For those of you who have read my Moments & Fragments offerings, this multi-fic will refer back to Chapter 3 of that series (the one with the psychic). It is not necessary to read that chapter to be able to follow this story. Hope you like 'Drowning'. Zan.
The situation was surreal and totally unexpected. Gibbs had been leading the team along the stream. They had been scouring the bank for clues to the young naval officer's disappearance. Dinozzo had been alternating between quoting Bogart's lines from The African Queen and mocking McGee's Wellington boots. McGee had been expressing concern about the encroaching darkness. Ziva had been complaining that she really didn't know what they were supposed to be looking for. Just as Gibbs was about to command them all to zip their mouths or be fired, lightning had split the sky in half. Too late, Gibbs saw the bulk of a tree, apparently struck by the bolt, crash into the trio, sending them into the water. Now, Gibbs found himself being swept downstream.
With difficulty, Gibbs managed to get his footing and drag himself to the bank. Looking to where the team had been struck, he saw McGee helping Ziva to safety. They were both drenched but safe. The moment of relief Gibbs felt gave way to rising panic when he realized that Tony was nowhere to be seen.
By the time Gibbs reached Ziva and McGee, the agents were frantically scanning the stream, a task made more difficult by the rain that had begun to fall, and the fast approaching darkness.
'Tony!' yelled Ziva, her voice shrill and full of concern. 'Gibbs, he was not far from me! Was he not swept past you?'
'No,' replied Gibbs with more confidence that he felt. 'I would have seen him!'
'Boss! There!' shouted McGee. All three peered in the direction McGee was indicating. In the gloom they could make out an arm extended above the surface of the water. Without wasting time to comment, Gibbs strode back into the water and made his way to what was, hopefully, Tony.
Tony fought to keep down the panic that was rising within him. He felt sure that the team had seen him. A dark shape was moving from the bank towards him. That was surely a good sign. He would have preferred to be the one doing the moving, but his legs were trapped firmly beneath the fallen tree. At least the freezing water was only at chest height. He would have to be thankful for small mercies.
'Dinozzo!' yelled Gibbs as he reached his agent.
'Hey Boss,' Tony replied by way of greeting.
'What the hell are you doing?' demanded Gibbs, annoyed by Tony's casual tone.
'I'm stuck,' Tony told him in a matter-of-fact manner. 'Probably Karma for all of the BS I was giving McGee about those boots. Are Ziva and Probie safe?'
'Yeah,' said Gibbs. 'They're fine. Are you in any pain?'
'Not really,' Tony told him, trying to sound casual. 'Just stuck. Literally stuck, but I guess metaphorically as well because – hey!'
Without warning, Gibbs had taken a deep breath before submerging himself to investigate Tony's predicament. Feeling his way down Tony's legs, he encountered the unyielding tree that had trapped the man. Tony was stuck in a kneeling position with the trunk of the tree across the back of his legs below the knees. Gibbs tried to shift the tree but to no avail. Re-emerging, Gibbs exhaled and came face to face with Tony again. Mercifully, Tony had stopped going on about metaphors. Despite the gloom and steadily increasing rain, Gibbs could see the glint of concern in Tony's green eyes.
'You sure you're not in pain?' asked Gibbs, gruffly. 'You're pinned pretty tight.'
'Just a bit of cramp,' admitted Tony as an involuntary shiver swept across him. 'And it's getting kinda cold.'
'McGee!' yelled Gibbs above the noise of the stream. 'Get your ass over here!'
McGee obediently made his way carefully towards where the other men were. As he neared them, his eyes grew wide with worry. There was no way that Tony would be kneeling in freezing water unless he was injured and/or couldn't move.
'Are you okay Tony?' he asked, immediately regretting the inane question the moment it left his mouth.
'Just Dandy, McGoo,' replied Tony. 'Really loving the great outdoors right now.'
'Get down here and help me move this damn tree!' barked Gibbs. 'Dinozzo's stuck under it.'
'And make sure you only grab hold of the tree,' Tony warned him. 'I'm feeling kind of vulnerable here.'
Blushing, McGee followed Gibbs' lead, and felt around beneath the water to find the tree trunk. Despite several attempts that were interrupted by their need to come up for air, they could not free Tony.
'What if we try and drag him out?' McGee asked Gibbs.
'It's worth a go,' replied Gibbs. They grabbed an arm each and tried to pull Tony forward, without success.
'Did you at least move a little?' McGee asked him.
'N., I'll my t. to extend m. shirt sleeves,' Tony told him, unable to keep his teeth from chattering.
'Can't you just be serious for once??' exploded McGee. How Tony could be cracking jokes in such a dire situation amazed him.
'B. serious isn't g. help, Mc,Mc,Mc House,' countered Tony.
'McGee!' snapped Gibbs. 'Go back and get the truck. We'll use the tow rope to move this thing. Ring for the EMT's as well. Tell Ziva to stay on the bank.'
Gibbs waited until McGee was a little distance away from Tony before leaving Tony's side to speak privately to the junior agent.
'Water levels' rising and the water's freezing,' he told McGee in a lowered voice. 'Two reasons to hurry up, Got that?'
McGee cast a worried look at Tony and then at Gibbs's intense gaze before nodding and making his way out of the stream as fast as he could.
Tony heard Gibbs speaking to McGee but could not make out the details of their conversation. When Gibbs moved back beside him, Tony shook his head.
'What?' demanded Gibbs.
' you sure I hear what you're saying, and McGee his own record. to be bad.'
Gibbs gave a wry smile.
'No good for anyone to be stuck in this cold water especially you,' said Gibbs.
' the water level's rising,' said Tony. 'D. not g. for me.'
Gibbs shook his head and knelt down in front of Tony. The water level was now up to their shoulders.
'McGee will be back before you know it,' Gibbs told him. The gentle tone of his voice worried Tony more than anything else about his predicament. He gave a half laugh and tried to straighten his back more as he felt the water level rise slightly yet again.
'Trying to convince me or yourself, Boss?' he asked.
Gibbs gripped Tony's shoulder and met his eyes.
'Dinozzo, I will NOT let you die,' he told him.
Tony studied the way the rainwater coursed its way down Gibbs' face before giving a slight nod. If he didn't have faith in Gibbs, what did he have left to draw strength from?