McGee moaned low in his throat. His head was pounding and the smell of wet cat was making him nauseous. No, he considered, not wet cat: the carpet could just do with a good clean. He thought about getting up but he had learnt not to move without Ducky's permission. Besides, he actually felt appalling and, as a consequence, he was quite content to keep lying very still. If only someone could do something about the smell.
He knew his mind was wondering but having maxima located at both the front and back of his head, the wave pattern of the pain was analogous to the fundamental frequency of an open-end air column. Given that analogy was correct, logically there should be one single point in the middle of his head where there was no pain: a pain node. He tried vainly to locate the point but failed. The thought occurred to him that he might have just gone insane.
He could hear a very spirited argument going on somewhere.
"If that were the case, then all an alcoholic would need was insight and he would be cured. It doesn't work like that." Ducky was not in a good mood.
"It's getting worse," Tony observed.
"Yes, well it would," Ducky was exasperated. "If Doctor Phil and his group of McPsychologists would treat this as a real affliction and not just some party trick then perhaps young McGee might have a chance at some semblance of a normal life."
A small whimper escaped from McGee's lips before he had a chance to chase it down and stop it getting away. The small group turned and looked at him.
"Ah, Timothy," said Ducky consolingly, "pay no attention, I was just trying to dissuade this lot from treating the human mind as if it were a child's plaything."
"I still think aversion therapy, Ducky." Tony outlined his game plan; "every time he sees a bus, we whack him on the head. It might not work, but it'll be fun."
"Yes, thank you Anthony," Ducky grumbled, "Your degree in physical education is noted."
He turned his attention to McGee, still on the floor. "Perhaps some form of therapy might be warranted."
"OK," Tony warmed up again, "We'll start with tricycles, then bikes and work our way up to …"
"Would you get that for me please Ziva?" Ducky requested casually.
"Thank you much obliged. Now as I was saying Timothy, a little therapy. We are going to pay a visit to that bus."
Half an hour later a small group gathered at the 'Buses-r-us' depot. Ducky was explaining the situation to an impossibly grouchy grey-haired old woman who seemed more interested in the contents of her toenail scrapings than Ducky's theories.
When Ducky stopped his admittedly long-winded explanation she paused to look up at him.
"Give me your phone number and you can take the damn bus," she offered, dangling the keys from her grimy fingers in what might have been construed as an enticing gesture in a parallel universe.
Ducky gave Gibbs a sideways look.
"It's in a good cause, Ducky", Gibbs muttered under his breath.
Ducky narrowed his eyes and weighed up the pros and cons for a moment.
"Oh, alright", he relented with a forced smile at the crone, hoping against hope that she wouldn't attempt to grin back. He flicked out a pen and wrote a number on a notepad by the woman's phone.
"Knock yourselves out," she smiled at him, proving that at least three of her blackened teeth were still hanging in there doggedly.
On their way to the bus, Tony sidled up to Ducky, "You'd really do that for McGee?" he asked incredulously, keeping his voice low.
"Oh my, no," Ducky reassured him, "It was Gibbs' number".
McGee felt his heart thump in his throat as they approached the old beast. It was most certainly the same type as his old nemesis all those years ago, but from close range, it seemed fragile and weathered. He stroked the metallic frame and felt the bubbles in the paint and the occasional gritty patch where the rust had eaten through.
Ducky held the keys aloft, "So who knows how to drive a bus?"
Nobody blinked when Ziva snatched the keys from his hand and headed wordlessly for the bus' front door. They were too busy taking cover.
"Not you," Ducky motioned to McGee from his position of safety between two adjacent buses, "You have to be on it."
McGee's eyes opened wide in terror, "What!" he asked panic stricken, "with her?"
"I'm afraid so," Ducky commiserated.
"You're afraid?" McGee shot at him as he headed stoically for the bus. One way or another, this fear of buses was going to end. He hoped it wasn't the other.
Ziva fired up the engine and felt the raw power growl beneath her body. She pumped the accelerator rhythmically.
"Oh yesss," she crooned, "give it to me baby."
McGee raised an eyebrow at her and tried to find somewhere secure to brace himself. He was just trying to wedge his body between two rows of seats half way down the aisle when Ziva floored the monster shooting straight across the bus yard, through a metal fence and ploughing over an embankment towards a conveniently placed canal. The bus entered the embankment at an angle optimally predisposed to rolling it approximately three and a quarter times in a flurry of groaning metal and showering sparks before coming to rest on its side.
For a moment McGee thought he had just passed out again but then he twigged that he was lying on his side with one arm threaded around his head so that his hand was touching the other side of his face. There were rows of seats lying in jumbled heaps all around him with no respect for gravity. There was a warm stream of blood flowing freely down the side of his face which he tried to wipe with the back of the hand that was dangling nearby. Apparently, his anatomy didn't work that way.
He paused to get his bearings and slowly untangled his limbs from the seats. He could hear people outside calling faintly. Of more immediate concern was the smell of gas which was starting to burn off a layer of his nasal mucus membrane.
"You Ok Ziva?" he called out tentatively, peering around the interior of the bus carcass shakily.
"Oh good, you're awake" she called back in exasperation, "I'm just a little stuck".
McGee picked his way carefully down the upturned seats to where Ziva was trying to extract herself. He could hear the desperate sounds of people trying to smash windows but they seemed worlds away.
Ziva was very stuck. Her leg seemed to be wrapped around a section of the steering wheel in a manner so unnatural it made his stomach churn.
"Ahh.." he started uncertainly, "That could be a little broken."
"Sorry," he apologised, "I guess you knew that."
"Don't apologise," she gasped, trying to extract herself, "it takes too much time, just get me out of here, I can smell fire."
He sniffed the air and realised she was right. The window thumps were getting more frantic, the outside team could probably see the flames.
"OK", he steeled himself more than her, "This is going to hurt."
He knew Ziva wouldn't mind. She was pragmatic about pain, almost to the point of masochism.
He dug his arms under her body and lifted as best he could, ignoring Ziva's deafening screams and the puncture wounds her talons were making in his back. Hoisting her weight, he staggered through the stricken interior towards the window that the outside team was just managing to smash through.
Many hands and arms helped him out but he would not relinquish Ziva. Partly because he felt he owed her something for defeating his sworn enemy but mainly because he was pretty sure they had become conjoined though some bizarre fingernail/back connection.
As the others ran for cover, he strode purposely away from the smoking ruin with Ziva in his arms. He felt the shockwave from the explosion buffet his body but, fortunately, Ziva's screaming had stunned his eardrums enough to deaden the sound. The accompanying wave of heat singed the hairs on his back and he gave thanks his butt wasn't as hairy as Tony's.
As the explosions died down, McGee paused to look back at the crumpled remains of his old foe. It was well and truly dead now. Finally he could get a good night's sleep.