Four teens were rushed to the hospital early in the morning on June 28. At the same time, a man by the name of Kyle Carroll held up a jewelry store. Ironically, the aforementioned teens believed him to be dead, but his actions were a distraction to prevent interference with their deaths. His brother, Ryan Carroll, pursued the kids. He wanted to ensure that they would not be identified to the police, and these four victims were the only living witnesses...
Two of the four were rushed to emergency surgery for gunshot wounds, and two were rushed to a different wing, requiring brain and body scans most importantly.
Four surgeries happened. But the worst part were the two flatlines that pierced the silence.
Tim could barely breathe. He felt so heavy...and he couldn't remember what was wrong or why he felt this way. There was a weight pressing on his chest, the kind one only experiences in a medically induced unconsciousness.
It might have been years for him to work his way out of the darkness. His hearing came back before the rest of him did.
"Only two out of five.."
Five? Five what? Tim couldn't understand.
When his eyes did eventually open, they closed again immediately. It took several tries before he could hear, see, and understand what was happening around him.
"Timothy, can you wake up for me, dear?"
A sigh of relief. "How are you feeling, sweetheart?"
Tim opened his eyes and sat up. He winced at the pain that resulted. "Like I got hit by a bus. Did I?"
His grandmother frowned. "You don't remember?"
But everything rushed at Tim again. "Oh, yeah! Carroll! What happened?! Wha-?"
"Shh," Penny calmed him. The boy noticed a doctor standing in the corner, but didn't pay attention to him.
"He's dead, you don't have to worry about that crazy man."
A moment of relaxation came, but it was gone in a flash.
"What day is it?"
"July 11. You've been in and out of consciousness for some time. You had me worried."
"Oh. How are the guys? Where's Di and Alex? Can I see James? It Kristen ok?"
Penny hesitated. "We can talk later, dear. Now you need your rest."
"Ok, I'll rest, but can't I at least see them first?"
There was a pause that Tim caught on to.
"What, Penny? What aren't you telling me?"
"I think that the doctor should check you out.."
"What's going on?!"
The woman teared up and turned to him. Her mouth moved, and out came the end of the world.
Something his brilliant mind would never fully comprehend.
"They're gone, Timothy. James, Diana and Alex passed away."
The whole world had collapsed on Tim's shoulders. At first he didn't believe them when they told him the news. It was all some sick joke, right? Or maybe it was the medication they had him on. But when the kid realized that they were telling the truth he very quietly requested to be alone.
"Please, Penny," he had whispered. She nodded and followed the doctor out, leaving her grandson by himself.
He stared at the wall, listening to the sound of his heart monitor. The teen despised every heartbeat, he loathed the machine for telling the whole world that he was alive and... not completely well just yet, but whole. In one piece. Everyone could tell that physically he would survive. The blood was pumping; mind working quite well.
But he hated himself with every beep the gadget let out.
He was alive. James wasn't.
He was going to be ok. Alex wasn't.
He would get to do whatever he wanted. Diana would never do anything ever again.
The whole thing seemed almost laughable.
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beeeep!
Ripping the heart monitor off of him, Tim flopped back onto the bed. It hurt all over, but he ignored the pain. The poor nurse on duty at the station outside came rushing in, and he had to assure her that he was not flatlining- and despite his gentle protests she attached his heart rate plug again.
What was he going to do? His three best friends were gone and they left him behind. That damn Carroll, making sure that all of the people that he cared about- well, not all the people he cared about. He had his family, and there was Kristen.
Kristen! What happened to Kristen?! Where was she?! Timothy struggled to sit up, once again ignoring the pain from his injuries. Many of the machines he was hooked up to went crazy, triggering a whole wave of nurses and the doctor, who held him down and spoke to him until he was calm.
"Where's Kristen?! I want to see her!"
"Tim, please calm down. She's asleep right now, and she needs her rest. You do, too."
With that the doctor signaled to give the resisting patient a dose of "hard-core" medication, causing the young McGee to drop into a deep sleep.
When he woke up, the first thing he saw was Kristen, who was gazing out the window. K was on the visitor's window seat. Her shoulder was in a heavy brace, and the corresponding arm was being supported by sling. She turned gingerly when her friend stirred, and met his gaze with a broken and sad sort of excuse for a smile.
"Hey," he croaked, letting the sleep wear off.
"Hey yourself," she said quietly. All of her usual gusto and presence were absent.
These were the only words they would exchange all day. But they sat together, neither wanting to start a conversation. What could they possibly talk about. Tim, always the patient and quiet one, was usually happy with silence. Kristen was another story. If she was not talking or moving around then she was asleep or listening to someone else. This new idea of stillness usually would have been disturbing. Not now.
The doctor came in with his clipboard and saw the way the two kids were staring in different directions; he cleared his throat and addressed Kristen first.
"Do you have any questions for me?"
"Yes, sir. Can I have an assessment of my injuries, please? I want to know how to take care of myself. What's wrong and such."
Tim nodded in agreement. The doctor hesitated, but when they pressed for more, he complied.
"Kristen first. Ok, so a summary of your injuries... Your collarbone is cracked near the shoulder, and your lower arm was dislocated at your elbow. Plus your wrist was sprained. All of that is set now and you will get full use of your arm back with proper healing time. You had a minor concussion from hitting the steering wheel of you car but it was gone by the time you woke up here. Your cuts and bruises will all heal quickly. I also want you to know you were dehydrated and over exhausted."
She nodded without a word and the man turned to Tim.
"You have an extensive list compared to that. I could tell from the moment you were brought in that you were malnourished and hadn't been sleeping well in the past few weeks. You are still on the mend from a serious concussion. You hit your head...several times?"
"It showed on your x-ray. You are severely bruised all over. Several muscles were pulled from exertion. Your eyes are both black, but surprisingly your nose was not broken. Your lower back was hurt and it'll be sore for a while, but it will heal. Various other injuries like cuts and such have been taken care of. Now, your hands...both had broken fingers. You left hand has completely healed but your right hasn't just yet. There was glass all in the skin and it required long periods of time just to get all of the shards out. Obviously you have noticed many of your finger nails are gone. We have wrapped your hands and done as much as we can for them, but they will be sensitive for years after this. I can't guarantee that you won't feel the lasting effects every now and then for the rest of your life. I suggest lotion and...maybe a manicure or two every few months."
"A manicure?!" Tim exclaimed, embarrassed. What would Alex and James say?
He caws crushed when he realized they wouldn't say anything.
"I know, I know," the doctor said. "But it will be for the better. And who said you have to go get them done in public? You could do it yourself."
Tim blushed. He finally nodded again and the doctor continued.
"Finally, and most importantly... You had a nasty gash in the side. You probably didn't even realize it but it was most likely caused-"
"When the car was flipped," Tim murmured.
"Yes," he agreed sadly. He coughed uncomfortably and moved to leave.
"I am very sorry for your losses," he said sincerely.
"Wait," Tim called out suddenly. "How did...what was the causes of...?"
The medical man understood. "I don't think I'm allowed to tell you, I'm sorry."
"You can tell them, I grant you permission," Penny said suddenly entering. Normally she would side with the doctor, but Kristen and Tim's expressions were heartbreaking. The kind doctor sighed and looked through his notes.
"Alright. Mr. James Wilson passed away quite unexpectedly. I believe I told you about his spine? It sometimes happens during recovery from trauma. The body realizes it can't fully heal and the mind rejects it, shutting down."
Kristen blinked back tears unsuccessfully.
"Mr. Alex Charter was received a bullet wound to the torso. The bleeding could not be stopped and he eventually passed away from the injuries."
Penny was starting to get misty-eyed.
"Miss Diana... Fritz?"
"Fitz," Tim said in a monotone.
"Excuse me. Miss Diana Fitz was concussed and had several cuts of various sizes, including a severe gash in her shoulder. The official cause of death was the double gunshot wound to the chest."
"But-but wait," Kristen whimpered. "She didn't die immediately."
"Uh, unfortunately, Diana's wounds were in the lungs and some major arteries. The bleeding was internal and filled her lungs..."
By the time he left, the three were struggling to hold in tears. Kristen was escorted to a separate room, and Tim and Penny stayed together, crying on and off through the night.
Penny had called Tim's father, who was away on unexpected business. Timothy's mother was in New York with Sarah and it was agreed that Sarah would not be told about this until later. Tim insisted she finish up dance camp.
After that Alex's poor grandmother found out what happened and was so devastated. She was currently at her house, awaiting the arrival of her son and daughter in law from India.
James' parents were not reachable right now. Penny had called every station on the west coast, but no one would clear her to contact them. The 'uncle' who was supposed to be caring for his nephew was still nowhere to be found. Alex's father, good friends with James' stepdad, was using every contact and influence and favor he had in the navy and in NCIS to get to those submarines.
Kristen's father was the easiest- he picked up on the first ring and ten minutes later was speeding down the road with a sketch pad for his daughter.
Diana's parents were honestly the hardest. It took some big-time clearance to get an MTAC session with the base where Diana's father was currently working. Tim's dad made it his personal mission to find the man. Say what you will about the eldest McGee, he never backed down from something important to him. Diana's mother was somewhere in Vegas. Only her husband would be able to retrieve her.
It took a week and a half to get everyone together. It seemed like a short time considering each person was on a different corner of the planet, but these were Navy families. On time was late. Most of all: these were their children.
When they were all in the same place, Tim and Kristen were cleared from the hospitals though both were as physically fragile as glass. On the outside they were weak, on the inside they were empty.
At the first reunion, all the parents were hugging and crying. All except maybe Kristen and Tim's dads. Kristen had squeezed her dad as hard as she could and didn't let go for hours. Tim simply walked up to his dad, and the two shared a brief but awkward hug. No words, no tears. This was sadly the most affection Tim had received from his father since he was four.
The party drove home caravan style. Party was an inappropriate word for it, except maybe of the expression 'funeral' party. It was true: there were three funerals to plan.