Summary:

Tim is injured while he and Tony are in pursuit of a suspect and then has to face weeks of frustrating recovery. Tony decides to be there. Set vaguely during season 9, but with no episode references at all.

Phoenix Rising asked for a heartwarming friendship fic, with part of it taking place on Christmas. So that's what she got. I hope she likes it. (And no concussions! I promise!)

Mostly Tony and Tim, with brief appearances by Gibbs, Abby, Ziva and an OC or two.


Rated: FR13
Categories: General
Genre: Friendship, Hurt/Comfort
Warnings: None
Challenges: Secret Santa 2017
Challenges: Secret Santa 2017
Series: None

When You're Not Strong

Chapter 1

The snow was falling gently down. It would be a beautiful sight...if they weren't trying to track down a suspected murderer. The one thing about it was that it made their tread almost silent, but it also made their suspect's tread almost silent as well. If he stuck to the trees, they might not be able to track him down. He was supposed to be out here. The tip had led them here, but it could end up being nothing.

In fact, Tim was wondering if it was nothing when Tony gestured to him.

"What?"

"There he goes, McGee!" Tony shouted, pointing off ahead near where Tim was headed.

Tim saw their suspect, Lt. Benson, take off running, breaking out of cover and heading across the open field, through the snow. He started after him, trying to catch up.

"Stop!" he shouted. "Benson, stop! NCIS!"

Benson did not stop. If anything, he sped up and kept running. Tim did the same. Then, Benson was out of sight, running behind a barn. Tim slowed down a little, out of caution.

"I can't see him!" he called back.

"He can't teleport, McGee!" Tony shouted at him. "He's still there."

Tim grumbled, "I know that."

But he kept moving. Benson was likely guilty of murder and they couldn't let him get away again. He'd eluded them for three weeks already, and Gibbs was getting that look in his eye. No one wanted that look. Tim rounded the barn and then had to dive out of the way as an old truck lumbered at him, driven by Benson. It wasn't moving very fast yet, but Tim could hear the engine revving and he got to his feet quickly so as not to lose Benson yet again. He saw a snowy, rusted running board on the passenger side and jumped up on it.

"Benson, stop the truck!" he shouted over the noisy engine.

Benson ignored him and pushed the truck to go faster. Tim couldn't hear anything over the roar of the engine.

"Benson! Stop the truck!" Tim shouted again. "You're under arrest!"

He tried to open the passenger side door, but Benson glanced at him and then started to swerve the truck back and forth on the rutted road, trying to get Tim off, and Tim couldn't get stable enough to shift his grip. The snow on the running board had concealed a thin layer of ice and his feet kept slipping out from under him. He was holding tightly to the sideview mirror and a handle beside the cab. As the truck continued to increase speed, he began to see that this might go very badly and he wondered if he was going to be able to get safely off the truck now that he was on it.

Then, suddenly, the swerving increased tenfold and Tim could feel his grip weakening with every bump. Benson didn't look too happy about the situation, either, but Tim rather felt he still had the worse end of the stick being on the outside of the truck. He tried to hold on, but one more bump and he felt his hands slipping off the handle and mirror. He knew he was going off the truck and he tried to push himself away from it so that he didn't get run over when he hit the ground.

In a few very crowded moments, Tim flew off the truck and landed on the ground. He landed on his feet in the snow, but only for a second. As soon as he landed, he felt a twist and a pop. Then, he was down, his knee throbbing with pain. He didn't notice anything else for a few seconds. All his attention was on his knee. Then, he noticed that the truck was no longer moving, that it had stopped about fifty feet away, although the noisy engine was still running. He sat up and couldn't see anyone at all. The pain faded a little bit and he tried to get up to find out what had happened, but as soon as he took a step, his knee slipped to the side and he fell back to the ground.

That wasn't good.

The engine cut out and there was a moment of silence.

"McGee! Come on, man! Don't leave me to do all the work!" Tony called. "Get over here!"

Tim was relieved to hear Tony's voice, but he was a little miffed at the lack of sympathy for his current situation.

"Not happening, Tony," Tim said. "I'm not feeling so good."

"You okay?"

"No!"

Finally, Tony came into view, lugging Benson with him, in handcuffs.

"What's wrong?" Tony asked. "Why are you just sitting around?"

"I can't put any weight on my knee," Tim said, trying to remain appropriately stoic, even though his knee was throbbing. He wasn't going to give Benson the satisfaction of knowing he was hurting.

Tony's brow furrowed.

"What happened?"

"I fell off the truck."

"You were on the truck?"

"Didn't you see me?" Tim asked. "I'm not exactly tiny, you know."

Tony shook his head. "Sorry, McGee. I was on the other side. I wouldn't have shot out the tires if I'd realized you were there."

Tim's eyes widened. "You shot out the tires?!"

"Hey, I didn't see you, and Benson was getting away. We couldn't let that happen again. I think Gibbs would have killed us. I stopped him. Look, I even arrested him. I'm not hearing any appreciation for nabbing our suspect," he said. "Benson's impressed. Aren't you?"

Benson wisely said nothing.

"I'm glad you got him, but I'm not particularly happy about being thrown off the truck because of it. I'm not walking anytime soon. I tried to take a step and I fell. I am not happy about that."

"Well, then, I'll let you call Gibbs while I get Benson secured."

"I don't have my phone," Tim said, feeling the empty space in his pocket.

"Where is it?"

"I have no idea. It must have fallen out when I was on the truck."

"I'll keep an eye out for it, then."

"Yeah, thanks, Tony," Tim said. "That's exactly what I want you to do, while I'm sitting here in the snow."

"You can still call. You're not busy, right?" Tony said, grinning. "Here, you can even use my phone."

He tossed his phone over. Tim caught it and sighed as Tony hauled Benson off to the car. He experimented with bending his knee and he felt the pain again. This was definitely serious, not just a tweak that would heal up in a day or two. He was sure something was broken. But Gibbs did need to be called, and Tony needed to focus on Benson, not on his phone.

Tim took a breath and dialed.

"Gibbs."

"Hey, Boss," Tim said. He tried to shift position and winced as he inadvertently jarred his knee.

"What happened, McGee?"

"Well, there was a problem. We tracked down Benson. The tip panned out. He was at that farm. We found him, but he ran."

"And you lost him."

"No. We got him. Tony is taking him to the car right now...but there was a problem."

"You said that already, McGee," Gibbs said, sounding resigned.

"Benson stole a truck to get away. I jumped on, but the road was really rough and I couldn't get him to stop. Tony shot out the tires and..."

He moved again and winced. He was pretty sure that his knee was swelling up.

"And what?"

"And the truck went out of control. I fell off the truck and I did something to my knee. I can't put any weight on it."

"Do you need an ambulance?"

"No. I'm not dying or anything. I just need to get back to D.C. and find out just how broken it is."

"I'll get out there."

"Thanks, Boss."

Tim hung up and sat where he was for a few minutes, flexing his knee every so often to see if it was miraculously healing itself. It wasn't. In this position, he couldn't see a single soul and, if he were honest, he wasn't particularly happy about that, either. The snow dampened all the sound. He could be the only person in the world, based on what he could see and hear right now. What if Benson got away from Tony? What if he had friends who showed up and Tony was outnumbered while he was just sitting there, doing nothing?

Grimacing, Tim decided that he needed to get back to the car, rather than wait for someone to come to him. It would take Gibbs at least half an hour to get out here, and Tim wasn't willing to sit around, waiting. Besides, even with his good coat, he was starting to feel a little cold sitting in the snow.

He looked around, wondering how he was going to get to his feet and walk when his knee wasn't willing to do its job. But then, maybe it was just a fluke that first time. Maybe, he could still walk. Just very carefully.

He rolled over onto his knees, putting most of his weight on his right knee, and then pushed himself up to his feet. Then, he stood for a few seconds, wondering what would happen this time. Gritting his teeth, he took a step.

...and his knee twisted to the side and he was back down in the snow, cursing mightily under his breath.

He didn't like this at all.

x.x.x.x.x.x.x

Tony kept a light tone, but he didn't like leaving Tim back there on the ground if he really couldn't walk. However, until he could make sure that Benson was not going to get away, there weren't too many other options. Benson had proved to be a slippery guy and Tony didn't dare leave him alone, not even handcuffed and in the car.

Gibbs would take a while to get here, and Tony was prepared to wait all the time required, but he just didn't like it.

At all.

"You comfortable, Benson?" he asked.

"No, since you asked. The cuffs are too tight and I'm cold."

"Oh, good. I'm glad you're doing so well. I thought you might be uncomfortable," Tony said, smiling.

Benson glared at him and said nothing else.

After about ten minutes, Tony heard a siren and he looked back over his shoulder. To his surprise, a Virginia State Police car was coming into view. When the trooper got out of the car, Tony waved to him.

"Agent DiNozzo?" the trooper asked.

"Yeah."

"Officer Dunne."

"Hey, how did you know we were here?" he asked.

"Got a call from an Agent Gibbs, saying that you had an injury, plus a suspect and might need some backup. He's on his way."

"I figured he was, but I'm glad you're here. My partner's out in the field. Did something to his knee while we were getting Benson into custody."

"Who is he?"

"Suspect in the murder of a petty officer back in D.C. We've been trying to track him down for weeks."

"Glad you got him."

"Yeah. He's been a thorn in our side. Can you keep an eye on him while I go get my partner?"

"Will do."

"Thanks."

Tony ran back through the trees to the old rutted (and now muddy) road. He stopped only once when he spotted Tim's phone lying on the ground. Quickly, he picked it up and kept on his way. He could see Tim still sitting on the ground, but he wasn't in quite the same place as he had been. Had he been trying to walk?

"Tim! You okay?" he called. "I found your phone and I think it even still works."

"No, Tony. I'm not," Tim said, sounding annoyed. He didn't respond to the phone comment.

Tony ran across the snow and, when he got closer, he could see that Tim was both muddy and snowy, and he didn't look very happy about his situation.

"Did you roll around in the mud while I was busy with Benson?"

"Please, Tony. Don't start. Just help me get up and back to the car. I've already fallen down more than once. My knee feels like it's about three sizes too big and it's throbbing."

"Okay, okay."

Tony bent over and let Tim put his arm over Tony's shoulders. Then, he lifted and grunted with the effort.

"You could help me out a little bit, McGee," he said. "I think you need to lose a little weight."

"Oh, shut up," Tim said as he tried to get his feet under him.

"Not a wise thing to say to the guy helping you back to the car, McGee."

"Get me some crutches and I'll manage myself, then," Tim muttered.

"Crutches? Out in the middle of a field, with mud and snow everywhere? You'd probably look even worse than you already do."

"Ha," Tim said, grimacing as he put weight on his left leg.

"How bad does it hurt?" Tony asked, more seriously.

"Not as bad as when I broke my leg, but it hurts enough. The worst isn't the pain. It's that my knee doesn't seem to be functioning at all. I put weight on it and it slides to the side and down I go."

"Sounds bad, McGee."

"Yeah. You're telling me," Tim said.

"Ready to start back?"

"Yeah."

They started back to the car, going slowly. Tony watched when Tim would put some weight on his left knee and he saw that sliding himself. If Tim hadn't broken any bones, he'd definitely torn something. That was obvious.

There wasn't as much pain as Tony might have expected. Either Tim was really good at holding it back or else it just didn't hurt as much.

"Did Gibbs get here already?" Tim asked, after a few minutes.

"No. He called the Virginia State Police and they sent someone out to lend a hand."

"Nice of them."

"I thought so. As long as the guy doesn't let Benson go."

"If he does, I'll shoot him myself," Tim said, darkly. "If I have to deal with this, it's not going to be without Benson in custody."

Tony laughed.

"You're in a pretty foul mood, Tim."

"I'll trade you," Tim said. "You can have the malfunctioning knee and I'll shoot out the tires."

"Hey, I didn't realize you were on the truck. I would have at least warned you."

"A warning wouldn't have helped. Even if I could have heard you...which I wouldn't have with how loud the engine was. The way that thing was jerking back and forth, I was going to be thrown off at some point."

"Why did you get on in the first place?" Tony asked. "That doesn't seem very smart and certainly not like you. What if he'd started shooting?"

"I didn't realize how slick the running board was going to be. I thought I could open the door and get in and stop him. Better than letting him get away again. I just couldn't ever get myself in a position to do anything other than hold on. You don't have to tell me it was stupid. I know."

They emerged from the trees to find the trooper still there, Benson still in handcuffs, and Gibbs just pulling up.

"Gibbs is going to think this was my fault," Tim said. "I shouldn't have got on the truck. Why didn't I think of shooting out the tires myself?"

Tony tightened his grip around Tim's waist.

"You were running. Adrenaline rush. Besides, you don't know that he'll blame you. He might blame me for not noticing that you were on the truck when I started shooting. Or maybe he'll just cuss us both."

"Yeah," Tim said and winced as he stumbled.

"I've got you, McGee," Tony said. "I won't drop you."

"I hope not. I'd fall."

"You won't fall."

"Thanks."

Gibbs walked over and raised an eyebrow.

"I'll drive McGee back to D.C. if you don't mind, Boss," Tony said.

Gibbs bent over and took hold of Tim's knee. Tim tensed and then sucked in a sharp breath as Gibbs moved it around a little.

Then, Gibbs straightened.

"You've definitely torn something, McGee. Why did you get on the truck?"

"I'm stupid," Tim said, glumly. "I thought I'd be able to get in the truck before it was moving too fast. I couldn't."

The eyebrow went up again and Gibbs looked at Tony.

"Where were you?"

"Shooting out the tires when I saw the truck driving away," Tony said. "I didn't see Tim on the truck. I thought Benson had got away from him."

"So neither of you were thinking much," Gibbs said.

Tony glanced at Tim and then looked back at Gibbs.

"Not enough," Tony said. "Boss, McGee's pretty heavy. Can I get him back to D.C.? I don't want to keep holding him."

Gibbs looked at them both, and Tony knew he was a bit disappointed. They were both supposed to be better than this. Tony could even agree, but everyone had off days, and they had managed to keep Benson from getting away. That had to count for something.

"Go," he said. "I'll drive your car back. Take mine. It's got more room."

"Thanks, Boss," Tony said.

Then, he lugged Tim over to the car and helped him sit down on the passenger seat. He watched as Tim tried to bend his knee enough to get it into the car.

"Wait a minute, Probie," Tony said. He leaned in and moved the seat back as far as it would go. Then, he reclined it as well.

"Thanks, Tony," Tim said and got himself buckled in.

"No problem."

Then, Tony ran around to the driver's side and quickly started back to D.C.

Tim was almost lying on the seat, and his eyes were closed, but Tony could see the tension.

"Are you just trying to be tough, McGee, or does it really not hurt that much?"

"When I don't move it, it doesn't really hurt at all, but it really feels swollen and it definitely hurts when it moves. I feel like such an idiot. I shouldn't have jumped on the truck."

"Hey, it happens. At least, we still got Benson and you didn't get shot or anything."

"I think I might have preferred that. Then, it wouldn't be my fault."

"I don't think that getting shot is equivalent to acting stupid for a few seconds."

Tim smiled a little. "Maybe just a graze."

"It'd heal faster."

"Yeah."


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