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PostPosted: Sun Jun 21, 2015 8:07 pm 
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Title: When In Rome...

Rating: FR-15

Characters: Tim-centric - the Team is there, and some OCs are introduced.

Summary: When the Director of Cyber Crimes is shot by terrorists, Vance chooses Tim to take the seat of Acting Director of Cyber Crimes, in Rome. Tim eagerly accepts the temporarily position, and unknowingly steps into the midst of an Op that he isn't sure he can handle.

Notes: WEE 2015 fic for hazelmom, who wanted to see Tim promoted to Director of Cyber Crimes. I hope you like it!

Discussion Thread can be found HERE

Chapter 1

Tim stepped off the elevator Monday morning to an unusually quiet squad room. He made his way to his desk, looking suspiciously at his co-workers. Gibbs was reading a file, Ellie was deep in thought about whatever was on her screen, and Tony was, for a wonder, typing up a report, and not talking.

"Did I miss something? Am I that late?" McGee said aloud, a bit unnerved by the silence of his co-workers. Gibbs looked up from his reading, and nodded toward the TV, where a ZNN broadcast was playing with the audio turned all the way up.

"The search continues for the elusive shooter who made an attempt on the life of NCIS Cyber Crimes Director Wesley Thomas. NCIS has promised a thorough investigation into the lapse in security at their Rome office, and that the shooter will be brought to justice. This is Kayla Bennett reporting from Rome."

Tim hadn't realized he'd been standing in the middle of the bullpen, still holding his backpack, until Gibbs waved a hand in front of his face.

"When you wake up, McGee, the Director wants to see you."

"Yes Boss,' Tim said quickly as he tore his eyes from the TV. He dropped his pack off next to his desk and made a beeline for the stairs. Angela, the Director's new secretary, waved him in, as usual.

Vance was sitting behind his desk, his hands folded.

I’m in trouble... he only sits like that when I'm in trouble... what did I do?

"Relax, Agent McGee. You're not in trouble." Vance chuckled as Tim nervously sat down across from his desk. "I called you up here because I have something I want to discuss with you."

Vance picked up a folder from his desk and handed it to Tim.

"As I'm sure you've heard, the Director of Cyber Crimes has had an attempt made on his life, and he's in the hospital in Rome in critical condition. This means we'll need an Acting Director of Cyber Crimes, to run things until he's back on his feet."

Tim took about ten seconds to process what Vance said, then dropped the folder, spilling papers everywhere.

"You're offering me... Director of Cyber Crimes?"

"You've more than proven yourself to me since the day I met you. You're the best man for the job, Agent McGee."

"I don't know what to say, Sir. I didn't expect this," he said, holding up the folder.

"You deserve it."

"Can I have some time... to think about it?"

"Absolutely... but we need to appoint someone in the next 24 hours, in light of what's happened to Director Thomas. We need to get someone out there ASAP."

"Okay." Tim stood and shook hands with Vance. "Thank you so much for the opportunity, Director."

"Let me know when you've made a decision."

"I will. Thank you, Sir."

Tim turned and left the office, gripping the folder in his hands. He took the stairs down to the squad room, just as Gibbs and the team were gearing up.

"What've we got?" He asked, dropping the file folder on his desk.

"Dead Marine at Rock Creek Park," Gibbs replied as he swung his pack over his shoulder. He looked up at McGee and raised an eyebrow. "Everything OK, McGee?"

Tim stopped staring at the folder on his desk and looked up at his Boss.

"Yeah, sorry Boss. Just, an assignment from Vance."

"Ok then, let's roll."

Tim followed his teammates into the elevator. He knew that Gibbs knew he hadn't told the whole truth, but now wasn't the time to talk about it.

NCISNCISNCISNCIS

It took them three hours to document the scene at Rock Creek Park. Tim had identified the Marine by his fingerprints as Lance Cpl. John Martinez, age 29, and Ducky had declared that the victim was strangled. Tim snapped photos as Tony searched the body for physical evidence.

As they went about their duties, Tim looked around, really looked around at his Team for the first time in a long time. It seemed like everyone was on autopilot. They'd been doing this for so long, that it became like second nature to him, as if it were a natural part of life.

Do I really want to live my life on autopilot?

A headslap from Gibbs brought Tim out of his musings, and he continued his work without further thought.

~*~*~*~*~*~

"What's going on with you today, Probie?" Tony asked as they entered the squad room later that afternoon. "You haven't said anything all day."

"I'm fine, Tony... just thinking, is all."

"About what?" Tony asked, coming up to Tim's desk as Tim sat down.

"It's personal... I don't want to talk about it."

"Everything's always personal with you, Probie."

"Leave him alone, DiNozzo, and get back to work. We have a murderer to catch," Gibbs said as he entered the squad room behind them, making a beeline for his own desk.

Tim turned and brought up his programs to start his research into Lance Cpl Martinez. As he typed in the search parameters, he brought his eyes up, and noticed Gibbs glaring at him.

I wonder if he knows... did Vance already tell him?

He pushed the notion from his head and continued his work. He'd think about the file on his desk later.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The rest of the afternoon went quickly, and for a wonder, silently, as everyone poured through their research on Lance Cpl Martinez and his background. Tim almost didn't notice Gibbs looming over his desk as darkness settled in outside over DC.

"Go home... it's late. We'll pick up tomorrow."

Tim nodded and started to gather his things.

"When do you leave for Rome, Tim?" Gibbs suddenly asked him.

"What?" Tim said, completely thrown off by the sudden question. "You know about that?"

"Why wouldn't I know?"

Tim shrugged.

"So, when do you leave?"

"I haven't accepted his offer yet."

Gibbs leaned on the side of Tim's desk as his Junior Agent gathered his belongings.

"Why not?"

"It's a huge offer, Boss... one I didn't expect. I'm just a Junior Agent... I mean am I really qualified to be Director of Cyber Crimes?"

"If Vance didn't think you were, he wouldn't have offered you the job. You can't spend your entire career in the same job, Tim."

On autopilot.

Tim slipped on his coat and picked up his backpack.

"I know what I'm going to do. Thanks, Boss."

"Don't get used to calling me that, Director."

Tim grinned, and he and Gibbs left the office together for the evening.

TBC...

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Last edited by fallenangel218 on Fri Feb 26, 2016 4:53 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2015 5:51 pm 
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Chapter 2

The days following his acceptance of the position of Acting Director of Cyber Crimes were a whirlwind of paperwork, packing for his trip, and rearranging his entire life. A week after he'd accepted, Tim found himself standing in front of the airport entrance, nervous with anticipation.

He was really going to do this, and he wasn't dreaming.

"You have to actually go inside the airport to get onto the airplane, McGeek."

Tim looked over at Tony, who had insisted that he be the one to drive him to the airport.

"I was just thinking, is all."

"Quit thinking! You have a plane to catch!"

"Geez Tony, are you trying to get rid of me or something?" Tim quipped.

"Nah, why would I want to do that?" Tony winked.

Tim chuckled and they made their way into Dulles Airport. Tony walked with him as far as the Security checkpoint, and they shook hands.

"Safe travels. Text me when you get there."

"Will do. Don't drive Gibbs crazy while I'm gone, okay?"

"No worries, Probie. Now get out of here!"

Tim smiled and wheeled his suitcase up to security and let the personnel perform the routine checks, before he was allowed to proceed to his gate.

There's no turning back now...

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Tim arrived in Rome in the middle of the night. As he exited into the terminal, he was shocked to see an entourage of men waiting for him, one of whom already had his luggage.

One of the Agents stepped forward.

"I'm Agent Paul Forsythe. I'm assigned to your personal security detail, Director McGee."

Wow... Director... it's going to take some getting used to!

"So where do we go from here, Paul?" Tim asked.

"I'm going to escort you to where you'll be staying. An apartment has been set up on your behalf by Director Vance."

"Great... I'm exhausted."

Paul chuckled.

"Come on, let's get out of here."

Tim walked with Paul to the pick up zone right outside the airport. As soon as the doors opened, Paul pushed the auto start, and the car started while they were walking up to it.

"Nice," Tim said with a grin.

"It's protocol on all of our Agency vehicles in Rome... we hit the auto start before we're close to the vehicle... and, well, we'll know if there's a bomb rigged to it, won't we?"

"That's a great idea... I need to bring that back to the States with me. It's something we should implement Agency-wide."

"Hop in."

Tim let Paul take his suitcase and put it in the trunk, and he climbed into the passenger side of the Yukon. Paul climbed into the driver's seat, and they were off.

"Have you ever been to Rome before?" Paul asked as they left the Airport behind.

"No... this is my first time here. It's a beautiful city." Tim couldn't help but stare out the windshield at the architecture of the buildings around them as Paul navigated through the streets. "How long have you worked in the Rome office, Paul?"

"I'm going on 15 years this July."

"Wow. Do you ever miss the States?"

"Sometimes. I fly back to South Carolina sometimes to visit my folks. I've gotten used to it, though."

Paul got onto the highway, and Tim stared in awe at the city skyline as it came into view.

"Oh wow, I can see the Vatican," Tim said. "I sound like a tourist."

"I'm not offended. Enjoy the view."

The rest of the ride was silent as Tim took in the city. He'd seen pictures, but nothing compared to the real thing. He was almost tempted to take a picture with his phone and send it to Abby, but he thought better of it. Thinking of his friends only made him homesick. He hadn't been gone 24 hours yet and he already missed them all.

Maybe I'll just take the picture and text her tomorrow...

Tim bit the bullet and took out his phone, and snapped a few pictures.

Paul smirked, but didn't say anything. Everyone had a first night in Rome.

~*~*~*~*~*~

After a half hour of driving, Paul pulled up in front of a beautiful apartment building.

"Director Vance has an apartment ready for you, Director McGee."

"Please, call me Tim. Director is too formal."

Paul smiled.

"Come on, Tim, I'll show you which apartment is yours."

They got out of the car and Paul retrieved Tim's suitcase from the trunk. Tim slung his laptop bag and backpack over his shoulder, and followed Paul inside. They rode the elevator to the top floor, and Paul led them to a corner apartment.

"Here you are, Apartment 3110."

Paul gave him the key, and Tim nervously opened the door.

"Wow... this is... wow."

The apartment was open concept, with a large living room that opened up to the kitchen.

"It's only got one bedroom," Paul said.

"I'm fine with that," Tim said with a chuckle. "More than fine. This place is incredible!"

"Take a look out the picture window. You have a view of the Trevi Fountain."

Tim walked across the living room and took in the view from his window.

"This is amazing."

Paul smiled and set down the suitcase.

"I'll be back to pick you up at 0700. Enjoy your new place!"

"Thanks, Paul... for everything."

"Anytime, Director." Paul smiled and left.

Tim walked around his apartment, taking everything in. He looked at his watch, and realized that it was the middle of the night and Paul was going to be here very early. He took his suitcase and ventured into the bedroom, which was just as beautiful. He took his bag of toiletries into the bathroom and unpacked them. He found some clean towels in the linen closet and took a quick shower, and put on his favorite pajamas.

As he climbed into bed, his thoughts returned to his friends back home. Were they still at NCIS, or had they all gone home for the night? Tim decided he'd send a quick text to Abby before he went to sleep. He picked up his phone and flipped through his new pictures to the one he'd taken from the picture window of his apartment. He hit 'send' and typed her a message.

Just got to my new apartment in Rome! What a beautiful view! I miss you guys already. I have to be up and ready by 0700. Talk to you guys soon! Oh PS - head slap Tony for me. ;)

Tim smiled as the text sent off. A few seconds later Abby responded.

We miss you Timmy! Love the view!!! Call me tomorrow?

Tim smiled.

You bet. Night!

Abby responded with a spirited "buona notte" and Tim put his phone on the charger for the night.

TBC...

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2015 6:00 pm 
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Chapter 3

"Director McGee! We're going to be late!" Paul shouted from the living room. He'd gotten to the apartment early to pick Tim up, but his charge was still getting ready. A minute later, Tim came out into the living room as he finished tying his tie.

"I'm so sorry, Paul... I can't believe I forgot to set my alarm last night."

"It's all right... we have to get moving, though. You have a 9 AM meeting, and it's already 8:30."

Tim grabbed his wallet and the keys to his apartment.

"Let's roll."

~*~*~*~*~

The drive to the NCIS Rome office was only ten minutes from Tim's apartment. Paul pulled into the parking garage. He pulled the SUV into a parking space with a plaque on the wall that read Reserved - Director of Cyber Crimes.

"Wow... I've never had my own parking space before."

"Perks of being Director," Paul said with a wink. He turned off the ignition. "Don't get out until I come around. For your own safety."

Tim nodded and Paul got out of the car. Tim opened the door a few second later, when Paul rapped on the window.

"I'll take you to your office, then I'll show you where you have to go for your 9 AM meeting."

"Sounds good."

They boarded the elevator, and took it to the top floor. When they got off, Tim noticed that it looked very similar to the top floor in the US NCIS office. Paul led him down the hall through French doors, into a large area. To the right was a couch and arm chair, suitable for a waiting area. To his left, a lovely young woman sat typing behind her desk.

"Director McGee, this is Laura Faucette, your Secretary."

"It's nice to meet you, Ms. Faucette," Tim said, extending a hand. She shook it and sat back down to continue her work.

"Laura will keep track of all your meetings and appointments, and keep you on your toes," Paul said. "Your office is right through those glass doors."

Tim walked ahead of Paul, and pushed the frosted glass doors open.

"Wow... this is... amazing!"

The office had cathedral ceilings, with distinctly Roman architecture about them. There were bookshelves lining the right wall, and to the left was a large window, overlooking the city. Tim's desk was in the middle.

"I hate to rush you, Director, but your meeting is in five minutes."

Tim set down his bag next to his desk.

"I guess I'd better get going."

Paul showed McGee to the conference room down the hall from his office, and left him to his first meeting as Director of Cyber Crimes.

~*~*~*~*~

Later... 2:00 PM

Tim trudged tiredly into his office and fell down into his chair. He'd only been Director for five hours, and he'd done nothing but sit in meetings all day. He'd checked with Laura upon arriving back to his office, and she informed him he had a two-hour gap in his schedule. He was elated, and thanked her profusely before retreating to his office.

He took out his cell phone and started flipping through his pictures. He stopped on a picture of Abby.

I wonder what she's doing right now?

On an impulse, he dialed her number.

"Hello?"

Tim smiled. She sounded like she'd been asleep.

"Hey Abby."

"Tim! It's so good to hear from you! I've missed you!"

"I've only been gone a couple of days," he said with a chuckle.

"I still miss you, and so does everyone else."

"I’m coming back... I'm not staying in Rome forever."

Tim heard another voice in the background, and what sounded like the phone changing hands.

"Probie! How's Rome treating you?"

"It's great, Tony. My office is bigger than Vance's. Don't tell him I said that, though."

"My lips are sealed. So how is your first day as Director of Cyber Crimes?"

"All I've been doing is sitting in meetings... I finally have a gap in my calendar before my next one. How's it going with Gibbs?"

"He looked at your desk this morning to get an update from you on our latest case, and forgot you weren't there."

"That's his way of missing me, I guess."

"He won't admit it."

Tim's desk phone rang.

"I have to go... my phone is ringing. I'll call you guys later, okay?"

"Bye Probie! Keep in touch!"

"Will do." Tim hung up his cell phone and answered the ringing desk phone.

"Speci-- I mean, Director McGee."

"Director, I need your approval on a new piece of software we're going to install on every computer in the building. It will help us sort information in a more concise manner, to make searching for information faster and easier."

"Excuse me, but whom am I speaking with?"

"Oh my gosh I'm sorry! This is Agent Giardino, from the IT department."

"Okay. Can you get a report together on this new software, and bring it to my office? I want to see what it looks like before we put it on anyone's computer."

"Yes, Sir. Right away."

"Great, come up and see me when it's finished."

Tim hung up and sat back in his chair. He wondered how Vance hadn't had a nervous breakdown doing his job. It was only his first day as Director of Cyber Crimes, and he was more exhausted than he'd ever been in his life.

~*~*~*~*~**~

Later... 2100 hours...


"Director."

Tim jolted awake and sat upright at his desk. Paul was standing next to him.

"Huh? Did I miss a meeting?"

Paul chuckled.

"No... come on, I'll take you home."

Tim got up and picked up his things, and followed Paul to the elevator. They rode down to the parking garage, and Paul exited first, to ensure the coast was clear. He gave Tim the go-ahead, and Tim followed him to the SUV. Tim got in first, and Paul went around to the driver's side. As he put the car in gear, someone appeared in the rearview mirror, standing behind the car.

"Stay here."

"What's going on?"

"Just, stay here."

Paul got out, taking his gun out of the hip holster as he did so. Tim watched Paul approach the stranger. As he got closer, the stranger ran off. Paul rushed to the car.

"What the hell was that?" Tim asked.

"I'm not sure, but I'm calling this in. I want to know who he is and how he got on base." Paul grabbed his phone and hit a speed dial. "This is Agent Forsythe. I just chased away a suspicious person loitering around the Director's car. He ran off toward the parking garage entrance. 6'5, medium build, blonde hair. I want him detained, and I want to know what moron let him on base!" Paul hung up and threw his phone into the center console. He put the car back in gear and backed out of the spot.

The ride home was quiet. Tim could tell that Paul had his eyes open for suspicious activity. After the stranger on base, Paul was on high alert. Tim wanted to ask him about the whole thing, but thought it better to leave things alone.

When they got to Tim's apartment building, Paul got out first, and, gun drawn, went around to let Tim out.

"Paul, you can relax now... the front gate told us that they caught that guy. Everything is fine."

"Let's go upstairs. I want to explain some things to you, Tim."

They walked together into the building and rode the elevator in silence. Tim let them into his apartment, and Paul went into the kitchen without a word. Tim followed him.

"Paul, what's the matter?"

"Tim, I take my job very seriously. When even the smallest of things happens, it's my job to make sure you are out of harm's way. That guy behind the car today could have had a gun, or accomplices waiting to ambush us. I have to take every precaution when it comes to your safety."

"I’m sorry, Paul. I shouldn't have taken that so lightly."

"It's not your fault, Tim. Everyone at the entire Agency has been on high alert since Director Thomas was shot."

"How is he, by the way?" Tim asked.

"He's healing. By some miracle, the shooter didn't hit any fatal organs. Do you want to know why he was shot, Tim?"

"I'm going to regret this, but why?"

"His security detail was supposed to stay with him when he went off-base to go to an inter-agency meeting. His personal bodyguard stepped away to use the men's room, and left Director Thomas alone in the lobby. In the two minutes he was in the men's room, the shooter managed to get into the lobby and start shooting. When he came out, the Director was already on the floor."

"Wow. They didn't tell us any of that back in Washington."

"They won't. You have to have high security clearance to know what happened."

A thought occurred to Tim, and before he could stop himself, he spoke up.

"Paul, were you that Agent assigned to his detail?"

Paul averted his gaze, but brought it back up to his Boss.

"Yes. I was lucky not to be fired. I convinced Vance to give me another chance, and when we got word that you were coming from Washington to step in for Director Thomas, I vowed to myself that I would never let that happen again."

"I have complete trust in you, Paul. You're doing a hell of a job already. I mean, you chased away a random intruder that ended up just being some junkie off the street that wandered onto base... the Field Agent in me wanted to get out with you, but you made me stay in the car. You're doing a phenomenal job."

"Thanks, Director."

"Please, call me Tim. I've been hearing 'Director' all day."

Paul laughed.

Tim looked over at the TV, and the ridiculously comfortable-looking sofa.

"Do you want to hang out for a while and watch TV? You have to show me how to get the English-speaking channels."

"Sure. Thanks."

Tim went and found the remote, and turned on the TV. He and Paul found a movie in English, Die Hard With A Vengeance.

"My friend Tony loves this movie," Tim commented as the movie started. When Paul didn't respond, Tim looked over to find his new friend sleeping on the couch. Tim turned off the TV and decided to call it a night. He went into his bedroom and got ready for bed. Tomorrow was a new adventure, and he wanted to be ready.

TBC...

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2015 6:12 pm 
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Chapter 4

Tim was up and ready to go the next morning before Paul had even finished making coffee. They each filled a travel mug and headed out, Paul in front of him. As they exited the elevator and stepped outside into the parking lot, Paul suddenly drew his sidearm.

"What is it, Paul?"

"A feeling. Stay close."

Paul took out the keys to the SUV, and hit the auto start as they made their way across the parking lot. Before they could take another step, the SUV exploded. Paul shoved Tim to the ground as debris from the vehicle landed around them.

"Are you okay, Director?"

Tim sat up, and looked at Paul, who was breathing heavily. His gaze went beyond his bodyguard to the SUV behind him, up in flames.

"What--what--"

Paul was already on the phone before Tim could coherently formulate a sentence, yelling at someone to start an immediate investigation. When he was finished, he pulled Tim to his feet and dragged him toward the building.

"We need to get you out of sight."

"What the hell is going on, Paul!" Tim shouted over the approaching emergency vehicles.

"Upstairs first... I need to know that you're safe." Paul ushered him back toward the elevator.

"Agent Forsythe, stop right now!" Tim shouted authoritatively, causing Paul to nearly skid to a stop in his tracks. "I want some answers, and I want them now, not when we get upstairs. Why in the hell was I almost blown up!"

Paul blinked, shocked to see this side of his new Boss. He nodded and sheathed his weapon momentarily.

"I'm sorry, Director."

Tim calmed a bit.

"It's all right. Just talk to me, Paul."

"There has been an Op running from our office for over a month now, involving a high profile cyber-terrorist. I don’t have clearance to be read into the entire Op, but I can tell you that it's why Director Thomas got shot, and why you were almost blown up."

"We need to get to NCIS, and I want to be read in on this Op immediately. And I want to talk to Director Vance ASAP."

"Yes, Sir. When I called in, I requested another transport to bring you back to NCIS. I'll be in the car with you, but we're going to have an armed escort all the way there."

"ETA?"

"Any minute now."

"Good. Let's get back outside."

"Yes, Sir."

Paul started to walk ahead of Tim, unsheathing his weapon. Tim grabbed his arm to stop him. "No worries, Paul. You're not in trouble for anything, and we're still friends, okay?"

Paul smiled and nodded as more sirens could be heard approaching.

"That sounds like our guys. Shall we?"

Tim nodded and he and Paul made their way back out into the parking lot. A team of Field Agents was already processing the scene, and there was another SUV waiting for them. They climbed in and headed to NCIS, with an escort surrounding the car. When they arrived, the driver pulled into a secure location, and Paul along with three other Agents escorted Tim into the building. Once everyone was past Security, Paul turned to the Guard.

"Everybody that comes through those doors gets checked for ID. They don't have credentials, they don't come into this building. No exceptions. Is that clear?"

"You can count on me, Agent Forsythe."

Tim went straight inside, and right up to the Rome building's version of MTAC. He made a beeline for the technician.

"Get Director Vance on the line, now."

"Yes, Sir."

The technician did some typing, and in a few minutes, Tim was looking at Director Vance.

"It's good to see you, Tim."

"I want to know about the Op that put Director Thomas in the hospital."

"I heard about what happened to you this morning. I'm glad you're all right, Tim."

"Me too. Why did you send me to Rome without reading me in on an Op that could have gotten me killed!"

"That was a huge miscommunication, and I'm sincerely sorry about that. You were supposed to be read in as soon as you got into the country. Who met you at the Airport?"

"Agent Paul Forsythe."

"He was supposed to take you straight to Headquarters to read you in on this. He didn't?"

"No... it was the middle of the night. He took me to my apartment. It's not his fault, Director, I assure you."

"He isn't in trouble... I just want to know why he wasn't given the instructions that I requested when he picked you up."

"We'll have to look into that. First I want to know about this Op."

"What do you know about William Cloud?"

"You mean the most wanted hacker in the free world? Don’t tell me he's resurfaced again."

"We've been waiting for years to catch movement from him, and it finally happened a few weeks ago. The Cyber Unit in the Rome building was tracking his movements, and we found out that he's been aiding terrorists, smuggling fully automatic US Military weapons out of the U.S. All he has to do is hack into the system of whatever airport the weapons are being shipped from, and erase the cargo manifest. By the time the cargo plane lands and customs pulls the manifest, the guns have been unloaded and the smugglers are long gone with the weapons."

"He's making it so no one can track where the guns are being shipped to."

"Exactly. The problem is that he's not only erasing the manifests he needs, but other military cargo manifests as well. He can steal anything he wants and we'll never know where in the world it went."

"How did this escalate into Director Thomas getting shot, and me almost getting blown to pieces?"

"Cloud knows NCIS is tracking him. He thinks by taking out the Director of Cyber Crimes, it would scare us enough to back off."

"The hell we are," Tim said sharply. "Cloud is going down... he's messed with the wrong person this time."

Vance smiled.

"I knew I sent the right man to Rome."

"We need every available man on this - your Cyber Unit and mine. We need to find him and take him down. He'll never see the light of day again when I'm done with him."

"You sound more like Gibbs every day, McGee."

Tim chuckled.

"Tony told me that once too." He paused. "How is everyone?"

"The same. I'm going to read Gibbs and his Team in on this, if you're all right with that."

"Absolutely."

"Keep in touch with your progress. We'll do the same."

"Will do."

Vance gave the signal, and the screen went black.

TBC...

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Chapter 5


one week later...


Tim stared at the lines of code whizzing by on his laptop. He hadn't been back to his apartment since he'd learned William Cloud was responsible for Director Thomas' shooting, and the attempt on Tim's life. He'd spent most days in his office, going through code and creating programs to aid in tracking the bastard. He had his own laptop on his desk, running code, and he had four others brought up from IT, and he had them set up and running 24/7 searches and trackers.

The door to his office opened, and Laura stepped in, carrying a large coffee, and a to-go bag from a pastry shop. She'd been his life saver for the past week. She'd kept his supply of coffee constant, and since she couldn't make him leave his office, started bringing him food. After a week of helping him, they had a familiar relationship forming, and she started to become very comfortable with her new Boss.

Today, he wasn't any different than he had been since he'd started working on the Op. She crossed the room and set the coffee down in front of him. The aroma seemed to bring him out of whatever trance he was in, and after a few moments, he registered that Laura was in the room.

"Thanks, Laura."

He took the coffee gratefully and took a long drink.

"I brought you a bagel, for breakfast. Did you sleep last night?"

"I'm not sure. I think I might have."

Laura glanced down at the trash bin. It had four large, empty coffee cups in it. She'd emptied the bin the previous night, before she'd gone home for the evening.

"You have to sleep. You can't run on coffee alone."

Tim clicked a few buttons on his laptop. She was starting to lose him again to that computer. She needed to bring him back, before he got lost in whatever he was doing again. Laura held the bag with the bagel in front of his face and waved it.

"Stop looking at that damn computer and eat something," she ordered.

Tim looked at the bag in front of his face, and then up at Laura. She had a frustrated look on her face. He took the bag and got up from his desk.

"I'm sorry, Laura. I have been making your job difficult this week. I appreciate everything you've been doing, and all the long hours you've been putting in."

"You would have starved to death, or passed out on your keyboard, if I weren't here," Laura said with a chuckle.

Tim crossed the room and sat down on the sofa, and opened up his breakfast.

"I have been a bit obsessed with this, haven't I?"

Laura sat down next to him.

"Well you did almost get blown up. You have every right to want to catch this guy." He bit into the everything bagel she'd brought, and suddenly realized how hungry he really was. "Thank you for bringing this," he said as he took another bite.

"Anytime, Director."

"Please, call me Tim."

Laura smiled.

"All right."

Tim's desk phone rang, and he quickly crossed the room.

"Director McGee."

"Director, this is Agent Barnes. We have a lead on Cloud - Agent McKenzie has been running a brand new program, and he's got a hit."

"I'm on my way - oh wait - where am I on my way to?" Tim asked, embarrassed. Agent Barnes chuckled.

"Two levels down, Cyber Unit #3."

"Thanks." Tim hung up and bit into his bagel. "I have to go. Thanks again, Laura."

"Hey," she said as he rushed for the door. "How about dinner later, not in your office?"

"It's a date." he smiled and left ahead of her to head downstairs. He quickly boarded the elevator and jabbed the button for the ground floor, which housed five Cyber Units. The Cyber Unit in Rome was the largest in the Agency, and was responsible for Cyber Crimes in all of eastern Europe. Tim had remotely worked with them from DC, but he'd never had the opportunity to see the Unit in person. The elevator doors opened, and Tim stepped out into a long hallway, with windows lining either side. He walked down the hall, glancing in awe at the sheer size of the Cyber units and the work they were doing.

This is way more impressive than I ever could have imagined.

He came to the door for Cyber Unit#3 and stepped inside. An Agent immediately came to greet him.

"Director, I'm Fred Barnes, Supervisory agent for Cyber Unit 3. It's nice to finally meet you."

Tim shook his hand.

"Nice to meet you as well, Agent Barnes. You told me on the phone that we have something on Cloud?"

"Yes, Agent McKenzie has been working on a way to track his movements, and he's finally made some headway after almost a week of work on this program." Fred signaled Tim to follow, and they joined an Agent situated with three computer monitors on his desk. Tim was impressed by the amount of code being sorted through and the speed in which it was being searched.

"Agent Ryan McKenzie, this is Acting Director McGee. He's here to see your program."

"Right." Ryan did some fast typing, and soon the code was gone from one of his screens, replaced by a program that, at initial glance, looked very impressive.

"I've been working on the parameters all week in my new program. It's designed to execute multiple attempts at once to ping Cloud's location, and when it finds him, automatically tracks his movements online."

"That's incredible," Tim said. "Show me what you've done with it so far."

Ryan did more typing as he talked.

"I've been waiting on a ping all week, and I finally got one this morning. The system automatically locked on." Ryan grinned. "I've got him."

Tim grabbed a chair and sat down next to him.

"Show me everything."

Ryan was a bit alarmed - the Director of Cyber Crimes was now seated next to him - at his desk - wanting to work with him on a program he created.

"It's all right, McKenzie, I don't bite," Tim said reassuringly.

Ryan smiled and hit a few keys.

"I found him trying to hack into another airline database. I want to see what he is doing, so I'm watching his keystrokes right now. I'm afraid that if I try to stop him, he'll know we're onto him."

Tim leaned forward. They were indeed inside an airline database, and they were watching someone remotely changing code and erasing their "footprint" after every change they made.

"This is a very impressive program, Agent McKenzie. I've been staring at my computer all week, trying to sort code, and I never thought of anything like this."

"Thank you very much, Director."

Ryan's computer made a noise, and both of them glued their eyes to the screen. Cloud was changing screens, and backing out of the system.

"What should I do? He's backing out of the system."

"Let him back out, only I want you to ping his IP address before he does."

"On it."

McKenzie started typing with great speed, attempting to get a location on the hacker.

"No, no no, oh come on!" Ryan suddenly shouted in frustration as he typed faster. Suddenly, his screen went black. "No!" he slammed his fist down on the keyboard.

"What happened?" Tim asked.

"Cloud knew I was in there with him. He booted me, and overloaded my system so I couldn't get back in. I've lost him." He brought his eyes to the floor. "I'm sorry, Director."

"We'll find him again. Get your computer working again and get back on it. Call me when you ping him again." Tim reached into his pocket and produced a business card. He wrote his extension on the back of it. "That's my extension - the one that gets you past the secretary."

"Thanks, Director."

"Call me Tim. I hate being called Director."

Ryan smiled.

"Okay, Tim."

"Get that program running again, ASAP."

"I'm on it right now."

Ryan turned back to his desk and got to work. Tim stood and returned the chair, and left Cyber Unit 3 to head back to his office. When he got there, Laura was standing at his door, waiting with her arms crossed.

"What's wrong, Laura?"

"You had an appointment a half hour ago. She's been waiting in your office."

"Who?"

"You'd better get in there."

Tim gulped and went into his office. Seated in a chair across from his desk, waiting for him was the SecNav.

"Madame Secretary," he said almost nervously as he extended a hand to greet her. "My apologies for keeping you waiting." She shook his hand, and he went around to his side of the desk.

"How is your first week as Director of Cyber Crimes?" she asked.

"Eventful," Tim confessed. "We're working hard to catch the cyber-terrorist responsible for trying to kill me, and for putting the hit out on Director Thomas."

"So you have a suspect?"

"William Cloud, the most well-known cyber-terrorist in world." He handed her a file, which she opened as he continued to talk. "He's been in and out of several airline databases, manipulating or erasing flight plans and manifests for cargo planes. He's masking the shipment of illegal firearms across the world by altering the cargo manifests to look like the illegal arms aren't aboard the plane."

"This man is smart."

"I was just down in Cyber Unit 3... I have an Agent heading up the development of a program that will ping us when he hacks into a database. It will allow us to follow his tracks, and when he goes to back out, we follow him."

"Good. Keep me informed on your progress."

"Yes, Ma'am."

She handed back the file.

"I have something else to discuss with you, Acting Director McGee. No one but myself and Director Vance knows what we are about to discuss, and you may not discuss it outside of this office. Are we clear?"

"Yes Ma'am."

"I regret to say that Director Wesley Thomas has passed away this morning, from complications due to his injuries."

"I'm sorry to hear this, Madame Secretary."

"In lieu of his passing, I wanted to be the one to discuss with you the possibility of staying here in Rome longer than the assigned month you were first given."

"Longer?"

"After you have served the month you were assigned, I would like to look into the possibility of you taking this position on a permanent basis."

Tim nearly gaped.

Permanently? Like in, move to Rome, forever?

Tim cleared his throat nervously.

"I--I'd be honored to be considered as his permanent replacement, Madame Secretary."

She smiled.

"I'm glad to hear it." She stood, and he stood with her. "Keep me updated on the Cloud investigation, and we'll have another face-to-face meeting after your month is over."

"Yes Ma'am."

"Have a good day, Director McGee."

"You too, Ma'am."

He walked her to the door, and she met her security team in the outer office, and left.

Tim walked back to his chair in a daze, and practically fell into his chair. He was shocked with the SecNav's job offer, and he wasn't sure what to do next. He couldn't tell anyone, because no one was supposed to know that Director Thomas had died. It were better that no one knew for the time being, as it was sensitive information pertaining to his current case.

Speaking of that... I have a program to finish writing.

Tim turned back to his laptop and pulled up the specs of the program he'd started the previous evening, and got back to work.

TBC...

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Chapter 6

Tim worked on his program all day, adding more parameters where he could. As he inputted a new parameter, his cell phone rang. He glanced down and immediately picked it up when Gibbs' caller ID flashed on his screen.

"What have you got?" he asked quickly.

"Hello to you to, McGee."

"Sorry... things have been crazy."

"I know. Vance read us in. How are you holding up?"

"Let's just say I have a new respect for what Director Vance does all day," Tim said, ceasing his typing for a moment.

"You're running a program, aren't you?"

Tim hesitated, and he heard Gibbs chuckle.

"I figured you'd dip your fingers into the search for Cloud."

"He tried to kill me, Gibbs. You would do the same thing."

A knock on Tim's door brought his eyes up. Laura stepped into the office.

"Can I call you back later?"

"Call me anytime, Tim."

"Thanks. Have a good one, and good luck."

"You too."

Tim hung up and turned his attention to his secretary.

"Are you ready for dinner?" she asked with a smile.

Tim looked at his watch. Had he really been working all day on this program?

"I'm starved. What did you have in mind?"

"Well, I wanted to show you a great little place around the corner from base, but I think Agent Forsythe might put out a BOLO on you if we leave."

Tim laughed.

"Yes, he definitely would. How about we settle for the cafeteria?"

"Sounds good to me. There's a place downstairs that serves the best sausage and pepper sandwiches."

"That sounds amazing. Let's go."

Tim offered an arm, and Laura hitched hers into his, and they left the office together.

******

"This is the most amazing sausage and pepper sandwich I've ever tasted," Tim said as he hungrily dove into his sandwich.

"Sausage and pepper stands are as prevalent in Italy as a hot dog stand back in the States."

"How long have you been in Rome?" Tim asked.

"I've lived here for almost ten years. My first job at NCIS was in DC, and I was quickly transferred here. I had nothing holding me back in the States, so I took the transfer, and I haven't regretted it."

Tim dabbed at his face with a napkin.

"After this case is over, maybe you could show me some good restaurants, and places to go?"

"I'd be happy to show you around," she said with a smile.

As Tim took another bite of his sandwich, he saw Agent Barnes running across the cafeteria toward him.

"Director," he said, puffing from his run. "McKenzie has him again... and we're latched onto him this time."

Tim turned quickly to Laura.

"Go ahead... I'll see you upstairs."

Tim thanked her for her company, and left with Agent Barnes. He finished his sandwich on the way to Cyber 3. When they got there, a crowd had formed around McKenzie's desk.

"What do you have, Ryan?" Tim asked as he leaned over the desk.

"I caught him trying to hack into the cargo manifest for a military transport leaving out of D.C. I latched onto him on the down low, and he hasn't figured me out yet."

"What has he done so far?"

"Actually, not much other than scrolling through the manifest."

"Can you bring that up?"

Ryan hit a few keys, and the shipping manifest came up. Tim's eyes widened.

"This plane is transporting weapons to a Naval base off the coast of Afghanistan."

Suddenly, items from the manifest started to disappear.

"Stop him!"

Ryan did some typing, but he was unable to stop Cloud. Tim joined him, frantically re-routing every time Cloud blocked them. After a few minutes of cat-and-mouse, Tim and Ryan were able to boot Cloud from the database, but unfortunately, half of the manifest had been deleted.

"I'm sorry, Director," Ryan said sullenly.

"Don't apologize," Tim said quickly. Ryan's computer beeped, bringing everyone's attention back to the main computer screen. "Look, he's trying to get back in!"

Ryan initiated a different parameter in his program, and in seconds he was latched onto Cloud again. This time, Cloud began to change information on the manifest, rather than delete it. Ryan countered him every time he made a change, but Cloud was faster. Suddenly, Ryan's screen went black, and an instant message screen appeared.

"What in the hell - "

IF ANYONE LATCHES ONTO MY IP ADDRESS AGAIN, I WILL SET OFF ANOTHER BOMB, AND THIS TIME, SOMEONE WILL DIE.

The IM screen disappeared, and Ryan's screen was restored.

"What the hell was that?" Ryan said, scared.

"He's bluffing," Tim said. "He's trying to scare us off."

"With all due respect, Director McGee, shouldn't we alert Director Vance to this?" Barnes pointed out.

"Absolutely. Barnes, come with me to MTAC. McKenzie, keep tracking him. If anything happens, call me immediately."

"Yes, Sir."

Tim and Agent Barnes high-tailed it to MTAC, and the technician had Vance up on the screen in record time.

"I have news," Tim said. "Cloud is threatening us again. We were trying to stop him from manipulating another manifest, and he blocked us, and made another bomb threat."

"Did he say where or against whom?"

"No... that makes me want his ass even more."

"I'll get on this right away."

"We can't search the ends of the Earth, Director. This bomb could be in any city, anywhere, and he could detonate it at any time."

"His first two acts were directed at you and Wes. He's going for Agency Directors. I'll make some calls to other agencies, to tighten security with Directors and Assistant Directors."

"What about you?" Tim asked.

"I've got my security detail, and Gibbs. Keep your guys working on tracing this bastard."

Agent Barnes stepped up.

"Director, my Cyber Unit is working around the clock to trace his movements. We won't lose him."

"Thank you, Agent Barnes. Let's find this bastard and put him away for the rest of his natural life."

"Agreed. Keep in touch, Director."

"You do the same, McGee."

McGee gave the signal, and Vance's image disappeared.

"Get to work, Barnes. Let's find this guy."

"Yes, Sir."

Barnes left MTAC, and Tim followed behind him a minute later. As he opened the door to MTAC, an explosion ripped through the upper floor of NCIS, and Tim felt himself falling as the balcony he was standing on gave way and collapsed onto the lower floor.

TBC...

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Chapter 7


"Director McGee!"

Tim was sure he could hear faint voices, but where was he? And why couldn't he move?

"Hold on, Director!"

The voice sounded like Paul's, but Tim couldn't make it out. Suddenly, his face was flooded with light, and he started to come to his senses... and the pain hit him. Then he remembered where he was, and what happened.

"Help!" he shouted hoarsely, terrified.

"I'm here, Director - don't move until we clear the rubble, okay?"

Tim blinked, and saw Paul's face looking down at him.

"Okay, Paul."

Paul disappeared from his view, and Tim heard instructions being shouted both in English and Italian. A few moments later, he felt whatever was holding his leg down suddenly shift, and he screamed as excruciating pain shot throughout his body. Paul appeared at his side again.

"It's all right... your leg is free, and paramedics are on the way. You're going to be fine."

"The balcony - a bomb -"

"The suspects didn't get very far. The local police picked them up six blocks from here. We've got them in holding, and they're not going anywhere until they give up Cloud and whoever else they are working for."

"Good," Tim mumbled, before letting himself fall into unconsciousness.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Paul watched in terror as Tim's eyes slid shut, and he faded into unconsciousness. He quickly checked Tim's pulse, and was relieved that it was still steady.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, looking down at his unconscious Boss. "I should have been here."

A shadow alerted Paul to the presence of another person, and he got to his feet to face Agent Jim Morris, who was also assigned to Tim's protection detail.

"How is he?" Jim asked.

"I think he's going to be fine... his leg was pinned under some debris, but we got him loose."

Jim could see the forlorn expression on his friend's face.

"Hey, this was not your fault, Paul... you were on your lunch break. No one expected this to happen, especially inside of NCIS headquarters."

"Did you find out how that bomb got planted?" Paul asked, his eyes averting to Tim every five seconds.

"There are three teams scouring the building, and all gates have been locked down. If the accomplice to our perps is still on base, they aren't going anywhere."

"Good, because when they find him, I want a piece of him," Paul said, anger in his voice.

"Slow down, Paul. Let's just stick with Director McGee, and let the field Agents do their job. They'll find whoever did this."

Paul nodded and turned his attention back to Tim, who was still unconscious. The paramedics finally made their way through the rubble, and joined them to aid Tim. Within minutes, he was strapped to a gurney, and being taken away. Paul and Jim hurried out of the building behind them.

Paul looked up at headquarters as they made it outside. Thankfully, there was little damage... fire crews had extinguished the flames caused by the bomb, and there was minimal structural damage to the building, but it could have been a lot worse.

The screech of tires brought Paul's attention to a car stopping in front of him. He got into the car with Jim, and they sped off to follow the ambulance carrying their Boss to the hospital.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Boss... It's hot in here...."

Tim started to feel faint, and the next thing he knew, Gibbs was at his side, and they were both looking down at the piece of glass sticking out of Tim's side.

"Oh, God..."

Tim felt blackness take over, and the last thing he saw was Gibbs' face, before unconsciousness won over.


-----

Tim's eyes shot open, and he tried to sit up in bed, but was met by excruciating pain, sending him back down into bed. He looked down at himself to assess his injuries. He could feel the bandages on his ribs, and his arm was casted. To his dismay, his leg was also casted, and currently being elevated.

I don't remember doing all of this to myself when Dearing's bomb went off.

The door opened, and a nurse came in. She muttered in Italian as she fumbled with his IV. She smiled at him, and left. Tim furrowed his brow, confused.

Where am I?

As the nurse left, two men came in, smiling.

"You're awake! How are you feeling?"

Tim's confusion became more intense. Who were these men, and why were they here?

"Director, are you all right? Should I call a nurse?" The second man offered.

"Director?" Tim finally managed to say.

The first man shared a look of confusion with his friend, and turned back to Tim.

"Do you know where you are, Tim?"

"Hospital."

"Right... do you know--"

"Am I in Bethesda? Where's Gibbs? Is Abby okay?"

The first man started to look very concerned.

"Do you remember what happened to you?"

"There was a bomb - Dearing - in Director Vance's SUV -"

"Dearing? Harper Dearing?"

"Yeah... did we catch him?"

"Dir-- Tim, Harper Dearing has been dead for years. Agent Gibbs took him out."

"Wait - huh? What - is this some kind of joke?" Tim asked, anger starting to mix with confusion.

"You have no idea where you are, do you?"

"What are you talking about? I'm in Bethesda Naval Hospital! Where's Agent Gibbs, and who the hell are you!"

The first man's cell phone rang, and he quickly answered it.

"This is Forsythe. Ok perfect... get him up here right away. He's not getting any better."

Tim tried to sit up again, but the pain forced him to stay lying down.

"What the hell is going on here?" Tim asked again, his tone bordering between anger and fury.

"All of your questions will be answered soon. I promise."

The door to Tim's room opened again, and Tim was relieved to see Gibbs come through it.

"Finally... Boss, what's going on? Did you catch Dearing?"

Gibbs nodded at Forsythe and Morris, and they left the room. When they were gone, Gibbs went to Tim's side.

"McGee, listen to me. Harper Dearing has been dead for five years. You are in Rome, Italy, and you were involved in an explosion at the Rome headquarters. Do you remember?"

"Rome?"

"Yes, Tim, Rome."

"Why am I in Rome? Do we have a case?"

Gibbs chuckled.

"You are the Director of Cyber Crimes now, Tim."

"I am?"

"Yeah... congratulations."

Tim let his head sink into his pillow, and he closed his eyes. Another memory suddenly started to flow through his mind.

Tim clapped Agent Barnes on the back as they exited MTAC together. Both were confident that with Vance's help, they would catch Cloud and put him away for good. Tim opened the door to MTAC, and they stepped out together. He started to give Agent Barnes instructions... and then, there was an explosion, and Agent Barnes disappeared into a wall of fire. Tim felt himself falling, and everything went black.

"Oh God, no..."

Gibbs stood silently beside Tim's bed.

"You remember."

"Yes." It occurred to Tim just then that Gibbs was really here, and he wasn't imagining him. "Why - why did you come here?" Tim randomly asked.

"Agent Forsythe called Vance to report the bombing. Vance called me immediately and gave me leave time."

"You didn't have to come."

"The hell I didn't - Forsythe has been trying to jog your memory for three days. He told Vance you thought you were in Bethesda, recovering from the Dearing bombing."

Tim closed his eyes as he took in Gibbs' words.

"I'm sorry."

"No reason to apologize. You were in an explosion. That's a good reason for your brain to get mixed up."

"Agent Barnes - is he - did they find him? He was with me when the bomb -"

Gibbs looked toward the door, where Agent Forsythe was waiting. Paul shook his head sorrowfully.

"Agent Barnes didn't make it, Tim. I'm sorry."

Tim slammed his good fist into the bed in anger.

"Fuck... my first week in Charge and I get the Agency blown up. Some Director I turned out to be."

"Hey, don't sit there and blame yourself for this - there was nothing you could have done to stop this bombing. Do you understand?"

Tim nodded.

"Thanks for flying out here, Boss - I mean, Gibbs."

Gibbs chuckled, but his laughter soon faded when he noticed Tim's forlorn expression.

"Do you want to talk about anything else, Tim?"

"I just want to get some rest now," Tim replied flatly.

"All right. I'll come back later. I need to get a report from Agent Forsythe, anyway."

"Okay."

Tim closed his eyes, and Gibbs stepped out of the room. Agents Forsythe and Morris were standing guard outside Tim's door.

"Forsythe, can we talk for a minute?"

"Sure, Agent Gibbs."

Gibbs crooked a finger, and Paul followed him they went around the corner, where there was less foot traffic.

"How has he been doing?"

"In what aspect?"

Gibbs simply glared at him.

"I don't see him for the majority of the day, but I've talked to his secretary. He's overwhelmed, especially when we found out William Cloud was behind all of this."

"Watch out for him."

"I'm his Security detail."

Gibbs glared at him again.

"I have his six, Agent Gibbs."

Gibbs grunted and turned to walk toward the elevator. Paul let out a breath he didn't realize he was holding, and when he was sure Gibbs was out of earshot, he took out his cell phone. He opened up his call log, and clicked the last number that had called him.

"What happened?"

"You told me there wasn’t going to be any more bombs."

"I lied."

"A Federal Agency was bombed. The investigation is eventually going to lead to me. How am I supposed to--"

"Just do what you were instructed."

"But there's no way--"

"Am I speaking a different language, Agent Forsythe?"

"N-no..."

"Do you remember the insurance policy I have... to make sure you finish the job?"

"Please... don't hurt her..."

"You know what will happen to her if you don't finish the job you were assigned."

The phone went dead, and Paul held it in his shaking hand as he watched the numbers flash on the screen. If there was any chance of saving her, he had to finish it. He schooled his features, slipped his phone back into his pocket and turned the corner to head back to Tim's room.


TBC...

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Chapter 8

Gibbs took out his phone as soon as the elevator closed, and called Vance.

"How is he, Gibbs?"

"He's going to be fine, Leon. I need to ask you about an Agent in the Rome office. What do you know about Paul Forsythe?"

"Did you say Forsythe?"

"Yeah... should I be worried?"

"I've been looking into him for the past week, after Tim told me that Agent Forsythe was the one that picked him up at the airport in Rome. It took me until today to remember... Agent Forsythe was assigned to Director Thomas' personal security detail... and the day of the shooting, Agent Forsythe had stepped away for a moment, right before the shooter entered the Convention Center."

"Are you telling me that Forsythe planned for Director Thomas to be unprotected?"

"That's how it looks to me... when he gave me his Report after the shooting, he begged me not to fire him, and that he'd made a huge mistake. I gave him a second chance, but he wasn't assigned to Tim's security detail. When Tim told me that, red flags went up."

Vance paused.

"Where is he now, Gibbs?"

Gibbs felt his heart leap to his throat, and slammed his hand into the emergency stop to change floors.

"I'll call you back, Leon."

He hung up as the elevator dinged at Tim's floor, and he ran down the hall toward Tim's room.

~*~*~*~*~

Agent Morris turned as Paul approached Tim's hospital room again.

"How did it go with Gibbs?" he asked. Paul didn't hesitate as he threw a punch, hitting Morris square on the side of his face. Morris dropped to the ground in a heap, unconscious.

"I'm sorry, buddy. I'll explain later."

Paul stepped quietly into Tim's room and closed the door. Tim was half asleep. Paul stood next to the bed and stared down at his Boss... and admittedly his new friend. He was shaking like a leaf as he eyed the breathing tubes that ran from Tim's nose to the machine at his side.

God help me for what I'm about to do...

Paul reached his quivering hand toward the tube hanging over the side of the bed, and fingered the slender tube between his thumb and forefinger. He reached out and took the monitor from Tim's pointer finger, and slipped it onto his own, so the hospital staff would not be alerted when Tim started to code. He looked down at Tim, and a tear slipped down his cheek as he pinched the tube closed.

Tim started to gasp for breath, his eyes bulging out. For a split second, his eyes moved to the left, and Paul could have sworn Tim saw him. Paul let his eyes flutter closed for a moment as his victim continued to gasp for breath. Tim's gasps got weaker by the moment, and Paul could feel his guilt tying knots in his stomach. All of a sudden, the door burst open, and Gibbs burst in, gun pointed directly at Paul.

"Get your damn hands off him or you'll be eating bullets, Forsythe!"

Paul immediately released the tube, and Tim sucked in air gratefully through his breathing tubes, and settled back into a half-slumber moments later. Paul slipped the monitor back on Tim's finger. Gibbs crossed the room in a millisecond and had his handcuffs out.

"You're under arrest. Hands behind your back, Forsythe."

Paul complied and let Gibbs take him into custody. Gibbs led his prisoner out of the room, and turned to Agent Morris, who was leaning against the wall with an ice pack a nurse had given him.

"Morris, I want you to call Director Vance and tell him what happened, and I want you to go into Director McGee's room and close the door, and do not leave until you are instructed to do so by Director Vance. Is that clear?"

"Yes, Agent Gibbs. I'm sorry about this... I screwed up."

"Just go in there and do your job. We'll talk about that later."

Agent Morris nodded and went into Tim's room and closed the door. Gibbs yanked Paul by the cuffs toward the elevator. People started to stare as the two waited silently for the elevator. Gibbs looked over at his prisoner, curious as to why Paul had given up so quickly. He hadn't expected it, but he was glad he didn't have to shoot anyone in the middle of a hospital.

The elevator opened, and Gibbs practically dragged him into it. When the doors closed, and the car started to move, Gibbs hit the emergency stop, and shoved Paul face first into the wall.

"You're going to tell me why the hell you did what you did, right now."

"Agent Gibbs.. I..." Paul shouted as Gibbs shoved him harder into the cold metal elevator wall.

"Start talking!"

"I didn't want to do it... I swear to you," Paul said, his voice cracking. "Tim... he's been... he's a great person. You have to believe me, Agent Gibbs... I didn't want to kill him."

Gibbs let Paul go, and the young Agent turned to face him. He could see the immense look of guilt on Paul's face, but he also saw something else there.

"We'll finish this conversation in interrogation, back at NCIS."

"Yes, Sir," Paul whispered.

~*~*~*~

Gibbs didn't say anything else for the entire trip back to NCIS. He led Paul quietly into the building. Some shocked Agents gasped as Gibbs and Paul got into the elevator and took it down to the interrogation rooms. When they arrived, the Assistant Director of Cyber Crimes, Gerald Felder, was already waiting for them.

"Take him inside and meet me in observation, Agent Gibbs."

"Yes, Sir," Gibbs replied, and quickly brought Paul into the small room. He pushed Paul into a metal chair.

"I'm going to take your handcuffs off now. Can I trust you not to try anything, Forsythe?"

Paul nodded, and Gibbs head slapped him.

"I want a verbal response, Agent."

"Yes, Sir."

"All right."

Gibbs removed the handcuffs, and Paul rubbed his sore wrists.

"You try anything and--"

"I won't... I deserve what's coming to me."

Gibbs nodded and stepped from the room, locking the door behind him. He went into observation to join the Assistant Director. Felder looked at Gibbs, clearly annoyed and upset.

"Report."

"I stopped Agent Forsythe as he attempted to murder Director McGee in his hospital bed. We'll find out after interrogation what else he might have been involved with."

Felder's expression did not change.

"I want to be the one to interrogate him. You know I'll get everything out of him, Gerry."

Felder considered Gibbs' request for a few moments.

"You can do the interrogation... I will be watching from here. Don't come out of there until you have a confession. Clear?"

"Yes, Sir."

Gibbs turned and headed toward the door to interrogation. He was going to get answers out of Forsythe, once and for all.

TBC...

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Chapter 9


Tim's eyes shot open as the breath was sucked from his throat. He gasped for air, the tubes in his nose being painfully sucked upward in his nostrils as he reached for even the slightest drop of air. He was able to turn his head slightly... and he saw Paul standing over him, but he wasn't doing anything to help. Tim reached a hand outward, as if grasping for something that wasn't there. As his vision started to fade, he saw the blurred image of another person, right before a burst of air shot through the tubes in his nose.


"Help!" Tim shouted as he awoke with a start, and tried in vain to sit up in bed. He was still in the hospital.

"Director..."

Tim turned his head to see an Agent that wasn't Paul, standing over his bed.

"Who are you?"

"Agent Jim Morris... I'm your new Security detail."

"Where's Paul?"

Jim remained silent, unsure of how to answer Tim's question.

"What aren't you telling me, Agent Morris?" Tim asked when he noticed Jim's nervous expression.

"Agent Forsythe... he's been arrested, Director."

Tim sat silently for a moment. The dream he'd had... was it real? He closed his eyes and conjured the memory again - he'd been gasping for air... and then he saw Paul's face. Only Paul wasn't doing anything to help him.

"Oh God... he tried to kill me."

Jim nodded.

"I-I didn't want to be the one to tell you, Director. I'm sorry."

"Who stopped him?" Tim asked immediately.

"Agent Gibbs. It was like he knew it was happening... he'd left, and then all of a sudden he was running past me into the room."

"And where in the hell were you when Agent Forsythe tried to suffocate me, Morris?"

"I um - Paul knocked me out. It happened so quickly - I never saw it coming. I-I'm sorry, Director. I really screwed up."

Jim lowered his eyes, no longer able to look Tim in the eye.

Tim scrubbed a hand across his unshaven face, and looked at the forlorn Agent sitting across the room. Tim had screwed up plenty of times himself as a Field Agent, and he'd been given a second chance. He couldn't deny the same to Jim.

"Jim, look at me."

Jim looked up, and Tim could see the look of regret on his face.

"Everyone screws up once in a while... I haven't met one NCIS Agent who has never screwed up. What happened was not your fault. I don't want you to feel guilty."

"I was supposed to protect you, and you almost died! How is it not my fault?"

"Do you know how many times I have almost died in the line of duty?"

"No."

"Lots. Almost getting killed today does upset me, obviously, but at this point, after almost ten years at NCIS, I've conceded to the fact that part of my job is putting my life on the line. That being said, I'm not mad at you, and you're not in trouble for this."

"But Agent Gibbs--"

"Isn't your Boss - I am. And you're not in trouble. Okay?"

Jim nodded. Tim glanced down and saw a deck of cards out on the chair next to Jim.

"What are you playing?"

Jim glanced over at his cards, and back at Tim.

"Just Solitaire."

"Do you know how to play Gin Rummy?"

Jim nodded.

"Want to play?"

"Sure."

Tim smiled as Jim happily dragged his chair over, and used Tim's bed as their card table to deal out the cards.

~*~*~*~*~

Paul lifted his head as the door to interrogation opened. Gibbs stepped in, holding a file, and closed the door. He didn't look as angry as he had been earlier. Paul kept his eyes on Gibbs as he sat down at the table across from him. Gibbs had an ominously calm look on his face, and it scared the hell out of Paul.

"You're in a lot of trouble, Paul."

"Yes, Sir."

"Do you know what's in this file?"

Paul shook his head.

"This is your official NCIS file, Paul. Director Vance gave me the clearance to read it. Your record is spotless - except for one thing."

Paul gulped.

Shit... this is a big fucking mess.

"You were assigned to protection detail for Director Thomas. You were to accompany him into the Convention Center for an inter-agency meeting. According to this, you stepped away to use the Men's Room, right before the shooter came into the Convention Center."

"Yes Sir, that's correct."

"Look at me when I'm talking to you, Agent Forsythe."

Paul lifted his head, and met Gibbs' icy glare.

"I talked to Director Vance. He says that he reassigned you after the shooting - you weren't assigned to McGee's detail. Explain."

"Jim Morris was assigned to Director McGee's detail. I uh, I talked him into switching with me, unofficially."

"Why?"

Paul was at a loss for an answer. He nervously rubbed the back of his neck. Gibbs stood and leaned across the interrogation table.

"You're going to jail, Forsythe.... how long you're there will depend on what you tell me right now."

"It's not that simple --"

"Why, Paul? Why isn't it that simple? I know you had a part in all of this - I want to know what it is!"

Paul leapt to his feet in a rage.

"My daughter is going to die if I tell you anything, that's why! He's going to kill her!" Paul calmed a bit, his chest heaving, and started to quiver. "My little girl is out there and she's going to die because I screwed up."

Paul collapsed into his chair, tears streaming down his face. Gibbs relaxed his features, and sat down again.

"Paul... you need to tell me who has your daughter. We can save her."

"You can't..."

"We can... but you have to tell me everything."

Paul nodded and swiped a hand over his eyes to rid them of tears.

"Two days before the shooting, I got a call on my cell... I didn't know who it was, but he told me that he had my daughter, and if I ever wanted to see her alive again, I--I had to put the Director of Cyber Crimes in a position where he could--"

"He wanted you to help him murder Director Thomas."

Paul nodded shakily.

"I didn't want to do it, Agent Gibbs... please believe me. I almost didn't go into the Men's Room that day. I didn't want him to die."

"And McGee? Why did you switch assignments with Agent Morris?"

"The guy was still threatening to kill her... he wanted me to help him kill McGee, too. I--I was supposed to let him get into the car before the bomb went off last week -- but I lost my nerve and pressed the auto start. I-I just couldn't do it, Agent Gibbs."

"Did he contact you after the first bombing?" Gibbs asked.

Paul nodded.

"He told me I was useless... I--" Paul paused, and Gibbs could tell that what he was about to say was very upsetting to him. "I heard my daughter screaming in the background. He was going to kill her. I begged him not to do it, to give me another chance. By some miracle, he did..."

"Did he ask you to plant the second bomb inside of NCIS?"

"No... he didn't tell me about the second bomb. He said he'd contact me with instructions, and the next day, I was pulling Director McGee from the rubble of another bombing."

Gibbs simply sat back, eyebrow raised. Paul continued his story.

"After you left the hospital, I called him. He told me I had to finish what I started, or he was going to kill her, no matter how much I begged him not to. God help me... I didn't want to kill anyone... please believe me, Agent Gibbs..."

Gibbs sat in silence when Paul was finished. The younger man was slumped in his chair, and he looked emotionally drained. Gibbs had always prided himself in knowing when someone was telling him the truth, and when they were lying.

Paul was telling the truth.

"What's your daughter's name?" Gibbs asked suddenly.

"Samantha. She's 14 years old. I just want her back... I want all of this to be over."

"Ok," Gibbs said, standing up. "Wait here for me, all right?"

Paul nodded.

Gibbs got up and left interrogation. Assistant Director Felder was waiting for him just outside the door.

"Gerry - "

"I heard it all, Gibbs. I'll talk to Vance."

Gibbs nodded.

"I know someone who can help us find out who Agent Forsythe has been talking to."

Felder nodded and left him to go and make the call to Vance. Gibbs took out his cell phone and dialed a familiar number. He was going to need help to get Paul's daughter back alive, and find out who kidnapped her.

TBC...

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2015 6:42 pm 
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Chapter 10

"Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs! Is he okay? Is Tim going to be all right?"

"He's going to be just fine, Abby. I have something I need your help with."

"What's up?"

Gibbs explained the entire situation to Abby, in full detail.

"So you want me to try and figure out who Paul has been talking to?"

"Exactly. I'm going to have one of the Cyber Techs here connect with you, so you can work together on this. I'll call you back on the video thingy, okay?"

"Okay. Hurry!"

Gibbs hung up as he boarded the elevator and rode it quickly to the Cyber Crimes unit. When he got there, he flagged down an Agent and asked him where he could find Agent Barnes' team. He was directed to Cyber Unit 3... where he found a group of sullen Agents. Only one of them turned to him when he came through the door.

"Agent Gibbs?"

Gibbs walked toward the young man with a hand out. The kid shook it.

"What's your name?"

"Agent Ryan McKenzie. Director Vance called and told us you were coming."

"I’m told Agent Barnes' team is the best of the best in the Cyber Unit, here in Rome."

Ryan's features saddened.

"Yeah."

"I’m sorry for your loss... Agent Barnes was one of the best."

Ryan nodded.

"I need your team's help... we have Agent Forsythe in custody, and we have reason to believe that Cloud or one of his Associates has kidnapped Forsythe's daughter. I need you to work with Abby Sciuto, from DC, to find her."

Ryan's eyes lit up.

"I've worked with Abby before... we'll find her for sure, with Abby on our Team."

"Good. Dial Abby on visual."

"Yes, Sir."

Ryan did some typing, and soon, Abby's smiling face was up on the big screen.

"Hi Guys!!"

"Hi Abby!" Ryan said enthusiastically. Gibbs glared at him, and he immediately schooled his features.

"So do we have a plan, El Jefe?"

"What we need to do is to get Forsythe's mystery man on the phone. Paul is going to call him and tell him that he finished the job, and that McGee is dead. While he's on the phone, you two are going to try and track his cell signal. Even if we don't get a location, we can figure out who the hell he is."

Gibbs stepped back and turned to address the entire room.

"No one is to say anything about this Operation outside of this room. It is to be kept in strict confidence. Are we all understood?"

Nods and choruses of "Yes Sir" followed, and Gibbs turned his attention to Abby and Ryan.

"You two get to work setting up what you need to. I'm going to go and visit Agent Forsythe down in holding."

"You have a theory, don't you?"

Gibbs simply raised an eyebrow at her and smiled.

"Get yourself a Caf Pow for that, Abbs."

"I can get Caf Pow out of you across the Atlantic," she quipped.

He smiled and left Cyber 3. He quickly went back downstairs to holding, and Agent Jacobs led him to where Paul was being held. He turned to Jacobs before the young man left them.

"No one is allowed to know I'm down here. Are we clear?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Good. You can go."

Jacobs hurried off to his post, leaving Gibbs and Forsythe alone.

"Come here, Paul," Gibbs said through the bars.

Paul stood and walked forlornly to the Supervisory Agent.

"We're going to find your daughter, but I need your help to do it."

Paul's head snapped up.

"What do you want me to do from in here?"

Gibbs nodded toward the pay phone hanging on the wall.

"You're going to call this guy, and tell him that McGee is dead, that the job is finished."

"That's not going to make him let her go, Agent Gibbs."

"Listen to me, would ya? While you're talking to him, I'm going to have Agent McIntyre and someone from DC working on tracking his cell signal."

"What if he doesn't believe me?"

"He will... no one knows that McGee survived except for you and me, and Agent Morris. I called the hospital on the way down and convinced them to tell anyone that called about Director McGee, to tell them that he'd passed on from his injuries."

"I-he's going to figure me out, Agent Gibbs. I'm going to screw up, and he's going to kill Samantha."

"I’m going to be right here with you. You're going to be fine. This is the only way we can track down who is doing this to you."

Paul nodded.

"Okay. Let's do it."

Gibbs nodded, and picked up the keys that Agent Jacobs had left him. He opened the prison cell, and let Paul come out and up to the pay phone. Gibbs gave him some change, and he put a few quarters in and dialed the familiar number of his torturer. Gibbs immediately sent a text to Abby as soon as he heard a voice on the line with Paul.

"Is it done?"

"He's dead."

"It's about time you did something right, Agent Forsythe."

"It was easy." Paul paused. "When can I see my daughter?"

"In time, Agent Forsythe. I told you I was a man of my word."

"If even one hair is out of place on her head, I will hunt you down."

"Now, now... you must control that temper of yours, Agent. You wouldn't want it to get you into trouble, would you?"

"What else do you want from me! I've already killed twice for you! Give me my damn daughter back, you fucking bastard!"

Gibbs' phone vibrated in his hand, and he looked down at the text from Abby.

213-555-6628: We've got him - you need to come back to Cyber 3, NOW.

Gibbs nodded at Paul, to let him know the trace was successful. Paul was unresponsive... he was listening intently to his caller. Gibbs watched as Paul's face turned ashen, and the click of the phone on the other end was loud enough to make Gibbs flinch. Paul shakily hung up the phone, and turned to Gibbs.

"What happened, Paul?" Gibbs asked with concern.

"He wants one more person dead, before he lets Samantha go."

"Who?"

"Director Vance."

"Excuse me?"

"Gibbs, I don't want to kill Director Vance!"

"You're not going to. While you were on the phone, I had someone tracing the call, and we found your guy. We're going to get her back, and take him down."

Paul nodded shakily, and let Gibbs lock him back into the cell.

"I'll come back down in a little while, okay?"

Paul nodded again, too overcome to speak, and Gibbs left him alone to get back to Cyber 3.

TBC...

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Chapter 11


"Are you sure about this, Abby?" Gibbs asked, staring blankly at her on the screen.

"The call came from his office, Gibbs. I also pulled Paul's cell phone records, and all of his calls come through a number routed through the NCIS switchboard in Rome."

Gibbs stared at the half of the screen displaying the photo and record of Gerald Felder, Assistant Director of Cyber Crimes.

"This seems too easy," Ryan said before Gibbs could bring himself to say it. "AD Felder knows what we do here... he didn't get to be Assistant Director for nothing. He'd know better than to call from his office..."

"Maybe he was pompous enough to think we wouldn't find out it was him," Gibbs replied as he scrolled through his contacts and pressed his thumb down on one of them.

"Do you have news?"

"We tracked down who's been threatening Paul."

"And?"

"It's Gerry Felder, Leon, and you are his next target."

The line was silent for a moment.

"I've known Gerry for years... I can't believe he would orchestrate this."

"I need a warrant, Leon, and two of your best Field Agents in Rome to accompany me upstairs. I don't want to do this alone. E-mail the warrant to Agent Ryan McIntyre."

"You'll have it in two minutes."

"Thanks. Get yourself into protective custody... if Gerry is working for Cloud, you could still have a target on your back."

"Will do. Your warrant should be in Agent McIntyre's inbox as we speak."

Gibbs looked over at Ryan, who was jumping up to as something printed across the room.

"Is there anything we can do for Paul?"

"I'll do the best I can."

"Thanks.

"Stop stalling and serve that warrant."

Gibbs hung up and took the warrant from Ryan as he approached with it, and left the Cyber unit.

~*~*~*~*~

Two agents were waiting for Gibbs when he got off the elevator at the top level, where McGee's and Felder's offices were. He nodded to them, and the three of them went into AD Felder's office.

"You can't just burst into my office, Gibbs!" Gerry shouted.

"I have a warrant for your arrest, Gerry."

Felder was silent. He simply set down his pen, and looked at Gibbs, as if formulating his next sentence carefully.

"What's the charge?" he said calmly.

"Murder, Conspiracy to Commit Murder, and Kidnapping, for starters. We'll see what else we can add to the list."

Felder's eyes went wide, but he calmly stood and allowed the Agents to take him into custody, while Gibbs read his rights.

"Take him down to the interrogation room."

"Yes, Sir."

The Agents escorted AD Felder out of his office. Gibbs lingered behind for a moment, and then followed them down to interrogation.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Later that evening...

Tim slept restlessly on and off throughout the day, and finally stayed asleep when the evening hours hit. Agent Morris stayed with him all day. In between the sleeping, he got to know Agent Morris, though being drugged up as he was, he probably wouldn't remember half of it.

The door opening brought Tim out of a sound sleep. He was relieved to see that it was Gibbs who was visiting.

"How are you feeling, Tim?"

"I've felt better."

Gibbs smiled for a moment, then quickly schooled his features.

"Assistant Director Felder was arrested today."

Tim's eyes went wide.

"What did he-- oh my God."

Gibbs nodded.

"I can't believe it."

Gibbs pulled up a chair and sat next to Tim's bedside.

"Felder is being interrogated right now. We should have all of our answers soon."

"Good." Tim paused. "How is Paul?"

Gibbs paused, and Tim raised an eyebrow.

"He's that good, huh?"

"He's beating himself up over the whole thing."

"He didn't have any reservations about trying to kill me. Why all of a sudden is he feeling like crap?"

"Tim - when I came into this room with my gun pointed at him, he let go of that air tube faster than I could tell him to drop it. He didn't look like a man who wanted to do what he was doing to you."

"What are you trying to tell me?"

"Felder put him up to it, Tim. He blackmailed Paul into assisting in the murder of Director Thomas, and trying to kill you."

Tim remained silent. He wasn't sure what to think about Paul... how he would let himself be used like that.

"He could have come to me," Tim said softly. "Why didn't he come to me?"

"He reminds me of someone else that snuck around to save someone they loved from getting hurt, instead of coming to me for help."

Tim briefly lowered his eyes, and then re-established eye contact with Gibbs.

"Who is he protecting?" Tim asked.

"His daughter. Felder had her kidnapped."

"That's why he didn't come to me."

Gibbs nodded.

Tim scrubbed a hand across his unshaven face.

"Did I do something wrong in all of this? I feel like I've failed everyone since I took this position. Vance trusted me with this... all I've accomplished is getting good Agents killed."

"Hey, listen to me, McGee... you didn't do anything wrong. Felder wanted to move up the ladder, and he used someone else to help him clear a path."

Tim nodded silently. Gibbs reached over and head slapped him.

"Hey! I'm still injured, you know."

"You're not listening to me. None of this is your fault. If it weren't for the work you put in, we would never have all of the information that we did to be able to trace it all back to Felder. You did good, Tim."

A smile crept across Tim's face. Gibbs knew he was going to be all right.

TBC...

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2015 11:41 pm 
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Chapter 12


Two months later... Correctional Treatment Facility, Washington DC...


Tim waited impatiently in the prison interrogation room he'd been escorted to. The guards told him the prisoner would be escorted into the room shortly, but that was over a half hour ago, and Tim had better things to do with his time. The only thing that kept him from getting up and leaving was the crutches leaning next to him on the table.

His plaster cast had finally come off a week ago, but the Doctor insisted he wear a brace on his lower leg for a couple of more weeks, and use the crutches, to be sure everything healed properly. As soon as he could, he flew home to DC... he had a lot of healing to do before he could go back to work, and he didn't want to do it alone.

The blasting sound that signaled the opening of the door jarred Tim from his thoughts, and the heavy door opened slowly, and Paul forlornly stepped into the room, escorted by a guard. He looked as if he hadn't shaved in a week, and he'd definitely lost some weight since Tim had seen him last.

He looked terrible.

"You have ten minutes, Director McGee."

"Thanks."

The guard stepped outside, closing the door behind him. Paul was still standing awkwardly by the door, his hands bound by handcuffs.

"It's OK to sit down, Paul."

Paul brought his eyes to Tim's direction, and when he got a smile in return, he walked over to the table and sat down across from his ex-Boss. He was still unable to make eye contact with Tim. After what he'd done, Paul didn't even deserve to be in the same room with him.

"I don't have to tell you why I'm here, do I?"

Paul shook his head.

"Paul, we only have ten minutes to talk. Could you at least look at me?"

Paul slowly brought his head up, and made eye contact with Tim.

"I know why you did what you did. I want you to know that I forgive you."

"I don't deserve your forgiveness. Not after what I did."

"Your daughter was God knows where... if it were my daughter, or sister, or anyone I care about, I would have done whatever it took to get them back safely."

"My job was to protect you... you trusted me with your life, and I tried to kill you. If Gibbs hadn't come in when he did--"

"I wouldn't be sitting here, having this conversation with you. Paul, if you were in trouble, why didn't you come to me? I could have helped you find her without having to go through all of this."

"I couldn't! I--he was going to kill her! He sent me pictures of her - I heard her screams over the phone." A tear escaped Paul's eye and rolled down his cheek. "I couldn't let him hurt her. I just couldn't."

"Once you told Agent Gibbs the truth, he was able to figure out that it was AD Felder who was threatening you, and he tracked down the scum who had your daughter, and brought her home safely. You and I could have done that, if you had come to me in the first place."

"I know. I'm sorry, Director. You have no idea how sorry I am."

Paul dropped his head again.

"Hey! Look at me, Paul. Right now."

Paul obeyed, bringing his eyes back to Tim's.

"I forgive you Paul, and we're still friends. Never forget that, okay?"

"Okay."

"I'm going to give you an assignment."

Paul raised an eyebrow.

"What do you mean?"

"I want you to work on forgiving yourself. You're a good man, Paul, and if you let it, this is going to eat you up inside. I don't want you to destroy yourself over this."

"How am I supposed to forgive myself?"

The door buzzed, and the guard came in to retrieve Paul.

"Time's up, gentleman."

"I have faith in you, Paul. I'll come back and visit again, all right?"

"Okay. Thanks, Tim."

"What are friends for?"

Tim smiled as Paul was led out of the interrogation room. A second guard arrived, and escorted Tim outside the prison, to where Gibbs was waiting for him with the car.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Three weeks later... Gibbs' house...


Tim fiddled with his duffel bag as he put the last of his clothes inside. He'd been staying with Gibbs while he recovered. In the meantime, he had a meeting with Vance, and accepted the offer permanently for Director of Cyber Crimes.

They'd had a goodbye party at Gibbs' house that afternoon, and it had been really hard for Tim to say goodbye to his friends. He promised them he'd fly home as often as possible to visit. Abby made him swear it in blood, and he chuckled to himself as he fingered the Band-Aid on his index finger. Ducky had given him several books on Rome that he'd collected over the years, and Tim promised to read them all.

Tony was the hardest to say goodbye to. Tim attributed a lot of his field knowledge to Tony. He'd been a teacher, a mentor, and the best friend Tim had ever had. Tim promised him he'd call as often as he could.

They hugged for twenty minutes before Gibbs separated them and made Tony leave.

A knock at the bedroom door brought Tim out of his reverie. He looked up to find Gibbs standing in the doorway.

"Ready to go to the Airport?"

Tim picked up his bag and threw it over his shoulder.

"As I'll ever be."

They walked silently to the car and got in. Gibbs started it, and Tim took a long look at the house as they drove away.

The ride was silent for ten minutes. Gibbs was finally the one to break it.

"When you decided to accept the job permanently, you caused a lot of havoc," Gibbs said with a chuckle.

Tim smiled.

"I thought Abby was going to glue herself to me. It took you and Tony to pry her off of me."

"We're going to miss you, Tim. I'll never be able to replace you."

"You probably never will, either," Tim said with a smile.

Gibbs cuffed him lightly on the back of the head as he got on the highway to head for Dulles Airport.

END

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