N/A : Chronology changes : Gibbs married Shannon in 1982 and they had Kelly the same year, not in 1984. Shannon and Kelly died in February 1987.

In this story, Tim is born in May 1981, instead of 1977. He's four years younger.

The story starts in the timeline of season four, a week before "Cover Story" episode, so in 2007.

N/A #: Thanks to my beta jerseybelle for her work.

Chapter one

Tim sat down tiredly. His back slouched against the somewhat stiff chair of his desk; he rubbed his hands against his eyes. He was exhausted, but he couldn't sleep. He knew his exhaustion was as emotional as physical, but God, a nap was not going to help him right now.

Even in his dreams, his dear friend's anguish wouldn't let go of the death grip it had on his heart.

Those last months at NCIS had been hell.

With Sarah attacked, framed, nearly raped and accused of murder, Tim had though he was going to lose it. He couldn't trust anyone to protect his little sister above everything else, even in the worst case. He couldn't trust anyone but himself. Except that the team wouldn't let him do that. As soon as his personal involvement in that case had been discovered, he was pushed into the back seat, feeling like the inadequate probie Tony always accused him to be.

Of course Tim had felt guilty at the beginning; after all he had never meant to lie to his boss nor had he meant to hide evidence from a crime scene, but behind Sarah's usual stubbornness and impertinence, he had read the true fear and sincere mistrust she had about NCIS, or more, about his team. Tim couldn't really fault her for that; after all, most of what she knew came from him and more than once he had been honest about the way they kept treating him at work.

But it was that fear that forced Tim to keep his mouth shut. Until, of course, things had gone to hell and Gibbs had answered his sister's phone.

When Gibbs lectured him in the elevator that he fondly called his office, Tim had taken it, knowing that he deserved most of it but when the man rounded on him about not coming to him, it took all his will power not to snap back. It took all of his acting skills to not show his disbelief and dare he say his outrage at Gibbs' nerve. He had wanted to scream. Or laugh, he didn't know. When did Tim ever come to Gibbs for anything? When did he ever ask for help from his boss? When? And how, when Tim was sure that his try would have been dismissed or worse, shot down?

It really wasn't as if Tim had any right to ask for anything from Leroy Jethro Gibbs. His relationship with the boss was very anticlimactic at best, and Tim had the feeling Gibbs wanted to keep it that way. He knew there were plenty of reasons for that. In fact, during one night of restlessness he had listed them.

When he was hired, at the very beginning of his probie days, Gibbs had been supportive of him, had even encouraged him, praised his good works and rationalized his worst insecurities. He had been a true mentor and Tim, after years and years of rejection from his father, had thrived under the support.

It was good, great even, and everything he wanted until Antony DiNozzo had expressed his displeasure and own insecurities about the relationship between Tim and the boss. Used to being seen and treated like Gibbs' son, Tony hadn't been able to hide his anger, resentment and fear at the idea of being eclipsed by Tim in Gibbs' mind. His jokes, as he called them, began to be harsher, his verbal picks and name-calling sounded more hurtful, and his lack of partnership towards the junior agent was obvious.

When Gibbs called him on it, Tony used every bit of the bond they had forged over the years to get Gibbs to treat Tim with more reserve.. And Gibbs agreed because at times, Tim was still just a probie while Tony had been his senior agent for years.

Tim personally thought that it hadn't been that hard for Gibbs to do so and it was the other's reasons behind the lack of bond between the two men.

First, Gibbs didn't understand Tim's work with the computers. He saw him typing his way through vital answers for a dreadful case, and since most of the time, Tim never failed to delivere what was asked of him, over the years Gibbs had somewhat started to underestimated Tim's work. His frustration when Tim couldn't hack into some data fast enough for his tastes had shown itself through some vicious tongue-lashing that had left Tim's heart throbbing from hurt.

He and Gibbs were just so different. The older man would never make the actual effort to learn something from the current technologies and why would he, really, when he had Tim to do it for him? But that didn't stop him from verbally putting Tim down when the younger man couldn't work something out of 'those damn machines'.

Tim had endured it though, and he had resigned himself to the idea that he and his boss would never share much in common, and that Gibbs wouldn't have it any other way.

The fact that he had once dated Abby, whom Gibbs considered like a daughter, could also explain the aloof way his boss was handling him.

It had taken Tim four years to accept the fact that dating Abigail Sciuto had been a serious mistake. The consequences of it had periodically hit him through the years. She had made him hope, pushed him away, played with his feelings only to ridicule them later. She had moved on so fast, but really, what had he expected when she had dated him with the intent of dumping him some time later? She had never looked for something serious or sincere or even romantic. She had wanted passion, domination coming from her side always, and fun. She had wanted release. But she never said those things first, she had never come clean to him the first time they had get together, she had played him like a violin, made him believe that what he wanted was what she wanted. And when everything crashed and burned. Tim had been left alone, appalled and wide open, hurt in ways he had never known before.

He had fallen in love with her and since then, there wasn't one day he didn't regret it. Much like Tony, she knew how to humiliate him, how to make him feel inadequate and weak. And through the years she had pushed every little button she knew so well, that Tim's love for her had started to fade, slower than his trust, but he always had trust issues.

Gibbs had watched all of this from afar, but only to make sure Tim didn't actually hurt his favorite. He never once called the woman on her behavior, just like he never called Tony on his bullying.

The day Kate died had been a real eyes opener for Tim. He had stood there in front of the two men as DiNozzo explained how Ari had intended to kill him instead but had missed and then picked Kate instead. He had stood there and watched as their facial expressions (Gibbs' concealed better than Tony's) twisted into anger, grief and resentment.

They had resented him for living instead of Kate. Maybe just for a minute, but they had. And that had truly broken something inside of him.

When Ziva came into the team, he had done everything to make her feel welcome. He knew how hard it was going to be for her; being the probie of this particular team. He had been nice, dependable and helpful, but it turned out that he didn't have to worry. She had been treated by Gibbs and Dinozzo much better than he ever had been, even with their initial mistrust. Out in the field, she had been trusted to watch their backs, almost immediately while Tim was stuck behind his computer. Again.

Yet, Tim had kept his hurt and his anger to himself and he tried not resent Ziva for it. Not even when she laughed at some of Tony's most cruel jokes. Not even when she was convinced he actually shot that cop. Not even when she became more a part of the team and Gibbs's family than he ever had been and ever will be.

After his sister's case, though, Tim's walls were starting crumbled. He was a very private man. If he was asked to describe himself that would be his first word, not smart, not kind, but private. He had always needed to keep his personal life close to his chest and away from work. It had never been truer when he started working at NCIS. His sister being the sole suspect on a murder case had truly screwed up that equilibrium.

But the very worst of it was the discovery of his book "Deep Six" written under his penname Thom Gemcity. Do not get him wrong, he was proud of his book, proud that after nearly two years of hard labor and sleepless night he had managed to get all of his fantasy, dreams and inspirations out and wrapped up in one heavy package.

And it had been a great success. His publisher had been over the moon with the positive critics he had received and of course with the impressive amount of money the book was giving him. For his part, Tim had been overwhelmed but happy. It was his work, his alone, born out of his frown crease and sore fingers that was so well liked by the public. It was everything to be proud of.

Until it was not. Until Tony, Abby and Ziva turned it into something to be ashamed of, something to be mocked at, and something that should never have been. Even from afar, Tim had felt Gibbs' disapproving eyes on him.

So yeah, those last months at NCIS had been hell. But Tim would never say a thing, even if he was wondering if the job of his dream was worth that much anymore.

Because when it comes to NCIS he already knew his place.

Eyes burning, the young man ignored the fact that it was way past bed time, and grabbed his keys. If he couldn't sleep, he could at least burn some of his anguish in a past midnight jog.