McGee did not know how long he had been sitting there with his legs folded underneath him like a small child; face hot from the flush of tears. The only thing he knew for certain was that not one moment of his time in this position had been spent alone. Tony had been there sitting cross legged on the floor beside him saying nothing but just being there. McGee could no longer feel disdain radiating from him but he didn't know if that was because Tony had ceased to emit or because he was too numb to receive.
When Tony finally broke the silence, his voice was gentle. "Why didn't you tell us?"
"I thought you hated me." It sounded childish even to his ears.
"Yeah, but we like Sarah."
McGee slid his eyes to Tony's worried face. He knew he was trying to lighten the mood but the added humor only strengthened his desire to breakdown and cry for the rest of his life. If Tony was trying to be nice to him, things must really be bad. He closed his eyes and shut out the world.
"Hey," he heard Tony's efforts to bring him back to reality. "She's not dead. We just have to find her."
McGee heaved his eyes open again. "And the only person who can tell us where she is is lying over there on the floor."
Tony swallowed, uncertain of how to counter the logic.
"McGee," Ziva spoke up, frowning at the cell in her hand. "This phone was not the one used to call you."
McGee's sensors pricked up. "What?"
"Your number is not on the call list and Abby says this is not the area from which the calls to your cell phone originated."
"Maybe he has two phones," Tony offered.
"Or there is a copy cat out there," Ziva mused.
"But then they would have to have the same sort of connections as the killer: they knew my cell number, had access to my home computer, my work computer……" McGee froze mid-sentence with his jaw hanging open.
"No, he wouldn't."
McGee struggled to his feet. He had no idea how long he had been sitting on his legs but the pins and needles where excruciating. Suddenly he realised the room was abuzz with activity: police were taking statements and Ducky and Jimmy were just arriving. Moments ago there had just been him and Tony alone on the entire planet. There was no time to ponder the incongruity. "Let's go."
The sun was just rising as they met Gibbs outside Rick Jame's house. "We'll do this nice and slow," he instructed as they reached the front door. "Ziva,Tony: go around the back. McGee: knock gently and see if we can convince him we don't know anything."
McGee looked Gibbs hard in the eye. "Screw that," he shot off the lock and barged in, gun at the ready.
Gibbs looked back at Tony as they followed McGee in. "I must talk to you about your mentoring program."
A quick search of the main house revealed nothing but McGee was not to be deterred. "I'm sure he said something about a wine cellar," he muttered.
Then he saw it, a small door tucked away under the stairs. He nodded to Gibbs and opened the door slowly to reveal a short stairwell. The four agents stalked down the stairs to be met by another door which Ziva picked almost instantaneously. Opening the door a crack, she observed Sarah McGee clearly tied to a chair in the middle of a room. Behind her, gun trained on the door, stood Rick James.
"Try it and she dies," he said calmly.
Ziva slowly entered the room, holding her gun high.
"And the rest of you."
Feeling Gibbs crouch to the floor taking aim, Tony spoke loudly as he stepped into the room to draw James' attention:. "And how are you planning on all this panning out?"
In an instant, Gibbs shot the gun from James' outstretched hand. The door flew open to reveal Gibbs and McGee with guns levelled.
Rick James sneered at McGee. "How does it feel to think your sister is going to be chopped into a million pieces?"
McGee stared at the hazel eyes down the barrel of his gun, his trigger finger aching impatiently. "Not as good as this is gonna feel."
"McGee," Gibbs warned.
McGee did not answer, his attention focused on the pleasure of transforming Rick James' body into an amorphous smear across the room.
"Tim?" Sarah's voice sounded uncertain; almost as though she didn't want him to kill her kidnapper in cold blood.
Rick James was smiling. "Do it".
The sweat trickled down McGee's face. James was inviting him to shoot, willing him to kill and it suddenly occurred to him that this man had nothing left to live for. He wanted to be put down. Slowly he lowered his gun and was genuinely glad to see the suffering on James' face at the realisation that he was going to live. Tony and Ziva raced forward and clamped handcuffs on him.
Holstering his weapon reluctantly, McGee slowly approached his sister as she sat tied to the chair; disbelief that she was still alive plastered across his face. Kneeling at her side, he wrapped his arms around her. He had never imagined he would miss her that much. The age difference was such that he could remember her appearing in his life, the shift in his parent's attention, the thought that they had just halved his inheritance. Somewhere between then and now she had become an integral part of his existence and he no could more live without her than without his brain or heart.
Sarah McGee closed her eyes and breathed in the mixture of dry cleaning and old spice. Beyond the comforting warmth of his strong body, she could feel an underlying trembling that reminded her how much her big brother still felt responsible for her. "You know I still have an assignment due tomorrow."
He withdrew slowly with a gentle snort. "I think they might grant you an extension."
His fingers fumbled with the ropes for a moment until Ziva's knife encroached and he yielded to the more efficient method. He took the opportunity to remove his trench coat ready to drape it across Sarah, the second she was free. It was just past dawn: she must be freezing.
"Did he hurt you?" he asked concerned.
"No," she said. "He came over after you fell asleep. Said he just wanted to talk and apologise. After I let him in he shoved something over my mouth and suddenly I was here."
"But there was blood," McGee's voice faded as he tried to squeeze out the words.
"On the towel."
"Oh, I was making a late night snack; I cut myself with the knife."
McGee closed his eyes and let the relief wash over him. "Thank God."
"Ever miss having a sibling Boss?" Tony asked as they drove back to headquarters through the quiet early morning streets. He was sharing the back seat with the slumbering McGee siblings: Sarah snuggled comfortably against her brother, McGee with his head nestled atop his sister's with one arm wrapped protectively around her waist.
"Nope, not even a little," Gibbs replied.