A/N: I think this is it - the last chapter! Please review! I had a hard time wrapping this story up for some reason so let me know if you like the ending I finally settled on. As always, I really appreciate all of the reviews and alerts. And of course I still don't own NCIS or any of its lovely characters. -abby
Tim was still quietly sitting at Tony's bedside fifteen minutes later when his colleagues returned. Gibbs, cup of coffee in hand, silently moved up beside McGee. He sat down next to the junior agent.
"I didn't get the chance to ask before…how are you doing?" The lead agent gently tilted McGee's head to the side so he could appraise the bruising around the young man's eye.
"I'm okay, Boss. Just a headache is all, vision's almost back to normal. I'm more worried about Tony." Tim looked toward the senior field agent, who was sound asleep and perfectly still except for the slow rise and fall of his bandaged chest.
"He's going to be fine, Tim. You did a good job looking out for him." Gibbs' quiet praise was hard for the junior agent to accept and Tim looked away sheepishly. He still felt guilty for causing DiNozzo more pain, although clearly Tony wasn't planning on holding it against him.
"He would have done the same for me," McGee replied dismissively. "Boss, what happened after I hit my head? Tony and I were trying to run, there was someone coming." Tim closed his eyes, remembering, "He knew he was slowing me down and stopped. I wasn't going to leave him behind so I put him over my shoulders and kept running, but then I fell and don't remember anything after that." McGee looked at Gibbs.
Tim wasn't the only one with questions – the lead agent had plenty of them himself. He had yet to speak with Sergeant Whitten to get a final debrief and there were a lot of puzzle pieces missing. First and foremost, Gibbs did not understand where his agents had been held captive, and how they had ended up running from Bankston through the forest.
Evidently Abby was wondering too, because she cut in before Gibbs had a chance to open his mouth. "Okay, hold up," she said. "Where did the kidnapper take you after the crash? I know you were gassed through the car's air conditioning system, Norfolk's forensic lab confirmed that. But you crashed into that stream and then what?"
At that point it occurred to Gibbs that none of his team knew why Tony and Tim had been kidnapped in the first place, or Gibbs' own connection to their captor. This is a mess, he thought in frustration. None of us knows the whole story. Well, except DiNozzo, he suddenly realized. I told him about Bankston already and he was there for the rest. He's the only one who knows what happened right after Tim was knocked out. Gibbs glanced over at his senior field agent before explaining his part of the story in the usual terse style.
Their reactions were about what he could have predicted: quiet acceptance from Ziva, a gasp of shock from Abby, a thoughtful nod from Ducky. However, it was the complete silence from McGee that concerned Gibbs.
Gibbs addressed the junior field agent. "I'm sorry you got involved in this, Tim. It didn't have anything to do with you. Bankston wanted to get back at me and didn't care who he hurt in the process."
Tim looked momentarily startled, then nodded. "I understand, Boss. It wasn't your fault. I'm just trying to fill in the blanks. Was it Bankston chasing us through the woods?" At Gibbs' nod of confirmation, McGee went on to explain how he and Tony had been locked in the underground bunker and left Bankston there after their escape. "I just don't understand how he got out. Tony examined the whole cell, there was nothing. No windows, not even a doorknob on the inside, and I locked the door as we left." Tim was still very confused.
"I think I can help with that," a new voice said. Sergeant Whitten had quietly stepped into the room while McGee was giving his report. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything. I stopped by to speak with Agent Gibbs and see how things were going."
Gibbs stood up and shook the sergeant's hand. He formally introduced Whitten to McGee, who had been unconscious the last time the two met.
"How is Agent DiNozzo?" the Norfolk detective inquired, gesturing toward the sleeping man.
"He's in pretty rough shape, but he'll make it. What have you got for us?" As usual, Gibbs cut to the chase. He was ready to wrap up the case so that his agents could put it behind them and focus on recovering.
"There was a secret passage in the room, Agent McGee. There's no way you could have found it without already knowing it was there, but when Bankston left he did so in a hurry and the hidden entrance was slightly open. My men discovered it when they secured the underground bunker. The passage leads up into a cave very close to where you and Agent DiNozzo crashed." The sergeant paused thoughtfully. "It's really quite remarkable. Bankston had this whole thing planned down to the last detail. He must have timed the gas release so that you would run off the road near the entrance to his cave, then dragged you both down the passage into the cell." Whitten finished his explanation and waited on the reactions.
Abby whistled. "Nice. A psycho with a plan." Ducky raised an eyebrow and even Ziva looked impressed.
Gibbs wasn't nearly so amused. For something this complex, John Allen Bankston must have been planning almost from the day his brother was incarcerated. The lead NCIS agent did not appreciate the fact that he and his team had been targets for the last eight years. Gibbs felt a stab of guilt once more when he realized that his long-standing fondness for DiNozzo made the senior field agent the likely target of Bankston's vengeance. McGee had not known Gibbs nearly so long and unfortunately just happened to be along for the ride.
Tim listened to Whitten with interest. The sergeant's information helped clear up a lot of the junior agent's remaining confusion, and answered a lot of the questions he had been asking himself after their escape from the cell. As far as Tim was concerned, only one issue remained.
"Boss?" McGee asked. "What happened to Bankston? Abby said that he stabbed Tony and you shot him?" Tim looked at the senior agent and for the first time realized that Tony's left arm was bandaged almost all the way up to his shoulder and not just to the elbow as he had expected.
"He's dead." Gibbs sounded more weary than his team had ever heard him. Ducky took that as his cue to gather Ziva and Abby for help in bundling Tim back to his room.
"Come along Timothy, your doctor is going to have my hide for keeping you out of bed this long. Let's go, shall we? Abigail, Ziva?" Dr. Mallard nodded toward the door as he released the brakes on Tim's wheelchair. The two women said their goodbyes to Gibbs, Whitten and the still-sleeping DiNozzo before holding the door open for Ducky.
After his team had gone, Gibbs turned to face the police detective. "Thank you for staying with McGee. I owe you for that."
Whitten smiled. "You're quite welcome. I don't know why, but it seemed necessary that you stay with DiNozzo. He must be pretty important to you."
Gibbs snorted at the sergeant's observation. "That obvious, huh?"
Tony awakened just in time to hear the exchange. He wasn't sure who the other man in his hospital room was, but certainly was surprised to hear his boss willingly admit to caring about him. In front of a witness, even. Isn't that a sign of weakness? Tony wondered inwardly. Or something like that. Can't remember the exact rule at the moment. He coughed lightly to get his boss' attention.
Gibbs and Whitten turned to face him. "Hey, DiNozzo. This is Sergeant Whitten of Norfolk PD. His team located Bankston's car and led us to your location."
The sergeant tipped his head in acknowledgment. "Glad I'm getting the chance to actually meet you, for a while there it looked like that wouldn't be possible," Whitten said sincerely.
"So they tell me," Tony replied with some effort.
"Listen, I've taken up enough of your time," the detective said. "I'm going to go. If you wouldn't mind stopping by the station sometime before you leave town, there are a few things I need you to sign. Otherwise, we've got everything pretty much wrapped up. Open and shut, a clean shoot. Glad you're doing better, young man." He smiled at DiNozzo and shook Gibbs' hand once more before taking his leave.
Tony looked at his boss. "Going soft?" he asked. His voice was raspy but held a trace of the mischievous tone that Gibbs knew so very well.
"Nah," Gibbs replied with a gentle cuff to the top of his senior agent's head. "Just figured the cat was already out of the bag."
DiNozzo smiled at that. He didn't know how he had managed to worm his way into Gibbs' seemingly cold heart, but didn't mind being there even if it meant getting injured from time to time. As far as Tony was concerned, any show of affection from the older man was worth every bit of physical pain he might feel along the way.
"You risk losing your reputation as a bastard if you keep it up," Tony baited his boss with a faint grin.
Gibbs grinned in return, a rare look of true happiness that reached his ice blue eyes. The smile faded and lead agent was quiet for a moment. He then tapped Tony under the chin as he simply replied, "Some things are worth the risk."