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Title: Inside Out
Pairing: Jimmy Palmer/Tim McGee
Prompt: Story 08
Disclaimer: This is entirely a product of my own imagination, and I make no profit from it. I do not own the lovely Jimmy Palmer or Tim McGee, unfortunately, just borrowing them for a while. Please do not sue.
Tim walked from the elevator to the coffee machine in the hallway, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. After what he'd just seen on the videotape that had been delivered to NCIS that morning with his name on it, he was surprised that he hadn't passed out.
He didn't want to think about what he'd seen on that tape. He didn't want to contemplate what Jimmy had gone through. He just wanted to find the bastard who had kidnapped and raped his boyfriend, and bring Jimmy home safely. And he wanted Jimmy's rapist dead.
It wouldn't be enough to put that man behind bars. No, he should be dead for what he'd done. He should be going straight to hell -- though Tim knew that he wouldn't be allowed to carry out such an act of vengeance. No, he would have to settle for putting that monster in jail.
That didn't seem like enough for what he'd done. Tim wanted him to suffer, to feel the pain from the same kind of brutality that he'd subjected Jimmy to. Just the thought of what the man he loved was going through tore a hole in his heart, making him feel utterly powerless.
He felt as though he was turned inside out, the most sensitive nerves transferring from inside to outside. He was sure that if anyone touched him right now, even just a light hand resting on his shoulder, that he would fall apart, start screaming, and never be able to stop.
The images that he'd seen in that video would haunt him for the rest of his life, even after he had Jimmy back by his side and they had managed to put this all behind them. That was what had been intended, Tim thought despairingly. That he should always remember this.
He would have to live with the knowledge that he hadn't been able to rescue Jimmy in time. He would feel guilty about that for the rest of his life -- and even if the bastard who had kidnapped Jimmy was stone cold dead, he would still have won.
They had an idea that Jimmy was at the docks, in some kind of warehouse. The place seemed big enough for that, but they couldn't be sure yet -- and they couldn't simply go storming in there with no probable cause. So they would have to watch that damnable video again.
Tim hadn't been able to watch, and the rest of the team understood. They had been silent as he'd left the room, and he could feel their eyes on him, watching to make sure that he wasn't stumbling along blindly, or that he didn't pass out on the spot.
Once had been enough. He knew what had been done to Jimmy, and he knew that if he was forced to watch that again, something inside him would break, and might never be repaired. It was enough that he'd seen it once, and that the knowledge would be with him forever.
Suddenly, he could feel his knees going weak, and he wondered if it was some kind of delayed reaction. There was no chair anywhere in the hall, but if he could lean against the coffee machine, he might be able to gain some strength before he had to go back up to the office.
Taking a step in that direction, Tim leaned his head against the front of the machine and closed his eyes, forcing back the tears that were threatening to rise. He hated feeling so helpless; Jimmy needed his help, and at the moment, there wasn't much he could do.
The tears came, no matter how he tried to hold them back. Tim raised a hand to his mouth, forcing the sobs back; holding them in wasn't the easiest thing he'd ever done, but the thought that he was managing it quite well when he heard a voice behind him say his name.
"Tim." He didn't realize who it was, and he didn't care. For the moment, it was just someone who could offer comfort, someone who might not understand what he was going through, but who was willing to be there, to be his shoulder to cry on when he needed it.
Blindly, he turned towards the person, not caring who it was, just needing that strength and stability to steady himself. Their arms went around him, and he was leaning against the person, crying into their shoulder, no longer bothering to hold back the sobs that tore through him.
"We'll get him back, Tim. I swear we will." He heard Tony's voice as if it was coming from a long way away; a part of him couldn't believe that Tony DiNozzo was standing here holding him, giving him comfort. Tony didn't care that much about him. He never had.
But Tony was here, holding him, comforting him -- and he needed that comfort now, more than he could put into words. So instead of pulling away and demanding why Tony was there, he let himself cry in the other man's arms, thankful for the support.
"Why, Tony? Why is he doing this?" The words came out as more of a wail than a question, but Tim couldn't force himself to face this calmly. Not after knowing what had happened to Jimmy, and also knowing that there was a very good chance his boyfriend wouldn't survive this.
"I don't know, Tim." Tony's voice was quiet, calming. "But we'll find out. And we'll catch him. We'll bring Jimmy home safe, I promise you." Tony sighed softly, his next words surprising Tim. "I'd give anything for this not to have happened. You and Jimmy don't deserve this."
"I thought you didn't like us," Tim said before he could stop himself. He hadn't meant to say them; Tony was being a good guy for once, offering comfort when it was most needed. He hadn't wanted to sound as though he was ungrateful, or resentful of Tony's usual attitude.
"Tim, I couldn't work with you if I didn't like you," Tony said, his voice very quiet. "I know I tease you and give you a hard time, but I wouldn't do that with somebody I didn't like. And I like Jimmy, too. You're both good guys, and I'm happy you've found each other."
"Th-thanks," Tim stammered, lifting his head from Tony's shoulder to look at the other man. "How are we going to find him, Tony? We don't have any idea where that psycho took him. He could be at the docks -- but he could be anywhere. We don't have a clue."
"Yes, we do," Tony said, his voice firm. "We're going to find him, Tim. I know we can't change what's already happened, but we're going to bring him home to you. Alive. You've got to believe that. You've got to be strong and hold on to that. Jimmy needs you, so you can't fall apart."
Tim took a deep breath, swallowing hard, as though he was trying to push down the fear that kept wanting to rise to the surface. Tony was right, he told himself. Jimmy needed him; he couldn't afford to fall to pieces now. He had to be strong. He had to take the lead.
"You're right," he murmured, taking another deep breath, and then another. They seemed to calm him, to center his emotions. One more deep breath, and he stepped away from Tony, raising a hand to smooth back his hair, trying to compose himself.
"I didn't mean to go to pieces like that," he said by way of apology. "It just .... for a few minutes, it all seemed like too much." His gaze met Tony's, and he was surprised by the compassion he saw in the other man's eyes. "You really meant what you said, didn't you?"
Tony didn't question his words, only nodding and smiling, a genuine smile, not one of his practiced, teasing looks. "Yeah, I did. Everybody on this team means a lot to me, Tim. I might not always show it, but you guys are my best friends. And nobody messes with my friends."
"Thanks, Tony." Tim gave his friend a wan smile, then sighed softly, shaking his head. "It just feels so .... so hopeless. We've got a lead, but who knows if it'll pan out? He could move Jimmy somewhere else pretty easily. And I don't think he'd have sent that video if Jimmy was still there."
"Yes, he would have," Tony said, sounding sober and matter-of-fact. "He wanted you to see what he was doing to Jimmy. It was your name on the package, Tim. He sent it to you, for some reason. So it's got to be somebody who has a beef with you. We just have to find out who it is."
Tim nodded, Tony's words taking his thoughts down another track. "It's got to be somebody I've had a run-in with at some point," he murmured, frowning. "We need to look at that note he sent with the video, and see if we can get anything from that."
"You need to read that note again, and see if you can remember if anybody you put away has said anything like that to you," Tony told him, an expression of hope dawning on his features. "I know it's not going to be easy, but we'll figure it out, Tim. We've got to."
Tim nodded again, his throat tightening at the thought of his boyfriend at the mercy of someone who didn't seem to have any of that quality. He could only hope that his adversary's aim wasn't to kill Jimmy; he had to hold on to the hope that they could rescue him.
Tim pushed away the thought that Jimmy could already be dead. That wasn't possible; he would feel it if the man he loved no longer existed in this realm with him. There would be a hole in his heart that would never be filled, a gaping wound that could never possibly heal.
Tony seemed to sense what he was thinking; he placed a hand on Tim's shoulder, squeezing it gently. "He's alive, Tim," he said quietly, his gaze meeting Tim's again. "I know he is. And you've got to believe that, too. We're going to find him. And we're going to put this guy behind bars."
"I know we will," Tim said, trying to sound more optimistic than he felt. He felt as though his heart was being twisted into knots, turned inside out. His entire life had been turned inside out and upside down within the space of a few hours, and he wasn't even close to recovering.
"Come on, then," Tony told him, with an attempt at a smile. "Let's get back in there and start working on this case. The sooner we figure out who this guy is, the better chance we have of finding Jimmy quickly and bringing him back home to you."
Tim closed his eyes for a moment, then took a deep breath and opened them again, turning to follow Tony to the bank of elevators. He knew that his friend and colleague was right -- and he hoped that as soon as they found out where Jimmy was, the feeling of being turned inside out would go away.