A/N: This was written for the NFA Five Senses challenge. We were supposed to write about either the loss or augmentation of one of the five senses. Typically, I chose the loss. :) It's only a two shot.

Disclaimer: Not mine! Not mine! If NCIS belonged to me there would be some big changes in season 5. So, obviously, I don't own them.


Cut Off
by Enthusiastic Fish

Chapter 1: Loss

"Probie! McGee! Wait!" Tony shouted as Tim disappeared around the corner of the alleyway. Tim just waved a dismissive hand in Tony's direction, still annoyed from his latest slur on Tim's writing ability.

"McGee!" Tony shouted, again, afraid now. "Come back! There's a–" His words were cut off by a large explosion and the horrific vision of Tim flying backward until he hit the wall and sank to the ground. Tony didn't remember running to him, but suddenly, there he was, looking down at Tim's motionless body. His coat was on fire; there were large abrasions on his face, along with a lump on the back of his head; and his ears were bleeding. Tony immediately put out the fire, looking on that as the most pressing problem. The problem of getting Tim to a hospital was put on hold as gunfire erupted around them. It really was a trap...and they had fallen into it. Tony didn't waste any more time. He pulled Tim off the ground and dragged him into the nearest doorway. He didn't care where it was. All that mattered was getting out of the alley. Tony continued to pull him along through the darkness of the abandoned apartment building.

The flying bullets stopped, and Tony was just beginning to congratulate himself when he took another step in the darkness and felt himself falling. He had just enough time to try and protect Tim's already banged up head before he hit the ground and was knocked out himself.

x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x

Tim opened his eyes and realized that everything was quiet. The last thing he remembered was the terrifying slow motion approach of the flames that had seemed to engulf him. He blinked and noticed that it was completely dark. Where am I? he wondered. He turned his head and groaned...or at least, he thought he had groaned. He didn't hear any sound. Someone or something grabbed his sleeve.

"Hello?" he thought he said. Again, he couldn't hear, although he could feel the vibrations in his throat that indicated he'd said something.

The hand on his sleeve became more insistent.

"What do you want? Who are you? Where am I? What's going on?" Tim asked, a feeling of panic growing in the pit of his stomach as he noticed again that he couldn't actually hear the words he'd said. "Hello? Is someone there?"

The hand became jarring and Tim moaned as the movement disturbed his head. Immediately, the hand disappeared. Moments later, there was a blinding light in his eyes and Tim groaned again. His headache increased twenty-fold. The light shifted away and turned around to illuminate...Tony. As annoyed as he had been at Tony a short time ago, Tim was never so happy to see him.

"Tony? Why didn't you say anything?"

Tony lips moved...he must be speaking, Tim thought with growing horror.

"I..." Tim had to stop because he was on the verge of total panic. "...I can't hear you, Tony. I can't...hear myself...I can't hear anything."

The look on Tony's face at this revelation was anything but comforting and Tim really started to panic. He tried to sit up, to stand up, to move away from the idea that he was deaf. Tony held him down, his mouth moving again, but Tim couldn't read his lips and he couldn't hear him. His headache was almost blinding now and the rest of his body didn't feel much better. His extreme anxiety didn't help.

"Where are we, Tony? What happened? Why am I deaf?" Tim asked, even though he knew that he wouldn't be able to hear the answer.

Tony spoke again. This time, Tim thought he caught the word Probie. Of course, he thought wryly. What other word would I be able to understand coming from Tony? Then, Tim noticed, for the first time, that Tony was not unscathed either. He had a large gash on his head and was a lot more disheveled than Tim would have expected. He also looked very worried...a bad sign.

Tim opened his mouth to speak again, but this time, Tony bypassed trying to tell Tim what to do and just covered his mouth with his hand. He mouthed very slowly Quiet!

"What is it?"

Tony sighed and looked completely exasperated. He covered Tim's mouth again and repeated the command. Tim almost tried to speak again. He was so frightened at that moment, that he couldn't seem to stop talking. It was almost as if he thought that if he spoke enough, his hearing would spontaneously return. Tony looked off to the right. Tim tried to sit up and look as well, but Tony pushed him back down, his mouth moving in an obvious prohibition of movement. Tim tried to see beyond the small halo of light from Tony's flashlight; however, there was nothing but darkness. Whether or not Tony could see anything else was unknown.

Tim felt the hard ground beneath him and decided to focus on that instead of the fact that he had lost a very important sense. He was lying on concrete. The alleyway had been asphalt, of course. Equally obvious, was the fact that they had to be indoors somewhere since it wouldn't be as dark if they were outside...even at midnight. Actually, as his eyes adjusted to the dimness, he noticed a faint glow, as if they were just beyond the reach of a light source.

Then, suddenly, Tony hauled at his arm and dragged him into an upright, and altogether uncomfortable position. Tim cried out against the renewed pain in his head (and the rest of his body). Tony didn't bother to silence him this time which was also quite worrisome. Instead, he dragged Tim along, urging him faster, looking back over his shoulder more than once. Tim tried to make his legs move, but his head was spinning worse than a gyroscope. He kept seeing lights flashing in front of his eyes as he strove to remain conscious and not add to Tony's difficulty by being total deadweight. Tony looked at him only once during their frantic flight, and his face was not by any means more calm. He said something...but the only thing Tim understood was his own name...his first name. That frightened him more than anything that had happened so far. Tony only did that when it was really serious.

Tim had never noticed how much he depended on his hearing to tell him where he was and what was going on. Now, granted, he knew he wasn't up to full form even beyond his deafness, but he couldn't tell if someone was following them. If someone was waiting for them...heck, Tony could simply be taking him to the nearest strip club and Tim would have no idea. He grinned a little at the thought but promptly dismissed it. This was not the time for jokes...or noise apparently.

Then, Tony jerked to one side and fell to the ground, dragging Tim down with him. Dazed and confused, Tim sat up, held his head to keep it from falling off, and looked at Tony. There was a deep graze on his temple...and a lot of blood. Tony looked to be completely unconscious. Tim panicked again; his heart felt like it was beating so quickly that it would pound right out of his chest. If Tony had been shot, then the people they were running from couldn't be very far away...unless it had been a lucky shot in the dark. Tim tried to pull Tony upright, but he could barely remain upright himself, and that meant that any attempt to save the both of them by being some sort of Hercules was doomed to failure. Tim turned from side to side, trying to ignore the pain and the dizziness as he moved his head. In the dim light, he saw an alcove, nearly hidden by wooden crates. There was just enough room for Tony in there. If the people who were after them were close, it was all over, but it was probably all over anyway. Tim figured that he might as well try to do something before that moment came.

So, gritting his teeth, he grabbed Tony's arms and dragged him painfully over to the alcove. He wrapped a rag around his head and shoved Tony inside. Then, he took off at a stumbling jog...which lasted for only a few steps before he had to stop and take a rest. It was still dark, and he didn't know where he was headed, but at least he was doing something.

x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x

Tony opened his eyes, surprised that he was still alive. He had expected to be dead. He looked around and noticed that he was tightly wedged into a small indentation in the wall. Tim was nowhere. Now, completely frightened and worried, Tony sat up, groaned softly to himself and pulled himself out of his hiding place. The empty basement was so quiet. How long was I out? he asked himself. And where's McGee? He picked up his gun and began to advance slowly through the darkness, trying to find...someone. He didn't dare speak, and if Tim was still deaf, it wouldn't help anyway. Instead, he inched his way along, blinking the black spots out of his eyes, searching for a way out, for the bad guys, or for his partner.

He was so intent on the way ahead of him that he didn't notice the body laying on the ground. He tripped over it, and felt his heart in his mouth before he realized that it wasn't Tim. He sighed shakily and turned the man over. He was dead, bullet wound to the chest. Tim had been alive for awhile at least. Tony continued on his way and finally found the stairs he'd been looking for previously. They were rickety and looked rotten, but at least they were stairs. However, he couldn't leave without being sure that Tim was safe.

Then, he heard an overly-loud voice, a very welcome voice.

"I can't hear you! I can't hear anything! I don't know what you want."

Uh-oh. That's a bad sign. Tony guessed that Tim was in trouble. He followed Tim's pleading voice which was not decreasing in volume at all.

"Where's your partner?"

"I can't understand you! Couldn't you...write it down or something?"

Tony smothered a laugh. The man seemed a little out of his depth as he demanded information from Tim once again. However, there was the added danger that he would just get fed up and kill Tim anyway. Tony came around a corner and saw Tim hanging limply off an exposed pipe. His gun dangled uselessly in his left hand. He looked exhausted, like he was beyond fear, resigned to whatever was going to happen. Tony didn't like to see that look on anyone, least of all Tim, who had bounced back from quite a bit over the years.

Carefully, he positioned himself right behind the man. Tim wasn't even looking anymore, just waiting for the end.

"Looking for me?" Tony whispered menacingly in the man's ear.

To his credit, the man didn't jump at all, although he did stiffen.

"Drop the gun." When he didn't immediately comply, Tony added, "Drop it or I'll kill you where you stand."

Nearly snarling, the man dropped the gun.

"Good. Now, kick it toward my partner over there. Do it."

"Your partner is an idiot."

Tony smirked. "That's what you think. Do as I say."

The man kicked the gun and Tim flinched. Surprised at the sight of his erstwhile killer's gun sliding toward him, he looked up...and his eyes widened in disbelief at Tony's grin from behind his prisoner.

"Tony!" he said, still speaking too loudly.

Tony just nodded and gestured to the gun. Tim bent down and picked it up. He pointed it at the man, although Tony could see that his hand was shaking. Tim was at the end of his endurance. Quickly, Tony got out his handcuffs and pulled the man's hands behind his back.

"You're under arrest for the murder of Jesse Clipton, attempted murder of two federal agents, obstruction of justice, and anything else that may just come up in our investigation," he said. He held out his hand to Tim, indicating that he wanted his cuffs as well. It seemed to take awhile for Tim to understand, but his eyes were getting pretty glazed. A collapse was well on its way and Tony wanted his prisoner completely restrained before that happened.

"Move it. Over here by this pipe," Tony ordered, pushing the man over by a waist-level pipe sticking out of the wall. He cuffed the man to the pipe with Tim's handcuffs and then, holstered his gun, just in time to catch Tim as he fell unconscious. "I got you, Probie. Don't worry about a thing."

x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x

Tim opened his eyes, a little furtively, and was happy to see that it was light again. In place of the absolute silence that had reigned before, there was a ringing in his ears...and beyond that...just a hint of what might be real sound. Nothing truly discernible yet, but it gave him a thrill to realize that his deafness might not be permanent.

He caught a trace of movement out of the corner of his eye and he saw Tony, leaning back in a chair, mouth wide open, asleep. Tim smiled as he decided that Tony was more than likely snoring. One benefit to being deaf. His eyes darted to the door as he noticed it open. In the short time that he had been afflicted with his deafness, he had already begun compensating with other senses. A doctor came in, obviously speaking.

"I can't hear you," Tim interrupted.

The doctor smiled with a trace of embarrassment and searched through the file in his hand. He handed a paper to Tim who took it and read.

"This isn't permanent?" he asked, immediately upon finishing.

The doctor shook his head, smiling encouragingly.

Tim looked down again. "My hearing will come back?"

The doctor nodded.

"How long?"

The doctor leaned over and pointed to a section of the paper.

"One to two months?!" Tim said, aghast.

The doctor shook his head.

Tim sighed. This was incredibly frustrating. He watched as the doctor began to write on another piece of paper. After a moment or two, he handed it to Tim.

"Oh, I see," Tim said. A week or two of gradually improving hearing was certainly better than one or two months, but still, that was such a long time to be without sound. He hadn't even been conscious for an hour yet, and he was already sick of not hearing anything. He looked over at Tony who appeared to be still sleeping. Looking back to the doctor, he asked, "Is Tony okay?"

The doctor nodded vigorously.

"Good. Nothing serious?"

The doctor shook his head. Then, he smiled off to Tim's right and Tim felt a hand on his arm. He looked over and saw Tony, no longer sleeping, grinning. He spoke, and again, Tim only caught the word Probie amongst the mishmash of shapes. Tim sighed in annoyance, but then he grinned back. Whatever Tony was saying, Tim couldn't hear it, and he could only appreciate the fact that Tony was there and apparently had been there for awhile.

"Thanks, Tony," he said.

Tony mouthed thanks back. Tim knew that once his hearing was back and he was okay again, Tony would be back to normal with teasing and such, but right now, he was being a friend and Tim accepted it for what it was.