A/N: Could have sworn I posted this over here ages ago - but since it wasn't on my page - I'm posting again.

If it was here a while ago and somehow got deleted - I deeply apologise to any/all previous reviwers.

May 10, 2009

Megan McGee frowns in serious aggravation. What on earth had convinced her that taking her cranky eighth-month-old grandson to the grocery store with her was a good idea? She can't remember. Then again, Christopher has literally just gotten through a very rough two days with his medical crisis. With the pokes, prods, spinal taps and messed up sleep patterns, it's no wonder the normally happy tyke is still a bit cranky. Putting the car in park, she breathes out a sigh of relief. At least she's gotten everything she needs for lunch and dinner.

Getting out, she goes around to the trunk and unloads the two full paper grocery bags from it, setting them down on the trunk and closing it, wishing she'd chosen plastic bags instead since they would have been easier to handle. Leaving them there, she goes to the baby's car door and opens it, sharing his unhappy screams with the neighborhood. She is thankful that it's 10: AM, a respectable hour for the weekend. Reaching in, she unbuckles the green-eyed monster, as she sometimes calls him in fun, quickly pulling him to her to comfort him. "I know, baby. Grandma's got you now. Ssssh."

With her keys dangling off her fingers, her purse strung up over her shoulder and her grandson nestled on that same shoulder, she closes the car door with the opposite hip. Returning to the trunk to scoop the grocery bags into her free arm, she turns to head up the walk, only to be met with a solid wall.

"Looks like you need a hand." Leroy Jethro Gibbs's quiet yet comforting voice carries through to not only Megan's frazzled nerves, but also her screaming grandson. Christopher instantly quiets at the sound of his honorary grandfather's voice. As they both look at him, Gibbs smirks while he takes the groceries from the arms of his agent's mother. "Let me help."

"Thank you, Gibbs." Megan sighs. "Normally, Tim would never let me keep Christopher if I have errands to run, but he got called into work today. And I promised him I could handle it."

"Not by me."

"Oh, no. Someone in your Cybercrimes Unit?" She replies with a question in her tone.

"It's Sunday." Gibbs further objects to the idea that Tim went into work today.

"Yes, I know. Mother's Day, at that." Megan replies as she unlocks the door to the house and holds it open for him since his arms are full.

Setting the bags down on her kitchen counter, Gibbs pulls out his phone and presses Tim's number.

"Hey, Boss. I know why you're calling. But CyberCrimes needed my help with an encryption. I knew you wouldn't mind."

"Well, you're right, McGee.I don't. Usually. It's Mother's Day. Your mother shouldn't have to deal with all of this by herself."

I know, Boss. I didn't want to leave Christopher with her, but when I was called for help… wait why are you there? Are Mom and Christopher okay?"

"They're fine."

"Whew! Okay. I won't be long. I should be home within an hour, maybe a little longer."

"Make it 30 minutes."

"Yes, Boss."

Megan smiles as she set the now sleepy baby in his portable crib in the next room. Watching those long lashes inherited from his father, flutter close as he gives in to the sleep he needs, she comes back to the kitchen. There she finds the older man still standing, his hand on the door as if ready to leave. "It does my heart good to see how well you look after him. Ever since his father…" She breaks off her thought She doesn't want to finish giving voice to. "Would you like some coffee?"

"No. Thank you. I need to go."

"You will l come for a late lunch? One-thirty?"

Gibbs nods. So long as someone else is here with her, he'll come back for lunch. Since the Commander had abandoned his family some weeks back, the Team Leader has been silently firm in refusing to stay alone for very long with the now lonely woman. He didn't want neighborhood tongues wagging or her own children getting the wrong idea. "I'll be here. Thanks."


True to his word he gave Gibbs, Tim is back at his mother's within thirty minutes, apologizing profusely for her having to do the shopping for her own Mother's Day lunch. He'd meant to do it yesterday, but Christopher had been so cranky, he'd been loath to take him anywhere and his mother had been tied up with Sarah's need for a ride to several work related errands. Megan is quick to soothe away his need to apologise and just as quick to put him to work helping her prepare the ham and homemade mashed potatoes and green bean casserole for lunch while she gets started on the desert.

By eleven thirty, Christopher is awake and Tim's attention turns to his son. With the little man's happy expression at the sight of his father, the agent's heart squeezes. God, he wished his own dad could have loved him even a little like this. Scooping the babbling bundle of joy out of his playpen, he tickles his tummy as he lays him down to change him. "Hey, buddy. Heard you gave your grandma a rough morning. Thought we talked about that, huh? I know it's been a rough few days for you, but you're all better now, right?"

Christopher's hands find his daddy's nose as the person he looks to most in his little world dares to try to blow bubbles on his tummy. Squeezing his captured treasure with all his might, he is rewarded with his daddy's laughter. That turns into a hoot of surprise when the independent young champ rolls over, still clinging to his treasure and tries to crawl away, all signs of his morning crankiness gone.

Extricating his nose from his son's grip, Tim struggles to stop laughing while scooping up the runaway and quickly fastening a clean diaper on him from behind. Hearing his mother's soft laughter from the doorway, he knows she has seen the fun Christopher is having at his daddy's expense. Scooping up his son, Tim carries in his outstretched arms and stops in front of her so the happy baby can see her. "Tell Grandma you're sorry, Christopher."

"Oh, really, Tim!" His mother gently admonishes.

"Never too early for manners, Mom." Tim grins with a touch of cheekiness.

"Little over the top, don't you think?" She smiles at him.

"Well, maybe." He admits. "C'mon, champ. Time for a snack for you. I'll bet Grandma's got it all laid out for you, even though she should really let us men give her a break today."

"Of course his snack is ready. And stop worrying about giving me a break. I enjoy doing this." Megan replies as she watches Tim carry her grandson to his high chair and strap him into it." His mashed banana is right there." Pointing to the covered plastic container on the counter, she holds her hand outstretched for it, knowing Tim will hand it to her.

"Mom, you don't need to do this. It's Mother's Day. You know, the day we take care of you?"

"Nonsense, Tim, this is the way I want to spend it, with family. If you don't think that part of a wonderful Mother's Day is spending time taking care of my grandson, than you've lost a few marbles, my boy." She throws back at him with enough of a smile that he knows she's immensely enjoying this banter between them.

"Okay. I give in. You win on this one. Especially since there's been no sign of any more seizures or even a fever with him. But, you do know that by inviting the whole team – it's gonna get crazy in here, right?" It is Tim's turn to smirk in fun.

"I'm looking forward to it, young man." Mrs. McGee mock scolds

Watching as his mother gets up from her chair and picks up a dishtowel as if she's preparing to dry the dishes, Tim moves in to sit with Christopher, but is caught off guard as she playfully snaps her dishtowel at him, scoring a direct hit on his arm.

She smiles at the look of shock on his face and it's a moment of priceless laughter that erupts, as Christopher finds the moment funny enough to laugh with them.


By one in the afternoon, the house is teeming with noise and extra bodies, since almost the entire MCRT has descended on the house. When Mrs. McGee had discovered through her conversations with Tim about his teammates, that none of them had mothers living, she had invited them all to join her family for a special lunch. Her heart had gone out to all of them and it pleased her to see the happy look on her son's face when she issued the invite at their weekly team gathering here two weeks ago.

The only ones who will be missing will be Ducky and Jimmy, since both have had previous plans set up for a while now. He wishes they could be there, but knows that it will still be a wonderful day for his mother. The only piece missing to make her day perfect is Sarah. Tim is not surprised she has claimed to not be able to make it as his sister has refused to stay in the same room with him since their parents' breakup.

Christopher has been tucked away in his playpen, surrounded by toys and even music from the CD player in his room until they sit down to eat. Since Tim is in the midst of helping in the kitchen when they start arriving, he's too distracted to do more than vaguely greet each of his teammates as they come in. Each new arrival pitches in after depositing their own dish in the kitchen. The banter is genuine and quickly becomes loud, the laughter uplifting and the atmosphere celebratory. They work together almost seamlessly to take care of all the last minute details such as warming the dinner rolls and making sure everything they will need is set out on the table. At almost exactly 1:30, they're finally prepared to sit down to the meal.

A knock on the kitchen door disrupts the camaraderie, and the team's leader enters the room, quietly greeting everyone. He notices the brief look of surprise on Tim's face, as if the younger man hadn't expected him to be here. Seeing that look change to something not quite readable has Gibbs thinking maybe he needs to talk to him about it later. Putting that thought aside for now, he turns his attention to offering his help. He's not surprised when he's told that all he needs to do is sit down to eat because everything has been done.

"I need to check on Christopher." Tim remarks as he eases from the room, looking decidedly uncomfortable.

Tony and Ziva exchange glances while Abby starts to get up from the table to go with Tim, but stops moving when she feels a hand on her arm. "Would you be a dear and go check on Tim's dog? He's been outside all day and a little too quiet." Mrs. McGee asks as she looks toward the next room where her son has just disappeared.

"Sure!" Abby beams at the request as she heads out the door that leads to the backyard. She's happy to see Jethro but doesn't want to miss lunch with the group so she keeps her playtime with him short while she fills his water bowl and food dish.

In the few minutes she's been gone, Abby's surprised to find that Gibbs has taken a seat at the head of the table and Tim has still not returned to the room. "Maybe I should go check on him?" She worries.

"Check on whom, Abbs?" Tim asks from the doorway as he appears with Christopher in his arms.

"You, McSlowpoke." Tony teases as he reaches out for his nephew cum godson. "C'mere McJunior and visit with your ole Uncle Tony for a minute."

"He needs to eat, Tony. You up to the challenge?" Tim teases as he drags Christopher's high chair over to the Senior Field Agent's chair.

"Sure I am! I've fed this monster before, haven't I?" Tony dares as the baby reaches for his nose, now his favorite thing to do with grownups.

"Seriously, Tony? Monster? What is with you and Mom and calling him that?" Tim gripes, a shade too grouchy to be in fun.

"McGee, they are just teasing." Ziva reminds him as she looks at him closely. "It bothers you, yes?" She probes further as she turns her attention to buckling the baby into the highchair, getting her hair pulled for her troubles.

Tim looks at her for a silent minute as she patiently extricates her hair from his son's grip. Thinking it's time to let this go, he's being ridiculous in thinking it's their way of comparing Christopher to how his own father always saw him, Tim shakes his head. "No. Sorry, I don't know what got into me."

From his seat at the end of the table, just two chairs away, Gibbs' sharp eyes notice the undercurrent of what Tim seems to be trying to figure out for himself. So he's not surprised to see the moment of shock in Tim's eyes when the young man looks over to find his father's chair at the table occupied by none other than the Team Leader.

Tim is quick to look away and just as quick to take himself to the kitchen, with the quietly expressed excuse of having to get Christopher's meal.

Mrs. McGee looks down the table at her son's boss. She knows that he has a good idea, as does she, as to what it is that's most likely bothering Tim. Hoping to get things back to all things happy and celebratory, she deliberately begins by teasing the easiest target. "So, any takers on Tony wearing more of my grandson's food than Christopher will eat?"

Giving himself a mental shake, Tim returns to the dining room and sets his son's dinner down on the tray of his high chair, stooping to kiss him on the temple. "Be a good monster and eat more of your dinner than you throw at Uncle Tony, alright?"

Tim sets down at the table, between Abby and Ziva, amid hoots of laughter and his mother's own addition to the fray. "Takers, anyone? I'll throw in five."


It's a wonderful afternoon spent eating and enjoying each other's company without anyone really noticing the passage of time. Into this happy group, Sarah McGee steps quietly and unexpectedly through the living room door. With a clear view between the rooms, it's just a moment before it registers that her mother's Mother's Day is not turning out to be the gloomy, lonely one she expected her to be having without half her family being present.

With a wave of irrational anger at being left out, even though it had been her choice, along with indignation at her brother's co-workers and even his boss taking not only her place, but her father's too, Sarah silently seethes as her presence is finally noticed by her brother.

Tim freezes; all motion, and words dropping to a standstill as he takes in the silent arrival of his sister. It's obvious she's already livid. Watching her look to the end of the table where their father usually sat, he's not surprised to see her stiffen with even more rage. He's on his feet, silently moving out around the table, before any of them can figure out what's going on.

"Sarah. We thought you were out of town and couldn't get here for lunch." Tim reminds her quietly as he reaches his sister and attempts to embrace her.

Pulling back, she's quick to spit out "Obviously."

"Sarah! You came!" Mrs. McGee's joyous greeting is also painfully rejected as Sarah pulls back.

"Like you care!" Turning away,the younger woman retreats to the door. "Looks like you've got a whole new family to help you celebrate. First Dad, now me? Really Mom? Happy Mother's Day!" With that parting shot, she's gone back out the door, much more noisily than she'd come in.

With a glance first to his mother and then back over his shoulder to the man sitting at the end of the table, Tim is also gone, in hopes of catching up with his sister. What she's just done to their mother is beyond rude and he has to do something to set things to rights. He's created this mess, with his sister's help, but his mother continues to pay the price. It's tearing him up inside and the only thing on his mind right now is trying to fix things as best he can with his sister because he knows it's the least they can do for their mother. He just hopes he can.

His mother doesn't deserve this. Hell she doesn't deserve any of what's been handed to her recently. God, he wishes he could beat some sense into his father, but that ridiculous thought is a short-lived one as he spies Sarah storming down the block on foot, obviously having enough sense not to get behind the wheel of a car when she's this angry.

As he hurries to catch up to her, he's halted by a hand on his arm. "No, McGee. Let me. She will only run from you right now."

"Ziva, you don't know what's going on here."

"I know that Gibbs is sitting in your father's chair. I saw the way both of you looked at him."

"No! It's not the same at all. She's angry, I'm …"

"Feeling responsible, yes. I know. We will talk later. If you wish. Right now, let me talk to Sarah. She needs a friend."

"Thank you, Ziva." Tim offers.

Like a shot, Ziva is gone, faster than Tim would have been, and she has soon caught up to Sarah. Thankfully, Sarah puts up little struggle from what Tim can see. It's a calm pair that continues to walk away, leaving behind the chaos of a torn family. Tim is feeling his own need to escape, rather than see the pain in his mother's eyes that he put there or at least set things in motion.

He turns to go to his own house, just long enough to breathe before he breaks. He's normally strong and able to keep his emotions locked up tight, but ever since his mother was abandoned by their father with the blame verbally being assigned to Tim, the heartbreak his mother's been going through on his account has been relentlessly beating down that resistance.

"You running now?" Gibbs asks from just a few feet away.

Stopped on a dime, Tim's breath catches in his throat. As he fights to regain his mental equilibrium, all he can do is shake his head in denial. "Just need a few minutes, Boss."

"Thought we talked about this, McGee." Gibbs reminds him as they walk together into Tim's house.

Heading for the kitchen, Tim quickly sets up a pot of brewing coffee, not answering the man.

"There a reason you're hidin' out now?" Gibbs pushes, not caring that Tim hasn't answered his first statement.

Tim turns to face him finally, anger clearly written on his face. "You really think that she wants to see me right now? Me? The person who caused this mess? I'm the reason she's alone right now! Has been for over six weeks! I'm the reason Sarah's so pissed at her that she walked out on her – on Mother's Day!


Tim's seeing stars; Gibbs has never before head-slapped him so hard and he's so surprised that he's also speechless.

Now it's Gibbs who is pissed. In his face, as close as he'd been during Sarah's case, in that moment he'd told Tim to never let anyone manipulate him the way Shepard had just done . He seems even angrier now. "You just walked out on her too!"

Having said that, the man is gone out the door with a bang, leaving the younger man behind fraught with exposed emotions no longer held under control. Tim angrily storms through the house, out to the backyard. No matter how right Gibbs is, he's too angry to be around anyone right now.

As Jethro bounds up to him, Tim distractedly pets him, until the dog realizes this is prime opportunity to get some long overdue playtime in. Snuffling around in the yard until he finds his ball, he's quick to make sure Tim's petting hand finds it in his upturned mouth.

With a tiny smile at his dog's cunning behavior, Tim extracts the ball and hurls it across the yard that encompasses both properties. The motion tugs a little of his emotions back under control and so he continues to play this unusually strong-armed game of fetch and retrieve with Jethro, until even the dog admits defeat, tiredly lying down at Tim's feet.

Realizing he's been gone far too long, from his son and his mother, Tim heads back inside to wash his hands and turn off his coffee maker. Pouring himself a cup of coffee to go and fixing it just right, he heads out, locking up behind him as he walks back to his mother's. It's time to face the music.


"I guess I should thank you, Ziva," Sarah admits through her tears. "You don't even know what's going on and you're putting yourself into it to try to help. You must care about Tim a lot."

"Your brother is very special to me. However, I care about you as well. And your mother. An extended family, I believe you call it, yes?"

Sarah smiles softly. "Yeah. Has a nice ring to it."

"I agree."

Stopping in their seemingly endless walking, Sarah turns to look back. Her mother's house is out of sight. Apparently, they've been walking for a while now. Beginning their trek back towards her mother's house, Sarah continues with what she has to say. "I know I thanked you for letting me ramble and vent already, but thank you for coming after me. I was afraid my geeky brother would try."

"He did. I stopped him."

"Guess you knew I'd just run from him, huh?"


"This whole mess is his fault."

"You still blame him for the fact that your father is no longer here."

"Yes! I told you, Dad left Mom after all these years of marriage and it's Tim's fault! I can't forgive him for that!" Sarah rages as she stops to pace a few feet back and forth in front of Ziva.

"And yet, you expressed your anger at your mother's house as if it were her fault." Ziva's confusion was obvious.

"Didn't want to embarrass Tim in front of his boss." Sarah admits as she resumes their walk to her mother's.

"It was Gibbs you were most angry at for sitting in your father's chair, although he did so only after your mother asked him to."

"Maybe." Sarah admits.

"I think you just did not want to see Gibbs get angry with you." Ziva dares with a tiny grin.

With a matching glimpse of good humor, Sarah replies: "I'm guessing I've got that coming anyway."

"I believe Gibbs is well aware that emotions are running high right now, for all of you. He is not as angry with you as you presume him to be. Rule # 8."

"Never take anything for granted."

"You know this rule?" Ziva is surprised.

"Tim lives by some of Gibbs' rules away from work. Thankfully, just some of them."

"Will you be able to talk to your brother about what is keeping you so angry with him?"


"You do know that he will not push you to do so, yes?"

"Oh, I know. He's just as uncomfortable around me as I am around him right now. More so, I think. "

"Why do you think that is?"

"Oh, I know why it is. It's because I'm the pissed off one. He's just the guilty one." Sarah retorts angrily.

"How do you think this is affecting your mother?" Ziva questions gently.

Sarah's shoulders slump enough that it's clear the fight has gone out of her and guilt has taken its place. "I know this is hard on her. And I know I was really, really mean to her just now. But it was like I couldn't help myself. I struck out at her, to get to Tim."

"Deliberately." Ziva observed.

"Very." Sarah replies. "And I know Tim is sensitive enough to what he's putting her through, that it probably has him so full of guilt right now he can barely stand it."

"This makes you happy?"

"No, at least not jumping up and down happy. I mean, I'll admit, I do like knowing that he's not taking this lightly."

"Did you think he would? Ziva is again surprised.

"No, I guess not." Sarah admits as they reach Tim's house. Stopping in the driveway, she looks thoughtful for a minute.

"What is it, Sarah?"

"I've been so mean to him. It's like I can't help but drag this out, wanting to punish Tim for what Dad chose to do. Why do I treat him like that?"

"That is something you will have to work out for yourself. Only you can answer that. But Sarah…"


"Today is what Americans call Mother's Day."

"Yeah, I know." Sarah shrugs as she misses Ziva's point.

"And I would give anything to have such a day with my mother again." Ziva poignantly points out.

"Oh, God. Ziva, I'm so…"

Shaking her head, Ziva grabs Sarah's hands and holds them, one friend to another. "I did not say that to upset you on my account. Rather, to remind you of what is important. Today is a day to appreciate your mother and show her how much she means to you. Reminding her of the pain she has been going through …"

"Is the worst thing I could have done on Mother's Day. God, I'm such a horrible daughter!" Sarah laments.

"There is still time to fix this."

"Can't undo it, Ziva."

"No. No, you cannot, but you can apologise and move forward. Make better memories to remember this day by."

Straightening her shoulders and breathing in and out to calm herself, Sarah looks at Ziva. "You're right. I can do this. I need to do this."


Coming back into the house from the kitchen, Tim is surprised to find that Abby and Tony are cleaning up from lunch. With an apron tied on, Abby's washing dishes while Tony's wrapping up leftovers and stowing them in the refrigerator. "Thanks, guys. I'm sorry I took off like that."

"No problem, Probie." Tony answers as he straightens up from being in the refrigerator. "Understandable you wanting to go after your sister, talk some sense into her."

"Yeah, but I didn't do that. Ziva did."

"So, where'd you go, Timmy?" Abby asks as she turns to look at him. Her concern is evident as she watches him.

"My place. Had to clear my head."

"Well, you were gone a while, hope it helped." Tony observed with genuine concern.

"I'm not sure. Where's everyone?"

"If by everyone, you mean your mother and your son, they're both in the nursery. " Tony answers.

Tim nods in understanding.

"And Gibbs left too." Abby announces almost sadly. "He hasn't come back yet."

Again, Tim nods as he heads off out of the room. Stopping, he turns back, "You guys staying? I'm sure Ziva will be back soon."

"Yeah. We're staying. We're family, right? And families stick together."

"Got that right." Gibbs says from the doorway.

"Gibbs! You came back!" Abby praises. "You ready for some coffee?"

"Sure, Abbs." The Team Leader responds as he walks towards Tim.

"Boss, I'm sor…"

"Need another one?" Gibbs growls at him.

Tim shakes his head. "No."

With a silent nod of agreement, Gibbs heads to the kitchen, passing Tony as the younger man walks towards his fellow agent. "Another one?"

"Don't ask, Tony." Tim requests. "I'm gonna go check on Mom and Christopher. "Thank you. All of you"


Upstairs in the nursery, Megan McGee cries tears of mixed emotions. She doesn't want to be crying but she hasn't been able to stop the flow. With the loss of her marriage, the upheaval in her children's lives, grown though they are, and Christopher's very recent health crisis and the change in his health to deal with, her nerves are frayed.

She thought spending all these weekends away from the house with Sarah was helping to mend what was breaking between them. Apparently, she's been sadly deceiving herself on that notion. All these weekends she's chosen to spend time with Sarah over time with her grandson, for naught. She can't help but feel angry at Sarah for that.

What she doesn't blame her daughter for is what happened earlier. Sarah's reaction was genuine and full of hurt and feelings of being replaced. It was Megan's fault and she can only hope that the damage can be fixed so they can move on and work on forging a stronger bond. Even Tm's reaction is understandable, albeit much more a silent one. He may be quieter in nature, but he's still readable and what she saw earlier, hurt this mother's heart for her son just as much as her daughter's reaction hurt her for Sarah's.

Her precious children. She wishes they would become closer but she knows that's an unrealistic expectation right now. It's not something that can be forced so she'll leave it alone and let them work it out on their own. After all, she's encouraged them to think and feel for themselves, all of their lives so she can't change her expectations now.

"I'm sorry." Her son's quiet apology comes from the doorway, causing her to look up in surprise.

At the sight of his mother's tear streaked face, Tim's heart breaks. "Oh, Mom." He's across the room in two strides, taking her hands and helping her to her feet as he quickly embraces her. "I'm so sorry."

Knowing Tim is apologizing for much more than leaving the house a while ago, Megan gently pulls away from his embrace as she clarifies where she stands. "I'm not upset with you, Timothy. I'm upset for you."

Reaching out with one hand, he gently wipes the tears from her face. "Likewise" He admits softly.

Patting him on the arm, she turns to walk to the crib. "You have any idea the number of times I would stand next to your crib, just like this, when you were his age, watching you sleep, thanking God for letting me be your mother?"

Squeezing her shoulders in affection, Tim kisses her on the cheek. "I do now."

"You do it all the time, too."

"Every single day."

"And if it were Christopher standing in your shoes right now? And you were standing in mine?"

Tim is silent as his mother's point hits home.

Now it's her turn to kiss him on the cheek as she leads him away from the sleeping baby. "It's time for you to stop carrying this, Tim. Let it go. For all our sakes."

"I'll try."


As they head down the stairs, they're met in the living room by a returning Sarah and Ziva. Ziva smiles at Tim and his mother but is quick to retreat to the kitchen so the family can talk without intruders.

"I'm sorry." Sarah cries as she launches herself into her mother's arms. "I'm really sorry."

Patting her daughter's back, Megan offers up silent thanks for the outcome for which she's prayed. "Thank you, Sarah. I know this is hard for you."

"Ziva made me realize that I've been forgetting what's important. You're my mom and today's your day."

"Thank you, sweetheart."

"Did you know that Ziva doesn't have a mom anymore?"

Tim smiles softly at his sister's softened tone. It's obvious that fact has touched her. He's more than ready to let her in on an important fact about the rest of his co-workers he cares so much about. "None of them do, Sarah."

Sarah looks over at her brother in surprise. "None?"

When Tim shakes his head again, Sarah's even more touched. "That's so sad!"

"That's why I invited them today, Sarah." Her mother says quietly.

"You invited them?" Sarah is again, shocked. She'd assumed that her brother had let his team just show up uninvited. She knows they've already been doing so on a weekly basis for weeks now.

"Yes, honey. Just like I invited them to start having dinner here once a week, away from the stress-filled job they have. You know, they put their lives on the line together every day to catch criminals and bring justice and closure to the families of the victims." Her mother gently admonishes her. "They're Tim's family, too."

"Okay, I get it." Sarah admits. "I'm sorry."

"I think you know I'm not the one who needs to hear it, don't you?"

"Yeah." Sarah admits. "But first." She turns to her brother. "I'm sorry I've been so horrible to you about all this."

"Understandable." Tim lets her off the hook.

"Maybe. But that doesn't make it right." She reminds him. "I mean, even if I don't understand it all, I still shouldn't be taking it out on you."

"Apology accepted." Tim offers with a smile. He doesn't offer a hug because he knows she's not ready for that and quite frankly, right now, he's a little too emotionally raw to risk the rejection.

"Come on let's go enjoy the rest of my Mother's Day." Mrs. McGee directs as she leads the way back to the dining room.

As the McGees enter the room as a family, Tony, Abby and Ziva are all quick to offer them plates of dessert and offer to get their drinks, as if they were suddenly honored guests at the party.

Sarah is quick to tell all of them she's sorry for what happened earlier, taking a moment to apologise directly and privately to Gibbs. She's shocked when he looks at her almost paternally and offers her some food for thought.

"I won't ever take your father's place here or in your mother's life. But if you ever need to talk…"


It's a few hours and many card games and extra helpings of dessert later, before anyone makes a move to leave. When the first chair scrapes and it is clear it's time to call it a night. Mrs. McGee stands to her feet and taps her water glass with her spoon.

"I'd like to propose a toast!"

"We're not at a wedding, Mom." Sarah kids with a smile.

"No, we're not. However, this is a family gathering and a special occasion. Both fit the requirements, am I right?"

"Works for me." Tony says. "Never saw a movie that had one without the other."

"Says the movie guru of the century." Tim quips with a grin as he juggles Christopher in one arm while reaching with his card holding hand to put the cards down and pick up a glass.

"Hey, my movie knowledge has come in handy a time or two."

"Can't argue with that." Tim replies seriously.

"As I was saying?" Mrs. McGee gathers their attention once more. "A toast!"

Everyone picks up a water glass, or goes to get one and is quick to come back to the table

"To the best Mother's Day I've had in a long time and to friends, who mean enough to us to be our family! Cheers!"

All glasses are raised, meeting in the middle as a resounding "CHEERS" is chorused.

Christopher chortles in glee at the sight he obviously thinks is funny, bringing a round of laughter in response to his participation in the celebration.

One by one, the gang heads out until finally only Tim and Sarah remain behind. Knowing Sarah needs time with their mother and that Christopher needs to get to his own now long past scheduled bedtime, Tim heads out after helping with the last cleanup. Kissing his mother on the cheek, he makes sure he does what he can to show what he thinks. "I get it now. Thank you."

"Anytime, sweetie." Megan replies as she hugs her son. "And don't you forget it."

Smiling, now, Tim promises he won't as he cradles the almost asleep Christopher in his arms and heads for home.

He's almost to the door when he spies Gibbs apparently waiting for him, leaning against the house. Silently, he takes the key from Tim, unlocks the door for him and opens it, before stepping aside so the younger man can step inside without the door possibly hitting the baby on Tim's shoulder.

Knowing the boss wants to talk about something, Tim whispers. "Gonna put him to bed first."

Gibbs nods and heads to the kitchen, knowing Tim won't be long in putting the baby to bed since the worn out little tyke is already sleeping. Sure enough, it's just a few minutes later when Tim returns to the kitchen and heads directly to the coffeemaker, fixing himself a cup.

"You worked things out with your mother." Gibbs states his earlier observation that effectively drops the conversation right where he wants it to go.

"Yeah, I did. Thanks for your help."

"Tim, I'll tell you what I told your sister earlier: I won't ever take your father's place in your mother's life."

"Boss, I know that, in my head. It was…it was seeing you sitting in his chair that threw me a little." Tim admits as he picks up his coffee mug and drinks from it.

"More to it than that, Tim. You were uncomfortable when I walked into your mother's this afternoon."

Setting his cup down, Tim picks up his spoon and begins to occupy one of his hands by restlessly stirring what's left of his coffee. It's a long moment before he answers the boss' statement. "It wasn't you, Boss. I know it probably seemed that way, but….It was just so different from what's been normal for our family for so long…. It was like someone threw a bucket of cold water on me for the sole purpose of reminding me of just how much has changed for her because of this; because of me."

Gibbs frowns. This is definitely not acceptable. This kid really needs to let this go. "McGee…"

"Its okay, Boss. I've let it go. It's taken a while, but …"

"Just like that." Gibbs lets it be known he doesn't think Tim's being realistic. "After you've been carryin' this around with you since he walked out on all of you." Again the question in the form of a statement drives home the older man's point.

Tim nods briefly as he explains what he means, "Something my mom said today when I went back over there, put it in perspective."

"You gonna make me ask?"

Tim smiles softly as he shares his mother's advice on the matter. "She asked me what I'd say to my son, if he were standing in my shoes right now."

Gibbs grins. "Smart woman."

"Very." Tim agrees.

Setting his coffee cup down in the sink, the Team Leader heads toward the door. "Don't forget, McGee."

"Boss?" Tim walks over to the door so he can lock it behind his boss.

"My door's always open."

"Thank you." Tim quietly offers with an appreciative nod as the older man heads out.

As he closes and locks the door behind the Team Leader, Tim smiles. It's taken awhile, but now he finally feels it; down deep in his heart.

Even without his father, he and his family, his whole family, really are going to be just fine.

~~ FINIS~~

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