Tim McGee put his hand on his keyboard, and realized a second too late the reason for DiNozzo's smug look. Dammit.

Three years. Tim had been putting up with DiNozzo and Kate Todd for three whole years, and he had just about had enough. On good days, they were fine, and Kate was even kind to him.

On bad days, and this one was obviously going to be one of those, his job was hell on earth. His team mates never lost an opportunity to taunt him and set him up. Tim gently pushed back on his chair and reached across his body with his other hand to pull his top drawer open.

His second mistake, as his fingers bonded to the handle. Tim sighed for a second, any day but today. His mentors would be at NCIS, a top level meeting with Director Sheppard and some trouble-shooting on a computer system that was classified. Tim had done a little work on it. The very last thing he wanted to do would be to look stupid in front of Nic and Henri, who had given him his first scholarship.

"What's the matter, Probie?"

He looked up at the snort, Tony's grin was ear to ear, the taunting words already dripping out of his mouth. The disdain took Tim to a place he really didn't want to go. Miserably he yanked back on his hand, tearing his skin. Shaking his sore fingers he pried open his drawer and pulled out the solvent and cotton buds he kept there. A few minutes and he freed himself, and stalked to the men's washroom to wash his hands and check his fingers for damage.

Tony DiNozzo settled back in his seat. The prank was priceless, the look on McGee's face as he realized he was stuck.

Tony leaned back with a smile. A Probie pranked and all was right with the world.

Kate looked up from her desk. "You are a pig, DiNozzo."

Tony wasn't sweating it, there was a smile in her voice and that told him she was just as amused at Probie's naivety as he was. McGee was just the perfect patsy. "I didn't see you objecting too hard."

Kate had to admit that Tim was soft. Too soft for his own good. He needed to wise up to DiNozzo and learn to stand on his own two feet.

Neither of them noticed that they were being watched from above.


Tim washed his hands, his fingertips were sore, but no real damage had been done luckily. He certainly didn't want his mentors and friends Nic and Henri to see him hurt. It was bad enough that the unnecessary stresses of Tim's job had already been a topic of conversation amongst Tim and his geek friends.

Dammit. He almost slammed his hand into the washbasin's shiny surface. He had let his guard down once already. Shown his mentors the reality of his day to day situation and they were already horrified.

Henri had vowed that Tim would come and work for them, and Tim had to admit to himself that the salary that Nic had offered him was breathtaking. But Tim's heart was with what he was already doing.

The difference was simple, and devastating in its own way, Nic and Henri respected his choices and gave him the freedom to choose. He had chosen to stay with NCIS on the MCRT. They had supported his decision, and Henri had even thrown a few minor coding projects his way as a sort of bonus.


Dr Dominic Fairchild stood on the landing above and watched the interaction between his friend and mentee, and the rest of the man's team. He had seen the whole incident. Superglue? Nic formed his own opinions very quickly, Tim's senior agent was immature, and something very close to a playground bully. The woman agent was no better. Nic had seen her smile at the agent Dinozzo's antics and her complete lack of support or compassion for her younger team mate.

Nic was just grateful that his partner was not there to see it. Henri would have lost his temper and ripped them both a new one.

In Henri Drax's eyes, Timothy McGee could do no wrong.

Nic sighed, Henri's support for Tim was unwavering, and perhaps a little obsessive.

Nic and Henri had first met Tim when he was sixteen and an early admissions candidate for MIT. They had also met his father.

It was the unfortunate incident with the cup of coffee, Henri's beloved little brother Pierre, and the Admiral that had firmly marked Tim out as the future recipient of Fairchild and Drax's first study scholarship. Pierre was a sweet, gentle, biddable child, an accident of birth had left him developmentally slow. It was Pierre's misfortune to accidentally jog the Admiral's elbow. The coffee spilled, and the furious admiral rounded on Pierre. Shouted at him. Which was when Tim had stepped in and stood up for Pierre against his father. Henri and Nic had returned from a brief meeting prior to interviewing the candidates and had been witness to the shouting and Tim's defence of Pierre.

Nic sighed again, this job was going to be a hard one. He and Henri were giving their time for the nominal sum of a dollar. Which was fine, and endeared them to to the top brass. Sadly, in Nic's discussions with SecNav it had come to light that Admiral McGee was part of the project team.

As Nic was very quick to point out, Dr Henri Drax's dislike of fools in general, and Admiral Robert McGee in particular, was going to make this project volatile at best. Privately Nic doubted that even the closeness of almost thirty years of friendship and partnership was going to keep the lid on Henri's mercurial temper.

There was one bright spot, it worked in their favour that the Admiral, while something of an arrogant fool, was also a toady. Nic's own Boston Brahmin background impressed the man, but Henri's ancient, noble antecedents reduced him to servile boot licking. Something that Henri did not hesitate to exploit.

Nic rubbed a hand over the back of his neck. The project, the formal engagements, the weekend that he and Henri had planned with their friends, offset by the hierarchy and the personalities. A minefield, it would be Nic's job to negotiate the minefield, while keeping the disparate parts of the project in their simple but loose alliance. Round them all up and keep them travelling in the right direction.

A piece of cake! Nic wondered if he had enough Advil.


Henri Drax leaned casually against the back wall of the elevator and watched the lights on the indicator board. Pierre was with his trusted secretary, because Henri wanted to see Tim and his teammates in action. Nic might have believed that they were just leaving it all up to Tim, but Henri was not about to leave his young friend unprotected. He had a few friends scattered through NCIS, some of them even on investigative teams that shared a floor with MCRT, and Henri had disturbing reports from two separate sources on that floor, and one in Cybercrimes, that Tim McGee was being disrespected by his teammates, and his boss was doing nothing effective about it.

Hell, even the lab-rat was giving him a hard time. Apparently the woman had a bee in her bonnet about Tim having been to MIT.

Henri had promised Nic that he would not interfere, nor would he try to charm and otherwise schmooze Tim into taking the job with them.

But that did not mean that he wasn't going to provide Tim with some very visible high level support. He had been photographed enough over the years, many newspaper and magazine articles had made a considerable fuss over his eligible bachelor status, even someone as self-absorbed as Anthony DiNozzo was going to recognize Dr Henri Drax.

Showing his teammates that Tim was not unprotected and had the support of his friends, perhaps would persuade the older agent to back off.

The elevator arrived at its destination and Henri straightened up, pinned his best 'schmooze the natives' smile on his face and exited onto the bullpen floor.


Tim dried his hands carefully, studied the two nasty raw patches on the index and ring fingers on his left hand and scowled. He had seriously had enough of this crap. Nic and Henri had offered him a job, huge money, good friends that he admired and respected to work for, no one to razz him, poke fun at almost everything about his personal life and most importantly no one to invade his privacy on almost a daily basis.

He hated feeling like this. He knew he would love working with his friends, they would offer him everything he could ever ask for in the way of opportunities and a fantastic work environment. But he had worked so hard to get where he was. MCRT was a huge feather in his cap, and Timothy McGee was a great deal more ambitious than his self-effacing exterior suggested.


Tony DiNozzo's alpha male threat radar was pinging. The tall, lean and handsome man swaggering into his personal space with the kind of confidence one is born with was enough to pull him off balance.

The guy seemed kind of familiar too.

"Can I help you?" Tony was on his feet, irritably aware that Kate had also picked up on the handsome stranger in their midst and was making her way back to them.

The stranger glanced around, "Tim McGee?"

The accent was not American, it had overtones of North American, so Tony was guessing Canada, and was about to ask more questions when a shout of "HENRI!" came from behind him, and the stranger's smile widened "TIM."

Tony spun around, decidedly off-kilter as he was ignored in a surge of matey hugging and back slapping as Tony's Probie co-worker trampled on the hierarchy carelessly.

"It's so good to see you." Probie sounded really excited, which also pinged on Tony's radar, probies were supposed to be anxious and careful around senior agents, that his probie suddenly wasn't was something new and troubling to Tony.

McGee being an admiral's son, Tony knew exactly everything he needed to about Tim McGee, it made sense that he knew some people of wealth and consequence. But this? Tony was no fool, he knew expensive, made to measure suiting when he saw it. Henri's silver-grey suit was beautifully cut and fit his lean frame perfectly, the shirt was silk, the skinny grey tie a perfect two shades darker than the suit material, the shirt cuffs showed the requisite half inch at the end of the suit sleeves, and there was a glimpse of bracelets beneath, both wrists, looked silver in colour but were probably white gold or platinum, Tony glanced down, black ostrich boots, heavy buckle in silver. Tony knew his designers, and everything this guy was wearing screamed serious money.

Henri. That name was starting to ring bells in Tony's slightly overheated brain as he watched his probie being more animated than Tony thought he had ever seen McGoo.

"Tim, aren't you going to introduce us?" It was on the tip of Tony's tongue to ask that question, and he turned, annoyed that Kate had beat him to it.

"Yeah, Tim." Tony echoed weakily. This whole thing was pulling him off balance.

The interloper turned, "Henri Drax… m'sieur." Slim hand extended, Tony took it in a daze as it hit him like a ton of bricks. Images tumbled through his mind, the amber eyes, like a cat, the lean figure, the strength in the grip of the man's hand. The accent. Dr Henri Drax, Chevalier d'Aubray, father French nobility, mother French-Canadian, practically royalty herself, Henri the middle son of three, the brilliant one, partnered up with Dominic Fairchild right out of MIT, made millions. Everything they touched turned to gold. Some tragedy in Drax's past, and the man never married. Making him the most eligible bachelor that anyone, including Kate Todd, was ever likely to meet.

He was holding her hand. Tony could feel the guy's magnetism from five feet away. And something rocketed through him right then. An unusual feeling.

Tony shook his head. Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo did not do jealousy.