Wake up Call
"Gibbs!" He answered the call with more that his usual abruptness, irritated that it had caught him just before he could make his escape and get to the hospital to find out what was going on.
"Agent Gibbs, Director Morrow needs to see you and your team now; conference room 2."
"We were just heading out. . ."
"It wasn't a request, Special Agent Gibbs."
"But, my man. . ."
"Now, Agent Gibbs!" Morrow's assistant was more than used to dealing with the Senior Special Agent and he knew just when to lay down the law.
Gibbs snapped his cell shut and took a moment to force down his anger and throw another empty coffee cup into the trash.
"Tony, Kate. . .conference room 2. Now!"
What's going on, Boss. . .I thought we were going. . .!"
"So did I, DiNozzo, but it appears that something more important has come up," Gibbs growled in a tone that prevented either of the two subdued agents from commenting further. "Go! I'll be there in a minute when I've got some more damn coffee."
Tony and Kate stowed their packs under their desks and each locked their weapons in a desk drawer.
As they made their way back to the conference room Tony pulled out his cell and punched quick dial but the number he called went straight to voice mail; he left a brief message before hanging up with a sigh.
"He won't have his cell on, Tony; you know how strict they are about that."
"I know, Kate. I just. . .I just wanted to know if there was any news."
"Tony, it's not your fault. You know that don't you?"
"Yeah, so you say."
"DiNozzo, what are you waiting for? The Director won't be sending out engraved invitations!" Tony flinched for a head-slap but although Gibbs had raised his hand to administer the expected blow the gesture was aborted. It was never a good sign when the Boss was too livid to dole out his usual chastisement.
"Director Morrow, you wanted to see us."
"Agent Gibbs." The Director waved then all to take a seat. No one seemed particularly keen to break the uncomfortable silence.
"Before we start I thought you would like an update from Bethesda. . . I have just spoken to Dr Mallard; Agent McGee's condition is listed as critical. . ."
"Do they have a diagnosis?" Tony blurted out.
"No, it's alright, Agent Todd, I understand that you are all worried about what happened today," Morrow assured Kate. Gibbs looked up at the comment, reading more into it than just the superficial reassurance.
"We are all concerned about McGee, Director!"
"I would expect nothing less, Gibbs."
"So, do you know the diagnosis?"
"They are doing a CT scan. . . They is some concern that McGee is suffering from a subdural haematoma. . .if the scan confirms it they will take him straight to the OR for surgery!"
"That's like a stroke, right?"
"No, a stroke is a bleed into the brain. . .this is more like a leak of blood between the layers covering the brain." Kate explained.
"So it's not as serious as a stroke!" Tony asked seeking reassurance.
"Any bleeding inside the scull is serious, Tony. . .it's a rigid box; anything that increases the pressure inside the box. . .causes damage!"
"But they can fix it, can't they."
"Agent DiNozzo, they have excellent neurosurgeons at Bethesda. McGee is in the best of hands." Director Morrow assured them all.
"Is there a reason why you called us here, Director? We should be at Bethesda!"
"Yes, there is a very good reason, Special Agent Gibbs." The Director turned over a piece of paper and placed it on the table. . .they all recognised the header of an internal email. The formality with which the Director addressed Gibbs cranked up their level of anxiety. "Yesterday McGee made an appointment to see me. He failed to keep the appointment because of the incident at the crime scene"
"Do you know what he wanted to see you about, Director?"
"No. Just that it was a personal matter," the Director explained, " and then I received this today. . .it is from McGee."
"And what does it say, Director."
"Amongst other things, it is a letter of resignation."
"No! No way. I do not believe that McGee would resign without saying anything to us. . .this must be a fake. . .someone has hacked the system. Probie wouldn't. . .!"
"Tony is right; McGee wouldn't bypass the chain of command. He goes by the rules; Gibbs is his immediate superior; he would go through Gibbs, even for something like this. . ."
"When was this sent?" There was a core of steel in Gibbs demand.
"The time signature was 10.34."
"So, it was sent while we were out picking up Commander Dalton and about an hour before we returned and found McGee. . .found him unconscious."
"Yes. . .and I have checked, the email was sent from McGee's computer; the document was still open on his desktop."
"But he was obviously already ill. When we tried to call him from the car and he didn't answer we called Abby and she said he had been down to see her looking for some painkillers. . .for a migraine."
The Director eyed the remnants of his MCRT, noting their shock.
"I can assure you I will not be taking action on his email until Special Agent McGee is fully fit and able to confirm that it is a genuine request. But at the moment I am more interested in the reason why we find ourselves in this position."
"What is it you want to know, Director?"
"Agent DiNozzo, what was your last interaction with McGee before you three headed out to bring in Commander Dalton. . .and before you answer, take a second to consider just how much of the bullpen I can see from the balcony,"
Tony cast an anxious glance at Gibbs. They had all occasionally looked up to see the Director observing his agents at work but none of them could be sure if or what he had seen that morning.
"It was a usual Tuesday morning. . .well, usual except that McGee was late in. . .I was giving him a hard time. . .
"And what, Sir ?"
"Did he offer any explanation as to why he was late? As you say, it was uncharacteristic for McGee not to be in before you."
"I never really asked. . ."
"So, you were harassing Agent Mcgee because for once you had beaten him in to work?. . .Was your hard time just verbal or did it involve a more physical component." The Director asked.
"It was just a head slap!"
"Agent Gibbs, were you present during DiNozzo and McGee's 'interaction'?"
"Not this particular one, no."
"And your own encounter with McGee this morning?"
"Are you questioning how I run my team, Director?"
"Just answer the question, Gibbs."
"McGee was late. He was distracted and unfocussed. . ."
"And that was out of character for McGee?"
"So, it was just a wake-up call. . .a clip around the back of the head. . . what everyone here call a 'Gibbs-slap'!"
"Did he complain?"
"No. McGee doesn't complain. He knows that if it is me doling it out then he needs to pick up his game."
"I see." The Director turned his attention to Kate." Agent Todd, how did you spend your evening yesterday?"
"I was at Bethesda. After the explosion at the crime scene yesterday, Ducky insisted that McGee and I go and get checked out. McGee was reluctant but Gibbs ordered us both to go, while he and Tony processed the scene."
"And you were given the all clear?"
"Yes, Sir. They patched me up and gave me a tetanus shot. McGee gave me some cash to get me home in a cab; I'd left my wallet in the truck at the scene."
"And McGee? was he sent home too?"
"I assume so; he wasn't injured. I think he was just hanging around there to keep me company."
"Is that true, DiNozzo?"
"He got thrown by the blast. . .a perfect swan dive into the bushes; ten out of ten for the Probie for artistic merit," Tony quipped.
"Can it, DiNozzo! What are you getting at here, Director? You clearly know something that we don't," Gibbs demanded, "and I don't appreciate being kept in the dark about members of my team."
"Agent McGee was only released from the hospital at 06.00 this morning; they kept him in overnight for observation."
"No, that can't be right. . .When I called him last night he said Kate had gone home and that he would be going shortly."
"Why did they keep him in?"Kate asked.
"They were worried he had a concussion"
"But he wasn't injured. He didn't bang his head and he wasn't knocked out. Ducky checked him out and said he was just a bit banged-up. . .he only sent him to the hospital with Kate because he didn't want her going alone.
"He never said anything. This morning when he came in he never said anything!"
"Did any of you ask?" Suddenly the Director seemed even more intimidating than Gibbs on a really bad day. " The most junior member of your team got blown halfway across some dirtbag's back yard and not one of you even thought to ask if he was alright. . .if he needed to talk about what must have been a terrifying experience!"
"Is that why he resigned. Is this just him being petulant because we didn't hold his hand and ask if he was OK!" Gibbs allowed his worry to come out as sarcasm.
"I thought you took pride in your ability to read people, Gibbs!" There was more than a hint of disgust in the Directors expression. "Special Agent McGee appears to be under the impression that he was responsible for yesterday's explosion and he says he is no longer prepared to be responsible for putting the team at risk!"
"He triggered the trip-wire, but it could just as easily have been any one of us," Kate explained, "none of us saw the wire and we had no reason to believe that the house was booby-trapped."
"I was on his case; he can be really clumsy; I told him he had nearly killed us all! I'm sorry Boss, I thought he knew I was joking. . .just like all the other times."
"Well, no one is laughing now, are they DiNozzo!"
"Gibbs, Director, what can we do?" Kate asked.
"Director, could we have a copy of McGee's email." Gibbs was angry but his anger was directed at himself and at a situation that had spiralled out of control. "With your permission, Sir, we need to be at the hospital for when McGee comes out of surgery." He waved his two agents out but before he could join them the Director called him back.
"Sort this out, Jethro. We cannot afford to lose an agent with as much potential as McGee. The future of the agency is going to rely more and more on the particular skills that he brings to the job. I know he is inexperienced and that his field skills need honing but he knows computers better than anyone we have currently in the agency. Do not let him slip from our grasp because he could not tolerate your particular brand of man management."
"I treat my team all the same!"
"Well, they're not all the same and I would dispute that you treat them as such. You don't head-slap Abby or Agent Todd and what works on DiNozzo isn't necessarily the right way to get the best out of someone of McGee's temperament or background. He's been pushed to the edge, Jethro, and I expect you to do whatever it takes to pull him back."