Time to Go

Shellie Williams

~ For Adrian ~

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters or places of NCIS.

Rating: K+ (This is not a death fic.)

Summary: Tony and Tim are involved in a serious accident.

How did we get here? How did this happen?

A strange procession of memories flipped through Tim's head, like someone thumbing through a stack of sketches, giving animation to stick drawings. He knew the circumstances, understood the logical order of how things happened and why things led to this moment, but wrapping his mind around the reality of how close death sat, watching over him and Tony like a hulking vulture, stayed just beyond his grasp. It made more sense that Gibbs would walk in right now; the sternness of his features unable to hide the worry in his gut. He and Ziva should arrive at this moment with guns aimed at potential dangers, then, quickly realizing the real issue, they would holster their weapons and find a way to untangle them from this messy wreck of a car they found themselves twisted in.

Beside him, Tony groaned. Tim's wavering focus realigned. "Tony?"

"Still here, McGee."

Tim smiled and felt the pull of muscles across his face. They'd been tossed around inside the vehicle, leaving them in odd positions faced away from one another. "How's the leg?"

"Can't really - not hurting so bad anymore. 'S'that a good thing?"

Fear stabbed sharp as a spear point through Tim's chest and his breathing hitched as he squeezed his eyes shut. "Pressure from the dash is probably cutting off the blood supply - yeah, that's a good thing, Tony."

"At least I won't - bleed to death before someone comes, right?"

"Right." Tim tried to quiet his shuddering breaths. He tucked his chin against his chest and stole another look at the broken piece of plastic piercing his gut. Blood had soaked through his shirt, coating the hand he held pressed near the wound, but the flow seemed to have slowed down. "Yeah, that's a good thing."

"I figure… Abby's tracking our cell phone signals about now, don't you? Can she do that even - even if they're broken?"

Tim lay his head back against his seat. Weariness pulled at him, tried to drag him under. "Yeah. If anyone can do it, Abby can. - Gibbs and - Ziva should be here any minute now." A convulsing contraction squeezed unexpectedly through his abdomen, forcing a hoarse moan from his throat. He twisted with the sharp pain, grasping for something to hold onto and ride out the agony. Clawing fingers clutched his hand and clamped tight.

"Hold on, Tim - just hold on!"

"I - I can't!"

"Yes, you can!"

The fingers around his hand squeezed tighter, but the red pain bursting in his body proved stronger, closing darkness over his head.

Panicked, Tony struggled to turn and look at McGee, but he found himself held fast, pinned beneath the car's dash. Pain beat at him unrelentingly, bearing down on his consciousness. "Dammit, McGee! Talk to me!" He almost missed the sound of a car stopping nearby. Running steps brought the welcome thought of rescue. Unwillingly, he surrendered to oblivion, but smiled when he recognized Gibbs' voice calling to him.

Time was like a ribbon, unraveling as it spooled between his fingers. Moments rose to the surface of his consciousness, bringing blurred sounds and colors into focus before floating away again into a dizzying buzz that continued without stop. Voices in clipped tones giving orders, familiar faces, drawn with worry, tremulous smiles offered for encouragement; it all moved in and out of his reach. He awoke and stayed coherent long enough to know he'd endured surgery on his knee, and that he had a concussion, and Tim was still in surgery for internal injuries. Sleep was like a jealous lover, pulling him back when he spent too long in the conscious world.

When Tony woke again it was dark. His room was muted and only one form sat still and silent in the chair in the corner of the room. Ziva sat slumped to one side, her head pillowed against the cushion as she slept. He lifted his head, intent on finding out how McGee was doing, but weariness ambushed him again. Sleep pulled him under.

Tony found himself back at NCIS, sitting at his desk. He glanced around. The place was empty, except for him and McGee, who stood at his own desk, packing his things.

"You're leaving, then." It wasn't a question. He could tell from McGee's expression, how final it was. His movements were slow but deliberate as he cleaned out his desk.

"Yes. It's time." He placed the last item in his box and picked it up. He stood looking at his desk for a minute more, as if to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything. Then, adjusting the box in his arms, he stepped away and walked across the office to Tony. Tony stood and joined him.

"You don't have to do this."

"It's time," McGee repeated, as if he were on a schedule. He didn't appear harried or stressed. He looked resigned, as if he knew this had to be done, and he was doing it.

"We're going to miss you around here, McGee." A sudden urge rose within Tony and he reached awkwardly around the box to embrace Tim. The cardboard gave between them and he heard Tim grunt, but he didn't loosen his hold. "I'm going to miss you."

McGee's voice sounded muffled against his shoulder. "Tell Gibbs, Ziva, Abby, and everyone goodbye for me. I wish I had time to tell them myself, but I don't."

"I will." The moment stretched into minutes. Reluctantly, Tony pulled away. He patted Tim's shoulder awkwardly, meeting his eyes despite the embarrassingly emotional moment. Tim smiled at him kindly, then quietly stepped around him and moved toward the elevators.

Tony watched him go. Tell him to wait. Tell him not to go. He clamped down on the swirling thoughts in his head. Go with him. That one took hold, and he took one step forward, hand lifted to call to Tim.

The elevator doors closed and Tim was gone. Tony dropped his hand, his unspoken offer dying in his throat. It was over.

With a gasp, Tony woke up. The sounds of the hospital rushed at him in a cacophony of noise and he welcomed reality back. Beside him, Ziva leaned over him in alarm. "Tony? What's wrong? Are you in pain?"

"Tim – I need to see Tim." When she did nothing but stare at him in confusion, Tony began throwing the covers off. "NOW, Ziva! Get me a wheelchair. Hurry!"

Without a word, she rushed to do his bidding. It wasn't easy, but two minutes later the two of them were racing down the hallway, headed for McGee's room. They burst through the door, startling Gibbs who was standing near the bed.

"What the -?" He looked to Ziva for an explanation, but she shook her head and wheeled Tony close to the bed.

Arms trembling as he pushed himself up, Tony shoved the wheelchair away and braced himself against McGee's bed. Tenderly, he cupped Tim's head with one hand, and slid the other between the wires and drainage lines to spread against his chest. Tim's breathing was shallow; Tony could hardly feel his chest move beneath his touch. He bent over until his face hovered inches above McGee's and began whispering to him. "Listen to me, Probie. Are you listening? Listen to me! We need you here – I need you here. It's not time to go yet. You fight and hang on for me, you hear? That's an order, Probie. I'm the Senior Field Agent and you have to do what I tell you. Listen to me, Tim. Listen."

Gibbs and Ziva closed rank behind him, as if providing backup. They could hear Tony, and the trembling, desperate sound of his voice scared them. A glance between them conveyed the same message, and they moved closer still, forming a bulwark of protection around Tony and Tim. Ziva closed her eyes, her lips moving in silent prayer.

Tony's voice grew quiet and his body slumped weakly against the bed. Instead of moving him, Gibbs slid his arm around Tony's waist and supported him. Ziva arm snaked around them both, and the three of them stood there in expectant silence, waiting. Unnoticed, patterns of sunlight stamped on the floor moved across the room, marking time. Curiously, no nurses came to monitor their patient. They stood undisturbed.

Tony felt Tim's chest lift beneath his hand. He blinked open his eyes, feeling as if he'd been asleep. He watched Tim take another deep breath, and more followed. Aware suddenly of Gibbs and Ziva at his sides, Tony glanced at them. Ziva pulled away and returned with the wheelchair. With Gibbs' support around his waist, Tony sat down, letting his breath out in a deep sigh. He felt weary and achy, as if he'd worked through the night. On impulse, he reached out and grasped Tim's hand.

Tim's head turned toward them on his pillow. His eyes blinked, then opened, heavy-lidded and glassy, with drugs still in his system. His lips parted and he sighed gently.

Ziva smiled and cupped his cheek. He slid his eyes to look at her, weakly returned her smile, and then looked back at Tony. " -A- are - you - - - okay?"

Tony smiled and nodded. "Yeah. We both are, Tim. Go back to sleep. Get some rest."

Tim's eyes closed slowly. His breathing deepened as he slept.

The End