Greater Love

Shellie Williams

Greater love hath no man that this, that a man lay down his life for his friend. John 15:13

A/N: I found inspiration in a Sentinel story, The Kindness of Strangers, by Mackie and hephaistos, written for the virtual Season. It is a highly entertaining and well-written story that I recommend, even if you are not familiar with the characters or places of The Sentinel.

Warning: Violence and mayhem ahead, and very little plot to get in the way. Let me also mention that I am not in any shape or form a doctor. I did some research, but most of this is made up. Please don't feel obligated to inform me of any medical impossibilities and mistakes.

Rating: T due to serious injury and some coarse language.

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters or places of NCIS.

Summary: Lost, hunted, and hurt in the woods, Tony and McGee must depend on each other to make it through.

Part 1

Silence. It was as if the world had stopped. McGee lay on his back, looking up through dappled sunlight through gossamer leaves. So beautiful. Splashes of blue between branches bragged of a robin egg sky. A bird flew by high overhead, sharp detail blurring into water color black. He blinked. Double images slowly slid back into one; transparent figures lining up into focus.

What had he been doing? A quick mental search revealed nothing, and quiet alarm began a staccato beat in his chest when awareness slowly grew, and he realized he was on the ground.

What the -? Muscles tightened through his body as he shifted his legs. Instant pain exploded bright as a nova through his belly. Darkness swooped down and clutched him in talons of sharp agony. Awareness fled; sight and sound faded. He floated in a fathomless sea of black, weightless.

After a time, sound inched close and whispered in his ear. The soothing and relaxing chirps of birds and softly vibrating song of crickets woke him. He found himself on his side, his arms wrapped around himself. Black night and come and stolen away the sun's light. The close up view of blades of grass had him blinking his eyes. Remembered pain held him still. Slow breathing pulled in and out through his lungs, and the lullaby of nature lulled him back to sleep.

He woke up again that night, his body cold and stiff. Something had startled him and he lay unmoving, trying to hear it again. There: rustling leaves and loud, snuffling breaths. An unseen animal passed by, close enough to smell, but he didn't see it. He held still, waiting for discovery, but nothing happened. After a few minutes, weariness pulled him under again; he didn't even realize it when his eyes closed.

Bright shafts of sunlight woke him the next morning, and clarity rushed through his brain with frightening speed: driving with Tony to a small farming community nearly five hours away, questioning witness in the brutal murder of Petty Officer Jefferson, eating a quick lunch at the local café and noticing the less than friendly looks from three grizzly flannel-clad backwoodsmen, beginning the drive back, the feeling they were being followed, and the blow out just as they were passing over a short, rail-less bridge spanning a deep ravine.

"Tony!" The shout brought him upright in a flurry of pain and panic. Bracing his arm against his body, McGee rode out the wave of pain that threatened to crash over him. Red-tinged darkness tried to intrude, but he pushed it back. Rolling to his knees, he managed to make it to his feet, gasping and groaning.

The car lay not ten feet away, crumpled and bent, wrapped halfway around a huge tree. Stumbling, trying not to fall, McGee moved as quickly as he could to the driver's side. Tony was there, sitting behind the wheel with his eyes closed. An open gash high across his forehead sprouted a sickeningly gory trail of blood. McGee noted with some relief that it was no longer bleeding. Dead men don't bleed. The thought twisted relief into grief. He took a breath, then pressed his fingers against Tony's throat. For a moment, he felt nothing, then a faint beat vibrated against his touch. His held breath exhaled in a huge rush. McGee fell to his knees beside the car, weak with relief.

Nothing mattered; not his pain, not the fact that he had no idea where they were, or that they were five hours from Washington; all that mattered was that Tony was alive. It was up to Tim to keep him that way. With more grit and determination than he'd ever felt before, McGee pulled himself to his feet and got to work.