The difference in Tim from before he talked things out with Gibbs and after he finally woke from his resulting lengthy restful sleep, was remarkable. There was no doubt in Gibbs' mind that a lot of Tim's problem had been the crap he was carrying around in his head. After all, the kid was a thinker and everything needed to be explained away and ironed out in order for him to be able to accept it.
Tim slept through most of the day and managed to sleep through the night without any problems. As his agent slept and worked at his recovery, Gibbs dozed in the chair with every one of his sense on the alert for sights or sounds of trouble in Tim's breathing and sleeping. Thankfully, by the time the Dr. came in the following morning, Tim was much improved and able to hold his own without exhaustion claiming him.
After they removed his i.v. and announced his visitor ban was lifted early, with his improved health, they also informed him he could go home the following day if he continued to show improvement. The doctor was adamant that he stay with someone when he was released or they would keep him for at least two more days.
That restriction from the doctor took what little spark had just been in Tim's eyes, out in an instant. As he laid his head back on his pillow, he allowed his eyes to close and forced his mind to stop thinking about it. He didn't want to set his own recovery back by stressing out. Realizing he was ignoring his boss who'd stayed by his side for the last 24-hours, Tim opened his eyes and turned to look at Gibbs, only to find him already looking at him with concern.
"Stop worrying about it." Gibbs instructed him.
"You can stay with me."
"Boss, no...I can't..." Tim tried to object
"Why not? It's close to work so if you have any setbacks, one of us can get to you quickly. You can even come in for a couple hours easier from my place than yours, once the dr. clears you. It'll be easier for the whole team to keep an eye on you."
Tim looked down at his lap in silence.
"McGee, look at me." Gibbs told him.
Tim did as Gibbs instructed and looked back at him.
"Don't even think it." the boss instructed.
Tim's silent question was written all over his face.
"You know I read most people well, and right now, you're easy to read. You're thinking of objecting to staying with me because you've convinced yourself I don't really want you there. You think I'm only doing it because it'll make it easier on everyone else." Gibbs informed him.
The fact that Gibbs had hit the nail on the head was easily seen on Tim's face.
"You should know me well enough by now to know that I wouldn't have suggested it if I didn't want do to it." Gibbs reminded him.
Tim's continued silence spoke of him still connecting it back to Gibbs' offer only being for the good of the job and not because his boss genuinely wanted him there.
"McGee, what else do you want me to say?" Gibbs was frustrated. He knew Tim wasn't feeling welcomed by the invitation, but merely being placed there for convience sake.
"It's all right, Boss. I'll stay with you. Thank you for the invite." Tim said quietly while looking down at his hands. Somehow, he wasn't finding the strength to stand by his deeply ingrained manners at this moment, a fact that did not escape Gibbs' attention.
"I'm ready to listen when you need to talk. You hear me?" Gibbs asked quietly.
"Yes. I'll remember, Boss. Thank you." Tim said quietly as he slid down in his bed and got himself comfortable to go back to sleep. He was too keyed up with Gibbs' keeping him company to allow himself to actually fall asleep. He'd not yet given Gibbs any gratitude for staying with him in the last 24-hours. What the hell was wrong with him? Gibbs deserved better than that!
"I'm sorry; I haven't thanked you yet, for staying with me." Tim persisted.
"You're welcome. Get some rest." Gibbs accepted and calmly turned the attention back on Tim's ticket out of that bed.
"Okay." Tim tried to get comfortable enough to sleep, but it wasn't until he checked on Gibbs and thought he'd fallen asleep himself, that Tim rolled over, away from his boss, and really put his heart into trying to go to sleep. The trouble was he just couldn't get there.
Gibbs had closed his eyes, true enough, but hadn't gone to sleep, but rather, was trying to give Tim enough space to feel less under a microscope. As he watched from under his eyelids as the young man turned over and tried to settle in for some rest, he noticed that no matter how hard he was trying; Tim wasn't able to get the sleep he was after. The kid was too tense, too worked up about something.
Figuring that it was Tim still not feeling actually wanted at Gibbs' place, the boss man let it go and slipped out for some fresh coffee, just down the hall. Maybe a couple of minutes alone would do his agent some good.
Heading down the hallway toward a fresh cup of coffee, Gibbs ran into Ducky, who was coming to see Timothy for himself, now that he was off the isolation list.
"Jethro! How is Timothy?"
"Okay, Duck. He can go home tomorrow if everything goes right."
"Yeah, he has to stay with someone or they're gonna keep him two more days."
"Well, surely, that's not a problem? The entire team would love to be able to help him."
"Yeah, Duck. I know that. He doesn't, or doesn't believe it, I should say."
"Did he say that?"
"No, but I told him he should stay with me for several reasons and he's not happy about it."
"Jethro, Timothy is still a bundle of nerves around you; he tries so hard to please you, and he's hardly able to be himself." Ducky reminded him,
"Yeah, Duck, I know. Even after all these years, it's like he can never get enough approval from me. I hate that he puts himself through that."
"Jethro, if you gave it more, he'd worry about it less." Ducky reasoned.
"Not my style, Ducky. I can't change who I am." Gibbs stated.
"You can change some things about you. You already have." Ducky persisted. "Who's with him now?"
"No one. I just left his room, needed more coffee." Gibbs answered.
"I'll go sit with him, Jethro. You go home and get some sleep." Ducky said.
"Thanks Duck. Maybe you can get him to open up." Gibbs gladly took the out Ducky was giving him. He didn't want to keep McGee stressed out and it was obvious that the kid was stressed around him. "Just do me a favor and tell him to remember what I said to him last night before he went to sleep, will ya, Duck?"
"Absolutely, Jethro. Go on; get some rest and something to eat. The others will be here later. He won't be alone."
"Good. I'll be back later tonight." Gibbs promised.
"I'll tell him." The M.E. replied.
As the men parted ways, Ducky headed back to Timothy's room and quickly read through the young man's medical chart at the end of his bed. As he was reading, he glanced at the agent asleep in the bed, grateful to have caught his illness before it had become worse and happy to see he was getting some rest.
As Ducky walked in, Tim tensed up. The boss was back and probably wanted to talk. Tim wasn't ready to talk to him. He didn't know how to talk to Gibbs. Gibbs was too hard to talk to. Sleep just wouldn't come and he was getting extremely frustrated. Soon he was more ready to face the boss than he was ready to face more frustration with his failed endeavor.
Rolling back over he was shocked to see not Gibbs, but Ducky at the foot of his bed. Instantly, he felt his whole body relax, the tension just faded away and he closed his eyes and found the long elusive sleep he'd needed.
Ducky, surprised that Timothy hadn't been sleeping, watched as the young man turned in the bed, and instantly visibly relaxed and fell asleep as he laid eyes on Ducky.
Two hours later found Tim waking up and instantly searching for the face that came with the presence he felt in the room. Seeing Ducky sitting in the chair, Tim smiled and sat up.
"Hey, Ducky. Thanks for sitting with me." Tim said quietly.
Ducky looked up at the young man and smiled. "Timothy, you're awake! How do you feel?"
"Okay. Did Gibbs leave?"
"Yes, I sent him home to get some sleep and something to eat. He said to tell you he'd be back later tonight after your teammates have come to visit, which they will do later on this afternoon."
"Great." Tim said with genuine pleasure.
"Jethro asked me to relay another message to you."
"Oh?" Tim's voice was edged with worry.
"He asked that you not forget what he said to you last night." Ducky relayed.
Tim laid his head back and thought back to the events of last night; the restless sleep, the worry that invaded his dreams, and the conversation with Gibbs:
"I need you to tell me what's on your mind. You're not sleeping like you need to be. So, it's bothering you. Get it out".
"It's not important."
"McGee, it is important or you wouldn't be panicking in your sleep! Something's bothering you badly enough that it's keeping you from recovering from this flu. Is that what you want? Your parents will be here tomorrow. Is this what you want them to see when they get here?"
"My parents? Why?"
"Because they had a right to know Now, exactly what do you want them to see when they get here? You recovering well or you fighting so hard to keep your worries locked up that you can't even sleep?"
'I'll make this easy for you. This is about what happened in MTAC with Abby and the way I blew it out of proportion, isn't it?"
"Why don't you connect the dots for me?"
"I've tried so hard to be the agent you thought you were getting when you promoted me to your team. After everything this team has been through, I still see the disappointment in your eyes when I screw up. I still hear it in your voice when you talk about how Tony's the one who has your back or who you trust out there. So, when I screw up as bad as I did with this and you're as pissed at me as you were, it literally makes me sick to my stomach."
"Has it always affected you like this?"
"This? No. this is the worst it's ever been. I guess I just happened to wind up with a double whammy this time."
"Now that you've told me. Do you think you can sleep?"
"What's the real problem here?"
"Seeing your disappointment in me and your loss of faith and trust in me."
"When did you decide you had lost that?"
"This is why you can't sleep? This is what's causing you to panic?"
"I think so. My dreams are kinda fuzzy so I'm not sure."
"Tim, you need to listen to me. I know when I blow up at you the way I did; that it feels like you've somehow lost my trust or I've suddenly stopped having faith in you as an agent. But, you need to stop making these assumptions. All you're doing is causing yourself problems you don't need."
"Can't exactly help it, Boss."
"I know, Tim. But you're worrying about things that you don't need to be worried about. Your job is safe and I blew everything out of proportion on Friday. I'm sorry."
"So...you and me...we're...okay?"
"Yeah, Tim. You and me are okay."
Ducky watched as Tim sat lost in his recollection of whatever he and his boss had discussed the previous evening. What ever it had been brought a smile back to the young man's face, for a moment. It wasn't long, however, before that smile was replaced with worry. Soon, the young man brought himself back to the present with a smile of apology.
"That's quite all right, Timothy. Apparently, you needed to think about things for a time. If you wish to talk to someone, I'm a very good listener, as you well know." Ducky offered.
"I know, Ducky. And you're right. I do need to talk about it. And you're the best candidate for the job. Since the team won't be here till later, is now, okay?" Tim asked carefully.
"Certainly." Ducky pulled his chair up to the bed and sat back and listened as Tim talked things out with him. He didn't pull any punches; he got it all out, now that he had this golden opportunity to do so. When he'd depleted his bank of things that had been plaguing him, Tim looked at Ducky with a twinge of guilt.
"I'm sorry, Ducky. I've been unloading on you for over an hour."
"That's quite all right, young man. You needed to get it out and I was happy to listen. I do need to ask if you require this to be confidential or if I may speak of this to Jethro?"
"If he cares enough to ask, I don't mind if you let him in on it. God knows, I'll never be able to say it to him. I'd rather shoot myself in the foot." Tim said dryly.
"Timothy, you don't give him enough credit for being concerned." Ducky admonished.
"Yes, I do, Ducky; just not when it comes to me. There's no doubt in my mind that he cares about the rest of the team.
"Timothy, even with everything you've just told me, I can see that you obviously are concerned about Jethro being inconvenienced by taking you in for the few days the doctors are insisting you not be alone. Why is that? Didn't he explain to you that he wants you to stay with him?" Ducky asked, trying to turn the subject a little.
"He did. But he also gave me a list of reasons why it's better for everyone if I stay with him anyway. It's the same thing. It's not personal. But, that's okay, Ducky. I'll handle it. I'll just make sure I stay out of his way while I'm there and it'll all work out. Like you said, it's only for a couple of days, anyway." Tim explained.
"It's okay, Ducky. Really. Why don't you tell me one of your stories from back in your early days with Gibbs and Director Shepard? I would love to hear some." Tim encouraged.
"Are you certain?" Ducky asked. After all, these young people hardly ever wanted to hear one of his stories.
"Please?" Tim asked.
"All right, then." Ducky conceded. As he proceeded to relate some tales from long ago, Tim sat back and enjoyed the stories. Before they knew it, it was dinner time and the team had arrived for their visit. All talk of a personal nature was tabled.
Eleven O'clock that night found Tim exhausted, happier than he'd been in a while, yet scared and tense at the same time. His teammates had stayed until they were physically booted out, well after visiting hours were over. Their chatter and jovial greetings and jokes were a welcome relief. The belief that they didn't care about him weighed less than it had before they arrived, but there was still work to be done to totally alleviate it that feeling. After all, this was when they rose to the occasion, every time. The only time they did.
Still, it helped calm his nerves and his restlessness, almost allowing him to relax enough to sleep. But even being exhausted did not allow for immediate escape into slumber. When Gibbs had arrived back in his room an hour ago, the teams had their coats on but were not even close to leaving. They'd been waiting for Gibbs to arrive. Like some secret code, they left when he was settled in the chair with his coffee and not a moment before.
The moment he'd walked in, Gibbs' eyes had gone to McGee, looking him over, and making sure he was still doing okay. As their eyes had met, a spark ignited in the young man's eyes, only to be quickly replaced with a guarded reserve. Gibbs finally understood what was going on. Tim was happy and even relieved that he'd come back to check on him, but was still uncomfortable around him. His agent was clinging to the belief that Gibbs was under duress in all of this. Not happy with any of it and feeling obligated in all of it. Unbeknown to Tim, Gibbs had arrived an hour before he showed up in Tim's room. He and Ducky had gone to the cafeteria and had a very long talk. As he'd listened to everything Ducky had to say, the light had gone on and he finally understood where Tim was coming from. He swore to himself and to Ducky that he would do his best to do what he could to help Tim through this and work with him to make things better between them.
Gibbs had even pulled Abby aside as she was leaving. The poor girl was still unhappy, as she and Tim's relationship was a bit strained at the moment. But, Gibbs had faith that they would work it out. Tim always forgave everything Abby did and Abby usually got the message before it was over. He'd told her that his punishment was being rescinded. He'd even apologized for blowing it out of proportion but asked that she not put any one in that position again. She'd smiled at him, kissed his cheek, and thanked him. Since she still had a lot on her mind, they'd left it at that.
After everyone else had gone, Tim had slid down in his bed and attempted to let sleep find him. Now, an hour later and he was even more tense and stressed than he had been an hour ago. This had to stop. Gibbs felt just as frustrated as Tim looked.
Tim rolled over and sat up, his eyes locking on to those of his boss. This time, he was desperate to not allow his nerves to overrule his manners. "Boss?"
"I've talked to Ducky. I get where you're coming from. We can talk about it after you get outta here, all right?"
Relief flooded Tim's eyes as he silently nodded in both agreement and appreciation.
"Okay. Now go to sleep, stop fighting it." Gibbs ordered quietly.
"Yes, Boss." Tim said with a smile as he once again, made himself comfortable and this time allowed himself to relax. It wasn't long before he was lost to the land of slumber. As his breathing evened out and it became obvious he was indeed finally asleep, Gibbs smiled and actually relaxed. When his cell phone buzzed with a call, Gibbs used the room phone to return the call.
"What is it Abby?" Gibbs asked her quietly
"You never told me what 5 songs you listen to, Gibbs!" the Goth exclaimed.
"Abby! Quiet down, Tim's sleeping!" Gibbs growled
"Gibbs! I really need to know. Besides, you promised!" she responded, although she did manage to tone it down a few notches
Without raising his voice, Gibbs answered her:
"I'll tell you tomorrow."