Tim McGee awoke to pain. But it was not quite such a painful pain as before. It was a kind of floaty pain, and there was cold, and there was comfy involved as well. (And then his inner writer joined the conversation to ask, what the hell did he think he was doing right there with that flagrant misuse of adjectives?)

With all the random sensations involved in this return to consciousness, Tim was briefly worried that he was back in the warehouse again.

But it was far too bright for the warehouse. And he was pretty sure there hadn't been pillows there either.

Or, for that matter, an IV needle sticking into his arm. Although Tim was pretty sure he didn't object to that part of it.

He was lying in a hospital bed. This seemed to him to be a vast improvement in the situation as he had known it.

And there was Gibbs sitting in one of the really ugly chairs by his bed, reading a Washington Post.

Tim opened his eyes wider, and managed a soft, "Hey."

Gibbs smiled softly, and folded the newspaper.

"Hey, Tim."


"Wrapping up nicely. Apparenly Yadkornivich was ex-mob, who tried to strike out on his own. ID'ed Ryan as a weak link for espionage and defense contractor info. He paid, Ryan provided. Ryan squeezed him for more, tried to blackmail him. Evgeny overreacted. At least, according to Ryan's computer. All of which we would have found out faster if we hadn't had to rely on the JV squad in Cybercrimes."

There had been a hint of playful needling in that, and Tim smiled.

"Well, Boss, I was kind of tied up at the time."

Gibbs smirked, but refused to give McGee the satisfaction of laughing at the joke.

"You'll make it up to me, somehow, I'm sure."

"Ziva? Tony?"

"They're fine. I think DiNozzo was threatening to bring you Jello, the last time I cared to listen."

A panicked thought suddenly went through Tim's mind: Gibbs was being funny. Gibbs was being quiet. Gibbs was being nice, and he was being quiet. This could not be good.

"I'm not dying, am I?"

Annoyance now passed over the formerly calm countenance.

"Not if I have anything to say about it, McGee."


Tim leaned back on his pillow and closed his eyes half-way.

"But you were right, McGee: death would be no excuse."

Tim's eyes shot wide open once again. Gibbs was, for him, grinning very widely.

"You talk in your sleep."

"How much did I say?"

"Not that much. I couldn't follow most of it."

"I...my head hurt, a lot. I was alone, and my mind was racing. I started talking it through, thinking how to handle things, how we would do things. And...I don't know, stuff just got a little mixed up."

One of the background beeps started beeping faster. Gibbs's expression softened at the panic in his junior agent's voice.

"Tim, you don't have to explain yourself to me. You survived. You saw it through. Whatever got you there..."

"You guys got me there. All of you. I don't want to sound like Dorothy, but..."


"Heck, even Tony helped."

"I'm sure he'll be thrilled to hear that."

"He'd never let me live it down."


Tim felt the morphine drip kicking in, but looked over to Gibbs once more.

"You're really here? I mean, I'm really here, and you're not just a especially loud voice in my head?"

"Go to sleep, McGee."

"On it, Boss."