Trent gently shook Tim's shoulder, not wanting to startle him. "Hey, Tim."
Tim slowly opened his eyes, blinking to focus. "What? Trent?" It took a minute for Tim to know where he was. "Sorry. Didn't mean to fall asleep."
Trent smirked. "Pain killers." He said knowingly. "I remember."
Tim stiffened as the times that Trent had seen him on pain killers came to mind. "At least it's not the one that makes me run off at the mouth."
Trent gave a low chuckle, mindful of his audience out side the room. "They spent months and a lot of money training you to resist or deflect truth serum only to be done in by pain killers." He shook his head. "Ironic, isn't it? They would have done better training you to resist morphine."
Tim flinched as he remembered some of the methods that had been used to 'train' him. And not only to resist or deflect sodium pentathal, but torture as well.
Trent noticed the flinch and sobered up. "No, not ironic." He said softly. "Poetic justice, maybe?" Trent had done his part in trying to break the kid with the IQ that was off the charts. The people involved had thought it would be a great accomplishment to train someone with Tim's potential to survive capture. They had believed that Tim would be a great asset in war zones. He had exceeded even their expectations. They had thrown everything they had at him but he hadn't broken. He had survived their torture and not spoken a word. He had been pumped so full of drugs that he would have believed them if they had said the sky was green and the grass was blue, but instead of telling the information that they wanted, Tim had told everything else. One had to admire such integrity, such strength of character.
Tim looked at Trent silently. He knew that Trent had never wanted him involved in Frankenstein. Had never believed that it was right to experiment on kids but Trent had just been a training officer. He had had no choice but to obey his superiors. "What's up, Trent?" He asked softly, knowing that he had not come here to talk about the past.
Trent dropped his eyes to where his hand still rested on Tim's shoulder. "How are your parents?" He asked instead of answering Tim's question, even though they were pressed for time. "I heard that your father made Admiral." There was a hard note to his voice that he didn't even try to hide.
Tim sighed. "You can't really blame them, you know." They had talked about this before, but Trent never let it go. "They really had no idea what to do with me. I was just so..." He stopped to search for the word. "different... from what they knew. From what they had wanted. I was such a trouble maker. Always into everything. Always taking stuff a part. I just had to know how everything worked and I never believed when it was explained to me. I always had to discover the truth for myself." Tim recited the speech that he had been told so many times in a monologue. "They didn't know how to handle me."
Trent turned hard eyes to Tim."I can blame them." He said quietly. "I do blame them." There was a dangerous tone to his voice that Tim knew only too well.
Tim shook his head. "Trent..."
"Don't make excuses for them, Tim!" Trent exploded. "They were your parents and they abandoned you to us!" Trent leaned closer to the bed. "They traded you so your father could advance in his career!"
Tim winced. It was true. And all the excuses he could give, all the reasons why, wouldn't change that. Tim wondered sometimes if that was the reason why he had so much trouble forming attachments as an adult. That deep down, he was afraid that if he did make friends or find another family, they would just trade him away like his parents had. But that was neither here nor there at the moment. Tim knew that Trent hadn't come here to discuss his parents. "Why are you here? I know that you didn't come all this way to yell at me for making excuses for my parents."
Trent forced himself to calm down. "No. I came here to discuss you being a little bit more careful when accepting assignments with other agencies. Especially ones given to you by your director." Trent made eye contact with Tim to let him know how serious he was. "I've told you before—the only person you can trust is Gibbs. He will never steer you wrong. He's why I wanted you at NCIS in the first place. You know that."
Tim straightened in his bed. "How did you...?" He trailed off as the rest of what Trent had said sunk in. "This wasn't just an assignment that went bad, was it?" He asked as one hand covered his wounded shoulder. Tim knew Trent well enough to pick up on what he wasn't saying.
Trent shook his head. "It seems that my erstwhile employers have decided that they need to clean up their mess."
"But why me!" Even as the question burst from him, Tim knew why. He felt all his energy leave him, deflating against his bed. "They're afraid I'm going to turn, just like Jonas did." Even the name of someone that Tim had believed was his friend hurt him. "They're afraid because we were so much alike that..." Tim trailed off, unable to put it in words.
Trent nodded. Even though he wasn't privy to their thought process, it wasn't hard to figure out. "I've told them, Tim." He hurried to say. "I've told them that they're wrong. And I warned them to leave you alone."
Tim turned stricken eyes to Trent. "I never wanted to be a part of Frankenstein in the first place!"
"I know, Tim."
But Tim wasn't listening to him. "Vance..." He couldn't keep the betrayal out of his voice. "Even Fornell..." He shook his head. "Gibbs trusts Fornell almost more than anyone!"
"No. Not Fornell." Trent denied swiftly. "I don't think even Vance knew what was truly going on, but I know that Fornell didn't know anything about this. If this had gone the way it was meant to, Fornell would have taken the fall for it."
Tim froze. "What?" He exclaimed, sitting up and then whimpering in pain when his wound flared up.
"Easy there, Tim." Trent soothed, laying a hand on Tim's good shoulder again. Tim looked at Trent as he tried to catch his breath through the pain, a question in his eyes.
Trent nodded. "They set him up, Tim." He said answering Tim's silent question.
Tim rubbed the hand on his good side down his face. "Oh, goodness!" He groaned in a pain filled voice. "I almost ruined a good man's life!"
Trent fairly shook with anger. "You—" He hissed, clenching his teeth and forcing himself to calm down a little. "You didn't do anything, Tim. This—This whole situation, is in no way, your fault!"
The younger man just stared at Trent, and he could tell that Tim didn't believe him.
"What do I do?" Tim asked after a minute. "What do I tell everyone?"
"You do nothing but get better. You let me handle this." Trent said and looked at the younger man for the first time with guilt. "Don't say anything." A smile twisted his lips. "You still can't lie worth anything." That was something that hadn't changed. He couldn't lie as a boy and he couldn't lie as a man.
"Okay." Tim nodded and released a breath he hadn't been aware he was holding. "Alright."
Trent made his way to the door but paused before he opened it. "I'll call you in a couple of days." He said before he disappeared through the door.
Tim settled back against his bed, his mind in turmoil. He wanted to think about things, but he was asleep before he was even settled good.
Courtney had only been back from the cafeteria for a short time when Ron and Tobias came. She immediately stood up and went to stand by the bed where Tim lay sleeping.
Ron and Tobias exchanged glances because they hadn't discussed what to tell Courtney. Courtney was a professional except when people she cared about were in trouble. Then she became a neurotic mess. They couldn't have her falling apart now, but they would need her expertise.
Tobias cleared his throat. "Courtney." He started. "Ron and I... We've been going over what happened."
"And?" Courtney prompted when he didn't say anything else.
Ron and Tobias exchanged looks again. "This was too well planned for it to be a spur of the moment thing. The shooter was waiting for us. Waiting for..." He didn't finish, just looked at the man asleep on the bed.
Courtney's eyes widened at the implications at the sentence. "He was after Tim..." She whispered, trailing off. She turned dove gray eyes on her friend in dawning horror, her brilliant mind coming to the same conclusion that they had. The intel they had been given, Tim being blackmailed into working with them on this assignment, the orders not to tell Gibbs. It had all been a set-up. Tim McGee had never been meant to leave that room alive. Courtney met Tobias eyes grimly. "What do we do?"
"We find out why and who and we stop them." Tobias said simply.
"What do we know?"
Tobias and Ron exchanged glances again. "You already know everything we know, Courtney." Tobias said, warning Ron with his eyes not to say anything else.
"Then where do we start?" She practically wailed.
"We're hoping we can get a starting point from Tim." Ron said in a soothing voice.
"A starting point for what, Sacks?" Tim asked, having woken up to hear the last question. He didn't miss the look that Ron shared with Tobias before turning his eyes to Tim.
"We've gone over everything from last night, Tim." Ron started. "And..." And how do you tell someone that they have become the target of a professional killer? Ron had never had to do that before. Usually he dealt with the victims after the incident had happened. He glanced helplessly at Tobias.
Tobias stepped closer to Tim. "You were the target all along, Tim. You were never meant to survive this assignment."
Tim's face closed up but his eyes showed no surprise about their revelation. "You already knew that."
"Why would you say that?" Tim asked, being mindful of Trent's warning not to lie.
"Who would benefit from your death, McGee?" Tobias asked bluntly. "What do you know that someone would kill you to keep it hidden?"
"There is no one that would really benefit from my death." Tim said carefully. It was not exactly a lie but it was close enough to one that Tim shifted uncomfortably.
Tobias' eyes narrowed. He could tell that Tim wasn't telling everything he knew. And there was a look that crossed Tim's face that bothered him. He couldn't quite identify it. Was it...anguish? "Are you sure? You haven't come across something in your work? There's nothing in your past that someone doesn't want to come out? You haven't seen something you shouldn't have?" He fired the questions one after the other, hoping to trip Tim up. "There's absolutely no one that you can think of that would want you dead?"
Tim scoffed at that last question. "I'm a federal agent, Tobias. There are a lot of people that wouldn't lose any sleep if I turned up dead."
Tobias questioned Tim for another half hour but Tim kept up his denial. The more that he pretended not to know anything, the more disturbed Tobias got. Finally, he decided that he wouldn't be learning anything new and he and Ron left, ordering Courtney to stay. They passed Tony and Ziva and walked to the elevator, not saying anything.
Ron turned to Tobias as soon as the elevator doors closed. "He knows something."
Tobias leaned wearily back against the elevator wall. "I know, Ron." Tobias closed his eyes as he remembered the look on Tim's face. "And it's bad enough that he can't—or won't—speak of it."
"What can be so bad that he can't bring himself to even talk about it?" Ron asked.
Tobias had his suspicions. "Something he can't forgive himself for." Tobias said in the quiet silver box. "Something he believes others will find unforgivable."
Ron nodded but remained silent for the rest of the ride. It was as they were walking out of the front doors of the hospital that he said what was on his mind. "It might be just us, Tobias." He said with a shrug. "The kid doesn't trust us. Gibbs might know what's going on."
Tobias got a thoughtful look on his face. "No, I don't think so." He said after a minute, shaking his head. "There was just something about the way..." Tobias trailed off with a shrug, unable to put what he meant into words.
They came to the car and Ron walked to the passenger side. "I know what you mean." He said and got into the car. "What are we going to tell Gibbs?" He asked, fastening his seat belt.
Tobias put the car into gear and backed out. "We've already talked about what to tell Gibbs." Tobias said, pulling out of the hospital parking garage. "As little as possible."
"But that was before—"
"What do you want to tell him, Ron?" Tobias exclaimed, cutting off what his senior agent was going to say. "That one of his agents is keeping secrets that someone is willing to kill to keep hidden?" He kept on angrily. "Someone high enough to not only set Tim up, but me as well? We really don't know if that is true!" He slammed his fist against the steering wheel, causing the car to drift to the side and Ron grabbed the door handle. "All we have is speculation!"
"But doesn't Gibbs usually run off of speculation? Off his gut?" Ron pointed out.
The anger drained from Tobias and for the first time since meeting him, to Ron, he looked...old.
"For some reason, Tim can't tell Gibbs what is going on. He already doesn't trust us, if we tell Gibbs what we suspect, tell him that one of his agents might just as well be lying to him, then we prove to Tim that he can't trust us."
Ron nodded. "Then what do we do?" He asked after a minute.
"We investigate." Tobias said, turning into the FBI building driveway. "We start with an in-depth background check on Tim and go from there." Tobias was suddenly apprehensive, not sure he was ready to know what they would find.