Jimmy Palmer pushed the gurney across the path to where Dr. Mallard crouched over a body on the ground. Looking around, he could see Special Agent Gibbs talking with Tony DiNozzo a few feet away as Ziva David took photos of the scene. Tim McGee was walking around the perimeter of the park. Jimmy had been working at NCIS for some time now but the excitement of coming out to a crime scene had never really abated. It made him feel part of the team. It was exhilarating knowing he was working with these people, helping to catch a killer.
“Stop dillydallying, Jimmy,” Dr. Mallard called out. “I don’t want to keep our poor friend exposed like this any longer than he has to be.”
Jimmy grinned and sped up his pace. “I’m sorry, Doctor,” he said as he reached him. “You’re right though,” he added, “I think if somebody dumped me naked in the middle of a park, I’d want to be covered up as soon as possible. Sorry,” he said to the corpse, placing a gloved hand on the man’s bare shoulder.
“You’ve been hanging around Ducky too long,” McGee said from behind him.
Jimmy turned and gave him a smile. “No better way to learn about being an ME and the correct way to handle victims,” Jimmy replied.
“I was actually referring to the body being exposed to the elements and therefore the risk of losing evidence,” the doctor said, “but I do thank you for the compliment, Jimmy.”
“You’re welcome, Doctor.”
“Well?” Gibbs had moved over to stand next to Jimmy. “How’d he die, Duck?”
“His heart stopped beating,” Jimmy quipped then bit his lip Gibbs frowned down at him.
“Perhaps you should leave the jokes to me,” Ducky said. “Although my young acolyte here is quite correct. I can’t find anything wrong with him apart from the fact that he’s obviously dead.”
“So, our gunney walked out here to a public park, stripped himself off, and then died of natural causes?” Gibbs sounded understandably disbelieving.
“Don’t assume, Jethro,” Ducky said. “I haven’t determined yet how he died, simply that there are no apparent wounds on his body that would account for his death.” He nodded at Jimmy who stood and grabbed the body bag from the gurney and bent to place it on the ground… just as all hell broke loose.
There was a moment when everything seemed to happen in slow motion and then Jimmy found himself on the ground, gasping for breath, white-hot agony flaring through his chest and back.
He could hear Gibbs yelling, “Take cover, take cover!” but then there was only a dull roaring in his ears and Tim McGee’s worried face above him as McGee sheltered him from the continuing gunfire. Jimmy closed his eyes against the pain and let the darkness carry him away.
Tim McGee felt as if he’d been sitting in the chair next to Jimmy’s bed forever. He’d had to do some pretty fancy talking to get himself in here so he had no intention of leaving, no matter how numb his butt got. He’d leave when Jimmy woke up, he told the doctor and the nurses who said he looked exhausted and suggested he go home and rest. The last nurse he’d said that to had patted his shoulder comfortingly then brought him a pillow that he could rest his head against if he wanted to. He didn’t want to close his eyes though so he sat upright, Jimmy’s hand clasped gently in his, watching for any sign that he was waking up.
“How’s he doing?”
Tim turned and saw Gibbs standing behind him. With a mental apology to Jimmy, he quickly released his hand and then stood up. “Doing as well as can be expected. He’s still unconscious but they’re tentatively hopeful of a full recovery.” The doctors had told him that every time he’d asked and he knew the words by heart.
Gibbs just nodded then turned to leave. “You be in to work tomorrow?” he asked over his shoulder.
“Sure. Um, I don’t know. It depends if he…” Tim followed Gibbs out to the hallway. “Boss, listen, it’s just Jimmy doesn’t have anyone else here. His family’s away and they can’t get back for a few days.” Gibbs turned to look at him as Tim added, “It’s not what you think.”
“What do I think, McGee?” Gibbs asked, staring him down.
“That Jimmy and me, we’re… I mean, we are kind of but…” Tim sighed. “I’m making this worse, aren’t I?”
“Why are you worried about anyone finding out?” Gibbs asked. “You’re not Navy. DADT doesn’t apply to you or to Jimmy.”
“It’s just kind of new,” Tim replied. “We haven’t been seeing each other long.”
“So you’re not picking out china patterns yet,” Gibbs replied dryly, a small smile tilting up the corners of his mouth. “I’d say the fact you’ve been sitting in that chair long enough for your ass to go numb speaks volumes, wouldn’t you?”
“I guess. Look, Boss, if you need me back at work, I’ll be there.”
Gibbs shook his head then reached out and patted Tim’s shoulder. “No one should wake up in a hospital room alone, McGee. We’ll manage without you. We’ve got the sniper, we know he poisoned Matthews and dumped his body to get us out there so he could take pot shots at us. He was pissed at being passed over for NCIS because of his psych eval.”
“Well, I guess that’s one time the psychiatrists were right,” Tim said tightly.
“Yep. Hey, someone’s waking up. You better get back in there.” Gibbs grinned. “McGee, you don’t need to pick out china patterns but it’s never too soon to tell someone how you feel about them. Regret can last a long time.”
Tim nodded and walked back to the bed. Sitting down, he waited till Jimmy’s eyes were open and focused on his face then took his hand in his again, leaned forward and kissed his cheek. “Don’t you ever scare me like that again,” he murmured.