmly behind him. It was over.
At long last, McGee was back behind his desk at NCIS. It was a good day. He hummed softly as he performed a computer search of a suspect's financial records, not caring how mundane the task was. He was back.
"Agent McGee, welcome home. How are you doing?"
Tim looked up to see Director Vance standing before his desk his face wreathed in a welcoming smile.
Tim grinned. "Never better, sir. It feels wonderful to be back, even if it is just on desk duty."
"Well, it won't be long before you'll be back in the field. But speaking from experience, don't push it too hard or you may regret it."
McGee nodded. Right now, he was perfectly content just to be back where he belonged.
The director hesitated. No one else was around. The rest of the team was off investigating a new case. "Tim, I'm really sorry about how things turned out with your father. I can't believe he chose to support Owens."
Tim shrugged, his eyes glued to the computer screen. His throat tightened. "It doesn't matter. The navy will always come first to him. I just have to accept that and move on." But deep inside, the pain was there, an open wound that would never heal. Tim clamped down hard on that thought and pushed it away. I have no father.
Director Vance regarded him for several long moments then cleared his throat. "Well, I'm just glad you're back. We all are." With a nod, the director continued on his way.
Tim relaxed then frowned. He had to stop reacting every time someone mentioned the admiral. It was going to come up no matter how much he wanted to avoid the topic. He'd meant it when he told Penny he was done as far as his dad was concerned, but it would take time. He sighed and gave himself a mental shake. His family was here and they had his back. Now, it was time to get back to work. He slowly smiled.
He was home.
A/N: I thought long and hard how I wanted to end this and decided I wanted to keep it simple so didn't include yet another team reunion figuring that had already happened and didn't want to repeat it. I also wanted to keep the possibility of future show downs with McGee and his father and decided that for now, Tim was not going to forgive and forget. But can he really cut his dad out completely for good? Hmm. That remains to be seen!
Thank you all for sticking with me to the end. I love writing these and enjoy the reader comments which sometimes give me ideas for new directions to take the story that I hadn't considered. I appreciate all of my readers and reviewers and hope I'll see you again in the future!