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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2015 10:34 pm 
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Medical Examiner
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Joined: Sun Sep 30, 2012 7:17 am
Posts: 1518
Location: Michigan
Name: Kelly
Gender: Female
Title: The Carver
Rating: FR15
Characters: Tim McGee, Tony DiNozzo, appearances by other members of the team, and a few OCs.
Disclaimer: I do not own NCIS.

Summary: While the team tries to track down a serial killer who leaves behind no workable evidence, Tim gets a strange feeling that he's being watched. Could he be The Carver's next victim? A long-ish 2-shot.

Author's Note: I wanted to write a horror story for Andrea, and I'll be honest and say I'm not sure I succeeded. I certainly hope it is an enjoyable read regardless.

Discussion Thread can be found here: viewtopic.php?f=1189&t=13540&start=0

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0


Alice fights through the fogginess of her mind and struggles to wake. Once she opens her eyes, it takes her quite a while to figure out what she’s seeing. It’s dark, and she blinks to distinguish certain shapes: a table with a cloth draped over it, a high-backed chair padded in red velvet that seems distinctly out of place, a high window that’s been boarded.

The smell hits her hard and fast. Pungent. Thick.

The pain registers quickly after.

Alice looks down at her body and gasps. She’s lying on a medical cot, her wrists, forearms, ankles and thighs are strapped down. She’s nude and her body is riddled with cuts, the blood dripping down her skin and soaking the thin mattress below her. She can feel the blood that has pooled beneath her left shoulder, no doubt leaking from her untreated gunshot wound. How long has it been now? Hours? Days? It is impossible to keep track of time in the hell she finds herself trapped.

There is a scraping sound behind her, and she strains her neck to look but she can’t see a thing. Another scraping sound, then scuffling of feet, and it isn’t long before two men enter her field of vision. Her body starts to shake as she recognizes her abductor, who is currently dragging the second man to the high-backed chair in the center of the room. Her torturer works in silence, settling the other man into the chair. Alice locks eyes with the apparent other captive and the dead look in the man’s eyes send shivers down her spine.

He is a perfect reflection of how hopeless and helpless she feels in this moment.

“Good, you’re awake,” she hears her captor say and she forces herself to look at him. He smiles at her, his thin lips pulled over perfect teeth, before turning his back and removing the sheet from the table. “I was hoping you’d be awake for this part.”

When he turns back around, he’s caressing a dagger. Alice fights back the urge to cry, perhaps beg for her life or even a quick end, but she refuses to give in.

“This is going to be painful,” he says with false cheer as he pulls the dull edge of the dagger along her collarbone, each of her breasts, and then her stomach.

Alice’s breath hitches and she begins to silently sob, but she bites the inside of her cheeks to stop herself from crying out. Panicking, she looks to the man seated in the chair, but he doesn’t react. Though his face reflects a sickening apathy, it’s his body that gives away his uncomfortableness. He is rocking back and forth and his hands are clenched into fists so tight that his nails are biting into his palms and Alice can see the blood as it drips down through his fingers.

“He won’t help you,” the man above her says matter-of-factly, and Alice’s trembling grows tenfold as the blade is pressed against her skin. “No one can help you.”

She screams.

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0


Tim hits enter on his keyboard and closes his eyes in relief. He’s spent the past couple of hours putting the finishing touches on his program and finally it’s ready to go. He watches as lines of computer code dash across his monitor before glancing up at the clock. It’s just before midnight, and if everything goes according to plan, he will have something workable to present to Gibbs tomorrow.

Tim stretches his arms up and then out, wincing at the pops in his back. He is going to be feeling sore for a while, but if his new program can get a better image out of that grainy traffic cam photo, then it will all be worth it.

Somewhere behind him, Jethro whines and Tim stands, pushes his desk chair in, and goes to search for his unhappy dog.

“Jethro?” Tim finds Jethro in his small kitchen. He’s lying on the rug in his favorite corner – the one with the vent that expels warm heat in the winter and cool air conditioning in the summer. His tail wags pitifully when Tim enters and knees next to him, petting behind his downturned ears. “What’s up, boy?”

An odd clanking noise reaches his ears, and Tim shifts back onto his feet to peer around the corner. The window behind his computer desk is cracked open, but no wind seems to be disturbing anything. There is another noise, this time coming from his bedroom, and Jethro is by his side in a second, a deep growl rumbling past his curled lips.

“Hey, it’s alright,” Tim says, ruffling his fur. “It’s nothing.”

Tim walks into his bedroom, flipping on the light. His room looks normal, but he does a full sweep anyway.

Jethro’s behavior has been off all night, and it has put him a little bit more on edge than he’d already been. When working on his program earlier, he couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching him. It was ridiculous, of course. Still, as he looks out his bedroom window onto the darkened street below, he doesn’t feel any better.

Tim closes his window and locks it, doing the same to the window in his living room. Jethro whines at him one more time and Tim smiles.

“Alright, c’mon.” Tim motions into his room and Jethro runs inside and leaps on the bed as if he owns it. Tim gets ready for bed quickly and slides in next to his dog, petting him absently as he stares out his window. If there are any more strange noises, they are too quiet for him to hear, and too subtle to bother Jethro, and he eventually falls into a restless sleep.

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0


“Tony!”

Tony keeps his eyes closed and his breathing as even as possible. Perhaps if he doesn’t move, McGee will go away and he can get another hour or three of sleep.

“I know you’re awake, Tony. C’mon, get up.”

Tony grumbles as he pulls his comforter up and over his head. “It’s times like these that I really regret giving you a key to my apartment.” He rolls over so his back is hopefully to McGee. “What time is it?”

Tony feels the end of his bed dip as McGee sits down. “Six thirty.”

Under his covers, Tony lets loose a loud sigh, wanting to make it extremely clear just how put out he is at McGee for being his personal alarm clock this morning. “And why are you here at six thirty in the morning, McGee?”

When Tim doesn’t answer, Tony lifts the blanket off his face and rolls back over, propping himself up on his elbow. McGee is looking anywhere but at Tony, and he has the sudden realization that whatever the reason for his friend’s visit, he’s probably not going to like it.

“Tim…” Tony prompts in a low voice.

“I spent the night designing a new enhancement program,” McGee says quickly, apparently sensing Tony’s rising level of displeasure. “With it, I think I can get a clearer picture of that sticker. Maybe even get a number or two off the license plate.”

Tony stares at McGee in disbelief.

“You made a new enhancement program,” he dryly repeats.

“Yes,” McGee confirms with an enthusiastic nod.

“Last night?”

A small smile appears on McGee’s face. “Yup.”

Tony leans on one elbow to bring his free hand up to his face, pinching the bridge of his nose. “And I’m needed for this… why?”

The smile on McGee’s face falls and he worries his lower lip for a moment. He looks away when he responds, and it’s so quiet and mumbled that Tony cannot catch a single word of what he says. When McGee turns back to see Tony’s reaction to whatever it is he’s revealed, Tony only raises a single eyebrow in the hopes that he’s adequately conveying his question of you expect me to understand a word you just said?

McGee takes a deep breath and says rather sheepishly, “I don’t want to head in alone. I think… I think someone’s watching me.”

Tony raises his second eyebrow to join the first. “What?”

“All night,” Tim continues, “I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched. And Jethro wouldn’t settle… he just kept pacing and whining. Not to mention that the fire escape outside my living room window kept creaking, and-”

“Tim,” Tony interrupts, and McGee trails off.

Tony drops his elbow and flops down onto his back, squeezing his eyes shut and rubbing a hand through his already mussed up hair. He swallows down his immediate, acerbic response that is begging to be said at this preposterous hour of the morning, because a small part of him understands how Tim feels. Though he hasn’t felt fear or paranoia to the degree that Tim is currently displaying, the case has certainly put him on a higher alert than he would otherwise feel.

And he knows he’s not the only one. The entire team is on edge, even if Gibbs and Ziva are better at hiding it and will deny any uneasiness until they are blue in the face.

Tony grabs his pillow and smashes it against his face. “Tim, it’s Sunday, and I distinctly remember Gibbs telling us not to come in until after lunch,” Tony says petulantly.

Tony feels his bed shift again as McGee stands. “Fine,” he says so sadly that Tony lifts up one corner of his pillow just enough to peek at him with one eye. Tim smiles to himself and shakes his head, walking backward toward Tony’s bedroom door. “Sorry to have woken you.”

“McGee, wait,” Tony hollers and McGee’s head pokes back in his bedroom and Tony inwardly cringes at the hopeful expression on his face. Tony sighs and tosses his pillow at his friend, who catches it easily.

“Give me ten minutes,” Tony mumbles as he climbs out of bed and stumbles toward his bathroom. “And there better be coffee ready when I’m done!”

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0


This is his favorite part.

The discovery.

The choosing.

The waiting.

People are bustling by him, not even bothering to look his way. He always finds their rushing around so amusing. If they would only slow down a little bit and look around, who knows what they would notice. Perhaps they would see him, sitting on this bench, waiting. What else could they deduce about him if they stopped and simply observed?

He shakes his head and pulls himself out of those useless thoughts. No one will notice him. Not right now. It’s a shame, really. No one to see him. No one to stop him.

He sits a little straighter when he sees the car pull into the lot. It’s the one he’s been waiting for, he’s sure of it. He holds his breath in anticipation as he watches the individual exit the lot and step into the warm sunshine. Suddenly, the person slows and scans the surrounding area.

Interesting.

Then again, he knows he made a tricky choice this time around. Someone with a little bit more training. Someone fully aware of what he is capable of.

It will be dangerous, snagging this one.

But it will be worth it.

His quarry seems content and eventually moves on, strolling confidently toward the building across the street, eventually disappearing inside. The man sighs.

Disappointed? Maybe. He’s not sure how to classify this reaction. He’s certain there was a moment where they locked gazes, but perhaps that was his own hopes clouding his judgment.

Someday, though.

Someday someone will see him for who he is.

And on that day, he will finally be stopped.

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0


“You two got here quick,” Gibbs observes as Tony walks up to the crime scene, McGee lagging slowly behind.

“We were already in the office,” Tony remarks with a yawn. Gibbs looks over Tony’s shoulder at an obviously lagging McGee, and raises a single eyebrow in question. Tony shakes his head. “Don’t even ask, boss.”

“Let’s go,” Gibbs says, pointing down the slope where the body is roped off. Tony passes quickly by, hearing Gibbs order Tim to the van to pick up some gear.

Tony takes the last few steps toward the body slowly, mentally preparing himself for what he’s about to see. The victim looks the same as the others, and even though this is the fifth female they’ve found, it isn’t getting any easier. Ducky is kneeling next to her, liver probe already out and in use. Jimmy is standing a good ten feet away, his knuckles white around the body bag he’s gripping.

“What have we got?” Gibbs asks when he joins Tony at the scene.

“Female between the age of twenty-five and thirty,” Ducky reports from the ground. “Wounds are consistent with previous victims, but of course I’ll have to get her back to autopsy to determine her official cause of death.”

“Unofficial cause, Duck?”

“Exsanguination,” Ducky says grimly as he stands. “For goodness sakes, Mr. Palmer, bring that bag over here.” Palmer rushes forward and sets to his task, lying the bag beside the victim. “No need to leave her out here longer than she needs to be,” Ducky adds softly.

“Photos, DiNozzo,” Gibbs orders, gesturing to the woman’s body. Tony remains silent but quickly starts with his task, stepping around McGee who has finally arrived and is scanning the victim’s fingerprints.

“Got a hit, boss,” McGee reports, turning his device around to show Gibbs the results. “Her name is Josefine Lange. Petty Officer stationed at NSF Anacostia.”

Tony shakes his head sadly as he takes a few more photos of the body before moving into the surrounding area. He knows the details of Petty Officer Lange’s life, even though he’s never met the woman. She’ll be married, or engaged, but have no children. She won’t have any family in the area, outside of her husband or fiancé. She will have served one tour abroad, and only returned within the past six months. She’s probably been missing for less than 48 hours, and most likely wasn’t even reported missing. She’s been tortured and murdered, and there won’t be a single piece of evidence left behind to link her to the killer.

It’s been a frustrating couple of weeks, and Tony just prays as he stomps through the undergrowth of this random patch of forest in the middle of Garrett Park that this time will be different. Maybe this time their serial killer will have slipped up and left behind something to lead the team in the right direction.

“Tony,” Ziva greets as she walks up behind him.

“Nice of you to join us,” Tony says sarcastically, but he gives her a small smile.

“Have you found anything?”

“Not yet.”

They work in silence, fanning out in a standard search pattern around the body. A few minutes go by before they are joined by McGee, who slides in without comment. It takes a while for him to notice, but soon Tony realizes that Tim is making his way closer and closer to Tony’s search grid. They are barely three feet apart when Tony huffs in annoyance.

“McGee, what are you doing?”

To Tim’s credit, he doesn’t even try to act like he doesn’t know what Tony is talking about. “Did you notice that car following us on the way here?”

“What car?”

“The car,” McGee says rather unhelpfully. “It looks just like the one in the traffic cam image.”

“You mean the traffic cam image that is so grainy that we can’t even tell what kind of car it is?”

McGee is undeterred. “First there were strange noises coming from outside my apartment. Now that car. Tony, what if I’m being followed? What if it’s him?”

Tony lets go of the camera and it hangs from the leather strap around his neck. He pinches the bridge of his nose briefly before looking Tim square in the face.

“McGee, I don’t know if you’ve looked in the mirror lately, but you aren’t a woman.”
“But, those two men who went missing-”

“Haven’t officially been linked to this case,” Tony finishes for him. “Nor have their bodies been found like the five women have.”

“They were taken in the same way,” Tim retorts. “We can’t just ignore the evidence because they aren’t women! What if the guy has a pattern! Two women, and then one man. Two more women, and one man. Two more…”

“I get it,” Tony grumbles.

“Tony, you-”

“Tim, this is ridiculous,” he says loudly, throwing his hands up wildly. “No one is watching you! No one is following you!”

Ziva appears out of nowhere. “What are you two doing?”

“Nothing,” Tony says, throwing Tim a significant glance. McGee looks stung and Tony tries unsuccessfully to not feel guilty.

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0


It’s dark and cold, and though the numbness is probably masking quite a bit of pain, the lack of light is certainly a hindrance.

She isn’t sure where she is, but she doesn’t stop walking. She stumbles over rocks and tree roots, but she keeps her eyes on the horizon. She’s certain that she saw a flicker of light off in the distance, and though she can’t see it now, she continues to push herself in what she hopes is the right direction.

Light could mean people. And people will mean help.

She’s lightheaded and so tired, and she absently wonders if she’s going into shock.

She trips and falls and she’s too slow to brace herself before she slams into the ground. She wants to scream and cry out, but her voice left her too long ago during torments she knows she will never forgot. Darkness is creeping into the edges of her vision, but she refuses to give in.

She blindly lifts a hand and places it on a nearby tree, using it for balance as she pulls herself upward. Pain lances through her body and she gasps, her breathing harsh around her thudding pulse roaring loudly in her ears. She forces herself to move, her hand pulling away from the tree. Bits of bark and dirt cling to her bloody hand, but she will deal with that later.

Right now, her priority is getting to that light. Taking a deep breath, she takes one shaky step, then another, and keeps moving forward.

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0


Tim sighs, glancing at the clock on his computer. It’s just past nine, and though the rest of the team has gone home for the night, he’s not alone in the bullpen. There are a few other agents milling around, ‘burning the midnight oil’ as Ducky had mentioned before heading home. Tim is ready to head out too, now that his program has been hooked up to the NCIS servers and is running. Gibbs had been impressed with Tim’s work, and was eager to see its results.

It shouldn’t take too long for the program to clean up the traffic cam’s image, and then maybe they will finally have a break in this case. He should head home and catch a few hours of sleep, just like Gibbs had ordered…

For a moment he considers staying within the building entirely… perhaps getting a few hours of sleep in Abby’s lab. He is still trying to shake this feeling of being watched, but he is finding it harder to do than it should be. His conversation with Tony at his apartment that morning hadn’t helped, but he isn’t sure what he expected. Serial killer cases are always hard, especially ones that hit a little too close to home. Tim knows that Tony is right – the two missing men really have no concrete link to the case.

Yet Tim has a persistent, niggling feeling that they are related. He just isn’t sure how yet.

But even if they are related, it certainly doesn’t mean Tim is being followed.

He is slightly embarrassed about his scene in Tony’s bedroom, not to mention at the crime scene. The truth is, he hadn’t planned on stopping by Tony’s place on his way in to work. He had been feeling uneasy about his experiences during the night and his car almost seemed to have driven itself to Tony’s apartment. His desire to feel safe had led to his fearful confession, with all the good that it has done.

Absently, Tim wonders how long it will before Tony lets this go, and what creative methods of tormenting him will be unleashed.

Exhausted, Tim tidies up his desk and ultimately decides to head home. He nods to the few agents he passes on his way down the corridor before descending the stairs toward the parking garage. His phone beeps from his back pocket and he pulls it out just as he’s reaching the exit door, rolling his eyes as he reads the message from Tony.

[2114 - TONY: Did you see the boogie man today? Did he follow you home from work?]

Tim rolls his eyes in exasperation. And so it begins, he thinks. Tim opens the door, keeping it propped with his hip as he types back a reply.

[2114 – Sent: No, but I saw Agent Wilkers. He says you owe him $5.]

Tim starts walking across the mostly deserted garage, hitching his laptop bag a little higher up his shoulder. He’s fairly certain he’ll be back in the office before his program has finished tomorrow morning, but he doesn’t want to leave anything to chance. He’s set up a remote desktop connection to his laptop so he can keep an eye on his program from home.

Tim’s phone beeps twice in quick succession and he lifts his phone as he walks.

[2115 - TONY: Lies.]
[2115 - TONY: Wilkers is a cheating cheater who cheats.]

Tim shakes his head, but slows to start typing out his own reply when he hears the stairwell door close behind him. He doesn’t even think, he just reacts, and spins around to see who else is walking out with him this morning. There isn’t anyone there. Narrowing his eyes suspiciously, Tim does a quick visual sweep of the area around him. Satisfied that the door must have simply taken awhile to close completely after he’d walked through, he lowers his eyes back to his phone.

[2116 – Sent: I’m not even going to ask.]

Tim hits ‘send’ just as a loud clanging noise echoes through the garage, and he almost drops his phone in surprise. He spins in a tight circle, looking for anything that could have caused such a sound, but there is nothing.

“Hello?” he calls out, but he doesn’t get a reply. His phone beeps again, and this time he startles so badly that he does drop it, and it clatters loudly on the ground. Tim bends over and picks it up, trying his best to read Tony’s reply through shaking fingers.

[2116 – TONY: Why aren’t you home yet?]

Tim’s racing heart immediately begins to slow, because of course. Wasn’t he just contemplating how Tony was going to exploit Tim’s weakness this evening? Tim lifts his head and looks around again, and a small smile starts to form.

“Okay, Tony, very funny!” Tim shouts into the void. “You can come out now. You got me. Har har har,” he finishes with a sarcastic flourish. Of course Tony doesn’t respond, because Tim’s certain he wants to drag this out as long as possible, so Tim types out another reply, perking his ears for the sound of Tony’s distinct ring tone.

[2117 – Sent: Very funny, DiNozzo. You’ve been waiting for me to leave this whole time? You left hours ago.]

Tim doesn’t hear anything near him as his text is sent, and Tony’s reply is nearly instantaneous.

[2117 – TONY: I’m at home, McParanoid.]

Tim rolls his eyes, unwilling to let this continue. He speaks aloud his next text as he sends it.

[2117 – Sent: Knock it off Tony. I know you’re here.]

Tim shifts his laptop bag to his other shoulder, debating on whether or not heading home is even worth it anymore. Though his hands have stopped shaking and his breathing is under control, he still has a sick feeling in his stomach about this whole situation and he isn’t looking forward to the length of time it’s going to take him to get to sleep now. Tim resumes his walk towards his car, a bit more slowly this time, glancing at his phone every few seconds to see how Tony will respond. Perhaps he’s given up the charade now that Tim is on to him. Honestly, it isn’t even one of Tony’s more creative pranks, though Tim will never admit the few moments of terror he had felt initially…

[2119 – TONY: Tim what are you talking about? I’m at home. See?]
[2119 – TONY: {attachment} – homesweethome.jpg]


A chill runs down Tim’s spine as he looks at Tony’s selfie that was clearly taken in his kitchen. Tim sends off another text, reaching for another explanation.

[2120 – Sent: Then how did you know I’m not home yet?]

Tim impulsively looks around again as he waits for Tony’s reply, but other than his car that’s parked 25 yards in front of him, he sees nothing. It doesn’t feel right though, because he knows he’s not alone.

[2120 – TONY: It’s called the Find My Friends app, remember? You showed me how to use it last week.]

Tim doesn’t think, he just starts jogging towards his car as his numb fingers pull up Tony’s contact information on his phone. He yanks open the door and dives inside, locking the door behind him to give himself a sense of security. His heart pounds in his chest and he takes several wheezing breaths, his ragged exhales sounding abnormally loud in his small car.

Special Agent DiNozzo,” Tony answers and Tim gulps down a hysterical sob.

“Tony,” he whispers shakily. “Tony, there’s someone here.”

Okay,” Tony replies, drawing out the syllables. “Where is here exactly? Cuz it looks to me like you’re still at work, and I’m sure there’s lots of other agents-

“I’m in my car.” Tim’s interruption is harsh and he can’t get his breathing under control. His hands are shaking so badly that it takes him three tries to fit his key into the ignition. He senses movement in his rear view mirror and he looks frantically over his shoulder. Nothing but shadows greet him.

McGee, what’s going on?

Tim twists his keys but his car doesn’t respond. He tries again and again, but absolutely nothing happens. The terror he feels is overwhelming, and it takes him far too long to remember that he’s still gripping his phone, and he can hear the tinny sound of Tony’s panicked voice calling out to him.

McGee! Tim!

“It won’t start!” Tim shouts. “Tony, please! He’s here! I’m next! I’m-”

The window next to his head shatters and Tim’s phone falls to the floor as he tries to protect his face from the flying shards of glass. For a moment the only sound Tim hears is his own breathing, but then there is the deafening sound of a gunshot, immediately followed by searing pain, and then blackness.

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0

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Last edited by Rogue Tomato on Wed Jul 01, 2015 12:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2015 8:05 pm 
Offline
Medical Examiner
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Joined: Sun Sep 30, 2012 7:17 am
Posts: 1518
Location: Michigan
Name: Kelly
Gender: Female
Author's Note: Okay I lied... I guess this is going to have two chapters, plus an epilogue. :)

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0


Tony blinks heavily as he rewinds the video footage for the fourth time. He can still hear Tim’s panicked voice in his head as he watches his friend enter the parking garage, typing out what is certainly a text to Tony. It’s weird watching this long after it had occurred in real time, when he had been on the other end of those texts, not really taking anything seriously… internally laughing at Tim’s paranoia. He watches as Tim stops suddenly and turns around, the grainy image of the security camera capturing Tim’s surprise and confusion at something behind him. Tony checks the time on the camera and then pulls out his cell phone, corresponding the time with his text log.

[2116 – PROBIE: I’m not even going to ask.]

Tony sighs as he watches Tim startle at something else and the growing panic is obvious. Tony wonders what he sees or hears at that moment, and curses audibly (again) the lack of audio on the security tape.

“Why are you watching that again?”

Tony jumps and pauses the tape, spinning in his chair to greet Ziva. “I feel like I’m missing something,” he admits with a shrug before turning back to look at the paused image of Tim’s scared face.

“There is nothing else to get from that tape except more guilt,” Ziva says kindly. “You could not have known what was going to happen.”

“Oh really?” Tony says bitterly. “You weren’t there, Ziva. He told me he was being followed. He knew he was being watched. He felt sure the men were linked to the case, and he was scared that he was next. He was scared, Ziva.” Tony’s voice breaks a little, and he closes his eyes to compose himself. He’s thankful that Ziva doesn’t say anything at first, allowing him the time to gather his thoughts and pull himself together.

Ziva shifts closer to where he is sitting to place a hand on his shoulder. “This case is affecting everyone, Tony. What McGee was feeling could easily have been brushed aside as paranoia.” Tony looks up and he and Ziva lock gazes for a moment before she looks away, and Tony thinks he sees a shadow of shame brush across her face. “I admit that I have been sleeping with more than one knife under my pillow. I have never felt so unsettled.”

Tony nods with a sympathetic smile. He understands completely, and yet has no answers to offer up exactly why this case is so disturbing. The team has dealt with psychopaths in the past, and these murders aren’t even the worst he’s seen during his career. Perhaps it is the strange way the victims are taken. Or possibly the torture each had obviously endured before their terrifying end.

“But it wasn’t paranoia,” Tony says in a near whisper. “Not this time. McGee really was being watched.”

“Yes he was,” Ziva agrees quietly.

Tony resumes the video, makes himself watch until the moment a green light flashes across the screen, cutting off the feed. There is only white nothingness for two minutes, and then the feed kicks back on and McGee is gone. Two minutes to take out a fully trained agent and get away without leaving behind a single clue as to who he is, or where he is headed.

“I should have listened to him,” Tony admits as he stares at the screen, now showing McGee’s empty car.

“We will find him and bring him home,” Ziva vows, taking one of his hands and squeezing it gently. “You can apologize then.”

Tony winces. “Geez, no need to mince words, Ziva.”

“It is the truth.”

Tony squeezes her hand back. “Yeah.”

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0


Tim startles awake, blinking rapidly in the darkness that surrounds him. Grey blurs eventually turn into nondescript walls and a window set high near the ceiling. He can’t see a door, and it’s not until he tries to roll his body that he realizes he can’t move. His wrists and ankles are shackled to u-rings bolted to the ground, forcing his arms up above his head and legs down the opposite way.

Something pulls the skin on the side of his face, but without the use of his hands he can’t brush it aside. Based on the way it feels when he moves his head, his best guess that it is blood that has dried against his skin. He vaguely recalls his head being bashed with something before blacking out, right after the gunshot…

He takes a deep breath when the pain in his side finally registers. Lifting his neck up off the ground, he notices that he has been relieved of his coat, tie, shoes, socks and belt. His eyes immediately lock on the gaping hole in his shirt, barely visible through the rust-colored stain which surrounds it. It’s painful, but not debilitating, and he feels confident that it won’t impede him too much should he somehow find a way out of here.

“Good. You’re awake.” Tim startles at the disembodied voice, the pain in his side flaring at his jolting movement. “You kept me waiting for so long, I thought maybe I’d misfired and hit something vital.”

Tim still can’t see where the man is standing, and he forces himself to calm down before speaking. “Who are you?”

“Well, I think you know very well who I am, Agent McGee,” he says. “The Carver. Not incredibly original, but I didn’t pick it out. And I don’t think offering you my real name would get me anything but trouble.”

“Only seems fair,” Tim says, attempting to keep his voice as composed as possible, “since you seem to know mine. Puts me at a disadvantage.”

“Ah, but that is rather the point, isn’t it?” Suddenly the voice is standing above his head and Tim takes his first good look at his captor.

The man has dark skin and a thin mouth that is easily overwhelmed by a thick mustache. His hair is long and tangled, and it falls across eyes that are drilling into Tim as if he is looking right through him. He looks tall and muscular, even more so from Tim’s vantage point on the floor, and it gives him an air of intimidating power.

“Where are we?” Tim asks.

“Does it matter?” The man moves along Tim’s body, checking first the bindings at his wrists and then the ones at his ankles, before he steps away and nods, content with his work. “Rest assured that no one will find you here.”

“My team will find you,” he threatens, and Tim is careful not to say that his team will find him, because he’s really not one to hold out false hope. There is a reason the two missing men are not linked to the brutal murders his team have been investigating – their bodies haven’t been found yet.

The other man laughs and crosses his arms at his chest, completely at ease. “Ah, but what if I told you that your team already did find me and I’ve killed them all in a bid to continue to my work uninterrupted?”

Tim shakes his head. “I wouldn’t believe you.”

“Or perhaps I’ve locked them away and plan to kill them later?” Tim tries to temper his reactions, but the thought of his friends going through this torture is something he cannot bear. “Right in front of you perhaps?”

“No,” Tim states firmly. “That wouldn’t fit your pattern.”

“True,” he says with a nod.

“What are you going to do with me?”

The Carver smiles. “Is this the part where you expect me to monologue so you can mount a heroic escape attempt and thwart my evil plans? Sorry, Agent McGee, this is not an action movie, and you will soon discover that you are no hero.”

The man kneels down and awkwardly pats Tim’s knee and then stands.

“Prepare yourself, Agent McGee,” he says as he walks confidently away. “We’re about to have company.”

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0


Tony is asking questions before the elevator doors are fully open.

“How do they know for sure?

Ziva matches him stride for stride as they make their way down the hospital corridor at a rapid clip. “They are sure.”

“How?” he demands, and Ziva stops him with a hand on his elbow.

“They are sure.”

“Gibbs?”

“Talking to the doctors right now.”

Tony takes a deep breath. “Okay,” he says with a nod. “Did she say anything about McGee?”

“No,” Ziva says and Tony can see the disappointment in her soft features. “The people who called 911 stated that she was screaming about The Carver before she passed out in their living room.”

“Where was she found?”

“Mason Neck Park,” Ziva provides. “She was found pounding on their front door, completely naked, and terrified.”

“A survivor,” Tony says in disbelief. “It just doesn’t seem possible.”

“The markings on her body are too similar to the other victims,” Ziva states, then quickly adds, “and she knows about the daffodils.”

“No one knows about that,” Tony says because that is one fact they have kept out of the press. Each victim has been found with a fresh bouquet of daffodils planted just above her head. There has never been anything exceptional about the flowers, though clearly they held meaning for the killer.

Ziva nods. “That is how they are sure.”

They stand in silence for a few minutes, and Tony can’t stand the waiting. He needs to discover what this woman knows about The Carver. Where was she kept? How did she escape?

“Doctors are pulling her back for surgery now,” Gibbs says as he marches over to where Tony and Ziva are standing. “No interviews until she’s in recovery.” Gibbs hands a sheet of paper over to Ziva. “Her name is Alice Higgins. Get in touch with her family and then find out where she was taken from.” Ziva is off with a nod to Gibbs. “DiNozzo, I need you to-”

“Did she say anything about McGee?”

Gibbs clenches his jaw and stares at Tony for a moment. “Get Ducky down here. I want him to look at Petty Officer Higgins when she’s out of surgery and compare her wounds to the previous victims.”

“Boss, please…”

In a rare display of emotion, Gibbs closes his eyes and sighs. A moment later, his eyes are open, the mask is back in place, and he’s back in control. “We’ve got work to do. We find this guy, we find McGee. Got it?”

Tony doesn’t like it, but he nods in agreement before looking away, unwilling to let Gibbs see how afraid he really is. He pulls out his phone to call Ducky, but Gibbs phone is ringing and he’s answering and Tony is just plain unwilling to do anything except stare at his boss when he’s looking almost hopeful at whatever news he’s getting on the other end.

“That was Abby,” Gibbs states and he places a hand on Tony’s shoulder. “Tim’s program worked. We got a clearer image of the sticker and two letters off the license plate.”

“And?” Tony pushes.

“And, the sticker is a parking permit for access to the EPX Shipping docks in Baltimore,” Gibbs continues, turning Tony around and pushing him towards the elevators. “I’ll call Ducky myself and stick around here to talk to the Petty Officer once she’s out of surgery. Go update the BOLO, meet up with Ziva, and track down that car.”

“On it, boss,” Tony says and he’s jogging toward the elevator, carrying just a little bit more hope and a small smile on his face because wouldn’t it be something if Tim had a hand in his own rescue?

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0


The silence is deafening.

For a while, all Tim had begged for was silence. He hadn’t wanted to hear the endless screams around him, but he’d quickly come to realize that listening was his purpose. He was brought here to feel helpless and unable to do anything as another life was stolen.

Tim had been forced to watch as the woman had been systematically tortured and broken until she was nothing left but an empty shell. Her murderer discovered her fears and exposed them, all while cutting, tearing, slicing into her body with unyielding patience and proficiency.

Even worse was how he clinically dictated what he was doing for Tim’s benefit. And though his captor had joked about declaring his intentions to him not long ago, Tim had certainly ascertained a lot about the other man’s motivations while he spoke. Tim did not have Ducky’s background or experience in the world of criminal psychology, but it quickly became clear that this man had a traumatic experience in the past that had propelled him to kidnap and brutally murder these women.

Tim is still working on what his presence is supposed to represent.

Time had dragged on as Tim was gagged and forced to sit in an ornate chair with his chest, legs and arms bound. His own screams and begs for mercy had mixed with the young woman’s as she’d been tortured and eventually killed. Tim had wanted to look away, and many times had to, but he desperately tried to keep his eyes locked with the woman’s, lending her as much silent strength and encouragement as he could.

But it had all been in vain. She was dead, like the five women before her, and now Tim was back in his little cell, chained to the floor, alone with only the echoes of her screams to keep him company.

He wonders for a moment who she is… who she had been. A Petty Officer, of course, because that is what they all are. But Tim understands more than most that one cannot be defined by rank and title alone. What had been her hopes? Her dreams? Her biggest regret? How many friends and family is she leaving behind to grieve her absence?

There is a noise somewhere off in the distance that alerts him that his captor has returned. Tim struggles to keep his breathing even and his heart rate slow. He will not allow fear to overwhelm him. He will do what he can to stay alive, and when the time comes that he is no longer useful to this madman, then Tim will do all he can to leave behind enough evidence that he was here. He has enough confidence in Gibbs, Tony and Ziva to eventually track down the psychopath, and when they do, they will bring him to justice for all the broken families he has caused.

And maybe get a little justice for him, too.

The door slams open, and despite his best effort, Tim flinches at the sound. This time there is no conversation offered as the other man walks in, brandishing nothing but a smile and a knife.

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0


When the team pulls up outside of the warehouse, Tony shudders at the sight. The derelict building stands alone near the water, the fading EPX logo barely visible near the structure’s roof. It’s like a location right out of a horror film, and its oddly fitting for the circumstances. Looking around, he notices he isn’t the only one staring at the building with apprehension, but he knows each of them will enter without hesitation to find their missing friend.

Gibbs motions for them to group up, and Tony and Ziva hurry to his side, checking weapons and ammo as they move.

“Based on Petty Officer Higgins’ account, this is the most likely location of where she was held. We’ll head in right through the front door. Stay together as a group,” he orders, looking both of them in the eye with a stern gaze. “Stay silent unless absolutely necessary. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, and we don’t need to set our guy off running out an exit we can’t cover.”

“Would it not be more expedient to split up?” Ziva asks.

“Probably, but that’s not my main concern.” Gibbs doesn’t elaborate, but Tony knows what he’s thinking. They know that there is a big chance that Tim is inside, but there is no way of knowing in what condition they will find him. If it turns out to be anything like the other victims… well, Tony will be grateful to have someone alongside him.

“Understood, Gibbs.”

“Let’s find Tim, boss.”

With one final nod, Gibbs takes lets Ziva take the lead, and after she puts her lock-picking skills to good use, they enter silently through the main door. Dim lights are flickering on and off, and the buzz of abused bulbs gives the space an eerier setting than the exterior offered. The initial room is small, but based on the blueprints he studied before driving here, he knows that the hallway to his right leads off to a massive storeroom. It takes them moments to sweep the entryway and before long they are walking single-file down the hall that quickly leads them to the primary area.

Just as the blueprints indicated, it’s large and mostly empty. Partitions have been erected in what appears to be random intervals, making it difficult to obtain a clear line of sight to the opposite end of the warehouse. An entire section of lighting is out, but Tony can hear movement coming from somewhere beyond the darkness.

Tony jumps when there is a touch to his shoulder, and he spins to see Gibbs standing closely beside him. His boss asks him without words if he’s okay, and Tony nods in affirmative. He may not be feeling particularly keen about walking deeper within the building, but he knows what needs to be done. Gibbs motions again, this time pointing first to Tony, then to the left of the warehouse. Tony nods and glances over Gibbs’ shoulder to see Ziva fanning out to the right. They may be sticking together, but with the large space, they’ll need to put some separation between them to effectively sweep the room utilizing what little light they have.

Tony takes a deep breath and moves forward, coming across the first partition quickly. Nothing greets him as he turns the corner, and he spares another quick look to check on Gibbs and Ziva before making his way toward the next one. This partition has hidden an open door behind it and Tony pulls his flashlight out of his pocket, turning it on just as he sticks his head inside.

Tony’s stomach lurches and he stumbles out of the room, struggling to keep what meager food he managed to eat that day inside his body. Gibbs is there in an instant, with Ziva close behind. Tony takes a few deep breaths before bravely following them inside.

The small room looks like a bloodbath has recently occurred. Substantial amounts of dried blood coats the walls, floor, and ceiling. Though there are no corpses present, there are pieces of flesh and brain matter stuck to the surfaces.

“Boss,” Tony begins, but he finds he cannot stomach finishing that sentence because no, no… he will not believe that McGee is anything but alive.

“Of course it isn’t Tim,” Gibbs says, which is crazy because how in the world does Gibbs know whose remains these are, but Tony will believe him because Tony has to believe him in order to power on and search the rest of the warehouse.

They don’t linger too long because there is still too much space to investigate. Soon they are back in their fanned-out formation, and Tony can still hear movement off in the distance, though it echoes and its point of origin is hard to pinpoint. He investigates two more partitions and one small room before the noises suddenly stop.

Tony stops too, straining his ears in the silence for anything, and he suddenly realizes he can hear nothing. He turns his head toward the right, to where Gibbs and Ziva should be, but they are gone. He feels his heart drop.

“Gibbs?” Tony whispers and it’s unnaturally loud in the large space. “Ziva?”

There is an electric buzzing sound coming from the ceiling that starts out low but quickly begins to grow in volume. Tony automatically looks up, watching as the overhead lights begin to heat up, one by one, in rapid intensity. They zap and crackle as their brightness increases and it isn’t long before Tony has to look down. As he’s blinking away the spots that have appeared in his vision, he gets a good look at the warehouse around him. The area in front of him that had previously been covered in darkness is now illuminated in terrible glory, and Tony gapes at the bloody mural before him. The far wall is covered in varying shades of red and brown, and though the carnage is difficult to process, it is a clear depiction of a daffodil.

The buzzing sound grows to match the intensity of the lighting and Tony forces himself to look away from the wall to find Gibbs and Ziva. He makes so attempt to be stealthy now as he runs from room to room, shouting out to his boss and teammate.

“Gibbs! Ziva!!”

There is a loud pop! from nearby and Tony squints up and over to see that one of the bulbs has burst, and glass showers down to the floor below it. There is another pop! from further away as one by one the room’s bulbs explode, littering the floor with broken shards.

Tony’s breathing is harsh as his eyes adjust to the abrupt changes in lighting, coming to the realization that the only light that remains illuminated and functioning is directly above his head.

“Gibbs?” Tony pauses to swallow heavily, his voice thick with fear. “Ziva?”

The buzzing above him peaks in volume before there is one final pop! and the space is plunged into complete darkness.

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0


It’s time.

It’s finally time.

This is what he’s been working toward, after all.

He knew that he had chosen wisely. All of the others were worthless, but this one… yes, this one has been perfect.

He wonders if she would be proud of what he’s accomplished. Would she appreciate all of the gestures he has made on her behalf?

He’ll ask her. Soon, he’ll finally have a chance to ask her.

He’s ready.

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0



Tim knows something is going on, and whatever it is, it is not in The Carver’s plans. For the past several minutes he’s been agitated and constantly eyeing Tim with an emotion Tim isn’t ready to categorize. The other man seems to finally come to a decision and storms out of the room, the door clicking shut behind him with chilling finality.

On the upside, Tim has been given a reprieve.

He is still unwilling to look down at his body, fearful of what he will see. He knows all too well what state the women’s bodies have been found in, and with no males to compare to, he can only imagine how they ended up. Each line carved into his body is on fire. He’s sticky from sweat, tears, blood, and other bodily fluids he’s been unable to contain. His throat hurts from the screams torn from within, and he long ago stopped trying to control his body’s shivering.

For sometime now, his vision has been getting a little blurry around the edges and the dull throb of a headache has developed into a roaring agony. The bullet wound in his side is probably bleeding again, because one thing Tim did look at earlier was the poor stitch job The Carver had given him, so he can probably add fever and infection to his list of injuries.

The prolonged suffering is hard to endure, and though a small part of him wishes that the other man would simply end it all, he fights that despair back with a strength honed from experience. He won’t give up, even if he feels there is no hope of rescue or survival. He will not dishonor his training in that way.

The downside to this is that Tim doesn’t think he’ll be able to fight for much longer. He’s not sure how he knows it, but he feels like some sort of end is drawing near. His captor’s movements have only grown in intensity and purpose, and Tim is more than aware that too much time has passed since the last victim was killed.

He wishes he could take better advantage of the time he’s been left alone, but he finds he is too tired to move. He hears a commotion at the edge of his hearing, but it is too muffled to identify. He closes his eyes and lets himself drift. The pain is fading, and for a moment his brain tells him that this is a bad thing, but he’s too tired to care. He just wants to rest, give himself time to prepare for when The Carver returns to finish the job.

The door handle rattles and all Tim can think is not yet… he isn’t ready yet, but he hasn’t had a choice in anything that’s happened to him since he was grabbed out of his car so long ago. A shadowed figure steps over him, but Tim refuses to open his eyes until a gentle hand lays on the side of his face. His eyes pop open and he squints in the darkness to see Ziva’s silhouette leaning over him.

“Easy, McGee,” she soothes and it isn’t until she wipes wetness off his cheeks that he realizes he is crying. “We will have you out in no time.”

There are hands on his ankles and Tim flinches and tries in vain to pull his legs away, but Ziva’s voice is soothing and she’s back to cradling his face. “It is only Gibbs,” she tells him. “He is getting you out.”

Tim thinks he nods, but he isn’t sure. He faintly recalls that he’s naked, and he knows that he would normally be embarrassed about that, but he finds that he’s just relieved that it wasn’t The Carver who had walked through the door. There are some light tugs on his legs, and then on his arms, and before he knows what’s happening, the small room is spinning dizzily around him as Gibbs helps him to his feet. Tim can’t stop shaking, and he is only distantly aware that Gibbs is wrapping a jacket around him, helping him stay steady on his feet, leading him out the now-opened door.

Tim has never had an out-of-body experience before, but he thinks this is what it must feel like. His body feels numb, and his mind is focused only on attempting to carry some of his own weight so Gibbs doesn’t have to resort in carrying him out of this horrid place. He doubts he’s doing anything except perhaps lifting one foot to every four of Gibbs’ steps. It’s dark all around him, and Tim only gets snippets of details of where they might be headed when Ziva’s flashlight sweeps around in front of him.

He tries to keep track… two rights, a left, another right… but then they are stopped and Gibbs leans Tim up against the wall before his gun is leveled somewhere off in the distance. Tim’s body may be slowly slumping to the ground, but that doesn’t mean he can’t try to focus on what Gibbs sees as a threat.

Through the haziness, Tim can see The Carver standing in the middle of the room, Ziva’s flashlight sending a glare off the wicked knife he’s currently holding at Tony’s neck. Tony himself is looking a little gray, but that could simply be Tim’s vision fading out again. And even though Tim hadn’t even realized that Tony was missing from the rescue that Gibbs and Ziva had just (almost) pulled off, he doesn’t miss the dark line of red across Tony’s cheek, the blood trailing down his neck and disappearing beneath his collar.

Gibbs is shouting, The Carver is sneering, and Tim is unable to follow much of the conversation until his name is mentioned and he forces himself to focus.

“I knew you were interesting from the first moment I saw you, Agent McGee,” The Carver is saying and Tim frowns. “I knew you had the potential.”

Tim probably shouldn’t answer, but he does, because blood loss and emotional trauma apparently turn off his ability to think and react properly. “Potential to do what?”

“Stop me,” he says, shifting the grip of the knife just slightly. “Thank you.”

It happens too quickly for Tim to follow, and all he sees is The Carver lifting up the knife, Tony falling to the ground, and two quick gun shots. After that, it is a blur of movement as his face rushes toward the ground. Someone may shout out his name, but he can’t reply. He is simply too exhausted to continue.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2015 7:25 pm 
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Joined: Sun Sep 30, 2012 7:17 am
Posts: 1518
Location: Michigan
Name: Kelly
Gender: Female
Just a last little bit to wrap it up. Thanks for reading.

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0


“…rather the point, isn’t it…”

“…about to have company…”

“…please, stop, please!...”

“…don’t move, agent, we wouldn’t want to permanently damage your…”

“…why are you doing this?...”

“…potential…”

“…thank you…”


Tim cracks his eyes open to see the recognizable taupe walls of a hospital room, silver bed rails, and starchy white sheets pulled up under his chin. Soft snores are coming from somewhere to the right and Tim turns his head slowly to find Tony sleeping awkwardly in a chair near the head of his bed. Tim takes some time to survey his friend, immediately noticing his unshaven face, dark circles under his eyes, and a white bandage taped to his left cheek.

Tony stirs as if sensing Tim’s eyes on him, and he comes awake quickly, offering Tim a relieved smile when their eyes meet.

“Hey,” he says, and Tim tries to unstick his tongue from the roof of his mouth to reply. Sensing his troubles, Tony grabs a white styrofoam cup and guides the straw to Tim’s lips. Tim drinks gratefully.

“Hey,” Tim says. His voice is hoarse and raw. “What happened?” Tim points to Tony’s face.

“You don’t remember?” Tony asks, his eyebrows shooting up in alarm.

Tim shrugs and the motion pulls at something across his chest. He lifts up the blanket to see several large white bandages taped to his chest, and Tim knows that those cannot be the only ones adorning his body. He may be fuzzy on some details, but there are some experiences of his ordeal that he remembers with perfect clarity.

“Is he dead?” Tim asks, not taking his eyes off the white squares that he knows hide stitches that will turn into scars that will be eternal reminders of what he has gone through these past few days.

“Yes.”

“Okay,” Tim replies because he’s not sure what other response is appropriate at the moment. He’s never been one to celebrate the loss of life, but there have been notable exceptions during his career as an NCIS agent. This will probably be one of them.

“Are you okay?” Tony asks softly.

Tim looks up from his cursory examination of his body to find Tony starting at him with concern, but also what Tim recognizes as guilt.

“I’m fine.” His friend nods in acceptance of the answer, though both of them know that Tim is far from fine. But that isn’t what he is talking about anyway. “I’m fine, Tony.”

“You were right,” Tony says and Tim hates the amount of pain he hears in his friend’s voice. “I should have listened to you, but I didn’t, and I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault.” Tony opens his mouth to most likely disagree, but Tim has to stop this line of thinking before it goes any further. “Tony, none of this is your fault. You didn’t do this to me. The Carver did. I don’t blame you for not believing me, and I certainly don’t blame you for what happened.” Tony’s eyes have fallen to the floor and Tim sighs. “But if you need me to say it, then I will: I forgive you.”

Tim can see Tony working things out, and he waits patiently for his friend to look back up at him. “Jeremiah Sullivan,” Tony says and of all the things Tim had predicted Tony saying in response to Tim’s forgiveness, it certainly wasn’t that.

“Who?”

“That’s The Carver’s real name. We’ve learned a lot about him while you’ve been getting your beauty sleep.”

Ah, Tim thinks. Forgiveness accepted then. Tim allows the change of subject easily, ready to move past the awkwardness and back into the relative normalcy of their friendship. “Like what?”

“Like the fact that eighteen months ago his sister, Petty Officer Julia Sullivan, came home to get married to her long-term fiancé when she was kidnapped and eventually found dead in Portland, Oregon. You can probably figure out the details of the how and such.”

“Shot and taken from her car?” Tim guesses, and Tony nods. Tim shifts in bed to try to find a more comfortable position, but eventually gives it up as futile and leans back against the pillows once more. “Was she…” Tim trails off, but Tony knows what he’s asking and he nods again.

“Same type of knife and everything,” Tony confirms grimly. “They never caught Julia’s killer, though they had a suspect for awhile. First missing man was the lead suspect in Julia’s case. The second thing you were right about.”

Tim’s eyes are getting heavy, but he wants to understand… needs to understand what his role is in all of this. “What?”

“The men were obviously linked to the case,” Tony says. “Sullivan isn’t around to interrogate, but the analysts seem to think that the men represented Sullivan’s own helplessness and inability to save Julia.”

“He made me watch,” Tim admits, and he finds that he can no longer hold Tony’s gaze. “I had to watch as he…”

“I know.” Tony leans forward in his chair and his hand moves out as if to grab McGee’s arm, but it lands on the handrail instead. “Well, I didn’t know for sure, but we assumed. Another woman was found yesterday. Time of death was after you were taken.”

“What was her name?”

“Petty Officer Rachel Hanner.”

Tim nods and silence falls in the small room. Tim wishes he could find some kind of closure with The Carver’s death, but all he can think about is Rachel’s final moments and his own powerlessness as he watched the life drain out of her and his very own fear of what his own final moments would be like.

“What about the other men?” When Tony doesn’t answer right away, Tim flicks his eyes back over to his friend. Tony is doing that thing where he bites the inside of his cheek when he doesn’t want to answer. “Tony…”

“We found them,” Tony finally admits but his voice is tight and his words are wooden and Tim’s suspicions about what his fate could have been is confirmed.

“Okay,” Tim says, acknowledging Tony’s visible relief at not having to explain what he meant in full detail with a small smile. His eyes are growing heavy, but there is so much more Tim needs to know. “What about the daffodils?”

“Julia’s favorite flower.”

“Okay.” Tim feels certain that he’s missing a lot of important information, but questions slip out of his thoughts just as quickly as he thinks of them. He really just wants to understand why he had been chosen, why he’d been taken and tortured, but instead he lets his eyes fall shut and asks, “How did you find me?”

You found you,” Tony answers, and Tim can hear the amusement in his voice.

“What?” Tim’s eyes attempt to pop back open, but he thinks he only accomplishes a half-mast sort of look.

“Your program worked, Tim. That, and we had a survivor who helped-”

“A survivor?” Tim mumbles and he thinks he hears Tony chuckle.

“Go to sleep,” Tony says firmly, but there is warmth and safety there. “We’ll talk again when you’re more awake.”

“Stay?” Tim is pretty sure he had meant to ask Tony if he plans on staying, but the way it comes out sounds more like a plea and Tim has no energy to correct himself. Tim thinks he feels something brush against his forearm, but it’s gone before he can identify it.

He wants to open his eyes and look at Tony, to make sure Tony knows he doesn’t have to stay… that Tim isn’t trying to make him feel guilty or responsible, but he’s drifting further into unconsciousness and he can’t fight the pull any longer.

“Of course I’ll stay,” Tim thinks he hears but then he’s asleep and he doubts he’ll never know for sure.


The end.

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