Tim felt like he'd just been sucker-punched. Nothing could have prepared him for Dr. Shark's news.

"Tim, your mother, June Harris, well, you need to read this."

Dr. Shark had handed Tim a news article from a newspaper of a small town some three hours away from D.C. The details of the hit and run accident that left one fatality shook Tim to the core. Dead? Just three days after he'd seen her? Gone? No chance to ever make things right or get any answers. While his head swam with he reality and resulting questions and unfathomable feelings that were rising up in him, the Doc left him to this thoughts.

It was a full thirty minutes before Tim was able to pull himself out of his headspace and concentrate somewhat on the here and now. With this last stumbling block on the road to being able to put this painful chapter behind him, in proper perspective, removed this way, Tim didn't know what to do with himself. So completely unprepared for this turn of events, he once again felt lost and confused.

While it didn't seem like this left any problems for him to deal with on this subject; in actuality, down deep, it left an unexpected gaping hole where he hadn't even realized one was forming. It had opened up without him even realizing it. One minute he was doing fine, had only one small hurdle left to clear; and the next, the hurdle was gone, only to be replaced by a hole too big to simply jump over and keep going.

Dr. Shark had done what he could for Tim, for now. He'd advised him of his mother's death, made sure he knew that the funeral arrangements had already been taken care of and paid for by someone who had taken pity on her as the victim of the only unsolved crime in that small town in a long time, and silently opened the door to his office, to admit Tim's boss and coworker; both of whom could see that this had indeed thrown the young man for a loop; just as they had feared it would.

As Tony sat with Tim to keep him company and look after him, Gibbs stepped out of the office to speak with Tim's Doctor. They ironed out the need for Tim to have an open door reception with Dr. Shark, at least until he was past this crisis. Gibbs promised the good Doctor that Tim would not be left alone anytime soon. Gibbs handed Tony the keys to the Agency car while quietly encouraging Tim to let the boss drive him home in Tim's car.

Through the fog that had settled over his mind, Tim heard remained a silent statue in Gibbs' absence, not even becoming aware of Tony's presence. It wasn't until the boss returned and spoke to him that Tim seemed to rouse himself enough to at least physically respond to Gibbs' request and almost like a robot, do as he'd been asked. As Tony gently propelled him out to his car, he cooperatively went with him. While Gibbs assisted Tim into the car and quietly told him to buckle up, Tim seemed to remain barely cognitive. So, while he had come back to the here and now, it was only on the outskirts of that place, that he'd managed to get to.

Gibbs hoped, as he looked at his agent for a long contemplative minute, that this setback would be temporary. Somehow, there was a strong gut feeling in Gibbs that Tim would see things more clearly with some food and sleep under his belt. With that belief firmly in place, Gibbs was able to breathe out a sigh of relief and drive home.

Tony drove ahead to pick up some dinner. He also called Ducky to advise him of the results of the meeting with the doctor. Ducky informed Tony that he would arrive at Gibbs' shortly.

Gibbs moderated his driving to respect the troubled state Tim was in. Watching the young man try to regain his equilibrium once again, was heart-wrenching. The guy had been through so much and had almost made it completely through the worst of it all, only to be knocked back down with the finish line in plain sight. How discouraged Tim must feel right about now. Gibbs held on to that belief he'd felt a moment ago, with all of his inner strength.

Determined to help him back on his feet as quickly as possible, Gibbs ushered the young man into the house when they arrived, and propelled him into the kitchen and into a kitchen chair. Setting a small sandwich in front of him, Gibbs quietly requested that the young man eat. When Ducky arrived a short time later, to find Timothy had not attempted to eat what food had been placed in front of him, he poured the young man a shake and after sticking a straw in it, placed it in front of him and directed him to drink it down. Once Tim had done that, Ducky ordered the young man to bed.

Tony had volunteered to stay the night and Gibbs had taken him up on it. He let his agents crash on his bed. Tony would hopefully be able to be there for Tim if he happened to be disturbed in his sleep by anything unpleasant. They would all need to stay up on their sleep if they were to get through this. No one knew how far this would knock Tim back, but everyone was determined to help him back up as quickly as possible.

Surprisingly enough, Tim seemed to sleep peacefully through the night with just a little help from Ducky's administered sleep aide. The next morning found Tim up before Tony or Gibbs. Slipping silently down to the kitchen, he started the fresh coffee and breakfast. A short twenty minutes later and breakfast was ready, being kept warm in the oven as Tim headed out to his car for a clean change of clothes so he could take a shower. It was another thirty minutes before Gibbs appeared in his kitchen, sniffing appreciatively at the pleasant aroma of breakfast and fresh coffee.

When he arrived to an empty kitchen, he was a little surprised. While he enjoyed his first coffee of the day, Tim appeared in the kitchen, obviously freshly showered and completely aware and awake. As soon as he arrived, Tim removed two plates of pancakes and omelets from the oven and set them on the table. Gibbs smiled his thanks and both men began digging in to breakfast in peace and quiet.

After they'd eaten, Gibbs refilled their coffee and carefully got the conversational ball rolling.

"You sleep okay?"

"Surprisingly enough, yes. I don't even remember dreaming about anything."

"Good. You ready to talk about it?" Gibbs pushed.

"About? June? No need, Boss. I'm okay." Tim answered sincerely.

"Really?" the boss pushed.

"Really, Boss. I'm okay. I mean, yeah, hearing about it and reading it in the newspaper kinda shocked me, but I'm okay now" Tim's voice was confident and positive. He had no doubt in what he was saying.

"You know Dr. Shark expects to see you several times this week, right? He's leaving his door 'open' for you." Gibbs advised the young man.

"Why? Because the news hit me kinda hard? Boss, there's no need for that. I promise you, I'm fine." Tim vowed.

"I know you believe that. But, give yourself a few days to process all of this. Then, re-evaluate how you feel, okay? Don't rush yourself. There's no set timetable here." Gibbs advised him. "This isn't a test."

"Boss, after everything you and I have talked about, after everything this team has done and said to hold me up and keep me going until I found my way out of this; with you leading the way, how could I not be okay?" Tim reasoned.

"I know you've made it through the worst of this but that doesn't mean this hasn't set you back a little. If it has, we want to make sure it's a temporary setback. Don't shortchange yourself. Take the extra help. Any way you slice it, it can't hurt, right?" Gibbs replied with reasoning of his own.

"I know you're right . Thanks, Boss. We are going to work today, right?" Tim asked as he changed the subject and pushed to get things back to normal.

"Yeah, let me just get Tony up and moving." Gibbs said with a grin. Maybe Tim really was okay. Now that the initial shock had worn off, he sure seemed to be. Time would tell, of course.

As the work day kicked in and the hours flew by in a flurry of paperwork and cold cases, everything seemed to return to normal, with the exception of the "Probie hazing" That had disappeared completely. Even the teasing had been turned off for the day. Tony's heart wasn't in it. The break from it actually felt nice for Tim.

By the end of the day, Gibbs had noticed that Tim's claim to be all right, seemed to be backed up by his demeanor and mood. He really did seem to be okay. However, Gibbs would still hold him to the sessions with Dr. Shark. There would be no getting out of those for this young man. Surprisingly enough, Tim didn't argue or even seem upset about it.

As the week wore on, Tim agreed to stay at Gibbs' house until Dr. Shark gave him the 'all clear' to go back home. Apparently, even the good doctor wasn't convinced that Tim had been only momentarily affected by his mother's death. Instead of bucking the system, Tim went along for the ride. He kept the appointments he was given and he maintained normalcy in the rest of the areas of his life.

With one week, his mother's funeral, and several sessions with Dr. Shark under his belt, Tim received the 'all clear' to return to field work and to his own apartment. The team was still leery but they helped him get settled back into his own place and encouraged him to stay in touch in the off work hours. In fact, they enforced it by calling him themselves, at least one of them a night, to check on him. Instead of feeling suffocated, Tim felt like part of a family. He relished it and appreciated it.

Gibbs couldn't help but marvel at Tim's resilient nature. While the sign that had started it all; the hole punched into the wall in the house; had been traumatic and had set off Gibbs' own painful memories, as well as Tim's, it had also strengthen the team's bond with each other and lessened Gibbs' personal pain on several levels.

Having the end results of the tragic episode in Tim's life be that his agent was now able to breathe freely and walk straight and tall without his painful memories keeping him down and without looking back, was the best any of them could have asked for. Tim no longer stumbed over his words when he spoke to Gibbs. He didn't even fear talking to the man like he had before they'd gone through this nightmare. The "Probie" had matured very fast through this experience.

Having Gibbs rise to the occasion and help him through one of the most difficult things he'd ever had to experience, had given Tim a whole new level of appreciation and respect for the man. At the same time, it had opened the eyes of everyone on the team, to the innate parental lion that resided in the heart of their leader. That unexpected knowledge had all of them feeling more secure in the strength of the team and the committment each of them had for the others.

Gibbs had a newfound respect, level of pride and appreciation for one Timothy McGee after watching his personal painful journey through the nightmare that had come at him from outta nowhere. The young man had swallowed his pride and come to Gibbs for help and had worked hard to get through the pain and the mess from there. Even when he'd wanted to give up; Tim had held onto the team's faith and trust in him and let them help him keep going.

The journey had been painful for both of them. Knowing that without even trying or being aware of it, his youngest agent had pulled Gibbs out of his own painful memories and changed the way he handled them and the way he now dealt with the team; was an unqualified bonus; one for which Leroy Jethro Gibbs was actually profoundly grateful for.


A/N: And so, our journey has come to the end.
To all my faithful readers and reviewers: Thank you.