Chapter 1

Def. The process of breaking up or destroying an organization or institution

"Doctor, Special Agent McGee is here for his appointment. Should I send him through?"

"Thank you, Marcy." It was only 7.30 in the morning and it was always a good start to the day when patients arrived in good time. Dr Avery cast a quick glance around her consulting room to ensure that it was as neat and comfortable as she expected it to be to put her new client at ease. At the discreet knock she moved around her desk and greeted the newcomer with a warm smile and a welcoming handshake.

"Agent McGee, I am Beth Avery, please come in and take a seat." She stepped aside and observed as the Agent made a visual scan of the room, leaving it to him to decide where he was most comfortable sitting. He ignored the couch and the window seat in favor of upright chair in front of her desk. In a show of old world courtesy he remained standing until she lowered herself into her own chair.

"Agent McGee. . ."

"It's Tim", the young man interrupted quietly. "I'm not sure if that's OK. . .Agent McGee always sounds so formal."

"Of course it's OK, it is important that you feel comfortable if you are to derive any benefit from our meetings." She saw his shoulders relax down by degrees and smiled as he settled more comfortably into his seat. "You were nervous about coming to see me?"

"A little," he admitted sheepishly, not making eye contact. "I've had your number for a few weeks. It took me a while to pluck up the courage make the appointment and I'm ashamed to admit how many times over the last few days that I nearly cancelled. . .if your receptionist complains about hang-up calls. . .well, it was probably me".

"I promise, I'm really not that scary," she assured him, aware that this small admission of weakness was hard for him to admit.

"It wasn't you I was scared of, not really. . ." She thought the way he tailed off revealed a lot, as did his body language. He was an attractive man with a gentle demeanor, very softly spoken and he held himself in the manner of someone trying to disappear into the background, slightly hunched over to disguise his height and with his hands clasped together between his knees.

"Tim, I've had a brief look through the information you filled out for me but it would really help get things moving if you could tell me what it is that brought you here today."

He rocked forward slightly several times and then surged to his feet, moving to the window with his back to her.

"There are some big changes coming soon and I am going to have to make some decisions and right now I don't know how I'm going to do that."

"Are these changes in your work environment or in your private life, Tim?"

"It will affect both but the thing is. . .the thing is that it is all so messed up," His head thumped against the window frame, not hard but enough to leave a blanched spot on his forehead that soon flushed red. He didn't resist when she gently led him away from the window and urged him down into the sofa. She poured a glass of water and handed I to him, noticing the tremor in his hands

Dr Avery allowed the silence to settle into the room. She was more concerned now that she had been with her initial assessment from reading his history. What she had thought was likely work based stress now appeared to be depression, although it was too early yet to determine to what degree.

"A lot of my clients are in Law Enforcement and I know that is a very high pressure job. You work long hours, miss meals and often have to deal with very volatile and distressing situations," she explained. His only response was a nod of acknowledgement.

" How long have you been feeling low, Tim?" Her quiet enquiry brought his head up and for a brief second he made eye contact.

"I didn't think I was. . .I thought it was just normal work stress."


"I love my job. I 'm proud of what we do and I worked hard to get to where I am and I'm good at what I do. . ."

"But?" she pushed.

"But It's getting harder and harder to motivate myself; to get out of bed in the mornings, to eat, to exercise. It all seems just seems so . . .so hard," He explained. "It just never ends. . the violence, the greed, the anger, the deceit . Sometimes I just wonder why we bother; it doesn't matter how many crimes we investigate or how many bad guys we put away there is always another and another and another. . ." she could see him swallowing against the up-swell of emotion and it just exacerbated just how pale and drawn and. . .lost he appeared.

"I'm can see you've lost weight recently. Was that deliberate?"

"To start with, yes. I wanted to get fitter. I got a personal trainer, signed up with a gym and was careful about what I ate. I got down to a good weight and I felt good."

"And now?"

"I'm probably fifteen pounds under what I should be," he admitted "and I know that's not good. . ."

"Ok, Tim, I want you to relax back in the chair and close your eyes and cast your mind back over the last few months. Out of all the incidents that you have had to deal with what is the one that stands out most clearly in your mind."

He laughed, a bitter and sadly despairing sound that bore no relation to humor. "You want me to choose just one!"

"Come on, Tim," she coaxed, "the very worst; a bad case, a scary moment, a near death experience. . ."

For a moment she thought he wouldn't answer. She watched the emotions flickering behind his closed eyelids as he paled and his breathing sped up.

"Ziva! Oh, God, Ziva!" Remembering that time was like a knife in his soul and the pain was back like her death was recent .

"Gently, Tim. Tell me about Ziva." She waited as he tried to get himself together.

"Ziva is my friend and is one of my teammates . . .she left without saying goodbye and she died. . .we were told she died. She was betrayed by the people who were supposed to look out for her, by her Father."

"Tim, you said is? Is Ziva still alive?"Dr Avery clarified.

"We went to Africa to find the terrorist she was hunting and to avenge her death. . .we were captured. . .and we found her alive in a stinking hell-hole in the middle of the desert. . .she had been a prisoner for months. We brought her home but she was so changed, so broken. . ." he choked.

"You must have been relieved to have her back safely."

"Oh, I was. And it's stupid but sometimes I still wake up and I have to remind myself that she came back. . .it's been months."

"How long did you believe her to be dead, Tim?"

"Weeks, perhaps a couple of months," he explained. "Why? Is that important?"

"Well, as you said, for a couple of months you thought your close friend and colleague was dead and I suspect that during that time you were working yourself into the ground trying to find out what had happened to her."


"And you didn't have the opportunity to grieve for her, did you? And when she came back you were all so relieved to have her home that you pushed all that grief away as superfluous."

"But there was nothing to grieve for, she wasn't dead,"

"You thought your friend was dead and when she came back she wasn't the same, was she? You said yourself she was changed and broken. That was a horrible ordeal for her but you all had to deal with it."

"But it was well over a year ago, maybe nearer to two. It is in the past. I certainly don't want to go dragging all that up again."

"Thinking about it still distresses you, Tim. Did you ever discuss it with your colleagues?"

"No. We got knocked about a bit during the Op so we all had to have a psych debriefing when we returned and I know that Ziva was seeing someone for a while but we don't talk about stuff like that. . ."

"Oh, the tough, macho world of law enforcement, it's the bane of a poor psych doctors existence!" Doctor Avery groused with wry amusement. "And I suspect that when you say' knocked about a bit' you really mean that you suffered all sorts of mistreatment, don't you!"

Actually Dr Avery had a pretty good idea just what all the members of the team had gone through during the mission to rescue Ziva as she had been the Doctor to counsel her in the months following her release. She also knew just how much of a support Tim had been to his friend in the first few difficult months.

"No Comment!" Tim managed a smile of his own but she knew she was unlikely at this early stage to get any more information on that particular sensitive topic.

"What about your personal life, Tim," Dr Avery probed.

"An unmitigated disaster of epic proportions. . .always has been. You name it I've experienced it; stalkers, con-artists, murderers, assassins, identity thief and to top that I have now managed to alienate the closest friend I've ever had."

"Was this a friend or a work colleague. . .or someone more important than that."

"All three. I thought she was the one," Tim explained.

By the end of the appointment Dr Avery was even more sure that her new patient would benefit from a chance to unravel his complicated and often lonely life.

"OK, Tim, our time is nearly up for today. I hope you will consider coming to see me on a weekly basis for the next few weeks."

"You think you can help me get through this?"

"Yes, I'm sure I can help you. I think you are suffering from moderate depression, exacerbated by work related stress. . . possibly even a degree of PTSD" she explained.

"And will I need medication?"

"No, I wouldn't recommend it at the moment. You have taken the most important step by recognizing that you have a problem and asking for help. From what you said earlier you have been subject to a lot of stressful and difficult situations over the last few months and it will take us a while to work through those. I'm not saying it will be a quick or an easy process and some of it you may find distressing to deal with but I do believe that we can work together to help you cope with the bad memories and move forward. It is very important that you to make a real effort to eat well and to relax when you're off duty. Be kind to yourself," she smiled patting his hand.

"I will try," he assured her.

"Good. Now I have a little project for you."

"Oh," he asked warily.

"It's nothing difficult, I promise you. I see from your information that you are a writer?"

"Yes," he confirmed.

"Do you keep a diary?"

"No. . .I did as a teenager, you know, all that stereotypical teen angst. . .but these days there really isn't anything interesting to write about."

"I'd like you to have a go at writing an account of you experiences, particularly in relation to work, although you can take it back as far as you like. . .not just what you did but how you felt about it."

"Why," he queried.

"It is a way of helping you to understand how your experiences affect how you see yourself and to understand how you react to your environment, to see patterns of behavior that you may be unaware of or be deliberately ignoring. It allows you to identify areas of your life that are particularly stressful and to modify habits that are unhelpful or unhealthy."

"And do I need to show it to you,"

"No, not if you don't want to. Tim, everyone has their own personal story, their own personal narrative. Often there are areas of ourselves that we don't share even with those closest to us; secret fears or ambitions, things we are ashamed of or embarrassed about, things that keep you awake at night or stop you attempting something new. I just think it might help you to clarify particular areas that you would like help dealing with." She explained, and for the first time in the consultation she could see a feint spark of interest in his eyes.

"I'll give it a try, Dr Avery."

"It was really nice to meet you, Tim, and I'll see you same time next week," she said, ushering him through to the reception area with a warm smile, "and Tim, if you suddenly feel worse before you're due to see me, please make an earlier appointment."


The deciding factors in choosing Dr Avery were that her offices were close to the Navy Yard and that she offered early morning appointments. Tim made it back to headquarters by just after 08.30.

As he emerged from the elevator he was relieved to see only the Boss's desk occupied.

"Morning, Gibbs," he placed the coffee he had picked up from the vending cart on the Yard on Gibbs' desk.

"This a bribe, McGee,"

"Would it work, Boss?"

"Never has yet."

"Then I guess it's not. Where are Tony and Ziva?" Tim asked, settling at his desk and powering up his computer.

"Gone down to Dahlgren to check out how a highly classified experimental weapon managed to turn up in a DC warehouse."

"What do you want me to work on, Boss?" McGee asked after a quick scan through his emails.

"Anything you need to tell me, McGee?"There wasn't any censure in his tone and his expression was one of well hidden concern. It may have been phrased as a question but Tim didn't mistake the imperative to come up with more than a yes or no answer.

"Boss, I'm going to be going back next week and every week for the foreseeable future. Will that be a problem? I've arranged to have the first appointment of the day." Tim explained. He knew he was entitled to time off for health related appointments, especially as this would be classed as a work related issue but having Gibbs approval and support would help ease any potential difficulties.

"They understand you may have to cancel at the last minute if we get a call-out?"

"Yes, they are happy to work around work commitments." Tim explained. " Boss, can we keep this just between us."

"Keep Ducky appraised of what's going on and I will try to keep DiNozzo off your back. . .but don't think you can keep him in the dark for long. . .he's a damn good investigator and nosy as hell."

"Thanks, Boss."

"McGee, I need you to finish working through Commander Grigson's financials and then see what you can recover from the laptop we retrieved from the warehouse. . .it's down in the evidence locker, Abby hasn't had a chance to work on it yet".

"I'll bring it up here to work on. That way I can work on the searches at the same time and I won't be in Abby's way."

Right now the last place Tim wanted to be was anywhere near the forensics lab and if Gibbs realized that he was avoiding Abby then he clearly wasn't about to push for explanations.

As the day progressed, amidst the banter of the bullpen and the search for leads on the current case, Tim realized that any spare time he had for thought was taken up with the task Dr Avery had set for him rather than trying to work out just what blunder or omission he had committed to turn Abby against him.