A/N: Special Thanks goes out to my BETA'S: Gottahavemyncis & Shelbylou! I couldn't have done this without your invaluable help and patience. Thank you.-

Also want to thank Tigyr and Akaeve for your most helpful suggestions.

Written For The White Elephant Exchange on NFA - For Merzibelle


Gen, team or any pairing, "I can't do this anymore" ie. someone on the team's reaching the end of their ability to cope with what they see/do everyday... do they leave the team, contemplate suicide, or something else? Does the team learn of the situation and what do they do about it. This could be a case story or part of a case story.


Set - Six months after Double Identity

Monday September 13, 2010

1700 Hours

"Never fear, Jethro, I will look after young Timothy this evening. I shall be keeping my eye on those bruised ribs of his as well as the multiple contusions and other bruises. More importantly, I will be watching that lump on the back of his head, to insure he is not suffering from anything more serious than what he claims to be." Ducky vowed to his friend. "Without any additional symptoms of a concussion, such as your typical nausea, it is not certain that he has one, which is why I must abide by the patient's wishes and not push him to go to the emergency room."

"Wow, Probie, leave it to you to piss off the suspect. What is it with you and trouble covering the back door when we serve warrants anyway?" Tony joked, though the mirth did not reach his eyes. "What the hell did you say to him to make him go off on you like that?"


"Ooh. Sorry, Boss. Sorry, Probie." Tony muttered as he rubbed the back of his head where the boss had just laid a head slap on him.

A study in color contrasts with dark multi-colored bruises covering his face that could not quite hide the pallor underneath, Tim was in too much pain to respond to his teammate's gibes or even register the fact that his silence was the biggest worry on all their minds, as proven by the matching expressions of concern on all their faces.

Ziva watched silently as Tony continued with his trademark method for covering his real feelings as he worked to come to terms with what had just happened here. The realization that his teammate, friend and little brother had just come damn close to getting beaten to death while he was as close by as just on the other side of that door was obviously affecting Tony deeply. Leaving him alone to work through what he was feeling without bringing any undue attention to his efforts, Ziva turned her attention to her physically wounded teammate and friend.

Had it really only been just fifteen minutes since they'd descended on this house to serve the warrant? Was it really only fifteen minutes ago that Gibbs had issued the orders?

"Ziva, witness statements. Start four houses down, both sides. McGee, take the back door. DiNozzo, with me."

Ziva had not been happy to divide up like that. Her 'gut' was telling her they needed to be more careful this time. Now looking at her badly beaten friend, she was deeply regretting not speaking up. She knew that had she done so, Gibbs would have listened. He never shrugged off any of their 'gut feelings' since they had all learned to value his as much as he did. If she had spoken up, none of this would have happened, of that Ziva was sure.

Gibbs watched silently as their M.E. wrapped his wounded agent's ribs as a precautionary measure while the Assistant M.E. worked to reduce the swelling on Tim's facial bruising with an icepack to the worst of them, as well as one applied to his black eye. Numerous times Tim attempted to reach up and take over the ice pack on his eye, only to have his arm drop like a lead weight as his strength gave out, seemingly in tandem to the sharp indrawn breaths of pain that coincided with the pressure Ducky was applying to his ribs as he taped.

Jimmy finally took pity on the agent under his care and offered him a second ice pack. He silently pointed to the other side of his face, reminding Tim of the bruises that were there and needed attention. Jimmy wasn't planning to go anywhere anytime soon and would notbe giving up on helping the agent out in this situation. Unable to watch Tim continue to struggle any longer, Ziva stepped up and gently took the ice pack from his open palm, applying it to his face for him, a gentle smile of compassion playing across her countenance as she looked at him.

"Thank you." Tim offered quietly to all three of them as they continued to do what they could for him. He had yet to bring himself to look at any of them full on, unwilling to see the censure, judgment and embarrassment they were all feeling.

"Ducky, don't you think he should go to the Emergency Room?" Tony asked quietly, concern finally prevalent in his tone.

"No." Tim's volume stayed the same, but was now infused with enough firmness, that his intentions were clear, as he refused before the M.E. could even respond to the question.

"McGee." Gibbs growled, speaking to his injured agent for the first time since rushing outside to where he'd heard the shouting and blows of the physical beating and pulling Johnson off his agent, literally tossing him into the arms of the very pissed off DiNozzo and Da'vid.

The Team Leader had immediately called for Ducky but had then left Tim in Ziva's capable hands as she had made quick work of cuffing Johnson and stowing him in the back of the sedan. He knew Tim was well within her eyesight. Tony had followed Gibbs back into the house to continue carrying out the search warrant.

Now, Gibbs waited for his youngest agent to back down and cooperate with them on going to the E.R., glaring at the young man's bent head while he waited. The kid wouldn't even look up at any of them. With his anger raging at what had been done to Tim and his control on that anger slipping, the boss kept his mouth shut, unwilling to make the situation worse. Seeing his youngest agent beaten this way just for doing his job really ticked Gibbs off.

He wanted a piece of Johnson so badly he could almost taste it. Knowing Vance, Gibbs wouldn't get the chance. He'd probably cite some regulation about not letting the man walk on a technicality such as having Gibbs take things out on the guy.

"I'll be fine." Tim offered quietly, while still refusing to look at any of them.

"Jethro, as I said, I will look after him this evening. If I see that he is in need of a trip to the emergency room, I will take him there myself." Ducky attempted to smooth things over.

"No, Ducky. You don't have to do that. I don't wanna put you out like that." Tim replied apologetically, finally looking up at the M.E. he respected deeply and did not want to bother.

"Then go to the damn hospital now, McGee!" Gibbs remarked angrily before he turned and walked toward the car. "DiNozzo! Da'vid! Let's go! We've got work to do!"

As the other two agents hurried to catch up to their boss, Jimmy stood in shock, flabbergasted at Gibbs' treatment of his own agent. Tim hadn't done anything wrong, why would his boss treat him like that?

"S. Okay, Jimmy. I'm used to it." Tim remarked quietly as they watched the remainder of the MCRT leave Tim behind and the agent seemed to read Jimmy's mind. Struggling to his feet, he spoke once more. "He's right, though. Ducky would you mind just dropping me off at Bethesda? I'll take a cab home when they're done checking me over. I know everyone has to work tomorrow." Tim's breathing was harsh and obviously causing him pain, making the effort to talk even more painful.

"Nonsense, Timothy!" Ducky admonished him angrily. "No one is dropping you off in any such manner! You are not a piece of luggage, young man!"

"Excess baggage is more like it." Tim muttered half under his breath as he turned away and trudged his way toward the front of the only transportation he had back to the Navy Yard now; the Autopsy van.

Looking up at the seat he now needed to climb up into, Tim groaned aloud.

"McGee, you…." Jimmy tried to say something.

"Jimmy, please!" Tim took as deep a breath as his injuries would allow, winced from the effort and tried again, "It's Tim, please."

"Sorry, Tim. I was just gonna suggest you ride in the back on the gurney, it might be more comfortable for you."

"Ugh! You mean the…?"

"Uhm, yeah. Well, it's actually pretty comfortable and it'll be easier for you to get into the truck if you use the ramp that's back there. I can pull it out for you."

"Thanks, Jimmy." Tim offered in between his gasps for breath that were becoming increasingly pained. Slowly, he trudged up the ramp and eased himself down on the wheeled cot, choosing not to lie down, but rather, to stay upright wedged next to and holding onto the shelving for support.

A silent, angry and thoughtful M.E. drove them to Bethesda Naval Hospital and parked in the Emergency Room parking lot. He was happy to have called them ahead of time while Tim and Jimmy had been talking earlier. It made Tim's wait to be seen virtually non-existent, as he was gently urged into a wheelchair and wheeled back for x-rays within two minutes of their arrival.

Ducky breathed a sigh of relief that the young man had not sustained any life-threatening injuries and that he was now in the hands of medical professionals who could talk some sense into him without care of how strong he was or wasn't trying desperately to be. Maybe now, Timothy could let go of his bravado and let someone else take care of him.

Jimmy had taken the Autopsy Van back to the Navy Yard so he could return with his own personal vehicle for Tim's release from the hospital. The M.E's solitude lasted an entire 30 minutes, at which time the doctor on duty returned to update him on Tim's condition.

"Doctor Mallard?"

"Yes?" Ducky looked at the man who was decidedly at least ten years his senior and taller than the M.E. by at least a foot. The Doctor on duty held himself with confidence and was clearly not one who scared or shocked easily. Ducky gave him his full attention, as he hoped the news would be good.

"I'm Dr. Greene and I will be Agent McGee's treating physician while he's with us." The older man offered with an outstretched hand for a handshake even as he seemed to be sizing Ducky up with his penetrating steady gaze and serious face.

"I am pleased to hear it. I've heard lots of great things about you from the other doctors and even the staff here." Ducky replied calmly.

"Mmm. Don't believe everything you hear." Dr. Greene remarked with only the slightest of grins before he turned serious. "I understand you brought Agent McGee in?"

"Yes, he was injured while assisting his team as they attempted to serve a search warrant."

"Injured is right. He's extremely lucky, that young man. Any more pressure on at least one of those ribs of his would have broken, possibly puncturing one of his lungs or other organs."

"Meaning he will be feeling as if they had been broken for the next week or so." Ducky remarked with a rueful small smile.

"Right. I'm guessing I don't have to tell you that he should be not be allowed to stay alone. Matter of fact, I won't release him unless he has someone designated to look after him for at least the first week." Dr. Greene stipulated.

"I can assure you, Timothy will be staying with me." Ducky assured replied without hesitation. "In fact, I have every intention of keeping him under my care for at least the next two weeks."

"Good, well in that case, I'll let him go, so long you can promise me that he will be the model patient for you during that time; although it would be preferable if indeed that time is extended to at least two weeks I will leave that judgment call up to you. I've given him a prescription for pain medication. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that you'll need to make sure he takes them. He has already been given the first dose."

"Absolutely. He will also be taking it easy and doing nothing strenuous during that time as well. I agree with your assessment. I do not believe in rushing these things, myself."

"Good. Very good. It makes me feel better in releasing him knowing that. Now, the meds I've prescribed for him are the strong stuff, so…"

"No driving or field work for our injured agent. Never fear, I have no intention of allowing Timothy to do either of those things."

"Good. I feel much better about releasing him, knowing you'll be looking after him, Dr. Mallard. He's free to go. You'll find him in Room 316."

"Thank you, Doctor."

"Not at all. I'm just thankful that for once, I have a patient who isn't in danger of passing away on me. He should recover completely."

"Thank you."


Tim struggled with taking himself to the bathroom; the pain filled journey from sitting up in bed, to getting out of the bed and being completely upright on his feet, had taken almost everything out of him, leaving him feeling completely weak and almost boneless. But he was determined to do this.

He was NOT going to give in to the pain or the desperate need for sleep; not here where Ducky would feel the need to stay with him, thereby not getting adequate sleep himself. Tim would not let that happen. Even if the M.E. did go home and get some sleep, he'd still feel the need to come back and check on him and take him home. Again, Tim wasn't going to put the older man out like that.

But it was more than that. Tim needed to get this under control; the pain filled breathing, the jarring shards of pain that speared through him when he moved. He had a job to get back to and there was no way he was gonna be able to be of any use to anyone like this. Nope; this had to be dealt with; put away; masked.

The team was legendary for taking a licking and continuing to tick; a regular band of Timex Watch representatives, they were and Tim McGee had no intention of being the odd man out on that distinction. That's all there was to it. It was just gonna take a little time and a lot of practice. He could do this.

Ducky experienced a moment of worry when he reached Tim's room and found the patient's bed empty. Thankfully, that worry smoothed itself back down to concern as his ears picked up the muffled sounds of movement coming from the bathroom.

"Timothy, are you alright?"

"Yeah." Tim rasped out, the effort to speak sending yet another spasm of pain through his chest.

"Timothy, I'm coming in. You should not be out of bed without the aid of the wheelchair, young man." The M.E. scolded within his warning.

Opening the door, Ducky was alarmed at the sight of Tim leaning up against the wall next to the sink as his hand gripped the porcelain with all his might, the fingers nearly translucent from the effort and his face covered in a sheen of sweat and pinched in pain. Just before he opened his mouth to ask why the young man had gotten out of bed, Ducky spotted the pile of clothes in the floor at Tim's feet.

"Oh, Timothy!" Ducky fretted as he took him by the arm and slowly helped him back to the bed.

For once, the M.E. refrained from saying anything further. By the looks of things, Timothy had more than enough to deal with than an additional scolding from this old man.

After settling Tim back down in bed and making sure to push the call button for the nurse, Ducky sat down on the edge of the bed, watching closely as Tim fought for every pain-filled breath, exhaustion pulling at him at the same time.

"Rest, Timothy." Was all Ducky would say as he placed the oxygen mask back over the younger man's face.

When the nurse arrived shortly after Ducky's urging, she was not alone. The doctor to whom Ducky had just spoken to out in the hallway was with her. A few minutes of a quiet consultation and it was unanimously decided that the best thing for Tim was for him to spend the night in the hospital where an entire shift of nurses could watch over him and keep him from being in that much pain again.

Tim was decidedly very upset about this change in plans, but only because it kept him squarely on the sidelines of work. This meant he would forever more be seen as the weak link on the team. He would be the one who always got the assignment of covering the back door, even though he always screwed it up; the one who never got trusted to go overseas or undercover; the one Tony would always think couldn't protect anyone and the one no one would take seriously ever again. If he couldn't get back in the game just like the rest of them always did, he was useless to them.

Still, being kept overnight would allow Ducky to go home and get some sleep. Why that seemed less problematic now than it had earlier, he couldn't process; exhaustion was pulling at him rather harshly. He wasn't sure what the look he was seeing in the M.E.'s eyes was all about, but it was certain that spending the night sitting up watching him sleep was not conducive to the older man's continued good health. Tim couldn't even understand why Ducky's health suddenly seemed to be a major concern that would not stop popping into his head. Again, he was unable to finish the thought as his eyes closed on his own.

He had already agreed with the Doctor, nodding his head to show agreement. Tim had also noted that as soon as the Doctor and nurse had finished their final exams and given him what meds he needed and had gone, Ducky began pacing. If he hadn't been so tired, Tim's brain would have registered that something worrisome was going on with him. Ducky never paced. Something was wrong.

As the ability to give in to the need for sleep seemed to play with him, staying just out of reach, Tim's brain zoned in on his concern for Ducky. The M.E.'s continued silence and restlessness was so rare and unnerving, it set Tim's nerves on edge. He felt a sliver of relief when Ducky did finally sit down after what seemed like forever.

Finally, after watching Ducky remain lost in his thoughts for a while, Tim couldn't take the not knowing any longer. "Ducky, what is it?"

Startled from his troubled thoughts, the older man twitched and looked over at the patient. "Oh, Timothy. How are you feeling now? Has the pain diminished at all?"

"A little."

"Good. I must check on Mr. Palmer's arrival. I won't be but a moment. You stay in that bed and do not move." Ducky got up and quickly headed towards the door.

"Ducky!" Tim said with a forcefulness he'd never used on the kindly man before. It brought a wide stab of agony to his ribs and shortened his breathing but at least it had served its' purpose.

"Yes, Timothy? Oh, dear, do stop causing yourself more pain, would you my boy?"

"What's wrong? Please, is there something wrong with me that you're afraid to tell me?" Tim demanded through his breathing difficulties even as the M.E. helped him lie back against the pillows and kept his hand comfortingly on his shoulder for a minute.

"Timothy! I do apologize. There is nothing wrong with you that you have not been told. Let me go check in with Mr. Palmer and then we'll talk, alright?"

"Okay." Tim replied quietly as the relief he felt opened the door for the much-needed sleep to come in and claim him now.

True to his word, Ducky was back within a few short minutes. When he came back, he immediately went about re-checking Tim's blood pressure while gently asking him questions.

"Timothy, has the pain eased at all? Are you finding it easier to breathe?"

Tim opened his eyes and blearily looked at the obviously worried M.E. "'m okay." He rasped out, too exhausted to remember that Ducky had promised to talk to him. His eyes slid closed. "G… hom.."

"Good, very good. I will take your advice and head home for some rest. You go on and sleep, dear boy. That's what your body needs most right now. I'll see that you're not disturbed." Ducky smiled as he noticed Tim was already out.

Letting out a deep sigh of relief, Ducky's thoughts immediately turned to where they had been earlier. Although this young man's team leader was gruff and hard-core tough, the M.E. knew that although he knew the man better than anyone else did; he also knew Timothy very well and what he'd seen tonight was that the already sadly wide chasm that had lain between them for years, had just gotten wider. As he made his way down to the front entrance and waited for Jimmy to fetch the car, he pulled out his phone and called his long time friend, the Team Leader.

"Yeah, Gibbs."

"Jethro, Timothy will be spending the night in the hospital."

"He alright, Duck?"

"He managed to get himself to the bathroom so he could change into his clothes, but it caused him such pain and shortness of breath that he could barely hold himself up just getting there. He remains in extreme pain, which is why he was admitted instead of being released into my care."

"Anything broken?"

"Remarkably, no. However, his ribs are severely bruised to the point where Timothy is feeling the pain as if they had been broken and will need to be extremely cautious in his physical exertions for the next week or so to keep it that way. Needless to say, he will not be able to work for the remainder of this week, Jethro."

"Duck, I'm not that much of a monster."

"It might do you well to remember to let Timothy off the hook."

"Thought you just did, Duck."

"Your hook, Jethro! That young man was quite adamant that he needed to be at work tomorrow. You and I both know where that comes from."

"Yeah, I know."

"Just because Anthony returned to work sooner than he should have back when he contracted the plague, does not mean Timothy must act just as recklessly."

"Tony saved lives that day, Ducky!" Gibbs angrily replied as if the older man had meant that as a slap against Tony. "OUR lives!"

"Yes, Jethro, he did. A fact that no one has forgotten. In fact, I'd venture, that is exactly why Timothy is convinced he is not allowed the luxury of the chance to recuperate as his body needs to." Ducky answered calmly, not bothered in the least by his friend's anger.

"I'll talk to him." The younger man's tone had returned to quiet, as if he were genuinely concerned about the young man in question.

"Your anger was quite tangible tonight, Jethro, do be sure you let Timothy know it was not him that you were angry with, won't you?"

"You staying with him tonight?"

"No. I am returning home for the evening. I will be coming back after lunch tomorrow. The doctor has assured me that Timothy will not be evaluated until then."

"Not like you to let your patient stay the night alone."

"Timothy insisted that I go home and get a proper night's rest. I did not want to upset him further by arguing the point. However, I did wait until he had fallen asleep before taking my leave. The nurses are keeping an eye on him for me."

"Appreciate the update."

"You're quite welcome, my friend. Have a good evening."

"Get some sleep, Duck."

"Oh, Jethro, has anyone alerted Abigail of Timothy's situation?"

"She's out of town, remember? Two week's vacation to help her family out?"

"Oh, right. Very well. Good night, then."