Chapter 23

Christina Florez lifted her head as the doors to the emergency wing burst open. A couple of EMTs rushed a pair of gurneys into the waiting hands of the doctors and surgeons. Nurse Florez stood up from her station to watch them go by, assuming that they were victims of a car crash or some sort of freak accident.

It was not so, and to her horror, she dimly remembered the faces of the two new patients.

She was older, and they were older, but she would recognize Timothy McGee and Kristen Macheer anywhere.

After they were rolled away, she gasped in a shallow breath. It couldn't be them.. But a quick check with the EMTs confirmed her suspicion. Predicting that the doctors would need extra help for the two operations about to go underway, Christina went to prepare herself for surgery.

As she was passing the waiting room, she couldn't help but notice the frantic looks of the people who she assumed to be Tim and K's relatives: a tall good-looking young man, a silver-haired ex-marine (she could tell from the haircut) and an exotic young woman.

They looked desperate and frightened. If Christina hadn't been in a hurry, she would have stopped to comfort them. Instead, she made a promise to herself to make sure that Kristen and Timothy survived.

She just hoped she could keep it.

It's funny how history repeats itself. When Tim opened his eyes, in the same hospital, feeling the same chemically-induced drowsiness, it was like he was sixteen again.

He wasn't in the exact same room, of course- that would just be uncanny- but hospital rooms all look identical, so the sentiment was still there.

Practically everything was the same, save one detail that made McGee's heart rate accelerate rapidly.

He was alone.

There was no Penny sitting at the foot of his bed, no Kristen sitting by the window. The fact caused serious panic as he wondered where everyone was. There were no sounds coming from the hallway that might have given Tim a clue as to the time of day or even what day it was, making him worry that much more.

Trying to sit up was a horrible idea. Agony ripped through the veil of comfort provided by the IV in his hand, forcing him to slowly ease back down and take deep breaths until the pain subsided. McGee looked down at his chest and stared in confusion at the heavy layers of bandages there. His torso was sore and each beat of his heart felt like a bee sting.

What happened?

One shoulder was bandaged almost as heavily as his chest was. He turned his head to look at it blankly while the memories came rushing back to him.

The basement, the gun, the burning in his shoulder, Kyle Carroll's angry expression...

"Well, at least I didn't lose my arms," he muttered to himself, seeing that his shoulder wound and the bullet wound from before had both been neatly cleaned and tended to. Maybe the infection in his wounds hadn't been too bad after all?

McGee looked around for a call button. Finding one near his left hand, he pressed it lightly. A young nurse quickly came in, and smiled brightly at Tim's bewildered expression.

"Hello Tim," she said. "How are you feeling?"

"Uh," he croaked, voice scratchy. "I don't know. Funny..weird?"

"That's the drugs talking," she giggled. "I'll tell the doctor you're awake."

She left him alone again, and he blinked, now fully conscious. Footsteps approached and he looked up to see an incredibly welcome face.

"Surprise!" she said gently, a smile playing on her lips. "You're alive, Tim. You're ok."

Kristen looked him up and down.

"What happened?" he asked, his voice still rough from disuse.

"Your team came to save us," K said. "They're awesome people, by the way. I've been talking to them ever since I woke up."

"Which was..?"

"Three days ago. 'Everything' happened seven days ago," she said. "The police will tell you the rest later. Basically...Carroll Brother Number 2 is dead. I didn't know you were such a good shot, Tim."

He ignored the last part sheepishly and decided to focus on more important things. "How are you feeling? Where's my team?"

"I'm good," she replied. "Collarbone is fixed and healing. Again. And everything else was minor. I didn't have a concussion after all, just a bad reaction to whatever Carroll put in my face when he kidnapped me. That and he hit me in the head at some point. And your team is getting coffee."

McGee smiled weakly.

A man in a white coat- the doctor, Tim realized belatedly- entered. "Good morning, Agent McGee. I'm Dr. Miller." He checked his notes, then referred to his patient's charts and the machines hooked up to him.

"What exactly happened to me?" the young agent asked.

"Well, you suffered a small gunshot wound to your arm, but it wasn't too dangerous. However, both that wound and the large cut in your shoulder were seriously infected by the time you were brought in. You were in grave danger of losing you arm, actually, but you're out of the woods now. You had a bad concussion too, but we took care of that."

Tim nodded slowly, processing each bit of information carefully.

"And of course, your chest. You received two gunshot wounds to the chest. One nicked a lung and broke two ribs. The other connected directly below your shoulder. Luckily it was not the shoulder already injured, or you would have lost it for sure. You should gain full mobility of your arm and shoulder with some physical therapy. Is breathing painful for you?"

"Only when I try to move while breathing," McGee said.

"It will go away with proper care and healing time. You might have to take extra special care of your lungs from now on. You are not a smoker, correct?"


"Good, that would complicate things. Do you remember anything about the day you were rescued?" the man asked, checking Tim's heart rate, pupils and breathing.

"Up until the last hour or so before I blacked out," he confessed.

"That's normal. Your memory may come back, but it might not. Nothing to worry about. Nevertheless, we will want to keep you for a few more days to monitor your progress."

He left after that, and Kristen cleared her throat. "I called Penny, who agreed to fill in Sarah on the details. She wanted to come out here, but I thought that you would want her to stay in D.C

He nodded in agreement. "What about your boyfriend?"

"Oh Nick! He's on tour... I called him to let him know that I was alive and ok, but with his schedule, he couldn't visit if he wanted to."

She smiled and then widened her eyes in surprise. "I forgot! Your team is waiting to see you."

Walking out, Kris called over her shoulder "one sec."

It didn't take long for Tony to stick his head around the door. "Hey Tim!"

"Hey Tony," Tim said, grinning in spite of himself. DiNozzo came in to the room, and Ziva followed in her usual quiet manner. "Hi Ziva."

"Hello McGee," she smiled. "I am glad to see you are awake."

"You scared us a bit there," Tony confessed.

"You're not the only one who can get killed and still live, DiNozzo," Tim snickered. "

"It takes practice," Tony said proudly.

"Ha! More like luck," Ziva mocked.

They fell silent, and Tim opened his mouth to speak. He closed it again, but finally said, "Thanks for coming for me, guys."

"You would've done the same for us," Tony shrugged.

"You have done the same for us," Ziva corrected.

He smiled, happy to have everything right in his world for the first time in weeks.

Leroy Jethro Gibbs entered his agent's- his son's- room and stopped next to Tim's bed. McGee looked up when the team leader sat down, but said nothing. Neither man wanted to be the one to bring up the inevitable conversation, so they simply stared at each other for a minute. Realizing that he would have to begin, Tim sighed.

"I guess you know about everything that happened to us, then," he began. "The whole story..."

"Just what your grandmother told us and what we found in your file."

Gibbs was silent again, waiting for Tim to say something. McGee shifted uncomfortably before starting again.


Gibbs gently smacked him upside the head.

"Wanna explain your reasoning behind this one, McGee?" Gibbs said, not angry, but expecting a good answer.

"Rule 18, Boss," the younger agent said quietly. "I didn't want to get you all in trouble or worse, and I figured it would be safer for everyone if I skipped the permission part and just asked for forgiveness later."

"Safer for everyone, Tim?" Gibbs said skeptically, staring at his surrogate son in the hospital bed.

"Well, safer for everyone else...I'm sorry, Boss."

Gibbs put a hand on Tim's shoulder. "Losing you wouldn't help anyone. Come to us next time, or at least tell us where you're going."

"I promise, there won't be a next time," McGee said with a smile. "But..." There was nothing more to say, he realized, and settled with a "Thanks, Boss."

Several days later, McGee stared at the spot. To a normal person it might look like a simple stretch of road, but to Tim, it was a memorial. A small cross was on the side of the concrete, placed there years ago, but he viewed a totally different scene from the one in front of him.

Tim blinked and he could suddenly see two wrecked cars in the night. There was so much blood, and a couple of teens wrestling a grown man for the weapon in his hand. Shots were fired-

"Having flashbacks, are we?" a familiar voice asked.

The NCIS agent turned to see Kristen, standing a few feet away from him, holding a bouquet of flowers. He hadn't even noticed her drive up and park behind his car.

She moved up beside McGee as he smiled and turned back to the imaginings. He made a point not to mention that those were Kyle Carroll's exact words to him during their fight.

"Yeah, I guess I am," he said quietly, putting his good arm, the one that wasn't in a sling, around her in a comforting way.

"Hey now, Tim. I have a boyfriend, you know," she snickered.

Rolling his eyes, he shoved her away from him. "Way to ruin a good moment, Kris."

"Sorry, it was getting too mushy and emotional for me."

"Avoiding emotions, now?" he needled, knowing it to be her way of coping with stress.

"Yeah," she said indignantly, daring him to challenge the statement.

"Really?" he grinned, challenging it anyway. "Because, according to Ziva, you were a hysterical mess when they found us. That sounds like emotion to me..." He dodged a nudge to his battered rib cage.

"Shut up," she muttered.

They fell silent after that, staring at the spot in the road where their lives had changed so violently.

"Let's go," Tim said finally. "I promised to meet the team at the diner."

"Ok, I- oh wait!"

The artist ran up to the little cross. She sniffed and slowly bent down, placing her flowers at its base. When she turned around, Tim hugged her, pretending not to notice that she was crying.

"Come on," he said. "I bet they'll give us our old booth."

"I'm sure they've named it after us by now," Kristen smiled.

"First one there buys?"

"Of course."

They ran to their cars, ignoring their injuries, happy to be racing towards the town, rather than away from it.

Summer really was the best season to be a kid in Myso Valley, California, and while they weren't 16 anymore, Tim McGee and Kristen Macheer were like kids again.

The End

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