Inside the NCIS building, the day was winding down. The lights had been lowered to the night time setting as the members of the MCRT worked on leads for their latest case.
Time seemed to stretch and stall. The team was so focused on their research, that they didn’t notice when the clocks actually stopped.
The main elevator doors opened and an old man, with no security escort, stepped out. He was average in every way and unimposing. There was no way to describe him better, he looked like everyone and no one. He could blend into any crowd with nobody remembering if he was standing right next to them.
He took a moment to look around and then approached the three seated members of Team Gibbs: Anthony “Tony” DiNozzo, Ziva Da’vid, and Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
Tony was the first to notice the old man. He looked up and then around the man, looking for the escort. “Hey, there. You lost, sir?”
Both Gibbs and Ziva looked up at the sound of Tony’s voice.
The old man had light baby blue eyes and took a moment to look at each of them, directly in their eyes. “So, none of you recognize me?”
Gibbs frowned. He didn’t like the presence he felt with this old man. “Is there something we can help you with?” He didn’t really want to help, he just wanted this man to leave.
“Hey, Boss! Abby finally ...” Timothy McGee came from the inner elevators and paused when he caught sight of the old man. He stared for a moment, then looked at each of his teammates, then back to the old man. “Um ...” Worry written all over his face.
“Don’t worry. I’m here for you.”
Tim sighed in relief, then turned sad. “It’s because of the books, isn’t it?”
The old man just smiled and approached McGee.
“Tim, do you know this guy?” Tony asked as a chill ran down his spine. He looked nervously over to Gibbs, who was starting to stand.
By the time the man reach Tim, all of the team was standing.
Tim’s eyes never left the old man’s baby-blues as he approached. They stood toe to toe, the man barley reaching McGee’s chest. Tim closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When he reopened his eyes, he still didn’t look anywhere but the old man.
“Okay, I’m ready ... I think. I just ... thank you.”
The old man smirked, shook his head, and laid his hand on Tim’s chest - over his heart. Then closed his eyes.
“Hey! What do you think your doing?!” Gibbs growled and tried to move to get to his man, but found he couldn’t. He looked over to Tony and Ziva and found they weren’t moving either. What the hell is going on?!
Tim’s eyes closed, his body became lax. He wobbled, then fell backwards. As he fell, a glowing stream of energy came out of his body. It stayed connected at his heart and the old man’s hand, until he hit the ground. Then the stream broke loose from Tim and snapped into the old man’s hand like a yo-yo. The stream swirled into a ball that seemed to float slightly above his hand.
“WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO!?” Gibbs roared. He wanted to go to his fallen agent, but still couldn’t move.
The old man calmly turned back to them. “Shame on all of you. How is it that none of you recognize me? You have all met me more than once, but the only one to know me is the one who I have met the least.”
“What are you talking about?” Tony fumed. “I have no idea who you are!”
“No?” The old man walked forward, still holding the glowing, swirling ball in front of him. “I seem to remember us meeting in a fiery apartment, and in a decontamination chamber, and in a hospital morgue.”
Tony just stared at him, refusing to acknowledge the truth that his soul knew.
The man turned to Ziva. “Or you? We became very well acquainted during your three month stay in the desert.”
He turned to Gibbs before Ziva could say anything. “Or you? I thought of them all, you would know me best.”
Ziva finally found her voice. “Death. You are Death.” She breathed out the sentence, and for the first time, she felt fear to be in his presence.
The old man nodded to her in a gesture of greeting.
Gibbs was angry. “Why have you come here? What did you do to McGee?”
“I simply took back what was mine.”
Death gave a cold smile to the team leader, then looked at each of them. “You see, Timothy McGee was supposed to be in my realm many years ago.”
They were all silent, dumbfounded, until Tony made the connection. “His car accident.”
“Very good. Yes, his life was to end that day. As I pulled his soul from his body, he asked me a question. I was ready for the pleading, the bargaining, the usual. Do you know what happened instead?”
Tony and Ziva shook their heads, Gibbs didn’t move.
“He asked if anyone else was hurt. When I told him no, that he was the only soul to come with me, he sighed in relief. I was surprised. Me! After all the things I have seen and come across, you would think nothing would surprise me. So I asked this sixteen-year-old why he inquired.”
“He told me that he would have hated the thought of someone losing a parent or someone they depended on because of the accident. I told him, that most will feel that the loss of one so young would be a tragedy and this is what he said to me: ‘Yes, most will, but the people on the bus have established lives - mortgages, jobs, children, spouses - they are needed. I’m just starting out, no one needs me yet.’”
Death shook his head. “I asked him about his family. He just smiled at me sadly and said they would take care of each other. I knew he was sincere, in the form of a soul nothing can be hidden. I must admit, I was intrigued. Here was a child handling his death better and more noble than those many years his age, so I decided to give him his life back.” Death laughed. “Do you know that he actually refused me at first, thinking that I would have to take someone in his place? I assured him that I would not, there was only one condition: that my gift never be squandered. After all, it isn’t everyday, or even every century, that I decided to spare a soul.” Death looked smug.
Tony blew-up first. “So you think by him writing those stupid books, years ago, is him squandering his life!? That’s bullshit and you know it!”
Death started to transform. He changed from an unimposing old man to a tall middle-aged man. What didn’t change was his non-descriptive features, nor his baby-blue eyes. He sneered at the team. “Oh, but I never said he was the one who squandered it.”
Death continued to walk forward. “None of you appreciate him. You take him for granted. And, I have had enough!”
“That is not true! We ...”
“You what, Ziva David? Ever thank him for welcoming you to the team, or for showing you around town ... for coming to get you in Somalia? No, I believe all your attention was elsewhere.” Shame flushed her face and she lowered her head.
“Or you?” He turned to DiNozzo. “You bully and pick and degrade, but have you ever supported. Ever told him, you don’t blame him for Caitlin Todd’s death ... or that you were actually flattered he wrote about you?”
Tony shifted his gaze downward. “He knows.”
Death leered at him, then turned to Gibbs. As he approached the team leader, Death transformed again. He grew more in height and towered above them all. His features turned grotesque, his face twisting and hollowing out so that he looked like a wraith.
“Or you? Ever tell him that he means as much to you as any of the others? That you are proud of his development? That you are just waiting for him to be promoted so that you can brag to everyone about ‘your agent’?”
Death stepped back and started flipping and tossing the energy ball in his hand. “The list of transgressions is very long and I do not have the time nor the patience to go through them all with you.” His voice rising in anger. “Plus, you three are not the only ones! It seems there is no one in his life that values it! The worst part of all of this...” he now roared “... HE LETS ALL OF YOU!” When the ball fell back into his hand, he gripped it hard, as if to crush it. “He lets you walk all over him! Well, NO MORE!”
Death turned his back to the team and walked into the center of the squad room. When he turned to face them, he had once again transformed. Now into a rotting corpse: maggots writhed and wriggled across his face, one eye was missing while the other hung from its socket. “Since my gift is not wanted, I am taking it back.”
Ziva was just looking up, when Death caught her eye. He smiled at her with his decayed and rotting mouth. His voice came to her in her head instead of actually been spoken out loud. “Only the brave of heart and strong of will can do what is required next.”
Then he was gone. No flash of light, or bang of sound, nothing. Death was just no longer there. Time starting moving again, still unnoticed by the team.
The three members of the MCRT still stood frozen, although it was no longer because of Death’s presence. It was because they were processing the magnitude of what had just taken place.
Tim lied motionless. All three wanted to go to him, but were also afraid to confirm what had been done to their partner ... their friend ... their family.
The back elevators opened, bringing Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard and Jimmy Palmer to the squad room. “Jethro, Mr. Palmer and I have found ... oh dear! What has happened?” He rushed over to McGee and dropped beside him, assessing his vitals. “Timothy open your eyes for me. Come on, lad.” He turned to Gibbs.
Gibbs, Tony and Ziva exchanged anxious looks. They knew no one would believe what really happened.
“He ... he just collapsed Ducky.” The team leader finally answered.
Palmer joined Ducky on the floor, also evaluating McGee’s condition.
“Has an ambulance been called?”
“No Duck ... he ... he’s gone ... he ...”
Duck stood and somehow loomed over them. “And you can tell that from over there?!” He growled out.
“We will lose him if the three of you just keep standing there staring!”
Again, the three exchanged anxious glances.
“Isn’t he dead?” Tony asked.
“Dead!?” Ducky looked at them, perplexed. “What is wrong with you three? No, he’s not dead.”
“Are you sure?”
“Good lord, Anthony! I know a dead body and he isn’t one ... yet.” Ducky couldn’t understand why the three of them looked like they didn’t believe him. Before, he could say anything else, Jimmy gave his findings.
“Doctor, his pulse is weak and thready, about only 50 b/m. His breathing is shallow and slow.” Jimmy shook his head, then looked at the rest of the MCRT. “He didn’t show any symptoms before collapsing?”
Before anyone could answer, Abby came bouncing from the inner elevator. “Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs, did Timmy tell you ...” she paused as she looked at the scene in front of her. When her eyes fell on McGee, she gasped. “Oh my! Timmy!” She fell down next to McGee, grabbing his hand. She looked up lost to Jimmy. “What happened?”
Palmer just shook his head.
Ducky couldn’t understand why the three seasoned investigators seemed to be in shock. They all deal with situations like this, or worse, on a daily basis. He was becoming concerned about exactly what had happened before he and Palmer stepped off the elevator.
No body moved, it was as if time had stopped again. Abby whispered through tears, “Oh, Tim.”
That small voice got Ducky moving. He quickly turned from the team and went to McGee’s desk to call an ambulance, then went back to Tim’s side. “Hang in there lad. You hear me?”