A/N:I'm beginning to regret naming McGee's love interest the same name as his sister. Oh well, too late to change, now.
They drove for hours. Tim had long since given up trying to memorize the turns they were making, and after awhile the street signs all seemed to blur as one. They were in an unfamiliar neighborhood to him, residential, and he wasn't even sure they were in the same state, although he hadn't seen any signs to indicate otherwise. It could have been that they were driving in circles. Tim simply didn't know. He wasn't tired anymore. His eyes were red and dry, but he could not have been more awake. The information that he had gathered was startling and disturbing, to say the least. If it hadn't been for Sarah, he would have called Gibbs immediately. Hell, he would have called Vance. The scope of this was big. Too big for him. He was essentially a little fish, swimming in a tank that was much too large and murky for him. He shuddered slightly. What if these sinister men couldn't protect their target? What were the ramifications if they failed? What if by not calling Gibbs he had unwittingly set into motion a chain of events that would lead to the death of another—not just another, but a very important man. Important to the country. How could he live with that? Was Sarah's life worth that to him? Was his own? The man sitting next to him could very well kill him after he divulged the information. He doubted the man would lose any sleep over it. He was a loose end. He just had to trust that certain…measures….he had put into effect before he left would ensure his safety, not to mention that of his friend.
They pulled to a harsh stop. The man turned to him. Tim was peering out the window, trying to notice any landmarks, house numbers, anything. It took him a minute to notice the man was holding something out to him. A blindfold.
"Put this on," the man said, his tone leaving no room for argument. Tim just looked at him, and then man reached out dropped it in his lap. It was then that Tim noticed the man had a gun in his hand. Well, that left even less room for argument. He took the cloth hood and put it on. For a blindfold, it was particularly effective. Even with dawn breaking, he couldn't see a damn thing. The man prodded him, hard, in the ribs, and as Tim started to walk, the man grasped his shoulder to steer him.
"Watch your step," the man said curteously, after they had been walking for a few minutes. Tim had been trying to distinguish what he was walking over. Grass, gravel, concrete, grass, and then gravel again. Fat lot of help that was. Then his foot hit something that he could only assume was a stair. Also concrete. Hooray for his finely-honed investigative skills. He stumbled a little up the steps, reaching out blindly for a rail. He found instead only the man next to him, holding his arm, lifting him up.
They seemed to pass through an enclosure, and then into a heated room. Tim was ready to say something, when the blindfold was suddenly tugged off his head. He looked around blearily. They were in an impersonally-furnished room, with a chair and a couch, both red. The floor was wood. Nothing hung on the walls, and there were no windows to see out of. There was a desk with a computer, and a door with several good locks. He looked up at the man.
"You might sit," the man said impassively. "We'll bring your girlfriend in to you, and then you need to get to work."
Tim thought about trying to convince the man that Sarah wasn't his girlfriend, but upon second thought realized it probably wouldn't do any good. He sat on the chair, and the man left the room, locking it solidly behind him, at least four locks.
Tom McGafferty sat. Time was drawing near. 48 hour countdown. He accessed the files that were available to him, mentally. It was odd. He kept thinking of someone named Sarah. The name Sarah. It kept popping up in his mind. It wasn't related to his mission, as far as he knew. Name. Time. Location. Plan. Nothing about any Sarah. He closed his mind to her as best he could. It wasn't important, now. It wasn't part of his mission.
Gibbs had just fallen into a doze when his bedside phone rang. It didn't startle him so much as irritate him. As a man given to insomnia, he prized what little sleep he could get. His hand struck out and dislodged the phone from it's cradle. He fumbled a bit for it, and finally got it up to his ear.
"Gibbs," he barked. He heard a female breath over the phone.
"Gibbs." It was Ziva. He sat up a little in bed.
"Go ahead," Gibbs said, his voice a little less agitated.
"Gibbs," Ziva said again. "I'm worried about McGee."
"He's not at his apartment. His car is not here, either."
"Why are you at McGee's apartment, Ziva?" Gibbs sighed. There was always something. And with this case, it was anyone's guess. And that feeling in his gut was getting worse.
"I was…worried about McGee," Ziva repeated, sounding more hesitant than usual.
"You said that, Ziva," Gibbs said, trying not to sound impatient. "Why are you worried? Tim might be…spending the night with a friend."
"I do not think so," said Ziva. She proceded to tell him about Tim's phone call, his reaction, and hers. Gibbs was silent a full two minutes after she finished the story.
"Why didn't you tell me about this sooner, Ziva?" He asked finally. He heard her take another steadying breath.
"I did not want McGee's trust in me to be…misplaced," she said. "He clearly needed to handle the matter alone."
"Well let's hope my trust in you isn't misplaced," said Gibbs harshly, worried and hating the feeling. "Meet me at NCIS in 20. Call Tony."
He hung up to the sound of her apology.
Tim's eyes were almost closing when the door opened again. Sarah stumbled across the floor and went down on one knee right across from him.
"Tim!" She cried, sounding both glad and dismayed to see him there.
"Sarah, are you ok?" Tim kneeled in front of her.
"I'm scared, Tim." Sarah was crying, a little. She looked the worse for wear. Thinner, pale, with the remnants of a black eye.
"It'll be ok, Sarah," Tim said, trying to sound soothing. She shivered in his arms. He glared up at the man in the doorway.
"You said you didn't hurt her."
"I lied," the man said shortly. "And now that you've seen her, you have something important to be getting on with, haven't you?" Tim stood, trying to make himself look as impressive as possible.
"First we're gettng her some medical attention," he said. "She's dehydrated. Hungry."
"No," said the man, and brought his gun out again, swiftly pointing it at Tim.
"If you kill me, you'll never get the intel." Tim said, refusing to be intimidated. He stared at the man, who stared right back at him, his expression unchanged.
"You're right," the man said after a few minutes. Then, with the same lack of emotion, he continued, "luckily, I know exactly how to hurt you without it interfering in your work." He swung the gun at Sarah, and before Tim had time to react, blew out her left kneecap. She let out a strangled cry and went down, clutching at her leg, blood spilling onto the barren wooden floors. Her face was gray and bloodless. Tim had let out a single, startled yell at the gunshot, and started to rush at the man with the gun, heedless of the consequences. The man with the gun gave him a look and pointed the gun back at Sarah. Her eyes were huge and horrified, shining with pain. "If you try anything, I'll destroy every bone in her body," he said neutrally. "I know how to make it last, too." He smiled a mirthless smile at Tim. "So you'd better get to work. The sooner you're done, the better. For both of you."