Tim reached for the last piece of pizza, but Kristen smacked his hand and grabbed it before he could, meeting his half-glare with a smirk.
"You've had enough. I'm the starving artist here, I think I deserve it more than you do," she smiled.
Tim's grin was weakly masked behind an eye roll. He finally gave up and chuckled at her.
"Starving. Right. This isn't exactly a tumbledown apartment. You must be doing well."
"You sound so grown up," she complained. "But yes, I'm doing ok. It's nothing too big. But I really like what I'm doing, you know? Wait...are you a CNIS agent now?"
"It's NCIS, and yeah...I'm part of a major case team in the Navy Yard-"
"Oh my god!" Kristen sputtered with a mouth full of food. "Congratulations! See? You turned out ok after all."
Tim was silent, and his eyes cast downwards. She had struck a chord, and she realized it.
"How're things with your dad?" came her quiet question.
"Uh...we...we don't talk anymore. But from what I hear he's doing great..."
His friend stared at him for a minute. "You're lying."
Hi eyes widened and snapped up to look at her. "You picked that up from Alex!"
Putting that aside for later, she pursued the topic. "You're dad. Talk."
He sighed. "Ah, my parents separated when I started college."
"Oh...I'm so sorry, Tim."
"No, don't worry about it, they were unhappy together. He's an ass, anyway. My mom deserves better. Sarah's doing great, though. She's in college, studying to be a writer."
"Cool!" Kristen said half heartedly. There was another pause of silence. This whole thing was still awkward, mainly because of one question that continued to go unanswered.
"So," she said, trying to fix the tension. "Don't take this the wrong way, but why did you come here tonight?"
Tim was silent for so long this time that Kristen thought he was ignoring her.
"Take your time," she said sarcastically.
"Calm down," he said. "I'm thinking."
"You don't know-?"
"Yes, I know why I'm here! For god's sake. We lost a teammate. She was killed a couple days ago. I don't know how to respond to it, anymore. I haven't really felt like this since..."
"...since you were sixteen," she murmured. He nodded, avoiding her gaze.
"Yeah. I just didn't want something to happen to one of us, like.. I just didn't want one of us to die, and the other only hear about it from word of mouth, and regret never talking again!" He was speaking a mile a minute, obviously a trait he picked up from Abby. "I didn't want to lose you and not say I'm sorry. You're a talented artist and art is important. I wanted your help about a relationship problem. I just want to be friends again!"
Kris' eyes were wide as he told her all of this. "Start from the beginning," she urged. "Tell me everything you need to about your teammate."
So he told her. He included almost every detail, leaving out only things like 'I almost got killed like my teammate'. When he was finished, she smiled.
"No, don't start..."
"Is she your girlfriend?"
Tim blushed. (Same old Tim.)
"Not anymore." He countered with "You picked things up from Alex, and you retained it after all this time?"
"Well of course!" she exclaimed. "He was important to me. They all were."
He nodded. "You know, I haven't said their names out loud in years," he confessed.
February 13, 2007
Tim stared at the body, trying hard not to loose his breakfast. The little maggots crawling around were not a welcome sight; the wiggling, writhing grossness made him legitimately nauseous. It brought him back to a suffocating darkness and a horrifying smell. He was going to have nightmares that night, he was sure of it.
Gibbs had left him to pick up the disgusting things. They were important to the investigation, sure, but why him? Why did Tim have to do it? Ziva would obviously be fine with it! Or Palmer, how come Palmer couldn't pick them up and bag them?
"Ziva," he said. "I'll give you a hundred dollars to pick them up for me."
She just laughed and left him to do his job. He didn't blame her, of course- who would want to pick up a bunch of dirty disgusting insects that...
"No! No. Stop it," he chided himself. He set about his task, trying to avoid the memories flooding back to him. He didn't feel a dead body underneath his fingertips, he wasn't going to die of suffocation in the darkness of a cave.
Still, it was painful. The scientist in him persuaded that it was just a natural process. The circle of life! Besides, he needed them for Abby to evaluate.
Tim finished so quickly he surprised himself. He looked around, checking to see that they were all picked up. They were all bagged, so he scurried out of there as fast as he could. He just wanted to get the case over with.
Later, he would forget all about the maggots. The team needed him to be Thom E. Gemcity; they needed a celebrity to get them into a club and he was the closest thing they had to a star. With Ziva, Abby, and Lee around him, he politely thanked the bouncer- a fan- and reveled in the fact that he could feel Tony's jealousy from yards away!
But that night, he was miserable. He tossed and he turned so badly, only sleeping once, and it was a mistake, because he dreamed that he was back in the mine shaft.
He was covered in maggots. He couldn't move, couldn't breathe. McGee was frozen and in agony. Across from him, that poor guy was still there, he looked the same. The flashlight was only a foot away from him, fading and leaving the young man in the dark.
"Tim!" He heard Diana scream. Alex, James and Kris followed suit.
It rang in his ears and he shot up out of bed, nearly falling over the side. He groaned when he saw the clock- it was only one in the morning!
Tumbling out of his bed, Tim tried to ignore the throbbing in his skull. However, the worst of the nightmare was surely over- his stomach growled and he searched his fridge for the fixings of a sandwich. His headache persisted, so he took some aspirin and sat on his couch with his snack.
There was nothing on TV, so he popped in a movie. (Very Tony-esque, but that would be Tim's secret.)
The phone rang and he cursed under his breath, hoping to god it wasn't some team emergency.
He was surprised to hear her voice, he had only spoke to her two days ago.
"Kristen! What's wrong?!"
There was a pause over the line, and a small moan. "I'm sorry I woke you up. I should have waited, but-"
"I was already awake. What's going on?"
"Alex's grandmother died."
The next morning, the elevator dinged and Tony strolled into the bullpen, chipper and whistling some Rat Pack song.
"Hello Zee-va," he greeted, dropping his backpack. Tim's desk was empty. "Where's McGemcity?"
"I do not know," the Israeli woman said without looking up. "He has not come in, which is odd, because he is almost always here before I am."
"Maybe he's sick," Tony said, plopping into his chair and booting up his computer.
"Maybe," Ziva said, reserved. She paused, then said, "I think it is because of yesterday's case."
"What was wrong with yesterday for McGee? He got to get into a very exclusive club with three beautiful women. I think his day was fine." Tony chuckled.
"Before that. When we had to clean up the scene...he did not want to go anywhere near those maggots."
"Who does? Being around decomposed bodies is our job. Maggots are an occupational hazard. He was probably being a big baby about the whole thing." the SFA said with a shrug.
"No! I mean that he was terrified of going anywhere near them. He offered to pay me if I did the job instead of him. I thought it was a joke at the time, but now I am unsure."
Tony glanced at Tim's computer deviously. "Let's find out where he is, shall we?"
He switched to Tim's desk and was about to turn on the monitor when Gibbs strolled in, followed by Abby.
"He's not here, DiNozzo."
"Morning, Boss. Any idea where he is?" Tony asked, shooting himself away from the desk.
"At a funeral," Abby put in. "I don't know whose it is."
"Oh," Tony said for a second, guilty. Then he switched back to his own desk.
"See Ziva? Nothing wrong with McGee."
The Mossad agent frowned and returned to her desk, unconvinced.
Tim put his arm around Penny, and Kristen held the woman's hand. Tim wasn't surprised that his grandmother was so stoic.
"She was very old, Timothy," she had said wearily. "And Alzheimer's is a hell of a disease to fight. She's with her husband now."
McGee felt like a fool. He never once visited his friend's grandmother in all those years. He had forgotten all about her in his desperate attempt to be free from the naval history his father imposed on him. Guilt welled in the young agent's chest, but he realized that regret would do him no good and dropped the matter at Penny's request.
The service took place in Alameda, and was modest but nice. Alex's parents, looking a little worse for wear, greeted K and Tim warmly, as did Admiral Macheer. James' parents were there, but Diana's were not.
"Where are they?" Tim whispered before the ceremony started.
Kristen looked at him for a minute. "That's not funny."
"What? I'm serious. Where are Di's parents?"
"They're dead, Tim. She drank herself to death."
"Yeah, that 'controlled' drinking she was so fond of? She lost control. He committed suicide a year after that."
He sighed, shaking his head.
She stared at him. "You really didn't know. You lost track of everything, didn't you?"
Tim looked at the faces in the crowd. Some were familiar, but they provided little comfort.
"No," he said. "All of this..I got away from it on purpose."