McGee parked his Porsche in the small empty lot and exited the vehicle, pulling up the collar of his wool coat against the chill night air. He locked the door before carefully making his way up the path to the overlook. When he reached the top he paused and turned his gaze upward, taking in the world around him. The full moon was barely visible behind gathering storm clouds, and the rush of water below was the only hint of the majestic scenery which would have been visible in the daytime. The anxiety that always accompanied these trips began to recede slightly as he enjoyed the peace and solitude this place offered. His peace was short-lived, however, as a voice emerged from the silence.
"’The ducks in St James's Park are so used to being fed bread by secret agents meeting clandestinely that they have developed their own Pavlovian reaction. Put a St James's Park duck in a laboratory cage and show it a picture of two men -- one usually wearing a coat with a fur collar, the other something somber with a scarf -- and it'll look up expectantly.’"
Startled, McGee turned toward the speaker and managed a chuckle as he recognized the quote.
“I never took you for a reader, Trent, especially not that particular book.”
“Social commentary and witty satire? What’s not to like? Besides, it helps to pass the time on long flights,” admitted Kort with a sardonic grin. “You must admit, that particular passage fits these meetings of ours, does it not?”
McGee shrugged in agreement. “Whenever you’re ready to change the venue, just let me know.”
Kort chuckled. “Luckily that does not appear to be necessary, at least not this time.” He sighed. “Enough small-talk. Too damn cold, anyway.” He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small item. McGee held out a similar item for exchange.
“Anything interesting?” asked Kort as he exchanged with McGee and placed the new item in a pocket that was hidden in the inner lining of his coat.
“Nope. It’s been pretty quiet recently.” McGee placed his new item in a small water-proof pouch that was attached to a cord around his neck and tucked the pouch out of sight.
“Yeah, let’s hope it stays that way.” He turned to leave, paused, and turned back to McGee. “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”
McGee felt a chill down his spine. He knew what just such a storm would bring if it was allowed to arrive unchecked.
“I’m more worried about the storm approaching tonight: first major snowfall of the season.”
“Then you had better get your ass home, Tim. I don’t think Porsches are all that practical for winter driving.”
“Thanks for your concern, but I think I’ll be OK.” McGee had no intention of telling Kort that he had another meeting planned for tonight, one that would take place not far from where they were now.
Kort smirked and nodded. “Until next time, McGee.” He turned again and made his way back down the path, disappearing into the darkness.
McGee checked his watch and decided he could wait a few more minutes before returning to his car. He leaned against the railing and closed his eyes, pondering the events that had led him here and garnered him this particular assignment. The worst part was keeping the secret from his team. He hated lying to Gibbs, especially when he had worked so hard for his team leader, but it was to keep the rest of the team safe. McGee lived in constant fear that one of them would find out about this assignment, and unwittingly put themselves in danger, especially DiNozzo. The older agent had been relentless lately, and McGee had barely managed to evade him this evening.
A gust of wind brought a deep chill, despite his heavy coat, and he decided that is was time to leave. He would still have plenty of time to reach his next destination. He started down the path, carefully making his way to his car and glimpsed the first snowflakes drifting past his field of vision. He glanced around to make sure he was alone, and bent down to work the lock. He was interrupted by a familiar voice.
“Going somewhere, Probie?”
McGee spun around to find DiNozzo standing behind him, the expression on his face far from friendly.
“T-tony? W-what are you doing here?” McGee felt a flash of fear as DiNozzo raised his gun and aimed it at McGee’s chest. The ice in DiNozzo’s voice was colder than the night air when he finally spoke.
“I think I should be asking you that same question…”
A/N:The book Kort quotes is Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and is not the book used in this crossover. That will be revealed later ;)
“T-tony? W-what are you doing here?”
“I think I should be asking you that same question…”
*earlier that evening*
“What’s up with you, McGoo?” Tony DiNozzo grinned at the look of annoyance that crossed the other agent’s face. McGee had been checking his watch for the last half-hour, his nervousness broadcasting to all within direct view of him.
“Nothing, Tony. Don’t you have a report to finish?”
“Already done. Work smarter, not harder, Probie. It takes, skills, practice, and finesse.”
“Is that what you call it?” snarked Gibbs as he made his way through the bullpen. Tony automatically stood and held out the file, but Gibbs waved him away. “Did you check it for typos?” Not even waiting for an answer, he headed up the stairs.
“Wow,” exclaimed Tony after Gibbs had vanished from sight.
“Meetings with the director do tend to have that affect on Gibbs,” noted Ziva.
“Wonder what it is this time?” Tony glanced over at McGee. “Any ideas, McSneaky?”
“No.” McGee hit a key and turned to the printer to retrieve his document before placing the papers in a folder and setting the folder on Gibbs’ desk. Without a word he gathered up his belongings and headed for the elevator. Tony moved to block his path.
“Why the rush, McGee? Hot date tonight?”
“No, Tony, I just want to get home before the weather gets too nasty. There’s supposed to be a bad storm coming in.”
“I thought it was not supposed to start until after midnight?” said Ziva, a brief expression of puzzlement crossing her face. “You have plenty of time.”
Tony saw a flash of something that looked like guilt cross McGee’s features. “Yeah, but I have some…errands to run on the way.”
“’Errands’? Do these ‘errands’ have a name?” Tony’s grin broadened as the younger agent became even more flustered.
“Give it a rest, Tony. Goodnight, Ziva.” McGee dodged DiNozzo and entered the elevator before turning to glare at the Senior Agent as the doors closed.
Tony turned to Ziva but she cut him off with an impatient gesture.
“Do not even ask me, Tony. He has not told me anything.”
DiNozzo pondered for a moment and grinned. “I bet I know who he did tell,” he said as he turned and made his way to another level of the building with a spring in his step. It was always good to have more fuel for tormenting the Probie.
DiNozzo walked into Abby’s lab, Caf-Pow! in hand.
“Hey Abbs,” he yelled over the music.
She turned to him and grinned. “Tony! What brings to my humble abode?” she asked as she lowered the volume to a bearable level.
“Abode? You don’t live here, Abbs…or do you?”
She smirked and reached for the drink in his hand. “Tonight, at least. I have way too much to do and I don’t feel like fighting traffic in the morning. They’re predicting—“
“Yeah, a storm, I know.”
“So, what can I do for you?” She glanced and the quart-sized plastic cup he had yet to relinquish. “Should I beware of Greeks bearing gifts?”
“I’m Italian,” he deadpanned.
Abby giggled. “Yeah, I know.” She managed to grab the drink and took a few slurps.
Tony watched her enjoy the drink before voicing the reason for his visit. “I was wondering…what’s up with McGeek?”
“Tim? Nothing that I know of. Why?”
“No romance, hot dates, anything like that?”
She chuckled. “If he has, he didn’t tell me. Why do you think that?”
“He’s been acting really weird lately.” He paused. “You don’t think he writing about us again, do you?”
“I doubt it.” She turned back to her computer and typed a few commands before return her attention to him. “Anything else?”
“So…you really don’t know where he went?”
“If he’s left the Navy Yard, then I can’t help you. Sorry.”
Tony took a moment to parse what she had said. “But if he’s still here, you’d know? How?”
She gave him a wicked grin and turned back to her computer before typing a few commands. A map appeared on the screen. Tony peered at it for a few moments before he recognized it.
“That’s the Yard.” He saw several small glowing dots, two of which, one black and one dark red were practically on top of each other and pointed to them. “What are those?” He looked closer and realized that the dots were where he was currently standing.
“Us.” She pointed to a dark blue dot in the director’s office. “That’s Gibbs. Huh. I bet he’s going to be in a bad mood later. He never likes meeting with the director,” she said, indicating a brown dot. She then pointed to a purple dot in the bullpen area. “That’s Ziva.” Finally she pointed to two dots in autopsy, one dark and one light green. “And that’s Ducky and Jimmy. Looks like McGee has left the building,” she said as she pointed to a light blue dot near the main gate.
Tony stared at the map with a sinking feeling. This was not good at all.
“Abby, what the hell is this?” he asked, working hard to keep the alarm he felt out of his voice.
“We call it The Marauder’s Map. You know, like the one in the Harry Potter books?”
“No, I don’t. What is it?”
“It’s a tracking program; a way to know where everyone is while they’re at work. It tracks you by your cell phone GPS chip, though, not by magic.” She winked at him.
“Why…why would you write a program like this?”
“I didn’t. This was Tim’s idea. He said he knew how upset I was after Vance split up the team, that I was always wondering where everyone was, so when you all came back, he said this would give me peace of mind. It only works when you guys are on base, but it’s better than nothing.”
“Abby, this is...a massive invasion of privacy.” Even he could see that what this program could potentially do was a cause for concern.
She snorted. “Says the guy poking into his teammate’s love life. Don’t worry, Tony, no one else knows about it, and it only works on base. One you leave the Yard, your privacy is secure. See?” She pointed to the light blue dot, which disappeared as it crossed the security gate.
“What about after you leave the Yard?”
“Then you’d have to do it the old-fashioned way, with a manual GPS tracker. Like this.” She pulled up the program and typed in McGee’s number. The tracker indicated he was traveling west away from the gate, but then it suddenly switched off.
“Huh. I guess he really doesn’t want you to know where he went.”
“How do we track him now?”
“We don’t. C’mon, Tony, it’s McGee. He wouldn’t do anything to make you worry.”
“So there’s no way to know?”
“Well…he drives a fancy car, so he probably has some sort of anti-theft tracking system installed.”
“No, Tony. I’m not helping you track Tim on a date, if that’s where he’s going. Now shoo. I’ve got a lot of work to do.” She turned and walked over to the mass spectrometer, effectively dismissing him.
He left the lab and went upstairs to get his coat before exiting the building and walking to his car. He wanted to believe that he was wrong, that McGee’s behavior was just innocent jitters, but his gut was telling him that there was much more too it than normal evasiveness and desire for privacy. After he reached his car and got in, he pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number.
“Hey Dave, it’s Tony DiNozzo. Yeah, I know, it’s been awhile. Listen, I need a favor…”
*three hours later*
Hidden from view, DiNozzo watched the exchange between McGee and Kort with cold fury.
Of all the people you had to work with, why did it have to be that bastard?
Kort was self-serving, manipulative, and disloyal; everything DiNozzo had believed that McGee wasn’t, but the younger agent seemed perfectly at ease in Kort’s company. Tony didn’t think anything else would surprise him at this point, but after Kort left, it became obvious to him that McGee was waiting for another meeting. What sort of exchange would take place then, he couldn’t even begin to guess. He has seriously misjudged the man, and what was worse, McGee had done what he had promised not to do after the events of that past summer: he had gone behind their backs to work on something else. Far worse, he had essentially betrayed Gibbs by working with a man DiNozzo knew Gibbs did not trust. Anger overwhelmed Tony when he thought what this would do to the man that had been more of a father to him than his own, and as he silently followed McGee back to the parking lot, he was barely able to keep it in check. When McGee was distracted by unlocking his car, Tony approached him.
“Going somewhere, Probie?”
McGee spun around and stared at DiNozzo, a look of panic crossing his face as he struggled to speak.
“T-tony? W-what are you doing here?”
DiNozzo raised his gun and aimed it at McGee’s chest. He had to know what was going on, and this seemed the most expedient way to find out.
“I think I should be asking you that same question.”
The fear in the younger agent’s voice was even more pronounced, as expected, but it was what McGee said next that surprised DiNozzo:
“Tony! Put that away! Are you trying to get yourself killed?!”
“Tony! Put that away! Are you trying to get yourself killed?!”
Startled, Tony took a moment to respond to the question.
“Are you threatening me, McGee?”
An equally startled expression crossed McGee’s face. “What? No! Why would you--? No, Tony, I just don’t want you to get hurt. Now please, put the gun down.” McGee’s eyes roamed the area behind Tony, and the panic the younger agent was broadcasting gave Tony pause.
“You’re worried about me?” What in the hell…?
McGee took a deep breath and slowly raised his arms away from his body. “Look, I’m unarmed. You wouldn’t shoot an unarmed man, Tony. I know you wouldn’t. Please…”
Suddenly Tony realized McGee was not talking to him, but to someone else, someone he obviously thought was observing their confrontation.
“Your buddy Kort is long gone. No need to worry about me. Worry about yourself, especially what Gibbs will do to you when I get you back to base.”
“It’s not Kort I’m concerned with. Please, Tony, put the gun away.”
“Fine.” Deciding that his current stance was getting him nowhere, Tony slowly lowered the gun and slid it into his holster, leaving the strap unlatched. “But you’re coming with me. Your other contact is just going to have to deal without you.”
“Other…how did you--?”
“Oh quit it with the innocent act, McSpy. No one waits out in the cold out in the middle of nowhere, especially after they’ve already had one clandestine meeting. Who is it?”
“I…I can’t tell you that, Tony. I’m sorry, but you need to leave before--.” He was interrupted but the sound of a gunshot and one of the windows of the Porsche shattered. Automatically the two men ducked behind the car as Tony returned fire. They heard a startled scream followed by shouts and more gunfire.
Tony glanced at McGee. Probie’s just as surprised as I am.
“Guess your contact is not as trustworthy as you thought. What the hell have you gotten yourself into, McGee?”
“My…contact isn’t behind this. They must have followed you to get to me.” More shots were fired and the car shook with the impact. They were running out of time.
“I wasn’t followed. You, on the other hand, are lousy at picking up a tail. Please tell me you weren’t assigned to this job.” Before they could answer, another volley of shots shattered the rest of the windows. As they crouched in the dark, it started to snow harder, providing some cover. “Alright, look. My car is just past the end of the lot. On my count, duck and run.” Out of the corner of his eye, he saw McGee nod. “One…two…go!” Both men ran across the lot at a crouch, dodging back and forth to make harder target of themselves. They had almost made it to the far side when Tony felt a bullet graze his right bicep and he hissed in pain.
“You OK?” McGee asked as the reached the car.
Tony unlocked the doors and they scrambled inside. “Fine. They just winged me.”
“Oh God, Tony, I’m sor—.”
“Save it, McGee.” He gunned the engine and started up the narrow mountain road away from the lot. The car slid a little as he rounded the first curve and he saw the headlights of another vehicle swing into view behind them, gaining fast.
Tony smirked, despite the pain in his arm. “’It’s called ice, and it gets a little slick!’” He saw McGee’s incredulous look out of the corner of his eye. “True Lies, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Arnold--?”
“Yeah, I know, you made me watch it! Just drive!”
Tony hit the accelerator and pulled away from the other vehicle, going as fast as he dared, and soon the headlights faded from view. He slowed as much as he dared, but the car was not made for the driving conditions and fishtailed several times as they rounded the curves. “You puke in my car, Probie, I’ll kill you.”
“That’s the least of our worries. Damn it, Tony, why didn’t you leave well enough alone?”
“You were acting hinky. Did you really expect me not to notice something was wrong?”
“And that’s why you pointed a gun at me?” McGee actually sounded offended. Tony decided to change the subject.
“How do you know this isn’t who you were going to meet?”
“She’d never hurt me. Besides, guns aren’t exactly her weapon of choice.”
“She? This is all for some chick?”
“No! You wouldn’t understand…”
Must be some damsel in distress, and Elf Lord had to play the hero. Great.
“So these guys are after her, then?”
McGee’s soft laugh held no humor. “If they were after her, they would have brought a lot more firepower, trust me.”
Before Tony could respond, the headlights suddenly appeared in the rear view mirror and another round of gunfire shattered the back window. He felt a shock of pain in his right shoulder as another bullet struck home and groaned. He accelerated again, leaving the other car behind.
“Tony? Are you OK?”
“Fine. You’re going to owe me a new window. And probably a paint job.” His arm had gone numb and he was having trouble holding on to the wheel, but he fought to stay on the road. The edges of his vision started to darken and he felt the car drift to the right.
“Tony? Tony! LOOK OUT!”
The last thing he heard was his partner’s terrified scream as he plunged into darkness.
Erskin guided the van to a halt and surveyed the scene in front of him. The road curved off to the left, but an obvious damage path lay straight ahead where the other car had gone through. He got out the van and walked over to the edge of the path, searching for the vehicle, but there was nothing ahead, and all he could hear was the rush of water of the river below.
“You think that did it?” asked Goddard as he stepped up next to Erskin.
“Probably. If the crash didn’t get them, the river will. Hell, as fast as it’s going they’ll wind up miles from here. Might not even find them ‘til spring thaw.”
“We head back. Mission accomplished.”
“What about Willis?”
“We’ll put him in the kid’s car and torch it. It will take them days to figure out it’s not the kid, and we’ll be long gone by then.”
A freezing spray of water hit McGee in the face, causing him to sputter. Suddenly wide awake, he took in his surroundings. The car was still upright, but the strange swaying motion caused he stomach to clench.
Great, we’re in the river. Hell of a time to get seasick.
He turned to look at the driver’s seat. Tony was slumped over, held in place by his seatbelt. McGee reached out to touch his shoulder.
He raised his hand to check DiNozzo’s pulse and noticed the sticky residue now covering his palm.
He quickly placed two fingers on Tony’s neck and slumped in relief when he felt the slow but steady beat beneath.
Hang on Tony, I’ll get us out of this.
McGee wondered if he should wait for the car to drift to shore, but as a new sound reached his ears, he felt a rise of panic and quickly abandoned the idea. He knew that sound and the knowledge of what they were heading towards spurned him into action. If he didn’t get them out before they reached the falls, the thirty-foot drop would almost certainly kill them.
He reached into his coat and pulled out a knife, silently thanking Gibbs for his rules, and used it to cut through their seat belts. He then punched out the already broken windshield and pulled himself up onto the hood of the car, ignoring the biting cold that surrounded him. The car started to tip sickeningly and he froze, waiting for it to balance his weight.
He quickly surveyed the surroundings before pulling DiNozzo onto the hood of the car. Aiming for a downed tree that almost reached the center of the river, he slid into the water, dragging Tony with him. The shock of the cold water almost paralyzed him, but he fought the pain and managed to reach the tree with DiNozzo in tow. Using the tree as a brace, he made his way towards the shore and finally managed to drag himself and his partner up onto the bank. Shivering with exertion and cold, he checked Tony’s pulse again and was alarmed to find that it had slowed. He knew that if they didn’t get to safety soon, neither one of them would make it. He managed to position Tony over his shoulder in a Fireman’s Carry and, staggering a little under the weight of the older agent, McGee started towards the only safe haven available to him.
Goddard positioned Willis’ body behind the wheel of the Porsche and shut the door. It seemed like such a damn waste, torching a car like that, but it was a necessary evil. He turned to Erskin, who was stuffing a rag in the gas tank.
“All ready to go. Let’s give this guy his big send off. Poor bastard.” He saw Erskin shake his head in disgust before he pulled out a book of matches which he handed to Goddard.
“Knock yourself out.”
Grinning, Goddard lit the fuse and turned to run and was surprised to find a silent figure watching them from the edge of the woods. He raised his gun, but before he could pull the trigger he felt a strong push of air which drove him back towards the car. In that same instant the gas tank exploded. Goddard briefly wondered how the fire had gotten in front of him before the searing pain hit and his partner’s scream accompanied him into the blackness.
McGee sat back against the wall of his hideout, exhausted. He had made it there on pure will, the last of his reserves spent tending to DiNozzo after they had reached their destination. After the older agent was patched up, dressed in dry clothes, and bundled up in blankets before the small fire McGee had built, he tended to his own needs. Now he was warm and dry, but before he was able to rest, he checked on Tony. Satisfied that his partner would be OK for a few hours at least, he curled up near the fire and succumbed to the pull of sleep.
Abby placed the last of her samples in the auto-sampler of the gas chromatograph and pushed the start button with a sigh of relief. The peace and quiet afforded by the nearly deserted building had allowed her to get caught up with her work, and she could now go to bed with a clear conscience. She changed into her sleep clothes before returning to her computer and pulling up the program she had shown Tony earlier that evening. Satisfied that there was no one else was in the building that might need her, she grabbed Bert, curled up on her futon, and promptly fell asleep with a peaceful smile on her face.
Two hours later, the Marauder’s Map, already showing the building’s sleeping inhabitant, registered an intruder. On the screen, a bright red dot entered the bullpen and made its way to McGee’s desk where it stopped. It stayed there for ten minutes before moving across the bullpen again and disappearing at the elevator.
Gibbs strode into the bullpen, his annoyance barely concealed. In all his years living in the D.C. area, he had never figured out just what it was about snow that turned normal drivers into complete idiots. The aggravation of driving in winter traffic, in addition to the long wait for his morning coffee had put the senior agent in a dark mood. The absence of two of his agents certainly did not help, and the third member of his team received the brunt of his wrath.
“Where the Hell are DiNozzo and McGee?” he growled as he passed Ziva’s desk.
“I do not know,” she replied with a slight edge to her voice. “I have not heard from either of them since last night.” She glanced up at Gibbs and saw his expression. “I will call them.”
Gibbs sat down at his desk and picked up the phone, but before he could dial he was interrupted by Vance.
“Special Agent Gibbs, where is the rest of your team?”
“Working on figuring that out, Leon,” he answered before looking up. He paused when he saw Vance’s expression. “What’s going on?”
“We have had a security breach. It looks like someone looped the video feed for approximately fifteen minutes early this morning. The feed that was interrupted was for this area,” he said, indicating the bullpen.
“You don’t think they had anything to do with that?”
“No. But I do need to know what was affected. The network connections to this area were also blocked.”
“That explains why I cannot log on,” observed Ziva as she hung up the phone. “No answer from Tony, his home or cell phone.” She dialed another number and listened. “McGee’s cell is not working.” She tried one more number and waited again. “No answer at his home phone.”
“When did they leave last night?” asked Vance.
“McGee left right after Gibbs went to meet with you, Director. He said he had errands to run and wanted to finish before the weather turned bad. After McGee left, I believe Tony went to go speak to Abby and then left immediately after he returned from the lab. He did not say if he was going straight home.”
“I’ll need to speak with Miss Sciuto.” Vance turned to leave and Gibbs rose to follow him.
“Ziva, keep trying to reach DiNozzo and McGee,” Gibb called over his shoulder as he caught up with Vance. “What’s going on, Leon?” he asked as they entered the elevator.
“Need to know, Gibbs.”
“Hey, if it involves my people, then I need to know.”
“Fine. After we speak to Miss Sciuto.” Vance remained silent until they reached the lab.
When they arrived, Abby was already hard at work, pouring over results from the analyses she had run last night. She turned to them with a smile.
“Gibbs! Right on time, as usual. I just found--.” She paused when she saw that Gibbs had company. “Director Vance…I was just going to tell Gibbs that--.”
“Miss Sciuto,” he said, cutting her off. “I understand that you spent the night in the lab.”
“Uh, yes sir, I wanted to get caught up and—.”
“Were you here all night?”
“Yes…I worked until midnight and then I went to bed,” she said, pointing to the futon in her office.
“Was anyone else with you?”
“No. Tony stopped by earlier, but that was way before I turned in for the night.”
“What did Agent DiNozzo want?”
“He, uh…” She glanced at Gibbs. “He wanted to know about Tim…Agent McGee.”
“What did he want to know?”
“He wanted to know if McGee had a date or something, since he was acting…hinky.”
“Do you agents have a habit of monitoring each other’s social lives, Agent Gibbs?” Vance asked in an acerbic tone as he turned to the team leader.
“They’re investigators, Leon. It comes with the territory.”
“I see.” He turned back to Abby. “What else did you discuss, Miss Sciuto?”
“I, uh, showed him a program McGee wrote for me, and he wanted to track McGee to see where he went but I told him I wouldn’t help so he left. That’s it.”
“What program?” asked Gibbs. Abby sent him an embarrassed glance.
“Just a little tracking program, so I’d know where you all were while you were at work. It’s nothing big, really.”
“The Marauder’s Map,” muttered Vance. “Quite clever of Agent McGee. Let’s see it, Miss Sciuto.”
“How did you…?” A worried expression crossed Abby’s face before she turned and typed a few commands to bring up the Map. Now there were three dots in her lab, one in the bullpen, and two in the morgue.
“Just our team, Gibbs. That’s all.”
Before Gibbs could ask his next question, Vance stepped in front of the keyboard and started typing rapidly. Suddenly, several other dots appeared, some moving, and all the same color but with numbers attached. Vance nodded to himself and continued typing. Another window appeared, showing a similar picture to the first with the dots in different places. Gibbs leaned closer and saw a time and date stamp in the lower corner for the previous evening at the time he was in a meeting with Vance. He sent the director a curious look.
“Your boy isn’t the only one with skills, Gibbs.” Vance hit a few more keys and the time stamp started to move forward. They watched the different colored dots move through the yard. “Looks like DiNozzo left about fifteen minutes after McGee,” said Vance in a low voice. “Let’s hope he didn’t succeed in following him.”
“Why the hell not, Leon?” asked Gibbs, allowing his anger to show. “What have you gotten my agent involved in now?”
Vance ignored him and continued to watch the map as it sped through to midnight. The black dot in the lab moved to the office and remained still. As the time stamp ticked forward towards morning, nothing else moved. Then, as the time ticked over to 0200, a bright red dot appeared. Vance stiffened as it moved over to McGee’s desk and stayed.
“Who is that, Director?” asked Abby. “I don’t remember any of us getting that particular color.”
“It’s a burn phone. The program picks up unregistered numbers and records them.”
“How did they get inside in the first place?”
“Let’s find out.” He typed in a few commands and a number appeared beside the phone. He quickly jotted it down. “Tracking chip in a low-level employee ID: a janitor, most likely. Someone is giving him instructions over the phone.”
“Instructions for what?”
“We need to find out. Follow me. And bring the electronic scene kit, Miss Sciuto.” He turned and started for the elevator while Abby dashed to her office and grabbed a black case before following Vance. Gibbs took one last look at the strange map before following them.
“I’m asking you again, Leon. What the hell is going on?”
“A security breach, Agent Gibbs. It looks like the target was McGee’s workstation.”
“Any number of things. He is, after all, a well known computer forensics expert. Someone had a need to know what he’s been doing.”
“Don’t give me that crap, Leon. You’re using one of my team for one of your projects again. What was he working on for you this time?”
Vance was silent for several minutes. Finally, he responded. “Pest control.”
“Wait…you think we have another mole? Don’t tell me you suspect DiNozzo.”
“No, I don’t, but I’m afraid he may have compromised McGee’s status.”
Before he could answer the doors opened and Vance exited the elevator. He made his way over to McGee’s desk and turned to Abby.
“Find out what was done here.”
Abby set up the equipment for live data capture, donned a pair of latex gloves and bent over McGee’s keyboard. After a few minutes she stood up with a distressed look on her face. “It’s wiped clean, Director. Everything is gone.”
Vance pulled out his cell phone and quickly dialed a number. “Call the CyberCrime unit and have them trace all network traffic for last night and this morning, starting at 1800. Yes, I know how long that will take. Just do it.” He turned to Ziva. “Office David, please track down this employee and bring him to interrogation as soon as you find him.” He handed her the number he had written down earlier. “Miss Sciuto, see if there is any possible way to recover the data from McGee’s computer.” He opened his cell and dialed another number. “It’s Vance. My office, now.” He shut the phone and finally turned to Gibbs. “It’s time to read you in, Agent Gibbs. Follow me.”
Fuming, Gibbs followed the director to his office and slammed the door behind him. Before he could begin his intended tirade, Vance’s phone rang and he held up a hand to silence Gibbs before answering.
“Director Vance. Hello, Sheriff Morgan. Yes, we do. Why?” He listened and slowly sank into his chair, the anxiety in his expression growing the longer the person on the other end spoke. Finally he responded. “I want everything packed up as it was found and sent here ASAP. We’re taking over jurisdiction in this case. Yes, I’ll send the paperwork immediately. Make sure everything is intact. Nothing left behind, do you understand? Good.” He hung up the phone and rubbed a hand roughly over his face before looking at Gibbs.
The senior agent felt a chill in the pit of his stomach. “What case, Leon?”
The director did not immediately respond, but after a few minutes he sighed. “It looks like Agent DiNozzo was successful in following Agent McGee last night. It also appears that he managed to get both himself and your other agent killed.”
DiNozzo opened his eyes and blinked as he waited to adjust to the low light, then took in his surroundings. The ceiling above him was rough and appeared to be made of stone, and the walls curved downward towards an uneven packed dirt floor. It took him a few moments, but when he realized he was actually in a cave, he tried to sit up. The sudden attempted movement forced a low groan from his throat and he sank back to ground.
He turned opened his eyes to see McGee leaning over him, concern etched in his features.
“How are you feeling?”
“Bad enough to know I’m still alive. What happened?”
A flash of guilt crossed the younger agent’s face. “Those guys that were shooting at us chased us in your car. You got shot…again, and drove your car off the road into the river.”
“My car…crap. My insurance is going to go through the roof.” He heard McGee chuckle softly. “So how did we…you got us out? Where are we?”
“Yeah. Someplace safe. Best I could do, under the circumstances.”
“What is this place? It looks like a cave.”
“It’s an old hideout, once used by the Underground Railroad, later by moonshiners during Prohibition. This cave system is pretty extensive, but the obvious entrances have all been blocked off. Damn near impossible for someone to stumble on it if they don’t know about it to begin with.”
DiNozzo noticed that the younger man’s voice sounded hoarse during the short explanation and he finally took a good look at McGee. “You look like Hell, Probie.”
McGee was pale, with dark circles under his eyes, and he had a nasty-looking scrape over his right eye.
“Yeah, well, you should see the other guy. I, uh, patched you up the best I could. It’s not…as bad as you probably think, but I really couldn’t do much about the blood loss. That’s probably why you feel so bad. It’s going to take some time for you to get your strength back.”
McGee moved out of DiNozzo’s line of sight for a minute before returning with a cup. “Here, this should help a little.” He put his hand behind DiNozzo’s neck and helped him raise his head so he could drink. He sputtered at the strange taste.
“What the hell is that?”
“Just tea. You need to get some fluids in you.”
He took a few more sips and laid his head back down and turned towards McGee. It had made him feel better, despite his protest. “Thanks.”
McGee just nodded before moving over to what looked like an old-fashioned hearth to retrieve his own cup of tea and returning to sit cross-legged next to DiNozzo. He avoided the older agent’s gaze for several minutes before finally raising his head.
“I’m sorry, Tony. I guess I should have just told you I had a date or something so you wouldn’t have followed me. I never meant for you to get involved.”
DiNozzo let out a humorless chuckle. “Yeah, like that would have worked. You know you can’t lie worth a damn, McGee.” He looked up at his partner and was startled to see true anger in his expression.
“If that’s true, then why did you think I was a spy? And seriously, how could you even think I would purposefully do anything to hurt my team? Just because I was acting ‘hinky’…”
“It wasn’t just the way you were acting. It was…damn it, after all the crap that has gone down in the last few months, how could you go behind our backs and--.”
“And what? What did I do to make you think I had betrayed you?”
“That damn map…thing. That you made for Abby.”
“The Marauder’s Map? That’s what this is about? It’s just a harmless--.”
“It’s not harmless, McGee. Think what would happen if someone got a hold of it. They’d know exactly where we were if they wanted to take us out.”
McGee shook his head. “Don’t you think I would have thought of that? If anyone besides the three people who have approved access to it tries to use it, the program shuts down completely, and…”
McGee smirked slightly. “It insults the person who tried to use it.”
“Great, and pisses them off more. Wait…three people? Who else has access to it besides you and Abby?”
“There’s a little more to it than Abby knows about. Vance can use it to track people in case of a security breach. It was his idea, actually.”
“And you’re working for him, now. Which brings us back to the original problem: what are you involved in?”
“It doesn’t have anything to do with our team. Seriously, you don’t believe I can lie, you should know I’d never do anything to harm anyone on our team, especially Gibbs.”
“And yet you’re working with Trent Kort. How in the Hell could you ever work with someone like him? You know what he’s like.”
“He…it’s different this time, Tony. He has a personal interest in the project. We all do: Kort, Vance, and I.”
DiNozzo’s eyes widened in surprise. “What kind of project is this?”
“It’s…it’s a long story.”
“Well I don’t think I’m going anywhere.”
McGee shook his head. “No, I guess not.” He stopped, apparently lost in thought and it was several minutes before he began to speak.
“Officially, we are tracking interest in a drug that was supposedly developed by the CIA back in the 1960’s. Information about its potential has been ‘leaked’ and we’re using this as bait to catch certain terrorist groups. Vance is organizing the project, I do the computer work, and Kort is running interference for the CIA.”
“How is that of personal interest to any of you?”
“As I said, ‘officially’. The truth is the drug was not developed by the CIA, but by a smaller, lesser known organization within the government. The project was brought under fire in the early 1980’s and disbanded. Unfortunately, the group is making a comeback and they want to start developing and testing the same type of drug again. We intend to stop them. Permanently.”
“Still not seeing the connection here, Probie.”
McGee sighed. “When the original work was done, the first human trials were not done within the organization. They used college students, under the guise that it was part of a harmless drug trial. The students were told that they were to be given a mild hallucinogen, and half would receive a placebo. All of them were given the drug.”
“All of them died as a result of the study.”
“Wait. All of them? What the hell was this drug?”
“It was designed to increase certain mental abilities--.”
“They killed those kids trying to make them smarter? Seriously?”
“No, not smarter. I could show you the documentation…well, if I ever get back to where it’s hidden…but they were trying to promote psi abilities in the subjects.”
“Psi…you mean psychic? Telepathy, stuff like that?”
“Yes, and other abilities. They wanted to create soldiers with the power to fight with their minds. Look, I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. I’ve seen the proof, Tony. That group of students was murdered by their own government for the sake of this project.”
“Vance, Kort, and myself all had relatives in that group. Our family. Even though it happened a long time ago, we still remember. And to know that it could happen again…”
“I think I understand. So, this evil organization? What was it called?”
“It was called The Shop, and the drug was known as Lot Six."
A/N: Not really a cliffhanger, but the final key to the crossover. For those of you who are familiar with the book, this story is AU for it as well. For those of you who are not, the title will be posted with the next chapter, and a plot summary will be given as part of the story (with the AU elements included).
BTW, I grew up in the D.C. area. I know how bad y’all drive in the snow ;)
For those who didn't recognize the crossover book, it is Firestarter, by Stephen King.
It's exposition time...
"It looks like Agent DiNozzo was successful in following Agent McGee last night. It also appears that he managed to get both himself and your other agent killed."
Gibbs stared at Vance in shock, barely able to comprehend what the director had just said. Before Gibbs was able to form a coherent question, Vance picked up his phone and dialed.
"Mr. Palmer? Tell Dr. Mallard that I need to see him in my office, immediately. And Mr. Palmer? I need you to pull Agent DiNozzo's and Agent McGee's medical records. Yes, you heard me correctly." Vance hung up the phone and after a few moments of silence, slammed his fist on the desk.
The director's uncharacteristic display of anger startled Gibbs from his stunned silence.
"What the hell happened, Leon?" he managed to ask.
"The Virginia Highway Patrol found McGee's vehicle at a scenic outlook near the GW National Forrest. It had been torched, and there was a body in the driver's seat. They also found what appear to be human remains near the car, also badly burned. A few miles down the road, while investigating a possible accident where the car had gone off the road and into the river, they found DiNozzo's vehicle at the bank below the falls. It was a thirty foot drop, and the vehicle was totaled. No body recovered, but they are still searching. The local sheriff gave me a courtesy call and everything will be sent here for analysis. I will need to tell Ms. Sciuto... I hope she can handle it."
"Why was McGee even there in the first place?"
Vance sighed. "He was there to meet someone to exchange information. We have been trying to fly under the radar with this project, and the meetings seemed to be the best way to do that. Until DiNozzo got too curious for his own good."
"You are not blaming Tony for this! Why the cloak and dagger act? And who was McGee meeting?"
"Kindly keep your voice down, Gibbs. Trent Kort is one of the major players in the op. The others are…were myself and Agent McGee."
"You sent him to work with Kort? That conniving bastard? What the hell were you thinking, Leon?"
"I did not send him anywhere, Gibbs. McGee volunteered for this op. He was well aware of the risks. All of them. Officially, were working on an anti-terrorist project and Kort had the access were needed. I cut through the red tape, and McGee…did what he does best."
"I can't believe McGee would volunteer for anything after what happened the last time someone in this office used one of my agents for an 'op'. What the hell was so important? And what do you mean by 'officially'?"
Any further explanation was interrupted by the arrival of Ducky.
"You wished to see me, Director?" he asked as he was let into the office by Vance's secretary. He took one look at the expression on Gibbs' face and paled slightly. "I take it this has something to do with the task you gave Mr. Palmer."
"It does. The VHP will be bringing in two bodies for identification. We need to get it done as quickly as possible, and with complete discretion."
"I see. Can you tell me, Director, what sort of condition these bodies are in so that I may prepare the correct equipment for analysis?"
"They're burned, Dr. Mallard; one in a car fire and the other by unknown means."
"Understood. Would you also like me to inform Ms. Sciuto of any other evidence?"
"I'll take care of it, Dr. Mallard. Every resource we have will be available for this case, but it must be contained. No one outside this agency must know what has happened until we are certain of the cause."
"Of course, Director. The…case will receive my utmost attention and my best work."
"I would not have expected otherwise, Doctor. You are dismissed."
Ducky turned to Gibbs. "I am so sorry, Jethro. You have my deepest condolences. This…is a great loss for us all."
Gibbs barely managed a nod and Ducky left, looking ten years older than he had when he had entered the office. Gibbs turned his attention back to Vance.
"Well? What was the op?"
"The official project was a cover. What we were working on was potentially much more dangerous, particularly to those involved in the investigation."
"So why were you involved? What could be so important that you would take such a risk? That McGee would give up everything he's been taught?"
Vance turned and opened one of the cabinet doors to reveal a safe. He opened it and withdrew a thick folder which did not have any official insignia. "I think you will have to see this to understand, Gibbs. This folder cannot leave this room, and you cannot mention to anyone that you have seen it. Given the circumstances, I don't have the power to protect you if that should happen."
"You mean I'll end up like McGee and DiNozzo, because of what's in that file?"
"Very likely, I'm afraid. But since you feel you need to know, it's the best I can do."
Gibbs accepted the folder and carried it over to the table. After receiving a final nod from Vance, he opened it and began to read.
"So, this evil organization? What was it called?"
"It was called The Shop, and the drug was known as Lot Six."
McGee had lapsed into silence after that last revelation and Tony started to go over what he had said. The idea that some government organization would murder kids for the sake of some crazy experiment sickened him and, knowing how much family meant to McGee, understood why he wanted to stop the group, especially if they were planning on doing it again. But there was something that was missing…
"I'm guessing there was more to this than just one experiment."
McGee met his gaze and sighed. "Yeah, there was more to it. A lot more."
"You want to tell me about it?"
"Not…not really, but I since you're kind of caught in the middle of all this, I guess I owe you."
Tony chuckled. "I think it's me that owes you right now, Probie, but yeah, I want to know the whole story."
"Okay…" McGee got up to put a couple of logs on the fire. He then refilled both of their mugs and helped Tony drink some more tea before he sat back down next to the older agent.
"I told you that all the people in the test group died as a result. Not all of them died right away, though. The ones who survived the longest were Vicki Tomlinson and…Andy McGee."
Tony nodded. Probie's relative. Got it.
"They, uh, started seeing each other after the experiment. Dating. Eventually it became serious and they got married. What they didn't know right away was that The Shop was keeping an eye on them, mainly to monitor the effects of the drug, but the fact that they got married, and might have children, interested the scientists even more."
"Did they have…sorry. Were there any after effects?"
"Yes. Vicki developed mild telekinesis. She could do little things like turn off light switches from across the room, shut windows and doors, stuff like that. It gave her a headache if she used the abilities, though."
"What about Andy?"
"His ability was a lot stronger, and a little harder to explain. Apparently he referred to it as 'The Push'. He could influence peoples' thoughts and, uh, cause them to do something just by telling them to do it. His ability caused him severe headaches and nosebleeds if he used it too much."
"Did they know what each other could do?"
"Yes, and they did figure out the reason for it. They were very careful to avoid bringing attention to themselves and lived normally. Well, until their daughter was born."
"So they did have kids. What happened? Was she like them?"
"Charlene, 'Charlie' for short, had her own ability. She did have some of her mother's telekinesis, but her main ability was much stronger than either of her parents', with no ill affects. At least, not to her, usually…"
"What could she do?"
"She had pyrokinesis."
"Pyro…she was a firestarter?"
McGee chuckled, but there was no humor in it. "Yeah, she was. Her ability started to manifest when she was just seven months old and she set her own hair on fire. Her parents were terrified, not knowing for sure what had happened, but as she grew older it became more evident. When she was two, she set her mother's hands on fire, and Vicki was only saved because they were in the kitchen at the time and she had a sink full of water to put them out. After that, they seriously started training their daughter to not use her ability."
"Yeah, I guess so."
"Eventually they did teach her control. What they didn't know was that The Shop knew about her and was planning on taking her away from them eventually.
In the meantime, they continued on with their lives, and everything was fine until Vicki got pregnant again. They seriously considered not having the second child, but eventually decided to go through with it. When Charlie was just a little over five years old, Vicki gave birth to their second child, a son they named Adam."
"I'm almost afraid to ask."
McGee smiled weakly. "He appeared to be completely normal. He showed no sign of any ability, certainly not as obvious as Charlie's, and by the time he was almost three they thought they could relax. They had worried how Charlie would react, but she loved her brother and doted on him."
"So what happened?"
"The Shop decided it was time to take Charlie and Adam away from their parents. They…found Vicki at home, alone, while Charlie and Adam were at a friend's house and Andy was at work. They…tortured her to find out where the children were. Andy came home from work early and found her bound and gagged, stuffed into the laundry room closest. Some of her fingernails had been pulled out, and she was dead." McGee paused, obviously struggling to continue. "It might have been an accident, but…Andy went to find the children and encountered the men from The Shop. He…'pushed' them, and managed to get the kids back, but he had to leave everything behind and he ran."
"Oh God…" Tony had seen torture victims and he felt a surge of anger that someone would do that to a young, innocent mother.
"When The Shop finally did manage to catch up to them about six months later, it was only Andy and Charlie. Andy told them that Adam was dead – drowned while they were going through one of the national parks. They checked, and they found the body where Andy said he had buried Adam."
"I'm sensing a 'but'…"
"The Shop has never known that the child they found was not Adam. His father placed him with another family, and he escaped what his sister and father experienced at the hands of The Shop."
"Wait…how did he manage that one?"
McGee was silent, the look on his face uncharacteristically unreadable. Finally he continued. "I'm not condoning what he did, not at all, but I think…I think I understand it. When they were in the park, Andy ran across another couple who had just lost their child; he had managed to wander away from the campsite. Andy helped the couple search, and he was the one who found the boy's body. He was about the same age as Adam, and apparently they looked enough alike…I guess he was still a bit crazy after losing his wife, and he knew he'd never be able to stay ahead of The Shop with two kids. He knew he couldn't abandon Charlie…but he apparently decided that his normal child could have a chance. He took Adam to the couple and made them believe he was their own child, and he buried their son in Adam's place. The Shop never found out what he had done."
Tony felt sick. On one hand, he was horrified that a father had abandoned his own son and manipulated another family, but on the other...
"What did The Shop do to them when they caught them?"
"They separated them, and kept Andy drugged so he wouldn't pose a danger. They knew that her father's influence was what kept Charlie from using her ability, so they removed that influence. Then they hired someone to trick her into using her pyrokinesis so they could run tests. The man, John Rainbird, posed as a janitor and…conned a terrified and lonely little girl into allowing The Shop to use her as a lab rat."
"And I hope that bastard burns in Hell," muttered Tony.
"Close," said McGee, and Tony's eyes widened.
"The Shop became afraid of their creation; she was way more powerful than they had ever imagined. They believed that she was too dangerous and had the ability to destroy the entire planet. They were planning on eliminating her and her father. In the mean time, Andy was able to stop taking the drugs without them realizing, and he planned their escape. He manipulated the head of the project into letting Charlie see him, but Rainbird figured it out and killed Andy. Shot him. Charlie then turned her ability on Rainbird and basically immolated him. Before Andy died, he told her everything, and made her promise to make them pay. She destroyed the entire compound, burned it to the ground."
"Her father had told her that people needed to know what had happened. She went to the press, the story received national attention, and The Shop was officially disbanded. Charlie went into hiding and has not officially been seen since. The government believes that she is dead."
"But she's not, is she?" McGee shook his head. "She's your contact." He nodded. "Damn, Probie…"
"She told me the whole story. I'm one of the few in a select group of people she trusts."
"And that's why you were warning me, back at the overlook. You were afraid she would see me threatening you, and-?"
"Yeah. She, uh, still has a bit of a temper."
McGee chuckled again, this time with a hint of humor.
"So what now?"
"The Shop is starting back up. We have some proof, but not enough, and not enough of the details. We don't know where their new facility is located, or exactly how many people are involved. I guess I…well, Charlie and I, are on our own now. I'll get you back home, Tony, but from here on out-."
"You're not on your own. I'm helping, and that's that. Well, as soon as I can actually stand up, count me in."
"Hey, they wrecked my car! That's worth an ass-kicking right there."
McGee shook his head at first and after a pause, smiled and finally nodded. "Thanks, man. Now get some sleep. We'll figure out our next move after you're feeling better."
"You still don't look so hot yourself, Tim." McGee looked up in surprise at the concern in Tony's voice. "You need to rest, too."
"Got it. And Tony…thanks."
"Hey, we'll be like Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts in Conspiracy Theory."
"Yeah, sure, whatever you say, Tony." McGee crawled over to his sleeping bag and lay down.
Tony closed his eyes and tried to relax, but everything he had been told buzzed through his mind. It was horrible, the things that had been done, innocents murdered, almost a whole family destroyed…
Eventually something started to nag at him, some missing piece. Finally he realized what it was. He opened his eyes and looked at McGee, who appeared to be asleep.
"Yeah?" he asked sleepily without even opening his eyes.
"Whatever happened to Adam?"
McGee's eyes snapped open. "What do you mean?"
"I mean…well, you said The Shop never found him. Did anyone? We could probably use another ally in this, and…does he even know?"
McGee didn't answer immediately and after several moments had passed, Tony thought he had fallen asleep. Finally he answered.
"Charlie tracked him down. She found him when he was twelve years old, almost thirteen. She managed to talk to him alone and told him the whole story. So yeah, he knows."
"How did he react? Would he help us?"
"He, uh, wanted to help, but Charlie convinced him to stay with his adopted family and try to live a normal life."
"Did he? Do you even know where he is now?"
"Yeah, he did, for the most part. He went to college and eventually decided to get into law enforcement. He graduated from FLETC and went on to get a job with a
"Seriously? Which office?"
"The Navy Yard."
"You're kidding…do I know him? I'm guessing he doesn't go by 'Adam'."
"Yes, you know him, and no, only his sister calls him 'Adam'."
"Well Probie, don't keep me in suspense! What's his name?"
There will be a flashback later in the chapter of an important meeting, and for those of you who have been wondering if McGee has any psi abilities, you’ll get at least a partial answer ;)
Ziva raised her fist to knock on the apartment door and paused. She was fairly sure that the employee she had been asked to bring in was home, as his car was in his parking spot in front of the building. What she didn’t know was if he was alone or armed. After a brief hesitation, she moved to the side of the door and called out.
“Malcolm Green? NCIS. I need to speak to you.” She waited, and when there was no response, she tried to turn the doorknob. To her surprise, it opened easily. She pushed the door inward and listened.
“Mr. Green?” she called again and was met with silence. She edged inside and stopped as she caught a whiff of an all too familiar smell. She cursed softly and carefully moved deeper into the apartment. After clearing the small living room and kitchen, she moved to the bedroom, where the sour, metallic scent of blood was stronger. She glanced at the bed and checked the rest of the room before lowering her weapon and reaching for her cell phone. She quickly dialed a number and waited.
“This is Ziva. We have a problem.”
“The janitor that Director Vance asked me to track down and bring in: I am at his apartment and he is dead. Very dead.”
She heard Gibbs relay the information to someone, presumably the director. After a few moments, he returned.
“We’re calling in another team. Wait for them and get back here as soon as possible.”
“What about Tony and McGee? Have they shown up yet?” Silence. “Gibbs?”
“They…we think they’re on their way here.”
“You are not sure?”
“Ziva…” She heard a sigh and when Gibbs spoke again it was much softer. “The Virginia Highway Patrol is bringing them in. Ducky will have to confirm it.”
Ziva froze, unable to believe what Gibbs has just implied.
“They…they are...? No, they cannot be--.”
“Just get back here as soon as you can, and watch your back. Understood?”
Slowly she snapped the phone shut and leaned against the bedroom wall. She tried to wrap her mind around it, but she couldn’t, not yet. She couldn’t believe that the two men she had known for over three years, with whom she had argued, sometimes flirted, and had often counted on were suddenly gone.
She glanced at the battered, bloody body on the bed again and drew in a deep breath.
“This…is just the beginning of what I will do to the ones responsible…just the beginning.”
Gibbs put his phone away and turned his attention to the director. Vance was making the necessary calls, and his voice maintained its usual calm, but Gibbs could tell the man was deeply disturbed by this newest development. Immediately after Vance finished the final call, his phone rang.
“Yes? Send him in.”
Gibbs was only slightly surprised to see Trent Kort enter the room a few moments later. Kort met Gibbs gaze with his usual smirk, but the lead agent could see that the summons had worried the normally unflappable CIA agent.
“Leon, Gibbs. What can I do for you?” He noticed the folder spread out in front of Gibbs and paused.
“I need the details of your meeting last night,” replied Vance.
“Are you certain these details are suitable for…certain audiences?”
“Agent Gibbs is being read in. This concerns him, too.”
“May I ask why?”
“After your report.”
Kort sighed. “Fine. We met, exchanged data, and went our separate ways.”
“Did you notice anything out of the ordinary?”
“If I had, the meeting would not have taken place. Now what is going on? Where is…my usual contact?”
“He never made it back. The state police found his car at the meeting place with a body in the front seat. It had been torched.”
Gibbs saw the briefest flash of fear in Kort’s eyes. After a moment the man was able to collect himself and continue.
“How was the location compromised?”
“He was followed, by another member of his team, who was also apparently followed.”
“Don’t tell me--.”
“Said member’s vehicle was recovered from the river, a few miles from the meeting place.”
“Damn…” Kort glanced at Gibbs. “And now?”
“It’s probably a good time for you to take a vacation. As of this moment I am officially calling a halt to the project.”
Kort nodded. “Understood. I will inform my superiors that the op has been suspended pending investigation.” He again glanced at Gibbs. “As for the rest…?”
“As I said, Agent Gibbs is being read in. We will keep you informed.”
“Thank you, Director.” He turned to Gibbs. “My condolences, Agent Gibbs.” Without another word, he turned and left the office.
“What the hell, Leon?” Gibbs asked as Vance slowly sank into his chair. “This is bad enough to worry Kort.” He glanced down at the folder in front of him. He had only managed to read through a few pages before Ziva had called. “What am I going to find in here?”
“Agent Kort was not worried, Gibbs. He was afraid, and rightly so. These people we are up against…some of the worst I have ever encountered.”
“And yet you sent one of my agents out as bait.”
“He wasn’t bait, Gibbs. They were never even supposed to know about him.” Vance sighed. “I am sorry, but after you finish, I think you will know why we were doing this.”
“I’d better,” muttered Gibbs as he once again returned his attention to the stack of documents in front of him.
"Well Probie, don't keep me in suspense! What's his name?"
McGee waited for Tony’s response. He had been dreading this revelation ever since the other agent had shown up at the meeting place. He had known then that his attempts to deflect were for nothing and DiNozzo would eventually learn everything. He just hoped he could deal with the fallout.
The older agent simply stared at him, speechless. McGee remembered the first time he had managed to have that effect and barely concealed a smile, despite the racing of his own heart.
“Gee, Tony, I haven’t seen you that surprised since I told you I got a tattoo so I could go out with Abby,” he said, hoping a little levity might diffuse the situation and help calm his own anxiety as well.
Finally Tony responded. “You…you’re…?”
“Yes. I’m really Adam, but I grew up as Tim.”
“But you…have the same last name.”
McGee almost laughed. “Despite what Gibbs thinks, coincidences do sometimes exist.”
“But you…why didn’t you tell me?”
“My last chance to invoke Rule Number Four, I guess.” McGee sighed. “Besides, it’s not something that’s easy to bring up in conversation…and not something I like even thinking, much less talking about.” The guilt that he had lived with ever since he had learned the truth surged to the surface and he barely managed to keep his voice even. “I had a normal childhood while my sister…” He couldn’t continue. Charlie had only told him a small part of her existence before and after The Shop had invaded their lives. She had told him it wasn’t his fault, but the guilt remained.
“Damn…so you…found all this out when…your sister found you?”
“Yeah. It was a few weeks before my thirteenth birthday…”
Tim paused to catch his breath and waited for his pursuers to pass his hiding place. The cement culvert tunnel that hid him from view was still damp from recent rains, and smelled of rotten vegetation and something else he didn’t even want to think about, but it provided good cover, and he’d rather deal with the smell than another thrashing by the group that had chosen him as their favorite target. He was younger than everyone else in his grade, having already skipped one grade level, and small for his age. He had learned quickly that flight was a far better option than to fight, and had systematically identified the best hiding places in the area, as well as the best paths to avoid the attention of his tormentors.
When he was sure the coast was clear, he emerged from the tunnel and climbed out of the ditch. He breathed a sigh of relief as was about to head home when he was brought up short by a voice.
He turned around and found himself face to face with a girl, once who looked like she could be a high school senior. He blushed and stepped back, averting his eyes as his inherent shyness took over.
“What were you doing down there?”
His blush deepened. He stole a glance at the girl and noted that she was rather pretty. He also got the sense that she was somehow familiar.
“I, uh…I was…”
“There were s-some other b-boys, uh, ch-chasing me.”
“Who knows?” he said angrily as he felt tears burn his eyes. “I’m the little geek, easy target, so why not?” He glanced up at her and saw concern in her green eyes…eyes quite similar to his own. “I…sorry. Not your problem, is it?” He took another look at her and blurted out the question that had suddenly popped into his mind. “Do I know you? I mean…are we…related?”
She smiled. “Yes, we are…Adam.”
He frowned in confusion. “I’m Tim, not…not Adam.”
A hurt expression briefly crossed her face before she spoke again. “We need to talk.”
“I…I think you have me confused with someone else.” He tried to back away, but the feeling of familiarity he got when he looked at her would not go away. “Don’t you?”
“No. I know who you are, even if you don’t.”
“We can’t talk here. Come on.” She grabbed his wrist and started to walk towards the nearby woods.
Alarm bells went off in Tim’s head and he pulled back, breaking her grasp. She turned to him in surprise as he started to back away.
“Did…did someone p-put you up t-to this, to s-set me up f-for something? Was it Brad? He h-hates me…”
She stepped closer and looked him straight in the eye. “I would never hurt you. I swear on my life. Please, just come with me and I will explain everything. Please A…Tim. Trust me.”
He met her gaze and suddenly a strange picture popped into his head, one that felt like a memory, of this girl, much younger, asking him to trust her. He shook his head to clear it and finally nodded. “Okay…” He followed her to the woods and when they had reached a clearing within, she led him to a large log and they both sat down, facing each other.
The girl closed her eyes for a moment before she looked directly at Tim and started to speak in a low voice.
“I swear, everything I am about to tell you is the truth. I won’t lie to you, no matter how much I wish I could, okay?”
“W-what do you need to tell me?”
She took a deep breath and began. “My name is Charlene Roberta McGee, ‘Charlie’ for short. My parents were Victoria Tomlinson McGee and Andrew McGee. I have a brother. He…he’s sitting right in front of me.”
“I…you think I’m your brother?”
“I know you are. Your real name is Adam Isaac McGee. You were adopted by the man and woman you call your parents when you were barely three years old.”
“I’m adopted?” Denial screamed in Tim’s head, and yet he couldn’t deny the girl…Charlie’s sincerity.
“You are. Our mother…died, and our father, he…he wanted to find a safe place for you.”
“S-safe? Why wouldn’t I have been safe with him? Why weren’t we adopted together?”
“Because I… because you were…normal. I couldn’t be left with anyone else.”
“N-n-normal? What do you mean? Why aren’t you--?”
Charlie broke eye contact and looked away. She blinked a few times and took another deep breath before turning back to Tim. “This is harder than I thought it would be. I…I have certain abilities. Our parents had abilities, too. They were…part of an experiment and as a result they could, uh, do certain things with their minds, things other people can’t do. You…never showed any sign of having any of those sorts of abilities.” Her expression hardened as she looked directly into his eyes. “You don’t have any now, do you?”
“No! That’s crazy! You’re crazy!” He tried to stand but she grabbed his wrists and held him still.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to… It’s okay. It’s okay…” She gently rubbed his arms in apology. “And I’m not crazy. I told you, I won’t lie to you. Please believe that.”
Tim managed to calm himself, barely. “What…what could they do?”
“Do you know what telekinesis is?”
“Moving things with your mind. Like Jane Grey in the X-Men comics.”
Charlie smiled faintly. “Yes, like that. Our mother could do that. I inherited that ability from her.” She turned to look at something to her right and Tim followed her gaze. He saw a rather large branch rise from the ground, spin in a circle, and sink back down again.
“You…you did that?” She nodded. “Uh…wow.”
She chuckled softly and continued. “Our father had the ability to control a person’s mind, make them do things or believe things. I…a few years ago, I developed that ability as well.” She caught his expression and smiled. “And no, I’m not using it on you right now to make you believe, I promise.”
“Oh. Uh, can you…?”
“You really want me to?”
“Okay.” She closed her eyes. “Stand up.”
Tim felt a strange sensation. His limbs seemed to act on their own accord as he rose to his feet. Wide-eyed, he looked down at Charlie. Her eyes were still closed and her forehead was wrinkled in concentration.
“Stand on one foot,” she said, and again he felt that strange sensation as his right foot rose in the air. Charlie then opened her eyes and looked up at him.
“Convinced?” Shakily, he nodded. “You can stop, now.”
Tim lowered his foot as he regained control and sank back down on the log.
“That was not fun,” he whispered.
“Gives me a bit of a headache, too,” confessed Charlie as she rubbed her temples.
“What else?” Tim managed to ask.
“That’s all out parents could do, and those are my weakest abilities. My strongest is…well, it’s pretty scary.” She stood and walked to the center of the clearing. “Stand back.”
Tim backed away to the far edge of the clearing. As he watched, the same branch he had seen move before rose again. A breeze stirred the still air, and suddenly, the branch burst into flame before falling to the earth. It burned brightly for a few moments before a mound of loose earth shifted and smothered it. The breeze died out and he looked up at Charlie in wonder.
“Y-you can start fires?”
“It’s called pyrokinesis. I’ve been able to do it since I was a baby, and sometimes it got out of control. I did quite a bit of damage before I learned to control it.” She returned to the log and sat down as Tim did the same. “So you see, it wouldn’t have been a good idea to put me with the same family.”
Tim nodded. He had almost forgotten about that, but now he remembered his other question.
“Why did I need to be somewhere safe? Were you…a danger to me?”
“No, it wasn’t me that our father was worried about.”
“He wanted you to be safe from the people who had done the experiment…the people who murdered our mother.”
“Murdered! You said she--.”
“She died. Yes, while trying to keep those people from taking us. Our father managed to get us back, and then we all had to run away from everything we had. He…he managed to hide you, but they did catch us, eventually.”
“How did you get away? And what happened to…our father?”
Tim listened, horrified, while Charlie told him the whole story. When she finished, he could barely contain his anger.
“How? How could they do that?”
“I don’t know. What I do know is that they won’t be doing it again. And if they do…”
“I want to help. I don’t want them to ever do anything like that again.”
“No. Adam…Tim, you have a good family. I know, I checked. You can have a good, normal life. I…shouldn’t have told you all of this, I hadn’t intended to, and…it was selfish. I really just wanted to see you, to tell you that you’re my brother, and I guess I just got caught up in everything and…I’m sorry.”
“You don’t have to be sorry. I’m sorry you’ve been alone. But you’re not any more.”
Charlie leaned forward and wrapped her arms around Tim, and after a moment he returned the embrace.
“You have no idea how long I’ve waited to do that,” she whispered.
Tim closed his eyes as he tried to grasp everything he had learned. Finally he decided that no matter what had happened or would happen, he knew he had something very important: family.
“Wow,” said Tony when McGee finished his story. “That must have been…majorly weird.”
Tim chuckled. “Probably one of the strangest days of my life.”
“So you pretty much know the rest. Now seriously, you need to rest. I’ll try to get us out of here as soon as you’re feeling up to it, but that won’t happen until you at least get some sleep, okay?”
“You had to deal with all that. It must have been--.”
“Not your fault. And I’m…okay. Really. Now go to sleep.” McGee closed his own eyes and waited for the other agent’s breathing to even out, indicating that he was finally asleep.
When he heard Tony’s soft snores, he relaxed a little. There would be no more questions to answer for awhile at least. As he started to drift off himself, he thought back to what he had said to Tony about that day.
Probably one of the strangest days of my life.
And it had been, learning about his real family and their abilities created by one long-ago experiment.
It still didn’t compare with the day that had immediately followed, when he had discovered he had abilities of his own.
Gibbs slowly closed the folder and leaned back in his chair as he rubbed a hand over his face. He was glad that Vance was out of the room because he wasn’t sure how he would react to the man’s presence, or anyone’s for that matter. What he had read in that file had angered him, sickened him and, he was forced to admit, terrified him. The idea that such a project could exist was bad enough, but the confirmation of its results was even worse. He was familiar with the “collateral damage” and “greater good” ideas that the government was so fond of pushing, but he could see no “good” in any of this…
He picked up the DVD that had been included in the folder and examined it before inserting it into the drive of the laptop Vance had provided at some point and unnoticed at the time. He cued up the video and watched the first experiment to test Charlene McGee’s abilities.
“Woodchips. They should have given me something harder.”
Gibbs couldn’t help but smile at the girl’s softly spoken comment, evidence that her spirit hadn’t been completely crushed by her imprisonment. The smile was soon wiped from his face as he watched the small pile of chips burst into flame. Reading about it was one thing, but actually seeing that power manifested...Gibbs felt an uncomfortable churning in his gut, a sensation associated with only one thing: fear. He continued to watch the documentation of further experiments, and when he saw that little girl immolate a cinder block wall, he reached out and snapped the laptop shut, unable to watch any more.
“Impressive, wasn’t she?”
He turned to Vance, who for once had managed to sneak up on him. “That’s not the word I’d use, Leon. Why in the Hell would anyone ever think this was a good idea? They gave that little girl the ability to—“
“’Crack the planet in two like a plate in a shooting gallery’. Yes, I know, I read the reports, and the speculation. I almost feel ashamed to admit that I think we’re very lucky that threat no longer exists… but we need to keep it that way. This project must never be allowed to start up again. Ever.”
Gibbs studied the other man for a moment before asking the question he’d been wanting to ask since he had started to read the contents of that folder. “What’s your stake in all this, Leon? Why’d you get involved? Why did McGee get involved? Or Kort?”
“You read the details of the first trial conducted on college students. My…” He took a deep breath. “My mother’s sister was one of those students. She took her own life soon afterwards, but before she did she managed to tell my mother what had happened. My mother…she was never the same afterwards. On her death bed, she told me about it, and made my promise I’d get justice for Sonia.” Vance shook his head, a rueful smile playing across his lips. “I didn’t even believe it until I did some digging, and what I found…let’s just say it made a believer out of me.”
“So McGee and Kort? They had relatives in that group, too?”
“Andrew McGee was a distant cousin of McGee’s, and Kort’s half brother was another test subject.”
“I understand why McGee would volunteer. I know how he is about family, but Kort doesn’t strike me as the sentimental type.”
“I think he might surprise you, Gibbs.”
“Well yeah, Leon, that’s what I’m afraid of!”
Vance sighed. “Kort is ruthless and is willing to bend the rules to suit his needs, it’s true, but I think he has been influenced by his connection to this project. He knows all too well what the people he has to deal with are capable of.”
“I still don’t trust him.”
“That’s your pejorative, Gibbs, but in this case I think you’re going to have to accept the ‘enemy of my enemy’ idea in regards to the man.”
Gibbs snorted. “Don’t think I’ll ever see him as a ‘friend’, Leon.” His attention returned to the folder on the table in front if him. “So now what?”
“We tread carefully, and wait to see what he turns up. In the meantime, you have an investigation to run. We need to know what happened up on that mountain.”
“Especially if it leads you to the people in charge of that project,” Gibbs retorted, his anger once again rising to the surface.
“So you can get justice for DiNozzo and McGee. Anything else is secondary.”
Gibbs shook his head and let out a low, humorless chuckle. “Whatever you say, Leon.” He rose and walked out the door without a backward glance. His team needed him, but when the investigation was over…it would be time for someone to pay.
Ziva stood near the wall of the evidence garage, watching the technicians document the two large, twisted objects that had recently been delivered by the Virginia Highway Patrol investigators. She could hardly believe that these wrecks had been the treasured vehicles of her two teammates, just as she could not believe that the remains of those two teammates were currently being examined in autopsy. She had tried to push the anguish from her mind, to do her job and not let the people here see her pain, but she barely managed to do so. She had lost far too many people that were important to her during her lifetime, and despite the assurances of her Mossad compatriots, it never got any easier. She had become more adept at hiding it, but this time…
She heard the elevator doors open behind her and turned to see Gibbs step through the doors and into the evidence garage. He stopped to stare at the activity before him and Ziva saw a rare flash of pain cross his features before he turned his attention to her.
“Ziva, are you OK?”
“I am…” She couldn’t finish the lie. She was not fine, but she couldn’t show it. “What do we know?”
“Not much. Hoping Abby can find something in all this.” He looked around, obviously expecting to see the forensic scientist among the group working on the evidence.
“She went back to the lab to do some tests. She said…she does not believe the…bodies found were Tony or McGee, but…”
Gibbs pulled Ziva into a brief one-armed hug. “Understood, Ziva.”
“Gibbs, I…what are we going to do?”
“We’re going to find the bastards who did this.”
“And then?” She saw another flash of pain, and immediately felt ashamed. “I am sorry, Gibbs, I…”
Gibbs merely nodded before returning to the elevator. Once he was gone, Ziva stepped into the shadows of the garage, hoping no one would see the tears that, despite her best efforts, had started to fall.
Ducky glanced up at the sound of the autopsy doors sliding opened and allowed a rueful smile to cross his face before addressing their visitor.
“I’ve barely begun, Jethro.” He looked over at his assistant, who sent his mentor an almost grateful look.
“I’ll just…go take these samples up to Abby.” Palmer beat a hasty retreat and the M.E. returned his attention to the other living occupant of the room. Gibbs was staring silently at the remains on Ducky’s table with an expression that few saw, although Ducky had seen on far too many occasions for his liking.
“What can you tell me, Duck?”
“A bit more after I examine the x-rays,” he said, and went to retrieve the newly-developed films. When he returned, Gibbs had moved to the other table to examine what Palmer had been working on: the almost completely burned and jumbled collection of remains from the area near the car. Ducky silently placed the films on the light box and flipped the switch. His eyebrows shot up in surprise when he saw the small white mass in the chest area. Gibbs apparently noticed his reaction and walked over to see what had captured the M.E.’s attention.
“Is that what I think it is?”
“We shall see, Jethro,” Ducky grimly replied and returned to his table. He found the area on the body that corresponded to the area he had examined on the x-ray. “It appears that there is an entrance wound. Ti...whoever this is was shot, and from the angle I’d have to say it occurred before…the body was placed in the vehicle.”
“They were covering their tracks.”
“It appears so.”
“So what about...” he tilted his head towards the other table.
“I don’t know, Jethro. What I do know is that the condition of those remains could only have been caused by a very hot fire, over 1000 degrees Celsius. Even in a retort, it would take several hours. I sent Abigail some samples to test for accelerants, so hopefully that will provide us with additional information.” He looked down at the body in front of him. “Once I retrieve the bullet, I’ll send it up to Abigail immediately. Although if this was a professional hit…”
“The gun won’t be in the database. Anything else?” Before Ducky could respond the doors slid open again and Palmer returned, a stricken expression on his face. He came to a halt when he saw that Gibbs was still present.
“Uh, sorry, I…”
“Return to your task, Mr. Palmer.”
Jimmy went back to his table and started carefully separating the delicate pieces of bone from the pile and placing them in anatomical position. Gibbs and Ducky moved to the far side of the room to continue their conversation.
“Jethro, can you tell me anything else about the circumstances surrounding…” He waved a hand in the general direction of the bodies.
“Right now Duck, it’s better that you don’t know.” Ducky gestured upward and Gibbs nodded. Ducky swore softly.
“I am sorry, Jethro. I am holding out hope that these remains are not those of Timothy and Anthony, but…”
“I know, Duck. I know. I better go check on Abby. Figure I’ll be there for awhile, so…”
“I’ll know where to find you if I discover anything else.”
After the agent had left, Ducky returned to his table and picked up a scalpel.
“What other secrets can you reveal today, my young friend?”
Gibbs stood in the doorway and watched Abby dash around the lab, completely absorbed in her task. Other than the sounds of Abby’s heels hitting the floor as she ran back and forth and the normal ambient sounds of the instruments at work, the lab was quiet. The music which usually blared through the small space was gone, as was Abby’s cheerful chatter. Grim determination and barely hidden grief had silenced the woman in a way that worried Gibbs. Finally, after she had placed the latest batch of samples in Major Mass Spec, he tried to get her attention.
She spun around and launched herself into his open arms, hugging him tightly as she started to speak.
“It’s not them, Gibbs. I know it’s not, it just can’t be, not after we got the team back together again, we can’t lose so much of our family, not again, not like this!”
“No, Gibbs! I won’t accept it. No…”
Gibbs sighed. It would be bet to just let her focus on the case. He would have to deal with the rest later. “What do ya got for me, Abbs?”
She released him and walked over to her computer to pull up images of the destroyed Porsche Boxster. “From what I can see so far, it looks like the gas tank exploded and the fire spread from that direction. I need to go back and check again for any evidence of another source of ignition, but—“
“—they probably stuffed a rag in the gas tank and set it on fire.”
“Most likely. As for the other car, most of the damage looks like it’s from the river, except for this.” She pulled up a photo of a perfectly round hole in the trunk lid.
“Correct. I’m sure I’ll find more once I get down there and examine the car myself. Hopefully I’ll be able to recover some bullets and we’ll be able to track down the guys that totaled Tim and Tony’s cars. They’re gonna be so mad when they find out…”
“No, Gibbs. They’re not dead. I won’t accept it. You didn’t give them permission to die, so they didn’t.”
Gibbs decided to try a different subject. “Did you get anything from McGee’s computer?”
“No. I tried, but when the other evidence came in, Vance sent it down to Cybercrimes. He’s overseeing their work, though.”
Before Gibbs could say something he no doubt would later regret, Palmer arrived with another evidence jar.
“Abby, Dr. Mallard says--.” He caught sight of Gibbs and paused. “Uh…he said you need to examine this. It’s a bullet from…one of the bodies downstairs.”
Silently Abby took the evidence jar from Palmer and signed the evidence form before retreating to the ballistics lab. Palmer quickly excused himself and left, leaving Gibbs alone in the main section of the lab. The lead agent watched the activity in the other section for a few minutes before heading for the elevator, his thoughts on his two missing agents.
Gibbs arrived in the bullpen to find all of the desks, empty. Ziva was apparently still supervising the evidence collection from the vehicles, so Gibbs went to his own desk and started to read through the notes the VHP had provided on the case.
An hour passed before Ziva returned from the garage with her own stack of notes to organize and review. Neither remaining member of the team spoke as they worked through the files, hoping to find some evidence of who was responsible for the destruction of their team.
When Gibbs’ phone rang, he absently answered it.
“Gibbs, I finished testing the samples Palmer brought me and…this is hinky.”
“What’s hinky, Abbs?”
“I found absolutely no evidence of accelerants. Now, since the samples were so badly burned, I didn’t expect to find more than maybe trace amounts, but I didn’t find any accelerants at all. The fire that burned those remains was started without any chemical help. You know I believe in spontaneous human combustion, but…this isn’t consistent with that phenomenon at all. It makes no sense!”
Gibbs felt the sensation he had experienced earlier in Vance’s office return. The fear was back, and he sincerely hoped that this time his gut was wrong.
“I’ll be there as soon as I can, Abbs. Keep this to yourself until I get there.”
“Just do it, Abby.” He hung up the phone and looked up at Ziva, who was staring at him with a worried expression on her face.
“Gibbs, what is going on?”
“I’ll let you know as soon as I do,” he replied and headed for the central staircase. “I need to talk to the director.”
“I believe he is still down in Cybercrimes.”
Gibbs reversed direction and headed for the elevator. He rode it down to the subbasement and when he opened the door to the Cybercrimes Unit he could see Vance leaning over the shoulder of a very nervous-looking and disheveled young man.
“Need to talk to you.”
Vance straightened and glanced around the room. “All of you: take a break. Now.”
The group scurried out and as soon as the door shut Vance turned to Gibbs.
“What do you need, Gibbs?”
Gibbs took a deep breath and met Vance’s gaze. “How sure are you that Charlene McGee is dead?”
Tony opened his eyes and blinked in dim light surrounding him. For a moment he had no idea where he was but soon the memories came rushing back: the gunfight, the chase, and waking up in this cave, where he had learned McGee’s horrifying secrets. Tony turned his head, searching for the man himself, and smiled when he caught sight of his partner still sleeping just a few feet away. He suppressed a chuckle at the image of McGee’s peaceful expression. Hard to believe a that thirty-year-old, especially one who had experienced what McGee had endured, could ever have such a child-like look of innocence.
Suppressing a groan of pain as his stiff muscles protested, Tony slowly sat up and took a look around. The fire had burned down, but the cave was still quite warm, and he could see his and Tim’s clothes hanging on sticks propped up near the fire. He grimaced as he thought about their circumstances. They were stuck out in the middle of nowhere, no vehicle available except (maybe) Probie’s bullet-riddled Porsche a few miles away, he himself was wounded, and McGee didn’t look particularly healthy either. While the uncomfortable feeling that it was his own fault they were in this mess wouldn’t go away, Tony was glad that he had been there last night. God knows what would have happened to McGee when the shooters showed up…
Tony’s attention was soon pulled to another discomfort and he stifled another groan. He wasn’t about to ask for McGee’s help with this particular problem, so he gingerly dragged himself to his feet and slowly stumbled away from their part of the cave, hoping to avoid heading out into the snow to “take care of business”.
He felt the stiff bandages under his shirt and was relieved to find that they were dry. Probie really earned his first-aid merit badge, he thought as he made his way back towards the fire. His shoulder and upper arm were sore, but the pain he expected to experience from two bullet wounds was absent. Must have had some good stuff hidden away in here and slipped it in that tea last night. He made it back to their camp and saw that Tim was still asleep. He took a closer look at his partner and winced. The bruises that had been barely visible last night had darkened, and the scrape above McGee’s eye looked even worse than it had before. The senior agent felt a surge of guilt. The younger man had neglected himself in favor of caring for his teammate. Tony decided that it was his turn to take care of his partner, and he started to search for the first aid kit.
Finally he found a few remaining supplies and sat down to wait for McGee to wake up. After a few minutes, he decided to check his own injuries, to give his partner one less thing to worry about. Using his good arm, he carefully undid the buttons on the flannel shirt he was wearing and slid the fabric down his injured limb so he could get a better look. He carefully peeled back the bandage on his bicep, closing his eyes and bracing himself for the gruesome sight he expected to see. Finally he opened his eyes and froze in shock when he looked at where the bandage had been.
There was no wound.
What in the hell…? His arm was slightly discolored where he remembered feeling the bullet graze him, but the gap in his skin was gone. Breathing heavily, he quickly reached up and removed the bandage on his shoulder. The area was bruised, darker than his arm had been, but there was no bullet wound. He immediately felt the back of his shoulder where there was another bandage, yanked it off, and felt around for the entrance wound.
Suddenly he heard a soft gasp and tuned to see that McGee was sitting up and staring at him, a look of genuine fear in his eyes, which he quickly hid when he saw Tony return his gaze.
“Something…you want to tell me, McGee?”
“You told me I got shot. I…I remember I got shot! What the hell did you…what did you do to me?”
“I told you, I patched you up.”
“This is more than a patch job, Probie! What…you…did you…?”
Slowly, Tim nodded.
“But you said…you said you were normal!”
Tony immediately knew he’d just said the wrong thing as he saw a flash of hurt cross Tim’s face before the agent’s emotions shut down. The neutral mask that slid over McGee’s features was much worse than the fear he had worn only moments before.
“Tim, man, I--”
Suddenly Tim’s eyes widened as he held up a hand to silence his partner. Tony listened and soon realized what had caused the fear to return to the agent’s eyes.
Both men turned towards the soft sound of approaching footsteps.