A/N: I admit, I haven't seen very many episodes of NCIS. Not for lack of trying, I just seem to always catch the same ones. However, I'm going to try this, and hope it works out.
In addition to new characters, I'm doing a new genre. Experiments for the win?
My Latin is rusty, like whoa, but I'm ninety percent sure I got all the conjugation right. The title roughly translates to "Always my Brother".
Special thanks go out to Enthusiastic Fish for beta reading this for me. This wouldn't be half as good without the help. She's the crazy one that came up with the end scene, not me.
Disclaimer: CBS owns these characters. I'm just wishing I did.
Summary: Someone wants the attention of NCIS, and they got it in the worst way. With a team member missing and time running out, some members of the team are forced to reevaluate their thoughts and feelings. Mystery, action, explosions, and Tony/Tim friendship all with a light dusting of McAbby.
Semper Frater Meus
"It will not be a perp that kills you, Tony," Ziva observed, her accent made thicker by the obvious disgust in her voice. "It will be your choice in foods."
Tony glanced up at her, grinning around the mouthful of greasy cheese pizza that was trying to escape from his teeth.
Ziva turned her head away from her partner, finding she couldn't keep watching the yellow grease dribble down his face. "I was not aware food like that was served this early in the morning."
"It's usually not, but I've got some connections." Tony swallowed thickly, wiping his fingers on the edge of the pizza box.
"Another one of your horrid girls, then, Tony?"
Looking offended, Tony rolled his chair over to Ziva's desk, making sure to lay greasy fingers on the least important looking papers on her desk. "Now that's just mean. You haven't even met her and you're calling her horrid."
"I don't have to. If she's doing favors for you that tells me enough." Ziva glared at the smudges left on her desk, grabbing a tissue to lift Tony's hand away. "Anyone here would tell you the same thing."
"Well, I'd say let's ask the Probie, but someone is late today." Tony couldn't help grinning at McGee's empty chair. "I find it hard to believe McGeek got lucky last night. What do you think is really keeping him? Get his tie stuck in his typewriter?"
"You never get tired of the same jokes," Ziva smiled sweetly. "And you do not give McGee enough credit. I think his car broke down and he is stuck on a bus."
"Either way, he should have called in by now," Gibbs muttered, striding through. The office had only been open for fifteen minutes, and already he needed another cup of coffee. "Try his cell, DiNozzo."
"Already did, Boss. Nada." Tony turned his head to whisper with Ziva, though he knew full well Gibbs would hear him anyway no matter what he did. "That's why I developed the typewriter theory."
"How many times have I told him to always be reachable?" Gibbs asked as he moved back the other way towards his desk, this time with a cup of coffee that had mysteriously appeared from somewhere. Anyone who didn't know him better would have thought he was pacing. His team didn't think. They knew.
"One hundred and fifty seven, Boss," Tony put in cheerfully, sliding back to his desk and flipping open his personal e-mail. He could get in trouble for checking it at work, technically, but McGee had managed to convince him that girls got less creeped out if you gave them your e-mail instead of your phone number. Something about it being a less personal first step. Surprisingly, it seemed to be working. Not that he was ever going to tell that to the Probie.
"McGee is not you, Tony. He is much more responsible." Ziva paused in her typing to glance over at him. "You are just trying to make him look bad, yes?"
"Would I do something like that to the Probie? Don't answer that." A few more clicks brought up Tony's inbox. It had all the standard default setting. McGee had refused to help him customized it, and bribed Abby with a year's worth of Cafe-Pows to do the same. Still, it did its job. Or what he thought its job was supposed to be.
The one new message in his inbox took Tony by surprise. It wasn't from the girl he'd given the address to last night. It was from McGee.
Brief thoughts of a crippling computer virus that would have him at the younger agent's mercy in a matter of minutes flashed through Tony's mind. Sure, all e-mails were scanned before they could be checked on the NCIS computers, but if McGee could hack other government agencies, he could do theirs. Probably easier since he knew it so well. McGee was always careful, though, to not let his, limited, retaliation at Tony interfere with work. He was still too afraid of Gibbs, and unsure of his status on the team, to try it.
Mentally reassured that Probie was still Probie, and just a little curious why McGee would bother to e-mail if he was late instead of just call, Tony opened it. Instead of some rambling note about how he'd accidently run over his phone, or something, the e-mail contained a link and the simple words 'thought you would enjoy this'.
"Weird," Tony said aloud as he clicked again. Ziva glanced at him but said nothing.
The link opened up to a video, and Tony turned down his speakers while it loaded. There wasn't any writing on the page, just the player, and Tony felt his special agent senses tingling. Something about this felt weird.
The video must have finished loading, or whatever it was doing, because it seemed to jump in in the middle of the clip. The camera was shaking, like it was really windy or the guy holding it was running. Had been running. It was a news report, he recognized the woman holding the mike.
Behind her, an apartment building was on fire. It was nicer than Tony's but not by much. Red brick. Square. Unassuming and uninteresting. A sign in the corner caught his attention, and Tony felt his breath catch as he read it. Silver Springs. McGee's apartment complex. McGee's building.
"Uh…boss…" Tony started, but didn't quite finish, instead turning up his speakers again as Gibbs and Ziva made their way over to peer at his screen.
"The fire seems to have started," the reporter said, her voice frantic in a way reporters only got over breaking news—part excitement, part dread, "with an explosion in apartment number three of this building. The Fire Marshall has not confirmed whether or not anyone was home at the time. The neighboring apartment buildings are currently being evacuated while crews attempt to put out the flames."
"Is that not McGee's apartment?" Ziva asked slowly.
Gibbs leaned down so he was looking at almost the same level as Tony. "Where'd you get this, DiNozzo?"
"McGee sent it to me." Which sounded weird, because it was McGee's apartment that was on fire, so how did he have a computer, and just what the hell did he mean he would enjoy it? He loved winding McGee up, sure, but never enjoyed seeing him actually hurt ever.
"Or someone using McGee's e-mail," Ziva supplied seriously, her face concerned.
"You don't just hack the Probster, Ziva. That'd be like…" Tony fumbled for an appropriate movie reference, but for once came up blank. Instead, he settled on something more familiar. "It'd be like hacking Abby. You don't just do that."
"But it's been done," Gibbs said darkly.
Three pairs of eyes shot down to the corner of the screen when a little blue box popped up, simple unbelievable words popped up. New message from McGoogle, Tony's own personal favorite variation of McGee's name.
Looking uncertain, Tony turned his head to look at the man still leaning over his shoulder. "Boss?"
"Open it," Gibbs muttered, squeezing Tony's chair tightly.
The body of the message was blank, as was the subject line. It took Tony a moment to locate what had been sent at all. Another video, this one attached instead of a link. More flashes of some virus that would allow the other person complete access through the NCIS system came to mind, this time without the reassuring thought that McGee wouldn't do that. It seemed less likely that this was McGee, that they might be able to out hack McGee, and that wasn't a comfortable thought at all. "Should I scan it or something, Boss?"
"Open it now. We'll deal later." Gibbs voice was determined, almost angry, and Tony didn't bother to question it again.
They stared at the black screen for several tense moments before Gibbs spoke again. "What's it doing?"
"It's loading, Boss." In spite of the situation, Tony couldn't help smiling. He disliked computers, sure, but at least he was semi-competent with them.
"Because that's what it has to do." For whatever reason. McGee could probably explain it, if anyone ever actually wanted to know.
The screen faded in, like the camera had just been turned on. It was an odd angle, low quality, like a webcam or a computer with a built in screen, but all in bright life color. Tony almost wished it was black and white.
There wasn't a background. Black sheets had been hung up to cover everything the camera might use as a clue. It could have been the office next door or a worn down building a hundred miles up the coast for all they knew.
There was McGee, tied with his arms above his head. Dressed in boxers, socks, and an MIT shirt he'd obviously been surprised in bed. It didn't help that it looked like his legs and arms had been burned—Tony could tell from the shine. He just couldn't see if they were blistering or not. There was definitely blood trickling down a nasty looking gash running along McGee's hairline, soaking into the tie that was being used as a blindfold.
"What's going on?" McGee's voice didn't waver, but Tony could tell from the set of the younger agent's jaw that he was afraid. He'd learned to read McGee's body language like a first grade book, anticipate his next thought and move. That's what made good partners.
The way he tilted his head, trying to keep the blood out of his eyes, trying to listen for something. The way his hands kept clenching and unclenching, testing the ropes that held him and relieving stress at the same time.
"I can hear you," McGee spoke again, his voice filling the silence on their end of the computer. "Tell me who you are."
Someone moved on camera. Someone in jeans and a black hoodie, carrying a sledge hammer.
Tony wanted to yell out that Tim run, fight, do something other than stand there and look confused and frightened. The only thing that stopped him was the reminder that he could pause this. It had been filmed before, had already happened, and he could scream all he wanted to but it was too late.
Too late. He should have picked less final sounding words.
The figure moved behind Tim, dragging his pale left hand around Tim's neck. The catch in Tim's breath was visible even with the pixilated camera.
"T-tell me who you are." The slight tremor at the beginning was the only clue to the terror Tony knew McGee was feeling. Unable to see with the blindfold on, probably disoriented from head injury, and knowing he didn't have anyone to help him.
Ziva, apparently, wasn't held back by such restrictions as the fact that McGee couldn't hear them. As the figure picked up his sledgehammer and swung at McGee's left arm, a wordless warning shout escaped her.
The crack and McGee's immediate scream of pain were almost unbearable, but Tony found he could not close his eyes. Somehow, this was for him, and he needed to see.
McGee was thrashing around involuntarily, trying to get the pressure of his body weight off his trapped arm.
"Don't do that, Probie," Tony whispered in spite of himself. He wanted this to stop. This wasn't right. To personal. Too much. "Stop. Stop moving."
The person moved around to the front of the camera. He was shorter than McGee when the young agent was pulled on his tiptoes like he was. Red haired and built like a skeleton.
Tony's breath caught in his throat. He knew that face. Knew that pug nose and those small dark black eyes, though they had sunken far into his skull. The hair was longer, the skin dirtier, but he knew that face and the grin of a job well done. Knew it as well as he knew McGee.
"Hey there, Big D," the man said, jerking McGee's head back with a handful of hair, "remember me?"