"Stop the car. Stop the car, they're running! Damn it, why do they always run?" Tony scrambled out of the car and took off after the suspects, Tim on his heels.
"NCIS! Stop!" Tony shouted after the two men, knowing full well that they wouldn't. He let out a curse as snow began to fall from the gray clouds above. There was already well over half a foot of snow on the ground, and the flakes were getting bigger and faster every second. It was getting harder to run and harder to see.
"They're separating! You take Red Shirt, I'll go after Black," Tony called.
"Right," McGee answered, veering to the left.
Tony's throat and lungs burned from the biting cold air, and his eyes watered. Damn he hated the cold. The sound of shots being fired made both Tony and the man he was chasing stop in their tracks and turn toward the sound.
"McGee!" Tony shouted. He ran back toward the edge of the trees, deciding that his partner was more important than the suspect. He could barely see the red shirted suspect lying on the ground, the snow around him red.
There was no sight of Tim.
"Damn," he muttered.
He turned around, unable to react before a bullet tore into his shoulder and he found himself staring at the sky. He groaned, putting his hand over the wound, and sat up. The black shirted man leaned over him.
"I guess you're outta luck this time, huh Agent?" the man said with a thin smile. He grabbed Tony's shoulder, pushing his thumb into the bullet hole. DiNozzo screamed. With his other hand, Black Shirt reached around and took Tony's gun, then pushed him to the ground and left.
Tony lay on the ground gasping, trying to think through the pain. He needed to find McGee, and he needed to find him quick. It was already getting dark, and the snow wasn't helping anything. He got to his feet, holding onto his shoulder. Blood, hot and sticky and red, spread over his hand.
Tony ran as fast as he could manage toward the sound, searching for his partner. "McGee!"
"Tony, I'm here!"
Tony spotted him cursed as he stepped around the still form of the man in the red shirt. The snow had fallen thickly enough that it had effectively hidden the pond, which McGee was now in the middle of. He hurried on, leaving spots of red behind him in the snow as he went. He eased himself onto the frozen pond and made his way toward the hole in the ice where his partner was barely hanging on.
"Wait," McGee said. "Lie down on the ice and make your way to me that way. It spreads your weight more evenly so it's less likely you'll fall in, too."
DiNozzo nodded, easing himself onto his stomach. He started to army crawl toward McGee, his shoulder screaming in protest. He bit back a cry of pain. He could see that Tim was shivering badly in the ice-cold water, and his lips were taking on the slightest tinge of blue.
"Don't worry, Probie. I'm coming." He was finally close enough that he could reach out and hold McGee's hands.
"Alright. Once I'm out of the water, you need to move so I can roll out onto the ice," McGee instructed.
"Where the hell'd you learn that? Boy scouts?" Tony muttered. "Okay, ready? Three, two-" He grunted with effort as he pulled McGee out of the water. His grunt turned to a cry of pain as he pulled on his shoulder.
And then it was over, and McGee was talking to Tony but Tony couldn't really hear because damn his shoulder hurt like a bitch.
"Tony! Come on! We've got to get off the ice!"
He was right. There was an ominous creaking sound coming from the thin ice beneath them.
Tony blinked, trying to clear his head. "Yeah. Sorry."
They crawled back toward land as quickly as they dared. Tony left behind him a trail of crimson. By the time they got to shore, DiNozzo was dizzy with pain and Tim was shivering violently, his lips and fingers tinted blue. The snowfall had stopped, though neither agent had noticed its ceasing.
Tony carefully began to strip off his coat, wincing as he moved his shoulder.
"What're you doing?" McGee asked.
Tony ignored him, putting his coat around his partner's shoulders. McGee protested, but Tony wouldn't hear of it.
"I won't have you freeze to death," he murmured. "Now, come on. We should try and get back to the car before the snow starts again."
"Just a minute," McGee answered. He pulled DiNozzo's shirt from his pants and began to tear of a strip of fabric.
"What are you doing?" Tony yelped.
"My clothes are sopping, DiNozzo. We need to do something about that shoulder."
"You owe me a new shirt, Probie," Tony growled. He gasped sharply as McGee tied the fabric tightly around his shoulder.
"Try to keep pressure on it."
Tony just glared at him.
Tony shook his head bleakly. "No. Our best shot is to get back to the car. Come on."
"It's pitch black, Tony. How will we get back?"
"Don' be such a downer…Probie." His shoulder was still bleeding steadily, and he found himself a little light headed.
Tony nodded. "Come on. We've gotta hurry."
They pushed forward, trudging through the snow. McGee's lips were losing their blue hue, but he was still shivering. Tony suppressed a shiver of his own, knowing Tim would probably try to return his coat again. The temperature was dropping quickly, and he knew they needed to get to shelter soon. He coughed harshly, and he could taste blood. Tim put a hand on his back.
"Tony, maybe we should rest. You've lost a lot of blood."
"No, no. We've got to keep moving. Stay active. We need t'get to the car." He frowned at how heavy his legs felt and then he was face-down in the snow and quickly going numb.
He felt himself get hauled to his feet. "DiNozzo! Tony, you can't do this. Do you hear me? You cannot do this. Stay active, right? I think I know where we are. The car's close."
Tony leaned heavily on McGee, and they moved slower than ever.
"S'rry," he muttered guiltily.
"Shut up DiNozzo," McGee answered tiredly. "We're nearly there now."
Tony had neither the words nor the energy to reply, so he just nodded.
"Look. Look!" McGee shouted suddenly. "There it is! Come on, DiNozzo. One last push. Come on!"
DiNozzo gave a sigh of relief as they stumbled to the car.
"Give me the keys; I'm driving," McGee commanded.
"Like…hell you are."
"Tony, you've been shot. You've lost a lot of blood. There's no way I'm letting you get behind that wheel."
"And you're…shivering so bad you'll drive us into a ditch," Tony replied.
"Tony," McGee said sharply. Tony gave him a sour look and relinquished the key to him.
McGee opened the passenger side door and helped Tony in. He paused with the door halfway closed then stopped.
"What?" Tony asked. He recognized the look on McGee's face. Something was wrong.
"He slashed the tires, DiNozzo."
Tony felt his heart skip a beat. "What now?"
"Well, we can't try to get anywhere until daylight. We'll just have to wait it out." Tim closed the door and got into the car. He put the key in the ignition with stiff fingers and turned the heat on all the way.
"Try calling," Tony said. Even as Tim reached over for the phone, he felt his eyelids grow heavy and there was nothing he could do to keep them from slipping shut.
Gibbs looked where Ziva was pointing and pressed harder on the gas. The car was on the side of the road, covered in a layer of snow. It looked like the tires were flat. He came to a screeching halt and had barely stopped the car before he was out and running, Ziva following.
He went around to the passenger's side, hoping to find footprints. He found a little more than he bargained for. The snow in front of the door was stained red. He wrenched it open.
"Ziva! Call for two ambulances!" he shouted.
DiNozzo and McGee were huddled awkwardly together, and both looked to be in pretty bad shape. McGee's clothes were damp and he was pale and shivering violently. DiNozzo had taken on a grayish pallor, and his shirt was covered in red.
"Hey, DiNozzo," Gibbs said, gently tapping his face. "DiNozzo!"
Tony opened his eyes and blinked blearily and gave a small, lopsided smile. "'ey, Boss," he said thickly.
Gibbs allowed himself a small sigh of relief. "I've gotta get you out of the car, okay?"
Tony nodded. Gibbs slid an arm behind his back and gently eased him onto the snow. DiNozzo let out a hiss of pain.
"How's Tim?" he asked suddenly.
Gibbs hesitated, realizing that he had no idea how to answer that question. "Fine," he lied. "Stay here just a minute. Ziva! Come keep an eye on DiNozzo for me, would you?"
Ziva knelt next to Tony and started talking to him. Gibbs didn't wait long enough to hear what about. He opened the driver's side door and, as carefully as he could, pulled McGee back into a sitting position in the seat.
"McGee," he said, shaking the agent's shivering shoulder. His breath was slow and labored, his lips notably blue. Gibbs had his coat off in a second and draped it over the agent. "McGee!"
McGee stirred, and he opened his eyes. They were glassy, and his pupils were dilated. He searched Gibbs' face, his brow furrowed.
"You with me, kid?" Gibbs asked, concern shooting through him.
"Yeah, it's me, McGee."
"Where's Tony?" His voice was tight and he looked to be on the verge of tears.
"He's okay. He's with Ziva," Gibbs said, trying his best to soothe the agent. He wasn't sure what was going on with him, and he went through possibilities in his mind. He was pretty much certain that McGee had at least mild hypothermia, but that didn't explain glassy eyes.
"No! I need to see him." He weakly pushed Gibbs back and hauled himself to his feet. He took a few stumbling steps before tripping and nearly falling into the snow. Gibbs grabbed him by the elbow.
"McGee! He's going to be okay. Come sit down."
McGee pulled his arm out of Gibbs' grip. "Let go of me!" he hissed.
Gibbs was taken aback. This wasn't like Tim, and it had him worried. The only explanation he could think of was hypoglycemia, and if that were the case, it could mean very bad news very fast.
Tim rounded the car to see Tony slumped on the ground, chest rising and falling unsteadily, fresh blood coming from the hole in his shoulder.
"Tony!" he cried huskily before vomiting into the snow.
"McGee!" Ziva and Gibbs called simultaneously.
DiNozzo stirred a little, and his eyes opened a crack. He chuckled weakly. "Hey, Probie." He frowned. "You're still shivering."
Tim straightened up. "DiNozzo," he murmured. His eyes rolled back in his head and Gibbs caught him under the armpits before he fell into the snow. His limbs and body began to jerk, and Gibbs did his best to hold him.
"Tim!" DiNozzo cried weakly. "Holy crap, Tim!" Momentarily forgetting his wound, he tried to stand by pulling himself up with the car for support. The seemingly simple action sent fresh pain shooting through his shoulder and down his arm and left him sitting in the snow gasping, tears rolling down his cheeks.
"Boss," he said miserably. "What's happening?"
Gibbs looked up at him. McGee was still convulsing, which wasn't a good sign. "He's gonna be okay, DiNozzo. You hear me? You're both going to be fine. Listen! The ambulances are coming now."
He didn't know if anything he'd said was really true. A moment later, though, he really did hear the sirens. They couldn't come soon enough. While he'd stop seizing, McGee was shivering worse than ever, Tony was crying and panicking and bleeding heavily so that the snow around him turned red, Ziva was trying to calm him while also trying to keep herself calm, and Gibbs just wanted to find the bastards who did this because damn it, he was getting pretty damn tired of seeing members of his team in the hospital.
The paramedics unloaded from the ambulances, one team going for McGee, the other for DiNozzo.
Gibbs looked worriedly in Tony and Ziva's direction.
"I'll ride with DiNozzo, boss. You stick with McGee," Ziva offered.
Gibbs nodded and got into the ambulance with McGee. The paramedics were using a bunch of language that Gibbs really didn't understand, and he looked away as they jammed an IV into his arm.
"Sir," one of them said. Gibbs looked up at him. "Sir, could you get some blankets? They're in the front toward the-yeah, right there. Thank you."
He watched as the spread blankets over McGee's shivering form, and looked down. Into his hands which were red and sticky from DiNozzo's blood. He hadn't even noticed until now. He knew Tony was a resilient, stubborn bastard, but he also couldn't help but wonder how much more the senior agent's body could handle.
He prayed silently that this wouldn't be the straw that broke the camel's back.
Gibbs paced back and forth in the waiting room. He'd sent Abby and Jimmy home awhile ago. Ziva and Ducky refused to leave. They weren't allowed to see either agent yet, and Gibbs was driving himself crazy with worry.
Finally, a doctor came into the waiting room.
Gibbs stood quickly and went over to him. "Yes. What can you tell me?" Ziva and Ducky watched curiously.
The doctor spoke quietly so that only Gibbs could hear. "Mister McGee is doing surprisingly well, considering just how low his body temperature had become. The hypothermia led to hypoglycemia-low blood sugar. We have him on intravenous fluids to get his blood sugar levels back to normal and to help with his slight dehydration. His body temp is back to normal, but we'll keep him here a few days just to keep an eye on him."
The doctor hesitated, looked down at the ground.
"What is it?" Gibbs pressed, fear coursing through him.
"Mister DiNozzo's shoulder is badly infected, and the muscle damage is more extensive than we usually expect to see from a gunshot wound."
"Meaning it looks as though someone aggravated the injury. In addition…"
Aggravated the-what the hell did that mean? Wait- there's more?
"…he has a pulmonary contusion. It's essentially bruising of the lung. We've got him on a ventilator and fluid therapy. We have to watch him very closely."
Gibbs didn't like the sound of that last sentence. "Why?"
"Too much fluid could lead to pulmonary edema, too little could lead to hypovolemic shock. These next few days are critical."
Gibbs nodded. "Can-can we see Tim?" he asked finally.
"For a few minutes," the doctor said.
Gibbs thanked him and walked back to Ziva and Ducky.
"So?" Ziva asked.
"We can see Tim. Doc says he's doing well."
Gibbs shrugged, and then let his shoulders slump. "Not too good. They won't really know for…for a few days."
Ducky and Ziva were silent as they let his words sink in. Ducky put an arm around Ziva's shoulders.
"Why don't we go see Tim?" he suggested gently.
Ziva cleared her throat. "Good idea."
They walked down the hall in silence. When they got to McGee's room, he was sitting up in his hospital bed, tinkering absentmindedly with one of the tubes in his arm. He perked up when he saw them coming.
Gibbs, Ziva, and Ducky filed into the room and crowded by the bed.
"How are you feeling?" Ducky asked.
"Better. It's good to see you all…How's Tony?"
Gibbs and Ziva looked at each other. Neither wanted to lie to him, but neither wanted to tell him the truth, either.
"How is he?" McGee persisted.
"He's going to be okay," Gibbs answered. "Recovery will be long. But he'll be fine."
Tim smiled and leaned back into his pillows. "Good."
"It's been three days now, and they haven't told us anything new," Gibbs said to the nurse.
"I know, Mister Gibbs, and I'm sorry. Other than that his infection seems to be clearing up, there's really nothing I can tell you that you don't already know."
"Well, can I see him?"
The nurse sighed, her eyes softening. "I'll ask."
"Thank you." He sat back down. He was alone in the waiting room today, and so he leaned back and cracked open one of the magazines, eyes skimming absentmindedly over an article about Kim Kardashian.
"Mister Gibbs?" The nurse gave him a half-smile. "You can go see him. He's not awake, but you can go sit with him if you'd like."
"Thank you. Thank you so much," Gibbs said, pushing the magazine to the side. He could barely keep himself from running down the hall.
DiNozzo looked like hell. His skin was a pale gray, with dark circles under his eyes, and a sheen of sweat covered his forehead. His left shoulder was wrapped in bandages. There were tubes coming from his arms and his mouth and his nose. Even with the ventilator, there was a rattling sound that sent a chill down Gibbs' spine.
Suddenly, Tony made a choking sound and started coughing violently, red spewing from his mouth.
"Help!" Gibbs shouted, running into the hall. "We need help in here!"
He was jostled and pushed away as people surrounded Tony. Someone took him by the arm and guided him away and to a chair. It was the same nurse form before.
"You're looking pretty pale. You want me to go grab you a coffee?" she offered.
"That…that would be great," Gibbs sighed. He hadn't realized just how exhausted he was. He closed his eyes and leaned back.
Jethro opened his eyes again. "Hey, McGee. So they released you, huh?"
"You told me he was going to be okay," he said, his voice cracking. He collapsed into tears.
Gibbs wasn't sure what else to do, so he stood and wrapped his arms around the crying agent.
It was some time before someone came to talk to them. McGee was asleep in the plastic chair next to Gibbs. The doctor looked worried, and that worried Gibbs to the core.
"Is he gonna be okay, Doc?"
"It's hard to say. He's developed respiratory distress syndrome. Basically, his lungs have become inflamed and there's not enough oxygen in his blood. We've got him on mechanical ventilation, and we're giving him antibiotics and corticosteroids. That's-that's really all we can do. The treatment is invasive, and could lead to a lot of complications, so we have to watch him closely. If left untreated, though, it could lead to organ failure…and even heart failure. If the steroids are working, we should see results in three to five days."
Gibbs ran his fingers through his hair and sat down heavily.
"Look, Mister Gibbs. I know how worried you must be..." Gibbs snorted. "...but you should go home. In the past four days, you're been gone for a total of maybe-what, eight hours? You're exhausted. You need a shower and food that isn't from a hospital cafeteria and a good night's sleep. You can come back tomorrow."
Gibbs wanted to argue, but as much as he hated to admit it, the doctor was right.
"Okay. Thanks for keeping me updated. I'll be back."
The doctor gave him a rueful smile. "I know you will," he said before leaving.
Gibbs reached over and shook McGee's shoulder. Tim opened his eyes and gave him a childishly unhappy look. "Come on, Tim. I'm gonna take you home."
He opened his mouth to protest, but Gibbs gave him The Look and he stopped. "What do we know about Tony?"
"I'll tell you in the car," Gibbs answered.
"Look! I think he's waking up. Tony?"
Tony blinked with heavy eyelids. He finally managed to get his eyes open to see Abby and Gibbs hovering nearby with worried looks on their faces. Abby grinned.
"There are those green eyes!" she said with a wide smile.
Tony wanted to answer, but was somewhat inhibited by the tube that was shoved down his throat. He glared in frustration and Gibbs went to the doorway and called for a nurse. Abby chatted away, showing DiNozzo the various cards and flowers that had been left by his bedside. He nodded and smiled (as well as he could with a ventilator tube sticking out of his mouth) at the appropriate moments.
A nurse came in and ushered her out of the room. "Alright, let's get that out, shall we?" she muttered, more to herself than Tony. "There you go!"
"Thanks," Tony said. He frowned, horrified at how raspy he sounded.
"You want a glass of water, sweetheart?"
DiNozzo nodded, and she filled him up a paper cup of water with a straw sticking out. He sipped it gratefully.
"How long was I…" he started.
"It's been ten days today."
"Ten days," Tony repeated. "Damn."
"You're a lucky man, Agent DiNozzo. Your lungs were already scarred. That RDS should have been the end of you."
DiNozzo frowned at her. "Ouch! Sorry to disappoint."
The nurse blushed. "That's not what I meant! What I mean is, anyone else probably wouldn't have made it. Oh, look! You've got a visitor!" She hurried out of the room.
Tim walked in a little tentatively. "Hey, DiNozzo," he said quietly, as though the sound of his voice would somehow cause Tony pain.
"Hey, Probie," Tony smiled. "Good to see you back in your non-shivering state."
"Good to see you back in your non-verge-of-death state," McGee quipped.
Tony laughed, the winced. "Damn it. Don't make me laugh."
"Sorry," McGee said, a horrified look on his face. That just made DiNozzo laugh again and sent him into a coughing fit.
"Oh-crap! Uh…" McGee froze, flustered.
"Tim," the doctor said, making Tim jump. The doc smiled. "Sorry, didn't mean to startle you. Looks like Mister DiNozzo is on the mend. With some antibiotics to clear up any lingering pneumonia and physical therapy on that shoulder, your partner will be up and running in no time."
Tim and Tony shared a smile.
"Glad to hear it," McGee said.
"Damn right," DiNozzo answered. "You'd be lost without me."
McGee snorted and rolled his eyes, but deep down he knew it was true. He would be lost without his snarky, flirtatious, obnoxious, loudmouthed child of a senior partner. He would be lost without his brave, fiercely, recklessly loyal brother of a best friend.
A/N: In case you were wondering, the title comes from a line in one of my favorite songs, 'Colors' by Bramble.