Chapter 1: Prologue
Probable cause – The reasonable belief that a person has committed a crime; sufficient reason to believe that an arrest or search of a suspect is warranted.
Tony let his gaze travel around the small, drab room. It looked like any other interrogation room he had been in over the years: the same bare walls, all except the one which held a large “mirror”, the same sturdy table and chairs, the same stained and threadbare carpeting, the same security camera in the corner. He could even imagine what it looked like on the other side of the mirror, right down to the group standing there, watching the activity in the room, waiting for any hint of guilt. He had stood on that side himself, many times over, trading barbs with his teammates or watching other interrogators at work, both skilled and clumsy in their approach at extracting information from the accused.
Now he was the accused.
He had been in that position as well, more times than he cared to contemplate. He had sat in a room just like this when he had been framed by a psychotic lab assistant. It was an experience which left him with both a healthy respect of the power of forensic evidence and a fear of such a thing happening again, when perhaps he wouldn’t have someone on his six to prove his innocence.
He had found himself in this situation again, two years later, when the woman whose trust he had betrayed accused him of murdering her father. He had faced down the FBI again, and his team had tried to help him by examining what little evidence they were able to obtain, but this time he had been saved by the one who had instigated the betrayal as part of her own personal vendetta.
In both of those cases, his innocence had never been doubted, not by himself, and not by his teammates. This time, however, there was no such assurance. The seeds of doubt had been spread far and wide, and this time, the likelihood of escaping the situation unscathed was much, much smaller.
He was, as it appeared for the present, totally screwed.
Tony was not worried about the impending interrogation. He knew all the tricks, both how to detect them and how to use them. He was more worried about the real reason for him being here. But worst of all, his greatest fear, was the question that had been going through his mind since had been brought to the station a few hours before. It was a question which he couldn’t answer, and that terrified him beyond all else.
Did he actually deserve to be here?
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
*24 hours earlier*
“I swear, McGee, if you ever do something like this again, I’ll kill you!”
The bullpen area fell silent as all those present turned to stare in shock at their co-worker. Tony DiNozzo was on his feet, glaring at the target of his wrath, with his fists clenched in rage. While they had witnessed similar verbal threats from the agent over the years, this time it really sounded like he meant it. The witnesses shifted uneasily and turned back to their own work, but all kept an ear out for more trouble. Meanwhile, McGee sent a worried glance towards Ziva before trying to mollify the furious senior agent.
“Uh, Tony? What…whatever it is you think I did…”
“I know it was you, McGee. Who else would hack into my computer and hide my unfinished case reports? It took me nearly an hour to find them!”
“Tony, I wouldn’t do something like that, I swear. Maybe you moved them yourself, and…” He caught the darkening of Tony’s expression and switched gears. “Did you check your anti-virus software? It might be a worm of some sort, but I’ve never heard—“
“Automatic updates and scans, McGee, and a high security firewall. You ought to know since you set them up, which makes you the only one who could actually do something to it.”
“That’s not necessarily true…”
“Tony, you know that McGee would not do something like this. Besides, if he did, he would not be able to lie about it. Look at him: he is not lying.”
“Oh, so you were in on it, too?”
“Of course not! Tony, what is wrong with you?”
A strange look crossed the senior agent’s face before he spat out a response.
“Nothing. I’ve had enough of both of you messing with my stuff.”
The two younger agents once again exchanged worried glances.
“Tony, I swear to you, we didn’t do anything. Let me at least look at your computer and maybe—“
“Forget it. You just want to cover up what you did.”
McGee sighed. “For the last time, I didn’t do anything!”
Tony just glared at the younger man until he dropped his gaze and they all returned to their tasks. Finally, after several minutes of tense silence, Tony stood up.
“I’m going for coffee.”
“Not now you’re not. Gear up. We’ve got a dead Marine.”
“I’ll gas the truck,” said McGee and headed for the stairs.
“I’ll tell Ducky,” Ziva added and followed him. Tony just huffed and followed Gibbs to the elevator. Tony started to make some comment that he “hoped McGee wouldn’t screw that up, too” but the lead agent sent him a cold look and he fell silent, remaining so until the reached the evidence garage. Ziva was already in the center of the front seat and McGee was in the back. Gibbs sent the pair a questioning look and when they didn’t respond he climbed into the driver’s seat.
The group was uncharacteristically quiet all the way to the scene. Tony was still fuming, but also worried, which he was trying desperately to hide from his teammates. Ziva’s question still echoed in his mind.
What is wrong with you?
The worst thing was that he didn’t have an answer. He had been feeling ill at ease for the past several days but had been unable to pinpoint a cause. In addition to that, his temper seemed to flare recently for no apparent reason. He didn’t know why he had been so quick to accuse McGee. Tony did know, rationally, that McGee would never have messed with such important files, but the fact that he couldn’t explain it had driven him into an accusatory rage. The feelings of suspicion and paranoia couldn’t be shaken, and in his worried state he had lashed out at the most convenient target.
Most of Tony’s anger had faded by the time they arrived at the scene and he was able to carry out his duties without a second thought. He did notice that McGee was keeping his distance, and he did see the glances the younger man exchanged with Ziva, but he tried to ignore it. Finally the scene had been processed and he headed back to pack the truck. As he approached, he could see that McGee and Ziva were deep in conversation, and when they noticed him, they immediately moved away from each other and started to pack the truck. Tony felt a surge of anger.
“Plotting against me again?”
“No, we are not. Why would you think that?”
In the back of his mind, he had asked himself that same question, but he pressed forward.
“So what am I in for, now? More pranks, or something worse?”
Suddenly he felt Gibbs’ hand connect with the back of his head. “Stop looking for trouble, DiNozzo. It’s your turn to ride in the back.”
McGee opened his mouth to protest but a glare from the Boss put an end to any further debate. He and Ziva quickly headed for the front of the truck.
“Get in the truck, DiNozzo.”
The ride back was equally silent. McGee and Ziva took the evidence to Abby while Tony followed Gibbs back to the bullpen. Once they were in the elevator and the doors shut, Gibbs flipped the switch and turned to his senior agent.
“What’s going on with you?”
Gibbs took a step closer and Tony felt an unfamiliar sense of rage as the older man invaded his personal space.
“It doesn’t look like nothing to me.”
Tony couldn’t meet the man’s intense gaze. He was afraid the eye contact would drive him to do something he would immediately regret.
“Just feeling a little under the weather, that’s all.”
Gibbs took a step back and stared at him, obviously trying to decide what to do about the blatant lie he had just received.
“OK, fine,” Tony began in an attempt to diffuse the situation. “I had a bad night, I’m taking it out on my co-workers. Won’t happen again.”
“A ‘bad night’?”
Tony felt the heat rise in his cheeks. “Nightmares, OK?”
Gibbs’ eyebrows shot up in surprise. “How bad?”
“Bad enough. Look, Boss, I…it won’t interfere with the job again. I promise.”
“It better not.” Gibbs flipped the switch again. “But next time, remember, my door is open. Don’t let it get this bad again. Understood?”
When the elevator finally reached the bullpen, Tony went to his desk and sat down, briefly closing his eyes before he got back to work, relieved to have escaped further interrogation.
The nightmares to which he admitted having had been the worst he’d ever experienced and they had left him with a slew of unpleasant dredged up memories, some of which made their way to the front of his mind as he tried to work.
You’ll wind up in the gutter…that temper of yours…
His thoughts were interrupted by the return of Ziva and McGee, who both immediately went to their desks and started to work without a word. The atmosphere was tense for the next hour, but soon started to relax as the team worked together to dig up the necessary evidence for their case.
Soon McGee discovered something and headed for Abby’s lab, and Gibbs instructed Tony to go with him. Tony suspected the Boss was forcing a “talk” with the younger agent, and he admitted he felt a small measure of relief. Despite the grief he gave the younger man, Tony knew he would feel better after he cleared the air.
The doors had closed and Tony was about ready to speak when his phone rang. He checked the message and returned it to his pocket.
Wrong number. Weird.
McGee finally cleared his throat and turned to the older man. Tony almost grinned. He knew he Probie would break first…
A gasp of surprise brought him back to his senses. The elevator was stopped, the door was open, and Jimmy and Abby were looking at him with expressions of horror on their faces. He suddenly realized his body was facing the wall over the elevator and he was pressing his arm against something. When he turned his head to look he was staring into McGee’s wide, terrified eyes. The younger man was backed up against the side of the elevator, and Tony’s own arm was across his throat.
Tony immediately released McGee and backed away until his back hit the opposite side of the elevator. The horror at what he had just done flooded his senses, but before he could do anything else, McGee hit one of the buttons on the elevator and the doors slid shut, blocking the forensic scientist and autopsy gremlin from view.
“McGee? What…what are you…?”
“I’m taking you to Ducky,” he croaked.
“Me? What about…” He could see the skin starting to darken at McGee’s throat. “Jeez, McGee, why did I…?”
“You don’t remember, do you? You blacked out?”
“I could see it…in your eyes. You weren’t…it was like you weren’t even in there.”
Tony slid down the wall to the floor. “Oh my God…I could have killed you, Tim.”
Tim stayed on his side of the elevator but he crouched down to Tony’s level. “Tony, I know you weren’t…I know you weren’t yourself. I have to ask: have you…have you started taking anything lately? A new prescription, maybe?”
“Sometimes…sometimes there are adverse reactions, and…”
“You think I’m on drugs?” He saw a strange, sad look cross the other agent’s face. “You do…”
“I’m not suggesting it was completely voluntary…” At that moment the doors opened, and they saw that Ducky was waiting for them. The M.E.’s eyes widened in surprise when he caught sight of McGee.
“Ducky…” Tim’s voice had grown even hoarser. “Tony needs to be checked out.”
“And you as well. What happened? Abigail called and…” He looked over his shoulder just as Jimmy dashed into the room. “Mr. Palmer said you might need medical attention.”
“I’m fine. We need to speak to you. Privately.” He shot a glance at Palmer and before the young man could protest, Ducky dismissed him.
“I’ll handle this, Mr. Palmer. Could you please go get some ice for Timothy’s neck?”
“Y-yes, Dr. Mallard.” Jimmy sent them one last worried look before leaving.
“Anthony, are you all right? What happened?”
“I don’t even know, Ducky. One minute I was standing in the elevator with Tim, and the next thing I remember I was…I had my arm across his throat.”
“I could tell he wasn’t himself,” explained Tim. “His eyes were…weird. Do you have any idea what could have caused this?”
“Nothing specific immediately comes to mind, but…”
“Maybe I’m just crazy.” That temper of yours…
“While it may be some sort of induced psychosis, I do not think you have lost your senses.”
“Come on, Tony. At least let Ducky take a look.”
Tony looked up at McGee and finally nodded before pulling himself to his feet and staggering down the short hall into the autopsy suite. By the time he was sitting on one of the autopsy tables, Palmer had returned with an ice pack for Tim and managed to convince the younger agent to submit to a quick exam while Ducky worked on Tony. After several tense minutes, Ducky stood back and sighed.
“I don’t see anything obvious from a medical standpoint, but my resources here are limited. I’m going to arrange for you to take a trip to Bethesda for more tests, Tony, and Timothy should undergo more diagnostic testing as well.” He went to his desk to make the calls, while Tony remained on the table, swinging his feet. He had visited a cornucopia of ideas for potential afflictions by the time Ducky returned.
“Would you be so kind as to transport these two to Bethesda. I will inform the Director and Jethro of their absence.”
“Don’t worry, Jimmy, I promise I won’t go psycho on you.”
“But if it will make you feel better, Palmer, we can tie him up.”
Tony turned to glare at McGee and caught his subtle smirk.
“Forget it, McKinky, I’m not into bondage, at least not with you two.” He managed a grin and Tim chuckled, while Jimmy smiled nervously.
“Uh, OK. Come on, then.” Jimmy headed for the door but Tim didn’t move.
“I’ll be right there. I need to speak to Ducky for a minute.”
The senior agent followed the younger man to his car where they were joined by McGee a few minutes later, and were soon on their way to the Navy hospital. The trio remained silent for the entire trip, although Tony’s thoughts continued to whirl.
There’s something wrong…either you’ve finally lost it or something bad is going on inside your head…a big juicy brain tumor, turning you into the nut who tried to strangle his partner…
Finally they reached the hospital, where a friend of Ducky was waiting for them. Tim was shuffled off to an exam room and Tony was taken to the diagnostics section.
Several hours, and a multitude of tests later, and they still didn’t have an answer. The doctor was not particularly helpful.
“All of the tests look clean, but I’ll be sending the scans out for further examination. Right now it looks like you’re the picture of health.”
Tony snorted. Some picture.
“It will take a little longer for the blood tests, but as of right now we can’t find anything.”
“I would recommend a couple of days away from work. It is possible that this is stress related, and you may just need some time to decompress. I’ll schedule an appointment for you with one of our occupational psychologists as soon as possible. It can’t hurt.”
“Sure, OK. It there anything else, Doctor?”
“No, but I’ll let you know as soon as I have the results of the rest of your tests.”
“Thanks.” Tony went back to the waiting area and found McGee and Palmer. McGee was still holding an ice pack to his neck, but he did look a bit better. He looked up as Tony approached.
Tony winced. He didn’t sound better.
“Still waiting on some tests, but the rest of them are clean. The Doc thinks it was stress-related.”
“I guess that’s possible,” said Jimmy, and, after a brief pause, McGee nodded. Tony turned his attention to the younger agent.
“Fine. I’ll be sore for a few days, and on a mostly liquid diet, but I’ll live.”
“I’m sorry, man. Looks like I owe you big time.”
“I’ll collect, too, you know,” Tim croaked with a smirk.
“I guess you guys need a ride back to NCIS? I spoke to Doctor Mallard and the Director gave you the rest of the day off.” He saw the alarmed look that crossed Tony’s face and paled. “It’s OK, Doctor Mallard didn’t give him the details. I think Gibbs knows, but…”
“Thanks, Jimmy. Let’s go.”
The left Bethesda and drove back to the Navy Yard, where Tim and Tony retrieved their vehicles and headed home.
Tony had been home for a little over an hour, debating the entire time on whether or not to go see Gibbs, when his phone beeped, indicating a text message. He checked his inbox and smiled when he saw the message from his partner.
Pizza and ice cream? My treat.
Tony just shook his head. He knew what the younger man was trying to do and felt a surge of guilt.
I really take him for granted.
He sent a message back. Be right there. He reminded himself to stop at the store for Nutter Butters to crush over the ice cream for Tim, gathered his wallet and keys, and headed for Silver Spring.
Bag in hand, he climbed the stairs to Tim’s apartment. When he reached the door, he raised his hand to knock, imagining the delight Tim would show when presented with his favorite treat. The door swung open, and before he could step inside, everything went black.
When he came to, he was sitting on the floor, slumped against something solid. He looked around and blinked, trying to clear his head. He noticed an odd, yet familiar smell, and the feel of something wet and sticky on his hands. Finally he looked down and sucked in a breath.
His hands were covered in blood.
Breathing heavily, he looked around, almost afraid of what he would see. He was in Tim’s apartment, his back against the divider between the kitchen and the rest of the apartment, facing the myriad of computer equipment that partially filled the small space. It appeared he was alone.
He crawled towards the bedroom and stopped, horror stricken, when he saw what lay just inside the door. McGee was on his side, with one arm behind him and the other stretched out over his head. He, too, was covered in blood, and the source was clear: a large knife was sticking out of his chest.
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
Almost before he even realized he was moving, Tony scrambled over to his partner and stopped. He steeled himself before reaching forward and placing two fingers against Tim’s bruised neck. His heart stuttered in his chest when at first he didn’t feel anything, but when he pressed harder he was able to detect the faint, slow beat beneath. Immediately he pulled out his phone and dialed, silently praying for a quick response.
“I need an ambulance at 1746 Westwood Place NW, Apartment 3, and fast.”
“Your name, sir?”
“Tony DiNozzo. Victim’s name is Tim McGee. He’s been stabbed.” Did I…? Oh God…
“OK, Tony.” Tony could hear the faint sound of computer keys clacking. “My records show the police have already been dispatched to that address.”
“I don’t care. We need an ambulance, NOW.” He noticed that Tim’s pulse had weakened. Come on man, don’t do this…
“Yes, sir, it’s on its way. Can you describe Tim’s condition?”
“His condition? He has a freaking knife stuck in him! His condition is not good!”
“Just get someone here…please.” He turned his attention to McGee. “Hang on, Tim. You don’t get to die on me, you hear me? Come on.” He brought the phone close to his mouth and yelled, “what the hell is taking so long?”
“Sir, I need you to stay calm—“
“I am calm! Where is that bus?”
“Sir, the police should be there at any moment, and --“
“Yeah, I got that.”
“Put your hands in the air, now!”
Tony slowly raised his hand holding the phone above his head, but the other he kept on McGee’s neck. He had the sudden, if slightly irrational feeling that if he lost physical contact with Tim, he would lose him for good.
“No…I’m not letting him go.” He heard the sound of a gun’s hammer being pulled back. “Listen. My name is Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, NCIS. I’m going to reach into my pocket for my ID.” He dropped the phone and slowly lowered his hand, praying he wasn’t dealing with some trigger-happy rookie. “This man is my partner: Special Agent Timothy McGee. I came to visit him and found him like this.” He finally reached his pocket and carefully, using two fingers, slipped his ID out and tossed it behind him. “I’ve called for an ambulance. He’s still alive, and I’m making sure he stays that way. Got it?” He waited, registering the sound of the gun being uncocked and the continued slowing of McGee’s heartbeat. Hang on, Probie. Just hang on…
A commotion behind him signaled the arrival of the EMTs, and suddenly he was joined by two men in blue jumpsuits. He moved out of their way and shifted his contact point to McGee’s right arm which was stretched out past the younger man’s head. He could barely feel the weak beat at McGee’s wrist, but he didn’t let go. You can do it, Tim. Stay with me. He listened as the two men talked back and forth in medical jargon, barely understanding a thing they said and finally managed to look up at the other occupants of the room. A uniformed officer was holding Tony’s ID and staring at him warily, while another man in a suit and dark overcoat stood next to him, studying the scene. Tony didn’t recognize him, but he guessed the man was from the detective division of the state police. He shot the man a questioning look.
“Lieutenant Doyle,” the man responded. “What happened?”
Tony felt a twist of fear in his stomach. “I’m not really sure. What do you know?”
“Call came in to dispatch, a report of an altercation. Someone heard two men yelling and decided that it sounded bad enough to call the police.” His eyes narrowed as he regarded the agent. “Your turn.”
“I…Damn it. I need to call Gibbs.”
“You know him?”
“By reputation only. You work for him?”
“We both do,” he said, nodding towards McGee. He took a moment to see what the EMTs were doing to his partner and turned away and he felt a wave of nausea at the sight of the work being done to save the younger man’s life. He saw an odd, thoughtful look cross Doyle’s face as he pulled out his phone and dialed a number, turning away from Tony as he did so. The officer continued to watch the senior agent with just a hint of fear in his eyes.
Soon the EMTs had McGee ready for transport. When Tony released his hold on his friend, he felt such a sensation of loss that he nearly fell as he staggered to his feet. The two men rushed McGee out of the apartment to the waiting ambulance and Tony tried to follow but was restrained by the detective.
“You partner is in good hands. Now tell me what happened.”
“I don’t know.”
Doyle’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “What do you mean, you don’t know?”
“It’s… I really need to talk to my Boss.”
“He’s being contacted.”
Tony’s gaze fixed on the open door to Tim’s apartment, almost expecting Gibbs to appear. He barely heard the detective’s questions as his focus remained on the doorway and finally a loud oath drew his attention back to the other man.
“We’re taking you to the hospital. Let’s go.”
Tony nodded. He took one last look around he room before allowing himself to be led from the apartment and out to the waiting police cruiser. He didn’t even register the fact that he was seated in the back, behind the barrier, and that the detective sat in the front seat watching him for the entire ride to the local hospital. When they arrived, he immediately asked the doctor that met them about his partner, and was told that someone would check.
Tony was led to an exam room and checked over by the doctor as his clothes were documented, collected and bagged as evidence. He submitted to more evidence collection as his hands were swabbed and biological samples were taken. Finally he was allowed to get cleaned up and was given a pair of scrubs to wear. The police officer now assigned to him took him to the police station and escorted him to one of the interrogation rooms where he was informed of his rights. He ignored the short statement that had been read to him and asked about McGee, but received no response, which worried him much more than his current situation.
He waited in the small, dingy room for several hours, although it felt like eternity. Eventually, as the stress and strain of the day caught up with him, he put his crossed arms on the table and lowered his head to rest on them. His thoughts remained on McGee as he wondered what was happening to the younger man, and just what had happened in the apartment before Tony had woken up.
Why can’t I remember? Did I do that to him? No, I’d never…
That temper of yours…you’ll wind up in the gutter.
No…no, I couldn’t have done that, could I? He’s my friend, for God’s sake!
Just like her…the apple never falls far from the tree…
No! I’m not like her…I’m not!
Too much trouble…you’re a ticking bomb…
No, I’d never hurt him.
What is wrong with you?
Please, no, don’t…
You don’t remember, do you? You blacked out…
I could see it…in your eyes. You weren’t…it was like you weren’t even in there.
You’re a liability, a disaster waiting to happen…and it did.
Tony bolted upright in his seat, his chest heaving as his heart pounded uncomfortably within. He closed his eyes and took several deep breaths as he tried to calm his racing pulse. It didn’t really help.
What did I do?
He heard the door to the interrogation room open and looked up as Gibbs entered.
“Boss, thank God! How’s Tim? They won’t tell me anything, and--” He stopped when he saw the second man enter the room and felt his heart plummet in his chest.
“Director Vance.” He glanced at Gibbs again. “What--?”
“Agent Gibbs is here to observe only. Direct your questions to me.” Vance’s voice was even colder than normal.
“How...” He glanced at Gibbs, but the lead agent would not meet his gaze. “How is McGee?”
“Special Agent McGee is in critical condition and is being closely monitored in the ICU. The blade missed his heart by less than an inch, but it is unclear at this time if he will survive.”
Oh, God, Probie, I’m so sorry…
“You have been advised of your rights?”
“Yes, Director,” Tony replied after a moment’s pause.
“Good. Explain to me what happened, starting early yesterday morning.”
“I have been informed of an altercation between you and Agent McGee in which you verbally threatened him. What precipitated that exchange?”
“I…there was a problem with my computer. I thought Tim…Agent McGee had done something to it.”
“What was the nature of the problem?”
“I was missing some of my files, and it took considerable time and effort to recover them.”
“What was in these files?”
“I see. Had Agent McGee ever previously given you reason to believe that he would interfere with official documents on your workstation?”
“And yet you blamed him without proof.”
“In addition to that, you told Agent McGee that if he ever did anything like that again, you would ‘kill’ him.”
“I wasn’t serious, Director. It was just talk.”
Vance just stared at him. Tony glanced up at Gibbs, waiting for some words of support, but the older man remained silent.
“Moving on,” said Vance, breaking his silence. “Later that same day, you were witnessed physically assaulting Agent McGee, and he required treatment for the damage you did to him. Explain.”
“I…I don’t know what happened.” He glanced at Gibbs again. “Honestly, I don’t.”
“You don’t know how you nearly strangled another agent?”
“I…one minute I was standing in the elevator with T…Agent McGee, and the next I had my arm across his neck. I stopped as soon as I realized what I was doing and McGee insisted that we see Ducky about it.”
“Agent McGee insisted that you receive treatment as well. Why?”
“He…he saw I wasn’t myself. He saw that I…blacked out.”
This time Vance looked up at Gibbs and Tony watched a few seconds of silent communication between the two men before Vance returned his attention to the man sitting across from him.
“You were examined and treated at Bethesda. All tests were clean.”
“Yes, Director. Well, the ones they finished by the time we left. I didn’t get the results—“
“All tests were clean, Agent DiNozzo.”
“You left the hospital and returned to NCIS. What happened after that?”
“We, McGee and I, went home. Separately. He sent me a text later inviting me over. I went to the store to get a few things and headed over to his apartment. I got there and…”
“I woke up and found Tim.”
“So you don’t remember what happened between the time you arrived at Agent McGee’s apartment and when you found him, near death and with a knife in his chest. Does that about cover it?”
Vance silently stared at him again and Tony looked away. He couldn’t even bear to see if Gibbs would acknowledge him at this point.
“An interesting story.”
“I’m telling you all I know, Director.”
“Well, let me present you with some facts: there is no record of any text message from Agent McGee’s phone or a response from yours. There is no record of anyone but you and Agent McGee entering his apartment. Your fingerprints are on the knife removed from Agent McGee as well as elsewhere in the apartment, in what is expected to be Agent McGee’s blood. Neighbors reported hearing an argument between two men before the initial 911 call was placed, and there is no record of anyone leaving the apartment prior to the police officer’s arrival, where he found you leaning over Agent McGee with blood on your hands.”
Tony could feel his blood draining from his face as he listened to the evidence against him.
“I’m sure you see my dilemma, Agent DiNozzo.”
“In light of the circumstances, I imagine the FBI will be handling the investigation. However, I have requested that you undergo psychological examination prior to an indictment. I will let you know if they find this arrangement agreeable. Do you understand?”
“Good. You will be transferred as soon as the paperwork goes through.” Without another word, Vance stood and walked out of the room. Tony turned to Gibbs one last time.
Gibbs’ expression was unreadable as he stared at his senior agent.
Gibbs turned and walked out of the room. Tony slumped in his chair and let his head sink down until it was resting on the desk. The enormity of his situation finally slammed into him and he barely managed to keep his grief hidden from those who watched from behind the glass.
I am so screwed…
Vance entered the observation room and turned to Lt. Doyle. “I need you to clear this room.”
Doyle’s face turned red. “Forget it, Director Vance, I’m not compromising this case so you can--”
“I said clear this room, Lt. Doyle. You may continue to monitor Agent DiNozzo, but I need to speak to my other agent alone.” As if on cue, Gibbs entered the room and turned to stare at the figure in Interrogation.
After a few moments of fuming silence, Doyle huffed in disgust. “Fine.” He motioned for the other occupants to turn off the monitors in observation and they followed him out.
After the door slammed shut Vance conducted a brief sweep for listening devices before turning to the lead agent. “Hell of a mess, Gibbs.”
Vance studied the man for whom he had gained a lot of practice reading over the years. “You don’t believe he did it.”
“Nope. He was set up.”
Vance sighed. “I agree. The question is: why?”
“’How’ would be a good one, too.”
“I will have Ms. Sciuto check for any drugs Bethesda might have missed, but something tells me it’s not that simple.” He turned to glance at the man on the other side of the glass. “A bigger question: what happened to make him believe he could do this?”
Finally Gibbs turned to face him, and Vance caught a brief glimpse of the nearly unbearable grief that the man was feeling. It had taken a considerable amount of convincing on the Director’s part to get Gibbs to play along with the hastily constructed plan, but Vance had finally been able to get him to agree. He just hoped all involved would forgive him, in time...
“I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, Leon. I wish to hell I did. I just don’t know.” He turned back to the glass to observe his agent, one of the very few who meant the world to him, and whose world now lay shattered. “But I’m going to find out.”
Chapter 4: Chapter 3
Tony let his gaze drift across the ceiling, unconsciously counting the small cracks that cross-crossed the surface in a pattern that he had nearly memorized over the course of the past two days. He had been transferred to a secure facility for psychiatric evaluations, the results of which would be presented at his indictment hearing. His lawyer, an over-eager kid whose short time out of law school had not been enough to deaden any of his enthusiasm, had advised Tony not to talk to anyone except the psychiatrist. The kid had assured him that he had a good chance at a diminished capacity defense, but Tony had silently disagreed. He was pretty sure his past behavior would work against him, not to mention his past experiences escaping indictment when he had been accused of serious acts of violence.
His eyes made another circuit of the expanse above him as he lay on his back, arms folded behind his head, and worried about Tim. Tony hadn’t heard anything about the younger man’s condition other than he was still alive. Tony wasn’t a praying man, but he silently hoped that Tim would keep fighting and would make it through this, not for Tony’s sake, but for the team. He didn’t want them to go through the loss of another member of their strange, dysfunctional, yet unquestionably dedicated-to-each-other family. That he himself was no longer a part of that family was quite clear. No one had come to visit him or made any effort to contact him, not even Gibbs. He didn’t even want to consider what Abby’s reaction would be toward someone who had hurt her “Timmy” and he knew the situation would bring back horrible memories for both Gibbs and Ziva. He already believed their forgiveness was out of the question, yet he still wished he could at least apologize for the pain he had caused.
The sound of his cell door moving inward drew his attention towards it and he sat up, waiting. One of the orderly-slash-guards stood in the doorway, shackles in hand.
“You have a visitor.”
Tony stood and held out his wrists, already familiar with what was expected of him. The guard stepped forward and secured the shackles around Tony’s wrists and ankles before backing away and opening the door to allow Tony to shuffle through. After a relatively short walk, they reached one of the small “interview” rooms and the guard opened the door. Tony was surprised to see, not his lawyer as he has expected, but Gibbs seated in one of the chairs behind a small table. He felt a faint rush of joy at seeing a familiar face, but the feeling was quickly dampened when he realized what Gibbs’ presence might mean. He slowly made his way to his own chair and sat down as he waited for the guard to secure him. He avoided meeting Gibbs’ gaze, afraid of what he might see in the older man’s eyes.
“You have twenty minutes.” The guard left, and finally Tony raised his head.
“How’s Tim?” he asked, and the expression in Gibbs’ eyes caused Tony’s heart to sink. “He’s not…?”
“His lung collapsed again and they had to take him back into surgery. He’s back in the ICU now, but they said if it collapses again…the doctors aren’t sure he’ll make it.”
Tony couldn’t bring himself to respond and closed his eyes, but all he could see was his partner’s body as Tony had first seen him when he woke up in McGee’s apartment.
I’m sorry, Tim…I’m so sorry…
“What happened, Tony?”
Tony shook his head. “I swear to you, Gibbs, I don’t remember. I honestly don’t know what happened.”
“Not to McGee. What happened to you to make you think you could do something like this?”
Startled, Tony finally looked up and met Gibbs’ gaze.
“What do you mean?”
“Something has you convinced that you could have stabbed McGee. What is it?”
“You mean, besides all the evidence?” Tony saw Gibbs automatically raise his hand to administer a head-slap and pause as he obviously realized he couldn’t do that in their present situation. Tony almost managed a smile at his mentor’s frustration.
“Something happened to you before all of this. I know buried guilt when I see it, DiNozzo. Long buried. What happened?”
Tony took a deep breath, wondering if he could share some of his most painful memories with this man. Deciding that Gibbs’ couldn’t possibly think any less of him, he slowly let the air out of his lungs and began his story.
“When I was six years old, my mother got pregnant again. It was…a surprise, I guess, to my father, but he was…well, ecstatic. I was excited that I’d finally get to be a big brother, and my mother…I guess she was happy, at least at first.” Tony chanced a look at Gibbs and saw a faint hint of surprise in the man’s eyes. He paused for a moment to collect himself and continued.
“The pregnancy wasn’t easy on her, she was sick a lot, and…I guess she knew something was wrong, but she couldn’t bear to tell my father. About two months after my seventh birthday she went into labor. It was too early and…the baby, he didn’t make it. He lived for a couple of hours, but…I never even got to see him. My mother named him William, after her grandfather.” Something occurred to him and he let out a weak chuckle. “I guess if he had lived, he and Tim would have been about the same age. Never thought of that before…Anyway, after that, it seemed like Dad was always away on business trips. He never spent any time with my mother, and I guess he never made sure she got any help. It was like he just wanted to forget the whole thing happened. But Mom…I guess now they would call it post-partum depression, but she was never the same after William died…and a couple of months later…We were sitting in the kitchen. I wanted to carve a pumpkin for Halloween and I started to ask about it…and I guess she just snapped. She put her hands around my neck and… My mother tried to kill me.”
Tony glanced up at Gibbs again and was surprised to see anger, along with some other emotion he couldn’t identify. He took another deep breath and managed to continue.
“If our cook hadn’t been there…well, you can imagine. She managed to get me away from Mom and called my father. He…I don’t know, at first it seemed like he was worried but looking back I realized he was more worried about his reputation. He called in a private doctor to have her checked out and the doctor said she needed to be treated for mental illness, but my father…swept it under the rug.” Tony felt a sure of the old yet familiar feelings of anger and shame. “I guess having a wife in a mental institution would have been bad for business. He made sure she was never alone with me again, but…a couple of months later she got really sick and they figured out she had cancer. She only lived for another year after that.
“After she died, my father started drinking more. When he’d get drunk, he’d blame me for what happened. He said I was just like her. If I acted out, or got into trouble at school, he’d go off about my ‘temper’ and tell me I’d end up the gutter, that I was a liability. It got a little better when he finally he sent me away to boarding school. I did my best to stay out of trouble, but…the doubt was always there. He had me convinced I was going to snap and hurt someone like she did.” Tony sighed. “Guess he was right.”
Tony saw Gibbs raise his hand again and slowly put it down. He could still see the anger in Gibbs’ expression, but there was something more.
“Guess I should have told you about this before. You would have known I was a time bomb… You would have known not to trust me…”
“I’m not your father, Tony.”
“He blamed you for something that you had no control over. That never should have happened. You had nothing to do with what happened with your mother, or anything else.” Gibbs stared at Tony and finally he caught the agent’s unspoken assurance. He stared at Gibbs in shock for nearly a minute before he was able to stammer out a question.
“You…you don’t think I’m to blame for…?”
Gibbs’ gave him one of his classic half-smirks. “Think, DiNozzo.”
Tony could only stare at the man across from him as a horrible thought formed in his mind. Gibbs didn’t believe that he had done this, but…
“Someone else…?” Gibbs gave an almost imperceptible nod and his gaze flicked towards the camera in the upper corner of the room, held his hand over the table and tipped it slightly. Suddenly Tony’s thoughts were racing. He had been set up. Gibbs knew he had been set up, but he didn’t want whoever had done it to know that he knew. He didn’t want to tip his hand.
“This is probably the safest place for you right now, DiNozzo,” Gibbs said in a low voice.
“What about McGee?”
“We’re all keeping an eye on him.”
“And do you…?”
“Not yet. Gonna take some time.”
Tony quickly deflated. The faint hope he had experienced when he realized what Gibbs thought disappeared.
“So what am I supposed to say at my hearing?”
“Nothing? You want me to…?” He realized what Gibbs’ was implying and nodded. “I’ll stand mute.”
“First time for everything,” Gibbs commented with another smirk and Tony almost grinned. Almost. Before he could say anything else, the guard returned to take him back to his cell. Tony sent Gibbs a grateful look before quickly schooling his features. Gibbs just nodded.
Tony followed the guard through the door and took one last glance back at Gibbs, feeling better than he had before this whole thing had started. Gibbs was on the case. He just had to wait for rescue that he felt more certain would come, and continue to hope that his partner could make it through this as well.
Ziva sat next to McGee’s hospital bed, one hand resting on his arm as she gently stroked his forehead with the other. She spoke to him softly, hoping her words were reaching him as she studied his too-pale face for signs of awakening.
After his second lung collapse and surgery, McGee had managed to cling to life as the rest of his team waited anxiously for some sign that he was going to pull through. Finally, after two days on life support, the doctors began to ease him off the ventilator. They had kept him sedated to prevent additional stress and to give him a better chance of avoiding another collapse, but now, four days after that incident he was free of the vent and they had reduced the sedation. The doctors believed he would wake up soon, although they had warned the team that he would probably not be completely coherent for several days.
“You need to come back to us, McGee,” Ziva whispered. “You need to get better. We all miss you. I do not think Abby has smiled once since you were hurt. Ducky seems to have run out of stories to tell, and Gibbs…he needs you, too.” She felt a twinge of guilt. Gibbs did need Tim to wake up and show that he was going to make it, but part of that need was also to know what had happened, and if what Tim knew could help Tony. Ziva did not believe that Tony, in his right mind, would ever harm his partner. She did realize the irony, since she had once believed him capable of violence, but it had been made very clear to her how wrong she had been. She hoped the incident that had driven a wedge between them would not come back to haunt him now.
Ziva moved her hand from McGee’s arm to his hand and intertwined his fingers with her own. She smiled as she thought what his reaction would be if he was aware, and silently prayed that she would see that reaction soon.
“How is he?”
She turned to see a man standing in the doorway and recognized him as the detective originally assigned to the case. She felt a flush of anger color her cheeks at the man’s intrusion.
“Lieutenant Doyle. What are you doing here?”
“I just figured I’d come by to check and see if he was awake and could tell us anything. The case is kind of at a standstill.”
“He has not woken up yet and his doctors say that when he does wake up, he may not remember what happened. I am sorry, we cannot help you. Please, go.”
Doyle chuckled and shook his head. “Must be a hell of a thing to be stuck in the middle of this. One of your teammates tried to kill the other, and you’re wondering how you missed the signs.”
Unconsciously Ziva tightened her grip on McGee’s hand. “I do not believe I missed anything. I do not believe there was anything to miss.”
Doyle snorted. “I think your partner there would disagree.”
Ziva barely managed to control her anger. “I have asked you to leave. Do not make me ask again.”
“Fine. Just make sure you don’t miss letting me know if he wakes up.” Doyle turned and walked out and Ziva forced herself to calm down as she returned her attention to McGee. Suddenly she felt his fingers move against hers and the beeping of his heart monitor increased. She saw his features twist in obvious pain and his grip on her hand tightened.
His lids snapped open but his gaze remained unfocused as his eyes flicked back and forth, searching for what ever it was that was clearly terrifying him. An alarm on the heart monitor went off as Ziva tried to comfort him.
“McGee, it is alright. You must calm down. No one is going to hurt you.”
“No…please…” His voice was hoarse from disuse and the ventilator but his words were clear. “Don’t…”
“McGee, you are safe. Please, calm down.”
Before she could respond to his desperate pleas Ziva was pushed out of the way as several doctors and nurses rushed to McGee’s aid. She could only stand by and watch as they injected something into his IV to bring his galloping heartbeat under control. Just as the alarm was silenced and the beeping returned to more normal levels, he turned his head and his eyes fixed on hers. He was obviously struggling to keep them open, but the drugs they had given him were quickly pulling him under. She tried to give him a reassuring smile, followed by more soothing words, but they died in her throat when she saw his expression of abject terror.
His final word was lost as he slipped into oblivion. The nurses did one last check before they left again and Ziva approached McGee’s bed to place a trembling hand on his forehead. She never noticed the figure in the doorway watching them. The man studied the two agents for only a few seconds before a satisfied smirk formed on his face and he left, pulling out his cell phone as he headed for the elevators.
A/N: “Standing mute” is one of four pleas accepted in an indictment. It’s considered an unspoken “not guilty”.
Chapter 5: Chapter 4
The sound of footsteps approaching his cell pulled Tony from his daze and he sat up on his bed, hoping that someone from outside would finally be visiting. It had been more than three days since he had spoken to Gibbs, and since then the only visitors he had had were the psychologist assigned to evaluate him and his lawyer, whose only purpose seemed to be to tell him that there were no developments in his case. Tony had tried to get both visitors to update him on McGee’s condition, but neither had been able to ease his anxiety concerning his partner.
The footsteps stopped outside his cell and Tony heard the lock disengage before the door swung open to reveal a vaguely familiar figure instead of the expected guard. It took him a moment to put a name to the face and he felt the faint stirrings of unease when he remembered.
“Lieutenant Doyle? What are you doing here?”
Doyle watched him for a moment with an expression that Tony could only interpret as disgust before he finally spoke.
“Agent McGee woke up about an hour ago.”
Tony felt a surge of relief. “How is he? Does he remember what happened?” He desperately wanted to ask to speak to his partner, but he doubted it would be allowed.
“He was terrified,” Doyle responded, the disgust now clear in his voice. “The doctors had to sedate him again to prevent any more damage. But he did remember one thing: he was begging you not to kill him.”
All the hope that Tony had built up after Gibbs’ visit vanished. “Oh, God…”
“So why don’t you do us all a favor, and cut the act, DiNozzo. You tried to kill your partner. He remembers it, even though you claim you don’t. Me, I’m not buying this ‘trauma-induced amnesia’ crap. You know what you did, so stop trying to deny it.”
“I swear, I don’t remember!”
“Yeah, right. What kind of a sick bastard puts someone through what you did to Agent McGee? And now he’s going to have to deal with all of your crap while he’s trying to recover.” Doyle shook his head. “Too bad he didn’t figure out what you were really like before you betrayed him.”
Tony wanted to protest but the words stuck in his throat. He couldn’t deny that the same thoughts had passed through his mind since this whole thing had started…
“Nothing to say?” Doyle sneered. “Must be quite a shock. You didn’t expect him to survive, did you?”
“I didn’t want him to die. I…I never even meant to hurt him, I swear.”
“The evidence says otherwise. Might want to reconsider your plea. You’d save yourself and everyone else, especially Agent McGee, a lot of trouble.”
Again, Tony found himself unable to respond. The only thing that was keeping him grounded at the moment was the belief that Gibbs knew he had been set up. He clung to that bit of hope, but even that idea was starting to ring false in light of what Doyle had revealed.
Doyle watched him struggle for a moment and snorted in disgust. “Well, if you’re not willing to do the right thing, I guess I need to go have a chat with the DA. I expect you’ll be hearing from him soon enough.” Doyle backed out of the doorway and the door slammed shut, leaving Tony alone with his guilt.
Ziva stepped out of the elevator and walked down the hall towards Abby’s lab, her normal brisk pace slowed by both exhaustion and apprehension. She had spent the rest of the night with McGee in case he awoke again, hoping that if he did it would not be as traumatic as that first waking had been. Part of her had wanted him to wake up at tell her what she feared was not true, but another part had been disgusted by her selfishness. McGee needed to heal. That was the important thing. Everything else could be dealt with when he was no longer in danger of dying.
The events of the previous night played over and over in her mind. The thought of McGee, usually so steadfast in his desire not to show emotion, in the state in which she had seen him when he awoke had disturbed her more than she cared to admit. The idea that her other partner had been the cause of it…No. She still could not believe that Tony would intentionally hurt McGee. She held firm to the idea that Tony had not been, could not have been in his right mind. The question was, how could they prove it? And even if they could, and Tony was acquitted, how was McGee going to handle the idea that a man he had trusted on some level for years had done this to him, intentionally or not? And how would Tony handle the knowledge that it had been his hands that wielded the knife, even if the intent was not his own?
When Ziva finally entered the lab, she saw Abby standing at her computer, typing furiously and chattering to herself in what sounded like some strange language Ziva had never encountered before. She stepped closer to see what the forensic scientist was studying, but it was completely foreign to her as well. Abby noticed her presence and turned, an excited, almost manic expression on her face.
“Ziva! I found something! Something in Tony’s blood that most definitely doesn’t belong!”
“What is it?”
Abby huffed in annoyance. “That’s the problem, I haven’t figured it out yet. It’s not in Major Mass Spec’s library, and I haven’t been able to find any references to it in any database so far. I’ve been trying to figure out its chemical structure, but it’s tricky, and I’ve been trying to contact someone so I can run it through an NMR, since that in addition to the Mass Spec will help me figure out the structure, but—“
“Abby! What do you think it is?”
“I think, well, I’m really hoping, that it’s some sort of synthetic psychotropic drug. You know, something that can explain Tony’s behavior and why he can’t remember anything.”
“Is there a chance that this drug could cause…violent behavior?”
“What do you mean?” Abby asked, suddenly suspicious.
“Could it have made Tony…do something he would not normally do, against his will?”
An expression with which Ziva was all too familiar appeared on Abby face. “You can’t possibly think that Tony would—“
“Abby, I am sorry, but…McGee woke up last night, and—“
“You didn’t tell me?” she screeched. “How is he? Does he remember anything? What did he say? I need to see him, he—“
“ABBY!” The woman flinched at Ziva’s tone and the agent took a deep breath to calm herself before she continued. “I am sorry. He was only awake for a few moments, and…he was not completely coherent, but…he was afraid. Afraid and begging for his life.”
“Oh, God, poor Timmy…but what makes you think--?”
“The only name he mentioned was Tony’s. McGee was pleading for Tony not to…well, I am not sure. He did not finish what he was trying to say.”
Abby stared at her, wide-eyed, an expression of horror clear on her face. “So you think…?”
“I do not know. I do not want to believe it, but…if Tony was under the influence of some drug, then…”
“It’s not his fault.”
“Only if we can prove what it was, what it made him do, and that Tony did not know what he was doing or had no control.”
“And we will.” She turned back to her screen. “I will figure this out. For Tony…and Timmy. He needs to know, too.” She turned back to Ziva. “He’s going to be OK, right?”
“I hope so.”
“Me, too. We have to get our team back together, Ziva. We have to.”
“I know, Abby.” I just hope we can…
“You have a visitor.”
Tony looked up at the guard and nodded. He had been expecting this since Doyle had showed up the previous night and told him what McGee had said. Tony had spent the night trying his damnedest to remember what had happened in McGee’s apartment that night, but his mind had remained stubbornly blank. He had wound up just sitting and staring down at his own hands, almost able to see McGee’s blood staining them, and had wondered what could have possible led him to harm his partner.
Tony rose and waited for the guard to perform his all-too-familiar ritual of affixing the restraints before he followed the man to interview room. He was expecting to see Gibbs, or perhaps Vance, but the man seated at the table was honestly the last person he had expected, or wanted, to see. As soon as the man saw Tony, he leapt to his feet.
“Junior, what the hell is going on?”
“Sir, you need to sit down,” barked the guard.
“What are you doing here, Dad?” asked Tony as his father followed the guard’s orders.
“What am I doing here? What are you doing…in this place?” He ran his hands through his hair. “And why didn’t you call me?”
Tony waited until the guard left before he responded. “Call you? For what? You’re here, so obviously someone told you.”
“Yes, a reporter called me last night, want to know how I felt about my son the federal agent being charged with attempted murder of his partner! What happened? ” He met Tony’s gaze. “Is this some sort of undercover thing?”
“If it was, do you really think I could tell you? And no, it’s not an ‘undercover thing’. It’s real.”
“But why? Why would you--?”
“Don’t sound so surprised, Dad,” Tony yelled, and winced before lowering his voice to normal levels. “You’ve been expecting something like this for years.”
The shocked expression on Senior’s face was surprisingly genuine. “What are you talking about?”
“You’re telling me you don’t remember? ‘That temper of yours. You’ll wind up in the gutter.’”
Shock morphed into indignation. “I never said anything like that!”
“Guess your memory’s not what it used to be. Then again, you were drunk at the time, so I guess it’s possible it slipped your mind.” Part of Tony was horrified at the way he was speaking to his father, but another part, the part that had been rubbed raw by everything that had happened over the past week…well, that part didn’t care and it was in control.
“Son, if I ever said such a thing, you must know I didn’t mean it.”
“No, I think you did. But that doesn’t matter now. What do you want?”
“I wanted…I wanted to see if you were OK.”
Tony let out a bark of humorless laughter. “Oh, fine. Three hots and a cot, I’ve got it made. Just a few details to work out, though: life in prison with or without the possibility of parole.”
“But the rest of your team…surely they know you didn’t—“
“Except the part where I did: I stabbed my partner, my friend, and even though I don’t remember doing it…you know what? It doesn’t matter. Sorry you made the trip for nothing, Dad.”
“Junior…son, we’ll find a way out of this. Let me call my lawyer, I’m sure he can—“
“You mean the lawyer you really can’t afford? I doubt he can help me. Guard!” he called, and the man almost immediately appeared. “I’m ready to go back to my cell. So long, Dad.”
Tony ignored his father’s pleas and shuffled out of the room. He was sure Senior would soon figure out he wasn’t needed and would get back to his own life. It was what he had always done.
Gibbs rubbed a weary hand over his eyes as he sat next to McGee’s hospital bed, watching and waiting for some sign that his agent was returning to consciousness. Ziva had told him what had happened the previous night, and while he still couldn’t wrap his mind around the idea that Tony had somehow done this, he held on to the belief that this whole nightmare was some horrible, twisted set up designed to bring down the heart of his team. He just wished he knew why.
“How is he?”
Gibbs looked up to see Ducky standing at the foot of McGee’s bed.
“Still out. The doc says he’s getting stronger, but the more rest he gets, the better. They don’t want another incident like last night.”
“I imagine not,” Ducky replied as he checked through the reports. “He’s very fortunate to have made it this far, Jethro.”
“Yeah, I know. I just want…”
“Your team back together. I’m not sure how possible that will be at this point, but if anyone can figure this out, we will.”
“Yeah. Just wish it hadn’t happened in the first place. How did I miss it, Duck? The sign that something was so wrong with DiNozzo?”
“I honestly don’t believe you did, Jethro. No doubt that was part of the plan for whoever did set this in motion.”
Gibbs let his gaze rest on the pale, silent form on the bed. “What about McGee? What if he can’t come back from this?”
“Timothy is resilient, that is certain, but I understand your concern. It will be a long road to recovery, but I believe he will prevail.”
“Hope you’re right, Duck.” Suddenly he noticed a slight shift in McGee’s breathing pattern and he focused his attention on the young man’s face. McGee’s features were crinkled in an expression of confusion, although his eyes remained closed.
“McGee? Tim, can you hear me?”
Slowly McGee’s eyes opened and he blinked. His gaze was unfocused as it made a circuit of his surroundings, finally coming to rest on the face that hovered over him.
“McGee? You with me?”
He blinked again and almost immediately his lids snapped shut and his jaw clenched as his pain obviously made itself known. Ducky left to get help and Gibbs put what he hoped was a comforting hand on McGee’s trembling arm.
“It’s OK, Tim. You’re going to be OK.”
Soon Ducky returned with the doctor and one of the nurses. They quickly evaluated their patient before finally administering an analgesic. They watched as Tim started to relax and after another quick check of his vitals, the doctor turned to Gibbs.
“We’ll get him set up with a pain management system as soon as we can. In the meantime, make sure he stays calm. He’ll probably want to go back to sleep soon, so let him.”
“You got it, Doc.”
After the doctor and nurse left, Gibbs returned his attention to his agent. “McGee?” he asked as he moved his hand to rest on the younger man’s forehead. “How are you feeling?”
“Boss..?” Tim’s voice was weak and raspy, and almost on cue the nurse returned with ice chips which Gibbs immediately started feeding to him. “What…?”
“You’re OK, McGee. You’re going to be fine.”
“We’re very happy to see you awake, Timothy,” added Ducky. “But you do need your rest. If you want to sleep, don’t fight it. One of us will be here when you wake up.”
Gibbs felt his heart sink. Whatever memory Tim may have had when he first awoke seemed to have left him for now.
“What do you remember?” Ducky asked with a warning look at Gibbs.
“I don’t…” His eyelids started to droop and Gibbs was certain he would soon be down for the count, but suddenly they snapped open.
“It’s alright, Tim,” Gibbs soothed as the heart monitor showed McGee’s distress. “Don’t worry—“
Gibbs froze, not sure if he’d heard correctly. Tim saw the shocked expression Gibbs had been too startled to hide and a look of despair appeared on his face.
“Oh no…please…tell me…he isn’t…dead.”
Gibbs glanced at Ducky, but the M.E. appeared just a surprised as he felt.
“He’s not dead, Tim,” Gibbs replied as he studied McGee’s reaction. Relief appeared on the younger man’s face and the beeping of the heart monitor slowed slightly.
“Is he hurt? Is he…is he here, too?”
“He’s fine, Tim. He wasn’t injured.” Although ‘fine’ was stretching it, Gibbs was fairly sure McGee wasn’t ready to hear the whole truth.
“Thank…God. T-they said…they said they were going…to d-destroy h-him. Tony.”
“Who, Tim?” Gibbs could see that McGee was fighting to stay awake, and he felt a flash of guilt for not allowing him to rest, but he needed to know.
“Two men…never saw them before…they were in my…apartment. I c-couldn’t…I couldn’t f-fight them.”
“And they wanted to ‘destroy’ Tony? Did they say why?”
“F-first the son…t-then the f-father…” Gibbs saw a flash of anguish in McGee’s eyes. “I…they said I was…c-collateral d-damage…”
Gibbs fought to control the surge of fury he felt, both towards the men that had done this, and the man that had apparently caused it. He saw the broken look in McGee’s eyes and experienced a stab of guilt.
“It’s OK, Tim…and they were wrong. You’re not collateral damage, not to us.”
McGee gave him a very weak smile. “T-thanks, Boss…”
“Do you remember anything else?”
“Jethro…” Ducky admonished, but Gibbs sent him a look and he quieted as both men returned their focus to the injured man.
“I…I remember they said…they lured Tony…to my apartment. I saw…I saw him come in, and…they did something…knocked him out. I couldn’t move…and…oh God, one of them had a knife, and…” McGee’s eyes snapped shut, the pain he had felt obviously returning to him. “It hurt so much, but I couldn’t…I’m sorry, Boss.”
Gibbs rubbed McGee’s forehead as he tried to ease the pain of the memory. “It’s OK, Tim. It’s OK.”
“Jethro, I must insist…”
“Yeah, Duck, I know.”
“What, Tim?” Gibbs could see that McGee was truly struggling to stay awake but he still managed to speak.
“The man…who s-stabbed me…his eyes…didn’t match. One brown…one blue.”
“That’s a place to start,” Gibbs whispered and Ducky nodded. He looked back down at McGee and saw that he was finally asleep. Gibbs let his hand linger on McGee’s forehead for a moment before he withdrew and pulled out his cell phone as he stood up. He quickly pressed a number. “Ziva? I’m at the hospital with McGee. I need you here, now.” He snapped the phone shut. “Keep an eye on him until Ziva gets here, Duck. No one else comes in until I get back. I don’t want these bastards to get another crack at him.”
“But where are you going?”
“To get my agent out of jail.”
Tony startled awake, surprised that he had managed to sleep at all, and tried to let his eyes adjust to the darkness. Suddenly he was hit with the sensation that he was not alone.
The silence was oppressive, but Tony thought that he just barely heard something… someone breathing. He held his own breath and confirmed that there was someone else hiding in the darkness. He immediately rolled off his bed and took a defensive stance, waiting for the first concrete sign of his visitor. When nothing happened, he decided to push them into action.
“What do you want? Huh? Come on!”
Suddenly something rushed at him and he felt a solid object across his throat. He fought back, but his oxygen supply was quickly dwindling and he struggled to stay conscious. Just as everything began to fade out, he thought he heard a familiar voice calling his name.