Flashback

Chapter 20

June 18

Tim's head shot up, and he suppressed a groan. Sleeping while standing up was never comfortable; all he had for support was the wall behind him. He wasn't sure when he had fallen asleep, but now that he was awake he regretted it. It was an odd situation- McGee was sure that this was the only time he ever truly regretted sleeping.

He was sore and battered, and realized with dread that today would be the first official day of "punishment". On the ground next to him was a sleeping Kristen, pale as one who was still alive could be. Tim's blood ran cold for a moment when he couldn't tell whether she was breathing or not. But her chest was rising and falling gently and if he listened very carefully, he could faintly make out the sound of her breaths. She was most likely in a lot of pain, but she was alive.

They were still tied up, even after the young agent had spent hours trying to use his weight to rip the rope off of the pipe, to no avail. Since he was awake, he figured he might as well try to get free again, so he set to it. The ropes were actually starting to fray around the edges, which was encouraging, but they would be dead before Tim would actually break them at the rate he was going.

Tim took a deep breath. What would Tony, Ziva or Gibbs do?

Ziva probably wouldn't have been so stupid as to get herself into this mess, and if she did, she would have a hidden knife somewhere. Tim had a knife- in his backpack in the car.

He wasn't completely sure what Gibbs would do; most likely stare the enemy into oblivion. However, Tim had the oh-so-fortunate experience of being held captive alongside Tony in Somalia. He knew Tony's strategy: just talk. Talk to stall, talk until a plan has been formed. Just talk.

Could he do that?

It was a matter of life and death, so yes, he could. But he didn't know what to say...

His thoughts were interrupted when the big sliding door was slid back and

Kyle stepped through, a large knife with him this time. Tim gulped.

"Well, how did we sleep-"

"You know my team is coming for you, you know," McGee rushed out. His cheeks went red. How very awkward that seemed. That was not how to DiNozzo your way out of something.

Their captor smirked amusedly. "I know. And I left them a fun little surprise to keep them off the trail for a little while. You see, I want them to find you. You just need to be dead first."

He strode over to Kristen and poked her side with the toe of his boot. She moaned and her eyes blinked open.

"Don't touch her," Tim snarled, unable to contain himself.

Kyle's head snapped around. He made eye contact with the NCIS agent and regarded him for a moment. Seeming to make a decision, he left Kristen alone. The artist was slowly regaining consciousness, but did not make a sound. She sent her friend a panicked look as the surviving Carroll brother approached him. Tim avoided her gaze. He instead stared at the person in front of him with defiance and contempt.

The disturbed man came up close to McGee's face.

"Your friend, Diana. Her shoulder had one large gash on it..."

He pulled Tim's shirt off his left shoulder, ripping it slightly. It was the least of his problems, but Tim couldn't help but mentally groan at the destruction of a comfortable shirt.

The exposure of McGee's shoulder gave him goosebumps. It was most likely the knife in front of him that caused the reaction, not the dry, dusty air.

Tim assumed the DiNozzo grin. "That looks sharp. How do you get it like that? My knife is so dull and for the life of me-"

It worked for only a moment. At the stupid conversation subject, the older man paused and stared at McGee like he was crazy. "I thought I gave her a concussion," he said sarcastically, gesturing to a horrified Kristen. Going back to the task at hand, he gently put the tip of the knife to rest on the top of Tim's shoulder. The young agent stopped babbling when he felt the knife, but he did not dare look at it. He went rigid and looked up, staring fixedly at his bound wrists above his head. With his heart rate accelerating and blood pumping furiously, Tim knew that Carroll could do serious damage to his arm.

Silence.

Kyle grinned and put the slightest bit of pressure on the knife. A small bit of blood appeared. It stung, but Tim could handle that much. His captor was getting some sadistic pleasure from this torture. He pressed hard on the blade, digging it effectively into McGee's shoulder.

Tim yelped in a brave attempt not to scream. Kyle pulled out his knife and then drove it in again, this time dragging it down Tim's shoulder. He did this twice, taking some sick relish in each of his prisoner's shrieks. He stepped back then, letting McGee breathe through the pain. Admiring his work, Kyle smiled, as if it was a fine painting he had created, not an agonized young NCIS agent.

He left without another word. He slid the door closed but did not bother bolting it, assuming that neither prisoner would be able to even reach the door.

"Tim," Kristen whispered. "I-"

"Don't," he panted, cutting her off. "I can barely hear you. Just wait a minute." There was an unpleasant rushing noise going on in Tim's ears.

She fell silent, guiltily staring at her friend. The new wound was producing a steady stream of blood that had now reached the top of his pants. She had to close her eyes to keep from vomiting.

Taking an inventory in her head, she counted their injuries collectively. She had a lingering minor concussion, and she was sure that Tim's head was dizzy and confused at the moment. His gunshot wound made his arm weak, not to mention his new shoulder infliction. She had a broken collarbone that made it hurt to breathe. Kristen believed that it must have been only a small fracture, but she was sure that she would face serious consequences if it didn't get it fixed soon.

Tim's head was down and his eyes were closed tight, so he didn't see what she was about to do.

Gritting her teeth, she put her arms out and slowly, painfully, sat up. She had to bite her tongue to keep from crying. Pulling and yanking as gingerly as she could, she loosened the rope from her wrists. They were hard to remove, but finally- freedom!

She gasped in delight, celebrating in her head. Tim still did not notice, though now his gasping and sputtering had ceased. He was pale but breathing normally.

Kristen used the now-dangling ropes to hoist herself up. Once she was standing, she leaned against the wall and inched along. Reaching Tim, she cleared her throat to get his attention.

His head shot up and he stared at Kristen, mouth agape. "K!"

"Shh!" she cautioned him. "Don't want to get us in trouble, do you? Are you alright? No, don't answer that."

She took a deep breath, then raised her hands over their heads to see to the bonds.

"Don't," Tim said.

"What, and let you stand there until we get killed? I'm just partaking in Part One of your genius plan to get us out of here- get out of the ropes."

"Aren't you in pain?" he asked quietly, genuinely concerned.

"Aren't you?" Kristen challenged.

Tim fell silent. She finished undoing his wrist, which fell at his side like that of a rag doll.

Kristen moved on to the next wrist, the left one. She was careful to ease his arm down so as not to aggravate his shoulder.

Tim's legs buckled and he fell to the ground, jostling his arms. He groaned and lay there for several minutes, regaining his strength. Kristen chose to stay standing, convinced that if she sat down she might not stand up.


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