Here we are, at the final chapter! Thank you all for your lovely reviews. They mean a lot. -88Keys
"McGee!" Tony shouted as he rushed down the hill. He tried to slow himself, but the slope was too steep and the leaves too slippery. His feet lost traction and he half-ran, half-skidded to the bottom. When he finally regained his footing at the bottom, he was surprised to see two men standing over McGee, to his right. One of them had a gun pointed at the younger agent.
"Don't move," the man ordered DiNozzo. "Or I'll blow his head off."
Tony froze obediently and raised his hands. "I take it you're not the forest rangers."
"Hardly," the man snorted. "Slowly take out your weapon and toss it ahead of you on the ground. Don't try anything; I will shoot him."
"I don't doubt it." Tony carefully removed his weapon, resisting the urge to try and get off a shot. The guy was only a couple of feet from McGee. It was too risky. He tossed the gun in front of him.
"Go pick it up, Louis," Terrance commanded. The younger man stepped out from behind his boss and went to retrieve the gun. Tony could see the scared, hesitant look on his face. Whoever this Louis was, he clearly didn't want to be there.
"Now," Terrance said to Tony as Louis returned with the gun, "come over here and stand by your partner. A couple of feet away. Keep your hands up."
As he approached, Tony looked questioningly at McGee. The younger agent was watching him, obviously in pain, but alert. Tony raised his eyebrows and motioned slightly to the left, with his head. McGee nodded discretely.
"You're the one who killed Corporal Taylor," Tony accused as he settled into place. Maybe if he could stall these guys long enough, the rangers would show up.
"Corporal Brandon Taylor. The Marine you shot and left here in the woods. What was he, a customer of yours?"
"I didn't kill nobody," Terrance sneered. "Yet." He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "He's the one who shot your Marine."
"I didn't mean to," Louis stammered.
"Whether you meant to or not, he's still dead," Tony responded coldly. Out of the corner of his eye, he was aware of McGee's left hand, slowly inching towards his Sig.
"You will be too, in a minute," Terrance said. He motioned to Tony with the gun. "Turn around and get down on your knees."
Tony moved slowly, turning all the way around and bending his knees. Come on, McGee…he's distracted…
BANG! BANG! BANG!
The shots seemed to explode through the late afternoon quiet of the forest. Tony glanced at his torso, making sure everything was still intact. He turned quickly and saw Terrance laying on the ground, eyes open but not seeing. Blood poured from three wounds to his chest.
McGee quickly swung his gun towards Louis, who was still holding Tony's gun. The young man dropped the gun, threw his hands up in the air, and burst into tears.
"Please! Please don't shoot me! I didn't mean for any of this to happen!" His voice trailed off into hysterical sobs.
Tony sighed and picked up the gun in exasperation. "Nice shooting, McGee," he said as he slapped a pair of handcuffs on the sobbing suspect. "Though really, anyone should be able to hit from that close." He waited for a response and heard none. "McGee?"
Still no answer.
"Lay down on the ground and don't move," he commanded. Louis quickly obliged. Tony turned back to his teammate and knelt beside him. McGee's eyes were closed, his breathing, shallow.
"Come on, McGee…don't give up now." He gently shook McGee's shoulders and lightly slapped his cheek.
Tony took a deep breath, then slapped the back of McGee's head. "Probie!" he barked, in his best Gibbs imitation.
McGee opened his eyes and looked to the side. "Geez, Tony…I heard you the first time…just didn't feel like talking." He glanced at Terrance, lying dead a few feet away.
"May have been an easy shot…but it saved your butt."
Tony sighed in relief.
"The phone worked. The forest rangers are coming… You're going to make it, Tim.
Eight weeks later
McGee looked up at the NCIS building with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. It was the first time he had been back since that awful day in the forest.
His leg was still healing, and would be for a long, long time. It was possible that he would always walk with a slight limp. He didn't know yet, because he wasn't able to walk again. At least not for more than a few minutes at a time.
Most of the time, he had to rely on a wheelchair to get around. His leg was still in a heavy cast. Inside, along the bone, were steel pins and screws, holding it together. The damage was bad, but not as bad as it could have been. The bone had broken in two places, but the breaks were clean, with only minor splintering. An immediate surgery had been done to set the bone.
"You're a lucky man, Agent McGee," the doctor had commented as he wheeled his patient to the recovery room. "The surgery went very well.
Staring down at his damaged limb, feeling the pain gradually increase as the anesthesia wore off, McGee didn't feel so lucky.
A few days later, he lied in the hospital bed, feverish and in pain, his body burning with infection. It was almost too much to hope that there wouldn't be any, as long as he had been in the woods and on the ground. The trap itself had undoubtedly been dirty as well. An antibiotic regimen was started immediately.
He was in the hospital for two long, restless weeks. All of his co-workers and family members came by, but it was Tony who was the most dedicated. It was Tony who, after he was discharged, came by his apartment to check on him almost daily. It was Tony who helped pull him out of the depressed funk he settled into after a week of moping around his apartment.
"Why was that stupid trap there anyway? I thought those things were illegal in state parks."
"They are," Tony had explained patiently. "The rangers staked out the spot and caught the guy who was trying to poach bears and cougars with them."
McGee had frowned. "If I had only been a little farther to the left, Tony, this wouldn't have happened."
"Yeah," Tony had agreed. "And if Corporal Taylor hadn't gone to the woods that day, he would still be alive. And if I hadn't walked away to make that call just a few moments before those drug dealers showed up, they might have caught us both by surprise." He had strolled over to his teammate and given him a swift sharp head-slap. "You know better than to dwell on things like that McGee. That kind of thinking will get you nowhere. You gotta go from where you are right now."
It was Tony who left work early to come and drive his teammate to physical therapy sessions a few weeks later. And it was Tony who had driven forty minutes out of his way to pick McGee up and take him to NCIS today.
He would be on desk duty, of course, probably for a long time. He wasn't really supposed to come back at all yet, but McGee was going crazy with boredom. He could work on reports, fix computers, help Abby in her lab…anything would be better than being cooped up in his apartment.
Autumn had came and went while McGee was still in the hospital. Now the weather was gray and chilly. Tony pushed him carefully up the sidewalk around the side of the building, where the wheelchair entrance was.
"You sure you want to do this, Probie?"
"Oh, I'm sure. Believe me. Are you sure you want to?"
"Want to what?"
McGee swallowed hard, trying to find the courage to ask the question that had been on his mind for weeks now. "You've been awfully nice to me lately, Tony."
"Me? I'm always nice."
"Not like this. Tony… you saved my life, in the woods. I never thanked you for that."
"I saved you, you saved me. We're even, Probie."
"So why all this. I mean, you don't have to-"
"I know I don't have to, McGee." Tony pressed a button, and the door swung open slowly. "Enough jabbering. Gibbs isn't going to buy the wheelchair excuse if you're late."
As the elevator doors opened, the NCIS squad room seemed to spread out before him. It was a welcome sight; familiar orange walls, cluttered desks, busy agents. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a familiar figure racing towards him. Abby.
McGee grinned and braced himself for the impact.
Maybe I'm luckier than I thought.