AN: Sorry about the long wait. Thanks for being so patient!
Gibbs paused outside of Tim's hospital room, studying the scene in front of him before entering. Despite the fact that the danger was past, that every person involved with McGee's kidnapping had been caught, Tony was still watching over Tim. His chair was positioned so that he had a full view of the door, while still being right next to Tim.
"Boss," Tony said, his voice pitched low so he wouldn't wake McGee.
"DiNozzo." He lifted his eyebrows, waiting for Tony to give him an update.
"He passed out before I could get him back upstairs. He woke up a little while ago, but he wasn't up for long. I'm not even sure how he managed to move so much when Max," His lips curled up as he said the name, and Gibbs felt his own face mirroring the expression, "forced him to the morgue. He even managed to fight back a little." Tony looked down at McGee's face, and Gibbs couldn't miss the pride that tinged his voice.
"You okay?" Gibbs asked.
Tony's hand went to his head, giving a slight wince. "Didn't hit hard enough to give me a concussion. Just hard enough to stop me from keeping Tim safe."
"Hey," Gibbs said softly, putting his hand on Tony's shoulder. "You did a good job, Tony." He looked at McGee before meeting Tony's eyes again. "Go. Go home, get some rest. I'll stay tonight."
Tony shook his head, unwilling to leave. "I'll stay, Boss."
"It's okay, Tony. Go home."
Tony stood, stretching slightly, his hand brushing against Tim's arm as he started walking to the door. He paused before leaving, shifting uncomfortably as he met Gibbs' gaze.
"I know, DiNozzo." Tony didn't need to say that McGee was upset that the team-that Gibbs-had doubted his innocence.
"Get outta here, Tony," Gibbs growled with a little smile.
"Right. Leaving, Boss."
Gibbs shook his head in amusement before looking back over at Tim, his expression sobering as he studied the young man. He had memorized Tim's injuries when he had been at the hospital earlier, and he winced now when he caught sight of the new bruises that were blossoming on his face.
Gibbs rubbed a hand over his face, leaning back in the chair heavily. He knew he couldn't have prevented McGee's abduction; there were simply too many men for Gibbs to have been able to do anything. But he still could have done something to let McGee know he wasn't alone, that the team would look for him until they found him. Instead, he had done nothing but show his misplaced distrust in the young agent. He closed his eyes and shook his head, upset with himself.
His eyes snapped opened when he heard something shift in the room, and he leaned forward in his chair when he saw Tim's green eyes staring at him.
"How are you feeling?" He leaned forward to grasp Tim's hand, but froze when McGee flinched away from him.
McGee shifted under Gibbs' scrutiny, looking down at his hands as he twisted them in a nervous gesture. "Sorry," he muttered.
Gibbs shook his head and cleared his throat. "You don't have anything to be sorry for," He said, pulling his hand back and resting it on the rails of the bed. "I do, however."
McGee looked back up, his eyes narrowing slightly as he looked at Gibbs in uncertainty.
"I…jumped to conclusions, McGee. I made decisions based on incomplete evidence; I second-guessed the facts-one fact. That you are the most loyal agent that I have ever met. I knew when I first met you how…honest you were. And when you started working for me, there was no way you would be able to hide an undercover assignment from me. But now…you've grown as an agent. When you don't want to be, when you put your mind to it, you're not transparent. You can hide things from the team, from me. You really have to work at it, but you can do it." Gibbs gave a quick smile before continuing. "And these last few weeks, you have been."
McGee's gaze dropped again, his shoulders slumping even lower than they had been.
"McGee, this is not your fault. You did exactly what you were supposed to do. You were following a direct order from the Director, and I respect that. I respect the lengths that you went to for this mission. And I'm damn proud of you, son, because your plan would have worked. If those men had been after what we all thought they were, if there really were just looking for information, your plan would have succeeded. But their plan was to use you. They knew you wouldn't give them the real information, so they came up with a plan that they thought would make you give in. But you never broke. And that's another reason I'm proud of you."
McGee blinked and looked away, his gaze scouring the room as he tried to control his emotions. "It hurt…" He trailed off, blinking rapidly at the moisture that gathered in his eyes.
"What hurt?" Gibbs asked softly, knowing that McGee needed the chance to talk about everything and to get everything that had happened out in the open. And Gibbs wanted to give him that chance, wanted McGee to trust him enough to be able to share what had happened. And with that one question, McGee's composure cracked. He was talking so fast some of his words tripped over each other. His body was still shaking from exhaustion, from the torture he had endured and the stress he was under, but still he spoke. When Gibbs felt like it was the right time, he reached over and grasped McGee's hand, squeezing it as the emotions became too much for Tim to keep a tight rein on and the tears started falling down his face. His cheeks were red from embarrassment, but he still continued talking, telling Gibbs what it had been like in that dark room with only Max and Tom for company, what it had felt like to believe that Tony was dead and that his team wouldn't be looking for him.
Gibbs just listened, his gaze never leaving Tim's face. He nodded from time to time, to offer him assurance or encourage him to continue, but never once did his eyes leave Tim's. When Tim started talking about Tom's ultimatum, that Tim help or he would be killed, Gibbs felt his own eyes filling at the loyalty Tim had shown for Tony. When the tears came too fast for Tim to control and his breathing hitched from the heavy emotions, Gibbs stood quickly from his chair, wrapping his arms carefully around the younger man. Tim gripped the back of Gibbs' shirt in his fists as he tried to swallow the tears.
"I'm sorry…I'm sorry…" Tim repeated over and over again, and Gibbs closed his eyes as he tried to swallow the lump in his throat.
"Tim, listen to me. I meant what I said. You have nothing to apologize for! I'm sorry, that I doubted you. And I am so…so proud of you."
Tim nodded into his shoulder and Gibbs felt his grip on his shirt loosen. He didn't pull back until he was sure McGee had fallen asleep. He sat back down in the chair, watching over his agent and thinking. He knew he had made a mistake by doubting Tim, but he was determined to make up for his mistake, to prove that McGee could trust him. It wouldn't be easy, but Gibbs was stubborn, and he wouldn't quit until the team as a whole had been restored. It would be his job to make sure that Tim was healed, and that this event wouldn't break them apart. And this…this was one mission that Gibbs had no intention of failing. They were a family, and he was going to make sure they stayed that way.
AN: And that's it! I might come up with a sequel to this story in the future, but I don't have any more plans for this story right now. Oh, and I've been struggling with coming up with a new idea for NCIS, so if any of you have a prompt you'd like me to try my hand at, feel free to PM me! Thank you for all of your support for this story! Let me know what you all thought of the last chapter?