A/N: Yep, it's a McGee story. If you don't like him, my stories will not be entertaining for you.
Disclaimer: NCIS is not mine. The characters are not mine. I just wish they were.
"McGee, what were you thinking?!"
The words reverberated in his head, echoing over and over, as he stared at what he had written on his computer. What had he been thinking? Who in the world would have thought that the computer geek could be a field agent? He was supposed to be backing Ziva up, but he had taken a wrong turn in the sewer and ended up at a dead end. He had heard the shots and run, but he had been too late. Ziva was still in surgery. Gibbs had caught the guy, but his eyes had bored holes into Tim's head.
"McGee, what were you thinking?!"
He sure was thinking now. He finished typing the letter and began to proofread because, even though it was short, some things must be done perfectly... anything that went to Gibbs had to be perfect. Even if it was the last thing he ever did.
"McGee, leave the report until tomorrow. Come on, let's go see how Ziva's doing." Tony walked into the bullpen and saw Tim working intently. He thought he knew what was happening.
"It's not my report, Tony. I just need to finish this."
"Give over, McGee. It can wait until tomorrow."
"No, it can't." Tim pushed print and started to the printer, but Tony got there first.
"Tony, give me that!"
"No way, McGee." He started reading: "To whom it may concern." He rolled his eyes. "I am resigning my position as special agent..." Tony looked up. "McGee, are you crazy?"
"No, Tony. I think I'm just now regaining my sanity. I was crazy to think I could do this job."
"So you made a mistake. People make mistakes all the time. Have you somehow missed all the Gibbs-slaps I get?"
Tim turned away, and Tony realized there was something else.
"What's wrong, McGee?"
"Tony, when I make mistakes, people die!" There, he'd said it.
Tony didn't know what to say. "McGee–"
"No, it's true. First, Erin. Then, then, Kate. Then, Benedict. Those two guys who were characters in my book. Abby almost died in that car and because of my book. Now, Ziva." Tim turned back to Tony, his eyes brimming with unshed tears. "I can't kill anyone else, Tony. I just can't." He walked over and grabbed the letter from Tony's hands. He signed it and put it on Gibbs' desk.
"What will you do, McGee?"
"I don't know, but everyone will be better off without me." Then, he walked out.
For once, Tony didn't know what to do. He walked to Gibbs' desk, picked up the letter and read the entirety. It wasn't very long.
To whom it may concern:
Effective immediately, I am resigning my position as special agent for NCIS. My performance over the last three years has not been up to requisite standards and there is little possibility for further improvement. In the interest of the safety of those who have worked with me, it is better that I resign now. My badge and gun are on my desk, and I will have the rest cleaned out before Monday.
Tony couldn't believe what he was seeing. It seemed like a joke.
"What have you got there, Tony? I thought you'd be at the hospital," Gibbs said as he walked into the bullpen.
"McGee just resigned, boss."
Tony handed the letter to Gibbs who read it silently. Characteristically, he said nothing, but his expression changed slightly.
"Are you still here, Tony?"
"Nope, I'm gone, boss." Tony left quickly. He stopped at the hospital, but the doctors weren't allowing any visitors. Tony decided to break into Tim's apartment to try and talk some sense into him.
"McGee? Probie, you in here?" The apartment was empty and silent. The computer was off, the lights were off, and the bed was unoccupied. Tim's car was in the lot though so he had been home. If Tim wasn't here, where else would a computer geek go? Then, Tony corrected himself. Tim was a former computer geek. Now, he was an author. Where did authors go? He had even less of an idea. Tony couldn't believe that after more than three years of knowing the guy, he didn't have a clue as to where Tim liked to spend his off time, beyond his own apartment. Well, if Tim was coming back to clean up his desk, he could waylay him then.
"McGee, what were you thinking?!"
Tim leaned over the railing in the park. He had gone home, but had to go and walk. He'd ended up here. He always ended up here when he needed to think. Tony had asked a good question. What else could he do? He'd done quite a few different jobs in his life, and he knew he was hireable. His book was still making him money. His sequel, if he ever finished it, might do as well. NCIS was the job he wanted. He loved it there, in spite of all the torment he was going through at the moment and in spite of the sometimes unkind jibes from his teammates. NCIS was where he wanted to be, but wants didn't change skills. He had to face the fact that he was woefully inadequate as a field agent.
"McGee, what were you thinking?!"
Tim looked at his watch. Two-thirty. He might as well go and clean out his desk now while no one was there. He started to walk back to his apartment when he saw a city bus coming down the street. He smiled in recollection. That had been his only mode of transportation the first couple of years. It would make a nice kind of melodramatic symmetry to his experience to take the bus one last time. Tim ran and jumped on the bus.
Tim stepped off the elevator. As expected, the place was dark. No one was here. He stopped and looked around at the desks in the bullpen. What a wild ride it had been. His gaze fell on Ziva's desk. He walked over to it and touched the corner. Kate had been here. Ziva had been here, too. He had called the hospital to see how Ziva was doing, but it was still touch and go. Maybe someone else would have to fill the void again. How many voids can ever be filled?
"McGee, what were you thinking?"
It took Tim a minute to realize that the words had actually been said, not just remembered. He turned from his contemplation of Ziva's desk and saw Gibbs sitting at his desk.
"Am I your boss, McGee?"
Tim shrugged. "If you filed my resignation already, then no. But I figure that you haven't yet, that you'll be waiting until Monday when the office opens officially to file it. So, until then, you're still my boss."
"Interesting logic. Why do I even have your resignation, McGee?"
"I explained it in the letter."
"You used too big of words. Try it again, vocally this time."
Faced with those stern blue eyes, Tim felt the same nervousness he always did in Gibbs' presence. His throat went dry.
"I'll help you out, McGee. To whom it may concern: I, Timothy McGee, am resigning from NCIS because–?"
Tim couldn't meet those eyes.
"Well, McGee? I need you to finish the sentence."
Tim gulped. "I'm resigning because I don't want to be responsible for the deaths of any more innocent people, boss. I'm tired of people dying when I mess up."
"What innocent people have you killed, McGee? Who have you actually killed yourself?"
"That undercover cop."
"You don't know that."
"I could have. No one knows if I did or I didn't."
"But you don't know so you can't count him."
"It doesn't matter, boss. Whether or not I pulled the trigger, I am responsible for too many deaths, too much pain. I can't keep doing it, and I don't know how to change. When Tony and Ziva mess up, it usually ends up with a head slap from you. People don't die, but when I make a mistake, other people suffer for it, not me."
Gibbs stood up and walked around the desk. It was strange for Tim to talk to him in the half-light of the office. "Let me see if I can guess at your list, McGee. We've already mentioned the undercover cop. I'm sure I can add that computer girl from a couple years ago. And then, there's Abby and those two guys from your book. Am I missing anyone?"
Tim didn't answer, but he looked over at Ziva's desk.
"Don't even go there, McGee. You couldn't have saved Kate, and Ziva's not dead."
Tim just looked at the desk.
"What about the people you saved, McGee?"
"There aren't that many."
"How do you know? Every time we catch a criminal, we keep him from committing a crime again."
Tim looked back from the desk. "Boss, how do you balance the value of lives? Is the life that you save somehow more valuable than the life you took or the life you failed to protect?"
"McGee, sit down."
"Sit down at your desk. That's an order. And as you so rightly observed, I am still your boss until I file this," Gibbs waved the offending piece of paper, "letter with the proper authorities. Sit."
Tim sat at his desk. His badge and gun were still there. His fingers itched to take them back, but he didn't move.
"Do you like it there, McGee?"
"Do you like sitting there? Take all the time you need. Look around."
Tim looked at the office. He looked at the stairs leading up to MTAC, Gibbs sitting on his desk, Tony's desk, cluttered with paper and magazines as usual, Ziva's desk, nothing out of place, the elevator.
"Yes, boss. I like it here. This is all I ever wanted to do."
"Then, why in the name of all that is holy are you proposing to leave the one thing you love to do?"
"Why did you leave, boss?"
Gibbs hesitated, but only for a moment. "I left because I forgot how much I loved it."
"I don't think I can do the job right, Gibbs. That's why I'm leaving. I don't want to, but I think I have to."
Gibbs walked back to Tim's desk. His face softened from the stern gaze Tim always saw. "Tim, that is the one reason you shouldn't leave. Anyone who loves their job enough to be afraid of not doing it right should stick with it until they can do it right. You make mistakes, Tim. Sometimes, they have drastic consequences. Your one failing is a tendency to focus only on those consequences and not on all the good things you've done. You're not perfect, but you are a good agent and," he paused as he picked up Tim's resignation again, "you definitely do 'meet the requisite standards' for being a field agent. That is your boss speaking. You messed up today, but that doesn't undo all the times you succeeded before."
Tim sat silently. Gibbs straightened and the stern look returned.
"Tim, this is the one time, the one decision, that I can't force on you, but one thing I can do is order you to stay here and think about it. So, consider yourself under orders to stay at that desk until you make a decision. You still want to resign, fine. Effective Monday. If not, I expect to get the shredded remnants of your resignation on my desk, Monday." He walked out.
Tim sat at his desk. His badge and gun were still there. His resignation was on Gibbs' desk. He looked back and forth between them. Tim was a writer. His colleagues scoffed at his novel, but Tim was a writer, melodramatic content notwithstanding. Melodrama was how he viewed life. It was more exciting that way. He thought, not about his resignation, but about his decision, the choice that still lay before him, the gauntlet Gibbs had thrown down.
An apt quotation leapt into his mind. "To be or not to be, that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them?" He looked at his badge and his gun again. He was perhaps taking it a bit differently from how Shakespeare had intended. He wasn't thinking about a literal end to his life, but his life here. Was he ready to take arms again or to continue to suffer for the mistakes he had made?
He was still sitting at his desk when Tony came in a few hours later.
"McGee, what are you doing here? I thought I'd beat you for sure."
Tony looked at Tim's face. There was something there that had been absent the night before. "What about?"
"Slings and arrows."
Tony stared for a second longer, confused, then a memory clicked into place. "The ones of outrageous fortune?"
Tim smiled a little. "Yeah. Those are the ones. Did you watch the Mel Gibson movie?"
"No, this is high school English class talking, here. What about them?"
"Do I fight them or let them be?"
"Which is better?"
"I don't know."
"I don't like these literary analogies, Probie. Save it for your book, please."
"Okay. I have to make a decision."
"I thought you already had."
"So did I. Gibbs made me change my mind, and now I'm under orders until Monday."
"And do I shred that resignation and try to do better, or do I let this job go and try to do something easier?"
"Do you want to quit, Probie?"
Tim looked around and Tony watched his face change again. "I love this place, Tony."
For once, no jokes came to his mind. "Then, why leave it?"
Tim looked at his badge once again. "You're right."
"Yeah." Tim picked up his badge and then looked at his gun. He picked it up as well and put it in his holster. Then, he walked over to Gibbs' desk and picked up the resignation. He started at one corner and began to tear it up. Tony watched for about five seconds before he came over and silently took the letter and tore it in half. Then, he handed one half back to Tim and began to tear up the other half.
"What are you going to do with this paper?"
"Gibbs told me to leave it on his desk." Tim said as he dropped the pieces onto a pile.
"Sounds good to me. Let's go."
"Where? It's six in the morning on a Sunday."
"Ziva's out of recovery."
"Come on, McGee. She's going to kill you regardless of when you see her. You have a better chance of surviving if you see her right after she wakes up." Tony grabbed Tim's arm and dragged him to the elevator.
"Wait just a second," Tim said. He ran back to Gibbs desk and shaped the pieces of his resignation, then joined Tony in the elevator.
When Gibbs came in early Monday, he saw the shredded resignation, but after a moment, he realized that the pieces had been shaped into letters. "Thanks, boss."
Gibbs smiled and then looked up as the elevator doors opened to reveal his youngest agent coming into work as usual. When Ziva was up and around again, everything would be back to normal.