Non sibi, sed patri
by Enthusiastic Fish
"What was silent in the father speaks in the son, and often I found in the son the unveiled secret of the father."
"And then, God says, 'No, get your own dirt!'"
Tim laughed as he and Tony walked toward their desks.
"That's a terrible joke, Tony. I like it."
"You're a science guy. You've got to like lame science jokes, then, right?"
"They're not lame! If they're science jokes, they can't be lame!"
"Okay, then, tell me one."
"Fine." Tim thought for a moment. "Okay. A proton walks into a bar."
"Yes. Do you know what a proton is, Tony?" Tim asked.
"Ha ha. Very funny. Go on."
"Just checking. So a proton walks into a bar and he orders a drink. The bartender asks him, 'Are you sure?' And the proton says, 'I'm positive!'"
Tony chuckled. "Oh, that's so lame."
"Okay. Here's part two. A neutron walks into a bar and orders a drink. Then, he asks the bartender how much it will be. The bartender says, 'For you? No charge.'"
"Lame. Lame. Lame."
"And funny. Don't forget funny," Tim said, laughing.
They sat down.
"They're not bad."
"They're hilarious and you know it," Tim said.
The elevator dinged and Vance got off. That was different enough that they both stopped talking in surprise.
"Gibbs is down with Ducky, Director Vance," Tony said. "I can call him up if you..."
"Agent McGee. I need to speak with you when you have a few minutes. Preferably today," Vance said, not even looking at Tony.
"Of course. I can come up in about half an hour, probably. I just need to log our interviews."
Then, Vance walked up the stairs and disappeared into his office.
"What was that about?" Tony asked.
"I have no idea," Tim said. "Sounds really serious, doesn't it. ...but he said whenever I have time. If I was going to get reprimanded or something, he wouldn't have left it open to me, would he?"
"I have no idea. He doesn't like me."
Tim smiled a little. "I guess he likes me, but I sure can't tell sometimes."
"You'd probably better get going on your interview."
"Yeah, and hope that Gibbs doesn't come up here and give us something else to do two hours ago," Tim said.
They both fell silent and got to work. This wasn't a big deal. No one's life depended on this case. It was more of doing some of the initial legwork for a case that would end up in Legal. Still, it needed to be done.
Tim sped through his and then, Tony watched him go up the stairs to Vance's office. He vanished from sight and Tony went back to work.
About ten minutes later, Gibbs appeared.
"Where's McGee?" he asked.
"Up in Vance's office."
Gibbs raised an eyebrow.
"I don't know why. Vance just showed up and said he needed Tim when he had the time. Tim logged the interview and then went up to his office."
Gibbs didn't look happy about that, but he sat down and started his own work. Tony knew better than to say anything more.
After another fifteen minutes, Tim came out of Vance's office. Gone was any lightness. In fact, he seemed to trudge down the steps and then sat down heavily at his desk.
"What happened, Tim? You get in trouble for something?"
Tim shook his head. "No. I didn't."
He looked at Gibbs.
"Boss, I need the weekend off."
The eyebrow went up again.
"I need to help my parents. They're renovating a bathroom and Mom's been pestering me to come up and give them a hand. They don't like hiring contractors. It would just be Saturday and Sunday."
"I know it's last minute. I should have done it sooner, but we don't have anything big going on right now, and...and I figured you could do without me for a day or two. It's only Saturday and Sunday I'm asking off."
"What did Vance want?" Gibbs asked.
Tim's eyes dropped.
"Sorry, Boss. It's classified. Top Secret. You'd have to be read in."
"Whoa, Probie," Tony said. "That sounds heavy."
"Heavy-ish." Tim looked up. "Boss? The weekend?"
"Thanks. I'm going to leave tonight. I'll get to Ohio by midnight."
Gibbs nodded, and Tony waited. He was sure that Gibbs was going to tell Tim to leave right now. There was no reason to stay. They'd finished the interviews. All that was left was some leg work and it wasn't like they were going to do that tonight.
"Go now, McGee."
Tim didn't protest or anything.
He gathered up his stuff and left before there could be any more questions.
"What was that about, Boss?" Tony asked.
"Don't know. Yet."
Tim let out a whoosh of air as he walked into his apartment. He had never been so angry in his entire life, and it had never been more important to hide that from the people around him. The problem was that, now, he wasn't even sure who he was most angry at.
Never mind. He had a lot more things to worry about now than who was most deserving of his fury. He went into his bedroom and pulled out his large duffle bag. He wouldn't be back here for a while. Maybe never.
He packed a wide selection of clothes, not knowing where he'd end up. His plans were still too nebulous.
Then, he began the packing that wouldn't be normal.
He went to his computer supplies and pulled out an old laptop. He sat down and began cobbling together a new one. He had to make sure that it wouldn't leave any traces when he started the work he was already assuming he'd be doing. Then, he got his older phone and got out his extra SIM cards. He installed three of them into his phone. He smiled to himself as he remembered that he'd done this once before just to see how well it worked.
Then, he slipped that into a laptop case along with the laptop he'd finished. He couldn't deactivate his current phone just yet. If he got any calls, it would lead people to think something was wrong.
Something was, but nothing he could get help with.
That was all a couple of hours of work, but since he'd been allowed to leave early, it wouldn't make much difference. He hadn't told his parents he was coming home.
Then, he went back into his bedroom and opened his sock drawer. At the bottom, beneath a few pairs of old and worn socks was a small box. He opened it and pulled out a wad of bills. It was something he'd started doing a few years before. Every month, he had withdrawn a hundred dollars and used it for things like the occasional candy bar or extra coffee. Anything left over was put into the box. At the end of each year, he converted the money into a wide assortment of bills. His thought at the time was that he would use it for some big vacation.
It would be a vacation...of a sort.
He wasn't sure how much there was, but it would be enough for a while. He would also stop at an ATM and withdraw his max for the day. He could do that a couple more times in Ohio.
Would they block his credit cards once he got started? He didn't know, but he'd have to take that chance. He wouldn't want to use them often in any case. He knew how people's movements could be traced using credit cards. He'd done it often enough himself.
For just a moment, he stopped and wondered at himself. He was assuming that everything would work out in the worst way possible.
"How else could it happen?" he asked aloud. "Once they start, there's no way it can be good."
Nodding to himself, he went to his computer and composed an email and put a delay on the delivery. If he ended up being wrong, he could still cancel it before Monday.
Gibbs would never know.
That was the great thing about having permission to leave. No one would know if it turned out to be not as bad as he knew it was. And if he was right, no one would know until it was too late to stop him.
Then, he paused. This next step was probably important to take, but he hesitated. It would be irrevocable.
Then, he laughed.
"If I do this, I won't have a job anyway. I'll be in prison. What am I worrying about?" he said aloud.
He filled out the form, added a quick note to Vance and then put the same delay on it as he had the email to Gibbs.
Then, he sat motionless for a few minutes.
Maybe he was making a big mistake. He had to consider the possibility. Maybe this was the wrong way to go about it. Maybe he was making a bigger deal out of this than he needed to.
He thought about it, thought about the worst-case scenario. He even thought about the best-case scenario, given what he currently knew.
In the absence of any better information from his parents, he couldn't see that he was overreacting, and there was no way he could just stand by and hope for the best. He thought about something he'd said before.
"And we say 'Better ten guilty men go free than one innocent get punished,' but I know from experience it doesn't always work out like that."
And he was right about that, too. It didn't always work out like that. In fact, to Tim's mind, it didn't ever work out like that, not when it came to a situation like this. So instead of secondguessing his decision (which Gibbs had told him not to do), Tim committed himself and left his apartment, hoping that he'd get back here at some point.
Vance was waiting for Gibbs to come and confront him about his meeting with Tim. He didn't know what Tim had decided to do, but he had told Tim that he'd support whatever he chose.
He just knew that Gibbs would come and talk to him.
An hour later, he was proven right. Gibbs knocked and walked in without waiting.
"Gibbs, what can I do for you?"
"What did you meet with McGee about?" Gibbs asked.
"What did he tell you?"
"That it was classified Top Secret."
Vance was a little surprised. The details certainly were Top Secret, not even he knew what they were, but the actual event was not. It would be in the news, sooner or later. Still, that told him what Tim had chosen. He didn't want Gibbs to know. That dictated Vance's response.
"And it is. You can't demand to know, Gibbs."
"Why read McGee in, then?"
"Because it was important enough that I felt he was the right choice, with or without your say." There. That was sufficiently vague and yet not a lie.
"How much time is this going to take?"
"I don't have the slightest idea, but it shouldn't interrupt your work, significantly."
Gibbs glared at him, and Vance smiled.
"Stare at me all you want. It doesn't change the classified nature of my meeting with Agent McGee. When I can tell you, I will. If that's all, I have work to do."
Gibbs turned and started to leave. He seemed resentful, which Vance could understand, but given the nature of what he'd told Tim, he didn't want him to have to struggle against Gibbs' misconception, too.
"Don't punish McGee for following orders, Agent Gibbs. He has done nothing to deserve that."
Gibbs didn't reply, but Vance knew that he'd listened.
After Gibbs was gone, he sat back in his chair and shook his head. Technically, he could get in trouble for telling Tim about this at all. It wasn't his place to do it, but the fact that Tim hadn't known... It would have been much worse if he had found out from ZNN or the newspaper.
Vance just hoped that this would help. Well, he could check in with Tim on Monday and find out how things were going.
Tim pulled into the driveway. It was late. He was tired, but he was also angry. The hours of driving by himself had only cemented that particular emotion, and by the time he arrived in Ohio, he was ready for battle.
He grabbed his duffle bag (but left his other stuff in the trunk). Then, he walked up to the front door, was a little surprised that it was still unlocked and then stormed inside. He slammed the door behind him and walked to the living room.
His parents were sitting together, there, and they both looked shocked to see him.
Naomi stood up.
"Tim...what on earth–?"
"How could you?" Tim asked, almost shouting. "How could you not tell me?"
It was to their credit that neither Sam nor Naomi pretended they didn't know what Tim was talking about.
"This wasn't something you needed to know, Tim," Sam said, almost sounding soothing.
Tim was even more angry.
"Not something I needed to know? How dare you!"
"Tim!" Naomi said, sharply. "Show some respect."
"I give respect where it's deserved," Tim shot back. "Finding out that my own parents didn't let me in on something so important is not deserving of respect! I'm part of this family, too!"
There was a brief silence. Just long enough for Tim to get his breath.
"When were you going to tell me that they're coming after you, again?" Tim asked Sam. "When were you going to tell me that you could go to prison...or worse? When?"
Sam and Naomi looked at each other in silence. Sam sighed.