Summary: There's a reason Tim only asks for help when he has no other choice. He doesn't want to get anyone else involved. A McOrigins Oneshot.
Disclaimer: Not mine and no money made here.
A/N: Horoshee Malchek is Russian for the Good Boy.
Tim walks into Boss' house like he has dozens of times before. His steps are sure and confident as he crosses the floor of the living room and makes his way towards the basement door. He turns the knob swiftly, jogs down the steps, and doesn't stop until he reaches the bottom.
He sits on the landing, letting his feet fall flat onto the basement floor. He lets himself settle in for a moment, feeling the silence in the room and the surprise from Gibbs as he watches Tim from the other side of the room. It's not until he can't see any more reason to stall that he looks up at his Boss.
Gibbs' eyes are right on him, curious and probing, but accepting as well. "Got a minute?" Tim asks.
Boss tilts his head. "Yeah," he nods and lays some sort of woodworking tool on the table beside the wall.
Tim nods. He'd known—not from his own experience, of course, since he's never come to Boss' house without a specific invitation before—but from the things Tony and Ziva and Abby, and, once, oddly enough, Palmer, had told him about their visits to Gibbs' basement that he would be welcome down here without question. Still, in this moment, Tim's stiff tongue is a tough obstacle to overcome.
He breathes deeply, and opens his mouth, and then he winces and shakes his head. God, what an idiot! he thinks to himself as he gets the frequency jammer from his pocket. He turns it on and then adjusts the equipment he'd appropriated from NCIS just before he'd left late that afternoon. He bites his lip. It should be safe for him to talk freely now, but he hasn't spoken about these things aloud in twenty years. Not even to Sarah. Especially not to Sarah.
He swipes at his face, is trying to figure out how to even start this whole thing out, when Tim sees Gibbs moving towards him in his peripheral vision, Boss doesn't stop 'til he squats right in front of Tim.
"Talk to me," Boss commands.
Tim swallows, but thankfully, feels his mouth responding automatically to the familiar tone, "I'm being followed."
"By whom?" Boss gets right down into his face as he demands to know.
"I think, um," Tim sniffs, and he didn't expect to feel like this when he finally—if he finally ever got to talk about this. "I think it's my father," Tim whispers. "Well, my father's people," he corrects himself immediately because if his father actually came anywhere near Tim himself, then Tim has no doubt he would know it.
Gibbs squints in confusion, because, well…because, of course, he does! He still thinks Sean McGee is Tim's dad because Tim never said a word to contradict it, had, in fact, said a great many things to try to make sure no one ever considered the truth might be different.
"The McGees, um," Tim swallows hard, and a part of him can't even believe this is coming from his mouth. "They knew my mother. She died when I was fourteen. Car crash," Tim elaborates as much as he's going to, just enough to let Gibbs know it was an honest-to-God accident, "and so the McGees let me live with them. The adoption went through a little before my eighteenth birthday, and it let me receive benefits I otherwise wouldn't have had." Tim shakes his head. "They were good to me," Tim wants Boss to understand, "but they were never—" Tim shrugs and ducks his head. "Sarah was their only child, and she's the only family I have."
Gibbs nods, and Tim can feel how many questions are boiling just under the surface of Boss's skin, but the only thing Boss asks is, "And your biological father?" because Boss has always had the ability to keep him on task.
"We left him," Tim whispers.
And Tim's eyes are low, and that's how he can see Boss' fists clench. "What did he do to make your mother leave?"
Tim shakes his head emphatically. "No," he denies the assumption. "He never hurt us. He loved me," Tim blinks. "He cared about my mother, too, but he adored me," and how Tim's tried not to think about it over the years, how very much he's missed that, been so desperate for his father's love. He can't count the number of letters he's written but couldn't send, couldn't begin to calculate how many notes or even just anonymous emails—something—that he'd been tempted to mail even just to let his papa know he was okay. It had never felt right to Tim the way he and Mom left, but he knows, ultimately, that staying would have felt even more wrong.
Boss lays a hand on Tim's shoulder, forcing Tim's eyes up to his. "Then why did your mother leave him?" Gibbs repeats.
"We made the choice together, Mom and me. I was only eleven, or no I was ten," Tim shakes his head, remembering with suddenness that he's actually younger than 'Tim McGee'. As tall as he was for his age back then, it was easier than trying to pretend he was younger than he actually was when they were forging the new documents. Gibbs squeezes his shoulder, and Tim knows that's his cue to get back on subject.
Tim looks to the small stretch of floor between him and Gibbs, "I think I always knew Papa did bad things sometimes, but after he k—" Tim cuts himself off because after all these years, he's still not a rat. "After Vasha died, I knew I had to go or I would grow up to do the same things."
"Who was Vasha?" Gibbs presses.
Tim blinks, a little thrown by the question. "He was my uncle." Tim shakes his head. "Well, not my blood uncle—"
Gibbs interrupts him with a shake of his head. "But Russian children call all adults who are close to them aunt and uncle."
Again Tim stalls, but eventually he nods. And even with Gibbs starting to put the pieces together so quickly, Tim doesn't feel the least bit of the panic that he'd been expecting. He only feels relieved.
"And why do you think your father's people are following you now?" Gibbs asks quietly.
"Well, someone's definitely following me, and I think it's his people. I've felt eyes on me for months, but I couldn't see anything anywhere. They weren't tracking my computer or electronically listening to my conversations on the phone or in person, but then," Tim swallows hard. "I started seeing the same faces in a bunch of unrelated places, and I—I could hear scattered bits of conversation. In Russian," Tim clarifies, chin tilted downward, eyes up. "I could hear it everywhere, and at first I just thought it was because I missed hearing it," Tim admits, ducking his head even farther. "But I'm sure now it's not!"
"Why are you sure?" Boss prods.
"I'd started leaving portable surveillance cameras—not at my house or in my car because those are too obvious—but at places I frequent like bookstores, coffee shops, the gym," Tim nods. "And that's how I confirmed it. According to the facial recognition program I ran from home, it looks like he's rotating roughly fifteen people on my tail."
Gibbs raises his brows. "Fifteen—your father has fifteen people on you?" Boss grabs Tim by both arms and shakes.
Tim swallows hard. "If it is my father's people. I hope it's his people," Tim adds. "That's why I need help." He winces, "Papa would never hurt me, but other people, if they knew who I was, who my father was…"
"Tim," Boss tightens his grip around McGee's forearm. "Who is your father?"
Tim's lips move—he can feel it, but it takes him a moment to force out the name, "Nikolai Mikhailovich Markov."
Gibbs nods almost casually, as if this development is in some way expected. "The Chicago mob boss," Gibbs clarifies, and Tim's glad Boss puts it out there in the beginning. He should know what he's getting into. "Which would make you…" Boss leads.
"Anatoli Nikolaievich." He belatedly adds his surname, "Markov." His ancestral name is not as important to him as his patronymic. His patronymic comes straight from his father.
"Toli Nikolaievich," Gibbs shortens it immediately. "That's what the news media called you when you disappeared."
Tim crinkles his nose at the misnomer. "No," he shakes his head. "That's not—you don't—it's either Anatoli Nikolaievich or Toli you don't," he squints in his irritation. "They were wrong to mix them together like that. I hated whenever it came on the TV. It makes me sound like I'm not truly…" Tim trails off, just realizing he's arguing about how improper it is to mix his diminutive with his patronymic when he hasn't been known by either to anyone since his mother died.
"Okay," Gibbs reaches his hand up to cup Tim's cheek, immediately getting Tim to refocus on the issue at hand. "How quiet do you want this?" Boss asks gently.
Tim licks his lips, hesitates. "If it's not my father's people," he stalls. "Boss, I—I'll have to run."
"No," Gibbs shakes his head fiercely. "You do not run."
Tim shakes his head right back, feeling Boss' hand stay right with his cheek. "They'll use Sarah and the team against me if I don't."
"No," Gibbs rejects the idea again. "Promise me you'll let us find another way."
"I can't," Tim whispers, gaze locked with Gibbs'.
Boss tightens up his jaw, breathes deeply and evenly, and just very deliberately as he watches Tim, maybe judges how serious Tim is. "Then promise me you'll come to me before you run."
Tim's eyes flitter downward.
"Hey!" Gibbs pinches his jaw by a hair, and forces Tim's chin up. "Promise me."
And Boss' eyes are desperate when Tim's meet up with them again, and there's no reason for it, but Tim's suddenly reminded of his father's eyes when Tim watched Papa on TV right after he and Mom left, begging with the world to bring his only child home. "I promise," Tim gives in, partly because of Boss' insistence, but mostly because he almost frantically wants somebody in on this with him.
Gibbs nods, his grip on Tim's chin relaxing gradually before he lets go. "Okay," Gibbs stands and then orders Tim to do the same with a jerk of his head towards his work table. Tim automatically follows. "Now, first you're going to tell me everything you've seen, felt, and heard since this whole thing started, and don't leave a single detail out," Boss warns. "Then I want you to tell me everything about your father," Gibbs holds up a finger before Tim can think to protest. "I don't need you to incriminate him in anything. The only things I need to hear about are how I can recognize his people."
And Tim tells Boss everything he's done his best to put out of his mind for the last 22 years. He doesn't realize it when he switches to Russian until he hears the flat vowels of Gibbs' American accent try to curl around a question about his childhood home.
"Oh," Tim shakes his head. "Sorry, I'm—"
"Nyet, Horoshow, Toli," No, it's good, Toli, Gibbs quickly returns. "Pa-Russki," In Russian.
"Toli," Tim repeats the name—his name, and it shouldn't feel so very good to hear himself called that. He rejected that name, the life he would have had, over twenty years ago. He has no right to take it back now.
"Da," Gibbs urges, as if he can read Tim's mind. "Toli."
He stares at Gibbs for a minute afterward, and it feels as though a giant roadblock is rearranging itself in his mind, and when Tim opens his mouth again, Toli speaks. And he talks until he's hoarse.