Previously on NCIS

It wasn't long before they were leaving the shop with Tim's new purchase nestled safely in a little velvet box in his pocket. Tonight was the night. Tonight was going to signal a whole new life with the right persona this side and he wanted it to be perfect. With a sigh, he reached into his pocket and let his fingers trace the curved of the velvet box.

"Just do me a favor, Probie."

"What's that?" Tim said innocently and pulled himself out of his happy thoughts.

"Just make sure she was as good to you as I know you will be to her, alright?"

"You could count on that." Tim grinned as he climbed into the car.

Tonight, he was going to ask Pam to be his wife and no matter what had happened in the past month, he felt happiness and contentment wash over him in waved.

Oh yeah. Life was definitely good!

Now:

FOUR MONTHS LATER – October 26, 2010

01:00 AM

Tony woke up at the buzzing of his cell phone. He's about to answer when the text message he's managed to open up, appears. Not completely comprehending what the three word text said, he went back to sleep.

07:15 AM

Leroy Jethro Gibbs stepped off the back elevator, coffee in hand and looked around the squad room as he strolled into it. His senior agent and his Probationary Agent are both there. As for his junior agent... "Where's McGee?"

Tony looked up from his desk where he'd been working on a cold case for all of about three minutes since he got to work ten minutes ago. He'd tried calling Tim McGee twice now and had gotten no response either time.

Remembering the excitement in his Probie's voice the night before, he answered the question put to him now, with some degree of concern, "Boss, I haven't been able to reach him since he left to go on his date with Pam last night. He was gonna…"

Gibbs nodded, as he too remembered Tim's almost nervous anticipation of the night to come; how the young man had come to him just two days ago and admitted he finally felt truly ready and not like he was just rushing into it blinded by what he was feeling. He had been beaming with complete happiness when he told his boss he was finally ready to ask the woman in his life 'the question'. He'd finally shed the pain and misery of his history of his previous relationships and attempts at dating and was confident and happy with his plan to spend the rest of his life with Pam.

It had taken the poor kid four months to get to this point even after he'd worked up the courage to seek Gibbs' advice on the subject and had taken Tony with him to actually go out and buy the ring. Tim had asked him about marriage and how to tell if he was doing the right thing after everything the young man had been through in that arena. Though it had taken an ill-fated trip to Mexico for Abby's 'Cold Case Forensics" class and a lot of upheaval upon their return before these rare open doors of communication between the two men had surfaced; once that had happened; they thankfully, seemed to remain open.

Gibbs had stood by his agent since then, offering what support he could. Tim's gratitude had been almost palpable. The Senior Agent couldn't help but smile as he remembered how excited Tim was to finally be popping the question. Apparently thinking along the same lined as his Senior Field Agent, it was easy to reassure the man that he does get the point.

"I know, Tony."

The Team Leader headed for the break room intent on another cup of coffee. His gut was churning but this time it wasn't the churn of a case. This time it was the feeling he got when one of his own was in turmoil. He opened his phone and hit the speed dial for Tim; when the kid's phone rang four timed and then went to voice mail he silently started cursing and headed back to the squad room.

Tony stared at his cell phone wondering how he'd ignored an incoming text message. Looking at the time stamp he vaguely remembered the phone buzzing before he'd turned over and gone back to sleep earlier that morning. He hit the button for his messages and inhaled when he read the one he missed at 1 AM.

Ziva looked up at her teammate's indrawn breath, got up and walked over to his desk. Tony silently turned the phone so that she could read it as he tried to calm himself by breathing back out slowly. Tony stared at the phone before heading to the elevator, Ziva hot on his heels.

"You don't think she actually turned him down do you?" The Senior Field Agent asked in disbelief as the meaning of that text message flashed like a neon sign in his brain.

"Tony, why would she turn him down? They are very much in love with each other, yes?" Ziva asked

"Yeah, Ziva, they are. So why would she turn him down? She had to have. Why else would he have gone off the grid and not be here this morning? You saw the text."

Tony pressed the button for the forensics lab and Ziva looked at him in question. "Tim usually talks to Abby when he's troubled. She might have at least heard from him; he could have called her to tell her he's running late."

Ziva said nothing. After all that's happened between Tim and Abby during that trip to Mexico back in May and the less than friendly way things seemed to remain between them this past summer, she doubts that Tim still had that much trust in the forensic scientist. She was not sure how Tony could have forgotten that, but tagged along with him just in case she was wrong.

When the two agents arrived at the lab, they could hear proof of Abby being there and Tony turned down the volume, causing the lab rat to turn around from the evidence that she was currently processing.

"Hey! DiNozzo! You know better than to touch my music! Who do you think you…?"

"Abby, have you seen or heard from McGee this morning?" Tony interrupted her ranting, in full serious mode that stopped her cold.

"Why? Isn't he here?" she asked in confusion.

"No. And we have not heard from him." Ziva answered somberly.

Abby shook her head as she told them. "Guys, Tim and I aren't exactly the good friends we used to be. He never calls me anymore and when he's down here, it's all work. But, he's never late! You need to find him!"

Abby turned back to her computers only half listening to the conversation going on around her. She was concerned about the fact that Tim McGee was late. McPunctuality was how Tony once described him and how they all had come to think of him, even Gibbs. In fact Abby could only remember two other timed that Tim had been late; once being the day he'd accidentally stood her up when they were supposed to help Habitat for Humanity and the other being the day his sister had been framed for murder.

"I still can't believe she turned him down." Tony exclaimed in disbelief mixed with anger.

"Tony, maybe she had a good reason." Ziva offered in hoped of trying to soften the anger that now almost sizzled off her partner on their teammate's behalf.

"No, Ziva she promised she'd never hurt him. Believe me, she was broken that promise." Tony muttered with still rising fury.

"Guys! What are you talking about?" Abby turned back around to face them and demanded to know, not liking what she was hearing.

Tony and Ziva looked at each other and then at Abby. Finally, Tony broke it to her. "Probie took Pam out last night to finally pop the question."

"And she said no." Ziva explained sadly. "I do not understand this. We have spent a lot of time with her over these past few months and I had no idea this was how she would respond when he asked her to marry him."

"She said no? Why the hell would she do that? Why the HELL would she hurt him like that? She TOLD me she'd NEVER hurt him! Even a blind man can see they love each other!" Abby yelled angrily. "This was why he's not here this morning?"

"Yeah. At least, that's the best we could figure." Tony admitted sadly. "I don't understand it either. Hell, even I didn't see this comin'."

"He's gotta be devastated! Poor Timmy! Probably feels like he's completely…It's like we don't even know her. All this time hanging out with her, tryin' to get to be better friends and then she does this?" Abby started to reason out as she began to get wound up now that she was angry on her Timmy's behalf.

The ding of the elevator announcing a new arrival to Abby's lab prevented the lab rat from saying anything further. Hoping it was Tim, they all turned to see who'd come down to Abby's lab. Expecting to see the boss, they were shocked and immediately angered when it was none other than the woman they'd just been discussing, walking into the room.

"You! How dare you!" Abby cried in unbridled rage as she took steps in the new arrival's direction.

"Abby, stop!" Ziva grabbed hold of her and held her back from advancing on the unsuspecting woman.

"Thought you promised never to hurt him, Pam?" Tony asked angrily. "You forget our conversation at the team barbeque this past summer? Your promise? You're 'lucky to have found him, he's a great guy' speech? What the hell's been going all this time we thought we were getting to know you?"

"How could you?" Abby demanded at the same time Tony was laying into her. "All that talk you gave me about me not hurting him anymore and how you won't hurt him, then you go and pull something like this!

"He's with me now and I won't hurt him but, Abby, I won't let you hurt him anymore, either.
He's been hurt enough; more than enough; too much, really."

"YOU REMEMBER THAT? What the hell's wrong with you?" Abby continued to rage at her. "Tony's right! You're not who you've led us to believe!"

In their fury on Tim's behalf, neither Tony nor Abby noticed the tremor in Pam's hands or the dark circles under the woman's eyes. Ziva was about to comment on both when the unique and silencing whistle of the boss they hadn't even heard arrive, blasted through their onslaught of the hapless woman.

When silence finally returned to the room, Gibbs looked at each of them in turn before he spoke. "Knock it off! Get back to work. Ms. Cook, there a reason you're down here?"

"Yes, Agent Gibbs. Director Vance asked me to bring Abby this file." She answered as she handed the Lab Rat the file and beat a hasty retreat toward the elevator without looking at any of them.

Before the elevator doors closed, Gibbs was suddenly there with her. It wasn't all of three seconds before he engaged 'his office' and turned to her with a scowl on his face.

"Thought you and I understood each other, Pam." The Team Leader stated with a deadly calm that belied just how truly pissed at her he really was.

"I don't know what you mean." Pam attempted to throw him off track even though she knew it wouldn't work. She needed a minute to gather her scattered thoughts.

"Yeah, ya do. And if ya don't, then maybe it's a good idea now that Tim realized you're not as smart as you've led us to believe you are." Gibbs threw back at her angrily. He had no time for these gamed. And he wasn't happy she was even trying to play them.

"Agent Gibbs…" she tried again.

"Any of what they just said to you ringin' a bell?" the agent interrupted, determined to get the answers he wanted for his agent's sake.

"Yes." Pam answered honestly with her heart finally on her sleeve.

"I'm guessing you remember our conversation? Tim trusted you NOT to hurt him. We trusted you not to hurt him!" The angry agent explained in his soft as steel voice the one rarely heard by anyone who wasn't being interrogated; the one he reserved for extreme anger.

Treat McGee right and you and I'll get along just fine." Gibbs quietly warned.

"I plan on it, Sir. At the risk of insubordination, Agent Gibbs? I'd like to say the same thing went from me to you, as well." Pam brazenly threw out there.

"I could appreciate that. It won't happen again. You have my word on that." Tim's boss vowed.

Pam couldn't find the words to defend herself in the wake of Gibbs' quiet anger. She remembered the conversation between them just as he obviously did. But, she also knew he was too angry to listen to anything she said right now anyway and so wisely just kept her mouth shut.

"Until a couple of months ago, he was afraid that the last six months with you were a fluke! Gotta say, Pam, I've seen some of the most heartless ways to treat people; but this tops all I've ever seen. You waited until he was completely sure of what he was feeling for you and then you go and do exactly what he feared the most; you show him just what a fluke it really was. WHAT THE HELL'S WRONG WITH YOU?" Gibbs demanded in a steel-laced tone that was remarkably quiet considering the rage he was feeling.

Pam looked down at the floor. "I was scared." Her quiet admission only seemed to fuel his anger.

"Of?" Gibbs demanded.

"Of being a widow before I ever got to enjoy being married." She admitted while internally bracing for the storm she was unleashing with that half-truth.

Gibbs stared at her in disbelief. "Because you're worried about the future? Was there something wrong with living for the present?" He asked her incredulously.

"I didn't want to hurt him like this." Pam vowed tearfully.

"But you knew damn well it would! You suddenly become delusional? Gibbs barked at her with blatant disbelief in his tone.

"I know I hurt him." Pam admitted with fresh tears in her eyes.

"Ya think, Ms Cook? If this was the best you've got to give him, then you don't deserve him to begin with." Gibbs told her with all the quiet venom of a very pissed off copperhead.

"I'm sorry! Tim is more than wonderful and more than I could ever ask for in a husband." She admitted honestly without hesitation.

"Then what the hell are you gonna do about it?" Gibbs demanded.

"Agent Gibbs, I don't understand. I thought you didn't get involved in the personal lives of your agents." Pam attempted to get a grasp of the Team Leader's choice while trying desperately to steer him away from digging too deep into this.

"Apparently, you missed the part about them being like family to me, Ms Cook! Told you; you're part of that family now, by extension. But, I gotta tell ya, that extension's on pretty damn thin ice right 'bout now "Tim's a damn fine agent and you're screwin' with that. And lady, I don't like it. I thought I had you pegged as someone I could trust! If this was what you do with people's trust, than I don't want you anywhere near McGee!" the Senior Agent reminded her bitingly.

Pam Cook stood there, quaking but not saying anything more. She had a reason for keeping her silence and no amount of anger from Tim's team leader could prevent her from maintaining it. Gibbs growled once again and flipped the switch, stalking out of the elevator the instant it opened up into the squad room. The woman he'd just thoroughly told off, wiped away her tears and hit the button that would take her to the next floor.

The elevator dinged again and Gibbs glared at the obviously upset Secretary, who hurriedly pressed the close button sending the machine upstairs again. Gibbs' phone rang at that moment and he looked at the caller id. Seeing that it's his missing agent he flipped the phone open and answered it. "McGee?"

Silence greeted him as apparently; Tim had already hung up on his end.

Gibbs opened his phone back up and made a call, "Ziva, tell Abby to trace the last incoming call to my phone and to trace McGee's phone. Ask Tony to check autopsy; find out if Ducky's heard from Tim."

"Gibbs, you have heard from him, yes?" Ziva asked concern for her missing friend clearly heard over the phone.

"Yeah. Just one ring. I'm gonna head to his apartment. I'll call you if I need ya."

As he sped down the interstate towards Tim's apartment a short fifteen minutes later, with his mind focused on where Tim might be, Gibbs couldn't help but notice the blaring sirens and flashing lights of several emergency vehicle headed in the other direction even over the median wall between north and southbound traffic. No sooner had his ears stopped ringing from the noise, than his ringing phone jolted him from his thoughts.

"Yeah, Gibbs!" he barked angrily since his heart was still racing from being startled from his thinking.

"Gibbs! Timmy's not answering his phone! Why wouldn't he be answering his phone, he follows your rule about that all the time!" The lab rat's anxious voice carried extremely loudly through the phone.

"Abby! Did you trace the call or not? Where was he when he made it? Where's the signal now?" he asked her with enough steel and volume to pierce her current rise of panic.

"On the interstate! Looks like he's just past Mile Marker100! Gibbs, He's not moving! Why would he just stop on the interstate, Gibbs? Oh my God! He's had an accident! Gibbs! Bring him home!"

Gibbs snapped the phone shut and threw it into the passenger seat as he performed a hair-raising lane change, barreled down the next exit ramp and made a quick u-turn and headed towards the accident scene he'd just passed. Suddenly, the sight and sounds of those emergency vehicles passing by him earlier sent his heart up into his throat.