A/N : Ok; Here it is! The Final Chapter
WARNING THIS CHAPTER TALKS MORE OPENLY; ALTHOUGH NOT EXPLICITLY; OF THE GIBBS/TONY/MCGEE PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP!
For those of you who have stayed with me till the end; THANK YOU!
A Sequel is in the planning stages!
DISCLAIMER: I Do not own NCIS or its Characters.
Upon entering the Director's office; Tim was directed to the love seat as Gibbs took the chair that allowed him to watch both his agent and the Director; affording him the opportunity to head any rising problem off at the pass. It also gave him the chance to monitor Jen's reactions; and since he always could read her well; he would be able to better gage how things were gonna go.
Jenny knew just by looking at the young agent in front of her; not to mention the way Gibbs had quickly been able to talk him down from his panic attack just now; that Agent McGee was not going to go through with his resignation. In fact, the young man wouldn't be going anywhere. He had reconnected with his Team Leader. She knew that whatever the problem had been; it had been serious and damaging to the team; but mostly to for the young man currently sitting in front of her looking like he was facing a firing squad. Yet; his faith and confidence in his team leader had obviously been restored; at least to the level that he once again looked to him for guidance and support in times of stress.
Knowing that whatever the serious problem had been; dragging the discussion out or going into details that weren't crucial to the "Official" questions that needed to be answered; would serve no purpose here. In fact; that would only serve to undermine the primary goal; getting this team back to its' crack investigative best.
"Agent McGee; I called this meeting to discuss your submitted resignation. Since you requested this meeting be moved up a day; I can only conclude that you have already made your decision and are willing to stand by it?"
"Yes, Ma'am." Tim answered truthfully.
"And that decision would be what, exactly, Agent McGee?" Jenny asked in her best Director's tone.
"I respectfully request that my resignation be nullified and voided. Ma'am." Tim admitted.
"And, why is that, exactly, Agent McGee?" Jenny asked in genuine curiosity as well as official inquiry.
"I have no desire to leave my current placement; my current team; or this agency, Ma'am." Tim admitted; feeling like a two-year old being scolded for wrong doing.
"Agent McGee; this Agency does not operate at the whim of its' agents. Your decision has affected your team; which in turn; affected this agency. Your team was taken off the active case roster; to take care of this situation. What can you tell me that lets me believe this will not happen again?"
"Director; I messed up; I made a bad judgement call in not talking things out with my supervisor before they got out of control; because I was under the misconception that he was not willing to listen to what I needed him to hear. I have been advised of the error of that bad judgement and I give you my word that this will not happen again." Tim explained.
"When you were advised of the error of your judgement; did you allow your supervisor adequate time to work on the problem before you submitted your resignation?" Jenny pushed the issue.
"No, Ma'am; I did not." Tim admitted in guilt.
"And why is that, Agent McGee?" Jenny continued to push; wanting him to remember everything about this bad decision so he didn't do it again.
"I lost my temper and after I yelled at him; I came to the conclusion that since Agent Gibbs doesn't tolorate disrespect; he would no long want an agent on his team that had so blatently disrespected him; as I had just done." Tim explained with embarrassment.
Gibbs had to smile. The poor kid was holding his own against Jenny's "No nonsense" official questions; which were heading into the "interrogation" territory very quickly. He sent a frown in Jenny's direction; not appreciating her pushiness.
Jenny did not miss the frown; nor the message behind it; and decided to soften her approach just a tad. The poor kid wasn't after all; in official trouble; she just didn't want to have to go through this again with him.
"McGee; let's take the "official" questions off the table for a moment." Jenny suggested. She hadn't wanted to go this route; but wanted more answers. Maybe this was the quickest way to get them.
Tim panicked. This was just what he'd been afraid of. He closed his eyes; trying desperately to hide the panic and fear; needing to re-focus before he said something to screw things up. Jenny only saw a nervous agent trying to think. Gibbs saw the emotions filter through Tim's eyes unhidden; he'd been watching for it, actually. He hoped Jenny would watch her step here.
"Why don't you tell me what the problem was?" Jenny suggested.
"I couldn't handle being treated like a Freshman Frat kid at initiation week; endlessly. When I complained, I was ignored. After taking it for as long as I could; I requested some leave time. Agent Gibbs tried to talk to me about what was bothering me. I blew up at him because he'd waited until I had allowed everything to build up. I shouldn't have waited so long. End of story." Tim patiently explained; hoping against hope that this would satisfy her need for answers.
"Agent McGee, I know you better than that and I know Agent Gibbs better than that." Jenny was annoyed. It hadn't been that simple; she knew that.
"He's telling the truth, Director!" Agent Gibbs spoke for the first time since the meeting had begun; and his tone left no question; he was pissed. "Agent McGee has never lied to you and he's never lied to me!"
Jenny; never been accused of being clueless; understood the message in both the anger and the words. Her unofficial pushing was going too far. Even though the question sounded official; the depth of private answers she was pushing for was too much to ask for. She'd been given her answers and she needed to leave well enough alone.
"All right, Agent McGee, tell me, please; how you resolved the problems cited in your proposed letter of resignation." Jenny once again brought things back to "official".
"With the help of my teammates and most especially, Agent Gibbs, Ma'am. Once he assured me that they would listen; that I had been wrong to think they wouldn't; we were able to talk out the things that had been a problem for me."
"So, your official explanation is as simple as that?" Jenny pushed.
"Yes, Ma'am." Tim replied; feeling like the bone that the big dog just wouldn't let go of.
"Agent McGee; you've never stricken me as a quitter. Is it in your nature to quit because you're tired of being picked on?" Jenny asked in obvious disbelief.
"Director Shepard, I'd like to call for a break." Gibbs interjected in frustration. Jeez, why wouldn't she just let this go?
"Boss, it's okay, I can answer that." Tim sent Gibbs a look of gratitude mixed with determination. "Director; you're right; I'm not a quitter and usually it would take a lot more for me to give up on something than that. But, you have to understand that this was an ongoing thing; has been since I got here; and because it meant one thing to the ones who were doing it; and the total opposite for me; who was on the recieving end; it spiraled out of control for me; in the way I took it all in."
"The problem has been sorted out; talked through and worked out. I really appreciate your assistance in this; with giving us the time off work to accomplish this before it became a part of my permanent record." Tim gave one last desperate effort into getting her to call it a done deal.
Jenny contemplated Tim's answer for a long silent minute. Looking at Jethro; she didn't miss the pride currently evident on his face; as he watched his agent explain himself. And while she wasn't happy that McGee wouldn't go into any details about the actual issues he'd had with his team; she knew that McGee's tough exterior hid a sensitive nature; he looked out for others before he looked out for himself; so it had in all likelihood; gotten pretty bad before he'd every said anything in complaint. And if he was unwilling to go into detail about any of it; she would grudgingly respect his decision on it.
"All right, Agent McGee. I do need to know what specifically convinced you that you were "No longer competent to be a member of NCIS." and "Have been deemed not good enough for the team of Leroy Jethro Gibbs."?
Tim recalled the pain he'd felt flowing through him at the time he'd typed those words straight out of his hurting heart. Now; after everything that Gibbs had listened to; taken in; accepted; willingly talked him through; apologised for; and even pushed to know; so that he wouldn't be holding onto anything else; all without a single negatve response from him in return; Tim felt like those words were now a written slap in the face of his surrogate father that he'd just reconnected with. It hurt him to even hear the words he'd written. They left him feeling like scum.
Gibbs; once again; witnessed the emotions rolling through Tim's eyes; as his agent heard the words he'd written. He knew that Tim regretted even typing that letter of resignation and the guilt was beginning to once again fill his heart; and would soon bury him if Gibbs didn't do something to stop it. The young man had no need of going back down this road and it wasn't gonna happen on Gibbs' watch.
In a move designed to deliberately pull his agent's attention away from his current rising tide of emotions; Gibbs schooled his features and his tone so that it came across exactly as he needed it to; getting his attention without any sign of anger.
Tim silently gave Gibbs his attention; his heart still in his eyes. It was blatently obvious; he felt he had done Gibbs so seriously wrong; it was unrecoverable. Gibbs knew the kid was worried about both his boss' feelings and about where he stood with him.
"Tell us what was going through your mind when you were typing your resignation up." Gibbs quietly encouraged with his eyes; his tone; and accompanying smile. He wanted no room left for doubt that it was okay for Tim to be honest with this.
Tim nodded his head at his boss; but couldn't find the words to explain himself. Thinking back to the night of lost tempers; lost control; and volcanic eruptions of words; Tim could only grimace as he finally answered the question.
"Reaction, Boss. Pure reaction. I had just blown up at you and Tony and knew that I had crossed the line doing it the way I did. It left me feeling like i had no choice but to remove myself from your team before you were forced; on principal; to do it yourself. I knew it would look better if i did it to myself before you did it to me. I figured I wasn't needed any more anyway; since I hadn't been sent out in the field in so long." Tim's eyes were rapidly filling with regret as he continued to look Gibbs in the eye with the honest answer he'd asked for.
Jenny silently marveled at the way McGee was so comfortable with being brutally honest with Gibbs; but unable to explain himself in any sense of comfort to her. It was apparent that there was no further need to drag this out. The answers had been given and the problem had obviously been taken care of.
"Agent McGee, are there any unresolved issues that makes this a possibility of happening again?" Jenny asked her final question.
"No, Ma'am." Tim answered in a surprisingly shaky voice. as he fought hard to hide the piece of untruth he'd forced himself to answer her with.
Jenny bought the answer with no questions asked. Gibbs; however; hadn't missed the shakiness in the voice and knew that Tim was hiding something. He recalled the conversation from the other day.
"This what you weren't telling me this morning?"
"Not everything. No."
"Wouldn't you rather go ahead and get it all out and over with?"
The horror stricken look left no need for words.
"Is it as bad as this?"
"NO! Apples and oranges"
"Then what's the problem?"
"It's not work related, directly."
"Okay. Again, what's the problem?"
"Are you serious? After what Tony just told you? Especially after what Tony just told you?"
"I can't. Not yet."
"All right, then. I will keep this off your official record. Consider your letter of resignation nullified and void. However; should this happen again; I will be forced to place a letter of Reprimand in your file, Agent McGee." Jenny interrupted Gibbs thoughts with her final announcement.
"Yes, Ma'am." Tim answered quietly as he realized he had just boxed himself into a corner. While he wanted to stay on Gibbs' team; his one last burning question; which could only be asked of and answered by Gibbs himself; left him feeling like he was dangling out of an aircraft at 3500 feet; having just thrown away his own backup parachute. Swallowing hard; Tim waited for her to dismiss him.
"That will be all, Agent McGee." Jenny finally let him go; knowing he'd had probably taken all he could handle.
When Tim left the Director's office; he wasn't ready to face anyone. Having to answer her last; but most potentially damaging question less than honestly; had shaken him to the core; in more ways than one way. He needed time to pull himself together.
He hated lying; but he feared the vulnerability he now felt down deep even more. He had just given away his only way out. He was now stuck with whatever situation arose from Gibbs' answer to the last most personal and painful question burning painfully in Tim's heart.
He'd just spent the last 3 days letting Gibbs help him unbury everything else he'd been weighed down with; except this one last remaining hurt. It was such a deep one; that he wasn't sure he was up to hearing the answer to the question it demanded be asked. He had found the courage; with Gibbs' help; to ask all the other questions he'd needed answers to; did he have the courage to ask this one? If he did; he sure didn't know where it he'd hidden it.
Taking himself quietly to the back stairwell; he sat down on the landing; resting his head against the wall; stretching his feet out in front of him; as he allowed himself to let his mind go blank; closing his eyes; in an attempt to relax.
Gibbs remained sitting in Jenny's Office once Tim had left; waiting to hear what she had yet to say. He knew her. She wasn't satisfied.
"Jethro, what isn't he telling me?" She asked in frustration.
"Whatever it is that you didn't ask him." Gibbs answered her truthfully.
"You know what I mean!" She angrily exclaimed.
"Director, if you have more official questions for him; I suggest you call him back up here and ask them. But it sounded to me like you already gave him the official decision in this matter." Gibbs answered her; his voice full of anger. He hated it when she did this; used their connected history in an attempt to get information from him. Getting to his feet; he headed for the door; every step full of radiating anger. When she made no further comment; he left her office and headed for the elevator.
While he usually took the front stairs down to the squad room; right now, he needed to pull himself together. She had tried to put Tim through the ringer and had certainly had pushed him to his limits; but thankfully; hadn't succeeded in going too far. Watching it hadn't been easy. Sitting on his temper had been even harder. Gibbs needed to be under control when he appeared back in front of the young man; not wanting him to think he was in trouble.
What was it that so bothered Tim that he'd allowed himself to be less than 100% honest to the Director? It obviously was painful for him; as evident in his the shakiness of his voice. He hadn't been able to hide the emotion that whatever it was; brought up in him. Gibbs wished he could get him to open up about it. Maybe he would be able to get that accomplished after work tonight; so the kid could be well and truly free of everything he'd been carrying around.
Reaching the squad room level; Gibbs schooled his emotions and his face as he stepped out of the elevator; prepared to check on Tim's state of mind. Looking past Tony and Ziva; both hard at work on cold cases; Gibbs was startled to find Tim's desk empty.
"Where's Tim?" Gibbs asked to both present agents.
Tony and Ziva both looked up at Gibbs; over to Tim's desk; and back to Gibbs.
"I haven't seen him." came the simultaneous answers.
"Check with Ducky and Abby. I'm going for coffee. When you find him; tell him to call me." Gibbs instructed trying to keep the concern out of his voice.
Tony and Ziva both picked up the phone; each calling one of the two people they hoped currently knew where Tim was. Gibbs was worried and he had just come from a meeting with their fellow agent. This was not looking good.
After they'd gotten confirmation that neither Ducky nor Abby had seen Tim; Tony; completely concerned now; called Gibbs.
"Boss, Abby and Ducky; both say they haven't seen him and he's not in the head; I check." Tony said; concern evident in his tone.
"Okay. I'll handle it." Gibbs promised.
"Boss!" Tony let his concern out in full force. He'd been feeling pretty brotherly toward Tim since the air had been cleared between them.
"Relax, Tony. I'll take care of it, I promise. I"ll find him." Gibbs promised with more conviction as he hung up the call.
Stopping in his tracks; he wrapped his mind around the facts at hand. Tim had left the Director's Office just a couple of minutes before he had. No one had seen him come down from her office. That left only one place for him to be. Turning on his heel; he hit the back stairwell and quietly began climbing up to the Director's Level. As he rounded the last landing heading up to the last door; he stopped in his tracks as his eyes found their target.
Sitting against the wall with his eyes closed and his legs stretched out in front of him; he looked like he'd managed to relax. But the fact that he'd taken himself off the grid; and allowed himself to forget time and place in the middle of the work day; was so unlike him; that alarm bells were still going off for Gibbs.
Obviously being less than honest with the Director had upset Tim more than Gibbs had even realized. Or was it the cause of the untruth that was affecting his agent like this? Gibbs decided it couldn't wait. Whatever it was needed to be addressed or at least given the promise to be addressed soon.
"Hey." he quietly called up to the young man; not wanting to startle him or let him think for a minute that he was in trouble.
Tim's eyes snapped open and his head turned toward Gibbs; an apology full of remorse already headed toward his mouth; as Gibbs cut him off at the pass.
"Relax. You're not in trouble. This time." Gibbs promised as he whipped out his phone and called Tony.
"Found him. Taking him for coffee. We'll be back in a while. Hold down the fort." Gibbs told his senior field agent.
"Great! okay. Will do, Boss." Tony agreed in relief that Tim had been found. It was unusual for Gibbs to take any of them for coffee; especially in the middle of the work day. But, then again; this had been an unusual week.
Gibbs and Tim were still in the stairwell; Tim getting to his feet as Gibbs put his phone away.
"Talk to me." Gibbs requested.
"I can't. Not here." Tim quietly admitted.
"Sounds like the best reason to get that coffee." Gibbs excused with a smile.
Leaving the stairwell; they took the elevator to the ground floor; signing out to go get coffee. Once they'd begun walking toward the coffee shop; Gibbs once again; approached the question.
"You told me the other day that there was something you couldn't tell me yet . That it wasn't the right time to talk about it." Gibbs reminded him.
"I remember." Tim answered quietly.
"It's a new day; everything else has been handled?" Gibbs asked trying to pave the way for Tim to open up to him.
"Yes. Thank you for that." Tim responded with abject gratitude.
"I'm still listening." Gibbs patiently reminded him. "What is it that has you less than 100% honest in your answer to the Director's last question? Whatever it is; is hurting you and you need to let it out."
Tim's astonishment at Gibbs reading him so astutely was written on his face.
"Tim, It was in your voice when you answered her question; and you've never taken yourself off the grid like this in the middle of the work day; no less. That spells serious." Gibbs explained; knowing his agent would be unsettled without the explanation.
"I don't know how to explain it." Tim hedged.
"Why not? You've done a damn good job of explaining the mountain of stuff you were carrying around so far."
Tim stopped walking. "This is so personal." he admitted; not looking at Gibbs.
"And everything else wasn't?" Gibbs had stopped walking too; but was steadily watching Tim for his unhidden emotions as they made themselves known in their usual way; in his eyes.
"You lost me."
I told you I know I would never be good enough." Now it was Tim's turn to do the reminding.
"Yeah; I remember and I gave you my answer to that."
"As my boss."
"Not as a person who isn't my boss."
Gibbs was shocked. Was Tim really telling him what he thought Tim was telling him? "You're telling me..."
Tim started walking again; embarrassment and shame lighting a fire under his footsteps now. He'd never be able to look Gibbs in the eye again.
"Tim, Stop!" Gibbs directed.
Tim stopped mid-stride but did not look back at Gibbs. In fact; he wouldn't pick his eyes up off the ground.
Gibbs caught up to Tim and looked him over for a second. Yeah, Gibbs could see it. Hell, he even understood it; now. The genuine; unburied motivation behind Tim's build up of anger and resentment; his eventual blow up and subsequent attempted resignation. It all made even more sense now; than it had before.
Sure; what he'd been through while Gibbs was gone; had had a hell of a lot to do with all that; but this; this lay at the bottom of it all. Unresolved; festering; hurting; spiraling into other negative thoughts that had eventually grown like weeds; strangling Tim's sense of self-worth; fed by his insecurities and the way he was treated by Tony and Gibbs; who were ignorant of their own culpability in it all.
"I understand it now." Gibbs quietly assured him. There was no anger; no censure; no ridicule. All Gibbs gave was pure understanding.
"I'm sorry." Tim felt obliged to offer; knowing deep down inside this wasn't his place; to be questioning Gibbs on this personal level. Yet, it had raised such painful doubts in himself; he was driven to hear the answer.
"You have nothing to apologise for." Gibbs told him seriously.
"I know it's not fair of me to ask you something so personal." Tim explained. "I have no right to even expect you to answer it."
"Why not? It's not like you created the situation. It''s not your fault you were completely disregarded and disrespected when it came down to it." Gibbs admitted with regret. "Now that you bring my attention to it; I get it."
Tim breathed an audible sigh of relief. He then gave Gibbs an out; as if he didn't think he could handle hearing what Gibbs' answer would be anyway; "You don't have to answer the question. It's okay. I get it. Now."
"Thanks." Tim responded to the head slap with a small smile.
"What exactly is it that you 'get'?" Gibbs asked; frustrated with Tim's apparent acceptance of negative beliefs that he wasn't good enough."You get that you somehow aren't good enough to have the relationship with me that Tony does? That's what it is that you get?"
Tim silently nodded his head; with tears in his eyes; as he found the courage to look Gibbs in the eye; now that the older man had verbalized his last deeply hidden pain. Word for word; he'd hit the verberial nail on the head.
"Oh,Tim! It was never that you weren't good enough for me! The fact is that I never realized you would feel the same way about it that Tony does and that's why it never came up between us. Tony and I are a lot alike and although you are distinctly different; that doesn't make you "not good enough" by any stretch." Gibbs quietly explained; as the last piece of the puzzle that was Tim McGee finally fell into place.
"Thank you for that." Tim replied; feeling somewhat better. It still felt like a bitter pill to swallow; that even though it wasn't actually a case of not being good enough; it was too late. He would still always be on the outside. Always knowing he didn't mean as much to Gibbs as Tony did.
"No! You should know better. But, I can see where you wouldn't. I can see where it would be hard to understand how it's possible. But, Tim; you have to know that it would never be a case of Tony being more important to me than you are!" Gibbs; astute as ever; clearly read Tim's mind.
"You're right. I don't see how it's possible. It doesn't even sound logical. Why else would you even have that relationship with him; if he didn't mean more to you than just one of your agents?" Tim angrily asked.
"I do think more of him than that. But I don't think any less of you!" Gibbs admitted quietly; hoping he would understand the difference.
Tim silently brought his anger back under control. Now, he was no longer hurting in silence; he was confused. He took one last stab at trying to verbally put this in a way that he could understand it.
"So; what you're telling me is; if the question had come up between you and I; instead of you and Tony; that your answer still would have been yes?"
"Yes, Tim; that's exactly what I'm saying."
"You've never lied to me before; why would you do it now; when I need your honesty the most?" Tim cried; not able to believe he was so close to what he wanted; yet so far away. It was too late; Tony already had him. Why dangle it in front of him like that? Well; he had asked for the answer. Hadn't he?
"Tim; you know better than to believe I would lie to you! Especially about something so personal; something that would hurt you. Especially after everything you've been through!"
"I'm sorry. It's just..."
"Hard for you to accept that someone would think of you better than you've thought of yourself ?" Gibbs asked quietly.
Tim nodded; tears in his eyes.
"Hey, come here." Gibbs pulled him into an embrace and whispered into his ear. "Don't let anyone ever tell you that you're not good enough of a person! You hear me?"
Tim soaked up the hug; then stepped back; unwilling to get comfortable in something he couldn't have.
"Thank you." He headed once again toward getting coffee; seriously needing the caffeine in silence to the coffee shop; both lost in their own thoughts.
Tim knew that the time for such personal honest discussion would never come again; as Gibbs and Tony would never consider letting him in and there was no way in hell Tim would ever invite himself in. He was grateful for this opportunity to clear away the hurt that had been with him for so long. But, he had to get used to being alone; outside.
In the most awkward silence they'd shared in a long time; both agents walked the rest of the way to the coffee shop; ordered their coffee; as well as some for the rest of the team. Silently, they walked back to the office. Neither one of them had any clue what to say next. Both figured it was best left where it was at. Unhidden; yet unfinished.
Their silence continuing to stretch; tightening with unintentional tension with every passing minute; they treked back to their office building. Before they signed back in; Gibbs finally put a hand on Tim's arm and signaled for him to stop; guiding their steps back away from the building. He didn't want to leave things like this. It was a very uncomfortable place to leave it; and Tim deserved a better closure to this whole situation than this.
"Tim; I don't know where things will go from here; for you and I; for you and Tony and I; but inside the team; you're no less important than anyone else on the team. I hope you don't forget that. I know I'm gonna make damn sure the rest of us don't." Gibbs promised him.
"Thanks Boss." Tim answered; satisfied that nothing else could be done on this level. He was content. The only thing left was of less importance; and didn't include Gibbs.
They got back to the squad room and cooperatively passed out the team's coffees. Calling them all to the center of the squad room; with Abby and Ducky joining them as pre-arranged by Gibbs; they toasted the success of the rejoining of the team.
Tim silently sunk his attention back into the cold case file on his desk after he handed Ziva and Abby; and Tony each a handwritten note. Gibbs watched in interested silence as the others read their note from Tim; and each of them offered him a verbal apology in turn. Tim accepted their apologies graciously and with a smile; and for the first time that morning; the smiles he gave reached his eyes; as he looked at everyone in turn.
They'd done it. They had reconnected their broken team. They were once again; a family.