A/N: I apologize immensely for my long absence. Once my husband came home all I wanted to do was spend time with him plus there was trying to fit in spending as much time with our friends and family before we moved, plus packing and all sorts of craziness. Then we were on the road for just under a week driving and then we got here and got into our new home and it was tons of unpacking. Plus my husband and I adopted two adorable little kittens our first week here, so we've had our hands full with them. Anyway, short version I apologize for my lengthy delay and I will try my hardest to get back into a regular update schedule.
About this chapter: Definitely not my best chapter, however after playing with it for close to a week, I finally decided to just post it. Also, I purposely did not include the phone conversation with Eli David, so it is entirely up to you to decide how that went. I didn't want to add even more drama by making him a complete jerk, but I couldn't bring myself to write him as the caring, worried sick, devastated father either.
Vance had barely hung up his phone before it was ringing again. He groaned and took a deep breath before answering, half expecting it to either be a politician or the press. He was slightly surprised however, when his secretary's voice sounded on the other end.
"Sir, I know you said to only call you if there was an emergency, but I have Sarah McGee on the other line. She says she's been trying to get through to someone for the last two hours to find out about her brother because she can't reach him. Names haven't been released yet, so I wasn't sure…" Vance interrupted.
"No that's fine, connect her to me. You made the right call." Vance rubbed at his face. It hadn't occurred to him to contact anyone from Tim's family. The only reason he had thought to contact Breena immediately was because he had been privy to the proposal plans the night before, and didn't want her waiting alone at the restaurant expecting the team to show. Even though he knew their phones had been destroyed in the explosions, it hadn't dawned on him that that would mean his family wouldn't be able to reach him. He waited for a few seconds as the call was transferred and braced himself for the force that was Sarah McGee. He had heard stories about the team's first encounter with her, and he'd met her himself a couple of times. He knew what a spitfire she could be so he was fully expecting to be on the receiving end of one of her infamous tongue-lashings. That is why he was so surprised when he was met with a timid and scared voice instead.
"Director Vance?" she asked quietly, her voice thick with tears and worry.
"Sarah, I am so sorry I didn't call you earlier," he apologized sincerely, but was quick to give her the information she was so desperate for. "Your brother is alive. He received a mild concussion and some cuts and bruises, but was discharged from the hospital about an hour ago." He listened as she let out a sigh on the other end.
"His phone was destroyed in the explosion, and with everything else…" Vance paused to swallow the lump in his throat. "I doubt it even occurred to him that you would have seen the explosion on the news and tried to call him."
At her end, Sarah nodded, not realizing Vance couldn't see her. She was so relieved that she couldn't stop the flow of tears that welled up once more. Finally, she calmed herself enough to speak. "Do… Do you know where he is? I'm at his apartment and he hasn't come home yet. Did he go back to work already?" She asked. That would be just like her brother to get released from the hospital and go back to work to help his team catch whoever was responsible.
"My bet is that he is still at the hospital," Vance answered.
"But I thought you said he was discharged?" Sarah asked confused. "He hates hospitals, why would he…" She broke off sharply, realizing the only thing that would keep him there would be someone from the team.
"The entire team was in the bullpen when the bomb went off. Tim and Jimmy where the only ones to walk out of the building under their own steam." On the other side he heard a gasp followed by frenzied movement. "Sarah?" he questioned, unsure of what was going on.
"What hospital is Tim at?" Sarah demanded suddenly regaining some of the tone that he was more familiar with, although he could still her the tremors in her voice. "I need to be with him. He needs me." Vance sighed.
"I can't let you drive like this." Vance told her, standing up and fishing for his keys.
"You don't understand!" Sarah shot back, her voice raising several octaves. "He's always there for me, always! I need to be there for him." She had a million questions she wanted to ask about the team, about their condition, but her main concern was getting to her big brother. "I'll find out. I'll call every hospital in the…"
"Sarah!" Leon cut her off sharply getting her attention. "What Tim needs right now, is his sister in one piece. The last thing he needs is you getting into an accident, which is what will happen if you try to drive in your state of mind. I'll be by to pick you up in fifteen minutes. I need to go to the hospital anyway." The phone was silent for a few moments, silent enough that Vance had to check and make sure she hadn't hung up before she spoke once more in a small voice.
"I'll see you in fifteen," Vance responded before hanging up. He was halfway to the front door when his wife's voice sounded from behind him.
"You need to get some sleep," Jackie said as she leaned against the wall watching him.
"And I will, when I get back, I promise." Vance assured his wife. "But right now, I need to check on my men, and I need to make sure that I deliver Tim's sister to him safely."
"Which is exactly why I'm driving," Jackie informed him, holding up the keys. Vance reached into his pocket trying to figure out when she'd swiped them. "But the kids…"
"Are with my mom," Jackie told him as she walked past. "I took them last night after you got the call and the news broke. I knew it would be a long couple of days and you wouldn't want them to see you like this." Leon gave her a grateful and loving look as they came to their car. Once they were both in and she had the car started, Jackie continued.
"And what you told Sarah applies to you as well. You shouldn't be driving in this state. You are exhausted and emotionally drained, and what Tim, Jimmy, Gibbs, Tony, Breena, and Sarah all need is for you stay in one piece as well." Vance simply reached for her hand, knowing better than to argue. "You'll have to direct me." Jackie informed him as they turned out of their neighborhood.
NCIS * NCIS * NCIS
By the time Jimmy and Tim found their way back upstairs, Tony had already been settled into his room. As they approached the door, they each glanced at each other in trepidation, each afraid of facing the reality that walking into the room would bring. Each took a deep breath and squared their shoulders drawing strength from each other as they entered Tony's room. In spite of the fact that they had both tried to brace themselves knowing that it would be bad, neither one was really prepared to see their friend so still. The sight before them stopped both of them cold. In an instant Tim found himself being transported back a decade, looking through a big glass barrier into an eerie blue room. Even then Tony hadn't looked as close to death as he did now.
He was brought back to the present by movement next to him and he watched as Jimmy hesitantly approached Tony's bedside. Tim swallowed hard and tried to follow, but found himself rooted to his spot. Taking a deep breath Tim squeezed his eyes shut tightly and forced himself to take a step forward before once more opening his eyes. When he finally reached the side of Tony's bed he looked up at Jimmy on the other side and saw every emotion he was feeling reflected in the other man's eyes.
"I've never seen him so still," Jimmy whispered, his throat constricting tightly. Tim just nodded in agreement, unable to speak. He looked away, but his eyes landed on the respirator that was currently breathing for his friend and he could stop a couple of rogue tears from falling. Even during the most desperate moments of his fight with the plague, Tony hadn't required a machine to breathe for him.
Tim's eyes moved from the respirator that was breathing for his partner to the complicated traction device that was keeping him completely still in an attempt to prevent any further damage to Tony's spine. Tim desperately wanted reach for the older man, to have some small amount of physical contact with him just to reassure himself that he was still with them, still alive for now, but he was afraid of touching him. Finally Tim settled for laying his hand on the bed close enough to Tony's arm that his fingertips were just resting up against Tony's skin. It wasn't nearly enough, but it was all Tim would allow himself for fear of doing any damage.
Neither Tim nor Jimmy had any idea how much time passed as they stood there with their friend; all they knew was that there was suddenly a nurse there informing them that if they wanted to go see Agent Gibbs, he had been settled in his room. Jimmy and Tim looked at each other, both anxious to see their boss, but neither really wanting to leave Tony. Finally it was Tim that spoke.
"Let's go see him," Tim said hoarsely, his eyes returning to Tony's still form. "We'll both go see Gibbs and then we'll take shifts sitting with each of them." Jimmy nodded in agreement and looked at his friend once more before following Tim out of the room.
Gibbs's room was on the other side of the ICU, and when Tim and Jimmy entered, there was a nurse recording his vitals. As she moved to the side, they caught their first glimpse of him and they were met with the sight of their boss just as still as Tony had been. Jimmy moved forward to ask the nurse how he was doing, but as Tim studied Gibbs's face, he once more found himself transported back to a different moment in time for the second time that day. Whereas Tony's face had been relaxed, Tim could see the tightness around Gibbs's eyes and knew his rest was not a happy one. To anyone else, the small details would be missed, but to someone who knew Gibbs like Tim did, it was impossible not to notice. Tim instantly knew where Gibbs was in his mind, and suddenly the world was closing in around him and everything was becoming too much.
As Jimmy inquired about Gibbs's condition, he was relieved to find out that Gibbs was still doing better then they had expected. He had turned with a small smile on his face to Tim, only to have his smile drop. Tim was staring at Gibbs, but was clearly somewhere else. Jimmy's concern only grew as Tim began to hyperventilate, causing Jimmy to reach for him in an attempt to get his attention.
"Tim!" Jimmy exclaimed when Tim started to sway, suddenly fearful that the doctors had missed something and released Tim too soon. "Tim, what's wrong?" Jimmy asked, grabbing hold of both of Tim's shoulders. Their eyes met briefly, and Jimmy's breath was taken away by the sheer devastation in Tim's eyes.
"I… I can't," Tim whispered and bolted out of the room before Jimmy could process what had just happened. Jimmy stood at the empty spot for a moment knowing that his friend probably wanted a moment alone, but also realizing that what Tim wanted and needed at the moment were two different things. With a quick glance back at Gibbs and an apologetic glance at the nurse, Jimmy took off in the same direction as Tim.
It was fifteen minutes before Jimmy finally tracked down Tim. As Jimmy approached Tim's figure sitting on the bench, he realized that he had never seen Tim look so defeated in all the years they'd known each other and been friends. Jimmy sighed as he approached announcing his presence. He sat down on the bench next to Tim and waited for him to talk. It was a couple minutes before Tim started.
"We aren't going to get him back." Jim started slightly and looked at Tim, not quite sure of his meaning. "Gibbs." Tim clarified. "He isn't going to come back to us this time." Jimmy was speechless for a second.
"You can't give up on him like that Tim." Jimmy said, his voice a little shaky. "His doctor and nurse both said that he's already doing better than expected. You of all people should know better than to count him out. You know him."
"You're right!" Tim said standing up and turning to face Jimmy for the first time. Jimmy was taken back by the tear tracks that ran down Tim's face and his red eyes. "I do know him Jimmy!" Tim turned away running a hand over his face. He took a deep breath calming himself down. "I do know him, which is why I know that right now he is enduring the same pain he endured last time he was in an explosion, a pain that has absolutely nothing to do with any physical wounds he received. Right now he is reliving losing Shannon and Kelly all over again." Tim took a long shaky breath before looking Jimmy in the eyes.
"The difference between then and now though, is that when he wakes up, he won't be waking up to the life he rebuilt after them. This time he'll be waking up to find out that he's lost two more daughters, his best friend, and that the man he's thought of as a son for over a decade may or may not wake up, and even if he does, he may never walk again. And that is assuming that he forgets like last time. More than likely he won't have forgotten anything in which case nobody is going to have to tell him he's already lost Abby." Tim turned and walked a few feet away, his eyes looking off in the distant. "Before he had a family to come back to and we barely got him back, but now…" Tim trailed off not really wanting to finish the sentence, but knowing he had to say it out loud. "But now most of his family is waiting for him on the other side with his girls."
Jimmy stared at Tim wanting to protest, but knew it was pointless. Tim was right. "He might come back to us for a little bit wanting to know everyone else's condition, but every minute, every second will be borrowed." Tim's voice had lost its shakiness and was now firm and definite.
Jimmy studied Tim's face and saw the turmoil. Everyone knew that the agents on Gibbs's team were like his children, and they all looked up to him as a father figure, and like most children see their parents, they saw him as invincible. Knowing there was nothing else he could do, Jimmy walked up behind Tim and placed a hand on his shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze.
"You're right," Jimmy said, his voice soft. "Every moment we get with him is going to be borrowed." He paused making sure he had Tim's attention. "So we should go take in every moment we can."