Season: Christmas (Set after Heartland in season 6…)

Title: The Christmas Hero

It wasn't a phone call that woke Tim McGee that cold December night. No, it was first a whine then a sharp warning bark. Bringing himself out of his sleep, he blinks wearily then realizes his apartment is filling with smoke. Crawling out of bed he places his hand on the bathroom door and feeling no heat quickly runs some water on two towels. He wraps the first one around his own head and the second around his faithful companion's.

Jethro tries to paw the towel off but a sharp word from Tim has the dog immediately calming down. Tim clumsily reaches up to the end table for his cell phone and finding it by the tips of his fingers he dials 9-1-1 and tells the operator about the possible fire in his building.

By now Jethro is trying to paw at the door and Tim crawls over to him keeping one hand on his cell phone as he goes. Again Tim feels the door for heat and again when it's cool to the touch he lets himself and Jethro out of the apartment.

The smoke is denser in the hallway and Tim can barely see from his position just where the staircase normally would be. Jethro to his credit crawls along on his belly, keeping pace with Tim. A sharp bark from Jethro turns Tim's head towards his neighbor's apartment and Tim knows that something is wrong.

"Mrs. Henderson? Are you in there?"

A soft cry is heard from within and Tim doesn't hesitate. He knocks once and quickly checks the door for heat. Feeling nothing he stands up and kicks the door in. Knowing from previous visits the approximate layout of his elderly neighbor's living space he crawls forward.

Jethro growls from his left and he quickly turns to see the dog tugging at an old bath robe. Tim confirms that it's his neighbor before picking her up, placing his own towel over her face and carrying her out of the door. On the way out, he picks up two pictures from the television and carefully tucks them into the pockets of Mrs. Henderson's robe.

"Lead us out of here, boy."

The dog leads him out of the apartment and they continue downstairs. Once outside, the fire department asks if he's seen anyone else and Tim shakes his head no. He's coughing with the slight smoke that he did inhale and turns to check on his neighbor.

Mrs. Henderson is in the ambulance, crying weakly at the thought of possibly losing her precious photos in the fire. Tim motions for the EMT to let him in and he gently places her hand on her pocket, letting her feel the picture frames. The grateful lady kisses Tim on the cheek and the EMT finally convinces her to let him take her to the hospital.

Outside once again, Tim picks up his cell phone and hits a speed dial number. A sleepy Scottish voice answers, "Dr. Mallard here… Hello is anyone there?"

"Woof, woof!" the dog answers for Tim who is overcome by a fit of coughing.

"I'll be right there lad."

Ducky hurries into his own clothes then hits number one on his own cell phone as he enters his Morgan.

"Yeah Gibbs."

"Meet me at Timothy's Jethro. Something is wrong."

"On it Duck."

Gibbs throws down the sanding block and runs up the stairs. It's rare for Ducky to call him at any time of the day or night for the older man to do so now tells Gibbs that his friend means business and his youngest agent is in trouble. He's grateful now for the car his father had not only finished restoring for him, but insisted that he take home. He guns the engine and is soon racing down the streets towards Silver Spring.

The multitude of fire trucks and ambulances has both older men hoping that Tim wasn't actually in a fire as they pull up several blocks away. Ducky hurries over to Gibbs side and together they almost run to where the fire captain is issuing orders.

"We're looking for Tim McGee; he lives here."

"Woof! Woof!"

Gibbs spins on his heel and heads towards the barking, Ducky hot on his tail. Tim is sitting down a few yards away, still coughing. An EMT is trying to convince him to go to the hospital and get his lungs checked out but Tim is fighting him.

"McGee! Ducky, go with him, make sure he gets to the hospital. McGee!"

The sound of Gibbs voice finally penetrates and Tim looks up from his position on the ground.

"Boss?" He coughs again and Gibbs kneels down next to him.

"Yeah, listen to me. I need you to go with Ducky."

"Ducky…sorry."

"Oh Timothy my lad there is nothing to be sorry about. Now come lad let's get you to the hospital shall we?"

Between the three of them, Gibbs Ducky and the EMT get Tim to his feet and over to the nearby ambulance. The EMT looks at Gibbs just before they close the doors, "He's a hero you know…saved his neighbor at the risk of his own lungs."

Gibbs looks Tim's dog who is lying down, clearly dejected at being left behind. Gibbs ruffles the dog's ears. "Good job boy. Now come with me, I need some answers."

"Woof!"

Gibbs goes back to the fire captain who is watching as his men finishes putting the hoses away. Gibbs shows his badge and the captain nods to him respectfully.

"What can I do for you Gibbs?"

"Had an agent that lived in there; any ideas yet as to what happened?"

"Not yet, we'll have an inspector out here shortly; right now it looks like some Christmas tree lights might have over heated."

"Was anyone hurt?"

"No, thanks in part to your agent. If he hadn't heard his neighbor we might have lost her just to the smoke inhalation. As it is, his protective measures saved her."

Gibbs looks at the captain waiting for an explanation and the man explains that by placing the still damp towel over his neighbor's face, Tim had managed to keep most of the smoke out of her lungs.

"Of course, he did so at his own risk, because he then carried her downstairs where the smoke was thickest. He's a good man. I hope you know that."

"I do."

"Good…make sure you tell him that. And Gibbs, Merry Christmas."

"You too captain."

Gibbs motions to the dog who obediently follows him to the Charger. Opening the door, the shepherd immediately jumps into the backseat and lies down. Gibbs opens his phone and calls Ducky.

"What room are you in?"

"He's in 104 Jethro. So far it's mild smoke inhalation but they want to keep him overnight for observation."

"Stay with him Duck. I've got the dog."

"Oh good. Timothy will be glad to know that he's safe with you."

Gibbs sighs and looks back at the dog. "Does this mean that you're expecting me to take the dog in, Ducky?"

"Timothy would appreciate it too, unless you'd rather I did."

"No, no it's okay. I'll stop in and see Tim on the way home. McMutt wants to say goodnight."

Ducky smiles as he closes his phone and looks at Tim who is almost asleep beside him. Tim opens his eyes and Ducky tells him that Gibbs will be there at any moment. Just then, the door opens and Gibbs ushers the dog inside.

The smile on Tim's face upon seeing his best friend is worth any scolding they might receive from the hospital staff.

"Thanks…boss…sorry."

"Sorry for what Tim?"

"Ruin…Christmas."

"My dear Timothy, you saved a life tonight. That's not ruining Christmas, dear boy that's honoring the very spirit of Christmas." Ducky squeezes Tim's arm lightly, "I'm extremely proud of you."

"We both are." Gibbs adds with one of those rarely seen smiles that warms Tim more than any cup of coffee could.

"Thanks, boss, thanks Ducky."

"Woof."

"Yes, McMutt you did a good job too, now hush or they'll kick us out!"

Tim snuggles down into his blankets and Gibbs with Ducky's assistance hoists the dog onto the bed.

"Thanks you guys and Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas, Tim." Gibbs says.

"Merry Christmas, to one and all." Ducky replies.

"Woof!"

"Merry Christmas Jethro, now hush!" Gibbs mutters as Tim closes his eyes and falls asleep.