Six months later...
The peace of the naval community neighborhood was shattered by a resounding crash. Children on the sidewalk scrambled away when the front door of a comfortable looking home- comfortable on the outside, that is- swung open and produced a nervous Timothy McGee. After him stormed a fuming Admiral Sean McGee.
"Do you realize what you're saying?!" the older man roared. "Decades of tradition ruined. A whole family legacy in shambles!"
Tim stopped and turned to face him. The boy was still shy and polite, but after the events of the past summer, he was different. Three of his best friends just...gone. It made him realize that life was short and unpredictable; he had to do what was right for him, not his father. No amount of intimidation and bullying from the old man would change that.
"Dad," he said respectfully. "Our..Our family legacy is not ruined. There are still generations of McGees behind us that joined the Naval Academy. I just- just won't be one of them."
"And therefore bringing the family legacy to a halt!"
By this time, Mrs. McGee had saved all of the fish from the shattered tank. Unfortunately, it had been shattered in Sean McGee's rage. Sarah was mopping up the water when her mother tearfully stood up and looked out the window. She watched as her husband continued to berate their only son.
"What will you even do, anyways? Go and play with your computers all day? What a waste of time. A pathetic life, Tim."
The young man inhaled through his nose, and exhaled sharply. His nostrils flared, but that was his only display of temper.
"First of all, I would not simply 'play with computers all day' - I would in fact be working for a government agency, fighting cyber crime. And it is very far from a pathetic life. I would also be out in a field if I joined the FBI. Or.. or NCIS! That would be very fitting because I could help navy and their families. If NCIS had been in the area, maybe...maybe Alex, James, and Di wouldn't have died!"
There was a beat of shock from the Admiral. Tim hadn't spoken about his friends' deaths since his mandatory therapy session a month before.
Still, his father wouldn't let up. "This is purely out of spite, isn't it? That's why you won't join the Naval Academy: to get back at me."
The younger McGee's eyes widened. Was his father ignoring everything he was saying?
"No, Dad. I have the utmost respect for you. I always have, always will. But the Navy isn't my place. I don't want to spend half my life on a boat when I have more potential on land. I don't fit in the Navy, that's all."
"You're right. You'd never fit in with us. You're weak! You have never been right for the military at all- I knew it since the day you were born."
That was a good slap to Tim's face. Or maybe a sucker punch to the gut. Either way, it hurt. No matter what he wanted to do in life, he did have sailor in his veins. Really, he was on the watch list of the Naval Academy admissions director. However, he and his father didn't know that. His dad's words stuck to him and they made him question himself for a minute.
"Well..well.." God, he hated his stuttering. (It had shown up after the summer tragedy.) He plowed through it nevertheless.
"Well maybe I'll join the Air Force! I'm good at math and science, I'm sure they'd take me. Or how about the Army! Yes, they would definitely appreciate me!"
That was technically a good insult to a naval authority figure, but it was a bad idea to say that to this Admiral.
He literally slapped his son across the face, leaving a good red mark.
"Sean!" the man's wife screeched, finally running out of the house. Sarah followed silently.
Tim's eyes widened at his father. For all the negligence, all of the insults and verbal abuse, his dad never actually hit him before now.
Even Sean looked surprised at himself. He stared at his hand. But then his expression hardened again and he stormed inside of the house without another word.
Where else would Tim go- besides Kristen's? In the months following their nightmare of a summer, they had quietly recovered the best they could. The two became closer, and when there was a problem, each looked out for the other. After the 'fight' with Sean, they found themselves sitting in a tree next to Kris' home, saying very little, until he finally broke the silence.
"Am I wrong? Should I go to Annapolis?"
"You'd hate it, right?"
"Without a doubt. It's a good school, just not for me."
"Then of course you shouldn't. Do what makes you happy." she said.
Tim digested this for a second. "I think I want to go to MIT."
The idea appealed to him. He could see himself having a lot of fun with other students very much like him. And he could learn even more about computers!
His daydream was interrupted by an involuntary snort from the girl next to him.
"What?" he asked, staring at Kristen, who giggled slightly.
"Nothing. But...isn't that the nerd school?"
Tim frowned again. "You sound like my father." He started to climb down the tree.
"No, wait, Tim. I didn't mean it like that and you know it. I just meant that it doesn't seem relevant. Don't you want to be a government agent? Why don't you join a school that has a good criminology program? I'm just saying that it makes more sense to go somewhere else..."
The boy's nerves were slightly raw from his fight with his dad. No doubt his stress levels were worse than usual. He felt very old.
"I want to go to a school where I can do what I love! And you don't have to major in criminology to be a federal agent."
"It's like you- you want to be an artist. You don't technically have to go to some fancy stuck up art school in New York to be an artist. You could go to any other college and be an independent artist in a studio apartment."
"Well... Yeah," Kristen conceded. "But it wouldn't work out as well, since I want to make stage sets and illustrate books. I want to go to a school with other artists... oh, I see your point."
McGee sighed. "I'm glad someone does."
"Well.. What about your dad? This might kill him."
"No it won't. He will just have to deal."
"That's a little selfish, though." Kristen pointed out; the fact grated on her friend's brain.
"No it's not, I'm trying to do what's best for me!" his voice rose just a tiny bit.
"I realize that," Kristen said, uncharacteristically. Usually she would be one to get all heated in an argument, but she could see that Tim needed understanding at the moment. However, she wasn't totally willing to drop the point. "But all that stuff your dad did for you just to get you into the Naval Academy, won't it all go to waste now?"
"All that stuff... you mean like taking me camping and teaching me how to fish justso that I learn how to think like a survivor? For forcing me to quit baseball to work on sailing and football and 'rougher, tougher' sports? Everything my dad ever did was to fit me into his old life."
"That's not true at all-"
"Yes it is! Yes! You have no idea, Kristen! Just because you're all close with your dad, does not mean you know how all father relationships work!"
It was a little uncalled for, and Kristen remained silent, while Tim continued.
"I want to save people's lives! Personally, I can do that better in the FBI or NCIS, since I'm virtually incapacitated by sea sickness whenever I step on a boat! I still want to make a difference! It's more important than-"
He stopped mid sentence, unsure of what to say next, but Kristen was already hurt by its implications.
"Than...what? Say it, Tim! More important than... Art? Painting sets? Is that what you were going to say?"
"No! Kris, don't take it like that, I didn't mean-"
"Save it, Tim. Go play with your stupid computers. Maybe you are just being a spoiled brat."
And for the second time that day, Tim watched as someone stormed away from him.
Tim and Kris remained estranged after that. Tim had tried to apologize, but she didnt want to hear it. Truly, he didn't mean to when he hurt her feelings. But basically for the rest of high school, they grew further and further apart. The young McGee did indeed get into MIT, much to the chagrin of his father. The Admiral barely ever spoke to Tim after their fight, and it hurt- especially without Kris (or Alex, James or Diana) to talk to. And since he was so protective of Sarah, his mother and Penny, he left them out of it. (though Penny remained do constant comfort.)
Both Timothy and Kristen had friends outside of the original group of five, and they stuck closer to those groups.
Despite that, he graduated high school top of his class, with several academic awards- and even some baseball trophies.
And when he stepped out of his car to view the MIT campus for the first time as a freshman...well, he knew that he made the right choice in schools.
Graduating from FLETC was terrifying- where was he to go from there? His plan was always to join NCIS, but now that he was actually free from academic requirements he was aware he could actually do anything. And his dad seemed to realize it, too, because the day he graduated he got a call from Sean.
"Dad! It's been a while, how are you-"
"Fine, I'm fine. Listen, have you considered a career path yet?"
"Dad, I told you, I want to-"
"Because its not to late to join the Navy, son. I could get you a speedy enlistment. You wouldn't even have to go to a recruiting station. We could make up for lost time- it'll be easy with some strings pulled, I think I could manage it."
"No, thanks Dad, but I don't want to be an officer in the Navy. It's just not for me- But don't worry, I'm still going to be involved in the military. I want to join NCIS."
"Don't worry..." his father repeated dully, soaking in the words.
"Yeah. I mean, it's no big deal-" Tim was cut off by the annoying sound of the dial tone.
At times late that, he missed Kristen. When he let it sink in, Tim couldn't help but miss Alex, Di, and James too.
Kyle snuck out of the motel in Oregon without paying. His brother, his only brother was dead, trying to get to those kids... Those damn kids. But at least three were dead too, the little brats.
His least favorite two were still alive, though. They had to pay. He wanted his revenge really badly; and he would get it. Some day...
It had to be special, intricate. Painful. He would hear those kids scream, if it took a million years to plan the right punishment. For now, he would assimilate into the real world- work honestly for a while so that he could settle down and create ghastly scenarios in his mind...