Tim was whisked into Trauma as soon as they got to the hospital. Tony shakily sat down in the waiting area. Ziva sat beside him. She could tell that Tony was clearly wracked with guilt about this whole thing. She reached over and laid a hand gently on his shoulder.
"He will be all right, Tony. You must stop blaming yourself for this."
"He's in there because I dragged him out last night, Ziva!" Tony suddenly snapped. "He wanted to stay in and work on his novel last night. I should have let him. He's in there with a bullet in his foot because I just HAD to get him out after work."
"How could you have known that you were walking into a bar with a known gangster, Tony? I wouldn't have known!"
"I should have had his six. I let my guard down." He dropped his head. All of the sudden he felt a sharp slap to the back of his head. Surprised, he lifted his head up and glared at Ziva.
"Did you just Gibbs slap me?"
"Yes. You are being a fool! This is not your fault, Tony! You and McGee went out for a drink, and had some bad luck. That's all. You didn't shoot him!"
"I might as well have," he said dejectedly. Ziva threw up her hands. There was no getting through to Tony. He was just as hard-headed as Gibbs when it came to guilt. The doors to Trauma opened at that moment, and a tall doctor in green scrubs stepped out.
"Timothy McGee's family?"
Tony jumped out of his chair.
"Is he all right?"
"Are you family?" the Doctor asked, folding his arms.
"I'm his partner," Tony said, shoving his ID in the Doctor's face. "You're going to tell me how he's doing!"
"Tony! You must calm down!" Ziva said, grabbing her friend's arm. She looked at the Doctor. "Could you please let us know how he is doing? He was shot in the line of duty."
"He's very lucky. We got the bullet and repaired the damage to his foot. He's very likely to have full functionality in his foot once he heals, but that won't be for a long while."
"Can we see him?" Ziva asked politely.
"Shortly. We're going to get him settled into a room. I'll come get you when he's ready."
The Doctor smiled and went back into Trauma. She turned on Tony as soon as he was gone.
"You were very rude, Tony!"
"He pissed me off."
"Shoving your ID in his face will not get you in to see McGee!"
"I'm not sure I'm ready to see him."
"What do you mean?"
"You know what I mean, Ziva!" Tony stalked off toward the elevator. It opened as he reached for the call button, and he came face to face with Ducky.
"Tony! How is Timothy faring?" Tony shoved past Ducky and got into the elevator. Ducky turned and followed. "What's going on, Tony?" Ducky asked as the doors closed.
"Nothing," Tony said, turning away from the ME. Ducky reached over and pulled the emergency stop on the elevator.
"You're behaving like Jethro, you know. What aren't you telling me?" Tony remained silent. It didn't take Ducky long to figure it out. "You feel guilty about all of this, don't you Anthony?"
Tony nodded silently.
"Anthony, I want you to turn around and look at me. I've something to tell you, and I won't say it to the back of your head."
Tony slowly turned to face Ducky. The ME reached out and pushed Tony's chin up, so he could see his eyes.
"The only thing you are guilty of, young man, is wanting a night out after work with a good friend. What happened to you both in that bar is no one's fault but the criminal Jethro is interrogating back at the Navy Yard.
"None of that, Anthony. You must understand that it isn't your fault. Timothy will be fine, and that animal will be in jail, if Jethro doesn't kill him first."
Tony smiled. He could imagine Gibbs in interrogation at that very moment. Then he thought of Tim, limping around the squad room because of Tony's stupidity.
"I don't know if he'll even want to see me, Duck," Tony said, looking away again.
"Timothy does not hold grudges, Tony. Go and talk to him. It's the only way you are going to feel better."
Tony sighed. He knew Ducky was right, but at the same time he was still afraid Tim would hate him. He turned around and switched the emergency stop back to its normal place. He pressed the button for the floor they'd just come from.
"A wise choice, Anthony."
"I hope so."
Tim was asleep when Tony finally got the courage to go to his room. Ducky and Ziva had been in to see him already, and had gone home. Tony pulled up a chair and sat at Tim's bedside. After a few minutes of silence, Tony lost his nerve and got up to leave.
"Tony? Where are you going?"
Tony stopped halfway to the door. Leave it to Probie to have such great timing, he thought. He turned around and sat down again.
"I wanted to make sure you were all right."
"I'll be fine, Tony. I was only shot in the foot."
"Because of me," Tony mumbled. Tim furrowed his brow.
"Did you say something?"
"It's my fault you're here. You wanted to work on your book, and I forced you to go out drinking. I practically dragged you into that bar. I'm sorry, Tim."
Tim didn't say anything right away, which made Tony feel worse. He looked up at his friend, and was shocked to see him smiling.
"You don't remember what happened that night, do you?"
"Not a thing."
"I remember everything," He said with a smile, and began the story.
~Friday night, 2300 hours~
"Come on, Probie! This bar is as good as any!" Tony said as he parked in front of a small bar not far from the office.
"I don't know about this place, Tony," Tim said, looking out the windshield at the place. There were a few bikers hanging out outside, smoking.
"Are you afraid of bikers? Come on, you'll be fine." Tony got out of the car, and Tim followed. The bikers stared them down as they entered the bar. While Tony walked right up to the bar, Tim was detained at the door, for an ID check. He showed his license and was reluctantly let into the establishment. He joined Tony and accepted the beer his friend had ordered for him. As he slid onto the stool, Tim noticed several pairs of eyes resting on him and Tony. He nonchalantly leaned over to Tony and whispered in his ear.
"We need to leave, now."
Tony seemed to get the message, and moved his eyes around. He, too, noticed that they were being watched.
"Finish your beer," he whispered. "We need to make it look like we stopped in for a quick beer." As he finished his sentence, Tony felt a rough tap on his shoulder. He turned to face a man about McGee's height, of Hispanic descent.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"The tooth fairy," Tony answered in a smart-alecky tone. "What do you care who I am? I'm just trying to enjoy my beer."
"Why?" Tim asked. "We're just having a drink."
"You don't belong here. Get out!" The man reached over and grabbed Tim by the shirt, yanking him off the barstool. Tony got up immediately and went for the gun in his jacket, pointing it at the man holding McGee.
"Let him go."
"Go ahead and shoot me. You won't leave here alive." Tim struggled in the man's grasp, but to no avail. Tony kept his gun trained on Tim's attacker.
"I'm sure I'll be walking out of here alive and well after I put a bullet in your head," Tony said. His focus was trained on the thug, rather than Tim. Before either of them knew what was going on, someone came up behind Tony and hit him over the head with a baseball bat. Tony crumpled to the floor, unconscious.
"Tony!" Tim shouted, thrashing in the thug's grip to get to his friend. The man who knocked Tony out searched his pockets. He had also noticed that the place had cleared out seconds after Tony was hit. Tim was dismayed when Tony's NCIS ID was removed from his coat. He stood and nodded to the bartender. Tim watched as he came out from behind the bar, holding a syringe.
"What are you doing?" Tim shouted, still thrashing in the grip of his captor. The bartender injected Tony with some kind of drug. Two more men appeared and dragged Tony's unconscious body down the back hallway, and out of Tim's sight. The man with the bat turned and moved in on Tim.
"You're next, puta." He stepped back and took a hard swing with the baseball bat, impacting with Tim's head. Tim fell limp in the arms of his captor.
Tony could only blink in surprise as Tim wrapped up his story.
"Let me get this straight," Tony finally said. "I pulled my gun on a guy twice my size to help you, and I got clocked on the head with a baseball bat?"
"And drugged," Tim reminded him.
"Oh yeah, right," Tony said, rolling his eyes. It explained his memory lapse.
"None of it was your fault, Tony. We were just having a beer. That other guy started the trouble."
"I still feel like an ass for dragging you out when you didn't want to go, and for that," he said, pointing to Tim's foot.
"I'm definitely upset that I got shot, but you didn't shoot me. Carlos did. The only reason we were in that bar was to have a drink, and he didn't want to accept that answer."
Tony smiled. He was feeling much better than he did when he'd come into the room to sit with Tim. He was glad Tim didn't blame him for it all.
"Hey Probie, when you get out of here, you're welcome to recuperate at my place. We can have a beer in the safety of my living room, without the rohypnol-toting drug lords."
"That sounds really good, Tony. I accept your offer."
Tony grinned evilly.
"You have to tell me which movies you want to watch, Probie! I just bought a really good one…"
Tim smiled as Tony babbled on about his new movie purchase. He knew Tony would eventually get on his nerves, but he was glad to have a friend who had his six when he needed him most.