This hiatus is going to be the death of me yet… hence this second "fallout" story! This is how I would dearly love to see the season opener play out. There's a companion piece to this that I intend to publish in a few days.
"What the hell were you doing in the elevator, DiNozzo?" Gibbs demanded as they walked out into the Navy Yard.
"Temporary insanity?" he tried. Gibbs shot him that stare he knew so well. "Or maybe just insanity," he amended.
The boss simply nodded. He didn't have the chance to say anything else because a blur of black hair and nervous energy shot toward them. Frantic arms wrapped around Tony's neck and squeezed tightly, nearly knocking the breath from his lungs for a second time that day.
"Tony! Ziva!" Abby released him to fling herself at Ziva next. "Thank God! Are you all right? Are you hurt? You're not hurt are you? Please say you're not!" Her eyes were wild, a livewire of frantic intensity.
"We are fine, Abby," Ziva soothed her, patting her arm.
"I'll be royally sore tomorrow, but right now I'm just pissed off." They'd been thrown around pretty hard in that elevator, gotten pelted with pieces of falling tiles, but that was about the extent of the damage. They'd both walked out on their own two feet. It wasn't physically they'd suffered the worst blow.
All this time they'd been trying to predict Dearing's next move and they'd failed. Miserably. He'd hit them right where it hurt. He'd hit them at home, and they hadn't seen it coming.
Abby's eyes darted over Ziva's shoulder as if expecting to see someone behind her. "Where's Tim?" Her voice held a note of fear in it when she didn't find him.
Her question gripped Tony's attention immediately. "He's not out here?" His eyes, as well as Gibbs' and Ziva's, automatically began searching the sea of people throughout the yard – their own people, the FBI, units of rescue teams and medical personnel swarmed all around them. But no McGee.
"No. No one's seen him since before…" It wasn't a note of fear in Abby's voice anymore. It was a symphony. "He's still inside."
Tony turned around to see Gibbs' back to them as he rushed into the building again. He was right on his heels.
"Ziva, stay with Abby," he called back as he ran after him. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ziva's arm slip around Abby's shoulder. This was bad. This was very bad. The bomb had gone off two hours before. If McGee wasn't outside, it was because he couldn't get out. He was trapped or injured. Or worse. But he cut that thought off before it could take root. They couldn't afford to think like that.
If he'd been injured… that was a frightening amount of time to have passed. Even minor injuries given so much time could compound and become far more serious than they had to be.
"Where did you see him last?" Gibbs called over his shoulder.
"He was in the squad room, at his desk. We thought he was on the way out." McGee had been gathering his things when he and Ziva had left to evacuate the others in the building. He hadn't even thought about him not getting out. He'd had time.
They sprinted to the stairwell, up to the squad room. His heart dropped when they pushed the door open. It looked like a war zone. If he'd been in here…
Gibbs went one way, he took the other. The windows had been obliterated. Glass crunched under his feet on the far side of the room. Part of the wall was gone. Brick and drywall mingled with the fragmented glass. In the distance, he could hear other people in the building. Rescue teams searching for survivors.
He hadn't gotten very far when he came across the first body. Rita Kaplan. Sat at a desk two aisles over for the last six years. Her daughter had just graduated high school. He knelt down beside her and placed his fingers gingerly on her neck. He waited. Nothing.
Ten feet further he found the next victim. Pete Meachum. Worked the Saudi Arabia desk. He knelt, felt for a pulse. Again, nothing.
He picked his way over a few yards more and froze. That same sick fear he'd felt when Kate was shot, when he'd head the Damocles went down with Ziva on board, when they found Jenny's body in that diner, it writhed viciously in the pit of his stomach now.
McGee was sprawled at an awkward angle in between what was left of his and Ziva's desks. He lay motionless in a pool of blood, shards of glass, and debris. His backpack had been hurled several feet behind him. The way he was lying, he must have been running right to the explosion.
"Boss!" he called out, a faint tremor in his voice. He hesitated to reach out for a pulse. Afraid like the two times before, he'd find nothing. If he'd ever had a younger brother, he figured it'd be very similar to the way he felt about McGee. He baited, teased and aggravated him, and just generally made him crazy, but he would have traded places with him on that floor in a second.
Gibbs was there before he had the chance to finish his thought. He knelt down beside McGee's still form, heedless of the broken glass all around him. He pressed his fingers to McGee's neck, careful not to jostle him.
The dread pooling in the pit of his stomach compounded as he waited for Gibbs to say something. "I've got a pulse," he said finally, his voice calm, eerily so. "DiNozzo…"
"Medic," he heard himself say mechanically. "On it, Boss." He moved quickly. Every minute mattered, he knew that. McGee had already been lying there for too long.
There was no way of telling at first glance how badly he was hurt. They knew he'd lost a lot of blood. He'd had lacerations all over his face and neck from the glass. If he'd been thrown back hard enough, if he'd hit his head just right, he could have bleeding inside his brain. He could have a concussion. A broken neck. Spinal injuries. Anything.
When he returned with help, Gibbs hadn't moved. "Hang in there, Tim," he heard him whisper gruffly, his hand on McGee's shoulder. "Help's on the way. You're going to be fine."
The medics assessed his condition quickly and loaded him onto the stretcher. McGee moaned when they moved him but didn't wake.
As they strapped him down, Gibbs held out something in his hand. A flash drive, Tony saw. Covered in blood. McGee's blood.
"He was clutching this in his fist," Gibbs said darkly.
"You want me to find out what's on it?" How he'd do that, he didn't know. He had no computer, no desk, no nothing, but if that's what the boss wanted, he'd find a way to get it done.
"It's the case. Give it to Fornell. FBI's taking the lead on the investigation." He could hear the aversion to that idea in Gibbs' voice, and, in all honesty, he didn't like it any better. But what choice did they have? That decision had been made far above their pay grade. Like it or not, that was how it had to be.
"Go with him, DiNozzo," Gibbs ordered as the paramedics lifted the stretcher and began to make their way to the stairwell. "And get yourself checked out while you're at it." With McGee on his way to get the help he needed, Gibbs turned his attention back to searching for other survivors.
Tony followed them outside. Abby and Ziva were right where he'd left them, pacing restlessly in front of the ambulances. Abby's eyes grew wide as they approached. Her gaze zeroed in on the stretcher. He could tell the second she realized who was on it.
Shock and fear fell like dark shadows over her face. Her eyes welled up with tears. "Oh my God," she breathed in horror. "Oh my God, no… no, Tim!" Abby darted to his side and reached out as if she wanted to touch him. Trouble was, there didn't appear to be any safe place to touch him.
Tony laid his hand on her shoulder. She was trembling violently, like she was ready to fall apart right where she stood. "He's going to be okay, Abs." He knew he had no grounds to offer that reassurance. They had no idea yet how badly he was hurt. He just refused to believe otherwise.
The EMTs loaded McGee into the ambulance, working furiously over him all the while. Tony moved as if to climb up behind him, but Abby grabbed his arm. "I'm going with him." It wasn't a statement, it was a demand.
He didn't argue. There wasn't time. "All right," he conceded, helping her climb up. "Keep us updated."
Abby nodded as they closed the doors. The ambulance tore out of the Navy Yard, sirens blaring as it sped away to the hospital.
Tony turned back to Ziva. Her eyes were wide, a sheen of tears filling them. Her hand covered her mouth. "What do we do now?" she asked him in a shaky voice.
He sighed deeply, heavily, squeezing his fist around the flash drive. "We find him. We find the son of a bitch and make him regret the day he was born."
This wasn't over. Not by a long shot. They were out for blood now, and they always got their guy.
Dearing had made one colossal mistake in all of this. He'd made it personal.
The ride to the hospital was a daze for Abby. It was like a bad dream. Everything had the surreal aura of a nightmare… a terrible, terrible nightmare. As soon as the doors shut behind them, the paramedics started an IV in McGee's arm, put an oxygen mask over his face. She heard their voices but the words ran together in a senseless blur.
His blood pressure was too low, his pulse too rapid. His breathing was shallow and fast. He was in shock. His body had likely been in shock for a while, and his systems had started shutting down.
An alarm blared. His heart muscle quivered weakly, unable to pump. He was going into cardiac arrest.
Abby kept her eyes locked on his face as the medics cut open his shirt and shocked his heart back into normal rhythm. Beneath the blood on his face, his lips were a sickly blue color, his skin frighteningly ashen.
Her own heart seemed to be beating awfully fast. It was hard to breathe. Maybe she was going into shock.
Don't die. Please don't die. Tim, please…
They wheeled McGee away as soon as they arrived at the hospital, and all she could do was wait. She paced back and forth through the waiting area, unable to stay still. She wanted to claw out of her skin. The not knowing was unbearable.
She nearly hit the roof when someone put their hand on her shoulder later. How much later, she wasn't sure. Hours maybe? It was Tony. And Ziva was with him. They came with more bad news, though. Ducky had a heart attack. He was in bad shape, but the doctors believed he'd recover. Jimmy was with him.
"Where's Gibbs?" she asked them, fighting back the tears. She couldn't cry yet. If she did, she wasn't sure she'd stop. She had to hold it together, but after everything they'd been through, all they'd lost, that was growing harder and harder to do.
"On a mission," Tony said grimly. "You know he isn't going to stop until Dearing's six feet under. He won't let him become another Ari…" He broke off abruptly and glanced at Ziva guiltily, realizing what he'd said.
After everything Ari had put them through, Gibbs' inability to catch him had consumed him. The hunt for him had become his single-minded obsession until Ari had been escorted back to Israel in a body bag. He'd tormented their team and cost them the life of one of their own. They were still waiting in fear and trembling to see if Harper Dearing would exact the same price.
Ziva's lips twisted in a pained smile at the reminder. She patted Abby's arm. "Gibbs will get his man. Everything will be all right. You'll see. Sit," she gestured to the hard plastic chairs that lined the room.
Abby sat. She was running on fumes now, but she was afraid to stop. Afraid when she did, that she'd crash and burn. Tony sat next to her, giving her hand a squeeze.
The doctor came to find them some time later. In actuality, it probably wasn't all that long, but the uncertainty made it feel like an eternity.
McGee would be fine. They'd stabilized him. Considering the trauma he'd been through and how close he'd been to the worst of the damage, his injuries were relatively minor. He had multiple lacerations from the glass, and he'd lost a lot of blood. He had a minor concussion and burns from the heat of the blast.
There were no broken bones or any signs of internal trauma. His vitals were good. He woke long enough to tell them his name and what year it was. He was groggy but as coherent as one could expect under the circumstances. There was no reason why he shouldn't make a full and complete recovery.
The doctor showed them up to McGee's room. He was resting comfortably. And he looked worlds better cleaned up from the blood and the dirt. His coloring was more normal, and his face had lost the pinched, pained expression it had worn in the ambulance. It had smoothed out into the peaceful expression of sleep. The relief in the room was palpable as they saw for themselves that he was all right.
"We should all go home," Tony said quietly after a while. "Get some sleep ourselves."
"I'm not going anywhere," Abby said obstinately. "I won't let him wake up alone."
"Abby, you need rest, too," Tony began to try reasoning with her.
She shook her head vehemently, cutting him off. The thought of going to her empty apartment where the nightmarish events of the day would finally catch up to her was even less appealing than trying to sleep on the hard, plastic chair in the hospital room. "I'm not leaving him, Tony. I won't do it."
For the second time that day, Tony decided not to argue with her. They all knew it wouldn't do any good once her mind was made up. "All right then. You'll call if anything changes?"
"We'll see you in the morning," Ziva said, smiling comfortingly at her.
When they left the room, Abby sank wearily into the chair beside McGee's bed. Out in the hall, she saw Tony stop at the nurses' station. She couldn't tell what he was saying, but she saw the nurse glance into the room and smile. A few minutes later, two nurses came in with a cot and blankets. She had to admit as she settled in that it was a lot more comfortable than that chair. She'd have to thank Tony in the morning.
Multiple times during the night, she woke when the nurses came to check on McGee. She knew they were trying to be quiet, but the remnants of adrenaline still clung to her. It was hard to sleep. Hard not to be awakened by every small noise.
Late into the night, or maybe very early into the morning, something woke her. And it wasn't one of the nurses. She sat up quickly, her eyes landing on the chair under the window. Someone was sitting in it.
"It's just me, Abs," Gibbs whispered.
She sighed, wrapping her arms around her knees. "Are you all right?"
"We got him," he said simply.
She waited for him to elaborate. "Is he dead?" she asked when he didn't.
He said nothing at first. She was starting to think he wasn't going to answer at all. "He's dead," he said finally.
"Good." What she felt at that news went further than relief. No, Harper Dearing would never hurt anyone ever again, but deep inside, what she felt was more than relief. She was glad he was dead. She chose not to examine that too closely.
"How is he?" Gibbs asked, nodding his head toward McGee.
"Stable. He's been sleeping, but the doctors are confident that he'll walk out of here on his own in a couple of days."
"That's good news."
She nodded. Her head quirked to the side as a thought struck her. "How did you get in here? It's nowhere near visiting hours?"
In the dim light of the room, she thought she saw him smile. "I have my ways." She knew that was all the explanation she was going to get out of him. "Go back to sleep, Abs," he urged.
She would have argued the point, but her eyes were much too heavy. She laid back down and slept.
When she woke again, it was morning and Gibbs was gone. Light streamed through the windows. Her muscles protested violently when she tried to get up. Everything hurt. The adrenaline rush had long worn off, and now she felt groggy and wrung out.
Limping a little, she stumbled into the bathroom and splashed some cold water on her face, cleaning up as much as she could at the small sink. A hot shower sounded like heaven, but it would just have to wait. For the moment, she'd have to take what she could get.
Feeling only slightly more human after she finished in the bathroom, she curled up in the chair she'd found Gibbs in the night before, tucking her feet underneath her. Absently, she flipped through the channels on the television, careful to leave the sound off. As much as she wanted McGee to wake up, she didn't want to be the one to disturb him.
She'd only been awake for a little more than an hour when she heard the rustling of sheets to her right. McGee groaned sleepily. His eyelids blinked open. Stiffly, she went to stand beside him. His eyes were confused as they scanned the room and then finally landed on hers.
"Hey, sleepyhead," she said lightly, laying her hand over his. Her voice gave no indication of the scare he'd given her.
"Abby…? Where am I?" He sounded confused, dazed.
"You're in the hospital." Gingerly, she sank down on the mattress beside him. "Do you remember what happened?"
She could see the wheels in his mind spinning as he tried to recall how he came to be there. She didn't say anything, just slipped her hand inside his and held on.
"There was an explosion…" he said distantly. It was almost more of a question than an answer.
She could tell the exact moment when he pieced it all back together. His fearful eyes darted up to hers, searching over her quickly as if scanning for injuries. His hand squeezed hers tightly. "There was a bomb in the Navy Yard. You're not hurt, right? You're okay?"
"Completely okay." Even if her aching muscles screamed in protest at the statement.
"The others?" he asked worriedly.
"They're all fine," she reassured him quickly. "You got the worst of it."
He sighed a little in relief. "Good."
Abby didn't say anything about Ducky. Not yet. There would be time for that later.
She leaned down to lay her forehead against his. Now that he was awake, now that she knew for certain that he was going to be all right, her emotions were careening all over the place. The fear, the worry she'd tried so hard to keep at bay crashed over her.
"Don't you ever scare me like that again," she whispered. Tears pricked her eyes, burning like she'd been staring at her computer screens for days on end. Despite her most valiant efforts to hold it back, a single tear slipped out of the corner of her eye and landed on McGee's cheek.
He put his hand on her back and gently pulled her forward until her cheek rested on his chest. "I'm sorry," he whispered into her hair.
Now that he was safe, she let the dam inside her mind collapse… all the what ifs she'd refused to consider for the sake of her own sanity. What if he'd been even just a few feet closer to the explosion? What if they hadn't gotten to him in time? What if he'd bled out before he got help?
What if she'd lost him. For good.
If anything ever happened to you, I would…
She'd what? She'd asked him what he'd do, but what would she have done if something really had happened to him. She didn't have an answer. But the thought of the gaping, empty hole his absence would leave behind made her shiver. McGee's hand on her back rubbed gently, comforting her. His heartbeat against her cheek was strong and steady. Vital. She listened to it, counting the beats, letting them calm her.
What would she have done? She couldn't shake the thought. Thankfully she didn't have to find out.
Some persistent, irritating part of her mind wondered why that thought was enough to shake the foundation of her world. She didn't have an answer for that either. She wasn't entirely sure she wanted the answer. Wasn't sure she wanted to face what it would mean. The day would come – at some point – when she couldn't evade the question any longer. She knew that.
But for now, he was still here with her. And that was enough.
Based on the spoilers we've seen so far, I feel confident that McGee's alive. It's how badly he's hurt that I'm so antsy to find out. But so help me, if they gloss over it… I need to see the team worried about him, darn it! ;)
Thanks for reading!