AN: Well, it took a little while but here's the next one. It's the longest yet and again, keep in mind that I wrote this to feel in blanks while trying to stay as close to the episode as possible. That has made me make decisions that I normally wouldn't but it's also kind of fun to try to write under constraints.
There were definitely worse places to be trapped and worse people to be trapped with following a major explosion. Tony was well aware of that. Still, it had been far from pleasant as the time had passed and they both tried to avoid talking about what they both feared. The topic of death had come up, sure, but neither let the dark thoughts that kept trying to rise to the surface prevail. They simply couldn't do that to themselves or each other.
Instead, they had tried to escape for a while but realized their attempts were futile. Finally, they had heard rescuers banging around and knew they would be saved any time now. They just had to wait.
Tony had tried to communicate with them, hoping to get any sort of information, but it was nearly impossible to hear. So instead, he and Ziva had resorted to simply talking. It was hot and terribly uncomfortable, but they were both safe and Tony knew that was a blessing in and of itself.
However, when he felt the elevator lurch slightly and the doors finally give way, to say that he was thrilled would be an understatement. He and Ziva both crawled forward towards the growing gap that gave way to a very destroyed squad room.
Tony, however, did not spend too much time observing the room as his eyes almost immediately darted to Abby and Gibbs who were both standing behind the firefighters. Abby pushed forward then so that she was right in front of the gap. Her eyes were red and swollen, her face wore a somber smile but she looked alarmingly blank otherwise. That being said, she seemed to be okay.
"Abby, I have never been so happy to see your gorgeous face," Ziva exclaimed from beside him.
Abby reached out to grab both Ziva and Tony's hands. "You're both okay."
Tony frowned and could tell something was wrong, but he nodded and grinned. He then looked passed her and focused on Gibbs. "Good to see you too, Boss! Now, I don't know about Ziva, but I'm ready to get out so…"
He gestured towards the opened door, motioning for Ziva to go first. She smiled quickly and allowed the firefighter to help her out. As Tony followed suit, he could hear Gibbs addressing Ziva.
"Are you both okay?"
"Yes," she answered as Tony's feet hit the ground. "You?"
"I'm fine," he said quietly in his stoic, Gibbs way.
Tony took a deep breath and looked around the destroyed room.
"Damn," he breathed quietly. There was debris everywhere, overturned furniture and busted computer screens. He walked forward and could almost feel his lungs being filled with dust. Everyone in the room seemed to be okay but Tony imagined all of the deceased and injured would have been taken away already.
"How is everybody?" Tony asked then as he laid his hand on McGee's trashed desk. "McGee, the Director…?"
It had been a question he and Ziva had been dying to know the answer to for the past four hours or so but had been deprived of. Now, while he was terrified to hear bad news, the thought of not knowing was even worse.
"The Director is fine," Gibbs answered simply, but it was the pause that followed that sent fear running down Tony's spine. He glanced at Ziva who looked equally as concerned, then to Abby who hugged Bert tighter.
"And McGee?" Ziva questioned.
"Hospital," Gibbs replied. "He was in here when it happened."
Tony's scanned the room until his eyes caught a small bloodstain beside his own overturned desk. Suddenly, he felt sick to his stomach.
"How bad?" Ziva asked, a question Tony was grateful she was able to articulate, as he apparently couldn't.
Gibbs sighed and turned away after replying with a weary, "I don't know." He then wrapped an arm around Abby and led her towards the exit. "For now, we help any way we can."
"Boss… McGee?" Tony asked, knowing how dire their current situation was with a terrorist on the loose but still… It was Tim.
Gibbs stopped and turned to face him and Ziva just as they reached the stairs. "Tim is in surgery and we have some things to do first."
Tony nodded then proceeded to follow them down the stairs. This sort of thing had to be the worst part of their job; having a man down but trying to focus on work instead. Tony sighed as they stepped outside and his lungs greedily took in the slightly cleaner air. It was all he could do not to dwell on McGee. Gibbs hadn't said much and Tony didn't want to pry. He figured Gibbs didn't want to further upset Abby or… or maybe things were much worse and Gibbs just didn't want to say it.
"Gibbs, I should be at the hospital," Abby stated quietly, though Tony was surprised to hear a hint of uncertainty in her voice.
"Soon," Gibbs replied, then held up a small black object.
"Is that a flash drive?" Abby questioned.
"McGee gave it to me before they took him away," Gibbs answered, which provided some relief for Tony. If nothing else, McGee had been awake. That had to be a good sign, right?
"That must have been why he was still up there," Ziva added as they made their across the debris-littered grass. "When Tony and I left to evacuate the building, McGee was supposed to be leaving right then. I had no idea he stayed behind."
Tony felt his stomach tie in knots at that comment. Tim had always been his Probie… he was supposed to look out for him, not leave him behind while he got everyone else out of the building. Tony sighed and found himself wishing McGee hadn't tried to be the hero.
They made their way to the FBI bus, which was apparently acting as a temporary command center. Inside was Fornell and Vance, both standing in front of a wall of computer screens showing off Dearing's ugly mug. Vance observed him and Ziva before turning to Gibbs.
"Agent McGee?" Vance asked, his expression grave but direct.
Tony saw the look that was exchanged between them and, judging by the look on Gibbs' face, knew that McGee was in trouble. Tony reached out and grabbed a chair to lean on, feeling slightly dizzy all of the sudden. He was overwhelmed, to say the least. He wanted desperately to rush to the hospital and check on his friend but at the same time, he was terrified to do so.
"I told him to get out…" the Director said, guilt written across his face. Tony shook his head at the comment. Why, Tim? Everyone, including the Director of NCIS, had ordered him to leave. Why did he have to stay…?
"He gave me this," Gibbs said as he handed over the flash drive. Vance looked at it for a moment with an almost excited expression before handing it to one of the computer techs.
Almost instantly, several windows began to pop up, all relating to Dearing. Inwardly, Tony felt a rush of pride hit him.
"Thank God," Fornell exclaimed as he took in the screens before him. "We thought we would be starting over from scratch. Looks like the kid was way ahead of us."
Tony saw Gibbs and Vance smile proudly. And while Tony felt it too, his thoughts were quickly replaced with those of fear. He just hoped he'd be able to congratulate - and chastise - Tim himself.
"What can we do, Leon?"
Vance turned to face Gibbs again and Tony saw a strange mixture of guilt and pride in the dark features, "You and your team have given enough for one day. Go home, Gibbs. Or to Bethesda."
Gibbs looked like he might protest for a moment, which somewhat annoyed Tony. He knew Gibbs cared deeply for everyone on the team but Gibbs was also the type to look at the bigger picture; the bigger picture being a massive terrorist attack, search and rescue efforts and, of course, the attempt to hunt down the man responsible for it all. Tony understood that but, then again, he wanted to be selfish and think of his friend, not the whole world.
"That's an order, Agent Gibbs," the Director added before anyone else could say anything. "We have every agency here working on the rescue efforts and hunting down Dearing. This information will only help that along. Tomorrow, you can join the efforts but today, you leave and keep me updated on Agent McGee and Dr. Mallard's status."
Tony frowned as he wondered why the Director had mentioned Ducky but assumed it was a matter of waiting for the senior medical examiner to return from Palmer's wedding.
"I will see you tomorrow," Gibbs replied as he walked out the door.
Both Tony and Ziva nodded, silently promising that they both would be back the next day. Tony only hoped that the new day would bring hope instead of more despair.
Ziva was quite certain her heart had migrated up to her throat and was currently trying to beat its way out. She was terrified to say the very least. The day had been terrible in so many ways but now, as she sat in the back seat of the SUV, she couldn't help but inwardly curse Gibbs for driving so slowly. She needed to know McGee was okay. Needed to know he was even alive.
Apart from the unbearable fear that plagued her, searing hatred pulsed through her veins like a rampant disease. She wanted Dearing's head on a platter and she wanted to be the one to serve it up. He had done too much; killed too many. And now he had hurt McGee.
But with the thought of her young friend, her mood rapidly returned to intense concern once more. It was McGee, for crying out loud! He did not get hurt… He stayed on the computer and spouted out facts and information like Tony did with movie lines and trivia. But he was never injured… never in danger…
But that was a silly thought. Of course he was always in danger just as much as the rest of them. Their jobs were dangerous, after all, and that applied to McGee as well even if he had managed to go relatively unscathed thus far. Clearly everyone ran out of luck at some point or other.
Ziva took a deep breath and wrung her hands together. She couldn't stand sitting in the enclosed space anymore. She was so done with small areas.
Just then, she felt her phone vibrate, making her jump slightly. She took it out and frowned when she saw a number she didn't recognize. She considered not answering it for a moment, but the curiosity got the better of her.
"This is Agent Ziva David with NCIS?" The soft female voice on the other end questioned.
"Yes," Ziva replied, only maintaining her semi-pleasantness because the woman did seem to be kind enough.
"Fantastic," the woman replied, sounding genuinely pleased to have reached Ziva. "I am Nurse Tanner at Bathesda, calling on behalf of Agent Timothy McGee."
Ziva's heart skipped a beat and she quickly switched the phone to speaker before asking, "How is he?" Ziva saw everyone looking at her now, even Gibbs glanced back through the mirror.
"He is alive," she replied simply, "He recently woke up after his surgery and has refused to take any sort of medication until he knew his team was alright. We have called a couple numbers but you were the first to answer. So, could you help us both out and give me an update on his team?"
Ziva faltered for a moment and looked at everyone else, who seemed to have a similar expression. "W-we are all fine. All of us," she said quickly. "We are on our way to see him now."
"Tell him to listen to his doctors," Gibbs ordered sternly and loud enough to be heard.
"Did you hear that, Timothy?" the woman said, making Ziva smile. Knowing that the woman was speaking to a conscious McGee made her unbelievably happy. "Your team is fine and you've been ordered to listen to us by…."
"Gibbs," Tony said with a smile. "Gibbs ordered it so he'll do it."
There was a slight pause and in that moment, Ziva decided that she really liked this Nurse Tanner.
"As for you guys," Nurse Tanner continued, "You're more than welcome to come on up here but you won't be able to see him. Now that he finally agrees to take some painkillers, he will be out for the rest of the night. Besides, visiting hours are over in five minutes."
"We can not see him at all?" Ziva asked, suddenly not as pleased with the nurse.
"I'm sorry but we are overwhelmed here, as you may imagine, so everything is by the books until further notice. We are just too slammed to try and keep an extra eye on the patients. However, I assure you Agent McGee is in the very best hands and you can all be up here early in the morning if you'd like and visit however long you want. "
"Wait, so McGee has to stay the night?" Abby asked uncertainly.
"I'm afraid so," the nurse responded, her voice softer. "Perhaps even longer. His doctor will be able to tell you more tomorrow but he has certainly suffered a great trauma and will need to be under observation for…"
There was a pause and then they could all hear the nurse chatting with someone but couldn't quite make out what was being said. Finally, there was a sigh and Nurse Tanner said, "Fine."
Another short pause was soon followed by a weak, "Hey…"
A smile immediately returned to Ziva's face as McGee's voice – though clearly tired and pained – filled the vehicle.
"Why haven't you been doing what you're told, McGee?" Gibbs reprimanded, though Ziva could see the slightest hint of a grin on his face.
"Sorry… boss," McGee replied, though he seemed to be out of breath. "I had to know… everyone was… okay."
"What's wrong with you, McPuff the Magic Dragon?" Tony asked, earning a glare from Ziva although it was a question that interested her as well. He definitely didn't sound right.
"I'm… fine," he replied, his voice getting more and more distant, "They're giving me… something and… I…"
Silence filled the SUV once again as they all waited to hear what the young agent was saying. However, the voice they heard next was definitely not McGee's.
"Aaand he's out. Finally," Nurse Tanner said suddenly, "You don't know how long we've been fighting him on this. So, thank you for that."
"He is okay, though, yes?" Ziva asked once more for clarification.
"Well, I'm not his doctor but basically we need to get an eye on him. The surgery went well and his lungs seem to be holding up well enough but we just want to make sure it all stays that way."
Ziva took a deep breath. Surgery and lungs… That already seemed like too much.
"Seriously though, it would be a waste of time to come here today," the nurse continued. "He will be awake tomorrow and things will be less chaotic then as well. I imagine you all need the rest anyway so, go home and sleep."
"Thank you, Nurse," Gibbs said from the driver's seat as he pulled into the parking lot of a diner. Ziva thanked the nurse as well then hung up. She had certainly wanted to see McGee for herself but she was still glad to know that he was seemingly alright. Clearly, with the mood in the vehicle now far lighter, the feeling seemed mutual.
Ziva looked around at everyone and was thoroughly pleased to see their content faces. Well, Gibbs and Tony seemed relatively content. Abby, on the other hand, was staring out her window as she held her stuffed hippo in a chokehold. Ziva frowned and wondered why she hadn't seemed happy to hear the good news. She hadn't even seemed happy to hear McGee actually talk to them. If anything, she had almost seemed scared.
Before Ziva could think about it much more, Gibbs opened his door and got out.
"Boss?" Tony asked, mirroring Ziva's confusion.
Gibbs glanced behind him at the diner and replied simply, "I'm hungry."
Ziva glanced at Abby, who started getting out of the vehicle almost robotically, then to Tony who smiled.
"A diner," he said happily. "Like in the 1990 Robert De Niro film, Goodfellas. The diner scenes were basically a safe haven because no one got whacked in the diner."
Ziva smiled as she followed them into the joint. She knew his movie trivia was just Tony being Tony, but there was something about today's movie link that seemed appropriate. A diner seemed appropriate. Well, except for the fact that McGee wasn't there but other than that, a cheap dinner was perhaps exactly what they needed to end such a terrible day.
EN: So again, some of the decisions here aren't normal for me at all but... just trying to stay cannon. And here are some of my reasons:
- It REALLY bothered me that Abby seemed so peppy when she saw Tony and Ziva but completely somber/angry every other time. You can explain it with shock and all of that, but it still didn't sit right with me.
- The fact that Gibbs was at shown at home that night and no one else was seen (or referred to as being with) Tim, I wanted to think of a reason why, hence the phone call and Nurse Tanner.
- Tim's current state is also key to going along with what happened in the episode and will also help with the direction that I'm going.
**Note - the next chapter will probably be the first that really branches off from the episode as it more or less occurs during those six week time gaps.
Finally, thank you very much for everyone who has been reading and a bigger thank you to anyone who reviews. It really helps motivate me knowing that people actually care and want more of what I'm writing. Either way, thank you all! I don't know how long the next one will take as I work 32+ hours and week and I'm a full time student. Time is limited. But it will happen :)