Co-Written by the fabulous Shelbylou!
He squinted against the lights that glared through the squad room. Even his monitor seemed to work against him as the brightness burned holes into his retina's leaving him feeling nauseas and slightly dizzy. The tight band of painful pressure had been steadily increasing all day until it stretched behind his eyes now and bored deep into his skull signaling the start of the cacophony of jackhammers that were intent on beating him down bit, by painful throbbing bit. Unfortunately, being frustrated beyond breaking point at the agony wasn't good enough as he tried to muster all the strength he had to fight back against the burning sensation attacking his eyes. It wasn't important; what was important was the fact that they were in the middle of the case and a pregnant woman's life was on the line…two lives in one. He had to fight through it!
It didn't help that the case currently revolved around whatever leads he could dig up electronically since all physical leads had led nowhere. Whoever had kidnapped the woman had done it quickly, quietly and so efficiently that there were no traces or signs he'd even been there. If they were going find her alive and nail the kidnapper, he was gonna have to pull another rabbit out of his electronic hat and soon.
"Talk to me, McGee!" Gibbs ordered impatiently as he walked back into the squad room with a fresh cup of coffee. Tim looked up and saw the familiar intolerance for the 'nothing yet, Boss' answers, radiating from the boss and sighed. It was the same whenever someone's life was in grave danger but since landing this case and having to try and find an eight month pregnant wife of a Marine, they'd all been under tremendous pressure and time constraints, not to mention emotional turmoil, since this was hitting them all deeply. They wanted and needed her found before anything happened to her or her unborn child giving them two victims by default rather than one.
Even Ducky and Jimmy were helping out as best they can because without guests down in hotel autopsy, they had decided they could be of more use making sure the team continued to take care of themselves through this difficult case. Jimmy delegated himself to making the food runs while Ducky kept to overseeing their general health by making sure they ate, drank plenty and slept, even if it was just for a short two hours here and there. When the M.E. had been told that the entire team had pulled yet another all-nighter two days ago, he'd been unstoppable in his efforts to look after them and they'd been too busy and way too exhausted to do anything more than take advantage of his help and be thankful for it. Even now, as Gibbs was still in the midst of issuing the order to Tim, Jimmy and Ducky returned with dinner and began handing out the individual meals, setting them on each agent's desk quietly.
"Nothing yet, Boss." Tim admitted with a heavy heart as he continued squinting against the light and pain in his head. The more he seemed to stare at the monitor, the more the burning increased making him wish for a darkened room and a place to escape this agonizing hell. While trying to keep searching online for traces of where their missing Audrey Peters had been taken and by whom, every move Tim was making and even every word he was speaking was sending more jolts of pain through his head now. The pain had been an almost constant companion for most of the last 24 hours but Tim had fought hard to push past it and keep going, resigning himself to working through it until they'd found their missing mother to be.
Ducky took one look at Tim and frowned at what he saw but before he could think about what was possibly bothering the young agent, Gibbs was on his feet and glaring, his mouth opening to rant.
"Damn it, McGee! We needed something two hours ago! You seriously telling me you got NOTHING AT ALL!" Gibbs shouted angrily.
"I know, Boss. I'm sorry." Tim apologized sincerely and carried on working through the pain knowing that this case was important; far more important than a headache; especially one that was making his job more difficult.
"DON'T Apologise! How many times have I gotta tell ya? Just get me the damn information we need!"
Tim's vision blurred and he swayed in his chair as dizziness overwhelmed him and made his vision grey at the edges. His hands made a grab for his desk in order to hold on and try and salvage some degree of self respect and composure. Closing his eyes, he swallowed hard and bit the inside of his lip to silence the cry of pain as the jackhammers sped up and bored holes into his brain. It was agonizing and with every jolt, a wave of nausea seemed to follow.
"Jethro! Honestly!" Ducky sternly berated the Team Leader. "Surely you can see Timothy's in extreme pain! It's obvious that he's got a nearly blinding headache and headslapping him is not going to help the situation at all! If anything you should be thankful that your team know the importance of their work and carry on regardless."
Ducky crouched down beside Tim and laid a hand on the struggling and still unsteady agent. He tutted softly as he gently steadied him while using his other hand to turn his chair so that he could look at him better. After scrutinizing Tim for a minute, the M.E. called to his assistant. "Mr. Palmer. I have something a little stronger than Tylenol in autopsy. kindly run and retrieve the bottle for me please."
"Ducky, S'alright." Tim whispered and tried to turn back to his computer.
"No! Timothy, I cannot let you work on your computer at the moment."
"Can't stop. I need…we need to find…" Ducky placed his hand on Tim's arm and shook his head.
"It won't incapacitate you. It's strong enough to take the edge off without making you drowsy. I'm not afraid of telling you, dear boy, that I'm not happy about you continuing to work right now."
Tim sighed and leaned his elbow on his desk so that he could cradle his pounding head. Ducky simply sighed and turned towards Jimmy, who had frozen in place unsure as to what to do.
"Now, Mr. Palmer!"
"Yes, Doctor." Jimmy set down the last food order he'd been holding and bolted for the stairs, nearly flying down them in hopes of not wasting any time. Tim really did look like he was going to pass out from whatever had him in its grip and helping relieve his pain was much more important than getting Abby her lunch.
"That true, McGee?" Gibbs asked his agent with a tone that, while much quieter, was still bordering on angry. He hated being the last one to know when something was wrong with one of his team members and being berated by Ducky hadn't helped matters at all.
"Yeah." Tim admitted so softly the boss almost missed it. Without another word, he turned back to his keyboard and got back to his searching.
Gibbs frowned at the response and moved Tim's keyboard to the side. "Why the hell didn't you tell me sooner?" Gibbs demanded.
"Case, first. Boss. Gotta find her." Tim defended quietly and moved the keyboard back towards him. He resumed typing and Gibbs noticed the slower speed that his young agent was going. How had he missed that? The long, slim fingers weren't flying across the keyboard like they usually do and that in itself was a sure sign that something was wrong; a sign that Gibbs had missed.
"Da'vid, get Abby up here to take over for McGee. McGee, go with Ducky." Gibbs barked as he looked across the room at her.
"Boss, it'll take too much time to get Abby up to speed on what I've done and what needs to be done. Please, just let me do this." Tim pleaded. He rarely stood his ground but this was important to him and he needed to prove himself to the gruff team leader.
"Timothy, you cannot…" The M.E. gently began to admonish him.
"Ducky, I HAVE to!" Tim argued heatedly without stopping his work.
"Then you will at least stop long enough to eat and you will eat enough to be able to stomach the pain medication."
Tim started to argue but Ducky held up his hand. "Timothy, you will take the tablets or I will be forced to medically relieve you from work."
"Okay." Tim replied meekly and stopped working to accept half a sandwich from Ziva with a small smile of thanks.
As he forced himself to eat it, every bite went down like a lump of lead that threatened to choke him. It sat uncomfortably in his stomach making it churn as badly as if he were on a ship. Jimmy returned with the pain relief and handed it to Ducky and thankfully, by that time, Tim had managed to get the entire half sandwich down. The only problem was, his throat decided to add to his misery and the chore of swallowing made it difficult and painful.
The **ding**of the elevator heralded someone arrival and a familiar loud voice soon rang through the squad room
"Hey, hey, hey! Very special agent DiNozzo has returned! Did ya miss me?"
Ziva turned away from where she was watching over Tim and advanced on Tony angrily.
"Bottle it, Tony!" she hissed as she reached him and snagged his shirt, pulling him out of the squad room and around the corner. He needed to be told what was going on so he could act accordingly and not make things worse with his loud, exuberant voice.
"Damn it Zee, what the hell?"
"Tony, for once in your life shut up!" Ziva hissed and placed her small hand over his mouth.
Tony pulled his head away and glared at his team mate. "What the hell is going on?" He demanded quietly and grabbed Ziva's hand before she could put it over his mouth again. "Don't even think about it."
"McGee is sick and has a dreadful headache. Your voice is much too loud for him which is why I asked you to bottle it." Ziva replied firmly and sighed. "I do not know what is wrong with him but he is in a lot of pain and appears to be dizzy as well."
"Okay. Thanks for the heads up." Tony said and started to walk back into the squad room. He paused briefly and leaned down so he could whisper in her ear. "And it's can it, Ziva. Not bottle it, can it."
Ziva frowned and moved to swat the annoyance away but Tony was too fast and was already making his way back into the thick of things. She allowed a small smile at the correction and followed him in only to see Ducky trying to help her friend.
"Now, Timothy, I must insist you let that half sandwich settle for a moment before taking the medication." Ducky instructed gently.
"Shoulda just eaten half of it. Wouldn't take as long." Tim grumbled while he complied, sitting back in his chair and closing his eyes. Even the darkness that his eyelids provided didn't help and two long, silent minutes later, his endurance waned as the painful burning became more intense. With a small groan, he stood up feeling like he needed to do something rather than just sit there. With the need to flush his dry eyes becoming overwhelming, he lumbered around his desk but was stopped short by an arm wrapping around his shoulder for support.
"Its okay, Probie. I'll get you there." Tony's quiet soothing voice offering help that hadn't been asked for and would have normally raised a red flag of suspicion with the younger agent, but at the moment, Tim was too grateful for the help and the sympathy. He leaned into Tony's supportive arm before he realized what he was doing. They'd barely taken more than three steps before Tim corrected his posture with embarrassement and an apology he couldn't get out fast enough.
"Don't sweat it, Probie. We'll let it slide this time. Look, we're here." Tony joked as he glanced worriedly back at Gibbs before opening the bathroom door and helping Tim over to the sink.
Leaning heavily over the porcelain, Tim reached for the faucet and turned it on before cupping his hands and splashing the cold water over his face. The movement was frantic and Tony couldn't help but shake his head at the deluge of water that escaped and splashed onto Tim's suit.
"Easy, McGee. You're getting soaked." Tim ignored Tony and carried on doing what he was doing so that he could try and ease the dryness in his eyes. Tony watched with a frown and shook his head as he walked over and shut the faucet off. Tim tried to reach out to turn the water back on but was stopped by Tony's hand grasping his arm gently.
"Talk to me, McGee. What's going on?"
"Nothing. Don't worry about it, I'll be fine." Tim answered and gently shook his arm free. Tony gave in and let Tim turn the water back on and sighed when his friend carried on saturating himself.
"Looks like it. I come back and Ducky's giving you pain meds and the boss is hovering round your desk like a paternal lion. Don't lie to me, McGoo."
Tim sighed and grasped the side of the sink with his head bowed. "I Just need to give my eyes a break because their feeling dry. I've been sitting doing searches for too long…and Gibbs doesn't do paternal lion, DiNozzo, not with me, anyway."
"That explain the headache from hell?"
"And the bad reaction to the boss' head slap?"
Tim turned away from the sink and leaned against the edge. He grasped his head with both hands and started to gently massage his temples. He let his eyes close hoping that it would help keep the moisture there and cut the glare from the fluorescent strip lights overhead. With a dry laugh, Tim shook his head and groaned slightly at the movement. "Was there anything Ziva didn't tell you?"
"You tell me, Probie." Tony's answer was more sincere than Tim had heard in a long time.
"Honestly Tony, I'll be fine. I just need a minute."
"Yeah? So you keep saying. Tell ya what. You promise me that you won't move from that spot and I'll be right back. Don't let me come back in here and find you in a heap in the floor because you tried to move." Tim started to protest but was bought up short by Tony holding his hand up to silence him. "Damn, McGee. Just stay there, okay. It's obvious that you're struggling and you look as though the sink is the only thing keeping you upright."
Tim conceded easily and gave a gently nod. "Thanks, Tony."
"No sweat man. I'll be right back." Tony repeated as he quickly stepped out of the bathroom, his eyes searching for and locating the person he needed to talk to. Walking up to him to keep the conversation somewhat quiet, he was quick to say what was on his mind. "Ducky. He practically drowned himself trying to flush his eyes." Tony couldn't keep the concern from his voice and Ducky looked at him confused. It took a short moment but realization dawned on the M.E. and he turned to his assistant.
"Of course! Mr. Palmer…"
"On my way, Doctor Mallard. I'll have the eye drops back here in just a minute." Thankfully Jimmy had come to the same conclusion and Ducky felt a pang of pride at the young man's sharpness. Jimmy took off at a run and the others watched as he stepped onto the elevator and disappeared from view.
"He's a good lad. Now, Anthony, let's get Timothy back to his desk, shall we?" Ducky suggested as he turned back to Tony.
"I'll get him, Ducky." Tony offered as he went back in after his partner and friend.
"Jethro…." Ducky turned his attention back to the Team Leader who'd been staring at the bathroom door silently while the boys had been in there and now seemed to be able to do little more than stare down at his desk.
"Yeah, Duck. I know." Gibbs raised his eyes back up to his friend. "Nothin' I can do about it now. Audrey Peters needs us to find her, tonight!" Suddenly, he shoved his finger down on an extension button of his desk phone.
"Abby, need you up here. Now." He withdrew his finger off the button before Abby had a chance to get a word in, effectively hanging up on her.
"What do you plan do to now Jethro?" Ducky asked but stopped when Gibbs simply glared at him and went back to the paperwork on his desk.