I.O.U.

Shellie Williams

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or places of NCIS. No money was made from this snippet.

Summary: Written for ChannelD's H/C Challenge. As usual, it centers on my favorite target: McGee. One shot.

*****

Tony climbed the stairs, obviously irritated and weary with the process. He stopped and turned sideways, gesturing for Tim to move ahead. "You get this one, Probie." The weather had warmed considerably from the frigid morning that had frosted the grass and iced car windows. Tony pulled his scarf off and jammed it haphazardly into his coat pocket, leaving a long trail that nearly touched the ground.

"I've done the last dozen, Tony."

"I'm the Senior Field Agent. You'll question the next dozen if I say so. Gibbs told us to canvas the neighborhood, and we'll canvas this neighborhood until we get it – canvassed."

"I didn't mean we shouldn't; I was just pointing out the fact that I've questioned the last twelve residents, and I think you should --"

"When Gibbs isn't here, I call the shots, McWhiney."

Rolling his eyes with Tony's attitude, Tim elbowed him aside and took the lead. "Whatever, Tony."

He knocked on the door and waited for a response. No one answered, so Tim knocked again. A gravely male voice asked, "Who's there?"

Tim sighed. "NCIS, sir. We're investigating an incident that occurred earlier today in the alleyway behind your apartment." Silence greeted his announcement. McGee transferred his pen to the hand that held his small notebook and reached to knock again. A small, familiar click snipped gently on the other side of the door. Instinct had McGee moving before thoughts could form in his head. He dropped his notes while reaching for his gun and twisted around to warn Tony.

"Gun!" Splinters exploded from the closed door as bullet holes riddled the wood. Tony grunted when McGee slammed into him, and they both tumbled down the short flight of stairs to the rough and uneven concrete sidewalk fronting the building. An old, bent wrought iron fence surrounding a long forgotten garden brought their roll to an abrupt halt.

Tony shoved McGee off and brought his gun up just as the ruined apartment door opened. A man, grubby and desperate looking, stood there, ready to finish them off. Tony barely noticed McGee's struggle to stand and back up against the fence as Tony fired at their attacker. The man's body convulsed; his arms and legs danced in a bazaar death spasm as bloody holes ripped through his chest. His gun fired once into the air before the weapon dropped, useless, to the ground. He bent forward almost gracefully, and rolled down the stairs to land face down on the sidewalk.

A woman screamed. Despite the apparent danger, a few bystanders drew closer. Tony quickly pulled his ID and opened it to display. "NCIS, people. We're Federal Agents. Please stand back. This is a crime scene." He tucked his badge back into his breast pocket and reached for his phone. Then he turned to McGee.

Leaning heavily on the fence, McGee held one hand open in front of him, bloody palm up. "I'm hit, Tony." Knees weakening, he slid slowly to the ground.

Dammit! Rushing forward, Tony managed to catch him under the arms and slow his descent. "I gotcha, McGee, just hold on." Panic surged for an instant, but Tony stamped it down. McGee sat on the ground with a grunt. His head lolled against the fencing at his back as he reached inside his coat for his side. He squeezed his eyes shut and swallowed.

"Just stay with me here, Probie. You're gonna be just fine." Tucking one arm firmly around McGee to keep him upright, Tony grabbed his phone. He thumbed 9-1-1 in quickly and tucked his phone between his ear and shoulder. "Officer down. I need an ambulance and police at 957 West 70th Street, apartment 2." He sounded so calm and sure. Could you send some tea and crumpets, please?

McGee's breathing sounded fast and high in his chest. Tony dropped his phone and pulled McGee's long coat open. Blood saturated material plastered against McGee's side, molded to his body. His ribs expanded and contracted with each breath. Fingers trembled against his side. So much blood.

"Don't know what you're complaining about; it's just a scratch."

McGee's breathing hitched. He slumped against Tony, resting his forehead on Tony's shoulder, and would have fallen if Tony hadn't grabbed him with both hands. "Then – why does it – hurt so bad?" McGee's weight pulled against them. Deciding it would be better for McGee to lie flat on his back, Tony rolled him carefully down. He cradled McGee's skull as his head dropped weakly back.

Reaching for his pocket, Tony pulled his scarf free. He wadded up the fabric, pulled McGee's coat open again, and pressed against the wound. McGee responded instantly; his back arched, and his teeth clicked together in a painful grimace. Tucking his chin against his chest, McGee tried to see what Tony was doing.

"Be still, I need to get this bleeding stopped."

Behind Tony, up the stairs, another man appeared in the doorway. He raised his left arm and pointed a gun at Tony's back. Unaware, Tony kept his focus on McGee to stop the bleeding.

Tim saw the man. Choices fast forwarded through his mind – warning Tony and maybe getting them both killed, or grabbing Tony's gun, shooting the man himself, and saving them both. A tiny part of his brain warned: No! Don't move! You'll die if you move!

Moving faster than he thought he could, Tim surged from the ground and drew Tony's gun from its holster. Ignoring Tony's shouts and the agony piercing through his side, he shoved Tony aside and fired three shots at the man. Pain drove him back to the ground before he could see if he'd hit his target. His arms dropped and Tony's gun slid out of his hand.

Tony struggled back to his knees and crawled to Tim's side. "That's two I owe you, Probie." But Tim didn't answer. His eyes were closed.

Desperately, Tony gathered his bloody scarf back over the wound and leaned all his weight into stopping the bleeding, trying not to cringe with the way Tim's body gave under his weight and his neck arched as his spine was forced flat against the ground. A siren began wailing from far, far away.

"Don't die, Tim. Don't die." The words tumbled out of Tony's mouth. When he realized what he was saying, he added volume to the mantra: "Don't die, Tim, don't you dare die." The siren grew closer and the scarf grew thicker with Tim's blood.

Everything happened quickly. The paramedics arrived and took over, applying pressure bandages, assessing Tim's vitals, loading him into the ambulance, and racing off to the hospital. Tony stood on the sidewalk, breathless, bloody hands hanging loose at his sides. He wanted to ask someone, "What just happened here?" As if he'd released a pause button in his brain, thoughts started tumbling out one on top of the other. He needed to call Gibbs and let him know what happened, and he needed to get to the hospital.

After placing one of the LEOs in charge, Tony reached for his phone while hurrying to his car. Gibbs answered.

"McGee's been shot."

A heartbeat pause, then, "Are you all right?"

Tony entered his car, closed the door, and shut his eyes. "Yeah."

"McGee?"

"Alive, last time I saw him." He cranked the car. "They took him to Bethesda."

"I'll meet you there."

Tossing his phone away, Tony shifted into drive and sped toward the hospital. He examined the guilt that sat heavy in his chest, turning it one way, and then the other. If he'd knocked on the door instead of McGee, would he be the one with a bullet in his gut? Would his instincts have kicked in sooner and saved them both? Would two men have been killed? Would Gibbs be calling his father instead of McGee's and making funeral arrangements?

Stop it! He's not dead! Clamping down stubbornly on the 'yet' that tried to worm into his head, Tony pushed the car harder, suddenly desperate to know if McGee was still alive.

Gibbs met him in the Emergency Room. Wordlessly, they hurried to the nurse's station. She looked up as they approached. "Can I help you?"

He showed her his badge. "NCIS. I'm Agent Gibbs. Special Agent Timothy McGee was brought in a few minutes ago. We need an update on his condition."

"I'll check." She pushed the chair back and left the station.

Gibbs turned to Tony. "What happened?"

"I think we found the two men who killed Petty Officer Haynes."

"You think?"

Almost snapping to attention with the underlying edge in Gibbs' voice, Tony glanced down. "I know we found them. We'd already questioned the east end of the street and were making our way west." Before Tony could continue, the nurse joined them.

"Special Agent McGee is in surgery. The doctor who attended him here in Emergency will be out shortly to let you know how he's doing."

"Fine." Gibbs hooked Tony's elbow and lead him over to an empty chair. He disappeared for a minute, and then returned with a Styrofoam cup of coffee. Tony accepted gratefully. Every minute seemed to add another layer of insulation between him and the world. His head and chest felt tighter and tighter. Sounds grew muffled. A doctor walked toward them. Gibbs stood and with what felt like a great effort, Tony joined him.

"Agent Gibbs?" Gibbs nodded. "I'm Doctor Westfall. Agent McGee received a GSW to his right lower quadrant. His small intestine was perforated. The surgeons are repairing the damage now and he should be in recovery within a couple of hours."

The tightness around Gibbs' eyes seemed to soften. "He's going to be all right?"

"Barring any complications, yes, he'll be fine. We'll keep a close watch on him, make sure he doesn't develop peritonitis. I'll let you know when he's out of surgery."

"Thanks." The doctor turned to walk away, then something seemed to catch his eye. Gibbs followed his line of sight to Tony and reached out just as Tony's knees buckled. "Whoa, take it easy, now." Tucking an arm around Tony, Gibbs walked him carefully to the waiting chairs. Tony sat down heavily. Gibbs grasped the back of his neck and forced his head down between his knees.

It felt as if someone were pouring warm blood back into his fingers and toes. His senses came back online and the tightness lifted from his chest. After a minute or two, Tony tested the waters. He tried to raise up. Gibbs released him, and Tony sat up. Embarrassed, he kept his eyes on the Styrofoam cup that he somehow still clenched in one hand. He heard the doctor mention shock, Gibbs' answer, and then the doctor left.

Gibbs went down on one knee in front of Tony. "How're you feeling?"

"Stupid."

Gibbs' mouth quirked in a quick grin. "You almost passed out, Tony, it's nothing to be embarrassed about."

"I wasn't talking about that. I should have taken the lead questioning the neighborhood. I was the Senior Field Agent."

Gibbs stayed quiet until Tony finished. "Is it your fault McGee's hurt?"

Tony looked up and found himself snared by Gibbs' icy blue lie detectors.

"No. But I'm responsible." Realizing he'd just contradicted himself, Tony drew in a deep breath to explain.

"I know what you're trying to say, DiNozzo. It isn't easy seeing one of your team get hurt."

Tony looked back down. "No. No, it isn't."

Gibbs stood. "I guess you want to stay here tonight."

Tony nodded. "I need to see him. I need to make sure he's -- "

"I know. After you've done that and gotten some rest, come in and give your statement. Check in with me every few hours and let me know how McGee's doing."

"Yes, Boss." After Gibbs left, Tony slumped back in his chair. He closed his eyes, but grew tired of watching a replay of the day's events in the darkness of his memory. He stood up, at a loss as to how to occupy his time, when a nurse approached him.

"Agent McGee is out of surgery. He'll be in ICU for about twenty-four hours so we can monitor him closely, then he'll be moved to a private room. You can sit with him for five minutes every hour, but that's it for now, I'm afraid."

"Can I see him now?"

She nodded. "Follow me."

She took him to ICU and showed him McGee's cubicle. He lay quietly; bandages swathed his middle, covering the surgery site. A tiny drain port snaked out from under the white padding, leading downward. An intubation tube pumped oxygen steadily into his lungs and his chest rose and fell with reassuring regularity. Steady beeps and rhythms sang from the machines around him, measuring his heartbeat, taking his vitals. He was definitely alive. Pale, deep shadows beneath his eyes, a bit shrunken and small, but alive. Tony smiled to himself. Drawing a deep sigh of relief, he thanked the nurse and told her he'd be back in a few hours, then walked away. As he left the hospital, he called Gibbs and gave him an update. McGee made it through surgery fine; he's in ICU but he'll be moved to a private room within the next twenty-four hours. Gibbs repeated his instructions to Tony and hung up.

Twenty-four hours passed in a blur. Going home, eating, showering, sleeping, running to NCIS to give his statement – and now he stood beside McGee's hospital bed again, mind blank of all the things he'd been planning to say when McGee woke up.

The intubation tube had been removed. McGee looked better; not as pale and shadow-like as he had following surgery. His breathing hitched and his head turned on the pillow. Tony touched his arm.

"McGee?"

Eyelashes fluttered. McGee woke up. "Tony?"

"Yeah, it's me. How're you feeling?"

"Like you owe me something."

McGee's voice was weak, but the unexpected answer shocked a laugh out of Tony.

McGee smiled. He closed his eyes and swallowed before looking back up at Tony. "McGee -- Two, DiNozzo -- Zip. That's two to zip, Tony."

"You're right, Probie. I owe you two." And I'm really glad you're alive to tell me. McGee's eyes drifted shut and Tony knew the drugs were dragging him under again. Looking around he located a chair, dragged it closer to the bed and sat. Might as well get started repaying that debt.

THE END