This story was written for a series of live journal challeges, each chapter is a new challenge with a new key word which I have used as the title
Disclaimer: I don't own NCIS or any of these characters otherwise I wouldn't be writing fanfics.
Summary: My first challenge. A car accident evokes painful memories for Gibbs.
"McGee, in the back."
McGee eyed Gibbs silently, deciding whether it was worth a fight.
"Sorry, Probie," Tony added. "When it comes to a choice between your butt and Ziva's butt: she just takes up less real estate."
"So you are saying McGee has 'balma butt'?" Ziva clarified, climbing into the front seat.
"No, I'm saying…just get in the back, Probie."
McGee heaved a resigned sigh and clambered into the back of the van. Making his way to the front, he opened the access window.
"Just gives thanks Ziva isn't driving," called Gibbs as they lurched forward, throwing McGee halfway back down the van again.
Struggling against link-simulation magnitude G-forces, McGee staggered his way to the front of the van again. "Thanks," he managed through gritted teeth.
"Only 20 more miles to go," Tony informed him cheerfully.
Traffic moved at a frantic pace with small suicidal vehicles darting across the van's nose. Gibbs invoked a few choice words indicative of many years in the armed forces even managing to raise Ziva's eyebrows occasionally.
Then the inevitable happened: a small car cut in too close. Gibbs slammed on the brakes and a tailgating truck slammed into their rear end. The resulting harsh metallic thud was accompanied by the deafening sound of equipment thundering to the floor in the back of the van. Instinctively, both Tony and Gibbs shot out a protective arm in Ziva's direction as they froze in time.
Nobody spoke in the eerie silence that followed until someone knocked on Gibbs' window. "You ok in there?"
Gibbs looked up at the anxious face outside. "Ah, yep, I think so." He looked across the seat where his arm still overlapped with Tony's forming a safety barrier for Ziva. "DiNozzo? David?"
He was met by two shocked faces.
Tony was the first to recover, slowly lowering his arm. "Yeah, Boss. Fine. Ziva?"
"Ah, yes. I appear to be uninjured."
"Good," said Gibbs slowly.
The three of them watched in silence as people tried to pry open the compressed front doors.
It was only when Gibbs' door unwillingly gave way that something clicked in Tony's brain. He thudded his hand against the wall behind him. "McGee?"
No response. Two more thuds, just to be sure. "McGee?"
He exchanged urgent glances with Gibbs who leapt out and raced to the rear door, trailing a sea of people inquiring about his welfare. Instead of a rear door, however, he met the crushed front of a large truck which had coalesced with the van. "Get this thing out of here," he yelled.
Meanwhile, Tony and Ziva were frantically scrabbling for the little access window. The meagre external light filtering through the gap was insufficient to illuminate the rear section to any useful degree.
Gibbs appeared again, poking his head into the front seat. "Can you see him?"
"Too dark," said Tony breathlessly. "McGee!"
"Where's the flashlight?" asked Ziva
"In the back of the freaking van," Tony ran an anxious hand through his hair.
Gibbs pulled back. "Anyone got a flashlight?" he called to the audience of onlookers.
In less than a minute he had three. It didn't take long to figure out the little window was not large enough to encompass three flashlights and three heads.
"OK," Gibbs commanded. "You two: a flashlight either side, I'll look in."
Ziva and Tony nodded and aimed their lights. Gibbs took a deep breath and peered inside.
Even with two flashlights, Gibbs' eyes needed time to adjust to the light levels. Then the scene came into focus like a remote sensing image of some underwater shipwreck. He recognised pieces of equipment scattered and broken across the floor and then: a single human leg. "Ziva: a little to the right."
As the beam slowly swept the scene a large form swam into view. McGee was lying across the van, his face turned towards his voyeurs. One arm seemed un-naturally bent and something that looked like a stream of blood ran down his forehead.
Flashbacks of wounded soldiers assaulted Gibb's as he struggled to determine if the body was indeed breathing. "McGee," he called firmly.
Gibbs went into overdrive, ejecting from the front seat and out into the crowd. "Where's the goddam tow-truck," he yelled.
"There, boss." Tony was at his side pointing towards a large vehicle reversing in their direction.
"I need an ambulance too," Gibbs cried.
"On its way," came a distant reply.
Gibbs was already with the tow-truck driver. "I've got an injured man trapped in the back," he yelled. The word 'body' crossed his mind but he stamped it back.
Even with Gibbs' urgings, the time taken to hitch up the offending truck and haul it from the van seemed impossibly long. The moment there was a man's-width between the two vehicles, the three agents descended; grabbing at the tortured metal and pulling with all their strength. Slowly, the door squealed open and the dawning light revealed a picture of utter devastation, far worse than suggested by the peep-hole view.
McGee lay motionless draped over a pile of rubble in a manner reminiscent of a Salvador Dali expose. One arm was clearly broken lying laxly aside McGee's body, the bloody gash on his forehead had ceased to flow but there was an enormous egg-shaped purpled-edged lump growing steadily next to it. Multiple moist red stains adorned his body where blood from hidden injuries had seeped through clothing.
Gibbs climbed in and did what he had been dreading: felt for a pulse. At first he found none but, calming himself, he finally detected a faint trickle of life. As the relief flooded over him, he realised the beat was stronger than he had first judged and he cursed himself for panicking.
"McGee," he tried, touching the side of the stony face before him.
He turned to Tony: "where are the EMTs?"
"Just coming, Boss," Tony replied from the door.
Gibbs turned back and met a pair of glazed, non-comprehending eyes. "McGee?"
The slow, elongated blinks told him he was too early: he waited and watched as the fog lifted. "Tim?"
It was no more than a whisper but it told him McGee was alive and coherent.
"Just lie still," said Gibbs quietly. "You might have a spinal injury."
Someone was trying to push through Gibbs to get to his patient but he did not move until the EMT actually spoke.
"Excuse me sir, we need to help him."
Gibbs looked up into the clear, serious eyes of an expert and yielded his ground. "We'll be right here, McGee."
The three agents stood in revered silence as McGee was lifted from the back of the van, bound mummy-like to the stretcher. No one dared breathe lest it upset the delicate operation.
When McGee was secured in the ambulance, Gibbs crawled in, shutting the door behind him.
"Sir," the EMT started. One glare from Gibbs and he turned to the driver, "let's roll."
Gibbs hated the feeling: the helplessness invaded him just as it had so many times before on the battle field. All he could do was to be there for his man.
"Boss?" McGee rasped.
"It would be better if he doesn't talk," cautioned the EMT.
"Tell him, not me," Gibbs shot back angrily. No one was going to treat his man like a corpse.
He turned his attention to McGee. "You'll be fine." He could feel the tears stinging his eyes: the last person he had comforted with those words never saw the outside of the ambulance again.
As the ambulance made its way through the busy early-evening traffic, Gibbs smiled at McGee and took his hand, ignoring the deafening boom of mortar fire echoing through his memory. "You'll be fine."