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PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2010 3:46 pm 
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Joined: Wed Dec 30, 2009 10:10 pm
Posts: 2069
Location: Michigan
Title: A tiny bit insane
Name: Adrian
Gender: Female
Flag: Image
Rating: FR-13
Genre: gen, a little bit of angst
Pairings: McAbby and Tiva... kind of
Setting: Season 7. Some events from previous seasons will be discussed.
Note: This is a true work in progess. Chapters may be edited and updated, but I will post a note saying what has changed if that happens.




Living With Never Was


When Tim McGee woke up he felt pain in his chest and head. Massive amounts of pain and he had no idea as to why that was.

He shifted and felt the pulling of bandages covering a burning pain in his chest. And then he remembered.

The team had been called out to the scene of the murder of an admiral and when they had arrived they found themselves in the middle of a shootout. They got in the thick of things - once they figured out which side they should be shooting towards and which they should be shooting with - and things were going well.

Until Tony was shot.

He and Tony had crouched behind the same row of construction barrels and were doing a good job of picking off shooters, utilizing the gaps between the barrels. The shooting had stopped for several long minutes and they kept glancing at each other and peering through the cracks, trying to figure out if it was over.

They hadn’t expected to be caught in a gunfight and so they weren’t wired up. They had no idea where Ziva and Gibbs had gone to and whether or not they were all right. And the only person they had been shooting alongside had crept away to find out what was going on and had yet to come back.

Tony had the idea of raising his discarded jacket above the barrels to see if anyone would take the bait and begin shooting. When the bullets didn’t start flying again he cautiously peeked his head above the barrel, slowly rising further and further up until he was almost standing.

Before Tim knew what was going on Tony was slumped over the top of a barrel, a red gash blazing across the side of his head. Without a thought to his own safety Tim leapt up, knowing he had to get his friend back behind their barricade before someone managed to get him full on in the head.

It took only a matter of moments to grab Tony, lift him off the barrel and lower him to the ground. But it took only a millisecond for a bullet to slam into Tim’s chest and rip through him.

His fall to the ground seemed to take ages. He could clearly see Gibbs and Ziva running towards him and he tried to shout out a warning to them to take cover. But before he could open his mouth his head was slamming to the ground and he saw no more.

But now he was awake and, considering his last moment of being shot and the rather uncomfortable mattress beneath him - he was in a hospital.

“Come on Timmy, I know you’re awake.”

“Abby?” he groaned out, although to be honest he wasn’t surprised she was there. She always had to be by the side of an injured friend.

A hand squeezed his. Up until that moment he hadn’t realized his hand had been captured by hers, but he squeezed back as he struggled to open his eyes against the harsh light.

“That’s it… open those beautiful eyes of yours,” Abby cajoled. And her flattery certainly gave him the inspiration to force them open.

He found himself staring into the depths of her eyes. It was rather disconcerting to go from the darkness of pain to plunging into Abby’s green depths. He could see the obvious relief swimming with the tears, but there was another look in her eyes that he couldn’t quite figure out.

And then he realized she was talking to him.

“Wha?” he croaked out through a dry throat.

“Oh! You must be thirsty!” she said, leaping up to grab a cup full of ice chips. “You’re not supposed to drink anything until the doctors look you over, but you can suck on some ice.”

She gently popped a sliver of ice into his mouth and he almost groaned in the ecstasy of the icy treat.

The ice chip was soon gone but he shook his head when she offered another. He had to find out how his team was first.

“Tony?”

Abby mock glared at him.

“You must’ve gotten a rather nasty knock on the head if you think I’m Tony!”

Tim slowly shook his head, not amused.

“No. He okay?” he forced out.

Her forehead crinkled with her confused expression.

“What do you mean? You were the only idiot to get hurt out there.”

That confused Tim. He knew without question that Tony had gotten shot, even if it was just a graze it was a rather deep and nasty one.

Before he could attempt to argue with her though the door swung open and in walked Tony - as fit and healthy as ever.

“McGoo! You’re awake!” Tony said with glee. He poked his head back in the hall and Tim clearly heard him say “Honey, Tim’s awake!”

But that didn’t make any sense, because Tony didn’t have anyone in his life to call Honey. Unless he had some blonde bimbo tagging along whose name was Honey. Tim figured that was the truth for all of five seconds before he saw Ziva walk in, grinning from ear-to-ear. It wasn’t so much that Ziva had walked in - it was that she had walked in and taken Tony’s hand as if it were a perfectly natural thing to do.

That was when Tim began to realize that there was something off.

“Have I been out for long?” he asked Abby, glad that his voice was finally coming back. Maybe he had been in a coma for months. That would explain why Tony was okay. And maybe he and Ziva had finally gotten together in the intervening time between getting shot and waking up.

“Yes!” Abby said, and Tim felt the relief of having everything explained. “You’ve been out three and a half days. You had me worried sick!”

“Three days?” he asked, hoping he had heard wrong.

“And a half!” Abby insisted on adding. She lifted his hand to her lips and softly kissed his knuckles. “I was so worried you weren’t going to be okay.”

Abby never acted this affectionately towards Tim - a fact that he constantly rued. But now being faced with it he was a little creeped out, simply because it was just another thing outside his realm of normalcy.

He had so many questions that he wanted to ask. But, just as he was about to ask about the shot that had grazed Tony, Gibbs walked in - and he was carrying a little girl who was sleeping sweetly, her cheek resting against his shoulder.

“Good to see you’re awake, Tim,” Gibbs said, grinning down at him. The rumble of his voice in his chest was enough to wake the girl up.

Emerald green eyes blinked opened sleepily before shooting open wide with joy. Black pigtails whipped through the air as the child turned to grin at Abby.

“Look Mommy! Daddy’s awake!”

Tim was frozen in shock. The little black-haired green-eyed girl clasped in Gibbs’ arms had called Abby Mommy and him Daddy. Something was obviously very wrong.

“Daddy!” the little girl shouted with her arms outstretched towards him.

“No, no Gracie,” Abby said, taking her daughter from Gibbs’ arms. “Daddy has an owwie so we have to be gentle with him for a while. Okay?”

The child looked between Abby and Tim several times before nodding.

“Daddy, you be okay?”

Tim looked up at the child, willing himself to remember who she was. Obviously he had amnesia. Doing a quick determination of the girl’s age - he was missing a good portion of at least the last four years of his life.

“Sweetie?” Abby said, trying to get his attention. Apparently he had been staring at the child for a good long while.

“What year is it?” he blurted out before he think to approach the subject of his memory loss more delicately.

“Probie?” Tony stepped closer to the bed, a wary look in his eye. “What year do you think it is?” he asked.

“2010. Last thing I remember we were out on assignment on March 4, 2010.”

Tim watched as his co-workers looked back and forth at each other. There was a mixture of emotions in the room. Anxiety and disbelief seemed to be common, but the overarching expression on their faces was concern.

“Probie, buddy…” Tony started, but then trailed off. He seemed unwilling to go on.

“What? What’s the date?” Tim said. He really needed to know what was going on before he went crazy.

“Tim, Sweetie…” Abby began before she too was unable to continue.

It was Gibbs, of course, who finally got to the crux of the problem.

“McGee - it’s March 8, 2010.”

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2010 10:55 pm 
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Joined: Wed Dec 30, 2009 10:10 pm
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Location: Michigan
Title: A tiny bit insane
Name: Adrian
Gender: Female
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Gibbs’ revelation had caused Tim to - for the lack of a better word - swoon. Tony teased him mercilessly about it for the next two days as he recuperated in the hospital. Doctors had been in and out, testing him and poking and prodding him.

In the end the doctors insisted that he must have Systemized Amnesia - the mental erasure of a person from a patient’s memory. In this case he had erased his daughter - Grace Laetitia McGee. The doctors had mentioned that normally this type of amnesia was stress related and not injury related, but it was the only explanation they could come up with at the moment. They suggested he spend as much time with his daughter as possible in hopes something would spark the return of his memories.

Which was why Tim was now in a room with a child he did not know sitting by him on the bed chattering at him a mile-a-minute about her day. This was the first time they had been left alone together since he had revealed that he didn’t know who Grace was.

He listened with half an ear, too entranced in looking at the child - his daughter - to be able to give her his undivided attention.

Several years ago Tim had found himself working late with the rest of his team - even Gibbs - having gone home hours before. He had been looking through files trying to find one last piece of information to complete his report when he had come across the MorphPro program. He had forgotten it was even on his computer.

Tim hadn’t even been fully aware he was doing it, but before he knew it he had on his screen the female offspring of him and Abby. He had slowly advanced the years and watched as his would-be daughter aged into a beautiful woman with his eyes and chin and Abby’s nose and cheekbones.

He had clicked out of it in a hurry and trashed the program from his computer, never wanting to see what would never be taunting him again.

The software was amazing because the child he was looking at was much like the image presented by MorphPro. Her nose was a little more broad - a gentle mix of his and Abby’s - and her chin was out of a genetic pool deeper than her parents’ - being more angular than even Abby’s chin.

All-in-all, Grace took his breath away. A living, breathing, continuously-talking example of what would have happened if he and Abby had stayed together.

Tim had no doubt that his mind was perfectly fine. What was happening went well beyond amnesia. If it was true he wasn’t just forgetting about a child. He would have also forgotten a relationship between Tony and Ziva. And he had seen the ring on Abby’s finger and could clearly see the indention on his own ring finger where a matching band would normally be. There was no way he was forgetting he and Abby had married.

He had a vague idea what might be happening, but more than anything he knew he wanted out of the hospital. He wanted peace and quiet, somewhere where he and Abby could talk about what was going on.

When he looked up from Grace Abby was in the doorway, leaning against the doorjamb as she watched father and daughter interact. On that first day after regaining consciousness he had noticed almost right away that her figure and style had changed slightly. She still did her hair in pigtails and her makeup was dark - per normal. But her hips were wider and her chest was a little… more. On this day her pigtails were tied back low. Her black T-shirt had a skeleton family on it - Mom, Dad, child and baby, even a skeleton dog - and was matched with a red and black plaid skirt that fell to just above her knee. White knee-highs were paired with black Mary Janes studded with rhinestones - although these shoes were normal Mary Janes as opposed to platform versions.

“How’re you feeling, Timmy?” she asked him once Grace fell silent.

“I feel okay, a little sore, but nothing too bad.”

Abby looked at him, appraising the truthfulness of his comment. He was telling the truth though. He was sore, but not in any real pain. The worst thing wrong with him was the constant confusion of trying to figure out what was going on.

Finally she nodded, obviously finding whatever she was looking for in his eyes.

“Okay. The doctors say you can go home as long as you take it easy. And you have to schedule an appointment to come back to talk to the psychiatrist if,” she glanced then at Grace, who was listening to her intently. “If the owwie in your head doesn’t get better.” She looked at him, a mixture of anxiety and hope in her eyes. “Is the owwie getting any better?”

Tim looked at Grace and then back at Abby, fixing a smile on his face. “Yeah, I think what I need to know is coming back to me.”

Relief flooded her fixtures and Tim felt ashamed of lying to her, but he needed to sit her down and talk things over - preferably at home. Wherever that was.

Abby was about to say something when she was gently pushed further in the room by Tony.

“All right Abs, enough mushy husband and wife moments!” Tony said, grinning hugely as he propelled her further in to the room. “Let’s get Probie out of here!”

Abby laughed and stepped aside so Ziva could join them in the room.

“Grace-baby!” Ziva said, heading right for Grace. “How would you like to stay with Uncle Tony and Aunt Ziva tonight so that your Mommy can take care of your Daddy?”

Grace fixed Tim with a very Abby-like accusatory stare.

“Said owwie better!”

Tim wracked his brain to figure out what to say. Finally he settled with saying whatever he felt like he would say if this truly was his daughter in front of him.

“Grace, Sweetheart, my owwie is better but it’s not all better. I need Mommy to take care of me tonight and hopefully I’ll be all better when you come home tomorrow. Okay?”

He waited with bated breath to see if he had been convincing as Grace’s father and when Grace broke into a grin and nodded he knew he had succeeded.

Tim watched in awe as a Ziva swooped Grace up in her arms. Ziva was beaming with joy and her eyes were sparkling with hidden laughter as Grace shrieked in joy from being snatched up into her arms. It was a look he had never seen on her face before.

“Okay Timmy, I’m going to get you checked out of here and Tony’s going to help you get dressed.” Abby shook her finger at him. “And let him help you! You don’t need to be pulling any stitches.”

“Yes ma’am,” Tim saluted with a grin and Abby just shook her head and walked out, followed by Ziva with Grace.

Tim turned to get out of bed but found his way blocked by Tony, who was glaring down at him.

“Uh, Tony? I’d like to get out of bed now.”

But Tony still blocked his way.

“Tell me what’s going on, Tim. You’re lying to Abby about being okay and she knows it. You still don’t recognize Grace and I just saw you looking at Ziva like you’ve never seen her before either.”

Here was another thing that made Tim feel uncomfortable - being called ‘Tim’ by Tony. It wasn’t every time they talked, but it was mostly either ‘Probie’ or ‘Tim’ that he was called - with an occasional ‘McNickname’ thrown in.

“Yeah, Tony, there’s more going on than me not knowing I have a daughter. But don’t you think I owe it to Abby to talk to her first?”

Tony stared at him for several long moments before nodding.

“All right, Probie, let’s get you up and dressed!”

Fifteen painful - and painfully embarrassing - minutes later Tim was sitting in a wheelchair being wheeled out of his hospital room. He was already worn out and daydreaming about crawling into bed and sleeping for the next three days.

“All right Probie-san. I’m going to get you down to the car and then I’ll follow you home. Abby’s going to need help getting up you to your room. Once you’re settled in I’m out of there.”

The wheelchair stopped in the middle of a - luckily deserted - hallway and Tony walked around until he was standing in front of Tim, arms crossed and stern look back on his face.

“I’m coming over tomorrow and you’re going to tell me what’s going on so we can fix whatever’s wrong. Got that?”

Tim nodded, too tired to explain that what was wrong just wasn’t fixable.




Laetitia is a Latin word that means joy, gladness and delight. Pronounced La-ti-sha.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 11:14 pm 
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Joined: Wed Dec 30, 2009 10:10 pm
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Title: A tiny bit insane
Name: Adrian
Gender: Female
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It was mid afternoon by the time Tim was settled into his bed. Although it wasn’t truly his bed.

Tim McGee, his wife Abby Sciuto-McGee and their daughter Grace lived in a modest two story home in a quiet little neighborhood in Maryland. They had a master bedroom that took up a third of the upstairs and it came complete with a large walk-in closet and a master bathroom with two sinks, a large shower and a Jacuzzi bathtub. And the bed itself was a luxuriously soft King-size which Tim was quite happy to relax back into.

He listened as Abby and Tony’s voices floated up from where they were talking by the front door. Tony had helped him change into pajamas and then settled him into the bed - all without making a disparaging comment or attempting to tease him. He had left with a significant look to pair with his parting comment of “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Finally the sound of the door shutting could be heard and the tread of Abby’s feet as she climbed the stairs. He began to prepare himself for the confrontation ahead.

Abby simply sent him a small smile as she entered the room. She took her time in the bathroom and getting changed into her own version of pajamas - a pair of his boxers and his old MIT shirt. He was comforted to know that some things stayed the same. Eventually though she climbed into bed and sat down next to where he was propped up.

She got right to the point.

“You still don’t remember Gracie, do you?” Tim shook his head. “And you get this weird look on your face whenever Tony calls you Tim or when Gibbs laughs or when I…” she picked up Tim’s right hand and caressed it lovingly - and a flinch that was a mix of longing and regret flitted briefly across his face. “Or when I do that.” She let go of his hand with a sigh. “What’s going on?”

Tim took as deep a breath as his injured chest would allow him to and then let it out slowly.

“Well, as best as I can figure one of two things is going on. Either I’m currently in a coma and this is my way of dealing with it,” he said, sweeping his arm in an all-encompassing dramatic gesture. “Or somehow my life and the life of your Tim McGee has gotten switched and I’m experiencing life in an alternate reality.”

Abby blinked at him in silence for several long moments before she took a deep breath of her own, letting it out in slow, measured amounts.

“Okay. Okay… what makes you think this is what’s going on? That you don’t have amnesia?”

Tim shifted, trying to get more comfortable and Abby helped him lean forward so she could fluff the pillows behind him.

“I’m not really sure how to say this, Abby, but this life that you and your husband are living is not the life that I’m living.” He could see he was confusing her so he quickly continued on. “This goes beyond not knowing that you and I have a daughter, because in the reality that I know we’re not even together and haven’t been for a long time. Tony and Ziva aren’t together, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen Gibbs genuinely laugh and Tony and I are definitely not that good of friends.”

Abby had glommed on to one detail out of what he had just said.

“What do you mean we’re not together?”

“I mean - we’re not together. We’re not married or dating. We haven’t had a daughter. You date… lots of guys and I occasionally go out too. We’re friends - good friends - but that’s it.”

A frown marred her lips.

“You mean… you don’t love me?”

“What? No! I love you - I love the Abby I know very much. I’m not sure who or what determines how realities segue, but I am sure that no matter what reality they exist in that Tim McGee is madly in love with Abby Sciuto.” Tim lowered his eyes from hers and looked off to the side. “In my reality though, Abby just doesn’t feel the same way I do.”

This did nothing to erase the frown. In fact, it deepened. Abby sat and stared at him for a long while before cupping his face in her hands, forcing him to look at her again.

“You must have a concussion that the doctors missed, Timmy,” she said, gently stroking his cheeks with her thumbs. “You’re talking nonsense. I can’t imagine that any reality exists out there where we are not together.” She shook her head. “It just can’t be. I love you more than words can describe, Timothy McGee. Our souls are intertwined and cannot be separated, no matter what reality we are in.”

Tim stared in to her eyes, seeing the proof of her love staring back at him. And he felt his heart crack painfully. He loved his Abby Sciuto - whether she was yelling at him for defending himself against a cocaine-crazed dog or whether she was acting jealous about his latest girlfriend. He had imagined many times in the late night - after a beer or two when he didn’t have an iron lock on the wanderings of his mind - that she was actually in love with him. That words such as the ones this Abby had just said would come out of her mouth.

But it wasn’t so. Abby Sciuto - his Abby Sciuto - did not love him. He was a plaything to toss around when she was bored, to cuddle when she was sad, to run to when she needed help and didn’t want to bother Gibbs. But there was no romantic love for him in the heart of his Abby Sciuto.

With a heavy heart Tim gently took Abby’s hands from his face and pressed a kiss to each smooth and silky palm before setting her hands on her lap.

“Abby, I have no doubt you are in love with your husband and the father of your daughter. But you have to understand that he is not me and I am not him. I really don’t know how it happened, but we got switched somehow. You need to realize that I can’t be him because that’s not fair to him. I can’t just waltz in here and take over your husband’s life just because we are essentially the same person.”

To his horror he saw tears welling in her eyes. He could plainly see that he was hurting the beautiful, wonderful woman that knelt before him and no matter which Abby he might encounter that would always be the last thing he’d ever want to do.

“Abby, please don’t cry,” he pleaded.

It was his turn to gently cradle her face so his thumbs could wipe away her tears.

“I wish I could. I wish I could just forget that this isn’t my reality. I wish that I really had selective amnesia, but I know with all my heart and soul that it’s not true.”

Abby stared into his eyes through her veil of tears. He wiped a last tear from her cheek and let his hands fall to his lap as he let her probe his mind through his eyes. His Abby always knew what he was thinking and feeling by simply looking in his eyes and he was assuming the same was true with this Abby.

“You’re telling the truth, aren’t you?” she finally whispered, lowering her eyes to stare at her hands.

“I am.”

She raised her eyes once again and he saw curiosity spark in the deep green pools.

“Cogito, ergo sum, Timmy, so whatever’s going on has to be an alternate reality. How’s that possible though?”

“I’ve been thinking about that for the past couple of days. The best I can figure it is that since your Tim and I were in the same location at the same time and basically the same traumatic event occurred at the same time… somehow that allowed for us to be switched.”

Realization dawned on Abby’s face.

“So then my Timmy is now living your life?”

“Unfortunately that is probably the case.”

“Unfortunately?”

“Your husband is going to wake up and find himself in a nightmare world compared to this one.”

“What kind of life are you living?” She gasped and in typical Abby-fashion began conjecturing fantastical scenarios.

“Are you from some sort of bizarro world where everyone in NCIS is a villain? Or where you’re like Gibbs and Gibbs is like Ziva and Ziva is like Tony and Tony is like you? Or where you and Tony are having a wild affair? Or…”

That last one was enough for Tim. He stopped her with a hand over her mouth.

“Abby! I told already told you - it’s kind of like this life minus our relationship and Tony and Ziva being together.”

“Why aren’t Tony and Ziva together?”

Tim thought about it and shrugged. “After Jeanne and Michael I don’t think they trust each other or themselves.”

“Who’s Jeanne and Michael?”

Tim was floored. He had never considered that Tony had never known Jeanne and Ziva had never known Michael. His mouth gaped open and closed, causing Abby to giggle. He snapped his jaw shut with a snap.

“You don’t understand how significant Jeanne and Michael were in their lives - how it formed so much of what went on.” Tim paused, the weight of his words finally landing on his shoulders. “Wait… was there ever a mission to Somalia?”

The confusion on Abby’s face answered his question. To make doubly sure he lifted the hem of his shirt to look at his side. One of the knife wounds he had received had gotten rather infected and left him with a slight scar. But the side he was looking at now was smooth and unmarked.

“Tim? What are you talking about? Jeanne, Michael, Somalia… are you sure you’re not living in a bizarro world?”

Tim lowered his shirt and shook his head.

“No. No, I think that this is some Walt Disney version of our lives. I’m beginning to think that I really am in a coma. This is ridiculous! How can our lives be so different?”

Abby narrowed her eyes at him in a minute glare.

“You think… exactly Tim. So do I. I’m thinking, therefore I am. You’re not in a coma. You’re not in a Walt Disney world. But we do need to figure out what exactly is going on. We -” she swallowed against a growing lump in her throat. “We don’t know how long you’re going to be here and my Timmy is going to be there. You don’t want to make mistakes and let every one know what’s going on - they won’t understand, I don’t think.”

“Tony said he’s coming over here tomorrow and he wants to know what’s going on. What do I tell him?”

“The truth. He’ll believe you, but I’m not sure anyone else will.”

“Wait - why would Tony of all people believe me?”

Abby looked shocked for a moment.

“You and Tony… my husband and Tony are best friends. They’ve been through a lot together and trust each other implicitly.”

Tim shook his head and was about to say that he found that to be unbelievable, but when his mouth opened a big yawn escaped instead. Abby took a good look at him. He was pale and he had deep circles under his eyes.

“Tim! You’re exhausted! Why don’t you lay down and get comfortable?”

“We need to figure this out, Abs.”

“And we will, as soon as you’re comfortable.”

Tim sighed and shifted until he was laying on his right side, facing Abby. It didn’t register in his mind that with each blink his eyes stayed closed longer, until they did not open again.

Abby listened until she heard his breathing evening out and she grinned.

“You may not be my husband,” she said in a soft, barely audible whisper, “but you are still Timothy McGee.” She settled a blanket over him before laying down too. She was exhausted and it had been an emotional ride of a week.

She drifted off to sleep with thoughts of her husband - wondering what he was going through in the other Tim’s world.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 8:12 am 
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Title: A tiny bit insane
Name: Adrian
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When Tim woke the sun was setting, casting shadows across the two bodies laying together - but separate.

Abby was awake, but judging by the sleepy look in her eyes she hadn’t been for very long.

“Did we just literally sleep the day away?”

Abby giggled and then sat up, stretching.

“You really needed the sleep. And I so did I. You should be able to sleep again tonight after you take your pain pill.”

Tim took a good look at her and noticed that despite the afternoon of rest she still looked tired.

“Are you all right?”

“I am. I guess being tired is just my thing.”

“Your thing?”

“When I’m pregnant. I was always tired with Gracie too.”

Tim felt his stomach drop. Married to Abby, a three-year-old daughter and now another child on the way. He didn’t care what Abby had to say - this was the Walt Disney version of his life.

“How far along are you?”

“Only about eight weeks. No one else knows yet. Except Tony. Y- my husband can’t keep a secret from him.”

Tim nodded, trying to take in all the new information. But he forced aside thoughts of the baby to concentrate on something more tangible.

“Tony said he’s coming over tomorrow. Do you know what time?”

“In the morning,” Abby answered, stifling a yawn.

“Tomorrow’s Monday. Doesn’t Tony have to be at work? I’ll be able to take care of myself just fine, he doesn’t need to risk being late to work.”

“Don’t worry about it. He’s taking a vacation day to spend the day with you. Besides - back when I thought you had amnesia I had arranged for Grace to be home so you could spend more time with her. I could probably get the day care to take her for the day though.”

“No, don’t do that. She may not be mine, but I’d like to spend some more time with her. And besides, she’s had a rough week with her father in the hospital. Things shouldn’t change in her life just because the universe decided to screw with ours.”

Abby looked at Tim with a softness in her eyes that was alien to him.

“You are a good man, Timothy McGee.”

He rolled his eyes and began to struggle to sit up.

“What are you doing?”

“I need to get up.”

“You need to rest,” she said with a slight glare.

“I need to pee!” Tim answered, desperation in his voice.

Abby laughed as she grabbed his hand and gently helped him stand up. “Can you make it over there?”

Tim glared at her.

“I mean walking!” Abby said through her laughter. “Can you walk over there?”

“I’ll be fine,” he said, already beginning the seemingly-long journey to the bathroom.

*****

Twenty minutes later found them both back in bed. When Tim had emerged from the bathroom - after relieving his bladder, brushing his teeth and washing his face - Abby was gone. She had returned minutes later though with a tray of food.

“So, do we go step by step to figure out where our realities diverged?” Abby asked between bites of her sandwich.

Tim took a sip of water and nodded. “Sounds like the best way to me.”

And so they did.

They discovered that the beginning days of their relationships were identical. Tim starting out in Norfolk and getting a tattoo, the ‘activities’ in the coffin, the cases and the people - all the same.

Sometimes they thought they had found the divergence -

“I really did say that, didn’t I?”

“You’re right! I
did slap that guy!”

“Oh yeah, that poem was from a different poetry night.”


- but ended up helping each other retrieve lost tidbits from their memories instead.

Finally though they stumbled upon an inaccuracy large enough to be more than a misplaced memory.

“… and then we stayed up talking all night and he just held me and didn’t try to do anything more than that…”

“Wait… what?”

They had gotten up to Kate’s death in their timeline dissection and Abby had been talking about the night after her funeral.

“What? Did you make a move on her that night?” Abby asked teasingly.

“No. No we were never together that night.”

And there it was. The turning point of their realities.

“Oh,” Abby said and Tim watched as realization dawned on her face. “Oh,” she repeated with a defeated sigh.

“What? What are you remembering?”

“What did you do that night?” Abby asked instead.

“I went home.”

“Straight from the airport?”

“Yeah.”

“Your Abby didn’t ask you to drive her home?”

“No, Gibbs drove her home.”

“Well, that’s it then. That’s the divergence point. She didn’t ask you to drive her home.”

Tim blinked at her a few times in disbelief.

“I didn’t drive her home after Kate’s funeral and so we didn’t end up getting married? That doesn’t make any sense! We weren’t even a couple at that time. She broke up with me months before that!”

“We did break up five years ago, Tim. I was afraid to love too deeply and I could all-too-well see myself settling down with you - with my Tim in a house in the suburbs and having children. He’s that kind of guy. I didn’t think I was that kind of girl, so I pushed him away.”

“What changed?”

“The day Kate died. I always knew that one day he could walk out of my lab to go out in the field and come back via autopsy. And that terrified me. To think that he could leave me and never come back. I was keeping him from getting too close because I didn’t want to be hurt.

“When I went to bed that night all I could think of was that the very first shot Ari had made was at him. And it was only by the ironic grace of God that he was shot at by the other terrorist, making him move away from Ari’s kill shot.”

Abby had to look away for a moment to force away tears. When she looked back her eyes were red, but dry.

“I almost lost him that day, Tim. If he had died the memories I would have been left with wouldn’t have been enough for me. I wanted more memories of the two of us together - in every which way. When we were on the plane about to land at the airport I struggled with myself about whether or not I should ask him for a ride home - whether or not I was ready to head in the relationship direction again. And I ended up just deciding that taking it one day at a time side-by-side with him was better than never knowing what we might have.”

Tim had locked his own feelings away long ago - to bring them to the forefront and confront them every day would have broken him. Instead he tried to drown his feelings with other women - hoping that some day he would meet the one who would finally make him stop thinking about Abby and wishing for something different. Wishing for the life that his counterpart led in this glorious reality.

And now he knew that it came down to one little thing - a simple question being asked or unasked.

But then a different thought strayed into his mind.

“We can’t be sure that Abby ever even thought about me being Ari’s first target. It didn’t seem to upset her at the time.”

Abby sighed.

“Yeah, I guess we can’t know. But Tim, I was upset when I saw you crouching by the car and saw where the bullet hole was. I was trying not to freak out and I wasn’t showing it. I told my Tim about that later and he said he hadn’t thought I cared either. So,” she said, forcing a tiny smile, “maybe it’s the same with your Abby. I think that your Abby must love you too, Tim.”

Tim sighed. “She does, and she’s told me so. But she loves me as she loves dogs - which is a lot, but not enough for me. She never allowed herself to feel what you feel for your husband.”

Abby took Tim’s hand in hers. “If that’s the case then she doesn’t know what she’s missing. I’m an incredibly smart woman and I have no doubt that I am in any reality, but I know that in the case of this reality - my reality - I’m much smarter than the Abby in your reality.”

Tim allowed himself a small smile. He could already tell that he would miss this Abby whenever the universe decided to send him back to his reality - which, for the sake of Abby and Gracie he hoped would happen. She was softer and kinder and calmer than his Abby.

Yet, at the same time he missed the hyperness and the Abby-hugs and the rambling conversations at Caf-Pow-induced speeds. It was a conundrum he wasn’t ready to face yet.

Abby fell asleep not long after that - Tim on one side of the bed and Abby close to him, but not touching. He watched her for awhile as she slept and thought of the life growing inside of her. And when he fell asleep it was with tears in his eyes and an ache in his heart.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 11:35 pm 
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Tim woke the next morning and found Abby already gone for the day. Looking at the alarm and seeing 09:12 on the clock face it was obvious why - she had been at work for a long time.

He found that getting out of bed and up on his feet was easier than it had been the day before and the walk to the bathroom wasn’t such a marathon. He still didn’t feel stable enough though to take a shower and didn’t trust his strength quite enough to get himself out of a bathtub so he settled for a quick scrub with a washcloth.

Thirty minutes later - feeling much more refreshed but still yearning for a shower - he left the bedroom to head down to the kitchen to get some breakfast. Before he could reach the top of the stairs he was distracted by a soft light that emanated from a room with a door cracked open. He pushed the door open a little more and saw that the light was from a nightlight - although not any he had ever seen before, being a happily grinning skull and all.

Opening the door further he quickly realized that he was in Grace’s room. He could make out her tiny form sleeping quietly, tucked under the covers of her bed. He hesitated a moment before stepping into the room and quietly tiptoeing to the side of the bed. He gazed down at her - his daughter, in a sense - and once again felt awe at what could have been created between him and Abby.

A noise from the doorway tore him from his thoughts and he looked up to see Tony standing there, a small smile on his face.

“She didn’t sleep well last night,” he whispered. “She’ll be out for a while so let’s get you something to eat.”

Tim’s stomach growled softly then, reminding him that Tony’s plan was a good one. He took a last look at the sleeping Grace and tiptoed back through to the doorway, leaving the door ajar behind him.

Tony looked him up and down then, an accessing look in his eyes.

“You look better, but you’ve definitely looked better,” he said, smirking.

“I feel a lot better, just sore,” Tim said, ignoring the snark.

“Come on. I heard you moving around about half an hour ago - I’ve got some homemade breakfast burritos ready for you,” Tony said as he started down the stairs. He glanced back up to see Tim look rather dizzily down the stairway. “Hey! You all right?”

Tim looked at Tony, a sheepish smile on his face.

“Yeah, I’m okay. I’m just still a little off balance and -”

“Nuff said, Probie!”

Tony ran back up the stairs and positioned himself by Tim’s side. “You go on down the stairs and I’ll catch you if the stairs move the wrong way on you.”

Tim looked at Tony and saw no derision in his face and he heard no joking in his voice - all things he would expect to hear from Tony DiNozzo. He found that he trusted Tony to catch him if need be, but it ended up not being an issue.

They enjoyed the rather delicious breakfast burritos sitting together at the dining room table. Afterwards Tony shooed Tim off to the living room while he cleaned up his mess.

Tim eased himself into a Lazyboy recliner and barely stifled a groan of pleasure when he discovered that not only was it cushy, but it was a rocking recliner. He was enjoying the gentle motion of the chair when a glass of water appeared in front of him, and then Tony was there, handing him some pills.

“Time for your medicine,” Tony grinned.

Tim took the pills and glass from Tony and swallowed the pills, albeit with a bit of a glare towards his grinning friend.

Said friend sprawled himself along the couch and proceeded to stare.

“What?” Tim finally asked, exasperated at the silence.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on? I talked to Abby earlier and she told me to hear you out. That it’s a doozy but she believes you anyways.”

Tim grinned. “Yeah, I guess it is a doozy. Abby told me I can trust you, but I do need to know that it’s not going to spread further than us. Not even to Ziva.”

Tony immediately looked genuinely hurt.

“Hey, Tim, you know me better than that. If what you have to stay really needs to be a secret then Ziva will never know anything about it.”

Tim chuckled humorlessly.

“See, that’s exactly it. I don’t know you at all, Tony. Well, I know you, but not as you are now.”

All Tim succeeded in doing was causing a look of great confusion.

“Look, I’m not really sure how to say this to make it make sense - even after telling Abby already - but basically I am the wrong Tim McGee. Your Tim McGee and I got shot at the same time at the same location and probably in the same spot. Somehow the universe screwed up and I ended up here and your Tim McGee is now living the life I know.”

The confused look did not soften any. In fact, it only increased. This time though words were added.

“Wha-Wha… Huh? You… Huh?”

Although they weren’t incredibly intelligent words.

Tim couldn’t help but laugh at Tony, but he quickly reined it in and strove to explain.

“The only way I can figure it is that there are multiple realities out there. Every time we make a decision our realities split off - one reality where we say yes or go right and one reality where we say no or go left. Does that make sense?”

There was still a frown on Tony’s face but the confusion was mostly gone.

“Yeah. Yeah that makes sense. And I have heard of that before, but mostly in science fiction movies.”

Tim nodded. “Up until a couple of days ago I wouldn’t have believed it could happen, but believe me, it’s happening.”

“So… assuming that I believe you… what exactly is happening again?”

“When I got shot a couple of days ago the Tim McGee you know got shot too. I guess somehow since the same thing was happening in two different but similar realities… something got screwed up and we got switched.” Tim shrugged. “All Abby and I can hope is that we’ll get switched back some time soon.”

Tony was quiet for several long minutes as he tried to absorb this information. Finally he felt ready to ask questions.

“So if you’re here, my friend is in your reality?”

“Yeah, seems like it.”

“And what kind of reality is he living right now?”

“It’s not a bad reality… it’s just different.” Tim could tell Tony was going to push the point so he went on. “But he will have a rough time of it.” He took a deep breath and then got to the point. “Look - in my reality Abby and I aren’t married and we don’t have kids. We’re nothing more than friends. You and I - we’re not friends, we’re just co-workers. You and Ziva aren’t together and Gibbs… well, sometimes I think Gibbs just barely tolerates me.” He shrugged. “It’s not a bad life - I’m okay with it - but I don’t think the Tim from this reality is going to enjoy it that much.”

Tony was once again speechless. And - just like Abby had - he glommed onto one thing out of all that was said.

“What do you mean Ziva and I aren’t together in your reality?”

All Tim could do was shrug.

“It took Abby and I a long time last night to figure out where our realities diverged. We didn’t really get into much more beyond that. But from what I gathered certain things happened in my reality that didn’t happen here, which allowed you and Ziva to get together.”

“What things?”

Tim shook his head.

“I can’t tell you that. Just know that things are probably better for you here than they are in my reality.”

Tony really wanted to know what those ‘certain things’ were, but he didn’t want to press Tim. The friend he knew or not the man looked tired and worn out already and he didn’t want to take advantage of him like that.

“Okay, so can you tell me where your realities split?”

“From what we figured it was a choice Abby made. In my reality she decided that loving me wasn’t worth it and in this reality she did.”

Tony’s mouth gaped open at that. Tim and Abby may have had their troubles, but he knew that Abby was completely in love with Tim - no doubt about it. And he saw through Tim’s calm statement to the pain that lay close to the surface. This Tim loved Abby as much as his friend did. He didn’t want to cause any more pain but there was more he needed to know.

After closing his mouth and clearing his throat he asked the second most important question to him.

“What do you mean you and I - you and the me from your reality - aren’t friends?”

“Tony and I… we don’t hate each other by any means but I definitely wouldn’t say that we’re friends. He’s the Senior Agent, I’m the Junior Agent and that’s where we stand.”

Tony leaned back against the couch, his head flopping back so he was staring at the ceiling.

“I don’t get it. I can’t imagine us not being friends. It’s… it’s inconceivable,” he said to the ceiling.

“What happened that made you two friends? I already know from Abby that you and Tim didn’t start out that way, so what changed?”

Tony had to give that serious thought. Sometimes he forgot that there ever was a time that he and Tim weren’t best friends. Finally he came up with a glimmer of something.

“It’s hard to pinpoint it exactly, but I guess it was back when you and … when Tim and I had to keep things going after Gibbs took a leave of absence. Things weren’t very good for anyone at that time and for quite a while he and I really only had each other. ” Tony shook his head. “That sounded cheesy.”

Tim knew what Tony was talking about, but at the same time nothing he’d said was familiar.

“Leave of absence? That’s what you guys call it?”

Tony sat up and sent him a puzzled look.

“Yeah, what would you call it?”

Something dinged in the back of Tim’s mind and a picture began to form of why things were so different in this reality.

Ignoring Tony’s question he instead asked “When Gibbs took his leave of absence, where did he go?”

This question again puzzled Tony.

“What do you mean? He went home. He rarely left his house. He didn’t mind visitors, but he really didn’t go anywhere or do much of anything beyond working on his boat.”

“Huh,” was all Tim could say to that.

Tony’s instincts told him something was going on and finally the meaning behind what Tim had been asking dawned on him.

“He went somewhere in your reality, didn’t he?”

Tim didn’t say anything for a long time, contemplating whether or not he should say anything. If it would help or hinder things if he explained just how screwed up things were in his reality. Finally he decided that telling was better than trying not to tell.

“Mexico.”

“Mexico? Why would he… oh, Franks.”

Tim nodded.

“Yeah, he stayed with Franks. And he didn’t take a leave of absence - he quit. He eventually came back and Director Shepherd had simply put him on a leave of absence on her own - but that hadn’t been his plan.”

“Huh,” Tony said, echoing Tim’s earlier exhalation. And then the synapses fired and he realized the implications of what Tim had said.

“If Gibbs quit, then did the Tony in your reality become the lead?”

Tim nodded. “He was lead, I was Senior Field Agent, Ziva was still attached to the team and we got a Probationary Agent.”

Tony grinned and puffed out his chest.

“Was I a good lead agent?”

Tim thought about it. They’d had their problems - he’d really hated the campfires at first - but eventually things had settled down and they’d gotten into a groove.

“Yeah, you - he was pretty good. No Gibbs, but pretty good.”

Tony’s grin widened. “Well, of course I would be no Gibbs - there’s only one Gibbs - but damn right I would make a good lead agent!”

He deflated after several seconds and went back to being serious.

“But why did Gibbs end up in Mexico?”

Tim shrugged. “He got fed up with things and there wasn’t anything to keep him here, I guess - nothing important enough anyways.”

Tim watched as Tony’s face transformed from curious to contemplative to obviously coming to a conclusion on something - before shutting down and smoothing out into a benign look.

“What?” Tim asked, needing to know what it was that Tony had comprehended.

Tony opened his mouth before snapping it shut and shaking his head.

“No, seriously, what?”

Tony sighed.

“Gibbs wouldn’t leave because Abby was pregnant.”

Tim’s mind began to whirl. Abby was pregnant so Gibbs didn’t leave. Gibbs didn’t leave so Director Shepherd hadn’t dared to ask Tony to take on an undercover assignment. No undercover assignment no Jeanne. No Jeanne, no jealous Ziva that eventually turned to Rivkin. Was there ever a Rivkin? Had Ziva ever been sent to Israel and Tony ‘promoted’ to Agent Afloat and Tim sent to the basement drudgery of Cyber Crimes? Was Director Shepherd even dead?

Tim realized that there was still a lot he didn’t know about this reality. He had so much he wanted to ask Tony about - so much that he could stumble upon and accidentally reveal to everyone that there was something seriously wrong with him.

But he didn’t get a change to just then for the loud sound of a fart startled him from his thoughts.

He looked first to Tony, but found him grinning at something behind the recliner. Soon though that something walked into his view.

Gracie was looking up at him, a sleepy look to her eyes but a large grin on her face.

“Daddy!” she said before breaking into a yawn and once more squeezing the small stuffed - farting - hippo in her arms.

“Morning Gracie,” he said, grinning down at the child. “Did you sleep well?”

She nodded vigorously. And then, pressing the furry lips of the hippo to his cheek she made a kissing noise.

“Me and Baby Bert missed you,” she said and Tim had to stifle a laugh at ‘Baby Bert.’

“And I missed both of you too,” he said, patting the hippo on its head.

“Are you hungry, Gracie?” Tony asked, standing up when he received a nod. “Then why don’t you run upstairs and change out of your pjs. How does PB and J sound?”

He received an enthusiastic “Yay!” from the retreating child heading for the stairs.

“Come on,” Tony said, holding out his hand to Tim. “You’ll grow stagnant if you just sit there all day. Come help me in the kitchen.”

Tim took the offered hand and was heaved out of the chair. He was pleased to feel only the slightest twinge of pain - although the pain pill probably had something to do with that.

Lunch was a simple affair of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches - crusts cut off for Grace - with a glass of milk and a chocolate chip cookie for dessert. Conversation was limited to Grace chattering away about her night with “Unca Tony and Aunt Ziva,” but both men listened with amusement and patience.

After lunch a large container of Legos was pulled out into the living room and Grace plopped down, happy to begin constructing a hodgepodge that only she could tell what it was supposed to be.

That left the two men no choice but to pop in a movie. “Wall-E” began playing and they settled back, trying to pay attention to the dulcet tones floating out of the speaker but instead each were thinking of the hundreds of questions they would rather be asking the other. But it would have to wait until little ears were safely far away.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 10:46 pm 
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Soft murmurs were what began the wake up process, and then a soft weight resting upon the uninjured side of his chest brought him fully out of slumber.

When he slit one eye open to take a peek at what was there he saw a tiny head full of black hair. He noticed then that the murmuring had stopped and lifting his head a little higher he found that the living room now contained more people. Abby and Tony were there, along with Gibbs, Ziva, Ducky and Jimmy.

“Uh… hi,” he said, before struggling to hold back a yawn.

Grace snuffled, smacked her lips and then raised her head. She began to struggle to sit up, her hands placed against Tim’s chest - one on the uninjured side, one right on top of the wound, but before she could put any pressure on the injury she was plucked up by Gibbs. Tim shot him a very grateful look before sitting up and trying to shake the sleepiness that covered him like a cloak.

“How are you feeling, Timothy?” Ducky asked.

Tim took a moment to truly think about it. “Not too bad. Feeling a little fuzzy right now, but that’s because a pill was shoved down my throat earlier,” he said, sending a mock glare Tony’s way.

Tony was about to reply, but Grace had noticed that Ducky was there and was bouncing excitedly in Gibbs’ arms.

“Duckpa! Duckpa!” she cried, struggling to get down from the restraining arms.

“Gibbpa!” she whined at Gibbs until she was let down with a chuckle. She ran to Ducky and was swept into a hug.

“And how is my little Grace today?”

“I good! I good!” Then she waited all of two seconds before looking up with pleading eyes and saying, “You pwomised to tell me de story of when Daddy had p… poi… bad ivy!”

Raucous laughter burst out around the room and Tim could only blush and wonder which incident she was talking about.

For the most part Tim just sat back and watched the interactions taking place among his friends. It was obvious that they spent a lot of time together outside of work. There were no uncomfortable formalities - even Jimmy got right in there amidst the conversations and laughter. Sometimes someone tried to draw him into a conversation but he kept his replies short but genial. They were letting him stay silent, probably assuming that he was still tired and fuzzy-minded - although that definitely wasn’t far from the truth.

He managed to maintain a straight face whenever something unfamiliar came his way. Like hearing that Miquel wished him better and that he’d better be prepared for a rematch - when he knew no Miquel and had no clue what the rematch would be for. Or watching Gibbs and Jimmy laugh and talk together like old friends or having Gibbs smile at him multiple times. He’d even managed not to look surprised when a fluffy golden retriever bounded into the room and attempted to give him a slobbery kiss.

“No no Jazzy! Leave Daddy alone right now,” Abby admonished the dog - puppy really, what with all the energy he had.

The night started to wind down when Grace began to yawn every minute or so. Ziva offered to get Grace ready for bed so everyone could linger for a while longer and Abby readily agreed. Gracie kissed everyone goodnight and gave an extra gentle hug to ‘Daddy’ before accepting Ziva’s hand and heading upstairs.

When everyone but Tony was cleared out - having left after saying their ‘get betters’ to Tim - they held a quick hushed conference about what was going on.

“You did good tonight. Seemed appropriately drugged out so nothing was too suspicious,” Tony said.

“You drugged me before they came on purpose, didn’t you?” Tim accused good-naturedly.

Tony replied with a wide mischievous grin.

Just then Jazzy ran up, eager to see why his masters were converging together without him.

Abby glanced from the dog to Tim and then slapped a hand to her forehead.

“I completely forgot to warn you about Jazz! You didn’t even blink an eye when he came in,” she added, obviously proud of him.

Tim shrugged his good shoulder.

“I have a dog so I’m used to it. Although he’s older and not such a puppy as this one is.” He paused for a moment. “So is his name Jazz or Jazzy?”

Tony chuckled while Abby let out an exasperated groan.

“Actually, his name is Jasmine,” Abby said, rolling her eyes.

“Jasmine?” Tim echoed, incredulously.

“Yeah. We let Gracie name him and she had just watched ‘Aladdin’ for the first time.”

“Why Jasmine though? Raja would’ve been better than Jasmine!”

Abby and Tony shared an amused glance.

“What?”

“My husband said the exact same thing,” Abby said, letting out a low laugh.

They had to break from their conversation then for they heard the soft padding of Ziva coming down the stairs.

“Gracie is already asleep,” Ziva said, smiling softly.

Abby shook her head. “We’ve got to get that kid back on a normal schedule!”

Tim then yawned a nearly jaw-shattering yawn, causing them all to chuckle.

“And obviously the same goes for you, Probie!” Tony said.

“If you weren’t shoving pain pills down my throat…”

“You would be in a lot of pain, McGee,” Ziva said, patting him on his back.

“Ziva’s right, Sweetie,” Abby said, gripping his arm. “You’re tired and I need to change your bandage before you go to bed.”

“We’ll take that hint. Do you want us to take Jazz with us?” Tony offered.

“Do you mind?” Abby asked.

“Nah, of course not! But you should’ve let Gibbs keep him for another night. You know he really wanted to.”

Abby laughed. “You know if we let him keep Jazzy any longer we’d never get him back!”

Ziva shook her head. “Why Gibbs does not just get a dog of his own I do not understand.”

“Well, Honey,” Tony said, slinging his arm over Ziva’s shoulder, “that’s because owning a dog is too much like having a wife. They demand of you, force you to work all day to make money to feed them and at night they curl up next to you as dead weight. Oof!”

Ziva took her elbow from Tony’s stomach and ducked out from beneath his arm.

“Yeah, well no one will be lying beside you tonight while you are sleeping on the couch!”

Tim and Abby laughed at their antics but soon they were saying their good nights with hugs and kisses on the cheek and slobbery goodbyes from Jazz.

Neither Tim nor Abby said anything as Abby turned the lights off downstairs and they made their way up the stairs - Abby patiently waiting for Tim to trudge his way up the flight of steps. Once they were in their bathroom though the questions came flowing.

“Was that normal?”

“Was what normal?”

“Everyone just hanging out like that.”

Abby thought for a moment.

“Yes and no. It’s not unheard of for all of us to get together, but it is normal after someone is injured on their first full day home from the hospital. That’s when things are the strangest. After being in the hospital for a long time trying to adjust back to living in a house.” She stopped when she saw Tim’s eyebrows sky high reflected back to her in the mirror. “Well, at least that’s what I’ve been told.” She shrugged. “It’s something that everyone seems to enjoy.”

“Huh,” Tim said. “Yeah, it was nice.”

“You don’t do that.”

“No. When did it start?”

“After Gibbs got home from the hospital after being blown up. It wasn’t planned then, it just happened.”

“Oh,” was all Tim could say to that, for in his reality Gibbs had been in Mexico after his first full day out of the hospital. Before Abby could ask any more questions he launched into his next one. “Who’s Miquel?”

“Miquel Caruso,” Abby said absentmindedly as she finished unwinding the lengths of bandages from around his chest.

“Okay, so who’s Miquel Caruso?”

Abby stopped then to check his reflection in the mirror and saw he was serious.

“Special. Agent. Miquel. Caruso.”

“Still. Don’t. Know. Who. That. Is.” Tim said, adding a smile to soften the snark.

Abby stopped to actually think about it and then finally it occurred to her what the problem was.

“Oooh!” she said with a laugh. “Miquel took the junior agent position when Eddie became the lead agent spot when Greg left the agency.”

Tim had to think that one over.

“Eddie Bowling and Greg Robinson?”

“Yeah.”

“But why did Greg leave?”

“Oh, he went too deep in an undercover op. Fell in love. After it was over and done with they ended up staying together but she made him leave NCIS.”

Abby was unwinding a new roll of gauze when she let out a dramatic gasp. “Her name was Jeanne!”

That confirmed what Tim was thinking. Greg had received the undercover assignment instead of Tony.

“Tony got the undercover assignment instead of Greg in your reality, didn’t he?” Abby asked, inversely reflecting his thoughts as she connected the dots from earlier conversations.

“Yeah, he did. He fell hard, but in the end decided to stay with NCIS and us.”

“Oh, poor Tony! And poor Ziva! That must’ve been hard on her.”

Tim half shrugged.

“Yeah, I think it was. But I don’t really know. We don’t talk about that time.”

“You don’t?”

“No. We don’t talk about the past at all really. What happened happened and the best thing to do is move forward because there’s no way to change it.”

Abby rested her chin on Tim’s shoulder, meeting his eyes in the mirror. He saw the deep frown that spoiled the perfect pout of her lips.

“You’re different than my husband.”

“That’s because I’m not your husband.”

“I know. It’s just odd how similar you are but how… how different you are at the same time. Tim has such a happy look on things most of the time. Things aren’t perfect, but he tries not to look at the negatives. And you - there’s a sadness in you and wariness that goes beyond being here in this reality. It’s a part of you at all times. What happened to you?”

Tim quirked a sad little smile.

“I think the difference is you, Abby,” he said, telling her only part of the truth. “Who can have a sad outlook on everything if you’re in their life?”

Abby’s heart melted for the man in front of her. She wove her arms around his shoulders and gave him a gentle hug.

“I’m going to make it my mission to make you smile and laugh more while you’re here with us,” Abby said, smiling softly at his reflection.

Tim didn’t have the heart to tell her that the better she made his time in this reality the harder it would be go back to his own reality. So instead he returned her smile and made a silent vow. He was stuck in this reality for who-knows-how-long and he was going to make the most of it. He would be a father to Grace, and a friend to Tony and Abby. And whenever the universe saw fit to return him to his own reality - he’d learn to live with the memories.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 9:28 pm 
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Tim woke to find himself staring at white ceiling. A loud incessant beeping could be heard and as he concentrated he found that it sounded rather like a heart monitor. His quick mind worked out the details and soon he figured out he was once again in a hospital. And considering he could feel a face mask that seemed to blessedly be helping him breathe… he was the patient.

His first rational thought was whether or not Abby and the baby and Gracie were all right. And he hoped that Gracie wasn’t anywhere near the hospital if she was okay because she shouldn’t see him laying in a bed, especially if he was bad enough to need oxygen. And then he finally wondered just how he came to be lying on said hospital bed.

By turning his head though he could see a pigtailed head of black hair resting upon folded arms that were laying on his bed. So Abby was just fine. That was one question answered.

He must have made a sound for Abby’s head shot up and a grin blazed across her face. Soon she was up and bouncing up and down, speaking a mile a minute about something he couldn’t quite grasp.

His mind was working just fine on its own, but when other senses besides sight were added in he found that he wasn’t computing as fast as possible. But he could see Abby just fine. He took in her slim waistline, the naked left ring finger and - worst of all - the loss of the soft love in her eyes - and he knew that wherever he had been had not been reality.

His heart gave a strange pang in his chest and blackness closed in. He felt only relief when his eyes drifted shut and darkness once again stole over his mind.

**********


Abby had been so excited when she woke up to see Tim awake and looking at her with such relief and joy in his eyes. She bounced up and down and spoke a mile a minute telling him about how he had been in a coma for three weeks and how she had been so worried.

She was distracted by the sound of the door opening and turned to see Dr. Hoppen walk in.

“He’s awake!” she said, looking back at Tim, only to once again find his eyes closed. “Timmy?” she said, leaning down over him.

“He seems to have come out of his coma, Ms. Sciuto,” Dr. Hoppen said, walking over to read the monitors that surrounded Tim’s bed. “We registered the change at the nurses desk. He’s just asleep and really that is what his body needs right now, as strange as that might seem. Let him rest.”

Abby nodded her understanding and sat back down in the chair next to Tim’s bed. She had barely left his side in the whole three weeks - taking some of the vacation time that she had accrued but rarely used. She was content to wait for however long it took him to wake up.

**********


When Tim once again became fully aware of his surroundings his room was full of his co-workers. Ziva, Tony, Abby, Ducky, Gibbs and even Jimmy was there.

“Hey Probie!” Tony said, relief and glee in his eyes. “Welcome back to the land of the living, Sleeping Beauty.”

“Wa ha-pen?” Tim asked as best he could.

“Agent McGee, try not to talk right now,” said a voice to the right of him. He turned his head and saw a nurse standing there, his chart in hand. She walked to the end of the bed and returned the chart before coming back up to his left side. Her name tag said Nurse Zimmer and she was a petite woman in her 50’s.

“I’m going to raise the back up a bit so you can sit up. You let me know if you feel any pain, okay?”

Tim nodded. Moments later his mind hazed out as an aching pain roared through his chest, but his lips refused to form words to let Nurse Zimmer know. His pain-muddled mind wondered why Abby or Tony weren’t instinctively jumping to his rescue. As his eyes refocused though he saw the reason why.

It hadn’t been a brief nightmare - waking up to find his alternate self’s wife replaced with the Abby of old. And now he could see that Ziva and Tony stood with Jimmy and Ducky between them when he had instead expected to see them hand-in-hand. Again he had to remind himself that it had been a dream his coma-mind had made up.

“Agent McGee! You were supposed to tell me if you felt any pain,” Nurse Zimmer chided.

His lips opened but words couldn’t make it past his throat. He soon found a straw slipping into his mouth - the glass held by the nurse.

“Take slow sips Agent McGee. Slower! That’s good.” She pulled the glass away and worked on making him more comfortable in the upright position. “Now, I’m going to leave you to your friends here. Take it easy - don’t talk too much - and push the ‘Call’ button if you need anything. Okay?”

Tim nodded.

“Good. Now,” she said, turning to the watching group of people, “don’t make him talk too much! His throat is raw from being intubated for so long. Got that?”

She received a mixture of nods, ‘Okay’s and silent glares and then she left the room, leaving Tim feeling like he was center stage with an audience awaiting his performance.

“What happened?” he asked again, this time the words making it out clear, albeit in a soft tone. He throat did feel raw and he wouldn’t need to be told twice to keep the talking to a minimum.

Abby did come over then and sat on the side of his bed, taking his hand into hers.

“You were in a coma, Timmy. For three weeks.”

“Why?”

Abby shot a concerned look over her shoulder before turning back to him.

“You were all out on a routine call when you were surprised with a shootout…” she trailed off when she saw Tim shake his head slowly.

“I know,” he said, then he looked to Tony. “Okay?” He said, flicking his eyes to the side of Tony’s head and then meeting his eyes again.

Tony lifted his hair to show the still ugly - but definitely healing - gash the bullet had left.

“I’m fine, thanks to you,” he said, but then he grew serious. “But if you ever do anything that stupid again I will kill you myself.”

“Same for you,” Tim replied, just as serious.

A snort came from Gibbs - one that Tim could clearly interpret as ‘Good luck, I’ve tried that threat before.’

Tim looked back to Abby to ask again his original question, making it more clear this time.

“Why coma?”

“Oh,” Abby said. “When you.” She stopped and swallowed thickly. “You were blown back, Timmy. Your head hit the ground.” She paused and looked back, her eyes pleading for someone else to continue.

“There was quite a bit of swelling, Timothy,” Ducky said, stepping forward to relieve Abby from her task. “The doctors didn’t catch it right away because they were more concerned with getting the bullet out. By the time they realized something more was wrong your brain was pressing up against your cranium. They had to scramble to relieve the pressure. You are, of course, doing much better now.”

As always Ducky gave it to him straight, which he appreciated. Considering he was now awake and thinking just fine - not to mention able to move all parts of his body - he assumed he was going to be okay.

“Thanks,” Tim said, smiling at Ducky.

Although okay was a relative term, considering all he could think about was the alternate reality his mind had made up while he was in a coma. To him he had gone to bed the night before after putting Grace to bed - kissing her goodnight and reveling in hearing her sweet ‘Love you, Daddy.’ He had then crawled into bed with Abby and - as had become normal for them - they held hands across the expanse of the bed. She couldn’t fall asleep without him there but they both respected the necessary distance. He had watched her drift off to sleep until sleep finally overtook him.

He had been in a coma for three weeks and he had been in what he had honestly thought was an alternate reality for the same three weeks. It had seemed so real. He could still feel the ghostly weight of a child in his arms as he sat each night in the rocking recliner, just spending time with Grace.

“Timmy?”

Abby’s voice penetrated his thoughts and he forced himself to turn his attention back to actual reality. He found himself looking into Abby’s worried eyes, her hand on his cheek.

“Timmy? Are you all right?”

He thought for a moment before shaking his head. In all senses of the matter he was not all right. His throat was feeling tender and he wasn’t sure he could get another word out if he had to. His head was aching and his chest was on fire. As far as his emotions went they were rubbed raw. He had the strong desire to just shut his eyes and pray to return to the coma where life was better.

“Probie!”

Tim focused and found Tony at his bedside instead of Abby - who was now standing next to Gibbs, his arm around her waist in a half-hug.

“Man, McGoo, you’ve got to stop spacing out on us. You’ve been gone long enough as it is!” Tony said, trying to joke around but there was still a level of serious lingering in his eyes.

Tim smiled apologetically at him and forced out one word, wincing horribly as he did so: “Tired.”

“Come, let’s leave Timothy to sleep in peace,” Ducky said.

“Yes, some of you have reports to fill out,” Gibbs reminded ominously. “And you,” he said, turning to Abby, “are going to go home and get a decent nights rest, no arguments.”

Abby seemed about to argue for half a moment before she sagged against him and nodded her agreement.

Tim was relieved when they began to leave, saying goodbye to him first. From Jimmy he got a ‘Get well soon.’ Ducky wished him much the same, although he also added a promise to tell him about the time he treated a nun for a major concussion. Tony, Ziva and Abby promised to come visit the next day and Abby added a kiss to the cheek and the gentlest of hugs. Finally that left only Gibbs.

Gibbs stood by his bed, just looking down at him for several long moments. Tim was too tired to feel uncomfortable at the out of character staring so instead he forced himself to patiently wait for Gibbs to either say something or leave.

And finally Gibbs did say something.

“You did a good job out there, Tim.”

It took Tim a long moment to realize that he should be shocked. To earn Gibbs’ praise was a rare achievement but to earn the vocalization of his first name was almost unheard of. At least in reality it was - in is coma-world it had been a common occurrence.

“Thanks. … Boss,” Tim said, hiding the wince this time, but unable to hide how much of an effort it was for him to talk.

Gibbs laid a hand on his arm. “I’m going to lower the back of your bed,” he warned.

Once again the movement tugged at muscles that preferred not to be moved. Gibbs stayed by his side until the pain had subsided enough for him to open his eyes.

“Get some rest,” Gibbs said, patting his arm. “I’ll try to stop by tomorrow.”

Tim nodded and watched as he walked out the door. Once he was alone he closed his eyes and escaped into the dark nothingness of much needed sleep - away from a reality that only made him want to cry.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 7:59 pm 
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Five days later found Tim still laying in the hospital bed, although he was physically in much better shape. His throat was feeling fine once again, his head no longer ached and the wound on his chest only hurt when he moved the wrong way. He was allowed to get up and use the bathroom on his own and to walk up and down the hallways.

There had been several iffy moments when he had first tried walking. After all three weeks was a long time for muscles not to move beyond a physical therapist’s manipulations. Lucky for him though each of those moments, where he found himself with his butt on the floor, he was in the company of a nurse or therapist - never with a co-worker who might never let him live the incident down.

“I’m walking just fine now and I feel fine too. Okay, so I’m really sore, but I can be really sore in the comfort of my own bed. So why am I still in here?”

“The doctors are still concerned about you, Timothy,” Ducky replied. He was standing next to Tim’s bed, looking down at the agent. It was a rare moment when both Ducky had the time to check up on him and was there alone. Usually Jimmy tagged along, since he didn’t feel comfortable with visiting on his own.

“Why?”

Ducky shifted his weight from one foot to another. If it were almost anyone else Tim would’ve thought he was uncomfortable.

“They’re concerned about lingering effects of head trauma. Your mind has a tendency to wander away from reality lately, Timothy, and your doctors are concerned that they are missing something in your MRIs.”

That floored Tim - in a manner of speaking. He knew his mind had not really been present lately. He couldn’t help it if his mind much preferred to wander back to a time when everything was as he had always dreamed it to be. Even if it had, in actuality, been a dream brought on by a coma.

“I don’t think anything is wrong, really. I just…” Tim trailed off, not sure how to explain. He hadn’t spoken of the dreams he’d had. He wasn’t sure how to approach it - to explain how he’d dreamed up a reality where Abby was his wife, Tony as close as a brother and Gibbs a nicer, more understanding boss.

“Ducky?”

“Yes, my boy?”

“What do you know about what happens when someone is in a coma?”

Ducky looked contemplative for a moment before answering.

“I’m afraid that not much is known. What goes on in a person’s mind is different for each individual. Some relive events of their pasts. Others find themselves in a dream-like existence - sometimes it is pleasant and sometimes it is a nightmare. Many people don’t remember anything.” He looked down at Tim knowingly. “What did you experience?”

Tim wasn’t sure if he was ready to share, not even with someone he knew he could trust not to spread the story around. Finally he settled on telling half of the truth.

“I was living a different life, Ducky, one that I was quite happy to be living. I think I would’ve been happier if I had never left.” Tim felt lighter having finally admitted such feelings, but he could tell right away that his words weighed heavily on Ducky.

Tim sighed and laid a hand on his friend’s arm. “I need to get out of here and back to my own home. I need to get back to my reality - remember who I really am.”

Ducky looked into Tim’s eyes and saw the sincerity in them. Saw the truthful desperate need to get out of the hospital. He let out a heavy sigh before nodding.

“I will talk to your doctors and see what we can do for you. No promises though, Timothy,” Ducky emphasized when he saw the agent’s eyes light up.

“I know, Ducky, but thank you for trying all the same.”

Ducky walked out the door, determined to get Tim out of the hospital, for he was sure it was the first time the man had truly smiled since waking from his coma.

*********


Tim waited anxiously for Ducky to come back. So focused was he on the door that marked the entrance to his room that he managed to stay in reality. His mind did not drag him back to thoughts of Abby and Gracie cuddling on the couch, of Tony and Ziva playing with a hyperactive Jazzy, or of Ducky, Gibbs and Jimmy sitting together and laughing. No, all he wanted was the door to open and for Ducky to walk in and say he could leave the sterile environment of the hospital and return to his own bed, his own apartment, his own life.

And when the door did open - forty-nine long minutes later - Ducky was preceded by the wheelchair he was pushing.

“All right, Timothy. You are going home today. But I will be staying with you until I can get Tony, Ziva or Abby to stay the rest of the night with you. You shouldn’t be alone your first night at home, just in case!”

“I’m fine with that, whatever it takes to get me out of here!”

For just a moment Ducky took in the genuine grin that lit up Tim’s face, but he soon shook away his feelings of relief at seeing Tim happy again to help the man get up and dressed and in the chair.

A happily short time later Ducky was pulling in to the parking lot of Tim’s apartment complex. He was just getting to the part of his story where the concussed nun was flirting heavily with him, when his phone rang. The caller ID said JIMMY.

“Yes, Jimmy, what is it?” Ducky asked, answering the phone with the custom abruptness towards his assistant.

Tim could clearly hear Jimmy’s side of the conversation in the quiet of the car.

“Gibbs has a case and is in need of us - of, of you.”

“I really can’t come now, Jimmy. You will have to take care of it on your own.”

“Gibbs said you’d say that. But you’re really needed on this case, Dr. Mallard. It’s… there’s a…” Tim could hear an audible gulp. “There’s a high ranking official that’s breathing down his neck and he doesn’t want any mistakes made.”

Ducky heaved a great sigh. “All right, I’ll be there as soon as I can. Send me the GPS coordinates and I’ll meet you on the scene. I trust you to pack the gear and get the van there without any trouble.”

“I - yes Doctor. Thank you Doctor.”

Ducky pushed the off button and turned to Tim, an apology already on his lips.

“No Ducky, you are not taking me back to the hospital,” Tim said, anticipating what Ducky was about to say.

“I can’t just leave you alone, Timothy! You are still recovering and you could injure yourself very easily if left you to yourself.”

“And I am more than willing to take that chance, but I can’t go back there, Ducky. I just want to crawl into my own bed and sleep without having a nurse constantly waking me up to ask me if I’m sleeping okay!”

Ducky let out a chuckle at that.

“All right, all right. Let’s get you upstairs and settled in. I have one of Mother’s canes in my trunk which you are going to take and use no matter how near or far you get from your bed, do you understand?” The doctor said with sincere sternness.

“Yes Ducky, I understand,” Tim answered with a succinct nod.

For being an older man Ducky definitely didn’t lack any strength, and for that Tim was thankful as he leaned half of his weight on him during the climb up the stairs to his apartment. The other half was on the borrowed duck-headed cane.

Soon he was in pajamas and settled into his bed and waving Ducky out the door, reminding him that Gibbs was waiting on him. He snuggled into his pillow, pulled the blankest up under his chin and let out a sigh of relief, because for the first time in five days Tim felt hopeful that he would get beyond his brush with a life that never was.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 13, 2010 6:38 pm 
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Tony’s fingers tapped nervously against his phone’s handset. For the fourth time that day he had tried calling Tim - just to make sure he was alive, it wasn’t like he was worried or anything. And he wasn’t worried that Tim hadn’t answered his cell phone any of the four times he had tried to call. Nope, not at all.

When Ducky had shown up late to the crime scene Gibbs hadn’t let him explain why he was late. He had just raised one inquisitive eyebrow at Ducky, got an answering nod, and they continued on with work knowing that no matter why Ducky had been late, it wasn’t because something was wrong with Tim.

With a hovering minion of the SecNav, even as they were packing up to head back, all they’d had time for was for Ducky to tell them that he had taken Tim home and gotten him settled in.

And Tony had tried to call Tim right away, to yell at him for leaving the hospital when he was still so obviously screwed up in the head. He had thought nothing of it when the phone went to voicemail.

He still didn’t think twice when two hours later the second phone call went to voicemail - the man did need a lot of sleep, after all.

After a flurry of activity and over three hours had passed he tried again and still ended up in voicemail. A tinge of … annoyance shivered down his spine. Not concern, annoyance! Probie was not normally that deaf to the ringing of his phone…

But then Gibbs yelled at him to get back to his phone calls and he forced himself to once again concentrate on the death of an E-9 Chief Petty Officer.

But barely forty minutes passed by before be found his fingers once again dialing Tim’s cell number. And when he once more heard “You’ve reached Timothy McGee. Please leave your name, number and a short message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can” he about screamed. But, keeping a low profile to keep Gibbs’ eyes from scorching into him, he settled the handset into its cradle and resorted to the aforementioned nervous tapping of his fingers.

“Ring!”

“Whatthehellohmygod!” burst out from Tony as the ringing of his phone pulled him rather forcibly from his - not concerned! - thoughts. He had the phone in his hand seconds later because he could already feel the Glare of Doom radiating from Gibbs’ eyes and aimed directly at his forehead.

“DiNozzo,” he said in a calm, cool and collected voice. And then he pulled the phone from his ear and stared at the earpiece as high-pitched rambling flowed from within.

“Abby, calm down!” he shouted at the mouthpiece and only replaced the handset to his ear when all noises stopped.

“Now tell me - slowly! - what happened?”

“Okay… and who is Audrey?”

“And what did Audrey do?”

“How long ago?”

Gibbs and Ziva stopped all pretense of working to give their undivided attention to Tony’s end of the conversation, for they could clearly hear that the tone of his voice had sharpened.

“Yeah, yeah Abby, me too.”

“Three… no, four times.”

“Yeah, right to voicemail.”

Tony glanced up to meet Gibbs’ eyes.

“No, I can’t, I’m busy too.”

“Calm down! I’m sure he’s just sleeping.”

“No, I don’t know that for sure, how could I?”

“I will as soon as I can.”

“I promise, Abby.”

He hung up the phone.

“What was that?” Ziva asked, five-point-two seconds later.

Tony sighed and massaged his aching forehead.

“Abby just got a call from Audrey - Probie’s dog sitter. She had a family emergency and dropped Jethro off at McGee’s place. Only that was three hours ago and Probie’s not answering his phone and Audrey claims to not know that McGee was home.”

“But why did she just now call?”

“She hopped right back in her car and headed for Georgia. She didn’t think it was that big of a deal to leave the dog in the apartment alone for a couple of hours.”

Tony went back to tapping the handset of his phone, resisting the urge to once again try Tim’s number.

“Tony!”

Gibbs’ bark cut through his thoughts and his head snapped up to find the man looming over him.

“Yeah Boss?”

“Finish your calls,” he said sternly, and then he softened, just the tiniest bit, “and then get over to McGee’s and find out what’s going on.”

Tony nodded and picked up the handset to begin the first of the dozen calls he had left, only to find his stack of numbers snatched from him a moment later.

“Tony! I told you to stop stealing my work!” Ziva said in a biting tone that was contradicted by the soft smile that flickered on her lips as she settled back at her desk.

For five long seconds Tony sat, too stunned to move. And then he was up and jogging out of the bullpen with an “I’ll call soon” thrown over his shoulder.

**********


Once Tony was in his car and it was well underway towards Tim’s place… then - and only then - did he admit to himself that he was indeed worried about Tim. That he had never stopped being worried about Tim. From that very second going back to when he had regained consciousness three weeks ago to find Gibbs’ bloodstained hands pressed over Tim’s chest - he had been living in a turbulent sea of worry.

Tony knew he wasn’t the only one having a hard time. They all were sadly accustomed to Gibbs, Ziva or himself being injured or in the hospital. In fact, they had the routines down pat.

When Gibbs was out of commission Tony naturally moved into the leadership position and Tim became his right hand man. Ziva ran interference between the two when they butted heads, Ducky did his psychological mumbo-jumbo to clear the air and Jimmy fell right back into being his secret go-to for advice. And everyone had to be on the look out for sneak-attack hugs from a clingy Abby.

When Ziva was hurt things ran pretty close to normal. Although Ducky’s subtle psychology still came into play, but it was normally to keep Gibbs from killing he and Tim as they sniped at each other even more without their Ziva-buffer.

And Tony had to admit that things probably ran quieter and smoother without him around, but where was the fun in that?

But having Tim in the hospital was a new experience no one had been prepared for. There was no one to harass for being a geek or to turn to when they were having computer problems. There was no one to demand he get financial information or GPS coordinates. There was only a fellow agent laying pale and lifeless in a hospital bed with machines monitoring the telltale signs of life.

Ziva became quieter, more withdrawn. Probably concerned that she wasn’t being picked on by Tony, who just didn’t have the heart to tease when his Probie was … was definitely not dying. Ducky had started to hang around the bullpen, probably waiting for a someone to breakdown. (Oh, but not Tony, because he wasn’t one to breakdown… One more day. One more day and he would have lost it!)

Gibbs tried to pretend that he was normal - barking out orders and demanding the full attention of his agents - but they had caught him more than once turning to Tim’s desk to order him to do some technical thing or another. He would catch himself, bite back a sigh, and pick up his phone to call down to the temp in Abby’s lab.

And Abby had lasted almost two days before she had given up even trying to work. She had managed to maintain the illusion of holding herself together for the first day - sure that Tim would come out of his coma and they would get a call that he would be just fine. But the third day rolled around, and as she anxiously awaited for the phone to ring, tests went undone.

Gibbs had come down in the middle of the afternoon to find her sitting at her desk staring at nothing. One soft “Abby” from him and she was in his arms, sobbing. He guided her way up to Vance’s office and 45 minutes later he was driving her to the hospital.

For the rest of them though they had worked every day - sometimes going home after work, but more often than not finding themselves at the hospital. The nurses had taken to conveniently looking away whenever they saw one of them coming. Over the weekends it had become normal for the team to spend their time there, chatting with the other NCIS agents and staff as they came and went.

They had lived their lives in limbo for three weeks. Now that Tim was out of his coma - and obviously going to be okay - they were all trying to regain some sense of normalcy.

Tony took a deep breath as he brought his car to a stop outside Tim’s apartment building and let it out slowly.

They were trying to regain some sense of normalcy, and if Tim was laying up there in his apartment hurt - or worse - he wasn’t sure if they could keep it together. He knew for sure he wouldn’t be able to.

Another deep breath in. Then slowly exhaled. And then Tony opened his car door and began to head up to Tim’s apartment, preparing himself for anything but not wanting to think about it at the same time.

Arriving at his door he took a good look. The scratches around the keyhole were from the last time he’d picked the lock, so nothing out of place there. After that last incident Tim had given up and given him a key.

“Proooobie!” Tony called out, worry burdening the false levity he was trying to bring to his voice as he entered the apartment. It was dark with all the curtains and blinds shut, blocking out the twilight of the evening. Tony flicked on the light and as he stood still, waiting for his eyes to adjust, a low rumble filled the apartment. A noise he immediately recognized as Jethro’s growl.

Tony could see Jethro on the floor in Tim’s room, laying down but alert. And it wasn’t the growling former drug-sniffing dog that dropped his racing heart to the pit of the stomach - it was the prone figure he was protecting.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 28, 2010 11:04 pm 
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One moment Tony was standing with his back to the apartment door and the next he was kneeling by Tim’s side, pushing aside a growling dog that wouldn’t hesitate to attack to protect his human. Lucky for him, the dog recognized his scent and identified him as Annoying But Not Dangerous.

“McGee?” Tony said softly, a hand hesitantly reaching out to touch a still shoulder.

“I’m okay, Tony.”

Tony jerked his hand back to cover his chest.

“You scared me!” he accused, trying to breathe calmly to slow his frantically beating heart. “What the hell are you doing laying on the floor?”

Tim finally opened his eyes to look up at Tony, who immediately saw a mixture of embarrassment, exhaustion and pain - mostly pain.

“What happened?” Tony asked again.

A blush spread across Tim’s face.

“I wasn’t expecting Audrey to bring Jethro by - I didn’t even know he was here. I got up to use the bathroom and he was so excited to see me he knocked me off my feet. I… I can’t seem to get up.”

Tim closed his eyes and prepared himself for Tony’s laughter.

Tony looked at Jethro. The dog - now that he wasn’t growling - had a distinctive guilty aura about him. Tony shook his head.

“So, you’ve been down there for awhile then?”

Tim’s eyes flew open, shocked that Tony wasn’t teasing him - yet.

“Couple hours, I guess.”

Tony looked around and saw Tim’s cell sitting on top of his nightstand - well out of reach.

“That would be why you weren’t answering your phone.”

Tim glared up at Tony.

“Do you think you could help me?”

Tony grinned, glad that his ploy to distract Tim from the embarrassing aspect of the situation worked.

Tim grimaced and gritted his teeth, and even after he was finally back on his feet he had to cling to Tony’s shoulders to stay standing. And once up the embarrassment began to make a comeback.

“Don’t worry about it, McGee. How about I run a bath for you and while you’re in there I can whip up something for dinner.”

Tim violently shook his head and his face turned a brilliant shade of red.

“Let me guess… you don’t think you can get into and out of the tub?”

Tim shook his head again and Tony finally laughed.

“Probie, when I was in high school I broke my ribs and sprained my ankle playing football. Louisa - the housekeeper - was the one who had to help me in and out of the tub. If I could survive that disaster of embarrassments you can survive this.”

Tim thought it over. He had been on the floor for a long time and he was feeling uncomfortable. Being clean would be nice.

“All right, fine,” he said, letting out a sigh.

Tony tried to lead him to the bed to rest while the tub was filling but Tim refused and ended up leaning against the bathroom doorjamb instead, watching Tony test the water that was filling the tub.

“What time is it?” Tim asked as Tony dried his hands.

Tony glanced at his watch.

“6. Shit! I need to call Gibbs yet. And Abby.”

A look of utter fear crossed Tony’s face as he thought about his team - and Abby - sitting at work, not knowing what was going on. He was going to die three different ways for not calling immediately.

Finally though he shrugged. It’d been so long already that a few more minutes wouldn’t hurt.

“Okay, Probie, how do you want to do this?”

Two red faces, one wet shirt, one man in the tub and five embarrassing minutes later Tony left the bathroom, leaving the door ajar behind him.

He had Tim’s pajamas with him and looked around for a washer and dryer. He found them hidden in an alcove in the hallway, kept out of sight by doors that slid open like the closet in the bedroom. He threw the clothes in the washer and added in the rug by Tim’s bed. Once the washer was going he finally took out his cell phone and called Gibbs.

Gibbs.

The phone was answered nonchalantly, but Tony wasn’t fooled. He knew his boss was worried.

“He’s alright, Boss. The dog knocked him off his feet and he couldn’t get back up.”

Did ya get lost on the way?” Gibbs bit out.

“No Boss. I made it here in good time. Probie was out of bed because he had to use the bathroom,” Tony said, hoping for Tim’s sake he wouldn’t have to spell it out to Gibbs. He got a grunt in reply that told him he was in the clear.

“He’s in the tub right now and I’m going to make him something to eat.” Tony paused for a moment. “He really shouldn’t be out of the hospital, Boss. He’s not looking good and just spent three hours laying on the floor.”

You can’t force him to go back.

Tony sighed.

“I know. But I don’t think…” He trailed off, not sure if asking for time off would be a good idea or not, not while they were dealing with a new case.

I’ll talk to Vance. Stay with McGee for at least tonight,” Gibbs said, answering his unspoken request.

“Thanks Boss. I need to get something going for him for dinner. Could you call Abby for me?”

Gibbs snorted in amusement. “No, you call her yourself, DiNozzo.”

And then Tony was listening to dead air. With a sigh he headed for the kitchen and punched Abby’s speed dial number.

Tony! Is Timmy okay?

Tony smiled at Abby’s hyperactive concern.

“Yeah, he’s okay. He fell and couldn’t get back up.”

Oh, my poor Timmy! Was he on the floor for long?

“A couple hours.”

Abby gasped.

I’m coming over!

“Abby, don’t. He’s tired and sore. I’m going to feed him and get him in bed. I have Gibbs’ permission to just stay here so I’m going to spend the night. I’ll watch over Jethro and make sure he doesn’t trip him up again.”

There was a long pause before Abby spoke again.

Jethro tripped McGee?” she said, a hint of amusement in her voice.

“Yeah Abs,” Tony said, rolling his eyes. Abby would forgive that dog anything.

Are you sure you don’t want me to come over and help?” Abby asked, trying wheedle him into changing his mind.

“No Abs. I really need to get Tim something to eat. I’ll call you in the morning and let you know how he is.”

Abby paused for a moment, considering if that was good enough for her. Finally she let out an overly dramatic sigh.

Fine. Give McGee a hug for me and you be nice to him!

Tony just barely held in a sigh of his own. “Of course I will, Abby. Good night.” He hung up the phone before Abby could try continuing the conversation.

He opened the refrigerator to find it stocked with new food. He smiled, sure that Ziva was behind it. They had all known that Tim wouldn’t be able to stand being at the hospital much longer. Obviously Ziva had realized that he definitely hadn’t needed to come home to a kitchen full of rotten food.

Searching around he found exactly what he needed and with a grin pulled out a skillet and began cooking.

**********


Tim spent twenty minutes in the tub, luxuriating in being able to soak in the warmth of water rather than suffer through another sponge bath with Nurse Zimmer. Or her occasional replacement - Nurse Sanders… Charlie Sanders.

As he relaxed he mentally accessed how he was doing. He was feeling weak and tired, but at the same time he was ravenously hungry. His lips quirked in a grin - he hoped Tony wasn’t going to poison him with dinner.

The grin fell from his lips as he thought about earlier. Tony could’ve made the whole experience miserable and irreversibly mortifying. But instead the man had taken everything in stride and had not let Tim dwell on what had happened. After all, it couldn’t be helped. He had tried keeping his bladder at bay, but it won. He had been so ashamed as the warm spot had spread that tears escaped his eyes in droves.

Tim had briefly allowed himself to once again fall back into memories of a dream of another time and place - where he wouldn’t have been left alone for even a moment.

But then Jethro had whined and licked the tears away and Tim remembered that in the dream Jethro had remained Butch and had been put down for attacking him. So, rather than losing himself again, he shuffled closer to his dog and rested his head against the furry, warm side and fell back asleep with Jethro’s chin on his shoulder.

When Tim began to feel sleepy laziness slink through his bones he knew it was time to get up. Or, to more exact, it was time to reverse the procedure that got him in the tub.

After taking several deep breaths to fortify his nerves for the experience ahead Tim called out to Tony.

**********


Tony managed to find a robe buried back in Tim’s closet and had that ready to go, and he was glad of that decision. Pulling Tim from the tub required a lot of effort because the man was so boneless everything was on Tony’s strength. It was all Tim could do to manage to stay standing on his own long enough for Tony to help him with his boxers and gently get his arms through the sleeves so he could wrap the robe around him.

“Okay Probie, it’s time to get you something to eat,” Tony said, putting Tim’s left arm around his shoulder. Tim was so tired that he didn’t protest to being led towards the kitchen, most of his weight taken on by Tony.

He was lowered gently into a chair and soon a plate was set in front of him with two slender burritos arranged artfully in a perpendicular stack.

“Burritos.” It came out deadpan and monotone but in Tim’s mind he was saying it with a mix of curiosity and wonderment. He had dreamed of Tony making burritos and a hopeful little part of his mind was wondering if his dream hadn’t been a dream at all.

“Yeah, burritos. I’ve told you before that I make a mean burrito!” Tony said, pretending to be hurt by the blank look he was getting, but instead hiding the concern he felt. The faraway look in Tim’s eyes was back. He had hoped - they all had hoped - that the look would disappear once he was out of the hospital.

Tony stared at Tim who in turn stared at the burritos. Tony broke down first.

“All right, come on McGee. You’ve got to eat. I make a mean burrito but these aren’t really my best. My best includes bacon and sausage and cheese and peppers all topped with hot sauce.” He broke off for a moment mentally savoring the taste of previous concoctions. He shook his head and continued on. “What you’ve got in front of you is eggs wrapped in tortilla shells. Nothing that will upset your stomach. And once you’ve got those down then you can go back to bed.”

Tim didn’t look up, but he did pick up one of the burritos and took a bite. He chewed slowly and methodically, swallowing thickly. He heard rather than saw a glass being set in front of him and he was relieved to see a small glass of milk.

Tony was glad to see Tim raise his head and smile a little, but he couldn’t bring himself to smile back. He watched each bite reach Tim’s mouth via a shaky hand and the liquid in the glass shiver from the minute tremors.

“So the doctors let you go?” Tony found himself blurting out.

Tim paused mid-chew to look at him, and nodded.

“And was that because they decided there was nothing wrong with you or because you decided you didn’t want to stay?”

Tim turned his gaze to the remains of the final burrito that sat on his plate. His silence told the whole story.

“I hate hospitals as much as the next guy Probie, but I stay until the doctors tell me it’s time to go.”

Tim raised his eyebrows, an incredulous look on his face.

“You came back from the plague incident a week early!”

“Ah, yes, but I was already out of the hospital by that time,” Tony reminded him, a grin slowly creeping up on him. It broadened when Tim tentatively smiled back.

“But you shouldn’t have come into work,” Tim pointed out.

“Yeah, yeah,” Tony said with a wave of his arms. And then he crossed them and sat back, growing serious. “Why did you leave the hospital before you were cleared to go?”

Tim shifted uncomfortably and looked back at the uninteresting burrito.

“I just didn’t want to be there any more. I wanted to sleep in my own bed.”

“I can understand that, but there’s more to it than that.”

Tony waited through Tim’s silence for several long minutes before giving in and prodding some more.

“You’re going to talk to me, tell me what’s going on in your head. If you keep it inside of you, Probie, you’re never going to talk. You’re going to bury it and it’s going to sink you.”

Tim looked up and stared at Tony with a stubbornness that he was more used to seeing in the mirror. But he had one more weapon up his sleeve.

“Please, Tim.”

Any older brother knows that a younger brother knows you’re serious when you both ask politely and actually call them by their name. And sure enough, Tim’s resolve wilted.

Tony looked on with concern as Tim slumped over in his chair, his elbow hitting the table seconds before his forehead hit his palm. He was about to jump up when Tim began to talk.

“I know I was in a coma for three weeks,” Tim began, his voice barely above a whisper. “You’ve all told me that and my body is screwed up enough for it to obviously be true.”

Tony leaned in closer, trying to hear Tim better.

“But that’s not at all what happened, at least not in my mind. I had some sort of dream or extremely prolonged hallucination or something. Because in my mind - in my memories - I woke up three days after being shot.”

Tim stopped talking then and Tony let him work through his thoughts.

“Abby was there - when I woke up. But things weren’t the same. She - we.”

Tim took a deep breath and pushed back on the table until he was sitting up, looking Tony in the eye.

“Abby and I were married and we had a daughter - Grace - and another baby on the way. You and Ziva were together and had been for awhile. Living together and thinking of getting married. Gibbs was happier and he and Ducky and Jimmy were this strange little clique - all so different but all really good friends at the same time.

“Abby, Gracie and I lived in a two story home with a dark unfinished basement perfect for the coffin and her old voodoo paraphernalia and Gracie’s bedroom was done in shades of pink and black with happy skeletons as the central decorating scheme. Although Gibbs had gotten a Baby Bert made for her so she could have one like her Mom.”

Tim’s wall had been broken and everything he had been holding in, everything he was trying to cope with on his own came spilling out. And Tony took it all in stride, listening without interruption. And when Tim’s hand ended up pressed to his side, covering his wound and pallor began to take over the flush from his warm bath and hot meal, Tony got him up and to the bedroom. He got Tim out of his robe and tucked into bed, but Tim never stopped talking. Telling Tony about how each person was different but the same. Telling him stories of little events and funny things said.

Eventually though Tim’s voice began to fade out and his eyelids began to droop on their own accord. But even after Tim ran out of words Tony stayed sitting on the edge of Tim’s bed, looking down at his friend.

“Tony?” Tim said in a hesitant voice.

“Hm?”

“What do I do?”

“About what?”

“About all of this - all these memories that aren’t really memories.”

Tony had to really think of how to answer the question. He was surprised he was even asked, since Tim wasn’t ever one to ask him for advice. Finally though he had an answer.

“You keep it with you. They sound like nice things to think about sometimes - and maybe you can use parts of it in your next story. But don’t ever forget that you’re here, McGee. You’re with us, for better or worse. We may not be like the people in your dream but we’ll always be here for you.”

Tim slowly opened his eyes and stared at Tony before slowly nodding his head.

“I know you are,” he said, his eyes falling closed again. “I don’t mean to make it sound like what I experienced while in my coma was better than reality.”

“I know that, Probie,” Tony said, but his words fell on deaf ears, for Tim was asleep.

Tony puttered around the apartment awhile - cleaning the dishes, straightening up the kitchen, feeding Jethro his dinner and keeping an eye on the dryer so he could stop it before it buzzed and woke up Tim. Once the clothes were done and folded and set aside he got out the sleeping bag he’d found earlier and unrolled it, setting it up out of the way in case Tim got up in the middle of the night.

Tony lay on top of the sleeping bag, Jethro curled up by his side. He stared into the darkness, not yet tired but unwilling to make too much noise. He thought about what Tim had told him. The one thing that stuck out - even over the idea of being in a relationship with Ziva - was the surprise Tim had expressed to find that in this dream world he was best friends with Tony. Tony had barely hidden the hurt at hearing that.

He turned his head until he knew he was speaking in the direction of Tim.

“We’re not perfect, Tim. We don’t try to be. But I’ll try to make sure you never again doubt that you’re my best friend,” Tony whispered into the dark.

Having said that he felt better - and tired. So he rolled onto his side and closed his eyes and soon was off into a dream world of his own.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 24, 2010 9:57 pm 
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As is typical with guys, neither Tim nor Tony were keen on mentioning what Tim had revealed - it involved too many emotions and would prompt long conversations. So instead Tony woke up the next morning, made Tim a banal breakfast of toast with the barest scrapping of butter and a glass of orange juice. And Tim limped his way to the breakfast table without complaint and then - with a short detour to the bathroom - limped back to bed and was asleep almost immediately.

Tony was granted the rest of the week off, which he gladly took. He took care of Tim - cooking for him, helping him in and out of the tub, helping him change. These were moments that would probably never be brought up again. It was just what one good friend - best friend even - does when it’s really needed.

But it would never be forgotten, either. The very way the two dealt with each other subtly changed from that moment forth. There was still teasing and mocking and supergluing. But there was a different undertone to everything. When two people know that they are friends - unconditional friends - they can forgive the bad moods and the stupid jokes and the occasional snide snubs without ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘You’re forgiven’ because it’s just simply understood that both are true.

It was awhile though before Tim was back at work. He spent five weeks at home. After Tony spent that first week with him he was able to stay on his own, sans Jethro, who Gibbs took in. But even after Tony left Tim was rarely left alone, at least not in the evenings. When the team wasn’t too busy Ziva and Tony would come over and once in awhile Gibbs, Ducky or Jimmy would drop by, but those were rare occurrences.

And Abby came by quite often too, either with someone else or on her own. Tim had a tough time at first being able to spend time with Abby without his mind drifting to a dream-Abby that behaved completely different. But he made progress and by the time he was back to work he was acting normal around her once again.

On the surface.

Deep inside, no matter how much he told himself to get over it, he missed his dream-family. He would wake up and find himself confused as to where he was. He would sometimes sleepily stumble out of bed and hit a wall - trying to walk through a door that only existed in a dream. And sometimes the sound of phantom giggling rang in his ears and he would have to fight back tears, because why was he crying over someone that never existed?

Sometimes he suspected that Tony knew what was going through his mind, but he never said anything. Some days though Tony would come back from lunch with an extra coffee for Tim, and he appreciated the gesture more than he would ever say.

But Tim would be incorrect in supposing that only Tony knew something was wrong.

**********


“Got it!,” Tim said triumphantly. “This guy really knew his way around coding, but I got him!”

He was in Abby’s lab, utilizing one of her computers to crack a code keeping him from being able to access data on a flashdrive. Once he was in it took only a matter of minutes to shift through the information and find some interesting documents.

“Okay, I’m taking this back upstairs to work on it from there,” Tim said to Tony, who had been talking to Abby just moments before about blood splatter. “Thanks for letting me use your lab, Abby.” he added, saying it over his shoulder as he walked out the door.

Tony turned to follow him but one look at Abby stopped him in his tracks. She looked confused and upset and maybe a bit heartbroken.

Tony turned on his heel and took the one step back to her side.

“Abs, what’s wrong?”

Abby turned her head to look at him, and he was struck by the dejected look in her eyes.

“What’s wrong with my Timmy?”

Tony was a seasoned investigator - and a damn good undercover agent. He was well-versed in being able to hide his reactions and not let what he was really thinking show on his face.

“What do ya mean?”

Abby shifted from one foot to the other, hesitating before finally spilling what was going on in her mind.

“He’s been different lately. It’s like sometimes he’s far away - somewhere I can’t reach him. And when he comes back, for a moment it’s like he doesn’t like what he sees. And he doesn’t really want to spend time with me any more. He used to invite me to see a movie or take me to lunch or surprise me with tickets to a show. He doesn’t do any of that any more.”

Tony forced himself not to nod along with everything she was saying for he had seen all of this too. Instead though he tried to convince Abby that everything was okay.

“He just went to see Gwar with you two weeks ago.”

“Only because I invited him. If I ask he’ll go, but it’s like he’s forcing himself to be friends with me,” Abby said, looking at Tony as if he would have all the answers.

“Abby,” Tony began, barely biting back a sigh, “McGee almost died. Near death experiences make people reevaluate their lives. That’s all he’s doing.”

“He’s reevaluated and decided he doesn’t want me in his life anymore?” Abby said, a miserable edge to her voice.

Tony immediately wanted to kick his stupid mouth for saying the completely wrong thing. Instead he wrapped Abby into a big hug, which was immediately returned.

“Abby, Tim loves you, you know that. He lost three weeks of his life though. He’s just trying to deal with that. Some deal with these things better than others. Just be glad he didn’t run off to Mexico.”

Laughter burst from Abby at that. She pulled away from Tony and grinned at him.

“Thanks, Tony! I’ll just give him more time. But if he doesn’t start acting normal soon I’m going to kick him back into normalcy!” she said with determination.

Tony couldn’t help but return her grin. “I don’t think it will come to that, Abs. But if it does, then I’ll help you! But in the meantime I’ve got to get back upstairs before Gibbs starts kicking me around!”

Abby laughed and shooed him away.

Riding the elevator back upstairs Tony decided that after work he would take Tim out for a beer and see what was going on in his mind.

But Tony didn’t get a chance to do that, for that very afternoon fate stepped in and flipped Tim and his lives upside down.

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PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2010 7:08 pm 
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Title: A tiny bit insane
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Most of the time the MCRT will work on a case until they’ve figured out who the murderer was or who stole the cash - et cetera. But sometimes something came up that took precedence over everything else. Such as when a petty officer breaks into the home of an ex-girlfriend, threatens to kill her, shoots her in the leg and then ends up killing himself instead - and now her daughter is missing.

Gibbs had them all out of the building and in a car almost before they could blink - and speeding towards the address faster than his normal speed. Which meant he had two green-faced men stumbling out of the vehicle once they reached their destination. Ziva, of course, just thought she could’ve gotten them there faster.

So, it was the result of being nauseated that Tim hadn’t recognized the drive, or the houses they were passing by. And he could be excused for not recognizing landscaping he had never seen in the front yard. But once they were inside the house, systematically going through each room, Tim realized where he was.

“Oh. Shit.” He said, sitting down on the bed in the master bedroom. His legs had turned into the consistency of jelly and could no longer support him.

“What is it, McGee?” Tony said, poking his head out of the bathroom doorway. He had hoped to find Tim with a clue of some sort, but instead found his friend whitewashed and looking woozy.

“Probie!” he said, running to his side. His imagination flashed to a dozen different horrible things that might be going on with his friend. “You all right?” he asked, kneeling next to the bed.

Tim’s mouth opened and closed in a futile attempt to tell Tony what was going on in his mind. A sudden sharp sting to his cheek brought the words back.

“Ouch, Tony!” Tim said, rubbing his reddened cheek.

“Sorry Probie, but you were a little out of it,” Tony said, not really all that apologetic. He was more glad to see reality back in Tim’s eyes.

But Tim ignored Tony and instead stood up and walked into the bathroom - his jelly-legs having been slapped out of him along with is inability to speak.

Tony hesitated for a moment before getting up and following him, and he found him on his knees next to the bathtub.

“Uh, McGee? What are you doing.”

Tim didn’t answer the question though. Instead he stood up and turned to Tony. “I think I know where the girl is,” he said, and with that he brushed by Tony in the doorway of the bathroom and exited the bedroom.

Tony followed behind him - down the stairs, past the living room where Ducky and Jimmy were with the dead sailor, through the kitchen and down the stairs that lead into the basement. Tim walked past the laundry room, down a hallway and into a room that was being used as a rec room - with dart board on a hole-filled wall and air hockey table.

Tim stopped outside of a closet door. He eased the door open and then crouched and began speaking softly.

“Sweetheart, I know you’re in there. My name is Tim McGee and I am a Navy cop. Your Mommy is okay and the bad man is gone. Your Mommy and Daddy are worried about you though. Can you come out?”

Tony moved over and peered around Tim’s shoulder and saw no one in the closet. He was about to say so when a panel in the back of the closet began to move, and out popped a little girl of about five, who promptly jumped into Tim’s arms.

As Tim straightened up and soothed the little girl in his arms it finally clicked for Tony. Either Tim was psychic - or he had been here before, and knew the home well enough to know there was a secret cubby hole in a closet in the basement.

As the weight of truth settled over Tony’s shoulders he realized he was alone in the room, and he had no idea how long he had been standing there. He strode out of the room, up the stairs and got outside just in time to see Tim hand over the child to a man who was obviously her father. Tony ignored the frantically grateful thanks the man was showering over Tim and, grabbing Tim by the wrist, dragged the unresisting man around the side of the house and away from everyone else.

Tony saw the collapse happening and instead of stopping it he eased Tim’s journey down to the ground, and followed him down as well, his own knees feeling a bit rubbery. They knelt there, knees-to-knees, Tony’s hands gripping Tim’s shoulders like they were his only link to reality.

“McGee - Tim - what is going on here?”

Tim looked up slowly, almost like he was just now realizing that Tony was there on the ground with him. And when he spoke, he spoke with the now-familiar tone he used when he spoke of things far off that never really happened.

“They decorated the bathroom in black and shades of gray rather than green - but the crack in the bathtub was the same - one that looks like Poseidon’s trident. And they kept Abby’s old coffin in that room in the basement. But she knows about the cubby hole and hides there during thunderstorms. She hates thunderstorms.”

“She?” Tony asked, even though he was certain he already knew the answer.

“Gracie. My… his daughter.”

And at that Tim crumbled and ended up with his forehead resting on Tony’s shoulder. Tony hesitated for only a moment before wrapping Tim in a hug. He rubbed soothing circles across his back, unsure what to say to a man who just found out he had quite literally lived another life for three weeks - a life that was everything he had ever dreamed of - and now that life was as unattainable as a trip to Jupiter.

“What do I do, Tony?” Tim whispered several minutes later.

Tony’s hands stalled as he tried to come up with an answer. But he realized there was no solution to this situation.

“I don’t know,” he answered honestly. “But we’ll figure it out - I promise.”

Tim pushed away from Tony and nodded. Tony saw that his eyes - although quite red - were dry. He stood up and offered a hand to help Tim up, who gladly accepted it. When they reached the front of the house Tony made Tim sit in the car. Later Gibbs would be quite proud at the glare Tony gave him when he made a motion to make Tim get back to work. In the meantime though he sent a deadlier glare back, but one look at Tim made him decide to leave him alone, at least.

Later, Gibbs would spend a good portion of the drive back to headquarters sending looks to Tony in the rearview mirror that clearly said ‘You will tell me what’s going on.’

But Tony wouldn’t, nor would Tim. There was no good way of telling your boss that you had somehow been magically transported to another dimension and while he was watching you fight through a coma you were for all intents and purposes playing with your daughter and laughing with your wife.

And Tony would not break Tim’s confidence. Nor could he forget what he now knew. That in another dimension he and Ziva were together - blissfully in love. He didn’t know how to live with that knowledge. He didn’t know how to be around Ziva and not think about how he now knew that if things had been different, they could’ve been happy.

Later that night Tony showed up on Tim’s doorstep with a six pack of beer in one hand and a bottle of white wine in the other. Tim opened the door as if he knew he would be coming. They didn’t start talking though until a quarter of the bottle of wine was gone and two beers were sloshing in Tony’s stomach.

In the end - after barely a quarter of the wine was left and the sixth beer was opened but barely sipped at - they decided that the old cliché of taking it day-by-day would have to come into play for their situation. And that once one figured out how to live with such knowledge, would he please tell the other how it’s done?

**********


Reality stands at a multi-path crossroad every single second of every day. Once a path is chosen we cannot turn around and chose a different course. Rather we forge forward and hope that the next crossroad - the next choice - is one that will take us somewhere we would want to go.

Sometimes though, the course of your life lies not in the choices that you make, but in the choices that others make. Most of the time we don’t realize when this happens. But when we do it’s best to forget wondering about might-have-beens and the should’ve-could’ves.

When the universe screws up though and one person has to see - to live - a life that was never really theirs, then the universe owes it to them to correct the mistake.

Which was why the universe spent a good deal of its unending attention span on the life of one Timothy McGee, waiting for the moment when it could make a change that would set his life back on the path he should have been on all along.

But that? That is another story altogether.

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PostPosted: Mon May 24, 2010 4:48 pm 
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Excellent! Wonderful! Really Heavy!

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PostPosted: Mon May 24, 2010 5:12 pm 
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Thanks!

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