Tony's words had meant a great deal, but it was when he produced Tim's favorite lunch and carefully cut it into bite size pieces without as much of a snicker, then they really sunk in. After they'd eaten, Ziva had kissed his cheek and stepped back, allowing Tony a few minutes to say goodbye to Tim.
"No more hiding, okay?"
"I'll try, it's just..."
"Yeah, I get it." Tony grasped his uninjured shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Think of it as an adoption. This is your family now and these are our rules. Family rule number one. When something's wrong, you tell us."
Tim gave hm a look, eyebrow raised. "That rule going to apply to everybody?"
Ziva agreed and rejoined them. "He has a point, Tony."
Looking at McGee and Ziva, Tony shook his head. "I was on an assignment, it's not the same thing."
"Why not? Did Jenny specifically order you to not tell your team? It not only put you in danger because you had no back-up, but there were times we didn't know if you were going to be there to back us up out in the field."
Ziva's words stopped Tony cold. He'd coped with the guilt by deliberately not thinking about what the team was doing while he was juggling two different lives. Tim saw the guilt and tried to stop her. "Ziva, maybe this isn't the time."
"No, she's right. You both are and we're lucky it didn't blow up in our faces. Well, any more than it did."
"How about a compromise? If it's personal, we tell. If it's work and we can't tell, we say that, too."
Tony tried to wrap his mind around McGee's convoluted suggestion. "So, what? Hey, guys, I'm doing something, but the Director won't let me talk about it."
"Exactly. At least we know and can set up some sort of system to help you if you run into trouble. A code you could send us or a check-in system. Something so that we can know that you're all right without compromising your safety by stumbling into whatever it is." Tim didn't look away while Tony thought over what they were telling him.
"Yeah, okay. Family rule number one, with so stated compromise, applies to all of us. Agreed?"
"Agreed." Ziva thought for a moment. "What is family rule number two?"
Tony leaned over and snagged a cube of chicken off of Tim's plate. "We share and share alike."
"Still not driving my car, Tony." When Ziva burst out laughing, Tim looked at her. "Neither are you, Ziva."
While Ziva made a show of pouting, Tony tried another approach. "Then who's going to drive you back and forth every day?"
"Probably Ducky. He and Gibbs argued and Ducky won. I'm staying with him when I'm released. Apparently in his mother's old room."
Deep down, Tony adored the old lady, but he had to tease the kid. "You know, she wore Chanel No. 5 to bed every night – and nothing else. But, hey, I'm sure Ducky's changed the sheets for you."
Tim sunk down in his pillow and covered his face. Oh, God. You know, I'd have been perfectly happy with Gibbs' couch or, you know, my own bed."
Laughing, Tony gave his partner a gentle noogie. "Welcome to the family, Buddy."
"You don't have to come up, Sweetheart."
Jackie Vance just gave her husband a stern look. "I'm not going to hide from your job, Leon. This man is one of your agents and he was injured on the job. Of course I'm going to go upstairs and wish him well. If you need to speak to him privately afterward, I'll step out – but after he knows that he has our concern on a personal level."
Knowing he was beat, Vance just opened the door for her. "Yes, dear."
Upstairs, he let Jackie get her motherly fussing out of the way, tossing his coat on one of the chairs and not noticing the stuffed animal already there. When she started asking details about his after hospital care, Vance sighed and sat down, causing a loud, rude sound to fill the room.
She was horrified, he was mortified and Tim was afraid he was going to pop his stitches again trying not to laugh. Turning red, he pointed to the chair. "Under... coat."
Already on his feet, Vance picked up his coat and saw the stuffed animal. Not having a clue why McGee wanted it so badly he picked it up, squeezing it and filling the room again with the rude sound.
There was dead silence in the room for a moment before Jackie's hands flew to cover her mouth and she giggled. Still not sure if he should laugh, Tim watched as a dark eyebrow reached altitudes that even surpassed Gibbs'.
This time it was a deliberate squeeze that brought the sound as Vance carefully studied the hippo, the corner of his mouth twitching. "Miss Sciuto's, I presume?"
"Yes, Sir." Tim sounded like he was being strangled and this time he couldn't contain his laughter. It was forgiven because Vance was laughing right along with him.
It was a few moments before Vance stopped laughing and pulled himself together, the serious nature of his visit coming to the forefront. "Discovering how badly you were injured really shook your team. Hearing that you delayed treatment because you were worried about your position in the Agency, that shook me."
Tim stared in shock as Vance continued. "Your team is the best in the agency – the best in the history of the agency. I separated your team, not because of anything any of you did, but to put something much bigger in play. I know you know that now, but I didn't take into account that any of you needed to hear the rest. That I value you as a team and as individuals in this agency. Your job is safe, Tim. Just concentrate on getting better, your position will still be there for you when you're ready."
"Thank you, Sir." Tim felt his throat tighten up and took a ragged breath. "That means a great deal."
"Hey, McGee, you ready to get out of here?" Gibbs walked in, followed by a nurse with a wheelchair. "Ducky's getting your PT appointments set up."
"I'm more than ready, Boss."
"Good." Gibbs looked him over. He appeared well rested and was already dressed. Gibbs knew that Tony and Ziva had left the Yard quite early to pick up their prisoner and now he knew why. "Had company this morning already?"
The nurses had been teasing him about installing a revolving door. "Abby brought me breakfast, then Tony and Ziva dropped by with clean clothes for me. Tony helped me get dressed and Ziva carried all the gifts down to their car."
Gibbs almost choked on the image of Corporal Jackson wedged in the back seat of the sedan with all the stuffed animals, flowers and balloons that had filled McGee's room the three days he'd been hospitalized.
Apparently McGee was equally amused. "Tony told Jackson that if he popped one of my balloons, he'd let Ziva have him." Gibbs snorted at that, but was saved from commenting when Ducky walked in with Dr. Yang.
"Now there sits a young man ready to be discharged."
"Sure looks that way." Dr. Yang had already examined Tim that morning, but wanted to say goodbye. "All right, Tim, you're all set. Dr. Mallard has your post-op care information and your follow-up appointments with Dr. Marshall and the physical therapist are all set up."
Tim reached out with his left hand. "Thank you, Dr. Yang, for everything, and good luck in Africa. I'll be looking forward to reading the updates on your blog."
Gibbs nodded and shook the doctor's hand, too, but was silent until they were in the car, pulling away from the hospital. "Feel good to get out of there?"
"Yeah, it does." Tim leaned back in the seat, seeing Ducky's Morgan following behind them.
"Good. Tony and Abby got things set up for you, but if there's anything else you want, let me know and we'll get it taken care of."
"Thanks." Tim couldn't help but compare this homecoming to when he'd left the hospital after the car accident. Weak from weeks in traction, he'd struggled to the point of tears to get himself and his heavy cast into a taxi cab. Seeing the change in mood, Gibbs reached out and squeezed the back of his neck.
"Yeah, just thinking how different things are now and how lucky I am."
Arriving at the house, he walked in under two sets of watchful eyes and Ducky led him to the bedroom. It had, in fact, been Victoria's bedroom while she lived there, but there was little resemblance in what he found waiting for him. Every scrap of lace and doilies had been removed, the bedding replaced with the comforter from Tim's own bed. His computer was set up in the corner and a large TV was mounted on the wall. His clothes filled the closet and dresser, while some of his favorite books were stacked on a small table next to a comfortable looking chair that matched one in the living room. The flowers, balloons and stuffed animals from the hospital filled every corner, the fragrance from the flowers overpowering any remaining traces of Chanel No.5 that might have been left behind.
Ducky stepped around him and folded down the bedding for him. "Now, young man, I know you just got home, but I think a short rest is in order. The hospital might be wonderful for their medical care, but it's a terrible place to get a peaceful night's sleep."
Just the suggestion reminded Tim of how tired he still was and before he knew it, he was yawning. Gibbs chuckled and steered him to the bed. The idea that Gibbs was taking his shoes off for him almost brought tears to Tim's eyes and once he was in a comfortable pair of sweats, the last thing he remembered was a warm hand threading through his hair.
Tim woke, feeling both rested and starving. He was very comfortable laying on his side, pillows tucked around him to support his back and shoulder. Before he could work up the ambition to move out of his snug nest, the door creaked open and he heard a familiar squeal.
"McGee, you're awake finally. Guys, Timmy's awake."
The room filled and multiple hands helped him sit up and rearranged the pillows for him before Tony, with Palmer's help, chased the girls out of the room.
"Nope, let the man pee in peace, Abs. Boss is about five minutes behind us, since he's picking up the food. Help dish it up, okay?"
Gibbs smiled as he snagged the last egg roll. Ducky hadn't batted an eye when the younger members of the team traipsed upstairs with plates and settled on the bed with McGee. Ducky just smiled and set up at the computer desk while Gibbs had compromised by sitting in the reading chair with his shoes off and his feet propped up on the bed. The credits of the movie were running now, some sort of science fiction thing that he hadn't paid too much attention to, even though it had an impressive amount of chase scenes. The girls were sleeping, one on each side of McGee, while Palmer was snoring at the end of the bed. Ducky had given up and crept off to his own bed about half way through the movie. Tony looked to be asleep, too, except for the hand that was slowly creeping toward Gibbs' sock clad feet.
"Touch them and die, DiNozzo."
The hand stilled, but Tony gave no other indication that he'd ever been awake. A soft chuckle drew Gibbs' eyes up to his younger boy, awake after having slept most of the day. He grinned in return and handed McGee the remote. "Find us a Western, will ya'?"
There's a achievement award this year on the H/C bingo for using all interconnecting stories for a bingo, so you may be seeing a continuation of this in a few more stories. Did you notice the thread I left?
This entry was originally posted at http://emerald-green37.dreamwidth.org/25