Abby was pacing around her lab, her pigtails whipping back and forth as she turned with almost military precision and completed the loop. She had been waiting for Gibbs and Ziva to bring her the final piece of evidence from Tony's apartment for almost…she checked her watch…five minutes now. She had cleared a few select machines and lowered the volume of her music so she could work at her best when they finally arrived. The ability to speak without shouting when visiting would come as a shock for some people, but she could not condone jamming out to The Airborne Toxic Event while her friends were lying somewhere, unconscious, bloodied, bleeding, unable to escape…
No! She couldn't think like that. DiNozzo and Timmy were two of the strongest people that she knew. If Tony could manage to keep his mouth in check, the two of them could walk away from this without injury, she consoled herself. Positive thoughts! Positive thoughts!
Gratefully, she heard the elevator ding and looked up to see Gibbs and Ziva entering.
"Did you find them?" she asked hopefully, peeking around them in case DiNozzo and McGee were just lagging, but the expression on her Silver Fox's face told the whole story.
"Working on it, Abs." To quell further questions, Gibbs handed Abby a large evidence bag containing with a half-filled storage tank.
"What's this?" she asked, grabbing a pair of latex gloves from her table, to further examine the strange apparatus. The tank was connected to a medium-sized tube with a half-opened valve.
"Found it under DiNozzo's sink," Gibbs explained succinctly. "CSU said it's full of that hypo-stuff."
"Hyoscyamine," Abby corrected half-heartedly. She pulled the tank from the bag and pointed to the valve. "It looks like this tube was connected to the waterline. The valve's only about half-open but, even so, every time Tony went to get a drink, he was dosing himself again. I won't be sure of the concentration until I can run some more tests, but if I were to speculate, I would say he consumed a fair amount of it. Knowing how he reacts to painkillers, I'd say he would've been acting pretty hinky lately."
She looked to Gibbs for confirmation but the Lead Agent just shrugged. Despite her best efforts to keep her tears at bay, her eyes began welling up, a testament to the helplessness she was currently feeling. It as if Tony and McGee had disappeared without a trace, other than the injured FBI agents, both of which were expected to make full recoveries. Sack's partner, whose name she had already forgotten, had sustained only a minor concussion and was already back at work, having been assigned a task force of his own in the FBI to work on the shooting of Sacks. She had received word from Vance to share all information with Sack's partner's team in hopes that between the two agencies, one of them could locate Sheldon and his crew.
"There were no fingerprints," Ziva gently cut-in, seeing the scientist struggling to remain in control, "but we were hoping you might be able to find something we can use to pinprick their location."
"I believe the word you are searching for is pinpoint, ma'am," a deep voice came from the doorway.
Ziva turned slightly to see a scrawny, curly-haired man standing in the doorway. He was leaning casually against the doorway, his stance highlighting the NCIS badge on his hip.
"And you are?" Abby asked, placing a hand of Ziva's shoulder before the Israeli could reprimand the agent for referring to her as ma'am.
"Kevin Bacon." The man stepped forward and offered his hand to the group. No one returned the gesture.
He cleared his throat and dropped his hand back to his side. "I've been assigned as Agent Gibbs' TAD while DiNozzo and McGee are…" he hesitated as Abby staring at him challengingly, almost begging him to pick the wrong word to describe her friend's current situations so she could unleash the agitated Israeli on him "…unaccounted for."
"You are so lucky Tony is not here," the scientist shook her finger at the man, knowing the new agent would not receive a moment of peace around her fellow movie buff. She quite literally turned her back on Bacon and faced Gibbs. "My babies haven't spoken in, like, hours so they should have something pretty soon. I'll call you the second I have something."
She pulled a cotton swab from a tall cylinder signaling the end of the conversation.
Gibbs and Ziva stood in the elevator, watching as the doors closed. When they were less than a foot apart, Kevin Bacon slipped between them, nodding politely to its current passengers.
There was an awkward silence as the elevator departed.
"What would you like me to do, sir?" he asked after a long moment.
Normally Gibbs would rather burn his newest boat than to let a new member onto his team, especially one assigned by Vance, but right now, with both Tony and McGee missing, he did not really have another option.
"BOLO for Nathaniel Sheldon, David Talbot and Sam Fries," the Lead Agent barked. "Update it every ten minutes. Run their financials, phone records and credit card receipts: anything stands out, you find me."
"Yes, sir," Bacon looked as if he were about to salute the Lead Agent but refrained when Gibbs shot him a piercing glare. "Where should I—"
"Empty desk next to McGee's," Ziva responded, exiting the elevator without glancing back at the newbie.
"Thank you, ma'am."
She stopped, spun around to face the newest agent. "Do not call me ma'am if you want to walk without a limp tomorrow."
Bacon's eyes widened. "Yes, Agent David." He scurried to the empty desk, almost tripping over his own two feet in the process. He shot Ziva a lopsided smile that was mildly reminiscent of the ones Tony flashed on almost a daily basis before picking up the phone and phoning in the BOLO.
McGee focused on the dark-haired man's face, watching as a multitude of emotions, including surprise, anger and even sadness, fought for control.
Should he know this man? The stranger looked deeply hurt that McGee hadn't recognized him. Maybe they had been childhood friends or something of the like which would explain why McGee was having such problems putting a face to a name.
This brought to mind another question, this one equally as important: What was everyone's interest in the identity of this stranger in front of him? The stocky, blond man who had bound him to a chair had wanted to know as well whether McGee recognized the picture in the wallet that was being shoved into his face, but McGee couldn't identify the stranger then nor was he able to currently.
He looked up as the dark-haired man cleared his throat. "You don't…" the man paused as his voice came out slightly squeaky, "…remember who I am?"
McGee's eyes scrutinized the stranger again. "No," he said hesitantly after a moment. "But I should, shouldn't I?" he added, seeing the man's face fall slightly.
"I'm Tony," the man replied, his eyes locked on McGee's own. The intensity of the man's stare was making McGee uncomfortable and he wanted nothing more than to look away, but felt compelled to return the stare.
"DiNozzo? Your partner? We work at NCIS together? Leroy Jethro Gibbs, coffee aficionado and resident carpenter is our boss. Grey-haired Marine, former sniper. The beautiful and extremely deadly Ziva David has the desk across from mine: used to wear cargo pants and headbands all the time, uses my likeness for target practice."
This man seemed genuinely interested in whether he remembered this strange place called NCIS but try as he may, he could not remember a Gibbs or a Ziva or even a DiNozzo. His mind was like a blank slate: there appeared to be no information about these people written on it from which to read.
"We work in a building painted a few years back by a colorblind monkey…Any of this ringing a bell?" Tony asked hopefully after a long pause.
"N—" Pain exploded through McGee's skull truncating the rest of his sentence. He groaned deeply and rolled onto his side, cradling his head in his hands. With the pain came a few scattered images:
A god-awful orange room with a large aisle in the center surrounded by four desks.
A theater-like room filled with walls of computers and a floor-to-ceiling projector. It had some funny name…a bunch of letters…
A sterile chamber with a naked body lying on the center slab. A morgue, perhaps? That would make sense if he was a federal agent: he would be expected to deal with bodies on occasion, right?
"McGee! Tim!" Tony shouted, collapsing to his knees beside his partner. He could barely keep his own hands from shaking as he grabbed Tim's shoulder, trying to offer some comfort to the suffering man. McGee didn't respond to his touch and continued to groan, pressing his hands so tightly against his head that his fingertips were turning white.
Tony forced himself to his feet, catching himself as he lilted to one side, and stumbled to the wooden door.
"Hey!" he barked at the top of his lungs. "I don't care what the hell you do to me, but my partner needs medical attention. Drop him off at a hospital and I'll do…whatever…drink whatever…just get your collective asses in here pronto!"
Tony prayed that the door would creak open and Sheldon would stroll in, ready to wheel McGee off to the nearest hospital, but the room remained silent; the only sound heard was McGee's gasping breaths.
"Sheldon!" Tony pounded on the door, barely managing to stay upright as the recoiling force of the door sent him staggering. "I know you're out there, you—" Tony continued his description of Sheldon with a few choice words that would have made a sailor blush.
McGee let out a choking noise and Tony whirled around, almost falling yet again as the cell spun wildly around him. He lurched back to the center of the room where McGee was curled into the fetal position and knelt beside him.
"Where's it hurt worst?" Tony asked, seeing his partner writhe on the ground, not knowing what to do to ease the younger man's pain.
"Head…" came the quiet response.
Tony was more than knowledgeable about the symptoms of a concussion but, other than an immediate trip to the hospital for brain scans and anti-inflammatory meds, he wasn't sure what he could do in this room. He noticed McGee's still labored breathing and deciding that getting his partner to relax was probably a good start.
"Hey McGee! You've gotta calm down," Tony instructed his partner, hoping the words would bring the injured man some sort of relief. "I know it hurts, but you've gotta just breathe."
Just breathe? The words struck a chord in McGee's brain. They sounded so familiar, where hadhe heard them before? Then he knew:
White-hot pain flashed through his skull and McGee found himself twitching uncontrollably, unable to control his own limbs. He was lying outside a Tudor-style home on a fresh-layer of snow wearing a trench coat. His heart was…stinging? There was something connected to his chest, digging deep into his skin. He was being shocked…no…Tasered!
"Just breathe through it," he heard and turned his head slightly to see the dark-haired man…Tony?...standing over him, though not offering any assistance or removing the electrodes from his chest.
"Tasered…" McGee whispered, his voice barely audible. A sharp pain lanced through his skull again and he squeezed his eyes shut to ward away the pain.
"Yeah, you were Tasered last year," Tony cocked his head at his friend's revelation. Not that he was complaining that his partner was beginning to recall at least some details of his past, but being Tasered was not one of the first things he hoped McGee would remember.
He saw the computer geek wince again and wanted more than anything to take away his partner's pain. He hated seeing the people he loved suffer which was why he tended to go to such great lengths to draw any attacker's attention away from his partners: he knew he would never forgive himself if one of his partners—his friends—died a preventable death.
They needed a plan, the first step of which should probably be getting his hands free. DiNozzo lowered himself into a sitting position, staring at his blurry sneakers in front of him. With his hands bound together, the only way to use the knife would be to place it between his feet and hope he could slice the rope, not his wrists. He shook his head once in hopes that it would clear some of the cobwebs and maneuvered the knife between two of his feet. He sighed in relief as the knife stayed upright between the two sneakers.
Now for the more difficult part: actually cutting the rope. Aiming in relatively the same direction as the knife, he gently lowered his hands over the metal. He winced as he felt the knife poke into his forearms. Not wanting to lose the ground he had just gained, he gently slid his forearm along the blade, leaving a shallow scratch in his flesh, until he felt the knife below his wrists. He rotated his arms slightly, all the while still touching the blade, and began sawing at his bindings.
A few long minutes and a hard yank later, the rope snapped. He shook out his hands, feeling the blood flow return to his deprived appendages.
He carefully grabbed the hilt of the knife and slipped it into his sock where it was not visible but easily accessible. He turned back to his partner and saw McGee had uncurled himself and was watching Tony struggle with his ropes. The complete anguish gone from his face, but small tightening of his mouth and eyes were still present, revealing he was still in pain.
"You still with me, Probie?" he asked, sliding forward until his partner became one solitary image.
"You're bleeding," the younger man stated, trying to sit up to offer his assistance. Tony quickly reached over and gently pushed his partner back to the ground, effectively keeping him from injuring himself further.
But McGee would not be deterred so easily. Lying flat on the floor made his headache much worse, so he propped himself up on his elbows, gleefully noting the throbbing reduce fractionally.
"It's just a flesh wound," the man called Tony replied.
"You'd better put pressure on that," McGee advised, not knowing where that tidbit of information came from. He had apparently received some sort of basic first-aid training which corroborated the story that he was truly a fed, though there were a lot of other explanations that explained knowing first aid, most of which were much less exciting.
"I'll live Probie," Tony deflected. He saw McGee shiver slightly and shrugged off his jacket, offering it to the computer specialist.
McGee eyed the jacket distrustfully. Why was the man offering him his jacket? It wasn't cold in here…at least, he didn't think so. "I don't—"
"You have a serious concussion. We have to keep you from getting a cold as well," Tony informed his partner, shaking the jacket once in his direction.
McGee looked at the man's bleeding cheekbone and gaunt features. He was fairly sure he didn't look much better but the man clearly needed the jacket as much as he did. "You don't look so hot yourself. There is no way I am taking this from you."
"No, you look," McGee interrupted, fixing DiNozzo with what he hoped was an authoritative glare. "From what you've said about our boss, he sounds like a pretty hard-ass. What is he going to say when he finds out that you weren't paying attention to your own health?"
Tony frowned but sensed that McGee was not in the mood to be trifled with. "Fine," he unhappily slipped the jacket back on. "For not remembering much, you certainly seemed to nail our boss," he muttered under his breath.
"How are we going to get out of here?" McGee questioned after a long moment.
"Workin' on it," Tony replied as he once again took stock of the room. Besides the two of them, a small knife and an empty water bottle, there was nothing else that could be used as a weapon.
McGee turned his gaze away and searched his jumbled brain for an idea. He scrubbed his forehead as the mere act of thinking aggravated his headache. All right, maybe he shouldn't think so hard and just let the idea come to him. After all, he was…
McGee's thoughts jerked to a stop as his name didn't follow as he was expecting it to.
Oh my God! He couldn't remember his name! McGee bolted upright and forced himself to concentrate: he thought hard, ignoring the pain in his brain, searching every recess for his identity.
Tony glanced over at McGee's strangled cry and saw the angst written on his face.
"What's wrong?" he demanded in a strictly no-nonsense tone.
"Can't remember…my name!" McGee cried, burying his head deeper into his hands. The more he willed himself to remember, the faster his heart beat in his chest and the more ragged his breathing became. Quickly, he discovered that he was barely able to draw oxygen into his lungs. Black spot were clouding the edges of his vision as he gasped for air, his thoughts about what he would do without his memory raced as fast as his heart rate.
Tony stared at his partner in shock, again not sure how to react. He had a hard enough time dealing with people on an everyday basis, let alone a partner who was literally falling to pieces directly in front of him. His general response would be to defer to Abby for the mothering, Gibbs or Ziva for the torturing of the bad guys, and a smart ass comment from him to distract the mildly injured…
Get it together! Your partner needs you! he told himself, following the words with a mental Gibbs-slap which was the kick he needed to get started. He moved next to his partner who was rocking back and forth in deep concentration.
"You're going to be okay, Tim," he offered hesitantly, wincing as the stupidly phrased, and horribly cliché words left his mouth. Yet, he knew it was what his partner wanted to hear, if McGee was even listening.
Though McGee wanted nothing more than to hear those words, preferable followed by a finite certainty that he would recall his identity, Tony's words were lost as he tuned out his surroundings and focused on remembering.
Random thoughts were flying through his head, some attached to pictures, others with audio snippets: a gruff male's voice, a bubbly timbre filled with lots of long words, a cultured English accent and a strong desire to cover his ears, some memories of a shouting match with a younger brunette wrapped in only a towel: who was she? Girlfriend, cousin, wife? Sister?
Through the confusion, he felt a warm, albeit quivering hand on his back. The hand remained still for a long moment before beginning to rub small rhythmic circles.
"You're going to be okay, McGee," he finally heard, though there was great distortion in the stranger's voice. "You're having a panic attack. You need to calm down. Just take a deep breath. Inhale…exhale…"
Tony didn't know where he found the inner strength to be calm since he was freaking out just as much, if not more, than McGee. He had never felt so powerless in his entire life than he did at that moment, watching his partner experience a full-on panic attack.
Now more than ever, his partner needed a hospital.
They needed to get out of here.
Tony shrugged his jacket off his shoulders and slung it over his partner, this time without objection. One hand remained on his partner's back at all times, rubbing it gently as he had seen Gibbs comforted Abby many a time.
"Breathe, McGee. You're going to be fine," Tony continued, holding his partner close to him while he continued the circles. "Your name is Special Agent Timothy McGee. You were a boy scout as a kid, though I'll never understand why a boy scout can't recognize poison ivy: did you never learn the 'leaves of three let it be'? You went to MIT, majored in computer forensics, and graduated with a 3.8 GPA—apparently you failed a fencing class your sophomore year…I hope there were some smokin' hot girls in that class, God know why else you'd sign up for it. Then, you went to Johns Hopkins for grad school and got a degree in biomedical engineering. You were working in a cubicle at NCIS Norfolk with the Cyber Crimes unit until Gibbs decided that a three-man team just wasn't cutting it. You play online computer games under the codename Elflord. You wrote a novel under the penname Thom E. Gemcity called Deep Six which made you pretty rich since you went out and bought a Porsche."
With each statement, McGee's breathing eased slightly and oxygen began flowing more easily into his lungs.
"That's it," Tony saw McGee visibly relax and arranged himself so he was leaning against the wall with his partner pressed against his chest.
He wrapped his arms around his heaving partner. "You tell anyone about this and I'll tell the world about your Sonny and Cher collection, comprende?"
"I have a Sonny and Cher collection?" McGee asked in a small voice.
"Yup, though God only knows why. It's in your LP collection beneath your How to Be an Alpha Male CDs."
McGee was about to ask a follow-up question but refrained as he heard a lock creaking. A light-haired man walked into the room flanked by two armed guards and it was clear even to someone with a head injury who was in charge.
"Aww, now isn't that sweet," the light-haired man commented, seeing McGee lying against DiNozzo, the younger man's breaths still coming in hitched gasps.
"He needs a doctor," Tony stated bluntly, shifting slightly so as to place himself in front of his partner. "But I'm sure you knew that."
"Tsk, tsk, Anthony. Your loud voice is upsetting him," Sheldon motioned to McGee who was tensed against the loud pitch of the conversation.
"Your presence is upsetting him," Tony retorted in a lower voice. He gently lifted himself out from behind McGee, ignoring the man's question about who Sheldon was.
"Look Sheldon, I don't know what you have planned but it doesn't involve my partner. I was the Lead Agent on your brother's case, not him: my testimony's worth more to you that Special Agent McGee's. Tell you what, you let McGee go and…" Tony hesitated for a split second before playing his trump card, "…I'll retract my deposition."
Sheldon's eyes widened. "Really?" he asked in surprise.
"You take Special Agent McGee to a hospital right now and I will see what I can do," Tony promised, grimacing at the thought of Mark roaming the streets dealing drugs. But McGee was his partner and it was one of Tony's personal rules that the health of his partner superseded all else. He had no doubt that NCIS could catch Sheldon again, assuming he was able to retract his deposition. His career might take a slight hit, but he was moving out from D.C. anyway. He'd find some unknown town, get hired by the local police, and create a new name for himself.
"The level of dedication you are showing to your partner is fantastic," Sheldon lauded. "It'll be that much more sweet when it comes crashing to a halt."
"McGee!" he barked loudly, making the injured man wince.
"Why you…" Tony began, taking a step toward Sheldon. He heard the click of a gun and felt the cold metal of a barrel being driven into his lower back.
"Give me the opportunity," Fries grinned, seeing Tony tensing for action.
Unable to help being held at gunpoint, Tony stood helplessly while Sheldon walked over to McGee and roughly pulled him to his feet.
Sheldon practically dragged McGee over toward where Tony and Fries were standing. He grabbed the younger man's hair, pulling his head back, until the two NCIS agents were looking eye-to-eye.
"What do you really know about this man?" Sheldon whispered in McGee's ear. "He has told you he is your partner, no? That you two work together at NCIS?"
"Don't listen to him McG—" Tony's interrupted was silenced as Fries drove the gun into one of his kidneys. He collapsed to his knees, sputtering for air as pain raced through his torso.
"Ignore him." Sheldon spun McGee around so the agent could no longer see his partner. "What do you really know about Anthony DiNozzo?"
'Just breathe through it.'
McGee gasped in pain as his brain was assaulted with images yet again, each segment bringing with it a stabbing pain. Sheldon released him and McGee fell to his knees as well, hands pressed tightly against the side of his head.
"This is my cue to leave," Sheldon quipped. As quickly as he had appeared, he and his two goons left, leaving Tony and McGee alone again.
"McGee!" Tony hollered as he dragged himself alongside the shaking man. He tried to illicit a reaction from the man, but Tim was lost in a world of his own:
He walked out of an elevator and into the orange room to see the dark-haired man rifling through a desk that was not his own. McGee knew it wasn't his desk since his desk since a small purse was sitting next to the chair: a woman's desk. From the locked drawers and immaculate desktop, it was clear the woman did not want anyone to know on what she was working.
Suddenly, he was entering the squad room from the other side, closest to the plasma. He rounded the corner to see Tony browsing through an iPod which had been charging on his desk. Clearly, the iPod wasn't his since the name Timothy McGee was engraved on the back. McGee…that was him, right?
Now, he was in a room filled with machines next to a table covered in an assortment of chemicals. He heard the squeal of metal and saw Tony trying to break into a locked filing cabinet with a crowbar. Did this man have no respect for what people wanted to be kept private? Come to think of it, this man was always asking questions about his team's personal lives: whom they were dating, what plans they had for the weekend, and the like…
The room spun and he was no longer in the obnoxiously colored room. He was at an abandoned home that was adorned in yellow crime scene tape. He heard a phone ringing and saw Tony put down his Nikon camera to pull his NCIS regulation cell phone from his belt. He stared in confusion at the phone as the ringing continued, and after a few seconds, reached into his pocket and withdrew a second cell phone. McGee instinctively knew he had never received the number for that second cell phone: whom was Tony communicating with in private? It was curious that a man with no respect for the personal boundaries of others would have such a division between his own personal and business lives.
Then, he remembered sitting next to a dark-haired woman with a pigtails, platform boots and a spiderweb tattoo…Abby, he thought her name was…And there was something about bowling regularly…with nuns?…They were examining an arrest record with this man's picture on it. But the name wasn't Anthony DiNozzo like the man had said, it was…Gus Bricker? Low grade arms-dealer?
Arms dealer: the name La Grenouille floated into McGee's consciousness.
A Frenchmen with a deep accent… La Grenouille was in league with a bald-guy who gave McGee the chills. McGee remembered he and a grey-haired man had tried to capture The Frog in an airplane hanger of sorts. Had they been successful? He wasn't even sure, not that it mattered much currently.
That grey-haired man. Was that this Gibbs character? He had saved McGee's life: he had pushed him out of the way of an oncoming car, injuring his own shoulder in the process. He had always felt safe around the grey-haired man. Without a doubt, McGee knew he was to be trusted: the man in front of him, not so much.
And the suits. In every flash, the man—Tony—was always well-dressed in expensive suits or sports coats. There was no way he could afford those on a cop's salary. Oh yeah, this guy was dirty. He had only been pretending to be a friend to win's McGee's confidence. But why? What advantage would that bring him?
The complete certainty in the dark-haired man in front of him was wavering. The man was speaking, gesticulating wildly, trying to convey a point, but the words were lost in the thudding on his blood in his ears.
That facial expression: McGee had seen it before…on a mug shot? This man had been detained for…severing the legs of a young woman. He had been acquitted, but the legal system wasn't perfect: criminals walked all the time. McGee even remembered meeting the man in his holding cell, but yet didn't feel threatened…
'Don't believe what you're told. Always double check,' the grey-haired man told him once at…a crime scene?
That was good advice, McGee thought. He had trusted the man in front of him implicitly without asking who he really was. If he wanted to come out of this situation alive, that needed to change.
McGee remembered being dressed in a hotel waiter's uniform and pushing a room service cart down the hallway. He knocked on an ornate wooden door, seeing Tony, or whatever his real name was, answer wearing only a white cotton bathrobe.
He recalled standing in the squad room, watching this Tony-fellow and a pretty foreign woman talking via security camera. He walked over to his computer and stared at a foreign ID with the dark-haired man's picture on it. Jean-Paul Reiner…professional…hit man!
He was in a cell with a professional murderer, who was armed with a knife no less.
As if his day couldn't get any worse.