McGee flipped his phone shut with a large sigh.
I might just have to stop answering the phone, Tim thought to himself.
He hated to admit it, but Tim loved order. He despised a phone that went unanswered if there was someone around to stop the ringing.
And that's why he answered every time she called. The caller ID reading Lyndi Crawshaw didn't stop him from picking up the phone.
It did, however, make his voice have a tinge of annoyance when he spoke.
No, he didn't have the next chapter written.
No, he didn't have any idea for plot.
No, he wasn't able to tell her what she could release as a sneak-peek for his fans.
Pretty much, the conversation was a big pile of disappointment and frustration for them both.
No matter how often Tim sat down to write, he couldn't get his fingers to move across the keys and produce anything that made sense.
The clacking of his typewriter, which usually created a sense of peace and let him 'get in the grove' of writing, only grated on his nerves.
The sound was too much like the staccato rapid fire of a gun.
And it made Tim wince.
No longer was the typewriter a place where his words brought forth a story about his coworkers, his adventures on the cases, the daily people he observed at the coffee shop and in the park.
Now, the typewriter made him remember the sound of Ziva at the firing range that day. Gunfire was the sound he would associate with his last few moments with her.
After they had returned from the hospital, she grabbed her sig and had headed to the firing range to 'let off some steam' as she had put it.
Tim, truly worried about his teammate, went along for company. Of course he hadn't said that; instead he had lied, stating he had to do his monthly marksmanship qualifications soon, and he needed the practice.
If Ziva had known it was untrue, she certainly didn't let on.
She had unloaded a clip into the target quicker than Tim had been able to put on his protective ear-wear and glasses. And, as always, her marks were set to kill.
Out of the corner of his eye, Tim had noticed her hands tremble as she set her gun down and reached for another clip to reload. She hit the button to pull the target in and he watched as she took a deep breath, her shoulders lifting and dropping, and he barely caught the motion as her lip quivered.
It was an interesting experience, watching one of your strongest co-workers, walk the very fine line between bottling it up and losing it.
Being who he was, his instinct was to reach out, rest a brotherly hand on her shoulder and ask if she was 'ok.'
But, while he was certainly caring, Tim wasn't stupid.
He knew that a hand on her shoulder would earn him a dislocated shoulder and sling to match Tony's.
Well-intended or otherwise, questioning Ziva's strength and fortitude was just begging for a bruisin'.
Instead, he merely squeezed off a round, ensuring he was as accurate as possible.
And he tried very hard to not be disappointed when he wasn't nearly as accurate in his one shot, as Ziva had been in her entire clip.
She had turned her head and regarded him carefully. "You should spend some more time down here, McGee," she had offered, her voice smoother than he expected.
He had shrugged. "Maybe we should come regularly- you can show me some stuff?" he had said casually.
Ziva had nodded and for a moment, while her curly hair bounced softly on her shoulders, Tim understood why Tony had an unspoken fascination with their Mossad partner. She was so many things rolled up in such a discrete package. "Perhaps we could do that," she had said evenly. "How does Monday sound?"
Tim had nodded and grinned before they both turned back to their new targets. She proceeded to unload another clip with frightening accuracy while he focused on each shot. Quality over quantity.
He never said that Monday was the day he forced himself to buckle down and write. He never said that if he didn't budget time at the beginning of the week to work on his book, then he wouldn't get anything written all week. He had to start the week with some plot flowing out of his fingers and across his typewriter keys, or else he would have nothing to mull over during down time at work. Monday was the day where he gave himself story-fodder to ponder the rest of the week.
He never said "Sorry, my Monday's are taken."
McGee was many things but stupid was not one of them.
He saw his friend, someone he respected, hurting. He saw an opportunity to learn from someone he admired. He saw his co-worker struggling to find where she currently stood on her team.
And he saw an opportunity to make her feel needed – because she was. But sometimes actions spoke louder than words.
And Tim's action was to give up his Monday night typewriter-date and turn that night over to Ziva and the firing range.
Except they had never made it to a single session.
One minute they were in the firing range, putting holes in targets. The next minute, half his team was on a flight overseas.
And now, weeks after she failed to return with Gibbs and Tony, he sat at his typewriter on Monday night.
And he had nothing to write about.
He had no latest adventure of L.J Tibbs. Nothing about Tibbs' romance with the Lieutenant Commander. Nothing about Pimmy Jalmer's latest clandestine X-rated rendezvous in autopsy with meeting with Agent Lou, the legal council.
He had tried to write about Agent Tommy, usually a source of amusing plot developments.
But without Agent Lisa, Agent Tommy was dull, lifeless, and somewhat mean.
He tried to create adventures for Agent Lisa, but without Ziva, Tim had no inspiration.
His family had fallen apart.
Her desk sat empty at work, Gibbs refusing to replace her "just yet," though no one knew when "just yet" would end for Gibbs.
Tony barely cracked a joke anymore. He had tried, the first week, to keep up appearances. He had kept his cell phone on the his desk during down-time, his eyes trained on it as if willing it to ring. Nothing. And now he was obviously bitter.
Today he had even mouthed-off to Gibbs.
And, if Gibbs had not been equally heart-broken at Ziva's not calling, he may have head-slapped Tony into the next century. Instead, they shared a look across the bull-pen aisle, filled with equal parts understanding, hurt, and frustration.
And while Tim had not been included in the moment, he had understood the entire non-verbal exchange.
They missed her. All of them.
Damnit, even Abby was mourning Ziva's resignation in her own unique way. Pigtails had come down for a week out of respect for the missing team member. And the photos that had been on the wall during Tony and Ziva's stay in LA had come back up. Abby refused to believe that Ziva was gone permanently.
It was almost a week after Gibbs and Tony had returned without Ziva when Abby had privately told Tim that something didn't "feel right." In her spare time, she had set up tracing software on Ziva's cell phone and financial accounts - both domestic and foreign. Anything that came across, Abby would know about.
So far, nothing. And that's what worried Abby the most. She had said "Its like Ziva disappeared off the face of the world the minute she returned to Mossad. I'm worried, Timmy."
And it was that comment that nagged at Tim's mind. It was those words that continued to run through is brain in place of where he normally had plot-devices every Monday.
This Monday, he sat in front of his typewriter, his pipe in his hands. He flipped the pipe. Over. And over. He turned the wood, he rubbed it with his thumb. He mulled Abby's words, unable to chase them out of his mind.
Tim was just as worried as Abby.
But he wasn't Gibbs. He wasn't Tony. He wasn't the type to bust down doors and go in with guns blaring.
He was just a writer.
Well, Agent by day, writer at night, anyway.
But this wasn't something he could write his way out of.
She wasn't Agent Lisa. She was Ziva. She was real.
And something was wrong.