McGee heard music the moment the doors opened. He recognized the song from the last time he visited Sarah. Her roommate had been blaring it when he knocked on her door. He furrowed his eyebrows as he moved toward Autopsy, freezing in the doorway to see Palmer dancing with his back to the doors.
Tim crossed his arms, torn between saying something, getting his phone out to record this, or just walking away. Before he could come to a decision, Jimmy turned around. He froze, eyes wide, reminding McGee of a deer caught in a set of headlights.
"H-how long have you been standing there?" Jimmy asked slowly.
"Not long," McGee responded noticing the look of relief cross Palmer's face. "Just long enough to know that you are definitely not bringing sexy back." Jimmy's face reddened as he rushed across the room to the desk to turn off his music.
"I can enjoy any type of music I want, McGee. I do not need your opinion," Palmer snapped leaning against the desk, crossing his arms. He sighed, "At least you're not DiNozzo."
"Thank God for that," McGee mumbled under his breath. He cleared his throat and said, "So, you needed help?"
"What?" Palmer took a second to remember. "Oh, yeah, uh there's a body. A dead one. I mean, what else would it be. I mean we're in Autopsy, and bodies are usually dead here. Unless you counted that one time…"
"Palmer, the point," McGee interrupted letting out a gust of air.
"I need help moving him. He's heavy," Palmer finished gesturing to the hulking, sheet covered figure lying on the autopsy table.
"We aren't putting him in the drawer are we?" Tim asked pointing at the bank of doors across the back wall.
"He won't fit," Jimmy answered simply, throwing his hands out. "I measured him," he gestured to the body, "I measured the opening," he pointed at the drawer, "he won't fit."
"So, where are we putting him?"
"The walk-in freezer."
"How did you even get him on the table?" McGee asked eyeing the body again.
"Me, Doctor Mallard, Seth, and Jerry," Palmer responded ticking each name off on his fingers.
"And you think we can get him onto the gurney and then into the freezer?" Tim flashed Palmer an incredulous look.
"Yes, no, maybe," Jimmy said quickly. "Look, I was hoping Gibbs would send Tony down, too."
"Good luck with that, DiNozzo went home with the flu," McGee replied recalling DiNozzo throwing up in his trashcan. Mind you not Tony's, Ziva's, or, daringly, Gibbs'. But Tim's, and the surprising thing, McGee wasn't even surprised.
"Hope you're feeling strong," Palmer commented after a lengthy pause. He moved toward the dead marine, McGee reluctantly following. Jimmy headed toward the guy's feet, Tim sighing heavily before stopping next to his head.
"On a count of three," McGee said grabbing the chest.
"Okay… Wait, is one, two, three, lift? Or, one, two, three, go, lift?"
"One, two, three, lift. Why?"
"Because the last time I did this with DiNozzo, he did not lift and I almost broke my arm," Palmer responded quickly. "So, just to clear things up: it's one, two, three, lift."
"Yeah, can we please hurry, Palmer? I've been here since six, it's almost three in morning, I want to go home," McGee said testily.
"Okay." Palmer grabbed the legs.
"Three." Both lifted only to realize the gurney was nowhere near the lab table. "Nice going Palmer."
"I'll just go get it," Palmer said, McGee watching in horror as his hands started to loosen from the legs.
"No, wait, don't let go…" the words were barely out of McGee's mouth when three-hundred plus pounds weighed down his arms. Unable to brace himself, both Tim and the body went crashing to the floor. It didn't matter how long McGee had been an agent, when there was a three hundred pound body on top of him he was perfectly entitled to freak out.
"Palmer, get it off!" he shouted trying to catch his breath, the marine dead weight pressing in on his stomach. "Palmer!"
"Sorry, sorry," Palmer exclaimed moving forward. He grabbed the marine's arms, tugging as best as he could, while McGee shoved.
"Get it," McGee grunted pushing harder, "off me." Finally the body rolled off of him, onto the floor. McGee scrambled to his feet, brushing himself off. He was breathing heavily, his heart thudding so fast against his chest he was sure it was trying to rip out of his skin.
"I'm sorry," Jimmy said again, albeit much weaker.
"Just get the damn gurney," Tim snarled through clenched teeth.
With some manhandling, and plenty of swear words on McGee's part, they managed to get the marine onto the gurney. Panting slightly, Tim leaned against the now empty lab table, Palmer standing next to him, both men taking a second to compose themselves.
"I think I pulled a muscle," McGee commented rolling his left shoulder.
"I'd hate to ever get into a fight with this guy," Jimmy said throwing the sheet over the marine, again.
"Yeah, Palmer, now let's move him."
Taking either side of the gurney, both men wheeled the marine toward the walk-in freezer. Palmer broke away from the gurney, opening the door, and returned to the bed. They pushed him inside, Jimmy directing them over to the back.
"Hey, can you grab the door," Palmer said as he turned to look down at the body. "It gets stuck sometimes…"
McGee turned to grab the door, but was just a second too late. It closed, sealing them both inside. Tim ran toward it, frantically pulling on the handle, Jimmy rushing to his side.
"What happened?" Palmer asked hurriedly.
"It shut, Palmer," Tim snapped trying the handle again. "You couldn't have warned me about the door before we got in here."
"I-I…" Jimmy turned to the door, pushing McGee's hand out of the way to try the handle.
"I already tried that," Tim snapped moving away from the door. This wasn't happening. This was not happening. He was not stuck in a freezer with Jimmy Palmer.
This just wasn't his day…
McGee wasn't talking to him. Tim was leaning against the back shelves, arms crossed, trying to keep himself from shivering, making it a point to not stare at Palmer. Jimmy was fine with this, he wasn't very happy with McGee either. Not after the agent called him a very insulting term barely ten minutes ago. And all Jimmy tried to do was tell Tim what their chances of survival were.
A shiver ripped through Jimmy's body. Palmer hugged himself, trying to keep warm. It wasn't good if they were already starting to shiver after fifteen minutes. By the rate they were going unconsciousness would kick in, in about two hours and death would soon follow. Of course, he'd share this with McGee, if he hadn't been so rude.
"Stop sulking," McGee said quietly.
"Oh so now you're talking to me, again?" Jimmy retorted not looking at Tim.
"Don't be such a girl Palmer," Tim replied sparing Palmer a look.
"No, I'm just saying, I share a piece of helpful information with you and I get my head ripped off. Tell me McGee, how is that fair?"
"Alright, I'm sorry I yelled at you because you got us stuck in here."
"I got us stuck? I got us stuck?" Palmer asked incredulously, his mind taking a second to wrap around the accusation. "Who let the door close, McGee?"
"Who didn't warn me the door was broken, Palmer!" McGee snapped back.
Jimmy took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and calmly said, "Arguing is getting us nowhere."
"Then what do you suggest we do, Jimmy?" McGee asked through clenched teeth.
Jimmy thought a moment, recalling whatever he had read on hypothermia and cold, and took another breath, "Well, the first thing we need to do is try and keep warm."
"I'm not cuddling with you Palmer," McGee snapped pointing a slightly shaking finger toward Jimmy.
"I wasn't suggesting that," Palmer said slowly. "Just don't stay in one spot, be sure to move around."
"I know," McGee snapped, but still started shuffling his feet when Palmer did. He wrapped his arms around himself, moving his hands up and down.
The freezer fell silent, Palmer tapping his foot against the floor. He took a breath, slowly let it out, and said, "I wish I had a deck of cards."
"Yeah, Palmer, let's play poker to pass the hours before we FREEZE to death," McGee snapped glaring at the other man.
"Are you sure DiNozzo didn't die?"
"What? Why would you even ask that?"
"Well, you seem to be channeling his spirit," Palmer replied angrily.
McGee scoffed, looking away from Jimmy. "Shut up, Palmer," he muttered under his breath…
McGee gave up trying not to shiver, tremors violently wracking his body, his teeth knocking together so viciously that he was sure he was about to crack a molder. He tried to keep his feet moving, but it was beginning to become difficult. He glanced over at Palmer, who had slid to the floor fifteen minutes ago. He was shaking worse than McGee, his knees drawn to his chest in an attempt to huddle in on himself.
"A-are you a-a-alright, P-Palmer?" McGee asked between chattering teeth.
"F-f-fine," Palmer responded into his thighs. McGee wasn't convinced one bit especially when Palmer's shivers became increasingly worse. He pushed away from the shelf, shuffling over to Jimmy, his legs shaking with each step. When he made it to Palmer's side, he sat down heavily, moving closer to the other man.
"O-okay, don't g-get the w-wrong idea," McGee said scooting a tad closer until he was crammed against Palmer. "I-I'm s-still m-m-mad at you." He shivered violently, knocking into Jimmy.
"I-I-I'm s-s-s-sorry to h-h-hear that," Jimmy joked feebly causing McGee to chuckle once.
"H-how l-l-long we g-g-got?" McGee asked curiously already knowing the answer, but wanting to give Jimmy something to focus on.
"I-It's b-b-been," Jimmy took a second to think, lifting a shaking arm to check his watch, "a-almost f-f-fifty m-m-minutes." He replaced his arm, hugging himself tighter. "P-p-probably a-a-another h-hour t-t-ten until w-we p-pass out, a-a-another h-hour a-a-after that w-w-we f-f-fall into a c-c-coma, and a-a-after that…" he let his words trail off, an ominous feeling laying heavily over the silence.
"G-G-Gibbs will f-f-find u-us before t-then," McGee commented with, what he hoped, enough confidence to convince Jimmy. He didn't have time to doubt himself; he had to believe Gibbs would find them. Otherwise, there would be no hope at all…
"W-where are w-w-we?" the voice got his attention. He checked his watch, his vision blurring slightly, before doing the math. Hour and twenty, confusion was kicking in.
"T-t-the f-f-freezer," he responded meeting the uncertain gaze. He hadn't expected this, not even close to this, "J-j-just hang o-o-on, M-McGee." Palmer looked around the area, knowing he had to get themselves warmed up. If they had a blanket or something…
His eyes landed on the sheet still covering the marine. Palmer had been hoping to get out before they had to resort to that, but desperate times. He tried to get to his knees, his stiff muscles sending him back to the floor. He took a breath and tried again, managing to stay upright that time.
With some difficulty, he managed to shuffle toward the body. He tried to grab the sheet, tried to pull it down, but his fingers wouldn't cooperate. He tried twice more, finally getting it on the third try with the combined effort of both hands. He yanked it down, waiting for the body to come down with it. It landed, thankfully body free, next to his legs.
Palmer collected it, taking a lot longer to shuffle back to McGee. Tim was shaking worse, Jimmy certain he had surpassed his own shaking, and his eyes were threatening to close. "H-hey," Palmer said lightly tapping his cold, pale face. "W-wake up."
"W-w-what?" McGee whispered looking around, his face near panic. "W-where a-a-are we?"
"T-the f-f-freezer," Palmer responded again, lowering himself down, next to Tim. He draped the sheet over both of them, moving closer to the agent. He knew any other time McGee wouldn't allow this, but Jimmy didn't have time to dwell on that, so he carefully put his arms around the agent.
"W-w-why a-a-are w-w-we h-here?" Tim asked as Palmer pulled him closer. "A-a-and w-w-what are y-y-you doing?"
"L-l-long story," Palmer answered his first question, "a-and t-t-trying t-to k-k-keep you w-w-warm."
"I-I-I'm c-c-cold," McGee mumbled his teeth chattering together. Palmer nodded, clenching his jaw to keep his own teeth from chattering.
"Y-y-yeah M-M-McGee, m-me t-t-too."
The freezer fell silent, McGee continuing to shiver against Jimmy. Palmer pulled the sheet closer around them, running his hands up and down Tim's arms. He tried to wrack his brain, figure out a way out of here, and started to panic when he felt McGee's head droop.
"H-h-hey," he snapped elbowing the agent. "S-s-stay a-a-awake."
"P-P-Palmer, I-I'm t-t-t-tired," Tim whined shivering again.
"I-I-I k-k-know, McGee," Palmer responded sympathetically. He was getting tired himself, but he knew they had to stay awake. If they went to sleep there was a chance they weren't waking up. "H-hey, h-h-how's t-t-the b-b-book coming?" it wasn't Jimmy's favorite topic, but if it kept Tim talking.
"Y-y-yeah, w-w-wasn't t-t-that r-released r-r-recently?"
"O-o-over m-m-month 'g-g-go," McGee slurred barely picking his head up. Palmer felt panic start to grip his stomach. Slurring wasn't good, it definitely wasn't good.
"D-d-d-did T-Tommy and L-L-Lisa h-h-hook u-up, y-yet?" Palmer questioned waiting patiently for McGee to respond.
"N-n-not s-s'posed to t-t-tell," McGee whispered his head resting on Jimmy's shoulder. "S-secret."
"C-c-come o-on, I-I-I w-w-won't t-t-tell D-D-DiNozzo." Palmer waited again, for an answer, but this time he didn't get one. Palmer glanced over at Tim, the agent's eyes closed again. "C-c-come on, M-M-McGee." Jimmy shook the agent, shouted his name, but to no avail. "W-wake u-u-up," Palmer breathed his eyes suddenly heavy. "P-please…"
Gibbs was pissed. Before his meeting in MTAC he had sent McGee down to Autopsy to help Palmer with whatever he needed. The meeting was an hour and a half, whatever needed to be done, should have been done. It was almost five, McGee's stuff was still by his desk, and with one check out the window confirmed that his car was still parked in the parking lot. Along with Palmer's.
Gibbs had tried calling Autopsy, Palmer, and McGee. All three calls had not been picked up, and a gut feeling kept encouraging Gibbs to check the morgue. So, Gibbs had wandered down there. It had been empty, and he was about to leave, but something about the freezer bugged him.
He moved toward the freezer, eyebrows furrowed, his gut informing him he was headed in the right direction. He grabbed the handle, twisted it, and yanked the door open.
At the sight, he rushed inside his phone already in his hand. He crouched down next to McGee and Palmer just as the dispatch picked up. "Yeah, this is Agent Jethro Gibbs, I need two ambulances at the naval yard, down in Autopsy." He let his fingertips rest against McGee's neck, listening to the dispatch lady as he felt around for a pulse. A slow, sluggish one pounded back at him.
"Thanks," he said and hung up, tossing his phone to the side. He checked Palmer's pulse, finding one similar to McGee's, before pushing himself up, ignoring his cracking knees. He had to get the two guys out of the freezer.
He grabbed McGee first, under the arms, and dragged him from the freezer, laying him on the floor just outside before moving back to get Palmer. As he grabbed Palmer's shaking form, the younger guy stirred awake and whispered, "M-McGee? W-where's M-McGee?"
"He's fine, Palmer. He's fine," Gibbs assured Jimmy, dragging him out of the freezer, leaving the sheet lying on the ground. Once both young men were out of the freezer, he shut the door and moved toward them just as the doors slid open.
"Jethro what are you…" Ducky froze in the doorway. "Oh dear, what happened?" he asked rushing toward the two young men.
"They got trapped in the freezer, Duck," Gibbs responded searching the shelves for blankets, sheets, a towel, anything to cover the two shivering guys.
"Allow me," Ducky said moving toward the cabinet crammed against the wall, digging underneath and extracting two thick, wool blankets. "Help me get them off the floor," the older man continued moving toward the two younger men. Gibbs followed, worry gripping his stomach. He couldn't help thinking: What would have happened if I didn't find them in time…? He just had to remind himself he did; he did find them, that was all that mattered. It had to be…
Yeah, I had to get this out of my system. I do not plan to add to it, but sometimes what I plan and what I do are two different things :D
Anyway, thanks for reading, drop a comment if you can, and I own nothing.
P.S. Neither Benny nor I were sure if Rock Hollow had been published or not, so we took a shot and said it did. And all hypothermia, freezer entrapment, or anything remotely not known to us was done on the internet. So, if we're wrong blame the websites we used :)