Tobias Fornell had not made a smashing success of very many areas of his life. He had been a disappointment as a son. He had been a disappointment as a brother. He had been a disappointment as a friend. He had been a disappointment as a husband. And he was trying very hard not to become a disappointment as a father. But he was a very good cop. His director had told him once that he was the best agent he had ever seen. Tobias was like a dog with a bone. Once he got his teeth into something he would never let it go. He could put the pieces of the puzzle together easier, faster, and more accurately then almost any other agent. Yes, Tobias was a good cop, a good agent. He worked harder, longer and more efficiently then any other agent. He kept his mouth shut, followed orders and didn't question his superiors. Which is how he found himself standing in Bethesda Naval Hospital, in the middle of a weekday night, his once pristine white dress shirt and gray suit pants soaked with someone else's blood, watching as that person, one Timothy McGee, was rolled down the sterile, stark white hallway, surrounded by blue scrubbed medical personnel, who were trying to save his life.

Tobias ran a hand through his receding gray hair and turned in frustration to the waiting room the nurse had pointed him to. He just couldn't understand how things had gone so wrong. It should have been so simple, so easy. Get in, get the information from the computer, get out. No one should have been hurt, especially not someone who had no business being there in the first place. Someone who had to be blackmailed to be there.

Tobias bypassed the hard plastic chairs and started to angrily pace back and forth. Blackmailing McGee in working with them on this assignment had left a bad taste not only in his mouth, but in Sacks and Courtney's mouths, also. It was the only order that he had ever seriously considered disobeying. Now he wished he had. The only reason he probably hadn't was that he didn't think even with the threat, McGee would work with them. Tobias could still remember the look on McGee's face that day in the Director's office when the offer had been passed along. McGee hadn't wanted to do it. He didn't even have to say a word everyone could see it on his face. Before the kid could even open his mouth, the threat had been issued.

'NCIS doesn't need a computer geek that can't follow orders.'

McGee had taken it to mean, as Tobias had, that if he didn't do this then his position at NCIS would be forfeit. Tobias had never really spent anytime with McGee, not like he had DiNozzo and the rest of Gibbs team. He had believed that McGee would just go to Gibbs, even though he had been warned not too. Tobias had really been expecting to deal with Gibbs. McGee hadn't trusted Tobias and his team and after the part that they had played in securing his cooperation, he hadn't really expected him to. But what Tobias had failed to understand was, the kid didn't trust Gibbs, either. Didn't trust Gibbs to have his back or to keep his position safe on his team. What Tobias hadn't realized was that McGee saw himself as most people who didn't know McGee saw him—as just a computer geek, as having no value to NCIS then what he could do with computers. Tobias could still hear the kid's voice like it was yesterday. 'Sure I'm smart, but there are a lot of smart people at NCIS. Any one of them could do what I do. I'm not Tony or Ziva. I'm replaceable.' Tobias hadn't known what to say to that so he had said nothing. Now he wished he had. Told the kid he was wrong or something. Encouraged him to go to Gibbs, maybe. Or maybe he should have gone to his friend himself. If he had, then this might not have happened.

Tobias suddenly wanted to punch someone, and not the man that had shot McGee, necessarily. He wanted to hit the person that had caused this kid—the most loyal, trustworthy, and kind, not to mention good, agent he had ever had the pleasure to work with—to feel so bad about himself that he thought of himself as expendable. He wanted to do some real damage to the person who made McGee think he had to go it alone. But most of all Tobias wanted to just strangle Gibbs for making the kid think he wasn't important enough to fight for!


When the phone rings in the middle of the night, it's rarely a good thing. When it's a friend and he has never called you in the early morning in all the years you've known him about anything good, you know it's going to be bad. When he only says two words, you know just how bad it's going to get.

"Gibbs!" Special Agent Jethro Gibbs barked into his phone as he sat up, pushing his sheet and comforter aside.

"Bethesda E.R." The terse voice of Tobias Fornell said before hanging up.

Gibbs didn't bother to change out of the black sweats and gray t-shirt he had worn to bed, opting instead to slip his feet into a pair of scuffed sneakers, grabbing a hooded sweat shirt off the hook by his front door and scooping up his wallet, keys, and badge after getting his weapon out of it's lock box. He was in his charger and heading to the hospital less then five minutes after the phone call, a churning in his gut telling him that if it was as bad as Tobias seemed to think it was, there wasn't a second to waste.


Tobias clicked his phone shut and returned it to it's case on his belt, wondering if that had been the best thing to do, but not seeing any thing else he could do.

"Are you sure calling Gibbs was the wisest course of action?" A deep voice echoed his thoughts from behind him.

Tobias swung around angrily, to come into contact with the dark chocolate skinned face and dark fathomless eyes of his agent.

"A federal officer has been shot, and may be dying, Agent Sacks." He bit out, knowing it wasn't right to take his anger out on the younger man, but needing the outlet for his anger, none the less. "He is not a FBI agent, so I can't call our director to have everyone notified that needs to be notified. I don't have the number for the Director of NCIS, so who do you suggest I call?" He voice had rose as he talked and he practically shouted the last of his sentence.

Ron Sacks wasn't offended in anyway. He knew his boss was worried and needed a target to unleash his fury at the injustice of this whole thing. Hell, he liked the kid, too. "You calling in his family, Tobias?" Ron asked quietly. "Is it that bad?" He hadn't thought it was that bad. It hadn't looked that bad.

Tobias gestured to his blood stained shirt and pants. "It certainly isn't good!" He yelled.

Ron grimaced. The kid had lost a lot of blood and Tobias wasn't one to panic unnecessarily. Tobias was one of the calmest, most level headed people Ron knew. If Tobias was worried then there was something to be worried about. Ron felt his own concern increase.

Fornell glared at his man for a few seconds more before he sighed tiredly and ran his hands wearily down his face. "I'm sorry, Ron."

"It's okay, Tobias. I like the kid, too." Sacks said, repeating his thought from a moment ago.

Tobias nodded, walked to the nearest chair and slumped in it. "Where's Courtney?"

Ron shrugged. "You know how she is." He said, sitting down beside his boss. Courtney, now, was one to think the worst."I figured you wouldn't be able to stand her nervous energy and sent her to get coffee. It's better if she has something to do."

Tobias nodded. While they had gotten off to a rocky start, things had changed and he had come to think of Courtney in the same vein as he did Ron. Like his own did not mean that she couldn't drive him up the wall sometimes. It was okay when she had work to do, something to focus on, but when she had time on her hands... He shook his head fondly. "Are you sure that having Courtney get coffee was a good idea?" He asked with a ghost of a smile.

Ron barked out a laugh. "Maybe not." Courtney on caffeine... Ron shook his head. Not a good thing. 'She'll be bouncing off the walls.'

They sat in silence for a few minutes, each staring at the beige wall in front of them.

"This my fault, Ron." Tobias said finally when the silence became to much for him. "I caused this. If that kid dies, it's on my head."

Ron shook his head. "Tobias—"

"It was my idea to bring him in." Tobias interrupted. "Did you know that? That kid is the best I've ever seen. A good field agent. A good computer specialist. A good guy. I was looking forward to working with him, of course that was before I realized exactly how he was going to come about working with us." Tobias shook his head."If I had known, I would have kept my mouth shut, even if it meant that these guys got away."

"You don't mean that, Tobias." Ron said, becoming a little worried about what it would do to his boss if McGee didn't survive this.

Tobias kept talking as if Ron hadn't said anything. "He deserved better than to be betrayed like he was!" He jumped up and started to pace.

"That's not your fault, Tobias. Tim has worked with NCIS for over eight years and he's been on Gibbs team for over seven of those years. If his job isn't secure now, it never will be."

Tobias stopped his frantic pacing and slumped back into the chair he just vacated. "It's still my fault."

Ron let the matter drop. He knew that there would be no convincing his boss otherwise and to be truthful he honestly didn't know what else to say. He just begin to pray harder that McGee would be okay. He shuddered to think what Tobias would do if he wasn't.


Tobias looked up when Gibbs came storming into the waiting room a short ten minutes later. He didn't even want to think about how many traffic laws had to have been broken for him to have gotten there in that short amount of time.

Gibbs took in the blood on his friend's clothes and raised an eyebrow in concern.

"It's not mine, Jethro." Tobias said, reading Gibbs' mind.

Gibbs nodded, relieved. "What's going on,Tobias?" He barked out. "Why am I here?"

Tobias just stared at him. While he wasn't at a loss for words, he was at a loss of the right ones to convey what needed to be said. "There was a shooting tonight, Jethro. We were sent into an area to retrieve information that is central to a case and it was a trap. They were waiting for us and an agent was shot."

"I have yet to hear what this has to do with me, Tobias!" Gibbs exclaimed impatiently, the burning in his gut telling him that he wouldn't like where this was going.

Anger burned in Tobias brightly. He had let Ron believe that he'd called Gibbs to notify the kid's family, but that wasn't exactly true. All he had to do to notify McGee's family was search through the kid's cell phone. Hell, they were federal agents. Even without McGee's cell phone, it would have been pretty easy to get the kid's information. He had called Gibbs for help. That Sacks had believed him when he had said differently was a testament to how worried he was.

Now that Gibbs was here, Tobias was beginning to rethink his decision to involve Gibbs in this, even though McGee was his agent. With his own words, McGee had named himself replaceable. True or not, there had to be something there to make him think that way. The thought wouldn't have got into the kid's head if it hadn't been placed there by someone. And it couldn't have just been the words spoken to gain his cooperation in this assignment. The thought had to already be there for it to be able to be exploited like it was.


Tobias sighed wearily. "Jethro—"

Before he could complete his sentence, a doctor appeared in the doorway of the waiting room.

"Family of Timothy McGee!" He called, letting Gibbs know why he was there. Or at least one of the reasons why he was there.