One Month Later
The last four weeks had passed without anything out of the ordinary happening for any of the team. Work returned and the normal chaos that was the fabric that kept them knitted together as a bonded family, slowly became even more appreciated than it had been before. The pranks and jokes continued on, but there was a new kinship within the atmosphere in the squad room.
While this kinship soon became increasingly obvious, so did the fact that Tim had, even while obviously relying on his teammates reaffirmed committment to his wellbeing, had lost the ability to find joy in life. He was relishing the pranks and attention from his coworkers, but little else. Any effort on Tony's part to harass him about his computer game playing or his writing seemed to fall flat as if Tim had lost all interest in all of his usual pursuits.
Watching from afar, Gibbs and Ducky could only monitor the team without interfering because since they were all in good health and performing their jobs well, there was no need for any kind of intervention. Gibbs, however, wasn't happy about what Tim's mother's death had done to the poor guy. He knew that Commander McGee's attitude had a lot to do with the 'new' Tim McGee as well and it left the Team Leader wanting to 'teach' the undeserving father a lesson or two.
After several talks with Ducky on the matter, Gibbs had come to realize there was little he could do except remind Tim once in a while that he wasn't alone and that the boss was there for him if and when he needed to talk. In the last four weeks, the Team Leader had managed to remind his agent of that fact at least once a week, receiving small smiles of appreciation along with verbal thanks each time. Tim had yet to take him up on that offer but Gibbs felt that knowing it was there had to count for something.
Tony, for all his jokes and pranks, didn't like this new Probie either and had, on numerous occasions attempted to coax him out after work for some 'guy time'. As he did with Gibbs, Tim would thank the Senior Field Agent kindly but refuse to commit. Since DiNozzo's don't give up, Tony had even sought Abby and Ziva's advice on what to do for their teammate a mere week after they'd come back to work. Between the three of them, all they could come up with in the two weeks after the funeral was keeping an eye on him and at least one of them dropping by on Tim unannounced at some point, even if it was just for a few minutes, every night of the week to make sure he was eating right and taking care of himself.
Unfortunately, after the first week of this watchdog brigade, Tim had kindly but firmly requested that they stop putting their lives on hold for him. He assured them that he was fine and that they needed to get back to living their lives for themselves and not spending their free time babysitting him. They had agreed to back off somewhat, but had refused to completely do away with watching over him, still determined to take Tim under their wings of safety and help him through. He was, they'd reminded him firmly, part of their family and too important a cog in their wheel to leave unattended during his 're-couperation period' as they'd called it.
Oddly enough, that week of extra attentiveness from the team seemed to have helped Tim regain some of his old zest for life, even if it was just a little. He began to smile at Tony's pranks and jokes more often and even began joining in on their banter like he used to. The laughter always stopped short of reaching his eyes though and if the team noticed the missing spark then they never mentioned it.
Bonding time spent outside work, however, was not something Tim would allow himself to join in on just yet. Tony had verbally speculated to Abby and Ziva on at least one occasion, that Tim's depression was probably the young man's father's doing. Ziva, however, knew better.
Unbeknown to Tim, Ziva had run into Sarah a couple of nights before this at the coffee shop near the Navy Yard and they'd spent time talking over a hot drink. Now, hearing Tony still express concerns about the probably cause of Tim's depression, she decided it was time to attack the other issues involved head on. She proceeded to fill the others in on what was necessary to fix the problem…or at least, as far as she could tell.
For the next three weeks, anytime Tony, Ziva and Abby got together after work, Sarah was enticed into joining them and from that time on, Tim's little sister slowly but surely softened up to the friendship her brother's teammates were offering her. With the recent loss of her mother and the unpleasant rift between her father and brother, the understanding and compassion, along with the meek honesty they bestowed on her during the course of their frank discussions jelled their friendship and made it stronger.
While they didn't hide it from Tim, it never came up, either. Apparently, even with the new formed friendships of her brother's teammates, Sarah was still not ready to repair the relationship with her brother. It would take time. But, she had been honest with them and promised all of them that she would talk to Tim very soon because she needed her family back together and she knew her father and brother would feel the same way.
The fourth Monday since the funeral moved at a snail's pace and with no new cases, the tedium of cold cases started to wear them all thin and even Tony's pranks were grating on their last nerve' especially the boss'.
"DiNozzo! You and Da'vid, lunch run, now!"
As his scurrying agents boarded the elevator and disappeared from view, Gibbs tossed down his pen and glanced over at his long troubled youngest agent. Not much had changed in the last four weeks and precious little had been said about how things were going for the young man. With a pang to his conscience, the Team Leader mentally acknowledged to himself that he should have been making more of an effort. Realizing that he had a perfectly good opportunity to make an extra effort now, Gibbs stood up, coffee cup in hand and approached Tim's desk. Just as he was about to perch on the edge, his agent's phone rang. Tim hurried to catch his ringing desk phone, snapping the speakerphone button in his haste to not lose the call.
"Dad?" Tim snapped the phone off speaker and slid the receiver up under his ear, angling his head to keep it in place as he tried to get back to work on the current computer search while he listened. Gibbs stood up and placed his hand briefly on Tim's shoulder before going back to his own desk and sitting down. He kept his ear firmly trained on the quiet phone conversation going on opposite him while pretending to read his email; he didn't want Tim slipping backwards after all.
"Understand from your sister that you still won't speak to her. I haven't heard from you either."
"Nothing to talk about," Tim supplied without backing down, frowning as he noticed in his peripheral vision, that the boss was sitting quietly looking at something on his screen he'd returned to his work.
"Time to get over yourself, boy. Think about your sister for a change. This hasn't been easy for her. For me either, come to think about it. Don't make it harder, Son."
"I find that hard to believe. Seemed almost effortless from where I was standing." Tim shot back heatedly while trying to keep his voice down. "Look, can we just not do this? I'm at work. Now is NOT a good time."
"Always boils down to what works for you, doesn't it Timothy? Some things never change."
"You called me in the middle of a work day and that makes it my fault?" Tim asked incredulously.
"I called you when I knew where you'd be to answer the damn phone. You know what? I'm coming down there. We're gonna talk. Just you and me."
"Like I said, Dad. There's nothin' to talk about."
"Damn it, Boy! Get your head outta your own ass long enough to think about someone else for a change, will ya?"
"I'm hanging up now, Dad." Tim warned just before he dropped the phone receiver back down on the cradle and breathed out a sigh. Damn it, would his father never just give it up and leave him alone? Why did he always have to stir stuff up?
The boss' quiet voice startled him slightly because it came from directly in front of him. When did he come back over? Tim thought as he was brought back out of his angry musings. He blinked and looked at the man to see what he wanted from him.
"C'mon. Coffee break. I'm buyin'." Gibbs said firmly and waited for Tim to respond. He almost laughed at the shock on Tim's face but thought better of it; a wise move if the soft, small smile that was briefly given, was to go by.
Without a word, Tim rose from his chair and followed Gibbs out of the building. They hadn't gone more than 200 yards down the street towards the coffee shop before Gibbs finally said what was on his mind.
"Been awfully quiet lately, Tim, before that call just now. Still bothered by what happened with your mother?"
Tim let out a deep breath, blinking his eyes at the sudden moisture that momentarily blurred his vision. "Yeah." He admitted quietly, grateful for this opportunity to talk to Gibbs. "It bothers me every day. I just can't stop feeling like this because everyone wants me to move on."
"I take it things are still not good between you and your father. Wanna tell me about it?" Gibbs probed quietly, his compassion now unmistakable.
"I can't stop feeling angry about the way he let go of her so fast. He doesn't even care that he didn't even give us a chance to…" Tim sighed heavily and wiped at his eyes. "To say goodbye. It kinda takes the joy out of living right now."
"Tim. It's hard to let go and I know that it's easy to stay angry at him because he had to be the one to make that decision. By law, it had to be his."
Tim nodded. He understood it, he knew it and he knew that there was nothing he could have done but it didn't stop him hating it. He hated that no one else had wanted to keep her once chance of living a go. "I know. It doesn't make it easier to let go of though. Guess that makes me pretty petty, huh."
Tim rubbed the back of his now stinging head while Gibbs let his hand fall back to his side without even missing a stride as they continued walking toward the coffee shop. No words were spoken by either, since neither felt any were needed.
After a few more minutes of walking spent in silence, Tim had to say something because he'd finally figured out why he'd been on the receiving end of that head slap and genuinely felt grateful for it. "Thanks, Boss."
"." Gibbs hummed knowingly. There was no way he was letting his boy fall into the self blame or loathing that would drag him down further.
Again, silence settled between them, but this time, Tim actually felt better, lighter in spirit at least, just enough that he found room to be thankful for the man walking beside him and the effort he was making to help Tim move past this personal tragedy and how it was affecting him. With the knowledge that Gibbs, too, had gone through this and lived through it, even though the older man's loss had been so much more painful, only to come out on the other side of the all consuming darkness still functioning as a helpful human being the world was much better off having in it, helped Tim found the inner strength to shed the burden almost completely.
If Gibbs could move on after the personal tragedies he'd been through in his life then so could Tim. It didn't erase the pain or the sorrow that came with his mom's death, but it did lighten his heart and raise the curtains off his mental tunnel vision full of anger; giving him his ability to see the good in the world around him again and even genuinely smile.
Sure, he still had a few painful hurdles to get over, but in the bigger scheme of things, there was too much going for him to let this drag him down any longer. His mother wouldn't want him to live like that. If he would stop and think about it for a minute, he'd have to admit that Mom would have kicked his butt weeks ago. Never thought of Gibbs as a parent. Kinda feels nice.
Smiling, Tim laughed inwardly at his own private joke and hurried to keep up with the now smiling boss who was obviously tuned in to Tim's change in attitude. With no further discussion needed, they returned to the squad room to await the return of the lunch pickup. Tim felt his stomach grumble and realized that having a new outlook on life, brought out the appetite. His father's threat of coming to town to talk to him, slipped into the back corner of his mind, soon forgotten in the shiny outlook of a brand new day.
After a rousing time of friends and fun after work at their local hang out the previous night; thanks in part to Tim's renewed positive outlook on life, the team still managed to make it into work on time the next morning, even if it was to see even more drudge work awaiting their arrival. As the morning wore on, boredom was beginning to set in and lunchtime couldn't arrive fast enough to suite the more restless at heart. Somehow, Tony managed to maintain a tight lid on his desire to prank and remained working his way through the case on his desk almost as if he knew his good behavior would be rewarded soon enough.
Sure enough, in reward for their impressive showing of self-control amidst boredom, Gibbs let the three of them go out for lunch together, giving them a generous hour and a half for lunch if they took Abby and Jimmy with them. They weren't going to look a gift horse in the mouth and disappeared from the squad room before Gibbs could second guess his decision. Their enthusiasm brought a smile to the boss' face and he sat back watching them leave like excited children actually happy to spend time together outside work just like a family should.
The phone on Gibbs' desk shrilled into the near silent room.
"Calling in your offer, Agent Gibbs."
"Which offer would that be, Commander?" Gibbs said nonchalantly and took off his reading glasses.
"I'm ready to hear what you think it is you have to tell me about my son."
"Not so sure about that, Commander. Didn't sound like it when you called Tim yesterday."
"He told you about that?"
"Didn't have to. My desk is ten feet from his." He glanced over at the desk and smiled. Oh yeah, I know exactly what goes on with my team.
"Right, Tim always did say you knew everything. Anyway, I'm coming to see him because I want him to talk to me, man to man. Thought I'd see what you had to say first."
"You wanna talk to him? Good. Be here in one hour." Gibbs directed as he ended the call and grabbed up his coffee cup before heading out of the squad room.
Two hours later found Gibbs and a much more understanding Commander McGee actually keeping each other company as they awaited the return of Team Gibbs from an even longer lunch than they'd originally been given, compliments of a phone call from Tony to the boss some thirty minutes ago explaining the extenuating circumstances they'd come across and the need for more time.
Gibbs had actually been happy to grant them the lunch hour extension since it meant that this entire personal drama for his youngest agent would be that much closer to being resolved; enough so that the young man could move forward with his life without it weighing him down any longer.
Hearing the **ding** of the elevator, Gibbs looked expectantly towards it and found himself rewarded with the sight of not only his team of people, but also Sarah McGee, hooked arm in arm with her big brother, smiles plastered on both of their faces as they walked around the divider that separated Ziva's desk from the walkway and on into their part of the squad room.
The entire crew of them stopped in mid-stride at the sight of Commander McGee sitting in Tim's desk chair, Ziva and Tony automatically stepping up as potential human shields for their friend.
Tim's spine stiffened in reflex at the sight of his father while his mind struggled to catch up with what his eyes were seeing. Obviously Gibbs and his father had talked. Otherwise, the two would NOT be sitting here so calmly around each other. Not sure if I'm ready to talk to Dad about anything after that unpleasant call from him yesterday.
"Nice to see you here, Dad." Sarah broke into the uncomfortable silence that had fallen upon the small group.
Hello, Baby." Commander McGee greeted his little girl and got up out of Tim's chair to kiss her on the cheek. "How you doin'?"
The softness and non-typical sympathetic tone from the hardened Navy man, shocked both Tony and Ziva and even though the surprise was evident, they stayed silent. Even Abby seemed surprised. Tim, on the other hand, seemed to ignore it as he kept his eyes fixed on his sister's face, obviously more worried about how she was handling this behavior from their father. He was confident that trouble was brewing and he would need to fix it before he could get back to work. Thankfully, he had something to occupy his hands and his mind as he handed out the lunch orders without saying a word.
Watching his son finish handing out the lunch orders, Commander McGee crossed glances with Gibbs long enough to silently communicate that he realized he had his work cut out for him in making things right with Tim and he wanted his son for the afternoon in which to work on it. While that had already been established before the team came back; it was something he just had to see through before any more time was wasted with his children at odds with each other and with him.
Gibbs had shown him the truth to that and he wanted to make amends now while he had the chance. It had been a great relief to him that the hardened Team Leader had been compassionate enough to agree to let Tim off for the afternoon, citing the belief that mending broken fences within families was important enough to warrant the free pass.
The older McGee was more than ready to have a heart to heart with his son. He had a lot of bridge building to do and he hoped that Tim's well-known penchant for forgiveness would somehow be extended to him at least in some small enough measure that they could begin to heal the longstanding rift and maybe even re-knit the family's bond and become almost whole again. The Commander was thrilled to his soul to see that his son had managed to mend the broken relationship with his sister. It gave him hope for his own challenge where Tim was concerned.
It was tragic that it had taken Mrs. McGee's death to bring this realization about and Commander McGee hoped and prayed that this sad fact would not be the stumbling block in getting Tim to forgive him. He could only hope that the softened look in his son's eyes right now, meant that Tim would accept what his father had to say. Only time would tell.
Time and a heartfelt apology. Commander McGee had plenty of both.