Notes: Takes place after "Grace Period." There are obvious spoilers within.
The bar was nearly empty. Tim sat at the end of the bar, looking down at the mixed drink in his hands. He'd lost count after the sixth drink. He glanced at his watch. It was nearly 2 a.m. The bar would be closing soon. He threw back the drink and clumsily slammed his glass down at the bar.
"Can I have one more?" he asked the bartender.
"Do you really need that last drink, McGee?"
Tim dropped his head.
"I really think I do, Boss."
"How many have you had?"
Gibbs leaned against the bar next to Tim, and glared at him. The bartender, who was cleaning glasses nearby, spoke up.
"He's been here since eleven. I've been making his drinks a little lighter since 12:30."
Gibbs took out his wallet and dropped a couple of $50 bills on the bar.
"Keep the change."
"Thanks. Have a good night."
"Likewise. Come on, McGee."
Tim didn't move from his bar stool. He didn't want to leave. He wanted to stay and drink himself stupid. The choice was made for him when he felt Gibbs grab his arm and yank him from the stool.
"We're leaving, McGee. Let's go." Gibbs led him out of the bar by the arm. The bartender followed them, and locked the door behind them.
As soon as they got outside, Gibbs turned Tim to face him.
"What in the hell do you think you're doing, McGee?"
"You don't get drunk McGee. It's just not something you do. What's going on?"
"Right. Get in the car."
Tim practically fell into the passenger seat of Gibbs' Charger. It was useless to argue with Gibbs. He knew he wouldn't win.
The ride was silent. Every time Tim was on the verge of falling asleep, Gibbs would take a corner, jolting him awake. When the car finally stopped, Tim opened his eyes and moved to get out of the car, until he realized they were not in front of his apartment building.
"Why are we at your place?" Tim asked.
"You're in no shape to be alone tonight, McGee. Come on."
Tim reluctantly followed his Boss into the house.
"Sit," Gibbs ordered, pointing to the couch. Tim obeyed. Gibbs disappeared into the kitchen. The aroma of coffee filled the air a few minutes later. Moments later, a steaming cup of coffee was presented to him. Tim took it and sipped it slowly. Gibbs sat down next to him on the couch, gripping his own mug.
Great, this isn't awkward, Tim thought. Not awkward at all.
"What's going on, Tim?" Gibbs asked after a few minutes of silence.
"Nothing. Really, Boss, I'll be fine."
"If it was nothing, I wouldn't have had to drag you out of a bar, McGee."
"Jim was a good friend. I wouldn't have graduated FLETC if it weren't for him. He's dead, and it should have been me in that building." Tim set down his coffee and sat back on the couch. "You said it yourself, Boss. Our team was supposed to be on call this weekend. Not Paula's. They should all be alive right now. We should be dead."
Tim was shocked by the head slap. He hadn't expected it, but he couldn't deny that he deserved it.
"What happened to Paula's team is not anyone's fault, Tim. No one could have known that would happen."
"But it did happen!" Tim suddenly burst out, jumping shakily to his feet. "It happened… and three people are dead. Our friends are dead!"
Gibbs didn't say anything. He picked up Tim's coffee and held it out to him.
"Drink this, McGee. You're going to need it."
Tim reluctantly took the coffee and took a big gulp. It was strong, how Gibbs liked it, and Gibbs hadn't bothered to add any cream or sugar for him. He sat back on the couch again.
"They shouldn't be dead."
"I know, McGee."
"Jim and I just had lunch last week. Now I have to go to his funeral. It's not fair!" He took a deep breath, willing himself to calm down. "It's just not fair."
"No, it isn't. Drinking yourself into oblivion isn't going to make it any more fair, either. Do you understand me?"
Tim looked at his hands as he nodded silently.
"Good. Finish up that coffee and get some sleep. You can ride to the Navy Yard with me in the morning."
"What about my car? It's parked outside that bar."
"You're going to have to find a way to get it, McGee."
Gibbs got up without another word and went into the kitchen to deposit his cup in the sink. Tim set his cup down on the coffee table, and lay down on the couch. He heard Gibbs make his way upstairs to his room. Paula and her team were gone. They'd found the killers and brought them to justice – or whatever passed for justice. Gibbs was right. He'd have to accept that this happened, and move on. He rolled onto his side, facing the couch, and fell asleep.