A/N: Okay everyone. This is it. The last chapter of this wonderful story. You've all been so great and I'm so glad I got a chance to write this. Thank you for reading and sticking with me. This story has given me so many wonderful reviews and inspired me to write so many more stories as I was writing. As soon as I finish posting this last chapter, which will be kind of difficult as I'm not very good with endings, I will start posting chapters for a few of my other stories. If any of you would like to find out what else I write, please feel free to visit my profile and find out. Thanks again!

Chapter Seventeen: Family

Gibbs stepped off the elevator two Fridays after the team had visited Tim for the first time and headed down the familiar hallway towards Tim's room, a single eyebrow rising slightly as he spotted Dr. Hitsugaya leaving the room. "Doctor." Gibbs greeted when he got close enough to be heard. The doctor glanced up and smiled.

"Ah, Agent Gibbs. Good afternoon." He greeted back.

"Afternoon." Gibbs replied. He cocked his head in the direction of Tim's door. "How's he doing today?"

The doctor glanced at the door and then back at Gibbs. "He's doing remarkably well, given the circumstances." He replied, heading back down the hall Gibbs had just come down. Gibbs hesitated for a moment, glancing back at Tim's door, before following the doctor. "His concussion has long since disappeared, as have the majority of his bruises. Most of them are just about gone, with only a few yellowish smudges left. The stitches in his lip are gone without leaving a scar and his nose has just about healed. One of his black eyes is almost gone and the immense swelling to his right eye has gone down a considerable amount. The bandage is gone and he's now able to open that eye almost completely, though I'm sure it will continue to be sore for a while longer." Dr. Hitsugaya handed the file he had been carrying to the receptionist at her desk in the waiting room and turned back to Gibbs.

"Will he be released soon?" Gibbs asked.

Dr. Hitsugaya nodded. "Eventually. There are still a few things that need to heal before he can leave the hospital but so far he's doing well. His ribs are healing nicely but it will still take some time for them to heal completely. The patch on his lung has completely merged with the lung tissue and he is now breathing just fine on his own. After a few more weeks or so, his arm should be completely healed and then he will be able to start physical therapy to get full use of his arm again. Same with his legs, although they will take at least another month, possibly two, to heal. I believe the break on his Tibia and Fibula will take the longest to heal, since their breaks were pretty sever." Dr. Hitsugaya paused, started to continue, and then gently took hold of Gibbs arm and steered him back down the hall to Tim's room, out of earshot of the people in the waiting room.

He stopped a few doors down from Tim's room and turned to Gibbs. "All of his physical injuries are healing the way they are supposed to, including the injuries below the waist." He gave Gibbs a hard look before continuing. "The bruises and burns along his thighs and genitals are healing properly, although the burns will leave a few minor scars, not very visible, but they will be there, which he will no doubt be unhappy with. If he ever decides to have sexual relations again, he may constantly feel self-conscious of those areas. The tissue damage to his Collin has healed but the mental scars will stick with him for a very long time. It is even possible that he may never fully recover from the emotional trauma he has endured."

Gibbs sighed and nodded in understanding. He knew there was the possibility that Tim would never mentally recover from this. He would actually be surprised and a bit suspicious if he did recover almost perfectly. No doubt Tim would try to pretend that he was fine, thinking that he should be brave and prove that he was strong enough to take this. But Gibbs knew there was nothing wrong with being afraid with things like this. He knew it would be considered almost inhuman to not be affected by it. Looks like now would be as good a time as any to talk to Tim about this. Gibbs looked the doctor in the eye. "Don't worry. I'll make sure he gets through this as best as he can."

The doctor nodded. "Good. I'm sure you will." Then the doctor headed down the hall as Gibbs started to follow before detouring to Tim's room. Gibbs entered the room and paused just inside the door before walking all the way in and shutting the door behind him. As he approached the bed, he noticed Tim sound asleep, his breathing even and healthy. Gibbs grabbed one of the chairs under the window and pulled it around the bed to sit on Tim's right side. He silently watched his youngest agent sleep, his gaze drifting over the still form and liking what he saw. The doctor was right; Tim was doing exceptionally well with his physical healing. Hopefully his mental health will heal just as well. Gibbs glanced at Tim's closed eyelids, the purple on his left eye faded to a faint yellow and the deeper purple on his right eye faded to a yellowed green. The stitches in his lip were gone, just as the doctor had said, along with the bandage around his nose; Gibbs could hardly tell that it had been broken just weeks prior. Gibbs let his gaze wander down to Tim's torso, noting the light bandages wrapped around his ribs beneath the thin cloth of his hospital gown. "We're eventually going to have to do something about this gown." Gibbs muttered. His eyes snapped back up to Tim's face when he heard a soft chuckle.

Tim stared up at his boss, a soft smile placed on his healed lips. "Hey boss." He greeted. Gibbs was pleased to hear the strength behind Tim's voice when he spoke, strength he hadn't heard in a long time. "You're here again."

Gibbs nodded. "Yeah, I'm here again. You want me to leave?" Gibbs made to stand up.

"No, that's not what I meant." Tim said quickly. Gibbs sat back down, inwardly smirking. "I mean, you can stay if you want. I was just surprised to see you here. You were here around Tuesday and around Friday last week. It's just surprising to find you here instead of at work."

Gibbs shrugged. "Well, you forget that we don't really have any cases right now. Not for a while at least. Director's orders. Besides, I can go where I want; I'm the boss."

Tim smirked. "Right. So how are they? Ziva and Tony? I haven't seen them much lately. They were here almost every day last week until about Thursday." The constant visitations from the rest of his team, including Abby, Ducky, and Palmer, along with Gibbs's constant words of wisdom finally convinced Tim that they truly did care about him enough to not want him dead or willing to put blame on him for something he had no control over. He promised his friends that he would no longer feel guilty about endangering them if they, in turn, stopped feeling guilty about letting him get hurt.

"Well, Tony has finally gotten rid of the wheelchair, courtesy of Dr. Hitsugaya, and Ziva is still in her crutches but the doctor said that she should be off of them in another week or two and will eventually switch to a walking cast." Gibbs took a quick breathe before saying what he knew he needed to say and knowing there was no easy way to speak about it without sounding awkward. "You should be ready to leave soon. Dr. Hitsugaya said that once a few more important things have healed properly, you should be well enough to leave the hospital. Most of your wounds have almost finished healing; it's mostly just your broken bones and any internal wounds that still need healing. Your arm should almost be ready for that cast to come off; just another week or so. But your legs will still need another month or two before you can get those casts off. We just have to wait. Same with your other injured areas."

Tim froze and averted his gaze, trying to look at anything but Gibbs. Gibbs reached out and gently placed his curled index finger under Tim's chin and lifted his head up to look at him. He could see several different emotions running past his eyes. Pain. Fear. Shame. Humiliation. "Tim, you have nothing to be ashamed of." Gibbs said, deciding to tackle the problem he knew Tim would worry about the most. "This wasn't your choice. What happened to you wasn't something you could have prevented, even if you already knew what they were going to do, which I'm assuming you did. They knew what they were doing; they had years' worth of experience with this. Several military personnel, including a Marine veteran, couldn't even defend themselves against those guys." Gibbs paused, a thoughtful expression crossing his face. "Although I'm not sure why they attacked you the same way they attacked everyone else and yet they let you live."

"He couldn't kill me." Tim said softly, his eyes traveling down to rest on his lap. "Aaron's uncle, the brother-in-law of the aunt he killed, he came to visit me the other day." Gibbs's eyes widened in alarm. Tim rushed on. "It's okay, he didn't do anything. Actually, he said he heard about me from the news and wanted to apologize. He said that he wasn't going to make excuses for his nephew's actions. But I asked him the same question; why didn't he kill me the same way he killed the others? I mean, I'm glad he didn't but I was just hopping he could shed some light on the subject. It's been bothering me ever since he first attacked me and then let me go."

"And what did the uncle say?" Gibbs pressed.

"He said that it was because I remind him of his mother." Tim said awkwardly.

"His mother?" Gibbs repeated, a single eyebrow raised.

Tim nodded. "Yeah. He said that Aaron's mother was a bit like me; she was kind, smart, gentle, hard to anger, and an all around good person with a big heart. When her husband, Aaron's dad, first started hurting her, she refused to believe he was completely bad. She wanted so badly to believe that there was some good in him and that he was mentally struggling against the bad. She would say that eventually he would win the internal battle and return to normal. Her sister, his sister-in-law, often tried to convince her that he was no good at all and that it was too late for him to change, but by the time she finally realized it herself, it was too late.

He asked me if I was the type of person who tried to keep loved ones out of the line of fire and try to protect them by using myself as a shield. I told him I was and he said that he could tell. Aaron's mother was the same way and had been using herself to protect Aaron from his father. He said that all of these similarities could have been what kept Aaron from killing me in the first place. But when I became too much trouble, he decided to off me personally instead of letting one of his thugs do it." Tim paused before adding, "Plus, he said that Aaron's mother had the same colored hair as mine and the same 'texture' in her eyes. Meaning that her emotions played through her eyes and always gave away what she was feeling. That's how people could tell that she was a kind person. I guess I reminded him so much of her that he felt guilty killing me; like it was wrong some how, because she was the one person he ever wanted to protect and the one person he ever truly cared for."

Gibbs stared at his youngest agent, temporarily stunned into silence. Who would have thought that the bastard who had attacked his agent so cold heartedly actually cared for someone? Then again, this whole thing started because his father beat and killed his mother. Still… "That doesn't excuse him for doing the things he's done. It explains some things but it doesn't excuse them."

Tim nodded. "I know. I never thought it did. But I'm glad it at least gives us a bit of insight into something about his way of thinking."

"McGee…" Gibbs started.

"I know, boss." Tim said. "No sympathy for criminals. I'm not trying to. I just thought it explained a lot." Tim cleared his throat and changed to subject. "So how are Abby, Ducky and Jimmy?"

Gibbs stared at him for a moment before answering. "They're fine. They're still working, so they're busy a lot on other cases but if you'd like, I could have Abby come keep you company."

"No!" Tim exclaimed, eyes widened. Abby was one of his true friends and he enjoyed her company but when he or anyone else was injured, she was like a whirlwind of worry, coddling any injured thing in its path. Gibbs smirked and Tim flushed. "I-I mean, I wouldn't want to disturb her work or anything. And she has so much to do and all. The last thing she needs is to come all the way down here just to keep me company."

Gibbs chuckled. "Alright, I won't say anything. Tony wanted to come down to see you too. He's on his way but he wanted to bring you some real food, instead of this hospital poison they've been feeding you." Gibbs picked up the fork from the food tray from the bed table beside him and poked something on the tray that looked like it could be string cheese but maybe it was potatoes. Grimacing, he placed the fork back on the tray and glanced back at Tim, watching as he smirked. "I thought they were supposed to be trying to save their patients, not make them wish for death."

Tim laughed. "I know what you mean. I try not to think about what I'm eating but it's hard when I accidently look at the food."

"This is why I brought you something you and your taste buds can enjoy."

Tim and Gibbs turned to see Tony standing in the doorway, a small picnic-type basket in his hands. "Hey Tony." Tim said, grinning at his partner.

Tony grinned back. "Hey. Thought you might like some real food." He picked up the tray of fake food and shoved it under the bed and placed the basket in its place. He opened the basket and began haphazardly taking things out and tossing them at the end of the bed table: taking out a package of lettuce and a small pack of four tomatoes, a tub of cottage cheese, a loaf of bread, and a package of bologna. Tony's grin grew wider as his partner and his boss stared at the ingredients he had pulled out. "Don't worry; I'm not going to feed you any of this stuff. I just needed some things with strong smells as decoys for the nurses that I knew would inspect the food." Then he reached back into the basket and pulled out a large sheet of napkins tucked at, presumably, the bottom of the basket and placed it on top of the ingredients before reaching back in and pulling out a rectangular tray covered with tin foil and a small stack of paper plates.

As soon as Tony pulled off a corner of the tin foil, the smell filled the room like a wonderfully invisible smoke screen, filling every crevice of the room and pleasantly invading their lungs. Tim could feel his mouth watering as he recognized the smell. "Of course." He said.

Tony pulled off the entire sheet of tin foil and reviled a tray piled as high as possible with slices of pizza. "Some of the world's greasiest, unhealthiest and delicious food in the world. I needed the cottage cheese and bologna to cover the smell." He looked down at the pizza. "I am so sorry for having to cover your wonderful scent. Please forgive me, my darlings."

Tim and Gibbs glanced at each other, Tim's hands covering his mouth as he struggled to keep his laughter contained. When Tony decided to pick up one of the slices and start kissing it, Tim couldn't hold it in anymore and both he and Gibbs burst out laughing, Tim clutching at his ribs as the pressure pushed against them. "Ow." He laughed.

Tony turned and mock glared at them. "Don't you know it's rude to eavesdrop on private conversations? Shame on you." This only seemed to make Tim laugh harder. Gibbs chuckled and shook his head. Tony grinned. "Alright, we should probably get some of this 'healthy' food in you before you die of suffocation."

Tim reeled in his laughter, his grin remaining, and reached out as Tony handed him a plate with several slices of pizza. "I'm not going to eat all of this." Tim objected, glancing at the pile of triangular slices of grease and cheese.

"Tough. You need your strength back and this is the best way to do it." Tony said, handing a second plate to Gibbs. He kept the tray for himself and shoved half of the first slice into his mouth. Tim chuckled and the three of them ate their pizza, enjoying each others company and talking about what's been going on outside the hospital walls. As Tim listened to his partner and best friend talk about how Ziva had practically skewered him in the stomach with the end of her crutches after he had taken and hid them under Gibbs' desk, Tim thought about everything that had happened to them in the past month or so and couldn't help but think about how blessed he was to have such great friends. They were right; this was his family. Tony, Gibbs, Ziva, Abby, Ducky, Jimmy and him were all one big, odd, crazy, unusual family and there was not doubt in Tim's mind that this family would be more than enough to help him get through the emotional trauma that ran circles in his head and haunted the deepest corners of his dreams. With their help, he could do almost anything. He looked down at the still large pile of pizza and smiled. Almost.

A month and a half later found Tim seated in Tony's wheelchair behind his desk, all of the paperwork he hadn't done piled high in front of him. Tony and Ziva had volunteered to do them for him while he was in the hospital but Tim had refused, saying that he wanted something to do when he returned. The others had agreed and now he sat at his desk, happily sorting through the stacks and wondering which he should get started on first.

Gibbs glanced up from his computer screen and scanned the room for the thousandth time that morning, glancing at each of his agents in turn. Ziva had finally been released from the confinements of her crutches and was just finishing up the last of her physical therapy and Tony had long since ditched the wheelchair, donating it to Tim, and was outwardly glad he was handicap free. Secretly he decided to never take wheelchair confined people for granted. It was tough trying to maneuver himself around in a chair when he was so used to depending on his legs.

Tim had been released from the hospital two and a half weeks after Gibbs and Tony had visited, once his arm and ribs had completely healed. The cast on his thigh had been taken off a week ago and Tony had quickly volunteered to help him with his physical therapy, much to Tim's relief and Abby's disappointment. The cast on his shin and calf should be ready to come off in a few more weeks at most.

Gibbs surveyed his team, glad that they were finally coming back together. Director Vance had allowed their team to be placed back on the roster after Tim had been released and Gibbs had Tony and Ziva training as much as possible until they got a new case. The days had gone by with only two cases so far, and only he and Tony were out in the field. Tim had spoken to an NCIS counselor about his experiences and he was now doing very well, according to the counselor. Gibbs was glad things were starting to slowly return to normal and he, along with the rest of the team, were awaiting the day when the last of Tim's injuries disappeared along with the rest of the nightmare they had endured.

A/N: Well there it is everyone. The last chapter has finally arrived! I hope you guys enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it. I'm sad to say that this is the end but not to worry. I will write more stories soon. For further information on future stories and such, visit my profile or put me on author alert. Thanks and don't forget to review. That means all of you who haven't reviewed yet. This is the last chance you'll get to tell me how I did on this. Don't let me down!