“Outta the way! Outta the way!” the doctor yelled, running alongside the gurney. The patient was crashing, and crashing hard.
“Who's in charge?” another voice demanded. “Are you in charge?” When then reached Trauma Room 1, the team set the gurney and lowered the rails; hands and equipment flew over the bleeding man.
“Get him intubated!” the doctor ordered as he read the information being churned out by the monitors.
“YOU! You're in charge?”
The doctor whirled around. “Yeah, I'm the surgeon on call. You need to get out of here. Sonja! Come get this guy and show--”
“No, goddammit! That's my man there. I'm not leaving him!!”
“Look, you moron, you're in the way. I can't do my job if you're impeding the work of my team. So get OUT NOW!”
“You don't get it,” the man shouted back, the desperation apparent. “We don't leave each other behind!”
The monitors started flashing and sounding an loud claxon. “Jerry, can you please--” The doctor turned away and shouted orders. “Charge to three hundred! Clear!”
The paddles made a whining sound, and then the patient's body twitched. Another claxon. “Charge to three-fifty!”
Special Agent Jethro Gibbs stood by helplessly as he watched the dark-haired doctor and his team, a damn fine team at that—Gibbs knew good work when he saw it, work quickly and efficiently over Tim McGee. Blood dripped over the side of the gurney even as Gibbs witnessed a nurse forcefully pumping blood from a bag through a tube in Tim's arm.
“Dammit!” the doctor said. “We gotta get him to the OR right now.”
A large African-American man in green scrubs filled Gibbs's view. “Sir, we really need you to step out of this room, so the doc can work on your man.”
“You don't understand,” Gibbs started. “I can't--”
“Sir, I'm a Marine, too. We never leave our men behind, but right now, I'm asking you, Marine to Marine, to stand aside.”
With that plea, Gibbs backed out of the room as the team of medical personnel prepared to move the gurney holding McGee's battered and bleeding body; he watched as they piled several monitors onto the bed. “He any good?” he asked, nodding at the doc.
“Sir, Doctor Leonard McCoy is the finest trauma surgeon I've ever seen and worked for, and I've seen and worked for a lot.” He placed a huge hand on Gibbs's shoulder. “Your man is well cared for.”
The gurney shot past, surrounded by men and women talking rapidly to each other. They were followed by the blood-covered physician.
“HEY DOC! McCoy!” Gibbs called. McCoy turned. “Do your best.”
McCoy waved at him in response and then disappeared into the elevator.
Gibbs hated leaving Tim to this man, but he had to trust. Trust that the Marine Corps and the Naval Hospital would care for one of his own, just as it had always cared for him.
“What the hell are you still doing here?” McCoy asked quietly as he entered ICU. “I thought you were leaving.”
“Nope.” Gibbs was seated just outside McGee's room, coffee cup in hand. “Not leaving til I see he's gonna be all right.”
“Well, it's gonna be a while yet,” McCoy said, writing on the chart. “This patient sustained major trauma, and--”
“McGee,” Gibbs said. “His name is Tim McGee. He's a special agent with NCIS. He's...he's one of mine.”
McCoy looked up at him, then down at the chart. “Agent McGee was shot four times, Special Agent Gibbs. I have put him in a medical coma to stabilize the repair work we did tonight. We will watch him like a hawk on a mouse every second that he's here. There's nothing more for you to do.” He turned to walk into McGee's room with two of the ICU nurses. “Go home, Gibbs.”
Gibbs watched as McCoy and the nurses checked Tim. They stayed in the room for quite some time before coming out.
McCoy came to stand beside Gibbs where he'd been watching through the room's window. “Gibbs, I thought I said--”
“Not leaving. Get used to it.” And with that, Gibbs went and sat down in the chair beside the door again.
“Whatever,” McCoy muttered.
At 0600, Gibbs started awake, just like he did every morning; only today, he was upright and his ass was numb from sitting in the most uncomfortable chair known to humanity. He stood and turned to look in McGee's room, and was surprised to see McCoy sitting beside the bed; the man looked like he was asleep.
Glancing over at the ICU desk, he saw that the nurse was busy reading another monitor. As she turned away from him, Gibbs slipped quietly into Tim's room.
The soft beeps of the cardiac monitor and whoosing of the venitlator greeted him. Tim was pale, purple bruises ringing his closed eyes; his chest moved up and down with the vent; tubes fed saline and medicines and blood into his body, and other tubes pulled waste fluids out of his body.
“Oh god, Tim,” Gibbs said softly. “I should've been there.”
A hand closed around his bicep. “Come with me,” McCoy whispered in his ear.
Gibbs didn't want to fight the man at the side of the bed, so he went with him easily. Once outside Tim's room, McCoy, who looked like he'd gone a few rounds himself, stared at him.
“You cannot be here, Gibbs,” McCoy said in a harsh whisper. “You Marines always think sheer force of will can wake anyone up, can make everything all better. Well, it's not going to happen. McGee will awaken when I say he's ready, and he's not.”
“How's he doing, doc?”
McCoy softened. “He made it through the night, and that's something of a miracle. It's going to be days before we know just how--”
A loud clatter of footsteps and hushed frantic voices cut off whatever McCoy was going to say next. A gaggle of people burst around the corner and immediately surrounded them.
“Oh, Gibbs!” Abby wailed, as she threw her arms around him. “Oh, Tim!!!”
“Dr. McCoy, I presume,” a dapper Englishman said, coming up to McCoy, his hand outstretched. “Dr. Donald Mallard, chief medical examiner for NCIS. Your reputation precedes you, sir. I have heard many accolades for your surgical skills here. How is Timothy doing this morning?”
“Hey, are you the doc?” Tony said. “What's going on? Any change?”
Gibbs noticed that McCoy's face was beginning to turn red, so he acted. A piercing whistle rent the air. “Hey!” McCoy said, his face filling with anger. “Stop that! This is a hospital, not a hockey rink.”
“Just trying to bring some order to the chaos,” Gibbs said serenely. “If everyone will sit down, Doc McCoy here will bring us up to speed on Tim's prognosis.”
McCoy shot him a look of—well, not gratitude exactly, but something more like relief. “Ok, here's what we know...”
At 1034, Gibbs was sitting in the hospital cafeteria staring into a cup that held a hot liquid that was a disgrace to be called coffee; it was, however, better than tea. Or Coke. Or whatever the hell else passed for a caffeine delivery system. Still, a Marine took what he could get, and was grateful for it.
“Coffee's the worst I've ever had,” McCoy said with a grumble. Gibbs noticed his hair was damp and he was wearing cleaner scrubs and a white medical jacket. “If it was decent, I'd bitch about you drinking too much. But since it's just a step above 'muddy water', I'll spare you the lecture.”
“Appreciate that, doc,” Gibbs replied. He nodded, and the doctor dropped into the chair opposite.
For a doctor, McCoy was a big guy, broad-shouldered and flat-bellied. He obviously worked out, or at least kept the weight off by running around the hospital. The scuttlebutt was that McCoy was a commissioned naval officer who obtained his training as a civilian; divorced, and not known to hit on nurses, doctors or Naval personnel of either sex; a completely brilliant trauma physician, but something of a grump when dealing with anyone—he was an equal-opportunity bastard to the Chief of Staff down to the old ladies who sat at the information desk. His surgical skills were the stuff of medical legend, which was why the Navy and the hospital put up with him and kept promoting him. The man flat saved lives.
They sat drinking coffee that barely earned the name, content to look past each other, and not speak. Gibbs liked that. He smiled.
“What are you getting all smiley about?” McCoy rumbled.
“Ah, nothing much. Missing a good cup of coffee.”
“You like the buzz?”
“Nope. Just like coffee.”
McCoy humphed quietly. “Some days I think I displace most of my bodily fluids with the stuff. Been drinking it so long don't know how to quit.” McCoy grimaced as he took another long draw. “Why don't you get out of here? Find yourself that decent cup.”
“Nah. I can put up with it until Tim wakes up.”
McCoy stared at him. “Don't you have a job to do?”
“Yep. Doing it.”
McCoy's beeper went off, just as the voice over the intercom in the cafeteria sounded. “Code Blue! Code Blue!”
“Shit!” McCoy exclaimed, jumping up. The coffee mug hit the floor, and shattered.
Gibbs was right behind him as McCoy entered the stair well, practically jumping down whole flights of stairs. They entered the ICU floor and met the code team outside McGee's room.
“What is it?” Gibbs shouted.
McCoy's hand hit him mid-chest. “Stay here!!” he roared.
“MCGEE!” Gibbs tried to enter.
“Good god, man, let me save him!” McCoy said. “STAY!”
He entered the room, and started directing the team. Gibbs slumped against the glass, watching nurses and doctors hand McCoy one instrument after another, stabbing McGee every where.
“Come here, Jethro,” Ducky said, coming to his side. “Let the doctors do their work.”
Exhaustion overcame him as he allowed Ducky to pull him from his vigil.
Two days later, Gibbs showed up in the ICU at 0500. Predictably, he found McCoy busily reading the monitors in McGee's room. He stood quietly outside until McCoy noticed him. The doctor nodded, and Gibbs pushed the door open slowly. The first thing he noticed was the quiet whoosing sound was gone; the second, the tubes leading into Tim's mouth were no longer there.
Gibbs handed the doctor a large to-go cup of fragrant dark-roasted Sumatra coffee, black. “Praise be to God,” McCoy breathed. “You sure know where to find good stuff.”
“Told ya. How is he?”
“Today is the day we bring him up out of the coma. I weaned him off the last of the drugs four hours ago. One hour ago, I removed the vent, and he's breathing steadily on his own.” McCoy took a long sip and set the cup on the table. “Jesus, that's good. He's been stable for thirty-six hours. Pressure is steady; pulse-ox good. No bleeding from any of the surgical sites, and his urine output is clear. Was worried about his right kidney where the bullet nicked it. All in all, your man here was one lucky son of a bitch.”
“To get you as his doctor,” Gibbs said automatically.
McCoy barely smiled. “No, I mean he was lucky the damage to his kidney, small intestine and liver was minimal. And that the bullets all missed his spine. Wasn't he wearing a vest?”
“Yeah. Armor-piercing bullets.”
“Fuck,” McCoy muttered. “Fucking bastards who make those goddamn things outta be shot with them themselves.”
“You catch the shooters yet?”
“Can't discuss the case,” Gibbs said.
McCoy raised an eyebrow.
“Well, yeah, we caught two of them. Still looking for the leader.”
“Good. Give them all a good goddamn smack upside the head for me.”
The cardiac monitor beeped steadily. Gibbs looked up. “You been home yet?”
McCoy made another notation on the chart. “Home? To what? A one-room apartment on a Naval base? I sleep better in the on-call room anyway.”
McCoy picked up his coffee, and together they watched Tim breathing on his own.
At 1352, just hours before Christmas Day, Tim McGee opened his eyes for the first time in four days.
At 1353:22 Tim McGee saw Jethro Gibbs giving a dark-haired man wearing green medical scrubs and a white coat a bear hug of epic proportions, and quite possibly, a kiss.
The fragrant smell of coffee made his mouth water.