Summary: An FBI controlled joint task force is about to take down the biggest mob boss in Chicago, and only Tim knows the agent in charge of the takedown is dirty, but can he protect his team without revealing his past? No spoilers past Vance's promotion to director, and it ignores all McGee family references from Penelope Papers on. Horoshee Malchek remix.

Disclaimer: Not mine, and no money made here.

A/N: Posted with thanks to Precious Pup and Tobilo. Though it shares a major key element, this story is not in the same universe as my other fic: Horoshee Malchek.

Agent Thomas is a charismatic man, this FBI agent presenting the operation to the NCIS portion of the joint task force that plans to finally bring Chicago mob boss Anton Markov to justice. Tim can tell Tony takes to him immediately, just like most of the other NCIS agents that squeezed into their largest conference room today to learn their part in the takedown the FBI hopes to execute in three days.

The only thing is, Tim knows this man, recognizes this FBI agent instantly—even after over 25 years—and Tim's not about to let his team follow him anywhere.

Tim's hands are shaking by the time the briefing is over, so he stuffs them in his pants pockets to try to make the movements less noticeable. He glances around the room as people shuffle out the door, but no one pays him special mind. Timothy McGee is just as forgettable now as he was when he was born fifteen years ago.

He follows Tony and Ziva back to the team's shared cubicle, listening to Tony go on about the Godfather and pondering aloud whether Anton Markov is more of a Tony Soprano sort of mobster or a Michael Corleone kind of guy.

He's neither, Tim thinks but doesn't dare to speak the words. He's so much worse.

"So what do you think, Tim?" Tony directs the conversation his way, and Tim can't help but feel a spark of satisfaction at the simple recognition. Tim had fought so hard for Tony's acceptance, for his trust as an agent, for his friendship, and this is just a tiny example of how freely Tony offers those things to him now. Tim wonders if he'll have to give that gift up soon because of this turn of events.

"Never really watched much in the way of mob movies, Tony," Tim reveals. Some of the films he's seen actually make Tim feel nostalgic for that intense feeling of family they report and that Tim's 'family' had actually managed to deliver at times, but most of them just make Tim remember the things he's always been desperate to forget.

"You're kidding!" Tony whips his head around mid-step. "Mafia movies are guy movies, Tim," Tony explains patiently—well as patiently as Tony gets—as he lays an arm across Tim's shoulders. "It's an artform really," Tony extols as they round the last corner and walk into the bullpen. "Ooh!" Tony smacks Tim's chest and then runs ahead, all the while looking behind at Tim. "Marathon once this bust is over! All three Godfathers to start, and then we can check out Goodfellas!" Tony declares.

"Mmm," Tim crinkles his nose. He loves movie marathons with Tony, but he's not sure he can sit through an entire day of mafia movies—that is, assuming he'll even get to stay in his life as Tim McGee long enough to have the chance.

"Oh, come on!" Tony lifts both hands to his sides.

"I'll get back to you," Tim cuts short the rant he knows is coming. "I gotta call Sarah," he pulls his cell from his breast pocket and dials his first speed dial, shuffling on down the hallway towards interrogation despite Tony's protests as he walks away from the conversation. The area should be fairly deserted at the moment, not that Tim truly needs privacy for this call. The code he and Sarah came up with years ago insures no one will know what they're talking about anyway.

"Hello?" Tim hears his sister ask once she picks up.

"Hey, Sarah, it's me."

"Oh, hey, Tim. Can I call you back later? I'm about to walk into class," her words are distracted, sure of the response Tim's about to give.

Tim bites his lip but has to prove her wrong, "Just wanted to confirm we were on for spaghetti at my place tonight." We may have to run. Get ready.

"S-spaghetti? T-tonight?" she stutters like she hasn't since their mother didn't return from one of her trips back into Chicago to try to get another woman out.

"Yeah," Tim says as casually as he's able to after telling his sister their lives may be changing irrevocably and very, very soon.

"Spaghetti doesn't take very long to make," Sarah comes back, which is why they'd chosen it as the codeword if they didn't have a lot of lead time before they had to get out of town. "Are you sure I can't make you something else?" she asks almost desperately. "There's this casserole recipe I found online that looks pretty good."

"I, uh," Tim sighs into the phone. "I don't know," he closes his eyes, his mind zooming through possibilities that might see them out of this, but he's just not sure yet how great the risk is to the team or whether there's any way to mitigate the threat without jeopardizing his and Sarah's life as the McGees. "It's not like we've got the greatest track record," he clears his throat distractedly then shakes his head. "In the kitchen, that is," he belatedly adds.

"I guess that's true," Sarah returns, her voice shaky but brave, and it makes Tim squinch his eyes shut and lock his jaw to hear her trying so hard to put up a fearless front for him. She hadn't even been born yet when Mom took Tim and ran, but she's old enough to remember the close call in Oregon, and Tim knows she still has nightmares about Florida.

"I'm gonna try to figure a few things out on this end," he promises her, eyes still squeezed tightly while he hopes for both their sakes that there's a way out of this situation for the two of them that will keep his team safe, and maybe even get Anton Markov behind bars and keep him there for the rest of his life. "Maybe we can try a casserole, but spaghetti's a safer bet considering our skills in the kitchen," he continues the code, and with it, his warning to get ready to run. Despite how badly he wants to keep this life for himself and for Sarah, their names are worth nothing anyway if they're dead—maybe less than nothing if they survive only to go back under their father's thumb.

"Okay," Sarah agrees after a moment, and Tim can hear dueling notes of skepticism and hope in her tone. "I'll see you later, big brother."

"Later, Sarah," he tells her, and they both linger a moment on the line before they hang up.

Tim focuses on his breathing as he pulls the phone from his ear. He feels his whole body start shaking this time and decides the best way to hide his jitters is to move his muscles. He shoots into the nearest stairwell and heads up, afraid his thighs are too rubbery to support him if he would try to go down. He makes it to the roof access door in no time. He's tempted by the idea of fresh air, though, of course, he'd never call attention to himself by opening the fire door to the outside. He makes his way back to his own floor instead, relieved that his legs don't give out from underneath him as he goes.

Tim carefully maneuvers down the last flight and deliberately strides back towards his workstation. He does his best to ignore the talk as he goes, but the bullpen buzzes with discussions about the takedown, and the only thing that Tim allows his mind to concentrate on as he sits back down at his desk in the MCRT cubicle is that his bosses and his coworkers are crazy—totally and utterly batshit insane. Even if the task force didn't have one of Anton Markov's moles in it from the start, all this talk of Markov would surely have alerted him of the impending operation somehow. The man owned ears everywhere. It's foolish of the other agents to speak so loosely of him, even inside of NCIS headquarters, and who knows how open the talk of him is around the Hoover Building. They're completely foolish if they think Anton Markov won't hear.

Of course, that's a lesson Tim learned early in life—don't speak aloud anything that must remain secret—so perhaps it's simply imprinted on him more heavily. Tim's understanding of this life lesson has always been one of the main reasons Tim likes Gibbs so well. Gibbs' Rules consider how to keep a secret. It's so important to Boss that the Rule made it into single digits—Rule #4: The best way to keep a secret? Keep it to yourself. Second best? Tell one other person—if you must. There is no third best. Tim has wondered vaguely here and there what made Boss realize the importance of the rule but has no illusions that Gibbs might tell him the truth about it were he to ask. After all, Rule #7 is Always be specific when you lie. That's another thing Gibbs never had to teach Tim but that Tim nonetheless appreciated hearing from Gibbs.

Truth be told, Tim rather likes all of Gibbs' Rules. Maybe because Tim had already chosen half those rules for his own life before he'd even met Gibbs. Maybe because to know Gibbs' Rules and to follow Gibbs' Rules is to know where you stand with the man himself. And Tim knows exactly where he stands with Gibbs. He knows, absolutely, that if he asked Gibbs for help—to bring down Agent Thomas or Anton Markov, to hide Sarah, or even to run himself—then Gibbs would do everything in his power to make it happen. As surely as he knows this to be a fact, he also knows that if he were to go to Gibbs for help on this, then Gibbs would die helping him. No one can survive Anton Markov's wrath. No one, that is, but his son, Anatoli Antonovich Markov. Of course, no one's seen Toli since his mother ran off with him over 25 years ago, and Tim will do absolutely anything to make sure nobody ever finds him.