Chapter Ten: Rescue
McGee awoke with a start when the dull thumping changed into a loud crunch right outside the vault door. He tried to jump to his feet, but stumbled and ended up on his knees instead, gasping for air that was no longer there. His arm burned from the force of his hands hitting the floor. Tony, wisely, stayed sitting. "Not enough oxygen to do that, Probie," he managed weakly.
"That was close!" McGee insisted, struggling back next to Tony. "That is rescue!" He didn't have strength for more. His head was pounding, the sudden movement had made him so sick to his stomach he was using most of what little energy he had to keep from throwing up.
"I think you're right," Tony agreed incredulously. He gently nudged past McGee, crawling to the door. He reached it just as it was wrenched open a crack. "Hey! In here!" he called unnecessarily.
"You ok in there?" came a voice from outside the vault. McGee thought it was the most beautiful voice he had ever heard. Full of hope, promise, rescue, and oxygen. He struggled to follow Tony, crawling over on two knees and one arm, trying not to put weight on his injured one. As soon as the got to the crack in the door, it was much easier to breathe.
"We're ok! We're great!" Tony's voice sounded choked, and he coughed from the effort. McGee imaged it was. He could feel tears of relief stinging his own eyes.
"Just hang on, we're getting you out," the voice, an older female voice, told them. "I'm Chief Randall of the DCFD. Who're you?"
"Tony DiNozzo! NCIS agent!" Tony called back happily.
"Agent DiNozzo!" She exclaimed, sounding really happy for someone who didn't know Tony. But he seemed to have that effect on women. "You alone?"
"No! Agent McGee is with me!" Tony said before McGee could speak for himself.
"He's ok too?"
"I'm ok," McGee put in before Tony could beat him to it.
"I know some people who will be very, very happy to hear that," Randall said. "Hold on, we're getting you out." The shadow that had been Randall retreated.
"Hey, wait!" Tony called, voice rising.
"Relax," came a male voice from the other side of the door. "She's just going to tell your people that you're ok."
"Tell them? They're here?" McGee asked incredulously. Either they had some sort of uncanny sixth sense, or they had been there for a while.
"There's this one young lady who has been here the whole time," the firefighter said. "I don't think she's slept." There were some debris-shifting noises, and the door was pulled open enough that they could see who was speaking, a young-looking man in construction gear and a hard hat. "Come on out, folks," he said, stepping back.
McGee, fortified with oxygen, struggled to his feet to follow Tony, who had already slipped through the door. Suddenly a desperate ball of energy hit forcefully, propelling Tony back into McGee and nearly knocking him back into the vault. He braced himself at the last moment, totally unwilling to spend any more time in the vault.
"Tony! Tonytonytony!" It was Abby, clinging to Tony, who was struggling to right himself. She suddenly detached from him, though, when she saw McGee. "McGee!" She wrapped both arms around him and buried her face in his chest, clinging hard. They she let go, stepped back, and took his face in her hands. "Timothy," she said more softly. "Are you ok?"
McGee looked at her, at a loss. She was a mess. Her hair was unbrushed, she wasn't wearing makeup, and tears were running down her face. She was the most beautiful thing ever. "Abby, I'm—" he started, but she had wrapped her arms around him again.
"Oh, Timothy! You're ok! You're both ok!"
He wiggled his good arm free and wrapped it around her as well. "I'm fine, Abby. I'm fine."
"I'm so sorry," she mumbled into his chest. "I'm so sorry. I don't ever want to fight with you again!"
He hugged her harder. "It's ok, Abbs," he said, and meant it. Any anger he had over the dog incident had long since been burned away in the dark of the bank vault. He was just glad to see her.
o o o
Gibbs couldn't believe it. They were alive. Stunned, he followed Abby as she ran to the pit and clambered in. He looked over the edge to see her fly into Tony's arms, then latch into McGee. Tony and McGee. Standing in front of him. He tried to climb down, not nearly as gracefully as she had, and ended up being helped into something of a controlled slide by a helpful construction worker. He slid to a stop in front of Tony.
"Hey, Boss," Tony said in a deliberately casual tone.
Normally, Gibbs wasn't big on public displays of affection. But this time he didn't even give it a thought as he gathered Tony up into a fierce hug. It wasn't enough to see that he was alive. He wanted to feel it too. After a startled few seconds, Tony hugged him back.
"Having trouble breathing, Boss," Tony said finally.
Gibbs, recalled to the plane of reality that they usually existed in, let go, took a half-step back, and slapped Tony gently on the back of the head. "Don't ever do that to me again, DiNozzo," he said, aware that the effectiveness of any harshness in his words would be somewhat negated by the tears in his eyes.
"Ow! Hey!" Tony protested. But he was smiling, and there seemed to be tears in his eyes as well. He looked terrible. He was rumpled and filthy. Two days worth of beard covered his face. He had circles under his eyes, and he kept coughing.
Gibbs cleared his throat. "Are you alright?" he asked, resisting the urge to begin poking and prodding.
"I'm fine, Boss," Tony said. "We were sheltered in the vault. Stuck in the vault, but sheltered in it." At the mention of the vault, Gibbs looked over at the open door. Tony followed is gaze. "Sutter didn't make it," he said softly. "We chased him in there, and he was injured. He died."
It was on the tip of Gibbs's tongue to ask for details, but he realized that at the moment, he didn't care that Sutter was dead. His agents weren't, and that was the important thing. "I expect a full report tomorrow," he said instead.
"Sure thing, Boss," Tony said without any sincerity.
"I want you checked out at the hospital, fine or not," he went on.
"But I'm—" Tony started to protest. Then he shook his head. "Sure. I'm going." Gibbs couldn't help but notice that he didn't make any move to actually go anywhere, but didn't mind for the moment. From the look of things he had another agent to rescue.
McGee was sending him trapped looks over Abby's head. She had apparently affixed herself to him and wouldn't let go. He had one arm around her shoulders, and the other one—the injured one—held away from his body. There was dried blood on his sleeve, as well as a little on other parts of his shirt. Gibbs stepped in and began carefully peeling off Abby. "Hey, Tim, how you doing?" he asked gently.
"I am very, very glad to see you. And Abby. And the outside of that box," McGee said vehemently.
Gibbs grinned at him. "I'll bet you are. Abbs, come on," he said to her, as she was resisting his attempts to remove her from McGee's person.
"I'm good," she said, voice muffled by McGee's front, "we're good. Right, Timmy?"
"Yeah, Abby, we're good. Except that I can't walk with you wrapped around me like that," he said to the top of her head. He looked back at Gibbs.
"She's been here the whole time," Gibbs put in. "Since last night."
"It was just last night?" McGee said. He looked at his watch. "It feels longer than thirty-one hours." He sounded and looked exhausted. He wasn't coughing as much as Tony, possibly because of the scar tissue in Tony's lungs, but he looked worse. His face was pale under the grime, and covered with a sheen of sweat. And then there was the blood on his shirt.
"Come on," Gibbs said, trying to shift Abby so that McGee could walk. "Let's get you checked out."
"I'm ok, Boss," McGee protested as they headed to the edge of the pit.
"You have blood on your shirt," Gibbs pointed out.
"Not my own," McGee said grimly. "Sutter's. I shot him."
Gibbs closed his eyes briefly. He had suspected something of that nature from what Tony had said, but it still added a dimension to the whole thing that they didn't need. "We'll deal with that tomorrow," he said firmly. "Right now, I want you and DiNozzo to go to the hospital and get checked out, and then I expect you all—Abby, this means you as well—to get a good night's sleep."
"We will if you will, Boss," Tony said cheekily. If he hadn't already been halfway up out of the pit, Gibbs would have slapped him again.
o o o
Ziva jerked awake when her cell phone rang. She had fallen asleep on the couch, head back, and it was agony to straighten up to answer. She put her laptop, which was still on her lap, aside, glanced automatically at her watch—four a.m., and answered her phone. "This is David."
"Hello, Zee-va," said a voice from the grave.
She sat bolt upright, stiff neck forgotten. "Tony?" she said incredulously, wondering suddenly if she was still asleep.
"In the flesh," he confirmed.
"You-you're…you and McGee…" she was having trouble stringing her thoughts together. Tears sprang to her eyes and ran down her face, unnoticed until they started falling on the hand she had resting on her lap.
"We're both ok, we're fine," Tony said, for once not teasing her.
"Wh-where are you?" she managed.
"We're at the hospital at the moment. McDogbitevictim tore his stitches. We'll be heading home soon."
"Which hospital?" Ziva asked, already halfway out the door.
"George Washington," Tony said. "You really don't need to come all the way down here, though, Ziva."
"Try and stop me," she said fiercely.
"Uh, ok. I could use a ride home, I guess."
Ziva was surprised. She thought he was terrified of her driving. "I will be there in a half hour," she said.
"Great," Tony said. "I should go check on Probie. I'll see you soon." With that he rang off, although Ziva would have preferred to keep him on the line. She had a million questions for him, not the least of which was how he could be alive.
Since it was the middle of the night, traffic was light and Ziva made good time getting to the hospital. When she arrived, McGee was just getting out of an exam room, a very sleepy-looking Abby clamped to his side. He was wearing a scrub top, and his arm was freshly-bandaged. Gibbs was sitting in a chair next to Tony, who had apparently fallen asleep, leaning back in the same neck-bending manner that Ziva had been not too long ago. She approached McGee first, hesitant about waking Tony. "McGee," she said, then stopped, feeling the embarrassing weakness of tears threatening.
He smiled at her. "Ziva."
Abby let go and stepped over by Gibbs, giving them a moment. Ziva put a hand on his shoulder. "I am very glad to see you," she said.
"I'm very glad to see you too," he said. "We didn't know if you and Gibbs had been caught in the explosion."
"We are fine," she said, surprised that they had been worried about her, since their situation had been so dire. Surprised, but warmed as well. It was nice to have friends. With that thought, she hugged him, careful of his arm.
He hugged back. "We're fine too," he said into her hair.
She felt him stiffen suddenly, and let go to follow his gaze over her shoulder. Tony was awake and smirking at them. "Tony," she said casually.
"Zee-va," he said, struggling to his feet with a discrete arm up from Gibbs.
Ziva managed to restrain herself from actually running over to hug him, but hug him she did. He returned it. "I thought you were dead," she said, embarrassed at the tears that were threatening.
He hugged her harder. "Yeah. Me too," he admitted softly.
"And now, it's bed time, people," Gibbs said briskly. Ziva reluctantly let Tony go. McGee had come to join them, Abby clamped to him again. He didn't seem to mind. "I'll take Tim and Abby home," Gibbs offered.
"I can drive myself," Abby said with a huge yawn.
"Yeah," Gibbs said, "in what car?"
"Oh yeah," she said, frowning. "I didn't take my car here, did I?"
He kissed her on the temple. "No, no you didn't. I drove."
"I will take Tony home," Ziva said.
"Great. I'm going to die," Tony complained, just as if he hadn't asked her to half an hour ago. She wanted to be offended, but couldn't quite make herself at the moment. It was too good to see them alive. She made a mental note to get him back at a later time.
"Has anyone called Ducky?" she asked instead.
"Yeah. Called him while Tony was calling you. Convinced him to wait for the tearful hellos until morning," Gibbs told her.
She looped her arm through Tony's. "Then let us all go home," she said happily.
o o o
McGee awoke to Abby's purring snore. It took him a few moments to put together where he was and what was happening. As soon as he did he smiled and draped one arm over Abby's shoulders, careful not to wake her. He was safe, home, and in bed. Gibbs hadn't commented a few hours ago when he had dropped McGee off, and Abby had gotten out with him. They had both been so exhausted that they had fallen into bed fully-clothed. Not that anything would have happened anyway except for sleep. His relationship with Abby was a platonic one, had been for a while, and he was happy with that. He loved her dearly, and she him, but in the same way as they felt about the rest of the team. Well, maybe a little more than that, he thought, enjoying the warmth of another human next to him.
Not ready to fall back to sleep just yet, but loathe to wake Abby, who was getting her first good sleep in two days, McGee reached over to where he had plugged his phone in. He flipped it open and pulled it to his ear to check for messages. There were three. The first two were work-related but unimportant, left sometime in the first few ours of their entrapment. The third was from Abby.
"McGee? I know you're not there right now. You're in a dead zone—not dead, dead, because you're not dead—" here her voice broke, and McGee felt himself tearing up a bit as well. "But you can't use your phone right now. But I know you'll get this message. I just wanted to say…I wanted to say that I'm sorry I was such a jerk to you. I know you didn't mean to hurt Jeth-hurt Butch. I know you were only defending yourself. It's just…I had a dog like him once, and I guess I just got all crazy. But I'd trade all the Jethro-all the Butches in the world to have you back, Timothy. So come home soon, ok? I love you." With that, she hung up.
McGee swallowed several times. He carefully returned the phone to the nightstand and wiped his face. He was trying to be careful, but his movements disturbed Abby.
She made a few little sleepy sounds, then stretched against him. "McGee?" she asked sleepily, blinking up at him.
"I'm sorry if I woke you," he said, then coughed. His throat still had a lump in it, and it was also painfully dry. He'd had several glasses of water to drink, but was still dehydrated.
Abby struggled into a sitting position. "You didn't," she said. "Want some water?" If she noticed that he had been crying, she was too polite to say anything.
He nodded gratefully, and watched silently as she got up and went to get him a glass. It was nice to be taken care of. He hadn't had anyone bring him a glass of water since he had left home to go to college. She returned and handed him the glass, which he nearly drained. "Thanks, Abbs."
"You're welcome, Timothy." She was looking at him intently, slight frown creasing her brow. She looked like she wanted to say something.
"What?" he finally asked when she didn't seem inclined to speak.
"I'm just—I just—" with a sob she launched herself at him, knocking the glass out of his hand. Luckily it was plastic and empty, so it just bounced off the night table and fell on the floor.
"Abby! What's wrong?" he asked, worried.
She pulled back, tears in her eyes. "What's wrong? You nearly died! You nearly died, and the last things I said to you were mad things!"
McGee, finally understanding, pulled her close. "Oh, Abbs," he said. "I'm sorry I got mad at you."
"You're sorry?" she demanded, crying harder. "I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!"
He held her for a while. She eventually relaxed and smiled up at him shyly. "Let's not ever fight again, Timmy," she said.
He smiled back at her. "I'll agree to that."
She snuggled down next to him again. "Sleep more?"
"Sleep more," he agreed, still smiling, feeling better than he had in a week.
o o o
Everyone except for Ducky took a sick day. McGee and Abby spent the morning sleeping, then Abby finally went home to shower, change, and goth herself up. McGee stayed in bed, not sleeping but drifting. He was hungry, but not hungry enough to get up. He was alive, and that was enough. As good as that felt, though, there were demons flickering around the edge of his brain.
He was finally forced to get up when there was a knocking at his door. He tried to ignore it, but it became constant and annoying. Realizing it could only be Tony, McGee finally got up, muttering, and opened the door.
Tony came bearing pizza and beer. Without waiting for an invitation he blazed in. "Hey, Probie. Thought you might be hungry. Are those scrubs you're wearing? Do you have any idea how you look? Go take a shower and shave, man. Food's getting cold."
McGee stepped back from the onslaught of Tonyism. "Uh, hi," he managed.
Tony set the pizza and beer on the countertop. "Seriously. Shower."
McGee grinned, unoffended. Tony was right. Eating would be a lot more fun if he was clean. "Pizza will still be here when I get back?" he asked. Assured that it would, he took a quick shower, made difficult by the need to keep his bandages dry, and shaved. Fresh and clean, feeling much better, he rejoined Tony, who was now flopped in the living room, eating pizza.
"Much better," Tony said around a mouthful of pizza.
"Get your feet off the furniture," McGee returned, sitting down next to him and grabbing some pizza. "What's the occasion?"
Tony gave him an incredulous look. "What's the occasion? It's a celebration, man!"
McGee studied him. Tony was smiling, but it didn't really reach his eyes, which were dark and veiled. He had missed a spot on his cheek shaving. "Funny. You don't look like you're celebrating."
Tony carefully set his beer down and looked at McGee, smile gone. "Ok, you want to know the truth? I thought you might be hungry. And I was hungry. We were just through hell together, and I wanted to have lunch."
McGee almost accepted that. He felt the same way. There was something about almost dying with someone to bring you closer together. But there was something else. "And?" he prompted.
Tony sighed. "And I know you were upset about the Sutter thing."
The demons came back. "Yeah," McGee admitted. He was upset. But now, in his own apartment, sunlight streaming through the windows, it didn't seem as bad as it had yesterday. "Was it just yesterday?" he said, startled to hear his voice. He hadn't meant to speak out loud.
Tony laughed. "Yeah. Well, day before yesterday."
"I meant when we got out."
McGee opened a beer. He didn't feel like feeling sorry for the son-of-a-bitch who had nearly killed them. He didn't feel like being sorry for himself. He just wanted to have a beer with a friend. He held up the bottle. "To today, then."
Tony picked his own bottle back up and clinked it with McGee's. "To today. And hot women."
McGee grinned. "'Hot women?' Where did that come from?"
Tony grinned back, and this time it reached his eyes. "I always toast hot women."
"That figures." He stopped talking then to tuck into the pizza. For several minutes they ate in companionable silence.
"You know something weird?" Tony said suddenly.
"Hm?" McGee said, still eating.
"I think someone's been in my apartment," Tony said, sounding puzzled. "There's a picture missing from my nightstand."
"Someone broke into your apartment and stole a picture?" McGee asked, confused.
"I think so. I mean, what else could it be? Nothing else was missing that I could see. No signs of a break-in."
"Well, are you sure you didn't just move it?" McGee asked, taking another slice of pizza.
Tony shook his head. "I don't see how. I don't remember doing it. Aw, hell, I suppose it's possible."
"You're a detective, I'm sure you'll detect it eventually," McGee said, grinning.
Tony returned his smile. "Yeah, I guess so. It's no big deal anyway. It was just a print-out of a picture on my computer. I can always print another one."
That issue taken care of, they returned to the more pressing concern of who deserved the final piece of pizza.
o o o
A/N: Thanks for reading! I hope you liked it.