McGee awoke in a gasping panic. He was being pushed along on a stretcher by someone who's driving made Ziva look like a sixty-year old peering cautiously over the rim of the wheel. There were tears streaming down his face and an oxygen mask over his mouth and nose. There was a tremendous ache over his entire chest and his lungs burnt like acid every time he took a breath. He wasn't entirely convinced they were working to design specs.
There were other trolleys in the bumper car rally and he could hear Ziva's frantic voice yelling out in something that could have been heavily accented English or some other language.
His trolley was launched freely and it spun a full 180 degrees before coming to rest against a wall. Through the flood of tears, he could barely discern Ziva's worried face as she grasped one of his hands firmly in hers and stroked his forehead with the other. He could feel her soft hair brushing against the side of his face. All this only served to make him panic more.
"No, no, no, no, no," she said soothingly, bending close to him. "Hush now, I know it hurts but do not worry, I know the neutralising agent."
McGee struggled to see how the terms "don't worry" and "neutralising agent" could possibly ever co-exist in the same sentence. He felt a needle being inserted into his hand and a cold liquid running into his arm.
"Rest in peace," was the last thing he heard Ziva say as the world darkened.
Ziva was pretty sure she had said the wrong thing again. Maybe it was McGee's wide eyed look of horror as his eyes rolled up or Tony's painful gasping laughter into his oxygen mask. Whatever the hint, she'd mixed it up again.
"What was wrong with that?" she asked Tony, exasperated as they wheeled McGee away.
"Nothing if you were trying to give him a eulogy," Tony's voice was muffled by his mask. "Ow", he laughed. "It hurts."
Ziva closed her eyes for a moment in frustration and then turned with a sweet smile on her face. "I meant it like 'rest easy' or 'be at peace'."
"Close," Tony laughed again and then coughed painfully. "Just don't try to comfort me, OK?"
When McGee opened his eyes again, they were clear. Sore, and dry but clear. Just like in the movies; it was a nice safe clean hospital: there was an oxygen mask, machines going ping and clean white bandages. Except for the excruciating pain across his chest, he felt he had achieved something.
He moved his head slightly to survey the room and found Ziva curled up like a cat on the visitor's chair six inches from his face. She was leafing through a magazine; probably not hospital supplied as there seemed to be a great deal of ammunition on the photo on the front cover. She looked up at the movement.
"Ah McGee," she smiled. "We were very nearly brothers in arms."
McGee gave her a puzzled expression with his eyes and eyebrows, he wasn't too sure how his voice was going to be, his throat felt rather sore.
"Well, yes, I know we are unofficially workmates at NCIS, but you were almost recruited to Mossad."
McGee's eyebrows went up in surprise.
"Yes," she nodded. "Online games are an especially rich source of recruits, especially if you are targeting the government agencies. You should have seen the transportation they had arranged for you. You would have been out of this country in a couple of hours."
This time there was only one eyebrow up.
"We would have found you, though," she continued holding up Abby's black studded wrist braces. "I helped Abby insert the trackers in here."
McGee wanted to ask her why they hadn't mentioned it to him but he couldn't make a question mark with his eyebrows alone.
"You can talk McGee," said Ziva with an exasperated sigh. "It's like Abby and the sign language thing, those eyebrows."
"Why didn't she just tell me?" it was just a whisper.
"You are not a good liar, McGee." OK, she had a point. He was going to have to work on that.
"Tony and Gibbs?" he had been right to conserve his voice, it was dry and raspy and it hurt like crazy.
"Fine," she assured him. "Still on oxygen but much better than you."
There was a relived smile under the mask.
"Did we get them?" he rasped again.
"Us?" she considered for a moment. "No. But they are gone now and their little operation is neutralised. NCIS is tidying up the loose ends. Abby managed to get a few good names off what was left of their hard drives."
"Go Abbs," he whispered.
"Yes, she is a wonder sometimes."
"What was the gas?" he asked suddenly, his scientific curiosity piqued.
"Nothing you'd know," she said.
"I have a BS in biomedical engineering…," he started.
"I don't think they taught you this one," she said solemnly. "I don't know the English for it but…hold on.."
She looked around for something to write on and settled on the back of his chart. She hastily scribbled a diagram of the molecular structure and passed it over. Tilting the board to the right angle to catch the light, McGee's eyes widened as he understood the implication.
"But," Ziva continued. "If you break these bonds here," she reached out with the pencil and struck out a couple of lines. "You can stop the reaction."
He nodded, impressed and passed back the board.
"I never thanked you properly for the food," he started.
"Did Tony enjoy it?"
McGee smiled at her again under the mask. "I found half of it in the bin."
Ziva smiled. "You'll feel more like it when you get back. Early days are not when you are hungry. It was more for the next week or so when you are starving and you can't be bothered doing anything." There was a knowing look in her eyes. She had obviously endured some of his recent experiences in her life.
"Did you know Tony gave you mouth to mouth while we waited for the ambulance?" she changed the topic suddenly.
McGee's hand shot automatically to his mouth to wipe it clean but it met the oxygen mask instead. The vision of Tony bending over him with his mouth firmly planted on his own was, quite frankly, unnerving.
"And Gibbs did the heart pushing thing…CPR? They kept you alive for about 5 minutes."
OK the picture was getting more worse by the minute. Dead bodies still made him nervous, imagining his own with Tony and Gibbs working on it was downright creepy. It did explain the chest pain, though, he didn't imagine for one moment that Gibbs was gentle about it.
"But what made them think I'd work for them?" McGee suddenly spoke up.
"Who? Mossad? Well, either you work for them or they eliminate you from the competition. It's win-win as far as they're concerned."
Try as he might, McGee couldn't see how it could possibly be a win for him.
The door opened and Tony glided in sans oxygen mask.
"McGee, buddy," he started with his arms open wide. "Want to take up where we left off?" He puckered his lips.
"Tony!" McGee shocked was muffled by the mask. He hoped the elastic securing it to his face was really strong.
"You know you want to," said Tony suggestively.
"Where is Gibbs?" Ziva asked in an attempt to break the mood.
"Coming," said Tony. "He had a visit from one of those redheads. You know the one who drives the sports car?"
McGee shuddered. "That one freaks me out," he said. "She reminds me of my mother."
Then he turned to Tony. "Thanks," he said simply.
"Don't mention it," said Tony lightly Then he got down close to McGee's face. "Ever," he emphasized. "If I hear one more person say how great it was to watch me playing tonsil hockey with you……"
Then McGee saw her: the cute nurse of his dreams. She was standing right behind Tony with a look of trepidation on her face. Perfect, the cute nurse finally appears and she thinks he is gay. Tony strikes again.