Fools for Lesser Things

Written for the NFA Fair Fight Challenge

Genre: Mystery/Suspense (and a little SciFi, but not much)

Warnings: Disturbing subject matter, language. Apparently my muse was in the mood to torture someone.

Summary: One member of the team is attacked by an unseen assailant, turning the agent's own body into his worst enemy. The others must try to find a way to help him before it's too late while fighting their own personal demons.


Chapter 1

Tim McGee joined the group of commuters leaving the Metro train at the Navy Yard station and made his way to the exit. The normal bumping and jostling he felt barely raised an eyebrow, but as he was about to step onto the escalators, he felt a drop of something wet hit the back of his neck. He looked around and then up but saw no evidence of the source of he wetness and casually dismissed it. He had more important things to worry about.

Probably a leak. Must be really raining out there.

After passing through the gate, he headed for the steps which led to the surface. When he reached the top he was surprised to find that the skies were merely overcast and the torrent he expected was non-existent. He then realized that, for the first time in months, he was a little winded from the exertion of climbing those steps to the outside. Wondering if maybe he was coming down with something, he paused briefly to catch his breath and then started the trek to the office.

While his walk was uneventful, by the time he reached the bullpen Tim was inexplicably exhausted. He decided to get though his morning duties and then he would go get checked out by Ducky. It was probably just the onset of the most recent flu strain working its way through the complex, but better safe than sorry.

He sat down at his desk and booted up his computer, checking his email and other routine programs while ignoring Tony's normal attempts to get a rise out of him when the older agent arrived a few minutes later. He tried to concentrate on the words in front of him but his vision started to blur slightly and he closed his eyes for a moment before resuming his task. His vision cleared and he continued to work, ignoring the haze that settled over his brain. Soon his fingers felt like they had lead weights attached as he tried to maintain his normal typing speed. Finally he had to stop and stretch his hands to get rid of strange stiffness he felt in them.

"Problem, Probie?" asked Tony from his desk. Tim gritted his teeth at the mocking tone in the senior agent's voice.

"No."

"You're not getting carpal tunnel from those computer games you play, are you?"

"No, Tony."

"From something else, then?" he asked with a leer.

"No, I don't have carpal tunnel. Now leave me alone. Some of us are trying to get some work done."

"Whatever you say, McFreaky."

Tim shot him a dirty look before returning his attention to his keyboard and paused as his vision blurred again. He shook his head. Maybe I should go see Ducky now. He swiveled his chair away from his desk and started to stand when suddenly he was hit with a wave of sensation, the likes of which he had never felt in his life. Sounds were amplified to unbelievable levels; the lights became blinding; smells which had been barely noticed became sickeningly strong; the taste of his morning coffee burned in his throat. He fought rising nausea and clamped his eyes shut as tight as he could.

"Probie, you OK?"

Tony's voice hit his ears like a jackhammer and he winced, but before he could block out the cacophony around him he was overwhelmed by a flood of pure agony. It felt like his entire body had suddenly been dipped in acid. He sucked in a breath and tried to ride out the pain but it didn't stop.

"McGee? What is wrong?"

He was unable to respond to Ziva's question before he felt himself start to fall. He tried to stop his descent but his limbs would not respond to the simple commands. He hit the floor with a jarring crash that he felt through his entire body, bringing with it another cascade of agony.

"Probie!"

His jaws clenched as he could feel every pain receptor translate the message to his brain, but his mind remained perfectly clear, and perfectly aware of what was happening while his body ignored his desperate attempts to gain control. He couldn't move.

He couldn't even scream.

XXX

Tony watched his partner out of the corner of his eye as he started to check his email. Something was off about he younger man this morning. He wasn't normally this grouchy and he hadn't even come up with a real insult to respond to Tony's barb at his personal life. Whatever it was, he knew he'd figure it out before the day was over.

Probably another bad date. Probie has the worst luck.

He noticed McGee's sudden pained expression and turned to him.

"Probie, you OK?"

He didn't respond. Tony saw Ziva look up to study the junior agent and the concern that crossed her face as McGee's breathing pattern suddenly changed.

"McGee? What is wrong?"

Suddenly McGee went rigid and started to fall out of his chair. Before Tony could respond, McGee hit the floor and fell over, landing on his side. He never made a sound.

"Probie!"

Tony was at McGee's side immediately. He carefully rolled the younger man onto his back as Ziva moved to his side. He could feel McGee's muscles tighten under his hands.

"McGee, come on, man. What is it? What's going on? Talk to me." He saw Ziva pull out her cell phone.

"Ducky, it is Ziva. We need you. Something is wrong with McGee. No. Yes. I will." She hung up and ran back to her desk. Tony returned his attention to McGee and didn't like what he saw at all. It was obvious his friend was in extreme pain. McGee's jaw was clenched, the muscles and veins in his neck were bulging, his hands were drawn into fists and his eyes were screwed tightly shut, but he still made no sound. It was creepy as hell.

"What is wrong with him?" Ziva asked, her voice surprisingly shaky.

Tony lightly touched McGee's face and McGee flinched. He was shaking slightly but gave no other indication of the source of his distress.

"I don't know. I've never seen anything like this. Probie, can you hear me?" McGee flinched again and turned his head away slightly as tears stared to leak from he corners of his eyes. "What happened, Tim?" McGee flinched again.

"Softer, Tony. I think your voice might be too loud for him," whispered Ziva.

"Sorry. Sorry, buddy," he said in a softer voice. McGee still flinched but not badly as before. Tony was barely able to quell his rising panic. What could have happened to the younger man to put him in such a state?

They heard the ding of the elevator and looked up to see Ducky approaching, followed by Gibbs and Palmer. Ziva moved out of the way as the M.E. knelt down next to the prone agent.

"Oh, Timothy. What has happened to you?" He started to examine McGee and a worried expression crossed his face when he saw the evidence of extreme pain but no direct cause.

Gibbs stood behind Ducky and looked down at McGee before turning his attention to Tony.

"DiNozzo?"

Tony rose and Palmer quickly took his place, following Ducky's commands as they assessed McGee's condition.

"I don't know, Boss. He was just sitting at his desk, then it looked like he was getting ready to stand up and he just keeled over. He hasn't said anything. In fact, he hasn't made any noise at all. I know Probie's stoic, but this-." Gibbs reached out and smacked the back of his head. "Thanks, Boss."

"Ziva?"

"McGee did not seem quite like himself this morning, but nothing indicated that something like this was going to happen, whatever this is."

"Duck?"

After a few more tense moments the M.E. shook his head. "I don't know, Jethro. His pulse is very fast, breathing shallow and his blood pressure is very low but his temperature is high and his pupils are extremely dilated. Perhaps exposure to some sort of toxin."

"He was poisoned?" Tony looked down at his friend and felt his stomach clench. "Will he…?"

"I don't know, Anthony. The sooner we find out what this is, the better we will be able to treat him. In any case, he needs to get to a hospital, immediately." Ducky managed to draw a blood sample from the trembling man and handed it to Palmer. "Take this to Abigail. Tell her to screen for all known drugs and toxins. It's a place to start, at least."

"Yes, Doctor." Palmer ran for the stairs.

"But how? And why?"

Before anyone could answer, they were interrupted by the ringing of Gibbs' desk phone.

XXX

Gibbs almost didn't answer but his gut was telling him to take the call so he walked over to his desk and picked up the receiver.

"Yeah, Gibbs," he said, barely managing to keep the strain out of his voice. He never expected something like this to happen to one of his agents, especially McGee, and it was bothering him much more than he was showing the rest of his team.

"Agent Gibbs. How's your geek?" The male voice was calm and pleasant, with a slight yet unidentifiable accent.

Gibbs froze for a second before signaling Tony to trace the call.

"What do you mean?"

"Your computer expert? Agent McGee? I imagine he's not doing too well at the moment."

Gibbs clamped down on the surge of fury he felt and growled, "What the hell did you do to him?"

"Oh, nothing special, just a little dose of my own home brew. Rather disturbing effect, though, isn't it? You might as well tell your forensic scientist to give up right now. She'll never figure out what's in it."

"What did you give him?"

"You think I'm going to tell you? Where's the fun in that? Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that when the EMTs arrive, don't let them give him any analgesics or sedatives. That will kill him. Bad cross reaction, you know. Then again, he might welcome death at this point."

"What-?"

"Let us not waste time, here, Gibbs. I'll cut to the chase: your agent is perfectly aware of everything that is happening to him, but there's nothing he can do to stop it. I've eliminated the buffers on all of his senses, kind of like the opposite of a deprivation tank. Most importantly, I've turned on every single pain receptor in his entire body. He's under continuous, unrelenting assault from a plethora of stimuli, and nothing your M.E. can do for him right now will help. He's in agony, Agent Gibbs, and I've also taken away his ability to express it. It will be interesting to see how long he can take it before his body shuts down from the strain."

"Why-?"

"Am I doing this? Because I can. It's all part of my search for the answers."

"The answers to what?"

"How long can we stay sane in the face of the unspeakable? What are we willing to do to help another person? And in your case, how do we deal with the loss of something we always took for granted."

"Who are you?"

"Just someone who is looking for an honest man. Are you honest, Agent Gibbs?"

"I—."

"Time's up. I'll be in touch. Ta." The dial tone sounded in his ear and he slammed the phone down and turned to his senior agent.

"DiNozzo?"

"I didn't get it, Boss. Got it narrowed down to a six block radius."

"Damn it!"

"I'm sorry, Boss, this is more McGee's…" He looked down at the suffering agent and stopped, color rising in his face before quickly draining away. "Damn it."

Gibbs knelt down next to McGee and placed a hand on his forehead, only to remove it a second later when McGee tried to pull away, the small movement causing him even greater distress.

"I'm sorry, Tim." Gibbs couldn't even offer physical comfort to his team member. "We'll find the bastard who did this to you."

"So it was poison?"

"Something like that, Duck. Don't let the EMTs give him any pain killers or sedatives."

"But Jethro-."

"Whatever he gave McGee, it will react fatally to those. That bastard didn't give us any way to help him."

A sudden commotion announced the arrival of the EMTs, and Ducky started to give them instructions. Gibbs stood back and watched as Tony and Ziva gathered behind, unable to offer him any comfort as well.

Gibbs had never felt so helpless in his life.


Reviews appreciated ;)