A/N: Written for the "Father's & Sons" Challenge & the "Fix It" Challenge on NFA
Takes place immediately following "Heartland" - which aired October 14, 2008
Boss, you think maybe we've taken something of a wrong turn? Everyone in town thought he was dead already.
Maybe he wanted it that way.
Well, Boss, we got a load of garbage in the car. I'm sure Abby will have a field day sifting through it for... DNA. And we found out who saw the video. It was Emily.
There a reason you're not on the road, McGee?
Listen, boss, I-I understand that you're treating this case differently. Some might say with kid gloves. But not me. I wouldn't say that. Boss, you're gonna start busting in doors at some point, right? Dragging people out in handcuffs. Tossing 'em in a room, lean on 'em till they break. Personally, I think it works for you.
Yesterday you thought I'd made a wrong turn.
Well, that was yesterday.
Today I'm not moving fast enough.
I didn't mean to...
Want to frontload complaints for tomorrow, McGee, or do I have to wait until the sun comes up?
The case had been solved and they'd returned to D.C. without fanfare and for that, Leroy Jethro Gibbs was thankful. The ride home from Stillwater, Pennsylvania had been somewhat of an emotional one; driving the very car he'd bought and paid for with his own scraped together earnings back in his Freshman year of high school and put together over the years with the loving hands of a father long shunned by a grieving son who hadn't understood what had mattered most. The Team Leader had cherished every minute of that solitary drive that had allowed him to put it all back into its' rightful perspective now that years and knowledge were on his side.
But, now they'd returned to the grudge work of writing up the case reports and as he sent his eyes around the room to each of his agents in turn, he found his eyes stopping for a moment on the one who'd bothered him the most during this case. This agent had done his job without any difficulty or complaint, hadn't done anything too terribly outlandish or uncalled for. In fact, there had only been one problem from this agent that had raised the Team Leader's ire. The trouble was, that it had happened more than once – enough that Gibbs had finally snapped back on the agent, something else that rarely occurred within the strangely distant yet somehow workable dynamic between the two of them.
Knowing his team already knew they were free to leave when their reports had been finished and placed on his desk, Gibbs put his own mind back on his own report and left his agents to theirs. He couldn't get far on his report though, because his mind kept asking the questions he wanted the answers to. Why? What was it about this case that brought that out in his agent now, but never had before?
Finally, he couldn't stand the lack of answers anymore and he tossed his pen down on his desk and looked up and noticed Tony and Ziva were still steadily working on their reports. Glancing over at his youngest agent, he took in the fact that the young man wasn't actually working, but rather, looking off into the distance, sight unseen. Gibbs stood to his feet. Walking out around his desk, he gave out the order he needed as he looked directly at the agent in question. "With me."
It was an eerie and uncomfortable silence that settled into the air around his team at those spoken words, even as the agent in question hurried to catch up so as to keep from earning his anger. None of them liked it when it was applied to them and they liked it even less when they'd accidentally earned it. As soon as the doors to the elevator closed on both of them and the box began descending, Gibbs snapped the off switch and turned to his agent.
"Boss?" His agent questioned with confusion.
"Why were you second guessing me on this case, McGee?"
"Boss, I'm sorry, I didn't mea…."
Tim fell silent as his heart nearly stopped up in his throat. He'd had a feeling this was coming yet he'd been unable to stop himself from blurting out those questions that challenged the boss' way of doing things back in Stillwater. He'd hoped the boss would do whatever he felt Tim had earned in repercussions without digging for what had motivated the young man but apparently, Tim wasn't going to be quite so lucky.
"Answer the question, McGee." Gibbs was barely a foot from his personal space while quietly demanding his order be followed, obviously not willing to let this go.
"Boss, I can't explain it, it's not like I meant to question how you handled the case. You know I don't…have never…"
"Then why this time, McGee? What the hell got into you?" The Team Leader demanded angrily.
Tim's eyes found the floor at his feet for a half minute before he forced himself to look back up at his irate boss. "I don't know. I can't explain it."
"Next time you think you can do my job better than me, McGee, you just say the word and I'll turn my gun, my badge and my chair over to you and go back to Mexico! Until then – you figure out why you decided I wasn't doing my job good enough to suite you and then you explain it to me!" Gibbs snapped off on him as he flipped the elevator back on and silently rode it until it stopped back on the squad room level. With anything further being said, they parted ways with Tim going back to his work while Gibbs immediately headed out of the squad room, anger practically vibrating off of him.
Watching from their desks, both Tony and Ziva were perplexed but it was Tony who was quick on his feet with the spoken question. "Man, Probie, what did you do this time?"
Tim's slow and disheartened trek to his desk continued on, as if he hadn't heard Tony speak.
"Huh? What?" Tim stopped and looked over at the older man.
"What have you done this time? I haven't seen the boss that pissed in quite a while." Tony's demand for the answer was half authoritative, mixed with concern and even a dash of just plain curiousity, taking the sting out of his loud tone.
"You mean since the last time I pissed him off." Tim remarked caustically. Shaking his head at his own knack for getting Gibbs angry at him, he dropped down in his chair with a thud and rubbed his temples where he felt the beginnings of a serious headache coming at him. "Don't ask, Tony. Not this time."
"What the hell does that mean – not this time?" Now Tony was less than happy, heading on into becoming pissed himself.
"Tony, leave McGee alone!" Ziva intervened sternly. "Can you not see that he needs to work through whatever this is for himself? Did Gibbs not say that as soon as we complete our reports we are free to go? I thought you were in a hurry to leave this evening?"
"Yeah, I was. Fine, McScrewup – but for your sake, I sure hope you fix whatever it is you messed up before the boss starts taking it out on the rest of us!" Tony practically snarled at Tim before sitting back down and getting back to his report.
Left in peace at last as Tony settled back into working on his own report, Tim found he could no longer concentrate on his report. In fact, reading it back through, he realized he hadn't been concentrating on it before either. He, himself, had been bothered by his actions and his words towards Gibbs back in Stillwater – so much so that he'd been asking himself the same question that the man himself just asked him. The trouble was that he'd meant what he'd said in response.
Tim really did not know why he'd questioned the boss' way of handling the case, not once but twice in two days. He felt awful about having done something like that while the man had already been having to deal with the personal pain of returning home after many, many years gone and coming home to a town with more than one person who'd made your life there less than pleasant.
Then there was the issue of the boss' estrangement from his father coming to pass in front of the man's subordinates instead of privately as it should have been able to happen and Tim couldn't help but feel his breath catch at that thought. Why in the hell would he have put any more stress on the man at a time like that? Tim was normally so careful and polite about things like that with most people and Gibbs meant more to him than most people in general – so then why had he done it?
He knew the man deserved an answer. More importantly, Tim needed to understand it himself ; not only so he wouldn't do it again, but so that he could fix whatever was wrong that had caused him to act that way in the first place. Needing to get this day over with, he got back to work.
Tony and Ziva were soon done with their reports and gone for the night, while Gibbs had come back silently and returned to his work without even so much as a glance in Tim's direction, Tim remained engrossed in finishing up his report. It wasn't long before he, too was done and was printing it off. Shutting down his work station, he snagged his report off the printer and signed it before placing it on Gibbs' desk and heading out of the squad room without daring to speak to the Team Leader for fear of sparking another round of anger