People were bustling around him as he sat there, shell-shocked. He felt like he couldn't breathe, like something was growing inside his lungs until it strangled him. His face was wet, his eyes stung, but he couldn't move to do anything about it.
He sat on his hands.
He couldn't believe this. How had this happened? How could this happen? He had promised he would be careful, he had promised. Nick wasn't one to break a promise! And yet here he was, surrounded with the smell of antiseptic, people in scrubs rushing past and glancing at him with sympathy. He almost wanted to claw at his head, force himself to wake up from what had to be a horrible, horrible nightmare.
So he sat on his hands.
He stared at the floor, unseeing. The tile below him had blurred into a gray mess long ago. He blinked and it became clear for a few seconds, as familiar shoes entered the top of his vision. "McGee," Gibbs' voice said. Rough, but not unkind.
Tim stood up, blinking past his tears. "Any news from the doctors?" he asked desperately.
Gibbs shook his head. "Nothing. Go home, Tim. I can take over the watch. You need sleep and a shower."
"No, no, I need to be here," Tim said.
So they both sat down. Gibbs almost looking like he was praying. Tim, once again, on his hands.
Nick wouldn't break a promise, Tim had to remember that. He had promised he wouldn't die before he left the office, because Tim had a bad feeling. He should have insisted Nick stay, he should have gone out there instead, and now Nick was in surgery with a bullet lodged in his lung, and Tim was sitting in the waiting room, praying that he'd see his lover alive at the end of the day.
"McGee, you know that the odds aren't good..." Gibbs said.
Tim just shook his head. "He promised me. He promised me he'd stay alive."
"He shouldn't have," Gibbs replied.
The doctor came out, covered in blood, and Tim's heart sank. "Agents Gibbs and McGee?" he asked.
Tim stood, feeling his legs shake.
"We did all we could, but he lost too much blood. I'm so sorry for your loss," the doctor said.
Tim felt numb. The rest of the conversation just washed over him. Gibbs took him by the arm eventually, led him to a room where they had put Nick until he could be transferred to the morgue. The full magnitude of what had happened hit him like a sack of bricks. He choked on a sob, and shook so hard that he was surprised he didn't throw up.
Gibbs left him alone in the room with Nick, allowed him the time he needed to process what had happened. Nick had promised that he wasn't going to die, and that promise had been broken. Tim staggered back, feeling faint, and his legs bumped against a chair.
He sat on his hands.