Chapter 6: E-i-e-i-...oh...
Two weeks later...
"Don't say it, Tony," Tim warned as he slowly eased himself into the wheelchair. His parents had gone home, but would be back for a visit that weekend. Sarah had promised to come over that night to stay with him. Tony had offered to help Tim get back to his apartment in one piece...since...as he had already noted...more than once, Tim was holier than Swiss cheese and couldn't drive himself.
"Say what?" Tony asked, his face a picture of innocence.
"Just don't." Tim was glad that Tony had gotten back his warped sense of humor, but it was still grating in large amounts. "I don't want to hear it."
"I don't know what you're talking about, Probie."
"Good. I'm not going to educate you either."
"I would think that after..."
"Stop!" Tim could see it coming. He knew he couldn't put it off forever, but he'd really rather keep Tony from saying it if he could.
"...your harrowing experience, you'd enjoy some little jokes."
Tim groaned and put his head in his hand. "I knew it. I knew you would say it from the moment Gibbs told me what I landed on."
"Ziva asked about it, first," Tony said, grinning.
"I'm sure she did," Tim answered and then winced as Tony hit a bump.
"You all right?"
"Yes, Tony. I'm fine. I have sixteen holes in my body, actually twenty-two if you count each end of the six that went all the way through separately. I have a broken leg and a busted up shoulder. I'm perfect. I've been aerated."
"Well...I think someone's in a bad mood."
"Please, if you're going to give me a ride, just get me there fast so that I can take my medication and drop off into a painless sleep."
The chair slowed to a halt. "Does it hurt that bad, McGee?" Tony asked.
Tim felt his frustration and annoyance melt away. "Yeah. It does."
The chair began to move again, much more gradually than it had before. "You don't have to leave yet, you know."
"Yes, I do. I'm going stir crazy in here. At least if I'm at home, I can lay on my bed and watch television. Abby got a laptop for me so I can lay in bed and still do work."
"I'm bored, Tony...but I can't really sit up for very long. Stupid harrows."
"So you're going to work when you have all this free time?"
"Which I'll be spending mostly confined to my bed. This isn't a vacation, Tony."
The chair slowed to a stop again and this time Tony walked around to the front of the chair. "McGee, you don't have to do this, you know. You don't have to play tough."
Tim looked at Tony, tears in his eyes. "I'm not, Tony. It hurts...a lot. I just want to go home."
Tony put his hand on Tim's uninjured shoulder...just for a moment and then continued pushing the chair. "Then, I'll get you there."
Tim blinked quickly. "Thanks."
"Why did I pick a place without an elevator...or a ramp?" Tim asked, looking dismally at the stairs in front of him.
"You weren't planning ahead. Next time, you'll know to avoid walkups in case of serious bodily injury," Tony said. "Here, lean on me. I'll help you up the stairs."
Tim took a deep breath and leaned heavily on Tony, still wincing, but he made it up. Tony helped him take his medication. He even, without asking, helped Tim get settled in his bed. Tim lay gratefully on his soft bed and closed his eyes in relief. Tony was strongly reminded of his last view of Tim from above. Tim opened his eyes.
"What?" Tony asked. To cover his momentary lapse, he said, "I'm not going to fluff your pillow. There are limits to my kindness."
Tim didn't smile. "What did I look like?"
"What do you mean?"
"You know what I mean. On the harrows. What did I look like? I know how it felt." Tim shuddered. "I know that, but I don't know how I looked."
"Do we really need to talk about this, Probie?"
Tony flicked his gaze to the television. Tim did not shift his own gaze at all.
"You looked...like...something out of a horror movie, McGee...only less blood..." He laughed a little, but it was hollow. "...and more pain. I've never seen anything like it, not when the person is still alive. I never want to again...but I don't think I'll forget seeing you, looking up at me, asking for help. I've never heard anyone scream like that, either. Again, I don't want to. Happy?"
Tony looked back at Tim. "Why?"
"Because...I know I wasn't alone...I know that you guys were there...and now I know that you respect me enough not to sugarcoat what happened," Tim smiled. "Tony, I've never felt anything like that. I thought I was dying. I really thought that I must be on my way out, the pain was so bad. What I'm feeling now is bad, but it's so much better than that time. I couldn't even tell you how long it was. Every second felt like a year...but it's better now...and it will keep getting better. So...yes, I am happy. Thanks for the ride."
"Probie, I will never understand how your mind works."
"The feeling is mutual," Tim said and then yawned widely. "My powerful medication is working. 'Night, Tony."
"It's two in the afternoon."
"Night to me," Tim said and yawned again.
"Do you need me to stay?"
"No. Sarah will be by. Thanks though," Tim mumbled and let his eyes close.
Tony watched Tim for a few minutes after he dropped off to sleep. "Sleep tight, Probie."
Two weeks later...
"Tony, I told you that I don't need a ride. I can drive."
"With your leg still broken and your arm in a sling? I don't think so, Probie."
"He is right, McGee. That would pose significant dangers to the other drivers on the road," Ziva said.
"You're one to talk," Tim grumbled. He limped past them into the bathroom and pulled off his shirt. There were still bandages covering a few of his holes, but the others were closed with lovely black stitches. He turned around to get a look at the back. The stitches would come out soon, thank goodness, but he'd be feeling the pain for a while after that. Right now, though, with the painkillers just kicking in, he felt pretty good. As the day progressed, he knew it wouldn't last, but that was okay. He pulled on his shirt, covering the evidence of his battle with the harrows and walked back out into the living room.
"Okay, let's go, then."
Tim let his mind wander as they rode to NCIS. He didn't protest when Tony let him off right at the doors and then drove off to park himself.
"McGee, are you feeling all right?"
Tim shook himself out of his navel-gazing. "Yeah, I'm okay. For now." He smiled.
Tony came up and just managed to stop himself from clapping Tim on the shoulder. "Let's get going. We'll be late, Probie."
"Right, Tony." Tim followed Tony and Ziva into the elevator and wondered what he'd be doing today. It was his first day back, but he was obviously not ready to go out into the field. He didn't even notice Tony and Ziva giving each other mischievous looks. Tim got off the elevator and limped toward his desk without really looking at it. Then...suddenly he stopped. He couldn't decide whether he should laugh, cry or scream. His desk had been turned into a farm, complete with farm animals, hay and a large banner that read Welcome back, Farmer Tim!
Tim looked back at Tony and Ziva. "Should I be saying thanks?"
"Of course! You can start your own farm!"
"No, thank you. Farms and I do not get along," Tim said. "And my desk is a mess."
"Don't worry. It'll clean up. It's not like the animals are real," Tony said.
Tim finally started to laugh. "Thanks, Tony. Thanks, Ziva. My life is complete." He limped over and sat down in his own personal barnyard. For the rest of the day, Tim worked on a farm and to his annoyance, he got "Old MacDonald" in his head and found himself singing it over and over again. By the end of the day, he was getting tired and the setting wasn't quite so amusing. Still, he appreciated their efforts.
"How's your day been, Tim?"
Tim looked up and there was Abby, dressed in overalls.
"Did I miss the memo that we're getting into agriculture at NCIS?"
Abby grinned. "You must have. Everyone else knows about it."
"Can I cash in my raincheck yet?"
"Not at full strength, but you could get a down payment."
"Do I get to collect interest?"
Tim shrugged slightly. "Sure. I'm okay with that."
Abby's grin got wider and she leaned down to give Tim a long...but gentle hug. "I'm glad you're getting better."
"Me, too. Believe me."
"I do. You heading out soon?"
"Yeah. I don't have the stamina for late nights yet. You?"
"No. I have a few more tests to run."
"Have a good one, then."
"You, too." Abby let him go and walked back to the elevator. After she was gone, Tim leaned back and sighed. It was good to be at work again, but he was tired and aching.
"McGee, why are you still here?" Gibbs asked.
"Just figuring out how I'm going to get home. Tony and Ziva still aren't back and they gave me a ride."
"Give me a minute. I'll give you a lift."
"Oh, you don't have to, Boss."
"I know that, McGee," Gibbs said wryly. He checked his computer and then grabbed his keys. "Let's go."
"Thanks, Boss." Tim followed him out, happy to be heading home, but feeling a little awkward.
"Thanks, Boss," Tim said as they reached his apartment.
"You already said that, McGee."
"No, I mean, thanks for...I don't know...protecting me?"
"At the barn. When you covered my eyes. Thanks...and for being there at the beginning. I needed it." Tim gulped and turned to open the door.
"You're welcome, McGee. Just don't do that again."
"I don't plan on it, Boss," Tim said, smiling a little.
"I'm...glad you're all right."
Tim grinned and got out of the car. "Thanks, Boss." He watched Gibbs drive away and then limped up the steps to his apartment. Despite how tired he was now...it had been a good day.