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Holding On To Nothing

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AN: This is my third writing on the episode "Dead Air." I am taking a slightly different look at it then my other two stories, 'Return to Stillwater' and 'Static.' I guess I would call it a more, direct, in your face approach this time. I hope you like it.

"You, both of you, in the elevator, now!" Tony said, coughing into a tissue.

Tim and Ziva joined him in the elevator. The doors closed and Tony flipped the switch before he spoke.

"Look, I don't know what you two were doing out there. But you were supposed to have my back, have my six." Tony said, his anger growing as he spoke. "But I guess that it is a foreign concept to the two of you. You told me you had turned the radio off when I got in the car. You were tired of hearing my voice." Tony said, wanting to yell, but knowing it would reverberate off the walls if he did. "Those were your exact words, were they not, Agent McGee? Agent David?"

Tony waited, but not really long enough for either to speak.

"Those were, in fact, your words to me." Tony continued. "When we are out in the field we are to watch out for each other." Tony paused. "You're both damned lucky I only came back with an allergy reaction. You can imagine what would have happened if I had come back shot? Or not come back at all? What do you think Gibbs would do to you? Aside from the fact you broke protocol. Imagine what your reputations would be. You would be lucky to get jobs as meter maids."

Tim and Ziva both opened their mouths to protest.

"Was it your idea of a joke?" Tony demanded.

No one spoke.

"Well, was it?" Tony asked. "What was I supposed to do? Roll around on the floor in the back of the car roaring with laughter at the 'good one' you got on me. Was that it?" Tony paused. "Well, it's NOT funny. It is disrespectful to me and to my position as your superior. It's insubordinate. And it's borderline criminal."

Tony folded his arms over his chest and pretended to wait for their laughter.

"Not so funny now is it? You're not laughing?" Tony said, sarcastically. "That's good, because you are damned lucky you still have your jobs. I could have reported you to Gibbs. I should have told Gibbs. You should be thanking me for not telling him. I'm not sure why I didn't tell him. Except I thought, for just a brief second, you were my friends. And you had really just played a joke. But jokes among friends don't involve the possibility of one of the friends getting killed. So no," Tony tapped a finger to his chin. "…I guess 'joke' wouldn't work. That just leaves me with the only conclusion of complete and utter disregard for me and my safety."

Tony thought for a moment, then he continued. "But don't think you're not off the hook JUST because I didn't tell Gibbs. You have both betrayed my trust. If I can't even trust you to fulfill your professional obligations to me, there is no way, in hell, I can trust you on a personal/ friendship level."

Tony flipped the switch to turn the elevator back on. "I'm going to request to Gibbs we work cold cases. I'm not at all eager to go back out into the field with either of you. If you two can prove to me you are worthy of my trust, Gibbs will never find out about this 'incident.' And you two can keep your jobs."

Tony then turned and exited the elevator as soon as the doors opened, leaving Tim and Ziva stunned and staring.



Chapter 2

AN: Due to several requests, I am continuing this story. I was told that I needed to give Tim and Ziva a chance to defend themselves. I got a GREAT list of ideas from one reviewer. Thank you, AlexDN, and will incorporate more than one of those into my story.


Gibbs did not like what he was seeing, what had been happening within and to his team. And as he stood in his basement, working on his latest boat, his gut churned even more. Something was wrong. He had no idea what. He could get no answers from Tony, Ziva or Tim. But he knew it involved those three and he knew it had to have been very serious to explain Tony's request and his radical change in behavior.

Ordinarily Gibbs would have balked at Tony's request to be assigned cold cases. He hated them as much as his team did. He knew Tony had been dealing with a sinus infection, but he also knew it was not serious. He had got that particular piece of information directly from Ducky. Gibbs supposed what persuaded him was the hint. The ever so slight shade of fear, apprehension he detected in Tony's voice. Gibbs had only know Tony as fearless. His eager, fearless SFA. Gibbs needed to know the cause, the reason for that fear. And if it took taking time off active duty. If that was what Tony needed to get back to his old self. If that was what he needed to deal with this...fear. If that was, indeed, what it was. Then Gibbs was more than willing to take the time to give Tony what he needed.

Thinking back Gibbs had noticed something the very day Tony had come back from that one case. The neighborhood terrorism, homegrown terrorist case as he referred to it. It was weird, him coming back from MTAC and his whole team...missing. Then Tony immerged from the elevator. Tim and Ziva followed, a few seconds behind him. And both looking, he had no other words besides, shell-shocked.

Gibbs had watched Tony enter the bullpen and take his seat. He then watched Tim walk past Tony's desk, toward his own, but giving Tony's desk a wide leeway, as if it had some sort of invisible force field around it. He did not look at Tony as he walked past. Ziva also scooted in behind her desk. She seemed to duck her head, not looking up at anyone as she began working at her computer. Had Tony delivered some minor scolding to Tim and Ziva? Tony was well within his rights to do so as SFA. Was that the reason for this behavior? Gibbs didn't think so. First of all, this didn't FEEL minor to him. Second, Tony rarely scolded anyone about anything.

Gibbs shook his head as he put down his sandpaper, drink up the last of the bourbon he had poured, and headed upstairs. "No, there is much, much more to this." Gibbs muttered to himself as he climbed the stairs. "What is it you're not telling me, DiNozzo?"



End Note: Sorry this chapter is so short, but I ended it this way for two reasons. First, it make for one fabulous 'cliffie.' Second, and most important, I need to decide where exactly I want to take this story. But I wanted to hurry and get this out to you guys so you know I will be continuing.


Chapter 3

"Damnet, we're going this way, McGee!" Tony hissed out loud enough to Tim to hear him, but low enough, Tony hoped, not to be heard by the terrorists currently inside the.

Tim turned his head immediately. Ziva had followed Tony's instruction and was waiting by the correct door. Tim had turned and started in the other direction.

"McGee, damnet McGee!"

"Gibbs would...." McGee started. He then disappeared around the corner causing Tony to break his cover and follow.

"Gibbs is not here. I'm in cha...." Tony said. He almost didn't feel the bullet as it entered his chest. He stood upright for just a second before he put his hand to his chest. He pulled his hand away, looked at the blood, then fell to his knees.

"...never...listen...." Tony moved into a sitting position against the outside wall of the building. He shielded himself as much as he could as Tim and Ziva took over and returned fire. The gun fight was over almost as quickly as it had begun.

Tim and Ziva returned to Tony's side. By this time Tony was bleeding heavily from the wound in his chest. He was also coughing up blood.

Ziva quickly pulled off her jacket and pressed it to Tony's wound. "Why could you not just follow orders?"

"I don't think I'm the only one who is guilty of that." Tim replied.

"I will not get into a prissing contest with you right now." Ziva replied forcefully, a little surprised by Tim's attitude.

Tim didn't reply. Instead, he pulled out his phone and called 9-1-1 and then called Gibbs.

They both had thought Tony had passed out until he spoke. "...door...wired...."

Ziva looked at Tony, surprised. She had not seen what he had. "The door was if we had opened it...."

Tony nodded. He glared at Tim for just a second. "...still...don't trust...."

"No, Tony isn't not.... I just...." McGee said. He was at a loss to explain himself.

Tony shook his head. Ziva continued to apply pressure as the ambulance, Gibbs and Ducky all seemed to arrive at the same time.

Ducky and Jimmy loaded the bodies after Tony was taken away on the ambulance. Gibbs, Ziva and Tim had stayed behind to process the scene.

"What happened?" Gibbs demanded from the two agents standing before him. "What the HELL happened?"

"The other door..." Tim began rambling. "...Tony saw the wire. I didn't. He told me not to. But...."

Gibbs put up his hand to stop Tim. He had heard enough from Tim and he had seen enough with his own two eyes to get an idea of what was going on.

"So," Gibbs sighed. "..Tony gave you an order and you disobeyed it." Gibbs summarized. "Is that what you're telling me?" Gibbs began to pace. "You disobeyed a direct order and Tony, in the process of saving you from making a huge deadly mistake, got shot." Gibbs paused and glared at Tim. "That about sum it up?"

Tim nodded.

Gibbs anger reached a new level with the admission. "To the car, both of you! You're done for the day! Get your gear and go home! Agent Pearson will be taking over this crime scene. And just so you know, the EMT's said Tony's lung could be collapsed and the bullet being may be too close to his heart to be removed."

Just then a thought popped into Gibbs' head and he voiced it. He knew he was way out of line. But at this point, he didn't really care. "You want his job that bad, McGee?" Gibbs paused. "Is that what this was about? Is that REALLY what this is all about?!"

Tim's mouth opened and shut a few times. He was unable to form words.

The drive back to NCIS was silent and horrifying. Gibbs hands held the wheel in a white-knuckle grip as he expertly maneuvered through the streets. They reached NCIS in record time. Gibbs dropped them off without a word. There was no reason to guess where Gibbs was headed. They knew. They also knew they were 'persona non grata.' Tim and Ziva quickly and quietly gathered their things and headed home for the day.



Chapter 4

AN: WARNING: Contains Tim bashing.

Thanks to everyone for their reviews. I welcome the all you 'first-timers.' I was overwhelmed by the response my little story has gotten so far. I am very thankful for your reviews and opinions. To you all, thank you for your faithfulness and enjoy.

Tim opened his door and dropped his bag onto his couch, Gibbs words will ringing in his head.

Was he after Tony's job? Would he do anything to get it?

He was more ambitious than Tony. That was obvious. Everyone knew that. He had been absolutely sure to make Director Vance aware of his ambitions. And he did want to move up. He wanted to be Gibbs' SFA. He had, if he was completely honest, lost respect for Tony in many ways. Being Tony's SFA would almost be a joke, Tim thought. He just could not understand why Tony insisted on being seen as a goof off, a class clown. Why had he not grown up? Sure he could do the job. But that seemed to be more due to Gibbs insistence and prodding, than to any talent Tony might posses. But Gibbs…Tim could almost hear the accolades he would get for surviving one of the toughest agents in the entire agency.

Having worked with Tony, Tim knew there was talent behind the clowning, but to the rest of the world, the NCIS world. He was an idiot. No one took him seriously and it was, at times, embarrassing, to Tim, to be in association. He hated himself for it. But that didn't make it any less true. But he was embarrassed…because of…what…? The opinions of agents who truly didn't know anything anyway. Tim did feel superior at times because of his education. He could not deny that. He was more educated than Tony. But Tony had taught him a lot. More than Tim gave him credit for. Now, with what had happened with the hidden mic. It had been a joke. They, he and Ziva, had just been sitting in the car. Just sitting there listening to Tony and Ziva had suggested they turn the volume down. And he had reached over, in that instant, and did it. They had no thoughts of anything happening to Tony. Not in that instant. Not in that neighborhood. Not on that day. And, luckily, nothing had.

But now…what happened today…he was terrified just thinking about it. If he had opened that door…? If Tony had not stopped him…? Tim shuddered. He could have died. But instead Tony was now in the hospital, probably still in surgery. Tim thought, looking at his watch. He was getting a bullet removed. One that, Tim had been told, was very close to his heart. Would Tony survive this? Would Tim get a chance to what…? Apologize…? Confess…? Cover his ass? Lie?

All those options ran through Tim's mind as he collapsed onto his couch.

To apologize profusely and confess were valid options. Gibbs, for one, would appreciate his confession. He would appreciate Tim 'coming clean' as it were before Gibbs found out what happened. And Tim knew he would, he always did. It was just a matter of time. The problem was, of course, was that he was not the only one at fault. His confession would throw Ziva under the bus also. He knew he was wrong, but having another person involved complicated things so much more.

Then, of course, was the other option, not to tell. He could lie, but to lie against Leroy Jethro Gibbs. It was scary, horrifying, in fact. He knew Gibbs could sniff out a lie anywhere told by anyone. And a lie that involved Tony; that could have gotten Tony killed…? Gibbs was so angry already, if he knew Tony's life had already been put in danger by his and Ziva's carelessness once before…. He shuddered again.

Tim sighed. Besides he had his future to think about, this 'mistake' with the hidden mic could cost him the directorship. That was not acceptable. He would not go down for something that was not intended to cause harm and, in fact, had not caused harm.

But Gibbs' gut had been churning. He had questioned Tony's desire to work cold cases. He had questioned Tony's change in attitude towards Tim and Ziva. There was a coldness. Tony had stopped calling Tim 'Probie.' He had stopped correcting Ziva's English. There must have been something in Tony's tone that convinced Gibbs about the cold case thing though. Gibbs submitted the request. Director Vance denied it, saying the case load was too heavy not to have his best team out there working.

Then Tim's mind went to the day in the elevator. Tony…oh, Tony had been so angry, so very angry. So angry and so…hurt...yeah, that was the right word, hurt. Tim had never seen him like that. Tony had given him a chance. A chance to prove himself. A chance to make up for his mistakes. A chance to regain trust.

And sitting there on his couch, Tim realized how very miserably he had failed. But as bad as he felt, he still had to hold on to his dream. He wanted the directorship. He was good enough. He believed it. He could see himself in that office, sitting behind that desk. He could see himself in command. The very idea of all that power and influence was intoxicating. He was not going to give up on his dream, and no one was going to stop him. He could not let that dream die, slip though his fingers because of some stupid…mistake he had made. He would just do whatever it was he had to do to make sure he came out on top.

And if Tony didn't survive…well…then… nobody would be the wiser.



Chapter 5

AN: WARNING: Contains Ziva bashing.

To AlexDN: I thought of you when I wrote this. Enjoy.
To everyone, thanks so much for your reviews and comments and enjoy.


Ziva entered her apartment, dropped her coat and purse onto the floor and collapsed onto her couch. She was exhausted, not physically, but emotionally. As soon as she had gotten into her car to go home, the tears had begun to flow. Seeing, Tony shot, practically in front of her, had shaken her, probably more than it would have, even a year or so earlier.

She had failed her partner. She had told Tim, as a joke, to turn down the volume on the radio. She had no idea he would actually do it. When she thought about it later, she realized how very lucky she had been that Tony had come back uninjured. She had been surprised by his anger in the elevator, though. She had also been surprised she had been give a second chance. She knew she hadn't deserved it.

Ziva wiped her eyes as she thought back over her and Tony's relationship, mainly Michael Rivkin and the whole Somalia thing. She began to realize a few things. She was still angry at Tony. It surprised her a little. Ziva has been very angry to see Tony in her apartment fighting with Michael. She had been very angry to see Michael gravely injured on her living room floor. Tony had pointed out something to her later she had failed to consider in the heat of the moment though. How had a trained assassin lost the upper hand to someone with skills nowhere near his? She still blamed Tony for Michael's death, she realized. Tony had told her that Michael was moving slow. That he had overpowered Michael. But that was not possible. Tony had to have been lying. He had to have done something to get the upper hand. He had to have DONE something to Michael. Ziva then thought back to the time out in the plaza. She had knocked Tony down and had pulled a gun on him. Part of her questioned why she had not just pulled the trigger.

And the interrogation of Tony by Eli. Ziva shook her head. Her father's admission had also angered her. Not, so much, that he had admitted that he 'controlled' Ari. That was known. You couldn't spit into the wind in Israel without Eli David knowing about it. What had hurt, angered, Ziva was that Tony had 'played' her father. And that her father had taken the bait. That Eli had been goaded to making such a damning admission to people who definitely didn't need to know. That Tony had, most likely, known Ziva would be watching from an observation room had angered her more. She knew her father was flawed. She didn't need to be reminded about how big and glaring those flaws were.

Then, of course, there was the fact that Tony had mislead her. And the fact that he had followed her and had checked up on her during the time Michael has been in D.C. That he had known Michael's arrival and departure times. Also, that he had known where Michael was staying and when he was to check out. She was entitled to a personal life. She had known Michael for years. She was allowed to spend time with whomever she liked. She was not going to do a clearance, security check on everyone she decided she wanted to spend time with. And besides, she had discovered during her time with Mossad, there certain things about certain people that you are better off not knowing.

Now, Ziva realized, her distrust of Tony had caused her to be separated from people she considered family. She could not longer trust Eli. She had turned to Gibbs for support. She considered the rest of Team Gibbs family, also. It had been Tony's fault that she had had to go ALL those long, long months without their support.

True, Tony had been in Somalia. Gibbs and Vance had given Tony the credit for her rescue. But it wasn't true. How could it be? She refused to believe it. Besides Tim had been knocked out and looked like he had gone through hell. Gibbs had put his sniper skills to work. What had Tony done, talk? He did that 24/7. That didn't get her rescued. That hadn't helped her. That had just bought time. Time that Gibbs had needed to do his job. It was could hardly be considered a SKILL for a highly trained federal agent.

She had followed Tony's directive because she had seen the wire too. She had no idea if the wire was, indeed, attached to anything. But she was not willing to take a chance. She had followed Tony because, in all honestly, she knew Gibbs was ultimately still in charge of things. Those 4 months of Tony's leadership as few years ago had been trying at best. And when she had found out he had made such a strong case and convicted the wrong man. It made her wonder what other mistakes Tony had made. If he was so convinced there...couldn't he have put on blinders with other cases? She was not used to questioning judgment in that way.

But more than anything, she knew she didn't not want to go back to Israel. She liked the United States. She liked living in peace, living a life where she did not have to watch every step she made. Where she didn't have to question the motives of all those around her. She liked the American lifestyle. She had quickly become accustomed. She knew that her father's enemies would find a way to use her 'newfound' freedom against her father. But the thing that affected her most was that she WAS out of her father's hands. He could not deem her as a liability, and she would not share the same fate as her half-brother.

Returning to Israel was NOT an option. She had to keep her life, her family, here, intact. Gibbs could not find out what she and Tim had done.

The questions was...What would she be willing to do to make sure that didn't happen?




Chapter 6

"Damnet!" Gibbs paced outside Tony's door. Tony had just been brought back from surgery and nobody was talking. It had Gibbs worried. More than worried, he was terrified something had gone wrong and nobody would tell him what it was.

Gibb had asked Ducky to talk to the doctors in charge of Tony's care and they were conversing in the doctor's lounge just steps away from the nurses' station and down the hall from Tony's room. Gibbs kept looking from the door to Tony's room, where the nurses were getting Tony settled in, to the door of the doctor's lounge and back.

Gibbs saw Ducky emerge from the lounge. He could tell by the look on Ducky's face that the news was not good.

Ducky shook his head as Gibbs came to meet him. "It's not good Jethro. There was a lot of internal bleeding. There's damage to his lungs, Dr. Pitt is being called in to consult. " Ducky paused. "They managed to remove the bullet. But it was so close to his heart. The surgery took 3 hours longer than it should have. Tony was in such a weakened state. He's…he's in a coma, Jethro. He lapsed into a coma during surgery. He is so weak right now…." Ducky said, shaking his head again.

"He's gonna make it, Duck?" Gibbs stated and asked at the same time.

Ducky could only shake his head.

Gibbs walked up to the observation window and watched as the nurses checked the various machines and tubes connected to Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo. The nurses left soon after and allowed Gibbs and Ducky to enter.

Tony lay completely still, too still. Gibbs observed. Tony was never this quiet. Gibbs took it all in. Tony was on a respirator and attached to a heart monitor and a morphine pump. He was also attached to a couple of IVs. His chest was almost completely covered with a large white bandage. His skin was pale. He really did LOOK weak.

Gibbs slipped his hand between the wires and tubes and took Tony's hand. He squeezed it gently. Gibbs then took a seat by Tony's side. Ducky had, meanwhile, gone to the other side of the bed.

Ducky spoke softly to Tony. "You will be okay, dear boy. We just need you to rest and get better Anthony. We'll be here, right here."

Ducky said a few words to Gibbs then left. He had to get back to NCIS. He had bodies waiting to be autopsied.

Gibbs stood and walked the length of the room several times over. His gut was still churning. He then bent down and whispered in Tony's ear the same thing he had told Tony when he had the plague. He only hoped Tony was able to obey his order this time too.

Gibbs then resumed his seat. He was dozing when Abby showed up. She had slipped into the room and was holding onto Tony's hand, talking softly to him when she heard Gibbs stir.

"Hey, Bossman." Abby said.

"Abs." Gibbs said, standing up and stretching. He went over to Abby and kissed her cheek. "He's going to be okay."

Abby nodded. She then motioned for Gibbs to follow her outside. She stopped just outside Tony's door. She started pacing and wringing her hands. "Something's…hinky, Gibbs." Abby started.

"What…?" Gibbs asked, his gut churning harder. Did Abby know something he didn't?

Abby shook her head. But she didn't stop pacing and wringing her hands. "Tony's been…he's been acting, strange. He's been acting differently towards McGee and Ziva. He...I tried to get him to tell me what was going on. But…I…he wouldn't tell me. He just said things were going to be a different from a little while. He…I don't know what exactly he meant by different. But…when I heard he was shot, Gibbs. I just…I thought…I don't know what I thought. I just…you needed to know, Gibbs."

"Different? I wonder…." Gibbs said. "Thanks for telling me, Abs."

Abby smiled, and then shook her head. "He wouldn't tell me. He did say he couldn't tell you about it. He told me not to mention anything he had said to you. But…." Abby looked in through the observation window. "…since this…I thought I could…I needed to tell you what I knew." Abby said, sadly. "I just wished I knew more. I…will he forgive me, for telling, I mean?"

"What couldn't he tell me about?" Gibbs wondered out loud. "He'll forgive you, Abby. He loves you."

Abby shook her head sadly. She went back in, bent down and kissed Tony gently on the forehead and told him she loved him before she left. She had test results waiting in the lab for her.

Gibbs nodded to Abby and kissed her cheek again before she left. He then settled back into his chair. The feelings he was getting were bothering him. Was Tony doing something he was not supposed to be and hiding it? Gibbs shook his head. Not possible. Tony was too honest, too forthright for that.

Gibbs knew Tony kept a lot of things…close. Tony had said that sometimes it was just best to keep what you knew to yourself. Those were not his exact words, but the meaning was there. There were some things that other people just didn't need to know. Gibbs believed that, too. He lived by it to a certain extent. But had Tony put this into practice and it blew up in his face?

Gibbs just kept going back to what Abby had said. He couldn't tell me…something. Gibbs stood up. He took the bedrail in both hands and looked down at Tony. "What was that something, Tony? What was that something…" Gibbs sighed. "…and was it worth…this?"

Gibbs sighed and sat down again. Unfortunately, at this point, he had more questions than answers.



Chapter 7

Tim and Ziva both arrived at 9 p.m. the next day, only to be called up to Vance's office. They were then informed they were temporarily being sent to other teams. Gibbs was taking leave so he could be at the hospital. He had requested Tim be sent to Cybercrimes and Ziva be assigned to anther MCRT. His gut told him that they needed to be separated. Gibbs didn't want to give them any more time to 'get their stories straight.'

Gibbs was not taking his usual steps when a case came along that involved his team. He knew people thought he wasn't involved. He had turned the crime scene over to another team. He was aware of the scuttlebutt. But THAT was not his case. He knew Tony had been shot outside the building. He knew Tony had been shot by one of the men who now lay on the metal tables in Autopsy. But the issue, the problem, lies elsewhere.

There were problems on his team. Things had happened that he had not been made aware. Things had been intentionally kept from him. Things, he felt, he needed to know. Things that, as it turned out, were of life or death significance. He looked over at Tony. And he was angry with Tony, he couldn't lie to himself about that. But he also knew Tony well enough to know Tony would not have withheld things from him without a damned good reason. But what was that reason?


"Talk to me, Timmy." Abby asked as she sat across from him at the open-air café, where Abby had requested they met for lunch. So far, Tim seemed to be very distracted. "Talk to me, Timmy." Abby repeated before finally getting his attention.

"It's nothing." McGee stated.

"No, it's something." Abby replied. She had noticed the uneaten plate of food in front of him. "You call me, tell me you're starving, but you don't eat." She studied him for a moment. "He's going to be fine." Abby stated. "Thing will be back to normal soon."

Tim sighed and muttered under his breath. "Things will never be normal again."

"What?" Abby asked.

"Tony's getting better?" Tim asked, hoping. He had not been to see Tony in the week since the shooting because he couldn't face Gibbs. He was afraid he would spill everything. He kept telling everybody that Cyber crimes had him busy, and it did, but not nearly as busy as he had made it out to be.

"No change." Abby said, shaking her head sadly. "But I send him positive thoughts all the time. I know he will be. He has to be."

Tim nodded, but didn't speak. He then signaled a waitress over and asked for a to-go-container. When the container arrived, he dumped his sandwich and chips in and closed the lid.

"Gotta get back, Abby." Tim said, and started to stand.

Abby had been dropping little hints all through the meal to try to get Tim to talk. She now used the direct approach. She put her hand on his arm, and he sat back down.

"What happened between you and Tony?" Abby asked.

"Who…what...what are you talking about?" Tim said. He knew he was not fooling her, but he had to try.

"You know exactly what I'm talking about Special Agent Timothy McGee. What happened between you and Tony?" Abby asked again.

And for just a brief moment, Tim considered telling her. He considered unburdening himself from the massive weight he had been carrying for this past week. He had not realized how heavy it was until Abby had given him a chance to unload it. But he knew he couldn't. Abby couldn't take that weight of that burden. She couldn't take what he and Ziva had done to Tony. He would lose her. He would lose her friendship. He would lose her love and respect. He would lose her, and he was not willing to take that risk.

Seeing he was not going to respond, Abby pressed a little harder for answers. "Tony has been acting a little different towards you. No more Probie. And he hasn't been correcting Ziva's English. Something is going on Timmy. Don't tell me it's not. I may not be an investigator, but I can detect anomalies, changes in pattern. That is what I do. That's what makes me good at my job."

Tim stood to leave. Abby stood up also.

Abby looked Tim square in the eye. "I promise you, Timothy McGee, if you had anything to do with this…whatever this is. If you are the reason he's hurt. You won't' have to worry about a funeral." Abby looked Tim dead in the eye. "They won't find enough of you to bury."

"Abby!" Tim said, unable to hide his shock.

"You know Abby's #1 rule, Tim." Abby paused. "And you're lying to me."


END NOTE: Abby does not know that it was Tim's fault Tony got shot at the warehouse. Gibbs wanted to keep that information from her until he found out what was really going on. So, as you can see…Tim's as good as dead. And the fun is just beginning….


Chapter 8

AN: WARNING: Ziva is NOT a nice girl in this chapter.

The stuff about the ventlator is entirely BS'd by me. I HOPE this life-saving equipment is not so easily manipulated. A special thank you to DS2010 for a comment in your chapter 5 review. It gave me some ideas (insert evil grin here). Thanks so much. I don't know how I forgot this, but I didn't mention the first story I ever wrote about the Dead Air episode. 'I Had Your Six?' I don't understand how I could have forgotten it, but there it is. At any rate, I appreciate, so much, your reviews. I got a little behind so I am very sorry if I was not able to reply to your personally. It's awesome my words are able to stir such strong emotions.-Jackie

Ziva had stood there so long, she had lost track of time. She had planned things out so carefully. She planned her visit for a time when Gibbs would not be there. She had waited until shift change. She had even donned a pair of nurse's scrubs so that she would not be 'noticed.' That had been the embarrassingly easy part.

She now, however, was fast losing her nerve. Even a couple of years ago this would not have been as big of a problem. It was a mission, a job, and she followed orders. She had had to look at it as a mission. She couldn't let herself become 'involved.' That was just how it had to be. The thought actually scared her a little. She had changed so much since she had come to NCIS; since she had found acceptance with this group of people. But that part, the assassin part…it seemed, had just been tamped down, not gone. She had just restrained it, managed it. But it was still there, the thing that made her a robotic-killing machine, nothing even close to human.

She moved around Tony's bed. She made up her mind. She had to do it. She had to preserve this lifestyle. This way of life she had created. She pushed her thoughts of friendship aside. She had to carry out her mission. She had researched and discovered how to turn off and unplug the ventilator without the alarm going off. She calmly and quickly opened the appropriate panel, removed and replaced the computer chip. She then turned off the machine. Her last act was to pull the plug from the wall. She didn't spare a look back at Tony as she left the room. She did, however, pause just briefly at the door before she left. When she didn't hear Tony breathing on his own, she quickly left the room. She walked into the nearest supply closet and changed clothes. She threw her scrubs into one of the many hampers in the hallway. She didn't stop until she was out the hospital. She again paused for just a second before she got into her car and drove away.


Something was different when Gibbs walked into the room. He couldn't put his finger on it. That was, until he walked up to Tony's bed. He realized he was not hearing the ventilator. Gibbs could see Tony was not breathing. He then felt for a pulse, nothing. He hit the nurses' call button. He then began CPR. Seconds later, the first nurse appeared in Tony's doorway. She rushed around the bed to check the machines. In seconds a code blue was called. Gibbs was ushered out of the room as it quickly filled with a large number of nurses and doctors. Gibbs told the nurse about not hearing the sound of the respirator as he left. Gibbs had, as it happened, returned to Tony's room, from his coffee run, just moments after Ziva left.

Gibbs was still pacing in the ICU waiting room when Ducky and Abby showed up. They had finished work for the day and were dropping by before going home. They noticed the tension in the room and questioned Gibbs.

Gibbs could only shake his head. He told them what he did know. He had gone into Tony's room and discovered the ventilator was not running. That Tony was not breathing. Gibbs had gone to the nurses' station directly from Tony's room, his investigative mind in hyper drive. But there were only two nurses manning the station. All the others were in Tony's room. The nurses at the desk had only seen other nurses in the halls before he had returned to Tony's room.

What had happened? Gibbs knew there were no cameras in the hallways outside Tony's room. He had walked those halls enough to see everything that was out there. The nurses' station had monitors for the machines in the patients' rooms. And cutting off a machine, unplugging it, anything like that should have set off alarms. But no one had known anything until Gibbs had rang the station. He had told them when the nurse called back over the intercom that Tony was not breathing. The nurse had immediately called the code and the other nurses had run to Tony's room. Gibb s kept looking into Tony's room.

"Agent Gibbs?" The doctor left Tony's room and walked into the waiting room. "Agent Gibbs…Tony is stable now. He is back on a ventilator. He...we'll be running some tests to check his brain function. To make sure he doesn't have any brain damage. He's…things are looking good for him though. I don't think he was without oxygen for very long at all. He recovered; we brought him back too quickly."

Gibbs nodded, though his mind was spinning and his gut was churning. He asked the question. "Doctor, when I went into Tony's room I didn't hear the ventilator. How could it be turned off, and the alarm not sound?"

The doctor shook his head. "The nurse told me. I thought I had misunderstood her." He paused. "And to be honest, I don't see how it's possible. If the machine is simply turned off or unplugged the alarms sound. If someone tries to reprogram it, without the correct code, it will alarm. I…I thought it was tamper proof. I am not an expert by any means. But I would think it would have to be done by messing with the computer. The access panel is in the back. I've never removed it. We have technicians for that."

"Is that the machine Tony was on?" Gibbs asked as he was a machine being removed from Tony's room.

The doctor nodded.

"We need it." Gibbs stated.

Abby shook her head. "I don't…."

"Can you get one of your techs up here to check it out? See if it's been messed with, as soon as possible"

The doctor nodded and had one the nurses call a tech to the floor. He arrived in minutes. He removed the back panel form the machine. Gibbs supervised. He had the tech wear gloves to preserve evidence. And Abby took the opportunity to look inside as the tech explained the inner workings to her. The tech then spotted the anomaly. Gibbs stepped in and bagged the evidence; it looked, to Gibbs, to be a computer chip.

"That…" The tech said. "…is not original to this machine. And as long as I have worked on these things, I have never replaced a chip."

It all just confirmed Gibbs worst fear. Someone was after one of his people.



Chapter 9

AN: I tried to catch up on my other stories, but another chapter of this one demanded to be written, so here goes. Thanks again for your continuing support. And, again, some seriousBS'ing on the computer chip stuff. Enjoy!

"What have you got, Abs?" Gibbs asked, walking through the door, Caf-Pow in hand.

Abby shook her head. "There were no prints. Robert, the hospital equipment tech, said that the chip contained several different codes. One delayed the machine's alarm, allowing it to be turned off and unplugged. Another rewrote the program; it was designed to cover interruptions in service when that data was later read. Another created a cascade type of effect. One mechanical event caused another mechanical event…." Gibbs stared at Abby wanting her to get to the point. "It was meant to look like a mechanical, machine, failure."

"But the tech noticed the chip was different." Gibbs said. "So why…?"

"He was looking for it. Most of the time, he probably wouldn't have checked it. That is usually not the problem." Abby stated.

"Why rewrite the program?" Gibbs asked. "Wouldn't that erase…something?"

"Oh, that's easy. Different failures have different signatures, strings of events." Abby said. "And it did erase, but it left it's footprint. It's ghost, if you will."

"You're a Ghost Buster now?" Gibbs asked smiling.

Abby didn't miss the movie reference and it made her heart ache for her friend. She slipped her arms around Gibbs waist. "He'll make it, right? He'll wake up? He'll survive this?"

Gibbs nodded and kissed her cheek. "He will." Gibbs looked at his watch. "I have to go. I have to arrange guard duty for the rest of this week. I have Agent Cooper there now. She's not to let anybody in who's not on the list. She has photos of everybody. Just remember to bring your NCIS ID with you when you come. All the guards will be checking. I need to let everybody else know that too."

Gibbs started to leave, but Abby stopped him. "Who would do this, Gibbs?" Abby asked, tears in her eyes. "I mean. He is already in a coma. He's completely defenseless. He…I don't get it, Gibbs. I don't understand."

Gibbs shook his head and went back over to Abby. "This is not for us to understand. It's unspeakable, underhanded…." Gibbs stated. "And when I figure out who this is… and I will. They will wish they could have traded places with Tony."

"Go get um, Bossman!" Abby said, smiling.


Tim was shocked to hear what had happened to Tony. Tim was enjoying being in Cybercrimes again. He liked the work, even though he did miss being in the field. But every time he thought about it, he thought about Tony. He saw Tony shot, and he saw him in his current condition, attached to a ventilator. Tim knew he should have confessed to Abby when he had the chance. He had become a basket case in the week since the accident. Tony's persistent coma was causing Tim a great deal of guilt. He was losing sleep. He had even almost confessed to the lunch lady as he was going through the cafeteria line. And all she had done was to ask how Tony was doing.

McGee had wanted the directorship. He still wanted it. But he was beginning to think that he would give it all up for a little piece of mind. The ability to feel, at least for a moment, that he didn't have to keep looking over his shoulder and covering his ass.

Tim kept having one nagging thought. He had stopped by the hospital to see Tony and found a guard there to greet him at the door. He showed his ID, but before he went into the room, he heard two nurses talking in the hall. Tony's ventilator had been messed with. Tim knew it was Ziva. It had to be. He knew she REALLY didn't want to go back to Israel. But would she do…that…? Really? Was she that...? He didn't even know how to describe what the 'that' was.

McGee then came to another realization. He would be connected. He was the computer guy. He…he was thrown into this, Ziva's mess…because of what skills he possessed. But he had not done this. He had not even known what was going on. He had been down in Cyber Crimes wallowing in his guilt and trying to figure out who he could unburden himself to. Someone who would not, immediately, choke the life out of him once they had learned what he had done.

Tim decided Ducky would be his safest bet. He arrived atAutopsy just as Ducky was heading out.

"Ducky…" Tim faltered and stammered. "…could I talk with you for a minute?"

"Why, of course, Timothy." Ducky said, he turned around and re-entered Autopsy. He took off his coat and hat re-hung them on his coat rack.

"I…I messed up…Huge…big mess up. I…I don't know what to do, Ducky." Tim said, pleading.

"It can't be…." Ducky started.

Tim nodded. "It is. I…I mean…it could have been. It could have been…tragic. Somebody could have died, Ducky."

"Who…What are you talking about, Timothy?" Ducky started. "Gibbs should…."

"Gibbs would kill me. Correction..Gibbs is going to kill me. I…I'm as good as dead, Ducky." Tim looked Ducky in the eye. "I wanted to talk to you…. I know you will be angry. But…but I'm hoping you will, at least hear me out. Gibbs…he couldn't hear me out. He would be too angry. Tony means so much to him." Tim paused, then resumed as he paced the room. "This is about Tony…. About what…I'm the reason he was shot at the warehouse. He…he gave an order. I disobeyed. I…I guess you already knew that part. Gibbs is already so angry over that. When he finds out…."

"I didn't know that part, Tim!" Abby said. She had arrived just in time to hear Tim's confession. She was furious, despite the tears in her eyes. "I didn't know that!" Abby said, raising her voice. Abby took a breath, attempting to calm herself. "Gibbs didn't tell me." Abby reflected. "I can understand that. He cares. He didn't want to upset me. And he knew I would be plenty upset. But you…" Abby said, taking an intimidating step closer. "…you were just covering. Your. Ass!"

"Abby!" Tim took a step closer and Abby stepped back, a look of pure disgust on her face.

"You said 'that part,' VERY Special Agent Timothy McGee…" Abby questioned, wiping her eyes. "…what else happened? What did you mean, 'when he finds out…'?" Abby pressed. "What, exactly, did you mean by that?"

Tim sighed. He looked from Abby to Ducky and back again. He then, as the saying goes, spilled his guts. He told them about turning down the volume on the mic. He admitted what he did at the warehouse. And he told them his suspicion of Ziva and Tony's respirator.

Both Tim and Ducky were speechless. Abby turned her back on Tim . Shen then into Ducky's back office and cried. Ducky could not even look McGee in the eye. He just dialed a number then handed McGee the phone.



Chapter 10

AN: Hi everybody. This story is pestering me to be written. I try to write something else, and I keep just keep coming back to it. So here is another (short) chapter in the saga. Enjoy.

Anyone watching Gibbs talking on his phone would have thought he was having a regular conversation. That is, until they got a closer look. He was white knuckling his phone. The fingernails from his other hand were digging, painfully, into his palm.

Gibbs had managed to speak after Tim finished his spiel. He was not sure how he managed it. "I assume you know you are no longer employed by NCIS." Gibbs said, seething. "I have to speak to Director Vance, but that is just a formality. He will handle things from here. And with any luck, Mr. McGee, I will never have to see you again." Gibbs paused, taking a deep breath. "I do have to ask you though…why? Why would you…?" Gibbs asked, exasperated. "Just…why?"

"Tony…" Tim started, attempting to answer. "…he…he just."

"Tony was good to you, Tim." Gibbs stated. "He taught you how to be an agent. He taught you a lot. I didn't have the time…or the patience. You became a good agent because of him."

"…a joke, a clown. People think he's an idiot." Tim replied.

"Not the people who know him, Tim. Not the ones who really, really know him. And up until now…I thought you were one of those people." Gibbs state, sadly.

"I'm sor…."

"DO NOT tell me you're sorry!" Gibbs anger flared. "You are NOT sorry. The only reason you confessed was so you wouldn't be connected with the respirator incident." Gibbs stated. "And I'm not even sure you're telling me the truth on that. Maybe you were involved and have just decided to throw Ziva under the bus for the whole thing."

"I didn't…that's not." Tim stammered.

"You have nothing else to say that I want to hear, Mr. McGee." Gibbs stated. "The director will know you're in the building. If you are not outside his office, waiting to talk to him, by the time I get off the phone with him. He will send security to find you and escort you there."

Tim handed the phone back to Ducky after Gibbs had hung up. Abby emerged from Ducky's back room about the same time. She was still wiping her eyes.

"Abby, Ducky…I…." Tim started.

Without warning Abby balled up her fist and punched McGee hard in the face. He staggered backward in shock.

"You! What you did was unforgiveable!" Abby said, taking a step towards Tim. He immediately backed away. "You are not welcome here! Go!" Abby said, pointing towards the door.

Tim looked at Ducky. They were, after all, in Autopsy. "You should leave. I am sure Director Vance would like to speak to you." Ducky said, just managing to keep his anger in check. He had wanted to punch Tim too. He took great pleasure in the fact that Tim's eye was already starting to bruise. "Abby is right. You are not welcome here."



Chapter 11

Director Vance hung up the phone. He had just spoken to Agent Gibbs. He took a few moments to absorb what he had just been told before he summonsed Agent McGee into his office.

"Sit down, Agent McGee." Director Vance offered, showing him a chair.

"Yes, Sir." Tim said and sat.

"I will assume you know why you are here." Vance began.

"Yes, Sir."

"I have to say, given when I have just heard, Agent McGee, I am terribly disappointed." Vance leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. "I had seen great things for you."

"Director, I…it was a…." Tim started.

"Were you about to say it was a mistake, Agent McGee." Vance leaned forward. "Because I can tell you…" Vance voice rose, just a little, to indicate his anger. "…because THAT was not a mistake, Agent McGee. I can assure you that it was not." Vance got up and started to pace. "Missing a deadline, that qualifies as a mistake. Forgetting to fill out paperwork… that's a mistake." Vance stopped and leaned forward across his desk at Tim. "But leaving your partner, unprotected, without adequate back up, THAT, Agent McGee, is criminal negligence."

"It was intended as a joke. That's all…Ziva and I…." Tim stammered.

"So, Agent David was involved." Vance said, nodding. "Fine, I will deal with her later. But…now. I have seen your interaction with Agent DiNozzo. I can even understand your feelings, to a point. But if things were too difficult for you there you could have requested reassignment…."

"Me? I have to request reassignment?" Tim blurted out. "Why not reassign him? Tony is a joke, an embarrassment to the agency. I don't get how Gibbs…." Tim shook his head.

Vance moved back to his chair and sat. "Though I may not like him personally, he is a damned good agent. He is much smarter than you know. You should have taken the time to read his file, Agent McGee. You could have found out a few things. It certainly would have brought you back down to planet Earth with the rest of us."

Vance paused for just a second, letting Tim absorb what he had just said.

"Agent DiNozzo's IQ is just as high as yours, if not higher. He has a lot more education than you think. That he has led you to believe. He is an extremely intelligent man."

"What…?" Tim said, his mouth opening and closing.

"I appreciate confidence, Agent McGee. I respect confidence. I, however, abhor arrogance. Arrogance blinds people to the truth. It causes people to make stupid mistakes and underestimate others." Vance paused. "It can get people killed." Vance stated, trying to bring home his point.

"You disobeyed a direct order by a superior. I am speaking of the warehouse incident now. I will get to the hidden mic situation in a moment. It doesn't matter if you like the superior, or if you think the superior is dumber than dirt. You follow his orders because, chances are, he knows information that you don't. Like the fact about the wire that you missed." Vance paused. "You could have gotten yourself and the rest of your team killed because of arrogance. THAT, Agent McGee, is far from acceptable."

Tim started to speak but the director held up his hand to stop him.

"Not having your partners back is beyond my comprehension, Agent McGee. We depend on each other out there. We never know what will happen. Agent DiNozzo depended on you and you let him down. He, and you, was very fortunate nothing happened to him." Vance crossed his hands in front of him on top of his desk. "Do you have anything you would like to say?"

"Director Vance…I just…I would like a chance to redeem myself…" Tim pleaded. "…to prove myself to you and to Agent Gibbs…to Tony. He…I deserve another change, Director. I understand what you're saying…and…and I can change my attitude. I can do whatever it is you need me to do to keep this job, to stay with NCIS…."

"Agent McGee, I had big plans for you. I saw potential. But I cannot and will not, in good conscience, knowingly put any agent under my command in danger. And it is what would happen if you are allowed to keep your job." Vance stated.

"If I was not working with DiNozzo…I…."

"This has absolutely nothing to do with Agent DiNozzo, Agent McGee." Vance corrected him. "This has to do with you. This is 110% you, your arrogance and your sense of entitlement. There is no place on any team at NCIS for that." Vance paused. "What you don't seem to understand, Agent McGee, is that you need to be able to read people. You need to understand what a person is good at. What his skills are, what he brings to the table. And Agent DiNozzo brings a lot. It took me a while to see it, but he really does. Once I got the opportunity to talk to him. I began to realize that. He acts the part of the clown, the joker. But that's the key word, acts. And as long as you've worked with him, it amazes me you have not seen that."

Tim shook his head.

"I cannot condone your behavior. You acted in a manner that violated procedure and that could possibly be considered criminal. You are hereby ordered to surrender your weapon and turn in your badge and security pass. You will be escorted from the building. Criminal charges are pending, Mr. McGee. You are to notify law enforcement if you leave the area. Meanwhile you will be escorted downstairs to pack your belonging and then you will be escorted out of the building."

Tim complied. The director then stood, prompting Tim to do the same. Tim left the director's office and was escorted from there to pick up his belongings.



Chapter 12

AN: Warning: Ziva's not done with Tony yet….

Special thanks to my anonymous reviewer who mentioned that I was using the word respirator for ventilator. I have corrected all the occurrences I have found. If there are more, please PM me and let me know. Thanks again.-Jackie

Gibbs was sitting, silently in Tony's room. He was thinking about his conversations with both McGee and Vance. He was so glad Vance took care of 'the McGee situation.' He didn't want to have to deal with that now. He had enough to worry about with Tony. And he, in all honesty, could not give a damn about Former Agent McGee. He was gone. He was out of the agency and he was out of his and Tony's lives. Gibbs was about to sit back and close his eyes when he heard a noise. He pulled further into the shadows as Ziva David entered Tony's room.

Ziva had been shocked to find Tony had survived her first attempt to kill him. That meant she had to come back to the hospital and try again. She would not have the time to plan as she had before. She had not been surprised when she saw a guard in front of Tony's door. She had again donned a pair of scrubs and was allowed easy access. The guard just thought she was another nurse working on the floor. She had almost felt as if she was walking into a trap. But she had gotten into the room. She would just have to improvise from there on.

She took careful survey of the equipment attached to Tony. She would have to do something. She would just disconnect the ventilator hose. The alarm would sound. She would slip away in the confusion. Nobody would ever know she was not supposed to be there in the first place. Ziva was about to touch the hose when she heard a voice….

"NOT a good idea, Ziva!" Gibbs said as he stopped out of the shadows.

Gibbs underestimated her. Seconds later Ziva pulled out a knife. She raised it, ready to plunge it into Tony's chest. Gibbs pulled his weapon. Ziva went down in a heap, a nonfatal wound to the chest.

Gibbs came around the bed and stood over Ziva as he holstered his weapon. "I won't kill you. A quick death is too good for you, too easy." He hissed.

Gibbs then stepped over her and exited the room, giving the hospital staff space to work. The nurses checked out Tony's condition. When they were satisfied that he was okay, they turned their attention to Ziva. The guard kept careful watch over Tony. Two hospital security guards arrived to secure the scene. The staff worked to stop the the bleeding. Ziva was then removed from Tony's room and taken to the ER. She was escorted by one of the security guards. She would be placed under 'watch' until she was stable enough to be transferred to a prison hospital.



Chapter 13

AN: Abby may be a little OOC here. I thought Abby would be the best person to go and get the "answers" we are all wanting. She would have the most patience. I don't think Ducky could stand to be in the same room with either of them at this point. And I KNOW Gibbs couldn't. Enjoy!

Abby hesitated outside Ziva's room. She didn't know if she wanted to hear the answer to the questions Ziva would give. Abby was scared she already knew the truth. And she wondered if she could stand to hear what it was Ziva might tell her.

Abby entered the room. Ziva was awake and turned her head to the door to face her visitor.

"Ziva." Abby said in way of greeting. She sat down in the only chair in the room. Normally she would have fawned over Ziva and tried to hug her. This time she just sat in her chair pensively. She didn't know what to say.

There were several moments of an uncomfortable silence.

"Are you…okay?" Abby asked. She was still angry, but she was trying to keep herself in check.

Another awkward moment.

"I am fine." Ziva replied. "I…."

"Why?" Abby asked. The dam had broken. Tears were streaming down her face and the anger had returned. "Why? Why would you try to kill him?" Abby demanded. "What did he do to you?"

"You would not understand." Ziva replied.

"I don't have to understand." Abby replied, angered even more by Ziva's answer. "It doesn't matter what your reason is, Ziva, because, I can guarantee you, I will not understand!" Abby said, raising her voice. "That's not the point! I…I just need you to say it. I need YOU to tell me why you felt the need to try to kill Tony. Not one time, but twice." Abby stood up and started to pace the room. "I need to hear those words coming out of YOUR mouth!"

"Abby…I…." Ziva said, struggling.

"You seemed clear on your reason when you were doing it. When you had the knife poised over Tony's chest…."

Ziva looked surprised.

"Yeah, Ziva. I heard it all! Gibbs told Ducky and I every hateful hurtful part." Abby explained. "I just want to know why."

"My country…my father…I…I do not want to go back there. I do not want to end up like Ari. I do not want to be a pawn in my father's games anymore." Ziva explained. "If…if Gibbs had found out about the hidden mic. He…he would have put me in jail. My father would have gotten me out. But on the condition I return to Israel. I…" Ziva explained. "…I would have never been able to return here…to the United States…to my home."

Abby couldn't believe her ears. "You're right! I don't understand! You should have stayed in Israel. You're still that same cold-hearted assassin you were before you joined NCIS! You haven't changed. You had us all fooled though, Ziva David. You really did. And it's no easy task to fool Leroy Jethro Gibbs, so…" Abby paused and clapped her hands mockingly. "Brava!"

Abby headed for the door.


Abby turned and wiped away her angry tears. "As far as I'm concerned, Ziva David, you deserve to die. YOU were the one who messed up! YOU were just trying to cover your ASS! He's still in a coma, Ms.David." Abby hissed. "If he dies…." Abby paused. "Enjoy prison!"


Abby stared at Former Agent Timothy McGee through the thick glass of the prison vistor's room. She had waited a few days after the incident in Autopsy. And a day after her confrontation with Ziva, she studied the now fading bruise on his face as she picked up the phone on the wall in the cubicle.


"Tim, I…I have given this a lot of thought. I was not going to come here. I…."

"I'm glad you did." Tim stated.

Abby continued. "I just have one question for you. I don't want to hear anything else you have to say. I just want to know...why?"

"Abby, I'm so sor…."

"No apologies, Tim. I'm not the person who you need to apologize to. I'm not the one you hurt."

"I hurt you, Abby." Tim said. "And I am sorry."

"I don't want your apology. I don't need it, and I don't accept it." Abby replied. "You didn't betray me like you did Tony. I wasn't your partner." Abby explained. "He depended on you. He trusted you, with…his… life, Tim. Here is not higher, more sacred level of trust. And you…you just…" Abby shook her head. She was so angry and hurt she just shook her head. She hung up the phone and started to stand when Tim tapped on the glass.

Abby settled back in to the chair and picked up the phone. She stared through the glass, waiting for Tim to speak.

"He's….I…how is he senior field agent?" Tim shook his head. "Why has Gibbs put up with him all these years? I just don't…. A physical education degree…."

"You don't know because you never took the time to look. You never cared enough to try to get to know him, Tim. How much does he know about you, your family?" Abby asked, as a means of illustration. "How much do you know about him, his family?"

Tim thought about it. Tony knew a great deal about his family. Tony had asked questions. He had inquired, followed up when Tim had mentioned things. Tim, well, he guessed it was true. He hadn't cared enough.

"How is he, Abby?"

"If I thought you really, truly cared, Tim, I would answer that. But I'm not sure you do."

Tim opened his mouth to speak and then snapped it shut. In all honesty he was not sure which it was either.

"You have always downed Tony for his level of education. But he has more education than you know. You could have looked it up. You have that level clearance, but, obviously, you didn't." Abby stated. "But that is not even the point here, Tim. He was your superior. He was your superior and he earned the position. Leroy Jethro Gibbs doesn't give anybody, anything. You should know that by now."

"Abby….I am sorry." Tim said. "Tony…if he...when he recovers...he won't want to hear it from me. But…please…please tell him how sorry am, for everything."

"If or when Tony wants to speak to you…to hear your apology…" Abby said as she got ready to go. "…he'll know where to find you."



Chapter 14

AN: Hi, Everybody. This story has been a great deal of fun to write. I think that, though, this is the end. I thank you so much for all your reviews. It is a great compliment to a writer when a reader is stirred by her words. I thank you, so much, for your strong, unedited ;)comments, opinions, and reviews. It has been a wonderful journey. Thanks to all of you who took the ride with me. Enjoy!

Gibbs had been at Tony's side for days. He had been listening to the sound of the ventilator breathing for Tony for so long, it was almost a comfort to him. He knew Tony was still with him, still there. He, they, had lost so much. Two people were now gone that he and Tony, especially, had come to trust and care for deeply.

How was he going to tell Tony what had happened?

What was he going to say when Tony woke up and asked where they were?

Gibbs shook his head. His heart broke for all that they had lost. He prayed, the first time in a long time, he guessed since Shannon and Kelly's death. He prayed for wisdom, how to tell Tony. And he prayed for strength, to be able to get them both through it.


"Tony, please!" Abby pleaded. "Yell. Scream. Cry." Abby paused. "You're angry. You're hurt. I know you are."

"I've dealt with it, Abby." Tony said, sitting up slowly on the edge of the bed in the quest bedroom, his room, at Gibbs' house. He had been there for a week. He had woken up three days after Ziva's attempt on his life. And he had spent 3 weeks, total, in the hospital.

Gibbs had told Tony what had happened earlier than he had wanted to. Tony had known something was wrong and had insisted and kept insisting on knowing what it was. Still Gibbs had held out. And as a result, Tony had had to deal with the hard, cold, ugly truth for 2 weeks. Now, he didn't talk, and he rarely smiled. In short, he was just not Tony.

"NO, Tony!" Abby said, with more force than she had intended.

Tony flinched.

Abby knelt down in front of him and put her hands on his knees. "No, no you haven't." Abby said in a much softer tone. "You don't talk. You don't smile. I haven't heard a movie reference, in…in weeks."

"Weeks ago my life was a lot…different, Abby." Tony stated.

"Yes. Yes, it was. All our lives were different." Abby conceded.

Tony sighed. "What did I…?"

"You did not do this DiNozzo." Abby said firmly. She knew he had been blaming himself and was just waiting for him to voice it. "This is not your fault. You didn't do ANY of this."

"But I…."

Abby glared at him. "Did you ask for the radio to be turned down?"

"No." Tony replied, sadly.

"Did you ask to be shot?"

"No." Tony replied again.

"Did you ask for Ziva to try and disconnect the ventilator hose?"


"Did you ask for her to try and kill you a second time?"

Tony shook his head.

"Then how can any of this, possibly, be your fault?"


"Stop it, Tony." Abby pleaded. She sat down on the bed beside him. "You didn't do anything."

"I just…how…?" Tony asked, shaking his head.

"Abby's right, Tony." Gibbs said as he walked into the room.

"Boss…." Tony started, looking up at Gibbs.

"You were betrayed." Gibbs said. "We all were. They made the choices they made, Tony, for THEIR reasons. They are not choices you or I would have made. It was THEM. They had the other choices. They just made the wrong ones."


"There is no 'still,' Tony." Gibbs replied. "It's…."

"I don't understand." Tony said. "I don't get it."

Gibbs shook his head. "What they did was beyond comprehension, Tony. "

"It's not up to us to understand." Abby said. "They each told me, but I didn't get it." Abby paused. "I will never understand it, Tony."


"I…I need to go…I need to see them." Tony said. He then looked at Gibbs, waiting for his reaction.

Gibbs nodded. He really, truly understood why he needed to do this. As uncomfortable, painful and awkward as it might be, he understood.

Tony stood outside the door to the meeting room for a few moments. He took a long breath before he pushed the door open. He stopped for only a moment. Timothy McGee looked as though he had aged during the month he had been there.

There was a moment of uncomfortable silence. Tim was the first to pick up the phone, so that when he spoke he could be heard despite the glass that separated them.

"I….I wanted to thank you, Tony. I…." Tim started, waiting until Tony picked up the phone and put it to his ear.

"I gave you a second chance, McGee!" Tony said, interrupting. "I didn't have to do that." Tony said, getting angry. "I wanted to forgive you. I wanted to give you a chance…a chance to see what you were doing, to learn. But you were too damned arrogant to learn." Tony hissed. "What could you possibly learn from a guy like me, a clown, an embarrassment to the agency?"

Tim was stunned.

"Yeah, McGee, I had a nice long talk with Vance. He thought I needed to know about the conversation you two had." Tony paused. "It was very enlightening. It confirmed some things…."

Tim opened his mouth to speak.

"Shut up!" Tony hissed. "You, twice, put my life in danger! There is not a damn thing you could say that could explain that, McGee. I'm finished here, and I'm finished with you!"

Tony hung up the phone. He stood, turned and left the room before McGee could even respnd.


Tony just stood, staring at her through the glass. In a day or two she would be transferred to another federal prison. She had been at this facility since she had left the hospital. She was going to be outside the D.C. area, away from him. And that was all that he cared about. He didn't like the thought of them even being in the same state.

"She's ready for you, Agent DiNozzo..." The guard said. "…whenever you're ready."

Tony nodded, but he had no intention of talking with her. Not through inches of glass or the corded phone on the wall. He just stood, staring, his face expressionless and his brain a jumble of thoughts. His brain had put the scenes of their relationship, their time at NCIS, on a continuous film loop and it was playing over and over in his mind. It sped up in some places. It slowed down in others. But it continually played.

Tony just continued to stare as Ziva pleaded with him through the glass. She knocked on the glass. She picked up the phone and held it out to him, beckoning him to sit and talk. But he just shook his head.

"Take her back." Tony told the guard. "I'm done here."


"It go okay?" Gibbs asked as Tony settled onto Gibbs' basement steps.

Tony nodded. "I wanted to make my peace with it." Tony paused. "And I think I did."