Co-written by Shelbylou - Thank you, partner!
Let her cry, if the tears fall down like rain
Let her sing, if it eases all her pain
Let her go, let her walk right out on me
And if the sun comes up tomorrow
Let her be, let her be -"Let Her Cry " -by Hootie and the Blowfish
She was free. In fact, she'd been free for two weeks now. All charges had been dropped and the short arm of the law was now content with the case they had against that stupid Cheerleading Captain, Madison and that air-headed Security Guard, Sam Tate. Now it was behind her and Sarah McGee was free. She had her brother to thank for it, well her brother and his amazing team of co-workers including his boss.
His boss. Sara set her book down, allowing the solitude of the out-of-the-way spot she loved so much infuse her with the peace she needed. It was always that way in the campus library and it never failed to be her shield when she needed to think. She sat back and looked around whilst letting her thoughts trail back for a minute. Tim's boss, Agent Gibbs had been intimidating, yet, sincere and defensive of her brother…and yet bullish towards anything he sensed was less than complete honesty. When he'd calmly stated that Tim had resigned his job as an agent on his team because of her, he hadn't even blinked an eye though the glint of anger at her brother's actions had been there in the crystal blue eyes that could cut through steel given half the chance.
"What's your major?"
"You intend to be a writer like your brother?"
"I intend on being a writer."
"Why the smartass answer?"
" You put your brother down."
" No, I didn't."
"Yeah, you did. He just resigned because of you."
" No! But Tim loves NCIS."
" Evidently, he loves you more."
Looking back now, Sarah was left with broken lines of communication between her and Tim. And there was a boatload of very serious questions still unanswered. Did Tim still have a job? He'd certainly been allowed to stay on the case until Madison and Tate had been arrested. But, what would happen to him now?
When she'd left him and his boss standing on the grass near the campus quad, claiming she had to get back to studying for her exam that day, Tim didn't look relieved like she'd expected, but worried and more than that, he looked like he'd just been kicked when he was down and that was something she feared was irreparable. Sarah hated seeing that look on his face and realized that he'd put his job on the line for her. Especially since she'd given him so much resistance when he'd practically begged her to let him handle her problem by the book; the book he was sworn to uphold every day and the book that she'd bullied him into very nearly throwing away. She'd refused to let him do anything but cast it aside to suit her own way of doing things.
"Sarah, we've got to go to NCIS."
"Why? Why NCIS?"
"The body was a sailor."
"Do you know the sailor's name?"
"Sarah, open up! Tell me how you know this guy! Sarah, I can't help you unless you talk to me."
"How do you know him?"
"We used to date…until he started seeing my old roommate."
"And…. I threatened to kill him once or twice. Maybe even three times."
"This is that sailor that you were dating last year? You told me you didn't like him."
"What did you expect me to say, Tim? I really liked this guy, and he broke my heart when he dumped me for some skanky cheerleader."
"You threatened to kill him because he dumped you for a cheerleader?"
"I didn't mean it! It was just one of those things you say, you know!"
"Did anyone hear you say it?"
"I never actually said it. I emailed it."
"Sarah, we've got to go to Gibbs now."
"I haven't done anything wrong!"
" How do you know?"
"Tim, you don't reall…..you do!"
"Sober, no. But you were drinking, Sarah. There could have been an accident."
"Tim, I swear on my life! I…"
"How can you swear? You don't remember what happened!"
"If my own brother doesn't believe me, who the hell is going to?"
"What, are you going to arrest me?"
"You need to understand something. Our only option right now is going to end…."
She left his apartment in the midst of his rant, leaving him talking to empty air.
The fact that Tim had closed himself off from her since then was part of the problem. He wasn't returning her calls and he was never home when she went over there to talk to him face to face. This was so not like him and she was really worried about both him, and their relationship. Sarah packed up her backpack and headed out of the library seeing as she wasn't in the right frame of mind to study anymore. She found herself taking the business card out of her pocket where she'd stuffed it when Agent Gibbs had handed it to her right before she'd abandoned her brother and left him looking beaten and less than happy, while she'd been so wrapped up in consoling her former roommate. She dialed the number written on the front of the card and remembered what the older man had told her as he'd handed it to her.
"Sara, if you find yourself in trouble again, and you can't reach your brother, you call me."
Realizing that he probably hadn't meant that she could call him a whopping two weeks later and especially when she wasn't the one that needed help, at least not directly; she kept on the path she'd just chosen for herself, needing his confirmation about her brother's career. She knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Tim had been in big trouble because of her and she needed the Team Leader she was calling to understand that whatever more trouble Tim was in, it was because of her and whatever punishment that was being doled out needed to go to her, not her big brother.
"Agent Gibbs?" Sarah's voice quivered nervously and she hoped that it didn't betray her fear at speaking with this man.
"Who is this?"
"Um…Ne...Never mind, I'm sorry I bothered you." She hung up the phone and turned it off, knowing that he'd probably call her right back and demand to know what was going on. She still felt the need to talk to him, but wanted to do it face to face so without a second thought, she ran to the bus stop and hopped on the Metro Transit bus with nothing but sheer determination spurring her on. She needed to do this today before the situation got any worse than it already was.
Gibbs snapped his phone shut and scowled heavily with annoyance at the other person hanging up on him so abruptly. He didn't even know who had called him or why, but he was too tired to do anything about it now. He sat back and glared at the empty desks and regretted letting the team go out for lunch all together because no doubt, they could trace the call for him…or at least Tim and Abby could have. With a frustrated sigh, he left the squad room in pursuit of a fresh cup of coffee and a decent lunch of his own to start the afternoon off with in the hope that it would head off the malingering exhaustion that started to hang over him.
The stroll to the coffee shop was relaxing in its' own rite, so he was in a relatively good mood by the time he got back to his desk and prepared to finish what he needed to work on while the solitude lasted. All too soon, his team returned noisily from lunch and got back to work on their cold cases since no new case had come their way.
The companionable silence was filled by the sounds of fingers flying over the keyboards, but was suddenly shattered by the sound of his desk phone ringing. He grimaced and picked up the phone so he could bark at whoever was interrupting him.
"Agent Gibbs, you've got a visitor. She says it's important and she only wants to talk to you."
Gibbs recognized the voice of Al from security and sat back in his chair. "She have a name?"
"Keep her there. I'm on my way." Gibbs hung up and grabbed his coffee before heading towards the elevator to go and see exactly what it was, that McGee's sister actually wanted.
"Sarah, I told you that you could call me and I meant it. What's the trouble?" Gibbs announced as he walked towards her at security. Sarah turned and smiled ruefully at him as he approached.
"Do you have a minute?" she asked, suddenly feeling vulnerable and exposed, as she prepared herself to let this man see what mattered most to her and to ask him to respect that
"Yeah…Sarah, is this something you should be talking to your brother about?"
"No, Agent Gibbs. You're the one I need to talk to. I don't even want Tim to know that I'm talking to you. Judging by the way he's been acting lately, I'd say he doesn't want to see me anyway."
"Whattaya mean?" Gibbs frowned slightly at her comment.
"He won't talk to me. Mom and Dad say he hasn't called them either. Every time I go to his apartment, he won't even answer the door."
"You sure he's home when you get there?"
"His car's there." The hurt on the young woman's face was plain to see and Gibbs knew that the thought of Tim ignoring her was weighing down on her heavily.
"Doesn't mean he's not out walking or somewhere else close by, does it?"
"No, I guess not. But, every time?"
"It's possible. You change up the times that you go over?"
"No. Okay, I guess you're right. It's possible. That makes me feel a little better. Besides, it's not like I can blame him for not wanting to talk to me."
"What's this about, Sarah?"Gibbs asked gently. He didn't want to offend her, but he sure as hell wanted to know why she felt it prudent to come all the way to the yard to talk to him instead of just calling him.
"Tim's job." She answered succinctly.
"What about it?"
"Did he really resign because of me?"
Gibbs blew out a small breath and nodded "Yup."
"Oh, God. No!"
"Doesn't mean I let him go through with it." He decided to cut through Sarah's horror before the younger McGee jumped to the wrong conclusions and let the guilt overwhelm her.
"I didn't let him go through with it. Wasn't gonna let him walk away from his promising career that he's worked his tail off for." Gibbs replied calmly even as the memory of how much of a close call Tim's resignation had been, swarmed back to him with vivid clarity.
"A taxi picked her up near the crime scene at the time of the murder. The blood on her clothes matches the victim's and her fingerprints are on the murder weapon. Other than being your sister, is there any evidentiary reason why she shouldn't be charged?"
" But she is my sister, Director. Sarah may have a temper, but she lashes out with her mouth or a pen, not a knife."
"And I hope you have more to offer than brotherly love, Agent McGee."
"She was drugged. She showed up at my door groggy, barely able to walk. She couldn't remember anything except leaving the food court."
"The lab reports for drugs and alcohol were negative."
"Well, by the time those tests were taken, whatever was in her system had metabolized."
"And if that's true, whose fault is that?"
"Mine. I should have taken Sarah in."
"But you didn't bring her in! Agent DiNozzo and Officer David did, so your actions – or should I say inactions – did nothing to help your sister. But it did impugn the integrity of this agency!"
"Forgive me, Director, for not putting the integrity of NCIS before my sister! It won't happen again".
"Oh." Sarah let out a huge sigh of relief, bringing Gibbs back to the present. "Thanks for that! I was serious when I told you Tim loves NCIS. If he'd lost his job over this, it would have been all my fault because of what happened. You know, he begged me to let him come to you, but I wouldn't let him. In fact, I bullied him into not coming to you." She admitted.
"I know. What else is this about?" Gibbs answered her calmly as he put the question to her. Yet another memory of that day assaulted him; this one was the conversation that he'd had with the young man about his sister.
"What were you thinking, McGee?"
" I would apologize, but I know how you feel about that".
"You got your voice back."
"I never lost it."
"No kidding! "
"I know withholding evidence is a violation of NCIS policy."
"And a crime! One that I don't really care about. Why didn't you come to me?"
"I was going to. When I saw the body, I knew I had to bring Sarah in."
"No! Before that."
"I couldn't take the chance. I don't know what my sister did or didn't do, but I know what it looked like. And we say "Better ten guilty men go free than one innocent get punished," but I know from experience it doesn't always work out like that. I couldn't take that chance with Sarah, not with the police, not with NCIS, not even with you…..She's my sister."
" Apology accepted."
"What? How could you know? Did Tim tell you how I bullied him?" Sarah asked in shock, once more disturbing Gibbs' thoughts and cutting through his memories.
"No, he didn't have to. I know your brother enough to know that he wouldn't have handled it the way he did without a damn good reason. Doesn't mean it was the right way, though." The Team Leader replied calmly with the hope that his soft tone would help calm her down.
"I know, Agent Gibbs. And if I hadn't been so self-absorbed at the time, I would have told you myself that it was my fault he didn't come to you." Gibbs could tell that the girl was letting guilt eat away at her and started to wonder how long it had been festering away.
"Sarah, you could have asked me about Tim's job over the phone. You didn't have to come all the way down here to ask me that. What else is going on?" The older man pushed the conversation forward sternly, as he hoped her father would be doing, if he were here in his place.
Sarah got to her feet and walked to the edge of the water that they'd been sitting in front of. It wasn't long before her shoulders hunched and began to shake as she finally lost her tenuous hold on her emotions and let her tears flow freely.
For one shocked moment, Gibbs was taken back to the last time the two of them had talked about her crying and couldn't help the fleeting question of their authenticity as it flashed through his mind…Damn it! Are these real or crocodile tears?
"Fake tears don't bother me."
"I don't fake tears!"
"Just lapses in memory."
"I don't remember! I just get… quick film cuts."
"Hold onto them."
"Because you don't want to."
"If you did, you'd remember."
"And how would you know?"
"I've been there."
Getting to his feet now, Gibbs crooked his finger under her chin and pulled her head up gently so that she was looking at him. "Talk to me." He softly encouraged.
"You…you told m…to …hold on… to them… but…I can't….sleep….night now… and…" she tried to explain around her tears.
"The film cuts you're stuck with of what happened that night." Gibbs stated to let her know he knew exactly what she was talking about.
Sarah nodded silently as her tears became sobs with the pain and loss. Jeff's murder had set in her soul and now overtook her. "You … said…you've…been there…so….I…" she stopped, unable to voice the reason that had brought her here to him; the one person she knew that had come close to voicing any understanding of what that night had done to her.
Even as he enveloped her in a sympathetic embrace to calm her and physically ground her through the storm, Gibbs couldn't help but recall the intense emotional rollercoaster he'd been on in his own experience with film-cuts of jumbled memories. He had been there and he did understand. He'd felt more alone at that time, than he'd known how to handle. Maybe that was what had prompted him to issue her that directive to call on him if she ever needed help. Although, this wasn't' the help he'd had in mind at the time; he was more than relieved that she'd come to him for help getting through this. He knew there weren't many people who could understand what she was going through. He knew he was one of the few that did.
Breathing out a sigh, he gently held onto her even as he attempted to reassure her. "Yeah, I've been there." He admitted softly
As he sat there rocking Sarah slightly, he knew that no matter what; right now, it was best to simply let her cry.