A/N: I started this a few weeks ago, but have been holding on to it. I have tortured McGee in my stories, but he's never been assaulted. I've spent 20+ working with kids in crisis, many of whom have been assaulted. Their stories may start with the trauma, but the more important story is in their survival. As much as they are vulnerable, they are also fierce in their survival and I admire that greatly. I want that to find a place in this story about McGee. Let me know what you think. Sheila
Grand Canyon Deep
She wore a beautiful blue silk dress and he smiled. She was achingly pretty, and he felt a rush of excitement when he saw her. They'd been dating four months now exclusively, and it finally felt safe enough to share her with his world.
She kissed him softly and he breathed in the light perfume of shampoo in her long honey hair. "You're breathtaking," he whispered into her ear.
"Thank you," she said as she pulled away. "Happy birthday."
His cheeks colored. "Thanks."
Her blue eyes scanned the room. "Where are your friends?"
He gestured to the other side of the room. "They're sitting over there."
Her hand gripped his arm. "Can we have a moment to talk before we go back to meet them?"
"Okay." He led her to a small table by the bar. A waitress walked by and he stopped her. "Two Pinot Grigios, please."
"Uh, I'm not thirsty," she said quickly. That's when he first noticed a twinge of anxiety in her eyes.
"Hey, my friends are great. They'll make you feel very welcome."
"No, not worried about that. Here, I got you something." She extended a card.
"You didn't have to," he said as he opened it. It was rather generic with no personal message except "much love, Jordan." A $100 gift certificate to slid out.
He leaned over and kissed her. "This is very generous, Jordan. I wasn't expecting anything."
"You really deserve it, Tim."
An eyebrow went up. There was definitely something off. "Are you okay?"
She hesitated, her smile containing little warmth. "I was always taught to be polite, but I know that I'll never be happy in life if I don't start saying what's on my mind."
"Absolutely. Honesty is paramount in a relationship."
"Yeah," she shifted in her chair. "Well, I was thinking about things this week. I know it's a big deal for me to meet your friends and I was happy to do it, but then I got this feeling in my stomach…"
"You're not ready," he interrupted. "I pushed you."
"No," she said, gripping his arm again. "You are so kind, so considerate. You would never push me about anything."
"Then I don't understand."
Jordan sighed, pushing a lock of hair behind her ear and started slowly. "I realized this week that I've really enjoyed knowing you, Tim, but I don't really…feel anything…much for you…as a boyfriend. As a friend, you're top notch. Do you understand?"
McGee deflated. This was not a new conversation for him. It was at this point that he was expected to be gracious, pretending that he'd noted the same feelings himself, but this awkward dance was getting old in his life and he wanted answers. "What am I doing wrong? Can this be fixed?"
A twinge of annoyance passed over her face. "Tim, this is hard to articulate."
"Well, since I am kind and considerate, I'm just wondering what I can do. I work too many hours. I should take you out more. What do you think?"
"You're not making this easy."
He sat back and sighed. "Well, I know it's not easy for me."
She leaned forward and worried her pretty lips. "If that's the way you want it, Tim. The truth is that you don't have a lot of time, and it does bother me a little, but it should bother me a lot more than it does. You are the perfect boyfriend, and you listen to everything I say, but I don't feel excited when I see you. We don't have anything in common. There's no chemistry."
Tim looked up at the ceiling. "You're a teacher and you told me that you were tired of dating other teachers. You wanted someone with different interests."
"You never talk about your work."
"Jordan, you don't want to know about my work. I promise you. I deal with dead bodies, killers, and broken families. It's depressing."
"Tim, you can rationalize why we should keep working on this all you want, but I don't feel anything."
"You're not attracted to me."
"You're the most considerate lover I've ever had."
"God," he closed his eyes. "All right, that's enough. I get it."
"I didn't want to ruin your birthday. I wasn't going to say anything. You sort of pulled it out of me. I was going to save it for next week."
He rubbed his forehead. "Yeah, I pulled it out of you."
"I say we pretend we never had this talk. I go back and meet your friends and we have a nice night. In a few weeks, you can tell them that…you broke up with me."
'That's really generous, Jordan. Thank you."
"No." He looked down at the table. "Thanks for making the trip down here, but I don't need you to stay."
He pushed the gift certificate toward her. "Did you drive or do you need me to get you a cab?"
She pushed it back. "I want you to keep that. I'd like us to be friends."
"Sorry Jordan," he said standing up. "I didn't earn it."
The waitress set down the two glasses of wine. McGee handed her a credit card.
"I screwed this up."
He sighed. As in the past, it was now his job to make sure she didn't feel bad about walking away. "You didn't screw it up, Jordan. I much prefer knowing."
She nodded. "Being honest is hard but important. This was the right thing to do."
"Agreed. Now, do you need a cab?"
"I drove." She looked over his shoulder. "All of your friends are watching us."
"Should we pretend that everything's okay?"
"No, thank you. Good-bye Jordan." He picked up the two wine glasses and weaved his way to the back of the bar without a backward glance.
"She's dumping him," Ziva sighed as she reached for her beer.
"She didn't deserve him," Abby growled. "Why does he go for those pretty little prissy girls anyway? They all look alike to me and they have no real appreciation for how special he is."
Ducky shook his head. "Timothy is one of the best men I know. It amazes me that he can't find a woman who truly appreciates him."
"He's a pushover. Doesn't present a challenge. Too sweet. Too accommodating. Women get bored with that," Tony said. He held his Jack and coke up to the light like it was a fine wine.
"Women are not the fickle creatures that you think we are," Ziva snorted.
"Then you marry McGee. He's perfect, right? What about you, Abby? McGee would walk through fire for you."
"It's not the same thing, Tony. We work together." Ziva retorted.
Tony looked at Abby. "You going to use the same excuse?"
She frowned. "It's none of your business what my feelings are, Tony."
"Okay guys, he's coming this way," Jimmy said as he put down a ridiculously large chocolate Martini.
They all were practicing casual when he showed up, one of his wine glasses already empty. He sat down next to Tony and his friend put an arm over his shoulder. "Do you want my advice?"
McGee sighed long and took a long gulp of the second glass of wine. "No Tony, I don't. I'm begging all of you. No advice. No post mortem. I don't want to hear that I'm too good for her. I don't want anyone to tell me that it'll happen for me when I'm least expecting it or that I'm better off without her. I know that I'm boring. I know that I'm a geek. And apparently the best that can be said about me is that I'm a considerate lover."
Tony groaned. "Ooooh! That's rough, Probie."
Ducky threw Tony a sharp look.
Abby leaned forward, grinning wickedly. "I thought you were a wonderful lover."
He blushed but smiled. "Thank god for you, Abby. With you, I never felt self-conscious."
Ziva looked from McGee to Abby and shook her head. "We never see what's right in front of us."
Abby looked at her sharply. "We're better as friends. We both feel the same way about that."
McGee nodded. "Plus, there's rule 12."
Ducky stood. "Yes, yes, it's a hard start to the evening, Timothy. Yet, we have all gathered to celebrate your 35th birthday. We need to clean your palate of the initial bad taste and replace it with some more appetizing. I'm going to order the smoothest, most expensive Glenlivet in this establishment."
"Thanks Ducky. I'm not much for hard alcohol though."
Tony slapped him on the back. "All of your best writers drank hard liquor. Think Ernest Hemingway."
"He killed himself, Tony."
"Let me get that scotch for you, Timothy."
Ziva reached over and squeezed his hand. "We're so sorry."
He pulled away. "No sympathy, Ziva."
"Where's Gibbs?" Abby asked.
McGee shrugged. "He was probably busy."
"He's made it to everyone else's birthday celebration so far this year. Even Jimmy's."
Jimmy screwed up his face. "What's that supposed to mean?"
McGee looked down at his wine glass. With Gibbs not showing, this evening had managed to tap not only into his insecurities about relationships, his loneliness, but also, Gibbs' perception of his importance to the team.
Ducky sat down beside him with a dark scotch. "Now the trick to this, Timothy, is to sip it slowly. Let the liquid rest in your mouth for a moment, and then the welcome the burn as you swallow."
Tim raised his eyebrows. Hard liquor had always reminded him of what it might be like to drink lighter fluid. He never admitted it. People would chalk it up as one more indication of his unmanliness. He was hoping to avoid at least those comments this evening. Mining three of his deepest insecurities seemed like overkill for one birthday. He picked up the scotch, nodded at Ducky, and sipped it slowly. As expected, he found it to be overly bitter, and he struggled to control the grimace on his face.
Tony chuckled. "You'll get used to it."
Tim nodded, doing his best to show Ducky his appreciation. Ducky smiled and patted him on the back.
Gibbs had the phone to his ear before the end of the first ring. He sat up in his bed and frowned deeply. "How bad?...Bethesda?...No, you were right to call. I want to know when one of my people are in trouble."
He slid out of bed, grabbed a pair of pants and a shirt, and headed out the door.
Ducky met him at the door to the emergency room at Bethesda. "What do you know, Jethro?"
Gibbs shook his head. "I got a call saying that police found McGee in South D.C. about an hour ago. Said he was assaulted and they brought him here."
Ducky wrinkled up his face and looked at his watch. "I saw him just six hours ago. What would he be doing in South D.C.?"
"Was he in any condition to drive?"
"Oh no. He said me he would take a cab home. Timothy is very conscientious about not drinking and driving. And Tony promised me he'd watch after him before I left."
Gibbs rolled his eyes as he pushed through the doors. "And just what condition was DiNozzo in?"
The emergency room was quiet at 5 a.m. in the morning. Maintenance crews were mopping floors and nurses were updating charts. Gibbs went up to the desk. "I'm here to see Timothy McGee. He was brought in by police about an hour ago."
A tired nurse looked up. "Hold on right here."
For a few minutes, Gibbs and Ducky stood waiting. A weird feeling had settled in Gibbs' gut. Usually, a nurse would point to a curtain, and the patient would be found. Gibbs had reached the point where he was going to start walking down the hall pulling doors open when a middle-aged nurse walked up, wearing a tag that said, Barbara, SARS.
"You're looking for Timothy McGee?"
"Unfortunately, we are too," she said. "He left against advice about 30 minutes ago."
"Where did he go!" Gibbs
"How badly was he injured?" Ducky asked.
"It's been a long night," she said pointing to a row of chairs. "I'll tell you what I can."
Ducky joined her but Gibbs refused to sit.
She sighed. "The police brought him in. Apparently, they found him near Prescott Park. I was paged to do the exam. When I got there, Mr. McGee was reluctant to let me exam him. He said he was fine. From what I could see, it was clear that he needed treatment. I was taking time, trying to establish a relationship when he realized that his gun, badge, wallet, and keys were missing. Then he became very agitated, put his clothes back on, and tried to leave."
"You have security, right? You couldn't hold him?"
"No, I can't just restrain people."
"What did he say?"
She shook her head. "Not much. Kept saying that 'boss was going to kill him' if he didn't get his weapon and badge back. Then he took off. Hailed a cab outside of the emergency room. Tried to stop him. He didn't have any cash."
"What sort of injuries did he sustain?"
"Bruises to his face. Abrasions on his wrists. Terrible welts on his back. There were further injuries, but I didn't get a chance to examine him closely."
"But they paged you especially, and you are a Sexual Assault Response Staff," Ducky said slowly.
"Yes, they did, but I don't know enough to know what or if there was such an assault and if I did know, I wouldn't tell you without his permission."
She leaned forward. "I'm not the police, but that doesn't mean I just sit by and watch people take off without doing something. He took an Atlas cab #2136. I told dispatch to have the driver call me."
Gibbs nodded. "Good work!"
The cell phone on her belt vibrated, and she picked it up. She listened for a moment and then looked up. "It's the driver. He's pissed because Mr. McGee stiffed him."
Gibbs took the phone. He started barked into the phone. Then he hung up and grabbed Ducky by the arm. "He got dropped off at Prescott Park."
Tony stabbed at his nightstand several times before he found his phone. Wincing, he pulled it to his ear. "Who? What? I'm not on call!"
"Wake up, Tony."
"Ducky?" DiNozzo sat up. He rubbed at his face furiously.
"Timothy never made it home."
Tony turned to the red display on his clock radio. It read 5:45 a.m. "I poured him in a cab five hours ago. What the hell?"
"I don't have time to explain everything. Police found him in Prescott Park beaten up. Jethro and I came down to the hospital, and he'd already left. We think he's back at the park looking for his weapon and badge."
Tony shook his head. "This doesn't make any sense."
"Oh Tony, we don't have time. Gibbs wants you to meet us at Prescott Park. Timothy's injured and wandering around in probably the most dangerous neighborhood in D.C."
Tony didn't answer. The comforter on his bed shifted, revealing a head of dark curly hair. His mouth dropped open.
"Tony!" Ducky barked.
"I'm on my way," he said putting the phone back on its receiver. Gingerly, he pushed at the mound under his comforter. The wild head of hair rose, and a pair of dark eyes glared at him.
At 6 a.m., the dark had begun to soften. The city park looked deserted; the only sounds being the pigeons waking for the day. Gibbs and Ducky got out. It was a large park of at least 10 acres, and while it used to be a hub of community activity, it was now most known for its gang presence and drug activity.
It would have worked best for them to separate, but there were too many dark areas, and Ducky didn't carry a gun. Gibbs had called for back up, but had yet to see any squads descend upon the park. It was a typical scenario for some inner cities to leave the most crime-ridden areas abandoned at night. There wasn't the manpower to fully patrol them safely.
Using a flashlight, Gibbs highlighted a park shelter where 10-15 homeless people were sleeping. He gestured for Ducky to stay on the sidewalk while he wandered in and queried about his agent. He returned a few minutes later with a shake of his head.
Ducky pointed at some rusted playground equipment in the distance. There was a lone figure swinging. The two of them trotted off in that direction. The morning sun was beginning to blaze at the horizon. As they grew closer, they saw that it was a boy on the swing wearing a hoodie and jeans in the cool morning air. He couldn't have been more than 12 or 13 years old. As they approached, he continued to swing back and forth, completely unconcerned about their approach.
"Hey," Gibbs said. "Are you out here alone?"
The boy shrugged as he swung.
"Where do you live?"
The boy glanced over at a broken down apartment complex at the north end of the park.
"You shouldn't be out here alone."
The boy slowed the swing, catching on the gravel with his sneakers. "You looking for that beat up white guy?"
The boy walked off the swing. "I couldn't believe he came back here after T-bone finished with him. He either crazy or dumb."
"Do you know where he is?"
The boy looked around the park. "It's not good for me to be talking to you."
"We'll make sure you're safe," Gibbs said.
"Yeah, right," the boy snorted, kicking up dirt.
"What's your name?" Ducky asked.
"Devon." The boy eyed them both warily.
"The white guy to whom you are referring is a friend of ours. We want to find him. Make sure he's okay."
Devon looked down at the ground for a moment, his hands buried deep in his pockets. "What happened to that guy isn't no business of mine."
Gibbs pulled out a twenty-dollar bill.
Devon shook his head and refused it. "I just wish people cared about what happened to folks that actually have to live here."
"His name is Tim and he's a really good guy, Devon."
The kid nodded, shifted from one foot to another, and then pointed to an abandoned building to the East. "There's a courtyard around back of that building. That's where T-bone and his crew took him."
Gibbs reached over and cupped the kid's chin. "I won't forget this, Devon."
He pulled out a card and put it in Devon's front pocket. "You need anything. You call me."
The kid was expressionless as the two men took off through the park to the East.
"How could he have ended up in this neighborhood? It is not even on the way to Silver Springs." Ziva said.
He didn't venture a look at her as he focused on navigating early morning D.C. traffic. "That's mystery number one, but don't think we aren't also going to explore the mystery of how you ended up in my bed."
She rolled her eyes. "I drove you home and I was tired. Your bed is large and I am not. There was plenty of room for both of us."
Tony shook his head. "As if it were that simple, my little kumquat. I am no stranger to the manipulations of which you are capable."
Ziva frowned as she surveyed the neighborhood. "Maybe he passed out in the cab. Maybe the driver rolled him for his wallet and dumped him. Do you remember the name of the cab company that picked him up?"
"It was Capitol Cabs. Get on the phone with them. Let's find out who picked him up."
The decay and neglect they saw as they moved through the park was depressing. There were broken wine bottles, syringes, and trash everywhere. This was clearly a place that was no longer safe for children and families at any time of the day or night. They followed overgrown brush around the side of the abandoned building. The sun had climbed to a point that Gibbs shut off the flashlight.
The overgrown courtyard had a rusted swing set and slide. There was also an old push merry-go-round with iron bars. Gibbs noticed that there was frayed rope tied to the bars. He started to step closer but became aware of a movement in the shadows. He drew his weapon and stepped in front of Ducky. "NCIS! Drop your weapon!"
An iron bar clattered to the concrete. "Boss?"
Gibbs relaxed his aim, letting his arm drop. "McGee! Get out here!"
Tim limped out of the shadows, his face a collage of bruises. His wrists were raw and cut. Ducky strode toward him, but McGee put up a hand. "Just stop, Ducky."
Gibbs shook his head. "What are you doing, Tim?"
McGee looked down at the ground. "They took my weapon and my badge."
"And you don't call me!"
McGee shook his head. "It's my mess, my problem. I came back here to take care of it."
"And how's that working for ya', McGee?" The absurdity of the situation had gripped Gibbs, and he couldn't hide the sarcasm in his voice.
Ducky moved forward again and McGee startled. "Back off, Ducky! I mean it!"
"Hey, McGee! You don't talk to him like that!"
Ducky shook his head at Gibbs. "Jethro, he's right. We need to back off. We need to listen."
The concern in Ducky's eyes reminded Gibbs of the feeling he had in his gut earlier when he found out that a SARS nurse had been called. He rubbed at his face in frustration. "I'm sorry, Tim. You've had a rough night. I shouldn't have yelled."
McGee said nothing.
"Tell us what happened. You look kind of dead on your feet. Do you want to sit?"
Something raw flashed across McGee's face and he shook his head.
"How did you get here?"
"I am such an idiot, Boss. I mean, my judgment really sucks. How have you put up with it all these years?"
His vulnerability cut at Gibbs and he looked at Ducky for help.
"Timothy, you've had a bad night. You're upset, but you have to know that you can't judge yourself so harshly. You would never have survived all these years at NCIS if you were a man of poor judgment."
McGee opened his mouth to argue, but Ducky firmly wagged a finger. "Not another word in defense of such an idea. It's frivolous. Tell us what happened after you left the bar."
Tim shook his head. "It doesn't matter. I lost my badge and my gun. Doesn't get much worse than that."
Gibbs bristled. "I don't care about the damn gun and the badge right now. Just tell us what happened."
McGee swayed a little. "I fell asleep in the cab. Woke up and we were in this part of town. The driver was taking advantage. He was driving me around the city. Wanted to jack up the price. I started yelling at him. He yelled back. He stopped the cab at here at Prescott. He knew I'd never get out. No chance I'd find another cab. I was going to call police, and he relented. Said he'd take me to Silver Springs on a flat $30. Then a kid ran by into the park. 6-7 guys followed, carrying pipes…I reacted. I got out, pulled my gun, and told the driver to call 911 and then I took off after them…"
Gibbs nodded slowly. "Then what?"
McGee shook his head.
"Come on, Tim. That's not how we work."
Tim looked away, and they could see rust colored lines on the neck and back of his shirt. Ducky stepped forward again. "I need to take a look, Timothy."
McGee nodded slowly. "I know."
"You don't have to talk about anything right now. Just let me get a look at you."
McGee looked down at the ground.
Gibbs' phone buzzed and he picked it up. "Yeah, we found him…he's…okay…We are at the north end of the park…" McGee's head snapped up when Gibbs started giving directions. He saw this and stopped. "Tony, you and Ziva need to find a place to park and then wait…don't argue with me. I'll call you in a few minutes."
McGee's breath quickened and a look of distress settled into his features. Ducky took note. "Jethro, could you give the two of us a couple of minutes? Please."
Gibbs nodded and backed out of the courtyard. He turned the corner of the building and leaned against its face. He'd seen a lot of trauma in his days, but there was something about what he saw on McGee's face that left him very disturbed, and it was all he could do to keep from leaning forward and vomiting whatever left in his gut. The young man was clearly in shock, but it was more than that. McGee always maintained a dignity about him. He was always a little reserved, not prone to DiNozzo's goofiness. Someone had attempted to abscond with McGee's dignity in this park, and the young man was clinging to the vestiges of it with all of his might. Gibbs felt a rage building deep in his gut over what might have done to his junior agent.
A few minutes later, Ducky came out leading McGee. The young man walked slowly and stiffly. He no longer tried to meet Gibbs' eyes. Ducky's face was flushed in a way Jethro hadn't seen since Kate died. Ducky murmured something to McGee, and the young man started off on his own toward Gibbs' car. The back of McGee's shirt was covered with rust colored stains crisscrossed everywhere. Gibbs turned to Ducky, his eyes hard. "Is that what I think it is?"
"They tied him down and beat badly with a belt for quite some time. They also used a pipe."
"The pipe was not used for hitting, Jethro," Ducky said with a sigh.
Jethro jerked his head sharply at him. "What are you saying, Duck?"
"I'm not saying anything. It's not my story to tell. I'm taking him back to Bethesda. He needs an exam. Some of the cuts are quite painful, and…there are some that will need to be stitched. He may need surgery. He wants you to know that the pipe he dropped earlier is a piece of evidence."
Gibbs shook his head in frustration. "I need more. Why would he need surgery, Duck? He's not giving me enough and you're not helping."
"Today, he's not your agent," Ducky hissed. "He's the survivor of a vicious attack. And if you want to help him, you better damn well figure out the difference. Your impatience is only going to only hurt him."
Gibbs pointed a finger. "I'm going to catch these assholes, and McGee is going to get a chance at justice. And you know he wants that! I'm doing this for him, not me!"
The sound carried and McGee stopped for a moment and slowly turned his head. Gibbs and Ducky went silent until he started to limp again toward the car.
"Come see him in a few hours, Jethro. I'm sure he'll tell you what you need to know."
"You tell him that we are going to fix this. He's going to be just fine. You tell him that, Duck!"