a/n - Here it is, the last chapter. This story has been an amazing ride, thanks to all of you who jumped on and rode it out with me. I'm hard at work on several stories, but I do want to get a little further along before I start posting. Thank you again ~ Emerald

Epilogue

~Four months later~

Gibbs pulled into his usual parking space at Giovanni's. Tuesday night dinners with Fornell had become routine, only missed when one of the teams was in the middle of a hot case. Surprisingly, it was Fornell that had to miss more then Gibbs, but Gibbs had the advantage of a Director that knew how important Tuesdays were to his best team.

While the 'fathers' relaxed, Tony, Tim, Sarah and Ron went to their weekly meeting. At first Tony insisted that he was just there to help Tim, first with the wheelchair and then with the walker. Now that McGee was starting to use a cane, his partner had admitted in a group meeting how much his parents' drinking had affected him. It had been a huge admission for the cocky man, and Gibbs was proud of how his two agents had supported each other through the tough nights and long talks that had ensued.

"You're late." Fornell already had coffee and was making a dent in the basket of breadsticks he held out for Gibbs. "Did you get your confession?" When Gibbs just raised an eyebrow, Tobias answered his own question. "Of course you did."

Gibbs accepted his coffee from their regular waitress. "Tim found enough evidence on his computer that getting the confession was almost overkill."

Tobias couldn't help but laugh. "Yeah, but you still enjoyed it. How's the kid doing, being back in the office this week? Getting settled in?"

"It's good to have him back, even if it's just half days right now. Still a few more months before he's back out in the field, but it's a start." Gibbs didn't even try to hide how pleased he was to have his entire team back in the squad room. He'd even caught Vance beaming down at them once or twice.

The soup arrived, the waitress adding the Parmesan without asking. After all these Tuesdays, she knew exactly how the two men took their food. Conversation was light as they progressed through the meal, touching briefly on cases solved and upcoming vacation plans. They were finishing the last of their tiramisu when Fornell's phone rang.

"Yeah, Fornell... Sacks, what... slow down..." He listened for a minute before barking out a terse "we'll meet you at the hospital." Gibbs had already tossed money on the table and was on his feet.

"What happened?"

"Car accident. They got broadsided by a drunk as they were leaving the parking lot. Apparently, Tim was knocked unconscious for a few minutes and they insisted he be taken to the hospital."

Gibbs fought back the images of a mangled car as he dialed Ziva. They needed someone to get out to the accident scene while he and Fornell went to the hospital. She was on her way before Gibbs and Fornell left the restaurant.

The two cars quickly arrived at the hospital and Fornell had to run to keep up with Gibbs. Tony, Ron and Sarah were all arguing with a nurse when they arrived and Gibbs immediately took charge. "You heard her, all three of you need to be checked out." When Sarah started to object, Gibbs tilted her chin up so he could see her eyes. "I'll be with Tim, don't worry. The first thing he's going to ask is if you're all right, so don't make a liar out of me." He gave a reassuring nod to Tony before following one of the nurses down the hall.

-NCIS-

"Hey, McGee." Gibbs bent close so Tim would see him the second he opened his eyes. He'd hoped to never see a bruise on that forehead again, but at least the green eyes opened almost instantly.

"Boss?"

Gibbs grinned in relief. "I'm right here, Tim, and you're going to be fine."

"Are the guys and Sarah all right?"

"Think so." Gibbs kept his answers short as to not tire the injured man. "They were all upright and arguing with a nurse. I didn't really stop."

He may not have stopped, but his words froze Tim and Gibbs immediately realized the significance of his off-hand comment. Tim had come a long way in the last four months in both his recovery and his understanding of his place on the team, but old habits die hard and this was the first time since their nightmare had started that both he and Tony were potentially injured. Gibbs waited patiently as Tim processed that little tidbit, sensing the exact moment when the last piece slid into place. A slight smile and relaxed shoulders were the only visible indications, but he'd learned to read the young man like a book over the last few months. Gibbs didn't say anything, just laid his hand on Tim's arm as they waited for the doctor.

Dr. Lo had enough experience with Gibbs by now to cut to the chase the moment the team leader looked at him. "Even though he lost consciousness for a few minutes after the accident, there's no sign of any additional problems." He held his finger up before Tim could try to move from the exam table. "That being said, we're keeping you overnight for observation, just to be safe."

Tim opened his mouth to argue, then saw the expression on Gibbs' face and wisely pressed his lips together. That was one argument he had no hope of winning. The strong fingers gave his arm a squeeze.

"We need to be sure that you're all right, Tim."

-NCIS-

It was long past visiting hours by the time McGee was settled in a room for the night, but Dr. Lo turned a blind eye to the group streaming into the private room. Tim first looked at his sister, needing to be assured that she was all right. Other than a bruise from the shoulder strap of the seat belt, she was fine and Tim next turned his attention to Tony and Ron, noting the butterfly bandage on Ron's forehead and the wrap on Tony's left hand and wrist. "You guys okay?"

Tony was visibly upset at seeing his friend back in a hospital room. "I'm sorry, Tim, I didn't see him run the light. You should have been sitting up front and I should have..."

"Hey!" Surprisingly, it was Ron Sacks that stopped DiNozzo's guilt filled rant. "It's not your fault. None of us saw him in time and you did your damnedest to get out of his way."

Tim started in when Ron stopped to take a breath. "Besides, it was my idea to sit in the back so Ron and I could talk." Sacks shifted uncomfortably and both Gibbs and Fornell grinned at the sight. Ron Sacks had become a fixture at the Gibbs' household recently, but only on evenings that Sarah didn't work.

Ron was saved when Ducky, Palmer and Abby arrived in the room, a nurse following behind, threatening to have them removed from the hospital. She took one look at Dr. Lo's smiling face and turned to leave without saying another word. Ducky cornered Dr. Lo as Abby started fussing over McGee. Palmer stayed out of the way with a shell-shocked expression on his face as he relayed information to Director Vance who was at a White House dinner.

The arrival of Ziva completed the group. She barely gave Gibbs a nod before checking on McGee. It wasn't until she was satisfied that he was all right that she gave her report. "Metro has confirmed that the driver of the other vehicle was drunk at the time of the accident. He did not have his headlights on and was traveling at a high rate of speed the wrong direction on a divided road. Luckily, he hit the rear quadrant of Tony's car and Tony kept it under control, otherwise it could have been much worse."

The realization of how close it had been quieted the group. Taking advantage of the break, Ducky and Fornell started the task of herding them out the door to let Tim rest. Once out in the hallway, Gibbs squeezed Tony's shoulder. "You couldn't have prevented it and you kept everyone as safe as you could. Good job."

"Thanks, Boss." His hand was shaking as he pinched the bridge of his nose. "Man, when we stopped spinning and I saw him unconscious..."

Sarah hugged him. "Tim's going to be fine, you heard the doctor." Gibbs immediately reinforced her words.

"Absolutely. Now, Ducky is going to keep an eye on you and Sarah tonight, and I'll bring Tim home in the morning. Sacks, you going home with them?"

Fornell was guiding his agent to one of the elevators. "He's going to stay at my place tonight." Once they were inside, he leaned close to whisper in the younger man's ear. "It's not just McGee's approval you have to get to date his sister." Sacks' eyes opened wide as he watched Gibbs kiss the young woman on the top of the head before turning to stare at Sacks as the steel doors slid shut.

"Oh, crap."

-NCIS-

Getting the rest of the group on another elevator was a great deal more complicated, but Gibbs had almost accomplished it when Abby realized that Ziva wasn't with them. Before Abby or any of the others were able to get back off the elevator, the door to the stairs opened and Ziva appeared, holding a bag which she handed over to Gibbs before stepping onto the elevator. She stood between Tony and Abby as the doors finally closed.

Gibbs watched the numbers on the display, not relaxing until they showed that the team had arrived at the lobby level. Once he was sure they were gone for the night, he returned to Tim's room, opening the bag as he went. He helped raise the bed so Tim could sit up before handing him one of the containers Ziva had brought back for them.

Tim smiled as he took the cardboard cup and spoon. "You remembered."

"Of course." Gibbs returned the smile as he dug into his own cup. The first few days after the wires were removed from Tim's jaw had been the roughest, between the sore muscles and the shifted teeth. Tim had discovered that soft-serve ice cream was perfect, cold enough to numb and soft enough to easily melt on the tongue. Gibbs, on the other hand, had discovered that soft-serve ice cream with peanut butter and chocolate swirled into it was his young agent's favorite treat in the world. He settled into his chair next to the bed and found a cheesy, low-budget movie for them to watch.

Twenty minutes into the movie Gibbs carefully rescued the tipping cup from a sleeping McGee and turned the sound down on the television. An hour after that, Tim woke up and quietly retrieved the cup resting on Gibbs' chest before it could tip and spill.